“I forgot to ask you last night,” a seventh-year Gryffindor girl I know only as Custard says upon waking up, “But why did you sleep on our floor?”
“Because you had no beds,” I grumble in response.
“No, I mean…why here?”
It’s a fair question. I would be confused if an ill-tempered redhead in Gryffindor pajamas was curled up on the floor of the Slytherin girls’ dorm, so I can’t really blame them.
“Because some girls in my dorm want to kill me,” I reply matter-of-factly, hauling myself into a sitting position.
Custard raises her eyebrows. “If you’re trying to change the image we have of Slytherin, you’re not doing a very good job.”
“I’m aware of that. Good thing I don’t care.”
“Why do they want to kill you?”
I shrug. “Why would anyone want to kill me? I’m a wonderful person.”
“There’s another one,” another girl who last night introduced herself to me as Becks reports, entering the dorm from what I assume was the common room; I’m a little disoriented.
“Another what?” Custard asks. Seriously, what’s wrong with the name on your birth certificate?
“Slytherin,” Becks explains, nodding at me. “Niall says Scorpius Malfoy spent the night on their floor.”
“Someone trying to kill him too?”
“That’s why she’s here,” Custard explains. “Someone in her dorm wants to kill her.”
“Not Natalia Dolohov, is it?” Becks asks. “That girl legitimately scares the shit out of me.”
“Aren’t you guys meant to be fearless?” I ask sardonically.
“I wish,” Custard says. “I still don’t know how I was Sorted.”
“Yeah, you should be in Hufflepuff,” Becks says unsympathetically. “Except, you’re a bitch.”
“Love you too,” Custard returns. “Seen my socks?”
“Knowing my luck, I probably slept on them,” I mutter, checking the floor underneath me. “Nope, we’re good.”
“So are you moving in here permanently then?” Becks asks conversationally.
“I hope not. No offence,” I add hastily. “Where do I get changed?”
“Through that door, down the stairs to the first landing you get to, and it’s on the left.”
Taking my robes from the trunk McGonagall had dumped beside me in the middle of the night, I follow Becks’ directions and find what I assume is the senior girls’ bathroom, judging by the hordes of fifth and sixth-years crammed in there.
“Scuse me,” I mutter, weaving through the crowd. “Scuse, dangerous Slytherin coming through, make way or I’ll eat your soul.”
I manage to find a cubicle and shut myself in, listening with mild interest to the chatter outside.
“Was that Rose Weasley?”
“What’s she doing here?”
“D’you reckon it’s got anything to do with all the Aurors that were hanging around last night?”
“There were Aurors hanging around last night?”
“I thought that was coz of Lily.”
“As in, Lily Potter? What about her?”
“I dunno, she’s in the hospital wing.”
This is new. I hastily finish throwing on my robes and join the throng. “What’s this about Lily?”
“She’s in the hospital wing’s all I know. Didn’t see her at all last night.”
That’s weird. Mind you, I was kind of distracted last night.
I escape from Gryffindor Tower thirty seconds later, joining Scorpius who’s sheltering just outside the portrait hole.
“That was an experience.”
“You reckon, I shared a dorm with a girl called Custard.”
We head for the Great Hall, but are intercepted by McGonagall before we get halfway there.
“My office,” she says simply.
“But breakfast!” Scorpius protests.
“There’ll be plenty of time for breakfast later,” McGonagall replies. “Didn’t I tell you not to go anywhere without a teacher or Auror with you?”
“Uh, no, you missed that one.”
“I’ve told you now,” McGonagall says. “Now move, I’ve been up all night working out what to do with you two.”
“We’re sorry?” Scorpius offers humbly.
We return to McGonagall’s office, which I realise I’ve seen a lot of recently.
“Still alive, then?” the portrait of Severus Snape asks.
“I’ve half a mind to put you in a box, Severus,” McGonagall says severely.
“What, and take away my one source of amusement?”
“If last night was your idea of amusement…” she begins.
“What happened last night?” I ask. “Other than the whole Scorpius and I having our lives threatened?”
“No matter,” McGonagall replies heavily. “We have two options. We can either have Aurors here, full time, to protect you in case Miss Dolohov returns. Or we can send you home, where you’ll be protected by powerful charms, but unable to complete your seventh year.”
