Chapter 28 : The Slytherins Unleashed
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You asked about how I was treated at Hogwarts when I came out – if you will – to my friends about being with my Ted. As I remember it, the whole school thought I was Slytherin through and through. My middle sister was as dark as they come: a brilliant girl, she was, but utterly convinced and fiercely passionate about pureblood values and blood supremacy. Really, she frightened me years before with her radical views. Ted thinks that seeing her transform into a creature of hate, of exclusion, helped show me that what we had been raised to believe was so filthy, so wrong.
Remember things were different then, when the Dark Lord was a small threat on the horizon, an extremist nobody truly believed would come to power. The Slytherins were different then, less unified than I hear they are today. None of us were being groomed as future Death Eaters; we were expected to make a good match and continue the pureblood lines of our parents. When I fell in love with Ted I lost many friends, the love of my family included, but there were a few who made the effort to look past my exclusion. They were true friends, and if your friends love you as dearly as you deserve, then they will support you as well. Perhaps they will even begin to change as you have.
Leaving the mentality and expectations of a pureblood Slytherin behind will also expose you to good folk you might have overlooked: honest friends who will fight for what they believe is good and right, and who will include you in that dream as well. Being a true Slytherin is not solely about blending in with the pack, about supporting the powerful in suppressing the weak, about blood or soil. We were Sorted for a reason beyond our families: we will do what is best to save ourselves and those we love; we will fight with tooth and nail, through wrong and right, to achieve our ambitions. We are sly, and clever, and cunning, but we need not hide behind the stereotypes of our House for an easier life.
I know you have many choices to make: we all do, young and old, and even the love for another is not enough on it’s own. I hope I have helped, my dear.
Despite sharing a dormitory with Demetria Avery for nearly four years, I knew next to nothing about her true nature. I never wasted my time thinking about her, in fact, choosing the more vocal target Griz Goyle as an obvious enemy. But Demetria had been growing in popularity, her quiet, quick sarcasm and devious maliciousness an attractive quality to those members of Slytherin House who thrived on forcing those around them to admit their inferiority.
I never thought Demetria would be the one to drive the wedge in the relationship between Terry and I, the nail in the coffin of a relationship that was doomed since its inception. I never thought to see her at the head of a throng, taunting and punishing Taurus, the handsome, collected boy we had all admired. The sly look that sidled across her features as the words blood traitor left her lips. They were all involved: Wendell Skin and his friends Harper and Urquhart, Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode, Phin, even Pyxis played his part. Even I, in my silence, was a perpetrator. But that would not happen until later in the week. First, there was the first years attack.
The quiet, hidden hazing had boiled to a head when a troupe of my housemates met three young Muggleborns in the halls, deigning to practice some spells intended for much juicier, more experienced. I think, now, my cohorts were growing bolder, confident in the rise of the Death Eaters many of us claimed as parents, some ambitious students even planning to join up as soon as they hit graduation, filled with that boastful jubilation which had so often consumed myself as well, before this year. Before Terry.
Perhaps I would have been like them, like Demetria and Phin and Skin and the others, eager to show off my powers and the will to use them to hurt others with little thought for the consequences. Or, perhaps I would have someday been the body without breath, the child who nearly died, unrecognizable beneath the hexes from a dozen wands, had I not stumbled upon them at that very moment. Perhaps it would have been clever to laugh, or to run, but my mind was frayed and their intentions seeped in, crude, barbaric thoughts invading my head and cleansing it of sense or reason. Had Terry Boot and his friend not appeared at the opportune moment, not so far from the secret room where we always met, I may have been the one in the hospital wing. Worse, I would have had to explain to my father why the other Slytherins I had so often counted among my friends chose to maliciously hex me, who had always been a great companion, even a leader among them.
Someone will catch us! I had said. You must stop at once, or the teachers will punish you. Stop, stop, stop. The quick cover up, trying to convince them I was still on the right side, not defending the useless, helpless little Mudbloods, is probably what saved me face.
