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Chapter 3 : Something Wicked This Way Comes
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 19|
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image by Fireheart @ tda
We hope you’ve settled in and are enjoying your fifth year. Remember to study hard, we want to see the continuation of your good grades.
Your uncle Caractacus will back from his antique hunting trip in Spain late next month and will be staying with us over Christmas.
Keep busy and forget about that Muggle. We’ll do the same. Forgiveness depends on your O.W.L. results.
From, Mum and Dad.
P.S. Make sure Finlay brushes his hair.
A bad imitation of a rooster’s crow sounded and I looked over my shoulder across the Great Hall at the Slytherin table. Finn was squatting on his seat, flapping his arms like wings to the raucous laughter of his delighted green and silver audience. A handful of startled Hufflepuffs were looking around from the next table, alarmed at the noise.
“Hello,” Emory said, sitting down opposite me. She screwed up her nose as she looked at Finn. “Your brother is obnoxious.”
“I know,” I said, stuffing the letter into my pocket. “Don’t tell anyone we shared a womb.”
Theo dropped down next to Emory; she grabbed his hand, but he pulled it away and grabbed a piece of toast instead. “Did you hear the latest about what happened with the roosters?” he asked.
My eyes darted to Emory. She looked dejected. I put down my orange juice. “No. What?”
He leaned in close over the table and lowered his voice. “Edward Waldron – he’s a fourth year Hufflepuff – had detention that night, and McDuffy was making him clean the house point hourglasses. He said he was there almost all night and saw no one enter or leave.”
“So it wasn’t someone in the castle,” I said, unconvinced. “That doesn’t tell us anything.”
“Maybe it was an animal?” Emory asked, but she sounded doubtful.
I gave her a look. “What animal do you know would pick up roosters and shove them on spikes for fun?”
“Well here’s the other thing,” Theo said, his green eyes bright with the excitement of mystery as he brandished his toast. “Ogg was in his hut all night and didn’t hear a thing.”
Emory and I were silent.
Theo nodded, pleased. “You’d think six roosters being murdered would make even the smallest of sounds.”
I shivered despite my sweater. The rooster noises at the Slytherin table started up again and I closed my eyes in exasperation. Theo looked past my shoulder as he chewed, eyes narrowed. “Is Finn crowing?” he asked incredulously, then he shook his head. “Your brother is a beast.”
“Don’t remind me,” I said, letting my head fall into my hands.
The Tapestry Corridor was quiet and, although it was late and I was alone, I didn’t feel scared, despite the image of the roosters still at the forefront of my mind. Even despite the sharp metallic scent of the blood that was distinct in my memory. I had never seen that much of it in my life. There had been no blood when Noah died, apart from my own. The deep gash on my forehead had been healed almost the moment I stumbled into my house, screaming for my parents, and my stained wet clothes discarded. Maybe it was the feeling of safety being in a room full of people (even if they were portraits) or maybe it was being amongst the beauty and elegance of the detailed tapestries, nothing could be wrong.
I glanced at my watch and stifled a yawn with my other hand. Only ten minutes left of my rounds. There was a sudden scuffle of shoes, and I quickly shut my mouth, startled out of my yawn. I peeked around the corner, squinting into the dimness of the viaduct entrance. “Hello?” I called, my voice echoing slightly.
A huge shape loomed before me, and I took a step backward, heart leaping into my mouth. My mind screamed, Fuck, I’m going to be murdered like those roosters, but as the shape stepped into the light of my wand, I relaxed, my fear quickly turning to irritation.
“Rubeus, what are you doing here?” I asked the young half-giant.
“Sorry Hero, I didn’ mean to disturb yer,” Rubeus Hagrid said, peering at me through the huge mass of hair that fell into his eyes.
“It’s okay,” I assured him, my annoyance diminishing. “But you shouldn’t be out this late. Go to bed.”
“Yes, miss,” he mumbled, and shuffled down the corridor and out of sight.
I stopped in front of a classroom and pulled the letter from my parents out of my pocket as I waited for my heart to slow. I scanned it again, as if expecting the words to change. Forget. Easy for them to say. I folded the letter again and put it away with a sigh. Looking around, I blinked. I recognised this classroom.
