I apologize to anyone who might actually want to read the rest of this story for being perhaps the least prolific author ever. I will try to write faster, but I can't guarantee anything. I just hope you can forgive the long waits between chapters and stick with me on this story. I do not intend to abandon it (even if it may sometimes seem that way).
That said, I hope that you enjoy this chapter (and that you might review!). =)
Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter world or any of the characters in it. I do, however, own Tyler, Reyden, Lena and Ross.
It's cold, I notice long after we leave the Slytherin common room. I think longingly of the flames licking at elegant masonry in the fireplace, warming the stones and casting them in a coppery glow. Such a contrast to the stone cold, grey walls around me now. I should have brought my cloak with me.
It is not until we reach the entrance hall that I even think to wonder what I'm tagging along for. I was on the right track at first, with my cocked eyebrow and dubious glare that begged the question of his sanity. Unfortunately, that patented look did nothing to sway his resolve. He held out his hand to me, and in seconds there seemed nothing more natural to do than take it and let him lead me out of the dungeons. It occurs to me then that we're still holding hands, and in a sudden burst of indignation, I wrench my hand from his grasp.
He pauses mid-stride and turns to face me without faltering. His expression is impassive, but his tone is mildly perturbed. “Is there a problem?”
For a moment, I just stare and it takes every ounce of my self-control not to hit him. I reach a semblance of calm and, gritting my teeth, I say, “No, there's no problem.” He raises an eyebrow as he looks down at me, which makes me want to scream, because – Merlin! – he's never looked so bloody tall and pretentious. Instead, I huff and roll my eyes.
The ghost of a smile plays at the corner of his lips. It occurs to me that, however oblivious he may act, it is possible that he is taunting me on purpose. I clench my teeth, and fix my eyes on his. Finally, he turns away. I relax for a moment, but then he tries to take my hand again. I jerk it away and take a step back, holding my hands up. “Hands off, please,” I hiss. He looks at me with this almost glare for a moment and then turns on his heel and sets off at a brisk pace. I almost trip over my own feet as I rush to catch up with him. I scowl in his direction, but he seems not to notice. We reach the stair chamber and begin to climb. It is a slow process.
Just as we are about to step onto the sixth floor landing, there is the sound of stone on stone, and my balance is thrown off as the staircase disengages itself from the wall. I reach for the railings to steady myself, just in time to see Reyden stumble. He had been about to step off of the staircase when it separated itself from the landing. For a moment, he can't decide what to do with his foot. It lands awkwardly on the top step, and his centre of gravity is off. He sways for a moment, and nearly tumbles forward into what would be a nasty fall to take, but his hand catches the end of the railing just in time. I really do try to resist the urge to laugh, but the whole thing was just so comical and I laugh anyway. He turns his gaze down at me over his shoulder. He looks miffed, but his eyes hold a quiet amusement.
The staircase has taken us down a floor, and we're going to have to make a detour in order to continue our ascent. We exit the stair chamber and turn down a darkened corridor. Reyden ignites the tip of his wand, and I do the same. Light splashes the wall around us, illuminating several paintings, and we carry on. Many of the portraits depict sleeping witches or wizards, and a few are empty, but there are a handful featuring disgruntled occupants. The image of a wizard who looks a couple of years out of school raises one arm to shield his eyes and tries to hide his bed head with the other. “Put that sodding light out!” he demands in a cranky Scottish brogue. The corner of my mouth quirks upward as I pass his frame.
A short time later, my eyes start to wander. Everything has two shadows, I notice. I watch the silhouettes of a suit of armour as they distort and chase each other across the wall. I turn my eyes to Reyden again. He walks like a man on a mission: back straight, aggressive stride, robes flapping behind him. Even from the side, I can see a certain glint in his eyes, and I wonder what's in the Room of Requirement that he's so eager to get to. He told me that he wasn't doing dark magic, but those books... With titles like Dark and Dangerous Draughts and Magick Moste Evile, what else would he be doing? It's unnerving to say the least, and it doesn't help that (almost) anything I can do he can do better. What the hell am I supposed to do if he turns on me?
