Chapter 15 : Traitor
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“Do you not remember?”
I shake my head. Rose looks at me with as much tenderness as she can, her eyes still overflowing with tears. I don’t understand.
“You asked me to kill you,” she whimpers. “You wanted to die.”
I don’t believe I have cried for that long in a while.
The sun is slowly beginning to rise from its shelter behind the horizon. I’m still curled up in my bed, clutching my pillow against my legs. I can barely feel my face anymore. All my muscles are aching.
At least Rose is here, watching me intensely.
“So it wasn’t a prediction?” she asks quietly, her bright eyes now dull after hearing about my nightmare. I just nod in response, still unable to speak. I hate how debilitating my night terrors are becoming; I’m so weak. Rose manages a small smile and puts a hand on my knee. “It’s okay Bella, take your time.”
“I don’t know what it was though,” I whisper through the fabric of the pillow. “I swear it wasn’t a foretelling, I just don’t know what it was. There was no one else there but me. There was no backdrop, no … nothing. I was just angry.”
Rose raises an eyebrow, her brow furrowed in concentration.
“Were you mad at Al or something?” she asks. I can tell she’s growing more frustrated at each passing second. She doesn’t like it when things go unsolved. Sometimes it drives me mad – now, I’m more than grateful for it.
“Of course I wasn’t mad at him,” I say without hesitation. I think back to our conversation the night before. “I was just talking about … you know that forest behind the Burrow?”
“Yeah,” Rose nods.
“We were planning to have a picnic there, that’s all we were talking about.” I shrug as my voice trails off. “I was feeling really tired though, so I went to bed. I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary about yesterday.”
Rose sighs. “Well then, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”
‘Wait and see’. Those words strike fear right through me and I sit upright immediately, flinging the pillow off of me. “No, no, no. No.”
Panic engulfs me in my spot and I can’t help but tremble. Rose reaches over and grabs my hand.
“Shh, Bella. Let’s go down and get breakfast, okay? We’ll wake up Jade and Al and we’ll go make pancakes. We’ll wait for Scorpius to arrive and we’ll have fun. Agreed?”
It won’t help.
I want this to be over.
But there’s a whole world of concern in Rose’s face. I want her to be happy. I want her to stop worrying about me. I don’t want to think about what I’ve put her through already. She should be sick of me.
I don’t understand how she does it.
“Okay,” I murmur, meeting her gaze with a comforting one of my own. “Okay.”
It’s almost as if we’re back in school by the way we are sitting around the circular breakfast table, positioned perfectly near the corner of the Burrow’s quaint kitchen. Scorpius sits across from me, a ghost of a smirk haunting his lips. On either side of me, Rose and Jade keep a close eye on me for any signs of trouble. I sigh and sink into the wooden seat, uncomfortable with the attention.
Albus makes his way over to us, carrying the last of the hot chocolate that Grandma Weasley has already left for us all. The adults have left us home with none other than James to look after us, though Albus started laughing the minute he found out about that.
“It’s still really hot,” Jade says quietly, absorbed by the sight of the delicate gray tendrils of smoke wafting from her mug. Rose rolls her eyes and takes a deep sip, traces of concern still on her face.
“Obviously,” Scorpius says without looking up. “It was in the oven the entire time. The whole purpose of that was to keep it warm.”
I can tell Scorpius is troubled by my nightmare too, based on his irritated response; I made Rose tell him about it just after he arrived an hour ago. I couldn’t face another confrontation about something I couldn’t explain. I still don’t understand what I saw last night.
You’re letting the entire Project down, Bella.
My frustration is growing fast.
“Relax, Malfoy,” Jade snaps, raising an eyebrow at his tone of voice. When Scorpius returns her gaze with a sharp steady look of his own, she turns her eyes away. She’s unable to hold it for longer than a minute. “You sound so stressed out.”
“Why do you think?” Rose hisses as soon as Albus turns his back on us. Jade’s eyes widen at once and she looks right at me, her mouth gaping slightly open.
