Cordelia and Randy entered the Great Hall after the feast had already begun, calling the attention of the entire room. Randy looked as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and he hugged Cordelia thankfully before joining his fellow Ravenclaws who looked completely unsurprised to see him hug the attractive and rather friendly Slytherin. She remained popular within all houses except her own, in which she had but one friend.
Cordelia, on the other hand, looked the worse for wear. It seemed as if her entire happy journey on the train had never taken place, and the eyes once filled with a fierce pride and joy swam and overflowed with the black mark of death. Silently, she took her seat next to her classmates, smiling wanly at her dear friend, Kacie. Professor Dumbledore gave her a look which clearly said, “See me in my office after dinner”, and she nodded, filling her plate with the delicious food. However, her stomach churned at the smell and she pushed it away, furrowing her brow in worry.
“You okay?” Kacie asked, staring with concern at her friend. “You look completely wretched.” Her blunt words ordinarily provoked a smile from Cordelia, but she acted as if she hadn’t even heard; which she really hadn’t. Her mind swarmed with a million thoughts and memories that did not belong entirely to her, and her heart sank with each new one that played across her view. “I take it you’re in one of your moods.” Saying nothing more, Kacie returned to eating her roast beef, knowing her friend would be completely fine in a day or two.
Dinner ended eventually, and as the last of the food and deserts disappeared from the table, leaving the dishes completely spotless, Dumbledore rose from his place at the staff table, clapping his hands needlessly. The students instantly fell silent, those that had been talking, and all awaited his traditional words.
“I do believe that was the most exquisite feast as of yet,” he declared, his silver beard sparkling with candlelight with each word he pronounced. “A few warnings for the year, and then you may go. First, for the new students, the forest on the edge of the grounds is strictly forbidden to all students, a few of you older students would do well to remember that.” His merry blue eyes fell on Cordelia for a brief second. “Also, no magic between classes in the hallways! If I have to see one more student walking around with donkey ears protruding from rather awkward positions on the body, I shall take action and turn the student responsible into an ass!” The Great Hall filled with laughter. “Please note the weekends for Hogsmeade visits, and remember any visitors are to be treated with respect. Head Boy and Head Girl, that is Ms. Granger and Mr. Malfoy: don’t forget to patrol the hallways before you turn in. Prefects, escort the first years to their rooms. That is all, you may go.” Applause broke out and faded quickly as students rushed to leave, hardly able to contain their excitement at returning to the second home.
Cordelia rose and left before anybody had time to notice, rushing immediately to Professor Dumbledore’s office to await his arrival. She didn’t need to wait long, for he came walking up moments after she did. She knew he must have used a secret passage and smiled at the thought, knowing that Dumbledore probably knew every trick in the book when it came to getting around Hogwarts. She smiled warmly at him as he approached, a smile which he returned, though his eyes held a hint of worry.
“Come, Miss McLean, we have much to discuss from the look on your face,” he said, turning to the stone gargoyle guarding his office. “Cockroach clusters,” he chimed gaily, and the statue moved aside, contorting it’s face into a slightly disgusted look that made it even uglier. Cordelia laughed, but it was hollow and held no real joy.
They rode together up the spiraling staircase and Dumbledore held open the door to his office, allowing the young lady to enter first. He indicated a squishy chair in front of his fire place, right next to his phoenix, which looked as if it were snoozing quite comfortably. He took the seat next to her, and allowed her to stare into the fire, knowing she would tell him everything all in her own good time.
The minutes ticked by slowly, and the wood in the fire popped and crackled merrily, casting warm shadows across the walls and lighting up the office’s strange contraptions, many of which moved without magic or magnets of any kind. The portraits of Headmasters and Headmistresses of the older days lined the walls, their inhabitants either sleeping, watching the two people with interest, or gone from their frames, presumably visiting other areas of the school, or perhaps visiting buildings that furnished their portraits as well. A small silver instrument, resembling the Weasely clock, sat on his desk, the various hands with the faces of students and staff pointing in different direction. Most pointed towards “sleeping”, but a few said “breaking the rules”. The teachers all pointed to “patrolling”, with the exception of Dumbledore’s, which read “office”, and Cordelia’s, which read “mental peril”.
