Chapter 27 : The Boy from Ravenclaw
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Terry Boot’s POV
Being awoken by Professor Flitwick at seven in the morning is the first unpleasant surprise of the day. Here I am, having a lovely dream about my adorable and ridiculously attractive secret Slytherin girlfriend when I open my eyes to see the wizened, bearded face perched up upon my four-poster, anxiously shaking me awake.
“Ah, Professor!” I squeal (yes, I am not proud of it), pulling the blankets up to cover my naked chest. It is overly warm in the dormitory since my nutter of a dormmate, Cadmus Scamander, doesn’t want his Doe-Eyed Fireflies to escape out the open window.
“Wake up, now- wait a minute!” Flitwick squeaks. “You’re not Wickham!”
“Er, no sir,” I say, confused. “He’s over there.” I point to the four poster, closed and draped in blue curtains, tucked away in the farthest corner of our dorm. Flitwick huffs and trots over to Bentley Wickham’s bed, muttering to himself about how all sixteen year old boys look the same to him. I exchange bemused looks with Michael Corner, my best friend, and his newly reinstated girlfriend Cho Chang, who have apparently been woken by my manly squeal. When Cho spies Flitwick, she darts back behind the curtains of Mikey’s bed with a panicked look on her face. I smirk.
Mikey and I watch as Bentley is woken in a similar startled fashion as myself, though he refrains from making any strange noises. He jumps out of bed and starts dressing himself in a frenzy, as Professor Flitwick exits the dorm.
“Professor, what’s going on?” I ask, not caring if my voice wakes the others sleeping in the dorm, Anthony Goldstein and Cadmus Scamander. Flitwick only smiles and shakes his head sadly.
“I’ll explain later, Boot. Go back to bed.” The tiny man leaves, and immediately Cho pokes her head back out of Mike’s bed.
“Er, Bentley?” She calls gently. “Is everything alright?”
Bentley graces her with a one-shouldered shrug and pulls on his jumper, then shoves a few things into a small bag.
“What’s happening, mate?” I ask, trying to keep my voice calm. I slide out of bed, wrapping my light blanket around my bare chest like a Superman cape (not that any of these loons would know who Superman is) and approach my friend cautiously. “Can we help you with anything? Where are you going?”
“Leave it, Boot,” Bentley mutters, then seems to come back to himself a little. “I’ll ‘splain later, alright?”
“Alright,” I say carefully, and give him a manly pat on the back, drawing back to perch on the edge of Mikey’s bed and watch Bentley pack. Within minutes he is out the door of the dorm, grunting a shifty-eyed goodbye as the dawn sun begins to trickle through the gaps in the curtains, unnaturally bright for January.
“I’ve got to get up for Quidditch practice anyway,” Cho says to no one in particular. Mikey and I exchange looks.
“We’ll find out later,” he promises, and I nod in agreement. Whatever’s going on with Bentley Wickham, it can wait. Maybe I’ll be able to catch the remnants of that beautiful dream…
“So wait, when exactly did this happen?”
Mikey and I laugh at Anthony’s blurry-eyed confusion. That kid can sleep like a rock, and the early morning wakeup was no exception.
“It was Flitwick- he woke me up thinking I was Wickham, that old bat,” I say affectionately, casting a glance at the teachers’ table, where Flitwick is engaged in a stern-faced discussion with McGonagall. “Said something to Wickham and then he got dressed and left without telling us anything.”
“Cho thought he was there to catch her,” Mikey laughs through a mouthful of toast. “Should have seen her squirm.”
“You would have gotten in trouble, too,” I tell him, but can’t quite work up the acting chops for mocking severity. I’ve known Bentley Wickham for five and a half years: he’s a good bloke, easy-going, keeps to himself. I’ve never really seen him that worked up and out of joint before. The terrible thought I refuse to grant voice rages in my mind: that something has happened to his family, the parents and cheerful little siblings who wave from a photograph on his bedside table.
“Well, hopefully we’ll find out what’s going on soon,” Anthony says thoughtfully, taking a huge sip of pumpkin juice. “Should we tell Padma, or do you think she knows already?”
