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Chapter 5 : Wake Me Up
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I ran down the street, heedless of the beads of sweat that formed on my brow and upper lip from the exercise and the heat. Noah’s grey-blue Morris Minor was parked and idling around the corner at my request, hidden from the eyes of my parents. I threw myself into the passenger seat and slammed the door. Noah looked at me, blue eyes wide.
“Hello. What -?”
“Drive,” I growled.
“Just go!” I glanced anxiously behind me. There were no signs of pursuit.
Noah, bewildered, obligingly put the car into gear and drove onto the road.
We were silent for a time as houses flashed past, the only sound between us was the hum of the tyres on the road, since the radio was long since broken. My fingers were tapping irritably on my thigh, where I had hidden my wand in my pocket. It was vibrating softly and growing warm, so I quickly moved my hand.
Noah glanced side-long at me. “Do you want to talk about it?”
I leant my head back against the seat and closed my eyes.
“Is it your family again?” he asked quietly as the houses became fewer and the trees became thicker. “I don’t need to tell you again how lucky you are to actually have one, right?”
I sighed. If only he knew. I opened my eyes, turning my head toward him. He was concentrating on the road, so I studied his profile. Light blonde hair that stuck up at the back, a long nose, ears that stood out slightly. A pleasant shiver ran down my spine just looking at him. His mouth was turned down, as it often did when we spoke about family. Noah didn’t know my family. But they knew about him.
I thought about the words my parents and I screamed at each other and dug my nails into my palms. I felt hot and wondered dimly if it was from my wand again or my rage.
“You look beautiful when you’re angry,” Noah said softly, turning to look at me.
I blushed, feeling my temperature rise once more, but pleasantly this time. I turned my head back to the front as we crossed the bridge, and that was when I saw the large black bird in the middle of the road. My warning was lodged in my throat as my wand burned a hole in my pocket.
It all happened so quickly. Noah swore, I yanked my burning wand out of my trousers, black feathers covered the windscreen, and then we were falling.
My mind, though asleep, changes the memory after we fall. After we hit the water, the door doesn’t budge no matter how hard I claw at it or how loud I scream. My lungs burn like fire as water completely fills the car and black spots dance in my vision, and that’s when I know I’m dreaming.
In all my dreams I drown.
As the classes after lunch were due to start, I descended the girl’s dormitory steps, fluffing up my hair on the way. Morgan was waiting for me at the bottom of them, hands in his pockets and cheek dimples on display. “Hey, Ro. How you doing?”
“Yeah, good, Mo. Just on my way to Charms.”
He nodded, rubbing the back of his neck, which was growing steadily red. “Good, good, I won’t keep you. Look, I wanted to give you some space after what happened in the dungeons, but… well, if you ever wanted to talk – about anything… I just want you to know I’m always here.”
I smiled. “Thank you. I might take you up on that offer.”
His face brightened instantly, big hazel eyes sparkling. “That’s great. Hey, I also wanted to talk to you about some tactics I’ve planned for the team. Want to come to Hogsmeade this weekend? Talk about stuff then?”
I hesitated for a second, raising a hand to my face. The past three times I’d spent in the library with Tom, he’d kissed my cheek at the end. I could still feel the touch of his lips. But what harm was there in grabbing a coffee and talking about Quidditch? It was only Morgan, after all.
I nodded. “Sure.”
Morgan grinned and disappeared up the dormitory steps.
I turned to continue to class, only to find my way barred again by a short young boy, with hair so blonde it was almost white. “Are you Hero Blishwick?” he asked.
“Yes,” I sighed, and glanced at the grandfather clock.
The boy, Nate Melrose, picked at a spot on his robes. “Um, a group Slytherins stole my Gobstones this morning, and – and they’re important, we have a big game coming up this weekend, but I-I don’t want to…” he trailed off.
I didn’t have to ask which group of Slytherins he was referring to. I rolled my eyes inwardly and scooted past him, calling over my shoulder, “I’ll talk to my brother about it!”
I had time to see his face break into a relieved smile before the portrait closed behind me.