As it were, the common room has quickly become a hostile place. They are uncertain how to treat me, this almost-traitor among their midst. Little love is lost for Demetria: her belongings have been cleared and she will be forgotten, another cruel mind in a long string of them. She is only the scapegoat, and just as she did not succeed in taking me down with her I let the other culprits remain as well, gracefully keeping silent.
The evening after the incident finds me, Astoria, in a state of awkward disgrace. Amaris bravely comes to sit with me in the common room, whispering about how much she likes being Wendell Skin's girlfriend and her high marks in Charms and other mundane things. We do not discuss the incident which led to Demetria’s expulsion, or her involvement. We do not dwell on the fact that Taurus has not been seen at Hogwarts in days, yet the whole house is still whispering about him. Finally, unable to handle the Hippogriff in the room, I snap at her.
"Are you going to bring up what happened last night or not?" I hiss, fighting the sudden urge to yank a lock of her long blond hair. Amaris blinks back at me, blue eyes innocent and offended. Perched on my shoulder, Lancelot the Pygmy Puff hums in happy oblivion.
"I have nothing to say."
"A kid almost died, Amaris. Our dormmate is expelled. And you were part of it."
"You think you're so above me," she whispers back, finally seeming to crack. "Oh, Astoria with her secrets and her Death Eater daddy and her morals. You do know that people are talking about you, right? You should be thanking me for even bothering to stick by you."
"I'm so bloody grateful," I say bitterly. Her smooth, pale face hardens.
"You might want to watch your mouth," Amaris tells me, gathering her things and turning away. "I know for a fact the others are suspicious, whispering things about you, saying perhaps you don't share the same values, perhaps you're even willing to oppose them. I'd watch your back too, for that matter." She gives me a look of pitying hatred and turns away, strutting out of the common room. Lancelot nuzzles my ear, and I reach up to stroke him with a protective hand.
After the muttered fight, the common room seems more tense, other Slytherins who I recognize as those who helped me with the prank on Griz, as Pyxis and Theo Nott's best friend, giving me wary stares. The Notts themselves have seamlessly avoided me all day, Theo under the guise of Quidditch practice and Pyxis seeming to melt into the walls of Hogwarts. I cannot shake the sense of coming catastrophe, of the walls closing in to entrap me in this hostile place that can turn against a person overnight.
Giving up on the mundane distraction of studying, I climb up to the dormitory and deposit Lancelot in his cage, then lie down and curl into my pillow. Across the room, Demetria's belongings have disappeared, the empty, stripped four-poster the only indication that a fourth girl once lived and slept here.
With Demetria gone, the secret of Terry and I appears to be safe, at least for now. But how could she have known? Did she follow me on one of those quiet escapes, staking out the secret room until he emerged? Or was it simply the way I looked to him, as he charged around the corner to my rescue. Did she see me restrain myself from running into his arms, the subtle placement of my body between the Ravenclaw boy and Demetria's wand should she turn her fury towards him? If I never know how she found out, at least the secret should stay buried, and keep Terry safe.
Terry. Our communication notebook remains blank at both ends, though I've picked up my quill several times to try and reach out to him. But what to say when he has seen me at my worst, in the element of the Slytherins, and found out the crucial secret I have kept from him during our entire relationship. If he doesn't hate me yet, he will when he discovers it is true. I know, because sometimes I hate myself.
From his perch, suspended from the board of Griz's bed, Xavier the shrunken head grins at me, tiny, hollowed eyes bright and wicked, skin tumbling in leather folds, dead grin an eerie warning. Irritated, I march over to Demetria's empty bed and grab a naked pillow, hurling it at Xavier. He twitters and screams in a hoarse voice as he spins round and round.
