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Chapter 9 : Details
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chapter image || Anthea @ TDA; xo
She holds my shoulders and regards me for a little moment. There’s something unclear in her eyes, something that holds both doubt and sorrow. I want to tell her to stop worrying about me, but she finally smiles. “Anytime.”
It’s time to delve deeper.
I find myself in another room, but I have no clue where I am. However, the scene in front of me is frighteningly clear, though I don’t understand it.
Wait – it’s Albus.
He’s chained to an examining table made out of leathery white cushions. At least it’s comfortable, but he doesn’t seem to express his gratitude. His expression is pained. I hear a slight buzz and he leans his head back far, jaws and fists clenched tight. He squeezes his eyes shut as the buzzing gets louder, until he can’t hold it in any longer.
He lets out an angered yell of pain and the buzzing finally stops.
“Are you willing to talk to me now, Albus Potter? Are you willing to do as I say?” The silhouette in front of him is tall and lean, with an aura of danger shrouding his figure. Albus finally opens his eyes and glares at him. I have never seen a look of despise quite like the one he throws at the mysterious figure.
“I don’t need to tell you anything,” he snaps through gritted teeth, and the buzzing begins again. He groans louder as the figure begins to laugh. I don’t want to be here anymore, but I force myself to stay and watch. I refuse to let this image fade from my view.
No matter how much it hurts.
“You take after your father so much,” he says through the sounds of agony in front of him. “So stubborn, so unwilling to betray anyone. Haven’t you gone through enough pain already? And I don’t mean just physical either, Albus.”
The buzz stops, and Albus is breathing heavily. I can see the rise and fall of his chest but the scene is beginning to blur. I reach out to stop it but there’s nothing I can do.
“Should I continue?” the figure asks, exaggerating each syllable, patronizing him. He waves an object in his hand, which resembles a wand. “You know, I could kill you so easily, but what would be the point?” The silhouette’s voice turns into a whisper. “The Shadows have been waiting too long for an easy kill.”
“No,” Albus snaps immediately, but he can’t seem to yell. His voice is husky and low. I want to pull him towards me, to try and help, but I can’t. I’m useless. I’m so useless.
All I can do is stand here as the room flashes a menacing red, the blood red light being cast from the tip of the stranger’s wand. All I can do is listen to Albus as he cries out in torment, his shadow on the wall writhing in pure agony. The pain doesn’t seem to stop.
He is the definition of suffering now.
“Albus,” I breathe. “Albus!” I can feel myself moving but the scene is fading from me. I throw out a hand and scream his name, over and over. Tears are welling up in my eyes but I don’t stop. I feel someone grab at my arms and I yell, twisting and pulling in order to get myself free. I can hear him, I can still hear him. Make it stop.
“Bella!” I sit up on the floor, my quilt tangled around my thrashing legs. I’m shaking and covered in dried sweat, and there are goose bumps scattered on my arm from the cold and fear. As I reach over and push my disheveled hair out of my eyes, I find I’m crying. Rose and Jade are crouching in front of me, and the girls in our dorm are watching me with anxious eyes.
My body is so cold and numb. Is this how it feels to be dead? Unfeeling? Scared? Alone?
I don’t want to die.
“I need to,” I start, and then my words get stuck in my throat. I can’t seem to speak. I shakily get to my feet but my legs give way and I fall on my freezing cold bed. Not even the calm glow of the lamps can warm me up. I’m so scared. The thought of closing my eyes again cause me to gasp.
But I want to obey Scorpius; I want to be brave and go back into my dream world and find out more, to get past this hurdle and follow his advice, but I physically can’t make myself. I’m overwhelmed.
“What is it?” Rose asks, grabbing my hands, snapping me out of my absent state. Her eyes open wide in shock. “You’re so cold, Bella.”
“Al,” I barely whisper, and she understands. Assuring the others that I’m fine, and that I just had a rough night’s sleep, she leads me down to the common room, Jade following us behind quietly like a mouse. I can feel Rose’s arm supporting my entire weight as she practically carries me to the room, before gently placing me into the couch.
