It was bloody impossible to find abandoned areas in this entire school I began to think resentfully as I walked briskly through the halls, knowing the bell for class would ring soon. I had set my pace to make it to the edge of the forest before having to encounter a soul and by Merlin I would do just that. I could feel anger coursing in my veins.
The cool air of the evening bit at my face as soon as I exited the doors of the castle, my realization of how thin the nightgown I had yet to change out of was now dawning on me. I cursed under my breath and after retrieving my wand from my waistband and cast a warming charm on myself. I sighed heavily and trudged away as my slippered feet carried me through the snow.
Bloody death eaters. Dumb Regulus. Stupid looming war.
I kicked some snow angrily, the full force of my anger slipping to the surface of my mind and maddening it was. This was not how I had imagined or wanted my final year at Hogwarts to be. I was only fooling myself in thinking it could be somewhat normal.
I sighed as I approached the large groupings of trees and slipped behind the nearest one. The classes soon began to let out as I heard chattering of people crossing the grounds, probably set out to their last class of the day. I couldn’t bear to think of all of the work I had missed, the questions looming behind my back, and Rosier’s gossip.
I could hardly imagine my mother did not know as of yet the change in my relationship. I would not be surprised if this warranted another Howler. The first had come with the departing of Crabbe from my life. Who could I possibly marry now?
“Nott?” came a quiet voice among the trees and I shot up from my thoughts, wand gripped as I turned to find the voice.
“Yaxley?” I said furrowing my brow; peering at the boy I had known most of my life. Yaxley was not easy on the eyes, therefor a less than ideal suitor. His features were rounded and his smile almost seemed too wide for his face, his blonde hair was consistently tied in a neat ponytail.
He looked around shiftly, trying to decide if any one else had come along, possibly in his gaggle of friends. Then he stepped towards me slowly. At which I slid back cautiously, a red stream of light crossing my mind.
“Heard the girl is in St. Mungo’s, banged up pretty bad,” He commented, rubbing the back of his neck, “I-i..” He started to sigh in his words, ‘I’m sorry that curse hit you. I just get so caught up in it all.”
I wanted to scream at him, yell at him for the way those boys acted. They pointed a wand at a human being and enjoyed causing pain. Nothing could erase that.
And then the clearest understanding of it all hit me, of why I was watching my childhood friends become dangerous villians.
“On some level,” I said slowly, “I understand. You want to fit in, belong. And whatever helps you to that, can be bearable.”
I thought vaguely of dating Rosier, or becoming the woman of pureblood decent my mother deemed worthy.
“Yeah,” Yaxley said with a slight grin at my understanding, “You get it. I just want to make something of myself. Our fathers are already setting a precedent with Lord Volde-“
“It does not excuse the torture of a human being, Bastien,” I said sharply. “You tortured a person
. You tortured my best friend. You hurt someone I care about. It is unforgivable.”
Yaxley flinched at my tone and use of his first name, scoffing and then sulking his way back up towards the castle. I heard him muttering insults just under his breath a string of b words and traitor.
I balled my hands in to fists and began to walk further in the woods, drawing the cloak on my shoulders closer to my frame as the cold nipped away at my layers of fabric. I kept pushing through the trees, the snow soaking through my layers and the cold air sharp as I breathed. Finally I found some sort of clearing. The snow was a perfect blanket on top of the shrubbery and grass; nothing had yet to disturb it. I sank slowly to my knees, clutching the robe on my shoulders.
I was a mess. I had never recollected feeling this much emotion swirling around in my mind.My hair was damp from the wet air, some sweat from the effort of pushing through the woods, and unkempt from my 24 hour escapade. I could feel my heart beating strong and painfully, reminding me this was real and actual.
I’m not sure if I had begun crying after I had spoken with Yaxley or when I arrived at this clearing. But I gave some sort of garbled cry and the sobs overtook me once more. I got so frustrated in my crying, feeling helpless in my life, I threw my head back and yelled. Birds in nearby trees took flight and the forest seemed to quiet at my outburst. I heard a rustling to my left and turned to find the disturbance.
A thestral moved out from among the trees, staring at my frame, and gave a short huff.
I peered at the creature, allowing my breathing to slow and set regular pace. Mentally I began to push back at my emotions, stowing them away from the forefront of my mind. I would survive.
“I found her last night in the dungeons, well actually, I found her and screamed and then Regulus was patrolling and found us both,” I said evenly, staring at Cher and Mary Lou as they sat in front of me.
“What were you doing down there so late?” Cher asked, her sharp black eye brows furrowed in questioning.
“I was, uh, there to meet Bla- Regulus I mean,” I said, shifting my eyes downward and heat burning in my cheeks.
Cher and Mary Lou’s eyes grew wide.
“I suppose that answers why everyone is chattering about you and Rosier breaking up,” Cher said her eyes widened and understanding.
“How was Anabelle when you left her at the hospital?” Mary Lou said in a small voice, staring down at the dirt flours, her face withdrawn.
“She was better,” I said picking at my duvet nestled around me, “She hadn’t woken up yet so they don’t know the full extent of whatever happened to her.”
“I bet you it one of those awful dark Slytherin boys,” Cher said vehemently, “They plotted to hurt Anabelle before. They think no one has noticed their antics this year. They’ve grouped up and gone secret, haven’t participated in a prank all term. They’re just so self-righteous.”
I wondered if that was how Cher regarded me.
“Right now they’re not sure who did it,” I said evenly, catching their eyes, “I’m much more concerned with Anabelle fully recovering.”
“Are you okay, Claire?” Mary Lou asked, concern etched in her features.
I grew quiet then, racking my brain for an appropriate but unsettling answer.
“I will be,” I gave Mary Lou a small smile.
“So Regulus Black?” Cher mustered a cheeky grin now, noting the need to change the subject, there was little we could do continuing to talk about it.
I faltered at this, how would I explain Regulus now? He had been a friend, I thought, but now I know he fits more closely with his boys than I had hoped. Always looking out for the cause, always waiting to play the right moves.
“It, uh, it could have been something,” I said softly, “but not now.” I swallowed the lump in my throat at this.
“Oh, love,” Mary Lou said, reaching out to touch my arm in comfort.
“Was he a good kisser?” Cher said quirking a smile.
I surprised myself and laughed, “I never found out,” I chucked a pillow at her now. Cher cracked a smile and finally Mary Lou beamed as well.
But my mind was somewhere else. My mind was on Regulus’ lips on my forehead. The palpable tension of emotions when we had run into each other on the stairs. The moments of interaction before that, the intimacy and feelings harbored there. I had fallen in love with a boy I had never kissed.