And Phin. After three and a half years of convenient friendship, what do I really know about Phineas Flix, named for his ancestors and pride beating in his blood? What I know of Phin is through reflections: the way Pyxis acts around him, the fear in Taurus when he thought of his secret being spread to the Slytherins, the snide remarks, calm, plotting looks, the thirst to prove himself in the eyes of the older Slytherins. Perhaps in him, my own self is reflected.
And Amaris. Ever ambitious, ever cunning, always out for herself and whoever cares to come along for the ride. Does she truly enjoy the company of Skin, or merely the prestige and comfort of having a popular Slytherin boyfriend? Does she truly care for me as a friend, or only as a mischievous ally and partner in crime, a comrade chosen for my family connections and aiding her in climbing the ladder of the Ministry? Do I truly know the girl behind the large blue eyes and locks of blond hair, who has giggled with me so many times over our childish secrets since coming to Hogwarts?
And then there is Pyxis, who I saw curse a first year with my own eyes, a malicious, tricky curse which his father taught both of us, and I cannot say or not whether it was this curse, fired in the heat of the moment, which caused such strain and damage on the small Muggleborn boy. These are the Slytherins of my year, my equals, my cohorts, yet I see through their pale masks of skin into the rottenness beneath. As the days turn into a miserable week I find myself distanced more and more, from the silence surrounding Amaris and Griz’s beds in the dormitory to my quiet isolation in the common room. I cannot even judge whether it is they who are rejecting me, or me rejecting them.
Tuesday finds me sitting in Transfiguration pretending to take notes on McGonagall’s lecture about the invention and visualization of spells and the evolution of wand movements throughout Britain in the eighteenth century. I am sitting in the back, beside a Gryffindor girl with a dark, shining braid tickling the frayed wood of the desk while she meticulously ties a large bow around a generous box of Chocolate Cauldrons. Scribbled in place of her class notes are large clusters of hearts drawn around pairs of initials: R.V+H.P. 4ever Fighting the urge to roll my eyes, though slightly jealous that she has the freedom to write her love’s name on parchment and set it out for all to see, I turn to my own roll of parchment and the unopened textbook in front of me.
A few rows ahead, Pyxis’ and Amaris’ heads, dark and light in turn, seem to stare back at me as I glare at them hatefully. Catching McGonagall’s stern eye, I return to my notes and dip my quill into the dark, dripping ink, writing my name with a flourish across the top of the parchment.
Astoria Greengrass-Yaxley. A name of looping letters, fine angles and curves. Given to me at birth, a name that commands respect and admiration. But who am I, really? Who is the real Astoria?
Slytherin. I decipher the word with my finest handwriting, paying extra care to the great, swooping S.
Daughter. Sister. Friend.
Student. Occlumens. Brunette. Pale. English. Londoner. Witch. Pureblood. Fifteen. I dip my quill again. The words of my identity begin to fill the page, creating a kaleidoscope of ink.
Book lover. Blue eyes. Fourth-year. Prankster. Clever. Protective.
Who am I, really?
Best friend. Family. Daughter. Slytherin. McGonagall’s voice and the scratching of quills continues beneath the roar within my head. Nobody knows what I write on this bit of parchment. Nobody can know what I feel inside the gates of my own head.
Fighter. Lover. Pureblood.
These final two words may as well have been written in blood red ink. They stand, apart from the rest of my list, angry and truthful. I dared to love a Muggleborn. I defended enemies of the purebloods against a group of my own. I am no worthy Slytherin: I am as low as filth, as the dirt beneath the shoes of great wizards, or even worse, since I myself chose to belittle and ruin myself. Perhaps it is time to accept it.
A shadow looms over my desk, and instinctively I pull my parchment towards me, concealing the incriminating words with my palm. I glance up into the stern eyes and tight, dis-approving face of Professor McGonagall.
“Class has been dismissed, Ms. Greengrass.” I glance around: sure enough, the others are assembling their things, chatting happily against themselves. Pyxis’ dark back faces me as he mutters something in Phin’s ear, the latter smirking.
