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Consumed by celticbard

Format: Novel
Chapters: 22
Word Count: 63,512
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a mild sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Drama, General, Romance
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore, McGonagall, Lupin, Snape, Trelawney, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, Remus/OC

First Published: 04/04/2008
Last Chapter: 08/11/2009
Last Updated: 03/27/2011

Summary:







Banner by Rita.
Two years after the demise of her friend Quirrell, Professor Fotherby is trying to stitch her life back together. Unfortunately, Hogwarts isn’t ready to return to normal. Dementors roam the grounds. The new D.A.D.A. teacher is strangely irritating. And then there’s that third year, Hermione, who keeps asking impossible questions. But all that would be manageable, if only she would stop dreaming of her death.


Chapter 1: A Voodoo Vacation
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Special thanks to the amazing chiQs09 for the wonderful chapter image.





Disclaimer:
J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own nothing except for my OCs.
















Consumed

Chapter One-A Voodoo Vacation

August 23, 1993

Freddy ran up three flights of stairs to the apartment, her black satchel bouncing loudly on every step. A stitch clawed at her gut by the time she came to the third floor and she leaned against the moldy wall for a minute, panting.

“3 B,” she mumbled to herself, “or was it 3 C? Bloody hell!” She reached into her pockets, uncomfortable in the Muggle jeans that showed the bulk of her hips. “Where’d I put it? Where’d I…?”

It had been rather stupid, she decided, to stop along by the French Quarter to window shop. She’d been running late as it was, having forgotten how to set the alarm clock in her Muggle hotel room. Oversleeping always made her feel sick and bloated and fat and now she stood in the hot hallway, sweating and swearing. Her nervous hands plunged into her pants’ pockets.

Freddy could have torn the hair from her head and that truly would have been a task, considering the length of it. The unkempt plait swung straight down to her buttocks and as she jerked around, desperately searching for her directions, the braid snapped like a whip.

After a moment of frantic searching, Freddy paused to consider. Did she dare rush back to the hotel and try to send a message to Madam Paulina? It seemed a waste, having come so far to turn right back around and once more fight through the crowds of tourists visiting New Orleans.

Freddy dropped her satchel and kneaded her temples, hoping to ward off the inevitable stress headache. But someone down the hall was playing music rather loudly and the steely sound of a wash-board and button accordion made her cringe.

Last night she had enjoyed the lively Cajun music, but that was before she’d sampled a few local beers and downed shots with a male tourist who “totally dug” her accent.

Now Freddy felt nothing short of stupid.

She folded her legs and sat, tapping her fingers on her kneecaps and trying to remember just where she had written down Madam Paulina’s apartment number. Freddy had promised to be back at Hogwarts by the end of August and she had lessons to plan, lessons that depended on her meeting with the renowned voodoo witch of Louisiana. If not, she’d have a horde of blank-faced third years and a dismayed headmaster to contend with and Freddy certainly didn’t want to start the semester off on the wrong foot.

Last year had been bad enough.

A knot tightened in her chest, bringing her heart into her mouth for a beat or two.

Never mind that now, reason told her. A sensible woman wouldn’t give the matter a second thought. And a smart woman wouldn’t still be carrying around his picture in her wallet.

But, as always, Freddy couldn’t help herself.

With a groan, she forced herself back onto her feet and rubbed her aching calves. The spirited music still drummed down the steamy hall and she glanced at the door. Unlike the drab walls around her, this door was painted pink with long stripes of blue running down the frame.

Freddy arched a curious brow. She’d never known Muggles to be so distinct, or creative, for that matter.

Ah, what for it, she thought, feeling more than a little reckless, unhinged by the careless attitude that governed the Big Easy’s streets. Freddy approached the noisy apartment and knocked briskly. The music continued to throb, but the door jolted forward, snagged by a short chain.

An amber eye met hers and Freddy tried to smile.

“Hi.” She even waved.

“Oh, cherie, why were you waiting out there in the hall?” Madam Paulina unhooked the chain and opened the door fully. “I heard you coming up the stairs.”

“Sorry I’m late,” Freddy gushed. “It was that Muggle bus. I couldn’t get the hang of it.”

“Of course.” Madam Paulina nodded, her smooth, pointed jaw dipping down against her chest. “You’ll come in and sit for awhile?”

“Certainly.” Freddy bounced her satchel once on her shoulder and stepped into the apartment which was thankfully cooler than the hall.

She had expected the place to be exotic, judging from the articles she had studied on Madam Paulina and her noted talents. But her home was humble, similar to any English magical residence. There was a cream-colored carpet in the living room along with two overstuffed chairs and a picture of women dancing in grass skirts. The shelves were lined with jars, the contents rather mundane and familiar. Freddy had certainly seen stranger things in Snape’s dungeon.

The adjoining room was likewise small, with a card table and four folding chairs furnishing the makeshift dining area. Two children were just finishing up a dinner of gumbo, biscuits and corn.

Freddy followed Madam Paulina into the living room and sat in one of the overstuffed chairs, her satchel now perched on her lap.

The renowned voodoo witch was regal looking herself, tall, slender, dressed in a purple robe with her hair swept up underneath a mauve scarf. A necklace of chunky turquoise beads banged against her collarbone.

“It’s Professor Forbia Fotherby, isn’t?” Madam Paulina asked with an elegant smile, waving a hand. The music, which had been blaring from a dusty radio, stopped.

“Uh, yeah. But you can call me Freddy, less of a tongue-twister.” Freddy’s nostrils dilated and she smelled the seductive scent of the gumbo. The biscuits were flaky and plump, perched in a green bowl.

Madam Paulina shooed her children from the table and fetched another plate. “Hungry?”

“Oh, I couldn’t, really. Thanks anyway.” Self-consciously, Freddy folded her hands over her flabby stomach. She’d gained a few pounds this year and was feeling uncomfortably overweight.

But Madam Paulina couldn’t be swayed. She called her to the table and passed her a plate of seafood gumbo. Freddy felt her resistance slip and she tucked in.

“Your letter said you wanted to interview me?” Madam Paulina asked with a slight cough.

“Yes.” Freddy swallowed a mouthful of shrimp and dabbed at her mouth with a paper napkin. “Well, it’s not really an interview, but I’d like to learn more about your practice.”

“Your students are interested?” Madam Paulina looked skeptical.

Freddy tore a biscuit in half and nibbled at the top. Over the years, she had learned just how furtive some wizards could be. They considered most of their spells unique, personal and weren’t keen on divulging secrets. It took a while to get any of them to open up.

“I am,” she said at last. “I spent a good month studying your work before I came. My students take my class to learn more about international magic. That’s what we call it in fact, ‘International Magic: It’s Practicability and Practitioners’. From what I’ve learned, you are one of the foremost practitioners in North America. I think my students would like to know more about what you do.”

“What I do?” Madam Paulina nodded again. “Oh, cherie, it’s not what I do, really, it’s how I do it.”

Freddy detected a note of pride in the woman’s voice. Quickly, she polished off the rest of the meal and refused a second helping. Picking up her satchel, she groped about for a quill pen, ink and parchment.

“Do you mind if I transcribe this?” she asked. “I like to write things down for my lecture notes.”

“What sort of things?” Madam Paulina looked at her guardedly, the coffee-colored skin about her lips tightening as she coughed again. “What exactly do you intend to tell your students about me?”

“Good things, I assure you.” Freddy sat back in her folding chair and crossed her legs. This would take some time. Most wizards and witches eventually gave way to a little flattery and Freddy had learned to stoke their egos.

Before joining Hogwarts’ staff six years ago, she’d spent most of her youth rambling through Europe, the Americas and a small part of Africa. It had been a useless phase, or so her mother called it, another vile habit spawned by her slacker lifestyle. But despite her mother’s disapproval, Freddy learned a fair bit about foreign magic and managed to scrape together a living when money ran low.

She still loved to travel and tolerated the teaching well enough. Yet without Madam Paulina’s help, she would have little to offer her students this semester.

Freddy set down her quill. “I know this is all on short notice,” she said, trying her best to sound sympathetic. “But I’d really like to know…well, anything you want to tell me. How does your magic differ from mine? Who were your teachers? What might I find in Louisiana that I wouldn’t find in, say, Liverpool?”

Madam Paulina sat in silence for a minute and Freddy could hear her children rough-housing playfully in the other rooms. At long last, her hostess pulled a red handkerchief from out of her sleeve and laid it upon the table.

“This is what I use when I do my seeing,” she said proudly, neck arched.

Freddy felt disappointment sink into her stomach, lying heavy like a cold, jagged stone. “Oh, divination.” She tried to sound interested, but in her mind, all that seeress business was hogwash. “Can you tell me anything else? Have you adapted your spells and charms to suit your surroundings? How are Muggle relations in New Orleans?”

As anticipated, Madam Paulina slowly began to give way. Unfolding her graceful body, she rose and snatched a few of the jars down from the living room shelves and let Freddy inspect them.

The ingredients were common, not at all out of the ordinary, but Freddy found Madam Paulina’s application and technique completely unique.

“See, you have to harvest this from the swamp when the moon is only a quarter full.” The voodoo witch overturned a yellow jar and dumped threads of moss onto the table. “Stewed with fresh pomegranate juice and spiced with currants and river-washed pebbles, ground to powder, of course. It makes an antidote to this.”

Madam Paulina presented her with a suspiciously sweet smelling beaker. “My great-grandmother used to give this to sailors, made them fall in love with her and robbed them blind. They called her a pirate even though she’d never been to sea in her life!”

Freddy listened intently, rarely interrupting and taking notes. The steady scratch of her quill sometimes rose over Madam Paulina’s voice, which after a while, had grown quite hoarse.

For that she took a cup of dried leeches from out of her kitchen cupboard, wrapped one in a bay leaf and chewed. This she spat onto her handkerchief along with a mouthful of red-tinged sputum.

Freddy recoiled, but was fascinated. “What’s this for?” She spared a second to dip her quill pen into the inkwell.

“To read,” Madam Paulina replied, her warm eyes widening.

The hairs on Freddy’s neck stood on end and she tried to laugh, but managed to produce only a thin, moist noise. “Oh. In England we use tea leaves.”

“So proper.” Madam Paulina let her hands hover over the mess.

Freddy flicked the feather of her quill pen and felt nervous bile coat her throat. She hated this divination business, truly hated it.

Madam Paulina’s body tensed, but then she fell back into her chair with a chuckle. “Did you buy anything in the French Quarter today, cherie?”

Freddy snorted and blushed a furious red. “No, I-”

“Because you’ve spent all your money already.”

Freddy couldn’t withhold a sigh. “That is true,” she admitted at length.

Madam Paulina crumpled up her handkerchief and threw it unceremoniously into her sink.

Freddy decided she wouldn’t stay much longer.

After professing her thanks and packing up her satchel, she promised to owl Madam Paulina and let her know how the students liked the lessons.

Madam Paulina escorted her out of the apartment with measured poise and when Freddy was on the other side of the door, the radio clicked on again.

An accordion chirped as a man crooned softly in Patois.

“Again, thanks,” Freddy said, sweating already in the sweltering hall.

Madam Paulina touched her shoulder. “I hope you don’t have him.”

“Pardon?”

“Harry Potter.” Madam Paulina reattached the chain to the door. “I hope you don’t have him in your class this year. I know the very thought makes you sick. But I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt your Professor Quirrell, although you really should stop carrying his picture around. Good luck, cherie!”

The door slammed shut. 
















Author’s Note: My first ever HPFF fic. Goodness, my palms are sweaty! This story takes place mostly during “Prisoner of Azkaban” but it will include some “Sorcerer’s Stone” and Pre-Hogwarts flashbacks. The rating is 15+ and I doubt it will change, but should it be raised to M in the future, I will certainly give any of my readers full notice. Please take the time to review. I would absolutely love to hear from you. I hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by to read!

Special thanks to Girldetective85 for helping me tweak the summary.

Chapter 2: White Rabbit
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Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own nothing except for my OCs. 







Beautiful chapter image by chiQs09.


Chapter Two White Rabbit 

Freddy had her head down on the table in the staffroom, her right hand resting squarely atop a pile of fluttering lecture notes. Professor Sprout had asked that the windows be left open, as she had imported several precariously potted plants after a colony of doxies laid eggs in one of the greenhouses. Until the nasty, biting buggers could be charmed away, the room would double as a nursery.

Freddy didn’t mind too much. Although, the blissfully sweet summer breezes were tangling her hair. It was nice to rest, to close her eyes and drift. The grass had been freshly clipped on the castle grounds and the earthy scent wafted up amongst the spires and towers. She was reminded of a lavender field in the south of France and dainty, dimpled smiles….

But oh, it was Tuesday morning. Freddy lifted her head, blinking two bleary eyes. She’d come in late the night before and had missed the annual start of the term staff meeting and Sorting. And she knew she could count on some of her colleagues to be put out with her, especially since she had decided to skip breakfast and sleep in that morning.

Ah well. Nobody said continent hopping was easy and skipping across multiple time zones always mangled one’s notion of day and night. To make matters worse, she had her first class in an hour….ugh.

Mentally, she went over her notes on New Orleans and ticked off several important facts on her fingers. Standing before a group of sometimes bratty students made her edgy. Freddy would enter the classroom and wait, wait for the snickers, the jokes and the occasional fake stutter.

Teaching was a hell of a job. Thank God the pay was good.

The wardrobe in the corner wobbled, spewing specks of dust.

Freddy sneezed and rubbed her nose in annoyance. There was a note tacked to the door.

ALL STAFF BE ADVISED: BOGGART IN WARDROBE. DO NOT OPEN!!! BOGGART TO BE LEFT IN THE CARE OF PROF. R. J. LUPIN.

Lupin, eh? The name was vaguely familiar to Freddy and she squinted, trying her hardest to remember. He must be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts chap.

Lovely.

A shiver slithered up her spine, making her back arch. Freddy blamed the sudden chill on the dementors. She’d received an owl about them while still in the States. McGonagall thought she might like to know.

Freddy couldn’t honestly see the sense in allowing Azkaban’s guards near Hogwarts. But then again, Sirius Black’s escape wasn’t exactly headline news in America and Freddy hadn’t given it too much thought.

Harry Potter had to be protected, she reminded herself, struggling to ignore the sudden twist of her gut. The Boy Who Lived needed to be safe at school.

Freddy swallowed hard, her face flushing.

The air in the staff room suddenly felt oppressive, smothering. Against her will, memories surfaced, still sharp, still jagged, still capable of slicing open old wounds.

She thought back to days filled with tedious staff meetings, days made only bearable by impromptu games of hangman. Quirrell always chose difficult words like “Erumpent” and they both earned pointed looks from their colleagues for inopportune fits of laughter.

Freddy’s fingers twitched, her knuckles turning white. She picked up her stack of parchment and rearranged the sheaves.


Don’t be a chit, she chided herself. You can’t afford to be spiteful.

And indeed, that was true. Freddy had once again succeeded in emptying her Gringotts vault before the summer was over. Her mother called her wasteful. She, however, liked to think of herself as indulgent.

But even now, Freddy found herself struggling against her pessimistic tendencies. Things might play out all right this year or so she tried to convince herself. Time had already softened the shock of betrayal and she was certain it would soon begin to numb the pain as well.

Perhaps, just perhaps she could begin to hope for….

“Good morning, Forbia.” A brisk voice filtered into the room, the door opening and closing with a snap.

Freddy jumped. “Professor McGonagall.” She half-stood. “Good morning. It is so good to see you again.”

“Hmm.” There was no disguising McGonagall’s displeasure. Her square spectacles were perched just so on her nose and she looked quite cross indeed. “I heard you arrived last night.”

It was not a question, but an accusation. And Freddy, at thirty years of age, still squirmed under the gaze of her former teacher.

“I did,” she replied after a beat, “late, mind you, quite late.”

“So unfortunate.” McGonagall seated herself in a winged chair. “You were delayed?”

Again, Freddy felt herself squirm. “Not entirely.”

She knew McGonagall’s methods well enough by now, knew that the deputy headmistress was still trying to make something out of her laziest, most unenthusiastic student.

“I stopped in Florida for a week,” Freddy admitted. “I wasn’t planning to, of course. It just, well, it just came up.”

“Hmm.” Somehow, McGonagall looked all the more severe. “You missed the Sorting, the start of the term feast-”

“And the staff meeting.” Freddy folded her hands on the table and felt embarrassment well up in her throat like bile. “I know, I’m so sorry.”

“Have you spoken with the Headmaster?”

“Last night, I caught him in the corridor after the feast.”

McGonagall glanced briefly out the open window, her face pinching.

There were uneasy grey clouds marshalling about the horizon. Freddy had spotted them a while ago and suspected they had something to do with the dementors.

“We shall need to discuss things, new procedures for the term and such.” McGonagall looked back at Freddy. “Come to my office after your last class.”

“I will.” Freddy relaxed a little, though she still felt her skin prickle. They were sitting here, the two of them, in the same room where Quirrell had sat, in the same room where he and Freddy had become friends….

Emotion hardened her face. She shifted in her stiff chair and stared at the table.

The wardrobe quivered, a muted thud causing the door to jolt. The hinges groaned.

Freddy desperately wanted to break the silence.

“Lupin,” she said, “is he the new fellow?”

“Oh yes.” McGonagall ran a finger over a pleat in her robes. “A former student, of course. Gryffindor. He was good friends with James Potter.”

“I would like to meet him.”

“You will.”

Their trivial talk was maddening. Freddy could hardly stand it. She imagined herself bolting out of the room, rushing helter-skelter down the hall like Peeves, away from this place, away from the constant reminder of all that happened….

McGonagall suddenly sighed and threw up her hands.

“Forbia, please, don’t make this year just as bad as the last.”

Freddy cringed. Last year, yes, things had been a bit of a mess last year. Most of the teachers were still suspicious around her, were convinced that she had to know what Quirrell was up to. And if she hadn’t, well, then she was quite the fool. Freddy had endured their mistrust and even that idiot, Lockhart, who seemed to mock everything sensible Slatero had once stood for. She most certainly would have left Hogwarts…had she not needed the job so badly.

McGonagall knew that and she had tried to smooth things over. And Dumbledore had been gracious enough, had shielded her from much of the backlash incurred by the Sorcerer’s Stone debacle. But things still did not seem right and perhaps they never would. Either way, Freddy figured she should get used to feeling uncomfortable.

“You look pale,” McGonagall commented, her voice still sharp, but surprisingly edged with sympathy.

“I am tired.” Freddy effected a yawn. “Those Americans are quite the energetic lot.”

McGonagall exhaled, a chuckle pushing past her pursed lips. “Never content to stay put, are you? I suppose that’s why you’re always running somewhere and running late.”

“Oh, I’ve gotten better with that,” Freddy said proudly. “Much better!”

“Really?” A flicker of amusement lightened McGonagall’s gaze. “When is your first class today?”

“Oh, it starts at twenty to two.”

“It’s just two now.”

Freddy leapt out of her chair, one hand sweeping up her notes, the other tightening in a fist.

“I feel like a white rabbit indeed!” she muttered at a tersely smiling McGonagall. “But tomorrow, yes, tomorrow, I will be on time!”

 




Hermione Granger felt darkness slide around her. She blinked, shook her head and tried to remember just where she was or when, rather.

Third period, after lunch. She had International Magic in five minutes.

A sigh puckered her lips and she carefully slipped the time-turner back inside her grey school sweater. She hadn’t quite gotten the hang of the device yet and McGonagall had assured her that it would take several days before her hourly hopping became second nature. But perhaps the most difficult aspect was the sheer secrecy involved. Hermione had checked and double-checked the corridor, had made sure that not a single student was lingering about.

She could not be seen.

Feeling a bit more confident, Hermione made her way down the hall, the solitary tapping of her shoes sounding like a particularly lonely tambourine. With nimble fingers, she rummaged through her bag and counted her books. Professor Fotherby had only assigned two light paperbacks for the first semester, and as Hermione was already finished with “Swampland: A Guide to the Hoodoo Magic of North America’s Bayous” she was hoping for some heavier course material.

Not that she needed the extra work, considering the substantial amount of research she already had ahead of her. Her Runes class was proving to be the trickiest and Hermione had only translated half of her homework during lunch. And Divination, pssh! She snorted in annoyance. What a grand waste of time that was.

The door to Fotherby’s classroom had been left open and there were a dozen or so students lounging about inside. Hermione checked her wristwatch and then peered into the stuffy room.

Was she late?

She shook her wrist and checked her watch once more. No, she was certainly on time.

Clearing her throat quietly, Hermione sidled into the classroom. The students were mostly third years like her, with a scattering of fourth and fifth years who had opted to take the elective course later for whatever lazy reason.

Hermione was shocked, however, to see a seventh year Ravenclaw girl sprawled out in the back, her stocking-clad calves propped up on an empty desk.

The seventh year was a tall, gangly creature, with a long face and tawny hair. She yawned once as Hermione entered and offered her a wide smile.

“Welcome!”

Hermione set her bag down and tried not to appear flustered. “Is this International Magic with-”

“Professor Fotherby, yes.” The Ravenclaw stretched her arms out behind her. “Sit down. I’m sure old Freddy will be around, hmm, soon.”

Hermione’s eyebrows darted up her forehead. But she found a seat in silence, pulling a fresh sheet of parchment from her bag along with a quill pen and berry blue ink.

The Ravenclaw promptly went to sleep.

The other students were quiet for the most part and only began to chat quietly when a familiar, dour-faced Hufflepuff arrived along with a gaggle of fifth year Slytherins.

Hermione ignored the last group who were quick to carve out a private corner for themselves. There was some snickering, a chorus of crude jokes and then languid, listless silence.

Hermione plopped her chin down onto her open palm. It was nearly two, or so her watch said. Perhaps she ought to have it rewound? Who knew, all that time-turner business might have set it awry.

Swiveling around in her seat, she looked about the classroom.

It was plain enough, with only a few posters of exotic looking witches and wizards dressed in foreign clothing, smiling cheekily. A projector had been pushed against the back wall. The blackboard was wiped clean.

Hermione began to feel a dreadful sense of boredom descend and she allowed herself to wonder if she could possibly be wasting her time here.

The other students didn’t speak much about Professor Fotherby, often referring to her as “fluttery Freddy”. She’d caught snatches of mild conversation in the Great Hall about this professor, but nothing more.

Perhaps she was impossibly boring.

Hermione was curious to find out.

A sharp gasp snagged her attention. Hermione jumped, glancing over her shoulder at the shuttered windows. A Slytherin, a short, worm of a boy, had climbed up onto the dusty sill and was throwing open the top shutters.

Great shafts of sun streaked into the classroom. Hermione shut her eyes for an instant, the bright light a sudden assault on her senses.

She heard a giggle and then a quiet, nervous groan.

“Cass, that’s cruel!” A pig-tail wearing Slytherin girl chided the boy. “You shouldn’t, really. It’s so distasteful!”

“Just a bit of fun,” Cass replied, hopping neatly down from the sill and brushing the dirt from his pants. “Someone has to keep Freddy on her toes.”

Hermione stared at them with concealed disdain. They were pulling some prank, no doubt, though she hadn’t quite figured out the punch line.

Opening shutters? Well, that didn’t seem funny in the least bit, or even cruel as the concerned student had pointed out.

She glanced once more at the slumbering Ravenclaw, eager to inquire further, but stopped herself only when she noticed the girl’s chest rising and falling evenly.

Somehow, she doubted the seventh year would be of much help.

Hermione ran her tongue along her front teeth and took out her unfinished Runes homework. Good thing she had something to do while-

A short witch in blue robes came tearing into the room.

Hermione’s head snapped up and the rest of the students found their seats as Professor Fotherby threw her bag down and leaned against her desk, panting.

“Good…good afternoon, class,” she said with a rather broad Scottish accent. “At least, I think it’s the afternoon.”

“It is, Professor!” The now awake Ravenclaw chirruped from the back.

“Thank you, Meg.” Fotherby nodded, straightening slowly.

Hermione hastily shoved her Runes homework back into her bag and folded her hands before her.

Professor Fotherby, however, was too busy to notice her or anyone else for that matter. She was rummaging through her bag, in fact, muttering quietly.

Hermione kept her face neutral. Three years spent at Hogwarts had exposed her to an array of eccentric teachers and she was quite used to their quirks by now.

Fotherby didn’t seem that different from the rest. She was much younger than McGonagall, but otherwise unremarkable. Her figure could perhaps have once been described as average, but now she clearly carried several extra pounds. She had an oval face and long, brown hair that looked like it hadn’t been brushed yet this morning.

Fotherby extracted an armful of papers from her bag and began passing them around. “Alright, where were we?”

“We haven’t gotten past ‘good afternoon’ yet, Professor,” Meg interjected.

“Ah.” Fotherby smiled appreciatively. “Class, this is Meg Carlisle. She has so kindly forfeited her free period to sit in and assist me. And I am Professor Fotherby, in case you haven’t quite caught on yet. I’m handing out the syllabus now and I should like you to read it over. We’ll call roll next.”

Hermione accepted her syllabus with a polite “thank you, Professor”.

Fotherby only nodded absentmindedly, sighing as she returned to her desk. “Welcome to International Magic: Its Practices and Practitioners. Now what was I going to do? Oh, roll call! Please raise your hand when I say your name.”

“She’s a mess this one,” the shrewd Hufflepuff whispered to a friend as Fotherby read through the list of names.

Hermione silently agreed.

Lockhart, though initially dashing, had presented his classes in a like manner. And Hermione certainly couldn’t stand another term of complete ineptitude.

She thumbed through the syllabus, frowning. The course seemed both light in work and substance.

“Granger, Hermione?”

She half-heartedly raised her hand.

Fotherby was strolling up and down the aisles now, pausing every so often to check a name off her list. The tip of her quill pen twitched just under her nose.

“Roderick, Cass?”

The shrimp of a Slytherin waved his hand about and in doing so, brought Fotherby’s attention straight to the shutters.

Hermione saw her eyes suddenly widen, her teeth catching on her bottom lip, gnawing at the chapped flesh. The woman’s shoulders slumped and she seemed to draw in on herself for a moment, before quickly stiffening. Her spine was wand-straight.

Hermione felt the awful sense of tension and looked about desperately. Obviously, the joke had struck some deep chord and Fotherby had not the tact to suppress her emotion.

But then she loosened, her limbs almost limp and continued on her way.

“Swift, Lewis?”

Meg unfolded her long legs and slipped deftly over to the windows, her arms outstretched.

Fotherby flicked her quill in the girl’s direction. “Leave those, Meg,” she said with a cough. “We need some light in here.”

“Yes, Professor.”

And after that, the rest of the lesson carried on without incident…or much of anything at all. Fotherby, Hermione decided, was the most formulaic teacher she had ever had. Once the woman got herself on a particular track, she stayed there, never changing the subject, rarely answering questions and all the while appearing utterly ill-at-ease before them.

After roll call had been completed, she asked them each to take turns reading aloud from the syllabus. This useless exercise was only interrupted by her harried pacing or a nervous clearing of the throat.

Hermione watched her swallow hard every time a hand was raised and she kept her quill pen tucked between her fingers like a weapon, pointing it at the students with a sort of flinch.

A third year Hufflepuff asked Fotherby a rather obvious question about their first reading assignment.

It took her a good minute to find a suitable answer and when she did, she rambled on, her words jumbled and stretched and twisted. Her lilt of a Lowland brogue quickly became grating.

As the lesson rolled to an ungainly end, Fotherby informed them that she would be running the class a bit differently from now on.

“I’ve cleared it with the Headmaster,” she assured them, stopping for a moment just before Hermione’s desk, her fingers twitching distractedly. “On Tuesdays, you will come to this classroom as usual. I will give you an assignment and lecture for the rest of the period. And…and you may ask questions if you like.” But even the mere mention of such caused her brow to crease. “On Fridays, however, you will be expected to present a short paper relating to the assignment. I will meet with you each individually during class hours in my office and you shall discuss your findings with me. Does everyone understand?”

There was a chorus of groans.

Fotherby chewed on her lips again. “All right then?”

The students were already sliding out of their desks.

Fotherby officially dismissed them with an airy wave and sank down wearily into her chair. There was a stampede to the door as the students rushed out, more than a few leaving their syllabuses behind.

Meg Carlisle alone stayed and she stood, weaving down the rows and pushing in chairs.

Hermione put her things away in her bag and pulled the strap over her shoulder. She glanced at Fotherby, who was looking back at the open shutters again.

“It wasn’t quite so bad as last year,” she said to herself, a grimace tightening her face. She removed her wand from her robes and flicked it once. The shutters banged closed in an instant.

Meg Carlisle said nothing, but hummed softly to herself.

Hermione suddenly felt terribly uncomfortable standing there and she ducked out into the hall, lingering for a moment behind the opened door.

“I wouldn’t have come back if I had the choice,” Fotherby continued. She was slumped in her chair. “It never suited me, this teaching business. Quirrell knew that. See, I’m useless without him.”

“Professor!” Meg hissed.

Hermione felt sweat gather under her palms. Quirrell, now there was a name she hadn’t heard for quite some time…and she was glad for it. What could Fotherby want with him?

The woman chuckled, the sound low and moist. “I’m at a loss now…ah, but, things could be worse. At least I didn’t have Harry Potter for a student, eh?”

 



 Author’s Note: I have decided to go with “Slatero” as Quirrell’s first name. The name “Quirinus” is supposedly not confirmed canon to the best of my knowledge.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read! Please take the time to review. I would absolutely love to hear from you.
 


Chapter 3: A Goat's Head
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Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own nothing except for my OCs.



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Chapter Three A Goat’s Head


Freddy didn’t go to McGonagall’s office after her last class. Instead, she waited until dinner was over and then wearily ambled off to meet with the piqued deputy headmistress, who quite eagerly took her to task for being late. Once upon a time, Freddy would have blushed red, would have mumbled an apology and promised to do better. But with each passing year, it seemed that the staff had come to tolerate-if not accept-her erratic behavior. And Freddy herself made no move towards change, even though she often berated herself and wished to do better.


Perhaps I have very little to offer, she thought as McGonagall pressed the term’s schedule into her hands and reminded her that staff meeting attendance was mandatory.

After all, it seemed clear to Freddy that her students expected so little from her and she, in the end, expected less from herself.

She let McGonagall lecture on and on and tried to pretend that she was just a silly student again and not a teacher, certainly not a Hogwarts professor. No, they were respected, admired, defined by knowledge and skill and everything magic was supposed to be. Freddy, on the other hand, had never fancied herself particularly gifted and neither did her teachers.

Even though she had been Sorted into Ravenclaw all those years ago, she was soon marked as an underachiever. McGonagall had been the most realistic of her professors and saw Freddy for what she was straight off. A slacker. A girl who easily grew bored and so became useless. She suggested some bureaucratic Ministry work. But Freddy had even managed to disappoint her there as well. And now here sat, a professor, trusted with hundreds of impressionable young minds that wanted more for themselves than she ever did.

No one seemed to get the joke. Only Slatero Quirrell had. And only he had made her want to try.

Freddy felt disgustingly annoyed sitting there and she wondered if McGonagall sensed her frustration.

Another year. Another long, empty year filled with cold classrooms and blank stares and that incredible distance between peers that made Hogwarts a very lonely place to live.

Her throat contracted against emotion.

McGonagall glanced down her straight nose at her.

“That will be all for now,” she said, her voice measured and exceedingly prim. “I expect you have lessons to plan. Or at the very least, you should get some sleep. You look ghastly, Forbia.”

“I’m sorry,” Freddy replied, not knowing why she was apologizing.

She had done nothing wrong, committed no crime. Dumbledore himself had cleared her of suspicion….

McGonagall walked her to the door. “Did you find your new students agreeable?”

“For the most part,” Freddy said, trying to remember their young faces and great, staring eyes. “There was some funny business at the beginning of class, though. One of the students opened the top shutters.”

They both paused, McGonagall pressing an aging finger to her lips. She seemed on the verge of saying something, but thought better of it when Freddy shook her head dismissively.

“It was better than last year,” she assured McGonagall, “when Marcus Flint turned up wearing that towel as a turban.”

“Still.” The older witch looked decidedly ruffled. “Oh…oh well. Please come to breakfast tomorrow. It’s quite slothful to be sleeping in every morning.”

“I will,” Freddy said, inwardly regretting her acquiescence. She didn’t really like to mingle with the staff anymore. Sure, old Flitwick and Sprout were all right, but some of the younger professors could get snippy…and gossipy.

But, as in most things, Freddy found she didn’t have a choice.

“Good night.” She mustered a smile for McGonagall. “I shall read over the schedule before bed.”

“See that you do.” McGonagall’s departing nod was firm and yet, in her eyes, there existed a flicker of wariness.

Freddy tried not to notice it, but something tugged at her stomach as she walked away. No doubt that bread pudding from dinner was sitting heavily in her gut and she felt more than a little fidgety despite the inner exhaustion that begged for rest.

A walk would do her good. A long, meandering walk about the corridors. Perhaps she’d stroll to the old Ravenclaw common room and back. She knew the way by heart, could follow the oft-trodden path in her mind even now.

And besides, she had some thinking to do. Freddy always thought better on her feet and she wondered if it had anything to do with her crusty, old ancestor. Her mam often said one of her great-great-great-grand-uncles was a monk of some sort, an alchemist who had shut himself up in a monastery to study and would, by day, pace the labyrinth in the cloister’s garden.

Freddy didn’t know if the story was true. After all, who would willingly lock themselves away? She would certainly go mad. No, she had to wander, to roam, to run. Perhaps there was some gypsy in her blood instead, though she doubted her mam would approve of that.

She dragged herself up a short flight of stairs and up to the fifth floor corridor on the west side of the school. Through the long windows, Freddy could see twilight settling on the grounds and the shadows that darkened the forest.

She thought back to her afternoon class and the clever student who had opened the top shutters. It was a cruel prank, one that even now nipped at her heart. When she had first come to Hogwarts, Quirrell had taught his Muggle Studies class just across the hall from her. And every afternoon, she would call him into her room to help her open the top shutters.

His confusion had been hysterically funny at first and he repeatedly tried to teach her the simple incantation to undo the rusty bolts. Freddy, of course, failed every time, just as she failed at everything when she first came to Hogwarts. In fact, she bungled things up so much, that kindly Professor Dumbledore asked Quirrell to look out for her, to guide her through the corridors and sit with her at mealtimes to help her plan lessons.

A friendship, then, was inevitable.

Freddy stopped by a painting of a porcelain-cheeked witch in a ruffled, lavender gown.

A mischievous, miserable sort of giggle spilled into the hall, followed quickly by a whispered, “Shh! I think someone’s coming!”

Instinctively, Freddy stuck her hand inside her robes and reached for her wand, though in all honesty, she felt better equipped to deal with Sirius Black as opposed to some snot-faced boys.

And true to her guess, she found the two imps struggling to hide behind a sagely wizard’s statue. There was a black-haired fourth year Ravenclaw along with his hapless second year companion. Both students were heaving a mounted goat’s head up onto the wall.

“Now really,” Freddy muttered with an annoyed sigh, “you boys ought to know better.”

The second year possessed the decency-and respect-to look somewhat ashamed.

“Sorry Professor, we just thought the corridor could use some decoration.”

“Yes,” the fourth year grinned maliciously, “ornamentation.”

“Ah.” Freddy raised a thin brow. “And you thought a goat’s head would look oh so perfect just there?” She gestured at the distinct spot on the wall, an empty place were passing students might easily be caught unawares. “I must say, boys, you have rather bad taste. Now what’s the gag behind it? Does it spit ink? Hurl darts?”

“Oh, none of that,” the older boy assured her, but the glint in his eyes suggested otherwise.

Freddy held out her hands. “Give it here.”

The second year seemed quite eager to comply and he shuffled his feet, burying his chin in the folds of his blue and bronze tie. His friend, however, tucked the goat’s head under his arm and stared at Freddy, obviously lacking any shred of regret.

“I’ll take points,” Freddy warned and indeed, her patience was wearing thin.

Eerie, ugly shadows slinked along the walls, cast by the goat’s ungainly head and the defiant stance of the boy who held it.

“It’s mine,” he said saucily, his nose twitching in superiority. The fringe of his dark bangs dusted his brow. “I bought it from Zonko’s and it’s mine.”

“Five points,” Freddy barked, coughing then as the air came roaring out of her lungs.

“Just give it to her, Billy,” the second year mouthed.

The boy, however, remained rebellious.

“Fine.” Freddy crossed her arms, hoping to appear imposing. In truth, she had no knack for disciplining students and why should she? After all, she couldn’t quite take care of herself.

“Fifteen points,” she said, nonetheless, “and detention. Give it here!”

The fourth year seemed to consider and at last, he held out the goat’s head with an airy sniff. “A..a..anything y….you s…say, Pr…Pro…Professor.”

Before Freddy knew what she was doing, she had wrenched the thing from the boy’s hands and was seriously considering boxing his ears in.

“A week’s detention,” she snapped, “you wretched, disgusting hellion! And I’ll be speaking to Professor, Flitwick, yes, yes, I certainly will. You…you spoiled, monster of a brat!”

Her sudden outburst sent the second year flying down the hall to his common room and the fourth year, Freddy noted smugly, was not far behind.

And then she felt awful, felt like a spoiled monster of a brat herself standing there with the stupid goat’s head in her hands.

Yes, what a wonderful teacher she was, couldn’t even keep a straight face in front of a few meddlesome children.

Freddy stomped off to the staffroom, hating herself and staring into the glassy, black eyes of the smelly animal. She scowled and shook it fiercely until its mouth dropped open and a smile pulled its narrow lips taut.

“Fat Freddy! Fat Freddy! Fat Freddy!” The singing goat taunted, interspacing every note with a loud, enthusiastic “baaaa!”

Were she not so angry, Freddy might have admired the cleverness of the thing, a wall hanging that could insult any passing person.

But as it was, she stormed into the staffroom, slammed the door shut behind her and screamed directly into the goat’s face, “Shut the bloody hell up!”

Unfortunately for her, the room was not quite empty.





Professor Remus Lupin allowed himself a smile as he stared at the staffroom wardrobe. It stood still, silhouetted against the wall by a single shaft of rising moonlight. The doors were open a crack and the tangy scent of mothballs streamed lazily out into the evening air.

Lupin sipped his rapidly cooling tea.

How good it was to be back at Hogwarts.

His afternoon class with the third years had gone well, splendidly, perfectly well, in fact and he felt some of his initial apprehension begin to slip away. Teaching was a difficult sort of job. Of course, over the years, he had been lucky to snag a tutoring job or two, but this was different

He had a home. He had a little money. And he had a herd of fresh-faced students eager for knowledge.

The third years in particular impressed him. Their battle against the boggart was memorable, to the say the very least.

There was Hermione Granger, a clever little witch if he ever knew one. Ron Weasley, one of Molly and Arthur’s clan. And then Harry Potter, the infamous Boy Who Lived, but most importantly, James’s son.

Lupin smiled into his teacup. He had wanted to meet Harry for years, if only to tell him how wonderful his parents were and just how much they had loved him….

“Shut the bloody hell up!”

The staffroom door swung open and in walked a witch arguing with a goat’s head.

Lupin jumped, spilling the last of his tea onto his robes.

The witch looked up, hearing him gasp.

“Uh…sorry…didn’t know anyone was in here.” She deposited the goat’s head next to the door.

“That’s quite alright.” Lupin extracted his wand and flicked it deliberately, sopping up the fast spreading stain. “No harm done.”

“Uh…yeah, I guess..” The witch looked somewhat abashed and she ambled over to Sprout's plants, pointedly ignoring his gaze.

Lupin studied her back, a faint crease pulling at his already lined brow. He didn’t recognize her and she certainly wasn’t a student. A professor then?

He cleared his throat. “Pardon me, but I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Uh…probably not,” she said in that same, listless voice. With a finger, she prodded one of the plants, prompting a bright yellow flower to spit pollen into her face. The witch grumbled and withdrew.

“I’m Remus Lupin,” he plowed ahead, not deterred by her grumpy expression. “The new Defense Against Dark Arts teacher.”

“Uh huh.” She looked somewhat bewildered, pausing by the other side of the table, fingers twitching. “I’m Professor Forbia Fotherby, International Magic. You’re the one who left the note about the boggart?”

