I felt elated for the next few days. Al loved me. Al loved me. It was a strange concept. It seemed unreal. Like a dream. If it really was a dream, I wanted to stay asleep forever.
I kept saying it over in my head, with as many inflictions as I could. Al loved me. Al loved me. Al loved me.
I skipped (yes, I was skipping) to the Gryffindor Common Room on a Tuesday. It just happened to be the Tuesday that Lauren was getting out of the Hospital Wing, and the whole Gryffindor Tower (well, maybe only Al, Molly, Rose, Dom, Nathan, Aidan, Scorpius, and I) were throwing her a party.
Yes, we are aware that she’s in Hufflepuff. No, we don’t care.
I ducked through the portrait hole and yelled, “It’s not her, it’s only me!” To the partygoers. They were all awaiting Lauren’s return anxiously, because it meant that the party would start.
Again, maybe that was only my friends and I. But anyway.
I spotted my friends sitting in front of the fire, chattering away. I headed in their direction and sat down, leaning against Al’s knees. He kissed my hair and continued talking with Nathan and Aiden about Quidditch statistics.
I mostly talked with Rose, Molly, and Dom about gossip and other important topics, until, about ten minutes after my arrival, Lauren walked in with a huge grin on her face.
Aidan got up first and hugged her. I again was reminded of how much he loved her like his own little sister. It was cute to see how brotherly he was to her.
“Hey, Lauren.” I said when she was seated in an armchair.
“Hi, Del.” She said. She didn’t even stutter over my name. I was grateful for that. I did not want them to know that I was Deandra Misgen. It would ruin everything I had worked for.
Ah, twelve year olds.
I guess the only downside to all of these ties I had made with these people was that it was really going to suck when the end of the school year came around. Already I was plotting ways to make them suffer without harming them physically or mentally. I wasn’t having too much success.
While I continued plotting ways to do this in my head, the chatter suddenly stopped, and I heard a cold voice address me.
I glanced up. Athena was standing in front of me, her eyes spitting fire.
“Athena.” I straightened up. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s not your school, Del.” She said mockingly, and a chill ran down my spine. She knew. I was sure of it.
“Athena, what do you want?” Rose asked.
Athena’s gaze hardened when Rose addressed her, and I was reminded that Athena and Rose had been best friends before I had come back to Hogwarts. I knew exactly what Athena wanted. Revenge on me.
“I’ll tell you what I want, Weasley.” Athena spit out. “I want her gone, and for once, things are going to go my way.”
Nobody had to ask who her was.
“Delilah Miller.” She turned on me. “That’s not even your name.”
“What are you talking about, Athena?” Al asked. “Of course that’s her name.”
My heart cracked like glass. It was a small crack, but it was definitely there.
“No, it’s not, Albus, but you defending her is sweet.” Athena said, her grey eyes mocking Al. “Her real name,” She paused, creating a tension in our circle. “Is Deandra Misgen.”
I froze. This couldn’t be happening. Eyes turned on me, every single pair in the circle. I could feel their stares, some accusing, some disbelieving, and some (Lauren’s) knowing. But that wasn’t the worst.
“Del? Is she telling the truth?”
Al. The tone of his voice was . . . it was heartbroken.
The crack widened.
I got up. Brushed myself off. Turned away from the people I loved. “I—I should go.” I muttered, preparing to grab my stuff and Apparate my arse off Hogwarts grounds ASAP. But Athena stopped me.
“No, stay awhile.” She said sweetly. “I want you to know how I discovered your little secret.”
I paused. Even I wanted to know that. I thought I was being careful.
“Well, I always suspected something was up.” Athena began. “You were too—kind, I guess. To be a pretty person. I was already doing some investigating before you stole Rose, but that pretty much sealed the deal for you.”
I glanced at Rose. She was staring at Athena slack-jawed.
“Anyway, I knew you had a secret. I figured that the ball was going to be a pretty traumatic event for you, whether you even had a secret or not, so I paid off Noah Finnegan to harass you, so you’d run away. Then, Jared—yes, remember him—? Agreed to get the secret out of you for some money. His brother is dying, you see. My money paid for the cure.”
I felt like a brick had slid down my chest and into my stomach. Jared?
“But I wasn’t sure if he was telling me the truth or just feeding me a load of bullshit. So I watched. I figured that Lauren the second year would end up finding out your secret eventually, and I already knew from experience that you spilled the beans under stressful circumstances. So, I poisoned her—it wasn’t lethal—and got sent to the Hospital Wing when the word was out that she was awake. I got lucky. You spilled right when I was brought in.”
“That unconscious girl.” I said, remembering that Madame Pomfrey had brought someone in when Lauren and I were talking. “That was you.”
“Yes,” Athena sneered at me. “So I knew for sure. Now—well, now, everyone knows. I think my job is done.”
And she walked away. The destroyer of my life walked away—just like that.
I faced my friends—former friends. Their stares were disgusted. They hated me, just like before.
“Al?” I asked, reaching out.
“Don’t touch me!” He said, brought to life.
The crack became wider, branching out. Then, I did the only thing I knew how to.
My whole world—everything I had worked for—was shattering around me. I knew it as I ran up to my dorm. I was shoving everything into my trunk manually before I remembered my wand—I brought it out and said, “Pack!” All of my belongings flew out from random places in the dormitory. My heart shattered a little more. I was so attached to all of them—how could it be over?
My broom—it was in my dorm. I attached the handle of my trunk to it and mounted it. I glanced at Bianca, my cat, and thought of Shark, my owl, in the Owlery. I’d have to get them later, I decided.
I kicked off, soaring out the window and out of Hogwarts. Running—flying, actually. Abandoning everything.
Athena hadn’t mentioned the Unbreakable Vow. Maybe she just wanted everyone to think that I was stringing them along just because I wanted to, not because I had to. It had worked, judging by their expressions. Their faces flashed in my mind over and over again.
Rose. Molly. Dom. Nathan. Aidan. Scorpius. Al.
He had said that he loved me. How could that all be destroyed by this? I had the answer. He hadn’t fallen in love with me. The real me. Deandra. He had fallen in love with Delilah. There was a huge difference.
No bully ever falls in love with the victim. It’s virtually impossible. Deandra was a victim. He would never love her. Delilah was just a person. A person with a fresh start at a new school, with no reputation and no history.
It was so easy to fall in love with those types of people.
As I flew over a small town, I began to panic. Where would I go? Where would I stay? Where would I work? I didn’t have any NEWTs. Only a handful of OWLs, and they were useless. I wasn’t a graduate. I would never be taken seriously. I couldn’t even go into professional Quidditch.
I considered my options. I needed food, water, and shelter. That was it, really. Not a very high demand. I had money in my Gringotts vault that my parents left me. I could go to Diagon Alley until I had a place to stay. To the Leaky Cauldron. I knew the barmaid, she was nice.
I leaned forward on my broom. I functioned far better with a goal, and my goal was to get to London.
Maybe I’d be able to get a job as a waitress. It was a job I would laugh at a couple days ago, but now waitressing was looking pretty good. I could now understand how some people couldn’t afford to have jobs that made them happy. They needed to survive.
It was really all about survival. If I had learned anything this year, it was that.