“Yes, cheers, Professor,” I stammer. “I was just collecting my thoughts.”
For a moment, the old bat’s eyes are almost softer, pitying. The curved witch’s hat perched on her head casts a longer shadow on my desk as she moves into the light.
“Please stay behind a moment, Ms. Greeengrass. I trust Mr. Nott will be willing to convey to Professor Snape the message that you will be arriving a few minutes late to his class.” She says this last bit in a slightly raised voice, and Pyxis turns and nods abruptly with a murmured “Yes, Professor,” before turning and following the rest of our classmates from the room.
I clear my throat nervously as Professor McGonagall moves to the front of the room and seats herself in her chair. Deciding to follow, I shove my things into my bookbag and advance clumsily to the front of the room, standing in front of her.
“Ms. Greengrass, I feel it my duty to inform you that I am concerned for your performance in my class these past few months,” McGonagall begins. “Your concentration in class, and performance both in practical Transfiguration as well as written assignments has slipped dramatically, and I fear the distractions in your personal life are taking a toll on your academic success.” She examines me sharply, and I feel heat rising in my cheeks.
“Er, how poorly am I performing, Professor?”
McGonagall scans a sheet of parchment in front of her. “Well, as you know, students are ranked based on their classwork over the entirety of their Hogwarts education on the same scale to which their O.W.Ls are graded. On average, Ms. Greengrass, I would rank you at a low E – Exceeds Expectations – with potential for better, but as of late I fear you have slipped to around a P. Your most recent paper on the Laws of Transfiguration was most disappointing.”
Humiliation at being singled out –surely Amaris would never fall so far as to rank as a P – floods my head and I bite back the prickling of frustrated tears. McGonagall looks stern, though not unsympathetic.
“You will most likely need to take this up with your Head of House, but some of your other teachers – Professors Slughorn and Flitwick especially – have marked a noticeable decrease in your schoolwork recently. I urge you now, Ms. Greengrass, to begin applying yourself and causing your grades to rise. Falling behind before O.W.L year would make next year’s study very difficult for you indeed.”
“Yes, thank you, Professor,” I say, impressed at the even tone in my voice. “May I go to Defense now, please?”
McGongall nods in a clear dismissal, and I wrap my arms around myself and take the long way to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, wishing furiously that I could run into Terry Boot in the hallways and have him wrap his arms around me and tell me that everything will work out, I’ll bring my grades up and my friends will forgive me and I won’t have to make any difficult decisions.
Lingering at a window outside Snape’s classroom, from which his drawling voice can already be heard, launching into another mundane lecture. I stare out at the Hogwarts gates in the distance, at the winding path which leads from the heavily protected entrance, as two figures make their slow way up towards the castle. One, limping, straggly-haired, is unmistakable as Filch. The other is younger, fitter, but respecting the slow pace of his escort. Blond hair shines in the winter sun. Taurus is back at Hogwarts, and this can only mean trouble.
I pass the afternoon poring over the book Father gave me over Christmas to study: The Arte Most Noble of Legilimency and Methods of Manipulating the Mind. Just to be safe, I had Daphne transfigure the cover, so Filch would simply think I was bringing a book on the mating rituals of Flobberworms back into the castle. Trying to distract myself, I move onto the chapter on memory.
The Obliviation Curse, or Memory Elimination Spell, is very variable and works in varying degrees of success depending on the Legilimency and concentration of the caster, and level of Occlumency exercised by the subject at the time of the Curse. A skilled Obliviator will be able to extract certain memories from the subject through the casting of the curse, discarding them permanently. This must be done with great care, for a clumsily performed curse may either damage the mind of the subject or effectively fail, meaning the subject may regain the lost memories over the course of time. Poorly performed memory charms may result in the subject losing more of their knowledge concerning the memory taken, and, in drastic cases, all of the subject’s direct memories may be wiped.