“Oh never mind, I understand. It’s Bella,” she says slowly, nodding. I cringe but manage to give her an encouraging smile.
“There you go,” I reply with as much patience as I can.
Albus settles back into his seat, located right between Jade and me. Secretly, I’m grateful he’s there, acting as a barrier. Jade’s inability to keep this a secret is starting to unravel my patience.
“James told us we could go wander outside, he doesn’t care,” Albus mentions after a brief silence. “The weather’s cleared up since last night but it’s still a bit chilly. As long as he knows where we’re going, he has no problem with us leaving the house.”
“Our parents won’t mind?” Rose asks as clarification. When Albus nods, she smiles. “Sounds like something we’d need.”
As Jade begins talking about the Safekeeping Charm assignment we’d been given over the break, I feel an odd sense of electricity buzzing dully in my leg. I shift in my seat as my eyes quickly glance downwards, quick enough to be undetected. Albus’ hand, the one closest to me, is resting on the side of my seat, dangerously close to my thigh.
My heart starts to beat quicker, louder. It’s pounding through its ribcage prison, trying to force its way out. Gritting my teeth, I try to calm it down.
I feel the jolts of electric pound harder through my body as his hand moves slightly closer to me. I sneak a look at him and I’m surprised to see him conversing with everyone else, laughing even, as if he has no clue as to what his hand is doing.
I fidget in my seat again, unsure of whether to make a move and clasp my hand over his.
The urge to do so is becoming overwhelming.
“It’s ridiculous how complex the charm is,” Rose is saying with an exasperated sigh. I can tell her perfectionist tendencies are emerging by the way she grumbles about the lack of research she has. “I don’t have nearly enough sources to actually start my essay.”
“I’m halfway through the paper,” Scorpius says with a casual shrug and Rose stares at him. However, on closer inspection, her jealous glare contains a hint of admiration. I can’t help but smile when I see it.
“How the hell do you do that?” Rose asks disbelievingly.
“Is it impressing you?” he asks her in amusement, his cool gray eyes giving away nothing.
I can tell he’s caught her by surprise. Rose falters for a moment and bites down on her lip, unable to give him an answer. With a rare chuckle, he smiles at her modestly. “I can help you, you know. All you have to do is ask.”
“And what if I don’t want to?”
Scorpius smirks and leans back in his chair. “Suit yourself. You know I’d help you anyways.”
The only thing that yanks me away from the scene unfolding in front of me is the quick brush of a warm hand across my thigh. The touch is light, quick, but leaves behind a trail of energy tingling through my legs. When I look up, I find Albus looking at me quietly, his smoldering brown eyes clearly amused.
“How did you sleep, Belle?” he asks me gently.
“Why do you ask?” I ask automatically, silently kicking myself for sounding so defensive. After last night, my nerves are on edge. Not surprising, Albus looks slightly alarmed at my tone of voice. Of course he wouldn’t understand.
“You look exhausted,” he says with a shrug. Slowly, he reaches over and brushes a strand of hair from my forehead, smiling as he does so. “You’re really warm, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I tell him, unable to do anything about the loud pounding in my chest. I am certain he can hear it if the room is silent, and the thought makes me nervous. However, Albus doesn’t seem to notice. My hand tingles and I quickly look down. His hand is moving closer, its motion so slow that at a glance, no one would notice its advance towards mine.
Just a little bit closer.
I brace myself.
“Albus!” Jade’s voice cuts through our connection like the sharpest knife. She doesn’t notice what she’s done wrong; I don’t blame her. It’s starting to seem like she’s oblivious to anyone’s emotions apart from hers and Al’s. “What do you think?”
“What do I think about what?” Albus is back in his seat properly and the intoxicating rush of energy is gone from my body. I slump down in mine and turn my eyes downwards, suddenly tired.
“A picnic,” she states with a grin.
