Chapter 18 : Of Dumbledore and Sunshine.
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The Auror's had stuck around for the time being, though with finals the rules were more lax. They had doubled their forces in an effort to patrol more, no corner of Hogwarts was left unchecked.
Dumbledore chose not to release the part about torture and unforgivable curses in hopes of not adding more hysteria to the minds of students.
“And you wouldn’t know why someone would report seeing Rosier down there that evening, would you?” Dumbledore looked away from me now and focused on the bookshelf in front of us.
“I do wish we could bring whoever did this to justice, Misses Nott,” he sighed towards the end, his mouth down turning and his brow furrowed.
“Me too, sir,” I said in a small voice, a lump forming in my throat.
I believe they deserved the worst cell in Azkaban quite frankly. But that would be a betryal.
“Thank you for your time, please continue with your studies,” Dumbledore rose now, giving a twinkling smile and parting on his own way.
I let out a breath, feeling calm wash over me once again.
We were all safe
I brushed a stray hair from my face as I faced Finch-Fletchley. Following our first encounter as partners we had warmed to a decent respect as duelers, in fact we had chosen one another for our midterm.
“Commence,” Turley said evenly, signaling the beginning of our duel. The entire class’ eyes rested on us.
He raised his wand and began to mutter a spell, but I quickly shot an expelliarmus his way. He moved quickly and shielded. He countered swiftly with a jelly legs charm, which I narrowly missed. We had learned one another in a short couple of months and so our dueling kept most everyone’s attention. The admiration for my wordless spells was evident in those who had yet to know about it.
I lost my footing when Finch-Fletchley shot a binding curse my way and crashed hard into the ground.
I heard some flinch and take in breath and a few mutters at my hard crash. A person nearest my side of the duel whispered an insult; the words Slytherin slag rolling over me. I felt a burning in my chest at that insult.
I turned quickly shielding as Terrance flew another curse my way and quickly the rope binding spell coursed through my mind. A rope sprang from my wand and snaked around Finch-Fletchley’s body more quickly then he could react. It pulled tight and squeezed, Terrance fought, his breathing getting heavier.
“Nott, enough,” Turley’s voice rang out evenly and I pulled back, realizing everyone in the room was staring at me in slight fear.
Most of the other duels had ended in a simple disarming of the partner.
I suddenly felt the urge to break down in tears again.
“As many of you know we are still unaware of who or what caused Misses O’Malley’s attack over a week ago. The Auror’s are investigating. She is recovering at St. Mungo’s and this morning woke up, the doctor’s are hopeful that she will make a full recovery and is finishing the end of this term at home,” Dumbledore said evenly, eyes briefly flitting to the notes below him, “Now I want to address this. In times like these where darkness and sadness loom, we must all realize that the future of who we are as people resides in this room. The decisions you make after you finish your schooling shape what wizarding kind will become. Do so strenuously, always remembering that the ends does not justify the means.”
Dumbledore gave a pointed stare at each table in the room, my eyes peeking over at the scowls planted on the Slytherin faces. I could practically hear them muttering about how much they intended to shape who we as wizard-kind would become.
On some level I knew Dumbledore suspected the truth. He had been a professor of Lord Voldemort’s when he attended Hogwarts, he was surely aware of how capable his reach was. His pointed questions the other evening had indicated he knew more than what Regulus and I had admitted to.
“With that in mind, as our time before the holidays draws near, keep safe outside of these walls. Be wary of what is going on in our communities and be on guard. Sometimes evil has the face of friendship.”
I rose with Mary Lou and Cher quickly, as others in the Great Hall began to draw up to go to their dormitories.
“Nott!” came a familiar voice, one I had not heard in a little over a week.
Others turned too at the spectacle of us actually regarding one another in public.
“Black?” I said questioningly, catching his eyes for the first time in quite sometime.
It was awful for a boy to be this beautiful, this handsome. I felt my heart stutter.
He approached quickly, coming close to speak lowly to me while people through the rush of the crowd were swept off.
“Headmaster Dumbledore has given you permission to see Anabelle this evening before they move her home,” He said evenly, hands shoved into his robes and his eyes only regarding me for small moments before checking around the crowd for onlookers.
“Thank you for letting me know, I’ll head to his office then,” I said turning to see Cher and Mary Lou had marched on, probably thinking I needed alone time with Black.
“Hold on,” He said catching my arm as I tried to walk off.
I turned quickly, brushing away his touch.
“I’m to go with you,” Regulus said his hand casually moving to tousle his hair in what appeared to be the only awkward motion I had ever seen overcome him.
“Perfect,” I said into a sigh, letting a large tight grin over take my lips, “Bloody perfect.”
We separated from the masses headed towards dormitories in pursuit of Dumbledore’s office, and we walked in silence, walking as closely to opposite sides of the wall as possible.
“How did she look last time you saw her?” He said evenly, sliding his hands into his robes.
“Better. I expected her to look…” I said with a pause, and shrugged, “Beat up, I suppose. But she didn’t.”
Regulus nodded, letting the silence envelope us as we drew near to a statue I had only seen at one other time in my life. It was when my parents were attempting to do without Muggle Studies in my education.
“Cauldron cake,” the dark haired Slytherin said evenly, staring at the gargoyle in front of us.
The sound of stone scraping against stone erupted as the gargoyle began to twist upward and reveal an eagle on the other side. A staircase billowing up as the statue twisted upward. We waited for it to stop and then walked up the stairs quickly.
I had only been to Dumbledore’s office once before this evening, on the occasion my parents had decided to make a scene and confront the Headmaster about the need for Muggle Studies for all students. It was heedlessly embarrassing.
