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Chapter 3 : Dumbledore
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December 31st, 1938
“I can’t see,” I complained, attempting to nudge between two fifth years before I missed anything. It was New Years Eve, and there were about thirty of us Slytherins gathered onto a balcony overlooking the dark grounds.
“There’s nothing to see. We can buy fireworks in Diagon Alley.”
“Oh, Tom, you’re such a kill joy. Have some fun!”
I was particularly exhilarated not only because we had been promised a spectacular fireworks display by some seventh years in our house, but because it was completely and utterly against school rules. Tom and I technically hadn’t even been invited to be a part of the prank, but after overhearing some upperclassmen talking about the mischief they were going to cause, I couldn’t resist.
Tom was indifferent to the whole thing, and whenever I wasn’t directly engaging him in conversation, he looked insufferably bored, his dark eyes grazing over everyone without emotion.
I didn’t understand how you could be bored while you were out of bounds on the last night of the year, dangling over the railing of a balcony five floors up.
“Look, they’re starting!” Someone shouted, causing all of our faces to turn toward the sky.
Within seconds, whizzes and bangs were echoing across the grounds, accompanied by swirling, glittering fireworks that lit up the sky. We could see our breath in the magnificent glow they caused, and we cheered along with the crackling magic. Not a minute had passed before light flooded the lawn as the doors to the school opened and the caretaker, Apollyon Pringle.
“What do you think you are doing?” he screeched, brandishing his wand and immediately extinguishing the fireworks that had been buzzing around. “How dare you think you can cause such a, such a disturbance!”
“Happy new year!” One of the seventh years shouted, dancing on the spot to our enthusiastic yelps of approval at his insolence.
Apollyon waved his wand once, only to have his spell deflected by one of the Firework-delinquents. He roared in annoyance and continued his onslaught of spells to their taunting.
“We were only having some fun, Pringle!”
“Nice start to 1939, in’it?”
Prefects and other teachers had started to exit the school from their patrols, and aided Pringle in containing our heroes. The older students took this as a cue we should return to our common room—or else be punished as accomplices to our fellow Slytherins’ shenanigans. We stifled our remaining laughter and filed back into the building. The hall was silent, and I followed the mass of cloaks after looking around for Tom.
”Wasn’t that funny?” I whispered, hoping he would have some sort of reaction to share with me, instead of the melancholy state he had been in all evening.
He shrugged. “I just don’t see the point.”
“The point was to…” I trailed off, unable to come up with a satisfying answer. “Have fun?”
Tom didn’t answer, just raising an eyebrow slightly. I gave up, turning away from him to face forward again. I stopped dead, and he wasn’t far behind. Everyone we had been following had disappeared into thin air.
“Secret passage,” Tom murmured, before I had a chance to say a word.
Tom looked reluctant. “I don’t know,” he admitted, moving to the side of the corridor and looking at the wall. He sounded as though he would rather admit anything in the world than that he didn’t know something. “But there’s no other way they could have disappeared.”
“Couldn’t they have di—”
“You don’t even know what I was going to say,” I said, annoyed.
“You can’t dissaparate inside of the school,” he said, shutting me up. He lifted a nearby tapestry and was lurking around behind it when I heard the worst voice I could imagine hearing at this moment in time.
“Miss Harley…It’s a bit late to be wandering the corridors, isn’t it?”
I whipped around to see Professor Dumbledore, the Transfiguration teacher and head of dreaded Gryffindor house, standing right in front of me. I stuttered slightly as I tried to formulate a story that would rationalize my rule breaking, but I could only wonder how Dumbledore knew my name. He looked at me calmly through his half moon glasses as I sweated.
I decided to tell him the truth…or something like it.
“Oh, professor, I’m sorry,” I said, trying my best to sound truly remorseful. It wasn’t too hard, since I really was scared out of my wits. “The older students had convinced me to come along and watch the fireworks…I thought it might have been something that happened every year…”
Dumbledore said nothing, but cocked his head to the side.
I swallowed. “I can’t lie sir, I realized halfway through that it was against the rules, I should have gone back to the common room, I was just worried someone would catch me and, and…”
Dumbledore held up a hand. “It’s quite alright, Miss Harley. I understand much too well how...persuasive some of your peers can be. I don’t feel its fit to punish you.”
“Really sir?” I squeaked, not having to fake any of my relief.
“I must warn you though, next time I may not be so lenient.”
“Oh, of course, Professor. I understand. I’m sorry.”
Dumbledore nodded. “You’re forgiven. I’d get back to the dungeons now, before someone else catches you,” he said, a little smile touching his face.
I felt a rush of gratitude toward the professor I’d been told to hate.