By the time I made it to the Charms classroom, the only spare seat was next to Finn. I groaned inwardly as he grinned and patted the seat.
“Could you not steal from the third-years?” I muttered, sliding into the seat next to him.
Finn opened his mouth in exaggerated shock. “I would never!” he said in a stage whisper.
“Well Melrose says you did and I have the power to give you detention now.” I glanced around the classroom for Theo and Emory. They weren’t sitting together, which was nothing strange in itself, but Theo was slumped low in his chair, and Emory’s nose and the rings around her eyes were red. Uh oh.
Finn flicked a lock of my hair with the feather of his quill. “That a threat, little sister?”
I batted his hand away. “Yes.”
Finn pulled a face at me – I saw it out of the corner of my eye – but I ignored him, trying to listen to Professor Bakewell. She had asked a question and now looked around the classroom expectantly. Tom, with his teacher smile on, raised his hand.
Finn elbowed me. “You dating him or what?” he asked in a loud whisper as Tom correctly answered the question. “I heard about your little late night study meetings.”
Professor Bakewell tittered and set us writing revision notes for the Mending Charm.
“He’s just helping me study for OWLs,” I said, over the shuffling of paper as books were opened. My face felt hot. “Why don’t you try it sometime?”
Finn leaned back, chair balancing on two legs as he wrote a rude word on the corner of his parchment. “I’m too pretty to study.”
I shook my head, not looking up from my parchment, even though I was finding it hard to concentrate. “You should be locked away.”
“What, like your Muggle? You gonna lock me in a madhouse or in a car?”
My hand froze mid-word. “What did you say?” I asked in barely more than a whisper.
Uneasiness flickered across his face, the front legs of his chair hitting the ground again. “What?”
“Did you just say Noah was locked in the car?”
Finn ran a feigned casual hand through his black hair; he was shifting uncomfortably in his seat. “No… Well, yeah, I heard the Muggle police – no one could - Look, whatever. He’s dead. Get over it.”
I dropped my quill and sat back, numb. I wanted to hit him, to scream at him, ask him if he really just indicated it wasn’t my fault after all, that Noah needn’t have died? But I didn’t. I only sat as the classroom spun around me.
Professor Bakewell approached our desk, her grey eyebrows knitted together in concern. “Are you alright, Miss Blishwick? You’re dreadfully pale, dear.”
My voice sounded hollow as I said, “No, I… I’m not feeling well, Professor. Might I be excused?”
Professor Bakewell nodded. “Of course.”
I shoved my things into my bag, dimly aware of eyes that had started to glance my way, and walked quickly from the room. I got as far as the Gunhilda of Goresmore corridor before my legs started to wobble. I threw myself down behind the hump-backed statue of Gunhilda and put my head between my knees. Was Finn telling the truth? It was exactly the kind of thing he would say, but then he backpedalled, and now I wasn’t so sure.
I raised my head. Tom was hovering tentatively behind the statue. I hastily blinked back the tears that were threatening to spill over. “Sorry,” I mumbled.
Tom came to sit beside me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders, pulling me close. “Don’t be sorry,” he said.
I sniffed, taking deep breaths as I rested against his chest, the knit jumper soft beneath my cheek. I breathed in the now-familiar scent of him, a mix of soap, cologne and boy. His heart beat a strong and steady rhythm under my ear.
Tom’s chin rested on top of my head; I felt it move as he softly asked, “What’s the matter?”
I deliberated, wondering how much to tell him, but as he started to rub small circles into my back, I relaxed against him. “Noah – the Muggle boy I told you about? I, um… I thought I had a hand in the accident, but now I’ve just found out it might not be my fault.”
“Why would think it was your fault?” His voice vibrated in his chest against my cheek.
“I was angry when I left the house, and – well, it’s a blur, that’s what’s frustrating, but I think my wand reacted to my feelings. The sparks scared him – he didn’t know about me - and the car swerved off a bridge. But Finn just said his door was locked, that not even the Muggle police could open it. But what does that mean? What if he could have gotten out after all?”
“You think someone tampered with it?”
