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Out of Your Depth by BettyMaeStrange
Chapter 26 : CHAPTER 26
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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CHAPTER 26

My friend is worn and torn, he's badly wounded
I don't know what he really needs
Bring hope to his heart, relief to his mind
Bring hope to his heart, relief to his mind

My Friend – Sara Watkins


The sheets were scratchy and oppressive when I woke up the next morning, lying over my bare skin like an onerous weight, and snaking around my limbs as if tight shackles were pulling tighter and tighter the more I struggled. Lying still, I felt a cold sheen of sweat settled between my shoulder blades and down the back of my legs, like an unwelcome, clinging remnant of the day before.

My eyes stung as I blinked the open, and I slowly pressed my fingertips to the thin membrane of my closed lids, where a dull thud ached behind them. I kicked the sheets off and walked into the bathroom, the candles glowing into life and casting blurry orange shapes on the church-like, frosted window above the bath that showed only the darkness of early morning outside. I stared into the mirror under the dim, flickering lighting that splayed deep shadows across the right side of my face. I almost expected it to have been a dream, or a nightmare, but not even my nightmares were so realistic.

My mind was filled with a strange fuzziness, like the quiet sound you heard on the radio when you'd tuned into the wrong frequency, and my body felt detached, too, my movements helplessly jerky and robotic.

The three girls were still asleep, just as they had been when I crawled into bed so early that morning. I hadn’t wanted to sleep; my mind was too active, words and images sinking in and out all night, but somehow I did. Somehow sleep had seized me by my hair and thrown me into the throes of a dream, or rather some nightmarish trance.

I was on my broom again, back on the Quidditch Pitch, but everything was strangely silent; there was no cheering or flashes of House colours or the distant ringing of trumpets and trombones. Where the scouts had stood, there were now just cloaked outlines, faces hidden, watching. I knew they were watching.

The figures that flew past me were mere shadows, whispers of beings. At first I thought they were ghosts, but then – No. Wait. I was the ghost – the shadow. I was the one intruding in their world, not the other way around, and no matter how much I screamed and shouted, cried and wept, none of them heard me or stopped; none of them reformed into a solid person. Not one.

And then suddenly I was falling, but slower this time than the last, like a leaf floating down towards the ground, and there was a net beneath me. They were holding the corners: Albus, Rose, Scorpius, Rory. And they were smiling at me, like everything was going to be okay. And just as I smiled back they were gone, and there was no net, and I wasn't a leaf after all, just a leaden weight being pulled down by gravity, and shining and glittering in the sudden sunlight, casting strange rings in my vision, a blade – perhaps a knife or a sword, I couldn't tell – sharp and pointed, stood right below me.

I woke up before I hit the ground.

I sucked in a low breath and touched my cheeks, whilst glassy grey eyes stared back. They were dry, gritty with salt tracks, and there was the metallic, coppery taste of blood on my tongue. My jaw ached as if I'd been clenching it for hours. I spat into the sink, and then turned the tap on and brushed my red-stained teeth.

I locked the door and filled up the bath, and then stripped off my clothes and stepped in. The water was hot, and a pink blush slowly crept up my legs, but the pain didn't fully register. I took a deep breath, gripped the sides of the porcelain, clawfoot tub as I lowered myself in, and put my head under the water.

I opened my eyes and held myself under for what felt like hours. The vision above the surface was odd and shimmering, like some sort of alternate reality that I couldn't reach, and the bathroom light glowed a strange colour, fractured by the water.

I would have liked to believe that this here, this moment beneath the water was the reality, and that breaking through the surface of the watery mirage would lead me into a dream. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

When my lungs were burning and I thought I would pass out, I sat up again, taking deep, slow, shaking breaths, knuckles turned white where my hands still clung to the edges.

I washed my hair with clawed fingers and scrubbed at my slowly reddening skin with a sponge, and then stepped out of the bath, toes curling on the starched, cotton white bathmat as rivulets of water ran down my face and my back and pooled down at my feet. As I dried myself with a towel I wondered if I was still asleep. Everything was so quiet and still. The bathroom was shadowed and secluded in its flickering orange glow, and the porcelain bath and sink were artificial in their consumerism whiteness; there was nothing around me to suggest that I was alive, nothing except the ache of my jaw, and the soreness of my gums, and the slow burning of my lungs.