“Oh, and feel free to tell any of your friends that it isn’t always wise to wander about at night, no matter what you’re doing…”
I probably imagined it, but I thought I saw his eyes flick toward the tapestry that Tom was hiding behind. I sucked in my breath, but the moment passed, and his gaze was undeniably on my face.
“I trust you can find your way back?”
“Yes, sir. Again, thank you for understanding.”
I meant it. Dumbledore just nodded again. “You’re very welcome.”
He was gone in the darkness before I could say another word. I hadn’t been at Hogwarts for long, but I knew it wasn’t normal for a teacher to find a student wandering at night and let them go without punishment…let alone leave them in the corridor and trust them to go back to their dormitory.
I knew what everyone said about Dumbledore. Not long after I had arrived, everyone had informed me that he was a Muggle-loving fool that pandered to his favorites—the all mighty Gryffindor students. It was true I had noticed Gryffindors had a certain snottiness, like they knew they were better than you, like they were convinced their house was the best.
Rubbish of course, but irritating all the same. Dumbledore though…I just couldn’t find anything about him to hate. I was convinced I just hadn’t seen him angry yet, that maybe he would abuse us Slytherins if we put so much as a toe out of line...but no, here I was, off the hook for being out of bounds.
I was ripped from my ponderings about Dumbledore when I heard Tom slither out from behind the tapestry. I felt a pang of annoyance as I realized I could have been in loads of trouble and he hadn’t made the slightest move to help me…but then again, why would both of us being in trouble be better than just me? Stupid.
“That was…unlucky,” Tom said finally, after watching me for a couple moments.
“Unlucky?” I asked incredulously. “I’d say I was very lucky.”
“I meant the fact that he found you in the first place,” Tom said, as though I were stupid to not realize this. “You did well, though.”
“I found the way back downstairs,” Tom said, turning toward the tapestry instead of elaborating on how well I acted. I couldn’t put a finger on why I wanted him to be impressed.
Tom pushed the curtain aside to reveal…a brick wall. Before I said anything, Tom pulled out his wand and tapped the wall, causing it to dissolve upon itself and expose a dark hole of a tunnel
“You first,” I said unnecessarily, as Tom had already lit his wand and started down the tunnel. I spent the entire journey back downstairs trying to figure out how to light my wand, to no avail. I couldn’t bring myself to ask him.
Back in the common room the older kids howled with laughter when they heard of my encounter with Dumbledore.
“He just let you go!?”
“You slipped out of that fiasco like a snake, Harley! Slytherin would be proud!”
“Did you tell him you were a mudblood? That’d do it!”
While basking in my momentary fame, I didn’t notice that Tom had disappeared. He didn’t have any interest in staying up or recounting our adventures. I escaped from the throng of upperclassmen that was still up and actively celebrating the New Year with stolen butterbeer from the kitchens and fire whiskey that we definitely weren’t supposed to have.
Right before I gave up and accepted Tom had gone to bed, I saw him in a corner by the fire. He wasn’t doing anything, just staring. I cautiously approached him.
“Tom…what on earth are you doing?”
He appeared not to hear me for a moment, but then said so quietly I almost couldn’t hear him, “What are you, Anne?”
“What are you?” he asked, turning to glare at me. I was taken aback by his anger as he repeated, “What are you? Are you a pure-blood?”
“Oh,” I understood what he was asking. “No…I’m not”
I said this last part as quietly as possible. I had been here long enough to know that in Slytherin, if you weren’t a pure blood, you pretended to be. I realized I should have lied.
Tom was still staring at me. “Are you a mudblood?”
He clenched his jaw. I could tell he was thinking, I just didn’t know what about. A few moments passed, and being me, I couldn’t stand the silence.
“Dumbledore was nice to me when we first met.”
“So,” Tom said, exasperated, “Does that mean I’m a mudblood?”
“No,” I said automatically. Even if I didn’t believe it, I would have lied; Tom sounded horrified at the idea of being muggle-born. Honestly, I didn’t see what the big fuss was about.
“My mother must have been a muggle…she died, she couldn’t have been magical.”
“Witches die too, you know,” I pointed out, though I was eager to hear more about Tom’s mother. Anything he wanted to share with me would be an accomplishment for my goal of becoming his friend.
It was turning out to be a bigger challenge than I had anticipated, but that only strengthened my resolve to see it through.
Tom shrugged off my comment, as if he knew more than I about the subject of mortality. I bit my lip to keep from commenting.
“I should find out who my father was,” he said, mostly to himself.
“You should,” I agreed.
“I’ll bet he was a great wizard,” Tom said, his usual confidence recovered. “He probably went to school here!”
I nodded enthusiastically. “We should ask some of the teachers!”
Tom frowned. “No. I can figure it out.”
Well, the ‘we’ was worth a try.
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