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Chapter 9 : On a highway to Hell
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Tessa couldn't understand why some people insisted on chatting in the middle of the train, taking as much space as possible. There were so many compartments, which afforded privacy and comfortable seats. But no. The students just had to be all over the train. They were getting in her way, slowing her down. This wasn't good. She, Theresa Davies, was a girl with an important mission - find food. It was urgent and she had no time to lose. She was very hungry. Besides, she desperately needed something to distract her from thinking about what awaited her at Hogwarts. Food always helped in situations like this.
She pushed past some third years. Two girls, presumably Hufflepuffs, jumped away when they saw the green and silver crest on her grey sweater. Tessa shook her head. The younger ones were always so dramatic. Just because she was sorted in Slytherin didn't mean that she'd go on a killing rampage the moment opportunity knocked, for Merlin's sake.
She finally reached the witch with the food trolley. Looking at all the goodies she felt she was about to break one of her mother's top rules - never shop for food when hungry. Soon her bag was filled with Chocolate Frogs, Cauldron Cakes, Liquorice wands, Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans and pieces of grapefruit, covered with chocolate. Tessa even brought two of the disgusting Pumpkin Pasties, which Mona adored. Feeling satisfied with the good work she'd done, the brunette turned to leave.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't the lovely miss Davies."
Tessa tensed. She despised being referred to as "miss." She thought is made her sound as a gullible, innocent, easily embarrassed girl, who took rules by heart, was a hidden romantic and secretly dreamed of Prince Charming sweeping her off of her feet to ride off into the sunset. While she didn't have anything against teachers calling her that way, it irritated her greatly when someone other did it.
There was only one person who immensely enjoyed seeing her cringe and using every chance he got to call her "miss Davies." Raymond Richardson.
Tessa turned around.
"What do you want ?" she snarled at him.
He took her time to examine her from top to toe. Tessa's left hand twitched.
Raymond Richardson was maybe the first boy to ever take interest in her. According to Matthew, Ray was the first guy, whose flirting Tessa noticed. She developed a crush on him in Fifth year. Ravenclaw Prefect, smart, popular and definitely not unfortunate looking, he seemed like one of those perfect guys that every girl dreamed of. In the beginning, Tessa was fooled by his seemingly flawless character. That was until he started losing patience and his cool façade began cracking. He decided he wanted Tessa immediately, not taking her feelings or opinion into consideration. The guy was suffocating her, never leaving her alone. He even went that far to try bossing her around. He obviously had mistaken her for the kind of girl, who'd put up with idiots. Sadly, she didn't have the pleasure to curse the git, as Matthew's nerves betrayed him first and he broke Raymond's nose. Since then, Richardson had been nothing but awful with Tessa and anyone close to her. Later on, when Matthew became Head boy, Ray started pretending that they didn't exist.
"Not very polite, are we ?"
"Why should I be polite with you ? "
"I hear rumors, Theresa", he stated calmly.
"I'm glad that your hearing abilities are still as good. Now, if you excuse me, I have places to be and people to see."
"In a hurry to see your boyfriend ?", Raymond asked, slowly getting closer to her.
Something in his tone made Tessa go all defensive.
"I don't see how this is any of your business."
"I thought we were friends."
"For a Ravenclaw, you can be pretty dense."
"Aren't people supposed to be on good terms with their ex ?"
"I'm not your ex. It didn't work out, remember ? You were sort of a douche. Got your nose broken for that, if I remember correctly."
His face darkened. It was obvious that he had given up on pretending to be polite and playing mind games with her. Raymond was now angry. And Tessa couldn't care less.
"Tell me Tess, how does White do it ? He gets the highest marks, he got the Head boy position, became captain of the quidditch team and finally got the girl. What's his secret ?"
'We spend half an hour on that damn train, without even touching and now everyone knows we're dating ? How does this work ?' As far as Tessa was concerned, only the girls knew. How did Richardson, of all people, figure it out ?
"Oh. So this is what it's all about ? You being jealous of Matthew ? Very cute, Ray. Go find someone else to help you spoil his life. Now move."