+++


They all stared at me at breakfast. I knew they couldn't help it; their eyes were dragged mercilessly to something that used to be so clear, and was now so fascinatingly marred. When my eyes flashed up, theirs would strike down, all down, not at their friends or somewhere around the hall, but all down. And they were quiet. No one but a few First and Second Years spoke, their young, fresh, high voices like tweeting birds, ignorant of the loud scratch of knives and forks on ceramic plates, and the clinking of spoons against bowls. The air was sombre and mournful, as if someone had died.

I'd gone down to the hall without waking Rose up, and when I looked at the clock she had given me for Christmas, I saw Albus and Scorpius were still asleep, too. I didn't want them swarming around me, shielding me as if I were some sort of defenceless child that needed protecting from the crowds. I wasn't as vulnerable as they thought I was. My skin was; my body was; everything physical about me could be so easily damaged, but my mind couldn't. My will and my internal being couldn't.

I felt someone brush my arm and I looked to my left. Rory sat down beside me. He looked exhausted, purplish bags ominous beneath his eyes, and he didn't say anything. His tie was missing and his shirt and trousers were crumpled as if picked up from a pile in the corner of the room. I wondered if he'd even showered. He poured himself a dry bowl of cornflakes and then picked at them with long, thin, idle fingers.

'Is that good?' I asked him, my words almost muttered. I looked down at the coffee I had been swirling with a spoon, and I felt a small smile tug at the corners of my mouth.

'It's passable. I'm still full after last night.'

'This morning, you mean,' I said, even though it felt further away than that. It felt further away from just 'last night'.

'Yeah. Are you trying to sink a ship with that whirlpool?' he said, eyeing my coffee that was beginning to slosh over the sides and settle in a ring around the bottom of the mug.

I pulled out the spoon, putting it on the edge of a saucer, and took a sip, both hands warming around the mug. I waved one hand and with a concentrated thought the coffee pot began pouring the black liquid into another mug beside him.

'Did you sleep well?' he asked. He winced as he swallowed the bitter drink, and then drowned the mug with milk and three spoonsful of sugar.

'Like a baby,' I lied. I glanced at his rather disgruntled appearance. 'I gather you didn't.'

'You gathered correctly,' he said. His tone was sarcastic, but his words were so often satirical that I think it had to be a part of him, and the way he had come to naturally speak.

I noticed Rory wasn't looking at me. His eyes were darting around the hall, resting only for a second each time, lingering on people, as if daring them to stare. At least he was subtle in his methods of defence; I imagined a shouting match if Albus or Rose were there.

'Are the others still asleep?' he asked.

'I think so,' I said. 'I haven’t seen them yet… I don't know what their reaction will be.'

'I'm sure your imagination can come up with something,' he said drily.

My imagination could come up with quite a few things, actually, but I didn't want to voice them aloud. They were all so lovely, but being both Gryffindors and Weasleys meant they did have the tendency to… overreact.

'Is Will in bed?' I asked.

Rory cast a look across the hall to the Slytherin table. 'No, he was up first… I thought he was here already. Perhaps he ate quickly.'

'I was one of the first down here,' I said, shaking my head. 'I've been here over an hour. Thought I'd let it sink into their heads.'

He glanced at me. 'That was good logic,' he said. 'Stops the gossip, too.'

I gave a one-shouldered shrug. 'There's no point in hiding.'

'Speaking of which, aren't you supposed to cover the scar with gauze?'

I was grateful that he didn't say 'it' or 'that'. He said 'scar'. I flinched, because it was the first time I'd heard the word – the first time it meant anything – but I realised that that was what I wanted, and that was what I needed. I didn't want to hide – people had seen what had happened, they'd seen the aftermath, something that was tangible in the atmosphere of that hall, and hiding would be cowardly. It would stir more gossip than necessary, and the pitying looks would only be worse when I finally faced the music.

It was better to begin with my head held high and perhaps holding onto the self-will and respect that I hoped I still had, than to cower and hope that it would all blow over before it all began.

