Chapter 2 : Eyes
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The front doors of Hogwarts castle had been torn off of their hinges. A trail of blood was smeared through them and into the darkness inside, a morbid parody of a red carpet. Rose, Scorpius, and Albus stood just outside, staring in horror at the gaping wound in the castle, and realizing that their journey back to Hogwarts had been for nothing.
There were no survivors here; the castle was dead.
It was like staring into the dead eyes of a person you loved. Rose wondered if this was how Scorpius had felt all those months ago, when he had stumbled into his parents’ bedroom and found them hanging like marionettes from the ceiling. Her fingers plunged subconsciously into the pocket of her robes, squeezing the little toy car hard, as she remembered the thud that their bodies had made when Scorpius cut them down. And she remembered the way he had crouched over them on that dusty floor, not crying, just looking at them and shaking like mad. And that ripe, dead smell that had come billowing out of the room and made vomit rise up in Rose’s throat.
Scorpius turned away from the corpse of the castle, looking out across the grounds at the sun, which was still low and peach-colored in the sky. Rose put her hand on his shoulder and felt that it was shaking.
Albus fell onto his knees, his head bowed as if in prayer. His hair, freshly cut by Rose a few hours ago, gleamed like a dark and precious stone in the sun.
“I can’t.” he said. “I can’t. I can’t.”
Poor boy, thought Rose. She took her hand out of her pocket and combed her fingers through his hair. She knew that he had been hoping, even expecting, to find his family here. Scorpius knew that his parents were dead, and Rose had long since given up hope of finding hers, but Albus had always idolized his parents, and considered them – especially his father – practically immortal. He had had hope, and so he had had more to lose than Rose and Scorpius had. Now, he had lost it.
Albus’ hair was gritty with accumulated dirt. Rose wondered how long it had been since he had washed it properly – there was a shower back in the flat above the Leaky Cauldron which he could have used, but Albus had apparently lost concern for personal hygiene. Admittedly, the importance of cleaning behind your ears sort of paled in comparison to the scourge of evil that had overrun the country.
Rose looked from one broken boy to the other, and wondered how she could possibly keep them together.
“Well,” she said bracingly, “we might as well have a look inside. Even if there aren’t any refugees, we could stock up on supplies for the Potions kit.”
Scorpius did not reply.
“I can’t.” said Albus again, pathetically.
“Albus…” Rose knelt down beside her cousin and pressed the palms of her hands against his cheeks, turning his head up until he was looking her in the eyes. What she saw in them made her want to scream, or sob, or shake him.
His eyes were dead and blank.
Rose felt nauseous. She felt disturbed. But she couldn’t allow herself to give up on Albus – he was very likely the only family she had left in the world.
“Albus,” she said again, “listen, I know it’s not easy. But you need to get up. Your mum and dad – they’d want you to get up.”
Albus pressed his forehead into Rose’s shoulder. His body felt so weak and limp against hers that suddenly she wanted to scream and knock him to the ground. She wanted to grab his shoulders and shake them with all her strength. Instead, she stood up, gently pulling him to his feet. Tugging him along, she walked the red carpet into the remains of Hogwarts castle.
She turned. “Coming, Scorpius?”
The blond boy was still turned away from the castle, staring up at the sky. Funny how in all these months, the sky had never changed. Thousands of people had died in Britain and possibly beyond. Century-old castles and skyscrapers alike had been destroyed. The world below was an utterly different place than it had been last fall – but the sky remained the same.
“I’m tired, Rose,” said Scorpius, turning around to face her. “But yeah, I’m coming.”
Rose, Scorpius, and Albus followed the red carpet into the castle’s entrance hall. Scorpius and Rose held their illuminated wands high – Albus’ hand was still clasped around Rose’s.
The entrance hall was in shambles. A dense sort of spiderweb, like white cotton candy, had spread itself over the left wall and most of the ceiling. Rose remembered vaguely her father’s fear of spiders. The stone floor was concealed underneath a layer of grime, mold, and scattered bits of bone and gristle. Rose identified the white skeletal fingers of a human hand half-buried by a colony of mushrooms, and looked sharply away, glad that she’d found herself a pair of good new shoes in Hogsmeade.
“Do we follow the blood?” said Scorpius. The trail of smeared blood that had led the trio into the castle continued down a corridor, possibly leading to the Great Hall.
“I don’t see much of a point,” said Rose. “If it’s a person’s, he or she probably bled to death.”
