Alfred Connelly, keen news reporter enthusiast, semi-friendly sixth-year Slytherin, slightly excitable Quidditch Keeper, was missing. The last time anyone saw him was last night in the Slytherin common room. At least, that was also what Avery mentioned the next day when I asked her about it.
“I don’t know, he said goodnight to all of us and headed up to his dorm,” Avery explained after explaining the situation to me for the third time. We were sitting underneath the cherry tree in the courtyard, Albus leaning beside me with his eyes closed, a contented smile on his face.
I had to admire his talent for being oblivious to anything and everything.
“So he says goodnight, he leaves, and the next day, he’s disappeared?” I asked incredulously. After his article and disappearance, as well as the note I received the day before, everything seemed a little coincidental. It was like there was a pattern lying in front of me, waiting for me to pick up on it, but I couldn’t figure it out. A puzzle piece waiting for completion. I just couldn’t piece them together.
“I don’t understand it either,” Avery shrugged, her eyes cloudy in concentration.
“But you know what I’m curious about?” I asked suddenly with one raised eyebrow. Avery looked at me blankly before she registered my hinted message.
“The note,” she said, repeating the words floating in my mind. The minute the words were uttered out in the open, they felt heavy, like a weight resting itself on my entirety. I heaved a shudder, thinking back to my trunk in my dorm. The wadded piece of parchment was shoved right at the bottom, out of sight. Exactly the way I wanted it. “Honestly Rose, I don’t remember who you went off with. I’m trying, but I just can’t remember.”
“It’s okay,” I replied slowly, chewing my bottom lip nervously.
“I’m so sorry Rose,” Avery apologized suddenly, her eyes wide in fear. Shocked, I looked up and stared at her in surprise. “I should’ve stopped you from leaving. You shouldn’t have gone off anywhere with anyone, especially since you were … under the influence. It was dangerous and stupid, and I didn’t look out for you. I can’t believe I was so stupid –”
“Pause,” I said quickly, holding up a hand. Avery stopped, mid-sentence, before sitting back again. “It’s not your fault. I’m old enough to look after myself and Al warned me not to go in the first place. Whatever happened, it’s my fault, and I’m going to find out what happened.”
“And the note?”
“I’ll find out who wrote it and how they found out. Believe me, it’s probably some first-year thinking it’s funny to play a prank on the older students. If I find out who it is, I swear, they’re going to get it.”
“Relax,” Albus mumbled from beside me, his voice thick with sleep. I suspected he dozed off as we were speaking. “If you’re still talking about the party, you left with … what’s-his-name, Liam Heller.”
“Liam Heller? Roxy’s boyfriend?” Avery repeated in disbelief. Liam was the only Ravenclaw I knew who I detested more than anyone in his house. He was self-centered and an arrogant know-it-all, but was Ravenclaw’s star seeker. My cousin Roxy found herself infatuated with everything he did since their third year together, and by the Yule Ball, they were officially together, despite my numerous warnings against him.
Then again, Roxy was just as stubborn as me, and she didn’t bother listening to a word I said. She was always happy with him, and I knew that as long as she was happy, I would be happy for her.
“Why would I leave a party with him?” I hissed, my voice mingled with fright. “I actually can’t stand him for five minutes, let alone a whole night.”
“I don’t know what happened exactly,” Albus said slowly, his voice low. “But I heard he asked you to take a walk with him somewhere, and since you were completely out of it, you agreed.”
“Why didn’t you stop me?” I gasped.
“I wasn’t there at the time,” he answered, regarding me with concern. “If I was, I would’ve said something, you know that.” The more my worry intensified, the more concerned he became. Finally, he added, “Rose, let’s go. We’ll go find him and we’ll ask him what happened that night if you’re so worried.”
“Yeah, good idea,” Avery said hastily, pulling me up from the seat. “And I’m sure nothing happened. I bet he passed out somewhere and you dragged yourself to bed or something. I bet that note you got was nothing. Relax.”
“Right, you’re right,” I muttered, more to myself than to anyone as the paranoia began to kick in.
It was relatively easy to find Liam. As usual, he was fulfilling his daily routine of flying twenty laps around the Quidditch pitch, showing off with a display of loops and turns that made my stomach queasy. He flashed us all a cheeky grin as he flew past, before he locked eyes with me. The smile stopped in an instant, but it was almost too quick to catch. Almost.
Roxy was standing in the Gryffindor bleachers, whooping and hollering as Liam lowered himself down on to the ground again, beads of sweat rolling down his pink forehead.
“Go ahead, ask him,” Albus whispered, pushing me forwards. I glanced back hesitantly and found myself being greeted with encouraging smiles from both my best friends. Gathering courage, I made my way to the middle of the pitch, ignoring the hammering in my chest and the buzz in my legs that ached for me to turn around and run in the opposite direction again.
The phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ is in place for a reason. The less you know, the happier you’d be.
Too bad I was so determined to know what happened.
Gingerly, I stepped up behind Liam and tapped him on the shoulder twice, chewing on my bottom lip again. He turned and froze, his jaw hanging unattractively wide open.
“R-Rose,” he mumbled. His knuckles whitened as his grip on his broomstick grew stronger. I noted that down before placing both hands on my hips, treating him to the death glare my mother sometimes gave my father when he disagreed with her. I wasn’t in the mood to play guessing games. “What a … nice surprise.”