“What happened?” she asks, terrified. Jade sits by the armchair at the side, silently watching me with her big hazel eyes, eyes filled with worry. I don’t want to look into them too closely. I don’t want to find traces of doubt in there too.
As I explain, I can feel Rose’s grip on my arm tighten. From the side, I hear Jade whimpering. Finally, she stands up, arms clasped tightly around herself.
“Okay, that’s enough,” she says firmly, but her voice is high and shrill. Rose and I look at her in shock as she shakes her head. “I don’t like this.”
“I told you, something’s wrong,” Rose snaps, pulling herself up to full height. “You didn’t want to believe us, and you doubted your best friend after everything she’s gone through. I don’t see why we should be listening to you. If you can’t handle this, then I suggest you leave.”
Jade steps back, visibly hurt. “I don’t want to leave, Rose, but –”
“Stop, I don’t want to hear any excuses,” Rose interrupts, fire blazing in her eyes, enough to challenge the flickering flames in the fireplace. “All I want to hear right now is an apology. I want one too, but I think Bella deserves one first. Then, and only then, will I consider what you want to say.”
Rose can be strict when she wants to, and it’s enough to get people to do what she wants. Jade looks at her, like a forlorn puppy, before walking over to me, still shaking on the couch. This is the first time we’ve spoken in weeks, and it feels odd. Unnatural.
“I’m sorry,” she says, and I can tell she’s being sincere. I give her an unsteady smile, propping myself up against a pillow. “I really am. I’m just scared. I don’t want these prophecies of yours to come true, especially to one of my closest friends. It’s frightening, and I know you guys are planning on looking after him, with your Project and all, but I have so many questions. It’s so hard to take it all in.”
“Try predicting all of these,” I joke, managing a laugh. I wince as my lower back begins to pulse, waves of dull pain moving through my body from that point. I must have landed funny, and I try not to move.
“I know, and I want you to know that I believe you now,” Jade assures me. Rose comes and joins her by the couch. She seems satisfied with Jade’s apology, so much so that she doesn’t ask for one herself. “But I want to know how long we need to watch him, and whether we should tell anyone? If these predictions are real, these nightmares could occur at any time, and what if we’re not there when it happens? When does it start? Who are these people? Don’t you think Professor Trelawney should be involved, Bella?”
“I don’t know,” I admit. I feel helpless, and I’m not strong enough to deflect all of her oncoming questions. Instead, I try to answer her as best I can. “I just see all of these things, but I never get a concrete idea of what’s going on. Someone’s angry at Al, I can sense it. There’s a man who seems to hate him, a girl who manages to capture him, there are all these locations I can’t seem to recognize, and it irritates me.”
“And Al doesn’t know about this, right?” Rose whispers, her eyebrows high, brow furrowed. I shake my head firmly.
“I won’t tell him,” I reply. “There’s no point in worrying him yet. But you need to tell Scorpius about this, he needs to know too.”
“Does he?” Rose’s expression suddenly darkens. The change is subtle but I see it immediately. I remind myself to ask her about it later, hoping it has nothing to do with Tiffany.
Still, I can’t bear to see the tinge of sadness in her big eyes when I mention his name. I know I’m asking so much of her.
“Please,” I plead.
Relenting, she nods, promising me she’d tell him as soon as possible. I direct her to my parchment on the writing desk and she gets to work, writing down my nightmare as fast as she can. I turn to Jade, who’s shivering beside me, looking more than pitiful.
“You okay?” I ask, offering my sympathy.
She sighs and lowers her voice, eyeing Rose as she speaks. “I’m worried about him, Bella. I mean, I know you all are, and we all care about him but … you don’t understand just how much I worry for him.”
