Chapter 1 : Dark Flame
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It is a dusky twilight of October. A fierce chill has gripped the air making it so cold as to burn when inhaled. The last hint of sunlight is fading swiftly from the sky causing dark shadows to loom across the vast and wild grounds.
The sound of distant activity coming from the forest is carried upon the wings of a breeze, and is wafted over to the barren Quidditch pitch. The slight twitter of owls and the nervous rustling of leaves are audible in the crisp night air.
Upon the pitch, a broom, some of its twigs dejectedly bent out of shape, lies on the grass. Beside it a slim figure is huddled, back resting against the cold metal of the impossibly tall hoops. Even as a hungry gust of autumn wind crashes into her, reaching greedily for bits of the tartan cloak draped around her body, she remains motionless, clutching the cloth shelter to her frame. But when a solitary auburn curl whips across her freckled-spattered, patrician nose, there comes an impatient sweep of her hand, a disturbance to her habitual stoicism.
Drawn out of the deepest recesses of the mind, her eyes lift, sweeping across the awesome landscape. They swiftly pass by the castle, away from the orangey-yellow flickers of light that emanate through the slim windows, towards the blackness. The lake is smooth like a sheet of silk, nothing disturbing the cohesion of its surface. The forest too is deathly still. Far off in the distance, impressive mountains loom. Imminent. Waiting.
The girl wonders what the magical grounds are waiting for.
She wonders what she is waiting for.
Hours have passed since that morning when she received a birthday letter from her mother. It had been filled mostly with worry and fret over her brother's move to Bulgaria to play for the Vultures, but the hysterics had subsided at the end, giving way to a small congratulatory paragraph. She has long ago stopped expecting anything from her frantic mother. There is no point, especially when she has a brother who more than makes up for the difference.
Then what is she waiting for?
As if to provide an answer to her musings, her sharp sight catches movement from the borders of the forest. Squinting, she can just barely make out a human outline. She supposes it is merely Rubeus Hagrid returning from his most recent venture. A voice in her head-it sounds suspiciously like that of the insufferable Head Girl, Peggy Brighton-reminds her that it is her duty as a prefect to apprehend anyone who is caught out-of-bounds, but she supposes that as the boy gets into more trouble alone than their entire house combined, it can't hurt to let him off tonight.
Besides, Gryffindor had been neck-and-neck with Slytherin for house points this morning and she doesn't fancy jeopardizing any lead that a victory in the upcoming match might earn them.
But then the figure emerges into a domain of the newly risen moon, throwing his features into sharp relief. Back at the pitch, she gives a start of surprise, pulling her wand from her pocket and rising to her feet in one fluid movement.
Abruptly, as if he senses her unease, her point of human emotion in the vast plain of impassivity that surrounds them, the boy's head snaps in her direction.
The soft light of the moon crowns his head, and he looks cadaverously gentlemanly. His normally pale skin is ghostly white, seeming to lack all color. It is the pallor of one who has seen beyond the realm of the living.
He remains still, a statue of haunting tragedy. His body is carefully held in check, not a muscle moves out of his control. He is guarded. The skin on his face is as unmarred as an immortal and it clings to his facial bones perfectly giving the impression that he is chiseled out of marble. Flawless. Dangerous.
A flash of his eyes of deepest black holds her spellbound. For a flicker of time, she can see that beneath the handsome exterior, there is something...something not quite right, and under this chilling moonlight, she can see it clawing its way out. Behind his courteous façade, there is a burning man screaming to be let out. Within the ice capsule, there is a fire ready to consume.
And then he blinks. All she can see now is a haughty, albeit striking, Slytherin, paused in inaction. He is not uncertain-he is never uncertain-but there is a question lingering in the air.
He has been out-of-bounds.
She is a prefect of a rival house.
But she wants to know more. His vibrant colorlessness is a challenge, a challenge that piques her interest.
She does not know whether it is the hint of the smile she involuntarily makes or the nod she civilly returns, but she motions that he is given a by.
He is a conniving boy and when he smirks in satisfaction, she feels as if he can see right through her. Into her soul. Into her skivvies, even. He lays her waste, devouring every one of her defenses easily as though they are clear as glass and as insubstantial as one of her curls.
