I woke up on a firm bed in a darkened room, a familiar empty feeling in my body.
“You did it again,” I whispered, not even knowing if he was here.
“It was necessary,” came a response from my right.
“You keep worrying about my arm being injured and it killing me. Truth is, I’ll probably end up killing myself just to escape from the chaos.”
“I won’t let that happen.”
“You’ll just keep taking more until you die? What happens then?”
“I’m not going to die,” Snape said in an annoyed voice. It was comforting hearing him sound back to normal. “Who the hell is Dimitri?” Well damn.
“What time is it?” Yes, I was stalling and Snape probably saw right through it.
“You weren’t out very long. It’s only three in the morning.”
“Less than ten hours?”
“As I said, you weren’t out very long.”
“I don’t know what happened. One minute I was convincing Scrimgeour I wasn’t helping Black, the next it was a whole different me. After I left Dumbledore’s office I felt…trapped and terrified.” My mood changes aren’t that drastic over a short period of time unless something is seriously wrong.
“I have some theories, none of which I can prove definitively.”
“Dumbledore knows about –"
“I know.” Of course you know, you always seem to know.
“You have no reason to be.”
“I said too much.”
“You told the truth.”
“I said what I had to.”
“No. You told the truth.” There was a long silence before Snape spoke again. “You’re not damaged goods.”
“You believe you are…damaged. Broken, unfit for the regular world. That’s why you try and isolate yourself –"
“That’s not true –"
“We both know it is. You fear if you get too close to someone they will see how damaged you are and abandon you. You’re allowed to let people in. You’re a good judge of character. You’ll know who’s worth the extra effort and who isn’t.”
“You sound like Dumbledore,” I muttered.
“If that’s what it takes to convince you.”
“I socialize with people.”
“Other damaged people.”
“So you’re damaged then?”
He paused before answering. “Yes,” he paused again before continuing, “Jade, don’t become like me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you.” I responded instantly.
He let out a frustrated sigh. “Don’t become like me,” he repeated.
There was another long silence between us.
“I don’t know how to stop…this,” I said awkwardly. I wasn’t sure what this was, a nervous breakdown? Mental overload sounded better. I assumed Snape would know what I meant.
“I believe not bottling your emotions will help,” he replied.
“I can’t afford to be rash.” Hadn’t Snape always tried to get me to contain my emotions, why the change now? “You’re not making any sense. You’ve always told me to check my emotions, make sure I don’t let them override my mind. Isn’t that the key to mastering Occlumency, learning self control?”
“Yes, however during your teenage years, emotions are more…unstable. Keeping everything in, I believe that is affecting you. You shut everything down but it keeps building up. Eventually when you do allow some through, it overwhelms you.”
“Wouldn’t it be better just to never allow it through?” I asked in a small voice.
“No. It’s not practical. You know it’s not.”
“These aren’t just my emotions,” I pointed out, remembering how I felt during the last few minutes before Snape found me.
“No, they are not. That adds to your more volatile mood swings. You need to find something that acts as an outlet. That should lessen the more serious reactions.”
“Like something…physical?” Didn’t I already do this every other night? Of course Snape didn’t know about that. Running, meditation, even sparring. I’d been doing this for over a year. Tsukino knew, she had to know. Was that what this was for, to keep me sane? Annoying Japanese Seers.
“Something that won’t cause suspicion. I’m sure you are more than capable of finding something to do.”
“I should go back to Gryffindor tower.”
“That is perhaps…unwise at the moment.” I knew that tone.
“Security trolls are posted by Gryffindor tower. For the fat lady’s protection.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
“Portraits tend to frequently…gossip,” he said reluctantly.
“Everyone knows, don’t they? They think I’m helping Black.”
“Anyone who believes that isn’t worth the effort anyways.”
“I think I’d like to punch something now.”
“Unfortunately Scrimgeour and the Minister have already left.”
I snorted, “I think assaulting a high ranking Ministry official is a serious crime.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.”
“You take Scrimgeour, I’ll take Fudge. We can have cells right next to each other.”
“A tempting offer.”
“It’s nice to know spending ten months of the year with kids hasn’t made you go soft.”
“Soft?” Snape scoffed. “If anything it has increased my disdain for people.”
“You’d never make it as a Hufflepuff.”
“Look who’s talking.”
“You still haven’t told me who Dimitri is.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next day whispers followed me around, well usually whispers. Some of the students were more vocal about it than others. Next to Ron Weasley being ‘attacked’ (is it really an attack if you're not even slightly injured?) by Black, me being questioned by the Minister of Magic was the most popular topic in school. Slightly altered story though, the Minister had barely said anything. I guess Minister out trumps head of the Auror Department.
After classes I skipped eating in the Great Hall, the kitchens were less annoying. Plus the house elves were happy to help me. I really appreciated Dumbledore showing me this, especially after my fourth helping of pudding. Imagine how fat Crabbe and Goyle would get if they knew where the kitchens were.
After eating one night I headed straight to the girl’s third year dormitory. I preferred to do my homework away from annoying stares and whispering voices. Using my history text book as a hard surface I began my Defense essay. Half way through Crookshanks jumped on my bed, meowing for attention. After a bit of shifting I was able to pet him with one hand and use my other to keep writing. Next I started my Charms homework. I was nearly finished when Hermione walked in.
She stopped when she saw me, looking surprised. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were in here,” she explained awkwardly. She retrieved something from her trunk then sat on her bed, eyes on the floor, biting her lip. Something about it made me feel uncomfortable.
“I didn’t,” I said suddenly. Hermione was one of Potter’s and Weasley’s best friends. She’d also been one of the few people who’d actually been friendly to me. I didn’t want her thinking I was helping Black get to Potter.
“Sorry?” she asked, looking up at me, confused.