Unable to focus properly, I skip ahead to the section on Obliviating close friends and family, wondering if any devious teenagers have ever considered using the curse to Obliviate their parents’ memories of their offspring’s wrongdoing.
Research shows that the closer the relationship of the caster to the subject, the better chance of extracting a memory without harm, and the curse shall be the stronger for it. When the caster knows the mind of the subject very well, weaving through their thoughts is much easier than navigating a stranger’s.
That evening, fed up of reading at last, I am desperate for nothing less than to speak with Terry and empty my conscience and my fears onto his patient ears. I storm back to the Slytherin common room, hoping to shut myself away on my bed and focus on improving my grades, the one thing in this bloody world which I can possibly have control over. But something has disturbed the tranquility behind the walls, which unfolds as soon as I have turned the corner. Goyle and another older boy are standing vigil before the wall.
I glare at them. “What’s going on? Are you going to let me in or not?”
“I think not,” says the other boy, a tall character with a thin face and a sprinkling of uneven stubble on his spotty chin. He surveys me. “Greengrass, isn’t it? No, no, you’re going to have to wait with them others for a few minutes.” He smiles wickedly, revealing crooked bottom teeth.
I glance down the corridor, noticing a small assembly of confused first and second years waiting, their books clutched in their hands. “You can’t just prevent us from entering the common room! Who the hell do you think you are?”
The tall boy shrugs. “Me mates have got business with that blood traitor, time to send a message about messing around with Mudbloods. And I suggest you get out of the way, Greengrass, before I hex your pretty face.”
A cold hand squeezes my heart as I remember the sight of Taurus ambling slowly back to the school earlier.
“You’re wrong,” I tell him coldly, and turn to Goyle, who is looking uneasy. “Listen, I really need to get in there. It’s… urgent. Gregory, you know I won’t cause any harm, I just need to fetch something from the common room. Please?” I turn my voice to sickly sweet, imploring Goyle with widened eyes. Gently, I prod my mind towards his, easing past the weak natural defenses, sending my Legilimency in with soft words of persuasion. “You know they won’t mind.”
Goyle looks confused: for a moment, I am frightened I will fail and he will refuse me, leave me to wait outside like a helpless child, but in a moment he nods at his companion and steps aside. The thin-faced boy looks unhappy, but seems to concede to Goyle’s judgement. Gratefully, I shove my way past them, muttering the password and springing inside as the wall opens for me.
I take fast stock of the scene before me, set among the plush green couches and glow of the firelight.
The group of older Slytherin boys circle Taurus. I glance around furtively, pushed to the sidelines where students are assembled, solemn-faced, privy to the knowledge of what is about to happen, powerless and unwilling to step in and risk their own necks.
“There are many things which disgust me,” one of the boys is saying, a teasing sneer pulling at his fine features. “Those who knowingly associate with filth are among them.”
“I think it’s time we teach O’Halloran a lesson, eh,” someone else cries out. Heart sinking, I recognize the speaker as one of Taurus’ Quidditch teammates. “There’s a few hexes which I’ve been desperate to try out.”
“So unless you can somehow prove yourself otherwise…” A girl snarls, face lit with excitement. Taurus’ face is impossible to read: he is in his school robes, tie knotted smartly around his neck. His blond hair is slick to his head with sweat. Pansy Parkinson, at her elbow, grins.
Shoving my way through the assembled crowd, I find a familiar face and tug at his sleeve.
“Do something,” I hiss at Phin. “Say something- what the hell is this? He’s your friend. You’ve lived together for near five years!”
“Not if he’s fraternizing with blood traitors and Mudbloods,” Phin sneers. “There’s no love lost between us.” Yet he looks a little uneasy.