Lupin glanced at the wardrobe and laughed. “Oh, yes. I let my third years have a crack at it. They’re quite the skilled lot…I’m sorry, I don’t remember being introduced to you at the staff meeting, Professor Fotherby.”

“I wasn’t there,” Fotherby lifted her shoulders in an artless, half-shrug. “I was in the States, fieldwork, you know.”

“Ah,” a note of interest jumped into Lupin’s voice, even though he felt foolish to press the matter. This Professor Fotherby was obviously a cold-fish, or else she already knew of his condition and wanted nothing to do with him. “I’ve never been able to travel much. You are quite fortunate.”

Fotherby rubbed her nose. “I suppose, never really thought about it myself.”

“Did you bring that goat’s head back with you?” An awkward laugh leaked past his lips. He hoped she wouldn’t be offended by his question and to his relief, Fotherby appeared unfazed.

“No, it belonged to a student,” she said. “A Zonko’s product.”

“Hmm,” Lupin nodded sympathetically. “I should have guessed.”

“Not that I would know anything about Zonko’s,” Fotherby replied rather hurriedly. “I haven’t been in the shop since my fourth year.”

“So you are from Hogwarts,” Lupin smiled broadly.

A tight, nervous grin pulled at Fotherby’s lips.

“Forgive me, I don’t remember you,” he said, desperately trying to place her face. Lupin always thought he was fairly familiar with most students in his year and Fotherby didn’t seem that much older than him.

She, however, shook her head. “I’m not surprised. I was in Ravenclaw, bit of a loner, really. I don’t remember you either, so…” she trailed off indistinctly. “But, welcome back, I suppose. Nice to have you. McGonagall seems to like you and it’ll be a nice change, after Lockhart and all.”

“Yes.” Lupin was quite glad to finally have her talking. Perhaps she wasn’t opposed to him at all, just a bit shy. And he certainly could appreciate modesty. “And Quirrell, I daresay,” he added.

Fotherby froze, her face falling, jaw slack. Sudden indignation widened her dull eyes.

Too late did Lupin sense his error.

“I see,” she spat back at him. “Think you’re funny? Think I’m funny, eh? Well, it’s no joke, no damn joke. And if you think so, you most assuredly won’t be at Hogwarts for long!”

Lupin started around the table, hands upraised, palms open. What had caused this unexpected outburst? “I’m sorry,” he said hastily. “I’m so sorry. What did I-”

But Fotherby was already striding towards the door, her head thrown back. “Nothing changes!” she snapped before darting out of the room. “I should have never come back here to begin with!”

 











 
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Chapter 4: A Warning
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Chapter Four A Warning


Freddy hated dragging herself up the stairs, and these steps were particularly high and narrow and slippery. It didn’t help, either, that she had a claw in her chest. Not a big claw, only a cat’s claw. But it was pulling at her left lung.

And, of course, the walls were sweating steam, and the air stunk like stale laundry. She thought it smelled a little like her hotel room in New Orleans.

The stairs kept on climbing, slithering around the tower, rising, growing, all the way up to Sinistra’s Astronomy classroom.

Professor Dumbledore wanted to merge International Magic with star-gazing. He had said so yesterday during the staff-meeting. And Herbology would now be taught in Freddy’s bedroom, Sprout’s plants having been moved into her parlor the day before. She hadn’t even had the time to move her things.

Don’t worry, Hagrid promised his new pet chickens would fly her trunks up to the Astronomy tower.

Did chickens fly that high? Freddy didn’t know.

They laid eggs though.

McGonagall stood at the bottom of the stairs and called up to her.

“Never mind, Forbia!” she cawed. “Professor Lupin has seen to it. You can come back down now.”

Freddy was about to argue, was about to tell McGonagall that she had left her good wool scarf up in the attic when the walls opened before her, the stones falling, shattering, grey…everything was grey.

Dead trees and grass and the wind now keening, now howling like a wolf.

A hall stretched before her, a hall in a red brick building where people were laying in rows, their bodies shriveled. She walked, the echo of her footsteps deepening, lengthening as wasted faces watched her along with dozens of watery eyes.

Pulling, pulling down…cold sheets…cold hands…an iron bed for a prison.

Then on her knees in a washroom, jagged tiles pressing into her palms as she vomited with a mad jerk of her head.

More hands, more sickly, concerned smiles.

Sleep, sleep now.

And then they took a knife to cut out her lung.

Slatero, you did this to me….








“Stop!” Freddy rolled out of bed and onto the floor, her shoulder smashing against the side table and sending her empty water glass flying.

Frantically, she pulled open her nightgown and prodded at her chest, poked at her flesh until she felt each and every rib and the rumbling pulse of her panicked heart.

Her lung was still there, and she was breathing hard, but breathing. She hadn’t been smothered after all.

Ugh, it was all a dream.

Freddy forced herself upright, the heels of her hands planted on either side of her hips. A hooting owl swooped by her window. The eastern horizon was a muted blue.

It wasn’t morning yet.

“Idiot,” she mumbled to herself, picking up her water glass and placing it back on the table. “Acting like a baby, crying over a stupid nightmare. What’s next? Will you wet the bed?”

Hmm, now that she had said it out loud, Freddy patted her mattress and thankfully found it dry. Shakily, she clambered up to her feet and rubbed her fingers over her damp neck.

Oh, she was a mess. Her hair was matted with sweat.

Freddy shivered, chilled by the pre-dawn breezes leaking through the window. She crossed her bedroom and snapped the shutters closed.

Shutters, damned shutters.

Quirrell would have insisted she use her wand. But what did he know, eh? And what had he done to her, leaving her here looking like a half-wit?

Well, in truth, she had always been a half-wit.

Freddy sniffed loudly and faced her empty bed, the mauve comforter rumpled, the black sheets no longer pulled taut but wrinkled. Her old feather pillow was a shapeless lump. Sleep did not seem the least bit inviting now, not when her knees were still weak, and she couldn’t make sense of what was real and what was a dream.

Her skin prickled, and she felt as though grains of wet sand were skittering down her spine. Freddy pulled off her nightgown and replaced it with the campy, souvenir t-shirt and sweat pants she had bought in Louisiana.

There was a smiling blowfish on the front of the shirt and blue letters above its prickly head which read “Don’t stress.”

Easy enough for you to say, Freddy thought. Here it was, only the first week of the term, and she was already at her wit’s end. And it didn’t help, of course, that the new D.A.D.A. teacher was nearly just as snotty as the last.

Freddy folded her arms over her chest. Nothing ever changed. Nothing.

Sighing, she cleared her dirty robes off her desk chair and flipped through the term schedule McGonagall had given her last night.

But even as the sun began to streak higher over the horizon, Freddy couldn’t shake that suffocating, haunted feeling that had settled in her chest. Every few minutes, she put her hand to her wrist and checked her pulse.








The ceiling in the Great Hall was a milky sapphire on Wednesday morning when Remus Lupin went to breakfast. Bypassing the Gryffindor house table, he felt a pang of nostalgia and remembered careless days spent sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with his fellow Marauders.

Peter laughing, trying to stuff as many boiled eggs into his mouth as he could….

James charming the forks to fly around like tiny broomsticks…

And devilish Sirius, always eager to plan their next midnight sojourn into Hogsmeade.

Lupin struggled to ignore the sudden dead weight that dropped into his stomach. Instead, he made his way up to the decidedly empty staff table.

He spotted Fotherby directly to the right of the side of the dais. At first he wanted to approach her and offer an apology for who knew what, but as he watched her nibbling peevishly on a muffin, he thought better of it and passed the professor by without a word.

Fotherby, likewise, said nothing.

Professor Flitwick was pleased to see him at the very least, and the little wizard enthusiastically offered Lupin a seat by his right elbow.

“Remus, my dear boy, you’re looking well this morning,” he squeaked. “Will you have some tea?”

“Gladly,” Lupin replied as he scooped a prudent amount of eggs and bacon onto his plate. “I must say, I am greatly impressed by your Ravenclaws. I had the fourth years yesterday, and they certainly knew their way about a disarming spell.”

“Oh, well.” Flitwick puffed out his chest slightly. “It isn’t for lack of trying on their part or mine, I can assure you. I daresay they haven’t had a solid Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson in-”

Fotherby coughed loudly as she thumbed through a copy of Warsaw Warlocks and Witches, Poland’s leading magazine for the distinguished magical community.

Lupin swallowed a mouthful of dry toast and reached for the butter.

Flitwick hummed softly through his nose before continuing. “But it is good to have you back. I know Minerva is pleased, and she was quick to recommend you to Dumbledore -- not that you needed any references to begin with.”

Lupin could not help but smile. “I’m relieved, then.”

“Relieved?” Flitwick asked, his sharp eyes sliding over to the Slytherin table where a heated debate had erupted over the Falmouth Falcons’ chances against a visiting German team. “How so, my boy?”

“Ah…well.” Lupin stared down at his plate, at once realizing that he had said more than he had meant to. His face flushed. “Certain members of the staff….”

“You aren’t speaking of Professor Snape?” Flitwick was polite enough to keep his voice lowered even though the Potions master wasn’t at the table.

Lupin put down his fork, considering. “No.”

Flitwick’s thick brows jumped together. “It isn’t Professor Sprout, is it? I know the plants in the staffroom are quite the inconvenience, but she hopes to have them moved by Thursday.”

“No, it isn’t her.” And here Lupin paused, daring to glance down the long table at Fotherby.

McGonagall had just arrived, however, and the two were conversing. Fotherby had folded up her magazine and withdrawn the term schedule from her lavender robes.

“It is nothing,” Lupin quickly assured Flitwick and eagerly returned to his breakfast.

The rest of the meal passed by without event. Lupin finished his cup of tea and brushed the breadcrumbs from his lap. But as he stretched his arm over his plate to help himself to a last strawberry, he knocked his butter knife to the floor. Fotherby, who had just risen from her seat and was crossing the dais, stooped to pick it up.

“Here.” She dropped it next his goblet before elbowing her way between him and Flitwick. “Professor, could I have a brief word?”

“Of course, Forbia.” Flitwick sat up straight in his chair and leaned back to better hear Fotherby who proceeded to whisper in his ear.

Lupin tried hard not to listen to their conversation, but he did catch certain words like “disturbance,” “stutter” and “detention.”

After Fotherby had finished, Flitwick frowned deeply and patted her hand.

“Oh dear, I’m quite sorry for that,” he said sympathetically. “But it will be seen to, I assure you. Thank you, Forbia, for letting me know.”

Fotherby shrugged. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news.”

“No, not at all.” Flitwick rose and left the table.

Fotherby turned to go.

Lupin, acting on complete impulse, called after her.

Throughout his life he had been able to get along with his colleagues for the most part and very rarely did he find cause to quarrel with them. And he didn’t care, really, if Fotherby liked him or not, although he abhorred being blamed for some imagined offense. The role of scapegoat was often assigned to him due to his lycanthropy, and, over the years, he had grown less and less tolerable towards it.

“Excuse me, Professor Fotherby! Forbia!” He took a chance and addressed her by her first name.

She appeared unperturbed, however, and predictably indifferent.

“Uh huh,” she said as a cough twisted her narrow lips. “What is it?”

“I was wondering,” he said slowly, but not the least bit hesitantly, “if I might apologize for last night… Though I would certainly like to know what I am apologizing for.”

Fotherby paled and scrunched up her nose. “Oh, that. Forget it. Just…just never mind, alright?”

“Very well,” Lupin agreed, but some measure of his skepticism and annoyance must have shown in his face for she was quick to offer a vague explanation.

“I…you see…I have a lot on my mind just now,” she said, looking somewhat embarrassed, but entirely harried. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that…uh…sorry.”

“Well, I can certainly understand that,” Lupin admitted. He suddenly felt guilty for, well, making her guilty.

“Yeah, I guess.” Fotherby shook her head noncommittally. “I have a class now, so, uh, bye.”

The awkwardness was painful. Lupin did not call her back again but let her go. He was still oddly puzzled, though, until Professor Flitwick returned puffing to the table.

He glanced at Lupin and then at the retreating Fotherby.

“Ah,” he said once he had caught his breath. “She’s a bit funny, that one. Hmm, but don’t let her worry you. Forbia hasn’t been entirely the same since… Hmm, I’m certain you understand, Remus.”

Lupin wasn’t one to stir up bad blood, or gossip, for that matter. But curiosity nibbled at his common sense. He drew his chair a little closer to Flitwick’s.

“Actually, Professor,” he said in what he hoped was a conversational tone, “I was hoping you could enlighten me. It’s unfortunate, but I believe Forbia and I got off on the wrong foot last night.”

“Nonsense!” Flitwick waved his tiny hand, but the smile faded a little from his face. “But, I’d rather you hear it from me than through the rumor mill. Some of our colleagues like to fabricate the truth, and they are quite clever about it.” He paused and tsked softly to himself. “Professor Fotherby was a very good friend to Professor Quirrell when he was teaching Muggle Studies here. Now Minerva has told me that they… Well, never mind, best not to repeat it. I daresay you can put the pieces together in your own mind.”

Lupin felt his jaw slacken in shock . “But she wasn’t-”

“She didn’t know a thing about the Philosopher’s Stone or any of that business, poor girl,” Flitwick was quick to add. “Though it did damage her some. She and Quirrell were quite close once upon a when.”

Lupin sat back in his chair with a thud as he realized just how he had insulted Fotherby the night before and just why she was furious with him.

“Oh dear,” he sighed to himself as a few wispy clouds darkened the ceiling.








Freddy welcomed the tender breezes stirring just outside the Great Hall, and she leaned against a pillar, feeling the first twinge of a headache in her left temple. Her muscles were pinched, clenching together in such an uncommon fashion that she had to bite back a grunt of surprise.

Something was wrong.

She did not need Trelawney’s misty voice in her ear or a crystal ball or even tea leaves to know exactly what was going on.

Something was wrong… Something was wrong, and she knew it.

Freddy had only felt this way once before, and the spasms that shook her body were unpleasant enough to be remembered now, to be stored in her mind as a source of wonder and regret.

She stood up straight and tried to take a step forward, but her foot landed on tiles instead of flagstone and the Great Hall was no more.

A lifeless, blank corridor entombed her, suffocated her with the smell of distilling potions and unwashed blankets and blood.

Freddy blinked her eyes, but the vision stayed. A silent scream wrenched her lips apart.

Slatero Quirrell approached her from behind.

“This is all your fault, you know,” he whispered, but his voice was cold and high, thin like a serpent’s hiss.

Freddy leapt away from him…and ran straight into McGonagall.

“Time, Forbia,” she said with a distinctly ruffled look. “Don’t be late again.”

Freddy looked around in bewilderment and saw that she was indeed standing outside the Great Hall. Even now students jostled up the marble staircase.

“Aye,” Freddy let her Lowland brogue rumble in her throat. “Sorry, professor.”

“Never mind.” McGonagall nodded jerkily and strode away.

Freddy sank against the pillar once more, worry bringing the blood back to her face just as quickly as fear had drained it away.

She didn’t believe in all that divination business, had never liked it from the start, as a matter of fact.

But she was sure, yes, sure that she had been warned.

 






 Author’s Note: I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and review so far. And I’d like to especially thank my wonderful beta, Renfair, for dedicating her time to proofreading each of my chapters. The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Have a great week!

Chapter 5: An Intriguing Interview
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Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I only own my OCs.


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Chapter Five An Intriguing Interview


 



It was a humid Friday when Hermione stepped into the International Magic classroom, her wispy hair now sweat-soaked and stuck to her face.

She puffed as she slumped down behind an empty desk, resting her head atop her bulging book bag. It was her last class of the day, and she was more than glad for it. An afternoon spent hour-hopping had left her drained, and a nagging headache pulled at her temples. She had three classes scheduled for the same period after lunch on Fridays, and Hermione had put off Fotherby’s class for as long as she could, almost half-wishing that she had asked Professor McGonagall to drop it from her programme.

But the workload was light. Fotherby had only assigned a short paper for each reading. It had taken Hermione an hour to complete all of it, and she even tacked on a few outside sources during lunch while Ron noisily munched on his chicken salad sandwich and Harry brooded over another Daily Prophet article featuring the escaped Sirius Black.

In the end, she figured she’d stick with the class for another week and then drop it if Fotherby offered her little more than scattered ramblings. Hermione had never left a class before, and she felt awkward even contemplating it now. She simply hated giving up.

A door at the front of the classroom had been left open. Hermione lifted her head wearily, discerning two soft voices speaking inside the antechamber. Fotherby was likely finishing up her interview with another student. They were running a bit late, and Hermione was eager to present her paper to the professor and retire to the dorms for a quick nap before dinner.

Another ten minutes passed before the student left. Hermione offered the Hufflepuff a weary grin.

The girl shook her head vacantly and yawned, “Boring,” before passing out of the classroom.

Fotherby’s voice filtered out of her office. “Next!”

Hermione pulled herself up and ambled over to the room.

Professor Fotherby was sitting at her desk. She glanced up briefly when Hermione came to the door, smiled and beckoned to her eagerly.

“Come in! Come in! Have a seat. I just have to finish this up, it’ll only take a second.”

Hermione entered the office slowly, letting her bag gradually inch off her shoulder. There was a spindly, velvet cushioned chair pushed up in front of Fotherby’s desk. Hermione pulled it out and hesitated. Fotherby was storing away a few sheaths of paper in a drawer.

“You don’t have to sit, you know,” the professor said lightly. “Look around if you like.” She glanced over her shoulder with an immodest smile. “Go on.”

Hermione could not deny her curiosity. She placed her book-bag on the seat of the chair and glanced about. The air was heavy with the scent of aged wood and alive with the gentle tinkle of a harpsichord bewitched to play on its own. Hermione recognised the piece at once, a Romantic era sonata, something by Chopin.

Though a circular room, Fotherby’s office was stuffed to the ceiling with oddities. Hermione was instantly reminded of the dusty antique shop she had visited in Diagon Alley last July, although Fotherby obviously kept her collectibles clean.

Most of the furnishings were dark wood and looked decidedly Victorian or in some cases, Baroque. The slick stone walls were draped in tapestries, French, German and English in origin. Every now and then Hermione spotted a pastel-coloured Chinese silk hanging or a framed haiku written in elegant calligraphy.

A narrow bookcase was framed by two Roman-looking pedestals. One boasted an ancient Egyptian bust, an angular, sharp-eyed sculpture of some Nile-bred woman. About her neck there laid a turquoise Native American necklace.

On the other pillar, Hermione spotted a tiny, painted Grecian pot depicting an Athenian foot race.

The rest of the wall space was occupied by paintings along with some black and white Muggle photographs in neat, bronze frames. Opposite the bookcase and between two Gainsborough portraits, Hermione noticed a small section taken up by personal pictures. One was of a teenage Fotherby standing in front of a pair of Dutch windmills. Another showed her perched on the prow of a boat floating in the Aegean sea off Crete. And underneath that, a twenty-something Fotherby posed with a group of tourists at the Forum in Rome.

Hermione felt a delicious sense of wonderment creep over her and she inhaled, absorbing the sheer weight of knowledge the room contained. She felt almost as if she were standing in a great library amidst an impossible number of equally fascinating books. Sudden appreciation for Fotherby’s work bloomed inside her.

Leaning closer, she studied the rest of photos and found a final trio of pictures taken in an African village. The first showed the professor, looking much as she did now without the extra weight, seated amongst a group of children. Wide, welcoming smiles brightened warm faces and Fotherby was waving enthusiastically along with the children. The next picture was of a wizened village elder with a undeniably witch doctor appearance. He too was laughing and shaking hands with the young woman.

But Hermione found the last picture the most intriguing. The entire village had obviously gathered to complete the portrait and Fotherby was standing in front of the foreign grass huts, arm and arm with a sun burnt young man.

Hermione squinted. Didn’t he look familiar?

No, she couldn’t place the face.

A low, grating sound growled over the stone floor as Fotherby pushed her chair back. “Hermione? I’m ready for you now.”

Hermione jumped and reluctantly tore herself away from the photos. Turning, she observed a calm, cheerful witch who’s appearance and manner were quite at odds with her initial classroom conduct.

Today, Fotherby looked like a professor, her hair tidily held back by a silver, thistle shaped barrette. And even her clothes were trim. She wore plain navy blue robes with a corseted waist, a knee-length skirt and green tartan stockings that peeked out from underneath polished granny boots.

“Would you kindly take a seat now?” she asked simply.

Hermione readily complied, hoisting her heavy bag off the chair and dropping down into it herself. At once, she began rummaging about for the rolls of parchment she had written on chapters one and two of Roanoke: The Untold Tale of North Carolina’s Largest Wizarding Settlement. She also pushed aside several large sheets of painstakingly transcribed articles she’d found in the library’s section for published works by professors. Unlike most of her colleagues, Fotherby had penned no books, but she did have several dozen printed commentaries and research papers, all of which were regularly cited in the bibliographies of famed travel writers.

Being an eternally curious student, Hermione often spent what time she could on researching overlooked subjects, and she always found the writings of Hogwarts teachers to be most helpful. In fact, she had been most intrigued by Fotherby’s thirty page article on active hauntings in old North American tuberculosis sanatoriums. She had even jotted down a series of precise questions she wanted pose to the professor on the first day of class, but all of that had changed when she saw just how fluttery and flighty the woman was.

Predictably, she was disappointed.

But now Fotherby was reaching across her desk for Hermione’s papers. “Let’s see what you’ve come up with. Did you have any trouble understanding the readings? Several students thought they were, hmm, provincial.” She wrinkled her nose and laughed as if at some private joke.

“I had no trouble at all, professor,” Hermione replied, although she was inclined to agree with the other students. The readings were very simple.

Fotherby sat back in her chair and unrolled each scroll, skimming the writing with a little twist of her lips.

Hermione watched her anxiously, perched on the very edge of her seat. She half-feared that Fotherby might turn out to be one of those dreadful teachers who lulled their pupils into a false sense of security with easy assignments and then shocked them all with unexpectedly harsh grades.

A few dreadfully long minutes passed, the silence interrupted only by the soothing ripple of the harpsichord’s keys. But when the song reached its crescendo, the music froze, repeating the same dull note over and over again like a broken record.

Fotherby sighed tersely and flicked her wand in the harpsichord’s direction. The music stopped. “Why does it keep doing that?” she asked no one in particular.

Hermione cleared her throat nervously. “You like Chopin, professor?”

“Oh.” Fotherby set down the papers and smoothed them over with her fingers. “No, you see, I was trying to get it to play ‘Freebird’ instead.” And then, inexplicably, she winked.

Hermione wasn’t sure if she was joking or not. And she was also thoroughly confused as to what Freebird was.

Fotherby lifted a quill pen out of a silver inkwell on her desk. “I’ve just skimmed your first paper, Hermione. Impressive work. You also used outside sources. Not many students are willing to extend themselves… I certainly wasn’t. Do you have a particular interest in International Magic?”

Hermione relaxed a little, her spine curving as she let her body ease back into the chair. This type of talk she was good at, this no-nonsense, straightforward teacher’s talk. Who knew that Fotherby, despite all her eccentricities, was capable of professionalism?

“Not especially, professor,” she answered. “I-”

“Were the readings too sparse?” Fotherby’s brow furrowed. “Did you feel the need to supplement your work with outside material?”

Hermione shook her head quickly. “No, but I thought the paper would be stronger for it. Are secondary sources not encouraged in this class, professor?”

Fotherby ran her tongue over her teeth, frowned at the papers and steepled her fingers. She sat quiet for a moment, and Hermione felt the tension build until it was palpable. Her hands were sweaty by the time Fotherby finally looked up.

“Have you ever been horseback riding?” the professor asked.

“Pardon?” The solitary shrillness of her voice made Hermione cringe.

Fotherby only smiled.

“Horses, you know.” She picked an oval frame up off her desk and handed it to her student. “That’s me there, when I was about your age. My family had a farm, a big one.”

Hermione stared down at the photograph, a bit worn with age and creased down the middle. A girl was sitting in a pony cart, the reins resting lazily in her lap. There was a stout Highland pony standing between the cart shafts and a handsome, kilt-wearing Scotsman holding the animal’s bridle.

“My dad,” Fotherby commented with a nod. “He was good with animals. Taught me how to ride and drive a cart. Have you ever been around horses?”

“Umm.” Hermione awkwardly handed the picture back to her. “I’ve been on pony rides at Muggle fairs when I was younger. And then my parents took me to the Caribbean one summer, and we went riding on the beach. My dad fell from his horse and straight into the waves. He’s a dentist, not very good around things like farm animals.”

Fotherby’s eyes widened and she cradled her chin in her palm. “Ah, the Caribbean! I haven’t been there in…” she paused to calculate, “psh, it has to be five years. Did you like it though? How long were you there for?”

Hermione had no idea why a Hogwarts teacher wanted to know about her family vacation, but she told Fotherby all that she remembered, including the seashells she had scavenged the shores to find and now kept in the jewellery box in her bedroom.

Surprisingly enough, Fotherby was quite eager to listen, shifting the topic of discussion every now and then until Hermione began to feel comfortable, as if she were chatting over tea with a friend.

They talked about foreign magical policies for a while, and Hermione was quite thrilled to hear that Fotherby was familiar with Italy’s own Turin University of the Ancient Craft, a graduate school that specialised in classical Roman magic used by the auguries once upon a when.

“In fact, I put in an application there after finishing up at Hogwarts,” Fotherby commented when Hermione asked her what she knew of the place. “But I withdrew it when I learned that the incoming freshman class was expected to spend six months studying the Bacchic Rituals. My mam would’ve had a fit…not that you should be peering into such things either. You’re too young.”

Their talk then turned to Germanic magic and the early spells that were popular amongst the Gauls and still practised by some old French wizards.

Hermione was so caught up in their discussion that she did not realise Fotherby had begun to take notes, nor did she pay much mind to the dozen or so carefully crafted questions the professor asked her.

Fotherby had an informal way about herself, a way of making a person relaxed enough to talk openly and enthusiastically.

Hermione would never have guessed that she was being graded.

After a time, when they had exhausted the subject of the Socratic method applied to magical philosophy, Fotherby pulled out a pocket watch and snorted in surprise.

“We’re out of time, already, Hermione. Excellent work. You made the half an hour fly by. Full marks. I haven’t had a student like you in quite some time. Next week’s assignment will cover chapters three through five in Roanoke. You can find all the necessary information in the syllabus, and I‘ll be lecturing on Tuesday.”

“Professor?” Hermione was thoroughly confused and she stared at Fotherby, wondering if the woman was indeed mental, as Ron would say.

Fotherby stored Hermione’s paper in her desk drawer and arched her brows. “You’ll receive full marks for this lesson. You answered my questions, demonstrated a superior ability in the application of knowledge. You were able to make inferences, pose your own queries and generally discuss each subject in depth. I think all that warrants a good grade, don’t you?”

Hermione blinked. “But professor, we…we didn’t discuss my paper at all, or Roanoke.”

Fotherby shrugged. “That doesn’t matter. I’m rather flexible when it comes to supplementing class work, and since you went through the trouble to find outside sources, I assumed you wouldn’t mind as well.”

“No, I don’t,” Hermione replied, still thoroughly caught off guard. She knew all Hogwarts professors had a different method of teaching, but Fotherby’s was by far the most unorthodox she had encountered.

Then again, perhaps her approach was fitting, Hermione thought as she glanced around the eclectic office. Either way, she found the ‘lesson’ quite enlightening.

Fotherby rose from her chair and Hermione did likewise.

“It really was a pleasure.” She stuck out a hand.

Hermione shook it with a relieved smile. “Thank you, Professor. I really enjoyed our talk. International Magic is indeed a more profound subject than I had originally thought.”

Fotherby chuckled. “I’m glad to hear it. Now before I let you go, do you have any last questions? Anything you’d like me to clear up?”

“Umm.” Hermione hesitated, remembering her notes on Fotherby’s work and her article on the American sanatoriums. Encouraged by the teacher’s ready smile, she extracted the papers.

“Actually, professor, I was looking into your work at actively haunted hospitals and the effects such places have on both the local wizarding and Muggle communities. Could you possibly tell me more about your findings in the New England sanatorium? I found your interpretation of the Muggle legends pertaining to the place to be most fascinating.”

“Humph.” Fotherby took the papers from her. “You certainly did some digging, Hermione. I wrote this article four years ago. It’s probably outdated in the eyes of the scholarly community. Professor Hendrickson of the North American Alliance for Magical Hauntings thought my theories were simplistic. He even said so in his commentary.”

“But he’s wrong,” Hermione protested indignantly. “I thought that-”

She was interrupted by a keen fluttering sound, like the flapping of a small owl’s wings. Into the office shot a tiny red envelope, smoke trailing from its curling, singed edges.

Fotherby gasped in surprise and took a step back. The Howler landed neatly on her desk before promptly exploding.

“DEAR MISS FOTHERBY,” a formal, yet screeching voice shouted, allowing for echoes to bounce off the walls. “WE REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT YOUR ACCOUNT IS OVERDRAWN, AND YOU HAVE FAILED TO PAY THE MINIMUM BALANCE ON YOUR LOAN. WE URGE TO CONTACT OUR OFFICES AT GRINGOTTS, NUMBER ONE, DIAGON ALLEY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE BEFORE WE ARE FORCED TO DISPATCH OUR DEBT COLLECTORS. AS IT IS, YOUR CREDIT IS TOO POOR TO ALLOW FOR ANY CONSIDERATION ON OUR PART. WE HOPE YOU WILL TAKE THIS MATTER SERIOUSLY.

SINCERELY,

MR. PHILIP PIPS

UNDERSECRETARY TO THE WIZARD LIAISON OF GRINGOTTS DEBT DEPARTMENT.

The Howler disintegrated, leaving only a tell-tale sign of grey ashes on the desk.

Fotherby paled. “Please promise me that you’ll ignore that,” she said a little breathlessly.

Hermione nodded, feeling equally shocked.

In the end, the professor recovered first and kindly took her papers. “If you’ll just leave your questions with me, I’ll try to have a reply for you by Tuesday, alright?”

“Thank you,” Hermione managed, slinging her bag back onto her shoulder. She could not stop staring at the last, smouldering cinders atop the polished wood.

Fotherby smiled uncomfortably. “Have a, er, good afternoon, Hermione.”

 










Author’s Note: Sorry for the slow chapter, but this story is novel-length, so it takes a while to build things up. ;) I would like to thank all my wonderful readers and reviewers and my fantastic beta, Renfair, who has helped me so much. Chapter six is in the works. Here’s a preview.


The note proceeded to unfold itself in a burst of blue powder. Loopy, careless handwriting scrawled across the stiff parchment.

Dearest Forbia,

I daresay you expected this letter and I need not unfurl the workings of the Inner Eye on mere paper. We must talk. Let us have tea at the Three Broomsticks. I shall meet you promptly at three. Do not delay.

And do not be frightened.

Sibyl Trelawney

Thanks again and have a great week!

Chapter 6: Ugly October
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Stunning chapter image by xlivexlovexdreamx of TDA



Disclaimer:
J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own only my OCs.




Chapter Six Ugly October
October was an ugly month, Freddy decided, or at least it made her feel ugly, as she did when she woke up that drizzly Saturday morning. She hadn’t slept well the night before or the night before that or the entire week before that. Half-remembered nightmares prodded her at odd hours, disturbed her when the night was at its darkest and the shadows spoke. 

Dreams of stale, old buildings, cool walls and iron beds.

Sometimes she felt hands and heard voices that were disembodied and not yet so.

Sit up now, dearie, that’s it. We don’t want you drowning.

Don’t fight us, Forbia. Please, it’s for your own good.


Then the blood. Then the knife. Then her screaming when they pulled out her lung.

And it was only then that she felt truly frightened, threatened in the most supernatural way.

Freddy rolled herself out of bed and threw her legs onto the wooden floor. She sniffed once, swallowing the nasty taste in her mouth and the cough that had plagued her for some time. Despite the dawn chill, the room was sticky, and a dying fire left ashes on the hearth.

Freddy opened the windows and reached for her comb to pull the knots from her hair. A welcoming mist splashed the sill, leaving a damp, earthy pattern on the floor. She inhaled and sensed the not so far off moors. Home, yes she was home, at least for the time being.

A stack of not yet graded papers fluttered on her desk, held in place by a horseshoe that served as a paper weight. Freddy put her comb back down on her nightstand and flopped once more onto her bed.

Ugh, she didn’t feel like working today. It was the weekend, after all, and she had been productive all through September.

The school year, which had initially looked bleak, now seemed tolerable. Her classes were going well so far, and Meg Carlisle’s assistance proved invaluable at times. And at the very least, she had one quick-witted student, a third year Gryffindor girl named Hermione Granger. Freddy was thoroughly pleased with her work so far and flattered by her curiosity. No student had ever gone through the trouble of researching her articles. She wondered if the girl was considering a career in International Magical Relations herself.

But all that aside, Freddy was proud of herself. She had arrived mostly on time to her classes, kept her lesson plans straight and managed to remember all of her students’ names.

Slatero would be proud. He had taught her well.

Freddy curled into a little ball on her bed. Even now she didn’t like to think about it, that one year that had somehow managed to define her life so far.

She’d been so full of hope for him, for them. She had anticipated a bright future with a little cottage in Scotland and summers spent travelling and maybe children, later on.

She had wanted to marry Quirrell and he, for a time, had wanted to marry her.

Freddy pushed herself up out of bed, angry with herself, with him, with good and evil and all that was in-between the two.

To hell with that then, she thought and to hell with him and herself.

She forced open her desk drawer which had swelled after a night full of rain. Broken quills rattled against the sides, and the brass handle jingled like a small bell. Freddy lifted out her box of expensive inks and groped about, her short fingernails scraping the moist surface and eliciting a pleasant, woodland smell. She found the plain silver band rolling about in the back of the drawer, and she frowned as she ran a thumb over the pitifully small diamond.

“Impressive,” she told him as he went down on one knee while they were strolling about a beach in France.

“It’s just temporary,” he promised and held up the ring hopefully. “Once I’m back in England…I’ll buy you something beautiful, goblin-made, if you like.”

Lazy, soft waves broke the silence.

Freddy glanced up at the milky sky, felt the stirring breezes of twilight and then looked back at him.

“Aye.”

“That’s yes, then?” Quirrell half-rose, sand smudging his sensible burgundy dress robes. They had just come from the opera.

“Aye,” Freddy repeated with a lopsided smile.


Freddy put the ring down atop the papers in disgust, just in time to hear a faint knock echo on her bedroom door. Ugh, what now?

Feeling suddenly self-conscious, she threw on a shockingly red gypsy shawl she’d bought in Budapest, and never quite figured out what to do with, and waved her wand at the door.

It opened a crack, two timid, golf-ball sized eyes peeking around the brass knob. “Miss Fotherby?”

“Oh, come in.” Freddy was surprised by the sudden appearance of the house elf. They were normally a sight unseen at Hogwarts, and she was only ever reminded of their presence when she found her laundry folded neatly at the foot of her bed or craved something sweet with a cup of tea late at night.

The house elf bowed once and plucked a folded piece of parchment from his neat tea-towel toga. “Miss Trelawney asked Pippy to deliver yous this.”

Freddy took the note which smelled heavily of incense and let her brow furrow in honest curiosity. “I suppose she couldn’t come down from her tower to see me face to face, eh Pippy?”

“What’s that yous say, Miss Fotherby?”

“Never mind, wee lammie. It’s all well enough. Thanks.”

Pippy left, his bare feet scurrying on the floor and mimicking the mischievous sound of tiny mice.

Freddy flipped the note right side up, ran a finger over the gaudy purple seal and tore it open.

She half-wondered, no half-dreaded, learning what this was all about. Trelawney had little enough to do with her these days, having been thoroughly disappointed by her pupil some years before.

The note proceeded to unfold itself in a burst of blue powder. Loopy, careless handwriting scrawled across the stiff parchment.

Dearest Forbia,

I daresay you expected this letter, and I need not unfurl the workings of the Inner Eye on mere paper. We must talk. Let us have tea at the Three Broomsticks. I shall meet you promptly at three. Do not delay.

And do not be frightened.

Sibyl


“How very quaint,” Freddy mumbled to herself, though inside she felt that ever-present knot of worry tighten in her chest.

Trelawney knew.

Well, it wasn’t surprising, after all.

Feeling rather useless standing in her bedroom, Freddy decided to put in an appearance at breakfast. She dressed quickly, pausing only once to snap the shutters closed as rain began to streak in through the windows. And after she had slipped into her shoes and plaited her hair and was about to head for the door, she paused.

The ring was still on the desk.

Freddy dropped it into her pocket.




Honeydukes was empty that afternoon, and Freddy was glad she had avoided a students’ weekend in Hogsmeade.

Being early as opposed to late, she took a quick tour of the village, stopping first at the candy shop to by jasmine flavoured cough drops for her cold.

Passing out into the street, she only avoided being jostled by a giggling couple coming out of Madam Puddifoot’s by ducking into the doorway of Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop. And while there, she indulged in a bit of window shopping. There was a lovely, antique Victorian quill and ink set perched proudly on display. Freddy wondered how much it cost, before reminding herself sharply of just how empty her purse was.

The daily Howlers from Gringotts had stopped after she paid off half the loan. That had only been made possible by the pawning of her Versailles teacup set two weeks ago. She vowed to buy it back sometime or hoped to at least. Well, only if nasty Mr. Lias of Lias’ Curios and Pocket-Sized Wonders hadn’t sold it yet.

Freddy turned up the street once the couple had passed and decided to drop in on the pawnshop, just to remind the proprietor she had every intention of collecting her tea set in the near future.

The narrow shop was situated just off the High Street to the right of the Hog’s Head. Freddy had been told that the place once served as stable for sheep and other livestock back in the old days. She reckoned that was true, as the place did smell of old hay.

She hurried down the empty lane, hood over her head, trying to avoid the sleepy stragglers clustered about the Hog’s Head. The patrons reminded her a bit of herself way back when…or a few years ago to be precise, when she and Quirrell would slip down for a drink and play cards with whoever might be in the common room. Often, Freddy would run into witches and wizards she knew from the Uplands, ruddy little lads that remembered her as the pigtailed farmer’s daughter who drove her pony and cart through three counties every day. Quirrell in particular had enjoyed listening to their shared stories, being a city born boy himself. He had always marvelled at the simplicity of country life and promised to someday take it up himself.

Or so he said.

Freddy stomped her old-fashioned boots on Lias’ threshold, kicking up a good manner of dust and loose straw as she did so. Mr. Lias had his front door open this afternoon, and Freddy spied his great head peering over a rusty Muggle cash register, the most popular of his curios.

She slipped inside, glancing once at the clean-shaven young man who was dressed in his finest frock coat and dramatically tied cravat. Freddy ducked behind one of the tottering shelves stuffed with an odd mixture of decaying books, chipped figurines and an odd-looking medieval helmet.

Mr. Lias was consulting with a customer, speaking in that slick, dangerously irritating voice of his. Freddy guessed he was trying to talk the wizard into buying something, because he was never so pleasant when bleeding a person dry of their own property.

She took her time and searched for her tea set in the amber light of a storm lantern. A mahogany hutch in the back housed three neat rows of assorted cutlery and cups. Freddy rolled up her sleeves and scoured the shelves.

Mr. Lias’s nasal tone droned on from the front of the shop. “Really, Professor, this is as lovely a briefcase as you can buy. I’d wager that Diagon Alley has nothing of the sort. Yes, the corners are a bit scuffed and yes, the leather is cracked here, but all that adds character. You know, there are some wizards who would use a simple mending spell to smooth over all these little imperfections. Honestly! The very idea is heathenish. Truly, they have no appreciation for any eccentricity, quite unlike myself, sir. No, I appreciate the unique.”

Freddy rolled her eyes with a scoff. Yes, Mr. Lias did indeed have a taste for oddities, or so he had hinted many times while casually reaching for her hand.

The customer cleared his throat and Freddy recognized the sudden hoarseness.

Oh dear.

“That’s all very well, Mr. Lias, but this briefcase must last me for a time. Will it hold up when I travel?” Professor Lupin asked.

Mr. Lias leaned on the counter, his discerning blue eyes sweeping the corners of his cramped shop.

Freddy struggled to hide herself between the tight shelves, but to no avail.

Mr. Lias smiled wickedly. “I wouldn’t know, Professor, but you should ask dear Freddy here. She knows all about travelling.”

Bugger!

