Chapter 13 : The Headmaster
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Her name was Amelia Bones, and he had thought himself in love with her. But then the night of the debate happened and everything changed.
She was a Hufflepuff and he a Slytherin, but it hadn’t really mattered in those early years. She was a pureblood, and she was smart, and fiery at times, but also kind and considerate and clever. They were friends for years, sitting together in classes and spending long nights at the library.
“Orpheus, this is absolute bollocks,” Amelia would laugh, reading over his essay of the properties and uses of moonstone. “Aquinas is turning over in his grave.”
Orpheus Yaxley would scowl at her, and she would mimic his aggressive look until he crumbled into laughter with her.
Then they were more than friends: holding hands under the Transfiguration desk, kissing frantically tucked into little corners of the castle. Their quarrels were furious: about the rights of Muggles and the Stature of Secrecy, about centaur lore and werewolf law and other important things. The night before the debate in fifth year was the worst fight yet: Amelia threw an inkpot at his head and screamed at him that he would either start thinking for himself and stop being a bigoted pig, or she would never speak to him again.
Orpheus took her threat to heart, his Slytherin pride wounded and his Yaxley blood boiling in his veins.
It was the unlucky draw that pitted them against each other in the school-wide seniors debate. Orpheus watched Amelia shake with rage and love, confusing the two emotions together, tripping over her words for the first time in her academic career. He could not pick between the Amelias in his head: the tender, spunky girl who would fall asleep in his arms, her golden hair tumbling over his shoulder; or the angry harpy screeching “bigoted pig” at him. So he chose neither, and hid behind his Yaxley cool.
After the debate was done and the winner chosen, Amelia sucked up her pride and began to approach Orpheus, his broad shoulders and confident smile a head above anyone else in the crowd. She set her teeth and prepared to apologize, certain that he would come around, like he always did. But before she could reach him, a willowy, pinch-faced Slytherin with long, flowing brown hair swished up to him and touched him lightly on the arm.
Amelia watched as Orpheus followed Selena Greengrass out of the Great Hall. He didn’t turn around to look for her.
Twenty years later, Amelia Bones was at her home in London, having finished a long day at the Wizengamot trying to control the spread of Ministry corruption and blackmail from infiltrating her department. With the sacking of Cornelius Fudge, Ministry officials were becoming more and more paranoid and concerned about their jobs, and their safety.
I suppose I can’t blame them, Madam Bones thought to herself, as she shrugged out of her long judge’s robe and put up the usual enchantments around her small flat. Although you’d think the highest ranking court in the land would be able to remain fair. Her cat rubbed lovingly against her shins, and she bent down to give him a pat.
The city summer air was hot and damp. She smiled at her brother, Edgar, and his two little children grinning and waving from a silver frame on her bedside table. Dead, all dead. Next to them was a picture of her sister with Amelia’s only surviving niece, Susan, who was starting her sixth year at Hogwarts come the fall. Amelia set up a quill and parchment and started writing a letter to Susan.
Amelia Bones herself had never married. She told herself it was because she was too busy.
When the Death Eaters came later that night, Orpheus Yaxley bowed his head beneath his mask as Amelia’s wand left her fingertips, as she screamed under the Cruciatus curse, her brave cat lifeless at her feet. The Dark Lord laughed his horrible, slow laugh, the kind that comes before killing.
Quickly, silently, Yaxley reached out with his mind towards his childhood love. He filled her mind with a memory: the two of them, holding hands beneath a clear Hogwarts night sky, competing to name constellations and rewarding each answer with a soft kiss. As her body writhed, her mind relaxed, and as she slipped into death, she was fifteen again, and the moonlight shone on her face.
‘She was among the greatest witches of the age,’ the headlines read.
I’ve noticed three different forms of feeling for someone else. Romantic feelings, I mean, to put it lightly.
First: idealized love. The kind where you see a person and, barely knowing them, fantasize about their dreams, about your connection, about the deep, passionate, perfect connection you’ll form with them, the life you could have together, often the two of you surmounting impossible odds and dramatic situations. This may have nothing to do with the person’s actual self, but you’ll imagine it into truth. Many relationships begin this way, but you can never acknowledge aloud the extent to which your imagination has gone in this fantasy, so its alright as it only exists in your head.
This is what I thought of every time my sister revealed inklings of her secret crush on Draco Malfoy. Draco-in-Daphne’s-head was significantly more charming, talented, reasonable, kind, intelligent and handsome than real-life-Draco, who is actually a scrawny jerk who hides behind brawn and blackmail. But I think Daphne dreamed she could raise him out of this into the perfect, successful, wealthy and attractive man in her head, save him from himself and for her benefit. Hopefully she’s outgrown that outdated fantasy by now.