“I’m not dropping out,” I say stubbornly. “Surely they won’t return? They’ll know there were Aurors here.”
“It’s possible,” McGonagall says.
“Why don’t we just change the password to the dungeons?” Scorpius asks, idly tossing a crumpled ball of parchment into the air.
“Because, Mr Malfoy, it is very easy to get a message containing the Slytherin password to someone.”
“Not if you can’t cast a Patronus,” Scorpius says, “And the only people who would give the password to Natalia would be incapable of casting one.”
“We don’t know that for sure. And that wouldn’t solve the issue of the rest of the school, unless you would like to spend the remainder of the year in the dungeons.”
“I’m not leaving Hogwarts,” I say stubbornly. “I would die of boredom and lack of intellectual stimulation at home.”
“I will never understand why you were not sorted into Ravenclaw, Miss Weasley,” McGonagall comments.
“Mum wasn’t a Ravenclaw either.”
“So,” Scorpius says pointedly, “Us. And I’m with Rose, by the way, I’m not leaving Hogwarts.”
“I’m calling in your parents,” McGonagall says. “Mr Malfoy, go and find your mother.”
He saunters off and McGonagall walks through the fireplace, leaving me in the office with the portraits of dead Headmasters.
“Why were you sorted into Slytherin, Weasley?” the portrait of Severus Snape asks.
“You know what, I’ve been trying to work that out for seven years. What did you say to McGonagall last night?”
“I said nothing to Minerva. I talked to Potter, and she took objection.”
I raise my eyebrows but don’t say anything. Apparently, Harry and Snape’s feud has continued even after the latter’s death.
“I trust you’ve heard the news?” Snape continues.
“Severus,” the portrait of Albus Dumbledore warns.
“There’s more news? I’ve had enough of news, thanks.”
“Wise words, if I do say so myself, Miss Weasley,” Dumbledore says. “And words that would indeed have saved Professor Snape from being put in a box.”
Luckily I’m saved from conversing with the professors any longer as Scorpius walks into the office with his mother, and McGonagall walks in with mine. Dad follows seconds later.
“Morning,” I greet my parents.
“Rosie, what’s going on?” Mum asks immediately.
“Your father will be here shortly,” McGonagall tells Scorpius, and Dad’s face takes on an interesting impression.
Draco Malfoy strides out of the Floo, avoiding eye contact with my parents, and stands beside Astoria, rocking slightly on his heels. “What have you done this time?”
Scorpius arches an eyebrow. “Such faith you have in me, father.”
“Based on past experience,” Draco replies. “Professor?”
“It came to my attention last night that both Rose and Scorpius are in considerable danger. There are details regarding the case that I don’t wish to disclose, Mr and Mrs Weasley, until I can speak to the pair of you privately. Suffice to say, there is a student at Hogwarts, currently missing, who poses a considerable danger to both Rose and Scorpius.”
“A student?” Draco repeats in slight disbelief. “Of considerable danger to my son?”
“She could pretty much kill me in a second if she wanted to, yeah,” Scorpius agrees.
“The natural issue we are now facing is how best to ensure the safety of the students,” McGonagall continues. “Both are adamant they will not leave Hogwarts.”
“That’s my girl,” Mum says absently.
“Who needs seventh-year?” Dad asks.
“My thoughts exactly,” Draco says, then stares at the floor once he realises he just agreed with my dad on something.
“They’re staying at Hogwarts,” Astoria says firmly.
“Hogwarts has always been the safest place in the wizarding world,” Mum says, nodding, “Particularly with you here, Professor McGonagall.”
“Haven’t changed in thirty years, have you, Granger?” Draco asks.
“Don’t talk to my wife like that!” Dad’s got his wand out.
“None of you have changed in thirty years!” McGonagall says. “Mr Weasley, put the wand away. Mr Malfoy, please refrain from your schoolboy tendencies.”
“Guess what, Dad,” Scorpius says. “You have now officially lost the right to ever comment on my immaturity.”
I bury my face in my hands.
I wake up in the hospital wing feeling like shit. I’m weak and shaky, and something lurks at the back of my memory, something dark and shadowy that threatens to overwhelm me. As my eyes adjust to being open again, the events of last night hit me like a freight train.