'Probably,' I said. 'I thought I should let the air get to it.'

'Does it hurt?' he asked.

I shook my head. 'It probably should do, but I think I'm just feeling a little numb at the minute to feel anything.' I hesitated. 'Either that or Madam Pomfrey did something.'

He reached a hand out, tender fingers hooking beneath my chin, and tilted my head to the side, cool, almost apathetic eyes roaming the fresh, pinkish line. 'It's so thin,' he murmured. 'You'll barely even see it soon.'

'I find it odd how it managed to catch just my face,' I said when he had lowered his hand. His fist clenched, resting on the table.

'I'm sorry,' he whispered.

'No! No, it wasn't your fault,' I pleaded, twisted in my seat, and distraught at any notion of him feeling guilty because of my own carelessness. Why hadn't I refused to play? Why hadn't I listened to his warnings? Why was I subjecting him to pain that he had never deserved. I wanted answers, dammit, but there wasn't a single person who could give them to me.

I supposed quite a few ears were listening at that moment but I couldn't have cared less. 'You saved me, Rory. I'd probably be dead if it weren't for you.'

He didn't say anything, though my eyes continued to roam his as a small, sympathetic smile warped on my lips that felt far from natural. He stared back, and then continued eating the nearly empty bowl of cornflakes.

'How's your shoulder?' I asked him, breaking the odd silence. I imagined we looked odd; I was sat up straight, smartly dressed as if it were any other day, beginning to peel an apple with a quick efficiency, and yet he was the one who looked bedraggled and worn, slumped over the table with slow movements.

'Fine. I can barely feel a thing. Pomfrey did well.' But not well enough, were the obvious words left unspoken.

It seemed we were both coming to terms with everything at the same time, keeping one another afloat, hoping we wouldn't sink. Rory's tone was bitter, but I didn't scold him for it; I wanted him to reach some sort of peace by himself, without my interference.

I felt a tap on my shoulder.

'Auror Athanas,' I said, eyes widened in surprise as I turned in my seat. 'What are you doing here?'

The Aurors were especially careful not to be seen by the students more than absolutely necessary. They stuck to the quarters that McGonagall had allocated them, using the grounds when most students were in lessons, and I supposed ate in their rooms, too, or at least not during the students' mealtimes. All questioning was deducted in unused, heavily charmed classrooms, away from prying ears and eyes.

They avoided the student body so much that sometimes one wondered if they were even still in the castle. Once a pupil was questioned, that was it. You never saw them again, just heard the gossip and the rumours. If they were recent ones then you could be certain that the Aurors were still somewhere, working quietly behind one of the stone walls.

'Auror Bahram and I need to speak to you,' he said, eyes only on me. They didn't flick up at the watching students, like Rory's did. I supposed his trained senses already told him that they were looking at him.

'Oh. Right.' I stood up. 'Can Rory come?'

Blue met amber. 'If he wants to.'


+++


We didn't go to a classroom this time. Instead Athanas led us to the Aurors' quarters.

They were on the Seventh Floor, through a heavily charmed passageway that was blocked by the placement of a plinth holding a stone bowl of glistening, golden-painted apples. I wondered if the position of the room had anything to do with the Gryffindor Tower being barely metres away. The passage was enveloped in thick shadows and barely wide enough to fit a person, and the door was just as thin. Rory and Auror Athanas had to duck their heads, to my somewhat smug satisfaction. There were rarely advantages to being so small in stature.

The Auror opened the door with an unrecognisable incantation and we followed him inside.

The front room was a little like the Gryffindor common room – smaller and circular, but still elaborately furnished with an expensive-looking sofa, two similar armchairs, plump, golden-tasselled pillows, tied back curtains, thick wooden bookcases whose shelves ached under masses of tomes, a polished oak desk littered with papers and manila files, and an unlit fireplace.

The warm spring weather was beginning to settle, and the constant rain showers that poured across the hills were becoming less and less frequent. The grounds outside the window were bright; the grass was green, the flowers blooming, and the sweet smell of pollen hovered in the air and through the open windows to the left.