“Really?” I ask casually. Inside, I can feel venom beginning to build up in my veins. Jealousy. I know this is no time and place for it, but I can’t help myself. I suspected something from the start, and this confirms it. The way Jade acts in order for no one to hear her except me makes me sure that she’s about to verify my worst suspicion.
Ones that I gathered from the beginning of this year. Ones that I tried to push away.
“I’m starting to like him again,” she slowly admits. Each word from the sentence decides to bury itself in my skin, and I inhale sharply, before leaning further back in my pillow, hoping the cushion would somehow protect me from her sharp words.
The truth hurts, they say.
“Oh,” I mutter, trying for a pitying look. “That explains your behavior.”
“That’s what I was hoping you’d get,” Jade says, relieved that I seem to understand her so quickly. I avoid her eyes as she continues, “Since I felt so protective of him, I couldn’t stand the idea of anything like your nightmares happening to him. But I guess they’re real, and I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine,” I mumble, shuffling and adjusting my position on the couch. “I get it.”
“Please, fill me in on anything I’ve missed,” she says eagerly, sounding determined. A fearful edge stains her confident tone of voice, and I don’t miss it. “I’m more than willing to help out.”
“Like you mentioned before, this could all just be some messed up dream,” I point out, but Jade furiously shakes her head.
“I’m not going to risk it,” she says sternly, more to herself than to me. “I’m not going to. I care about him. I can’t erase that, and I’m not going to. We’ve gone through so much together; we have the most amazing history.”
“Right.” Something tells me she’s no longer talking about my night terrors anymore, now that we’re on the subject of Albus. Each time she speaks, it unearths more of the past, and I’m too tired to shield myself from it.
“He’s like my other half sometimes, you get that feeling? And no amount of time can erase that.”
“I suppose.” Fourth-year.
Finally, Jade stops and examines her hands absent-mindedly. “I miss us being together, Bella. Do you think he feels the same way? We used to be perfect. It just doesn’t satisfy me, us being best friends.”
I’m no longer listening.
They used to be the school’s most envied couple back in our fourth year.
I didn’t miss any of it.
“Isn’t this dress amazing?” Tiffany is cooing over something lying on the table, amidst decorations and lists, and we’re all crowding around her, curious to take a look at what she’s obsessing about. My mind is elsewhere however, but I don’t want to dwell about it. At least Jade seems more at ease, keeping a close distance to wherever Albus stands.
She sees me and gives me a sheepish smile, and I watch as color begins to fill up her cheeks. I pretend not to see her, forcing my eyes back to the front again.
“What is it?” Alex asks curiously, standing on his tiptoes to see past the crowd of students in front of him. “Is that some sort of dress?”
“It’s the Winter Queen dress,” Tiffany says in hushed tones, sounding almost possessive over the item. “Adriana worked on it for me; it’s stunning. Anyone who gets to wear it would be so fortunate, I’m not joking. Girls, let this be motivation for you!” With that, Tiffany stands up on the table, leaning down to pick up the dress and showcase it to the rest of us.
None of us can hold in our gasps of awe as we stare up into Adriana’s beautiful creation. The dress itself is beautiful. Long enough to drag on the floor, though short enough to comfortable walk in, the hem is detailed with intricate patterns hand stitched out of a shimmering silver material. The sleeves seem to move in the slightest breeze, the color graduating from a deep midnight blue to a pale, washed-out aqua at the end. The corset is the eye-catcher; decorated with just enough beading to capture the attention, but with a classy feel to it, something not overdone.
The dress has a shine of its own.
I don’t want to look away, but I have to, especially when Tiffany decides to place it back down again.
“It looks better on a model,” she admits. She scans the crowd and frowns. “Adri’s not here right now, so I suppose someone else will have to do.” She peers at us even harder, before looking me once up and down. “You’re the same height and build as she is, try it on.”
I can feel holes burning into the side of my skull, courtesy of a bunch of jealous girls, as Tiffany reaches over and gently places the dress in my hands. I can barely feel it; it’s so light to the touch. She shoos me off to the back room, before barking out commands at the rest of the committee to add their final touches to their plans.