He glared at her. She smiled.
"This won't last long, dear." Typically, he ignored almost every word that came out of her mouth. "He can't have it all. Your housemates won't approve. His parents won't approve."
"I thought you knew me better than that, Ray", Tessa said, as she brushed past him. "Have I ever cared about other people's opinion ?"
"Mark my words, Tessa, it won't last."
"It has already lasted longer than the thing between you and me, so I'd give it a shot."
With that she turned her back on him and continued on her way.
She had to be careful from now on. A lot of people wouldn't agree with the relationship. And no one knew when Matthew's fan club would strike.
The Slytherin went back to her compartment to find that only Lexy was there. The blonde rose her head and laughed a bit at her friend's confusion.
"Mona just disappeared. The others have Prefect's meeting."
"So that's why Raymond seemed in a hurry."
Lex's green eyes narrowed dangerously.
"What did he want ?"
"To tell me that my relationship with Matt is doomed."
"He'll be doomed if he doesn't keep his mouth shut."
Tessa didn't answer. She was staring at her friend drawing, hypnotized by the fast movements of the blonde's hand. Lexy was a talented artist. She could often be found drawing near the Black lake when in school or in a park, when out of Hogwarts. When she was working, she transported into her own world and never paid attention to the things surrounding her. It was only her, the pencil and the sketch book. It only got worse when the Charms professor taught her how to make the pictures move.
"What are you drawing ?", Tessa asked, trying to peek in the sketch book.
"You'll see", Lexy removed her work from her friend's range of vision.
"Tell meee !"
"It's a surprise."
Tessa decided to leave Lex alone and instead focused on the notes in front of her. The plan had numerous corrections and the pages in the diary were filled with suggestions and ideas. There was also a list of useful spells, one of things, bought from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and a the most detailed map of Hogwarts and the Forbidden forest they could find.
If their assumptions were correct and all the trouble in the school was really because of the artifact, they planned on stealing it and either destroying it or hiding it. Not the smartest idea, but one that could prevent a bigger tragedy.
The door opened and the rest of Tessa's friends entered. Mona looked positively annoyed, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. Matthew, Sam and Kristie though looked more worried than before.
"What happened ?"
"Some of the prefects are panicking", Matthew explained, as he took his place next to Tessa. She couldn't help but notice the slight flinching of his shoulder and made a mental note to ask him about it later. "They have no news from those, who remained at Hogwarts for the vacation and hoped that we knew something."
"Which we didn't." Sam took the Liquorice wand Tessa handed her. "They didn't like that. Especially Richardson. Awful, awful guy that one."
"Indeed", Kristie said distractedly, as she was opening one of the Chocolate frogs. "He never stops whining. Patrolling with him is a nightmare."
"Well, I can't really help him", Sam sounded exasperated. "If he could just shut up for a second..."
"He won't." Tessa threw the Pumpkin Pasties to Mona. "He cornered me, when I went to buy the food."
"What did he want ?" Matthew's hand brushed her knee, as he reached to take the grapefruit. Tessa shivered involuntarily.
"To inform me that you'll dump me, because people don't approve of my blood status."
Matthew's head snapped up so fast, that his neck made a cracking sound.
"He told you what ?"
"Well, not with those exact words, but the meaning was clear."
"The first Quidditch match of the new season is against Ravenclaw. I'll show him then, don't worry."
Tessa rolled her eyes, but said nothing. Having an older brother taught her to never interfere, when boys were defending their pride.
Kristie snatched the diary out of friends hand's and started hastily writing something down. As far as Tessa could see, Kristen was extending the defensive spells' list.
Maybe they were overdoing it. But who could really blame them ? They received a note, with a warning not to come back, which erupted in flames minutes after it was delivered. It was a good enough cause for them to become slightly paranoid and to expect the worse.
Tessa took Matthew's hand and checked his watch. Two hours 'till they were in Hogwarts. Two hour separating them from the turning point in their lives. Tessa felt like on the highway to Hell.
The first thing they noticed was that the castle was unnaturally dark and cold. It felt like there was not a living soul in there. It looked almost abandoned.