Athanas motioned towards the sofa. A door opened behind us, onto the small stage of wooden flooring where the desk stood and bookcases were pressed up against the walls. Bahram shut the door, walked down the small set of steps, nodded to us, then to Athanas, and then perched on the window seat that overlooked the grounds, his hands in the pockets of his black suit trousers. I wondered how soon it would be before he pulled his notebook out, but this didn't seem like a questioning session.

Rory and I sat shoulder-to-shoulder on the sofa, and Athanas stood by the fireplace.

'We apologise for what happened yesterday, Genevieve,' he said. I realised, with a small shock, that this was the first time he had used my name. 'We apologise to both of you.'

He was only the second to do so, and already I was becoming uncomfortable with apologies. 'No, please don't – '

'It was our job to both find the culprit of this crime and to protect you. We have done neither, and that has caused us to question our suitability for the job.'

'Not at all! You've – '

'Our superior put us in place because we are the youngest in our field,' he continued, 'and therefore we should have had the best mind-sets and theories. Our youth was supposed to lead to our "out of the box" method of thinking, but that's not happened.'

He didn't speak for a while, and I took that moment to talk, hopefully without being interrupted. 'What's your strongest theory?' I asked.

'Jealousy.' Bahram's quiet voice was absent-minded, like he was tired of the case. Or maybe he simply pitied someone who could possibly be led by jealousy to commit such a crime. 'Or revenge, though revenge for what isn't clear.'

He stood up, and then leant back against the ledge, his ankles crossed the opposite way. 'The teachers have been investigated under close scrutiny. It would, somehow according to the deranged public – '

'Bahram,' Athanas warned.

His partner sighed. 'Somehow people seem to think that a teacher harming a pupil is worse than a pupil harming a pupil. Odd way of thinking if you ask me, but…' He glanced at Athanas' stern expression, and the ghost of a smile flitted across his face. 'We have found very little to suspect that it's one of the teachers. Headmistress McGonagall seems to have hired her professors very carefully after the end of the war and the rather sceptical members of staff that were employed in Hogwarts, and none of them have any curious-looking files. No disorderly misconduct or underage drinking. Nothing. They're all squeaky clean.'

'Too clean?' asked Rory.

Bahram smiled. 'Unfortunately not. Just your everyday "household cleaning" clean. No bleached, bloodied tiles.'

I squirmed where I was sat, but Rory laughed through his nose. He'd be good in the Auror business. He had the dark humour and the cynicism for it, anyway. Judging by the spark in Bahram's brown eyes and the barely supressed smile on Athanas' lips, perhaps they thought so, too.

'What happened yesterday wasn't an accident,' I said, stating the five-tonne elephant in the room.

Any humorous atmosphere – no matter how dark and minimal – ceased at once, and Athanas pinned me with his cool gaze. It wasn't a shocked one, more one of recognition and acceptance that I didn't want to beat around the bush.

'How so?' They both had their notepads out.

'There was… There was like some sort of tugging on my broom,' I told him, hands wringing tightly as I spoke. 'It wouldn't move, and then it just fell out from beneath me, like it had lost any sort of magic.'

'Where did you acquire the broom?' said Bahram, straight to the point as always, and I knew the questions would be coming fast, flowing, and decisively, as if they were rehearsed.

'I… I made it.'

'You made it?'

'Yes. I wanted to be a broom maker when I was younger and so I spent most of my summers making it.'

'What was it made of?' he asked.

'Um, the crossbar was shatter-resistant crystallised glass,' I said, closing my eyes and pulling the image of the broom from my mind, 'it was lighter than metal or any unyielding wood I could have used. I carved twigs from an oak tree for the tail. The body itself was birch – strong enough to hold a person but dense enough for aerodynamic flight. And then… I cut through the birch so that I could insert a core of unicorn horn to strengthen it.'

He looked up from the small pages with a raised brow. 'That's illegal, Miss Sanders.'

'N-No, it wasn't,' I said hurriedly. 'It was all done perfectly legally: I bought twenty vials of the powder from Slug and Jiggers Apothecary in Diagon Alley and smelted it together to pour down the centre of the broom.'

He looked a little surprised, but then he gave a slow, accepting nod. 'And where did you get it charmed?'

'Excuse me?'

