Chapter 5 : What You See is What You Get
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October, Hogwarts, Scotland. 1009 A.D.
"You see," Godric continued as he and Chione followed the perfectly poised Helena down the torchlit corridor to Rowena's chamber. "Despite the fact that news spreads like wildfire here, Rowena is the wisest of us all and, as a result, all-seeing."
Chione looked at him as they walked, bemused. Hermione stayed close behind, but couldn't help but notice the heads of boys and girls - students by the looks of them - poking their heads out from behind suits of armor and beautiful tapestries to eavesdrop and catch the first glimpses of the newcomer.
Hermione could tell that, judging by the distracted glances Godric would shoot their way every few minutes or so, he had noticed them too, but refrained from any form of telling-off.
She now saw where Gryffindor house's rebellious reputation had come from.
"What, exactly, does she see?" Chione asked, looking straight ahead again. "That is, of course, only if you were suggesting that Lady Ravenclaw sees beyond the obvious."
Godric stared at her for a moment or two, probably wondering how she had guessed. "Rowena sees more than the human eye does, yes," He confirmed with a nod. "She has an inner eye as well, something very rare amongst our kind, and difficult to control, which can become a very dangerous thing."
"An inner eye?" She repeated, her nose scrunching up in distaste. "That sounds horrible, like a disease."
"It might as well be," He grumbled in response as they turned a corner. "It's a blessing at first, because the inner eye can be used to see into the future, and sense the presence of magical beings like you and me." Godric gestured between them with his thumb. "But after a while the inner eye takes over the outer eye - the one you use to see more practical things with - and becomes a cataract, slowly turning the Seer blind, but that isn't even the worst part."
Hermione swallowed hard against her suddenly dry mouth. They arrived at a tall door at the top of a spiral staircase, with a bronze knocker in the shape of an eagle, but instead of knocking it, they turned down another, more dimly lit corridor. At the end of it was a wooden door that was cracked open a bit, letting a sliver of pale orange light out into the corridor.
There was a shadow moving around inside.
Helena opened the door without hesitation, leading everyone inside. Rowena's chamber was very modest and very neat, although it contained a lot. There was a bookshelf pushed up against the far wall, packed to the breaking point with leather-bound books and scrolls of parchment in neat stacks. Next to it was a hand made vanity, beautifully carved out of deep mahogany wood - like everything else in the room - with a long, oval mirror hanging from the wall above it.
A chamber maid wrung out a cloth in a bowl there, before she turned and walked over to the bed to dab Rowena's face and neck. Here, she looked fragile and worn, like a page of a book that had been dog-eared too many times. She was pale and slight, with wispy raven-colored hair streaked with gray, and dark circles under milky white eyes.
"Helena, my child, you have returned with our guest, I presume?" Rowena spoke in an even and kind-hearted, yet strong-willed tone that seemed odd coming from such a sickly looking woman.
In response, Helena bowed at the waist. "As you requested," Helena confirmed. Rowena raised a hand and the chamber maid stopped touching her, taking a step away as Rowena turned to look at the others. Chione inhaled sharply, stumbling back a few steps, before colliding with a table.
Rowena smiled comfortingly, knowingly.
"Do not be frightened," She told Chione, gesturing to the seat at her bedside. "Please, come sit my dear. We have much to discuss,"
Chione glanced up at Godric, but he simply nodded once, silently urging her to do what was asked of her. "Alright," Chione agreed quietly. Reluctantly, she went and sat in the wooden chair next to the blind woman.
Rowena put a finger under Chione's chin, studying her. If it were possible, she became even more uncomfortable under the woman's sightless, ethereal gaze. It sent a certain chill down her spine.
"What is your name, child?" Rowena inquired.
Chione could feel everyone's eyes on her now, all at once. Godric's green, purely curious. Helena's dark blue ones disapproving. The chamber maid's plain brown, watching silently in the mirror.
I can't tell them who I really am. They might recognize my name from the history books, and realize who I am! They'd never believe me! Chione's voice flooded into Hermione's mind. It was one long, confusing moment before she realized that these were Chione's thoughts. They'll ask questions that I have no answers to, questions that I've been asking myself for the last nine centuries.
Chione lied evenly, "My name is Mary."
"Hm," Rowena said, leaning away from her, but still looking at her steadily. She then raised her hand, and gestured toward the door. "Leave us." She commanded.
