The walls shook violently and a scream echoed through the chamber. It gave the impression that the room itself was going to collapse, that the floor was going to come tumbling out from beneath them. Glancing around the room it quickly became clear that several of the young students that were gathered around in the common room saw that as a legitimate possibility. The fear was reflected in their eyes and it was clear they were hardly able to comprehend what was going on. I felt horrible for them, but it was when one of the younger boys started to moan about wanting their Mum that I was finally compelled to speak.
“Shush, everything is going to be fine.” The words tumbled from my mouth though I hardly believed them myself. There hadn’t been much indication about what had been going on, but I hadenough sense to know that it wasn’t anything these eleven and twelve year olds wereable to handle.
“No it’s not! I bet people are dying out there!” Turning my head towards the younger boy I shot him a glare, his words were hardly needed. As if to prove my point several of the youngest students burst into tears.
“Stop it!” I cried, not sure how I was supposed to be comforting these children when I was hardly old enough to deal with this myself. Where were the professors? Probably off dying if things were going the way that I thought they were. That thought made my heart pound even harder and I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to maintainmy own composure for much longer. But the prefect badge pinned to my robes willed me to continue my attempts to keep control.
“Look, I bet that things are so safe that I’ll go and check them out myself, alright?” Pausing, I knew that I was going to grow to regret those words. Nothing good could come of leaving the safety of the Slytherin common room. But it was too late for backing down. I wasn’t sure how I suddenly had so much nerve but I was going to run with it. “Look you guys just need to listen to Waters while I go for a quick walk to prove to you all just how safe it is.”
It was foolish, everyone was sure of it, but refusing to leave the room would just be admitting to all of them that there was a lot to be concerned about. Taking what confidence I had left, I marched from the room and allowed the door to swing shut behind me. Wand clasped tightly in my hand I stepped carefully down the corridors with my eyes dartingcrazily, fearing that something would pop out before me.
But there was nothing.
Trying to breath a little easier and I hoped that there wouldn’t be death eaters roaming about near the common room, it wasn’t as though a bunch of students were really a threat to dark wizards. Making it to the end of thehall, I turned figuring that I probably didn’t need to bother to venture any farther. There was no way that those first years needed that much reassurance. The fact that I could make my way out and back should have been good enough for all of them.
Turning back with less fear in my mind, I was shocked to hear the soft footfalls coming from the direction of the common room. Cursing under my breath, I wondered how I was supposed to get back without getting myself killed. Carefully inching towards the room practically holding my breath from fear, I found myself coming face to face with the reason I was out here.
“What are you doing out here!” I hissed, wanting to slap the boy across the head. The same loudmouth who had claimed that there were people out there dying had apparently thought that being in the way of danger was a good thing.
“I was just looking, I wanted to make sure that you didn’t lie to us or anything,” he piped up, not as confident as he had been before. Even though I wanted to lecture him I knew that it wasn’t really the best time to do such things. First I needed to get him back into the common room. Just because things looked safe-
A dart of green light shot by my side and before I could say anything to the boy and his body dropped lifeless to the ground. Screams echoed through the hall and I looked around frantically to see who else was there when I realized that I was on my own.
Eyes opening quickly, I found myself staring face to face to my older sister who was looking at me with a worried expression. Blinking several times in an attempt to rid my eyesight of any morning haze, I tried to figure out what was going on. I didn’t know where I was- someone had just died…hadn’t they?
I glanced around the room frantically trying to figure out what was going on before I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of. I was in my own bed for Merlin’s sake.
“You were screaming in your sleep again.” My sister filled in, causing my face to instantly flush a bright red. Of course I had. I was always having nightmares ever since, well, things had changed.
“Er-sorry about that Daphne…” I muttered, embarrassed that it had happened for what must have been the millionth night in a row. Not that I really knew anything to do about it.
