Chapter 25 : Seeing Through the Fog
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Learning the piano was a tricky business, especially when you were practising in two places at once. There I was in the sitting room at home, playing the same song over and over. I was sure Merle was going to stick her head around the kitchen door and tell me to knock it off. Then, quite suddenly, I was in my bedroom at the Merrigan Estate, doing quite the same thing. Only this time, I was expecting Severus to tell me to cease the incessant racket. Ah! There I was back at Merle’s house again – no, Snape’s house, no Merle’s house… Hm, home either way…
I was flying! No wait – I was sort of flying…jumping really. Oof! Was that my head? Did someone just jump on my head? No, that was me.
I shook my head. That made no sense at all! I couldn’t jump on my own head! Who would suggest such a thing? I was definitely jumping though and it made my head hurt.
Clouds again! Old friends! I was jumping from cloud to cloud. I yelled out a pained “Oof!” or “Ow!” or something Severus wouldn’t approve of as I hit each one.
The clouds were falling apart! Go faster! Go faster! I jumped as quickly as I could, holding onto my head.
I heard Shar’s voice. I shuddered. I found myself in the kitchen of my old house, the creepy old man standing across from me.
“I was one of her closest companions before you came along. I should be very interested in knowing what has been left to me in her will. That is, I expect to be informed.”
“All the same, your arrival meant I was in competition with someone else for Merle’s attention,” he snapped. “My friendship with her was never the same after you came along. You always had to come first and I was pushed into the background. No one cared about the poor squib next door.”
We seemed to be arguing. I suddenly remembered that conversation a little too well. I wished I wouldn’t have to remember that one…
I gasped as Shar hit me.
I jumped onto another cloud and quickly jumped off again as it broke apart. I was sitting with Severus…
“I hope you don’t think making a crestfallen face merits a slight change in my opinion,” he said, narrowing his eyes at me.
“Please…?” I began, a little half-heartedly.
He scoffed. “Oh, a little better.”
Uh oh…there was Mandy. I didn’t like her. She was ranting about her perfume. I shook my head angrily. I still had nothing to do with that!
“Here!” Mandy said harshly. “Look at this!” She gestured to the top shelf in the bathroom cupboard. There, in many, many pieces were the remains of a perfume bottle.
Cloud after cloud kept breaking and with each one I found myself in a different place. My head didn’t enjoy one bit of it. There was Severus again! I was in our dungeon sitting room, looking at my mother’s ring. Severus looked a little annoyed.
“Armilla has a fetish for overcompensating me with apologies. I do believe she thinks her presence in my life is depriving me of my valuable time.”
There was Mandy again…
“I can give you no explanation,” I said calmly, anger boiling up inside me. “I didn’t put it there.”
Mandy narrowed her eyes. “Seems weird that someone would bother stealing it, only to hide it in your trunk.”
“Exactly,” I said coolly. “Clearly the person who is doing this isn’t very clever. If the object is so easily found, they want you to think it’s me.”
I was looking at my Ravenclaw music box. My small knight, Sir Rodrigo was waffling on about something or other as usual. I sighed and closed the lid of the box and Rodrigo fell to his knees, puffing loudly. Suddenly he jumped up again, clutching his helmet. “Nobody move! I’ve dropped my brain!”
It was Christmas time. I was at Hogwarts with Severus. There was Morag!
“It is an owl, isn’t it?” I said, backing away as far as I could from the claws. I didn’t get very far; Snape caught my arm before I had put a fair distance between myself and the cage.
“Yes, it’s an owl,” he said, looking amused at my reaction to the bird. “But, as you were so quick to figure out that it is not an alarm clock, I’m confident you would have noticed that it’s not a common post owl.”
I was in Diagon Alley with Severus. He was going to buy me a new instrument to amuse myself with at Grimmauld Place. Mrs Flitwick was helping us pick one.
“Ukulele?” I suggested, pointing it out.
Severus turned and fixed me with a mocking look. “Certainly, Armilla. All you’ll need is a lei, a grass skirt and a portkey to Hawaii.”
Wait! No! I couldn’t play another instrument! Shar always invited himself over with the excuse that he wanted to hear me play the piano! No! He would come over all the time if I had a violin. I couldn’t have it.
