Chapter 25 : Bites and Burns
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Every single corridor throughout Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was teeming with professors and official-looking strangers, all set on scouring every inch of the castle for clues, lingering traces of magic that would lead them to the whereabouts of one Amelie Avery, who was understood now to be missing. Promptly after the altercation in the common room, Callum had spun around and alerted Professor McGonagall, who had in turn informed the headmaster and the school board. Within a few short hours, efficient-looking ministry personnel in pristine cloaks had swooped in on the scene, causing all sorts of rumours to fly amongst the students who had been put under strict rules to stay in their respective common rooms until further notice.
Rumours of a kidnapping had swept through the entire school and chilled its inhabitants to the bone, daring the children to believe that their safe haven had indeed been infiltrated by outsiders.
He was not the only one with such fears. All around, groups of friends were huddled together in a tight-knit; almost as if afraid that they would be pounced on and murdered the instant they separated.
Not all students, however, readily accepted this theory. Debates raged, even amongst friends.
“That’s impossible, Mitch,” scoffed a stocky-looking girl to his left. “No one can Apparate or Disapparate in Hogwarts. Anyway, I heard that she hasn’t been kidnapped at all. Apparently Avery’s been acting all kinds of strange for a while now, and it’s no secret that she comes from a rather dark family. The sixth years were saying how it was only a matter of time.”
"A matter of…”
“But the Sorting Hat doesn’t make mistakes!”
“Nothing’s fool proof,” sniffed the girl. “Besides, I bet a bit of dark magic could confuse it, no problem.”
“Plenty. She’s one of the most gifted in her entire year, she’s an utter bitch to everyone she meets, she’s been known to get violent - actually I think she’s attacked students twice this year and they were both people she knew quite well. If that’s how she treats her nearest and dearest, I dread to think what she’d do to people she doesn’t get on with.”
Amelie blinked open her eyes and returned to the land of forever pain.
Her vision swam, her eyes unable to stay open for long because of a sticky sensation she felt on her left eyeball whenever she did. So she closed them again, her ears prickling at the sound of her own rattled breaths. It hurt to inhale. Worse to exhale.
Once upon a time she’d heard that the brain often takes pity on those in severe pain, shutting down and not allowing the sufferer to feel the physical trauma they were going through. An out of body experience. At the time, she had thought being trapped outside your own body sounded horrific. Now, she wished for it. What she wouldn’t do to end this pain.
It was the incapability to do anything that was the worst. Her wand was nowhere to be seen, though at this point even if she had it in her hands she doubted she would have been able to summon the energy to even let red sparks fly, let alone make any headway towards self-recovery.
Funny, how all the suffering at the hands of her step-father never prepared her for this.
Burning, her hand clasped on the cold metal of her locket, feeling the intricate carvings. Familiar details and patterns of a long forgotten age. Daddy always gave her comfort.
Her breathing was more laboured now. She couldn’t see but she could feel the sticky pool around her head reaching to her shoulders and upper arms.
If only Sirius was here, he could fix her. He could do anything.
In her head, she smiled. Thank god her thoughts were private. She’d never be able to live it down.
How smug his grin would be if he knew she loved him.
As she faded into oblivion, the rueful smile remained on her lips; the last vestige of anything resembling her personality on her mutilated body.
Seconds later, the door to the Room of Requirement flew open.
Remus and Peter were sitting by the fire, talking in hushed whispers. The hour was growing late and, given that the Gryffindor tower didn’t hold many attractions, many had already decided to call it a day. Oh, to be able to do the same. Sleep was not going to come knocking on their door tonight.
Callum, lucky sod, had fallen asleep on an armchair across the room, loud snores echoing out of his open mouth, disturbing the otherwise silent atmosphere of the common room. A few of the younger students were still hanging about, though the yawns that kept escaping them betrayed their fatigue.
“Padfoot gone, then?” Peter asked.
“Yeah, Prongs too. Felt them brush past me with the cloak a while ago.”
Brows furrowed, Peter looked confused. “What? Why didn’t they take us?” he asked, sending a quick glance towards the werewolf. “I could’ve helped out… you know… as Wormtail.”
"Don’t worry about them, they’ll be fine.”
“Guess so,” shrugged Peter. Still, he couldn’t help but worry.
Peter and Remus twitched as they heard some light sounds from the girl’s staircase. Sure enough, Dorcas appeared in her bleary glory only seconds later, wrapped snugly in her dressing gown and warm slippers. Scottish springtime could still bite at your skin.
“Hey you two,” she mumbled as she saw the boys. Her gait was rather ungraceful; somnolence seemed to seep out from her very pores. “I thought everyone would be asleep by now. What’s been happening? Any news on Amy?”
Remus didn’t think it was appropriate to discuss his two best friends’ sudden departure, particularly when he didn’t know much of the details himself. A nagging feeling grew at the pit of his stomach. He was worried. He’d been worried a lot this year. Somehow, it made him feel even older than he felt already. He wasn’t supposed to age this quickly.
“Hi, Dorcas. Come sit with us a bit. Peter got some butterbeer from the kitchens earlier.” He was forcefully cheerful, though if the girl noticed this she didn’t mention it.
