[ Printer Friendly Version ] [ Report Abuse ]
Chapter 11 : Choices
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 6|
Background: Font color:
“I don’t know! We were talking about Sebastian and I gave her some chocolate, and then…” I raised my free arm in a helpless gesture.
“Well did it have lovage in it? Didn’t you remember she’s allergic?”
Our footsteps echoed through the corridor. “Of course I remember,” I said indignantly. “But I didn’t exactly have an ingredients list.” Lovage, though a type of fruit, was an unusual ingredient in chocolate - I wasn’t supposed to know, was I? Guilt was a lead weight in my stomach all the same.
Finn’s grip on my hand tightened painfully, and I gave a sharp intake of breath. He mumbled an apology and loosened his grip. When we reached the white double doors of the infirmary I pulled my hand out of his and reached for the handle, but he beat me to it. He led the way in with slouched shoulders and tousled hair. He looked older than his fifteen years, and I wondered if I looked the same. I felt it. Sighing, I stepped in after him, already accustomed to the smell of the ward after the amount of time I seemed to be spending here lately.
Briony was already in a bed toward the end, unmoving, as Madam Flint bustled around her with a flourished wand. The students who brought her in were leaving, and I smiled in thanks at them as they passed. Finn and I hung back, but after a few minutes of muttering under her breath and slipping potions down Briony’s throat, Madam Flint straightened, looking satisfied.
“I’ve given her something to help her sleep,” Madam Flint informed us as we approached the bed. “She had an inflammation of the brain, but she should be fine now and ready to return to classes come morning.”
We thanked her and took a seat at Briony’s bedside while the matron disappeared into her office. “Hogwarts will have to start paying us soon, for keeping the hospital in business,” I tried to joke.
Finn snorted. “There has been a lot of Blishwicks here lately.” His eyes, the colour of the night sky in the lantern light, darted to the closed door of the next ward, where the petrified students were being kept.
I followed his gaze. “Remember when Sebastian was seven and cut his knee pretty bad after falling off his broom?” I said quietly, looking at Briony. “He refused to let anyone take him to the hospital, not because he was scared, but because he was so determined to fix it himself… that he didn’t need anyone’s help.”
Finn let out a soft chuckle. “Yeah, he was a tough kid,” he said wistfully.
“How could we not know?”
He didn’t need to ask what I was referring to. He shrugged, his arm grazing mine. “I dunno, but it’s bloody reckless of them.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Just… you know.” He rubbed his face tiredly, his next words sounding muffled. “Father wants our whole family in support.”
“In support of what?” I asked warily, but I didn’t really want to know the answer.
Finn leant forward and, resting his chin in his hands, turned his head to look at me. He was silent for a moment, studying my face, before he finally said, “A couple of Besmurten are staying with us over Christmas.”
My mouth went dry at the mention of Grindelwald’s followers. A group well known for Dark magic. And worse, they were going to sleeping under the same roof as me for a few weeks. “W-what for?”
“What do you think? Grindelwald wants to make our manor his British headquarters. They’re just checking it - and us – out, I guess.”
I licked my dry lips. “I don’t know about this, Finn…”
“I don’t think you have a choice, Hero,” he said, but not unkindly. He stood, stretching his arms to the ceiling. “Well, I’m going to bed. Briony doesn’t need us, and I’ll see her in the common room later anyway.” He lightly punched my shoulder. “Night.”
“Night,” I replied, my voice hoarse. Finn left, and it was just my sleeping cousin and me, watching the moon climb high into the sky through the window.
Sharp pain in my neck woke me, and I blinked against the dazzling light of the sun reflecting on the white tiles of the hospital. I straightened in my chair with a groan, rubbing my neck and feeling lightheaded as I remembered both why I was here and that my stomach was empty. In the bed before me, the curtains half-drawn, Briony lay sleeping. Her chest rose and fell rhythmically. She looked okay, if a little pale, her honey blonde hair spilling over the pillow. There was movement out of the corner of my eye; I turned my head and jumped at the appearance of Tom in the chair next to me.
“Merlin!” I pressed a hand to my heart. “You gave me a fright.”
Tom leaned forward, resting his chin in his hands, his olive green jumper neat and straight across his torso. “What were you doing outside the common room last night?”
“Oh! Um…” With Briony falling ill, I had forgotten all about Leighton’s stupid ultimatum. I fidgeted in the uncomfortable plastic seat and glanced around the room, avoiding Tom’s eyes. Madam Flint was changing the bandages on the hand of a Hufflepuff girl sitting on a bed at the far end. As the matron moved to reach a better angle, I caught a glimpse of Brindley McCroy, her right hand a deep pink. As our eyes met over Madam Flint’s shoulder, her freckled face stretched into a smile.
“Look at me, Hero.”
I bit my lip and looked to him, feeling that ever present pull his eyes seemed to have. The morning light that streamed through the large windows accentuated his cheekbones, and my stomach twisted again, though not unpleasantly.
