Chapter 14 : Of Dungeons and Underestimation.
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The school remained on lockdown for another two days. We were escorted between our classes by professors and prefects, even the ghosts seemed to be sticking close to the jumbles of students ambling down the hall. Aurors stood like sentries at the entrances and exits of the castle.
More news flooded in about the attacks. Uses of unforgivable curses and ministry documents having been stolen created further tension in the wizarding community. Even those who denied the earlier happenings now were convinced something dark was brewing.
I hadn’t felt myself itching to explore the outdoors; Scotland’s harsh winters were far below my taste in weather. However, I found instead I was waiting with bated breath to catch a glimpse of Regulus. I’d find myself careening my head as I shuffled down hallways amongst the other Hufflepuffs just to catch a glimpse of his dark hair or brilliant eyes.
Mary Lou even took notice.
“Blimey, Claire, it’s only two days. Surely not seeing Rosier isn’t killing you?” She said with a snort.
I blushed and laughed unsteadily, my heart thudding haphazardly as I went back and forth on whether I should lie about who I was looking for.
“Oh, Mary Lou, don’t pretend that you weren’t breaking your neck in the Hall earlier to see MacArthur,” Anabelle said beside us, smirking over at our friend.
It was Mary Lou’s turn to blush.
“They got more reports this morning of disappearances. It seems now that they’re targeting more muggleborn witches and wizards than before,” Cher noted seriously, clutching her books to her chest.
I felt dread welling up inside of me.
“Oh, Cher, you’re such a Debbie downer,” Mary Lou scoffed, stomping off to her Runes class, Cher on her tail as they had the class together.
Anabelle and I had Defense against the Dark Arts together during this hour. We ducked into the dim class room as other students from other houses joined us. Professor Turley was the seventh professor I had had for this class since beginning school, as each year the position over turned. Some professors would get amazing offers to leave their post and others would mysteriously vanish or fall into a rough spot. But Turley was one of the better ones. We actually practiced spells with him, unlike a few of the previous ones, and he was not afraid to broach the subject of unforgivable spells and twisted magic. The class was mostly comprised of Gryffindors, several Ravenclaws, and a couple of Hufflepuffs. There were hardly any Slytherins in the course, mostly for the fact that they did not care about defending themselves from the dark arts but about learning the dark arts.
“Hello class. A rousing few days in the castle, no?” Turley said evenly, sending us a warm smile. “I thought today we’d do a practical lesson, get the blood pumping as you all must be so bored with sitting.”
None of us had taken a seat with the aniticpation of a practical lesson. With a flick of his wand the desks shot to the other side of the room, stacking themselves against the wall.
“I know we covered thorough shields in the last lesson and perfecting the protego charm, let’s give that a try. Pick your partner, but please do pick someone not from your own house,” Turley ordered with a smile, and gestured for us to pair up.
Terrance Finch-Fletchley from Ravenclaw approached me with a hesitant smile, “Partners, Nott?”
I nodded and gave him a small smile, and we turned to face each other as duelers would.
“How about we just try it with expelliarmus to start?” I offered, raising my wand.
“Surely, you first then, Nott. I’ll certainly hope to block it,” Terrance gave a smug grin.
I felt anger flash quickly across my mind, but I held it in. Finch-Fletchley wasn’t going to get the best of me today.
“Expelliarmus,” I said with a weak flourish, Finch-Fletchley blocked it easily, his smirk growing.
I noticed that they way he flicked his wand for his shield charm left room for me to counter on the right.
“Your turn, I suppose, “ I said with an award-winning disappointed sigh. I should be an actress.
“Expelliarmus,” He said evenly flicking his wand in my direction.
I flicked my wand the spell passing through my mind to shield and as his spell came in contact I quickly flicked again the disarming spelling shooting through my mind. I guess I may have been angrier than I thought because dear Terrance’s arm flew back with his wand violently. His mouth slacked and eyes wide.
“Well done, Misses Nott! Mr. Finch-Fletchley, do stop gaping and proceed to practice,” Turley praised as he passed our pair.
“I suppose I underestimated you, Nott,” He said massaging his wrist and giving me a curt nod.
“People do it often,” I said sweetly, giving him a warm smile.
“Mr. Rosier wanted me to bring this to you,” a pale hand was waving a neatly folded note in my face, that hand as I peered around seemed to be attached to Crouch Jr.
“Ah, thank you, Barty,” I said struggling to smile as he glared at my friends at the Hufflepuff table.
He scowled as he left our group, Anabelle snorted a bit in laughter, and Mary Lou gasped loudly before proceeding to giggle.