I look down the Ravenclaw table where Bentley’s girlfriend of a month, Padma Patil, is chatting brightly with Leanne, her dark bangs hanging in her eyes. Leanne catches me looking and waves, which I return a little half-heartedly. It’s times like this when I wish I could talk to Tor and have her calm me down with her no-nonsense attitude, but she’s across the hall sandwiched between those Nott brothers and muttering furiously: I already took stock of her whereabouts the moment I arrived at breakfast, as I always do.
“Professor Flitwick will tell Padma,” Mike decides. “Besides, we’d probably just get her all worked up and dramatic. You know how girls are.”
Anthony and I exchange amused looks. Mike is one of my best friends, but he’s a drama queen if I’ve ever met one. Every little tribulation, whether it’s getting dumped by his girlfriend or scoring an E on an essay, is cause for a fuss. But he’s my boy, and maybe that’s why we all work so well together.
Anthony takes care of Mike, and I take care of Anthony. And Tor takes care of me, but neither of my best friends know about that yet.
I glance back at the Slytherin table. Tor looks like she's about to stab the younger Nott with her egg-laden fork. Poor bloke, I think, remembering her outburst a few days ago. I glance back at my own food quickly as Anthony clears his throat.
I do think Anthony suspects something, however. He’s noticed me looking at her, seen me writing in our communications notebook, and even caught me after meeting up with Tor, in which he suspiciously accused me of looking like a lovesick fool after returning from the kitchens: had the House Elves spiked my cauldron cakes with Amortentia? But I know Anthony would never betray my secret: after all, I’ve kept his secret for three years, and when it comes to each other we're loyal as Hufflepuffs.
After breakfast, we have Transfiguration, and finally Charms, where Professor Flitwick looks rather exhausted after his early morning wakeup calls.
“Today, class, we will be learning and practicing the Disillusionment Charm, which Dumbledore himself has suggested. This is advanced magic, folks, but nothing beyond your skills." His eyes settle on Longbottom. "Well, for most of you. Now, to start, everybody pair up.”
Mikey and I fiercely rock-paper-scissors for Anthony. Mikey beats me and goes to stand beside Anthony, looking rather pleased with himself. I knew I shouldn’t have taught these wizards the tricks of that game, the buggers.
“Well Terry, looks like we both don’t have partners!” A voice chirps a little nervously behind me, and I turn to see Padma Patil standing beside me. Her grin fades a little. “Unless you’d rather…”
“No, sounds cool, Padma,” I say, and give her a smile. She’s a cool girl, and the reason she doesn’t have a partner today is because her boyfriend vanished from Hogwarts in the early hours of the morning. Usually the spare one of our group would partner with Harry, Ron or Hermione for some old DA reunion, meaning that more often than not I get irritated to death by Hermione Granger, but it seems like Ron and Lavender Brown are still going strong, judging by the way she keeps sneaking kisses on his quickly reddening face. Hermione sends the pair a scornful glance, then turns away disdainfully towards her partner, Harry.
We watch attentively (we Ravenclaws and Hermione more attentively than others) as Flitwick demonstrates the Charm on Hannah Abbott. The poor girl looks terrified as her body slowly blends into the background as the class murmurs with excitement.
"Now remember students, the incantation is Celare!" Flitwick calls, his voice a splitting tenor. "Be sure to pronounce the incantation properly, Cel-AR-eh, for fear of putting your partner into a deep, nightmare-ridden sleep and- oh, dear..."
As Flitwick hurries over to revive Zacharias Smith as a terrifed Justin Finch-Fletchly stands over his snoring and thrashing body, I turn to Padma with a forced smile. "Shall we?"
"Oh yes," she says, and promptly taps me on the head with her wand. "Celare!" A cool, tickling sensation spreads from the crown of my head, as if someone cracked a gooey egg over my skull. Padma steps back and admires her handiwork. I'm surprised she doesn't brush her hands off in self-confident satisfaction.
"Well done, Ms. Patil," Flitwick calls from Smith's side. I glance down at where my body used to be, and for some reason my cousin Will's voice pops into my head: Now that would be useful for sneaking out, even Mum wouldn't be able to catch me! Perhaps I'm already homesick for my Muggle life, left behind for another term, for food which doesn't appear on the table but is placed in front of me (rather terrible food, in the case of Mum), and brothers who play good, wholesome football, not fluttering around on cleaning tools far too high off the ground.
"Er, Terry?" Padma asks timidly. "Where did you go?" Spotting me, she quickly whispers the counter-charm and watches as my body fades back to its regular density. "Would you like to give it a go?"
