Chapter 20 : Chapter 20: Without a Trace
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Chapter 20: Without a Trace
“I’m so happy!” I clapped my hands together, then rubbed them together in a way that reminded myself of a diabolical genius, ready for her master plan to get underway.
“What about, that you get to attack Professor DiGroop this morning?” Remus asked, adding a square of chocolate to his hot chocolate.
“No,” I said. “Something even better happens today.”
“What?” Sirius asked.
“Oi, hands off my muffins! But today is December 13.”
I sighed, but I wasn’t too bothered. “Don’t you think that thirteen is a beautiful number?”
“Thirteen is considered by many people to be unlucky,” Remus said.
“Well, a baker’s dozen has thirteen of something. That’s not unlucky.”
“It is for the baker,” Sirius said.
“There are thirteen full moons in a year!”
Remus choked on his hot chocolate.
“Remus, you okay? Anapneo.” I pointed my wand at his throat and dislodged the liquid that tried to go down into his lungs.
“Why do you mention full moons?” Remus asked, his face still red from nearly choking on the scalding-hot liquid.
“Uh, maybe because my name is ‘Artemis,’ which bring to mind the moon goddess?”
“Well, there are thirteen new moons in the year as well,” James said quickly.
“Yeah, that we can’t see because they’re new moons,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Can we just stop talking about the moon right now?” Remus asked. “I’m trying to eat.”
“Fine, fine, we can stop talking about me,” I sighed.
“How did we start talking about the moon anyway?” Peter asked.
“I said cut it out!” Remus snapped.
O-kay, looks like someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. Must have failed an astronomy lesson at some point. Whatever. I went back to waiting for the morning post to arrive.
“They’re here!” I clapped, sitting up and actually clearing away the plates in front of me.
“Artemis, moving food away from her?” Sirius asked. “Something must be special about today.”
Peck arrived, as usual, with my letter from home. Or rather, my letters plural. My parents actually sent a gigantic envelope with Peck. And following him were three more owls each carrying at least two packages in their talons. All four owls landed in front of me at the table.
“Early Christmas presents?” Sirius teased when they saw it was all for me.
“No, but they’re mine!” I relieved the other three postal owls before taking Peck’s envelope and offering him as many owl treats as he could eat.
All four Marauders watched me as I opened the large envelope to reveal six more, normal sized envelopes. I recognized all the handwritings on the front. I was so tempted to open them all up right now, but I had to get to Defense in a few minutes for the dueling portion of my end-of-term exam. Oh well, I could open them all later tonight. I put the envelopes in my bag and stuffed the smaller packages around the books I needed for Transfiguration later. Two of the packages were so large, I needed to actually carry in my arms.
“Care to enlighten us as to what’s going on with you?” James said.
“Nope,” I smiled. Seeing all my roommates still eating at the other end of the table, I knew it would be safe to go up to our dorm and dump this stuff off without any awkward moments. Ah, I love December 13.
It was snowing outside when I arrived at my last class of the day- Defense. I had defeated Professor DiGroop hours earlier, so I felt better about my odds of receiving a good grade in this class. And whenever he said anything with a ‘p’ sound, he let out a few bubbles from his mouth. Yeah, I think everyone in the class figured I was the cause of his problem. Ooh, another bubble.
But then, listening to him review what we would have to know for the exam on Friday really got me bored. I’d already studied this part days ago. So I just started looking out the window and watched the first substantial snowflakes of the year fall to the ground.
“What spell did you put on him?” Sirius asked as the four of us left the classroom and headed for Gryffindor Tower to meet up with Peter.
“It was just a distracter charm,” I shrugged, grinning. “He tried to cast Protego at the beginning, but I hit him with the bubble-burping charm set to ‘p’ first. His shield charm failed because he was so surprised with the bubbles coming out of his mouth. It was a lot more intense when the charm was fresh, though. The rest of the duel was a breeze.”
“Well, we have our duels tomorrow,” Remus said. “Although if you won, I guess we can’t ask you if he goes easy on us just because we’re students.”
“Hi guys,” Peter said, running up from the stairwell behind us. “Where are you off to?”
“To get you, actually,” James said.
“Yeah, where were you?” Sirius asked.
“Hufflepuff common room.”
“Of course,” Sirius said. But when he turned away from Peter, I saw his eyes roll.
“Guess what I saw when coming back up here?” Peter asked, walking next to James.
“Snow?” I asked.
“No, it was- wait, how did you know?”
“We have windows in our classroom,” James said.
“Hey Artemis,” Remus said, “we Marauders usually go out on the first real snowfall of the season. Care to join us?”
“Huh? A Marauder tradition? I don’t think-”
“Oh come on,” Sirius said. “Any girl that Remus dates for more than two weeks is okay in our books.”
