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Run by Toujours Padfoot
Chapter 24 : Twisted Towers
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 15


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Victus: Nymphadora Lupin, Fred Weasley
Mortuus: Vincent Crabbe, Colin Creevey





“Run.”

It echoed in the Pensieve in a whispering run, run, run, spreading throughout each swirl and streak, tunneling downward after the four falling contenders. Colin could still hear Claudius’s reverberating final order even as his feet made contact with hard ground within the confines of a memory far from Cliodna’s Clock.

Your wands have been taken from you, as I am sure you have noticed. They have been hidden. Let your clues find you, and you will find your wands. First person on either team to Apparate back to their platform, and then Apparate from their platform out of the Pensieve, wins. As there are so few of you left, we will allow you to be visible to one another.

Colin’s platform was an octagon – ancient, dirty, and leaf-strewn, and raised only a couple of inches off the grass. Tonks stood on an identical platform three feet to his right, with Vincent three feet to his left. Fred was on the other side of Vincent; each of them gaped upwards, open-mouthed, at the wide, inky night smattered with distant stars. While in Cliodna’s Clock it was only eight in the evening, here it was quite late.

Right underneath The Little Dipper, as if the constellation was ladling darkness right onto its forbidding roof, there was a tall, crooked building bearing the name TWISTED TOWERS in blinking florescent lights.

There were several windows ablaze, but an equal amount of windows still held in blackness – with smoky silhouettes gliding by behind those delicately lit, making their way presumably up and down many sets of stairs within. There was nothing else around for miles and miles – just this monstrous building breaking up the landscape, sticking up out of brittle grass and sand coalescing into rocks. A hand-carved sign above the door read:

Magical Fun-House


There was nowhere else to go but in.

Feeling vulnerable without wands to clench, the four of them set off simultaneously in single file, queuing through the tilted front door. Muffled laughter filtered down from the many levels above, and they tipped their heads back to view landing upon landing upon landing, all splitting off into separate rooms and corridors, like a maze. The stairways were crooked, many of them missing several steps, and a few of them moved, sliding to different destinations so as to confuse their patrons.

As they began to climb, silently deciding that splitting up would be wisest to do sooner rather than later, they quickly grasped that magical fun-houses were much different from the phony, simplistic Muggle ones that operated only on clever illusions.

Ahead of them, off one landing that curved to the left, was a room with a wide, vast clock face fixed right into its floor. It creaked, spinning at a snail’s pace, meant for people to stand on it.

Without preamble, Fred walked over to the two o’clock position and aligned his shoes with its brass markings. After a loud click, the clock began to move – it ticked with every second, filling up the dark, dusty space, revolving Fred halfway around the room to the eight o’clock numeral. A trapdoor in the gilded VIII swung open beneath him, and Fred dropped through the floor and out of sight.

While Fred had still been traveling in ticks, his heartbeat keeping time with each one, Vincent had strayed down a corridor opposite and into a small room with a domed kaleidoscope ceiling, its colors like the Aurora Borealis swimming in the floor with reflection. He spied a smaller door inside the room, one that had been pretending to be a fireplace, and opened it with curious eyes and a slack jaw. Through that door was a smaller room with kaleidoscope walls instead of ceiling, and an even smaller door beyond. On and on he went, through room after miniature room, until finally the last one was barely big enough to squeeze into.

He began to berate himself for choosing this particular path when there was a pop, and the four walls around him seemed to lock with the floor and ceiling in a screech of metal. Before he could blink, the room slid sideways through a chute, bolting faster than the speed of light. It shook and groaned, his small, lift-like compartment whizzing up and down the building’s many stories and then around and around throughout individual rooms, moving inside the gaps between floors and walls.

A traveling Vanishing Cabinet.


*


Glancing warily at each other, Tonks and Colin made their way down the remaining corridor. The building was seemingly empty, save for the ripple of voices splashing down the walls on either side every so often, pounding like drum beats under their shoes. They abruptly jerked around, searching for the laugh or call or cry, necks awash with gooseflesh, but no one was ever there.

And then, Colin discovered them.

They were pale, paler than ghosts. Colin saw them only when he squinted, peering hard at the winding stairways climbing to his left and the quiet corridors dipping down below. They were as insubstantial as breath in winter, wispy and flickering. Their voices were muffled, too, like shouts being heard only as forgotten echoes, separated by many, many doors. As one of them shouldered past Colin, not noticing his presence, he realized that they must have been the people who’d actually walked here in the flesh once upon a time, visiting Twisted Towers for merry amusement. They, like everything else all around him, were now only memories.