I pushed gently on the door. It swung inwards with a quiet groan of hinges. Soft moonlight from the high windows lit the room with a pale blue glow, and the room appeared cold and impossibly still; even the dust motes in the sliver of moonlight seemed stationary. I gazed around, subconsciously searching for… what? My eyes found one of the desks in the middle of the room. Even under the influence as I was at the time, I could still remember the feeling of the smooth wooden desk under my thighs, cool on my hot skin, and Theo’s tight grip on my hips. I swallowed and pushed the thought away. It wasn't appropriate anymore.
Was I searching for a way to turn back time? Well, if I had the power to do that, I’d use it in a heartbeat, and not drag Theo here after the party.
And tell Noah not to take the road over the bridge to Hangleton.
The door creaked and I swung around, my stomach clenching in fear at the shape that had appeared in the doorway.
“Hero?” it whispered.
“No, just Theo,” said the boy from the shadows.
I rubbed my sweaty palms on my robes. “God, what is with everyone scaring me tonight? There are easier ways to kill me than by trying to give me a heart attack.”
“Sorry,” Theo said, coming in. “What are you doing in here?”
“I, um…” I struggled to form a coherent thought. Between my racing heart and the embarrassment that he probably knew exactly where we were, my mind was spinning. “I thought I heard something. What are you doing here? I thought you were patrolling the third floor tonight.”
He shrugged. “I finished. Thought you might be lonely.”
I folded my arms in front of my chest, pulling at a loose thread of robe on one of my elbows, waiting for him to tell me the real reason.
“And I need to talk to you,” he admitted.
I let out a breath, butterflies of apprehension exploding in my stomach. Uh oh.
“It’s about what happened here. What we did.”
“I thought we agreed to forget about it,” I said. “Go about like nothing happened.”
“I know, and I’ve tried. But I can’t go back to the way we were,” he said. He stepped closer to me, eyes pleading. “I thought I could, but I… think I –”
I braced myself. Don’t say it.
“ – still love you.”
He said it. “Theo, please,” I said, closing my eyes. “It's not real anymore. It was all a mistake –”
“Stop saying that.” He took another few steps.
I opened my eyes again. He was so close now I could feel his breath stir my hair as I looked up at him. I longed to wrap my arms around his neck for comfort as I used to, but firmly pushed those feelings aside. It wasn't what my parents wanted.
“I haven't stopped feeling this way about you,” Theo said, his voice no more than a whisper. He reached up and ran his hand tenderly down my ribs to my hips, making my breath come short. “And I know you haven't either.”
“Yes, I have.” I raised my hands to his chest and pushed him away. “I've moved on. You should too. What about Emory?”
Theo grabbed my waist as leverage and leaned in again, bringing his face close to mine.
“Theo, please, I can't,” I said, my efforts useless against the bulk of his chest.
“Take your hands off her,” said a familiar, velvety voice.
We turned in unison toward the doorway, where Tom stood, materialising so silently it was as if he had appeared out of thin air. My stomach flipped at the sight of him.
Theo dropped his hands and took a swift step back. “What the hell are you doing here, Riddle?”
“Looking out for Hero. Good thing I am, too.” His eyes narrowed as he looked at Theo with distaste.
Theo looked back at me, his eyebrows creased cynically. “Riddle? Really, Hero?”
I was silent, trying to determine whether my gut was telling me I was pleased for the disruption or pleased to see who was doing the disrupting.
Theo shook his head as if in disbelief, then walked toward the door where he stopped in front of Tom. Theo was over a head taller than him and almost twice as wide, but Tom looked anything but small as he met Theo’s glare.
For a second I thought Theo might hit him; his jaw was tense and the fingers on one hand were clenched into a fist, but he only pushed past Tom with a shoulder and left.
Tom straightened himself again and a noticeable tension relaxed in his shoulders; only now did I realise how rigid he had been holding himself. I let out the air in my lungs slowly and leant back against a desk. Tom walked over to stand in front of me. In the moonlight, his dark eyes and eyebrows stood stark against the paleness of his face. “Are you alright?” he asked.
I hugged myself as a shiver ran through me, looking down at my feet. “Yeah. Thank you.”
Tom noticed the movement and unwound the green and silver scarf he wore. Taking the necessary step closer, he reached over and wrapped it around my own neck. I looked up slowly to his face.