Damn! Severus had bought it for me! No! I was practising. Why was I so stupid? Shar would come over! Severus will serve him tea and then I would be told to play my new instrument for Shar! I had to get rid of the violin! Where to put it though? Shar couldn’t know about it. He might come after me again. Well, I was not going to give him Merle’s house…or Severus’ house for that matter. I hope he burned in-
Where was I? Lisa and I were following Terry out of the common room. We went through many deserted corridors until we came to a stop in the middle of one. I remembered this! All I could see was a tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. Terry stared hard at the opposite wall in concentration and suddenly before our eyes, a door appeared. The Room of Requirement! We had met Hermione in there! That had led to trouble with Severus. I already had that memory.
“Well this particular type of room didn’t exist until we needed it,” said Hermione, standing up. “This is the Room of Requirement. It appears here when one really needs to use it for something. It changes its décor depending on what it is needed for.”
The Room of Requirement! Ah ha! That’s where I could put the violin! That was the only possible place to put the violin. If I hid it anywhere else, Severus would surely find it. I didn’t want to destroy it. I would destroy Shar instead at first chance! Then, after I’d incinerated him, I’d retrieve my violin. Good plan!
“Ow,” I moaned, clutching my head. Was my head on fire? It certainly felt like it to me. I opened my eyes. Hold on, were they really open? I was certain they were open. Why were there little broomsticks flying around the room then? That was very strange. Broomsticks don’t normally do that this time of year…Definitely not in summer…Weren’t we in December. Was it winter then? It didn’t feel like winter in here.
Where was I? Yes, this was definitely my bedroom in Snape’s quarters. Those broomsticks were still whizzing around. Go away! The lights were too bright!
My violin! I had to hide it! Shar was coming. He’d be here soon!
What was that noise? There was a buzzing coming from somewhere. Ow…it hurt to move my head. There was someone sitting next to my bed. I could barely make out who it was in the dark. Was it Shar?
I peered closer. Tonks! Merlin, what was Tonks doing next to my bed? Sleeping (and snoring) it seemed. Where was Severus then? With Shar, no doubt. Shar was probably telling him right that moment how very dearly he wished to hear me play the violin! Well, I wouldn’t let him. I was going to the Room of Requirement!
I went to push the covers back and realised that they had already been pushed back. Had I done that? My body seemed wet…Had it rained in here or was that sweat? I sat up. Whoa! Stop moving! My hand hit something cool when I went to get up. It was a cloth, a very cold one. Well, wasn’t that handy? I pushed it to my forehead and let out a small sigh in relief. That felt so good.
Back to business! Right! I put the cloth down, got up and immediately grabbed onto anything that would hold me up. Stop spinning! Had I made much noise? I turned back and glanced at Tonks. She hadn’t stirred at all. I fervently hoped it was really Tonks, not some weirdo in disguise. What if it was? When Father had kidnapped me, he’d been in disguise as Lucius Malfoy. Either way, I had to leave. I had a mission, as besides that, I wanted to leave the flying broomsticks behind.
I opened the door of the armoire and felt around for the violin case. Ah ha. Taking hold of it, I pulled it out as quietly as I could and shut the door. Taking one last glance at Tonks, I moved slowly towards the door. It seemed I could walk a bit better now. The world had stopped spinning, for the most part anyway.
Damn, those broomsticks were outside my bedroom too! Go away! I used my free hand to bat them away. Nothing. They continued to whiz past.
I found my way to the front door and let myself out. Ah, cold air! Who said the dungeons corridors didn’t have good weather, particularly in winter? The floor made my feet, which only had socks on, feel like ice. It was heaven!
A long time later I finally reached the marble staircase in the Entrance Hall. It had felt like hours getting out of the dungeons. I must have taken too many wrong turns. The air didn’t feel as cold in the Entrance Hall, but at least it was cooler than my bedroom.
I held onto the banister and began the trek up the stairs. Since when had the grand staircase had that many stairs? When I reached the top, I sat down to rest. How did I normally do this?
No, no! Keep going! Shar was going to hear me play! Get rid of the violin immediately. I shook my head. Shar? Hadn’t he been caught? I frowned. I could have sworn Severus had said that he’d been dealt with. That was odd. Now I was hiding my violin in case he came. This was strange turn of events.
Best keep going. I didn’t want to be wrong and suddenly find Shar when I got back. I shuddered at the thought. I stood up, holding onto the banister again, waiting for the room to right itself. The broomsticks were still there. Had they gotten smaller and multiplied?