Professor Vector didn't answer any of their questions, just grimly led them to the Great Hall. Their steps were echoing in the corridors. Tessa was seriously creeped out. Her left hand was resting on her messenger bag, her wand at the ready, hidden in her sleeve. Matthew was tense. Mona was nervously cracking her knuckles - a habit, which drove Tessa crazy. Kristie and Sam seemed calm, but Lexy's eyes were darting in all directions.
The Hall itself was filled with silence - something that never happened. It was so odd, that nobody dared to speak. They just quietly took their places.
Zander threw a glance at Tessa, rubbed her back and mouthed 'You shouldn't have come.'
'What could we do ?', she mouthed back.
He shrugged. She felt someone nudging her in the ribs. Tessa turned to the Mona, who nodded at Will, sitting across them. He was staring at his plate, keeping his head low and didn't even seem to register Matthew's attempts to get his attention. Will's face was shadowed and Tessa couldn't see his expression, but this demeanor was enough to scare her.
"Attention, students", a sickeningly sweet voice said. "We have some announcements to make."
Tessa expected to see the mystery man, who dove in the Black lake, standing on the teachers' table and smiling unpleasantly at all of them. Instead, her eyes landed on a short, a bit plump, plain looking guy. He had thinning brown hair, small eyes and a fat nose. The type of person, who was completely ordinary and was not memorable at all. Even Tessa, who was a physiognomist, could easily mistaken him for another person.
She looked at Lex. The blonde was scrutinizing the man's face, possibly searching for a trait to distinguish him from other people. Lex had the mind of a painter and was sure to notice things like this. However, she had no luck. She sensed Tessa looking at her, their eyes met and the blonde shook her head.
"I am Steward Walters." Even his name was boring. "I am here to introduce to you some new rules. First of all, I'll ask the Head boy, the Head girl and all the prefects to hand in their badges." There was a choral gasp. "From now on the only authority figures here will be me and my companions." Just then Tessa noticed the mеn standing at the far end of the Hall. They were at least twenty, dresses in black robes and staring expressionlessly at the students. "You are not allowed to leave the castle. All the lessons will be lead inside the school. The teaching process will be abided by a confidential man. There will be no Hogsmeade weekends. Quidditch is also banned. You are required to give all your letters for examination, before sending them. Your incoming mail will be checked too. All of your belongings will be thoroughly searched. All the dangerous items will be seized." Tessa turned slowly to Matthew, the panic taking over her mind. All the things they brought from Diagon Alley - the books, the Decoy Detonators and the boxes with Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder - were in his trunk. He gestured her at calm down. She had no intention of doing so.
"Is your diary still in the bag", Mona whispered the words so quietly, that Tessa almost missed them.
"Give it to me."
Tessa pulled the diary and handed it to Mona under the table. It disappeared in Monica's robes almost immediately. They couldn't afford to lose it.
The way things were turning out, it seemed that their paranoia was justified and all the preparation - needed. Tessa realized that what they did was not enough. But at least it was something. If they managed to keep all the things hidden from Walters and his crew, of course.
"We are aware", Walters continued, "that there is a precious artifact hidden the castle. Anyone who has any kind of information about its whereabouts should come and share it with me or one of my attendants. Every person, no matter student or teacher, who tries to keep the artifact hidden and away from me, will be severely punished. Penalty also awaits all of those, caught breaking the rules. That would be all for now."
The Great hall was completely silent. Utter shock was written on every student's face. They all seemed to be paralyzed with terror. The tension was unbearable.
Seconds later the Hall erupted in shouts, protests and wailing. The students seemed to process the fact that they were being held as hostages. The teachers' efforts to calm them down went to waste - every single child and teenager in the place was rebelling. Walters didn't seem impressed at all, he looked even bored. Somebody somewhere broke a glass.
As if woken up by the sudden noise, Will rose his head. There was a huge purple bruise on his left cheek, his bottom lip was swollen with a healing cut visible. He looked at Matthew, Tessa and Mona one by one. And in all of the rumpus, his words rang clearly in Tessa's ears.
"I told you not to come back."
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