"But miss -" The chamber maid piped up, dropping her cloth into the bowl in shock.
"It will only be a few minutes, Clarisse," She promised, and the chamber maid nodded, before exiting the room. Godric and Helena began to follow suit. "Helena, my child," Rowena called.
Helena daughter turned back.
"Do tell Salazar to send Sir Henry along within the hour, if you have a chance," Rowena told her, and Helena curtsied with a nod, before leaving the room and shutting the door behind her. "Now dear, tell me, what is your real name?"
How did she see through my lie? Chione thought.
"Chione," She replied simply, after a moment.
"And how, my dear Chione, did you learn to do magic?" Rowena asked, raising a black eyebrow questioningly.
Chione looked down at her hands. My sister made me swear not to tell anyone, She told herself, fidgeting with a hand-woven bracelet on her wrist. It looked very old, and very fragile, probably more so than Rowena.
Well, Cleopatra has been dead a long time, Hermione thought to herself. Almost instantly Chione looked in her direction, as though she sensed someone there. She stared right at Hermione for a long, painful moment, and Hermione remained very still. This was a memory. She couldn't see her.
Chione looked away, and Hermione managed to release the breath that she'd been holding very carefully. Chione exhaled a moment later. "My sister, Cleopatra taught me a little when I was a young girl."
"Oh my," Rowena said, putting a hand to her mouth, thoughtfully tapping her lips as she looked over to her book shelf. She retrieved her wand from the nightstand, and with a flourish, a book slid from the middle of the top shelf, and floated across the room to Rowena's waiting hand. It was leather bound like the rest, but much older-looking and slightly faded, with carvings in the cover instead of words.
As Chione watched, Rowena located a page marked with a long, scarlet section of ribbon, and opened the book on her lap. With a feeble breath, she blew away the dust covering the page, before propping it up for Chione to see better. Hermione took a few steps forward as well. The words on the page were in a different language entirely, but the portrait was clear.
Rowena pointed to it with a long, bony finger, her eyes fixed on Chione. "Is this your sister?"
"Y-yes, it is." Chione confirmed, scooting forward in her chair, her eyes wide as she looked up at Rowena. "But how did you -"
"Despite my disability, I have a very sharp memory, my dear," She explained, sighing as she lay the book down on her lap again, leaving it open. "I have studied these pages many times since before I was a your age. I know them well," Her eyebrows pulled together. "Or rather, not your age, if you were born in the time of Cleopatra." Her eyes widened. "My word, you must be over nine hundred years old!" Rowena swiftly leaned forward, touching her face the way blind people had to in order to see things. She gently studied every line and curve of Chione's face with her fingers. "You hardly seem that old. Sixteen, at the very least."
The sound of a racing heartbeat filled Hermione's head, pounding away at her eardrums. Chione was getting scared. She pulled away from the withered woman's hands, standing up and taking five or six steps away from the bed.
"Godric was right," Chione muttered to herself as she paced the small space, clenching and unclenching her hands at her sides, trying to control her shaking. "You do see everything."
"My dear," Rowena said calmly, and Chione stopped pacing, looking up. "You must tell me how you have managed to live so long. No such feat has ever been accomplished here," She spoke with an undertone of wonder, of longing. This wasn't really surprising to Hermione, given that Rowena was most known for her wisdom, and love of knowledge.
Chione was quiet for a long time, in her thoughts as well as words. Hermione couldn't manage even the willpower to breathe in this moment, it was so crucial.
This was the moment of truth.
What was she hiding?
Chione exhaled deeply, sinking into the chair once more, looking Rowena in the eyes for the first time since she'd arrived. "It all began on the night of my thirteenth birthday..."
I am rudely awaken by my mother's voice in my ear, telling me, "Chee, my love, wake up. You must come with me now."
I pretend not to hear her, mumbling to myself and burying my head further into the pillows. It is probably just my older sister playing a prank on me, but I realize it is not when, in the next bed, my second oldest sister speaks just as my mother takes me by the arm and drags me from my comfortable sleeping position.
"Mama, where are you taking Chee?" Arsinoë protests, sitting up in her bed a few feet away.
