Placing my hand over my mouth I forced the screams to subside, knowing that every second now mattered. Someone was dead. An eleven, maybe twelve year old, was now dead because of my silly desire to venture outside of the common room to prove that everything was okay. It was getting hard to breathe. I fell to my knees. I felt like I was underwater and there was water pressing down and crushing onto my lungs. I was going to drown there in the hallway before whoever it was that just took that boys life got to me.
Eyes wide I realized that I was going to die. I realized that whoever had ended that boy’s life had to be only moments away from doing the same thing to me. I pressed my eyes closed. Hard. I needed to take everything that I had learned in the last few years of school and pull it together fast. It was a miracle that I was even alive in this moment and if I wanted that to last any longer I was going to have to think fast.
Glancing down the hall I realized why I hadn’t yet been subjected to the same fate as the little boy. There was some resistance from behind, some goodhearted soul who must have trying to check on the students that was now sending multicolored spells towards the hooded figure. I knew that I needed to run, that I needed to get away while I could. Before I could move my eyes came across the boy’s body just a little ways down the hall. There was no way that I could leave that there. He was dead because of me and the least I could do for his parents was get his body out of that building in one piece.
Pushing myself off the ground I darted across the hall towards him, my heart pumping against my chest despite the fact that the masked figure was otherwise occupied. Every second mattered. Reaching his limp body I forced myself not to vomit as my fingers found their way to his eyelids and forced them closed. His skin was already growing cold. I shuttered. Reaching into my robes I struggled to find my wand within the folds of fabric before realizing that I’d tucked it away in my boots for safe keeping. Fingers fumbling I reached for it, only to hear a thud on the other side of the corridor.
I’d expected it to be the hooded figure; I’d hoped that maybe all that was left was the good guy that would help to get me back to the common room in one piece and this part of the nightmare would be ended. But instead there was a hooded figure with a wand pointed at me. And as much as I wanted to safe that boy’s body I knew that it was going to cost me my own.
Forgetting about my wand I took off down the hallway, quickly darting down a corridor that lead away from the common room in the event that someone else had decided to venture out. The last thing I needed was another death linked to me.
“Where do you think you’re going little girl.” The voice called out, appearing amused with the fact that I was attempting to run away from him. “Do you really think that you can run away from me?” It sounded like he was laughing maybe.
Breathing heavily I forced myself to keep moving. He may have been right but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to try. Giving in would crush any last thoughts of hope. But a trip jinx sent me tumbling towards the floor, my hands pressing hard against the stone. I flipped myself over causing my wand to remove itself from my shoe and roll down the corridor. Quickly scooting backwards I tried to get it back into my hands. I couldn’t move fast enough.
His foot stepped down on one of my hands bringing water to my eyes. I tried to back up but I found myself with my back up against the wall. “Where do you think that you’re going sweetheart?” He asked, his hand brushing up against my cheek. I pressed my eyes closed as another tear fell down my face.
Someone was shaking me, hard. I twisted only getting myself more tangled up into the sheets that appeared to have taken my foot captive. The sheets that felt different than the ones I was used to confusing me about where I really was. Did he get me? Was I being kidnapped or something?
“Astoria, please wake up, you’ve been screaming.”
The voice certainly wasn’t one that I was used to hearing and I jolted out of bed to see a panicked blonde standing over my bed. Not the masked man. Hannah stepped back from the bed as I woke up. Taking in my surroundings I realized that I was in the hospital. I was in that new bed, in the new ward, trying to start a new life.
“Sorry.” I muttered, pushing sweaty strands of hair away from my forehead. “It’s just-”
“You don’t need to explain.” She replied with a nod, returning to her side of the room and running her brush through her hair. She seemed to get it. Maybe more people here would. “You should just start getting ready; we have to be ready for our first group meeting in a few minutes.”
“This is your group.” The healer announced from their plastic chair that was exactly opposite mine in the circle that was formed in an awfully white room. “For the next few weeks these are the people with whom you’ll work with to discuss experiences you’ve had, challenges you’re facing, and goals you are working towards.” The healer, an older man, took a moment to inspect all of us before he resumed. “There are no real rules, but Group is supposed to be a place where you can express yourself, and criticism is not appreciated here. Everyone should feel free to say whatever they like here and I hope that none of you make anyone feel like anything that they have to say is unimportant. Everyone that is here is here for a reason; you’re all struggling in similar ways.”