Second: friendship that turns into love. Being so close with a person for so long that you know all about them, the good and the bad. (Maybe, if you’re a Legilimens, you’ve even had the odd peek into their head… ahem). You love this person for the flaws that face you down every day, and you’re so close that the logical next step just seems to lean in and kiss their high, handsome cheek bone.
Case in point: Theo and I. Maybe he hasn’t figured it out yet, but I’ve known for years that someday it will just click.
Third: Sudden, unexpected attraction. The magnetic need to be close to the person all the time. When someone enters the room, jump up to see if its him. Try not to sink too far into disappointment when it’s a brassy mouthed girl from Hufflepuff. You imagine being with him, but him as he is, not as you think he should be. This is probably the most realistic and tangible of the three emotions, and the sweetest.
That was why I need to find Terry Boot and explain.
And maybe apologize.
And… maybe snog. Just once more.
But instead of the familiar black head and laughing blue eyes, I am accosted by Ginny Weasley on the way to Charms.
“Finally, you’re alone,” she complains. “Your little posse of Slytherins is really irritating. Haven’t you all heard of being independent? And, you know, alone time?”
I give her a good Daphne-inspired ice princess look. There’s practically frosting coming out my eyelashes, and my hand twitches towards my wand, just in case Ginny’s planning the return of the bat bogeys or something worse.
“Can I help you?” I say coolly.
“Maybe,” she grins. “Its about Terry B-”
“Be quiet!” I grab her arm and pull her away from an approaching crowd of third years. “You can’t just go shouting out people’s secrets like that.”
“Can I not?” she raises her eyebrows infuriatingly. “I’m pretty sure I can do whatever I like, it is a free country… at least for the time being.” I scowl and start to move away from her, but she tugs me back. “Look, I’m sorry. I just, well, for some reason Boot decided to confide in me about what happened between the two of you.”
“I know, people really like telling me their problems for some reason. If its not Neville and his Mimbulus Mimbletonia that refuses to reproduce, or Romilda Vane interrogating me about Harry, ugh, anyway, you’d think they realize I have my own issues to deal with, right? But noooo…”
“And this has what to do with me, because I have Charms and I really, really don’t fancy another detention after what happened after my last one…”
“Okay, I’ll walk you there,” Weasley says nonchalantly. Really, can this girl not take a hint? Yet…
“So, what did you want to tell me about Boot?” I ask, cool as a cucumber.
“He told me what happened with you guys and he’s pretty upset. I guess you’ve been hanging out secretly, reading or doing other geeky things together-” she laughs at the annoyed expression flitting across my face. “And he thought that you already knew and that you didn’t care. That he’s Muggleborn.”
“I didn’t know. I guess… in a way, I didn’t want to find out one way or another.”
“Yeah, and at first I was like, well she’s only a dumb Slytherin, so who cares, Terry my man? But he said that he thought you were different. That you were changing, even if its only a smile here, a kind comment there. Of course, I thought he was crazy, but I do see it, I suppose.”
I don’t like the idea of them sitting with their heads together, appraising me. I’m a daughter of Yaxley: I’m not a commodity to be improved. I’m a person!
“Anyway, so he wants to talk with you, but I think he’s still pretty mad. You know those slow to anger, slow to forgive types? Well, that’s Boot, Michael always told me Terry was like that, but I never saw it until this year. I guess nothing pissed him off enough.”
“So, you think I should talk to him?”
“Yes. That is… if he’s worth your time.” And she gives me one of those piercing, serious looks that slices deep down into my most secret wishes. I feel about to crumble, so I look away.
“Why are you being so… helpful, anyway? We didn’t exactly part on good terms, what with you hexing me and everything.”
Ginny laughs at the memory. “Yeah, about that. First of all, hazing is not only against the rules and therefore I’m allowed to attack bullies, but what you Slytherins do is cruel and unnecessary. You got what was coming to you.”
“I didn’t even want to get involved! It was the others – and you don’t understand what its like. If you don’t act, then they assume you’re weak, and they’ll come after you.”
“Whoa, and these are your friends you’re talking about?”
“Not all of them… but yeah. It’s best to just not stand out with people like us.”
Ginny nods. “I see where you’re coming from, and I believe that if it was you alone you wouldn’t have done anything, but you could have stepped down or distracted them or something. You’re not off the hook yet, lass.”