“Right,” James said. “Evans is even welcome. In fact, let me go find her and ask her to join us! I’ll be right back!” James dropped his bag and ran down a side corridor.
“That felt random,” I said.
“If it involves Lily, then it’s not random at all,” Remus said, picking up James’s book bag and putting it over his shoulder.
A half hour later, it was still snowing. And the five of us were outside in regular clothes making the first tracks in the first snow of the season. Well, it’s snowed before, but the stuff either melted too quickly or it snowed for about five minutes before giving out. Anyway, I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but I felt like it would be pointless to sit up in the library to study material for our exams that I already knew. And I wasn’t going to start studying for January. I might like to read and be ahead, but that is too ridiculous, even for me.
“So, Artemis, we know your secret,” Sirius said lightly, using his wand to make a small snowball roll out beside him. It soon reached the size of a bowling ball.
“Huh?” My mind instantly thought back to my missing memories. Did Sirius and the other Marauders know what was happening to me? And now that we were all good friends they felt like they would clue me in?
“It took a lot of detective work and minutes upon minutes of research,” Sirius said dramatically.
Okay, if it is about my memories, I’m going to feel really stupid if Sirius could figure it out in minutes.
“We know that today, on December 13, you’re now seventeen years old!”
Or I could be stupid for thinking the Marauders would know anything about those memories in the first place. “Come again?”
“The packages and letters at breakfast,” Remus said, smiling. “Your giddiness and willingness to push away food before you’ve eaten a hundred kilos of blueberry muffins. The clues were right there.”
“I don’t eat that much food,” I grumbled.
“But you have to admit that it’s your birthday,” James said. “So-”
“Happy Birthday!” all four Marauders said.
And then they all threw snowballs in my face and ran off towards the lake.
“What was that for?” I yelled. But I was laughing. It had been too long since someone in person wished me happy birthday on my birthday. Though why I had snowballs thrown in my face was anyone’s guess.
“We needed a head start!” Sirius yelled across the snow-covered grounds. “Now get over here!”
“And zip up your jacket!” Remus yelled.
“I’m going to get you all!” I yelled, then ran as fast and as hard as I could to catch up to them. And because of all this, I was not going to listen to Remus (for once). My jacket was going to remain open!
So yeah, it was my birthday. Seventeen years ago, the world was blessed when I came out of my mum. Okay, maybe not blessed, but it certainly became more awesome because of me. But the last birthday that I spent with any friends was when I turned eleven. It’s not like I could ask Professor Dumbledore to floo me home every year because none of my friends could be at Hogwarts. But everyone’s cards and gifts made me miss them more. Thank Merlin that I was born so close to Christmas, though. I usually only had to endure one or two weeks of homesickness before getting on the train and knowing that I could see my friends again.
So, I caught Peter first. Easy. Then I went after Sirius. He was the next closest, and I think he was the mastermind behind all the snowballs in my face. I finally caught up to him just before he was going to dash across the frozen lake.
“Got you!” I said once I pinned him to the ground.
“Ah yes, but what are you going to do with me?” Sirius asked. I probably wouldn’t have minded that part if he hadn’t wiggled his eyebrows and winked at me.
“Head freeze!” I picked up some snow and forced it onto his face.
“Ah! Owe, owe! Moony, your girlfriend is mean! She just gave me a brain freeze!”
“Stop complaining, Pads! Not my fault she could tackle a Quidditch player so easily!”
“Black, I can’t give you a brain freeze! You need to have a brain first!”
“Stop complaining about her!”
Well, Sirius was drenched in melted snow when I finally let him up. In that time, James and Remus had cleared off the snow over part of the Black Lake and transfigured their trainers into ice skates. Even Peter, when he caught up to us, changed his into skates and attempted to skate across the ice. Well, he just slid around on his bum half the time, but he seemed to be having fun.
“You do know how to transfigure shoes into skates, right?” Sirius asked, pointing his wand at his feet.
“Yes,” I said slowly, now keeping my eyes on the revealed ice. It looked much better when snow was hiding it. “But I’m not one for skating.”
“Oh Merlin, Artemis admits that she can’t do something?” Sirius mocked me.
“I didn’t say I can’t skate-”
“There. Now prove you can skate!” My trainers turned into ice skates just as Sirius pushed me onto the ice.
Uh oh. Great. I’ve never been on anything larger than a patch of ice my dad conjured in my backyard before. How thick does ice have to be so it doesn’t crack under a person? Eep! Did I just hear the ice buckle? Will it open at any moment and bring me down into the lake, where creatures are rumored to reside and might like to feast on human flesh?!
