Chapter 33 : The Dark
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Drama and rumors flood the school – and enrage the Slytherins in a way that I am not involved in, finally – when Malfoy is seen being admitted to the hospital, soaked in blood and apparently unconscious. Rumors, ranging from being on the wrong end of Peeves dropping knives stolen in the kitchens in the corridors to being attacked by a baby Basilisk are passed about the school, examined, dismembered. Pansy Parkinson arrives at the feast that night with thick tear tracks on her face, and I watch scathingly from a distance as Daphne puts a comforting arm around her. No doubt my sister is anxious to find out what exactly happened.
Professor Snape does not show his greasy, solemn face at the feast that night, I notice, and the staff table seems unusually wary. After the meal, I catch up with Pyxis and Theo in the corridor leading to the common room, their dark heads bent close together. I notice bemusedly that Pyxis is a little taller than Theo now: they both have the same slight, wavering frames and slight slouch in the thin shoulders.
“Oi, what are you blokes up to?” I ask, jumping between them and linking my arms through of crook of each brother’s elbow.
Pyxis scowls at me, dark curls dangling in his face like overgrown vines. “We’re kind of busy talking right now, Tor,” he says, gritting his teeth. He tries to pull away. “Mind moving along?”
I flush at his rudeness, and turn to Theo. “Is that what you’d like?”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Pyxis,” Theo says coldly, then squeezes my arm a little tighter. “If you truly insist on carrying on this ridiculous conversation, then I see no reason why Tor may not witness it.”
Pyxis rolls his eyes. “Whatever, Theodore. Dig your own grave, lie down in it if you wish. I certainly won’t be leaving flowers.” He rips his arm away from my grip and storms off in the opposite direction.
“He’s a brat,” Theo says as soon as his brother is out of earshot. “Honestly, Tor, you’re fifteen as well but you would never act like that. He has absolutely no perspective.” His voice is quite cold, I think quietly, with the sort of decorated and practiced poise which might better suit my father speaking with an acquaintance.
“Thanks, I suppose,” I say. “I wanted to ask you, though: did you hear anything about what happened to Malfoy? I heard he was in the hospital wing but nobody told Taurus and I any more than that.”
Theo bares a few teeth. “Pansy was going on at supper that it was Potter- I guess they got into a duel in the girl’s toilet on the second floor, oddly enough.”
“Moaning Myrtle’s toilet, you mean,” I say automatically. “That’s an odd place for a duel. What were they dueling for?” I lower my voice. “Theo, do you think Malfoy’s been told to- you know – attack Potter on His orders?”
“There’s no way,” Theo scoffed. “Right under Dumbledore’s nose? Don’t be a silly child, Tor, He doesn’t really trust Malfoy with anything. All Malfoy’s big talk at the beginning of the year, with the club and all that, was just rubbish. Pythonidae,” he says to the stone wall which hides the Slytherin common room. We step inside in unison. “Malfoy and Potter have hated each other since first year- it’s not shocking they’ve yet again come to blows.”
“Oh, alright,” I say, a little wounded at how quickly Theo dismisses me. “But you don’t know too much about all of that, right? You’re not, not truly… in the know, are you?” I stumble over my words in an attempt to sound like my mother.
Theo’s scowl deepens in a coldness which entrenches his eyes. His lip curls. “Well, well, Astoria, looks like you and my little, lovely brother have been speaking after all. I’ve got to go- Potions work. I’ve got to study the Draught of Nightmare Induction- nothing darker than that to worry about.” With these abrupt words Theo spins gracefully on his heel and marches towards the stairs to the boys dormitories. I roll my eyes, unsure of what exactly upset him so thoroughly.
Amaris is sitting in the corner with Wendell Skin, his oily face staring off into space as he chews on a sugar quill. Amaris bends over a large library book, her fingers tapping absent rhythms on the table.
Griz Goyle, accompanied by her brother and Crabbe, enters the common room behind me, and I step aside, thinking that Gregory Goyle has lost weight. Both his and Crabbe’s faces are rather drawn and pale, and I decide that they must feel a little lost without their identity as Malfoy’s henchmen while he’s in hospital. There is a slight disturbance when Griz trips over a first year’s extended legs while navigating the common room and swears rather coarsely as the skirt she was wearing beneath her robes rides up, revealing a rather large pair of off-white granny pants.