Finally, after an hour of full silence, the young woman opened her mouth to speak. “Monica Armando passed away, headmaster,” she murmured. “Randy felt completely desperate, his pain called to me and I could not help myself.” She burst into tears and flung her head into her hands. “I can’t control it, professor!” she sobbed loudly. “No matter how much I try I cannot stop feeling what others feel or hearing what others hear, or knowing what others know, or see or do! And what’s worse, I go to those with the deepest misery and take it into myself, leaving them to feel my joy while I take their greatest hurt and make them see light in it!” She sobbed harder. “I take their pain and it leaves me black inside, but I can’t resist! I feel drawn to their darkness, unable to avoid it even though I know it will only hurt me!”
Professor Dumbledore said not a word, staring at her fondly as she released her penned up emotions through her tears. Eventually she fell silent, and the headmaster spoke to soothe her. “You, my dear, are a gift from the Light, a bright creature created to take the misery from others to help them realize their potential.” He smiled at her. “You will never be able to resist it, for your soul is called to it, and you can no more resist taking away the darkness than a moth can resist the luring light from a candle’s flame.”
“If I am such as you say,” she demanded, looking up with a fiery anger in her eyes. “Then why did that accursed hat place me in Slytherin? They’re all evil, the lot of them. They all possess a darkness that can not be taken away, and I have no desire to save any of them, no compelling urge to rescue them from their dark abyss of choice. Why am I stuck among them when I belong with the others?”
Dumbledore smiled indulgently at her question, prepared to answer it long before she had asked. “You find yourself among Slytherins because the Sorting Hat could feel your natural urge to go to dark things. It doesn’t matter that it stems from Light, or that you desire only to cure and do good: you’re insatiable attraction to it is all the Hat could see, and therefore you are where you find yourself.”
“I don’t want to be a Slytherin, Professor,” Cordelia cried in anguish, sinking from the chair and onto the wooden floor. “I want to be…I want to be just me. Just Cordelia Anne McLean: a simple student not divided by any house or any restrictions. I can’t take another year surrounded by a darkness I cannot take away. Please, Professor, don’t send me back to the dungeons of despair.” Her eyes danced with a need Professor Dumbledore understood only too well, and he smiled in answer.
“I knew one day you would come to me with that question, and then beg release from your housemates when you discovered the answer to it.” His words filled Cordelia with a hope she almost dared not feel. “I made arrangements in your third year for you, as I expected then that you would soon be asking the question. I’m surprised you managed to hold on this long. Your things will already be there when we arrive. Follow me.”
Cordelia rose from the floor, accepting the withered old hand the headmaster offered her, and followed in his wake. He led her through the corridors of the school she knew so well, having walked them almost every single day for the last six years of her life. He took her back to the Great Hall and went to the left, towards the main entrance, but rather than going into the entrance hall, leading her down a small and almost unnoticeable corridor she had never paid much attention to before. It was lit brightly by several glowing sconces and a few hundred steps down, the corridor became stairs. They climbed and climbed until Cordelia felt certain her feet would run off and hide from her, and suddenly they stopped outside of a door.
“You may use a broomstick after this,” Dumbledore chuckled, hardly out of breath while Cordelia gasped for air. He pushed open the wooden door in front of him to reveal a sitting room furnished in warm browns, golds, and reds, a welcoming sight to her eyes. A coffee table held a tea set of polished silver and the floors were black marble, a cozy effect that forced a smile from the severely upset young girl. The headmaster led her to the right, revealing another door, which opened to reveal a large bed much like the one she had in her old dorm, but much bigger and hung with black curtains of heavy velvet instead of green and silver. The sheets were black silk, and the comforter looked like expensive velvet trimmed with satin. She saw a marble door which she new hid a bathroom, and next to it was a door which revealed a closet, her clothes already unpacked and hanging neatly.