“At this time?” she yawned.
“What’s wrong with this time?” asked Peter, rather nervously. They were all on edge. “The night’s still young, as they say.”
Dorcas frowned blearily, looking at the boys with muddled curiosity. “Are you ok?”
Remus intervened, earning a gracious look from his friend. “Sit down Dorcas, have a drink. It’s lonely. It’s a weekend night. Just sit.”
Frown still fixed firmly in place, Dorcas sat down on the rug. The sinking feeling that had been firmly wedged in her stomach since she’d heard about Amy’s disappearance had evolved tenfold. It had settled on her heart like a heavy weight, and she couldn’t seem to shake it off.
There was a pregnant pause that was only interrupted when Callum as he gave a loud, startled snort from his armchair position. Dorcas was shrugged out of her reverie, and made to sit next to the boys on the hearth rug.
“It’s been three days now,” Peter said as he budged up to make some space.
Remus handed Dorcas a butterbeer, which she promptly downed all in one go.
Never had the invisibility cloak been more of an impediment for Sirius. He wanted to tear through the castle as fast as he possibly could - to hell with the thud of his feet on the cold slabs of stone, to the professor’s scorn when they saw him flagrantly breaking rules once more. His gut feeling was tearing at his insides, demanding to know, to understand, to see. And creeping around between Professors, Aurors and members of the Magical Law Enforcement team under the cover of a borrowed invisibility cloak, accompanied by two people who insisted on coming with was not helping in the least.
“Where are we going?” whispered Lily, who was taking up the rear, plastered to James’ back under the cloak.
Moments earlier she had been at the Fat Lady’s portrait, having been escorted there by some surly, balding old man from Magical Law Enforcement who clearly thought he had more important things to do than be at Hogwarts. His gruff demeanour had made her swallow her questions – countless though they were. Like why were there so many people patrolling the halls in the first place? And why was he being escorted to the common room? She’d been cursed, yes, and she was a bit sore still, but she wasn’t an invalid. She could walk.
And then, once she’d made it to the portrait hole, she’d barely shot a sarcastic “Thank you very much, Sir!” at his retreating back before it swung open of its own accord to let out… no-one?
Or so she’d thought, before she’d been hit by something very solid and very invisible. A hand shot out from nowhere, held her around her mouth and tugged her forwards into James Potter’s chest, not allowing her the opportunity to even gasp in surprise.
“Keep quiet,” he’d murmured, deadly serious.
The sudden assault of his eyes had shocked her immobile and unthinking. It wasn’t until a few seconds later that she’d realised that Sirius was with them, impatience and desperation written all over his features.
“What on earth’s going on?” she blurted, holding onto James’ hand like a life-line. They were walking so fast.
“Shhhh,” he whispered.
“Where are we going?”
“Shut up and keep up!” snapped Sirius, as they came across a corridor with three adults.
Terrified, Lily sent a wordless silencing charm at their feet, and, for the second time that night, held in her questions for a while. They didn’t need to get caught. Her answers could wait a while; for now she had to focus on ignoring the pain in her left leg and try to keep up with the boys on a mission.
After a while James seemed to notice her struggle.
“Is your leg okay?”
“I’m fine.” It wasn’t that bad, she told herself. Just twinging.
“Let me help.”
“I’m okay, let’s keep going.” She really didn’t want to think about it.
But then they came to an abrupt stop in front of a blank stretch of wall. Lily frowned, trying not to think of how anti-climactic this situation felt. Adrenalin was still thrumming in her veins. Surely Sirius could have paced a corridor closer to the tower?
Suddenly, a door appeared out of nowhere. Lily tried to hold back a gasp.
All Sirius wanted was to see her again. The Room was fully capable of fulfilling that need.
The thousands of rows of shelves and misplaced objects disappeared in a flash, in its place leaving a small square room with whitewashed walls, and a stone floor that was covered in blood seeping out from a mangled body. Sirius looked at the lifeless, mutilated corpse of his companion, friend, and lover for a full second before he turned around and was sick in the corner of the room.
Distressed cries and howls of anguish echoed off the walls, but he couldn’t be sure which beleaguered soul they belonged to. Had the wretch see what he had seen? Did it claw and scrape at their hearts in the same way? Did they physically ache to see what had become of something, someone, that had burnt so violently bright?
Let it burn again. Please, let it burn again. Just once.
Ice bit at his lungs and mind, dropping him into uncontrollable shivers and cries. When did it get so cold?
Hands were gripping at his side and pulling him but he couldn’t move away. Was this morbidity? Or maybe just self-flagellation? Guilt had settled over his heart like a heavy shadow, suffocating him.
Before he could think further, darkness crept over his eyes and body, a whisper spoke into his ear, and blissful slumber forcefully took him into her arms.
[A/N] Oh, the melodrama! Epilogue left to go. I know I said this would be the last chapter, but it didn't seem to work out that way. Anyhow, should be all done very very soon, I hope. Thank you very much to all my readers who are still with me, if anyone still is. I love you.