Colin stared at the hazy form of a woman in constricting, old-fashioned robes leading along a small girl by the hand. The girl turned around, her pale eyes locked on the place where Colin stood. She wore a pointed witch’s hat with asphodel on the brim – which suggested she might have been alive seventy or more years ago, when asphodel was superstitiously thought to keep Dark creatures away. “Come,” the mother spoke in a barely-there voice, melting into the floor. She tugged on the girl and they plunged through the smoke that represented a crowd of people. Colin blinked and the two of them wavered away into thin air.

Tonks did not notice the chattering families milling about all around them, some of them stepping right through their bodies. She charged forward without a second glance behind her, brows drawn to a crease in her forehead in determination. She left the boy behind, ignoring his sudden lapse in lucidity, his eyes clouding over, and proceeded to a rope bridge.

The netting was inlaid with fireflies – or maybe even stars that someone had tethered to earth, as their luminescence nearly blinded her in the darkness – and she grasped the gold head of a stanchion, a velvet rope hanging between its vertical parallel, and stepped onto the bridge of netting. It swayed back and forth. Tonks immediately crouched down, feeling the cold gusts of wind spraying up from below.

It felt like infinite space expanded just below her shoes, below the bridge. She hurried across, feeling the netting give way under her soles, like running over water. The ceiling flashed with neon black-lights that disoriented her, churning around and around on the walls in circular motions.

She envisioned Remus reaching for Lily’s hand, who reached for James’s, and three wide-eyed figments of her imagination watched with bated breath on the other side of the Pensieve as Tonks resolutely made her way down the tunnel of lights and through the other side.


*


Fred had found himself in a hall of mirrors.

They were of all shapes and sizes, some of their glass too opaque to produce a reflection and some of their glass only a gaseous substance undulating within a frame. Fred crept closer to one of them, watching the gas congeal together and then rip apart in whirlpool patterns always in motion, almost hypnotized by it.

Fred moved onward, one of his hands absently trailing against an ornate oval mirror as his eyes roved across many pairs of reflected ones in the ceiling, each of them his own but still foreign – they were different colors, wore different expressions. Some of them were different ages.

Behind him, his hand that lay in front of the ornate mirror brushed its surface; the two-dimensional twin made to swipe at him, trying to pull him inside of it.

The hall of mirrors led into a circular room of portraits. The floor was a revolving dais that changed direction whenever a person stepped on one of its invisible pressure points, rendering walking quite difficult. Fred, however, found that he couldn’t have walked even if he’d wanted to. He gawked at the portraits with terrified eyes, his whey-faced complexion almost perceptibly dripping the last of its blood supply down his throat and towards his shoes.

The portraits on the wall were stuffed with occupants meant to be familiar to passing patrons of Twisted Towers. They were designed to look like the friends and relatives of those looking on at them, but they were no ordinary likenesses. Some of the people in them were moving or speaking, but all were unaware that they were being spied on. They were documented in their last moments on earth, flashes of memories yet to be made that showed the viewer how all of their various loved ones would die.

Fred’s wet gaze popped from one portrait of Ron in a hospital bed in St. Mungo’s to Arthur in a flying car, jamming at its buttons in a panic as the car nosedived in a spiral toward an iron river; just underneath Arthur’s portrait, Ginny was still and lifeless, a dementor hovering over her slumped body. Spells shot off the walls behind her, illuminating shadows of many people fighting against each other in a tense struggle.

Angelina Johnson was there, too, although Fred had no idea why. She was standing in the rain, calling for someone – a pet, maybe – and there was Harry Potter’s scar come to life, hot and yellow in the storm. It connected with the ground, stealing Angelina’s voice.

There were dozens of them, everywhere, in generations: Fleur as an old woman, mistaking a bottle of outdated, intensely potent Sleeping Draught with her strengthening potion. Fred’s eyes wandered over to Percy and a woman Fred did not recognize, conversing in low voices in a dark room. They sounded afraid, trapped. A door swung open and a trio of people came inside, shutting it and bolting its many locks while one of them laughed wickedly. And there was a girl, too – a girl who looked just like Ginny when she was younger – but Fred looked away, unwilling to see what sort of fate awaited her.