“Thank you, professor,” she said, hugging the old man with such affection even he was caught off guard. “Thank you so much, for everything.” Her smile confirmed that her thanks rang true, and the old headmaster returned the embrace, feeling as if she were his own granddaughter rather than a simple student.
“And when you feel the need to bathe in the light of the moon,” he laughed, extending a long arm to point to his right, “There is a fine balcony with plenty of space on the other side of those glass doors.” With one last squeeze of her shoulder, Dumbledore left, and Cordelia found herself alone in her very own suite of rooms.
“This is wonderful,” she whispered, a smile playing across her beautiful rosy lips and lighting up her eyes with a joy she hardly recognized as her own. “I am no longer a Slytherin. I’m just me.” She rushed into her bedroom and sat at a desk, pulling out a piece of parchment and a quill. She wrote a note hurriedly, hoping Hermione would not already be in bed.
I realize the hour is late, and I do apologize if I am disturbing you in any way, shape, or form. However, I write you with the greatest joy I have felt in a very long time. I am no longer a Slytherin, Hermione! Isn’t that fantastic? Professor Dumbledore explained a few things about myself, and then he presented me with my own private suite of rooms! Please send an owl to me within ten minutes of receiving this to let me know if you’ll meet me by the entrance to the Great Hall. After six years of sharing a room, I can hardly bear the thought of sleeping in my new room alone on the first night, and since you are my closest and truest friend, I’d rather you joined me for the first night celebration! I know you’ll absolutely love this room, Hermione. No green and silver anywhere to be found, and the view is simply amazing. I’ll see you soon, hopefully.
Your impatient friend,
Cordelia Anne McLean
Cordelia waved her wand over the parchment and the ink began to flash different colors, as if an iridescent light shone on the ink and made it appear like a rainbow. Smiling to herself she sealed the note with black wax and pressed her family seal into it, a habit she had never managed to break. Carefully, she wrote Hermione’s name across the top and put the rainbow spell on it as well, then handed the completed delivery to her raven, which silently took the note in its beak and flew off. Minutes later she received a reply.
I’m on my way right now! I’m so excited for you! I can’t wait to see your new room! I bet you could throw a few small gatherings there and no one would ever know the difference! See you in a few minutes!
Your excited friend,
Hermione Amelia Granger
Cordelia smiled and summoned her Firebolt, excitement coursing through her veins. She walked through the door and found herself at the top of the stairs that must number at least a thousand. Smiling in amusement, she straddled the broomstick and flew down the stairs and through the corridor at the bottom, shooting into the hallway by the Great Hall like a bullet, startling Hermione. Grinning wordlessly, Cordelia indicated that Hermione should climb up behind her. Gripping an overnight bag with one hand, Hermione clung to her trusted friend with the other, clearly frightened of the broom. Sensing her friend’s apprehension, Cordelia flew slowly, going no faster than thirty miles an hour and still reaching the room relatively quickly.
“WOW!” Hermione gasped as she entered the sitting room. “It’s like I’ve just stepped into a catalogue! This place is simply breathtaking!” She turned in circles as she walked around, trying to take in every last detail. Her reaction was even better when she saw the bedroom, and she just about died of her envy.
Laughing, Cordelia insisted that she was always welcome to stay the night any day of the week and she didn’t even have to ask: all she had to do was show up and she could have any one of the spare bedrooms that were on the other side of the living room. Hermione smiled and went into one such guest room, finding one decked out in midnight purple that she fell in love with.
“I do hereby claim this room as mine,” Hermione declared in a deep voice, imitating some sort of modern Christopher Columbus. “And I do so name this settlement…Hermione’s Chamber of Torture, Sleep, and Educational Studies!” The two giggled at the name, and with a wave of Hermione’s wand, the words appeared in midnight purple script across the door.
“Come, Hermione, darling, let’s have a cup of tea before we turn in,” Cordelia said in a voice mimicking the way her mother spoke to her various friends. “I’m simply parched with the excitement of living like a princess for the school year, not just at home for the holidays.” She held out her arm, which Hermione took quickly and together they strolled back to the sitting room, heads held high and shoulders back and straight, as if approaching a throne for their coronation.