It takes me a bit longer to Disillusion Padma, a frustrating process which is not helped by Mikey and Anthony's smug commentary, having both succeeded the first time. From the flushed, pleased expression on his face I can tell that Anthony is pleased at having this close moment with Mikey, who swings a friendly arm around his shoulders, united in mocking me.
"Oh, just ignore them, Terry," Padma says, rolling her eyes. She grabs my arm, her skin cool and smooth, and tugs me out of earshot.
"Now," she says, eyes bright. "I'm probably going to get in trouble, but I wanted to talk to you about Leanne."
I try to fight the blush which stains my treacherous cheeks, but feel them grow hot anyway. While Leanne and I dated on and off for a while last year, I haven't spoken with her since that morning after the Slug Club Christmas party when she caught me walking up to the Owlery. Has she been speculating, the way girls love to do, with Padma? I can't exactly defend myself by saying I'm currently pretty caught up with a certain girl from Slytherin.
"Oh, and why is that?" I ask, hoping my voice sounds innocent. The last thing I need is Padma telling Leanne that I seemed interested. Although I am a little curious.
"Well, I just think it would be so cute if you guys got together again," Padma says conspiratorially. "You know, she's been so lonely since Katie's accident, and I think she likes you. She's always looking at you, and she jumps whenever you come into the common room: it's dreadfully adorable."
"Oh, er..." I concentrate on watching Draco Malfoy tapping his wand on Theo Nott's sunken, sallow head. The dark-headed Slytherin has his typical expression of having smelt something rather nasty as he avoids Malfoy's eyes. He looks wretched and ridiculous. God, I hate that kid.
"And then we could all double-date! You're friends with Bentley, yeah?" Padma whispers excitedly, then snaps as she realizes something. "Wait, don't tell her I told you any of this, right? Promise?"
"Promise," I tell her, both amused and a little freaked out, and watching Pansy Parkinson march up to Malfoy, a determined expression on her face and her chest stuck out. To be fair, it's a decently sized chest, but the smug, dopey expression on Parkinson's face is enough to ruin the effect. I wonder if this is how Tor acts around her girl friends: all excitable and giggly and lovestruck. Somehow, I can't imagine it. Astoria Greengrass is far too sarcastic and serious to be those things. Although she does giggle a lot when I succeed in tickling her...
I snap out of these dangerous daydreams and bring my attention back to Padma, realizing she still hasn't questioned her boyfriend's absence from Charms. And Bentley Wickham lives up to every Ravenclaw stereotype. He is nothing if not punctual: he even escaped from the hospital wing and came to class in third year when being quarantined for dragon pox! Needless to say, the classroom emptied very quickly. Yet this girl is still chattering away. Perhaps her eagerness to set Leanne and I up is sent to cover something else: a permeating, internalized fear that haunts us all if we stall long enough to confront it, the acknowledgement that everything is not alright.
"Mr. Boot, Ms. Patil, that doesn't look like practicing!" Flitwick chirps from across the room, perched upon his desk. His voice amplifies. "Remember, students, just because this lesson was specially requested by the Headmaster does not mean the spell won't appear on your N.E.W.T.s!" He sing songs this last, clearly happy to be striking the fear of exams into our already packed heads. I shrug at Padma, and raise my wand once again, occupied with the activity of making her disappear.
The week seems to pass without incident, although something is going on with the Slytherins. Parkinson, Tor's sister, and the other older Slytherin girls are constantly whispering and giggling to themselves, in a way that makes my skin curl. Almost more unnerving is the lack of hazing and bullying which has replaced their usual routines of catching students, especially Muggleborns, alone in the castle. Either they've tired of it, or grown up, or found a better target. Or else they're scheming for something big.
Anthony talks worriedly of a group of Slytherins he broke up while patrolling. He disbanded the group easily enough, saying it was nearly curfew, but was sure he caught wands being retracted and knowing looks being exchanged. The group, a medley group made up of some of the nastier known bullies, seemed excited, their whispers turning their eyes to the cruel slits of predators.
However, I find myself defending the Slytherins when Anthony brings this up, claiming that they're not all bad, often just mislead or grouped in with a nasty and prominent minority. Michael frowns and looks uncomfortable to these revelations, though Anthony seconds me, a knowing smile spreading across his face. I may not be an Occlumens, but I can practically hear his thoughts in my head: I knew it! Boot's in love.