“It’s alright.” Watching as my sister shook her head I knew that it wasn’t really okay. Sure, what we’d been through wasn’t something that most people had to deal with, but everyone else still seemed to be dealing with it better than I was. No one else I knew was waking up filled with nightmares every night. And I was sure that of all the people I knew, I hadn’t seen the worst of that night.
“Anyways, Audrey stopped by to make breakfast and chat if you’d like to come down. I’m sure that she’d like to see you.” Nodding my head, I watched as she walked out of the room, and glanced back one last time to make sure that everything was okay.
I simply rolled my eyes. After three months I had grown tired of always having my sister’s watchful eyes following me about. She seemed to think that just because she was a whole year older than me, an adult in the eyes of the government, that she needed to look after me as though I was six. But I was sixteen and perfectly capable of taking care of myself. This I proved by dragging myself out of bed and throwing on my robe before heading off for the kitchen. See, I was perfectly capable of taking care of myself!
Padding down the stairs and crossing into the kitchen I tried to get a smile to cross my face, knowing that I was supposed to be excited for the fact that my eldest sister was gracing us with her presence. In the past I was sure that I would be elated at the idea, knowing that Audrey didn’t take the time to stop by all the time. Especially now that she was convinced that she’d fallen in love with some man at the ministry, it seemed like family was the last thing on her mind. But the smile didn’t come.
“Morning sunshine,” Audrey called upon spotting my mop of messy hair making its way into the kitchen. A forced smile crossed my face as I crossed the kitchen and pulled my sister into a quick hug. As magic flipped the pancakes and some oranges squeezed themselves into a glass a genuine grin finally crossed my face. This was the first time that a proper breakfast had been made in ages.
“Good morning, Audrey,” I replied, settling down at one of the seats at the table. Pulling my knees to my chest and placing my feet on the chair I watched as Audrey flicked her wand in various complicated motions, almost the way that our father used to years ago. Daphne was working away as well, though she seemed determined to get the toast to brown using a spell that I swore was supposed to be used to dry one’s hair.
“How have things been going round the ministry?” I voiced, ignoring the look that Daphne sent me for speaking about Audrey’s questionable job. Not everyone found the position of personal assistant fitting for a Greengrass, but I thought it sounded fun. It meant that she got to get out of the house for one, which was something that I hadn’t done for ages.
“They’ve been really great, we finally seem to be done with all the scrambling around and things are really in order now. There’s still a whole lot of damage everywhere still, and loads of people are still missing, but so long as things keep on schedule Hogwarts is going to be opening for September first as usual,” my sister quipped. The thought of having the school open was not something that I could manage, not after the way everything had looked last time I had been there. Magic sure could heal things quickly. “It’s really important you know, to make sure that things don’t just halt to a stop over all of that business. We need to keep moving forward.”
I wasn’t sure how we were supposed to move forward. How was I supposed to forget about everything that happened and go on with my life wheneverything had changed? In a matter of a day it had vanished and while everyone else seemed to find a purpose in cleaning it all up, it took all of my energy just to get out of bed in the morning.
“Well, Hogwarts opening is a good thing,” Daphne mentioned as she abandoned her efforts at toasting the bread.For once she seemed to have something good to comment on when it came to the ministry’s actions. Nothing too surprising; I was sure that she was only thinking that way because she was wishing that she could go back to her days at the school. “You’ll be going back to finish your NEWTs won’t you Astoria?”
Daphne’s question caught me by surprise, as I hardly could have imagined that anyone expected me to go back to that bloody school after everything that had happened. Wrapping my arms around my knees as a comfort I tried to rattle out something that made sense. “Well, I mean…I hadn’t really thought about it.” My voice sounded so meek, not really voicing my concerns. Didn’t my sisters understand how horrible that would be? Daphne had been there, and she had only had to go back to the ministry for a few days to actually sit her NEWTs. But had they been held at the school itself and I doubted that she would have dared to go. There were too many memories there now, too many awful things to look back on. “I mean…there really isn’t any real reason is there?