Can’t be real, he told himself, horrified gaze glued to a spot on the spinning floor. He felt like he was going to vomit, and lowered himself to his knees. As the tortured cries of three blonde, middle-aged siblings cut across the room, Fred crawled on his hands and knees through an arched door. The cries followed him, unrelenting. In a bid to escape them, he managed to stagger to his feet, tears trailing down his cheeks as he stumbled blindly against walls. All the while, the image of a much-older George continued to spark and go up in flames before his eyes, surrounded by raining ash and debris that had once been purple packaging paper and Weasleys' Wildfire Whiz-bangs.

It’s just a fun-house. It’s just Cliodna messing with my head. They can’t really know these things. Fred rested against a wall, inhaling a shaky breath, and instinctually reached into his pocket for his wand. He patted at the place where it should have been, teeth snapping together as he remembered the objective of this round. He hated not having a wand on him.

“Get it together,” he ordered himself out loud. “Or you’ll lose for sure.”

Taking stock of his surroundings, Fred noted that he was in a room with no ceiling at all, and it was merely a tunnel of arbors. Lily of the valley lay draped over the arbors, their tiny bell shapes either wilted and gray or dead altogether. He reached up to touch the puffy orange clouds in the sky beyond one of the arbors but felt only smooth glass; the ceiling was enchanted, much like the Great Hall in Hogwarts. The evening breeze and sunset were not really there, a trick playing inside his own head.

It’s not supposed to be sunset, he thought idly. It was night when we arrived.

The floor rocked underneath him, turning to fluid. Not knowing whether that was an illusion, too, Fred ran as fast as he could towards a winding stairway at the end of the tunnel. Behind him, the wind blew a bough of lily of the valley off the arbor and it landed on the floor, bubbling white-hot as it sank right through the wood grains.

As Fred darted up the steps, words began to appear on each one. They trailed upwards, forming sentences in the color of spilled ink. Fred stopped in his tracks, rereading each line before they disappeared:

The only way out is always in
Every lock has a key, its perfect twin.
The key shall appear
Only for you
When you appear in front of you, too.



*


Colin had followed after Fred, wandering into the room with a floor comprised of ticking hands and numerals. He stood on a numeral that glinted six o’clock, counting each beat until he shifted, slowly but steadily, around the face of the clock to twelve. At XII, a trapdoor gave way beneath him and he plummeted through space, arms pinned tightly to his sides, and landed on slick red tiles.

The corners of the room were smoky and dim, but the rest was radiant with light from an enormous fountain. It was molded into the shape of a candelabrum, all seven of its candlesticks twisting up into crystallized amber wax frozen in mid-drip. Instead of flames blossoming from its wicks, it poured molten gold.

Colin stared at the pale yellow substance, watching the steam rise from its pools. As he continued to look, the gold began to cascade down its sconces at a more violent pace, overflowing from the base of the fountain. Colin backed away, eyes widening, as the gold sizzled when it made contact with the red floors. Tiles simmered into scarlet soup, rushing forward with bubbles and spreading smoke to greet Colin’s shoes.

Swallowing a shriek, Colin felt at the walls behind him for a door but found none. The trapdoor above had closed already, waiting for someone else to travel to twelve o’ clock.

Something about that thought tugged at Colin’s mind, the times on the clock above seeping into Cliodna’s Clock with its blackbird statue, and he glanced at a triangular window high on the wall, the lone spot of light. The moon was engorged to the point where it seemed almost fake. Colin struggled to recall seeing the moon from the outside perspective of Twisted Towers, and could not.

There had not been a moon.

As the gold foamed and gurgled, Colin scrabbled up the walls and grabbed the iron bars slanting over the window, swinging himself across to a rusty rectangular vent in the wall. With one tug underneath its loose frame, the door to the ventilation system yanked open and Colin kicked off the wall with his feet to project himself inside. He almost missed; he slipped downward, barely holding onto the smooth metal floor inside the vent, but with a groan of exertion he propelled himself inside it just in time to escape a blistering tongue of something that wasn’t fire or water, but a cross between both.

When he was wholly inside the tight, crammed space, Colin painfully jerked his neck around to look at the fountain and found that it was tranquil again, all of the molten gold securely contained inside its base.

He heaved himself along the shaft, passing something that was moving rapidly inside the walls. He could feel the power of it just inches away from his skin – metal grating against metal to cast sparks that warmed Colin’s small tunnel. There was a great crash soon after, its screeches and cries emanating from a dead end ahead of him. Colin worked his way towards a vent in that direction and punched it open with his fist, knuckles stinging. He dropped face-first into a vast, circular room.

It was at least seven seconds later before Colin prised his eyelids open, waiting for the hard impact of ground to shake his bones apart. There was no impact. There was no ground. There was only air.