Freddy tried to squeeze her way through the shop, knocking over an umbrella stand and several silver-topped walking sticks in the process. “I wouldn’t know either, sorry,” she grumbled, ignoring Lupin’s pointed looks.

Even after his apology some weeks ago, Freddy still did not feel at ease around the Defence Against the Dark Arts professor. Of course, Lupin was polite, and she only just acknowledged his presence at staff meetings, but they certainly did not have to be best friends. As long as he kept his nose out of her business, she would be content…and relieved.

But, as always, Mr. Lias liked to throw a wrench in where he could.

“Nonsense! Freddy’s a fair nomad. I should know,” Lias said with a cocky wink in her direction. “She’s hawked half her souvenirs here.”

“Thanks,” Freddy growled through clenched teeth.

Lias wiggled his arrogant little head in triumph. Lupin, however, looked thoughtful.

“Freddy?” he said, his voice even and cool. “I thought your name was Forbia, Professor.”

Freddy coughed loudly into her palm and sniffed. Lupin was staring at her in the most uncommon manner, it made her feel decidedly uncomfortable. Despite his rag-tag appearance and haggard tone, the man was undeniably gentle and smart. And his students seemed to worship him.

Freddy detested such complacency.

“Yeah, my, uh, my name is Forbia,” she said lightly, “but when I was young, well, younger,we used to have this Highland calf on our farm named Freddy, and I liked to pretend I was a cow too… This was when I was five, remember.”

Lias snorted high-handedly.

Lupin smiled. “I certainly wish I had grown up on a farm. Perhaps... Yes, perhaps it might have made things easier to bear.” A strange flicker passed over his keen face.

Lias seemed disappointed by their interlude, and he cleared his throat abruptly. “As I was just telling Professor Lupin, he can put his trust in any purchase he makes here, eh, Freddy?”

“Mr. Lias is a good businessman,” Freddy admitted with a frown. “And he does sell quality antique and replicas.”

“Not replicas, my dear.” Lias pretended to be offended. “Although I was sceptical about that tea set you brought me two weeks ago. Perhaps I shouldn’t have paid full price for it.”

Freddy flinched and half-turned. It was bad enough that Hermione Granger had accidentally learned of her financial troubles, she certainly didn’t need to spread the news further.

But Lupin seemed occupied with the briefcase. He had snapped it open and was inspecting the lining.

“That tea set was genuine,” Freddy said in a harsh undertone. “And I want to back.”

“Already?” Lias looked disappointed. “I had a newlywed couple from Spain pop in just this morning. They said they might come back for it… How much will you offer?”

In all honesty, Freddy had no money. She was living tight and only fortunate enough to be at Hogwarts, where she lived rent-free and was fed well.

“I can’t exactly pay upfront,” she began.

Lias made a face.

“Fine.” Freddy fished around in her pocket for her purse, but instead felt her fingers collide with her old ring. Grimacing, she pulled it out and slammed it on the counter. “Here, this is from France too. Trade one thing for another.”

“What’s this?” Lias held up the small band for inspection.

“A ring.”

“What sort?”

Freddy swallowed a sigh. “My engagement ring.”

Lias pretended to be unfazed, but Freddy spotted the ugly frown that pulled at his lips.

“I have no need for it anymore,” she continued. “It…it didn’t work out.”

“Hmm, well, unfortunately it’s worth very little.” Lias put the ring down on the counter and folded his arms neatly behind his back. “But it’s sentimental value is through the roof. Fine, you can have the tea set.”

“Vulture,” Freddy said under her breath.

Lias wrapped the tea cups and pot in last Tuesday’s Daily Prophet before handing them to her in “fine condition.” He then swiped the ring off the counter with a careless flick of his hand and returned his attention back to Lupin.

Freddy wanted to leave the shop with as little fuss as possible. God only knew what Lupin thought of her now. But the professor was right on her heels, holding open the door for her as he struggled to tuck his new briefcase under his arm.

“Thanks.” Freddy turned back towards the High Street, intent on making it to the Three Broomsticks early enough to get a secluded seat.

Lupin followed.

“Is he a friend of yours, that Mr. Lias?” he asked conversationally.

Freddy cringed. “No, not at all. I think he’s ghastly.”

“But he does a good business.” Lupin matched strides with her, a steady drizzle flattening his greyish hair against his forehead.

Freddy briefly wondered just how old he was. Quirrell had always looked youthful for his age, though at the end he did appear so worn….

“Yeah, he inherited the store from his father,” she replied.

They both slowed as the High Street drew closer. Lupin shifted his briefcase and paused to consider. Freddy awkwardly stared at her feet.

“Listen, I don’t know if you overheard anything,” she began, licking her dry lips.

“I wasn’t paying attention,” he replied lightly.

“Still, I’d rather avoid more rumours. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty.” Freddy glanced at him shrewdly, but Lupin returned her gaze with kind eyes.

“You don’t owe me any explanation,” he said.

Freddy coughed. “Yes, I know…but, the rumours.”

Lupin shook his head. “I don’t gossip.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“No, truly, I don’t.” At last, he set his briefcase down and blew on his hands. “Ugly weather for October, isn’t it? I was thinking of going to the Three Broomsticks for a cup of tea. Would you care to join me?”

Freddy stiffened. What was this? An attempt at friendship? Lockhart had feigned sympathy at first, but that didn’t stop him from gossiping like a brainless school girl.

She just couldn’t afford to trust anyone.

“Sorry,” she said through a cough. “I’m meeting someone. Perhaps another time.”

“Yes, perhaps.” He didn’t look particularly disappointed, though she did stop to watch him as he walked away.

There was a slowness to his gate, an undeniable air of repression and painful restraint. But Freddy was too bewitched by dreams of the dead to notice. 



Author’s Note: Thanks so much for taking the time to read! Please review, I'd love to hear your thoughts. And also, special thanks goes out to my fabulous beta, Renfair, for helping me with this fic. The next chapter should be posted soon. Have a great week!

Chapter 7: Tea With Trelawney
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Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own only my OCs.



Chapter Seven Tea With Trelawney

 

 Freddy hurried to the Three Broomsticks after leaving Lupin and managed to snag a table by the cosy corner near the window. Madam Rosmerta offered her the lunch menu, which she quickly passed up in favour of a pot of Earl Grey.

There was no sign of Trelawney yet, and Freddy took a few minutes to relax with her tea. She tilted her head downward, her chin a few inches above the blue and white cup and inhaled. Aromatic steam rushed into her face. Freddy was suddenly reminded of a warm night in Morocco when she had eaten dinner at a rooftop café and watched a festival wind its way through the streets below.

That was Slatero’s favourite story. He enjoyed hearing about her time in the East and was fascinated by the foreign magic she had encountered there. Freddy had promised to take him with her, and when he was granted his research sabbatical, they both wasted no time taking off across Europe.

She smiled as she remembered how conventional Quirrell had been at first and how she had nearly driven him mad with her carelessness. Fortunately, he was patient and smart enough for the both of them.

Sitting there, with her shoulders cradled by a sturdy chair, she began to drift. Outside in the blustery streets, she watched villagers meandering to and fro, their colourful robes rippling like aging autumn leaves. Freddy spotted an older man rushing by, his stately mauve, peaked hood covering most of his face.

She shut her eyes for an instant, slipping down…down…down, beckoned by the tranquillity of brighter years.





November 1987


Freddy knocked once on the door, waited a breath and then pounded with her palm on the wooden surface.

“Just a minute!” a groggy voice croaked.

Freddy wrapped her dressing gown closer about her, hopping from one bare foot to another. In her haste, she’d quite forgotten her slippers.

Hopefully, Professor Quirrell wouldn’t noticed the purple nail polish on her toes.

The door opened, shedding light from a hastily conjured fire and Quirrell’s illuminated wand tip.

Freddy inhaled sharply before gushing, “I honestly swear that I have never been this obnoxious or presumptive in my entire life, but please, please help me!”

Quirrell took a surprised step back, lifting his wand aloft and into her face.

Freddy blinked and squinted.

“Professor Fotherby.” He sounded annoyed…and disgusted.

“I’m sorry, Professor, really. But I’ve had no less than five panic attacks, and I didn’t know who to go to--McGonagall would give me a tongue-lashing, no doubt--and you always seem so good with your students. And…and I
really need this job.”

Freddy clenched her trembling, sweaty hands together.

Quirrell lowered his wand. “I suppose you’ll want to come inside then.” He stepped aside, holding the door to his apartments open.

Freddy tiptoed into the living room, her cold feet immediately greeted by a thick carpet and the warm, radiating fire-light.

She couldn’t see much of the place through the darkness and shadows. The outline of a plain sofa, two sitting chairs and a side table almost reminded her of a Muggle waiting room. But the smell was certainly inviting, quite like the aroma that hung around Quirrell’s classroom. The delicious scent of old tomes and parchment mingled with sweet smoke wafting from the magical fire. Freddy thought back to the old bookstore in the town outside her parents’ farm with its lofty volumes and thick, yellowed dictionaries.

The smell left her somewhat calmer.

Quirrell shut the door behind her and motioned to the sofa.

Freddy sat and watched awkwardly as her colleague dropped down into one of the chairs, his hands cupped over his knees.

He looked quite nice for someone who had just rolled out of bed, she fancied. Sure, his dark hair was a bit mussed, and there were shadows under his eyes, but his face was sombre and composed . Freddy suddenly realised that she looked a fright.

Quirrell, however, wasn’t nearly as distractible as she. He looked her straight in the eyes, his chin raised appraisingly. “What do you need, Professor Fotherby?”

She felt horribly ashamed then, and waves of embarrassed heat swept over her body. Freddy rearranged her hands on her lap.

“I’m really sorry to disturb you like this-”

“I don’t mean to be rude,” he interrupted, speaking in the same practiced tone of authority he used to address his students, “but the hour is rather late.”

She swallowed, panicked briefly and tried to gather her thoughts.

“I lost Professor Ghei’s curriculum, all the notes he gave me at the start of term before he left. I…I can’t find them anywhere.”

Professor Ghei was her predecessor, a pleasant transplant from India with a beard nearly as long as Dumbledore’s and a ready smile. He’d been kind enough to give her his standard curriculum for International Magic, seeing as she was a new professor and had not yet formed her own.

Quirrell’s eyebrows fluttered ever so slightly. “I see,” he said slowly.

Freddy clenched her fingers into fists until she heard her knuckles crack. “I don’t know where I left his notes, but, they’re gone…and I have class tomorrow and-”

“Absolutely no clue what you’re doing.” Quirrell’s annoyance was clear now, and Freddy withered beneath the weight of it.

They didn’t get along quite as well as she had hoped. Their classrooms were across the hall from each other, and Quirrell had a year or two of teaching under his belt despite his young age.

Freddy admired his professionalism, his certain aptitude for academics and study.

She was a loose cannon in comparison, and underneath it all, she truly yearned to be like him.

Suddenly there were tears in her eyes, rolling down her cheeks and curving past her chin to her throat. She blushed an even deeper red and tried to wipe them away.

“Bloody hell,” she muttered past a sob, “I really need this job.”

By all rights, Quirrell should have ignored her emotion. And he should have scolded her for her serious lack of responsibility and sent her straight back to bed.

But he didn’t, and Freddy was surprised to see him rise and come to sit beside her, a sympathetic frown softening his face.

“If we both skip breakfast, we’ll have time to scrape together a lesson for tomorrow. And then at dinner, I’ll show you how to set-up your curriculum. It isn’t easy, but once you have it, you can refer to it anytime.”

Freddy’s tears stopped, her eyes now wide. Her mouth dropped open, and she found herself unable to express her gratitude, utter relief, and joy.

Quirrell seemed to understand though.

He pointed at her toes. “By the way, purple is my favourite colour.”




A worn smile tightened Freddy’s lips as she sipped her tea. She felt much older than thirty and more like a wizened crone who has loved and lost and grown stale under the fragmented years of life.

Ugh, the Earl Grey was cold already.

Freddy set the teacup down and fiddled with the sugar dish, lifting the dainty silver spoon up an inch and dropping it back amidst the white grains.

A gust of moor-sent wind leapt into the tavern as the front door opened.

“My, you look so wonderfully reflective,” Sibyl Trelawney breathed, her muddy galoshes squelching on the floor.

Freddy half-rose and greeted her former professor with a quick hug. “Hullo. How have you been?”

“Dreary,” Trelawney tossed off her paisley ruana and slipped into a chair opposite Freddy. “But then this morning I awoke and thought, Dear me, I must visit poor Forbia. It’s the Inner Eye, of course, so very keen! Ah, poor Forbia.”

“Poor Forbia?” Freddy echoed, raising her hand to summon Madam Rosmerta. “I’m all right. I’d rather be in the Caribbean, though.” She paused and gestured at the teapot. “I was drinking Earl Grey, but it’s gone cold. Do you have a preference?”

“Darjeeling,” Trelawney told Madam Rosmerta, who had clicked her way over to their table. “And do you have scones?”

“They’re due out of the oven any minute now,” Rosmerta replied. “Can I bring you some of this morning’s biscuits instead?”

“No, we shall wait.” Trelawney nodded politely, if not a bit dismissively.

Madam Rosmerta sauntered away.

“You look simply dreadful!” Trelawney leaned forward and threw her cold hands over Freddy’s. “I’m glad we could meet today.”

Freddy rolled her eyes. “Really now, Sibyl. You’ve been predicting my doom since my sixth year. Don’t you want to hear how my summer went?”

“Very well,” she simpered, accepting a fresh pot of tea from a passing Rosmerta. “Go on.”

They chatted pleasantly for a well, and Freddy half-hoped that Trelawney had forgotten the business of dreams. As it was, the Divination teacher did have a short-term memory, though she seemed determined to recall the most uncomfortable of issues.

Trelawney talked about her summer holiday, of how she had travelled to Japan to visit her sister and her family. Her niece, she swore, had inherited the Sight, and her sister was already thinking of apprenticing the young girl to a master.

Freddy, on the other hand, talked at length about her trip to the States and in mentioning her interview with Madame Paulina, earned a muted gasp from her companion.

“She is a most reputed Seer!” Trelawney muttered, seeming half awestruck and entirely impressed. “I knew, yes, I knew you would find your way to her one day. The Inner Eye, ah. Tell me, did she grant you a reading?”

“Not really.” Freddy looked down at her folded hands. “We talked about hoodoo traditions and such, it was purely scholastic.”

“Psh, she must have recognised your talent.”

“No. I’m quite useless.”

“Nonsense.” Trelawney stiffened and rolled her shoulders back. “You are pre-cognitive. You possess the Inner Eye. I’ve told you many times-”

“Sibyl-”

“I know, you don’t believe me.” Trelawney peered through her ornate glasses. “But what of Professor Snape? Surely he is strict enough with his praise.”

“I was miserable at Potions.”

“Forbia!” Now Trelawney was wide-eyed, leaning forward in her chair with a strained look. “You know you are an able Occlumens.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Then you are foolish.”

“Why did you ask me here?” Freddy asked, struggling to keep her voice indifferent.

Trelawney didn’t answer at once.

Typical, Freddy thought. Trelawney had always expressed a keen interest in her as a student and thought she had an express talent for Divination. Furthermore, she encouraged her to go East after her education at Hogwarts was complete and study with the masters abroad.

In the end, Freddy did go abroad, returning unexpectedly as a professor of International Magic.

Needless to say, Trelawney was disappointed.

Freddy took a sip of her tea and sighed. “Humph, I thought you wanted to talk about dreams,” she said.

At once, she realised her mistake.

Trelawney now truly looked like a hunting dog. Her eyes sharpened, nostrils dilating as she picked up the scent she had nearly lost.

“Yes!” She patted Freddy’s hand. “See, the Inner Eye!”

“Never mind,” Freddy said quickly. “I haven’t had any dreams. You’re entirely wrong.”

For perhaps the first time ever, Freddy thought Trelawney looked annoyed.

“Really,” she huffed, her bangles tinkering once more on the table as she slapped her palm down, “What nonsense! Tell me, Forbia, what did you see?”

Freddy felt forced to comply. A cough swelled in her throat and choked her. Her ribs seemed to tighten around her lungs as a searing pain shot through her chest.

“A building,” she panted, once the spasm had ceased. “A stone building.”

“A castle?” Trelawney prompted gently. “A fortress of some sort?”

“No.” Freddy was winded. She let her hands fall from the table and into her lap where her fingers fisted in the folds of her robes. “A brick building. Some five floors high…wide. There was a short, narrow tower. Uh….” She faltered.

Trelawney leaned forward, the fringe of her glittery scarf dusting the rim of her tea cup. “What else?”

“Windows,” Freddy continued reluctantly. “Very plain looking windows. And the smell…like stale steam or rusty pipes. It was all very foreboding, reminded me of an ugly Muggle boarding school I used to drive my pony cart past back home.”

“Can you remember anything else?”

Freddy felt a lurch of frustration. This really was a private matter, and she didn’t like to go blabbing about her nightmares to just anyone, even though she knew Trelawney wasn’t a gossip.

“It was all very disjointed.” She waved a hand. “More of a mix of smells, sounds, er, feelings, if you will.”

“Emotions?”

“Fear,” Freddy replied. “Or something akin to it.” She swallowed, a self-conscious blush darkening her cheeks. “The only other thing I remember is a town, some wretched place. Very run-down, weeds growing through cracks in the streets and all. Empty shop windows. Dust. It looked somewhat Mugglish and as if no one had bothered to take care of it at all in many years…as if no one wanted to.”

“That is all?” Trelawney sat up straight, looking surprisingly disappointed.

Freddy didn’t care for her tone. She bristled. “You know, I haven’t been sleeping well to begin with…this cough.” She rubbed her chest.

Trelawney took a long sip of her tea and sighed. “Forbia, it is always the same with you. No one can help you if you remain so…prickly. Oh, I remember when you were younger and-”

“Naïve?” Freddy interjected.

Trelawney’s frowned. “Trusting. Now, quite frankly, you are unpleasant.”

Freddy shook her head. “Listen, if you have something to say-”

“You let him go a little too quickly.”

“There was nothing left of Slatero.”

“You never grieved.”

“Oh, I cried.” Freddy’s spine stiffened.

Trelawney shook her head. “Don’t mistake the physical act of crying for actual sorrow.”

“So you think my problems…my discomfort all stems from him?” Freddy asked. She was surprised by her own disappointment when Trelawney nodded.

No, it couldn’t be about Quirrell. This deep, pulsing fear, this sense of unease and doom could not be the remnants of his presence in her life. There was something else, yes, she could feel it settle within her, every breath lengthening its torturous refrain.

Freddy didn’t grieve his death. No, she feared hers.

Even now she felt herself slipping back, down, down, down into a dark place. It started with a chill running invisible fingers along her spine, then a choking sensation and the gurgle of blood against her tongue.

An awareness, as vague as a memory but somehow stronger, thickened her thoughts.

And then there was the bitter lament of her own dying heartbeat-

Freddy blinked and once more she was back in the cosy common room of the Three Broomsticks. Madame Rosmerta was approaching their table.

Freddy longed to confide in Trelawney, the professor and colleague who had attempted to mentor her, the woman who had always had her best interests at heart. But how could she begin to describe her hazy impressions and half-formed feelings of fate? More than anything, she wanted a friend and yes, she wanted to be told that she was safe.

Freddy leaned forward, running her teeth over her lower lip. “Sibyl, I-”

But Trelawney was now conversing with Rosmerta. “Oh, Forbia,” she said, looking casually over her shoulder at her table-mate. “I’ve just ordered us some of the fresh scones. I hope you don’t mind.”

Once more, Freddy sank back into herself, summoning the strength only to nod. No, Trelawney wouldn’t understand. Her Inner Eye was more clouded than clear. In the end, Freddy was hopelessly and utterly alone.


 

Author’s Note: I would like to thank all my wonderful readers and reviewers for sticking with this story so far. Your support has been so encouraging.

I’d also like to thank my fantastic beta, Renfair, who has helped me so much with this fic.

Please take the time to comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts. The next chapter should be posted soon. Have a great week!

Chapter 8: Whispers in the Library
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Disclaimer:
J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own only my OCs.


 Chapter Eight Whispers in the Library


 
At six o’clock on Thursday, the library was quiet. Hermione was grateful for the silence, not at all unnerved by the deadness of it all. She took advantage of her rare solitude to spread three rather mouldy books over one of the larger tables along with a scattering of flimsy pamphlets. The publications bore such dry, scholarly titles as Common Transfiguration Spells Found in the Uppermost American States and Muggle Theories of the Supernatural as Examined by Professor Winifred Wiltshire. There was even a single Muggle text that Hermione had stuffed in the very back of her trunk and this morning extracted with great difficulty. 

Now she sat pawing through the pages, looking for the exact quote she thought Professor Fotherby would find so fascinating--or so she hoped. 

A solid month in her class had taught Hermione a thing or two. Firstly, lectures were strictly standard fare; typical, unimaginative, and, quite frankly, boring. In contrast with the dull classroom experience were the private discussions Fotherby scheduled with her students every Friday. These Hermione anticipated, and she even found herself preparing extra questions in advance to ask her teacher.

Fotherby was a great promoter of independent study, and she didn’t shy away from tangents. No, she embraced them.

This week, Hermione had polished off the assigned paper a few days before its due date and was making up a list of five or so questions she was just burning to ask--and have answered.

O.W.L.s were still two years away. Hermione paused to nibble on her fingernails. And then N.E.W.T.s. She still had plenty of time to consider her career path, even though Mum and Dad were hoping she’d take up medicine, magical or not. But Hermione couldn’t help it; she was enthralled with the idea of working abroad, perhaps in a field that was both freelance yet stable enough to provide sufficient income.

During their last chat, Fotherby had gone into detail regarding her research of abandoned hospitals in America. For some reason, the rotten structures were known to create a sort of magical draw, and wizards commonly settled in small towns around these so-called “hot spots.”

Some unconventional wizard scholars--including Fotherby, if she was pressed into admission--believed that these very areas created a magical energy of their own, a leftover charge from the dead that wizards, and sometimes Muggles, perceived.

In fact, old tuberculosis sanatoriums in particular seemed to…

“Oi, I know you!”

Hermione started, her stiff shoulders slamming against the back of her chair.

Gangly Meg Carlisle, the Ravenclaw seventh year, dropped her faded bag noisily on the table, disturbing several pamphlets. She seated herself directly across from Hermione.

“You’re in Freddy’s class, right?”

How would you know? Hermione thought viciously, annoyed by the interruption. Meg spent a good part of Fotherby’s classes dozing in the back of the room or stealthily reading one of Madame Moira’s romance mysteries under her desk.

Hermione tried to recall some of her civility, remembering that her Mum would implore her to be polite.

“Yes, that’s me,” she said a bit stiffly. “I’m actually trying to do some of the homework now. Would you mind-”

“Ah ha!” Meg fished a particularly aged pamphlet free and held it up in the low light of the table lamp. “Freddy made us read this one when I was in third year. After that, I didn’t think I’d take her follow-up O.W.L. class, but my Mam wants me to work for the Ministry--the Department for International Magical Cooperation, you know--so I roughed it out. But Freddy didn’t even makes us write a scroll on it then. She was too, erm, distracted with Quirrell teaching right next door to her.”

Hermione’s eyes widened at the name. She’d heard it used before, by Fotherby herself. Why though? The other teachers generally avoided such a taboo topic, and Hermione thought she knew why. One of their own had gone rogue. It was embarrassing; right under their noses, nonetheless.

Nonchalantly, she closed the book she’d been perusing and set her forearms on the table. “What was that?”

Meg dropped the pamphlet, her grey eyes looking suddenly lazy. “Oh, I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, that gossip about them being or couple or whatever. But Lucy Ashton--she’s graduated now--she swore up and down that she saw them snogging on the fifth floor corridor one day when no one was around. Isn’t it…ick? Worse than Filch and his cat, if you ask me. But before all that turban business, Quirrell wasn’t too bad looking, I guess, and Freddy could be a catch. She comes from money, I heard. Her Dad’s a Scottish farmer, sold milk and eggs to Muggles and mooncow dung to apothecaries all throughout England.”

Hermione’s arms slipped off the table. She’d heard rumours about teachers before, of course, as in Flitwick really had some goblin blood in him, and Professor McGonagall was reputed to have been a mean beater in her heyday. But this…ugh.

It couldn’t be true, and Hermione felt her tolerance for Meg drop another notch.

Although, Fotherby had mentioned Quirrell before. That day, that first class, when Hermione saw her sitting at her desk, looking weepy, mumbling to herself...I wouldn’t have come back if I had the choice. It never suited me, this teaching business. Quirrell knew that. See, I’m useless without him.

No. Hermione laughed at herself. She had enough to worry about without listening to Meg’s prattle. The threat of Sirius Black loomed over the castle like a caul heightened by the haunting presence of the Dementors who, even now, seemed to suck the autumnal cheer from the grounds.

Hermione shivered.

“You have to feel somewhat bad for Freddy,” Meg continued, and she appeared to contemplate the notion. “I think I do, even if she is a lousy teacher.”

Hermione’s brows jumped towards her hairline. “Well, I don’t, because I think you’re lying, and it’s awful to say such things about any professor.”

Meg’s shock at her outburst was comical. She let her long hand drop down on the table with a resounding thud, prompting Madam Pince to shush them.

“You’re awfully uppity for someone who puts stock in Freddy’s classes,” Meg replied in a neutral tone.

Hermione sensed that very little upset the girl and that she was made of stone--and just as dumb as one.

But, nevertheless, she felt the urge to continue defending Fotherby.

“And even if it is true, I think it’s rude to gossip about it, especially since Professor Fotherby lets you take your afternoon nap in her classroom and never says a thing.”

“Because she can’t afford to get into trouble,” Meg commented lightly with a slight twitch of her thin shoulders. “Nobody likes her, not the students, not the teachers...and I’m not being rude, thank you very much. My Mam wouldn’t stand for it. There’s nothing rude about telling the truth.”

Hermione stood jerkily and began stuffing her books back into her already bulging bag. She was biting her tongue, hard.Let it go, she thought. You’re becoming just like Ron, ready to give anyone a bloody nose.

Though, she had to admit, as infuriating as Meg was, the Ravenclaw was not nearly as nasty as Malfoy or any of the Slytherins.

No, it was her dead certainty that was irritating. And her indifference.

Hermione jammed the pamphlets back into her bag, not caring if they creased. She pulled the last of them from underneath Meg’s bag with a muted huff.

Meg planted her chin on her palm and stared at her insolently. “Why are you so angry? If you like Freddy so much, would it really matter if she’d been friends with Quirrell, or his girlfriend, I should say?”

But it does matter, Hermione thought, and she squeezed her eyes shut for an instant. How could Fotherby be friends with a man who tried to kill Harry? How could she unknowingly support such…

“No one is saying she’s evil,” Meg said, airing at once the worry and insecurity that had settled into Hermione’s stomach like a beazor. “I mean, she would have been fired or sent to Azkaban if anyone thought she had something to do with-”

“Stop!” Hermione yelped, earning another shush from Madam Pince.

But she couldn’t hear anymore. She didn’t believe it. Not a word. No. This was silly, so silly, so stupid.

Hermione slung her heavy bag over her shoulder. She was halfway to the library door when Meg caught up with her, carried fast on legs that were almost too long.

“There’s a simple solution to all this,” she said in that same even, dead voice that made Hermione so unsure. “Ask her.”

Despite herself, Hermione whirled around, her fringe falling into her eyes. “What?”

“Ask Freddy,” Meg repeated. “She’ll tell you the truth herself, she has to. I know how much she hates the rumours. Better squash them early, eh?”

Hermione unconsciously stepped to the side as Meg threw her narrow torso against the door and slumped out into the hall.

There was a beat of silence, and she felt oppressed by it, shrinking beneath the noxious weight of doubt. Her trust had been punctured, her impression of the orderly world within Hogwarts’ walls damaged.

Teachers could be wrong, Hermione knew that. And they could be malevolent.

Like Quirrell.

But Fotherby? Fotherby with her colourful office and enlightened ideas about International Magic and her nervous cough?Not Fotherby. Hermione shut her eyes once more. Please, not Fotherby.

And to assure herself that she was right, that Meg Carlisle was wrong and just a gossipy little twit, Hermione broke her own golden rule and spoke as loud as she could in the library.

“Nonsense!” she said. Her voice, which spiralled up amongst the high ceilings, echoed hope and perhaps, just a bit of foolishness.

Madam Pince, who had been arranging the books in the Runes section, shushed her one last time.












 
Author’s Note:
Special thanks goes out to all my readers and reviewers. “Consumed” now has over a 1,000 hits! Wow…I’m speechless, thank you all so much!

I’d also like to give a shout out to all my fellow eHPfers. Thanks, you guys, for voting “Consumed” in for story club 15!

And of course, this fic wouldn’t be here without my fabulous beta, Renfair. Thanks for all your invaluable help, dear!

The next chapter is already written and on it’s way. Don’t forget to comment! ^_^

Chapter 9: Echoes and Eavesdroppers
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Disclaimer:
J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own only my OCs.












Chapter Nine Echoes and Eavesdroppers

Freddy tried desperately to be on time for the second official staff meeting of the quarter, and she would have been, had it not taken her a few extra minutes to surmount the marble staircase. An annoying stitch clutched at her right side when she reached the staff room, her mind racing as she searched for an excuse that would be both suitable and believable.

Luckily, Professor Dumbledore himself was running a bit off-schedule, and she only had to quietly tuck herself between Professors Vector and Lupin without any embarrassment.

“Professor Fotherby,” Lupin nodded politely at her.

“Hello,” Freddy panted, ignoring Vector’s raised eyebrows.

Fortunately, Lupin did not see the need to continue the conversation, and he fell mercifully silent, leaving Freddy to catch her breath.

It took her several long minutes before she could steady herself enough to pop a jasmine flavoured cough drop in her mouth. By then the headmaster had arrived and was already exchanging niceties with an enthusiastic Flitwick.

Freddy subconsciously straightened the collar of her black robes, her gaze darting over the crowded room and watching the familiar faces of her colleagues-who should have been, by all rights, her friends.

But she wasn’t the type of woman to make nice with just anyone, especially since no one had attempted to make nice with her.

Feeling outnumbered, she busied herself with her notes and forced herself to focus on Dumbledore’s cheerful voice.

“Are we all here now?” he asked, sounding more like a host and less like her boss. “Good, good. As I am sure most of you have surmised, we have much discuss. I do hope you will pardon my lateness, as I received a little impromptu visit from Mr. Lias, proprietor of Lias’ Curious and Pocket-Sized Wonders in Hogsmeade.”

Freddy, furiously paranoid, thought that his clear-eyed gaze came to rest on her for a moment.

“There seems to be some trouble with the Dementors in the village, and while it is not the school’s responsibility to control Azkaban’s guards, I do feel that we must…”

Despite her best intentions, Freddy’s attention slackened.

It was the week of Halloween, and the students had not only the feast to look forward to but also a trip to Hogsmeade on Saturday.

Freddy had noticed their minds wandering in class, and in truth, she couldn’t blame them. She too was wrapped up in her own thoughts--or worries as it might be.

Her conversation with Trelawney two weeks earlier had done little to alleviate her dreams, or nightmares, as she now termed them.

In fact, the disturbances to her sleep had become more frequent and increasingly violent. Her head would just seem to hit the pillow when visions of the same ghastly building, its red brick walls so high and impenetrably thick, would interrupt her rest. What followed were harried fragments, bits and pieces of scattered emotions that were too vague to decipher but definite enough to frighten.

At first, Freddy had tried to put it all off to stress. Yes, stress. It was a convenient answer. Stress would pass, it always did. Perhaps she should have taken more of the summer to rest, retire to some warm island in the Caribbean where the beaches were golden and endless.

But instead she had gone to New Orleans and back out to Kentucky to gather information for a new article on Muggle hauntings.

The travelling had drained her like never before. And even now she had lost a fair pound or two; how, she didn’t know.

But it must all be stress. Yes, stress. Not…not him.

Freddy flinched inwardly and shuffled through her papers to hide the scowl on her face. Lupin shifted ever so slightly besides her.

A cough bubbled in her throat. With difficulty, she managed to stifle it.

Oh, what if this was about him?

Granted, she didn’t see Quirrell in her dreams, save for that one incident at the start of the term outside of the Great Hall. And what did her nightmares have to do with grief?

Freddy glanced quickly at Trelawney, who in turn was staring at a spot somewhere just above Dumbledore’s head.

No, she couldn’t be right. This had nothing to do with grief. Nothing to do with Quirrell

Please…not him.

Freddy laid her papers on her lap and tried to concentrate on the headmaster once more. But the stitch still pulled fiercely at her side. Discreetly, she poked her hand through her outer robes and pressed her fingers to the aching spot. The pain collected in a ball just beneath her ribs, and she forced herself to exhale slowly.

McGonagall, who was seated not far away, caught the flash of discomfort that tightened her face.

Freddy managed a weak smile but earned a concerned frown from the deputy headmistress instead.

Just what I need.

Dumbledore concluded the meeting shortly thereafter with little ceremony. Freddy wanted to slip unnoticed out of the staff room, but McGonagall caught her sleeve first.

“A moment, Forbia,” she said quietly.

Fortunately, McGonagall was polite enough to wait until most of the staff had filed out before sequestering her in a tight corner by the now boggart-free wardrobe.

Looking at Freddy frankly, she folded her arms neatly across her middle and tilted her head just so her square glasses inched down her nose. “Whatever is the matter?”

Freddy tried to take another deep breath, hoping to buy herself some time to think. What was the matter? Well, if she knew, she certainly wouldn’t allow herself to be continually plagued by nightmares and uninvited invasions of the surreal.

“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “It’s awfully complicated…or not complicated at all. I haven’t told anyone except Sibyl.”

McGonagall’s brow furrowed at the name, and she looked decidedly cat-like. “Then there is something wrong.”

“Maybe.” Freddy felt at a loss, wanting to be both discreet and entirely forthcoming. “I don’t know…it’s…I’ve been having nightmares.”

Although McGonagall certainly didn’t put stock in divination, she certainly seemed versed enough in it to know that Freddy spoke of uncommon dreams.

“For how long?” she asked.

Freddy was relieved that she did not question the content. “Since September, I think, though they might have started before. And it’s not what you think. I can’t really put the dreams together, they’re scattered.”

“But ill-omened?” McGonagall offered.

Again, Freddy could only shrug. “I didn’t tell Sibyl either, she, umm, guessed it, I suppose. She thinks it has something to do with, well, Quirrell.”

“And you don’t?” she tapped her fingers on her elbow.

“No.” I hope not.

“What do you intend to do then?”

How very like McGonagall, Freddy thought, with a sudden surge of affection for her old professor. She certainly wasn’t one to hand-feed her students, but rather pushed them to think and act for themselves, to solve their own riddles.

Freddy, although, only wished she had the slightest clue.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “Sibyl seemed to suggest that I…well…reconsider divination.”

McGonagall’s eyebrows darted upwards. “I thought you put no store in such-”

“I don’t.” Freddy sighed in frustration. “But what else is there?”

“That you would have to discover for yourself,” McGonagall said, terse yet understanding. “Though where there is one thing, there is certainly another.”

“But I’d better start with what I know,” Freddy concluded and thought she saw satisfaction flitter across McGonagall’s face for an instant. “And I do appreciate your concern, but please-”

“Don’t mention anything to the headmaster?” McGonagall’s eyes darkened with sympathy.

Freddy blushed, feeling guilty. “No, I suppose I have no right to ask you not to.”

McGonagall suddenly reached out and patted her arm. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I will decide what the headmaster needs to know and when. In the meantime, look after yourself. The winter is coming after all.”

“Aye.” Freddy smiled. “I think I can withstand the cold for now.”

McGonagall shook her head in subdued amusement. “Rest, Forbia. And get to your classes on time.”

She left the staff room, and Freddy loitered about for a moment, gathering up her papers. The place was so dreadfully quiet, and she fancied she could hear the creaking of each wooden plank as her boots trod over the floor. The ancient windows themselves groaned against the wind, which even now splattered rain upon the panes.

Freddy glanced at the mismatched overstuffed chairs, two of which were pulled directly up to the fire.

There had been a time when she didn’t mind staff meetings so much and even wasted a good hour afterwards just lounging about talking to Quirrell. Oh, how very little they had in common but how easily they got along.

It seemed too unreal to her now, a wisp of a faded fairytale that had never actually existed in the first place. 


December 1987

Freddy pulled her feet underneath her, curling against the plush back of the chair. “Three more days--just three more days until Christmas break!”

Quirrell glanced up at her with a slight frown. “You sound positively anxious.” He was sitting at the staff room table, still bent over a neat stack of scrolls.

Freddy laughed a little, amused by his studiousness. “You know, I would never assign my students a final paper before break. Why spend the holiday grading essays on ‘The Importance of Motor Cars in Muggle Life’?”

“Hmm.” Quirrell, scratched his nose, leaving a small ink smudge on his cheek. “It’s not so bad. I’ll be finished by tonight--if you’ll leave me be, that is.”

“Fine.” Freddy huffed. “I’ve been meaning to catch up on my reading anyway. I won’t have any time in Italy, after all.” And she sighed, just imagining herself at some romantic café on the edge of a Renaissance piazza. She certainly deserved the break, as it was. With great difficulty and more than a few panic attacks, she had weathered her first term at Hogwarts as a professor.

Quirrell had been a great help, of course. He had practically planned her curriculum for the term, although she promised him that she would be prepared for the next--hopefully.

But that was a long way off now, and she was too busy making a mental shopping list for when she visited Rome to worry about such things.

Christmas in Venice. Three nights in Florence. And then a quick tour of Tuscany if she had the time.

When did the teachers have to be back anyway?

Freddy was too enchanted with her travel plans to notice the absence of Quirrell’s quill on parchment. In fact, he had stopped writing altogether and was staring at her with a mixture of frank concern.

“You’re going on holiday?” he asked, his voice a bit too tight to sound casual.

Freddy untangled her legs and set her feet on the floor, letting her toes uncurl in the warmth of the fire by the hearth. “Yeah… Remember, I told you two weeks ago. My mam is going to London to visit her sisters, and I pretty much can’t stand any of them, so I settled for Italy. Do you want me to bring you back a bottle of wine? Or are you not a drinking man?”

Quirrell’s brown eyes widened a bit, and his mouth formed a little ‘o.’ “No…no, no, thank you, but I’m fine. I’m sorry, I must have forgotten you were going. For, umm, how long?”

Freddy let her head loll against the arm of the cosy chair. “Well, how long does break last?”

His subsequent scowl confused her.

“What?” she asked, sitting up. “Teachers are allowed to go on holidays, right? They’d better, because I spent most of my salary on this particular package. See, look at this hotel I booked.” She hopped up, tripped once on the carpet and pulled a brochure from within her robes.

Quirrell took it from her looking thoroughly unenthusiastic.

“It’s on the canal. I’m stopping at Venice first,” Freddy tittered, gesturing excitedly at the elegant, moving pictures, the most impressive of which showed an embracing couple standing on an ornate balcony overlooking the Doge’s Palace.

“Isn’t it beautiful!?” she squealed.

“It all looks very expensive,” Quirrell replied.

Freddy leaned against the table, disrupting several of his papers. “Yes, it is, but I can afford it.” She paused. “Thanks to you, I suppose.” A self-conscious blush crept up her cheeks. “You’ve been a great help to me.”

Quirrell did not answer her, but instead reached inside his stately grey robes and produced a thin, square package wrapped in plain red paper.

“Here,” he said, pushing it into her hands with a nervous cough. “I was going to give this to you on Christmas, but you won’t be here, so...”

Freddy turned the present over once in her hands. “For me?”

“Yes.” He glanced at her quickly. “You don’t have to open it now, if you don’t want to, I just thought…”

But she already had the wrapping off.

It was a book. Freddy ran her fingers over the dark blue cover and flipped it open. The pages were neat and creamy white, all dated in fancy calligraphy.

She felt her hands begin to tremble.

“It’s a planner,” Quirrell explained rather seriously. “I thought it might help you prepare for next term, although that’s not saying I won’t be there to help you either, if you need it.”

He looked at her shyly.

The shaking travelled from Freddy’s hands up her arms, and her face was warm.

“Thank you,” she managed to reply, though the words came out slow and silly. “Thank you, I… That was so nice of you.”