Tor herself seems distracted whenever we find a moment to meet up. She asks me the same question multiple times without waiting to absorb the answer, and dark circles bloom beneath her eyes. Whenever I ask her what's going on with the Slytherins she changes the subject, assuring me that all is fine and good. She has stopped showing me her essays to check over, though I sneak a Potions paper out of her bag, horrified at its contents, which seems mostly copied from Potions and Brews for Dummies. Really, she's got her OWLs coming up next year, this is not the time to be distracted. I prevent myself from telling her so, opting to let her come to me when she's ready.
Michael and Cho get more serious, Anthony becomes more melancholy, Cadmus Scamander's Doe-Eyed Fireflies shudder and die, and there is still no word from Bentley Wickham and his strange disappearance before the dawn.
Muggle Studies lessons have been cancelled since the holidays, a fact which seems insignificant to me until running into Hermione Granger in the library. She slides into the seat across from me, dumping a pile of books with an uncharacteristically bitter thump, drawing the annoyed attention of the first year Emma Turbine and her friends who are frantically poring over a book on Levitation spells.
"Alright?" I greet Hermione, who smiles grimly at me.
"I've got a Potions essay to finish, three rolls of parchment on Inferi, not to mention one roll of Runes to translate..." I let her drag on, contentedly making an organized list of how to best attack said Potions essay. "...and you haven't even started, have you, Terry? You're just as bad as Harry and-" She shuts her mouth like a clam, flustered.
"I work well under pressure," I shrug, opening up a library book that creaks in protest. I pull the book on the top of her stack towards me, which seems to resist being tugged across the wooden library table.
“Of Darke Arte Most Vile? May I ask what Potion essay required raiding the depths of the Restricted Section?”
“It’s for research,” Hermione snaps, though she blushes and hides the book under an Ancient Runes text. I swear I hear the ancient book give a wicked little sigh.
"Er, okay,” I reply, deciding to change the subject. “How've you been, anyway?"
"Oh, fine I suppose," Hermione sighs, tugging a roll of parchment out of her stuffed bag. Her eyes dart along the lines, quicker than any normal human should be able to read and absorb information. "Terry, have you been to see Professor Burbage yet?"
"Is she in the castle?" I ask, taken by surprise. I'd assumed that she was on holiday, since classes have been cancelled. Hermione smiles grimly.
"I saw her name on the Marau -well, I saw that she was in the castle," she amends hastily. "I'd wondered why class was canceled, see, but I think maybe you should go and speak with her. She's not too fond of me, you know."
I shrug, surprised that Hermione could be that perceptive. Honestly, I think Burbage finds her annoying and a know-it-all, though she tolerates her with a gritted mouth and friendly tone. Honestly, if I didn't know Hermione from the DA I'd probably still agree. Swiftly, I remember that Hermione is also Muggleborn, and that we don't take Muggle Studies for the sake of an easy O. It's a reminder of what we could have learned had we not been sent letter from Hogwarts, a little piece of a childhood home encased in this magical, sometimes foreign realm.
"Anyway, at least it's one less class to study for!" I chirp up, and don't blame Hermione for rolling her eyes and burying her face into Great Potioneers of the Twentieth Century.
The next day, in fact, I take Hermione's advice and find myself knocking on Professor Burbage's office. At a muffled greeting, I swing open the door gently, a broad plank of rich wood which greets me cheerfully in a friendly voice, and find Burbage seated by the window, a bunch of papers clutched to her chest.
Usually put together so neatly, the Professor looks awful. Her hair is unwashed, an unhealthy yellow sheen coating her sunken cheeks. She is dressed for the cold, though the office is smelly and stifling, a wool sweater wrapped tightly around her. She looks up and smiles as I enter, a forced kind of affair.
"Ah, Terry, nice to see you, dear." She inclines her head towards a brightly painted blue chair, and feeling quite awkward I sit down, reminded suddenly of a shrink addressing a patient on a Muggle sitcoms.
"Professor, I've been wondering if you were alright," I begin, a little guilty that it was Hermione who reminded me about her. We've gotten along quite well since I started Muggle Studies in third year, and I feel a rush of compassion for this sad woman. "Are you... sick, or something? Is there anything I can do?"
