Perfect chapter image by the talented Ande @ TDA
I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. I own only my OCs.
Chapter Seventeen Dark Night of the Soul
As Dumbledore had promised, the pensieve was delivered to her office during the first week of February. Freddy left it there until Friday night, and then after dinner she dragged herself upstairs to begin her work.
She hadn’t much hope for success, though what exactly she was trying to accomplish she couldn’t understand. But something of borrowed time pressed increasingly upon her and ever since she had fainted a month ago, Freddy began to suspect that her very essence was fading fast.
But why? Why this sudden spiritual wasting? It had to be spiritual, yes. She tried to soothe herself with the thought.
A spiritual malaise could not kill her. She would simply not
Keeping her office door locked, Freddy carefully pulled each silvery strand of memory from her temple and deposited it in the pensieve.
When she was done, the bowl was near brimming with the substance, years of her life poured out into elusive matter.
Her palms began to sweat.
There were dark things in that bowl. Horrible things. She didn’t necessarily want to confront them again. Surely, the last of her resilience would suffer if she put herself through the torment of Quirrell’s betrayal again and of the loss that by all means should have destroyed her.
But in the end, what choice did she have?
Grimacing slightly, Freddy leaned forward over the pensieve.
The coolness of the first memory embraced her. Down, down, down. She fell effortlessly and was reminded fleetingly of Alice in Wonderland.
Down, down, down, then…
Flagstones beneath her feet. The entry hall. It was summer. Quirrell was nearby, sitting on a trunk with a book.
“I want to see the Mayan ruins,” he said and showed Freddy a picture of an ancient stone temple half-eroded by the unforgiving wind and time. “I know you’ve been there, but the site is highly practical for my research. Human sacrifices and all…hmm, very dark magic.”
“There are tours every day from ten to four,” she replied, circling him, unable to keep still. Her flat shoes pattered on the cold stones, the echo drifting deep into the Great Hall where empty House tables sat shoved against the walls.
The students had left three days ago and Freddy envied their early freedom.
She wanted to be away, far away. Summer was made for travel and she couldn’t remember being home for the season in nearly six years.
But this time would be different. This time she had Quirrell.
“Why couldn’t I get a sabbatical?” she asked him, with a cheeky, cheery smile.
“You’ve only taught here for two years.” Quirrell had lowered his book now, looking pale, not his usual composed self. “I’m nervous. I’ve never been away like this before.”
“Oh lammie,” she said, her arms falling easily around his shoulders. Boyfriend and girlfriend, the thought appealed to Freddy. Their relationship was no longer tentative, but secure, certain. If summer hadn’t so conveniently rolled around, they wouldn’t have been able to keep it a secret from the rest of the staff , at the very least.
McGonagall, of course, suspected something, but she was thankfully tight-lipped.
“I like it this way,” Freddy told him, “not being alone. And you’ll like it too. We have two months together.”
“Two months,” Quirell repeated, his voice soft, a whisper. “Freddy, I’m happy to be going away with you, I…care for you, love you. We’ll, um, have a good time.”
He had snuck it in there, but she had heard it. Love. Yes, was this love? Or was it youth and impulse?
No, she trusted her emotions for once.
“Yeah,” she replied, sitting on the trunk next to him. “Me too.”
France. They were in the South of France. On a balcony, watching the beach. It was early afternoon, but not too early for wine.
Freddy liked her drinks sweet.
“Have you ever thought about things?” she asked him, letting her hip gently touch his as they stood next to each other.
“What sort of things?” Quirrell was looking better these days. A month and a half on the road had left him lean and tan.
She thought he was undeniably handsome. And happy. Happy with her
“You know.” A shrug from her. “What you really want to do with yourself.”
“I want to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts.”
Freddy laughed. “Other than that.”
“Marriage, you mean?”
He snaked a hand around her waist, giving her a squeeze. A Mediterranean breeze fingered his hair. “Kids?”
“Maybe.” She leaned into him. “I think I could handle them. A pretty little house that we could close up in the summer. Travel.”