“Blimey, Claire. Rosier and his mates sure have made an errand boy out of, Crouch huh?” Mary Lou said between giggles.
“It’s pathetic really. They’re exploiting that poor boy,” Cher said angrily biting into an apple.
“He volunteered actually. He wants so desperately to be in their group,” I said rolling my eyes discreetly as I unfolded the note he had passed along.
“What a miserable group to be apart of. Everyone knows that Goyle’s cheating on his fiancée and Yaxley a first class creep,” Anabelle said, subsiding her laughter and getting back to her stew.
I have missed you fondly my love. Meet me tonight in the lower dungeons. I have paid off the patrolling prefects this evening and the Aurors are not patrolling in that area. I’m sure we’ll find somewhere to be alone.
I grimaced slightly at the slip of parchment and slipped the paper into my robes.
“Was that a loooove note?” Mary Lou said waggling her eyebrows and nudging my shoulder.
I found myself smiling despite my distaste for my boyfriend. Somehow despite all of my pureblood teaching and upbringing these girls had wormed their way into my heart.
“Something of the sort. Have you and Bones had a chance to snog since this whole lock down thing?” I said easily, smirking as her cheeks reddened.
Cher gasped, forgetting her apple for a moment, “Finley, you little minx!”
Anabelle and I made eye contact and burst out in laughter.
“Was he a decent snog?” Anabelle said, her laughter shaking her shoulders now.
“Was it in a broom cupboard or an abandoned classroom?” I inquired further my words subsiding to giggles.
“Ladies, the question in this moment is much more obvious,” Cher started fixing us with a serious look, “Is he more of a tongue or no tongue guy?”
After our dinner in the hall we had been escorted back to our dormitories for the evening. I had done a couple of rolls of parchment for potions on the effects and uses of a pepper up potions, apparently potions that altered moods were more advanced than I imagined. I had practiced Charms easily and lazily flicked my bed hangings open and closed waiting for the evening to fall.
Anabelle wasn’t in the room, probably strategizing with her players about how to make up practice time when this all died down. Cher was engrossed in studying a small spot on one of her plants that had randomly shown up, and Mary Lou was binge studying for Arithmancy.
The lights in our room dimmed slowly as the sun above sunk below the horizon, leaving us in a warm golden glow when night had fallen. I sat up then, having long ago picked out a perfectly modest sleeping gown to wear out of the common room in case I came in contact with someone who was not aware of Rosier’s plans so I could feign sleep walking. I slipped easily out of the room unnoticed and barely made it out of the common room. Luckily a couple of second years were playing exploding snap and forgot to aim thus hitting an older student and inciting a small uproar.
I could hear my bare feet gently padding on the cold stone floors, aware of every sound the corridor made as I slipped through. When I delved further down in the castle I pulled out my wand discreetly from the waistband of my knickers, sleeping gowns don’t come with pockets, people. I thought of the spell briefly and my wand’s tip lit up. I walked easily now; my shoulders back as I walked further in the dungeon.
A draft came through and I shivered, finding the staircase to the lower dungeons. I slowly began to descend when I noticed another light coming closer, good as time as any to discover if Rosier’s paying off worked.
“Claire?” Regulus’s voice sounded before my eyes adjusted around his lit up wand.
“Black,” I said with a small nod, my heart leaping at seeing him up close in what had been days.
“Why are you down here?” He asked, lowering his wand and speaking in a quiet tone.
I felt my cheeks reddening now, “Rosier didn’t talk to you? I’m here to…meet him.”
I could feel my whole face burning now as understanding took over Regulus’s face, his eyes now taking in me in a sleeping gown. It was better than being half naked in a sheet.
“I forgot, he did mention he was meeting someone tonight,” Black said, giving me a tight grimace.
“Right, I should be going,” I said quietly another draft of cold air coming up front the dudgeons sent a shiver through my body, my wand’s light visibly shaking.
“Are you cold?” Regulus started, blocking my path.
He removed the cloak from his shoulders and put it on mine, his school shirt neatly pressed underneath and tucked in to his black trousers. The only thing misplaced about his outfit was the lack of a tie and his shirt unbuttoned two from the top.
“Thank you,” I said softly, staring down as his hands smoothed the cloak over my shoulders.
Regulus was warm; I could feel his touch through the cloak fabric like it was burning straight to my skin. He had gotten closer to me in an effort to put the cloak on me and I could feel his breath on my face. It smelled dimly of mint but it so attracted me to his mouth, about what not only his mouth smelled like but what it tasted like as well.