'All broomsticks must go to a professional charmer so that they can charm it to fly and check it's safe for flight. Judging by your look I'm thinking that...'

'I didn't do that,' I said in a quiet voice, as loud as a breath. 'I just charmed it myself… Nate wasn't there by then, so…'

'Nate? Nathaniel Green?'

'Yes. He was the one that gave – that left me the money to buy my crafting tools.'

'So that would explain the large sum of money in your Gringotts account.'

'You went through my accounts?'

'It's a normal procedure, Miss Sanders. You're under as much scrutiny as everyone else.'

'I'm a suspect?'

'No, not at all. But we need to know as much about yourself as we do anyone else we consider – anything that could connect you to someone else.' He sighed. 'So you charmed your broomstick?'

'No. Just the core. I didn't want to weigh it down with heavy incantations – '

'Magic doesn't have substance, Genevieve,' Rory cut in. 'It doesn’t have a mass to weigh things down.'

Bahram opened his mouth to respond, but I already had something to say.

'It does,' I told him earnestly. 'You know when you go somewhere that has really heavy wards and you can feel the magic? Like some thick, oppressive weight?' Rory nodded. 'Well it's the same with brooms. That's why children's brooms go so slowly and can't go very high. There are so many charms put on them as safety precautions that it weighs them down.'

Athanas looked thoughtful for a moment. 'When we examined the wreckage of your broom, there was no trace of unicorn horn, Genevieve.'

I stared, and felt a shiver creep up my back. 'But… that's impossible. I wouldn't have been able to fly.'

'Did you notice anything different about your broom yesterday? Was it lighter? Did it feel different? Before you started flying, I mean.'

I frowned, but then shook my head jerkily in frustration. 'No. Nothing.'

The Aurors shared a glance. 'We think… we think someone must have removed the core from your broom and, perhaps, using their own wand, gave you the impression that you were flying. Then again they could have re-charmed your broom, but with such a light incantation that it wore off after a short while. That method would ensure that there was no trace of their magic, leaving us with no leads.'

'It all seemed so perfect though,' I muttered absent-mindedly. 'I mean with the broom and the height I was at and everyone being suddenly distracted and – and the stakes.'

'They would just have to wait for the right time to do it, which leads us to believe that it's the former of the two options. Something like that would take a lot of energy and strong magical ability, so it's probably someone older than a Fifth Year. It was luck that Rory noticed you were falling when he did. Having the Snitch flying towards you was a convenience, I admit.'

I glanced at Rory. 'You caught it, didn't you? You won the game.'

He looked uncomfortable. 'I… Yeah, I did. Didn't plan on it, but I couldn't have caught you without flying into it anyway.'

I cleared my throat. 'Well – well done.'

'That didn't sound like you were spitting the words out at all,' he said drily.

'I'm allowed to be a little bitter,' I told him.

He smiled, and I thought I saw a flash of the old Rory appear, the one I knew back in September.

So much had changed since then; I'd been thrust into this incomprehensible world and forced into so much immense danger, and yet I was strangely, scarily happy. When they were all by my side I felt like I could do everything; I felt like I could face anything, even death, which was perhaps why I had yet to feel true fear, though I knew I should have. The only things that frightened me were the worried looks on their faces, because if they weren't all right, then I knew I wouldn't be.

'So what are you going to do, then?' Rory asked them, leaning back on the sofa.

The two Aurors exchanged glances again, as if sharing unspoken words, and Athanas stepped forward. 'We think it would be best if one of us accompanied you around the school. That means to and from your lessons, mealtimes…'

I was already shaking my head. I didn't want a bodyguard. 'No,' I said.

'Genevieve, we understand that this feels like some sort of invasion of privacy, but please understand us when we tell you that this is for your own protection.'

'I don't need protection.'

He frowned. 'Miss Sanders, you've nearly died twice in almost five months, and neither have been normal circumstances. Neither have been accidents.'

'Yes, I know but – '

'Nieves,' Rory said. His voice was quiet enough that it almost made me believe they wouldn't hear. 'Let them. They won't be the only ones with some peace of mind then.'

I didn't want someone following me around like a shadow, when I already had my own as an ominous reminder, but I leant back on the sofa and tried not to pout like a petulant child.