At the end of the hall, we climb a set of stairs, and then make our way down another dim corridor back to the main stair chamber. Meanwhile, I've started mentally rehearsing all of the offensive and defensive spells I can think of, just in case. Impedimenta, Stupefy, Protego, Expelliarmus...
We're now on the seventh floor, just corridors away from the Room of Requirement, and curiosity consumes my thoughts once again. I know that this has something to do with his drastic improvement in flying, and I wonder irately about how he did it. I find myself imagining a room of broomsticks and other Quidditch equipment, but I'm sure it's not that simple.
Finally, we're just down the hall from the Room, and he stops just as we're rounding the corner. “Wait here,” he instructs, holding his hand up in front of me. I just barely manage to stop myself firing out an impulsive “Why?” Instead I halt, fixing him with a subtle glare as he continues on. He needs me to stay away so that my thoughts don't interfere. It figures. Of course he wouldn't tell me how to get in there on my own. He stares at the wall for several seconds, and then beckons me over once the door starts to appear.
I say nothing as I join him. Instead, I watch as the deep mahogany stain of wood bleeds into the morphing stones, expanding over the carved designs and spreading to the edges of the archway now defined on the wall. Reyden takes hold of the circle of brass that acts as a handle and leans back, balancing most of his weight on it. The door creeps open, revealing the Room of Requirement, and I blink. Mirrors adorn every wall, giving the illusion of more space than anyone knows what to do with. In my musings I had come up with some rather outlandish theories of what might be in here, but somehow, even in its simplicity and lack of novelty, this scenario seems the strangest of all.
What could he possibly want a bunch of mirrors for? The first motive that comes to mind is vanity. ...But it seems unlikely. While Reyden has always seemed a bit arrogant, and it's not like he has no business being so, he has always seemed unconcerned with that kind of vanity – oblivious even. That may yet be an act, but I truly doubt that he comes in here to stare at himself every night.
Reyden walks inside, and waves his hand in the air. Confused, I stare at his back for a moment, but then, out of the corner of my eye, I observe movement. I gasp and jump out of the way as the heavy wooden door swings closed. It slams into its frame, rattling the mirrors on the wall around it. Turning around, I give Reyden a scowl – How did he bloody dothat? – but he's still got his back to me, so I walk around in front of him. “Thanks for that,” I say, crossing my arms with a glare.
For a moment, he says nothing. He furrows his brow; whether in concentration or confusion, I can't tell. And then the corner of his mouth quirks up in a most unusual fashion. “You are welcome,” he says evenly. My mind takes its time in deciphering this statement. I give him a blank look, but two seconds later, my eyes are narrowing. He just mocked me, didn't he? The smirk grows into a grin, and he just looks so damned pleased with himself. Git.
“Shut up.” Giving him a shove, I walk over to inspect one of the mirrors. It's relatively small, but the strange cut of the glass caught my eye. The overall shape is roughly rectangular, but the edges themselves are a mess of lines, curves and tapered points. Even in its disarray, however, there is a certain aesthetic to it.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the room. “I can see that your sense of interior decorating is very limited,” I say, casting a disdainful look around us. The walls are covered all the way up to the high ceiling in mirrors. They make the room seem much larger than it is, yet still it feels somehow... claustrophobic. There's a rather large mirror leaning against the wall in front of me. The slight angle skews the perspective of everything it reflects, and it feels like gazing into something so impossible and endless that I have to look away because it's making me dizzy.
“I didn't decorate it,” Reyden says. There isn't a lot of emotion on his face, but what is there looks like a mix of indignation and embarrassment. There's even a light flush over his cheeks.
I smirk and he knits his brows at me. “Not consciously, no. But where do you think the Room of Requirement gets these rooms from? This all came from your head.” I say, waving my hand in an all-encompassing gesture. I glance around with another scornful look. This whole room just looks wrong. “I'd hate to see how disorganised it is up in there.”