“Ha!” he yelled triumphantly, paddling himself around. Nearby, Vincent Crabbe was floating in the midst of what looked to be a shattered box, his eyes blinking in dumbfounded surprise. “It’s enchanted!” he told the boy, too consumed with relief to care that he was chatting with his only opponent. “We’re levitating!”

They swam through the air like frogs, arms and legs kicking and mauling, higher and higher until they found a strangely-placed terrace – beautiful like it should have belonged to an Italian villa rather than tacked three-fourths of the way up a beige brick wall. Gravity attacked them the moment they swung over the terrace’s railing, making them so heavy that they had to take a moment to recover before shooting upright again.

Breathing heavily, Vincent and Colin walked through a corridor – the entire building was composed of corridors and rooms that made no sense, with rooms that led to rooms without corridors and corridors that led to corridors without rooms – and through a beaded curtain. The rosy glow of a fireplace washed up one wall with shadows of people stirring in front.

Colin passed the shadow of a young Cassandra Vablatsky’s profile, seated on a velvet pouf with her back severely hunched. Garbled mist rather than words escaped her mouth as she spoke to a young man about his future, his upraised palms trembling under the grazing back-and-forth of her long fingertips.

Another woman on the other side of the room was telling fortunes, as well, arranging teacups into the shape of a half-circle on her spindly-legged table. Vincent could not see any of it, and thought that something was rather wrong with Colin’s brain when Colin inched over to a patch of supposedly unoccupied space, peering and peering…

He swiped at the air, and a small white square materialized between three of his fingers.

“Where’d you get that?” Vincent demanded.

“I saw it in the teacup!”

Vincent scowled, his thick neck swiveling all around. “I don’t see any teacups.” He lumbered over to Colin, who was excitedly studying the contents of the card, and tried to take it from him. “Give it to me.”

Colin ducked, eluding him as he clutched the card protectively. “Is it a clue?” Vincent wanted to know. “If it’s the clue that tells us where our wands are at, give it here.”

“Yeah, no thanks,” Colin quipped, darting through an exit.

They emerged in the same tangle of landings they’d found themselves in soon after entering Twisted Towers. Vincent threw himself at Colin, who tried to push him out of the way of a small boy holding a purple balloon. “Careful!” he gasped. “You’ll hit him!”

“Hit who?” Vincent spat, his hand poised to strike Colin in the gut. Colin took advantage of Vincent’s split-second of perplexity to roll out from underneath him, scrambling bandy-legged down a corridor that split off into a spiraling staircase. As one of his shoes touched the seventh step, he was jerked backward, a finger around his collar.

“Get off me!” he yelled at Vincent, face contorted with fury. He aimed punches at the boy, but Vincent’s layers of muscle absorbed them easily. He didn’t even flinch.

Vincent searched him for the white card, grunting as Colin tried to resist him. Despite his anger at Salazar for bailing on him at the last minute, deciding not to mentor him anymore, he hoped Slytherin would still be proud. His new goal was to find Colin’s wand and break it, and prevent Creevey from Apparating back to his platform. He couldn’t imagine how Salazar wouldn’t be impressed. Vincent was, after all, acting on Salazar’s parting instructions, the only plan with potential to work:

Rules and etiquette be damned. Attack the weakest first, while those stronger than you tear each other apart. By the time it’s done, you will still be strong and your final enemy will not.

“Give it!” he shouted at Colin, digging around in the latter’s pockets. Colin twisted, more nimble than Vincent but much, much less powerful. Without his wand, he could do nothing to defend himself…


*


Tonks was in a corridor that went in and out of order, the adjacent rooms electrified with gaslights that flicked between whiteness so bright that it fizzled and popped, and then faded into dimness, into night. The furniture was bolted to the ceiling and walls instead of the floor, or in some cases the ceiling was the floor, and as Tonks moved along, so did the rooms, switching places with each other to confuse her.

Holes in the floor spewed up colored gas to face-level, creating a rainbow fog that Tonks tore at with her fingers, coughing. She heard someone else coughing, too, but when she turned around she found herself to still be alone.

Someone else coughed again.

Tonks’s skin bristled, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. It was then that she heard a deep voice, a threat to throw someone else down the stairs. Tonks skidded along the corridors, heading in their direction, but almost fell down in shock when she heard a whisper in her ear:

Which friends do you keep?
Can you count them by the hour?
You must be quick,
for time is steep
And ever-changing in the Towers.