I glare at him. Phin has pull over the sixth and seventh years: he could step in, hold them off, let Taurus go free. But none of us want to implicate our names with a potential blood traitor, to squeeze our own necks to the chopping block next to his. This is all my fault, I think fiercely to myself. True, my family’s involvement with the Dark Lord puts me in a very dangerous position should I be associated with blood traitors. But I risked all that already, the other night. And it’s only right to do it again.
Angrily, I elbow Phin in the stomach with all the strength I can muster. He recoils, loosening his grip, and I rip away, charging into the encroaching circle, wands pointed, and throwing myself at Taurus.
A startled spell narrowly misses my ear. Quickly, I press my lips against his, wrapping my arms around his neck and hoping desperately that he’ll catch on. His mouth is cold, trembling, frightened, hands slowly snaking round my waist like an uncertain lifeline.
“Don’t you hex her,” I hear someone growl, and from the corner of my eye I see Pyxis elbowing his way to the front of the boys, wand pointed at Skin. I pull away from Taurus and wrap my body around him, as if I can shield as much of him as possible from the prejudiced, horrible crowd that wants to hurt him, and would want to hurt me if they knew the truth. We’re both close to terrified tears: I can see his shell beginning to crumble. Why, oh why won’t a teacher come along and break all this up? Where is the justice here?
But I have Theo and Pyxis and Taurus, and my Nott boys have appeared from nowhere and are shouting at the aggressors, and somewhere I think I can hear Amaris crying. I wonder if they’ll just curse the lot of us and have done with it, our Death Eater fathers a distant threat that can be ignored and dealt with later in the heat of the moment.
“What the hell is going on here?” Everyone whirls to see the face of Draco Malfoy, pinched and irritated and scowling through the dark dungeon as he shoves his way from the entrance.
A burly seventh year boy points accusingly at where Taurus and I are standing, isolated yet surrounded.
“He’s a blood traitor, Malfoy! He’s hooking up with a Mudblood!”
Malfoy’s cold eyes survey the scene. Lazily, he holds up his left arm-the one with the Mark- letting his sleeve dangle open so as just to hint at what lies beneath it.
“Seeing as he currently has a pureblood all over him, I’d say you’d best move along,” Malfoy says, with the comfortable authority of one who is used to be obeyed. The intended threat is clear: cross me and you will witness my wrath. It’s common knowledge that Malfoy may even be a Death Eater himself, and he commands a respect that Theo cannot breach.
Frustrated with pent-up hatred, wands are slowly lowered. Pyxis glares at anyone who dares meet his eye. Wendell Skin looks like he wants to murder Malfoy, but knows it would be very foolish for him to attempt to. They step back. I meet Malfoy’s gray gaze for a moment and nod in thanks. Then I turn back to Taurus and lean my head against his chest, for comfort as much as appearances. I keep my eyes open, watching for the twitch of a wand being drawn and a curse being fired.
Taurus smells of sweat and relief.
"Let's go," I murmur to him, hoping that by leaving the situation I'm not making things worse for him. We've never been at the receiving end of Slytherin gang maliciousness: we don't know how to react when the Galleon flips. I am as lost as he is, unsure whether my charade is successful in cleansing his name from the lies and rumors. Lives have been ruined on far less.
"I'll go somewhere, I'll go to the library or something," he mutters, hands tense and white around the straps of his schoolbag.
I'm about to ask whether he'd like me to accompany him, unsure of what else to do, when a dark shape materializes from around the corner, brown hair and fair, freckled skin and a hesitant expression painted on his plain features. I look the strange student up and down, not recognizing him. He's a little taller than myself, with broad, stocky shoulders and red sneakers peeking out beneath his robes.
"I waited," the strange boy breathes, jumping into pace with our long strides. "I waited for hours." He scarcely seems to notice me, his eyes fixed on my tall Slytherin friend's handsome features. “They weren’t letting the kids into your common room, so I was frightened to ask…”
"I was busy," Taurus says tersely.