And without realising what she was doing, she leaned forward and pecked him neatly on the cheek.

Quirrell looked at her in surprise.

“I’ll, umm, I’ll let you finish up here,” she said, collecting her bag and rushing to the door. “Happy Christmas!”

Quirrell was on his feet in an instant. “Happy Christmas!” he called, just as the door swung shut. 



Freddy felt as though she couldn’t stand the staff room any longer. Squeezing her eyes shut, she barrelled out into the hall, only to collide with a passing person.

“Oh dear!” Professor Lupin reeled back for an instant before catching himself. His used briefcase tumbled to the floor. “I’m sorry… I didn’t see you come out, Forbia.”

“Ugh,” was all Freddy could say. She half-heartedly adjusted her robes and leaned against the wall with a cough.

“I really am sorry,” Lupin continued and he truly looked contrite.

Freddy tried not to appear annoyed, but she was, for some reason.

“It’s all right,” she mumbled. “I didn’t see you either.”

Lupin stooped to pick up his briefcase, rising slowly as if his back pained him. “Are you certain?” he asked, his eyes stopping for too long on her face. “Is there…” he paused, seeming to reconsider his words. “You know, I hope you don’t think I’m intruding, but are you feeling quite all right?”

Freddy stared at him incredulously. So that was it, so that was why he had been just outside the door when she left the staffroom. He’d been listening to her conversation with McGonagall!

“And you say you’re not a gossip!” she huffed, gathering herself with offended pride. “Well, it hasn’t taken long for the wolf to cast off his sheep’s clothing.”

Lupin blanched and took a pained step back. “Please.” He held out his hand.

“I knew I had reason to be suspicious of you,” she spat before turning on her heel and marching straight down the hall. 












Author's Note: I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to read and review so far. Your support has been so encouraging. I would also like to thank my wonderful beta, Renfair, for all her help.

The next chapter will be posted after the New Year. Happy Holidays!

Chapter 10: Reading Between the Lines
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Disclaimer:
J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own only my OCs.

Chapter Ten Reading Between the Lines
The Friday before Halloween, Hermione had another paper due for International Magic. As usual, Professor Fotherby had given her the very last appointment of the day. It worked out best for both of them, as their conversation normally spilled over the allotted time, and neither of them liked to feel rushed.

Today, however, Hermione almost wished to avoid the whole thing. She was still troubled by Meg Carlisle’s assertions. Could Professor Fotherby have been a friend of Quirrell’s?

It certainly wasn’t impossible. After all, the two taught at the same school, but that did not mean she was in league with him.

No, Hermione assured herself as she entered the classroom five minutes before three. It wasn’t true, and she was foolish to second guess herself and Fotherby.

She should forget the entire incident. Just forget it. There were more important things on her mind, anyway, along with a hint of anticipation for the first trip to Hogsmeade tomorrow morning.

Sliding into an empty desk by the window, Hermione glanced out onto the lush grounds which were now depressingly grey under a chilly autumn rain.

Hopefully the weather would improve for Halloween, as she didn’t necessarily feel like trudging through the mud to the villages.

But her mum had made sure she packed her wellies, and the walk would go quickly with Ron and Harry. They had a fair bit to catch up on, and Hermione was looking forward to a relaxing day free of the confusing complexities the Time-Turner brought.

It was silly to sit here worrying, silly to let mere rumours nag at her peace of mind.

Professor Fotherby an ally of Quirrell’s… Oh, the notion was nearly laughable!

Hermione jumped slightly as the last student left Fotherby’s office followed, unexpectedly, by the Professor herself.

“Hello Hermione,” she said, looking somewhat more drawn than she had earlier in the week. “You can go right in and make yourself at home. I want to fetch a cup of tea before we begin. Goodness, I can’t seem to shake this cold. Would you like a cup as well?”

“No thank you, Professor,” Hermione replied politely. “I’m fine.”

“Well then, I’ll be back in a moment--can’t wait to hear what you thought of the reading.” Fotherby smiled as she left the room, and some of the brightness returned to her face.

Hermione hoisted her bag back up onto her shoulder and let herself into the empty room. Nothing in it had changed much over the last few weeks, though now she noticed a dainty silver dish on the desk filled with tiny cough drops.

There was indeed a cold making the rounds at Hogwarts, and just this Monday she herself had gone to Madam Pomfrey for a dose of Pepperup. Luckily, she had been able to waylay any sickness, unlike poor Professor Lupin who looked as worn out as his frayed robes.

Fotherby most assuredly was under the weather too, though Hermione had heard her coughing since September.

Rolling her sore shoulders, she opened her bag and pulled out her papers along with the notated Muggle book and a brief list of questions she had made up in the library before Meg’s intrusion.

As she was placing her finished scroll on Fotherby’s desk, she saw a leather-bound book resting on the far side.

The title was in the Latin, but Hermione was able to decipher the subtitle: Sacred Dream Symbols-Divining One’s Destiny 

Divination?

Hermione cocked an eyebrow. Sure, Fotherby was a bit eccentric, but she couldn’t believe the professor would put much stock in all that divination business. As it was, Hermione herself was suffering through Trelawney’s classes.

Divination seemed to be the art of the near-sighted, certainly not the all-seeing.

Hermione settled herself in the chair opposite Fotherby’s and busied herself by flipping through her Muggle book. She was trying to read about the Kentucky Sanatorium haunting, but for some reason her mind was drawn back to the dusty book.

Divining One’s Destiny 

Hermione wished she was more adept at Latin, and she promised herself that over the summer she would take a course at a Muggle school if she had to.

But what did that mean, Divining One’s Destiny?

And Sacred Dream Symbols?

Hmm, it was wrong to snoop and, of course, she was horrid at Latin, but a quick peek couldn’t hurt, could it?

Hermione closed her Muggle book and glanced over her shoulder. The classroom behind was still empty. Fotherby was nowhere to be seen.

And, after all, even if she did catch her casually flipping through the book, could she truly accuse her of any wrongdoing?

No, Fotherby was the sort of teacher who encouraged curiosity in her students. She would never condemn it.

Hermione stood quickly and reached for the book, lifting the heavy cover open with restrained care. To her dismay, all the print was in Latin, and now matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t translate it.

However, twenty or so pages in, she found a single sheet of paper folded and tucked close to the binding.

Hermione bit her lip.

Professor Fotherby had scribbled some hasty notes on the sheaf.

Fog-Brick Building. Feeling senseless, trapped, doomed, it’s coming.

Streets-weeds-dust-stench-blood, always bright red.

Quirrell?


Hermione dropped the book as if she had been burned.

No.

She closed her eyes and took a steadying breath.

You’re being foolish. So foolish.

Once more, she forced herself to pick up the book. Fotherby’s handwriting on the paper was cramped and sloppy. Obviously, she had written her notes quickly or without paying close attention. The words veered off at odd angles, some of the letters printed others copied in cursive.

But there something strangely definite about “Quirrell.” Yes, the name was directly in the centre of the page, underlined even, so that the question mark appeared superfluous.

Whatever had been on Fotherby’s mind, she was certain about Quirrell.

A chill traced Hermione’s spine. She dropped the sheaf, shut the book and returned it to the desk. 

Meg Carlisle was right.

She sat, her hands limp, lying over her knees.

Meg was right, she was right.

A thick lump lodged itself in Hermione’s throat. She coughed into her hand, trying in vain to dislodge it.

Professor Fotherby swept in with her tea.

“Oh dear!” she said, trotting around to her chair with a white and gold china tea cup. “I do hope you haven’t caught anything Hermione. Really, this cold is simply wretched. But ah, you look pale. Is something the matter? Are you certain you don’t want a cup of tea?”

Hermione glanced up at Fotherby, feeling suddenly bitter, betrayed.

But a name doesn’t prove anything, she thought. And neither did scribbles on a crumpled piece of parchment.

“I’m fine, Professor,” she replied at length, managing to keep her voice cheerful.

Fotherby sat down in her chair and took a sip of her tea. “Mmm, do you like chamomile? My father used to make it for me whenever I was sick. Chamomile with a little honey. I don’t know if it helps, to be honest, but I cannot weather a cold without it anyhow. So, what did you think of this last assignment? Oh, I see you’ve brought a book with you! Is it a Muggle text?”

Hermione struggled to forget the Divination book. Instead, she tried to lose herself in steady ebb and flow of their conversation.

Fotherby was excited to read the passage on the Kentucky Sanatorium, and she agreed that the Muggle writer certainly had an eye for the preternatural. They also talked about the upcoming lectures, which would include a detailed study of Hoodoo magic and its practitioners.

Fotherby told Hermione how she had visited with a well-known witch from New Orleans, Madame Paulina, who was said to come from a long line of Hoodoo priestesses that dated back to the early 18th century.

“I had a chance to interview her,” Fotherby said at once, looking somewhat proud as she produced an article she had written related to Hoodoo magic. “Fascinating stuff. I thought you might like a sneak peek of the course material. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good contemporary articles written on Hoodoo. Within the last ten years or so, it’s come to be regarded as an indistinct art, as often it involves not only spells but also potion brewing and divination. I couldn’t disagree more, but, well, you know how the scholarly community is. What’s in vogue now won’t be when you graduate.”

“Thank you, Professor.” Hermione took the article from her.

She felt her fingertips tingle with tension.

Why couldn’t she shake this feeling? Why oh why couldn’t she let this Quirrell business go?

Because I have proof.

Fotherby must have sensed her upset, because she leaned forward on her elbows and looked at her closely. “Hermione, I do hope I’m not pushing you too hard. You’ll tell me if I am, right? These extra readings, they’re not required. I only suggested them because you seemed to show such an interest in class and in your papers.”

Hermione was about to protest, about to tell her professor that she was perfectly fine, but Fotherby’s concern overrode her objections.

“I spoke to Professor McGonagall about you the other day,” she said. “I know she is the head of your house, and I just thought she might like to hear how wonderful her student is doing--though apparently she already knew.” Fotherby paused and laughed a little, as if at an inside joke.

Hermione knotted her hands together on her lap. “It means a great deal to hear you speak so highly of me, Professor,” she said softly, feeling guilt gnaw at her for the first time.

“Psh!” Fotherby tossed her head. “Believe it or not, I’m careful with my praise, Hermione. I haven’t had a student like you in such a long while. You make teaching a joy,” she sighed, and her smile wavered slightly, “which is why I wanted to talk to you… In confidence, that is.”

Hermione lifted her eyebrows, a nervous fluttering filling her stomach and propelling her heart straight up into her mouth. Did Fotherby sense her suspicion? Could she have seen her reading the Divination book? Or had that horrible Meg Carlisle said something?

“Professor McGonagall was my teacher too,” Fotherby continued lightly, “many years ago, when I was about your age. We know each other well is what I’m trying to say, and I do respect her so. I suppose you could say she’s been something of a mentor to me. But that’s all beside the point. When I spoke to her last about you, she mentioned your rather hefty class schedule and the Time-Turner. You certainly are ambitious!”

She sat back in her chair with a maternal smile. “I want you to know, Hermione, that if it ever becomes too much for…if you need a few extra days to finish assignments, or if you just need someone to talk to, I’m here. Now, I can’t say I give the best advice, but, well.” Fotherby shrugged. “You can always come to me. And the same goes for McGonagall--as I’m sure you know.”

Hermione bowed her head, her eyes stinging viciously. She felt simply awful. Awful. Fotherby was going out of her way to befriend her, to help her, and here she sat, second guessing her genuinely compassionate nature.

But she needed to know, had to settle the matter in her mind before it devoured her alive from the inside out.

“Professor,” she said, her voice slow and soft as she fought to control the shaking within. “Can I ask you something?”

“Go right ahead.”

“I don’t want you to…to be angry with me.”

“Hermione.” Fotherby tilted her head to the side. “Don’t be silly.”

“It’s about the first day of class,” Hermione continued. “After you dismissed us, I was…I was just waiting outside in the hall, and I overheard you talking to Meg Carlisle. And you said, well, I think you said you were glad not to have Harry Potter in your class. Why, Professor? He’s a very good student and…and a friend of mine.”

Fotherby’s expression changed ever so slowly, and if Hermione was less perceptive than she was, she wouldn’t have noticed it at all.

“Yes, I did say that,” she said after a minute. “It’s… You see, Hermione, you are a Muggle-born witch--not that there is a thing wrong with that, my father was Muggle-born--but unlike you, I did lose someone to…to Him. And seeing Harry, he just reminds me of that particular loss.”

“I’m sorry, Professor,” Hermione replied, not knowing really why she was apologising.
Fotherby waved her hand dismissively. “It is something I rarely speak of, but you do deserve the truth, after my careless slip of the tongue. And you may tell your friend Harry that I hold no grudge against him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

The carriage clock on the mantelpiece struck four thirty.

Both Hermione and Fotherby started.

“I’m sorry to keep you so long,” the professor said, standing. “You’ll be late for dinner.”
Hermione rose as well. “Thank you,” she said. “For everything. I’ll see you Tuesday?”

“In class, yes.” Fotherby’s smile returned. “Enjoy Halloween.”

“You too, Professor.” Hermione gathered her things and left the office, her footsteps echoing in the dark classroom beyond.

Her heartbeat had slowed some, but now she felt a relentless chill was over her.

I hold no grudge against him.

What did that mean?

But oh, she knew what it meant.

Hermione slipped out into the shadowed hallway and let her bag fall from her shoulder.

Meg Carlisle, for all her idiocy, had been right.





Author's Note: Thank you all so much for the continued support and encouragement. The feedback I have received has been truly wonderful, so thoughtful and helpful. You guys are awesome!

I would also like to thank my dedicated beta, Renfair, for her diligent Brit-picking and amazing proofreading skills.

The next chapter is already completed and should be posted soon.

Chapter 11: Mr. Lias' Halloween
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Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I only own my OCs.

Chapter Eleven Mr. Lias’ Halloween
Freddy woke up at half past ten on Halloween to the sounds of the students leaving the castle for Hogsmeade.

I’m sick, she realised as soon as her eyelids fluttered open. There was an awful heaviness in her chest, and as she swung her legs over onto the floor, a cough ravaged her aching lungs.

“Ugh.” She fell back into bed and resolved not to get up until the chilly October mist had been burned off and the sun shone greedily on the fat pumpkins lining the castle drive.

But no matter how she tossed and turned, piling every pillow over her head and diving deep beneath no less than three blankets, she couldn’t drift off again.

“Figures,” Freddy grunted after a miserable hour, reaching for her robe and slippers.

The fog still hung heavily about the eaves when she had finished breakfast in her room and set about to marking papers.

Flipping through the thin stack, she came to Hermione’s last and felt an uncomfortable twinge in her gut.

Their conversation yesterday afternoon had not gone as well as Freddy had hoped. In truth, she had sought to befriend the girl, just as McGonagall and Trelawney had taken her under their wings so many years ago.

This Hermione was an admirable student, a genuine gem. Freddy was marvelled by her ambition and her ability to toil away at her studies with undimmed vigour.

If only I had been so committed, she thought with a wry smile.

But now, it seemed Hermione had detected that foul air of rumour that followed Freddy like a black cloud.

Some older student had surely let slip her past indiscretions…if they could be called that at all.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” Freddy said to no one but herself, gritting her teeth.

A snowy owl swooped by her window, landing on the ledge for an instant before taking flight once more.

Freddy placed the papers back on her desk and shut her eyes.

I’ve done nothing wrong.
But it didn’t matter. She was tainted, forever stained by the darkness that had encroached upon her life with nary a sign or warning.

It wasn’t her fault, though. She hadn’t known, had been foolish perhaps for dismissing the changes in Quirrell’s demeanour as a breakdown of some sort.

Freddy suddenly felt wretchedly naïve, ashamed of herself and her ineptness.

Enough of this. She put the papers away in her bag and instead curled up by the hearth with another cup of tea and the Muggle book Hermione had let her borrow.

At two, she went down to the Great Hall for lunch and finding it sufficiently empty, was able to enjoy her meal in peace.

There was only a scattering of first and second year students at the House tables, and Freddy was able to pass through them freely without incurring the tiresome fake stutter or snicker. She contemplated dropping by the Hospital Wing for a dose of Pepperup but decided better of it.

Madam Pomfrey seemed a little worse for the wear herself these days. The infirmary was unusually crowded, and common colds amongst the student population seemed intensified by the preternatural chill infecting the castle.

Freddy jammed her hands into her pockets as she climbed the marble staircase after lunch.

She too was cold all the time. Always cold.

Except at night, though, when the blankets seemed to strangle her, and she woke up uncomfortably sweaty.

Hmm, she’d have to talk to the house-elves about keeping the fire in her bedroom only tolerably warm.

But she was too tired now to take up the argument. Instead, she drifted lazily into the library and discreetly combed through the Divination section.

A sly blush darkened her cheeks as she summoned a particularly thick volume down from the upper shelves.

So this was it. She was actually resorting to Divination to waylay her troublesome dreams. Earlier in the week, she had found herself leafing through one of her old books--a graduation gift from Trelawney--in hopes of finding some helpful passage. Long years had passed since Freddy had attempted any divining, and even if she did pick up something these days, she usually dismissed it as coincidence.

Dabbling in Divination seemed like a waste of time, especially when True Seeing was just about as rare as a black unicorn.

Freddy had never made any silly prophecies, nor had she be able to correctly interpret the patterns in bird entrails or see anything through wrinkled hands in palmistry.

“But you have dreams, my dear,” Trelawney had said on her first day of class when Freddy had been a slack-off sixth year too lazy to see beyond the tip of her nose.

“You have dreams and hear whispers, and you are frightened. Do not be! It is a rare one who can see so clearly when her eyes are closed in sleep.”
Freddy shut the dusty book with a snap.

This was stupid. She had papers to grade and assignments to plan.

Freddy left the book on a nearby table and returned to her rooms. Outside, the fog had indeed lifted only to reveal moody rain clouds.

Freddy felt a twinge of sympathy for the students visiting Hogsmeade. It was a wretched sort of day, one which settled over her with all the thickness of shroud.

And even in the cosy warmth of her bedroom, she coughed heartily into her hand.






By six o’clock that evening, Freddy was certain that she had come down with the flu. But of course, it was too late now to badger Madam Pomfrey for some Pepperup, and she hoped to enjoy the Halloween feast as much as she could despite her inertia.

The entry hall was crowded with bright, apple-cheeked students, all babbling excitedly about just how much they had gorged at Honeydukes or the amount of galleons they had managed to spend at Zonko’s.

Freddy felt a pang of nostalgia as she watched a herd of Ravenclaw girls pass by.

She couldn’t imagine herself ever seeming so young and vibrant, especially with the horrid pallor that had lately robbed her skin of any healthy ruddiness.

When she was a student, she’d had a few friends and at least a half a dozen or so acquaintances. As a child, she’d never been overtly social, settling for mediocre friendships that provided company at meals and the like. Back home, she’d known several local children, mostly lads and lasses that came from town and were eager to snatch rides on her pony cart.

For the first time in a while, however, Freddy felt decidedly lonely. McGonagall was more of a mentor, less of a companion, and Trelawney could be counted on for very little.

She paused by the doors to the Great Hall, ignoring the standard Halloween décor and concentrating on the staff table instead.

I must truly be miserable, she thought, more angry at herself than anyone else. I really don’t like any of my colleagues.
Freddy crossed her arms sheepishly over her chest. Up at the staff table, Severus Snape had just taken up a seat next to Flitwick, and Professor Lupin, appearing nearly almost as drawn as she, was lifting his napkin onto his lap.

Well, I don’t have to like him, she reasoned, annoyance flaring up within her like a lighted match. Eavesdropping and all. He ought to be ashamed!

Suddenly, Freddy didn’t much feel like attending the Halloween feast, even if Hagrid had promised to bring a barrel of his home-brewed apple wine which was dangerous enough to the depressed.

She turned quickly on her heel, choking, tugging at her collar. Her chest contracted and she reached inside her robes, looking for a handkerchief.

But the coughing fit could not be contained. Freddy hacked loudly into her sleeve, earning curious looks from a trio of Gryffindor fourth years.

“My goodness,” a brisk voice intoned, followed by a thump on the back, “Forbia, you sound terrible.”

“I think I’ve caught the flu,” Freddy replied sulkily as McGonagall fell in beside her, adjusting her square spectacles. “It’s been at me all week.”

“Why didn’t you see Madam Pomfrey?” McGonagall’s lips pursed slightly, her face pinching with question.

Freddy shrugged. “Because I’m stubborn. First thing tomorrow morning, though, I promise.”

“Hmm.” McGonagall dropped her hand from her shoulder and surveyed her plainly. “You look like death warmed over already.”

“Thank you,” Freddy replied sourly. ‘Would you mind if I skipped the feast? I really, ahem, I really would like some fresh air. It seems musty in here, stale.” She paused and quirked a brow.

“If you think that is best.” McGonagall seemed unconvinced, but she smiled nonetheless. “Though you shouldn’t be out in the cold too long, it’s-”

“I know, I know. I’m just going for a walk in Hogsmeade and then it’s straight to bed.”

McGonagall sighed, her expression softening. “What am I to do with you, Forbia? What am I…ah well. Try to have a good evening, at any rate.”

“Yes.” Freddy’s reply was ragged with another cough. “You too.”

McGonagall disappeared into the Great Hall, and when Freddy once more caught sight of her, she was taking her seat next to Dumbledore. The last of the students filtered inside, forcing her to withdraw reluctantly as the doors were shut.

Soon, the sound of youthful laughter, high and reckless, bounded up into the arched ceiling, stirring like a deftly cast spell amongst the flickering tongues of candlelight.





Hogsmeade was much more pleasant than Freddy had expected, and she soon felt her energy renewed with each purposeful step. The rain has slackened off, leaving the lamps hazy and bright in the pitch black night.

Carved pumpkins perched prettily on windowsills, accompanied by blushing apples and gourds.

Children, too young for Hogwarts, darted back and forth through the alleys in masks with colourful candy filled sacks. Honeydukes was doing record business with a “Guess the Number of Bertie Botts Beans in the Jar” contest, and Zonko’s employees were out on the street demonstrating a few of their newest products.

Freddy could not help but smile as a matronly witch was nearly scared out of her skin by a sudden barrage of green fireworks that erupted from a seemingly innocent bouquet she had been presented with.

Turning off the High Street, she headed towards the Hog’s Head and even contemplated stopping inside for some warm cider.

But then she caught sight of Mr. Lias just next door, teetering on top of a three-step ladder trying to clean egg off his store front.

Freddy did not bother to stifle her laughter when he tried to remove the mess with a summoning spell and ended up, quite literally, with egg on his face.

Cursing, Lias reached for his handkerchief just as Freddy strolled over and kicked the legs of his ladder.

“Ack! I almost slipped, damn you!” Lias steadied himself, his cheeks an awful red.

“You’re doing it wrong,” Freddy said lightly. She pulled out her wand and pointed it at the store front. “Scourgify!”

A jet of water spouted from her wand tip, washing the egg away.

“Want me to do your face next?” she offered helpfully.

“I’m quite fine, thank you.” Lias stepped down from the ladder, wiping his brow. “Oh, I simply detest Halloween.”

Freddy snorted. “Don’t be so dramatic.”

“They nearly broke my windows!”

They are just children.”

Lias smirked, tucking his soiled handkerchief into the breast pocket of his olive green waistcoat. “I never said the vandals were children.”

“Oh, well.” Freddy rolled her shoulders. “I cannot help you there.”

“I’m not open for business, if that’s what you’re after,” Lias said quickly. He put his hands on his hips and surveyed his store front. A few broken shells still stuck to the cobblestones.

Freddy sighed and blasted them away with her wand. “I’m not here to pawn anything,” she said once she had finished. “I was going for a walk, is all. I don’t just come to Hogsmeade to see you.”

Lias frowned, though his glance remained somewhat playful. Whistling, he folded up the ladder and leaned it against a barrel of antique doorknobs. “Don’t you school types have a feast of some sort tonight?”

“Yes, the same one I’ve attended nearly every year since I was eleven. There is that feast.”

“You’re such a dedicated professor.”

“I’m a realist.”

“Is he a friend of yours?” Lias said suddenly, cocking his head to the side, his boyish features soft with curiosity. “That other teacher, the one who was in my shop.”

“Oh, him?” Freddy wrinkled her nose. “No, he’s not my friend. I barely know him.”

“But he seemed to like you.”

“Well, he doesn’t.” Freddy crossed her arms firmly over her chest. “And frankly, I can’t stand him. And…and none of this is your business. No wonder you’ve had eggs tossed at your store front. You’re such an annoying little-”

“I simply love that engagement ring you sold me.” Lias lifted his chin appraisingly. “Tell me, why did he leave you?”

Freddy tried to ignore the sudden clutch at her heart. She’d be damned, yes damned, to let this prat see her pain.

“He didn’t leave me,” she sniffed.

“You jilted him?” he laughed, raising a smooth brow.

“No.”

“Come on, then, don’t be so stuffy about it. What happened?”

Freddy felt a familiar headache throb against her temples. Well, there was one way to settle this.

“He died.”

Lias hid his shock well, though he did whip out his handkerchief once more and twist it between his hands. “Well, now I feel horrifically awkward. Sorry. If it’s any consolation, my fiancée ran off with an American Quidditch player some five years ago. And no, I haven’t managed to sell the ring yet.”

“You didn’t let her keep it?” Freddy asked, eager to focus on something apart from her own miserable past.

“No.” Lias laughed again. “I’m a businessman, after all.”

Freddy nodded and offered him an exaggerated smile. “Lovely. I’d better be off. Remember now, scourgify. Happy Halloween!”

“Wait.” Lias dropped his hands from his hips. “I was only joking. You can come in, if you like.”

“I have nothing to sell.”

“No matter. I got in a pair of striking bookends from Dusseldorf today. Carved mahogany. They’re just your style.”

Freddy pretended to dig through the pockets of her robes. “Hmm, no money. Unless you want to give them to me-”

Suddenly, Lias squirmed. “Well, you did clean my windows.”

An uncomfortable wave of heat rushed through Freddy, replacing the chill she had felt earlier.

Lias was a strange sort of fellow. So close to crossing the line sometimes, almost as if he was…

She shook her head. “That’s all right.”

Lias exhaled, flourishing his handkerchief and rubbing at a milky spot on his front window. “I’ll see you whenever your creditors come calling, then. Hmm, Happy Halloween.”

Freddy chewed her bottom lip. He seemed offended. Why? She was just another customer, and Lias treated all his clients the same--like sheep.

“You don’t have to get all huffy,” she said, swallowing away her embarrassment with difficulty. “I’ll take a look at the bookends if you really want me to. You said they were German?”

Lias was about to turn around and offer her the usual haughty response when a silver tabby cat bounded down the street, leaping up onto the lip of the barrel.

Worry instantly plummeted into Freddy’s stomach, and she bit back a cry of surprise.

“That’s McGonagall’s Patronus,” she said in what she hoped was a steady voice. “Something must be wrong up at the school. I have to go.”

She turned briskly on her heel, the remnants of wispy light evaporating behind her like a phantom fog.

“I’ll put the bookends on hold for you!” Lias called after her. “Twenty galleons a piece, you cannot beat that price!”






Author’s Note: Hello all! Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I can’t believe I have over 1,500 reads. You guys are amazing!!!

Yes, I know this chapter was boring. I’m so sorry-it was necessary to establish several pertinent plot points. Hopefully, the next chapter will be a little more exciting.

I’d also like to thank my beta, Renfair, for her exceptional help with this fic.

Chapter twelve should be posted soon. Have a great week!

Chapter 12: Samhain Moon
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                               Fantastic chapter image by Anna_Black @ TDA



Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own nothing except for my OCs.

Chapter Twelve Samhain Moon

The anxious echo of young voices spiralled up to the blackened ceiling of the Great Hall. A pale piece of moon dipped languidly between billowing, blustery clouds, ignorant of the inherent fear brewing below.

Lupin stood in the entrance hall, looking on as the headmaster conjured hundreds of purple sleeping bags for the displaced students.

All of the staff had been gathered at the foot of the marble staircase, except for Filch who had already dispatched Mrs. Norris to the hunt.

Lupin felt anxiety curl in his gut. Something about the word “hunt” made him wretchedly ill. He couldn’t imagine a legion of Dementors streaking after Sirius, a boy who had always been more harmless than heartless.

But he’s not a boy anymore…

Lupin fisted his hands in his frayed pockets, inconspicuous and unnoticed in the shadow of the stairs. Poor Professor Sinistra, who was down with the flu, had even been roused from sleep.

Both Professor Vector and she looked positively terrified at the mere thought of searching the castle for Black, and Lupin couldn’t blame them.

He’s a heartless murderer, he reminded himself. Not the mate you knew. Not your friend…he killed James and Lily. 

Some of his emotion must have shown as his face for Professor Flitwick, who had been standing nearby, reached up and patted his elbow.

“Not to worry, Remus, my boy,” he said. “Dumbledore has sent for the Dementors -- though whether he’ll permit them inside the castle is another matter. For my part, I’d rather they stay restricted to the grounds.” And he shivered in his silver robes.

Lupin smiled wanly, a headache gnawing at his temples. The change was nearly upon him -- a short week away. His mouth was bitter with the taste of Wolfsbane.

“So long as the students are safe,” he told Flitwick just as McGonagall hurried by.

“Has anyone seen Professor Fotherby?” she asked, her voice a notch shriller than usual.

Flitwick’s brows furrowed. “Forbia? Was she not at the feast?”

McGonagall’s lips puckered in a frown. “Of course not. I’ve sent a Patronus down to Hogsmeade after her. I swear, that girl will leave me withered and grey-”

She had not finished speaking when Fotherby dashed into the hall, her black cloak askew, hair damp with the evening mist and sweat.

“What’s happened?” she gasped, before being cut off by her racking cough.

Lupin felt a sudden surge of annoyance. He remembered well their previous encounter after the October staff meeting. Fotherby had lagged behind, looking utterly dejected, and 

Lupin, cursed by concern, had asked after her well being.

She’d called him a “wolf in sheep’s clothes.”

Lupin knew that the staff had been made aware of his lycanthropy at the annual start of term meeting. Most had been polite about it, though leave it to Fotherby to twist the knife further into his gut.

Well, no one said he had to like her.

McGonagall swiftly pulled the errant professor aside, and Lupin watched as she was informed of the attack on the Fat Lady at Gryffindor Tower.

Fotherby visibly paled, and when McGonagall left her to assist the headmaster, Lupin noticed her twisting her hands just as he had.

Hmm, what could she have to worry about? 

After the doors to the Great Hall had been closed and locked and entrusted to the care of the Head Boy and Girl, Dumbledore turned to address his teachers.

“We will search the castle, in pairs, from top to bottom,” he ordered, hands raised in a manner that was both invigorating and assuring at the same time. “If any of you should stumble upon a sign of Black or the man himself, send word at once. Do not -- I beg of you -- do not attempt to subdue him on your own.” His clear blue eyes settled on Lupin for an instant. “Professors Snape and Burbage will see to the dungeons. Professors Sinistra and Trelawney the eastern and western towers.”

Lupin listened for his name and was horrified to hear himself paired with Fotherby. Dumbledore requested that they search along the first floor classrooms.

Awkwardly, Fotherby sidled up to him while Dumbledore was assigning the third floor to Vector and Sprout.

Lupin knew he couldn’t ignore her now, so he satisfied himself with a polite nod in her direction.

Fotherby reached for her wand and began to twirl it between her fingers.

“So, the first floor,” she muttered. “That’s where your classroom is?’

“Yes.”

“Mine as well. If we have time, I’d like to check my office. I have some items in there -- valuable trinkets and the like. Don’t know if Black would-”

“He’s not a thief,” Lupin replied firmly, surprised at his own daring.

Fotherby seemed cowed. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. What would he want with my stuff anyway? But I’d like to stop in there, and we could check your office too, if you want.”

Lupin wondered vaguely is she was actually remorseful. He doubted it, as Fotherby didn’t seem to be the type to think beyond herself.

Why, though? 

He struggled to ignore his curiosity. His father had often teased him for being too sympathetic, too compassionate by nature to let abused souls pass by.

But he had his own problems to worry about now.

“I’ll be all right, thanks,” he said.

Fotherby shrugged her shoulders. “Suit yourself.” She looked him up and down, but Lupin stood proudly in his patched robes.

“Remember!” Professor Dumbledore intoned as the group began to disperse. “Do not engage Black. After all, remember poor Mr. Pettigrew.” 











They were outside the History of Magic classroom when Fotherby suddenly decided to get chatty. 

“Did I miss anything at the feast?” she asked, her illuminated wand held aloft in front of her face, guiding their cautious steps. “I mean, besides Black’s break-in and all.”

“No,” Lupin said shortly. “It was quite uneventful.”

“Hmm, one year a troll got in. Nearly smashed up a few students.”

“That was Quirrell’s doing, wasn’t it?” Lupin couldn’t help himself. He truly did not wish to insult her, but she had done so to him. And perhaps, just perhaps, the mention of her old friend’s name would quiet her.

Through the shadows, he saw her grimace. He matched her expression with a frown of his own, suddenly feeling like the villain.

I’m better than this.

“Professor Fotherby,” he said, unable to let the awkwardness be, unwilling to be seen as a good for nothing eavesdropper. If there was one thing he wasn’t, it was a gossiper. “I’m not sure where you got the notion from, but I’m not…nor have I ever been a rumour-monger. I don’t know why you think I was listening to your conversation outside the staff room. In point of fact, I was having one myself with Professor Snape. I noticed you leaving in a rush and asked after your well being. Since when has common courtesy become a crime?”

Fotherby stared at him for a long second and Lupin was glad for the dark. He was sure she was seething. Her response, however, was more embarrassed than anything.

“Just leave me alone,” she said.

Lupin raised his eyebrows. “I don’t like being accused of something I’m not guilty of.”

“Well, neither do I!” She was getting louder. Abruptly, she turned down the hall, masking a cough with her hand.

Lupin felt a tug of concern. “Are you all right?” he asked.

“It’s the flu,” she moaned, stopping outside the Muggle Studies classroom. She seemed to hesitate for a moment, then said, “I don’t want us to be at each other’s throats for the entire semester. Frankly, I don’t care if you were listening or not.”

Lupin suspected that Fotherby was lying, but he didn’t press her.

“Can we drop it?” she asked him.

“Fine,” he replied and with difficulty, continued, “I’m not going hold a grudge against you.”

“Neither will I.”

They stood outside the Muggle Studies classroom in tense silence.

Fotherby finally broke the stillness with a moist sigh. “You take the left and I’ll take the right.”

Lupin flanked the left of the door, while Fotherby pointed her wand at the knob.

Alohomora,” she rasped. The lock clicked open, revealing the scuffed wooden floor and a long strand of moonlight spilling through the window.

“On the count of three,” he said, unsure as to why his heart had suddenly begun to beat fast.

“One,” Fotherby whispered.

“Two.”

“Three.” They slid quietly into the room, though Fotherby did manage to elbow him in the stomach accidentally.

“Sorry,” she muttered.

Lupin did not reply, but let the beam of his lighted wand tip sweep through the room. His breathing quickened as the beam crept into the darkened corners, expecting to see Sirius’ gaunt face, his maddened eyes.

What then? he thought. Will you hand him over to the Dementors?

But the room was thankfully empty. Fotherby kicked aside a chair and moseyed up to the teacher’s desk.

Lupin heard her fingers scratching on the surface.

She sighed suddenly. “I feel sick.”

“What’s wrong?” Lupin asked automatically, forgetting for an instant that he was cross with her.

Fotherby shook her head. “Nothing. Let’s get this bloody search over with. What’s next? Your classroom?”

The Defence Against the Dark Arts room was likewise empty. Fotherby stopped to stare out the windows.

“The ground are so dark,” she said, her voice sounding small and distant.

For the first time, Lupin thought he heard fear clutch at her. He was reminded of Harry Potter’s adverse reaction to the Dementors on the train and felt an unwanted pang of concern.

“I don’t think Dumbledore would let the Dementors into the castle,” he said, standing an awkward foot behind her. “He was against them coming to Hogwarts in the first place.”

Fotherby hugged herself. “I’m thankful for small mercies. I…I just hate them. They make me feel wretched…mistrusted. Do you know what that’s like?”

Lupin hesitated. Was she goading him again? He narrowed his eyes and tried to get a sense of her facial expression in the black. The moon silhouetted her profile.

“Yes,” he replied at last. “It isn’t pleasant.”

“Not at all.”

He shifted his weight. “Why do you feel that way?” he dared to ask. “You couldn’t have done anything wrong.”

And neither have I, his reason told him.

Fotherby shook her head. “I don’t think so.”

He saw a deep frown tilt her lips.

“I suppose it’s not so much anything I’ve done but, well, guilt by association and all that.”

Lupin folded his arms across his chest, feeling self-conscious. “Yes, yes I can certainly understand that.”

“And it’s not fair,” she mumbled. “Not fair at all.”

“No, it never is.”

They stood in silence for a minute, the moon gliding higher into the Samhain sky.

“I’m sorry that you feel so alone,” Lupin said at length, unable to ignore the twinge of pity he felt for her.

Fotherby rolled her shoulders. “Eh, I could’ve done worse, much worse. What’s next? McGonagall’s office?”

Lupin followed her out into the hall, once more aware of the chilly distance that separated them.

She was a prickly woman, this Fotherby. And strange. And mysterious.

A small smile eased the lines from his face. Sirius was never one to stand for mysteries. James and he would immediately set about uncovering her secrets, even if it meant pestering her to death.

The smile slipped from Lupin’s mouth.

James was dead and Sirius…

He squeezed his eyes shut.

“Are you coming?” Fotherby’s voice drifted down the first floor corridor.

Lupin hurried after her.











Hermione turned over in her sleeping bag, unable to doze despite the burning pain gnawing at her eyes. She yawned reflexively and stretched her toes out. All around her, students snored softly, slept peacefully.

Hermione squirmed uncomfortably.

I’m being ridiculous, she thought. Just because Professor Fotherby wasn’t at the feast doesn’t mean anything.

She could be ill. Professor Sinistra was sick. Half the school had a cold.

It didn’t mean anything.

But she couldn’t go to sleep.

Why?

This is stupid. I’m being stupid. 

Hermione pulled the cover of the sleeping bag over her head and took a deep breath. The fabric smelled faintly of lavender. She closed her eyes and tried counting backwards.

Fotherby was Quirrell’s friend. She was friends with a man who was possessed by You-Know-Who. And she wasn’t at the feast.

“No!” she said aloud, softly, but enough to attract the attention of the Head Girl, who was pacing nearby.

Hermione shut her eyes at once and pretended to be asleep.

The Head Girl passed by and muttered, “Must be dreaming.”

Hermione clenched her hands into fists.

I’m not going to tell anyone, she thought. I don’t even have proof.

And Fotherby wouldn’t let Sirius Black into the castle, she just wouldn’t.

Hermione rolled over once more. She needed to get some sleep.

Overhead, the enchanted sky darkened, the moon gliding behind a thick veil of clouds. At last Hermione closed her weary eyes.

Fotherby would never hurt me, she thought just before drifting off. But Harry…? 












Author's Note: Hello all! Thanks so much for taking the time to read. I sort of went back and forth on this chapter a bit. After writing it, I intended to merge it with chapter thirteen to make one long chapter, but at the last minute, I changed my mind. I do hope I wasn't mistaken! ^_^

I'd like to especially thank my wonderful beta, Renfair, who has stuck with this story through thick and thin. Without her, the third chapter probably would never have left my word processor.

If you have the time, please check out my new one-shot Lowlands. It's a prequel to Consumed and details a bit of Freddy's life before she became a Hogwarts' professor.

Chapter thirteen has already been betad and will be posted soon. I hope you have a great week!

Chapter 13: Paranoia
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                                Hauntingly beautiful chapter image by Anna_Black @ TDA

Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own nothing except for my OCs.

Chapter Thirteen Paranoia

Freddy rubbed furiously at the ache in her neck as she turned yet another page of Camilla Corrigan’s rather heavy volume on the Irish art of reading tea leaves. She was on the third chapter and had, with great difficulty, managed to condense Corrigan’s scholarly prose into a page of scribbled notes at her elbow.

Now the author was presenting an argument against the boiling of tea beneath a full moon which was considered dangerous even for the most skilled practitioners. Why, Freddy hadn’t gleaned as of yet, but it had something to do with going mad.

