There is no clock in the room, yet he can hear it ticking as if it is right beside him, as if it is playing right alongside his heart’s quick beats. Perhaps it is. Perhaps the ticking of the clock so well matches the beating of his heart because the clock does not exist, and it is only in his head. Perhaps the clock is his mind’s metaphor for how very little time his heart has left to beat.
These are his thoughts as the seconds slide away, becoming minutes too swiftly for his liking, until the only real clock in his house chimes the new hour. It is eleven o’clock. His heart lurches uncomfortably, and by the time the last chime dies away, leaving only an imaginary echo behind, he feels sure the beats have stopped. Then he remembers that they can’t have; it hasn’t been long enough.
Is he imagining the ice seeping through his blood? Is the pain supposed to start already? He doesn’t know much on this subject; he’s never been in this predicament before, and researching was the last thing he wanted to do for the last twenty-three hours. No, the chill that burns like fire is definitely real, and it isn’t going away. In fact, it’s getting stronger.
There was a nice one in her house last night, enticing flames lapping the hearth lazily in her fireplace. It illuminated her hair, her face, her smile, her glass as she raised it for a toast. A toast to them, and to their future. She seemed so sincere. He never saw it coming. He still hasn’t seen it, of course, but it wasn’t long before he felt it.
It started with the unpleasant feeling in his stomach. He tried to ignore it for her sake. Then, when it got too strong, he gave in and asked her for a potion. She smiled radiantly, seductively, and whispered that it would be okay, that he didn’t need a potion, that it would go away on its own.
And it did, to be replaced with a dull pain in his throat. He swallowed repeatedly, trying to soothe it, to no avail. Again he asked for a potion, or even a bit of honey, but again she told him it would fade of its own accord.
Again, it did, and for a few hours he was fine. After many kisses, he went home and climbed into bed, but sleep did not come. Instead he tossed and turned fitfully, wrapping himself tightly in his blankets when the room felt so unbearably cold and kicking them to the foot of the bed when he was so hot that a layer of sweat gleamed on his skin.
Three hours ago, her owl appeared at his window, hooting impatiently and tapping its beak on the glass. Tied to its leg was a note written in her curly handwriting, sending her love and a recipe of the wine she had given him last night as she confessed her love to him.
Even a first year at Hogwarts would have been able to tell you that the ingredient she had added to the wine was poisonous. He could almost taste it in his mouth as he read the letter, a letter tied with a crimson bow that perfectly matched the color of his drink last night.
He sits wringing his hands, wondering if he could have done anything to stop the poison, or even to stop her from wishing to poison him. At midnight last night, she made her decision. At midnight tonight, the consequence of that decision will finally show itself.
Ten minutes to midnight. The burning sensation has grown, and it rips through his veins much faster than blood ever could, the pain so much that it almost wrenches the scream from his mouth. Almost. He refuses to give her that satisfaction, even if she is not there to hear it.
Five minutes to midnight. His pulse quickens, and it isn’t only from fear. The poison has reached its mark, and the pain in his chest is equal to that of a knife wound. A knife wound, though, would have been much quicker.
One minute to midnight. His very heart burns, not only from the poison, but from a hollow ache that no physical pain can rival. She did this to him. She, whom he still loves with all that is in him, is the reason he is doubled over in agony, clutching the tabletop for support, panting and gulping but not getting any air. He hears but doesn’t register the sound of a door creaking slowly open and closing again.
The clock begins to chime again. One. His eyes are open, but he doesn’t see. Two. He isn’t even trying to breathe anymore. Three. There’s a touch on his shoulder, very like that of a hand, but then he can’t feel anything at all.
Through the sound of the final chime, the last thing he hears is her voice, whispering, “I’m sorry, Scorpius.”
Disclaimer: Harry Potter characters and world property of J K Rowling, not me. Title is by DeaVanity on the forums.
It’s very short, but I’m rather fond of it. I wrote it in less than hour for a Word Race, so shout-out to Drue (Phoenix_Flames) for starting the Race that urged my muse! I didn’t know what to write for this challenge until I agreed to join the Race! Thanks for reading!