"You're very sweet," Burbage murmurs, her round eyes filling with tears. She wipes her eyes on her sleeve, leaving black makeup smears on the fraying wool. "I'm sorry I haven't been there for you children, I just couldn't bear it."
"Can I help with anything at all?" I press, glancing around the office for a teapot or something to make this less uncomfortable. "If there's anything I can do, really, Professor..." Catastrophic ideas race through my mind of physical maiming, impersonation through Polyjuice Potion (of which Hogwarts has a history), pregnancy... hopefully she won't want to confide to me about that last one.
Slowly, Professor Burbage seems to compose herself. She flicks her wand at the cupboard, from which a kettle spins out and begins boiling on her desk. Two teacups rattle out on saucers, and place themselves on either side of her desk. Wearily, slowly, Burbage untangles her round frame from the window seat, and carefully places her body down in the seat across from me at her desk, where she has sat every other time I’ve come to chat.
“Terry, do you remember my… my friend, Margaret?” She asks, the weight of a terrible truth in her voice. I nod.
“The magazine publisher, yeah? Margaret Macauley?” I remember the warm-eyed woman, chatting animatedly with Astoria and making a proud smile bloom across her thin cheeks: the woman who wrote fiery articles in defense of Muggleborn and Muggle rights, who joked about a man called Dawlish asking her out at Hogwarts.
A tiny sob bubbles up in Burbage’s throat. “Yes, she was a dear, dear friend… but Terry, she… she died over the holidays. On New Years Eve. She was murdered by You-Know-Who’s followers. They found her the next morning, New Years Day, in a snowy field, with the Dark Mark blazing overhead.” She buries her face in her hands, unable to face my realization of this tragic fact.
Firm blue eyes and a kind handshake flash in my mind as I bid goodbye to the barely-known soul of Margaret Macauley, almost-stranger, dead before her time. Then I return my focus to the living, to this broken-hearted, broken woman in front of me.
“I’m so sorry, Professor,” I whisper, not knowing what to say, not wanting to leave her to her misery. “That is just terrible… I’m sorry.”
We sit in silence for a time, as the flow of Charity Burbage’s grief flows and subsides, a bitter tide beating against unsympathetic shores. The tea goes cold. In the hall, someone walks by whistling an old Muggle nursery-rhyme.
Finally, Burbage seems to steel herself, raising her face to meet my stare again. She smiles, a weak, trembling sort of thing. “How are things going with you and Astoria, dear?” She asks, voice growing from an unhappy croak to something stronger.
I blush. I can’t help myself. “Er, who says there’s anything going on?” I try to kid, though it sounds weak even to my own ears. Is it really that obvious, even to teachers?
She smiles, sadly, reading my expression. “I’ve seen the way you look at her, dear. Take my advice and cling onto love, for you never know when it could be taken from you. Sweet little thing, your Astoria. You do well together.” Her eyes are worlds away, and I suddenly feel quite sure that she’s seeing not Tor and I, but two other young people who might never meet again.
“I should get going, Professor,” I say, checking the time. “I have Potions. If there’s anything I can do, you must let me know.” I make sure she’s paying attention. “Really.”
“Thank you, Terry,” Burbage says a little dreamily, her hand absently stirring the hour-old, sugarless tea. As I turn to go, she says one more thing which sets goose bumps traveling up my spine.
“I was there that night, you know. I left before midnight. We had quarreled. If I’d stayed…had I known…” She does not cry. Her face is strong. “But I would have been paralyzed with fear. I wouldn’t have been ready to die.”
“Nor I, Professor,” I whisper, and take my leave from that sad place.
The news of the death of Margaret Macauley continues to grind on my mind. I can’t bring myself to tell Michael or Anthony, though they can tell something’s wrong. The news makes the war seem so much more real, that You-Know-Who is a true force out there, waiting for those of us who let down our guard like Margaret. I find myself wondering how she died, in a shameful sort of fascination. Did they torture her, reveling in her screams of agony? Was it a single blast of green light that cut short her life, or something more barbaric and cruel? Did they enjoy it, the bastards?
My fists clench, the hand around my wand growing sweaty, as Anthony and I walk through the halls after supper. He’s convinced me to join him on his Prefect patrols, being unable to find his usual partner, Padma, who has made herself scarce. Inwardly, I’m wishing I could find Tor and burden her with the knowledge of the death, have her share my horror and hatred before this fear bubbles through and changes me.