“As if I wasn’t mad enough,” she muttered, her voice lost beneath the steady hum of whispering students.

It was the hour before dinner on Thursday, the most popular time to hoof it to the library to study for end of the week exams and dreaded quizzes.

Freddy herself was hard put to find a free table amidst the crowds of pupils, and she only just managed to secure one after a pair of dove-eyed sixth years evacuated a quiet nook. It took her a while to become used to all the hubbub. Professors rarely ventured into the library to study during the week, rather dispatching a list of needed texts to Madam Pince and having the volumes delivered to their quarters by a house-elf. But Freddy was too embarrassed to ask the librarian for the books she wanted, each being solely devoted to some branch of divination or dreaming.

Unfortunately for her, the first week in November brought with it a flurry of nightmares, each one more vague and disturbing than its predecessor. Thoroughly frustrated, she had turned to divination at last, if only to secure a good night’s sleep.

Asking Trelawney for more help would admit defeat, and McGonagall, who was genuinely concerned, could only offer her reason.

But there was no reason to the macabre pattern of her dreams, the nightly waltzes amongst the ghastly and ghoulish.

Freddy would have to help herself, if she was to be helped at all.

And that meant divination.

Even in the cheerful warmth of the busy library, she felt a chill claw at her chest. Freddy didn’t want to admit it to herself, but she was a coward when it came to Seeing. As a child, her hunches had been taken for coincidence. She was always able to guess when a new calf would be born or when a rainstorm would flood her Mam’s flower garden.

Only at Hogwarts had her guesses been dubbed precognition. Freddy doubted her own abilities, too carefree to imagine herself as a Seer. She never saw things clearly really…except for that night in Athens when she was staying at a hostel with a group of American tourists and had dreamed of her own dear Dad’s death.

Pancreatic cancer, her Mam had said through the tile-framed fireplace in the hostel’s kitchen the next morning. Dad hadn’t told anyone he was sick. He was a blithe and hardy Scotsman after all and had lived out the end of his days on the farm.

After that, Freddy decided she didn’t want to see into the future even if she could. And so she had shut her mind off and protected her thoughts with stubbornness. But now something different was poking through, something terrifying that left her tumbling through an abyss.

And the only way out was divination.

With a suppressed groan, Freddy snapped the book shut without bothering to mark her place and leaned her elbows upon the leather cover.

“To hell with this,” she growled, looking over her shoulder once to make sure no students were listening in.

In any case, whatever Camilla Corrigan had to say, it had absolutely nothing to do with her. So far, Freddy had failed to find any clear example of dreams such as hers. Of course, there were accounts of prophetic visions dating back to the Oracle at Delphi, although those particular revelations had been heavy with symbolism and were with varying degrees of difficulty interpreted.

A yawn wrenched her jaws apart, and she was reminded sharply that she hadn’t slept the night through in almost ten days. And at the rate she was progressing, it seemed unlikely that she would sleep well ever again.

A cough made her shudder, thrusting her back against the stiff chair with sudden violence. Freddy blushed, hastily stifling her hacking in her arms. At once, her face pressed on the cover of the book and the warm smell of leather seeped into her nostrils. She remembered sitting at home in her Dad’s study, perched on his knees while he read the Daily Prophet or the local village paper. And after she had begged him and begged him, he would tell her stories about the man in the moon and the mist on the moors and the…


…and the building itself was made from imposing red brick, roughened by age and rain. Beneath the front entrance, the submerged first floor was altogether hidden behind a subterranean courtyard, strictly guarded by wrought iron bars. A squat, unattractive staircase led up to the entrance, and the wooden double doors were scarred with heathenish graffiti. Inside, the wide main hall wound past a desk, a piece of abused cherry confiscated from an old school and burdened with blank day passes….


…Freddy loved his smile, because he was so devilishly handsome. Brown eyes. Warm, smooth skin. A square, sculpted jaw.

She loved him because he was the only man who wasn’t afraid to come near her now.

He welcomed her into the examining room and made her hop up onto the table. The nurse listened to her heart with a stethoscope.

“I’m sorry, dear,” he said. “But you have a pleural effusion. We have a procedure for it, though, quite like pneumothorax. If you’ll just lie on your side, I can drain some of the fluid.”

And he took a needle out of the cabinet….


…When Freddy was seventeen and had graduated from Hogwarts, her father gave her money to go to America for the first time. She took a fellow Ravenclaw, Angela Goodson, and went to New York for ten days.

They spent most of their time in Brooklyn, exploring the genteel neighbourhood of GreenWood which centred on a lovely wizarding community with Victorian sensibilities.

Wicksham Way turned out to be a shopping centre that rivalled Diagon Alley. Freddy and Angela simply cooed over the dainty boutiques, the bakeries offering elegant teas and cupcakes, the bookstores, quill shops and a cobbler who only sold granny boots.

Freddy bought a corset at Wicksham, in Philomena Phensaw’s Corsetry Shoppe.

Angela squealed over the blue brocade and sturdy boning, but Miss Phensaw offered her some sound advice.

“Don’t lace it too tight to start with,” she said as she tied Freddy’s package with lavender ribbon. “It will squeeze your lungs until they…”


…She was in Madam Paulina’s kitchen, and the voodoo queen was sitting at her fold-up table, one bargain bin slipper dangling off her foot.

“I’m sorry, cherie,” she said. “If I had known, I would have told you. Please don’t take it wrong, but I can tell by the look in your eyes…”


….Freddy was immensely proud of her article, “American Muggle Tuberculosis Sanatoriums as Magical Hot-Spots” until Professor Hendrickson wrote his commentary on it.

“Although Fotherby’s work with Muggle hauntings and hospitals may be considered unique, her conclusions are entirely based on a simplistic, new-wave school of thinking attributed to energies and forces which must be viewed with great scepticism by the scholarly community…”


…In the dark she saw red eyes and a white face, and the voice that spoke was not his own, but another’s.

He had betrayed her and left her and became ash that even the most tempestuous wind would not drive away.

And somewhere far away, the man in the moon was laughing at her, calling out, “Professor Fotherby! Professor, are you alright?”














Hermione put her hands on her hips and tried her very best to look annoyed. “Really, Ron, this is the last time I help you with your Charms homework. You shouldn’t wait until the day before to start your paper.”

“Oh, come off it, Hermione,” Ron said, his voice cracking ever so slightly as he balanced on an awkward footstool near a bookshelf. “What’d you say the name of the book was again?”

Hermione sighed and stared up at him. “It’s not a book, it’s a commentary by Professor Lucia -- Flitwick’s talked about her enough in class.”

Ron pressed his long nose against a row of heavy books, looking too much like a hunting dog sniffing out a fox. “Professor Lou…Lucy?”

“Lucia!” Hermione began to tap her foot, the toe of her Oxford shoe smacking the cold stone floor with agitated precision. She had enough to worry about without coaching Ron through his first paper of the term, and if he got a poor mark, well, it served him right. At least Harry had been sensible enough to start his paper last weekend before Quidditch practice completely consumed his free time. Hermione, of course, had herself handed in five neatly printed scrolls a fortnight ago.

“Have you found it yet?” She felt her patience slip another notch.

Ron was carefully levitating a book down to her, but he misjudged by a fraction and the volume tumbled to the floor.

“Bugger,” he groaned.

Hermione stooped to pick it up. “Ron, I told you, Professor Lucia. This is Lugosi.”

“Well it’s bloody dark up here, I can’t see a thing!” He huffed as he hopped off the stool. “Why don’t you try looking, anyway. The quicker we find it, the less time you’ll have to spend helping me.”

“If only that were true.” Hermione levitated the book back to its proper place. “I might just get Madam Pince to look for you, if you’re that blind.”

Ron seemed to take this threat seriously, for he was back on the stool in a second, scrambling to the uppermost shelf. “Professor Lucille, you said?”

Hermione was about to knock him soundly about the knees when a soft whimper distracted her. She glanced over her shoulder and down the aisle, searching for what must be a silly, senseless first year. The library was crowded enough this evening, but all the students she spotted were laughing or running about looking just as harried as Ron did.

In fact, the only person that she couldn’t clearly see was a girl seated at one of the corner tables. The student was obviously dozing, her head resting squarely between her arms, long dark hair draped over her face.

Hermione took a step closer to the nook and started.

It wasn’t a student at all, it was Professor Fotherby…and she was whispering in her sleep.

Hermione suddenly felt dreadfully awkward, and she pressed herself against the groaning bookshelf.

By Fotherby’s elbows there rested a few pages of parchment, her familiar, tight script scrawled over each.

Hermione watched as she jerked a bit, her head tilting slightly to reveal a pale, sweaty face.

She looked ill.

“Oi! Was it Professor Lucille or wasn’t it?” Ron’s voice echoed down the aisle.

Hermione rounded on him. “Would you be quiet, Ron?”

He clambered off the stool once more. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing. It’s Professor Lucia. Now keep looking.”

He rolled his tongue along his teeth and grudgingly continued his search without a word.

Hermione turned back to Fotherby, uncertainty keeping her in the shadows. She hadn’t given much thought to the absurd notion that had entered her mind Halloween night. It was foolish to think of such a thing, after all. But the thought had nudged its way into her subconscious, grim and insistent like a nightmare. It disturbed her at odd hours, a uneasy feeling that she couldn’t quite put a name to.

Fotherby, for her part, acted as normal as ever. There was no whisper of suspicion about the castle save for the usual nonsense, and Hermione just knew that she smelled smoke where there was no fire.

But still, she hesitated.

The staff had never been able to ascertain just exactly who had let Black into the castle.

I’m being paranoid for no reason, she told herself firmly. And indeed, the student population was ill at ease these days, especially those who lodged in Gryffindor Tower.

But Hermione wouldn’t let anyone see her shaken, certainly not over a stupid little fancy that had invaded her mind between edgy reality and sleep.

She approached Fotherby.

“Professor Fotherby! Professor, are you alright?”

The sleeping figure stirred slightly, and Hermione stood an awkward foot away from the table, unsure if she should tap her own the shoulder.

But then, Fotherby jerked awake, a muffled gasp shooting past her lips. She sat up straight and looked around wildly, her wide eyes landing on Hermione.

“Oh my, Hermione, it’s you! Was I dozing?” Fotherby pressed a hand to her chest and seemed to wince.

Hermione chewed nervously on her lips. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have disturbed you. It was so rude of me-”

“Don’t be silly,” Fotherby panted, clawing her hair out of her face. “I just can’t believe I fell asleep. How embarrassing!”

She looked down at the book beneath her arms. Hermione, drawn by curiosity, followed her gaze.

Fotherby laughed lowly. “Well, I guess that’s not saying much for Camilla Corrigan then, is it?” She ran her fingers over the book’s binding. “Tea leaves, bah! What a load of nonsense.”

Despite her discomfort, Hermione felt a surge of appreciation for Fotherby. “You don’t like divination either, Professor?”

But Fotherby’s face suddenly hardened, and she looked all the more drawn. “No…but yes. It’s a very complicated matter. You see, I’ve been told by a certain few that I have some…I don’t know, what do they call it?…a talent. Don’t know if I believe in it myself, but when you’re desperate, well, you’ll try just about anything.”

Desperate? Hermione wasn’t sure what to think of that. Fotherby didn’t seem the desperate type…unless she was keeping something to herself, some trouble that was gnawing at her from the inside.

She gazed at the Professor frankly and was troubled by her pallid features and the unstable brightness of her eyes.

Fotherby’s appearance reminded her of someone else, but she couldn’t quite place the face. Was it…?

“I found it!” Ron came stumbling out of the aisle, a thin book clutched in his hand like a triumphant flag. “Professor Lucia’s Commentary on Summoning Charms.”

Hermione, surprisingly, felt glad for the excuse to the leave library.

“I have to go,” she told Fotherby. “And I am sorry for waking you up.”

“Psh! I told you not to worry,” Fotherby replied. “I’m off to dinner myself. See you in class tomorrow.”

Hermione ushered Ron out of the library and had almost made it to the Gryffindor common room when he at last spoke up.

“Was that one of your professors there?” he asked, leafing through the book furiously.

Hermione nodded absentmindedly. “Professor Fotherby. She teaches International Magic.”

“Humph,” Ron muttered as they stopped in front of the Fat Lady’s portrait. “She looks all sickly…kinda like Quirrell did at the end.”














Author’s Note: Eh, this chapter wasn’t my favorite chapter, but the dreams are very important. In fact, if you can understand the dreams, you’ll be able to grasp the entire plot ^_^ Any guesses?

2200 reads! Wow, I’m stunned. You guys are fantastic. Thank you all so much!!!

Also, I have to thank my amazing beta, Renfair. Without her support, this fic would cease to exist.

Chapter fourteen is currently with Renfair and it should be posted soon. I hope everyone has a great week!

Chapter 14: Poetry
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Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own only my OCs.

Chapter Fourteen Poetry

On the morning of November the sixth, the Great Hall crackled with excited chatter and the occasional rumble of far-off thunder. Freddy sat at the staff table, her head buried in a palmistry pamphlet conveniently obscured by a copy of the Saturday Daily Prophet. She was picking peevishly on some green grapes and trying to decide whether or not she wanted to go down to the Quidditch pitch. The Gryffindor vs. Hufflepuff match was the talk of most of the student body and even several of the teachers. All week McGonagall had been in an unusually testy mood. Clearly, she wanted her house to win spectacularly, and her determined temper even inspired a round of betting amongst her colleagues. Gryffindor was the heavy favourite, much to Professor Sprout’s dismay, and Freddy herself had put four sickles on the lion’s triumph, just to please Minerva.

In all honesty, although, she wasn’t much of a Quidditch fan. Sure, she’d cheer if Ravenclaw won the cup and congratulate the team members when she passed them in the hall. But other than a polite interest in the school’s favourite sport, she was indifferent to the whole affair.

And this season she had much more on her mind than Quaffles and Snitches. Yawning away another sleepless night, Freddy faintly traced the uneven lines of her palm and compared the creases to an illustration in the pamphlet.

A sardonic smile lifted her pale lips. According to the pamphlet’s interpretation, she wasn’t the least bit fertile and destined to be an old maid.

Aurora Sinistra, who had been passing by in a flurry of amber robes, stopped abruptly by her shoulder.

“Oh, Freddy, are you coming down to the pitch?” she asked, young and pretentious enough to address her fellow professor so casually.

“Eh.” Freddy quickly pretended to turn to another page in the Prophet, concealing her pamphlet. “I don’t know. It’s awfully rainy and I-”

“But you must come!” Sinistra threw her hands up. “You never do a thing for the school except teach.”

And poorly at that, Freddy knew Sinistra wanted to add. Still she shook her head.

“I’m not feeling well.” She coughed into her napkin to prove the point, wiping fervently at her mouth as droplets of sputum touched her teeth.

The violent sound of her cough must have convinced or disgusted Sinistra enough to leave the matter be.

She frowned slightly, then patted Freddy’s shoulder with her frigid fingertips. “All right then, but you’ll be sorry to have missed it.”

“Probably.” Freddy smiled, but her lips froze as she noticed McGonagall stalking along the table towards them. She looked strangely crossed.

Freddy tucked her paper under her empty plate as Sinistra withdrew.

“Forbia, I’m sorry,” McGonagall began, adjusting her glasses with nimble fingers, “but the Headmaster needs you. Do you mind?”

Freddy felt a nervous tingle inch along her spine, but she stood steadily. “Of course not.”

She followed McGonagall along to Dumbledore’s chair and found him in a subdued discussion with Professor Snape.

“Excuse me, Severus, this will only take a minute,” he said, half-turning to face the women. “Ah, thank you, Minerva. And Freddy, I do apologize for disrupting your breakfast.”

Freddy blushed, wishing that Dumbledore hadn’t used her childish nickname.

But there was kindness in the headmaster’s piercing eyes, and she felt herself relax slowly.

“Were you planning on going to the match this morning?” he asked.

Freddy shook her head. “No, Headmaster, I hadn’t. Why do you ask?”

Dumbledore’s smile widened, warm and genuine. “I have a small favour to ask of you, then. Nothing academic--just a gesture of goodwill. Are you aware of the trouble amongst Hogsmeade’s merchants?”

“Umm.” Freddy played with the cuff of her sleeve. “Something to do with the Dementors, I believe.” She tried to remember exactly what Dumbledore had said at the last staff meeting, but her mind, predictably, went blank.

“Precisely.” He rapped a knuckle on the table in approval.

Freddy basked in a surge of relief. It was rather intimidating to be standing between the Deputy Headmistress and Headmaster. As a child, she would have likely hid under the table to avoid their attention.

My, how times change, she thought, tasting her bittersweet memories anew.

“The shopkeepers are complaining of a flux in business,” Dumbledore continued, the whiskers about his lips jerking ever so slightly with the movement of his mouth, “and I cannot say I blame them. The Dementors’ presence is disturbing, to say the very least.”

Freddy nodded in assent, wondering, for the first time, exactly where this was going.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “The businessmen and women of Hogsmeade have elected a spokesman for themselves to address the problem directly. And while the school is not in any way responsible for the Dementors, I have offered to pass along their complaints to the Ministry.”

“That is very thoughtful of you, Headmaster,” Freddy said. She noticed McGonagall shift by her side, no doubt pleased by her sincere praise of Dumbledore.

“And here is where I ask something of you, Freddy,” he continued. “Would you perhaps meet with Mr. Oliver Lias this afternoon and collect the complaints from him? I think he would appreciate it if a staff member came to his shop and spoke with him.”

Freddy tried her best to disguise the warmth that flooded her cheeks, but somehow, she knew Dumbledore would see through it.

“Yes, of course,” she answered, a bit too quickly.

McGonagall made a soft noise of amusement.

Dumbledore, however, remained straight-faced. “Thank you, Freddy. I am entirely grateful.”

“You’re welcome,” Freddy said and was glad to take her leave of him. After she had walked back to her chair and sat, she quickly opened up the Daily Prophet once more and behind it’s fluttering pages, muttered, “Oh bugger.”











Freddy was too tired to worry over the reception she might receive at Lias’ shop. She went about Dumbledore’s errand with business-like simplicity, detaching herself from the matter at hand and leaving it to the remaining awareness she possessed. The rest of her mind turned like a wheel clogged with mud, and she could have very well fallen asleep atop her feet, had not a sliver of unexplained terror thickened her blood.

The rainstorm was much too fierce to permit a leisurely walk down to Hogsmeade, so Freddy took advantage of the carriages usually reserved for the ferrying of students to and from the train station. The ungainly vehicle took her past the school gates in a rush of wind and rain. A sickly chill frosted the small windows on either side of the compartment. Vaguely, Freddy was reminded of that eccentric Muggle poet she had been briefly infatuated with as a teenager. What was his name…Poe? Ah, yes.

She wrapped the folds of her grey wool cloak tighter about her torso and tried to ignore the ache that infected her breastbone. It had been a long time since she had read anything for pleasure. Travelling was too hectic to accommodate a suitcase of books, and during the school year, she had enough papers to grade to keep her busy.
Freddy shut her eyes briefly, wondering if she could still remember where all her old books were. Mam probably had some at the farmhouse, though she was quite certain that she had kept Poe close at hand.

August 1988

Freddy lifted the lid of her trunk, using her wand to direct a trio of books to the cabinet in her office. They weren’t scholarly tomes bound in leather, but rather flimsy paperbacks she had picked up as a child from the used book store in the village. Dad would usually bring several home to surprise her, and then Mam would complain that she was obsessed with Muggle literature and would turn out to be a Squib.

Freddy didn’t care, though. On summer nights, she’d sneak up to the hayloft and read by moonbeams and the glow of Dad’s old flashlight. Seeing her childhood favourites now caused a twinge of nostalgia to tighten her gut. What would the rest of the staff think if they saw her still reading Poe and Dunsany?
Perhaps she should-

“Hello, Freddy!”

She whirled about at the sound of the voice, jamming her foot against the corner of her trunk.

“Slatero,” she half-laughed, half-groaned. “You usually knock, don’t you?”

He shrugged and sidled into her crowded office, moving carefully past the boxes of souvenirs she had acquired over the summer. “Didn’t you hear me coming into your classroom?”

“No.” Freddy flushed and then awkwardly held out her arms.

Slatero stepped over her leather suitcase. They hugged.

“How was your holiday?” he asked. “I got your postcards from Germany and Kentucky. My, you do get around.”

Freddy fumbled for the right words. She hadn’t seen Quirrell since June and he looked the same. Light blue eyes. Brown hair. Cheery smile.

A nervous fluttering erupted in her stomach.

Freddy turned from him and continued to unpack. “Nice,” she said. “I went to the Continent first, Austria, Germany, three short days in France. Then the States. I…uh…I was going to forward you a copy of my manuscript, but it’s been picked up already. Going to be published next month.”

Slatero sucked in his breath. “Really? The article on Muggle sanatoriums? That’s excellent!”

“Yeah, I mean, it’s nothing. You’ve probably written a dozen books since June.” A chuckle bubbled in her throat. Freddy looked down at her trunk and lifted out her inkstand. “Can you put this on the desk for me?”

Slatero took it from her, almost dropping the inkwell as she drew her hands away quickly.

“You flatter me,” he said. “I was in Wales, visiting my Grandfather. I only went to London several times to attend lectures.”

There was a long silence as he set the stand on her desk. Freddy watched him out of the corner of her eye. She had missed him over the summer, missed the easy camaraderie that had developed between them last year. And she had been looking forward to returning to such a warm friendship, but now…now….

Slatero seemed normal enough. Why was she so anxious?

Freddy decided to put it down to lack of sleep and the inevitable come down after two long months of travel.

“You know, I actually went to two lectures on the Defence Against the Dark Arts,” Quirrell continued at last. He had reached into her trunk and without so much as a by your leave, plucked a packet of quill pens from it. “There is a fascinating new curriculum on the subject. I purchased a book on it. Perhaps you’d like to read it?”

Freddy’s flush deepened as she realized she hadn’t been listening.

“I’m sorry,” she said, shaking her head. “Start of the term nerves, I suppose.”

Quirrell’s expression was sympathetic. “That’s all right.”

Freddy crossed to the bookshelf and began to adjust her paperbacks, if only to give her hands something to do. She heard Quirrell drop a quill in the inkwell and then rummage about her trunk.

“I think these go here,” he said. 


Freddy was suddenly aware of his presence by her side. The hems of their robes grazed. Quirrell had a book in his hand,
Selected Poems by Poe, and was flipping through the milky pages.

“Is he a Muggle writer?’

“Mmmhmm.”

“I think I’ve heard of him before.”

“You probably did.” 


Quirrell’s eyes focused on a page, his face taking on that same studious look he wore while lecturing. Freddy found it endearing.

“It was many and many a year ago,” he intoned, “In a kingdom by the sea…” [1]

It happened without hesitation, without tension, without premeditation. His lips came to hers and hers to his.

A moment and then it was over. Freddy took the book from him. Slatero was still smiling.


Freddy forced herself upright in the seat and glanced out the window with a grimace. She didn’t want to get herself all teary-eyed now, especially when Lias would see right through any emotion.

Blinking, she forced herself to focus on the scenery.

The road outside unfolded like a wet band of brown leather. Small knots of villagers went about their business in the streets. Freddy wondered if many of them had braved the gale to attend the match. Quidditch tournaments were frequently open to the public, but with Sirius Black still at large, the headmaster might have considered keeping the stands open to students and staff alone.

The carriage turned off High Street, stopping somewhere between the Hog’s Head and Lias’ shop. Freddy reluctantly alighted and huddled under the awning while water dripped down onto her exposed neck. The front door was locked.

Could Lias be out of town? Maybe. He sometimes went on buying trips to Diagon Alley or even to the private houses of reputed collectors. She knocked once, hoping to be snubbed. A frown rent her lips when the door jerked open.

“Forbia, good afternoon.” Lias was wearing a dark burgundy jacket over his usual waistcoat. “So nice of you to come, but I’m not seeing customers now.”

Freddy shifted her feet miserably and listened to her boot heels squeak on the wet stones. “Are you expecting a visit from a school representative?”

“As a matter of a fact yes, I…oh.” Lias stared down at her with a mixture of bemusement and concern.

Freddy shrugged. “You thought they would send someone important?”

“No, it isn’t that at all.” He stepped back to allow her inside. “I just never supposed this to be your forte.”

Freddy allowed him to help her out of her cloak, rolling her stiff shoulders once as soon as the sopping weight was off her back. “I’m doing Dumbledore a favour. A considerable favour,” she added, shivering as a last breeze slipped through the door before Lias closed it. “So, you’re the spokesman for Hogsmeade in this matter? I’m surprised.”

“Don’t be,” Lias replied lightly. He hung her cloak on an antique brass peg fixed behind the counter while pointing his wand at a tea table pushed between two aisles. The table skidded over the scuffed floorboards and situated itself in the middle of the store. Lias summoned two wicker garden chairs to join it. “Please, sit down.”

Freddy lowered herself into the seat, stretching her frigid toes in her boots. “It’s bloody freezing in here, Oliver,” she muttered.

He smiled wanly at her. “I’ve been feeling rather flushed lately, but if you insist.”

She watched as he set about starting a fire in the small stove kept by the backroom door. It took him a few tries, a few long minutes of prodding at the lumpy coals before embers shot forth from his wand tip.

“Better?”

“Much.” Freddy held her hands up, hoping to catch some of the warmth in her fingers. “Now I do hope you realise that Dumbledore has only sent me as a gesture of good will. The Dementors aren’t the school’s responsibility. If you want anything done about them, then you must petition the Ministry-”

Lias slapped his hand on his knee. “Forbia, you know very well I can’t discuss business like this. Would you like some tea? Coffee?”

“I’d really rather get this over with,” she protested, but he was already hurrying to the backroom.

Freddy rolled her eyes. She had dared to hope that she wouldn’t have to be spend all afternoon at the shop, though Lias seemed to have other ideas. The clanking of cutlery echoed back into main room, and she heard him cough quietly.

“You shouldn’t trouble yourself over me,” she called.

Lias laughed. “I won’t.”

He emerged wheeling a tea service atop a wooden cart. The tray had been set modestly, two cups, milk, sugar and a steeping pot. But nestled next to the creamer was a small decanter of a caramel coloured liquid. Lias produced two snifters from behind his back.

“What is that?” Freddy asked suspiciously.

“Brandy,” he said cheerfully. “I’ve had it in the pantry for some time now. Try a bit with me?”

“You’re being ridiculous.” And without knowing why, Freddy blushed.

“I insist.”

She let him fill a glass for her and took a sip to appease him.

“Can we get down to business?”

“Without delay.”

To Freddy’s exquisite relief, Lias happily submitted to her desire to discuss business. He was indeed, she realised, a worthy spokesman for the villagers of Hogsmeade. He presented her with a list of complaints in a clear and concise manner, although he did admit that every shopkeeper acknowledged the Ministry’s precaution in sending Dementors.

“Still,” he remarked, while Freddy was looking over a complaint signed by a Madam Rosemerta the owner of the Three Broomsticks, “it’s bad for business, you understand. Now, I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t felt the strain as of yet. Most of my customers have come and gone by sundown. It’s the taverns that are suffering. No one wants to be out on the streets after dark. The Dementors become,” he paused and loosened his cravat,” more active at night.”

“Mmmhmm,” Freddy agreed. “It certainly seems unpleasant.” She took another sip of the brandy. Her palm had warmed the snifter now, and she couldn’t help but sink deeper into the drink’s heat. It soothed her, eased the ache in her chest. For the first time in a while, she felt comfortably sleepy…and relaxed.

She noticed that Lias was watching her, eyebrows raised, expecting some further response.

Freddy cleared her throat hastily. “Umm, Dumbledore told me that he is in constant correspondence with Fudge and the officials charged with Black’s case. I can hand over these complaints to him, and I’m sure he will forward them to the Ministry for you.”

“I would be most grateful for that,” Lias said.

Freddy noticed that his face had flooded with relief. He’s certainly taking his position as spokesman seriously, she thought. Perhaps he wasn’t half as flightily as she had originally believed.

Her silence must have unnerved Lias, for he cleared his throat loudly.

Freddy jumped. “Sorry. See what happens when you ply me with brandy?” It was a poor joke. Lias did not laugh.

His face was pale, and she noticed a fine sheen of sweat on his clean-shaven upper lip. “How are you doing, Forbia?”

Now it was her turn to stare. “I’m fine. Why do you ask?”

“No reason.”

“Please.”

Lias fiddled with his dainty cufflinks. “It’s just…I don’t know. The rain. It makes you look like a drowned rat.”

Freddy huffed angrily, “Oh, very nice of you. After I came all the way down here-”

“I didn’t mean to sound harsh. You’re…you’re just not yourself.”

“And you would know?”

Lias didn’t reply. They both listened to the coals crackling in the stove. Freddy wondered if he’d opened the flue to the chimney. Her throat was burning, although there was no sign of smoke about the store.

She tried to finish her brandy in one swift gulp, but only managed to choke on it. The warmth of the liquor had spread to her chest now, smouldering relentlessly.

Lias parted his lips slightly, his eyes calm and searching as if he was deciding what to say.

“You don’t like me very much, do you?” he asked.

She was stunned by his question. It was out of line, unusual for a man like Lias, a man who bartered and sold and always came out on top.

“To be honest,” she replied, feeling that she at least owed him the truth, “I’m indifferent to you.”

He seemed disappointed. For the first time, Freddy noticed that he was looking worn. The muted light from the stove crept up the back of his burgundy coat and laid shadows on his shoulders.

“Don’t you think it odd that Dumbledore sent you down here to meet me, considering we are already acquainted?”

Freddy swallowed a snort. “Not at all. In fact, that’s why he asked me to come in the first place.”

“But how did he know we were familiar with each other?”

“Gossip?”

Lias tsked at her lightly. “You put too much store in what others say.”

“Is there a point to this?” She was fidgety, the brandy seeping into her stomach.

Lias hesitated for a moment, then said, “I asked for you to come. Asked Dumbledore, that is.”

Freddy did not have time to be surprised. A cough erupted in her throat, bringing with it a sickly hot liquid. She just had time to bring a handkerchief to her lips.

Her eyes widened at the sight of crimson on the white linen. Blood.

She dropped the handkerchief to her lap. Had Lias seen? But no, he was staring at his hands, folded as they were on the table.

The taste of copper replaced the heat of the brandy in her mouth. Freddy struggled to her feet.

“I have to go.”

“I figured as much.” Lias handed her the papers. “Forbia, I…” he began, but soon trailed off.

Freddy took the papers from him, discretely stuffing the bloody handkerchief into her pocket and hurrying towards the door.










Author’s Note:  According to my calculations, there should be about eleven more chapters, give or take. I honestly cannot believe I’ve been writing this fic for over a year already, time has certainly flown by.

I’d like to especially thank my beta, RenFair, for her continued dedication. She’s been an amazing help these past few months.

Chapter Fifteen is with my beta. It should be posted soon. Have a great week and thanks for reading!

[1] Excerpt taken from "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe

Chapter 15: In the Grey
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Beautiful chapter image courtesy of laPeach @ TDA


Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns it all. I own only my OCs

Chapter Fifteen In the Grey


Lupin’s aching fingers were wrapped around the handle of his cracked tea cup, and he huddled over the warmth of the chamomile in the draughty staff room. The late December weather was simply wretched, wicked really, and a storm had blown in overnight adding snow to the frigid air hovering about the grounds. His mood properly mirrored the bleak climate, even with the holidays a short week away.

Once more, the change was nigh, and by his calculations, he’d be a fully-fledged wolf by Christmas.

It wasn’t a pleasing prospect, and for the first time in a long while, he allowed himself to get depressed.

Taking a sip of the swiftly cooling tea, he glanced at the old wardrobe tucked in the corner, now topped with a crimson poinsettia and some garish garland. Lupin managed a smile, remembering his third years who had tackled the boggart a few short months ago. Of course, life at Hogwarts wasn’t perfect, but he was content. He would have dared to say he was happy if Sirius Black still wasn’t a threat.

A grimace touched his worn features, tightening the crevices about his mouth. For thirteen years, he had grappled with his best friend’s betrayal, and still the wound was fresh, festering now like a sore in his beleaguered mind.

Lupin feared for Harry’s safety, and during his every waking moment, he tormented himself over his decision to keep quiet on Sirius’ Animagi secret.

He should tell Dumbledore, but a small part of him feared rejection. Over the years, he had come to expect it from his fellow wizards, though he had never quite grown accustomed to it.

Lupin stared at his now cold tea, withdrew his wand from his robes, and brought the liquid to a slow simmer once more.

The door to the staff room opened.

He was surprised to see Professor Trelawney come gliding in. She wasn’t one to come out of her tower often, or so he guessed as he had only seen her three times since coming to Hogwarts.

Trelawney must have been surprised to see him as well for her eyes fluttered beneath her glasses, and she pressed a thin hand to her heart.

“Dear Professor Lupin,” she said, her voice an octave higher than usual. “What a pleasant surprise. Or I should say, not a surprise for me at all. I was practicing palmistry with my fifth years and just happened to sense that I would meet you today.”

Lupin rose and pulled out a chair for her. “Sibyl, it’s good to see you.”

Trelawney promptly sat, folding one her scarves around her long, goosy neck. “I’ve been meaning to speak to you,” she said, “but the Inner Eye knew I would do it today. Hmm, your aura is most disturbed. I’m glad I came.”

Lupin tensed. “Oh?”

“Yes, I sense a disruption all about you,” Trelawney said, waving her hand about in the space between them.

Lupin quickly gulped down his tea, scorching his throat. “Mmm.”

“And, of course, it’s around poor Forbia too. Dear me.”

Despite his anxiety, Lupin felt his curiosity pique. Forbia Fotherby? How odd that he should hear her mentioned again. He hadn’t had much to do with the Professor of International Magic lately. She was present at most meals and spared him a polite ‘hello’ in the corridors and at staff meetings. But truly, he hadn’t spoken to her since the Halloween Feast.

Was he glad for it? Well, in a way. Fotherby certainly had her own issues, and she was not the cheerful type or seemingly optimistic. However, he did feel sorry for her. Why, he didn’t really know.

Trelawney, surprisingly, seemed to guess his thoughts. “She’s so awfully forlorn, isn’t she?”

Lupin shrugged. “I must be honest, Sibyl, I haven’t really-”

“Oh but you have,” she interrupted him, “or at least you will. I’ve been sensing a collision between your spirits.”

“Er, a collision?”

“Indeed. A dramatic one.” Trelawney’s thin eyebrows darted up past her frizzy hairline.

Lupin tipped his tea cup back once more and swallowed the last of his tea. Oh dear.

“Tell me, Professor Lupin, do you not feel the same?”

“I…”

“Perhaps your Inner Eye is clouded, but to me it is quite evident,” Trelawney babbled on. “Forbia must have noticed it to. She is a Seeress, after all.”

Now, Lupin raised his eyebrows. What was this? Fotherby a Seeress? He couldn’t believe it! She didn’t seem to possess any extraordinary ability, except for her talent to be irksome. He highly doubted she could see into the future. Trelawney must be delusional.

Again, the Divination professor seemed to read his thoughts. “It is true,” she insisted. “She has dreams, you see, violent dreams. I noticed her talent at once when she came under my tutelage. But, ah,” she paused and sighed, “Forbia is stubborn and so very frightened. I think you will be the one to help her, though, Remus. Yes, it will be you.”

Trelawney rose and patted his hand, a knowing smile making her eyes nearly disappear behind her glasses. “And I’m glad for it,” she said. “You’re so much better for her than Quirrell was.”










Professor McGonagall left a stack of downright rotten Transfiguration papers on her desk Tuesday afternoon and took a walk down the first floor corridor to Forbia’s classroom. It made her slightly uncomfortable to leave her marking for after dinner. Being a punctual woman, she liked to complete her most tedious work before bed then allow herself the luxury of indulging in a bit of Shakespeare or Keats. But today she was disrupting her old habits. And as it was, she really did need to speak to Forbia. That girl! She was harder to pin down than a pixie.

The corridor was reasonably quiet after lunch. Senior students often shuffled their schedules to allow them a free period for study and the rest of the pupils were in class…hopefully.

Outside the Muggle Studies classroom, McGonagall stopped two Hufflepuff fourth years lingering in the hall. Fortunately, they both had lavatory passes, and she was inclined to send the girls on their way provided they return to class straightaway.

Once the children were out of sight, she smiled a little to herself. Some things never changed.

Moving further down the hall, she was accosted by a myriad of voices, most of which came from lecturing teachers, others from paintings and some even from students. McGonagall felt her heavy footsteps lighten a little as she sensed the excitement of the latter group. The Christmas holiday started this week, and while the professors were exhausted, the children seemed invigorated with a new purpose.

She herself took heart from the festive atmosphere, now only slightly dampened by the looming threat of Sirius Black.

After passing a portrait of three witches garbed in Tudor fashion, she paused by Forbia’s classroom, her feline ears attuned to the familiar Scottish brogue.

The door had been left ajar today, and McGonagall perched herself just out of sight, though she had a fair view of the proceedings within. Grey light streamed through the arched windows, the shutters of which were open, revealing the snowy courtyard below. Forbia herself was behind the lectern at the front of the room, one arm outstretched to indicate the map of Louisiana tacked to the chalkboard.

“1804 is another significant year in the history of New Orleans,” she was saying, her gentle eyes fixed somewhere just above her students’ heads. “A year before, the United States acquired the port city by way of the Louisiana Purchase. No longer a French territory, Minister of Magic Artemisia Lufkin allowed for British trade along the Mississippi which brought a tremendous influx of foreign goods. As a result, the demand for dragon parts went through the roof. You’ll remember we discussed last week how Hoodoo witches used dragon heartstrings to amplify some of their rituals. Can anyone tell me why?”

Forbia paused and regarded her class. McGonagall found herself holding her breath for the girl. She remembered well the good-natured, inquisitive child who had first entered Hogwarts nearly twenty years ago. Never could she have foreseen Forbia’s transformation from student to teacher in that time. Yes, she was intelligent and perceptive, but not disciplined. In the end, it was her calm, collected way with students that won her the coveted position. And she knew her field well, better than McGonagall, who had never been quite comfortable outside of Britain.

A hand shot into the air. McGonagall noticed Forbia exhale slightly in relief.

“Yes, Hermione,” she said.

Granger fidgeted in her seat a bit before answering. “Dragon heartstrings were more commonly used in necromancy, leading some Hoodoo practitioners to claim they could raise the dead. After a New Orleans cemetery was overtaken by Inferi in 1875, the purchase and sale of dragon parts was restricted until it became unfashionable in the early 20th century.”

“Precisely,” Forbia replied, turning back towards the board. “And we’ll be talking about the Inferi Uprising of 1875 in a short while, but for now-” She broke off abruptly as the last bell of the day pealed throughout the hall. “Oh? Is that it already?”

The students were already rising, collecting their things. McGonagall retreated to the opposite wall to the let them pass.

Forbia ran a hand through her hair. “All right. Everyone have a good holiday. Enjoy. Don’t study too hard, and come back to school in once piece. Happy Christmas.”

Students poured into the corridor, and McGonagall waited until the classroom was empty before she stepped forward. Forbia was using her wand to roll up the map of Louisiana, her left hand resting casually on her waist.

McGonagall cleared her throat. “Forbia?”

She glanced over her shoulder and then turned around fully when she saw the deputy headmistress. “Professor, good afternoon. Please come in.”

McGonagall was glad to see that an easy smile had returned to Forbia’s countenance. She had been decidedly worried about the young woman over the past few weeks. But now the pallor in her face had dropped away, and she was energetic again, or so McGonagall guessed.

“Hello, Forbia,” she said, leaning against the old cherry desk as the professor stuffed scrolls of parchment into her bag. “You’re a hard woman to come by these days. I’ve been meaning to speak with you.”

“Sorry.” Forbia shrugged sheepishly. “I’ve been working hard, if can you believe it. Is everything all right?”

“Oh yes.” McGonagall adjusted her spectacles. “I was only wondering if you planned to go abroad for the holidays. Professor Dumbledore wants to know which teachers are staying at the castle for…ahem…security reasons.”

Forbia looked confused for an instant, but then her face softened. “Hmm, of course. No, I’m not going anywhere, only to Diagon Alley this weekend to buy my Mam a present.”