I close my eyes, but visions of a gloomy apartment building and a cross carved on a door fill my mind with a vividness that terrifies me.
“She’s awake,” I hear a whisper beside me, and I open my eyes to see Mum crouched beside my bed, her face strained with anxiety.
I’m shaking again, shaking and I can’t stop, as the hospital wing blurs from my view and all I can see is the apartment, the door, the glow of the city from the crack in the curtains, all I can hear is the whispers of Medea and Natalia, the muffled sound of our footsteps on the carpet, the faint stirring of the man in the next room…I can’t breathe; the panic, the fear is stifling me. I gasp for breath, but even the sound of my own breathing takes me back to the room, the room that was dimly lit with an orange glow from the streetlights outside, that flickered like fire as our shadows passed across it…
“Madam Pomfrey!” Mum screams, and I’m dragged back to a reality that seems no more real than my memories. Mum’s gripping my hand and yelling; Madam Pomfrey is running towards me, what’s wrong with me? Why am I here, what happened to me? Madam Pomfrey’s saying something, I can see her lips move, but no words penetrate through my panic. Why can’t I calm down? Why can’t I stop shaking? What’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me?
“Miss Potter! Miss Potter! Lily, can you hear me?”
I manage to nod my head, gripping the side of the bed to stop myself from shaking. This is ridiculous. Why am I acting like this?
“I’ll give her a Calming Concoction,” Madam Pomfrey says, and tips a potion down my throat. I cough and splutter, but gradually I stop shaking and can focus on what’s going on.
“Why am I here?” I ask finally.
Madam Pomfrey nods at Mum and bustles away.
“Why are you here?” I ask, confused, I haven’t had anything to do with Mum since I left at Christmas…
She looks as though I’ve just slapped her in the face. “I got an owl at three in the morning from Madam Pomfrey saying you were stumbling through the corridors of Hogwarts pale, shaking and terrified. You’ve been out cold for eighteen hours. Why wouldn’t I be here?”
“What’s the time?”
“Half past nine.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Eighteen hours, Lily.”
I take a closer look at her. She looks exhausted; dark shadows under her weary brown eyes, her face pale, her hair limp and straggly.
She’s been here as long as I have. She hasn’t slept.
I don’t deserve this, I don’t deserve her caring about me like this, if only she knew why I’m here, what I’ve done, who I’ve become, she wouldn’t be here, sitting beside my bed all through the night and day waiting for me to wake up.
I can feel the tears begin to prick my eyes, and angrily brush them away. If I cry, Mum’s going to try to comfort me, and I don’t deserve it, I’m not worthy of anything anymore, not worthy of a Prefect badge, not worthy of respect, not worthy of Mum’s love…But I can’t stop the tears flowing, can’t stop the memories and the realisations from flooding into my mind of who I am and who I’ve betrayed, what I’ve done and the willingness with which I did it…
“Lily, sweetie,” Mum says, clutching my hand with both of hers, and I fight the urge to scream at her, to tell her I don’t deserve her being here, I’m a killer, a cold-blooded killer, and all she sees is her little girl in pain…
I curl into a ball, feeling Mum climb into the bed beside me and wrap her arms around me, as if I’m five years old again, terrified by a nightmare.
“Don’t,” I manage, as disjointed thoughts fight their way to the surface. “Don’t!” I cry louder. “You don’t know what I’ve done!”
Her grip around me tightens. “I know,” she says softly. “I know. It’s okay.”
“I killed someone!” I sob, desperate to make her see, make her realise. “I killed him…”
“Lily,” Mum says fiercely, seizing my shoulders and forcing me to look at her, “It’s not your fault you lost the baby. You didn’t kill it. It’s not your fault.”
Bile rises in my throat; I did kill the baby. I was part of a group that killed that man, but the baby…That was me, and me alone.