Sounding flustered, he bites out a retort: “Well, if my messy thoughts bother you so much, then you can leave.” He gives me a scowl and a flush of colour rises in his cheeks. I say nothing for a moment and study his face in its rare moment of expression. My smirk is still in place, but it's edging closer to a genuine smile now. “...What?” he asks after a moment, a touch of confusion in his eyes. He is definitely blushing now. I clear my throat, resisting the urge to study that too. I also ignore the bubble of... something, whatever, that I can feel rising in my chest.
“Nothing,” I finally say, turning around to avoid his eyes. That tactic doesn't actually work very well, because I can see them reflected in almost every mirror around me. I think I've found another reason that this room makes me uncomfortable. I focus on the small mirror that first caught my eye again, which is just about the only one I can't see him in. “So, what's with all the mirrors?” I ask.
He's quiet for a moment, and I glance at his face in one of the other mirrors. He looks thoughtful. “They're all different,” he says finally and then pauses, looking around. “That one there” – I see his reflection point at something, but with all the mirrors, I can't tell what, so I turn around again to observe him directly – “exposes the dark side of people.” It's that mirror I had to look away from earlier. I turn a glance to Reyden – he's looking elsewhere, already moved on to another mirror. I lean to the side, hoping to steal a glance at what anti-Reyden might look like, but he looks normal. There is nothing about his reflection that seems out of place or evil at all. What, does he have no dark side or something? I knit my brow, and turn my eyes to him again. No way.
“Bull shit,” I say. There is no fucking way he's that perfect. He looks at me, confused for a moment. My eyes flick to the mirror and then back to his. “You look... normal,” I say clumsily. His eyes flick to the mirror and mine meet them there.
“As do you.” It's very subtle, but his voice smooths with confidence. “But I doubt that you'd see the same when you look at yourself.” Oh. So it only shows you the dark side of yourself. He walks up to me and takes my hands to lead me over to the mirror. I meet his eyes and let him do it. In front of the mirror, my gaze lingers in his a moment. I hate to admit it, but I'm a little afraid of what I might find beneath the surface of that glass.
Looking into the mirror produces a disorienting and almost sickening sensation. Laid out before me is every thought and trait that I'd like to forget, clear as day. There's the part of me that values blood purity, despite the fact that I'm only a half-blood myself. I've always been far more proud of the pureblooded heritage of my mother. And though I don't hate my father by any means, I've never quite felt comfortable around his muggle family. Not even around his brother, who had also turned out to be a wizard. Somewhere deep down, I think I've harboured a secret loathing for muggles and muggle-borns my entire life. Mudbloods, a low voice calls from the back of my mind, and the word reverberates around in my skull like a drum.
Even the ideals of the Dark Lord, though I'd never admit it, have a certain appeal to them. Unfortunately, this is pretty hard to deny when this mirror is shoving it in my face, reminding of me of those few times I've seriously entertained thoughts of joining him as he grows evermore powerful. I see other things I don't like: greed, envy, pride (which I ordinarily wouldn't lose much sleep over, it's just that they're exposed in such an unappealing way in this blasted mirror); and then there's that little part of me that actually enjoys watching things suffer, and I cringe a little.
The strangest thing is that there is nothing wrong with the image reflected in the mirror. It is visually no different than any other reflection of me. It's something psychological, because I can see everything clearly, even though I can't put my finger on it. It's probably something you have to know about to see. Even if you'd like to pretend you don't know about it.
I glance at Reyden again, out of the corner of my eye. He's studying the mirror – my reflection or his, I can't tell. A nagging bout of paranoia compels me to find a way to distract him, because at that moment, I'm quite convinced that if he stares long enough, the darkness I see will bleed into the reflection the mirror shows him, and I desperately need to stop that from happening.