McGonagall’s brows darted upward. “Really?” she said, unable to disguise her surprise. Forbia never stayed at Hogwarts during the holidays. She was a perpetual wanderer, a gypsy at heart.

The professor laughed at her shock. “Highly irregular, I know,” she said, stifling a cough. “But I’m tired. I could use the rest. You can tell Professor Dumbledore that he may count on me, even though I am of little help.”

McGonagall felt suddenly maternal. “You shouldn’t say that.”

Forbia waved a hand and McGonagall realised, catching sight of her wrist as her sleeve slipped, just how much weight she had lost.

“Don’t worry, I’m not offended.”

McGonagall stayed silent for a moment, wondering just what had changed about the young woman. Something, yes, something. It was indefinable, although and the mystery irked her.

“How are things otherwise?” she asked, remembering how Forbia had been troubled by nightmares in November and had begged her not to tell the headmaster.

Forbia shrugged again. “Fine. I think I had the flu a few weeks ago. I’m all right now, though, just a bit hoarse.” And as if to prove her point, she rubbed her throat.

McGonagall was tempted to disagree, but she held her tongue. “And the dreams?”

There was a moment’s pause. The snowstorm that had been threatening Hogsmeade all week announced its presence with a sudden flurry. Tiny flakes swirled dissonantly outside the window.

Forbia put her rolled up map inside her bag and braced her hands on the desk. “I can’t speak of them.” Her voice had changed. It was lower…pained.

McGonagall crossed her arms over her chest and stared at the bare chalkboard. The discord of the storm filtered into the quiet classroom.

“Forbia,” she began, but stopped when she noticed the fear on the professor’s face.

“It’s not so simple,” Forbia said, her fingers tightening over the lip of the desk. “Minerva, please don’t think poorly of me, but I…I feel as though…as...” she trailed off, shaking her head.

“Go on,” McGonagall prodded her, allowing a motherly frown of concern to soften her features.

Forbia coughed once more, struggling to continue. “I feel as though I am meant to understand something, but I don’t. I feel as though whatever it is lies just beneath the surface and…and I am so close to grasping it…it’s just torturous.” Tears gathered in her eyes.

McGonagall felt at a loss. Forbia was not an emotional girl. What had happened to make her fall apart? Was it Quirrell?

She produced a clean linen handkerchief from her sleeve and handed it to the professor. Forbia wiped her eyes diligently, sniffing once to settle herself.

“How long?” McGonagall asked her.

“Since New Orleans.”

“That’s nearly four months ago.”

“I know.” Forbia returned the handkerchief. “I’m just…sick,” she muttered.

McGonagall found herself patting the professor’s clammy hand, though there was little comfort she could offer. She sensed this sickness had little to do with the body and more with the spirit, that which even Madam Pomfrey couldn’t mend.

“You mustn’t let yourself get into a rut,” she said promptly, hoping that a firm nudge would set Forbia back on her feet again. “You’ve done so well this term. Professor Dumbledore is very pleased, as am I. And I’ve heard you had another article published?”

Forbia smiled absently. “Aye, a piece I wrote on Madam Paulina in September. The journal only paid me fifty galleons for it though--that’ll just about cover Mam’s present.”
They both laughed.

Being empty of words, McGonagall thought it best to take her leave. She also had the nagging obligation of attending to those term papers. Forbia walked her out into the hall and shut the classroom door behind them, pausing as McGonagall started towards her office.

“Are you coming to dinner?” the deputy headmistress asked her with a sudden frown.

Forbia shook her head. “No. I promised Madam Paulina I’d forward her a copy of the article, and if I don’t do it now, it’ll never get done.” She rolled her shoulders in bemusement.

McGonagall’s eyes narrowed. Oh dear…poor Forbia was lying.

But she needn’t press the matter now.

“Very good,” she said. “I’ll see you at breakfast then?”

“I promise.”

McGonagall left her outside the classroom and made her way back down the corridor, her every instinct ablaze with worry.










Freddy waited until McGonagall was gone before she began to cough. With difficulty, she’d suppressed her hacking during their chat and would now suffer the consequences. Pain cut off her breath with unforgiving ferocity. It gnawed at her lungs, threatening to shatter her ribcage.

She slumped against the closed door of her classroom and dropped her bag.

I’m being eaten alive.

After a moment, the fit ceased, and Freddy was able to catch her breath. And a good thing it was, she thought, for down the hall came two Ravenclaw seventh years carrying a large, holly-decked basket between them.

“Hello, Professor,” a girl with a tight French braid said as the pair drew even with Freddy. “Care to make a holiday donation? We’re collecting funds for a hospital in Yorkshire.”

Freddy squinted in the wintry light. Taped to the basket was a brochure for the institution, featuring an exceptionally handsome doctor with kind eyes.

Oh, what the hell.

“Here,” she said, digging into her pocket to produce two galleons. “I hope this will do.”

The girl with the braid smiled brightly. “Thanks, Professor. Every bit counts.”

Her partner took the galleons and dropped them into the basket. Freddy watched them as they proceeded across the hall to the Muggle Studies classroom, her gaze lingering on the familiar face of the doctor.

Where, she thought, have I seen him before?

No matter. It was best not to tease her mind with another unanswerable question. She had enough of those to worry about already. Heading back to her rooms, Freddy felt a pang of guilt for having lied to McGonagall. Truth be told, she just wanted to lie down and sleep a dreamless sleep, deep beneath her mauve comforter. Even though she had been catching eight regular hours a night, she almost never awoke rested. The nightmares had turned from disturbing to frustratingly fascinating. Each was a puzzle in and of itself, and she felt pressed to solve the riddle.

Her progress over the last month had been stunted, although, and Freddy took out her annoyance on her bedroom door, letting it slam closed. Hours she had spent in the library pouring over useless volumes, finding only dry prose and dead ends. She was beginning to fear, in some dark recess of her heart, that her dreams perhaps were meaningless, errant phantoms devised only to torment her.

And oh, she was nearly sick over it, coughing up blood at her worst. But that was over now, or so she hoped. She’d weathered a nasty bout of the flu and had come out ragged, but undefeated.

Freddy let her bag slip from her shoulders. It hit the floor with a dull thud, leaning awkwardly against the leg of her old rocking chair. She peeled off her heavy outer robes, kicked off her shoes and buried herself in the bed. Outside, the storm had picked up some. She heard shrieks of laughter on the grounds.

And for some strange, wicked reason, she began to think of Oliver Lias. He was handsome, yes, she could admit that now. Slatero had been good-looking until their last year together.

After Quirrell’s death, she thought she’d never love again, but reality was slowly settling in. Freddy was young yet and not above the temptations of youth. And even when she considered--just considered--going down to Hogsmeade to visit Lias unawares, she would remember the shapeless forms of her dreams.

No, they seemed to tell her. You’ve missed the point, Freddy, dear lass. You’ve missed the point entirely…

London 1989

Springtime in London was a magnificent season, Freddy decided. She had never learned to truly appreciate the slow thaw of winter that settled over the city in gusts of warm air. Most days were rainy, yes, but Slatero and she were granted at least one sunny afternoon of balmy temperatures and an almost unbelievably blue sky. Freddy had managed to convince him to come away from Hogwarts for the Easter holidays. 

They spent three days in London, one in Diagon Alley pursuing scholarly business such as book buying; another huddled in a Muggle art museum away from the rain, and a third aimlessly wandering the streets, ducking into cosy boutiques whenever the sidewalks grew too crowded. 


“I feel very bohemian,” Freddy told Slatero as they strolled along, comfortable at last in holding hands. She was wearing a broom skirt, a faded blouse and a leather vest she’d bought in Greece. Slatero was less at ease in Muggle clothes, but he tolerated the indignity for her sake.

“I’m glad we did this,” he admitted at length. “It was a nice change of pace.”

“Hmm, to be away from school.” Freddy paused to look inside the window of a tea shop. “I don’t have to act so…stuffy.” She hadn’t exactly meant to say the word stuffy, but Slatero knew what she meant. 


It was wonderful to be young and in love, but not when they both had to be discreet in front of the student body and staff alike. The atmosphere of Hogwarts wasn’t conducive to dating, although students regularly had their puppy love affairs. This, however, was different. Professors shouldn’t be seen snogging each other in the corridors.

On a whim, they took a turn off the avenue and moved down a block of late Victorian townhouses. An eager sun warmed each brick façade and Freddy ran her hand along the wrought iron gates. Slatero suddenly tightened his grasp on her hand. 


“I want to go away with you this summer,” he said abruptly.

Freddy stared at him.

“Dumbledore offered me the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher,” he continued. “I’m taking a year long sabbatical. Can I come with you, this summer, when you go abroad?”

Freddy couldn’t reply. She had never known a person who wanted to spend so much time with her, who envied her nomadic lifestyle and wanted to follow her wherever she went. 


Yes, she decided, she did love Slatero Quirrell

Effortlessly, they both moved in for a kiss and…

…And Freddy loved his smile, because he was so devilishly handsome. Brown eyes. Warm, smooth skin. A square, sculpted jaw.

She loved him because he was the only man who wasn’t afraid to come near her now.

He welcomed her into the examining room and made her hop up onto the table. The nurse listened to her heart with a stethoscope. 


“I’m sorry, dear,” he said. “But you have a pleural effusion. We have a procedure for it, though, quite like pneumothorax. If you’ll just lie on your side, I can drain some of the fluid.”

And he took a needle out of the cabinet. “I can help you,” he said, “if you’ll just let me…if you’ll just let go…let go…let go… 


Freddy jerked awake beneath the mauve comforter, her body tense with frustration.

“Dammit!” she all but screamed. “What are you trying to tell me?”

Angry tears darkened her brown eyes and she let them trickle down onto the blanket. If only she had some way of seeing, of examining each dream without the fog of sleep, if only…if only…

Freddy sat bolt upright and smiled in brilliant triumph. “That’s it!” she cried. “Dumbledore’s Penseive!” 





Author's Note:  Wow. I can't believe I've been writing this fic for over a year now. And I honestly cannot get over the wonderful feedback and positive encouragement I've received from readers. Thank you all so much!

And of course, I have to thank my dedicated beta, Renfair, for her continued assistance.

Chapter Sixteen is in the works and should be posted soon. Have a great week!

Secondary Author's Note: Although the man in the chapter image is a character from the "Twilight" films, this fic is NOT a "Twilight" crossover. This fic has absolutely nothing to do with "Twilight".

Chapter 16: Bleak Midwinter
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  Gorgeous chapter image by stealingEternity @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. I own only my OCs.

Chapter Sixteen Bleak Midwinter 

Freddy woke up at dawn on Christmas and lay in bed until a quarter to ten. She was feeling ghastly, completely ghastly, and she hoped that by closing her eyes and thinking of something pleasant, she might drift back into a dreamless sleep.

No such luck.

Wrapping herself in a thick robe, she peeked out the window to see another several inches of snow coating the grounds with more powdery flakes streaking through the air. Her bedroom was warm, although, the fire stoked and nibbling at fresh, pine-scented logs.

Freddy sat in front of the hearth and drank a cup of lukewarm tea. As much as she wanted to, she decided not go back over her dreams of the previous night. It was Christmas, after all. Instead she turned her attention to the stack of cards that had been delivered to her apartments.

There were the normal Christmas greetings to be had from colleagues, family and friends. Freddy moved through the pile quickly enough and then turned her attention to the two solitary packages that were left on her bedside table next to her empty water glass.

The first was a small square box wrapped in plain green paper. The tag read, To Forbia, Love Mam.

It was a ladies pocket watch on a long golden chain, crafted at the same Glasgow jeweller’s that had made her family’s wedding rings for over a century. Freddy, however, wondered if this was her Mam’s way of telling her she ought to be more mindful of time.

The second gift, surprisingly, was from Oliver Lias. Freddy lifted two wooden bookends from out of the large box and smiled.

So he had set the Dusseldorf bookends aside for her! She was touched, though suspicious.

What exactly was he getting at?

To distract herself from the possibilities, she spent a good time finding the perfect spot for them and finally resigned to put them on the mantle on either side of an old carriage clock.

They were really lovely.

Fortunately for Freddy, she was distracted from further thoughts of Lias’ kindness by the cheery ringing of the noon bell. She was expected for Christmas lunch, and McGonagall had made it very clear that all staff members should make it a priority to attend.

But as she hurriedly dressed in her deep violet robes, Freddy experienced a twinge of uncertainty. Dumbledore would of course be at the luncheon, and she had something to ask him. How would the Headmaster react to her request to borrow his Pensieve? She knew that he had lent it out to other staff members before, yet Freddy felt doubtful. Just why should she be trusted? In fact, why did anyone trust her?

Without warning, hot tears darkened her eyes. No, she wasn’t going there again. Slatero may have betrayed them all, but she had been nothing but loyal.

Loyal, yes, loyal to a fault.

But where, in the end, had her loyalty gotten her?

Freddy hesitated by the door of her bedchamber, one hand clenched around the cold knob. Glancing over her shoulder, she spotted Lias’ bookends on the mantelpiece.

Hmm, perhaps she had been loyal for far too long.

 

 





Upon entering the Great Hall and finding is nearly empty, Freddy at once remembered that most of the student body had absconded for the holidays, leaving the castle drearily deserted.

Well, no matter. She liked things quiet. However, she wasn’t quite pleased to see that all the House tables had been cleared away, leaving a single table which both staff and students would share.

Hmm, this had to be Dumbledore’s doing, for Freddy was certain the other professors, especially dour Snape, were annoyed at the prospect of being seated amongst their pupils.

The other Heads of Houses had already arrived and were seated along with the headmaster. Freddy felt awkward making such a solitary entrance.

“Happy Christmas!” she said, hoping she sounded cheery.

Dumbledore, Snape and Flitwick rose as she moved towards the table, and McGonagall made room Freddy by her left side.

“Happy Christmas, Forbia.”

“Happy Christmas.”

“Splendid, Freddy.” That was Dumbledore, beaming as always.

He took her hand, kissed it and ushered her to the chair next to McGonagall.

Another awkward moment passed as Freddy settled herself. She glanced up and down the table with a nervous smile. “Cosy. There are only twelve of us?”

“Mr. Filch has been about,” Professor Sprout informed her.

“How many students?” Freddy asked, only to have her query answered as two terrified first years she didn’t recognize scooted into the Hall.

Another chorus of greetings followed, and the children blushed anxiously as they were seated at the end of the table.

Freddy felt extremely sorry for the lads, being away from home during the holidays and surrounded by stuffy, old professors.

Not that she was old, yet.

A Slytherin fifth year arrived next, appearing thoroughly glum.

Freddy studied the table once more. There were three seats left, and she was wondered just who might fill them.

The answer was near instantaneous as the doors to the Great Hall swung open and in strode three Gryffindor third years; Hermione Granger, a red-haired boy Freddy had often seen in her company…and Harry Potter.

Freddy looked away at once, trying to conceal herself behind McGonagall. She felt as though all eyes must surely be on her, staring, watching…waiting.

McGonagall turned her head slightly and parted her lips. “Forbia?”

“I suppose that’s all then,” she muttered in reply, coughing. “Like I said, cosy.”

Her response was cut-off by Dumbledore who immediately hailed the trio.

Freddy fought to compose herself as Hermione, Harry and their friend sat at the far end of the table.

This rush of emotion, she assured herself, was natural. And yet despite her rationality, she could not keep her mind from wandering into forbidden depths, conjecturing taboos, guessing what exactly had passed between Harry and Slatero that fateful day nearly two years ago.

Because it had been Harry…it had been…it had been Harry, no, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, who had killed Quirrell.

But as it was, Freddy had never been this dreadfully close to Harry Potter. She had managed to skilfully evade him for most of the year, although there existed between them that unspoken tension.

And oh, the boy didn’t even know who she was!

With unsteady hands, Freddy poured herself a glass of pumpkin juice and in doing so, leaned forward a bit.

Hermione caught sight of her.

Freddy waved her hand, her face automatically lightening. “Hullo, Hermione! Happy Christmas.”

“Professor Fotherby, Happy Christmas!” Hermione waved in return.

The red-haired boy turned to her with a questioning look and his words were drowned out by the popping of a cracker Dumbledore pulled apart with Professor Snape.

“…International Magic,” Freddy heard Hermione mumble at last and for a brief moment, their eyes meet…and their glances both slid towards Harry.

And then Freddy looked away. And then Hermione returned her attention to her friends.

The sound of scraping cutlery soon disrupted the uncharacteristic silence that blanketed the Great Hall.

Freddy took a healthy slice of roast beef, and just as she was tipping the gravy boat over her plate, the doors opened once more.

Professor Trelawney swept inside.

Freddy sighed in relief, thankful for the distraction, even though she knew McGonagall and Sibyl would promptly be at each other’s throats.

Dumbledore stood to greet her and cheerful pleasantries were exchanged.

Freddy leaned back in her chair to make herself known. “Happy Christmas, Sibyl,” she said.

“Dear Forbia,” Trelawney replied. “I knew you would be in attendance. I have been crystal gazing and to my astonishment, I saw myself abandoning my solitary luncheon and coming to join you.” [1]

Dumbledore conjured up a chair with his wand and directed it between Freddy and McGonagall.

Freddy hid a giggle behind her glass of pumpkin juice and caught the headmaster’s eye. The tell-tale twinkle confirmed her suspicions. He expected her to keep the peace.

Trelawney was halfway into her seat when she let out a shriek.

Freddy jumped and upset a platter of roasted potatoes which Flitwick directly righted with a flick of his wand.

Trelawney clutched Freddy’s shoulder for support. “If I join the table, we shall be thirteen. Never forget that when thirteen dine together, the first to rise will be the first to die.” [2]

“Then I’ll be the unlucky one, as always,” Freddy assured her, trying to pull her into the chair.

McGonagall was less amused. “Do sit down, Sibyl,” she said. “The turkey’s getting stone cold.” [3]

Here we go, Freddy thought, relieved when the Divination professor finally took a seat.

“It is nice to see you, Forbia,” Trelawney said once her mortal terror abated. “I’ve been meaning to speak to you. But firstly, how have you dreams been?”

Freddy cringed and stabbed a potato with her fork. “Oh, they’ve been, you know…” She looked up to see if anyone was listening in. Fortunately, the table had descended into separate conversations, though McGonagall was obviously feigning disinterest.

“The same,” Freddy admitted at length. “But I’m working on things…somewhat.” She didn’t think that this was the perfect moment to mention her hope to use Dumbledore’s Pensieve.

“I’m happy to see that you are committed,” Trelawney said. “However, I have spent some time reviewing your particular situation and have come to a realization. I think you would benefit from…but oh, is Professor Lupin not with us? I wanted him to be here as well.”

“Lupin?” Freddy’s face suddenly felt hot. True, she had reached an accord with him, but she still didn’t consider herself on the best of terms with him. What could Trelawney be getting at now?

“I’m afraid the poor fellow is ill again,” Dumbledore said. Obviously, he too had been listening in on their discussion. [4]

What followed was a typical exchange between McGonagall and Trelawney. Freddy was quite tired of their barbs, and she let the headmaster put an end to it instead.

After Professor Snape assured them that he had indeed brewed some manner of potion for Lupin’s benefit, Dumbledore concluded the debate with his usual tact.

Freddy honestly had no idea that Lupin was ill, although now that she thought of it, he did look rather peaky pretty regularly. She was tempted to ask what exactly was wrong with him, but thought better of it lest Trelawney and McGonagall start up again.

For the rest of the meal, she tried to the keep the conversation as neutral as possible, although it was no little feat sitting between the two professors. And of course, she had the added nagging worry of Harry, who’s voice seemed to filter over the table to her every time there was a lull.

Near the end of the meal, McGonagall set down her utensils and looked at Freddy with uncharacteristic hardness.

“How have you been feeling, Forbia?” she asked quietly, her voice disguised by the rest of the company’s chatter.

Forbia swallowed the last of her treacle pudding with some difficulty. “Fine. The holiday will do me good. I have a few papers to mark, but other than that, I’m fine…really.”

McGonagall didn’t seem to believe her, and after some of the students had begun to drift away, she asked Freddy to accompany her into the Entrance Hall. They both stood at the foot of the marble staircase, in the creeping, midwinter shadows that fell through the long windows.

“I think you ought to see Madam Pomfrey,” McGonagall said, her tone unwavering. “I am worried about you.”

Freddy felt flustered. “Why do you say that? I’m all right, truly. It’s just the usual stress, you know.”

“You’ve been coughing since September.”

“Huh? I always get this way during the cold months. It’s the constant smoke from the fires, and the biting wind doesn’t help at all.”

“You’ve lost weight. You’re deathly pale.”

“Deathly?” Freddy snorted, feeling suddenly annoyed. Why couldn’t people just leave her alone? “You are starting to sound like Sibyl, you know.”

She hadn’t meant to sound so harsh, so ungrateful, but her words rang with truth.

McGonagall raised her eyebrows, but otherwise remained emotionless. “I am worried about you,” she repeated, “and I am finding it harder to keep things from the headmaster. If you are so tormented…if you are still grieving his loss, then maybe it was a mistake for you to come back to Hogwarts. You never did well in one place for long, Forbia, and I am certain I could get you a satisfactory teaching position at Beauxbatons or Salem, if you prefer.”

“No!” And suddenly, Freddy was weeping. Much to her horror, she had burst into pitiful tears in front of the deputy headmistress and was now sobbing like a newborn babe. The ever-present pain in her chest swelled, threatening to swallow her, and she broke off abruptly into hiccupping coughs.

“Forbia.” McGonagall truly seemed at a loss, and to Freddy’s surprise, the elder woman rested a comforting arm around her shoulder. “What is the matter?”

“I’m going mad,” Freddy muttered. “Every night…every night the same dreams, and I don’t understand any of it! All I ever wanted was to be left alone. I’m being punished for loving him!”

“Nonsense.” McGonagall patted her back stiffly. “Nonsense, Forbia! You know that isn’t true.”

“But it is,” Freddy moaned miserably, her ribs searing as her lungs struggled to match every breath. “All I ever wanted was to put the matter to rest…to forget about it, but…but I swear I didn’t know he was going to try to steal the bloody Stone.”

“I never thought you did and neither did Dumbledore.”

“It doesn’t matter, I suppose. What does any of it matter now?” At last, Freddy managed to gain control of herself. She sank, weak-legged, onto the bottom step of the staircase. “You have every right to speak with the headmaster. I am being unreasonable.”

McGonagall sighed sharply. “You should not be suffering.” She paused and hesitated a moment before continuing. “I think you ought to see Madam Pomfrey first…before I mention anything to Professor Dumbledore.”

Freddy glanced up at McGonagall, realising at once what was being offered to her; a second chance. “I will, I promise,” she swore fervently, her hands fisting in her robes. “And I’ll speak with the headmaster myself. I want to ask him a favour, as it is.”

“You have never given me cause not to trust you, Forbia,” McGonagall replied, dropping her voice to a whisper as footsteps pattered on the flagstones.

They both looked up as Hermione Granger emerged from the guttering torchlight. “I beg your pardon, professors,” she said, her tone an octave higher than usual.

“Not at all, Hermione,” McGonagall responded evenly.

Freddy, on the other hand, hopped to her feet and started up the stairs, hiding her tear-streaked face behind a long sleeve. “Good night, all,” she said, wondering just how much Hermione had overheard.
 

 






A week later, Freddy still hadn’t gone to see Madam Pomfrey as promised. Not that she had forgotten about it, no, but she had hoped to speak with Dumbledore first. For some reason, her entire being seemed opposed to visiting the Hospital Wing and for once, she followed her instinct, feeling horribly guilty all the while.

On New Year’s Day, she made an appointment to visit with the headmaster. It wasn’t unusual for professors to meet with Dumbledore privately from time to time, although Freddy herself had only been summoned to his office alone twice, once for her pre-hire interview and once in the middle of the night, to learn of the horrors that would, for a time, destroy her utterly.

In mounting the spiral stone staircase, Freddy was reminded of one of her first dreams, in which she seemed to rise ever upward, away from the reach of those standing below. She wondered, vaguely, if her dreams were starting to come true.

Upon reaching the polished oak door, she waited an instant before knocking and was surprised when it swung open before she had a chance to announce her presence.

Professor Lupin stood on the threshold.

For a moment, they both stared at each other, and Freddy was shocked to see how very ragged the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher looked. His face was an unhandsome shade of grey, and his robes were hanging loose, frayed as always.

But still, Lupin smiled politely.

“Is that Professor Fotherby?” Dumbledore called from somewhere within the office.

Lupin stepped aside, and Freddy made her presence known with a quick nod.

“Ah, it is.” Dumbledore was standing before his desk, his long fingers splayed upon the lip. His half-moon spectacles were resting a bit further down his nose than usual. “Do come in, Freddy.”

“I was just leaving, anyway,” Lupin put-in with a quick glance back at the headmaster.

Dumbledore smiled. “Thank you for coming, Remus. I do hope you feel better.”

Lupin reached forward and shook the headmaster’s hand before making his exit.

Freddy watched him go, her eyes fastened on the door even as it shut. She was feeling somewhat detached, as though her spirit had forsaken her limbs and left her standing there deaf and dumb.

Dumbledore made a soft noise in the back of his throat, and Freddy whirled around.

A moment of silence stretched between them. She felt as though the headmaster were taking her measure, probing her softly for cracks and signs of wear.

And almost out of instinct, she shut off her mind to him and put on a brave face.

Dumbledore frowned slightly, but spoke to her kindly nevertheless. “Freddy, my dear,” he said. “What might I do for you?”

 

 






A half-hour later, Freddy was sliding past the gargoyle statue, her defences still raised high like a guard dog’s hackles.

But why should she be defensive in front of Dumbledore? Surely the headmaster had been nothing but accommodating. He hadn’t even troubled her with small talk, but let her get straight to the matter at hand. Clearly, McGonagall had not spoken to him yet, for he did not question Freddy’s changed appearance, nor did he hesitate in lending her the Pensieve.

Certainly, their meeting had gone splendidly well, though Freddy couldn’t shake the emotional drain of it and as she headed down the seventh floor corridor, her legs began to shake uncontrollably.

She was only half-way to the staircase when she collapsed, utterly spent. The hard, stone floor came up to meet her frail body, knocking her weak, wasted breath from her. Her vision blurred, faded and then returned in sharp relief as she felt a hand slide underneath her waist.

“Come here,” a husky, hoarse voice sounded in her ear. “I’ll help you. Steady, steady on. There we go.”

Remus Lupin was there, and he was raising her to her feet. Without question, he helped guide her down the staircase and to her rooms, letting her weight rest entirely on his thin shoulder.

Only when he had helped her into her parlour and settled her down in a chair did Freddy think to speak. She caught his hand as he was straightening up, her eyes suddenly wild with primal desperation.

“Please,” she begged him faintly, “don’t tell anyone.”

Remus stared at her.

“Please.” Freddy clutched his hand, channelling the last of her strength into her grasp. “Please, Remus. Please.”

Sympathy and understanding clouded his eyes and at length, he touched her sweaty, pale cheek. “I promise,” he replied.



 

 






Author’s Note: Well, things are certainly moving along now. There are only about six chapters left in this fic. I, for one, can’t believe it’s almost finished. The last chapters just snuck up on me. ^_^

This chapter is especially dedicated to Rita (aka the_tofuubeaver) who took the time to make my new, fantastic banner. Thanks, Rita!!!

And of course, I have to thank all my wonderful readers and reviewers. You guys are great! This fic couldn’t have come so far without you.

Also, special thanks goes out to my beta, Renfair, who has been a phenomenal help.

Chapter Seventeen is in the works and should be posted soon. I hope everyone has a great week!

Quotes 1, 2, 3 and 4 from the luncheon scene were taken from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” Chapter Eleven-The Firebolt pages 228 and 229 by J.K. Rowling, Scholastic Press, US edition (1999).
 


Chapter 17: Dark Night of the Soul
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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. I own only my OCs.

Chapter Seventeen Dark Night of the Soul

As Dumbledore had promised, the pensieve was delivered to her office during the first week of February. Freddy left it there until Friday night, and then after dinner she dragged herself upstairs to begin her work.

She hadn’t much hope for success, though what exactly she was trying to accomplish she couldn’t understand. But something of borrowed time pressed increasingly upon her and ever since she had fainted a month ago, Freddy began to suspect that her very essence was fading fast.

But why? Why this sudden spiritual wasting? It had to be spiritual, yes. She tried to soothe herself with the thought.

A spiritual malaise could not kill her. She would simply not let it.

Keeping her office door locked, Freddy carefully pulled each silvery strand of memory from her temple and deposited it in the pensieve.

When she was done, the bowl was near brimming with the substance, years of her life poured out into elusive matter.

Her palms began to sweat.

There were dark things in that bowl. Horrible things. She didn’t necessarily want to confront them again. Surely, the last of her resilience would suffer if she put herself through the torment of Quirrell’s betrayal again and of the loss that by all means should have destroyed her.

But in the end, what choice did she have?

Grimacing slightly, Freddy leaned forward over the pensieve.

The coolness of the first memory embraced her. Down, down, down. She fell effortlessly and was reminded fleetingly of Alice in Wonderland.

Down, down, down, then…

Flagstones beneath her feet. The entry hall. It was summer. Quirrell was nearby, sitting on a trunk with a book.

“I want to see the Mayan ruins,” he said and showed Freddy a picture of an ancient stone temple half-eroded by the unforgiving wind and time. “I know you’ve been there, but the site is highly practical for my research. Human sacrifices and all…hmm, very dark magic.”

“There are tours every day from ten to four,” she replied, circling him, unable to keep still. Her flat shoes pattered on the cold stones, the echo drifting deep into the Great Hall where empty House tables sat shoved against the walls.

The students had left three days ago and Freddy envied their early freedom.

She wanted to be away, far away. Summer was made for travel and she couldn’t remember being home for the season in nearly six years.

But this time would be different. This time she had Quirrell.

“Why couldn’t I get a sabbatical?” she asked him, with a cheeky, cheery smile.

“You’ve only taught here for two years.” Quirrell had lowered his book now, looking pale, not his usual composed self. “I’m nervous. I’ve never been away like this before.”

“Oh lammie,” she said, her arms falling easily around his shoulders. Boyfriend and girlfriend, the thought appealed to Freddy. Their relationship was no longer tentative, but secure, certain. If summer hadn’t so conveniently rolled around, they wouldn’t have been able to keep it a secret from the rest of the staff , at the very least.

McGonagall, of course, suspected something, but she was thankfully tight-lipped.

“I like it this way,” Freddy told him, “not being alone. And you’ll like it too. We have two months together.”

“Two months,” Quirell repeated, his voice soft, a whisper. “Freddy, I’m happy to be going away with you, I…care for you, love you. We’ll, um, have a good time.”

He had snuck it in there, but she had heard it. Love. Yes, was this love? Or was it youth and impulse?

No, she trusted her emotions for once.

“Yeah,” she replied, sitting on the trunk next to him. “Me too.”




France. They were in the South of France. On a balcony, watching the beach. It was early afternoon, but not too early for wine.

Freddy liked her drinks sweet.

“Have you ever thought about things?” she asked him, letting her hip gently touch his as they stood next to each other.

“What sort of things?” Quirrell was looking better these days. A month and a half on the road had left him lean and tan.

She thought he was undeniably handsome. And happy. Happy with her.

“You know.” A shrug from her. “What you really want to do with yourself.”

“I want to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts.”

Freddy laughed. “Other than that.”

“Marriage, you mean?”

“Yeah.”

He snaked a hand around her waist, giving her a squeeze. A Mediterranean breeze fingered his hair. “Kids?”

“Maybe.” She leaned into him. “I think I could handle them. A pretty little house that we could close up in the summer. Travel.”

“No traveling with kids, sweetheart,” Quirrell reminded her.

She offered him a sip of her wine and watched his lips fold around the glass. “Well, yes, the kids would come later, of course. And when they got old enough, we could take them too. I wish my Mam had raised me that way.”

Quirrell touched the white stone of the balcony railing, squinting as the sun slanted down on them. “So what are we really talking about here?”

“Just,” she paused, searched for the word that wouldn’t make her sound eager or desperate, “hypothetical stuff.”

“Hmm.” He pulled her closer. “Hypothetical.”

That night, they went to the opera and saw La Traviata by Verdi. The heroine Violetta, a courtesan, died of tuberculosis in the final act.

Afterwards, they went walking on the beach.

“Impressive,” she told him, as he went down on one knee while the low tide pulled the cerulean ocean away from the shore.

“It’s just temporary,” he promised and held up the ring hopefully. “Once I’m back in England…I’ll buy you something beautiful, goblin-made, if you like.”

Lazy, soft waves broke the silence.

Freddy glanced up at the milky sky, felt the stirring breezes of twilight and then looked back at him.

“Aye.”

“That’s yes, then?” Quirrell half-rose, sand smudging his sensible burgundy dress robes.

“Aye,” Freddy repeated with a lopsided smile.




She had to leave him when August died. Back to school. He would be going on without her, completing his field work. And when he returned, he would be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and they, yes, they would be married.

Freddy let herself get sentimental, clung to him in a French train station like so many maudlin lovers.

“Be careful,” she said, even though she knew Quirrell would take care of himself.

He always had.

“I will, I promise.” He kissed her, one last time…one last time. “I’m heading to Albania next. I’ll owl you as soon as I’m there.”

“Good.” Freddy hugged him tighter and hid her silly tears. “Please, Slatero, be careful.”
“I promise.”




Trelawney was the first to know. Freddy decided that the Divination professor really was a Seer, either that or she had glimpsed her ring.

“Dear Forbia,” she said, gathering her into hug as they stood in the staffroom, chatting between classes. “I’m so happy for you…and Slatero. And did I not foresee that you would marry a scholar from this very school?”

“No,” Freddy laughed, untangling herself from Trelawney’s long, spidery arms. “You told me that I would marry a healer named after a bird.”

Trelawney ignored her comment with good grace. “But you must tell the rest of the staff! A shame your intended is in Albania. We might have had a lovely celebration.”

“Sibyl, please,” Freddy replied with conjured alarm, “don’t tell anyone yet. I want it to be a secret, something pleasant for me to have until he gets back. Please? Can you keep it to yourself?”

“Of course, Forbia,” Trelawney said, appearing offended that her talent for confidence had been second-guessed. “But you know, these things do have a way of getting around.”

To her credit, Trelawney slipped only once…in front of Flitwick, McGonagall and Sprout.




The letters she received from him were frequent at first. He wrote many lengthy pages of his adventures abroad and had to pay for increasingly larger owls to deliver the bulky packets.

Freddy read his messages with delight and wrote him back nearly everyday, telling him how bored she was at Hogwarts and how three fourth years had attempted to steal love potions from Snape’s dungeon but instead ended up with Chilean itching powder.

It wasn’t until Christmastime that his letters slowed. Then the notes became half-hearted, scribbled, forced.

By spring, she scarcely heard from him at all.




He returned a month before the new school year was to start and for nearly a week afterwards, Freddy retired regularly to her rooms to cry.

The man who arrived at Hogwarts was a shadow. A thin, worn, wasted man who trembled and twitched and spoke with a stutter.

He told the staff his field work had presented him with tremendous difficulties. Vampires in the Black Forest. Zombies in Africa. And a curious hag who had tried to bite his face off.

To Freddy, he told nothing.

When she wasn’t in her room crying, she waited outside his door and confronted him whenever he dared to open it.

“Slatero, let me in, let me speak with you…please, let me see you.” And Freddy would try to embrace him, but he would shrink away in terror.

“I c…c…can’t, Forbia.”

“Just a minute, just let me in for a minute. It will be all right, everything will be all right, Slatero, if you just let me in!”

But he couldn’t bear to look at her and in the end, he cowered helplessly behind his locked door.




The students arrived during the first week of September and she had to go back to teaching. Quirrell returned to the work as well, now the professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Their classrooms were no longer across from each other, but Freddy heard from the students of how he couldn’t manage the class or himself.

Worry rode high in her mind as she tried to lecture, as she tried to take attendance and grade quizzes.

By the weekend, he had begun wearing a ridiculous purple turban. Speculation amongst the student body ran wild. They said Quirrell had stuffed it full of garlic to ward off vampires.




Freddy didn’t like Quidditch, but she went to the Gryffindor vs. Slytherin match simply because he would be there. At meals and in the staff room he avoided her and she had given up playing Ophelia, wailing at his door whenever he locked himself away.

At the match he sat far up in the stands and Freddy lost sight of him when Harry Potter’s broom began to misbehave.

After the match, she asked him to take a walk with her to Hogsmeade.

Straightening his turban, Quirrell sniffed at her like she was a mangy cur and offered up a flimsy excuse.

Bit by bit, the autumn wind began to tear Freddy’s heart in two. 




Winter. It became a game of hide and seek. She chased him, trailed him through the corridors and tried to corner him for at least a moment.

But fear had made him swift. Around Christmas, he grew melancholy.

Freddy forsook any travel plans and instead, sent him a meaningless card.

Dear Slatero,
Happy Christmas. I miss you.
Love,
Freddy


Quirrell sent her nothing in return.




When spring came around, there were nervous rumblings amongst the staff. Freddy couldn’t precisely place the source of the trouble, although she was certain it had something to do with the unicorns being slain nightly in the forest.

In April, he finally spoke to her.

She was leaving the library at half past eleven at night and the hall was dark and quiet. Quirrell appeared out of nowhere and startled her, causing her to drop her books and stifle a gasp.

“Oh Slatero.” Something was wrong. Freddy trembled when she looked at him.

He was wearing a traveling cloak.

“I w…w…want the r…r…r…ring back.”

“What?”

“The r…r…r…ring, the t…t…trinket I gave you last s…su…summer.”

The trinket?

Tears sprang to her eyes. Was it over? Was it truly over?

Freddy didn’t understand him anymore.

“I don’t have it,” she lied, curling her left hand up into her sleeve. “Sorry, Slatero but I-”

“Y…Yes?” He had no patience for her and she didn’t recognize the sudden anger that colored his eyes an eerie tint of red.

“Never mind.” And Freddy drew up inside herself, let him pass by in a wave of shadow. After he had gone, it was several moments before she could move at all.




In May, she went to McGonagall. The Deputy Headmistress was surprisingly receptive to her troubles and she took Freddy into her office and sat her down with a good cup of tea.

“Something’s wrong,” she insisted, shivering even though the mug was warm in her hands. “Something terrible.”

“Forbia.” McGonagall frowned sadly. “Forbia, I’m so sorry.”

“I can’t…it just doesn’t make sense.”

McGonagall’s eyes were hard with restrained emotion. “Do you wish to take a leave of absence?”

“No, I just…I just want to understand.”

“You might never.”

A tear fell into Freddy’s Earl Grey. Why was she doing this, making an idiot of herself? What could McGonagall do?

Nothing. No, they were all statues of stone. Trapped.

She finished her tea and thanked her old professor for listening. Only later, after…after it all, did she learn that McGonagall had gone to Dumbledore immediately and told him everything.

And after, only after, did she learn that they had been suspicious of Quirrell all along and that she had been a fool.




The last week of classes. Freddy had opened all the windows in the staff room to let a breeze in and she sat pouring over a brochure for a tour of Brazil.

Get away, reason told her, far away from this cold place. Flee. Run. Escape.

She couldn’t stand the unrelenting dampness of Hogwarts any longer.

Quirrell came into the staff room. He stood for a minute by the window, turned and approached her chair.

Freddy pulled her arms close to her body. The dampness seemed to radiate from him.

“F…f…forget me, For…F…Forbia.”

Methodically, she folded her brochure and tucked it back inside her robes. “You’re a very selfish man, Slatero.”

When he didn’t respond, Freddy dared to look up at him.

His face was contorted, the muscles in his jaws bunched as he tried to speak. Someone or something, held his tongue.

A violently shaking hand touched her arm.

“I…I…I’m begging y…y…you.”

“I think you’re wicked,” she said and to her shock, she thought she saw regret and longing flitter across his face.

“I’m sorry,” he managed. “I’m so sorry…Forbia.”

She couldn’t take it anymore. Without looking back, she stumbled blindly out of the staff room.




At two in the morning, Freddy was roused by a great pounding on her door. It was Snape and once she had stepped out into the hall in her dressing gown, he grabbed her arm and peered directly into her mind.

Automatically, Freddy blocked him.