"Come," Mother tells Arsinoë as she kneels down by my bed. My sister hurries over, and mother takes both of my hands in hers. "I have heard a prophecy this morning that tells of your oldest sister becoming queen of this land some day. I wish to protect that right with the old magic of our ancestors, but she is much too old. We must rely on her father and the fates to guide her down the right path, but as for you my dear" - She strokes my hair, smiling a little - "You are now thirteen, and it is the thirteenth month of our year."
Arsinoë gasps. "But mama, you can't -"
"Hush, child." Mother snaps, her eyes venemous, but her lips still spread in its smile. I must admit, I am completely lost.
"Mama, what is so important about these things?" I ask tentatively, as her eyes return to my face, and soften once again. She is a beautiful woman, with short, black hair, many callouses upon her fingertips from a great deal of weaving, and dark, heavily made up eyes that can go from mysterious to murderous in a few seconds.
She barks out a laugh in disbelief. "My dear girl, a child born in the thirteenth month is a very rare thing. So rare that, if such a thing ever should occur, in the child's thirteenth year, they recieve the privilege of going before the high priest, and asking him for one thing."
I have a feeling that I know where this will lead.
"What shall I ask him for, then?" I ask her. I can tell that my mother has already thought everything out. She always does.
"The gift of eternal life," Mother tells me, her voice ghostly and somehow even a little evil.
But for some reason, I like the sound of it.
The privilege to live forever?
Who wouldn't want that?
"Alright, I will do as you wish," I agree, standing up as my mother stands. I take her hand and she leads me out of the bedroom with a smile on her face, and I look back at my sister, who looks like she wants so badly to say something - to warn me - but she doesn't get a chance, because we're already turning down the hall and hurrying off into the night.
Outside, the air is humid and sand-ridden as usual. Mother lends me her spare scarf and I use it to cover my mouth and nose as she leads me down the dark, abandoned road to a small shack in the distance, just on the outskirts of the market on the other side. There is a light on inside.
The priest is in.
We climb the stairs to his shack swiftly, keeping to the shadows to stay hidden from the guards that patrol the walls of the palace. Mother knocks twice on the wooden door, and waits. Then it slowly creaks open, an old, wrinkled man with a long, white beard gesturing for us to enter. We do as we're told, slipping into the semi-darkness of his home. I merely take a few steps inside, before the old man begins drawing a large circle around me on the floor.
I look up at my mother in fear. "Chee, do not be afraid." She tells me, but I can't help myself, especially seeing that the priest has started banging on a drum and circling me slowly, like a vulture, chanting in the ancient language.
After circling me at least four times, the old man puts his fingers into a wooden bowl, smearing something sticky and deep crimson across my cheeks with his first and middle fingers. It smells terrible and, as he pulls his hands away, I realize it's -
"Blood," The priest says in a hollow tone. "Of the courageous jackal," I try not to look disgusted, but my mother frowns, seeing it in my eyes. He retrieves something from the table, something he puts around my neck like a necklace. "Bones," He continues. "Of the feared vulture," The old priest turns and picks up one last thing, slipping it onto my wrist. "And the scales of the sacred Nile carp, Oxyrynchus."
He starts to grind some things together in another bowl with a spare bone, though it is bigger and thicker than the ones that hang around my neck. The priest turns back to me, shaking as he chants more things in the ancient language of our ancestors, his voice growing louder and louder as he approaches. I try to back away, but just as my foot is about to step out of the sacred circle, my mother pushes me back in.
"Do not be afraid, it is almost over, my dear." I hear her getting all choked up, and hear her stepping away from me slowly.
"Mama?" I ask, but I cannot turn away from the old priest. His eyes are glowing, boring into my soul as he continues to chant, and the shack begins to shake violently, as if by an earthquake.
"Just... just know I love you, Chee. No matter what happens, let your sisters know that I love them too," She tells me. "Promise me you'll tell them. Promise -"
Just before she can finish, the priest takes a handful of blue powder from the bowl and throws it into the circle. It explodes, blue sparks tickling my skin and burning a little like tiny pieces of fire. There is a heavy thud behind me, and the door is shoved open, Arsinoë running in.
Her eyes are wide, and tears are running down her face.
I turn to see what has her so upset. It's our mother.
She lies dead on the floor before me.
The scene went dark for a moment, but did not go back to Rowena's chamber. She heard a voice echo in her mind, telling her "That's enough for now." Hermione blinked, but when she opened her eyes again, she was staring up at the nondescript, off-white ceiling in her dormitory.