They sat regally on the plush couch of rich scarlet satin, a soft cloud of burgundy that held them in a spell of wealth. The two ladies enjoyed their tea, laughing at things they said, or thought, and enjoying the pleasure of each other’s company free of worry for disturbing another, or getting in trouble for being about after hours. Of course, they were seventh years and curfew for them was midnight during the week, but it was the principle of the matter, and besides, it was already well after two in the morning.
Finally, the clock on the mantel chimed three and Hermione’s jaw dropped in shock. “Oh my!” she exclaimed, setting her silver tea cup loudly on its saucer on the table. “It’s so late! We have to get up in five short hours! I think it’s best we turn in for the night, Cordelia, or we’ll be falling asleep in our pumpkin juice tomorrow morning!” Cordelia nodded agreement and the two went their separate ways, waving goodbye at their respective doors.
Hermione changed into a white t-shirt that had belonged to an older brother, one that she never mentioned, who had gone off to war and been killed under suspicious circumstances: his body was unmarked, and Hermione wore the shirt in his honor, swearing she would one day help bring about the downfall of his murderer, the Dark Lord Voldemort. Sighing with delight, she climbed into her midnight purple bed covered in silks, satins, damasks, and velvets, the feather pillow feeling like a cloud of the softest fluff.
Across the tower, in Cordelia’s bedroom, she dressed in a knee length gown of white silk and climbed into bed for sleep. But the sand man seemed far away from her tonight, and thoughts and feelings ran through her mind, swirling in circles so fast that she felt dizzy and nauseated, unable to lie still. After what felt like hours, but what a clock revealed to be only a few minutes, she flung back the covers of her bed and grabbed a silk robe, tying it around her slim waist. Carefully, she pulled open the door to her bedroom and walked to the right, slowly opening the glass French doors and letting herself out onto the balcony.
The entire castle was lit up like some sort of medieval painting, owls flying over the sky and by the bright moon, the stars remaining stagnant while dark clouds swirled around, blocking them and freeing them over and over again so that they blinked in and out of existence. A soft summer wind blew through the air, rustling the trees of the forest and blowing up to Cordelia’s balcony, swirling her robe and hair around her in a whirlwind of gold and white, leaves circling her head like a fairy crown. She laughed softly at the sensation, throwing back her head as she breathed in the intoxicating smell of the night air, heavy with the smell of cinnamon. Cordelia always thought old leaves smelled of cinnamon, a sort of spicy and hypnotizing aroma that brought the fondest of memories. Nobody else she ever asked agreed: dirt is what others smelled, not a delicious cinnamon scent.
She placed her hands on the stone railing of the balcony, leaning as far over as she could so that she felt like a bird, flying on the wind without a care in the world. Or, that’s how she meant to feel, instead she felt as if she were falling, rushing head first into a great pit of despair that felt completely alien to her. Fear invaded her body, a virus spreading quickly to her heart and forcing its pace to quicken. Images assailed her mind, flashing like bits of lightening, memories belonging to someone else. Instantly, Cordelia understood she watched someone’s nightmare, a nightmare which caused the worst of memories. A flash of green light blinded her vision, and suddenly the feelings were gone, but a searing pain remained in her forehead. She touched the spot that felt hot, almost expecting a scar to appear, as if a red hot poker had been pressed for hours to her skin.
“Harry,” she breathed, a realization striking. “Harry needs someone to talk to.” She turned and rushed back inside, not bothering to close the doors to the balcony. Instead she leapt onto her Firebolt and fled the tower, not knowing where she was going, but trusting her instinct to lead her to where she needed to be. Seconds later she found herself standing in the middle of the Great Hall, a lone figure sitting at the Gryffindor table, his hands massaging his head as if he possessed and suffered a perpetual headache.