Shifting in the plastic chair I wondered why this so important group could not have been held in another area, an area that didn’t require us all to be sitting in these awful plastic chairs. The other four people in my group seemed to be just as uncomfortable as I was, the healer too. Hannah was in my group of course and she was the only one who didn’t seem to be wiggling about with the rest of us. She sat upright and still as stone.
“Now let’s go around and everyone can introduce themselves, it’s important to get to know everyone’s name as quickly as possible to create a sense of community. I’ll start, I’m Healer Green” He lectured, turning to his left where Hannah was sitting to start us off. I was grateful that it wasn’t me.
“Hannah Abbott.” She stated simply, and I was pleased that she didn’t dive into her life story. She didn’t even reveal her Hogwarts house, something that had become a thing of habit for so many. Something I was grateful for, considering the fact that no one was going to take the green and white house well. Hopefully that meant that everyone else would do the same. And they did, next was Peter, then I tossed my name, and Matilda followed me, finishing up with Mark.
That was going to be our group. Hannah, Peter, Matilda, Mark, and I were somehow going to go from a group of messed up teenagers on the cusp of adulthood to people ready to take on the world. At least, that was what the pamphlet had promised.
“Excuse me.” The same healer whom had checked me in yesterday was now standing with the door opened just a crack. I wondered what he could possibly have to say that justified interrupting the ever important group. “A member of your group seemed to be running a bit late this morning.” He explained with a grin before opening the door wider and shoving a very stony Draco Malfoy through the door.
I was shocked that Draco Malfoy would end up in my group of all the possible options but was I in no way bothered by him being there. The boy didn’t have a wand and without that he was as dangerous as a first year. Honestly Draco being there was only going to deflect any heat that I was going to get. Sure, I may be a Slytherin but at least I hadn’t been a member of Voldemort’s inner circle. But other members of the group seemed completely outraged. I thought that Hannah was going to start crying on the spot and Mark looked as though he was going to fight the blonde before he was ever allowed to sit with us.
“Remember the rules.” Healer Green cut in before any sort of riot could start up. “We’re a welcoming group and anyone who does not feel that way may be asked to leave.” This shut everyone up and caused the Healer in charge to leave Malfoy in more than capable hands. I doubted that he was joking; everyone had been made very aware of how lucky there were to be there. If anyone refused to cooperate they could be replaced in seconds.
“You can come have a seat Draco.” Healer Green stood from his own plastic chair and offered it to the boy before going off to grab another one from a small stack in the corner. “We were just getting started with some introductions, how about we go around again?” This time Draco had to start and he offered his name at a decibel that was hardly audible but everyone moved on and gave their names not wanting to risk upsetting Healer Green again.
“Today we’re going to start working on some team building exercises; you cannot be expected to share things with each other until you can trust one another.” This caused Mark to snort, probably because he couldn’t imagine ever trusting someone like Malfoy. I thought it was rude. Healer Green ignored him. “I want you to take any notions you have of people and leave them behind for this exercise; you’re trying to change your mindset here. You’re trying to change yourself.”
Judging by the seats everyone took at lunch no one looked as though they were ready to make the life changes that Healer Green was looking for. It was almost as though we were back inside of the Great Hall at Hogwarts the way that students were clumping around tables with their old housemates. And if it wasn’t for the fact that there were circular tables rather than round ones I could have sworn that we were actually back there.
Hannah hung around at my side for an awkward moment and I quickly realized what the issue was. While there was a plethora of three of the houses, Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs especially, Draco and I were the only Slytherins. I glanced awkwardly towards where he was sitting with his back towards me, wondering what on earth I was supposed to do.
“You could come and sit with us if you want.” Hannah offered, nodding her head towards a few of the Hufflepuffs. “I promise you that no one will say anything, it’s understandable if you don’t want to sit with, well, him.” I swallowed hard as I tried to think through my options. I could go and listen to Hannah and her housemates going on and on about whatever it is that Hufflepuffs cared about, all of them knowing that I didn’t belong, or I could go suffer next to Malfoy.
House loyalty only went so far.
“That would be great actually.” I decided. “I just-well you understand.” I explained, trailing after Hannah as we placed our trays down at one of the Hufflepuff tables. Everyone seemed to be discussing the weird team building exercises that we’d been forced to participate in and I relaxed a bit. Everything was going to be just fine.
A/N: If you read this and decided to leave a review that would be the best thing ever! I know that there's been a big delay from the start to the more recent chapters but things will be coming together faster I promise!