I snicker, and catch Amaris’ eye for a brief, lovely moment. Goyle claps his hand over Crabbe’s eyes, and Griz, turning a bright shade of ripe tomato, hastens to her feet and turns menacingly towards the cowering, long-legged first year. I steal past the commotion to my dormitory before getting involved: if I hurry up and fetch my books, Terry and his friends will just be getting to the library in a few minutes.
The weeks flood forward towards the summer, and I find myself willingly distracted from all other concerns by the looming examinations. I spend hours in the library, studying with Taurus or Pyxis (never at the same time, unfortunately), and often with Terry and his friends when the library is relatively free of my housemates. I find myself looking longingly at times at Amaris, whose organized, carefully written notes and study plans always made this time of year a little easier in my first three years. The teachers constantly threaten the intensity of our upcoming O.W.L year, until even the keenest of my classmates groan when the trials of next year are mentioned.
Malfoy returns from the hospital wing, pale, thin, and more sour than ever. I soon grow quite annoyed at the constant presence of Pansy in the common room, surrounded by one or another sympathetic girl (or boy, since Daphne is usually shadowed by Zabini) and cursing Potter’s name. The incident has an unexpected bonus, or so Taurus informs me, since Potter’s punishment detention coincides with the final Quidditch match of the year which will determine the results of the Cup. As Potter is the Captain and star Seeker of the Gryffindor team, this news bodes quite well for we Slytherins.
I skive off the match to spend time with Terry, and we spend the morning wandering the castle together, stopping to kiss in deserted, dusty corridors. I laugh as Terry winks cheekily at the observing suits of armor, and we even make an attempt to infiltrate the secret room where we first met, though to no fruition. It seems to have sealed itself against us. I wonder if someone else has discovered it, or if Terry simply used up his allotted time. Hogwarts is full of secrets, after all, and we have a merry time discussing the various uses the Room of Requirement could have been put to over the centuries. Terry proposes that it was used as a secret student opium den during the nineteenth century: I retort that he’s been reading too much Darles Chickens. He laughs at this, and ruffles up my hair and tells me that I’m the chicken.
Since all the Ravenclaws - save a few particularly studious students - are down at the pitch, Terry shows me around Ravenclaw tower. The remaining students are far too studious to look up from their books, besides. The common room is protected by a bronze knocker which asks the student a riddle, and I feel quite grateful to be a Slytherin since had Terry not been there I would have been stranded outside for hours. He tells me that there have been particularly tough riddles and once, dozens of students were sleeping in the corridor until Flitwick came along and told off the knocker for being too vague.
Terry shows me the bust of Rowena Ravenclaw, her proud, haughty face topped by her famous diadem, now captured in stone. Then we steal up to his dormitory, where I help him plant whoopee-cushions enchanted to sing out certain rhythms when activated (a Weasley Wizarding Wheezes product) in obscure places in Michael’s bed. He shows me pictures of his family which he keeps near his bed. I trace my fingers over the motionless, smiling faces: his little brothers, skinny and dark-haired like him; his mum and dad, holding hands.
“I’d love to meet them someday,” I tell Terry, and he grins and says they’re dying to know me as well, that they ask about me in every letter, and even spell my name right most of the time.
When the roar from the stands draws closer and a peek out the window informs us that the match is finished, we swiftly move through the common room. Terry kisses me goodbye once, twice, and then runs back for a third time, and my lips feel curled in a perpetual smile, in impeccable, undeniable happiness. I warn him to let me know how the Whoopee-cushion prank plays out and then scamper down the hall, my thoughts lingering happily behind the wall of the eagle’s head knocker.
The news of the following week is that Potter and Ginny Weasley are now dating: I can’t remember hearing that she ditched her last boyfriend, but feel a surge of happiness when seeing the radiant look on Ginny’s face as she holds Potter’s hand in the Great Hall one early breakfast morning. Perhaps being with Terry has made me soft, but I feel a great sense of calm at the idea that there is a little more love in the world.