“No traveling with kids, sweetheart,” Quirrell reminded her.
She offered him a sip of her wine and watched his lips fold around the glass. “Well, yes, the kids would come later, of course. And when they got old enough, we could take them too. I wish my Mam had raised me that way.”
Quirrell touched the white stone of the balcony railing, squinting as the sun slanted down on them. “So what are we really talking about here?”
“Just,” she paused, searched for the word that wouldn’t make her sound eager or desperate, “hypothetical stuff.”
“Hmm.” He pulled her closer. “Hypothetical.”
That night, they went to the opera and saw La Traviata by Verdi. The heroine Violetta, a courtesan, died of tuberculosis in the final act.
Afterwards, they went walking on the beach.
“Impressive,” she told him, as he went down on one knee while the low tide pulled the cerulean ocean away from the shore.
“It’s just temporary,” he promised and held up the ring hopefully. “Once I’m back in England…I’ll buy you something beautiful, goblin-made, if you like.”
Lazy, soft waves broke the silence.
Freddy glanced up at the milky sky, felt the stirring breezes of twilight and then looked back at him.
“That’s yes, then?” Quirrell half-rose, sand smudging his sensible burgundy dress robes.
“Aye,” Freddy repeated with a lopsided smile.
She had to leave him when August died. Back to school. He would be going on without her, completing his field work. And when he returned, he would be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and they, yes, they would be married.
Freddy let herself get sentimental, clung to him in a French train station like so many maudlin lovers.
“Be careful,” she said, even though she knew Quirrell would take care of himself.
He always had.
“I will, I promise.” He kissed her, one last time…one last time. “I’m heading to Albania next. I’ll owl you as soon as I’m there.”
“Good.” Freddy hugged him tighter and hid her silly tears. “Please, Slatero, be careful.”
Trelawney was the first to know. Freddy decided that the Divination professor really was a Seer, either that or she had glimpsed her ring.
“Dear Forbia,” she said, gathering her into hug as they stood in the staffroom, chatting between classes. “I’m so happy for you…and Slatero. And did I not foresee that you would marry a scholar from this very school?”
“No,” Freddy laughed, untangling herself from Trelawney’s long, spidery arms. “You told me that I would marry a healer named after a bird.”
Trelawney ignored her comment with good grace. “But you must tell the rest of the staff! A shame your intended is in Albania. We might have had a lovely celebration.”
“Sibyl, please,” Freddy replied with conjured alarm, “don’t tell anyone yet. I want it to be a secret, something pleasant for me to have until he gets back. Please? Can you keep it to yourself?”
“Of course, Forbia,” Trelawney said, appearing offended that her talent for confidence had been second-guessed. “But you know, these things do have a way of getting around.”
To her credit, Trelawney slipped only once…in front of Flitwick, McGonagall and Sprout.
The letters she received from him were frequent at first. He wrote many lengthy pages of his adventures abroad and had to pay for increasingly larger owls to deliver the bulky packets.
Freddy read his messages with delight and wrote him back nearly everyday, telling him how bored she was at Hogwarts and how three fourth years had attempted to steal love potions from Snape’s dungeon but instead ended up with Chilean itching powder.
It wasn’t until Christmastime that his letters slowed. Then the notes became half-hearted, scribbled, forced.
By spring, she scarcely heard from him at all.
He returned a month before the new school year was to start and for nearly a week afterwards, Freddy retired regularly to her rooms to cry.
The man who arrived at Hogwarts was a shadow. A thin, worn, wasted man who trembled and twitched and spoke with a stutter.
He told the staff his field work had presented him with tremendous difficulties. Vampires in the Black Forest. Zombies in Africa. And a curious hag who had tried to bite his face off.
To Freddy, he told nothing.
When she wasn’t in her room crying, she waited outside his door and confronted him whenever he dared to open it.
“Slatero, let me in, let me speak with you…please, let me see you.” And Freddy would try to embrace him, but he would shrink away in terror.
“I c…c…can’t, Forbia.”