But, as horrifying as the thought of being transparent is, it is not entirely unpleasant to be read by him.
She wants to know what he has seen for this boy knows far too much.
His face holds secrets, she decides one day in class. They both sit in Transfiguration as her nearly omniscient Head of House explains the fundamentals of mammalian vanishing. She has taken out the require text, parchment, two quills, and ink, and has placed them on her desk just so. She has already copied down the notes written on the board, but she cannot concentrate.
He sits two desks over.
With the sunlight and the yellow-orange glow of candles, he does not seem so otherworldly. His cheeks hold the slightest tint of peach, although his hair and eyes are still impossibly dark. In the light of day, he is painfully real. Today, his hair is slightly ruffled and she finds that she does not like to think where he has been during the slight break between lunch and afternoon classes. It makes her nostrils flare and she has to suck her lips in to keep control.
It isn't the proper reaction to such a thought...it isn't even proper for her to be thinking such thoughts.
But she can not stop her mind from dwelling on him.
He too has already copied down the notes. He does not have his book out on the desk, but she suspects that it is one of the tomes that causes his bag to bulge at the seams. The bag is shut. In fact, she has never seen it open in six years of classes with him, but now, there is a fierce desire within her to know what he is reading. He seems so ordinary when she passes him in the corridors, talking with his friends about the latest Quidditch match or the recent Potions assignment, but she saw something mystical in him that night and she is not ready to give him up. A part of her is certain that his reading could give her some answers and assure her that she did not imagine that night.
As her eyes glide back up to observe him, she finds that she is shocked by what she sees. He is not looking up at the professor with his usual rapt expression. Rather he appears almost defiant even though none of his features are distorted in any way. It is in the way he carries himself, thin lips set and hands with attractively long fingers ominously still.
It is interesting. Another element of his enigma.
And when the bell rings at the end of the double period, he rises, carefully placing his parchment, quill, and ink back into his bag, and slinging it over his shoulder. One of his Slytherin comrades says something and he laughs, clapping him on the back and adjusting his own tie nonchalantly.
She decides he is even more beautiful, if that is possible, when he laughs. Normally, his face is terribly severe with a cruelly hard shape, even when he smiles. But, for that moment when the tips of his mouth curve upwards, his cheeks are rounded and there is a twinkle of something in his dark eyes besides indifference.
Not even the concerned look over a pair of half-moon glasses can abate her fascination.
Then a first year, Muggleborn, is found Petrified outside a girl's bathroom, and the castle is plunged into darkness. Fear of an unknown menace spreads through the school like a plague. Students and teacher alike walk the corridors with suspicion. Untrusting.
And there are rumors. Rumors of a secret chamber, of an heir to an ancient founder. She wants to write off the absurdity; it is a fairy tale told to children. But in the pit of her belly she wonders.
He seems to know. He along with his group is spared the fever of insanity. They continue to go through the day as if nothing were wrong. He seems assured of his future, of his safety.
She craves his knowledge.
If she had been drawn to his beauty before, she is now entranced by his mind. Within it, he is immune from the hysteria of the rest of the school. Somehow, it has given him peace, an inner confidence. She used to think she had that, but now, she finds herself lacking. Now she finds herself scurrying the halls, waiting for an attacker around every corner. She finds herself reassuring younger students while her mind quavers. She finds that she can not supply an explanation, and the fact that he apparently can, makes her want him more.
There is nothing like seeing Death.
She is the one to find the body of poor Myrtle within the bathroom. She knows from the moment she enters the white-tiled room that something is wrong. The room reeks of staleness. There is a still, a foreboding quiet to the room.
She doesn't disturb that stillness when she finds the girl lying on the ground. She doesn't screamed. As she waits for her friend to fetch Professor Dippet, she stands by the girl. The scent, the stench of death seeps into her very pores. She will never be able to wash it out of her hair.
But the sight is infinitely worse than the smell. Her body lies sprawled across the floor on her side. One of her arms is extended above her head, the wrist loose. Her legs are curled back. Myrtle looks broken.
It isn't until the skin of her bottom lip breaks that she realizes how hard she is biting down. She feels sick to her stomach because she cannot look away.