Tonks realized she had stopped breathing. Her skin was wan, lungs taking small, bite-sized spoonfuls of oxygen as the disembodied clue floated through her ear. Something about those words rattled around in her memory, another poem of sorts. What was it? Ever-changing in the Towers… Twisted Towers?

Ever-changing time?

Tonks pressed her hands to her temples, trying to subdue a migraine. She was good at riddles. She loved puzzles and mysteries and anything that wasn’t at all what it appeared. She knew that the answer was already there in her head, waiting to be discovered.

She focused on the first half again, since she was certain that she’d heard it somewhere before. Which friends do you keep? Can you count them by the hour? She did not think this could be literal, as she had no friends inside the races. They were all her enemies, both Victus and Mortuus. Her only friend was her husband, and maybe the Potters, Sirius, and Mad-Eye, but they were gone…sitting up in the stands with Remus…

And there it was, in dull gray typeface spanning between Remus’s fingers. She’d been looking at his hands as they turned the pages of the Daily Departed, missing the sight of his shiny wedding ring. It was in the same issue as the advertisement for their house on Polaris Crescent, in a silly, rambling article that she and her husband had both mocked because of their speculation about losers of the third round going insane.

When the clock strikes ten and two, no one shall sleep. At eight, they must count the friends they keep. Midnight is no friend to its parallel, six; and four is an hour for mavericks.

At eight. They must count the friends they keep at eight.

The room with the clock floor, and the trapdoors under each numeral, clicked into place with the riddle, and Tonks understood. Each numeral on the face of that clock led not only to different rooms but to different times, and Tonks needed to journey to eight o’ clock.

“Get off!” a voice cried again, startling Tonks out of her thoughts. Her heart beat against her bones, the desire to get out of Twisted Towers fighting against the impulse to save the person being harassed, to rescue them. Before she could decide which one would take precedence, Colin was being thrust halfway over the railing on a staircase above.

“Give me it!” Vincent Crabbe roared.

“I don’t – I won’t do it! No!”

A miniature flutter of white tumbled out of Colin’s shoe, its crisp, neat edges folding perfectly into the palm of Tonks’s hand. Colin’s clue.

“Hey!” Vincent yelled. Tonks froze with her eyes still soaking up the card’s five lines. Vincent’s hand was around Colin’s throat, and he had evidently seen the card drift into Tonks’s possession. “That’s mine!”

“It’s mine,” Colin corrected woozily. Vincent dropped him at once, and the two boys threw their weight at each other as they dashed down the stairs, drawing closer to a bewildered Tonks. Not knowing what else to do and still puzzling out Colin’s riddle in her mind, she took off like a speeding bullet to the clock room.

Copying Fred’s actions earlier in the round, she planted herself on the two o’ clock position and waited to be escorted to VIII, her face pink with a sheen of sweat. She dropped through the eight o’ clock trapdoor just as Vincent and Colin appeared around the doorway; she thought for a moment that they would dive in after her, but Colin had grabbed a hold of Vincent’s shoulder and punched him right in the face. The last thing Tonks saw before she zoomed out of sight was Vincent raising his own fist in retaliation, a livid bruise already developing over one swollen eye.

Tonks’s tailbone pounded with pain, and her tongue had somehow gotten caught between her teeth as she fell, slicing a shallow cut into it. She spit out a mouthful of blood and wobbled to her feet, so dizzy that an ornate floor-to-ceiling mirror in front of her split into seven. It took a full three seconds for Tonks to see that it hadn’t merely seemed like seven because of her dizziness, after all – there were seven mirrors.

There was a whole hall full of them.

Limping but quick, Tonks flitted from mirror to mirror. Some of them twinkled with a portrait of the setting sun, faraway stars dotting the heavens to mirror what was outside the building rather than inside. Some of them mirrored other rooms in the fun-house, displaying dodo birds with fuchsia feathers, plumes of golden smoke spurting from a fountain, and occupant-less parachutes falling down a wishing well in one room into another room teeming with children’s slides.

Tonks passed one mirror showing a room of living toys and other mirrors with telescopic lenses that made everything appear closer or farther away than it all really was, all the while ironing out Colin’s riddle. She would have only seconds to act, after all. Surely, Colin and Vincent would figure out the time-traveling clock and come after her. It was very important now that she accomplish what she’d set out to do before their imminent arrival.

And the riddle…yes, she was right. She must be right.

The only way out is always in. Every lock has a key, its perfect twin. The key shall appear only for you when you appear in front of you, too.