I frown. “Sorry not all of us can think that fast under pressure.” I keep myself from adding that the little Mudbloods had it coming: something tells me this is not the right thing to say, and my feelings are all muddled in my head anyway.
“I know. And Emma came and talked to me later: she said that the other ones were a lot crueler and probably would have done a lot worse than a levitation spell. So I guess, even if you didn’t know it, you were protecting her.”
“The little Ravenclaw with the toad, yes. Who, by the way, is completely fine after what that nasty girl did to him.”
I smile weakly. “Okay, well if you’re done lecturing and bossing me around and criticizing me, we’re at Charms and I’m late.”
Ginny grins and swishes her long red hair over her shoulder. “Catch you later, Greengrass.” She turns but whirls back around to face me. “Sorry, I nearly forgot, I was supposed to give you this.” And with that she heads off down the corridor.
I open up the piece of parchment she’s stuffed into my hand.
Miss Greengrass, please come to my office this evening at seven.
P.S. I enjoy Fizzing Whizbees.
At seven sharp, I step into Dumbledore’s office, a bit nervous but glad that I actually managed to find the place. Pyxis and Taurus have been sent here a couple times so they gave me some tips.
“Don’t look the bird in the eye if you’re lying, whatever you do,” Taurus had shuddered, nursing an invisible wound on his finger.
“Try not to snoop around too much when he leaves you there alone- things have a habit of jumping out at you,” Pyxis added.
Dumbledore gestures for me to take a seat on the plush armchair in front of his desk. I resist the urge to curl my legs up under me, and instead sit primly smile formally at the Headmaster. I think to myself that I’ve barely seen the old man all year.
“Miss Greengrass, how is your fourth year going?” Dumbledore asks, his eyes twinkling at me in a most disconcerting way. “Have a sweet?”
“Er, yes, thanks.”
“Good. Professor Snape in particular tells me you are doing well with Defense Against the Dark Arts, and Professor Flitwick is impressed with your Charmwork.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Dumbledore looks at me intently, but not unkindly.
“Now, Miss Greengrass, Miss Granger informs me that you were present when Katie Bell from Gryffindor had an interaction with a cursed necklace, on the path between Hogwarts and Hogsmeade.”
“Er, yes, sir. It was very frightening.” Inwardly I curse the Mudblood Granger for getting me involved in this.
“Yes, you will surely be glad to hear that Miss Bell is in St. Mungo’s and is expected to make a full recovery. Now, my dear, can you recount to me exactly what you saw that afternoon?”
Speaking slowly and carefully, I tell him, only leaving out the part when her possessed mind intruded and temporarily crippled my own. I still haven’t figured out why that happened, and until I do, I certainly won’t be confiding my weaknesses to anyone, especially as dangerous as Dumbledore.
Dumbledore nods when I have finished. “I see. And you didn’t see anyone approaching Katie Bell before the incident? Or notice any strange behavior?”
“Well, they were fighting a little, I could hear a little from where I was.”
“Yes,” Dumbledore says, “well, Miss Greengrass, we have established that poor Miss Bell had been placed under the Imperius curse, and was supposed to deliver the package containing the necklace to Hogwarts. I think I have all I need from you today, Miss Greengrass. Thank you for your time.” He smiles wearily at me.
My thoughts are filled once again with the horrible sensation of the necklace’s presence in Katie Bell’s mind, of its invasion of my own. Surely no simple material object could inflict such evil.
“Er, Professor?” I ask in a small voice. Dumbledore nods reassuringly. “I was just wondering… this is probably a silly question-”
“Trust me, my dear,” he says wryly, “I have heard many questions in my life, and a very small few could be categorized as ‘silly.’”
“Well, sir,” I continue, hardly trusting my own voice. “I was just thinking, if… its possible for objects… to have souls?”
For a moment, Dumbledore seems to freeze as he appraises me, and his eyes seem to flicker ever so slightly in the direction of the table next to his desk, where something is covered by a red cloth. It’s the slightest moment and I nearly missed it.
“My dear, I assure you, the necklace was merely subject to a very powerful Dark spell. The necklace was only ever just a necklace.” He smiles at me again, and I recognize the dismissal.
“Have a good night, sir.” As I descend the stairs and pass the gargoyle guarding his office, I chastise myself on such compliance with the enemy. Although… Snape’s words come back into my head, when he told me that I could be a spy for the Dark Lord.
After Miss Greengrass leaves his office, Albus Dumbledore puts his head in his hands wearily.