Regulus paused at the large oak doors at the top of the stairs and gave a small knock. The door moved slightly ajar and we hesitantly stepped into the Headmaster’s office.
“Headmaster, we have to seriously consider how dangerous keeping the doors of this school open may-“ McGongall’s sharp tone was cut short by Regulus clearing his throat to our enterance and I felt my face burn.
Professor McGonagall startled and moved from leaning forward on the Headmaster’s desk to smoothing her robes and giving us slight nods.
“Mister Black and Misses Nott, pleasant last evening of term I assume?” She said evenly, giving us a curt smile.
“They’re here to floo over to St. Mungo’s, Minnie, we’ll speak later,” Dumbledore said evenly, rising from his large high-backed chair.
She gave a sigh exited the office, her thick robes billowing behind her in a way many students considered menacing.
“Are you both prepared to leave for the train in the morning?” Dumbledore asked shuffling from behind his desk and towards the dwindling fire in the small fireplace of his office. He moved to snuff out the coals.
A couple of the portraits on the wall shuffled in curiosity to watch as he interacted with us, while some of the others had nodded off.
I noticed an ancestor of mine dozing in his frame, Nott embellished in steams of silver and green in his frame.
“Yes, sir,” I said giving a slight smile; I had packed away my things the previous evening. Dreading the next time I would see it’s contents in my room at home, the holidays were sure to be unpleasant this time.
“Of course, sir,” Regulus said evenly, making eye contact with Dumbledore who in turn gave a nod to him.
In all honesty it was a strange interaction, even though small. I wasn’t sure I had seen Regulus interact with Dumbledore in any setting, much less warranting a ‘sir.’
“When you enter the fire with the floo powder in your hand simply state the place you wish to visit clearly, that is vitally important, and throw the powder at your feet,” Dumbledore’s instructions interrupted my thoughts as he grabbed a jar filled with dark powder and gestured towards me.
I grabbed a handful of the floo powder aware of its uses but having never used it for traveling. And I stepped in to the large fireplace, barely having to bend over to fit underneath the mantle.
It seemed the room we were in was floo central, various fireplaces lined the white walls of the floor.
Some were exiting from a set of fireplaces, which held the Hospital’s emblem over top. It's shining cross bone and wand glinting on the white walls. Those leaving were wearing lime green robes and others donned pale green ones. They were obviously workers in the hospital, healers and healer's assistance.
I sighed as I noted Regulus had yet to appear, wondering why he had yet to spring from the green flames.
The other fireplaces seemed more like emergent cases of people seeking out family members or loved ones. Often those exiting rush towards the inquiries desk while the welcome witch instructed them to the correct floor.
The entire room buzzed efficiently, like a machine; it was exhilarating in a sense. These people worked with such purpose to heal others and save them, it drew me back to the moments of sitting across from Professor Sprout and expressing my deepest desire to pursue healing. It was a secret I had yet to even confide in Anabelle, as I was sure it was a lost dream.
“Ready to go along,” Regulus said next to me, causing me to startle.
I glared at him, “Took you long enough,” and trudged towards the lift with Black in tow.
A cool voice noted we were in the basement floor and as the grate shut and we began to climb I could feel the suffocating feeling of being confronted by the night that had happened nearly days ago.
He gave me a sound nod, reassuring despite the fact that I had denounced our friendship. But I desperately needed someone in my corner at this moment. I moved forward and tapped on the glass, sliding the door gently to reveal myself.
“Uh, hello,” I said now bashful, glancing at Anabelle’s mother and Anabelle in the bed.
“They heard me talking to you in the hospital wing, about your boyfriend,” I commented lowly, “Crouch was in the bed next to you. Rosier wanted to get back at me too. I hadn’t been living up to his expectations as a girlfriend.”
"Have they asked you about that night, yet?" I started uneasily, the fear of my well planned story crumbling and the ripples it would cause back home.
Anabelle shook her head, "No, I suppose it seems too traumatic for me right now. I want to tell them the truth, Claire."
I squeezed my eyes tightly, feeling my self shifting between my own safety amongst my people and my need to put Anabelle before myself.
Anabelle squeezed my arm again, "Claire? Would that put you in danger?"
I felt my bottom lip quiver, and I bit hard into my tongue. I managed a nod. She sighed deeply, her head leaning back on her pillows.
"I won't speak a word of it. I'll tell them I never saw my attackers. I was grabbed outside our dormitory and tortured. I won't omit the names they called me, but I will not name names to keep you safe," Anabelle said slowly, her warm amber eyes regarding me protectively.
I let a smile find my lips, a relief at the deep kindness of friend, even if it came at the cost of her own justice.
I took a deep breath, calming the bought of emotion that had risen in me, "What'll be next for you, Anabelle?"
I smiled now, tears welling up in my own eyes. I had never been more proud of being different.
Regulus poked his head in now, “Nott, we need to get going. We’ll need sleep before the train tomorrow.”
Anabelle and I both looked at him, his face registering the tears on both of our cheeks now.
“Ah, when you’re ready then,” He said, sliding back to man the door.
We looked back at one another, Anabelle and I, and giggled girlishly.
“I don’t think I’ve seen Black quite that ruffled, Claire,” Anabelle said between her giggling and wiping her face.
I nodded, wiping my own face and grinning, “He doesn’t ruffle easily.”
I paused nervously here on the subject of Regulus, wanting in some length to tell her about things with Black but at a loss with him at the door.
“He carried me out?” Anabelle nodded towards Regulus’ outline at the door, her eyes trained on his form.
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