The only way out of the tournament was to get your wand back, which meant that wands were the metaphorical keys. Each lock had a key, a perfect twin

Tonks stared at each passing twin of herself in a row of mirrors, adrenaline pumping through her veins. Now the only thing to do was to appear in front of herself so that the key could, too.

Tonks settled in front of a mirror cracked with age, the upper corners splattered with what might have been old blood. As she faced her reflection, she screwed up her features in concentration and watched them change. Her hair shrank back into her skull, her arms swelling with bulky muscle as her nose flattened, widening. When all was complete, Vincent Crabbe stood staring back at her, wand in hand.

She reached right into the mirror and took the wand from his possession. It was slender, fourteen inches of oak with a ribbed handle. He surrendered it willingly, but his eyebrows bore the unmistakable mark of mystification. The Vincent in the mirror knew that something was not altogether right about his three-dimensional doppelganger.

Tonks then transformed back into herself, the clangs of the trapdoor reeling off the walls as Vincent and Colin dropped through it, still wrestling with each other. From the looks of their blood and bruises, Colin seemed to be winning.

The reflection of Vincent melted into that of Tonks. Tonks snatched her wand from her reflective self, who winked as if they shared a mischievous secret, and she Apparated on the spot.

“Where’d she go?” Vincent inquired, neck snapping up. Colin crab-scuttled away from the other boy, backing up against a mirror. As he did so, his reflected self reached across and tapped him on the shoulder.

Colin turned around, pinched with shock. A copy of himself waved happily, smiling, and in his waving hand was Colin’s own wand.

“No!” Vincent cried, lunging over to him. Colin plunged his arm through the mirror and seized his wand, feeling the brush of flat skin as he did so. The Colin in the mirror felt papery, soluble. Muttering a quick ‘thanks’ to his double, he rolled behind the mirror’s heavy frame.

But I’ve never Apparated before, he thought, panic beading on his brow with sweat.

Vincent was struck by his reflection in a vanity mirror on the ceiling, pulsating with glowing bulbs. The face staring back at him greatly resembled his father, but there were pieces of his mother there, too – her eyes spaced far apart with long lashes. It was a middle-aged Vincent Crabbe, as he might’ve been if he’d lived long enough to see that period of his life.

His heart dropping somewhere into his stomach, Vincent lifted his battered, brutish face to the mirror Colin had deflected behind. His reflection was normal now, bleeding along the hairline from where he’d tumbled down one of the staircases in his fight with Colin. The twin of Vincent grinned at him with a face that did not feel like his own, his hands empty.

“C’mon,” said a voice. It was Colin, squirming his way out from behind the mirror. Clasping Vincent’s hand in his own, they turned on the spot with a crack, Apparating onto the open grounds beyond Twisted Towers.

Vincent landed on his stomach in the grass, but Colin was already steady on his feet, bolting over to his platform. Tonks Lupin was sitting a few inches away from hers, cross-legged on the rocky soil, staring at the sky with stars shining in her dilated pupils.

“What’re you doing?” Colin exclaimed, the toe of his shoe hovering just above the octagon platform that would take him home to Cliodna’s Clock. “Get on, then! Why are you just sitting there?”

“Oh, I’m just saying goodbye,” she replied, a benign smile twisting at her lips. Her arms were wrapped around her knees, which were tucked to her chest. Two wands stood side-by-side in her pocket.

“But you’ve got to hurry up!” Colin whispered, as if Fred might overhear them. He glanced at Vincent, who was still lying down, sprawled in grim defeat. Colin wondered if Vincent had gotten splinched. “You have to hurry or else you won’t win!”

“I already lost,” she said. “Fred got out ages ago – I saw him Apparating through a window.” She patted the knee of Colin’s trousers in the way that someone might do to a beloved pet. “Congratulations. And by the way, I just bought you a few extra minutes, mate. You might want to hurry up and run...”

It echoed in the night in a whispering run, run, run, spreading throughout heartbeats and laboring breath, chasing Colin through the Pensieve with a flash of light that felt like hope – a strong hope, a foreign hope, like someone had taken their own hope and given it to him. He could still hear Tonks’s reverberating advice even as his feet made contact with solid ground again.

It was eight o’ clock in Cliodna’s Clock exactly. Due to the time-traveling nature of their challenge, the seconds had not ticked away in their absence, and it was as though they’d never left at all.

 





A/N: 200 STORY FAVORITES, AGHHHH! Thank you so, so, so much for the favorites, for the reads and reviews and wonderful encouragement. You guys are the best ever.
 


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