I shivered. “I don’t know.”
As we sat on the cold stone floor behind the hump-backed statue, a memory of Noah floated to the forefront of my mind.
“Do you know why he took you there?” I asked. “The boy?”
“Not a boy,” Noah whispered, his thin hands shaking. “A monster. And he wanted only to scare us. To hurt us.”
I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him close.
Noah gripped me tightly, and into my hair, whispered, “I’m so scared he’ll come back, Hero.”
“If anyone wants to hurt you,” I said. “They’ll have to go through me first.”
He leaned back to look at me, blue eyes glistening, and gently pressed his lips to mine.
Now, Tom shifted slightly and sighed, his breath tickling my hair. “I wouldn’t dwell on it, if I were you,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, he was just a Muggle.”
I wrenched myself out of his arms and turned to him. Surprise flittered across his features. “How can you say that?”
“What?” He looked genuinely confused. It made my blood boil.
I stood up and threw my bag over my shoulder. “He was a person. I – You – How dare -” I had to take a deep breath to steady myself, my words tripping over themselves in my anger. “You know what, I don’t think I’ll be requiring your study help anymore. See you around.” I spun on my heel and stormed down the corridor, leaving Tom sitting on the floor behind the statue.
I stomped through the common room and all the way up the stairs to the dormitories. Then I stomped to my bed, threw myself onto it and screamed into my pillow. How could I have been so stupid to think that Tom was different from the other Slytherins? To think that he was kinder and more sensitive than Lestrange, Avery and Finn? He was just as arrogant and cruel, like everyone else in my family, and I was left ignorant, gullible and angry.
And Noah. I sighed and rolled onto my back, clutching my pillow to my chest. Had his door been sealed on purpose? Was it the boy from his past? What if it was something my wand had done, and it remained my fault after all? That was just as well; I had grown used to living with guilt.
I rolled over, still clutching the pillow. I was facing Emory’s bed now, her side table littered with copies of the Muggle newspaper she had her parents send her every week for news on their war. I was more interested in the wizarding war I’d heard spreading across Europe, or the war I faced with my parents every day. Thinking of my parents, I was struck by an idea. Grabbing parchment and a quill, I scribbled a note to them, asking for the details from the accident I had never asked about before. I glanced at the clock on the wall; if I hurried, I could make it to the Owlery and back in time for Quidditch practice.
I shoved the letter and my flying gear into my bag. Drat, where was my other glove? Yanking at the drawer of my own bedside table, three objects slid toward me. Noah’s old leather bracelet, my other glove and Secrets of the Darkest Art. I touched the bracelet softly, then lifted the book out, staring down at the black cover with grey lettering. I had wanted to bring it up to Tom on more than one occasion, but was never quite sure how. And if I was being honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know. Perhaps books like this were how he taught himself to move things using his mind. Then there was the fact that I was never sure if Finn was bullshitting me or not, trying to make Tom look bad in my eyes for whatever reason.
Bag packed, I hurried to the door and flung it open. Emory was standing on the other side, her hand raised as if reaching for the door handle. “Mistress, what cheer?” she asked, taking in my appearance.
I tucked my hair behind my ears and scooted past her. “Gotta send a letter before training,” I said, heading for the stairs.
I stopped and turned, one foot on the stairs. “Yeah?”
“Let’s go to Hogsmeade this weekend, just you and me.”
The soft pleading in her voice squeezed my heart like a fist. “Sorry, Em, I already said I’d go with Morgan. But I’m sure you’d be welcome to come, if you’d like.”
She looked down at her feet. “Oh… No, that’s okay. I don’t really know him that well.”
“We’ll talk tonight, I promise.” I reached over and tugged gently on a lock of her long dark hair. A smile pulled at the corner of her mouth. I ran down the stairs, calling up, “I’ll grab some ice cream from the kitchens!”
But as I rushed through the portrait, I realised I forgot to ask her why she had been crying.
Briony and Tinley, two of my cousins, were at the base of the Owlery when I arrived. Both Blishwicks and both Slytherins, of course. They were talking in hushed tones, and I smiled at them as I hurried passed, until a snippet of their conversation reached my ears.