As I slip on the dress, I silently commend the coolness of the fabric and the comfortable wear of it, quickly twirling in it just to see the fabric ripple around my ankles like miniature waves. I don’t ever want to take it off. I shake out my sleeve, releasing some of the bunched material, before Tiffany makes an entrance into the room, clearly stressed.
“The Yule Ball has to be amazing, but I’m sure it’ll be a success,” she says, not choosing to be modest over her achievements. She gives me what I think is an approving glance, before pulling at my arm. “That actually looks decent on you Bella, now let’s go.”
I can feel my face heating up as she brings me out to the hall again, her heels clacking loudly on the stone floor. Everyone halts what they’re doing, murmuring between themselves. With a flourish, Tiffany gestures towards me and everyone gives me encouraging grins, including Adriana, who has now arrived in the hall with a stack of papers.
“She looks lovely,” she says proudly. I can’t help but clap when I see her, and the audience soon begins to follow, the slow clapping building up into a roar. She blushes a pretty pink before bowing her head modestly, her shy nature causing her to avoid everyone’s eyes.
“This is more than spectacular,” I tell her. “You’ve done an amazing job.”
“I’m glad you all like it,” she says, still smiling, still looking down at the papers with that gentle look on her face. “I was hoping it wouldn’t look too gaudy or anything.”
“It’s perfect!” someone calls out, and she looks up and laughs. Before I can scan the crowd to see who said that, Rose’s fiery red hair catches my eye. She’s late, and she seems confused. I can see questions written all over her face. Catching her eye, I gesture discreetly to the back of the hall and she nods, slipping through the throng of students milling about and wanting to speak to Adriana about her dressmaking talents.
“Rose?” I whisper, pushing the door open. She’s already inside, fumbling with a little newspaper article clipping in her hands. I quietly shut the door, careful not to make a noise, and slip out of my dress as I ask, “What’s the matter?”
“I was at the library,” she explains, her eyes still scanning the article. “Doing some last-minute research for Muggle Studies, that sort of thing, and then I found myself in the Government section of the library, looking up different ways Muggle rule countries. This book on the Ministry caught my eye, ‘cause I’d never seen it before. It looks fairly new, like it had just been released or something, so I thought I’d have a quick look through it.”
I slip on my shoes and make my way over. “What did you find?”
She shrugs. “I don’t really know what to make of it,” she admits, handing the article over to me. “You can read it for yourself, tell me what you think.”
“Okay,” I say, no longer quite aware of her anymore. It’s a picture of my mother.
I recognize her immediately, even though I still don’t recall the details of her face; the honey blond hair cut in a short bob, like my father says it always is. Something inside me feels pleased to know that she hasn’t changed drastically since I last saw her. She’s still tall and tanned, her light brown eyes still enigmatic. She’s posing with two other people.
The woman is short and quite plump, but is strikingly beautiful. She seems friendly, fun, with a twinkle in her green eyes that seem to know more than you think. The man on the other side of my mum is taller than her – tall, dark, and handsome. Although it’s not obvious, I can see my mother’s hand loosely around his arm. Suddenly, the air seems a lot thicker.
“That’s not all,” Rose says, noticing a change in my manner. “Read that article below it.”
So I do.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Pictured above: Jocelyn Miller (left), Alexandra Rivera (middle), and Rhys Hanson (right). The most prominent figures of the Ministry’s Mystery department, there have been a lot of talk in the wizarding community of their sudden job-related leave. Though nobody knows where these three are traveling to, nor do they know what it’s for, it’s believed that, in Miller’s words, “it will have great benefit for the community as a whole … [she promises] all will be revealed soon enough.”
I don’t understand.
“Are they all missing then?” I ask, watching the ink on the article disintegrate in my hands. Rose’s eyes don’t leave my face.
“No,” she says quietly. “But Jocelyn Miller is dead.”
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