Getting to the portrait of Barnabus the Barmy seemed to take forever. I was sure I had heard Peeves several times along the way and I had ducked around corners when I had thought he was moving in my direction. As it was, I ended up meeting no one on my journey.
I frowned at the blank wall, rubbing my aching head as I tried to recall the way to get into the Room of Requirement. It had definitely come back to me in a memory, hadn’t it?
I began walking back and forth, batting away the flying broomsticks as I went. It made no difference. I need a place to hide my violin. I need a place to hide my violin. I need a place to hide my violin.
Back and forth I kept going until, quite suddenly, a door materialised on the blank wall. Letting out a sigh of relief, I grabbed the handle and opened the door. The sight that met me was quite overwhelming.
There were rows and rows of items in this room. Furniture, books, vases, pots, urns, bottles… it seemed as if this collection had been made over many years. I wondered if half the items belonged to people who were now deceased. Perhaps others had forgotten that these items were here, or simply didn’t want them.
Focus! I just had to hide the violin and get out. I had to be back in the dungeons before Tonks woke up. If Severus found out what I was doing, he’d be really annoyed. Shar would complain that he hadn’t heard me play and then…
“Ahh!” I jumped back as my left foot trod on something sharp. Merlin, that hurt! Why hadn’t I put shoes on? Hopping about, I stared down at the source of my pain. It was a bronze hinge. I frowned as I reached down to pick it up with my free hand. This hinge was familiar. Hadn’t Severus shown me that very hinge the other night? What had he said about it? Something to do with Draco Malfoy and my memory…hang on, hadn’t this hinge been the reason that my memory had been altered in the first place?
I scowled as I turned the hinge over in my hand. Stupid thing. I sat on the floor and peeled my sock off my sore foot. Blood was slowly oozing out of the ball of my foot. Shaking my head I put the blood stained sock back on and used my hand to wipe away the drops of blood left on the floor.
Why was the hinge in this room anyway? Had Severus left it here for a reason? Maybe he was hiding it from someone. Maybe Draco Malfoy wanted it back. It was all very confusing.
Now that I’d sat down, I was in no hurry to get up again. My head was throbbing and I was certain that I’d used up the very last of what had remained of my energy.
Shar. I had to hide the violin quickly and get back. Sighing, I held onto the nearest furniture to haul myself up. This made the small broomsticks spill out in all directions, hurting my head all the more.
As it turned out, I hadn’t picked the most stable piece of furniture to support my weight as I’d hauled myself up. It wobbled slightly and for a moment I thought it was going to fall over. I pushed my weight against it and the wobbling ceased. Letting go a moment later I stood back to have a look at it.
It was a cupboard, an unusual looking one. Its door was resting on the floor next to it. It looked a little battered and had probably been in retirement in this room for many years. I ran my finger over the ornate carving in the wood. It matched a small carving on the hinge. I guessed the hinge belonged to this cupboard. The various pieces had probably been dumped in here after it had fallen apart. Why hide it in the Room of Requirement though?
Tucking the hinge away in my pocket, meaning to hold onto it because I didn’t like the idea of Draco Malfoy finding it, I wandered down one of the aisles, not really seeing properly what else was there. I was not going to get distracted by anything else. I was going to hide my violin and get out of there. I wondered if I could leave the whizzing broomsticks behind.
I reached the end of a long aisle and stopped by an old table covered with books. Crouching down, I lifted the long tablecloth and immediately coughed from the dust that rose from it. I placed the violin case under the table, sitting on yet more books and then let the tablecloth swing back into place.
I froze suddenly when I heard a noise. What was that? I was sure that door had just opened.
“No. Stay out there and guard the area like I told you to.”
I bit down on my lip. I knew that voice. Draco Malfoy. He was here!
“Yeah, well, what story am I supposed to come up with if someone comes by then?”
That was Crabbe talking.
“How the hell should I know? It’s three o’clock in the morning. I’m sure, ghosts aside, you’re not going to run into too many people. Chances are if there are others roaming the halls at this time of the night, they’ve got their own missions to carry out.”
Mission? My hand closed around the hinge in my pocket. Was Malfoy after it? If so, he was about to discover that it wasn’t there on the floor.
“And if Snape comes back?” said a third voice. Goyle.
Where had Severus gone? Had he been called? Was that why Tonks was in my bedroom? Was he with Shar? Had he gone to find someone to rid me of these flying broomsticks?
“I’ll deal with him,” Malfoy said coldly. “He’s already too suspicious and he’ll be watching me more closely now than ever.”