“Hero!” called Theo’s voice faintly from the viaduct entrance. He sounded alarmed.
I bolted from the room without a second glance at Tom, but the sound of his footsteps behind me told me that he followed. We skidded to a halt just outside the carpeted entry of the Tapestry Corridor. Theo had his back to me, but by the mirror hanging opposite, I could see his mouth open in shock.
On the floor, with arms raised up toward her head and terror on her face, was the body of a young girl lying utterly still.
The coffee in my hands did nothing to warm me.
Theo, Tom and I sat in the hospital wing, waiting for news on the girl. Theo, on my right, fidgeted in his seat, his coffee untouched. Tom, on my left, sat perfectly still, hands clasped in his lap and wearing a peaceful expression as if he were merely at the theatre. He had declined a hot beverage, but offered me a square of chocolate he pulled from his bag, the same dark chocolate Finn had given me on the train. I accepted it gratefully.
The nurse, Madam Flint, approached us, shoes clicking on the floor. “Miss Howard should be okay,” she informed us. “Though she’s been petrified. It’s very Dark Magic, and I must ask you, as school prefects, to keep this to yourselves for now, at least until we know more.”
I nodded numbly without looking around to see Tom and Theo had done the same.
“I expect Professor Dippet will want a word with you later, also,” she added. “But for now, I can write you an exemption letter from today’s classes, if you so wish.”
The three of us assured her we would be fine and she walked away. I unwound the scarf around my neck and gave it back to Tom with what I hoped was a grateful smile. It felt like more of a weak tug on one side of my mouth.
“We have Potions first thing,” Theo said to me through a yawn. He stood up and stretched, joints popping softly, then reached a hand down out to me. “Come on, I’ll walk you to breakfast.”
I looked at his hand, then up at him. I said coolly, “I’d rather you didn’t.”
Theo dropped his hand to his side. I expected him to be hurt, and looked down to watch the sun’s rays creep across the tiles to avoid seeing his face. I tentatively glanced at him out of the corner of my eye; he looked furious. He snapped, “What, you’d rather stay with your stalker?”
I flinched but met his gaze. “Yes.”
His face faltered as the hurt I expected finally flickered across his features. He left without another word.
Tom stirred next to me. “I almost forgot,” he said, reaching into his pocket and speaking as if he hadn’t just been insulted. “This is why I came to find you. When you ran out of the library the other night, you left this.” He dropped something into my palm and curled my fingers around it, letting his own long hands linger for a second longer than I thought necessary. “It must have fallen off when you upended yourself.”
I grimaced at the memory and opened my hand. It was my leather bracelet, but it had snapped, so that it just dangled in my hand. I ran a finger over the indentation that spelled ‘Wool’s Orphanage’. Where Noah had grown up. I hadn’t even noticed it was missing from my wrist. “Thank you,” I whispered.
“Will you let me walk you to the Great Hall?” Tom asked. “Or, if you prefer, I’ll give you a head start and stalk you there.”
I made a small noise of amusement, and after a moment’s hesitation, I nodded.
We walked to the Great Hall in silence, which allowed my mind to spin, images flashing one after another. The roosters and their blood. Theo, his attitude, and the nerve of him. The girl and her look of terror. Tom and his – well everything. I hastily pushed aside thoughts of both boys, though I felt terrible over Theo. It hadn't been his fault.
Could the horrible things happening really be a student playing a sick joke, trying to scare the others? Well if it was, it was working. I was terrified. Even now, my hands started to shake, but I was surprised to find it wasn’t in fear – it was in anger. The last time I was this angry, I slammed the front door in my parents’ faces after a fight. That had been the day of the accident.
Tom nodded politely at any staff member we passed, his smile charming and handsome, but I was only half aware of my surroundings. Would my parents be proud if I found out who or what was responsible for the petrification of the Howard girl? I shook my head, I was getting carried away. Better to focus on my school work like mum and dad wanted.
But as we walked, I made a mental list of what my life had become. I was responsible for Noah’s death. I had broken one heart and could still possibly break another. I was sinking under the pressure of OWL year already.
It was as if the universe decided I should have drowned that day after all.
A/N: Many thanks to Julie (banshee) for her wonderful beta help!
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