“Terry?” Anthony nudges me from my thoughts. “What’s wrong, mate? Are you worried about Wickham?”
“A little,” I concede, though in truth Bentley Wickham’s departure has been stored in the back of my mind since Burbage’s announcement. I just really need to talk to Tor. “So how long do we have to patrol for?”
“The sixth floor corridor and area around the hospital wing, we’ll be finished by half-nine,” Anthony replies promptly. I remember being a little jealous when he was chosen as the Prefect for our year, but all that has been forgotten. Really, he’s the perfect Prefect (so to speak), and this way I have much more time for my other pursuits. He has an ingrained nobility and respect for the rules that I would have never been able to match: I’d rather be brewing Polyjuice Potion in my spare time.
“And what happens if we find troublemakers?” I ask drily. “Incur the Goldstein wrath and give them detention? Hey, if you give them detention, do you have to supervise the detention yourself? ‘Cause that’s just brutal.”
“Prefects can’t administer detentions, only teachers,” Anthony replies smartly, ducking as Peeves whizzes past holding what looks like half Hagrid’s colony of Flobberworms. We turn a corner sharply, and my nearsighted eyes identify a shapeless mass of people gathered at the other end of the corridor.
“Excellent,” Anthony mutters evilly to himself, cracking his knuckles. I pick up the pace to keep up with him, although I’m fairly sure it’s not half-nine yet and therefore curfew isn’t even implemented.
“Er, mate, you don’t even know they’re up to something…”
“Oh, they’re up to something,” he mutters, and I notice that the students are wearing green and silver ties. “Oi, you lot!”
A few of the Slytherins turn, faces in shadow, then nudge each other and disappear around the corner. His smile faded, Anthony begins to skim the ground and I follow. And the sight we find is not pretty.
On the ground, covered in bleeding boils, are three students. Their faces are obscured by the great magical growths but the size indicates that they can’t be older than second year. A dead toad lies on the ground, and a quick glance lets me know that this is Emma Turbine’s creature, the young Seer in first year Ravenclaw who was raised by Muggles.
Only two Slytherins remain by the time we reach them, and I hear Anthony silently cursing to himself that the rest got away. Shrouded by the flickering candles, the two girls are holding their wands to each others’ faces, ugly expressions twisting their features. With a start, I recognize the long dark ponytail of one as being my own Tor Greengrass, and feel a sinking in my stomach at her involvement.
“Terry, see to the kids,” Anthony mutters in a low voice, and I bend down at Emma and her friends’ sides. He stalks towards Tor and the other girl, Prefect badge glinting, and I wince as he shouts Expelliarmus! and disarms one or the other. I silently hope it wasn’t Tor: clearly she isn’t in the wrong with whatever’s going on. Someone starts yelling, a fierce female voice.
“You’re going to be alright,” I murmur, trying to maintain my concentration on the Stunned first years. I hold my wand to the mass of pus which I’m pretty sure is Emma. “Rennervate.” Her eyes blink, filling with fearful tears. “It’s okay,” I whisper again, keeping one eye on Anthony and the girls from Slytherin. He has his wand pointed at the girl who isn’t Tor, a malicious gleam in her eyes like a cornered animal, and appears to be speaking strictly. I carefully waken the second first year, giving him a soothing smile, then move onto the third. His eyes stare blankly at the wall. Tor is refusing to look at me.
“Dirty blood traitor,” the girl from Slytherin hisses at Anthony, and though I can’t see him I can practically hear him rolling his eyes. Real original, sweetheart.
“Rennervate,” I repeat, a little more worriedly. The spell soaks into the third child on the floor, but his eyes remain blank. Frantic, I hover my hand over his mouth. No breath tickles the skin.
“Anthony!” I cry, not caring that he’s in the middle of subduing a student. “Hey! This kid isn’t breathing!” My voice seems to crack in its helplessness. Memories of watching hospital TV dramas are running through my head. Beside me, still coming to her senses, Emma Turbine begins to sob.
Anthony hesitates, unsure of whether to help me or cling onto the people responsible. How could he know what to do in these situations? “Take him to the hospital wing, now!” He shouts back. “Hurry, Terry!”