“Well, it was stupid to get into a duel with his sister,” said Crabbe. “I think-”
“-What you think matters little to me, Crabbe,” Malfoy said acidly. “What’s important is that I get this finished soon and get it right. Snape should be away for a few hours at least. Aunt Bella made perfectly sure of that.”
I shook my head; my mind felt so foggy. Bella…Bellatrix Lestrange. I rubbed my temples, bringing my knees up so I could rest my head on them. Bellatrix Lestrange…was she the cause of Severus being away? Had she gotten the Dark Lord to call him? Had I just dreamed the last minute? Was Shar there with them? It was a good thing I had hidden my violin. I leaned my head against the table, closing my eyes for a moment. I was so tired.
I nearly hit my head on the table when I heard the door closing again. Please don’t come down here, I thought, as I huddled closer to the table. I lifted up the cloth again and saw that there was enough room to slide in underneath. Quietly as I could, I moved under the table. As I went, I had to stifle a cough as dust went flying once again and settled on me and the books around me, as well as the violin case.
I looked down at the hinge in my hand. If Malfoy was looking for this, surely he would cast an Accio on it. I didn’t have my wand with me to attempt to stop it. It would fly out of my hand and zoom across the room to him. If Malfoy knew it was supposed to be on the floor in front of the cupboard, wouldn’t he be surprised if it came whizzing from elsewhere? Would he come to snoop in the area?
My heart was thudding in my chest. The flying broomsticks seemed to have slowed down now. I was sure a few of them had disappeared too, thanks goodness.
What was I to do now? I didn’t understand the importance of the hinge, except that it had something to do with the cupboard. I couldn’t let Malfoy have it, simply because I was positive that whatever his mission was, it ought not to be encouraged.
I could hear Malfoy in the distance rummaging around. Was he looking for the hinge?
If he finds you, I thought, he’ll probably do something far more dangerous than alter your memory. I didn’t even have my wand. What did I have to protect me now? I shook my head, playing with my bracelet. It was a hopeless case. I remembered using my bracelet to save myself from Father, but seeing as the emerald had started to go foggy, I highly doubted it would help me now. I leaned forward and rubbed my tired eyes. Would it work? I could only try…try and probably be disappointed.
I ran a finger over the foggy emerald. Was it like that because of my draining magic? Malfoy is here, I thought, staring hard at it. If he finds me, he’ll want to harm me. Help me. I nearly gasped when, only for a second, a faint glow came from the emerald. Well, at least it still had some power.
“Blast!” I heard Malfoy yell. “Where is it?”
I looked frantically at the emerald, holding the hinge up to it. Now! I pleaded. Help me now!
It glowed once more, only this time the hinge stuck fast onto the emerald, like a magnet. Would this bode well? I couldn’t be sure. Would this mean that when Malfoy used a summoning charm, as I knew he would, the hinge would come flying towards him with me attached to it? Dear Merlin, I hoped not…
It couldn’t mean that, surely. I cringed as I heard something smash. I had asked the bracelet to help me and it seemed like it had, but seeing as my magic wasn’t all it could be at the moment, there was a chance that the bracelet could be faulty. Maybe the fogginess meant that it was faulty.
I heard Malfoy swear several times before I heard a distinct “Accio hinge!”
The hinge attached to my bracelet didn’t move at all, but I did hear several objects whiz by me.
“Ow! Damn!” Malfoy uttered a few more colourful words before I heard several more things smash. I smiled to myself as I concluded that he must have been hit by several stray hinges. That’s what you got when you didn’t do the spell properly. He probably didn’t visualise it properly in his mind. A moment later he tried again.
This time, nothing happened at all. I didn’t dare touch the hinge that was still attached to my bracelet.
There was silence. I was sure that if my heart pounded any harder, my chest would surely explode. At any rate, I was sure my throbbing head would burst before anything else.
I heard an angry growl and a second later the door was wrenched open.
“That was quick,” I heard Goyle say.
“Shut up, you fool,” Malfoy hissed. “Someone’s been in here. I’ve got to either find it or rethink it pretty quickly. I need to owl Borgin.”
“Find what?” Crabbe asked.
I didn’t hear the answer; Malfoy shut the door with a snap behind him.
I sighed. How long would it be before I could leave? Maybe Malfoy would be back again quickly… If I left in the next few minutes or in the next hour I was going to be in danger. I wished I had my wand. This was all Shar’s fault!