“You alright there, Artemis?” Remus called, skating over to me.
“Just peachy,” I said, putting on a smile. At least, I hoped I was smiling. My face was already numb from the cold.
I did know how to skate. Well, in small circles anyway. I mostly watched the Marauders, who all seemed to be used to this kind of thing. Yup, definitely been friends for all six years. They were just so comfortable around each other.
I wasn’t sure what started it, but eventually they started up a game of tag. Remus was ‘it’ first, so he tried chasing after James and Sirius (Peter was too pathetic to be ‘it,’ so Remus didn’t bother with him). Whenever Remus got up to speed, though, his target slipped away and made the other bloke seemingly easier to catch. But Remus didn’t seem to mind. He actually laughed whenever one of his friends narrowly escaped him. I don’t think I’ve seen him so relaxed before. It was like he thought chasing after his best mates was the best game in the world.
“I know something you don’t know. I know something you don’t know. I know something you don’t know!”
I looked around. That voice! That taunt! I thought that was just a one-time dream! I looked around. Was the girl from my dream actually based on someone here at Hogwarts? Did she know about my memories?
“I know something you don’t know. I know something you don’t know.”
I turned away from the boys playing tag and faced out towards the rest of the lake. The voice seemed to be coming from out there. Or rather the woods across from our section of the lake. The Forbidden Forest? Was that it?
“I know something you don’t know.”
Over in the distance, in front of the first few rows of trees by the forest, I saw an outline. A girl maybe? I couldn’t be sure. The sky was too dark and overcast for me to see clearly, and even if I could she was still over a hundred meters away. I couldn’t have identified her even on the brightest of days at this distance.
“Hey guys?” I called back but keeping my eyes on the girl. I didn’t want to lose her. But from the sounds of things, the Marauders were paying me no mind.
“I know something you don’t know. I know something you don’t know!”
I skated towards her, hoping she would stay still long enough for me to question her, or at the very least speak to her. Maybe I could get close enough to curse her voice out. Girls are so annoying.
I wasn’t even a third of the way across the lake when I heard the loud crack of the ice. I looked down. The ice resembled a spider web of cracks. And the cracks were growing longer. Water seeped onto the surface of the ice.
“Uh oh.” I looked back up to the forest. But the girl was gone.
“Help,” I whispered, unsure whether I should move now and dash back to the Marauders or stay put and just hope one of them would notice me not moving.
The ice continued to crack. I felt it start to sag. No way in hell I was staying here!
I turned back and tried to run back to the boys. But I was in ice skates. I nearly lost my balance in the process. A large chunk of ice became dislodged because of my blades.
“Artemis, you all right out there?” Remus called, stopping his current pursuit of James.
Think, Artemis, time’s running out! “I can’t swim!” I yelled at the top of my lungs.
And then the ice gave out.
I started sinking. Fast. I hadn’t had enough time to take a full breath of air before I plunged into the icy-cold water. It was only five seconds in, and my lungs had already started to burn.
I flailed my limbs around, trying to swim up. But I was already two meters under the surface. The surface looked like it was already starting to refreeze itself. I tried to kick myself up but the skates felt like they were weighing my feet down. My flailing arms felt like they had massive weights stuffed into the sleeves from the water penetration. The dim light of the surface quickly started getting darker as I descended.
I thought for a second my hand touched air. But then it was back underwater again. The dim light from above grew even fainter. The only sound that I could hear was the blood pumping through my ears. The swishing sound kept getting faster and faster.
The light was darkening still. The water was cold. My lungs were on fire. I couldn’t feel anything except my water-soaked clothes. My wand? Even if I could move my fingers, I wouldn’t have been able to remove it from my waistband. Wait, did I even still have fingers? Or hands?
I thought I heard water splashing above me. Above me. Which way was that? It was completely dark now. My air was nearly gone. I got sleepy. No, I couldn’t get sleepy. I had to stay awake. If I passed out, I would start breathing. I couldn’t drown.
But wasn’t I drowning already?
Drowning, on my birthday. What are the odds of that happening? My headstone will read identical dates of birth and death, with only a seventeen year difference.
The pounding in my ears went silent. I closed my eyes. Nothing could save me. . .
I was floating somewhere. . .
And then I was cold. Bitterly cold. And it was bright, even through my closed eyelids.
I sat up and coughed, sending a ton of water dribbling down my front. I gasped and coughed again. More water came out. I tried to take a breath. The air was also painfully cold, but it was also as sweet as a spring afternoon’s air. I gasped for more air before letting myself lay back down. But I didn’t collapse onto the ground. Instead, I felt someone place their hands around me.
My ears were still full of water. Whoever was around me had garbled voices. I couldn’t understand a word they said. I took another breath and opened my eyes.