I should have been paying more attention to the Slytherins, he think to himself. He removes a small book from his robes and opens it, writing the name Astoria Greengrass beneath Pyxis Nott. The name Draco Malfoy is at the top.
It is a small list, and if he were younger, or if he did not have so many other responsibilities, then he could concentrate on each name on that list, on understanding their minds, on deciding whether it is nature, or nurture, which created their selves. If only they had been born into other families, families that would have loved their children and encouraged their goodness and cleverness, not warped their sense of trust and parental love into becoming future killing machines.
Dumbledore sighs to himself again. They are only children. Severus will have to be kept on the alert, and reminded that not only poor Draco is in danger this year. He, Albus, himself, must concentrate on Harry and teaching him about the Horcruxes, to prepare him for what must be done. If Harry can succeed, then perhaps children like Astoria Greengrass will not be forced to join the Death Eaters, because there will be no Death Eaters to join, and their innocent lives will not be tainted by killing.
Dumbledore imagines an aged Astoria reading Beedle the Bard to her grandchildren, in a world that has been at peace for decades. Her soul is unscathed, her conscience pure. This is all he wants for all of his students, and the image comforts him and reminds him of the task at hand.
Dumbledore remembers what it was like to be young, and strong, and believing that ultimate power was at your fingertips. He thinks of Astoria’s young, earnest face, how she has not yet realized the implications of the war. None of them know anything, he thinks wearily.
For the greater good – although he hates the words, they are true – Harry Potter and the Horcruxes must take all his attention now.
The creak of the top step outside his office door signifies a visitor.
Dumbledore arranges his face to clear it from worry. “Come in, Harry,” he calls merrily.
Terry Boot successfully avoids me for the rest of the two weeks leading up to the Gryffindor-Slytherin match. This, along with my memories of the evil necklace and fury of not making the Slytherin team, fuels my bad mood until even Amaris and Pyxis exchange nervous looks when around me. I notice it, but can’t be bothered to care.
Mudblood. Mudblood. The word itself seems almost crude to be on the lips of the most learned and powerful of wizards. Mud. Blood. Its painfully simple, glaringly blunt. Dirty. Blood.
Bored one afternoon, I prick my finger on my quill and watch the blood trickle down onto the parchment on which I’d been making a list of things to get done. The blood pools slowly in a tiny collection, and I stare at it, aware of how morbid and strange this would look to an outsider. My blood is pure, but it just looks dark red and salty, and darkens as it mixes with the fresh ink on the page. Swirly blood. Blackened blood.
Theo happens onto this strange display.
“What the hell are you doing, Tor?” He exclaims, tossing me a tissue from the common room table before remembering he’s a wizard and magically cleaning up the blood on the page and conjuring a plaster. I only glare back at him, making sure to appear as sullen as possible.
Finally, the day before the Quidditch match, I cave in, thinking of Ginny’s advice to apologize and try and approach Boot. The problem is, I’m not sure what to apologize for.
For being born into a family of the highest wizarding order?
For having certain standards with which to uphold myself?
With having decorum and prejudice woven into the very being of my existence?
But I can’t forget his grin, his laughter, his joy in literature and history, his calm in the face of disaster, his inherent insistence on being near me and trying to understand me, when there are dozens of other girls who are prettier and cleverer. His eyes on mine, his lips to my lips, our bodies pressed so sweetly together.
The words ringing in my ears, I pull out my special Origami paper and a quill, and scribble a message quickly, just as Amaris walks in and says they’re all going up for dinner, won’t I come out of my perma-sulk and come along?
Can we talk? I need to speak with you, for you to hear me out. These past weeks have been awful. I need my friend back. – A
Stuffing the note in my pocket, I grumpily follow and listen to the boys chatter about the match. My nerves are not quelled by the feverish jealously and annoyance as Taurus and Theo shout loudly about how great this year’s team is and they’re going to extinguish Gryffindor.
When nobody’s looking, I quickly take the note, and with a few slick folds, I am holding a tiny paper mouse in my hands. It scuttles across the floor, in the direction of the Ravenclaw table and the dark head bent over a book in its far corner, bowed and isolated from the world as Michael Corner and Anthony Goldstein throw mash at each others’ heads.
A/N: The line “the necklace was only ever just a necklace” was inspired from Harry Potter Book 6, in which Dumbledore is talking about the mouth organ. Anything else you recognize is if course the property of JK Rowling!!! Please review and let me know what you think of the Amelia Bones memory, of Ginny and Tor’s strange friendship, of Dumbledore, and of the story in general!!! I would love to hear from you!!
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