“Don’t!” He growled and shook her fiercely.

“What are you doing?” she whimpered. “What are you doing? Severus, let me go!”

“Stupid girl, have you betrayed us too?”

“What?” She wanted to reach for her wand, but instinct kept her still.

“Look at me and stop shutting your mind.” His grip on her arm tightened.

Freddy moaned, felt him begin to probe, to burrow his way into her thoughts. Pain surged against her skull.

She shrieked.

“Severus, please, don’t hurt her!” It was Dumbledore, sweeping towards them.

The contact was broken and Freddy jerked away from Snape, only to fall into McGonagall’s arms.

With difficulty, she shook the rest of the sleep from her eyes.

“She’s innocent, I’m certain,” Dumbledore said. “My dear, forgive Severus, he acted as he thought was best. You mustn’t be frightened.”

Freddy leaned heavily on McGonagall’s arm and noticed that the Deputy Headmistress was shaking ever so slightly.

“What’s happened?” she blurted out, earning a severe glance from Snape and a sympathetic groan from McGonagall.

There was no answer. And then Snape spoke up.

“Quirrell made a grab for the Stone and nearly killed Potter. He died when the Dark Lord left his body.”

Freddy knew he must be lying and she wanted to laugh at Snape’s ridiculous joke. But she wasn’t laughing, no. She couldn’t be laughing with tears on her face.

“Take her to my office, Minerva,” Dumbledore ordered and his gentle blue eyes mirrored the loss she so acutely felt.




Freddy never got around to grading her students' final exams that week. The Ministry ordered her temporary suspension and she was interviewed by Aurors and Department Heads and the Deputy Minister of Magic himself.

Dumbledore insisted that the press be kept away and her relationship with Quirrell was never leaked to the public.

After two weeks, the investigation was closed and Freddy was exonerated completely. Dumbledore further lobbied that the incident be stricken from her record and he was supported by the testimonials of the Hogwarts staff.

The Ministry reluctantly relented.

In the end, she emerged as a blank slate, clear of accusation and even the hint of suspicion. The Headmaster invited her back to teach the following year.

She accepted.

It was only after all the chaos had settled, only after all the questions were asked and answered that she was left alone…entirely alone with the memory of him.

And she was haunted.




Floating, floating, then solid ground. Freddy landed in her office outside of the pensieve. The swirling silvery substance of her memories slowly evaporated, leaving the bowl empty.

It was over and what had she learned?

Nothing.

Freddy turned, made to sink into her chair, but a sudden spell of coughing captured her. She gasped, struggled against the pain in her chest and tried to inhale.

But her lungs resisted, her own body fought her.

In a panic, she realized she couldn’t breathe. 









Author’s Note: Whew! This chapter was a killer. When I first plotted it about six months ago, I was partially excited, but mostly terrified to write it. I don’t know if I’ve answered every question regarding Freddy’s past with Quirrell, but I do hope I’ve cleared up some of them.

Also, there is a single line in this chapter which pretty much gives away the plot to the sequel. Can you guess which one it is? And yes, there will be a short sequel, which I’m in the midst of drafting now. ^_^

As always, I must extend my most heartfelt thanks to all my readers and reviewers. And, of course, I have to thank the most awesome beta in the world, Renfair.

Chapter Eighteen is in the works and I hope to have it posted in about two weeks. Until then, take care!

Chapter 18: The Trouble with Coincidences
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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. I own only my OCs,

Chapter Eighteen The Trouble with Coincidences

It was during the hour after dinner that Hermione decided to go for a walk. She had been feeling restless all day and was unable to gather her thoughts into coherent thread despite her almost frantic efforts to do so.

The castle halls were entirely quiet, seemingly bewitched by the starkness and solemnity of winter. Hermione wondered if it had anything to do with the Dementors lurking in Hogsmeade.

Without meaning to, she shuddered and tucked her hands into the pockets of her robes.

Things weren’t going well. Not well at all. Her class schedule was becoming impossible to deal with, even with the aid of the Time-Turner, and Ron was acting unusually cranky, blaming Scabbers’s ill health on Crookshanks presence.

And then there was the threat of Sirius Black. Harry’s attitude towards the escaped convict terrified her. He was so determined to avenge his parents’ death and she knew he was infamously irrational when angry.

A muted sigh parted her lips and she blinked her eyes, which had begun to tear. Truly, she felt as though she had no one to turn to. Ginny was much too young to rely on for sound advice and the rest of the girls in her year were annoyingly silly. She couldn’t imagine them taking her problems seriously.

Hermione briefly contemplated writing a letter home to Mum, but then again, she didn’t want to worry her mother with all the chaotic going-ons of school life. Her parents fretted enough with her away at a strange place called Hogwarts, and she couldn’t stand to excite their concerns further.

All in all, Hermione realized that she was totally alone.

The thought made her want to cry, but she wasn’t childish enough to start sobbing like a baby. Instead, she clenched her jaw and climbed the staircase, ending up somewhere by the Hospital Wing.

The torches cast eerie long shadows against the walls and she watched the patterns they formed when joined with the cracks in the stone.

Her worries, of course, weren’t limited to her friends and schoolwork. Ever since the Halloween feast, she had been filled with nagging suspicions. At first, she had put it down to paranoia, although it wasn’t in her nature to be mistrustful. Rather, she thought herself discerning and observant, although lately her attentiveness had caused her trouble.

All of Hogwarts seemed preoccupied with a sort of hidden hysteria and accusations were masked behind cautious glances.

Everyone had secrets. Everyone. And one person in particular was not especially good at hiding them.

Professor Fotherby.

Hermione liked her, liked her very much, but she couldn’t help wondering after her curious nature. The teacher seemed increasingly nervous and rundown and often, during lectures, she would find herself staring at Fotherby with confusion.

What was she hiding?

She hoped it was nothing sinister. It couldn’t be. Fotherby wasn’t a sinister sort of person.

But then again, she had been friends with Quirrell. And she had been absent at the Halloween feast when Sirius Black had broken in.

The coincidences didn’t entirely add up, but still, Hermione felt her skin prickle with fear as she remembered how she had seen Fotherby dozing fitfully in the library and had overheard her talking desperately to McGonagall.

What could be wrong with her?

Hermione did not like mysteries.

She stopped and leaned against the wall opposite the door to the Hospital Wing.

Everything was quiet, quiet…then….

She heard a clatter within the infirmary, a noise too frantic to have come from the purposeful movements of Madam Pomfrey or a bedridden patient.

And Hermione was curious.

Carefully, she tiptoed across the hall and ducked within the shadow of the door to the infirmary. There was only a single candle lit within and it made the empty beds look like reposing skeletons.

Another chill touched her spine.

There was a figure by the cabinets, a figure garbed in robes much more elaborate than the typical, everyday wear of the students.

The person was searching through Madam Pomfrey’s jars and potions, lifting one into the light and then setting it down with a disgusted sigh.

Glass jars glinted sharply in the glow from the candle. It took a moment before Hermione realized exactly what the person was doing.

Stealing. 

It happened quickly. Madam Pomfrey came out from one of the adjoining rooms and entered the infirmary.

The figure by the cabinets stealthily hid one of jars in the folds of his or her robes and then took a nervous step backwards.

“Ah, professor,” Pomfrey said. “Can I help you with something?”

Hermione did not hear the person respond. She had stepped back across the hall in shock.

It couldn’t be!

After a moment, the door to the Hospital Wing swung shut and out into the corridor came none other than Professor Fotherby herself.









Increasingly, Freddy found herself more beholden to instinct and less to reason. It was as if her body had rebelled against her mind, turning her into a helpless puppet bound by tight, unforgiving strings.

Her very flesh was rejecting her spirit.

By all means, she should have gone to the Hospital Wing straight after exiting the pensieve. But even as she moved down the staircase to the infirmary, her lungs seemingly torn open and begging for air, Freddy began to second-guess herself.

It’s probably just a panic attack, she thought and forced her steps to slow. Madam Pomfrey will laugh at me and tell me to take a shot of whiskey. And…and by morning the entire staff will know that I’m falling apart…falling

No, she had to keep herself together, even if her insides were crumbling, even if some spiritual disease was rotting her organs.

She wouldn’t let them see how weak she was, how vulnerable.

Because…because she had been vulnerable once. And stupid. And they would all find out…

Before she knew it, Freddy had arrived outside the Hospital Wing. She didn’t really want to go inside, but in peeking around the door, she noticed the room to be empty. No patients dosed fitfully in the narrow beds.

Madam Pomfrey must be in her office.

Well, as long as she was here, it wouldn’t hurt to look for something to help her breathing. It didn’t occur to Freddy until later that she was stealing. Rather, she reverted back to the innocence of childhood, remembering how her Mam had been quite a potion brewer and had made her elixirs from the fresh herbs she grew in the vegetable garden. Freddy was always nicking something from her stores, harmless things of course, to feed to the cows to see if it would make them fly.

She didn’t see the difference now, in going through Madam Pomfrey’s stores.

A quick look and that was all.

Checking the infirmary once more for occupants, she ducked within and skirted around the edge of the candlelight.

Madam Pomfrey’s cabinets were in the far corner and she went through the bottom drawers first, where the school’s healer kept the simplest of potions, pepperup and infused honey for sore throats.

She recalled enough from her Mam’s stores to tell the jars apart by color and smell. After a few minutes of rummaging, she found a thick, royal blue liquid in a tightly corked vial. It was commonly used for asthmatics.

But Freddy didn’t have asthma, she had…

And then Madam Pomfrey came out of her office.

It was sudden, oh so sudden and Freddy jerked away from the cabinets, palming the vial.

“Oh, professor.” Pomfrey smiled, crow’s feet making her eyes look tired. “Can I help you with something?”

Lie. Lie. LIE. 

“Umm, you know,” Freddy panted nervously, “I have such a migraine and I just can’t get rid of it. I thought maybe I’d dash down here and see if you had anything on hand.”

Pomfrey nodded sympathetically, her white cap slipping forward on her nest of grey hair. “Not on hand, no, but I can make you a poultice if you’ll wait a minute.”

“Oh, I don’t want to put you through all that trouble.”

“It’s no trouble at all, really-”

“No, I’d really hate to bother you. I’ll go lay down and if it doesn’t go away…I’ll…uh come back.”

Despite her generally nurturing nature, Pomfrey seemed relieved that Freddy wasn’t bothering her for a silly poultice.

“If you are certain,” she said.

“Definitely.” Freddy smiled once, a tight, shaky grin and then hurried from the Hospital Wing.

The vial she dropped into her pocket.

Stupid, she thought of herself. I’m so stupid, so very useless…

A short figure stepped out into the corridor and planted itself directly in front of Freddy.

“Professor!” a slightly shrill voice exclaimed.

Freddy stopped dead in her tracks, a horrible sinking feeling making her stomach threaten to revolt.

It was Hermione Granger.

And the girl had seen her!

“Hermione,” Freddy said slowly, closing her eyes for an instant against her shame. “Shouldn’t you be in the Gryffindor Tower by now?”

“Curfew is not for another half hour,” Hermione replied firmly.

Freddy thought the girl look terrified. But terrified of what?

There was only one way to find out.

Carefully, Freddy extended her mind as she had learned to so many years ago and began to probe Hermione’s thoughts.

Even Professor Snape said I had a talent for Legilimency.

But oh, she hated to use it.

Only mistrustful people practiced Occlumency and Legilimency. And she was not so paranoid. Or was she?

Hermione’s thoughts did not lie. She saw flashes of the child’s suspicion interspaced with the dark threat of Sirius Black. And, in all honesty, Freddy knew her behavior had been less than innocent.

Two and two were dreadfully easy to put together.

“Oh Hermione,” Freddy sighed, sinking against the corridor wall between two dozing paintings. “I’m so sorry.”

Hermione flushed. “Professor, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re a good friend to Harry. It’s only natural that you would think me capable of hurting him.”

For the first time in many months, Freddy was being truthful with herself. Her taint, although hidden, was not entirely washed away.

“I never suspected you.” Hermione looked close to tears now and she turned her face away quickly, hiding behind her bushy hair.

“You did and it’s perfectly all right. I understand. Professor Quirrell, he…he betrayed so many of us.”

How to explain this? Freddy didn’t know. But perhaps she could show Hermione.

“Do you have time to come to my office?” she asked softly. “I have something I’d like to show you.”

Hermione looked torn, embarrassed by her own suspicious, no doubt and still frightened.

At length, she swallowed hard and nodded.

“Of course I’ll come.”

“Good.” Finally, Freddy felt a surge of relief. She might not be able to explain her nightmares to herself, but perhaps she could at least earn the trust of one student.

It would mean the world to her if she was trusted again.

Freddy led Hermione to her office on the first floor and as they walked, she noticed her breathing slowly begin to even.

Probably a panic attack after all, she thought grimly, pushing the door to her classroom open.

The firelight from her office filtered into the darkened room and Freddy maneuvered her way around the empty desks with a somber Hermione on her heels. Once inside, she showed the girl the pensieve sitting serenely on her desk.

“Do you know what this is?”

Hermione screwed up her face, curiosity now taking over confusion. “I think so. Is it a pensieve? I’ve read about them. Did you find this one on your travels? It certainly looks old.”

“No.” Freddy touched the edge of the runic bowl with delicate fingers. “This one belongs to Professor Dumbledore. He lent it to me, you see. I’ve been…well, I’ve been suffering from nightmares for quite some time. I thought this might help me sort through them, although I haven’t made much progress so far.”

“Nightmares?” Hermione’s eyes widened.

Freddy could almost see the gears clicking in the girl’s feverish mind.

“You…professor, I saw you reading a Divination book, it was on your desk one afternoon. I’m not trying to be nosy, I just…” Hermione trailed off and stared at the pensieve.

“Yes, I was reading a Divination book, several in fact. They too, however, were not much help.”

Hermione’s head suddenly snapped up. “Professor, are you a Seer?”

Freddy glanced at her quickly, denial rising to her lips at once. “Not everyone believes in Seers.”

“I don’t, necessarily,” Hermione replied slowly. “But I’ll admit I don’t understand the whole process of divining.”

Freddy sighed. “And that’s where the trouble lies,” she said. “In order to be a clairvoyant, one must be able to successfully interpret the signs they divine. Otherwise, looking into the past or the present has no use. No, I’m not a Seer, Hermione. I can see, but I cannot comprehend.”

A flicker of emotion made Hermione’s face darken.

Freddy, for once in her life, knew what needed to be said.

Leaning over the desk, she braced her hands on the lip of it and reached her torso over the empty pensieve to look Hermione in the face.

“Hermione,” she said, “I would never do anything to hurt Harry.”

Hermione stayed silent for a time. At last, she lifted up her eyes and smiled faintly.

“I believe you.”

“I’m not asking you to, you have a right to be suspicious of me.”

“I know, but,” Hermione paused, ‘”I don’t want to be.”

“Thank you.” Raw sentiment coursed through Freddy, leaving her numb.

Hermione, clever witch that she was, seemed to sense her gratitude.

“Now it really is almost curfew,” she said lightly. “I better be off to Gryffindor Tower. Thanks for showing me the pensieve, Professor.”

“You’re welcome.”

Hermione was half-way out the door when Freddy called out to her.

“I almost forgot!” she said and from the top drawer in her desk, she pulled out a small paper back and tossed it to Hermione. “A few classes ago you told me you wanted to read more on the hauntings at the Muggle tuberculosis sanatoriums. I found this on my bookshelf.”

Hermione glanced once at the creased cover of the book and nodded in appreciation. “Thanks, Professor,” she said and hurried away through the dark classroom.








Author’s Note: Well, we’re getting to the rising action. The next chapter is IT, when all the big, exciting secrets are revealed. Hopefully, when you read it you’ll go “ah ha!” as opposed to “what?”.

This chapter has not yet been beta’d, so if you encountered some typos, it’s completely my fault, not RenFair’s. She’s been nothing but awesome.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read! I’m still in awe of all the fabulous and encouraging feedback I’ve received. We’re finally getting there. Yay! Chapter Nineteen should be posted no later than July 8th. I hope you have a great week!

Chapter 19: The Captain of All the Men of Death
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Unbelievably gorgeous chapter image by Violet @ TDA

Author’s Note: Well, here it is. The chapter. I’m so very, very nervous. I decided to keep the “revelation” to the point. No sense in drawing it out any longer, I’ve wasted 18 chapters and some 50,000 odd words building up to it. ;) So…*deep breath*…here goes.

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, I do own all OCs mentioned herein.


Chapter Nineteen The Captain of All The Men of Death

It wasn’t until three weeks later that Hermione finally found the time to read the book Professor Fotherby had lent her. She was sitting alone in the Great Hall on a Saturday, finishing up an early lunch. Harry had just left for Quidditch practice and Ron had sulkily returned to the Tower with the twins, still bent on blaming Crookshanks for Scabbers’s sudden disappearance.

For once, Hermione was glad that they had gone. She needed a break from the boys and wanted to read in peace without having to overhear their incessant comments and queries.

Pouring herself a fresh goblet of pumpkin juice, she settled down with her book at the far end of the Gryffindor table and began to read.

“When taking into consideration hospital hauntings, one must first be prepared to examine the collective state of the patient body at each facility. Since we are dealing with sanatoriums dedicated to the treatment of tuberculosis (specifically of the mycobacterium variety) an understanding of the disease is necessary. In it’s earliest stages, tuberculosis presents itself as…”

Hermione reached blindly over the table for her goblet, hearing the doors to the Hall opened. She sighed.

Hopefully it wasn’t Ron, back already. She really didn’t think she could handle him now.

Glancing up briefly, she spotted the Patil sisters chatting excitedly. Hermione recognized their enthusiastic breathy tones.

Gossip. 

She tried to turn her attention back to her book, but the girls were being obnoxiously loud.

“It’s just strange, anything that Madam Pomfrey can’t fix.”

“…no wonder. Ugh, St. Mungo’s.”

“Someone said dragon pox.”

“But there’s Hermione! Ask her. She’d know.”

Hermione cringed upon hearing her name. What now? She certainly wasn’t in the mood for mindless conjectures or discussing just who was snogging who. Gossip had gotten her into enough trouble already this year, what with her uncontrollable suspicions.

Nevertheless, she tilted her head back and stared at the Patil twins.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Hermione, aren’t you taking International Magic this term?” Parvati asked in her slightly Eastern-tinged accent. She dropped down on the bench beside her.

“Yes, among other things.” Hermione stuck her finger in the middle of the page, saving her place.

“You said it was International Magic, right?” Parvati poked Padma in the side.

“Well, it wasn’t precisely International Magic,” Padma huffed, tossing her long, dark braid over her shoulder. “Meg Carlisle is a teacher’s aid in that class, that’s what I meant.”

“Oh, Meg.” Hermione wanted to roll her eyes. Humph, it had been Meg’s wagging tongue that had increased her unfounded paranoia in the first place. “I know her…somewhat.”

“See!” Parvati looked thrilled. “You didn’t hear then? She collapsed in the Ravenclaw common room last night and had to be taken to St. Mungo’s. Padma was there, saw the whole thing.”

“Looked dreadful!” Padma clucked. “And we were just saying, it’s odd that Madam Pomfrey couldn’t treat her, isn’t it, Hermione? I wonder if it’s contagious. I hope not.”

“Dad says there hasn’t been a dragon pox outbreak at Hogwarts in thirty years, but imagine if we had one?”

“You shouldn’t even say that, Parvati!”

Hermione yawned and discreetly, turned back to her book. “Just because someone faints doesn’t necessarily mean they’re ill. Meg could’ve been exhausted, dehydrated. My cousin once fainted at my aunt’s wedding because she’d skipped breakfast.”

“But she certainly looked sick,” Padma interjected with a huff. “White as a bone. And she had a fever someone said. And…and the cough. Her dorm mates said she kept them up all night.”

“Sounds like the flu,” Hermione replied, idly flipping a page.

Padma frowned at her sister, obviously annoyed that Hermione had failed to take interest.

“I still think it’s dragon pox. To be safe, they ought to send us all to Hogsmeade until they’re certain.”

“Or quarantine all Ravenclaws,” Hermione suggested, hiding a grin behind her book.

The Patil sisters shared an identical look of offense. Taking the hint, they wandered away without another word.

Hermione shook her head. And Ravenclaws were supposed to be smart?

She returned her attention to her page, scanning over a few familiar sentences until she found her place again.

“In its earliest stages, tuberculosis presents itself in the form of a persistent cough followed by fever, a pronounced pallor, fatigue and weight loss.” 

No, she’d read that already, hadn’t she?

Hermione skipped down a few lines.

“Those at risk for the disease include communities with poor or limited medical care. Frequent travelers to high-risk areas have also been known to contract the disease, as an untreated consumptive can infect up to fifteen people a year.”

She put down the book. There was something of odd familiarity about the passage, but she couldn’t quite place it. Perhaps Professor Fotherby would understand. She was entirely acquainted with the study of tuberculosis in relation to her articles on the hauntings of Muggle sanatoriums. And she was a world traveler.

And she coughed constantly during lectures.

And she had lost weight.

And she sweated with fever.

And she was as white as a bone.

And Meg Carlisle, who had collapsed with similar symptoms, was her teacher’s aid.

The revelation hit Hermione with such a force that she jumped up, knocking over her goblet. The few students lingering in the Hall stared at her.

With some difficulty, she forced herself to sit back down. Here we go again, she thought with frantic amusement. I’m being so silly.

Coincidences, coincidences, what did they matter?

Nothing.

And everything.

But she was jumping to conclusions, like she had three weeks ago when she saw Fotherby sneaking into the Hospital Wing.

Sneaking into the Hospital Wing, looking for medicine! 

Surely, anyone could look through a medical book and find themselves sick with every illness imaginable.

Then why was she slipping off her bench? Why was she hurrying out the Hall, leaving her book bag behind along with several nosy students? And why was she in a sudden state of panic?

Because Meg Carlisle had tuberculosis and Professor Fotherby had given it to her.






It was one of those exceedingly strange days at the end of February, when the chill thawed just so to permit one enough hope for spring. A recent dry spell had left the grounds of Hogwarts snowless and several intrepid souls had wandered out as far as the greenhouses to catch the timid hint of warmer weather.

Freddy, being an old farm girl, simply had to go out of doors. Her sober mood was just suited for the strengthening air and although it was mercilessly windy, she made her way from the castle down a near-empty path to the lake. By all means, she probably should have stayed in bed. The potion she had pilfered from Madam Pomfrey’s stash had not worked wonders, although it had masked her cough somewhat.

She was dreadfully tired and frustrated with her pensieve work. As she had reported to the curious Headmaster last night, her progress was stunted. And even though she was grateful for the loan, she promised to return the runic bowl by Monday. It was simply taking up too much space in her office, mocking her with the futility of her fervent attempts to decipher her dreams.

Freddy was not a Seer. In fact, she was far from it. Trelawney could rant and rave all she liked, it didn’t matter. As she had told Hermione Granger three weeks ago, what good was a Seer who didn’t possess the knowledge to interpret what he or she saw?

Rubbish. She was rubbish, which was nothing new, really. Freddy was used to disappointment now.

A wild wind drove small, grey clouds across the sky. She watched their shadows glide over the lake. To her surprise, she wasn’t the only one brave enough to stroll by its mucky shores. There was a man standing nearby with his back to her, the hood of his cloak thrown back to reveal brown hair with several shocking streaks of grey.

Freddy slowed her step slightly, a half-smile making her lips twitch.

Remus Lupin.

Well, she’d been meaning to talk to him.

Casually, she stopped beside him and waited for him to take notice of her. A minute passed by. Lupin was looking towards the horizon, his eyes melancholy, but thoughtful.

Freddy grew impatient. She cleared her throat.

He jumped. “Oh goodness, Forbia, I did not see you there.”

“I came up rather quietly,” she admitted. “Didn’t want to scare you away.” A dry chuckle rasped in her throat. “So, how are things? I haven’t seen you around lately.”

She was trying to be civil. She ought to be, after he had practically carried her to her rooms after she had fainted.

“I’ve been busy. A student asked me for help with Patronus work.”

“Hmm, very advanced. Is it Hermione Granger?”

Lupin grinned, the worried wrinkles ceding from his face. “No. Someone else.”

“Students never ask me for help. I’m not a popular professor.” She had meant it as a joke, but Lupin seemed to see the truth engrained within.

“You’re much too hard on yourself.”

“I have to be.” Freddy shifted from one foot to the other, shivering. Hmm, perhaps the weather was not so mild as she had originally thought. However, she was still sweating a fair bit.

“Look at us,” Lupin commented, his voice trying for joviality, but not quite hitting the mark, “are we actually being polite?”

“Yes. It’s a phenomenon, I think. Perhaps we should report it to the Department of Mysteries?”

Lupin nodded with a weak laugh.

Freddy cringed. Humor had never exactly been her forte either and right now, she was just making things more awkward for both of them. Ah well, she might as well be straightforward.

“So, I just wanted to, umm, ask you about something. It’s been on my mind. I don’t know if you remember that day…when I was ill outside Dumbledore’s office and you helped me? Yeah. I was wondering, more or less, why you kept your promise. You really didn’t have to listen to me, in fact, it probably would have been smart to alert the other staff. That was a chance you took.”

“Are you trying to blackmail me now?”

Freddy’s eyes widened. Apparently Lupin was not good with humor either.

“You don’t have to answer.”

“No, I will.” Lupin shrugged his shoulders, pulling his worn cloak closer and high about his neck. “It’s simple, really. I know what it is like to keep a secret and when I saw you that day, the fear in your eyes was so akin to what I’ve felt for so many years. How could I not help you?”

Now Freddy was confused, though sense told her not to prod any further. She shut her mouth and accepted his explanation with good grace. “Well, thank you. I appreciate it.”

A moment of silence lingered long between them.

Freddy coughed quietly into her hand, her cheeks flushing. “I, ummm…”

Lupin turned to her. “Yes?”

“I…” Freddy mumbled, “You know, I just wanted to apologize for being, er, short with you. I’m not usually…well, I’ve sort of been…I’m sure you heard about Professor Quirrell. We were,” she paused and swallowed, not sure why she was divulging the darkest bits of her past to him. He was, however, a good listener, she decided, forcing herself to carry on. “We were engaged to be married, very briefly, very briefly. It was before, you know, anything had happened with him. Of course, it was broken off when things started to go bad. People tend to assume I had something to do with the whole, uh, Stone incident. I didn’t, though. And since then, it’s been hard for me…just so very hard.”

Freddy’s voice petered out and she looked up at him nervously, anticipating his judgment.

But Lupin’s face was neutral, if not sympathetic.

“Of course it would be,” he said. “And there is no need to apologize, really. I understand. I only wish I had been aware of the situation beforehand. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so callous.”

“You’re not callous,” Freddy assured him quickly. “At least, I don’t think you are.”

Lupin made a soft noise of indifference under his breath.

More silence.

Freddy watched the small waves break upon the lake’s shore.

“Sometimes,” she said, “sometimes I feel as though I’m…”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know. I have nightmares…all the time. I wonder if I’m…being consumed, wasting away, you know?”

Lupin said nothing, but slowly, reached his hand out to touch her shoulder. And in that instant, Freddy feared that the simple gesture meant something more and she pulled away.

Lupin didn’t seem offend by her withdrawal. He discreetly dropped his hand back to his side and glanced back at the castle.

“Ah,” he said lightly. “There’s Professor McGonagall. I think she’s waving at you.”

Freddy turned around and spotted the Deputy Headmistress tramping purposefully down the path, one hand clamped on her pointed hat to keep it from being knocked off her head by the wind.

“Forbia,” she called, “I’m glad I found you. There is some sort of uproar in the village. That Mr. Lias is besides himself over the Dementors. He wants to speak with a school official. Will you go to Hogsmeade and quiet him down?”

Freddy, for once, was glad for the distraction.

“Sure,” she said and then inexplicably, she turned to Lupin. “Will you come with me?”






It was an odd day that found Professor Trelawney sitting in the staffroom, reading over the weekend edition of The Quibbler. She wasn’t a great devotee of the paper, for the editor, Mr. Lovegood, who promoted the most suspicious and unfounded forms of magic, was rather dismissive of palmistry. Often, Trelawney had written him polite but firm letters correcting his editorials, although Mr. Lovegood never once published them.

Her Inner Eye was slumbering today, however and she knew better than to force it into a round of grueling Seeing.

She was halfway through the cover story when a worrisome pounding sounded on the staffroom door, followed by the clicking of the lock as it was subsequently thrust open.

“I’m sorry, so sorry, but is Professor Fotherby in here?” A familiar, bushy-haired third year spilled into the room, her face flushed, her chest heaving violently. “She wasn’t in her office, I didn’t know where else to try. Is she here?”

Trelawney turned in her chair, intrigued, but not shocked by Miss Granger’s entrance. Last night, she had divined an unusual visit from a student. This must be it.

“I’m afraid not, my dear,” she replied tactfully. “Is there something I might help you with?”

“Professor Trelawney?” The girl’s lips dipped down in a pained frown and she leaned upon the open door.

“Why, don’t look so disappointed.” Trelawney folded The Quibbler in half and pushed back her chair.

“No, I…I didn’t mean…” Hermione shook her head in frustration, strands of her hair sticking to her cheeks. “It’s just….I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do know. Your aura is pulsing my dear, pulsing! What is it? Out with it! Out!” Trelawney slapped the arm of her chair with an open palm.

Hermione jumped. “You’ll think I’m mad,” she mumbled miserably. “Maybe I am.”

But Trelawney was too curious to let the girl leave. “Come on now,” she prompted her again. “Let’s have it. Yes, perhaps you are mad. I cannot fairly judge until you tell me.”

Hermione stepped back, took a deep, unsteady breath and then let her words out in a rush. “I think Professor Fotherby is ill.”

“Ill?” Now Trelawney was standing. What was this about dear Forbia? She had been thinking of the poor girl recently, her dark, disturbing dreams of brooding buildings and bloody lungs…

For the first time in a long while, Trelawney felt a sense of shock freeze all of her limbs at once.

“I’m mad, I know it, but I just can’t help myself,” Hermione rambled on. “She has a certain set of symptoms and another student collapsed yesterday with the same symptoms and, and it’s probably a coincidence but it all fits together too well to be chance.”

Trelawney did not answer Hermione. Instead, she looked down at her hands, at the trailing lines that had carved her fortune into her flesh even before she was born.

Of course. Of course.

Dear Forbia, dear, dear Forbia. She had misinterpreted her dreams.

The dreams of the old building…a hospital.

The dreams of a failing body…her own.

It was not about Quirrell at all.

Trelawney stared at her hands and noticed that they were shaking.

“For the record, my dear,” she said slowly, “I do not think you are mad at all.”




Lupin didn’t know exactly why he had agreed to walk Fotherby down to Hogsmeade that day. It seemed like the polite thing to do, although he could not actively disguise his curiosity anymore.

There was too much of a mystery around this woman to encourage his indifference. As they approached the village, he continually ran over their previous encounters in his mind, volatile though they sometimes were.

Fotherby had spoken of secrets almost unknowingly. And she had behaved entirely strangely towards him, neither skittish of his lycanthropy nor open in acknowledging it. As it was, there were very few people Lupin knew who could deal so frankly with his condition.

But the fact was, Fotherby had never outright mentioned it at all.

Could it be possible, he wondered, that she doesn’t know I’m a werewolf?

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and was shocked when the sun darted from behind a cloud, rendering her face wretchedly pale and drawn.

No, Fotherby wasn’t a malicious person. She couldn’t be. Someone who had loved and lost and been betrayed such as she could be no stranger to suffering.

And it was then that he remembered. Fotherby had not been at the start of the term staff meeting, when Dumbledore had made the nature of Lupin’s condition clear to the other teachers.

She didn’t know, which meant she hadn’t insulted him that day outside the staffroom.

Lupin felt a strange mixture of relief and pity. He was relieved to discover that he did not have another enemy, but sorrowful for some unknown, unsettling reason.

The air, he decided, was vaguely tremulous that afternoon.

They passed the first of the houses clustered along the high street, including The Three Broomsticks and the Shrieking Shack.

Seeing the old, crumbling place of his early torment inspired Lupin somehow and he turned to face Fotherby fully.

“I’m a werewolf,” he said.

She stopped and stared at him, dark smudges making her eyes appear large and round. “Pardon?”

“I’m a werewolf. Dumbledore informed the rest of the staff during the start of the term meeting, but you weren’t there. We spoke of secrets and promises, now you know mine, now you know why I helped you that day.”

Her mouth formed a tiny ‘o’. “I suppose that explains a lot. I won’t lie and say that I’m not surprised, but…” She trailed off, shrugging.

Lupin was aghast. “It doesn’t bother you?”

Another shrug from her thin shoulders. “Not really. I appreciate your honesty more than anything, it’s more than he would have done, anyway.”

Quirrell, she was talking of Quirrell again. And Trelawney had predicted that he would be better for her than his successor.

Some commotion in the center of Hogsmeade distracted him. Lupin glanced over his shoulder, squinting his eyes. Mr. Lias, Madam Rosemerta and the shop keeper of Gladrags Wizardwear were all engaged in a rather animated discussion. Several other business owners hovered on the fringe of the uproar, gazing with frustration up at the turrets of Hogwarts.

An angry mob, he thought wryly. Perfect.

As it was, poor Forbia didn’t seem in any condition to deal with the disturbance, as McGonagall had hoped. Lupin knew he would have to help her.

Stepping forward, he approached the crowd with a calm smile.

Fotherby did not follow him.




She saw it in the owl office window. The poster, the same poster the two Ravenclaw girls had paraded around Hogwarts at Christmas, asking for donations.

The printing stood out with terrifying clarity.

SUPPORT THE YORKSHIRE WIZARDING SANATORIUM FOR CONSUMPTIVES

The sanatorium itself was made from imposing red brick, roughened by age and rain. Beneath the front entrance, the submerged first floor was altogether hidden behind a subterranean courtyard, strictly guarded by wrought iron bars. A squat, unattractive staircase led up to the entrance and the wooden double doors were scarred with heathenish graffiti. Inside, the wide main hall wound past a desk, a piece of abused cherry confiscated from an old school and burdened with blank day passes.

There was a picture beneath the lettering, a young healer, smiling, waving, pristine in a white coat.

And Freddy loved his smile, because he was so devilishly handsome. Brown eyes. Warm, smooth skin. A square, sculpted jaw.

She loved him because he was the only man who wasn’t afraid to come near her now.

He welcomed her into the examining room and made her hop up onto the table. The nurse listened to her heart with a stethoscope.

“I’m sorry, dear,” he said. “But you have a pleural effusion. We have a procedure for it, though, quite like pneumothorax. If you’ll just lie on your side, I can drain some of the fluid.”


And he took a needle out of the cabinet. “I can help you,” he said, “if you’ll just let me.” 

Consumption. Tuberculosis. An inner wasting. What she had, what her body had tried to tell her. Coughing, coughing, coughing.

And the wind keening like a wolf. 

She bent over, a sudden warmth in her mouth and in opening her lips, there was blood.

So much blood.

It spilled down her robes, into her hands. It came with every cough, with every throb of her infected lungs.

Because Freddy had tuberculosis. Because it hadn’t been Quirrell haunting her after all, but the captain of all men of death.

And she hadn’t been able to See it.

Vaguely, she heard Lupin calling out to her as crimson melded into darkness.



Author’s Note:
And there you have it. Freddy has tuberculosis (or, as I prefer, consumption). I’ve been planning this from chapter one, although I don’t know if you readers will be shocked by it or not. ^_^

The phrase “the captain of all the men of death” is an infamous pseudonym for consumption penned by John Bunyan when he wrote, “the captain of all these men of death that came against him to take him away was the consumption, for it was that that brought him down to the grave.”

I would like to thank everyone who has stuck with this story so far, including my beta, Renfair. I do hope this revelation wasn’t disappointing. If you have a spare moment, please leave a review. I would especially love to hear your thoughts on this chapter.

There will be a total of twenty-three chapters in this fic. Chapter Twenty has already been written and will be posted no later than July 13th. Take care!

Chapter 20: The Healer
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Lovely chapter image by hannah17 @ TDA

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Chapter Twenty The Healer

For a long while, Freddy could recall nothing but darkness. It was a simple, sightless state. Peaceful. Restoring.

She slept without knowing, without thinking.

And then the noises started. The sounds. Voices punctured her mind and formed thoughts.

“…we can’t wait.”

“I think it would be best…”

“Put the girl under.”

Freddy became aware of herself again, a self that was separate and apart from the treacherous body that had tried to reject her spirit. She wandered for a while through a forgotten dreamscape.

But then her path cleared and she decided at once that she must be in a trance the likes of which Trelawney had only described to her in vague phrases. Seers only rarely achieved such a state and Freddy felt highly unworthy of it.

Slowly opening her senses, she began to explore her surroundings.

She was standing by the gate of a cemetery and a very morbid place it was. The sky was yellow, the sun either setting or rising and there were shadows on the deep green grass. Old, marble headstones with a hint of darkness about them formed awkward hillocks that had to be traversed with care. The gate around the grounds was ancient in bearing, leaning in towards the slumbering dead. Red rust made the wrought iron bars ugly.

And despite the utter repulsiveness of the place, Freddy found herself intrigued. She knew the cemetery well, somehow and in knowing it she felt relieved…

It all made sense now. It all made sense.

Gladly, she entered through the gate to where the ground dipped down into a valley and followed a chalk path around the graves. The professor in her made her stop by the headstones and look for names. Surprisingly, they were all blank.

Oddly colored shades drifted over the lawn. Freddy felt her skin prickly. She wanted to sit for a while and found a spot by a princely-looking mausoleum. Damp moss cooled the fever that flushed her flesh. Her eyes fluttered.

How very peaceful it all was, how blessedly quiet.

But she was meant to be disturbed, touched by the hand of the dead that made her recoil into a nightmare.

She opened her eyes and saw him.

“About time you got here,” Quirrell muttered.

He was leaning lazily against one of the monuments, looking much as he did when they had first met, young, promising, sweet. He ran a hand over the back of his head as if to prove that he harbored no secrets and smiled at her.

“Hullo Freddy,” he said simply.

She pursed her lips in anger. “I hate you, just so you know.”

“I do.”

“I can’t believe you have the nerve to talk to me.”

His smile faded. “Please, Freddy.”

“Please, what?” She stood and brushed the mossy residue from the seat of her robes. “I’m in a right fine mess, thanks to you. Nightmares and all. Why couldn’t you have been a stronger man, Slatero?”

He grimaced and for an instant, she thought she saw the working of bones beneath his skin.

“Because I wasn’t made of the right stuff.”

“You’re simplifying your argument. Do you think I’m stupid?”

“No, you’re ten times smarter than me.”

“Humph.” She flipped her dark hair over her shoulder, as she had seen her Mam do many times when angry at Dad.

“Really.” Quirrell looked earnest and so obviously innocent that her heart clenched. “I know what you would have done in that Albanian forest. You would have walked away from him. I didn’t.”

“We were supposed to get married,” she whispered so that he wouldn’t hear the tears in her voice. Languidly, she raised her hand and brushed the mausoleum door behind her. It gave her an odd thrill and she relished in it, in understanding everything at once.

Quirrell somehow read her thoughts. “You always had a talent for Seeing.”

“But if I leave here then I’ll forget everything. That’s the way it works.” Freddy sighed. “I must be in a trance now. Trelawney said they were a lot like dying and when you came back, the pain was greater than anything…sorrow for knowledge lost. Only true Seers can hold onto a strand of what they learned.”

Quirrell cocked his head to the side. “I think you have a good chance.”

She humored him with a moody smile. “I suppose you must be here for some reason. What do you want? Forgiveness?”

“Not exactly.” He dared to approach her. “It’s killing you, wondering why I did what I did.”

“You’re going to tell me why then?” She was surprised to hear the hint of hope in her voice. True, she had been tormented by Quirrell’s betrayal, but would it really help her to understand now?

“I can’t,” he replied at length, “but only because my sin was a thing of uncertainty in itself, a choice that was made for me by another when I was weak. Had I known, I would have fought against it.”

Freddy stepped away from the mausoleum and closer to him. “That sounds like an excuse to me.”

“It’s not.” A tender hand touched her wrist. “I take responsibility for my faults. I was not smart like you, Freddy. I didn’t walk away.”