"That's it,” the boy asks, voice low. “You were busy? I’ve been so worried, I thought you’d been hurt, you’d left Hogwarts…I missed you…”
It seems these words of tenderness are the breaking point for Taurus, for suddenly he springs forward and is pointing his wand at the other boy’s throat, backing him against the wall of the corridor. I stifle a gasp of surprise.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Stay out of this, Tor,” Taurus snarls, and focuses his blue eyes, normally so kind, on the unknown boy’s face. “You stay away from me, understand? Do you know how utterly selfish and dangerous it was for you to approach me like this, in front of her? What if she didn’t know? What if she sold me out?”
He’s breathing hard, a bead of sweat- or perhaps a tear of frustration, of hatred- weaving down his cheek. He looks wild, unlike the boy I’ve known for nearly four years. “Come near me again, Will- I’ll fuck you up. Don’t test me. I’ll do it.” He twitches away, and in the moment between blinking there is a hint of tenderness, of satisfaction. And then he is running down the hall, not looking back.
The boy- Will- stands still against the wall, hand grazing his neck where the tip of Taurus’ wand poked him. For a moment, I imagine Terry and I in the same position, the look of betrayal on his face, the sacrifice of hurting the person you love for the sake of their own safety.
“You should go, take care of yourself,” I tell Will, not unkindly. With all that’s going on, what further damage can a gentle word to a broken-hearted Mudblood possibly do?
The next few days are a peculiar brand of hellish silence and solitude. I wait with bated breath for something to happen: to find out Demetria has sold my secret to some bored Slytherin, that I’ll be the next isolated victim in a less accessible place than the common room.
I do my best to abandon the dungeons, tired of the Slytherins who leave my honour and my friend's to be defended by the likes of Malfoy, that those who have called themselves my friends for years could not rouse themselves to speak up. Worse, I am guilty of what they suspect. Sometimes I even hate myself.
On Friday, it's really an unfortunate stroke of luck that just as I'm rounding the corner, eyes beginning to burn with suppressed tears of anger and frustration, that Terry Boot chooses this moment to emerge from the stonework of the Entrance Hall, arms folded across his chest and a resigned, hard look on his face. I resist the urge to seize him around the waist and sob into his shirt. Something tells me he wouldn't receive it well.
"Can we talk? I've been waiting for you for a while," he mutters, glancing around to check that nobody is near. A pair of Hufflepuff first years giggle at the other end of the hall, their laughter echoing against the roof.
I nod and let him lead me into a deserted classroom, hardly noticing when he closes the door tightly, locks it and mutters a Silencing Charm. Most of our time spent together has been in the secret room behind the sad suit of armour, or the kitchens, or other hidden places tucked around the castle. Now, in this dusty, unfamiliar classroom, I feel uncomfortable and frightened. In what state will we emerge from this place?
Terry’s voice is low and cold, like I’ve never heard him before. His eyes gleam, searching mine, as if trying to mine out some sort of redemption from the horrifying truth.
“Your father is a Death Eater,” he says, the words weighing down on his mouth, balancing lethal lead on his tongue. He puts his hands in his pockets then takes them out again, swinging helplessly at his sides. I stare at the ground, monitoring his movements through my lashes. He waits for me to deny it.
But I am tired of lies. No silver-coated words escape my lips, and we wait coldly in the presence of the truth.
“Please say something,” I finally say, the words clear and clean in comparison to the turmoil that is my mind.
“I just can’t believe… I didn’t realize,” he says weakly, leaning back against the wall. My instinct is to press myself against him, to wrap my arms around his waist and tell him that this will pass, that together we are something beyond the constraints of our identities. But I hold back. There’s something heavy about him, something without mercy. I reach forward cautiously with my mind and sense his: morality and soul, waging war in his head. My face, swimming behind a black, featureless mask, a Charybdis of emotions, monstrous and hungry.