It was so warm in here. I rubbed my head. Should I give it ten or fifteen minutes and then leave? Would that be wise? Who knew if all three of them would still be in the area?
I pulled at the hinge and it detached itself easily from the emerald. Sighing again, I put it into my pocket.
I closed my eyes, leaning down to rest my head on my violin case. I was exhausted. I would wait for a while. I wasn’t in the least bit comfortable, which was probably good considering that I didn’t want to fall asleep. The violin case didn’t make the best pillow.
The violin case? I brought my hands to my face, utterly confused. What the hell had I been doing? I knew Shar wasn’t around anymore to bother me. Why was I trying to hide my violin from him? Merlin, had I been that delirious when I’d woken up? I looked around at the flying broomsticks. Yes, my mind answered. It was just that a tiny bit of my senses had returned to me.
How the hell was I going to get out of this one without a wand? My fingers found the pearl attached to the chain around my neck. I pressed my index fingers to it and saw the glow as it turned red.
o o o o o o o o o o o
Memory after memory had hit me and with each one a mini explosion went off in my head.
I was shopping for dress robes with Severus.
I was looking up charms to cure headaches.
I was playing with my Pygmy Puff.
I was looking at my OWL results.
Severus had told me to leave and I was in a hurry to be out of his sight. I ran from the courtyard without looking back. I kept running and running and suddenly I was in the clearing in the forest where Snape and I had apparated. I stopped in the middle, not knowing where to turn. I had no one to turn to.
There was a movement in the bushes behind me.
I turned quickly.
There was nothing there.
I turned back and met a face I had hoped to never see again.
Shar. Shar carrying a knife.
I screamed. What was he doing at the Merrigan Estate? Was he back? Where was Severus?
I got to the gate and I pulled it open, not checking over my shoulder. I stopped screaming because it made my head feel even worse. I was certain that I had minutes before it was due to explode.
I ran and ran, feeling relieved that I wasn’t hearing footsteps running after me.
I was slowing down and I wasn’t sure why. No matter how hard I ran, it felt like I was going at walking pace.
I saw something bright up ahead. That’s where I had to be!
I opened the door and tried to keep running, only I tripped instead and went sliding.
“Oof!” I landed hard on my behind, which quickly felt frozen. I was sitting in snow! Jumping up, I shook my pounding head, trying to get my bearings. I promptly lost my footing and ended up sitting in the snow again. How the hell had I gotten out here?
I was in one of the school courtyards it seemed, and it was still quite dark. Where was Shar? Was he still hunting for me?
“Ohhhh,” I groaned. It was a memory again, wasn’t it? Shar wasn’t really around. Weird lights were around though. Hundreds of them seemed to be flying around me.
“Hello, my dear.” I swung around at the sound of the voice.
“Merle,” I said uncomfortably. There she was, the ghost-like creature I’d been warned against. I wasn’t supposed to be out alone. She was there to drain my magic away.
I got up, my soaked feet unsteady in the snow. I took a couple of steps away from Merle and found that my feet were sinking fast in the soft snow. Wincing from the cold, I tried to move quicker, which made my head pound all the more.
“Where are you going?” Merle demanded.
I ignored her. As I stepped onto a drier surface near the door, I noticed an icy puddle on the cobbled pavement. Leaning down towards it, I saw not only my reflection, but another one next to it that looked nothing like Merle. It wasn’t completely clear; rather, it was quite funny and was mainly greyish. Still, the outline and what I could see of the face looked strangely familiar.
“Merle,” I said slowly. “Why does your reflection look like me?”
She didn’t answer; her reflection suddenly vanished. I looked over and saw that she had disappeared. Where had she gone?
I clutched at my head and the lights swam around me. “Ohh.” I had to get inside before it exploded and pieces of me were littered all over the snow. I moved as quickly as I could towards the door, nearly skidding several times across the icy pavement.
Was someone calling my name?
As I stepped inside, my wet socked feet slid and I went sailing across the corridor before ending up on the floor again.
“Not as cold,” I commented, clutching my head.
“Armilla!” a deep, very familiar voice hissed. “What in Merlin’s name are you doing?”
I looked up, shivering as I did so. “Damn,” I muttered, still clutching my head as I tried to make out the black cloaked figure in the doorway I’d just come through. The lights weren’t bothering me anymore. Something even worse was. “The broomsticks are back.”
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