“Stop it,” I hissed, my eyes narrowed. Liam took one frightened step back. “You know why I’m here.”
“What happened that night is in the past,” Liam blurted out immediately, his voice gaining an octave as he tried to muster up any strength he had left against me. His efforts to intimidate me brought about a tiny smile on my face, which I wiped away. “I’m with Roxy and I really like her. Whatever we did was stupid, a stupid mistake.”
Holy shit, what did you do, Rose?
“If you hadn’t noticed, I was drunk,” I spat, cringing as I used the word I had always promised myself I’d never use in the same sentence as I was in. “I don’t bloody remember what happened, so if you could tell me –”
“Is it important?” Liam had wild eyes and they kept darting back and forth, looking out for invisible strangers. Rolling my eyes, I reached out and shoved him roughly. I wasn’t amused.
“Very important,” I snapped, thinking back to the note in my trunk. “Just tell me and I’ll leave it for the rest of our existence. Happy?”
Liam hesitated, looking up at the bleachers where Roxy watched him, confusion on her face. I could see Albus and Avery joining her at the top to distract her from the spectacle below.
“We were drunk,” Liam began slowly, his tone hushed as if he were revealing a secret no one was ever supposed to hear of. “I was told by someone that you were looking for me ‘cause you wanted to go for a walk and so I looked for you. We left the party and I asked you where you wanted to go, and you said you didn’t care. So we asked for a little park, a-and we went back into the Room of Requirements, but the party was gone, obviously. It was this … this park somewhere, somewhere familiar, and we sat right down where we were and we started …” Liam’s voice trailed off as his face paled. The more I dreaded hearing the next part of his story, the more inquisitive I became.
“Liam, what did we do?” I asked gently, trying to be as understanding as possible.
“We went too far,” he whispered.
That was enough for me to step back, features frozen in place, before trying to clumsily rearrange my thoughts back into their appropriate slots. We didn’t. We couldn’t have. He was my cousin’s boyfriend, I would never do anything like that. I was Rose Nymphadora Weasley, the school’s well-known good girl. Good girls didn’t mess around with guys who were drunk and in a relationship.
“I should go now,” I said quietly, my voice sounding thin and airy. Liam swallowed audibly, clearly uncomfortable, before nodding and mounting his broomstick again. “Don’t … don’t tell anyone about this, okay?”
“Okay,” Liam agreed quickly. “No one knows about it anyways; we’re okay.”
But that was a lie. I understood someone knew about this before I did, and until I figured out who sent the note to me in the first place, I couldn’t rest. Being caught up in panic, I didn’t hear approaching footsteps make their way towards both Liam and me. That is, I didn’t notice until I backed right into that person.
“Sorry,” I gasped. I found myself staring straight at a green and silver tie glinting in the sunlight, before gathering the courage to actually look up into his face. Scorpius Malfoy. “I didn’t notice you were behind me.” I physically couldn’t bring myself to stare into his piercing gray eyes, so I dropped my eye level down to the ground, where I knew it was safer.
“Excuse me,” he said simply, his voice light. He never bothered me once before, even despite my father’s warnings to stay away from him. He had always remained an enigmatic figure, secretive, distant but polite. Behind him, I caught myself looking into a pair of icy blue eyes glaring right back at me. I wasn’t surprised to see Michelle Delatorre right behind him. The Slytherin Prince and Princess.
“Such a typical move, Weasley,” Michelle smirked as she pulled back her jet black waves into a high ponytail. I had a feeling she was preparing to do some Quidditch practicing of her own. “I’m surprised you haven’t killed yourself yet, the way you trip over everything.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” I snarled, blood pounding through my cheeks.
“Of course I would,” Michelle replied immediately, her honesty like a blade slicing right through my shirt. I was startled by the firm nature of her answer but I shook off the feeling instead. “I saw you talking to Heller. I daresay you were … flirting with him, weren’t you?”
“Hah, that’s funny,” I scoffed. “Unlike you, I’d never go for someone else’s guy.”
“Would you?” she asked suddenly, her lips curling into a little pout as she eyed me. Her gaze intensified, seeping right through my skin, sending ice shooting painfully through my veins. I tried to clear my mind, to do anything in order to make her leave. “You never know with girls like you. According to most, the quiet girls are usually the ones to look out for.”
I was like an ice statue, ready to shatter at the slightest touch.
“Have you heard about what happened to Alfred?” I asked, willing myself to sound stronger than I felt. “Such a coincidence, seeing as he wrote about you, and now he’s gone.”
“Maybe he’s gone into hiding,” Michelle mused, a smile gently touching her lips. “That would be a smart move, in my opinion.”
“Why? Are you saying that his article was true?” I asked boldly. “This whole Shadow idea seems quite … interesting.”
“Do you believe it?” she asked.
“Michelle,” a deep voice called out from above us. We both looked up and found ourselves squinting in the sunlight as Scorpius’ silhouette hovered over us. “Are you ready to start?”
Michelle gave him an alluring smile as confirmation before pushing past me, her strong perfume making me cough as she left. The smell of lavender and spices wafted right into my nose and made me choke as I desperately tried to breathe in the fresh air to combat it.
I could hear someone running behind me and I felt Avery’s cold hand on my arm as she spun me around.
“What did Michelle say?” she asked impatiently. “Wait, actually, what did Liam say?”
“Room of Requirements, tonight after dinner,” I informed her, unable to string together two proper sentences. “I’ll tell you everything.”