But over it all: the revision, the Quidditch, the gossip, something much darker looms. I think daily of my conversation with Dumbledore, of whether it might be possible to protect my family, of how the old man looked at me with such kindness and pity. I think of Pyxis knowing something of my secret, of being separated from Terry for the summer unless I can do something drastic and change the tables at last. Hogwarts stands in a state of dangerous stagnation, and the real world beyond grows more tumultuous with each passing night.
My first exam for the year, Charms, comes all too fast at the beginning of June. The exam itself seems to go reasonably smoothly, though I feel my hand cramping up after less than ten minutes of writing and am rather distracted by the sound of Griz Goyle breathing heavily and the lack of the sound of a scratching quill coming from behind me. Being in such close proximity to somebody else’s veritable failure is strangely dis-heartening. The practical portion of the exam goes quite well as well: Flitwick congratulates me on my perfect Summoning charm and assures me that he thinks I’ll do “quite well in your O.W.L year, my dear Miss Greengrass. Very well done indeed.”
Feeling quite light, as my Potions exam isn’t for another two days, I skip out of the classroom and decide to go hunting for Terry to let him now how things went. I feel quite cheered by the fact that Phin looked like he was going to be sick as he left the written portion of the exam and one Gryffindor girl was sobbing into her friend’s shoulder, deciding this bodes well for my own results.
In the library corridor, I find Ginny instead of Terry, accompanied by two friends. All three girls are quite pale-faced and have dark circles under their eyes, and are carrying a load of several large books. Ginny’s red hair is tied up in a sloppy ponytail on top of her head, and she appears to be wearing very baggy running trousers and a large knitted jumper with the letter ‘G’ on it beneath her robes.
“Wotcher, Tor,” she says, sparing me a grin. “You alright?”
“Yeah, just looking for a friend,” I say, glancing at the books. “When do your O.W.Ls start?”
“Next week,” Ginny says sourly. “Unfortunately. You lot can get a move on- I’ll see you in the common room.”
“Don’t be too late,” one of the other girls says warningly. She glances at me appraisingly before following her friend down the corridor.
“How’ve you been, love? I was thinking about you and Terry the other day,” Ginny says, sounding quite motherly.
I blush, glancing down the corridor to ensure nobody is in range of eavesdropping. “Well, we’re actually back together. It’s going quite well, in fact, despite everything.”
She balances her books in one arm and reaches out to pat my arm. “I’m happy to hear that, truly. Boot is just lovely. Are you worried, though, about the summer and being separated?” Her face darkens. “Merlin knows I am.”
“Well, actually…” I bite my lip, torn between cursing the thing about Ginny which inspires me to confide in her and desperately long to tell her my secrets, to gain approval for them, even. “I’ve made a decision. I’m going to leave home and join up on the other side, if that’s what it takes.”
Ginny’s brown eyes are kind and quick. “That’s wonderful, really. You’ve spoken with Dumbledore, then?”
“Yeah,” I breathe, curious at how she doesn’t seem more surprised but thankful for not needing to explain myself. “I’m going to tell Terry soon, I know he’ll be thrilled. I think we’ll make a plan- Dumbledore said he could help hide me, hide my family. I couldn’t do it without that promise.”
Ginny smiles, hoisting her textbooks in her arms again. “Good. You should make those plans- tell me if there’s anything I can do to help. I could put in a good word for you with- well, for the other side, like you said. I dunno if it could help at all.”
“Thanks, Ginny,” I say quietly. “I appreciate it, truly. Best of luck with your exams.”
“Maybe we’ll see each other sometime over the summer,” Ginny says, and then she’s disappears down the corridor. I find myself hoping that this prediction might come true.
If anything, admitting my plan to Ginny makes me feel even more firm in my decision, sure that I’m doing the right thing by abandoning the life I was brought up to lead.
After the feast that night, I meet up with Terry in a quiet corridor close to the secret room, in front of Anne Boleyn’s portrait. Interestingly, she isn’t in, and thinking of her scathing words and self-presumptuous attitude I don’t suffer much grief for the fact. When Terry sees me he wraps me up in a tight hug, and I breathe in the smell of freshly laundered clothes and a faint scent of the cake from the feast coming from his jumper.