“Thanks again, Tom,” said a sweet voice, drawing our attention. Brindley, hand neatly bandaged, walked past us toward the door with a small wave of farewell, her red and white polka dot skirt swishing around her legs.
Tom nodded, then once she was out of earshot, he asked me again, “Why were you there?”
I sighed, my grip tightening on the edge of the seat. “To talk to you. Apparently the team thinks I’ll go easy on Slytherin today, because of my family all being in that house, and… and because of you. They wanted me to choose a side.”
Tom rubbed his bottom lip with his thumb. “I see. What do you intend to do?”
I folded my feet under me on the chair, taking them off the chilly tiles. “Well of course I’m not going to favour them. I’m on the Gryffindor team. It’s ridiculous.”
Tom’s face hardened. “Have you not learnt anything?”
I rubbed my eyes, half a mind still on Quidditch. “What?”
Tom stood up abruptly and looked down at me. “You know, the time will come soon when you need to make a choice. Decide what side you’re on.”
I was perplexed. “Tom, it’s just a game.”
His eyes flashed. “No. It’s not. If it’s too difficult for you, let me make the choice easy,” he said. He turned on his heel and left.
Speechless, I watched as he crossed the hospital and disappeared through the doors, which swung shut behind him.
The game wasn’t until the afternoon, and since I was woefully behind on my Defence Against the Dark Arts essay, I headed to the library after leaving the hospital. My insides twisted as I thought of the assignment; Tom was still my partner. It was going to be awkward to work together when he didn’t want to see me anymore.
He was already there when I arrived, at our usual table in the corner. My heart sunk at the sight of him at the mahogany desk, surrounded by books. I sighed and sat at a desk against the opposite wall. I was concentrating on unpacking my bag when footsteps approached and someone clicked their fingers in front of my face. I looked up just as Finn pinched my nose.
I smacked his hand. “Finlay. Please. Not now.”
He grinned smugly down at me, black hair sticking up at the front. “Ooh, we are touchy today.”
I blinked rapidly, forcing back the tears that sprang to my eyes and busied myself with choosing a quill. Finn hovered, but I refused to look at him. After a while, he ruffled my hair and was gone.
I irritably pushed my hair out of my eyes in time to see Tom sit in the chair opposite.
“Are we sitting over here now?” he asked, already unpacking his bag.
I watched him. “Oh, I… I thought -”
“You thought what?” His eyes bore into mine, unblinking.
I looked away, opening my book slowly. “Um… Never mind.”
A pause, and then Tom said, “I said I would take care of it.”
As I opened my mouth to ask what he meant, a familiar husky laugh sounded from the other side of the library. Leighton was scanning the shelves with a manicured finger, tossing her hair back and looking like a preening peacock, the silver bracelets that adorned her wrists jangling loudly. I chewed my bottom lip as I watched her.
"I hate Leighton,” I said before I could stop myself.
“She was a right bitch to me yesterday. She’s the one who told me to choose.”
“Why don’t you teach her a lesson?” Tom asked without looking up from his book.
Amused, I asked, “What did you have in mind?”
“That depends.” He looked up at me, blinking.
I stared at him, waiting. When it was clear he wasn’t going to answer straight away, I prompted, “On what?”
Tom lowered his voice. “How far you’re willing to go.”
I began to laugh, but quickly stopped when he didn’t join me. Swallowing, I said, “I - I couldn’t really…”
"She thinks you’re beneath her,” he said, “but you’re a member of the Blishwick family, the daughter of its patriarch. What is she?” He jerked his head toward where Leighton was leaning suggestively over a desk, talking to Morgan, who was laughing good naturedly at whatever she was saying. The sight made my blood boil.
“You know her father’s side are completely Muggles?” I said quietly, the words pouring out of my mouth. “Three of her uncles have been in prison at least once.”
“You see?” Tom said. “Put her in her place.”
I flipped distractedly through my book, so deep in thought about Leighton that it took me a minute to realise it was a Herbology textbook. I sighed, about to close it, when the word ‘lovage’ caught my eye, in the recipe for the Befuddlement Draught. I inwardly winced at the reminder; I couldn’t believe my carelessness put my own cousin in the hospital.
“I know what you could do,” said Tom, breaking me out of my reverie.
“Take those infernal bracelets from her.”
I grimaced as the bracelets in question jangled again, almost drowning out Leighton’s husky voice replying to Morgan. “I couldn’t do that. Some of them are family heirlooms apparently.”
One side of Tom’s mouth curled. “Even better.”
Sitting on my bed in the dormitory, my skin prickled in excitement as I eyed Leighton’s trunk. Adrenaline willed my hand to reach for the clasp and after a moment, I did, wondering what the heck I was doing. I rummaged through her clothes, finding a couple of those annoying silver bracelets at the bottom of the trunk. As I turned them over in my hand, I doubted they were heirlooms, tarnished as they were. She wouldn’t miss these. I straightened, then noticed Emory standing in the doorway. I jumped guiltily. How long had she been standing there? She watched me, her hair a long braid down her back, the buttons of her yellow cardigan not in line, as if they had been carelessly done up.