“What if it’s someone we know?” said Scorpius. “Or, what if they didn’t die?”
Rose shrugged. “Fine. Let’s go have a look.”
But Albus refused to move as Rose and Scorpius stared down the dark corridor. They turned around to look at him with questions in their eyes. His eyes were squeezed shut and his shoulders were bent.
“I don’t want to look,” he said. “I can’t. I can’t.”
With one thin, shaking hand, Albus reached into the pocket of his new robes and withdrew his wand. Suddenly, his face was contorted with fear and rage and another emotion that almost resembled triumph. Scorpius and Rose started toward him, alarmed noises rising from their throats, but it was too late, Albus was on his knees again, and his wand was through his right eye, and blood was streaming over his face and chest.
Scorpius screamed with revulsion, staggering backward into the corridor.
Rose froze, staring at her cousin with wide, horrified eyes.
“I can’t,” choked Albus.
Albus is gone, he left, he has gone mad, thought Rose. He is gone he left with only his left eye left
“I see we have visitors,” said a voice from down the corridor, and Rose and Scorpius whipped around.
There was a ghost floating toward them from down the hall. He was round-faced and plump and he glowed faintly as he drifted into the entrance hall. Rose had forgotten that the ghosts of Hogwarts castle were fated to prowl the grounds forever.
The Fat Friar laid an icy hand on Scorpius’ back. “Take the injured one to the Hospital Wing. You’ll find some bandages there. Don’t worry, you’ll find nothing blocking your path…they’re all in the dungeons.”
“What are–” said Scorpius, but the Friar interrupted him.
“No time,” he said. “To the Hospital Wing. Then return to the Great Hall.”
Scorpius shot a hesitant look at Rose, who nodded at him. Taking a deep breath, Scorpius hoisted the now-unconscious Albus into his arms, and set off down the corridor. Rose’s brain was filled with a cold fog as she turned to the Fat Friar. She remembered the dream she had had last night, with the eyeless Victoire. The horrors of real life matched the torments of any nightmare.
“Come,” said the Friar, and Rose had no choice but to follow.
The Great Hall was filled with ghosts. They drifted along the House tables, gazing nostalgically at the benches that had once been occupied by Hogwarts students of all shapes and sizes.
There was a man lying on the floor near the Ravenclaw table. He was tall, and Rose knew that he had once been fit and good-looking, but his body was in shreds now. He had graduated from Hogwarts before she had even started there, but she’d seen him often over the holidays, as her Uncle Harry had declared him an honorary member of the Potter-Weasley clan. His hair had been blue in those days, but it was grey, now. Rose wondered whether the hair color was a reflection of the state of the mind beneath, or whether he had simply lost control of his shapeshifting power.
“Rose Weasley,” rasped Teddy Lupin. “Never thought I’d see you again.”
“You shouldn’t try to speak,” said one of the group of ghosts that circled around him.
Another ghost turned to Rose. “He crawled in like this yesterday. We would help if we could, but of course we can’t touch him. We’ve had to just watch him die.”
“I’m not dying,” said Teddy with a weak attempt at a grin. “I just had a slight disagreement with a family of Acromantulas outside. You’d better watch out for them, Rosie – those pincers hurt.”
He was dying. His skin looked like it had been unzipped from the rest of his body in several places, and blood wasn’t the only thing spilling out of the openings. As she sat down on the cold stone floor, Rose tried to focus on Teddy’s face, and ignore the ghastly sight below. There were a million questions she wanted to ask Teddy – where had he been all these months, who had he seen, who had died, did he know whether Hugo was dead or alive?
Instead, she asked: “Why did you come back here?”
Teddy smiled wanly. “Same reason as you, I’d imagine. I assumed that some survivors might have made it back to the castle. I was hoping to find a whole colony of refugees. Instead, I found a lot of big spiders.”
Rose laughed despite herself. She knew that she was probably going into shock. Teddy opened his mouth to say something, but came out with a hacking cough instead.
“Are there…things in the castle?” asked Rose, looking around at the ghosts, who nodded solemnly.
“All sorts of things wandered in from the forest,” said the Fat Friar. “Some of the teachers tried to hold the castle down, but a handful of grown witches and wizards are no match for a whole horde of beasts.”
“So there are no other people here?” said Rose, her heart sinking.
“No living people,” said the Friar. “This castle is the home of the dead and dying.”