“I should have told you,” I whisper, “but I knew how you would react. That you wouldn’t approve-”
“Approve,” Terry scorns. “These things go far beyond bloody approval. Don’t you realize what your dear daddy does, Astoria? He connives and tricks and murders. Killing. Genocide. He must do it: that’s what they all do. It’s unnatural and evil, and you’re just sitting here with this wealth of knowledge, letting them get away with it.” He storms back and forth, thinking furiously. I can sense the whirlpool churning inside his head, the familiar round cogs and gears of Terry’s mind, shoving aside my feelings he has for me.
“Don’t. Don’t tell me he’s different, you’re different… if you were the person I thought you were, you couldn’t stand so closely to these things and not be repulsed. Those people…they disgust me.”
“You can’t tell anyone,” and suddenly I am gripping him by the wrist. “Terry, you must not breathe a word of this, do realize what this would mean for my father if you spoke of it?”
“How can I not,” he spits harshly, blue eyes glaring at a place beyond my face. From a place deep inside me, I am almost coldly amused at my own desperation. Why bother to plead, to appeal to his sense of mercy? Why should good, kind Terry protect a killer? “If I don’t tell anyone, and he gets away with something because of my silence… it’s murder on my conscience.” Idiot girl.
“Terry, you can’t,” I repeat insistently, trying to convey from my mind to his the severity of this knowledge. Inside, I feel weak and dizzy. The truths I’ve been shoving below for the past few months are bobbing at the surface, threatening to explode. Think of what they’ll do to me if they know…
“The Ministry, they’ll hurt my family,” I whimper, trying to reach up to him. I feel a desperate, needy accent inch across my voice, hating yet craving my own weakness. “Please, Ter, they could hurt me too…”
But he shoves me off him, twisting out of my grip. I stumble backwards, wounded.
“I can’t keep your secret, Astoria. I can’t see you, but I can’t keep this. I’m sorry,” He says, eyes fixed on my face. I read it on his mind, bobbing at the edge of his furious mind. He will go straight to Dumbledore. He will condemn me to the life of a traitor, a traitor among the Slytherins, a criminal among the rest. “I can’t keep this secret for you. Please, please don’t ask me to.”
I take a step back, painfully aware of how open, vulnerable my mind is before him. With great force I urge my emotions to step away. What would Father, the great manipulator, say?
"Terry…tell me you're lying." I can’t control myself. I beg. The careful defenses I’ve reconstructed begin to slip once again.
"I can't do that."
A force seems to propel me forward: as if a puppet master is controlling my body, I send a spell flying at him. His wand clatters to the floor. In less than a moment, I am pointing my wand at Terry’s neck, that same neck which I have kissed so many gentle times, or hooked my dark head into the comfortable curve of his shoulder.
He recoils against the stone wall, helpless as when Taurus trapped Will so brutally, Adam’s apple trembling against the tip of my wand. I feel wretched.
“You’re leaving me no choice,” I whisper to him, heart splintering within my ribcage, knowing that with this single spell I will forever fracture any love he might still have for me. He stares at me with pure hatred.
“Don’t you dare,” he whispers, a tiger preparing to spring. In this moment, our minds become one. He knows what I must do. I know he knows.
I hold the tip of my wand to his head, fighting the lump in my throat, hand quivering but pointed true. I dig deep into the hours of reading and research, into the natural pull of the spell focusing and preparing to trickle through my mouth and wand like a rush of cleansing water. The word flows through me like a spring and into the boy I only wanted to love.
Perhaps I am a true Slytherin after all.
Hello darling readers! First of all, if you are a loyal follower of this story I am so sorry for taking this long to update. RL has been crazy what with backpacking Europe, moving back to Canada, moving into my new apartment, returning to my full time job and starting my fourth year of university, but I promise you will not have to wait so long next time. This chapter has given me so many difficulties and I’m still not completely pleased with it, but I really wanted to update. If you have time, please take a moment to leave your thoughts in a review: this is a pretty eventful chapter so there’s lots to talk about! Love you long time!
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