“Did you spill cake on your jumper?” I ask as he pulls away slowly.
Terry snorts and rolls his eyes at himself. “Yeah. Honestly Tor, it’s been the most crummy day. Slughorn was utterly on edge during the revision section, and I mucked up my potion, and Scamander’s pet lionbirds pooped on my bed and it won’t come off no matter how many cleansing spells. Today is such shit. Literally.”
I grimace and slink my arm around his, leaning my head against his shoulder. “I’m sorry to hear that,” I say sympathetically. I briefly consider saying something of extreme ridiculous proportions like offering to kiss him to make it better, but suspect I’d just laugh halfway through the cheesy line. “In fact, I’ve got something I’d like to speak with you about.”
So there we are, standing like two criminals, hiding and holding hands close to the same place where we first crossed paths, like lightning striking twice. Whispering, furtive, cautious. But not for long, I tell Terry Boot, not for long, because I’ve spoken with the greatest wizard who ever lived and he’s going to protect us, and be a sort of salvation. And I’m not going to be a Death Eater’s daughter anymore, but a girl who has a life and a fight ahead of her, and best of all, we won’t need to hide anymore, once the school year finishes.
And Terry scoops me up and clutches me to his thin frame, and giddily kisses me again and again, and I think that I could never get tired of this, I think in the fanciful illusions of love and fearlessness that we could be forever like this, two withered old beings who can still touch one another with the same tenderness, see understanding and devotion in the other’s eyes. In that moment, all things are truly possible, in a certain, touchable, tangible way.
So there it is. And I wish the story could end here.
But as I walk away with Terry, beaming and full of light through the dreary, dark corridors of Hogwarts, we pass by a curious sight. Professor Trelawney, the mad Divination teacher, clutching what appears to be a large collection of empty bottles, teetering and tottering through the corridors on the seventh floor with an ashamed look on her face and a strong, fruity scent carrying through the corridors after her. And Terry and I look at each other, bemused, but don’t say anything, don’t suspect. We have no way of knowing what night this is, what will happen in the late hours of midnight. But you might know, reader. You might know what happened next.
“It’s odd,” Anthony Goldstein says in the library later that evening. I am in the process of sorting through my study notes, after an evening of listening to the Ravenclaw boys squabble about the correct way to prune a Venemous Tentacula plant without being eaten up, and exchanging warm, blushing glances with Terry and exchanging excited squeezes under the table in these most glorious of ordinary hours before disaster strikes.
“What?” Michael says lazily, turning the ink in his quill from a bright shade of fuchsia to a sparkling Slytherin green. I’m quite impressed at his Transfiguration spellwork.
Anthony frowns, and rattles a bunch of coins in his hands. He picks up one of the two Galleons in the sea of Knuts. “I brought down some coin to pay of Madam Pince for the book on elemental charms for some light reading, the one I forgot to return,” he says a little sheepishly. “But look- it’s my DA galleon. It’s glowing.”
“That’s odd, though mighty good thing you didn’t spend it,” Terry says jovially, shooting me an adoring gaze.
Michael frowns. “Do you think they’re trying to get it up again?”
“What’s the DA?” I whisper to Terry. He shrugs, in an ‘I’ll explain later, but for now I just want to put an arm around you like I’m casually stretching’ sort of fashion.
“I’m sure Ron just dropped his in the toilet or something,” Anthony laughs, shrugging and shoving the coins back in his robes pocket again where they clink together like tiny metal prisoners. “Fancy a cheese biscuit? I nicked them from the kitchens.” Terry and I both accept one, but Anthony swats Michael’s hand away. “No more cheese for you, mate. Not after those awful, disgusting sounds coming from your bed last night.”
“It was the Whoopee-cushion!” Michael cries out, drawing the attention of the next table of girls, who giggle. He glares at Terry and I, who are hiding smiles. “I still haven’t found the bloody last one… I know one of you lot is responsible.”