Daphne threw me a quizzical look as she slapped butter onto a slice of bread, clearly not expecting that response. Biting down on my lip nervously, I regretted the fact that I had spoken up. I’d been a prefect after all and I was sure that everyone was expecting me to head back to the school. For all I knew I was still on track for being head girl. Yet a few months of horror had made it so that nothing could get me to go back. Not even the badge that I’d worked so hard for.
“What are you going to do with your time then, Tory?” Daphne began her lecture, clearly not approving of my actions. “Sleep all day, then spend most of the night staring out into space or reading more of those trashy muggle novels you’ve picked up.”
The words cut deep, and I was at a loss of what to say. She was right, I didn’t have any other plans lined up, but still I couldn’t imagine herself going back to how things had been before. Not now that so much had changed.
“See!” Daphne seemed to revel in my inability to come up with an answer, and she waved her butter knife about as she lectured. “You have no plans Astoria! And while I haven’t mined babysitting you the last few months while schools been out I hadn’t planned on making this my full time job!”
Silence filled the kitchen and I stared awestruck at my sister, not sure how she could manage to get such hurtful words out of her mouth. Clearly she was more like our father than the rest of us. Keeping my eyes trained on my feet I wondered just how long this awkward moment could go on, how much longer Daphne’s eyes could bore into my back before it set on fire. Or until Iburst into tears.
“I actually came by to talk about that Astoria,” Audrey ventured. Her tone of voice made it clear that this wasn’t the way that she had intended to go about this discussion, but at least it was breaking the silence. “I found-well Percy actually mentioned it really-you see Mungo’s is going to be opening a new floor…” The words trailed off as she left her post by the stove and rushed to her bag digging around for something.
The words left me confused. Why in the world did my sister think that I needed to be sent to Saint Mungo’s? It wasn’t as though I was bleeding or anything was broken, and as far as I knew nothing had been cursed. There wasn’t any other reason to have me sent away to a hospital. Not unless…
“You think I’m batty, is that it?” I ventured, rather unsure about what Audrey was getting at. My tone made it clear that I was appalled and yet my eldest sister didn’t seem to think that she was acting in any manner out of the ordinary. How was wanting to send your sister away to the hospital something you discussed over breakfast?
“No, no, that’s not it.” Audrey corrected, proudly holding the pamphlet that she’d been searching for in front of my face. I was quick to snatch it up and skimmed the front, rather shocked by what it was. She did think that I was batty. “They’re trying to do what the muggles do, working with people who’ve been through traumatic experiences with the war and helping them to….transition into a more normal life again. It’s not like a real hospital, just uh, a special program.”
Turning the pamphlet over in my hands I quickly read the big bullets that stood out to me on the page, all of them claiming that through group therapy and all these other special programs people could better transition back into their lives. They could be normal again. They even claimed to have experts certified to work with teenagers, clearly what had caught my sister’s eyes. But how could Audrey really think that this was what I needed?
“I mean, it looks nice and all.” I managed, not quite sure what to think about it. Daphne seemed to be just as shocked about the suggestion, clearly not expecting one of her sisters to accuse the other one of having gone round the bend. “I just-do you really think I need something like this?”
After all, the pamphlet made it look as though it was for very seriously ill people, not someone like me who just gotstuck in the mud. Because that was my only trouble wasn’t it? I was stuck.
“I think she’s right.” Daphne agreed, seeming to have gotten over the shock of the accusation in the first place. “I think that maybe it’d help you to move past all this…getting to talk to people about it and everything.” Her tone seemed innocent enough, but I was still convinced that she only wanted to get her hands free of any responsibility. That she wanted to be free of me.
“I know you don’t think you’re bad Tory, but you just seem so lost, and I really think that this sort of program is exactly what you need.”
Right. Exactly what I needed.
A/N: Amber is the best ever for betaing for me! And reviews are lovely~