“…and whatever it is escaped from that Chamber, apparently.”
“But how is it attacking without being seen?”
I stopped and wheeled around.
“What’s this you’re talking about?” I asked as I approached them.
Tinley pushed her straight black hair over her shoulder. With her pale skin and protruding canines, I always thought she strongly resembled a vampire. In her soft lilting voice she said, “Didn’t you hear? Another student was found petrified a few hours ago.”
My jaw dropped. “No,” I said faintly. “What happened?”
Briony’s smile was full of malice. “Professor Tagg’s class came out of their lesson for lunch and saw the boy on the floor, same as that other girl. Got the shock of their lives apparently.”
Tinley shook her head. “How can you be so blasé? The poor child comes from a Muggle family, his parents must be worried sick.”
Briony smirked. “That’s what’s so funny.”
“Honestly…” Tinley sighed and adjusted the strap of her bag on her shoulder. “See you in the common room,” she said to Briony. “Later, Hero.”
As Tinley walked away, I turned to Briony. Her hair, pulled back in a long ponytail, was the same shade as mine, and we had the same small nose, but where she was tall and athletic, I was middle height and not.
“Did you say something about a Chamber?”
Briony’s smile was back. “Oh, you know how people talk –”
“I know how you do,” I muttered.
“- and apparently there’s a secret chamber somewhere in the castle with a beast inside, and that’s what’s attacking students.”
My stomach lurched like I had missed a step. “What kind of beast?”
She shrugged. “No idea.”
I swallowed, my throat dry. “How’s Scout?”
“Yeah, she’s fine,” Briony replied quickly, eager as always to dismiss talk of her younger sister. Scout Blishwick was on an extended exchange program at Ilvermorny, and I often thought Briony was jealous that she had not been chosen.
The sun had sunk lower behind the mountains. I glanced at my watch and let out a yelp of surprise at the time. “Gotta go, see you Briony!”
I dashed up the steps of the Owlery two at a time, glad for the exercise as the air turned cool in the twilight. I burst inside, startling a few of the sleeping owls close by.
As I searched for Villain, a large black raven caught my eye. No, not raven; Tom’s owl, watching me with its wide yellow eyes from the perch near me. I waved a hand at it irritably, but it didn’t move. I sighed and coaxed Villain down from a higher perch. Stroking her soft brown feathers with the back of my finger, I attached the parcel to her leg.
The black owl flapped suddenly from its perch as if spooked, though the other owls remained sleepy-eyed. It soared through the window and I followed with Villain on my arm. It flew toward the ground, where a lone figure was waiting with an arm outstretched, standing where Briony and I had stood moments before. Even without the owl as a clue, I would recognise that dark hair and pale skin anywhere.
Tom turned his face up toward me, and my heart rate quickened. I quickly looked away, gave Villain a little kiss on the head and released her. I didn’t look back down as I stepped away from the window.
After training, I lingered in the changing rooms after everyone left, leaning on the sill of the open window. It was clear night; there must have been a thousand stars set like diamonds in a navy blue background. There was a cool wind, but for now it was welcome on my still flushed cheeks. I was waiting for a patch of stars to flicker, as if something had flown in front of them, carrying a reply. I knew it was foolish, that Villain probably hadn’t even made it the house yet, but I couldn’t help scanning the skies for the flapping of her little wings, hoping they were strong enough to carry the weight of the truth.
There were footsteps behind me and I turned to see Morgan, pulling a grey sweater over his head, hair as messy as ever. “Oh, you’re still here,” he said. “I was just about to head up.”
I pulled myself away from the window. “Me too, I’ll walk with you.”
The walk back to the castle was a quiet one. Without the wind whistling in my ears and my eye on the Quaffle, my mind was free to ponder Briony’s information. That poor boy, petrified like Marcy Howard. Had he looked into the eyes of a mysterious beast before it attacked him? Had he even had the time to feel scared? Or was his face found frozen in terror as well?
“Penny for your thoughts?”