“Excuses, excuses. In Muggle pharmacies they sell pills to help you digest milk,” Terry says innocently.
“Perhaps your friend might like a bottle as a birthday present?” I add.
“Well, we should get back to the dorm, boys,” Anthony cuts in, still snickering. “Big day tomorrow. I think I’ve studied as much Arithmancy as one man can handle.”
“Scheduling exams when the sun is hardly risen should be illegal,” Terry moans. “Tor? Want me to walk you back to the dirty, dank dungeons?”
“It’s alright, I think I fancy staying here until curfew to sort out my Potions,” I say, grinning up at him. “Good luck with your exams, boys.”
‘Ta,” Michael and Anthony say in unison, then grin at one another. Terry’s fingers trail along my back, hidden from his friends, and he smiles so widely at me again. I gaze after them as they leave the library, skulking past Madam Pince as she eyes Anthony’s bag, no doubt wondering if the ambitious Ravenclaw is planning on smuggling out any more books.
The glowing Galleon is the second clue, but it was not until much later, as I leave the library, the last one before lights out, that calamity happened in the form of my father.
I am hurrying down the corridor, heading for the staircases, when there is the sound of a commotion and voices yelling angrily. Puzzled, I dart around the corner leading to the Room of Requirement and see the most odd sight: the end of the corridor in front of the Room had gone pure dark, as if it had disappeared into a black hole. And then from this darkness come figures: first, the white-blond head of Draco Malfoy, clutching a horrible, shriveled thing with a lit candle, almost like a severed hand. He was guiding several hooded figures in an assembly: as they materialize from the darkness I heard the sound of spells being fired, shouts of Stupefy! and Expelliarmus! and even a desperate Lumos!
“-they’re escaping! Where’s Rowle?” somebody shouts, and the hooded figures turned to point their wands at the large dark area. I gaped as Malfoy turned around and looked over his shoulder. His face tightened as he saw me there, clutching my schoolbooks in my arms, my hair disheveled like a careless child.
He looks terrible: dark circles brim beneath his eyes, even from this distance, his body tense and stiff. Our eyes meet across the corridor as a red curse flies from the dark area and I dodge it. Draco’s mouth opens: he mouths something. Leave!
But I am not destined to get far, for I am halfway to the staircase, out of breath, puzzled and frightened, when there is the sound of hot breath and footsteps pounding behind me. My stomach twists unpleasantly: I think I might be sick as a sensation spreads across my body, and a feeling like a cold hand closes around my ankle and yanks me to the floor. My books clatter to the stones, my wand flying neatly from my pocket to the intruder’s long-nailed hand.
“Let me go,” I shout, as the spell which hit me seems to pin me to the floor. My voice sounds pathetic and frightened, even to my own ears. “What do you want?”
The wizard who stood over me is one of the most terrifying visions I had yet seen. The face is twisted and gnarled, with scars and hungry, wolfish eyes. His shoulders are big and broad, and seem fit to burst from the seams of the dark robes. The Death Eater laughs, revealing yellow, broken teeth.
“Couldn’t let you run away so quickly, miss,” he snarls, grinning down at me. “What if you went and woke old Filchy, now, we wouldn’t want anyone poking around. And you are a pretty one, aren’t you?”
Reviled, I shrink back, my legs skidding on the ground. The torches which illuminate the corridor will be dulled soon for lights-out: even now, they seem to flicker and darken. My mouth struggles to find the words that my father is Yaxley, and he will be most displeased to see this treatment of his daughter, but the words fall dry and flat in my quivering mouth, even to scream.
“Tasty, lovely skin, lovely young skin,” the creature whispers, drawing closer to me, and I feel tears well up in my eyes, at the fact that here in the safe refuge of Hogwarts something so vile could approach me without anyone there to listen. His bared teeth in a sly grin are scarcely a foot from my face when there is a pounding of footsteps behind him as the others come from around the corridor.
“Greyback!” an imperious voice calls sharply. “We’re meant to be at the Tower- somebody’s bloody well got to cast the - oi! What have you got there?”
“Just a little creeping spy,” Greyback says smoothly. “Wouldn’t want her running off and tattling, would you?”