I am already scooping the boy into my arms: he weighs next to nothing, a hollow-boned, unmoving bird. Cradling his head in the crook of my shoulder I begin to run down the corridor which will lead me to Madame Pomfrey in moments, hardly pausing when I think I hear Tor’s voice floating behind me, perhaps in the wake of my confused mind, a senseless, desperate call. I’m so sorry, Terry. Hurry up and save him.
An hour later finds me seated in Professor McGonagall’s classroom, across from the Heads of Gryffindor, Ravenclaw and Slytherin. Professor Dumbledore, it seems, is apparently travelling. Beside me, Anthony straightens importantly and Tor fidgets. Padma Patil the prefect has materialized, and perches on the other side of Anthony.
“So Madam Pomfrey said Gale will be just fine, Boot?” McGonagall demands sharply, her eyes piercing mine. I nod, grateful that the tiny, Muggleborn boy did not die in my arms.
“She cast a few spells… I’m not sure exactly what she did. But he’s breathing now, still unconscious. She says one of the hexes they used collapsed his lung… there was internal bleeding.” The fragments of words sound weak even to my own ears. Anthony glances at me, I see his profile from the corners of my eyes. Tor is rigid, her hands twisted in her lap, eyes examining the phoenix paperweight on McGongall’s desk.
“So let’s clarify,” Flitwick peeps up, his merry face unusually serious beneath the fraying white beard. “You, Goldstein, were patrolling with Boot – yes, I’ll speak with you later, Ms. Patil – when you saw a commotion at the end of the hall. The culprits ran off, and you can’t recall any of the faces, except for Ms. Greengrass and Ms. Avery.” Anthony and I nod.
“You found three first years in bad condition on the ground, and rushed them to the hospital wing immediately,” McGonagall summarizes, her head inclining slightly in my direction. I think back to those two scared, awake faces, who even now are hopefully peering through the curtains around their beds to watch their sleeping friend, the boy who couldn’t breathe. They said his name was Gale.
McGonagall continues. She seems determined to ignore the Slytherin girl, Avery. “You found these two girls, apparently dueling.”
I hear Tor’s voice chiming again in my head, as it seemed to when I ran away with the boy Gale in my arms. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was trying to stop them. You have to believe me. Her face is tight: that familiar mouth that I’ve kissed, those hands, small against the contours of my own.
“Ms. Greengrass claims she was trying to stop the hazing, that it had gone too far. When she stepped in and the boys approached, the other… bullies disappeared.” Flitwick explains. On his left, Snape nods, his eyes emptily assessing both Tor and the Avery girl.
“Ms. Greengrass,” McGonagall cuts in, “can you tell us who the others were? Let me assure you, there will be serious consequences for all involved. A boy could have … could have died tonight, no matter the intentions.” She leans forward, dark eyes intent. “Can you give us the names?”
Tor hesitates. She twirls a strand of dark hair around her finger, a nervous gesture I recognize well. I want to seize her hand and kiss it. “The others…” Phin Flix. Wendell Skin. Griz Goyle. Pansy Parkinson. Amaris Harris. Pyxis Nott. Taurus O'Halloran, before he ran. She swallows, a loud, awkward sound. “I don’t remember. I’m sorry. It all happened so fast. Demetria was the ring-leader, I just went straight at her.” The girl, Demetria, gives her a glare that could melt ice. Traitor, it seems to say.
McGonagall glances at Snape, who gives her a tiny nod. His face is impassive, unreadable. He is a man of no emotion, who gives nothing away for free. Tor settles, her presence warm beneath my side. I resist the urge to put a comforting arm around her, after being through such an ordeal.
“Very well,” McGonagall says, rising to her feet. “Ms. Avery, you will come into my office, now. The rest of you, please wait here.” She gives us, and particularly Tor, a stern look. The girl, Demetria Avery, seethes angrily, following the three teachers into the slender door leading to McGonagall’s office. I turn to look at Tor, but she has already moved herself to the other corner of the room, staring at her hands, back facing me.
“Crazy stuff, isn’t it?” Anthony mutters, while Padma sighs a little weepily.
“It’s just so awful that these things happen in Hogwarts,” she murmurs. “It may be cowardly but I’m glad I wasn’t there, Anthony. I would have panicked and just made a mess of things.”
“I wish I could remember the other faces of those bastards,” Anthony says bitterly. I nod in agreement. “Maybe they’re extracting it from that Avery girl now.”