The dead and the dying and the eyeless, thought Rose. We are all that is left, they have all gone all died leaving with only the left eye left
Rose looked back down at Teddy, whose eyes had grown wide with pain. His hand found her hers and squeezed it hard. His fingers were caked with dirt and dried blood, but Rose squeezed back. Her head felt very odd and loose somehow, and the squeeze was grounding.
“There are others on their way,” he said in between long, rasping breaths. “They think the castle is a safe haven, but when they get here…”
“…They’ll be killed,” Rose finished the sentence for him. “What can I do about it?”
“You need to warn them,” gasped Teddy, his grip tightening around Rose’s wrist until her fingers turned numb. “Save them.”
“How?” said Rose, feeling helpless. When night fell, the Acromantulas and other unspeakable creatures would come crawling out from the dungeons. If Rose, Albus, and Scorpius didn’t get out before then, they would probably be killed. Even if they survived, how was Rose supposed to warn dozens of hopeful survivors around the country to stay away from the castle? It wasn’t as if she had an owl.
“The Owlery,” she said excitedly to Teddy, who gazed up at her with glazed eyes. “I can write out warnings and have the owls give them to anyone they see.”
The corners of Teddy’s lips twitched as he tried to smile. “That’s good. You were always…bright.”
“Teddy?” Rose touched his cheek with her free hand, and felt that it was cold. Albus was right, he couldn’t survive this, he had lost too much blood. He was dying before her eyes. “Teddy, let me get you something from the Hospital Wing.”
Teddy’s fingers squeezed even more tightly around Rose’s wrist, and he murmured something that sounded like “don’t go.”
“Teddy…” Rose squeezed back. “I’ll get you something to take the pain away.”
But Teddy seemed to be beyond pain. His golden-brown eyes stared peacefully up into Rose’s. She knew that her own eyes must be creased and blurred with panic.
“Teddy? Teddy, can you hear me?” He didn’t reply. “Squeeze if you can hear me.”
He squeezed her hand, and she sighed in relief.
“I always thought you changed your eyes to make them that color,” she said, staring into them. “But that’s they’re like that naturally?”
He squeezed again. She took that to mean yes.
“They’re beautiful, Teddy,” she said, blinking back the tears that were rising up in the corners of her own eyes. “I’m glad you didn’t change them.”
Teddy’s jaw relaxed, and his mouth fell slightly open. Rose traced her fingers over his cheekbone and chin, and gently closed his lips. He would not die slack-jawed, drooling all over the floor of the Great Hall. He would die with dignity. Rose would see to that.
“Teddy? Squeeze if you can hear me.”
He squeezed, weakly.
She was losing him. Rose pressed her lips together hard, forcing herself not to cry. She didn’t want a crying face to be the last sight he saw – Merlin knew he’d seen enough pain and suffering in these last few months. They all had. She pushed the despair back into her body, pushed back the image of the eyeless Albus and the Malfoys dangling from the ceiling, willing herself to be strong for the dying man’s sake.
His squeeze was no more than a brush of fingernails against Rose’s wrist.
The ghosts crowded around them, murmuring comforting things like “the pain will be over, soon” and “it’s not so bad – you’ll see.” Rose wished they would go away. She leaned closer to Teddy.
“It’s beautiful outside,” she said. “I wish you could see it. The sun’s rising and it looks like a ripe peach in the sky. Around it everything is orange and pink. And it’s just like any other morning – isn’t that funny, that something so beautiful can happen every single morning? Teddy? Teddy, squeeze if you can hear me.”
Teddy did not move.
Rose waited a second to be sure that he was dead, and then she began to cry, watched sympathetically by the ghosts. It felt good to let them stream down her cheeks instead of keeping them cooped up in her head. She cried for Teddy and she cried for Albus and Molly and the teachers who had died trying to defend the castle, and she cried for herself.
When she was done, she had one of the ghosts bring Scorpius down from the Hospital Wing. Albus was still recovering, and anyway she wouldn’t want him to see Teddy like this. He had always idolized Teddy, with his wild hair and flying motorcycle. They all had. Scorpius and Rose dragged Teddy out onto the grounds at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, and buried him in the earth by the light of the rising sun. Then they scoured the rest of the castle, collecting things they could use for cooking and tearing out useful pages from spellbooks in the library. Their penultimate stop was the Gryffindor common room floor, where Rose let Scorpius take her because she knew that he needed to. She was so refreshed from all the crying that she almost enjoyed it.
Then they set off for the Owlery.