But I can’t say any of that. I can’t bear to say the words that will make Mum recoil away from me in horror, I can’t sit here and pretend that what she knows is the extent of my dark secrets. Struggling free of her grip, I stumble out of the bed and break into a run, forcing my shaky legs to obey. I can hear Mum following me, calling my name as I descend several flights of stairs, taking several sharp turns to lose her. I need to be alone, that’s all I know. Alone—to do what? To think? To panic all over again? To sit in the darkness and imagine everything that will happen to me—alienated from my family, hated by the school, sent to Azkaban…Azkaban…The words of Sophocles ring in my mind: You will be trodden down with fouler scorn than ever fell on man.
I take little-used routes through the castle, managing to avoid seeing anyone else and finding myself on top of Astronomy Tower. Feeling numb, I walk out to the edge, where a bitterly cold breeze whips through the air and chills the tear tracks on my face. I feel like a child again; scared of the dark.
The difference between myself and that child is now I know you don’t have to be afraid of the dark for it to destroy you.
I twist around at the sound of Lorcan’s voice, seeing him silhouetted in the doorway. I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want to talk to anyone, but I especially don’t want to talk to him.
“Al told me you were in the hospital wing all day,” he begins cautiously, coming to lean against the battlements I’m sitting on.
I remain silent, waiting for him to continue.
“Is…is the…are you okay?” he asks awkwardly.
“I lost the baby, Lorcan,” I reply flatly.
He hesitates, as if unsure how to react, and glances at me questioningly. Slowly, realisation seems to creep across his face.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You talked to Medea, didn’t you?” His tone is suddenly accusatory; his eyes flash with an aggression that seems alien to him. He doesn’t ever get angry. “You talked to Medea, and she told you to get rid of it, didn’t she? She told you how, didn’t she? Last night.”
Something in his words cuts through the dark, miserable guilt that clouds my mind.“And if I did?” I ask furiously, jumping down from the battlement and brandishing my wand. “You never said a word to me about it, you buried your head in the sand and left me to deal with it alone! And you have the audacity to condemn me!”
“YOU KILLED MY CHILD!”
In one swift movement, Lorcan splits the air in front of him with his wand, a spell forming on his lips.
“DON’T YOU TOUCH HER! IMPENDIMENTA!”
Lorcan’s thrown back against the battlements and I wheel around, seeing Mum bursting through the doorway with her wand outstretched. I don’t move, just do my best to shrink back into the shadows as she comes closer.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demands, hauling Lorcan to his feet with eyes blazing. “I can’t believe you!”
“She killed it!” Lorcan yells, his eyes not leaving me.
“She lost it!” Mum yells back, her words laced with fury. I feel sick.
“She lost it, did she?” Lorcan asks, staring belligerently at me. “Did you lose the baby, Lily? Tell your mum how you lost the baby.”
“Lorcan, stop it,” I whisper desperately, but Mum’s already turned to face me, eyes wide with shock.
I ignore her. “Get out of here,” I murmur shakily, slowly raising my wand to point it at Lorcan. “Get out of here!” I scream when he doesn’t move.
With one last, loathing stare, Lorcan turns on his heel and strides through the doorway.
Mum doesn’t say a word, instead silently crossing the tower and standing with her back to me, looking out across the grounds.
I can’t take it anymore. Hauling myself up to the top of the battlement, I stare down at the pointed roof of the castle and the Great Lake far below. It would be so easy, so easy to just slip off the edge. I stretch out a hand, as if to touch the emptiness in front of me, but I collide with a barrier; a brick wall, except I can’t see anything. I turn around to see Mum walking slowly towards me, her wand raised.
“Don’t you dare,” she says in a low voice.
I don’t bother to reply.
“So it’s true, then.”
I let my silence speak for itself, cautiously glancing at Mum. She’s watching me, but her expression hasn’t changed from when she was sitting beside my bed; her eyes glisten with tears, but I know they’re for me, not against me.
“Tell me why,” she whispers pleadingly. “Tell me why you’ve changed. Tell me what happened to my daughter.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so, so, so sorry…”
“Lily, what have you done?”
I don’t want to do this anymore. I look up and meet Mum’s eyes, fighting the tears that threaten to overwhelm me. This, I will do. This, I will do, like the Gryffindor I am.
“I’m part of the Honour Guard,” I say steadily. “And I can’t get out alone.”
Disclaimer: The quote 'You will be trodden down with fouler scorn than ever fell on man' is from the play Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.