Then the crowds come. The horrified professors and the grotesquely curious students. She is jostled and pushed out of the way after her testimony is taken. The bright blue eyes observe her for a fraction, and she wonders if she sees suspicion in them, but then they look away, resting sadly on the covered body.
The world starts spinning because as they try to move the body, she realizes that she has just found a student dead. The girl will never get older, she will never leave Hogwarts to find a job. Myrtle, she thinks sadly, will never move passed the insecurity and depression of being bullied. Her parents will have to bury their child.
Terribly disoriented, she stumbles out into the corridor. A pair of strong arms catch her around the waist and upon seeing the face of her rescuer, she has to shut her eyes to dispel the onset of dizziness.
It is him.
He peers down at her carefully and despite her tall stature, she has to look up into his black eyes. His face is creased with concern, and she feels herself melt into him. Whether it is out of exhaustion or romance, she does not know.
He supports her weight and wordlessly leads her to the nearest tapestry for privacy. As he gently lowers her, she clutches at the lapels of his robes. She wants to thank him...she wants to ask him so many things. But her mind can not articulate at the moment, and she thinks he understands.
When she begins trembling, wretched noises torn from her chest and salty liquid trails racing down her cheeks, he sits beside her. Once, he even reaches over to wipe away a tear. The skin he touches on her face burns, but it is pleasant compared to the wracking pain that has taken over her body.
And slowly, slowly, everything numbs...everything except for the desire. Because he is sitting not six inches away from her and he has a smell that is familiar. But she still cannot form the words so when he, after a long-shared gaze, bends down to brush his mouth against hers, she loses herself in him.
Almost over night reprieve descends upon the castle and its inhabitants breathe an almost synchronized sigh of relief. The Heir has been captured; Hogwarts is safe.
But the parts don't fit together.
Truth be told, she is afraid to confront him. For the first time, she fears the answers he might have. She wonders if she wants to know. Perhaps ignorance will make her happier. Maybe the long-tortured glances they share now are more meaningful than this discrepancy of fact.
But guilt has become a second skin. It follows her around, lingering on her skin. It taints their every meeting. In the flurry of desire, as he presses light kisses to her throat, as his lips trail down her body in exploration, it is all a lie. No longer can she hear the groan of his pleasure, or displeasure as she pulls away, without seeing the terrified eyes of the accused and the vacant gaze of the dead.
It is all a lie now when she wants him. She hates herself when she lies in bed, wishing he were with her, but knowing he is not who she thought. Or that he is exactly what she thought.
The flames within him are for self-preservation. That burning passion that intrigued her is not a love, but a fervent hatred.
She must end it.
They meet in the bathroom, the one where it all began. His robe is off and he has rolled the sleeves of his crisp white shirt up to reveal his forearms. The dark shadows that used to linger under his eyes-evidence, she realizes that he has been worried-have begun to fade. A humorous smirk plays on his lips and his lids lower as he watched her.
She trembles, unsure of his reaction. She has seen more glimpses into the raging fire within him and she knows that he is strong enough to overcome her. She knows that she is accusing him.
There is no turning back.
Uncertainly and clumsily, she manages to get the words out. He straightens up, his hands balling into fists and his eyes burning into her. Tears come all too easily, but she's determined to hold her ground. When he stares at her, the sum total of his power boring into her being, she knows she can rely on the one point of truth within her.
In that point, right and wrong are clear and define, no matter how muddled her body's reactions to him are making her thoughts.
She expects him to get angry. To shout. To yell. To accuse. To fight. But he acquiesces. He lets her leave. He lets them end. And she cannot help but feel cheated.
But then there is nothing left to say, nowhere left to go but out. And she exits.
After she is gone, the boy walks over to a dirty sink. He hunches over it, looking up at his reflection in the mirror. He closes his eyes imagining the snake etched on the pipe.
It is over, he hisses.
A/N: I would like to thank the lovely Kylie (Elysium) for beta-ing this so quickly and efficiently, and for making the beautiful chapter image. This story was loosely based off of her "No Words" oneshot, so it was wonderful to have her input.
Happy holidays to everyone! Please take a few seconds to jot down what you thought of the story :) To find out more about me or what I'm working on (or why I haven't updated "Lost at Sea"), you can visit my blog, Wickedly Written...link on my author's page :)