“Just a minute, just let me in for a minute. It will be all right, everything will be all right, Slatero, if you just let me in!”
But he couldn’t bear to look at her and in the end, he cowered helplessly behind his locked door.
The students arrived during the first week of September and she had to go back to teaching. Quirrell returned to the work as well, now the professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Their classrooms were no longer across from each other, but Freddy heard from the students of how he couldn’t manage the class or himself.
Worry rode high in her mind as she tried to lecture, as she tried to take attendance and grade quizzes.
By the weekend, he had begun wearing a ridiculous purple turban. Speculation amongst the student body ran wild. They said Quirrell had stuffed it full of garlic to ward off vampires.
Freddy didn’t like Quidditch, but she went to the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match simply because he would be there. At meals and in the staff room he avoided her and she had given up playing Ophelia, wailing at his door whenever he locked himself away.
At the match he sat far up in the stands and Freddy lost sight of him when Harry Potter’s broom began to misbehave.
After the match, she asked him to take a walk with her to Hogsmeade.
Straightening his turban, Quirrell sniffed at her like she was a mangy cur and offered up a flimsy excuse.
Bit by bit, the autumn wind began to tear Freddy’s heart in two.
Winter. It became a game of hide and seek. She chased him, trailed him through the corridors and tried to corner him for at least a moment.
But fear had made him swift. Around Christmas, he grew melancholy.
Freddy forsook any travel plans and instead, sent him a meaningless card.
Happy Christmas. I miss you.
Quirrell sent her nothing in return.
When spring came around, there were nervous rumblings amongst the staff. Freddy couldn’t precisely place the source of the trouble, although she was certain it had something to do with the unicorns being slain nightly in the forest.
In April, he finally spoke to her.
She was leaving the library at half past eleven at night and the hall was dark and quiet. Quirrell appeared out of nowhere and startled her, causing her to drop her books and stifle a gasp.
“Oh Slatero.” Something was wrong. Freddy trembled when she looked at him.
He was wearing a traveling cloak.
“I w…w…want the r…r…r…ring back.”
“The r…r…r…ring, the t…t…trinket I gave you last s…su…summer.”
Tears sprang to her eyes. Was it over? Was it truly over?
Freddy didn’t understand him anymore.
“I don’t have it,” she lied, curling her left hand up into her sleeve. “Sorry, Slatero but I-”
“Y…Yes?” He had no patience for her and she didn’t recognize the sudden anger that colored his eyes an eerie tint of red.
“Never mind.” And Freddy drew up inside herself, let him pass by in a wave of shadow. After he had gone, it was several moments before she could move at all.
In May, she went to McGonagall. The Deputy Headmistress was surprisingly receptive to her troubles and she took Freddy into her office and sat her down with a good cup of tea.
“Something’s wrong,” she insisted, shivering even though the mug was warm in her hands. “Something terrible.”
“Forbia.” McGonagall frowned sadly. “Forbia, I’m so sorry.”
“I can’t…it just doesn’t make sense.”
McGonagall’s eyes were hard with restrained emotion. “Do you wish to take a leave of absence?”
“No, I just…I just want to understand.”
“You might never.”
A tear fell into Freddy’s Earl Grey. Why was she doing this, making an idiot of herself? What could McGonagall do?
Nothing. No, they were all statues of stone. Trapped.
She finished her tea and thanked her old professor for listening. Only later, after…after it all, did she learn that McGonagall had gone to Dumbledore immediately and told him everything.
And after, only after, did she learn that they had been suspicious of Quirrell all along and that she had been a fool.
The last week of classes. Freddy had opened all the windows in the staff room to let a breeze in and she sat pouring over a brochure for a tour of Brazil.
Get away, reason told her, far away from this cold place. Flee. Run. Escape.
She couldn’t stand the unrelenting dampness of Hogwarts any longer.
Quirrell came into the staff room. He stood for a minute by the window, turned and approached her chair.
Freddy pulled her arms close to her body. The dampness seemed to radiate from him.
“F…f…forget me, For…F…Forbia.”