“I doubt it,” Padma shoots back. “They’re thick as thieves, that lot. I don’t think any of them could go back to Slytherin House after having sold out the others.”
“Don’t think she’ll be going back any time soon,” I mutter. Anthony smirks despite himself, and gestures towards Tor’s turned back. She looks frail and sad in the darkened light of the classroom, and I fight the urge to run to her and pull her to me, tell her everything will be alright.
“Reckon that one’s telling the truth?” Anthony whispers. I bristle as I see Tor tense.
“I believe her,” I snap, and Padma and Anthony give me a strange look. In my head, I hear Tor’s voice. Thank you. I won’t prove you wrong.
A short time later, Demetria Avery returns, closely followed by Professor Flitwick.
“Goldstein, Patil, you will escort Ms. Avery to the Entrance Hall, where a coach is waiting to take her to Hogsmeade,” he squeaks. “The Slytherin prefects are… otherwise indisposed. Boot, Ms. Greengrass, you may return to your Houses.” He gives Tor a sort of pitying look, as if worried for her treatment by her housemates. A protective, fierce wave engulfs me as I look at her again. Flitwick returns to the office, shutting the door tightly behind him.
Tor turns defiantly to her fellow Slytherin. She sneers, an ugly expression I’ve never seen on her face before.
“Well, you’ve gotten what’s coming. I’d love to say I’ll miss you, but…” She shrugs her shoulders, taunting the other girl.
"You think you're so high and mighty," the Avery girl snarls, her cunning, sharp voice cutting close. "You think you're immune and safe, but you can bleed like the rest of us." I watch Tor to see if she knows what this crazy Slytherin is on about. Instead she remains silent, pale face drawn and serious.
"Nothing to say?" Avery asks, and she looks at the floor, as if considering spitting on Tor's feet. Tor avoids my gaze, denying any union or companionship between us even in the last moments of this fierce girl as a Hogwarts student. Anthony looks uneasy, unsure of how a prefect should act in this situation which seems to transcend the limits of Hogwarts, ranging past the foundations of a personal feud, stretching into an enmity embedded in blood and social order itself.
"You are filth, and you disgrace our House," Tor says finally, each word chilled and biting as if dipped in a lake of ice. She speaks slowly, as if imprinting every word with a poker of frozen glass. "It is you, Demetria, who will never amount to any glory, only continue to burn and fail in the shadows of the rest of us."
"Us? Tor, who is us?" I ask quietly, but she is beyond hearing me now. There is nobody in the room but Astoria Greengrass and Demetria Avery, both dark-haired and lean, both pale-faced, Slytherins, yet worlds apart.
Demetria only smiles, the madness inbred into her showing it's ugly face beneath her fine, porcelain features. She, unlike Tor, has recognized the confusion and desperation in my question, the terrible truth which I was never meant to know. And she has no higher desire than to be the catalyst to that destruction.
"Go cry to your Daddy, then," she says softly. "See what he says about blood traitors, if you'll still be his precious little darkling. You are weak, and when the Dark Lord realizes this, he'll punish you and your Daddy as well. Does your little Mudblood toy even know the truth about your father? So much for the mighty House of Yaxley."
"I think we should go," Padma says uneasily, and Demetria does not fight this time, giving one last angry toss of her hair over her shoulder as she follows the prefects through the door. Anthony gives me a puzzled look, glancing back at the girl who I have kissed and wondered at and admired and nearly loved for the past half year. She looks back at me with bright, dark eyes, as much a stranger to me as she is to Anthony.
"Are you going to tell me what that was all about?" I ask, voice cracking. "Surely, that girl, Avery, was just trying to cause trouble? Your father isn't a Death Eater, because you wouldn't lie to me about something like that." I am on the edge of pleading with her, of drawing out the best of all possible truths. We are alone in this vaulting room. "Please, I know it isn't true."
No answer. Instead, she runs from me. And in this moment, I don’t know her mind at all.
Phew, another ridiculously long chapter! Let me know what you think of Terry’s POV, do you feel that you know him a little better now? Did you like Anthony and Michael? Where did Bentley go? What about Margaret Macauley's death? She was sort of created to die... I did get her name off a tombstone, after all! Any predictions for what will happen? Superman is the property of DC Comics. The "For Dummies" books belong to IDG Books/Hungry Minds.
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