“Yes, I was telling Jade about Bella’s idea,” Rose says, emphasizing my name. Jade merely nods, her eyes still glued on Albus. “It would be a nice idea, wouldn’t you think?”
“We talked about this,” Albus says, glancing at me. It’s almost as if it’s our little secret by the way he looks at me. His expression is subtle but it’s there; he’s excited about it too. “I think it’s fine as long as Bella’s up for it.”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” I ask, trying hard to maintain an optimistic front. I don’t want him to think there’s anything wrong. “I’d love to. It sounds great. We don’t have to discuss it anymore.”
Rose smiles. “We’ll make the sandwiches,” she says quietly, a knowing look etched on her face. “We’ll meet by the front door at eleven.”
There’s a tingling sensation in my fingers, despite the gloves Rose has lent me. I let out a small breath and watch as the warmth transforms into a delicate gray cloud in front of me. Then I trip on a hidden branch below my foot and the cloud shatters, moving away from my outstretched hands.
“Elegant as usual,” Scorpius remarks in amusement, matching my walking speed as he raises an eyebrow.
“I got distracted,” I mutter, my face flushed. I don’t think he believes me but he nods anyways. He lowers his voice and discreetly glances behind us. Albus, Rose, and Jade are still walking slowly, talking. I don’t believe they saw me trip.
I hope he didn’t.
“Rose told me about your nightmare last night,” Scorpius says finally, his eyes still focused on the half-hidden frosty trail we tread on. “Are you sure it wasn’t one of your predictions?”
“No,” I say firmly, shaking my head. “I can honestly say it felt a whole lot different. I didn’t feel in … in control.”
Scorpius stays silent for a while. “You’re not lying about this, right?”
I stop in my tracks, shocked at his accusation. “What are you saying?”
“Exactly what my words were. What part of my sentence confused you?”
“Don’t patronize me.”
“I’m not, I’m trying to help you,” Scorpius says exasperatedly, running a hand through his blonde hair as he tries his hardest not to argue with me. “You act so defensively, I don’t know whether you’re withholding anything important just to ease our minds.”
“I promise I’m not,” I tell him earnestly. He doesn’t say anything more on the subject and we walk on in uncomfortable silence.
I’m not lying.
I’m sure of it.
We finally reach the Glade and I can’t help but let out a gasp of surprise and awe. The clearing still looks as beautiful as it did all those years ago. I can’t help but let my smile break across my face as I run towards the middle, ignoring the slap of cold wind across my already-chilly face.
“Look at you,” Rose says, pleased. “I knew this outing would be a good idea.”
“Rose,” I grin, running over to her and grabbing her shoulders. “I feel so much better.”
“I know,” is all she says, mirroring my grin right back at me. The buzz of excitement is contagious and soon, everyone is settled on the picnic blanket – talking, laughing, bonding. Jade’s not so secret flirtatious advances on Albus, or the fact that he doesn’t do much to stop her, no longer irritates me.
As Scorpius creates a variety of different protective shields around our Glade, the sense of security increases.
I no longer have any concept on time anymore, except for the fact that I knew I could stay here forever if given the chance.
Do you know that feeling? The one where everything looks perfect, seems perfect, appears fine? But there’s an itching sensation spreading through your back and no matter how hard you search, you can’t find the one thing that’s causing so much discomfort in this picture-perfect scene?
The feeling is burning through me.
The picnic food long gone, we’ve all been taking turns talking about our favorite and least favorite moments throughout the first semester of school. Jade is in the middle of telling us about her Astronomy assignment when the first burst of pain shoots in my chest.
I take in a sharp intake of breath and straighten up, alert. My movement is slight but Rose can sense something is wrong, seeing as she sits closest to me. Without making it obvious, she glances at me with frightened eyes.
I shake my head slowly.
She’s confused but she doesn’t question me anymore. A moment of relief floods through me again.