She was back in the Head Tower at Hogwarts.
Hermione blinked again, just for good measure. Yeah, she was really back. She sat up in her bed, the weak evening light of the sun dancing on her cheek. Wait, evening? Hermione looked out the window and sure enough, the sun was just setting over the horizon. She rubbed the back of her neck, standing up.
How long had she been gone?
"Did you check upstairs?" She heard someone ask suddenly from the common room.
"I've checked everywhere for her, Draco," Another voice snapped. Hermione instantly recognized it as Ginny's. "Don't you think that would have been one of the first places I looked?" Hermione's eyebrows furrowed. Ginny and Draco working together? Well, that was odd.
"No," Draco replied simply. "Because I distinctly remember you insulting me, and then running out of the portrait hole."
There was an incredulous laugh, and then the sound of something (a pillow, maybe) colliding with something or, in this case, someone. "Oh, quit being such a girl. I did not insult you at all today."
"Ah! You just did!" Draco teased.
Hermione smiled to herself. She could almost see Ginny raising another pillow murderously with her good arm.
"Shove it and go check her room already!" She shouted, and then there was the sound of heavy footsteps on the stairs. Hermione's eyes widened, and she looked around, hoping she hadn't left anything embarrasing laying around somewhere. A few seconds before he opened the door, she managed to quietly rush over to her desk, flip open her Ancient Runes textbook, and pretend to study.
"I'm going, I'm going!" Draco called over his shoulder as he walked into Hermione's room without invitation. His eyes widened slightly at the sight of how neat and orderly it looked, almost as if she'd never unpacked.
And, quite frankly, she had been too distraught by everything to unpack at all.
His eyes finally found her where she sat at her desk, with one leg tucked under her bum and her slightly wavy chestnut brown hair slipping over her shoulder a few locks every second. Hermione looked radiant in the evening light, in her natural setting surrounded by books and parchment. It was almost as if she had never disappeared.
Draco shook his head, trying to rid himself of the thoughts swirling around in his mind. "I knew you were hiding up here, Granger." He said, clearing his throat in a slightly awkward manner. Hermione looked up from her book casually, but she couldn't help the way her heart galloped when she saw him. It felt like she'd been gone an eternity, not just a few hours. Draco glanced over to her bed, finding Chione's journal lying open there. He smirked. "What's this, your diary?"
Only a moment too late, Hermione saw what he saw and lept from her chair. But just as she was diving onto the bed to grab the journal, Draco had it in his hands, and his back was to her as he flipped through the pages. Each time he turned a page, Hermione died a little inside even though the secrets within the pages were not her own.
"This is so not funny, Malfoy!" Hermione shouted from the bed, looking around frantically. Where was her wand? She needed her wand! "Just give me the book and no one gets hurt,"
Draco laughed. "You're going to hurt me, Granger?"
Desperate and out of options, Hermione snatched up a pillow and jumped onto his back, hitting him over the head with said pillow. "Give-me-back-the-journal!" She demanded with each hit.
"You are one crazy little bitch, you know that?" Draco yelled, spinning around the room, trying to throw me off.
"And you're an arrogant pain in my backside," Hermione countered, hitting him again and tossing her hair out of her face. "Guess which one comes in handy more often?"
"Just-get-off - !" On the last syllable, he tripped over something and they fell onto the bed, with Hermione smushed between him and the mattress. She tried to get the journal, her fingertips just grazing the spine when he rolled over (still ontop of her), expertly stretching far out of her reach.
"Arg!" Hermione yelled, resorting to punching every inch of him that she could reach in the small, almost nonexistent space between them. "You're such an arse!"
"- Prick -"
"- Unfavorable Hag -"
"- Useless pile of dragon -" Before she could finish, Draco kissed her full on the mouth, catching her so off guard that her eyes remained open for a few shocked seconds. Her arms were pinned between them, but once she managed to accept (with very great difficulty) that this was really happening, she let her eyelids flutter closed.
Then she pulled away.
"Wait," Hermione said, and Draco looked irritated. "Draco... this... we can't..." She was shaking her head and trying to push him away from her when Ginny finally entered the room.