“Hello, Harry,” she called softly from across the room. He jumped at the sudden noise, jerking around in his seat to see who snuck up on him so very quietly. His emerald eyes grew round as he saw Cordelia in her white silk nightgown, her dark robe hanging off her shoulder and her hair windblown, a broomstick clutched in one hand. “Bad dreams?” she asked, walking over and taking a seat next to him, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah,” he muttered ruffling his hair. “I don’t need to ask how you know. I’m sorry for waking you up.”
She smiled warmly, putting a hand on his. He flinched, her hands frozen from the cold wind that had blown around her like a gentle hand caressing her skin. “Sorry,” she laughed, her voice a gentle summer breeze. “I’ve been outside. You didn’t wake me, Harry; I was outside listening to the wind.” Her voice possessed a dream-like quality, making her seem like some sort of ethereal fairy princess who had happened upon him in the night.
“Then I’m sorry for disturbing your thoughts,” he replied, taking both her hands in his. “You should wear gloves when you go out in the middle of the night, especially if you insist on being half dressed.” She blushed prettily, but the darkness made it almost impossible to tell. A thought occurred to Harry. “How did you get out of the Slytherin common room without being caught?” he asked, insanely curious. “Professor Snape sleeps right next to the door, and it makes an awful grating noise whenever someone goes in or out!”
“I’m not going to ask how you know that,” Cordelia told him, smiling wider. “But I only told Hermione: I’m no longer a Slytherin. I’ve been given my own suite of rooms in a tower not far from here, where I can come and go as I please to help, and where others in need may come to me and stay for as long as they need, until they come to terms with whatever they suffer.” Her eyes sparkled with the thought of being able to help others, a fact which warmed Harry’s heart.
“So I guess I’m the one you’re coming to now, then. It’s a switch from our second year.”
“Yes.” She answered with that one word, but it said so much. She knew that he would tell her in his own time, in his own way, and would not press him. The word signified an understanding on her part: she knew his pain, already understood it, but would not say so because it would force him before he was ready.
The two sat in a comfortable silence, staring up at the enchanted ceiling that was charmed to look like the night sky. Cordelia closed her eyes as a cloud moved and the light of the full moon emerged, showering her in a silver glow that only made her look more angelic to Harry. “It doesn’t feel the same,” she murmured suddenly, almost startling Harry.
“What doesn’t feel the same?” he asked in confusion.
“The moonlight,” she replied faintly, the silver orb reflected in her deep blue eyes as she stared intently at him. “The enchanted ceiling only mirrors the sky, but it cannot produce the same effects. The moonlight shines down on me, yes, but it cannot be felt in the same way. It’s more like turning on a light switch instead of standing in the sunshine.” Her smile faded slowly as she turned her swirling eyes back to the ceiling, staring with the same intensity as before.
“You’re very different, Cordelia,” Harry declared quietly, looking at her and possibly seeing her for the first time. “You don’t live your life through facts and figures, like Hermione, but you study hard anyway. You lead your life with your heart, following where it may lead you. Nature’s wonders capture your attention because they are truth, but rarely present logic, much like human feelings are.”
She turned to look at him with that same disarming smile that caught on like wildfire. “You understand me, Harry,” she exclaimed, “But I have yet to know you.” Her meaning was not lost upon him. “Would you like to go outside with me?” she requested suddenly, her eyes pleading and growing so round he thought his heart might break if he refused.
“That sounds like a party,” he laughed softly, standing and offering his hand to help her to her feet.
“Hop on then,” she said, swinging her leg over the Firebolt. Without hesitation he climbed on after her, wrapping his arms securely around her waist. They rose slowly and zoomed at slightly less than breakneck speed through the air and through the corridor that lead to her room. Up the winding stairs they sped, making no noise as they whizzed between the stone walls and came to a sudden halt outside of the heavy wooden doors. “Welcome to my suite. Be quiet, though, Hermione’s asleep in her room.” She flung open the door before Harry questioned her about that last statement.