James and Peter were standing by my feet, looking down at me with pale faces. Peter opened his mouth and said something. Once again, all I heard was garbled through the water in my ears.
I reached up and poked my finger into my ears, breaking the seal of water. The sounds I got were almost shocking. I heard the soft winds as the winter storm blew in. I heard the crackling of a nearby fire. I even heard some of the nocturnal animals out by the forest in the distance. And I heard a voice that kept repeating my name, over and over again.
“Artemis? Oh Merlin, Artemis, are you okay? Artemis, say something? Artemis! Artemis!”
“T-that’s my n-n-name, d-don’t w-wear it out,” I shivered. My voice sounded raspy. I swiveled my head around, looking for the source of the voice. My gaze fell onto a very wet, very pale, shivering Remus. His arms disappeared behind my back.
Remus let out a sigh and closed his eyes when I spoke. “Thank goodness,” he whispered, lowering his forehead against mine. “Artemis, are you okay?”
“Considering I nearly dr-drowned in f-freezing cold water on my b-birthday? Just p-p-peachy.” Ugh, my mouth is on auto-pilot. How do I get control back? It’s my mouth, after all.
“Artemis, what happened?” Remus asked. “We thought you’d stay closer to us. Why did you go wandering over across the lake? It takes much longer for the middle of the lake to freeze enough for anyone to skate across without magic.”
“Oh great, now you t-tell me.”
I was just about to ask where Sirius was when he walked back from behind me. He was dry, but he was pale as well. “I just froze over the spot where Artemis fell through,” he said slowly, looking down at the ground. “And this is all my fault.”
“How is this your fault?” James asked.
“Artemis didn’t seem too keen on getting on the ice to begin with,” he said slowly. “I just thought she didn’t want to admit she was afraid.” Sirius looked to Remus. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t tell me, tell her.”
Sirius tried to look down at me, but his eyes never met mine.
“It’s nobody’s f-fault,” I said between chattering teeth. “So s-stop flattering yourself and cast a drying c-charm on my clothes! And a h-eating charm too. D-despite the fire behind you, it’s still freezing out here.”
“Right, right, how stupid of me.” Sirius waved his wand over me, then Remus after he too complained of wet clothes, and cast a warming charm over the area. Remus then picked me up and suggested we head back inside. After all, our magic really couldn’t compare to the extreme forces of nature.
“Are you really okay?” Remus whispered to me before we got started.
“Fine enough to stand on my own,” I said. “Care to let me down?”
Once again on my own two feet, I turned to look up at Sirius. “Black, I’m okay. I shouldn’t have wandered off. Don’t worry about it.”
Sirius shrugged but didn’t say anything.
“I- a’choo!- I’m going into to get some dinner. And hot chocolate. Anyone care to join me?”
As the five of us walked back to the castle, with Sirius keeping his distance from me, I wondered what he expected me to do in order for him to realize I was still his friend. Did he think something as silly as nearly drowning scared me? Well, maybe I could get him a boggart. Yeah, a boggart might work. Now, where was I going to find one before we got on the train to go home?
The next morning before breakfast (but after one blueberry muffin), I went back outside and walked around the Black Lake. There had to be something there that showed that a girl, or at the very least a person, was there last night. It had stopped snowing shortly after we went back inside and it was too cold for the snow to all have melted already.
I must have been out there for an hour before I gave up looking. I knew what I saw. The girl had been right here. But there were only animal footprints now. Not even Hagrid had been this way yet. So where had the girl actually been? Did I imagine her? Did she just cover her tracks? And why did I feel that she had all the answers I was looking for?
A/N: Again, any thoughts? Favorite moment? Confused? Let me know! Next chapter they’ll go home. Any thoughts or predictions about the story are appreciated. I love hearing from you! Until next chapter!
Oh, and because it’s reached Chapter 20 (this story is certainly longer than I had anticipated!), I’d like to thank these fine people for their multiple reviews: fire witch, orangezauber, Marauderette, Ja9, Shewolf, Werewolf Love, PineappleGoddess 13, and LuvIzMagic. And a special thanks to kassandra466 for reviewing every chapter! Also, thanks to everyone else who has at least left a review in the past. And if you haven’t left a review, don’t worry. I thank you too. It’s nice to know that people are actually reading this story and might like it. I probably wouldn’t work so hard on making sure I have chapter after chapter for you if I thought no one was reading or cared. So you’re all awesome! You all make me really happy!
Finally, I’ve got a Meet the Author topic on my author page! (I just figured it out- I’m poor when it comes to this kind of thing). Anyway, if you have any further questions, you can ask me on the forum! But don’t forget to review the chapters first (as I just finished telling you how much I love them).
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