“I didn’t help Black get into Gryffindor tower,” I said with a bit of a sigh.
“Oh of course not. I mean, how could you? You were with me nearly all yesterday and well, since Christmas really. Plus they questioned Sir Cadogan. You haven’t been sneaking out of the tower during the night. There would have been some proof if you’d been helping Black.”
Somehow, poking holes into her defense seemed like the wrong thing to do at the moment…or ever. Instead I replied with a sarcastic, “I don’t suppose you could inform the rest of the school about that.”
Hermione scoffed, “They’ll believe anything. It will die down in a bit when a new story comes along.”
“Sooner the better,” I muttered. Hermione was biting her lip again, like she wanted to say something else but didn’t know how. “Just say it,” I told her bluntly. She looked surprised again.
“Why did they think it was you?” she finally asked.
Sometimes Hermione was too smart. Instead of wasting her time with rumors, she would be wondering why one student in particular was being questioned. Especially if one of the people questioning me was the Minister himself. I leaned back and let out a sigh, there was no reason to lie.
“My parents, they weren’t exactly…model citizens,” I admitted.
“They’re questioning you because of who your parents were?” she asked sounding appalled.
“As you can tell from my grandmother, the majority of my family has been, well not model citizens.”
“That hardly seems fair to –"
“Life isn’t fair.”
“Still, you shouldn’t be judged by how your parents were. I’m starting to see how unjust and hypocritical the magical world can be,” she said frowning.
I let out a derisive laugh, “Oh, you have no idea.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Over the next week nobody but Hermione and Ginny Weasley spoke friendly to me. I also noticed Ginny glaring at the people who would whisper and stare at me wherever I went. A bit curious, I asked Hermione about it privately. Apparently Ginny had something similar happen to her at the end of last year, after the whole Chamber of Secrets ordeal.
First a giant snake petrifying people then an escaped convict? With Hogwarts and my luck mixed together, I’ll be surprised if the school is still standing by my seventh year.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
On Sunday morning, just two very long weeks since my meeting in Dumbledore’s office, I headed down to the common room. I normally stayed here until seven, when I would go to the Great Hall for an early breakfast. Not paying much attention while I was reading, I sat down on one of the couches. It was lumpy and let out a groan, I jumped up immediately. It was Fred Weasley, sprawled over the couch. I’d just woken him up.
“Why are you sleeping on a couch?” I whispered furiously.
He rubbed his eyes and tilted his head. “No worries about squashing me then.” I sent a glare as he stood up and stretched. “Morning to you too,” he said sarcastically. He fell back on the couch with a yawn.
“Why are you on a couch at six in the morning?” He squinted, looking back up at me. Then he patted a spot beside him, indicating that I should sit. Rolling my eyes I sat down at the far end of the couch. “Happy?”
“You’re very hard to catch, you know.”
“You, I’ve been trying to catch you for two weeks. Bloody impossible to find. I even went to the library, got kicked out before I went too far in though –"
“What were you doing to get kicked out?”
“This time? Nothing. Honestly, one dung bomb and she never forgets –"
“You set off a dung bomb in the library?”
“Well no, it was George the last time –"
“There may have been one or two previous incidents. We’re getting off track though. What’s with the two minute meals and spending the night in your dorm?”
“Seriously?” I asked annoyed.
“So everyone thinks you’re helping a psychopath,” Fred said shrugging. “It could be worse.”
“How?” I asked sarcastically.
“Hmm…I could slip Percy some love potion with essence of you. Pretty sure fighting off a lust driven Percy is traumatic enough.”
I scoffed, “It would be funnier if it was Filch.”
“You want Filch lusting after you?” Fred said sounding disgusted. I reached over and slapped him on the back of his head. “Oi!”
“Percy after Filch, you git.” The grin on his face told me he’d known what I’d been talking about the first time and was playing with me. I went to hit him again but he quickly grabbed my arm and pulled me over to him. His other arm came around my shoulders and I was pinned against his chest. The action surprised me so much, I froze.
“That was not very nice,” he said in a patronizing tone. “You could have hurt me.”
“It would take a lot more than that to damage your thick skull,” I replied, making him laugh. He has a nice laugh. My face warmed at this thought and I was glad he couldn’t see it from this angle.
“I reckon, if you stopped worrying about the detentions, you’d be an excellent prankster.”
“Not going to happen.”
“Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday you’ll see,” he said confidently.
“Don’t hold your breath.”
“Hmm…” I could feel his head on top of mine. Suddenly, “Your hair smells delicious.”
“It’s coconut, you nutter,” I said half laughing.
“It’s making me hungry.”
“You’re acting creepy.”
“Huh.” There was a short pause, then the sound of him taking in a giant whiff of my hair. I burst out laughing, then quickly remembered that the rest of the house was still sleeping. Laughing with me, Fred let go and I moved back to the end of the couch.
“You’re such an idiot,” I said, still smiling.
“Thank you,” he said sincerely, putting a hand over his heart. He was quiet for a minute until he finally asked, “So, what was it like?”
“Being interrogated by the Minister.”
“He hardly talked,” I answered, rolling my eyes.
“Oh? Dumbledore then?”
“Aurors? Bloody hell, mum would skin us alive if that happened to us.”
“I’m not helping him,” I said quietly. At the moment, Fred believing I wasn’t a criminal seemed very important.
He turned to give me an odd look. “Course you aren’t, you’re not a lunatic.”
I sent him a small smile. “Thanks. That’s three so far, rest of the school to go.”
“Four counting George and I’m sure there are more. Everyone will forget about it soon enough, don’t worry. Last year everyone thought Harry was the heir of Slytherin for a while. You’ll be fine.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, feeling a bit warm. “Did you really sleep on a couch all night just to talk to me?”