Regulus’s eyes seemed fixed on my lips and I swear we both moved just a hair closer. With a sigh he closed his eyes, and I could feel the rejection slamming in to my emotions with full force.
Yet, ever so gently his hand on my shoulder reached up to tilt my chin down so his lips would place a small kiss on my forehead. And I closed my eyes tightly, relishing the moment.
“You’re Rosier’s girl. I can’t do that, not because he’s a mate or a good bloke, but because his word is law amongst us here. I may have rank outside of this castle, but here Rosier is king,” Regulus said quietly, whispering as he leaned his forehead to mine.
“I know I--,” I began to say before a shriek came from further in the dungeons, jolting me to reality.
“Wha--,” Regulus started, pulling away and peering down as another shriek came.
But this shriek made my blood freeze; this one sent my legs flying in to action to find the source. Because it was Anabelle screaming my name.
I dashed away from Regulus as quickly as my legs would carry me, clasping on to the cloak with one hand and my wand with the other. Another shriek sent me bolting down the lower corridors, around the corner to a set of abandoned dudgeons.
“Silencio,” A voice muttered quickly, and I saw light flickering from one further down the hallway. I rushed forward, wand clutched at the ready.
As I rounded the corner I took my dueling position, staring into the room.
The first face I noticed was a smug Barty Crouch Jr., standing as guard at the doorway. He made no move to point his own wand at me though. Goyle stood nearest Barty, and slowly as my eyes adjusted I saw more and more of the Slytherin Quidditch team until my eyes landed on Rosier.
His once vibrant green eyes were bleak, his lips twisted in some sick smile.
“My pardons, dear,” Rosier said softly, “I didn’t mean for you to hear her scream just yet. I was waiting for you to join us.”
My eyes darted to the other side of the room to a curled up form. It was a girl and her hair was matted and I could see her body heaving under silent sobs.
“W-what are you doing to--?” I started, choking on my own words, “Is-is that Annabelle?”
The curled up form raised her head and looked at me, her eyes were wild and there were dirt and tears all over her face. But it was Anabelle. My jaw slacked as tears rolled down my cheek as well.
“Well, you were ever so keen about knowing what we were up to darling,” Rosier said serenely, walking toward me now.
“Yeah, Nott. We thought we’d congratulate you on your help in all of this,” Goyle said happily, elbowing Yaxely like they were in on some joke.
“I mean, we were experimenting on others, trying to perfect our spells,” Rosier said softly, placing a hand on Barty Crouch Jr.’s shoulder.
“It was an honor,” Barty said evenly, “Besides if I had not had to go to the Hospital Wing after the first experiments I never would have heard that sweet, sweet little talk between you and Anabelle.”
Their eyes fixed on to me quickly, boys surveying my reaction. I felt like my entire body had been paralyzed; like cold water had been poured over my head and I no longer had the ability to speak or catch my breath.
“After I told the boys here that you had come to me later explain that O’Malley was a muggle lover,” Rosier basically growled at the end, shooting a glare at the form of Anabelle, “Well, I knew just who to practice on next.”
I sank slowly to my knees, unable to bear all of this. Rosier had lied for my sake. But why? I was hardly good enough for that. I dreaded seeing him and pretending to be his doting girlfriend. And then I watched slowly as the boys’ eyes all drew to him, and the amount of respect and loyalty they displayed was almost worship like. In some way I could see more of Lord Voldemort in Evan than I ever dreamed.
“Now, let’s keep going, shall we?” Evan basically sang those words as he drifted back to his original spot.
He raised his wand and with a flick and a brilliant stream of red light I watched Anabelle move. She was writhing and suddenly her screams started again. And I gaped. I felt like my heart was being torn out of my chest violently, and I watched the girl I cared most for be tortured. By my boyfriend.
He lifted up for a moment, chuckling darkly as he gauged my expression, glee dancing all over his face.
“Isn’t it so fitting what filthy muggle lovers deserve, darling?” His eyes boring in to mine, “Yaxley why don’t you have a go?”
Yaxley smiled wolfishly, and stepped forward. I could feel the anger, the hatred, and the loathing that had built up over this year. My distaste for this war, and violence came crashing in. And finally, the sheer anger that comes when someone threatens a person you love. I no longer cared what my mother thought of my friends or my love life. I no longer cared to sit on the sidelines and watch this happen. I couldn’t stop it all, but I could stop this right now.
As Yaxley raised his wand and began to flourish I rushed forward and when the words slipped easily from his mouth “Crucio” is the last thing I heard before the pain began to rack over my body and senses.
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