'Won't this mean you won't have time to investigate if you're following me about everywhere?'

'It's just to and from places,' Bahram said. 'In between that we'll be continuing our search.' He sighed and scratched the back of his head absently. 'But in all honesty, we've hit a rather hard wall there.'

'Surely not everyone can have a solid alibi,' Rory said, frowning.

The plain-looking Auror gave a small shrug. 'Anyone that was doing anything untoward that night has quickly admitted to it. They're just students, Mr Hemingford. They're not used to Auror questioning.'

'They're not all "just students". One of them is an attempted murderer.'

'Rory,' I said quietly.

'What? I don't think you're taking this as seriously as it needs to be, Genevieve.'

'Rory, they're doing all they can,' I said, anguished. 'And I'm fine with that – '

'Well I'm not!' he shouted, causing me to lean back and blink in shocked, sudden surprise. He stood, rubbing the back of a tired, shaking hand across his forehead. 'I'm not okay with that, Genevieve. And… and neither should you be.'

He seemed to be waiting for something then – for what, I didn't know – but then he walked quickly out of the door and shut it behind him with a single, firm click.

Silence.

I sat and waited, counted to ten, but the hush continued.

Neither of the Aurors had made a move, but I knew that their minds were reeling, and if I looked up I probably would have seen them flashing curious looks at one another, too.

'I'm sorry about that,' I said quietly, eyes lowered. 'I don't think he slept much and he's been a little high-strung lately.'

We all were, it seemed. Frankly, I was surprised that Rory was the first one to snap. I wanted to run out of the room and follow him, but something told me that he needed to be alone, and that he needed time. There didn’t appear to be much of it anymore, and I wanted him to have those moments where he could, even if perhaps that wasn't what he wanted.

'It's fine,' Bahram said. His voice took on a curious lilt: 'You know, it's odd. It's always the relations or the people that care for the victims that are worried the most. Never the victims themselves.'

'Is that a bad thing?' I asked him.

He paused for a moment, thoughtful, and I saw his eyes flicker to Athanas. His blond companion was reading through his notepad. He radiated an aura of disinterest at our conversation. I wondered how far I should have believed it. 'Not necessarily. Just something quite telling.'


+++


I didn't see Rory for the rest of the morning, but I had to busily attend my lessons. Scorpius was the only one who had a lesson first thing, Earth Magic, so fortunately I hadn't missed anything. I passed Lucas on the way to D.A.D.A, who said that he'd seen Rory out on the grounds. I asked him what he was doing. Lucas shrugged and said, 'Who could ever possibly know with that kid?'

Professor Vene's lesson was eventful. Rose practically clung to my side, her body shaking every now and then with barely supressed tears, her frequent swallows audible, and I could feel the blazing looks of Albus, Scorpius, Erik and Odette searing my back. Even the stoic Vene seemed surprised that I had turned up to her lesson when I walked through the door to the classroom. Halfway through her lecture on the Peruvian Vipertooth dragon, I walked back out. The Professor didn't bat an eyelid as I passed her.

It had hit me, then, I think, the real, solid, maddening, terrifying truth that someone in that school was trying to hurt me – to kill me. Someone I perhaps smiled at in the hallways, partnered with in lessons, ate with and talked about meaningless drivel with, someone whose books I picked up after an accidental collision, their name embossed on the books, staring right at me, forgotten within a minute. It wasn't now some mere threat from a night that I didn't remember, anymore. Someone was really trying to ruin me, and I couldn't deny it any more than I could stop it.

My feet took me through corridors and down steps until I found myself in the dungeons, outside Professor Clegg's classroom. He'd said to come and see him if I needed anything, and for once I was perfectly willing to take advantage of that. Any more pitiful, simpering looks and I knew the hot, angry tears would rush out.

Perhaps I should have waited for one of the Aurors to accompany me, but already I knew I wasn't one for this protective conformity.

I raised a hand to the door to knock, but then I heard the voices. Familiar voices.

'You need to cherish the time you have left,' I heard a man say. His voice was soft and weathered by old age.

'Cherish it? How could I possibly do that, Clegg? I can't stop it. I've never felt so fucking helpless in my life.'