There’s a near-silent crack and I look up, unable to concentrate on Jade’s story anymore. My eyes scan the trees that surround us but they don’t settle on anything mysterious. I try to settle myself down.
The crack comes crashing into my ears again, but no one else seems to notice it. Senses more alert, I glance around at my surroundings with more determination to find the intruder, but I still come up with nothing.
My heart pumps adrenaline through my body and I can’t help but stand up.
“I need to walk around,” I say hoarsely. “Keep talking Jade, it’s fine. Don’t mind me.”
I walk away from the group without waiting for an answer, my hands buried deep in my pockets. My breath comes out in irregular gasps and the little gray clouds that form are twisted and faint.
Just like my mind.
I almost jump when I feel a warm hand clasp itself on my shoulder. I spin on my heel and find myself face to face with Albus, who looks down at me kindly.
“Bella?” he whispers.
“Don’t follow me,” I tell him, sounding more frantic than assertive. He doesn’t listen to a word I say. “Go back, go back.”
“Stop saying that, I’m worried,” he says firmly, digging his heel into the ground just to prove his point. I can’t help but feebly push against his chest, my eyes stinging from cold air and panic. “Bella, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t –”
The crack resonates through my body now, louder than anything I’ve heard before. I can feel something pushing its way through my body with the sole purpose of pushing me out. I try to fight against the overwhelming weight that seems to settle on every part of my limbs but my strength is useless compared to it.
“Bella!” Albus yells, grabbing my arms as my knees give way, the unseen force from within snarling as I refuse to give it entrance into my head.
“Get out!” I scream. “GET OUT!”
Then a distorted voice hisses in my ears and my eyes widen in recognition. Before I can say anything, the intruder shoves me into the darkest corner of my mind as it begins to take over. All I can do is watch through my eyes at the scene that’s taking place.
“This isn’t me, Al,” I plead with a trembling voice. “Help me.”
There’s no use. He can’t hear me. Those words aren’t going to leave my lips.
“Tell me what’s wrong.” Albus looks on at me with kind gentle eyes, still holding me up. My body pulls itself out of his comforting grasp and glares at him harshly. I try my hardest to regain some control over my limbs but the weight crushes against me again and I cry out in pain.
“Arabella!” Scorpius yells out from afar as footsteps crush against the frost, making its way towards us. My body extends one arm towards him, towards my best friends, and hits them with a spell that knocks them all off their feet and leaves them sprawling in the dirt.
However, Albus doesn’t take his eyes off me.
My body doesn’t respond pleasantly to the look he gives me; it shudders. Finally, it takes one unwilling step forwards; close enough for the scent of cinnamon to gently move its way to me, curled up in the darkness.
“You deserve to die.”
Albus tilts his head to one side. “What did they do to you? Let me help you.”
My body doesn’t want that; I do.
Quicker than I can react, my wand is pointing towards him and blasts of crimson light emerges from the tip, wrapping him in its painful embrace. He’s yelling in anguish, groaning at the stabbing pain that the spell induces. I try hard to stop it but I can’t. My hand just grips the wand harder, hard enough for my knuckles to turn white.
“Stop. Stop it!” I’m screaming, struggling to get to my feet. This unseen force taking over my body pushes me back down to my knees as the torture continues.
“Bella!” Someone is screaming my name, another one orders me to stop. My body doesn’t listen. The disgusting feeling of pride swells up inside me and I try to push the feeling away, devastated.
“Stop it,” I whisper brokenly. The light strengthens in brightness and Albus is kneeling on the ground, his groans too difficult for me to listen to. I cover my ears and scream in anguish, matching his tone of pain.
My heart pounds with exhilaration.
My body stands there mercilessly.
My mind is racing with images of this torture.
My hand doesn’t shake.
This isn’t me.
And he disappears.
The only thing I remember after that is waking up on the frosty ground again, chill settling in my weary bones. My head is pounding. My mouth is dry. My body is mine. My actions were not.
But I am a traitor. And he is gone.