I sighed. “I doubt they’re even worth a Knut.”
“Well that’s convenient, seeing as I have no amount of money on me at all.”
I smiled begrudgingly. “I was just thinking about the poor petrified kids.”
“I heard it was a magical creature,” Morgan said grimly as we climbed the castle steps.
Morgan went to walk up the stairs in the Entrance Hall, but I stopped, remembering my promise to Emory.
“I’ll see you later?” I said to him. “I’m going to try my luck at snagging some ice cream.”
Morgan’s foot hovered on the step. “Oh, well I’ll come with you. I’m friends with one or two of the house-elves.”
I couldn’t help a laugh. “What are you talking about?”
“’Make friends in high places’, isn’t that how the saying goes? I thought who better than the elves who make our food.” He winked.
“I like the way you think, Morgan Morris,” I said, but couldn’t help thinking of what my parents would make of him; a Muggle-born who considers servants his friends.
“Why thank you, Hero Blishwick.”
Morgan hadn’t been lying. Stepping into the huge kitchen, we were greeted by two house-elves who rushed forward and bowed low. I did a double take at one, recognising the gold flecks in her blue eyes when they straightened.
“Loddy?” I asked incredulously.
“Good evening, Mistress Hero!” Loddy squeaked, wringing her hands.
“What are you doing working here? Why aren’t you at Uncle Garson’s?”
“Loddy likes to visit and help Rooby sometimes, Miss,” Loddy replied, gesturing to the house elf next to her.
I noticed the purple bruises on Loddy’s large ears, but before I could ask about them, she and Rooby had already scuttled off, returning with tubs of ice-cream which they pushed into our hands before shooing us out of the kitchen. Morgan quickly grabbed two spoons from the tray by the door and we sat on the Entrance Hall steps, opening one of the tubs.
“So what’s your deal with Riddle?” Morgan asked, licking the back of his spoon.
“Nothing anymore,” I replied. “He was helping me study, until I found out he was an arrogant, prejudiced arse.”
“Well I could have told you that.”
I sighed and dug into the chocolate ice cream. The sound of running footsteps made us turn out heads in unison. They sounded light, but grew louder until a small girl, with a face as red as her hair, came barrelling into view. Her eyes were as round as saucers as she saw us and skidded to halt.
I pushed the ice cream aside and stood up quickly.
“Are you okay?” I asked as soothingly as I could manage over my hammering heart. “My name’s Hero, I’m a Prefect.”
The red-headed girl – a Hufflepuff by her robes – was breathing heavily, her grey eyes bright. “Oh!” she squeaked. “I, um, got lost trying to find my common room, and then I heard a noise –”
I knelt down to her level. “What kind of noise? Where?”
The girl pointed behind her. “Over there, like big, but I’m Muggle-born, I didn’t know if it was normal – Oh don’t leave me!” she cried as I made to move in the direction she had come from, followed closely by Morgan.
I stopped, Morgan nearly bumping into me. I looked up at him. “Mo, can you take her to the Hufflepuff common room? If you go just around there, she should remember the rest of the way.”
Morgan eyed me warily. “And what are you going to do?”
“I’m just going to have a look…”
He gave me a stern look. “Wait here. I’ll be two seconds.”
I nodded, but as soon as Morgan and the girl had disappeared around the corner, I continued in the other direction. The lit kitchen corridor ended abruptly into a wide room, but I couldn’t see further than a few feet in front of me before the rest was swallowed by darkness. The hairs prickled on the back of my neck, like I was being watched from the shadows. Was it the creature, hiding in the dark? My fingers itched to reach for my wand and light it, but something kept me rooted to the spot.
I sensed, rather than saw, something moving in the shadows, big but low. A rumbling sound, similar to what I heard in the dungeons, was growing fainter, but I still felt like I had swallowed an ice cube, and hardly noticed when Morgan came up behind me. I imagined this was what being in the presence of a Dementor felt like; cold, hopeless, sucked of any happy thought.
It’s how I felt when I drowned in my dreams.
A/N: I cannot thank Julie enough for this chapter! X
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