"Hermione! I thought that was you arguing with Malfoy as - oh." Ginny stopped when she noticed the two of them lying on her bed. Hermione promptly shoved Draco off of her and sat up, her hair falling over her right shoulder as she looked at Ginny by the door.
Ginny raised a suspicious eyebrow. "It's really not what it looks like," Hermione told her, standing up and smoothing her skirt nervously, but her best friend didn't look convinced.
Shaking her head, Ginny turned and headed for the stairs. With an irritated look at Draco (who lounged casually on her bed as if none of this bothered him at all, running his hand through his platinum blonde locks), Hermione hurried after her.
"Ginny!" She called out desperately, pursuing the speedy redhead down the spiral staircase and halfway across the common room before managing to grab her arm. Ginny spun around, shaking her hand off and then shaking her head incredulously. She seemed... confused.
"You kissed him, didn't you?" Ginny demanded, her eyes narrowed to slits. "Draco Malfoy, of all people! I thought you hated him!"
"I do hate him!" Hermione told her, clenching her hands into fists at her sides.
Ginny frowned, "Then why kiss him?"
"I didn't -" Hermione swallowed hard, looking up at the ceiling and shaking her head. "He kissed me! I didn't want this, Gin. It... we were just... caught up in a moment and it just happened."
"So you admit to it, then?" Ginny pointed out and with an exasperated exhale, Hermione nodded curtly. Ginny groaned in response, turning away. "You've changed since term started, Hermione, and by that I mean a lot. What's up with you?" Her eyes were cold, even a bit hurt by the fact that she'd been keeping something important from her.
Hermione thought of Chione's journal. How could she possibly be able to explain the events of the past few hours to her without sounding completely mad? It was almost impossible, but she had to try for Ginny's sake, or risk losing the only friend she had left. She could not bear to ever feel the way she'd felt on the train again - broken, empty, and completely alone. As Hermione opened her mouth to speak, Chione's voice filled her mind.
"You're making a big mistake," She hissed almost defensively.
I can't bear this burden alone. Hermione thought, firmly holding her ground. It was still puzzling to her as to why she could communicate with Chione's spirit this way but she had never managed to come up with any plausible causes. Without waiting for a response, Hermione began, "There's this journal that I found when I was in Alexandria."
Ginny's eyebrows pulled together, and she folded her arms across her chest. "What about it?" She asked, not quite seeing how this had anything to do with Hermione's sudden change in behavior.
"It belonged to Cleopatra's youngest sister, who was given the gift of eternal life when she was thirteen, and I -" Hermione struggled to swallow. "I think that maybe... maybe there's some sort of connection between us." Ginny still looked skeptical, remaining silent. Hermione continued. "I don't know how to explain it, exactly, but sometimes it's like I can hear her speaking to me... in my mind."
"Hermione, that's -"
"Crazy? Yeah, I know, but it's true," Hermione raised her right hand, looking Ginny in the eyes. "I swear to Merlin it is."
Ginny was quiet for a long minute.
"Does Malfoy know about any of this?" She finally managed to ask, her brown eyes flickering to something behind Hermione. Hermione turned around, finding Draco descending the staircase at that very moment. Their eyes met for a split second, before Hermione's cheeks burned and she averted her gaze.
"No," Hermione assured Ginny. "No one knows anything about this except for you, and I'd really appreciate it if you would keep this between the two of us until I figure out what it all means."
Ginny leaned closer, lowering her voice urgently. "Hermione, you're hearing voices in your head, which isn't very healthy. What this means is that you need to speak to Madam Pomfrey about something that could help with -"
"I'm not going mad!" Hermione shouted, her eyes livid. "I knew it would be a stupid idea trying to explain this to you." She pushed past Ginny, storming toward the portrait hole. As she pushed it open, a familiar voice came to her, sounding a little too smug for her liking.
I tried to warn you.
AN Alright, I hope this wasn't too confusing. Now you (should) know how/why Chione has lived for so long, and Ginny's viewpoint on what Hermione's told her. I'd just like to know what you thought of that bit: was it a believable way for someone - for you to act if your friend told you the same things Hermione told Ginny? And the scene with Draco and Hermione. I think what he did (taking her journal) was pretty Draco-like. Do you think that scene was too clichè? And last, but not least, how did you like the twist I put on Rowena?
Thanks for taking the time to read! General feedback/comments/concerns/suggestions/criticism are appreciated as always.
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