“Oh, Em! I was just…” I stopped; something in her eyes making my stomach flip unpleasantly.
“Et tu, Brute?” she whispered.
She took a step forward and wrapped her hands around one of the posts of Leighton’s bed. “You slept with Theo. At the end of term party.” It wasn’t a question.
My insides turned to water. “I - How - Who told you?”
She blinked quickly a couple of times. “Does it matter?”
My heart was pounding. No, it didn’t. Fucking Theo.
“You always take whatever you want, Hero,” Emory said, but her voice was sad, not angry. Somehow, that was worse. “Not all of us were born with every opportunity handed to us, you know.”
“I know, I just-”
“What’s done is done,” she said, and turned with a swish of long brown hair.
I dropped the bracelets onto Leighton’s bed – what was I thinking? - and followed Emory down the dormitory steps.
“Emory - wait!”
She turned at the base of the stairs, looking like she really didn’t want to hear anything I had to say.
“I’m so sorry.” My voice wobbled.
Emory turned without a word again into the common room, which was a bustle of pre-match activity. She pushed through a couple of students and disappeared through the portrait. Theo was nearby, watching her leave with a quizzical look on his face. I stormed up to him.
“How could you?!” I pushed him, but my efforts were useless against the bulk of his chest. He swayed, then caught my wrists to stop me from hitting him again.
“Hero, what are you doing?” He glanced around nervously; we were attracting a few curious looks.
“You told Emory! Why would you do that?”
Theo’s face paled as comprehension set in, and his grip on my wrists tightened. “But I didn’t.”
“You’re full of shit Theodore, like the rest of your blood traitor family.”
I don’t know what made me say it. My anger, I supposed; the desire to hurt him as he had Emory. As we had hurt her. Theo’s eyes narrowed dangerously. He all but threw my wrists down, and a tiny thrill of fear went through me; I had never seen him this angry before.
His shoulders relaxed fractionally and he jerked his head. “Come on, let’s find her. Explain.”
“I’ve got the Quidditch match,” I said grudgingly, and I doubted explaining to her would do much.
“Wait,” he said, grabbing my wrist again, “if you didn’t say anything either, how does she know?”
I bit my lip. “I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.”
When I walked into the Quidditch changing rooms, Leighton looked smug to see me there. The team was ready with broomstick in hand, red and gold colours blazing, dancing nervously on the spot or pacing in front of the lockers.
“What are we waiting for?” I asked Lindon, our Seeker, as I pulled on my gloves.
“Morgan,” he answered. “He hasn’t been down yet. No one’s seen him.”
“Well has anyone gone to look for him?”
Lindon nodded. “Professor Dumbledore was just here. He’s gone back to the castle.”
I had just shoved my bag into a locker when Professor Dumbledore stepped into the room, long magenta robes swishing around his feet. His eyes held none of their usual sparkle; instead they were grave, making my stomach do a backflip. “I’m afraid,” he said softly, “there will be no Quidditch today. Mr Morris has been petrified.”
Hushed gasps sounded throughout the room, questions overlapping one another as they fought to be heard by Professor Dumbledore. He held up his hands and the small room fell silent. “Christmas break will begin earlier this year, to allow for a thorough search of the school. The Hogwarts Express will be leaving tomorrow morning; I suggest you all be on it. Your parents have been notified.” He dismissed us then, to pack our trunks in preparation for tomorrow. As I went to retrieve my bag from the locker, he added, “Miss Blishwick, may I have a moment?”
Confused, I nodded, taking a seat on the cold metal while my teammates left the room.
“No need to look so alarmed, Hero, I wish only to talk.” He sat opposite me and clasped his hands loosely in his lap. “If you’ll pardon me for being so keenly observant, but I have noticed you spending time with Mr Riddle of late.”
Wondering what this was about, I replied, “Yes, sir.”
Professor Dumbledore looked at me over his half-moon spectacles. There was a pregnant silence, in which I tried hard to not squirm under his gaze like a guilty child, though I had done nothing wrong. Finally, Professor Dumbledore said, “Keep an eye on him, won’t you?”
I blinked in surprise. “Y-yes, sir.”
“I fear he grows lonely at the orphanage, and will be unhappy to learn of this extended leave. Perhaps you could write him?”
My parents probably already had plans to invite him over for Christmas; my father had said this year’s would be a large one. Now I knew the reason why; the Besmurten. Grindelwald. A temptation of power Father could never resist. The prospect of Tom staying both thrilled and terrified me for these reasons. “Of course, sir,” I said to Professor Dumbledore.
“Very well. Happy holidays, Miss Blishwick.” He left then, and I watched the end of his magenta robes disappear through the door.
Happy holidays, indeed.
A/N: Where would this story (and my sanity) be without Julie? ♥
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories
In My Time