My eyes clear as two figures – one, a large blond man I don’t recognize, and the other Draco Malfoy, looking terrified – run up to us. The large stranger looks down at me with contempt.
“You… you’d best step away from that girl,” Malfoy says quietly, too quietly. Greyback sneers again. “No, I mean it, that’s Yaxley’s daughter- don’t hurt her. He’ll… he’ll kill you if you hurt her. He’ll kill you!”
The large blond Death Eater looks down at me, a brief expression of panic flashing across his face. “Is that true?” he demands.
“Yes, yes! I swear it!” Draco’s voice stutters.
Greyback shrinks away, his twisted, gnarled features changing into something which look a little like fear. He tosses my wand back down to me, seeming nearly disappointed. I wonder in one of the compartments of my mind what he wanted to do with me.
I scramble to my feet, shaky and light-headed.
“You can trust her not to raise the alarm,” Draco says to his peers, rather shakily. “She’s one of us.”
Rowle scowls and cuffs him on the shoulder. “Let’s go. You’ve got a job to do, Draco.”
As the men run away, Draco casts one anxious, pale look over his shoulder at me, my father rounds the corner, blasting a curse behind him in the direction of the entrance to the Room of Requirement. He turns and sees me, retreating, and raised his wand.
“Daddy! It’s me! Daddy, please!” I shout, running towards him, the childish words releasing themselves from somewhere inside of me. My father lowers his wand. His face is stern and angry like I have never seen him: were I not so panicked and confused, I might have feared that he knew I was keeping secrets from him. How could I think that I could leave him, could betray him?
“Dad, what’s going on? Why are you here… that horrid man-” I throw my arms around my father, breathing in his familiar scent of laundry and soap.
He shoves me off of him, but not cruelly. “Astoria, you can’t be here,” he says quietly and urgently. “There’s going to be a fight, and I don’t want you getting hurt in the middle of it. Get back to your dormitory and stay there: everything is going to be alright, I promise.”
With that, he runs after the others.
So I do the only rational thing left: I run down the staircases, out of breath, leaving my schoolbooks scattered on the floor where they fell. On the way down, I pass a large group of people shouting at one another: they shove past me on the staircase, hardly seeming to notice I’m there once their eyes glance over my student robes.
Among them I see Tonks, the Auror guarding the school who caught Terry and I in the greenhouse. She doesn’t spare me a second glance, taking the stairs two at a time.
I have reached the Entrance hall when I see a cluster of the Hogwarts ghosts floating in the centre. Drawing nearer, slowing to catch my breath and putting a hand on my aching side, I catch a few words of their conversation.
“The Dark Mark over Hogwarts- oh, I do so wish Dumbledore was here,” the Fat Friar is saying enigmatically, wringing his chubby, pearly white hands.
“But how did they get in?” says the nearly-headless ghost. “It is a catastrophe, indeed- have all the Heads of Houses been alerted?”
“Yes, and on their way,” the Friar replies. “Though what hope we have should He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named appear, without Dumbledore…”
Shuddering, I dart past the ghosts (“get back to your dormitory, young lady!”) and steal back into the Slytherin common room, slipping through the wall silently. But it seems that some of the students know something is occurring: Crabbe and Goyle are sitting in the center of the room, puffing out their chests and surrounded by a circle of older students, with a couple second years whom I recognize as having helped with the prank against Griz all those months ago listening in eagerly from behind the couch. I recognize the two lanky, dark-headed figures of the Notts, standing side by side, and impulsively march up to them and grab both brothers by the necks of their robes and tug them away.
Pyxis swats me away, annoyed. “Tor, what? Those oafs are blabbing on about Death Eaters in the school, something about the Dark Mark --“
Theo glares down at me. I remember that he’s miffed at me for nagging him about whether he was joining up with You-Know-Who. His face is drawn and pale, his eyes dark pools in the center of his gaunt flesh. I wonder how I ever thought he was attractive.
“It’s true,” I tell them, keeping a fist full of Pyxis’ robes caught in my hand. “I was coming back from the library and I saw them: Dad, Malfoy…” I tkae a deep breath and swallowed, hard. “This man called Greyback- he came after me, he thought I was just another student.”