'Language.'

'I don't give a fying fuck about my fucking language! My vision's clouded! I've got nothing!'

'That's because you need to calm down, Rory. Take a few days off from school. Go for a fly, smoke a few cigarettes, stay outside, just stop your goddamned worrying. We talked about this, remember? Lesson one: Stay calm, take a deep breath, and just let it come to you.' Said with a patronising smile in the words.

'You're a shit teacher, Clegg.'

'Thank you. Never liked this place much anyway and I'd do anything to be back in the courts, but unfortunately you dragged your sorry arse here so I had to as well.'

'Following the money trail that Judah left you? What are you going to do when he stops leaking the cash into your accounts?'

'He already has, Rory,' were the next words, coupled with a faint, weary sort of sigh.

A pause. 'What?'

'He stopped back in your Fifth Year. But I couldn't just leave you. You're my student, and my patient.'

'Your project, you mean.' An ignored statement.

'Take some time off, Rory. Get your head around what is to come. That's how we've always dealt with these things, remember?'

'Well I'm sorry to tell you that this isn't going to be a job as easy as the usual ones.'

'You know, that puzzles me, it really does. You've known about it for seven years. Why are you getting so flustered all of a sudden?'

'Because it's getting closer and I'm running out of time, God damn you.'

'Running out of time? For what? You don't have time to run out of, Rory. What's got into you all –'

'What if I could stop it, Clegg?' was said with a flash of desperation. 'What if it didn't have to happen? Genevieve wasn't supposed to be scarred; I never saw that. Maybe this won't happen, either.'

'Rory.'

'No! I'm not giving up! I've done that so many times and I'm just so fucking tired of it, all right? I am so tired of it.'

'You have to. It shouldn't have gotten like this anyway. You should have kept your distance. That's what we always agreed, wasn't it?'

'I couldn't. Not this time. And don't be such a hypocrite. I've seen you being all fatherly. What the fuck was that all about?'

'Language.' A steadily raising voice, laced with anger. 'And it was about being there for someone, just for once, so that that's what they'll remember.'

'Well that's what I've been doing. I'm being "there" for someone for once, Clegg. And don't you try and stop me.'

'Rory – '

The door opened.

I backed up and pressed myself up against the wall, grateful for the small alcove, and hoped that the shadows covered me. I watched as my friend hung his head for a moment. He put his head in his hands, and then he let out a choked sound.

I wanted to run to him, to hug him and tell him that everything was going to be okay even though I hadn't a clue that anything was going to be okay, but I couldn't. If I did, he'd know that I'd been there and that I'd heard. Revealing that would only increase his worry, his stress, and his seeming and absolute misery. I needed to stop hurting him all the time.

He rubbed his face, shoved his hands into his trouser pockets, and walked back down the corridor with a straight back, not looking once in my direction.

I let out a breath and stepped down, rubbing a hand across my aching stomach where I had tried to keep every muscle absolutely still. I noticed that "Professor" Clegg hadn't gone after Rory, and hadn't even bothered to look outside the door.

I didn't want to speak to him anymore.



A/N: Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry! You guys know the drill already. :D

Exams are over, the holiday has begun, and this disgustingly good weather has settled over Great Britain. (Please note that I do not like the sun and warmth.) I hope you're exams/finals/graduation/end of school and any other lark went excellently, and that you're all having a lovely summer!

Thank you so much to: Pattalack | Hermiohninny | luna_lovely | Dare to Dream | Crescent Moon | Hannah | little_rebels | Lillylover22 | LongLiveFred | harrypotterluver123 | Hope's Mom | padfoot88 | blackangelwings

All of your beautiful support is so appreciated and heart-warming, whether it's reviewing/reading/favouriting… favouring… you get the drift! and I cannot thank you enough.

I hope you enjoyed this chapter, and I really look forward to any response!

As always,

Bethan. xxx

PS. This chapter is dedicated to the lovely Summer, who was my beta for 5 awesome chapters, but is no longer able to – she's been a complete star and I couldn't have asked for anyone better. Thank you, Summer. xxxxxx


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Out of Your Depth: CHAPTER 26

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