He was acknowledging his wrong, but was there peace to be found in it? She didn’t know. Time, perhaps, would tell.

“I miss you,” she said at last, allowing herself the tenderness of sentimentality and longing.

He slid his hand down to touch her fingers. “But that’s not where you’re heading next.”

“Then what is next?” she demanded, seeking comfort in the weight of his hand but finding little.

Quirrell’s eyes flickered with sympathy and quiet yearning.

“There,” he said, pointing over the cemetery to where the faint outline of a red brick building came into view.

No other words were needed, though Freddy wished her path lay elsewhere.

And into the not quite yellow sky there sprang a large, white-winged bird.











The first thing Freddy did when she woke up in St. Mungo’s was vomit. She’d never handled anesthetizing potions well, even when she was five and broke her pinky finger in a fall from the kitchen counter. Poor Mam had been up with her all night, changing the bed sheets nearly every hour. Two days had passed before Freddy could keep anything down at all.

This time, unfortunately, was no different. She threw her head to the side and retched up a mouthful of bile, her stomach screaming as her whole body convulsed with dry heaves.

Then someone touched her head.

“I take it you’re feeling better?”

The bile was siphoned off by a wand and she was given a draught of something cool and mint-flavored. Ten minutes later she was blinking up at the ceiling, her focus sharpening.

“Where am I?” Her voice was thin and moist. Someone dropped down into the chair next to her bed with a sigh.

“The 2nd Floor of St. Mungo’s in the Urquhart Rackharrow Ward. You’ve been here for five days.”

Freddy swallowed and experienced a dull spasm which radiated throughout her ribcage. She tried to take slow, measured breaths. “I can’t remember what happened.”

“That’s quite all right.” The soft hand lit upon her forehead once more. This time, Freddy followed it with her eyes, her glance finding a face at once so familiar and so utterly perplexing.

And Freddy loved his smile, because he was so devilishly handsome. Brown eyes. Warm, smooth skin. A square, sculpted jaw.

A sob rattled her already strained throat. “God, I’m dreaming again.”

The hand moved from her head and lightly grasped her arm. “Not at all,” the man said. “Breathe slowly, like this.” He demonstrated an exaggerated inhalation and exhalation.

Freddy tried to calm herself, feeling threatened by a pain that was both sharp and persistent.

“I know your face,” she said. “I saw it on a poster in Hogsmeade. You’re the healer from the sanatorium in Yorkshire.”

“I am,” the man replied with a slow nod. “Healer Calum Crane. I’m here to look after you.”

His words struck a cord within her. Freddy’s fingers tightened around the starched sheets. She felt extraordinarily emotional, as though her perception was amplified and every feeling produced a ponderous echo within her.

Healer Crane was so very handsome, she realized. Pale, blond and beautiful. And he was gentle.

Freddy returned her gaze to the ceiling. Everything seemed to be moving slow motion. It was torturous, really and she wanted to shake her head and rid herself of the fog.

Healer Crane seemed to understand. “Still groggy?”

“Ugh,” she struggled to reply.

“It’s to be expected,” he said softly, “you’ve been through--well, you’re going through a lot.”

“What’s wrong with me?” It seemed like a logic question to Freddy, even though she was ashamed for not knowing what exactly had brought her to St. Mungo’s in first place.

Healer Crane suddenly became very serious. “You have mycobacterium tuberculosis.”

She blinked her bleary eyes. “Huh…what?”

Healer Crane shifted in his chair. “Tuberculosis. Consumption. It’s an infectious disease that attacks the lungs, causing a chronic cough, night sweats, fever, exhaustion, weight loss and, in advanced stages, bloody sputum or the coughing up of blood. Hemorrhaging, we call it, and from what I can tell, you’ve had two so far.”

“This is something out of a bloody Victorian novel.”

“I wish. We’ve traced your case back to Madam Paulina, the witch you visited in New Orleans this summer. She had active tuberculosis when you met her and has since been diagnosed and treated. If we had known of your illness earlier, you might have been similarly cured. And if we had known…well, it would have been best.”

Freddy could hardly digest this information. “I thought it was the flu,” she bleated.

Crane smiled warmly. “Don’t worry, it isn’t your fault.”

“Can you treat me now?” Freddy suffered through a pang of panic, realizing just how weak she was.

Crane leaned forward in his chair and rested his forearms on his knees. “Yes, but I’m afraid the treatment will be more rigorous than it would have been had we caught it early. The disease is quite advanced, as is, and…and certain steps have been taken already to prevent it from spreading.”

Freddy did not like the tone of his voice. Steps? What steps? She struggled against the blankets which now seemed made of lead. “What have you done?” Her question came out as an accusation, although she hadn’t meant it so.

Crane moved one hand to her shoulder. “I know it’s hard, but try not to get excited. You’ve been under sedation for an extended period and we were only just able to remove the Oxygen Assistance Charm an hour ago. If possible, I want to keep you awake and breathing on your own.”

“All right,” Freddy replied, too scared to disagree.

“Your last hemorrhage,” Crane began slowly, “occurred in Hogsmeade village. I don’t know if you remember it, but by all means, it should have finished you off. Most consumptives don’t survive the second hemorrhage, especially when it’s so violent. Afterwards, you were rushed back the infirmary at Hogwarts and Madam Pomfrey--bless her heart--was able to stabilize you until the mediwizards arrived. You were then transported straight to St. Mungo’s and put in the care of Healer Strongwater, the chief of this ward. Once he established that you did in fact have tuberculosis, he summarily contacted me in Yorkshire and I Apparated to the hospital immediately. I examined you while consulting with Healer Strongwater and others on staff at the time. The decision was then made to take you straight into surgery.”

“Surgery?” Freddy echoed weakly. She felt the tears return to her eyes.

Crane frowned sympathetically. “It was for the best, believe me, Forbia. Your left lung…you see, it was destroyed, there was practically nothing there. The infection had ravaged it. I had to remove it.”

Freddy began to cry in earnest now, noticing, for the first time, the bandages on her chest. “You took out my lung?”

“Only because I had to,” he tried to assure her.

Freddy, however, would have none of it. She didn’t know exactly what to say in response to Healer Crane, so she wept instead. Long minutes dragged by and eventually she realized that crying brought pain and it was better to let the tears fall silently than to sob in agony.

Healer Crane must have known this too, for he let her slowly tire herself out.

“I’m sorry,” he said after she had finished, “but I cannot give you anything for the pain just yet.”

Freddy sniffed and shut her eyes. “I’m okay.”

“Would you like a moment longer?”

“No.”

Healer Crane’s lips twitched in a half-smile. “You’re being very brave about all this.”

Freddy wrinkled her nose and cocked an eyebrow. “I don’t have much of a choice, do I?” she replied, her tone the equivalent of a verbal shrug. “So what’s next? Can’t you just give me medicine? I thought TB was curable.”

“Yes,” Crane said, “and no. Sorry to be so conflicting, but it’s rather complicated. I’ll try to explain as best I can. Tuberculosis has been cured, both in Muggles and wizards. Doctors--Muggle healers, that is--use a combination of treatments over an extended period, the most common of which are isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol, and pyrazinamide. They make up the equivalent of our standard anti-phthisis pulmonalis potion. However, as in Muggles, mycobacterium tends to…adapt, for lack of a better phrase. We are only just seeing signs of treatment resistant tuberculosis in Muggles. In wizards, I’m afraid, the mutation is more advanced. A significant number of tuberculosis cases in wizards are becoming difficult to treat. In fact, my hospital in Yorkshire was established to care solely for such patients. You have this strain, Forbia and I’m sorry to say, it won’t be easy to cure.”

Freddy listened to Crane’s explanation and struggled to keep up a “brave” front, but fear was slowly gaining ground within her again. If she couldn’t be treated and cured right away, then what would happen to her? For all Crane’s confidence, she was frankly terrified.

“Then what are you going to do with me?” she asked, her heart beating a sharp cadence against her wounded ribs.

Crane sucked in his breath through his teeth, making a hissing sound. “I hate to be vague, but at this point, we’re playing a waiting game. You’ll stay on this ward for about another week and be observed. If you get enough rest and recover some strength, I’ll have you moved to my hospital in Yorkshire. If not, we’ll wait another week and see. Either way, I’m afraid you’re stuck with me.” He paused and laughed heartily. “Think of me as your personal healer for the time being.”

“So I won’t be able to leave St. Mungo’s and go back to teach at Hogwarts?” Freddy thought she knew the answer to her question already, but needed to have her fears confirmed.

Crane shook his head sadly. “Not for a few months, at least. You are no longer a danger to be around, but you’re still too ill to resume any type of physical activity.”

“A danger?” This she didn’t quite understand. “What do you mean by that?”

Crane’s brown eyes widened ever so slightly, as though he had said too much and realized it. “Well, tuberculosis is contagious if not properly treated.”

“Then I was contagious? For how long?”

“It’s difficult to say-”

“Did I infect anyone else?” Horror mounted within Freddy. If she was contagious, then she had posed a direct threat to all of the students and staff of Hogwarts. Cold dread left her nauseous once more.

“That’s not important right now,” Crane said soothingly, “you really need to rest.”

“Oh God!” Freddy muttered wildly. “Who did I infect?”

Crane hesitated, glancing up and down the nearly empty ward. “There were four,” he said at length. “Three students and a Hogsmeade villager.”

Freddy forced herself up on her elbows even as Crane gently tried to restrain her. “Who?”

“Oliver Lias,” Crane began and floundered on desperately while he clutched her shoulders. “Cass Roderick, Meg Carlisle and Hermione Granger.” 











Author’s Note: Only three more chapters left! Ah, I think I’m starting to feel some separation anxiety.

There are several things I want to mention, just because I’m a college student and I have an obsessive need to cite references. ;)

The drugs Healer Crane mentions (isoniazid, rifampicin, pyrazinamide and ethambutol) are indeed used for the short-term treatment of tuberculosis. Freddy, however, has multi-drug resistant TB and she will not respond to a regular course of treatment. Furthermore, I fictionalized her illness a bit to fit the HP universe, suggesting that wizards catch a strain of TB that is unique to them and also resistant to potions and magical treatments. Surgery is not common for patients with the normal strain of TB. Freddy, however, was very, very, very sick and the infection had destroyed her left lung, making a pneumonectomy necessary to remove infected tissue. Also, a patient who has had an entire lung removed would certainly not be as lucid as Freddy, but again, I put this down to wizarding medicine being somewhat more advanced when it comes to surgery. And lastly, the course of treatment proposed by Healer Crane is somewhat old-fashioned (example: a sanatorium stay) due to the fact that modern potions and magical medicines are futile when employed against her particular strain.

All right, I think that’s it. Thank you all so much for taking the time to read and review! You guys are awesome! I really cannot properly express my gratitude for all of your wonderful feedback. And also, I must thank my dedicated beta, Renfair, for her continued help and inspiration. Chapter Twenty-One should be posted no later than July 30th. Have a great week!

Chapter 21: Blame
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                                                    Lovely chapter image by Ayesha @ TDA



Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. All OCs mentioned herein belong to me.


Chapter Twenty-One Blame



Minerva McGonagall sank into the chair Professor Dumbledore conjured for her, removed her glasses and wiped them vigorously on her robes.

“It is all done, Headmaster,” she said wearily. “Every student and staff member has been tested by certified Healers, though I am sure the Prophet will devour a TB scare.”

Dumbledore steepled his fingers and pressed them to his chin, the tips becoming lost in his well-groomed, white beard. “The Prophet has bigger stories to cover, Minerva. I have already spoken with the school governors. They want to keep things quiet as well…avoid shifting the blame.” His eyes were keen behind his spectacles, flashing with subdued brilliance as light from the late afternoon sky slanted into his office.

There was a moment’s pause. McGonagall settled her glasses back onto her nose and rolled her stiff shoulders. Age was creeping up on her, she minded, making long days like this harder to bear. The horrible business of the Chamber of Secrets last year had started her thinking of retirement.

But no. She wasn’t a quitter. Hogwarts needed each and every one of its capable staff members at times of crisis.

“I have the results,” she said slowly. “ We were incredibly lucky. Only three students tested positive. Meg Carlisle, of course. Healer Crane has examined her. I spoke with him this morning. He says she’ll only need a brief stay at St. Mungo’s and a month’s worth of the anti-phthisis pulmonalis potion.”

“Healer Crane is the best in his field,” Dumbledore noted.

McGonagall thought he sounded encouraging, comforting. But why was he trying to soothe her? Certainly, she wasn’t sick.

Forbia was.

Lying in St. Mungo’s, nearly beyond help.

And for all of McGonagall’s steadfastness, she had not the stomach to face losing one of her favourite students.

She still thought of Forbia as that little girl with her hair in pigtails, her attention straying during Transfiguration as she drew pictures of cows in her notebook.

McGonagall blinked. Dumbledore was staring at the ceiling, giving her a precious moment to drive treacherous tears from her eyes.

She cleared her throat softly, signalling that she had recovered herself.

“The other two students are not showing signs of the illness,” she continued. “Healer Crane has assured me that Hermione Granger and Cass Roderick will be released from St. Mungo’s in the morning. They’ll have to take the potion, of course, but Crane thinks the infection must be latent.”

“There was also a Hogsmeade villager, wasn’t there?”

“Yes, Mr. Oliver Lias. His condition is much the same as Meg Carlisle’s; not quite so severe or dangerous as…” McGonagall trailed off.

“And here we come to the crux of the matter.” Dumbledore lowered his hands onto his lap. “Toffee, Minerva?” he offered. “I always find that the world looks much brighter after a sweet.”

“No thank you, Headmaster.”

“You wish to get right to it then? Very well. I’m awaiting a third party to discuss the matter. Ah.” He broke off as a knock sounded on the door. “Not a moment too soon. Come in, Sibyl!”

McGonagall twisted around in her chair as the door opened. In swept Professor Trelawney, looking somewhat subdued in a dark blue peasant skirt and jade bangles.

“Good afternoon, Headmaster,” she whispered. “Minerva.”

Curt nods were exchanged. McGonagall felt her neck crack as she faced forward once more. Dumbledore conjured a second chair for Trelawney and bade her sit.

“Perhaps it’s superfluous to note,” Trelawney drawled, “but I myself am clear. Dear Healer Crane told me so just an hour ago, although he needn’t have.”

“Perhaps you could have saved us all the time and worry then, Sibyl,” McGonagall muttered, “if your Inner Eye had told us who was infected from the start!”

“Minerva,” Dumbledore’s voice was uncharacteristically sharp.

“Only Forbia could have predicted her illness,” Trelawney added, the bangles on her arms jingling as she shifted in her chair. “She was close, I might add. Very close.”

“Forbia isn’t a Seer. She never was. You put thoughts in her head, made her believe in this nonsense!”

“I offered her my advice. I tried to help her. You ignored the problem, Minerva.”

“Professors,” Dumbledore said, his tone now raised and heavy with authority. “I think Healer Crane would happily tell you both that Professor Fotherby’s illness is no one’s fault. However, we must decide, is it our responsibility?”

The following silence was deafening. McGonagall knew exactly what the headmaster was asking of her, though she was loathe to answer.

“She cannot possibly teach now,” Trelawney said, giving voice to the concern they weighed in silence.

“We will need to find a…substitute for the time being,” McGonagall allowed, her hands clenching over her knees.

“You assume Professor Fotherby will be well enough to return to teaching,” Dumbledore replied evenly. “She may be forever disabled.”

“Albus.” For the first time in a long while, McGonagall found she could not look him in the eye. “Are we to let her go then?”

Dumbledore sat back in his chair. “That is why I asked you both here. We must discuss this frankly, but not without sensitivity. I do not deal in numbers and figures as the school governors do. Professor Fotherby is our colleague. Tell me, what prospects does she have beyond Hogwarts?”

“None,” Trelawney and McGonagall answered in unison.

“She does have a mother,” Sibyl mentioned.

“Their relationship is testy at best,” Minerva added.

“And I believe her father has passed.” Dumbledore looked thoughtful. “She will need to pay for some of her treatment. Does she have any savings at Gringotts?”

McGonagall and Trelawney both shook their heads.

“Forbia has some valuable artefacts she could sell, but…” McGonagall sighed. “I cannot see her managing without her teacher’s pay.”

“Then let us be hypothetical.” The headmaster rubbed his long fingers together and extracted a single toffee from the bowl by his right elbow. “Professor Fotherby receives treatment and makes a full recovery. Should she return to Hogwarts?”

McGonagall’s grey brows knitted together in confusion. “I would think that is a different matter entirely, Headmaster,” she said sternly. “Are you questioning Forbia’s health or her worth as a teacher?”

“We have little control over her health, I’m afraid,” Dumbledore replied, chewing over his toffee.

“Forbia is a good teacher,” Trelawney blurted out, her voice an octave higher than usual.

McGonagall watched as the Divination professor slid forward to the edge of her chair and was surprised to find a similar stirring within her.

“Her lectures could be improved,” she remarked. “But…I must agree with Sibyl. Forbia knows her subject. She is intelligent and takes an interest in her students. Just look at the rapport she developed with the Granger girl!”

Dumbledore chuckled lowly. “Her one-on-one approach has been quite successful, which, if I remember correctly, is why I hired her in the first place, along with the recommendation of two trusted staff members.” He gazed knowingly at McGonagall and Trelawney. “And let us not forget her loyalty to the school. Professor Fotherby was within the reach of darkness, and she spurned it. If anyone should ever be called an innocent, it would be her, and I do believe we could all gain from a measure of innocence and honesty. Do we agree, then?”

“Undoubtedly, Headmaster!” Trelawney breathed.

McGonagall, as always, was much more reserved. “She ought to stay at Hogwarts,” she said firmly.

Dumbledore smiled slightly. “Very well,” he said, reaching for another toffee. “Now if only the matter of her recovery were so simple.”






“Mum, please!” Hermione sank down deep against the pillows, shying away from Jane Granger’s touch.

“I only want to feel your forehead,” her mother replied, using the same nasal quip she employed when reminding her daughter of some forgotten chore. “You look a little flushed.”

“Mum, I’m fine! Daddy, won’t you tell her?” Hermione batted her mother’s hand away and scowled. If only Madam Pomfrey had allowed her stay in the Hospital Wing. She wasn’t even contagious! But despite her protests, Hermione had been transferred to a small room at St. Mungo’s for an overnight stay and a thorough examination by Healer Crane, the man in charge of the Hogwarts’ TB scare.

Supposedly, she had come down with a latent form of the disease, and from what Healer Crane had told her parents, it wasn’t dangerous at all. She’d be dosed with a preventive potion and sent back to school where Madam Pomfrey would keep an eye on her for a week or so.

Hermione herself couldn’t find any reason to be worried. Her parents, however, were a different matter.

“I don’t see why the school had to owl you,” she said stubbornly, watching as her mother fiddled nervously with her purse.

Although both her parents were doctors (dentists, actually) they seemed terribly out of place at the magical hospital. George Granger had initially been curious about the Healers in their lime-green robes, but was soon shocked out of his wits when he noticed a man with five legs limping down the hall. Jane, on the other hand, had made a bit of a fuss about taking her daughter to a proper Muggle hospital. She’d harassed Healer Crane for nearly an hour. Luckily, Crane was patient and tried his best to explain away Mrs. Granger’s fears.

Hermione herself was quite annoyed that her mother had gotten a hold of Crane’s ear for so long. She had been hoping to talk to the man privately and find out what she could of Professor Fotherby.

One of the junior Healers had mentioned surgery. The very notion made Hermione’s blood run cold.

“It’s getting late,” Hermione said hopefully, checking her watch. “You two should be heading home. I can’t sleep with anyone in my room, and I have an exam in Ancient Runes on Tuesday.”

“Are you mad? George, come talk to your daughter!” Mrs. Granger implored her husband who was staring rather faintly at the moving paintings on the walls.

“Dear, don’t upset your mother.”

“Daddy!”

“Pardon me? May I come in?” Healer Crane was standing in the open doorway, a clipboard and quill in his hand.

“Yes, doctor.” Mrs. Granger stood up quickly, her face immediately anxious.

Mr. Granger readily tore his eyes away from a picture of a storm-tossed ship.

“They’re called Healers, Mum,” Hermione noted through gritted teeth, flashing an apologetic smile at Crane.

He grinned in return. “Actually, your mum is quite right. I received a degree at Johns Hopkins. My colleagues called me crazy for spending so much time studying Muggle medicine, but it has paid off.”

“Johns Hopkins?” Mr. Granger’s brow creased. “I had a cousin who went there.”

Mrs. Granger stayed silent, though judging from the sudden widening of her eyes, Hermione guessed that she was impressed.

“Everything seems to be in order here,” Healer Crane said, stepping up to the foot of Hermione’s bed. He flipped through several pieces of parchment attached to the ledger. “No fever, no coughing. Excellent. You had your first dose of the potion?”

“An hour ago,” Hermione replied.

“Tasted horrid, didn’t it?” Crane grimaced in sympathy, his sharp eyes roving around the room and settling on the anxious Mrs. Granger. “You know, now that I’m here, I might as well have you folks sign Hermione’s release papers. She’s clear to go in the morning. If you’ll just step outside, one of the junior Healers will assist you.”

“Thank God,” Mrs. Granger sighed. “But you’re sure she isn’t holding out on us? The TB test did come back positive.”

Healer Crane laid his ledger on the table next to Hermione’s bed with a shake of his head. “I’m one hundred percent certain, Mrs. Granger, and I say that with the utmost confidence. I’ve treated nearly five thousand cases of active TB over the course of my career. Your daughter, most assuredly, does not have it.”

Mr. Granger put a comforting hand around his wife’s shoulders. “There now. All’s well. Let’s go have a look at those papers. I hope I can sign them with a ballpoint. Quills are a bother.”

They left the room arm and arm.

Hermione threw her head back and groaned. “Finally!”

“Give them time,” Crane replied, sitting in the chair Mrs. Granger had vacated. “They’re worried about you. All parents are like that.”

“Probably,” Hermione conceded. She realised then that she had the opportunity she had longed for. But was she brave enough to hear the truth about Professor Fotherby’s condition? And would Crane even reveal anything to her?

She decided to take a chance.

“Can I ask you something?” she said.

Healer Crane leaned forward slightly, resting his elbows on his knees. “Is it about Professor Fotherby?”

Hermione felt her jaw slacken. “How did you know?”

“She’s mentioned you several times.”

“She’s talking!”

Crane exhaled softly. “A bit too much. She’s worried about you, just like your parents.”

“Me?” Hermione squeaked. She was perfectly fine!

Healer Crane seemed to guess her thoughts. “You’re one of her favourite students, I think, though don’t tell your classmates I said that.”

“Oh.” Hermione stared at the white bed sheets that covered her legs. For some reason, she felt extraordinarily guilty.

She had suspected that Fotherby had let Sirius Black into the castle, and she had immediately connected her with Quirrell’s betrayal.

And she had failed…completely failed to discover her sickness until it was too late.

“I should have warned her,” she said under her breath, hoping that Crane wouldn’t hear the tears in her voice. “I was reading her articles on tuberculosis. If I had paid more attention-”

“Nonsense!”

Inwardly, Hermione cringed. Perhaps she shouldn’t have mentioned anything to Healer Crane about her guilty feelings. He was bound to be patronising, taking her for a silly, stupid girl.

“You think I’m being irrational,” Hermione replied, choking back emotion.

Healer Crane sighed, his features soft and sympathetic. “No, I understand. Did you hear me telling your parents how many TB cases I’ve treated? Five thousand. Now, I’m not tossing around numbers just to brag, but I want you to know that most of those people weren’t aware of their illness until they were diagnosed. I’ve spent most of my adult life studying tuberculosis, and still I find it incredibly evasive. You really shouldn’t put so much pressure on yourself, Hermione. You’re not responsible for Professor Fotherby’s health.”

Hermione nodded. She knew he was talking sense, but it didn’t matter. Professor Fotherby was sick, and she felt utterly helpless.

“Do you think,” she began slowly, “d’you think I could see her?”

Crane reached forward and patted her hand. “I’m sorry. No visitors. But I can take her a message, if you like. Do you have anything you want me to tell her?”

Hermione laid back on the pillows, suddenly exhausted. She had always been good with words. In grammar school, she’d received top marks on her compositions, and her teachers had always made her read them aloud to the rest of the class.

And now, she could think of nothing.

“Can you help her?” she asked instead.

Healer Crane was on his feet, tucking the ledger underneath his arm. “What’s that?”

“Can you help her? Umm, cure her, I mean.”

He smiled, though Hermione thought his expression was tight, unsure. “I’ll try.”





Author’s Note: Well, Hermione doesn’t get to completely clear her conscience. She’ll have to live with her guilt for a while. On the other hand, I hope you readers don’t kill me for only giving her a semi-happy ending. *ducks*

The next chapter will be the last one. I know, I know, I said three more chapters last time, but I’m forever editing and changing things around. However, I am happy to report that things are moving along splendidly for the sequel “Breathless”. Last night, I sat down and plotted the first half of it and the ideas just keep coming. It won’t be quite as long as “Consumed” (maybe 15 chapters?) but there will be much more romance, new OCs and, of course, more with Freddy.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Ah, I seriously feel like the luckiest fanfic writer in the world. You guys rock! And of course, I cannot forget to thank my amazing beta, Renfair.

Chapter Twenty-Two should be posted no later than the 15th of August. I hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Chapter 22: The Path Out Of The Woods
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Gorgeous chapter image by the talented MrsLovett @ TDA


Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein belong to me.

Consumed Chapter Twenty-Two The Path Out Of The Woods


The second week Freddy spent at St. Mungo’s was a great deal different from the first. Unlike the first, she was conscious for most of it, although these days she had trouble discerning sleep from wakefulness. Often, she would doze off sometime in the afternoon and be roused an hour later by a healer come to change her bandages. The passage of time seemed slowed in the recovery ward. Dawn easily became sunset and the pale, yellow walls surrounding her bed masked the change from day to night.

Although Freddy had a room to herself, she was not lucky enough to have a window. And for some strange reason, her attending healers didn’t seem concerned with the time. Whenever she asked them the hour, they brushed her off politely with the same, tired phrase.

“Just rest, dear. That’s all that matters now.”

Well bugger rest. Freddy had never liked staying in one place too long and soon, she was able to feel the individual springs supporting her mattress. They dug into her back constantly and made her feel grumpy even after she was administered a pain-killing potion.

Visitors were still strictly forbidden and Freddy had only one person to complain to.

Healer Crane.

It seemed as though he never left her bedside. Whenever she woke from a nap, she would see him sitting there, consulting her chart or instructing a junior healer in the proper dosage of a potion.

“Don’t you have other patients to look after?” she asked him ten days after her admittance, when she was feeling particularly unforgiving.

“A whole sanatorium full,” he told her lightly, once more lifting back the sheets that covered her to press a stethoscope to her chest. “Breathe in for me. Hmm, I still hear some rasping.”

“You spend an awful lot of time here,” Freddy remarked.

“Didn’t you hear? You’re my star patient. I haven’t had a case like this in ages. It’s been mostly cut and dry lately. You’re my first pneumonectomy in three years.”

Freddy grumbled, disguising her fear with annoyance. She wasn’t going home anytime soon, that much was clear. It wasn’t until the end of her second week in St. Mungo’s that Crane started to discuss the future.

“You’re doing much better!” he said excitedly, leafing through her chart. “I think it’s time that we consider moving you to the sanatorium, Forbia. I daresay you’ve had enough of this ward.”

“Quite.” Freddy gazed at the low ceiling, her vision slightly blurred from her latest dose of a blood-replenishing potion. “What, ummm, what exactly is the sanatorium like?”

It was a stupid question. She knew exactly what the sanatorium was like. Her dreams had been all too telling. Closing her eyes, she could see the imposing red brick building and the smaller, outlying pavilions that gave the place the look of a tiny town.

“State of the art. You’ll be very comfortable there, I promise,” he replied.

Although she had only known him a short while, Freddy began to sense that Crane was the perfect sort of caregiver. It seemed as though he was truly concerned about her welfare, and during her less prickly moments, she appreciated his tireless efforts to cure her.

But still, she did not want to go to his sanatorium.

St. Mungo’s was bad enough. She couldn’t imagine being confined to another hospital for so long. Crane had spoken only of vague figures of times. She was looking at nine months, at the very least.

I can’t complain, she noted, whenever melancholy struck. Healer Crane was keeping her very comfortable. In fact, she had not felt quite so well in many months. It didn’t occur to her, however, that her body was perilously weak, flooded with potions to ensure its stability.

Delusion sufficed where truth floundered.

Once she managed to keep solid food down, Crane finally permitted her to have visitors. Freddy took this as a sign of her recovery and returning strength.

Her mother came first, of course. Freddy was surprised to see Finella Fotherby, a woman whose intolerance for illness had led her husband to disguise his own terminal cancer from her until the day he died.

“Mam!” Freddy gasped when she entered the room.

Mrs. Fotherby had just Floo’d in from Glasgow, where she had been staying with one of Freddy’s great-aunt’s.

“Forbia, dear child,” she said faintly, sidling across the room and lowering herself gingerly onto a chair next to the bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Er…you know, all right.” Freddy tried to prop herself up on her pillows, but failed.

Mrs. Fotherby ran her fingers over her eyes. When she removed them, her face looked tired, crow’s feet drawing out her pinched brows. “It’s always something. You have your father in you. He never took care of himself. Healer Crane told me you’ve been sick since September.”

“Umm, I haven’t really done the math, Mam.”

“You’ve lost weight too. And the lung. God.”

“Mam, it’s all right.” Freddy felt a familiar stirring of impatience. Mam always made things worse. And Dad, good old Dad was the exact opposite. He never let a thing bother him.

“This is not the flu.”

“I know.”

“We’re going to have to get you better.”

“I know.”

“Healer Crane says his moving you to his sanatorium.”

“I don’t want to go, Mam.”

Mrs. Fotherby stared at her. “What?”

Freddy shrugged, which was rather difficult to do lying flat on her back. “I’ve had dreams about it.”

“Not again.”

“I think I would be better off on my own, I always have been.”

“Are you crazy? Forbia, you might have died.”

“I’m not arguing with you, Mam.” Freddy fisted her hands in the sheets.

“Well, you don’t have a choice.” Mrs. Fotherby’s lilting Scottish accent turned hard.

“I’m not five anymore. You can’t make me cut my hair if I don’t want to,” Freddy retorted hotly.

And all at once, meaningless childhood battles floated to the surface.

“I made you cut your hair when you were five because you refused to brush it,” Mrs. Fotherby said. “It was nothing but mats!”

“You never let me take care of myself.”

“Forbia, you are going to the sanatorium.”

“Whatever. I’m so glad you came to visit.”

Mrs. Fotherby was filled with righteous anger and she sat up straight in her chair, her rosy skin blanching. “I’ve cried myself to sleep every night over you. Do you know how worried I was?”

“I appreciate the concern,” Freddy threw back at her, grimacing as she coughed slightly. “But you still can’t tell me what to do.”

“You always have to have the last word. Always.”

“Because I can’t rely on you for anything!”

Freddy assumed her raised voice must have brought Healer Crane into her room. Either that, or he was a bit of a Seer himself.

“I feel like such an incredible villain,” he said with a charming laugh, “but I’m going to have to cut this visit short. Forbia, I need to examine you again. I’m worried about scar tissue.”

Mrs. Fotherby accepted his judgment readily and without complaint. She had always been beholden to authority figures.

“Good riddance,” Freddy muttered after her mother had left the room.

“You don’t really mean that,” Crane said as gently as possible.

“Ha ha!” Freddy replied sourly. “I must certainly do.”

Her next visitors were considerably more agreeable.

Professors McGonagall and Trelawney both arrived first thing on Saturday morning, bearing with them gifts and well wishes from the entire staff at Hogwarts. There was a potted daisy (Freddy’s favorite) that Professor Sprout had charmed to stay in bloom all year round. Professor Flitwick, who was a talented knitter, sent her a pretty shawl. And perhaps the best gift of all came from the Headmaster, who sent her a kind-hearted letter assuring her that the post of Professor of International Magic was still her own.

Freddy cried after reading his note and profusely thanked both McGonagall and Trelawney, whom she knew had to have been instrumental in keeping her employed.

“How did you manage this?” she babbled on, rereading Dumbledore’s letter for the tenth time.

McGonagall looked down her nose through her spectacles. “Do not look a gift horse in the mouth,” she said evenly, although Freddy thought she detected a hint of emotion on the old professor’s face.

Trelawney was much more forthcoming. “It’s no surprise to me that Albus wants to keep you on,” she said, looking a great deal like a glittery butterfly as she arranged her silk Chinese shawl about her shoulders. “I had long ago predicted that you would remain at Hogwarts until the age of fifty, when you will at last depart to open a Muggle sporting goods store.”

“Lovely,” Freddy replied. She decided to stick with McGonagall’s advice and not question her luck, although she was curious as to what interest she might have in Muggle sporting goods.

With the matter of her employment settled, Freddy returned to begging her colleagues for any bit of news from Hogwarts.

McGonagall was reticent. “Both Hermione Granger and Cass Roderick returned to class this week,” she said, “so I would not worry too much after their health if I were you. Meg Carlisle has been transferred to the Hospital Wing. I expect she’ll be there for a month or so, although Madam Pomfrey says she coming along splendidly.”

“Their parents must want my head,” Freddy mumbled, turning her somewhat misty gaze over to Sprout’s daisy which sat on the nightstand. She was still experiencing a great deal of guilt for having infected her students and the incident had only furthered her opinion of herself as a walking disaster zone.

“Heavens, no!” Trelawney leaned forward to pat her on the head like a lapdog. “The Headmaster did not reveal you as the source of infection, Healer Crane urged him not to. Something about undo trauma and stress, I believe.”

Freddy frowned thoughtfully. “And here I thought Crane would want my name in all the papers. He says I’m his star patient.”

“Nonsense.” McGonagall was frank as always. “You’re not a trophy, after all.”

Freddy was much relieved after her chat with the two professors. They both had a way of assuaging her fears and directing her mind away from the dreaded inevitability of Crane’s sanatorium. It was only after they left that she felt herself sink back into depression.

So this is what her life would be like for the next few months. People would come and go, while she would be bound to her bed, unable to follow them.

The notion made her ill, so ill that she had a slight hemorrhage that sent nearly every healer in the ward rushing to her room. The setback banished any other visitors from her room for another torturous three days. This time, Freddy was unable to keep her mood from turning black.

Healer Crane tried his best to cheer her.

“You’re going to hate me for saying this,” he said on Tuesday morning after breakfast, “but optimism is important.”

“I want to get better!” Freddy croaked indignantly, angry that he would question her ability to fight her sickness.

Crane looked at her with a mixture of amusement and concern. His steady gaze made Freddy flush. She wasn’t used to such complete and unwavering attention from a man. The last time anyone had been so involved in her life, she had gotten engaged. And that, of course, had not turned out so well.

On Wednesday, after much pleading on Freddy’s part, she was permitted visitors again. Sometime in the evening, while Healer Crane was administering a dose of the anti-phthisis pulmonalis potion, Remus Lupin was shown into her room by a junior healer.

He stood in the doorway with a bouquet of two red carnations, his robes looking all the more shabby next to the sleek and handsome Crane.

“Hello,” he said sheepishly. “May I come in?”

Crane looked once at Freddy and then doubtfully back at Lupin. “Oh, I suppose,” he said lightly, “but visiting hours are almost over.”

“I won’t stay long,” Lupin assured him.

Crane left them alone.

Freddy gaped at her visitor and only then realized, with a good deal of embarrassment, that her hair was hanging in two messy pigtails.

Lupin, who looked pale and peaky as ever, didn’t seem to mind.

“Surprised to see me?” he asked.

“I’ll say!” She wriggled around in her bed, trying to sit upright.

Lupin sat in the chair beside her and put the two carnations on her nightstand. “Do you want me here?”

“Yes!” Freddy said eagerly. “We were having a rather good conversation last I remember. Unfortunately, it was cut short. God, isn’t this so ridiculous?”

Lupin raised his brows. “Sorry, I don’t follow.”

Freddy gestured at her chest. “My bad lungs, I mean. Who would have thought?”

He laughed awkwardly. “Well, all the best people have bad chests.” [1]

“Or are werewolves.”

“Oh, so you remember that.” His white skin colored a bit. “I thought you might have forgotten, what with all the chaos since then.”

Freddy smiled at him. “Well, I can forget it…if you want me to.”

Lupin laid his hands palm-up on his knees. “I don’t think you should, it’s rather allegorical, even though tuberculosis doesn’t turn you into a ravaging beast once a month.”

“Mmm, I would like to have both my lungs though.”

The sentiment struck them both cold for a instant and they fell silent.

Freddy allowed herself a long look at Lupin. If anyone knew the terror of being isolated, of being contained and quarantined, it would be him. And although she hated to expose her fears to him, she was in desperate need of comfort.

“They’re shipping me off to a sanatorium, you know,” she said slowly. The words pained her and her senses were flooded with reminders from her dreams.

Even now, she could smell the stale steam rising from the clanging pipes that formed the skeleton of the place. Long hallways. Coughing in the night. Entrapment.

Her vision ended when Lupin lightly touched her hand with his.

“It’s not a pleasant prospect,” he said.

Freddy felt a sudden wave of relief. So he did understand! “Everyone expects me to take my medicine without complaint,” she said. “They think I should be grateful. Am I so wrong for not wanting to go?”

“I don’t think so.” Hesitantly, Lupin lifted his hand from hers and deposited it back on his lap. “I would be frightened as well. Unfortunately, there is no alternative I can offer you. There are times in life when only one path leads out of the woods, not two.”

“If only philosophy was less cerebral and more emotional,” Freddy muttered, wrinkling her nose. “I’m going to have to relive my nightmares with no promise of awaking to find myself safe in bed.”

Lupin gazed at her sadly. “But it doesn’t have to be the same as in your dreams.”

“How so?”

“Well.” Lupin shifted awkwardly in his chair. “In your dreams you were alone, yes? It needn’t be so. I can write to you. I’ve been told that my letters are rather boring, but I rather enjoy friendly correspondence. And I’ll visit you, of course.”

“You’d do that?” Freddy asked him, half-fearing that he would realize what he was promising her and withdraw his offer.

“Yes,” he said plainly. “Yes, I will.”

Freddy was forced to cover her sudden tears with a cough. Lupin wisely looked away as she dried her eyes on her bed sheets.

“There was something else I was meaning to tell you,” she said after she had collected herself. “It’s about Quirrell…Slatero.”

Lupin nodded. “I would never judge him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“No, not at all.” Freddy took one of the carnations from the nightstand and fingered it’s petals. “I was thinking…the dreams…could he have been trying to warn me?”

Lupin raised his eyebrows once more. “It’s entirely possible, but if I remember my Divination lessons from third year, isn’t it up to the Seer’s interpretation?”

“Mostly.” Freddy pressed the carnation to her nose. “I’d like to think that he was in fact trying to help me, trying to make up for what he did. He never will entirely.”

“But he can try,” Lupin added.

Freddy was about to reply when Healer Crane’s shadow fell through the open door. Visiting hours were over.






The healers at the Yorkshire Wizarding Sanatorium for Consumptives entered March with a flurry of activity. Five patients hemorrhaged on the night of the fifteenth and two passed away during the following week. On the sixteenth, three were released in good health to the care of their families, freeing up much needed bed space. Surprisingly, however, the sanatorium received only one new patient that month. Her name was Forbia Fotherby and she was a Professor at Hogwarts.

The End. 




Author’s Note: *cries* It’s over!!! I can’t believe it. Honestly, I never, never thought I’d finish this story…but here we are.

Thank you all so much for being so supportive throughout this long journey. This story would not exist without you, my fabulous readers and reviewers.

I also must thank my incredible beta, Renfair. She offered to help me with this fic when it was a puny plot bunny and since then, has helped carry it to the finish line.

And I have good news! The sequel to this fic “Breathless” is in the works and should be posted soon. All the loose ends that weren't tied up in this chapter (ie Mr. Lias and his relationship with Freddy) while be carried on in the next story.  I have to update several of my other WIPs, but the first chapter will be up in the few weeks.

Well, this is it, the end. Goodbye for now, everyone! I’ll be back in no time. ^_^

[1] This line was taken from the film "Heavenly Creatures" directed by Peter Jackson, screenplay by Fran Walsh and Jackson.

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