Theo looks disgusted: Pyxis, confused.
“Why would they come here, to Hogwarts?” he whispers. “You don’t think… they’re going to take over the school?”
“I don’t know,” I tell him, pursing my lips and thinking of the stench, like rotten meat, which had come from Greyback and which I imagined stuck to me. I could still smell it. “Theo? Do you know anything about this?”
“Malfoy must have brought them in- he’s been working on something all year, something he wouldn’t tell Crabbe and Goyle about. They were always arguing and muttering about it in the dormitory, and Malfoy’s been quieter and vicious throughout the term. But no-” and here he glares at me – “I don’t know anything more, thanks.”
“I’ve noticed that,” I say, thinking of my interactions with the white-blond boy.
Pyxis swallows. He stares at Theo: he avoids my gaze. “You don’t think they’ve come for the Muggleborns, do you?” he whispers. Theo looks around furtively. “To… you know… finish the job the Heir of Slytherin started?” I stiffen.
“Don’t be daft,” Theo begins, but Pyxis cuts him off.
“I’m serious, Theo. Tor, which direction were they headed?”
My mouth goes dry, my head light and airy and unclear for the second time that night. “I thought they were heading for the Astronomy Tower,” I say quietly. “But… the Ravenclaw common room is in that direction as well.”
Pyxis thinks quicker than I can move: in a moment he’s cast a spell to cause my wand to come flying out of my hand. He plucks it out of the air and points his own at me, defiantly. I lunge for the hand holding my wand, but he positions his wand so that its tip is directed straight at my heart.
“Give that back,” I snarl.
“I’m not letting you go,” he whispers. “I’ll Stun you if I have to. Tor, whatever is going on up there – look, I’m sorry I said what I did – but what are you going to do exactly-“
“Pyxis Nott, why are you withholding my sister’s wand?” Daphne has appeared out of nowhere, hair wound up in a tight, dark bun on top of her head and her hands on her thin hips. Pyxis flushes but looks at her defiantly.
“Astoria here is being an utter twat and wants to run upstairs and see what’s going on.”
“I know what’s going on, I was just up there,” I growl. “Just give me back my wand and there won’t be any trouble.”
“No, there won’t be,” Daphne decides imperiously. She accepts my wand from Pyxis and tucks it into her own pocket. “Now, come and sit with Blaise and I. We’ll wait for all this to pass and I’ll tell you about my plans for the summer, I’ve just heard back from Mother.” She puts an arm around my shoulders and tugs me over to one of the sofas, her skin bathed unhealthily in the faint green light which seems to ooze through the common room. Theo and Pyxis accompany us and we wait a nervous vigil, Zabini and Theo making stilted small-talk about Potions class, and Daphne sharpening her quills and telling me something about getting a job working for the apothecary in Diagon Alley.
I’m not really listening. My thoughts and my heart are upstairs, where my father is dueling an inexperienced adversary, his heart cold and his mind whirling. Ginny Weasley dodges curses sent by hardened men twice her age, while her brother is mauled by a the sharpened teeth and meatlike stench of the werewolf. Draco Malfoy clutches his wand in sweaty hands, his voice shaking. Terry Boot is waiting in his dormitory, where the great, dark skull and slithering snake hover and tremble above Hogwarts like sentries into hell.
And when Professor Slughorn lets himself into the dormitory, his large belly bound into a striped dressing and his walrus moustache trembling, it is to inform us of the most terrible news.
Dumbledore is dead, and my hopes of escape, of a future away from the Death Eaters, of a chance to forge a new life, are dead with him.
AN: I don’t own “Darles Chickens” (aka Charles Dickens). He was a real person. I'm going to come back and edit this to read a little smoother when I have the time, but I hope you enjoyed. This chapter has a bit of everyone- some Draco, some Ravenclaw boys, some Nott brothers, some Goyles, some Ginny, some Torry (Ter? Asterrya? Greenboot?). If you have any concerns/questions/comments/suggestions for a Tor/Terry nickname, I'd love to hear what you think of this rather eventful chapter. :)
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