“I could have figured that out,” I say quickly. My voice is a little shaky, to my dismay. I wonder if he had a similar reaction the first time he saw himself reflected in that mirror. I'll bet he was traumatized; it's a shame I wasn't there to see it. “Well...” I swallow the knot forming in my throat and grasp for something else to say. “Y-you gonna show me something useful or not?” His lip twitches, like he's going to say something, but he doesn't. Instead, he steps away from the mirror. I do too.
I cross to the opposite corner of the room as he takes his time looking for something else to show me. I scan the area in front of me idly and almost don't notice it, because it's actually not a mirror, but the general lack of reflection in a section of wall causes me to double back. It's a scrap of brushed metal. Despite the various shapes that have been cut from its edges, it has – like that first mirror that caught my eye – it's own certain appeal.
“Touch it,” he says, suddenly right beside me, voice barely above a whisper. Though I manage not to show it, it startles me slightly, because I didn't hear a thing until he was whispering in my ear.
I glance at him dubiously. “I'm not stupid.” And I'm not about to go touching some magical artefact just because Reyden Riley told me to, no matter how good looking he is. He gives me that same bloody look from before with the raised eyebrow and strange smile. “You first,” I challenge.
He makes a noise that sounds suspiciously like amusement, and presses his palm to the metal scrap. Something changes. He looks at me with a smile on his face. A real one, not the strange quirk of his lips that inspires such irritation in me. “Satisfied?” he asks without any bite.
Eying him suspiciously, I reach up and hesitate before pressing my fingertips to the surface of the metal. From the point of contact, a pleasant sensation spreads, spiraling up my arm and then rippling throughout the rest of my body. My eyes close and I breathe in deeply. It reminds me of dawn; of climbing out onto the roof from a second story window to watch the sun rise in crisp, late-summer morning air. My lips curl into a smile of their own accord. I flatten my palm against the metal, and in that moment, my outstretched fingers bump against Reyden's and the mental image of the sunrise flickers away as I flinch and withdraw my hand.
“Sorry,” I say automatically. It only registers a second later as the hazy calm starts to drain away and I curse myself for apologising. So this is why he's so fucking zen all the time. Useful, I'll give him that. He's still smiling; still got his hand on that thing. “Impressive,” I say, crossing my arms. “but I'm getting bored.” It's not true, but I don't want him to know that.
He lifts his hand, but the tips of his fingers linger a moment on the metal. When his arm finally drops to his side, the smile fades, but then he says, “This way,” and it is plain that the scrap of metal still has quite a hold on him. I make a note to come back here a lot when the end-of-the-year exams come around. Besides the mood-metal, there's bound to be other things in here that could come in handy. Exams this year will be a breeze with such tools at my fingertips.
Reyden stops in front of a medium-sized mirror and pulls a pocket watch from his robes. There's a version of the Slytherin crest on the cover, I notice as he pops it open. “Note the time,” he says, holding it up so I can read it. Ten twenty-two, and I wince internally because it's going to be a bitch getting back to the common room without being caught. I look up and nod. Closing the watch, he presses it to the surface of the mirror, and my eyes widen as his hand disappears into its reflection. When it reemerges, the watch is gone. I blink a few times and look at him quizzically.
Reyden has pulled out another watch, and I wonder briefly if it's the same one, but on the cover is a lion. Gryffindor? I furrow my brow and look closer. Turns out it's not the Gryffindor crest afterall. Beneath the lion in neat, clean letters is the name Riley. A family heirloom, perhaps? I look up. He's watching the seconds tick by intensely and he's got a strange sort of look on his face. I can't quite tell if he's looking at it with reverence or bitterness. Maybe there's a bit of both even.
A few more seconds pass by and then he snaps the watch shut. He reaches into the mirror again and pulls the other one out. Dangling from its chain, he holds it in front of me. I can see the grin he's trying to hold back spreading across his face as I take it from him. I'm pretty sure I know what to expect, but my gaze lingers in his as I pop the watch open.
I look down. It's only been about a minute, but the watch says it's twelve forty-nine.