Methodically, she folded her brochure and tucked it back inside her robes. “You’re a very selfish man, Slatero.”
When he didn’t respond, Freddy dared to look up at him.
His face was contorted, the muscles in his jaws bunched as he tried to speak. Someone or something, held his tongue.
A violently shaking hand touched her arm.
“I…I…I’m begging y…y…you.”
“I think you’re wicked,” she said and to her shock, she thought she saw regret and longing flitter across his face.
“I’m sorry,” he managed. “I’m so sorry…Forbia.”
She couldn’t take it anymore. Without looking back, she stumbled blindly out of the staff room.
At two in the morning, Freddy was roused by a great pounding on her door. It was Snape and once she had stepped out into the hall in her dressing gown, he grabbed her arm and peered directly into her mind.
Automatically, Freddy blocked him.
“Don’t!” He growled and shook her fiercely.
“What are you doing?” she whimpered. “What are you doing? Severus, let me go!”
“Stupid girl, have you betrayed us too?”
“What?” She wanted to reach for her wand, but instinct kept her still.
“Look at me and stop shutting your mind.” His grip on her arm tightened.
Freddy moaned, felt him begin to probe, to burrow his way into her thoughts. Pain surged against her skull.
“Severus, please, don’t hurt her!” It was Dumbledore, sweeping towards them.
The contact was broken and Freddy jerked away from Snape, only to fall into McGonagall’s arms.
With difficulty, she shook the rest of the sleep from her eyes.
“She’s innocent, I’m certain,” Dumbledore said. “My dear, forgive Severus, he acted as he thought was best. You mustn’t be frightened.”
Freddy leaned heavily on McGonagall’s arm and noticed that the Deputy Headmistress was shaking ever so slightly.
“What’s happened?” she blurted out, earning a severe glance from Snape and a sympathetic groan from McGonagall.
There was no answer. And then Snape spoke up.
“Quirrell made a grab for the Stone and nearly killed Potter. He died when the Dark Lord left his body.”
Freddy knew he must be lying and she wanted to laugh at Snape’s ridiculous joke. But she wasn’t laughing, no. She couldn’t be laughing with tears on her face.
“Take her to my office, Minerva,” Dumbledore ordered and his gentle blue eyes mirrored the loss she so acutely felt.
Freddy never got around to grading her students' final exams that week. The Ministry ordered her temporary suspension and she was interviewed by Aurors and Department Heads and the Deputy Minister of Magic himself.
Dumbledore insisted that the press be kept away and her relationship with Quirrell was never leaked to the public.
After two weeks, the investigation was closed and Freddy was exonerated completely. Dumbledore further lobbied that the incident be stricken from her record and he was supported by the testimonials of the Hogwarts staff.
The Ministry reluctantly relented.
In the end, she emerged as a blank slate, clear of accusation and even the hint of suspicion. The Headmaster invited her back to teach the following year.
It was only after all the chaos had settled, only after all the questions were asked and answered that she was left alone…entirely alone with the memory of him.
And she was haunted.
Floating, floating, then solid ground. Freddy landed in her office outside of the pensieve. The swirling silvery substance of her memories slowly evaporated, leaving the bowl empty.
It was over and what had she learned?
Freddy turned, made to sink into her chair, but a sudden spell of coughing captured her. She gasped, struggled against the pain in her chest and tried to inhale.
But her lungs resisted, her own body fought her.
In a panic, she realized she couldn’t breathe.
Whew! This chapter was a killer. When I first plotted it about six months ago, I was partially excited, but mostly terrified to write it. I don’t know if I’ve answered every question regarding Freddy’s past with Quirrell, but I do hope I’ve cleared up some of them.
Also, there is a single line in this chapter which pretty much gives away the plot to the sequel. Can you guess which one it is? And yes, there will be a short sequel, which I’m in the midst of drafting now. ^_^
As always, I must extend my most heartfelt thanks to all my readers and reviewers. And, of course, I have to thank the most awesome beta in the world, Renfair.
Chapter Eighteen is in the works and I hope to have it posted in about two weeks. Until then, take care!