Carefully he tip-toed in Cordelia’s wake while she walked noiselessly across the marble, her feet bare and happy. She slipped through the open French doors of glass and pulled it to behind him, making sure not to make a sound. A gust of wind roared across the balcony, trapping the two teenagers in a miniature whirlwind of leaves that floated lazily around them. Cordelia smiled and turned with the wind, closing her eyes to inhale the cinnamon scent she was so fond of.
“Do you smell that, Harry?” she asked, not opening her eyes as she danced like a fairy tale nymph in the leaves and gentle breeze. He inhaled deeply as a few leaves danced by his face.
“They smell like spices,” he murmured, closing his eyes. “Pumpkin spice, maybe, or nutmeg…” His voice drifted off as he searched for the name of the familiar aroma. “It smells like cinnamon,” he finished, turning to look at the blonde girl frolicking barefoot in the September air. “I’ve never noticed before. And you smell like cake and flowers.”
Cordelia giggled, holding out her hands for Harry to take. “I smell like vanilla and night blooming jasmine,” she corrected, pulling him to turn with the gentle winds as well, winding through nature as if casting a spell with her movements. “I rub their oils into my skin at night, and place their dried petals and leaves between my clothes. I add their extracts to my shampoos and body washes. I don’t need perfumes: nature helps me along the way.” She pulled close to him and stopped, pressing her face to his sweater. “You smell like the ocean, salty and clean and fresh and exciting and calm all at once.”
“How can I smell calm and exciting?” Harry wondered out loud, looking in askance at Cordelia. “Those are states of the mind, not scents.”
She only smiled at him in her mysterious way, her eyes swirling with a strange assortment of blues and turquoises, a mesmerizing quality that pulled him in and held him captive, rendering him completely helpless. Cordelia searched his soul, looking deeply into his brilliantly spicy green eyes, trying not to get caught in the spell his own bright orbs wove through a tale of tragic sadness. She found courage beyond comprehension, a fierce determination to protect those he loved from harm of any kind, be it emotional or physical. She felt her heart swell with his love for his friends and adopted family, the Weaselys, and felt his great love for the closest father figure he had ever known: the criminal Sirius Black. Cordelia found his respect and reserved love for Albus Dumbledore, always like a loving uncle guiding Harry through his roughest memories at Hogwarts. She understood his pain, felt his anguish, experienced his anger, suffered his grief, and realized his ability to control himself.
Cordelia searched deeper and visions assailed her mind, telling her of a cloudy future. Death appeared everywhere she turned, in each possible outcome: the death of a loved one, the death of an enemy, the death of an old rival, the death of innocent people…the death of Harry. Each a possible outcome, neither set in stone as they were covered by the tendrils of fog as quickly as they had been shown. Harry was marked for death, it followed him like a plague, touching all who came to love him, but still the very essence of hope clung about him, an unshakeable force that would remain with his name even if his death came to pass.
“You possess a dark core,” she told him, pulling his hand to her heart. “Your anger blackens your heart, and your courage and determination blind you when it comes to those you love. But even with the darkest part of your soul, you remain bathed in a light of hope, so intense it hurt even my fair eyes to see.” She smiled sadly at him, touching his face carefully with her hand, the fingertips brushing lightly against his long hair. Harry was aware of the feeling of her skin beneath his hand, which she had placed dreamily to her heart, and her light touch on his hair sent shivers through his body, but he still listened to her voice, entranced.
“So much tragedy befell you,” she continued. “And follows you even now, yet you remain unbroken by the pain: you know true misery, but find peace in true love. The love of friends and family, and the love of helping others. Though you posses a core of darkness, it stems from love, and gives you the strength you will need to conquer your enemies.” She pulled her hand back suddenly and dropped his, as if not having meant to touch him at all.
“I’m sorry,” she muttered as she pulled from away him and walked to the opposite side of the balcony. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“I’m not…” Harry began, following her.
“Don’t bother,” she laughed sadly, irony heavy in her voice. “I can feel everything you’re feeling right now. I’ve upset you, and my purpose is to make you feel better. I can’t help you if I’m being counterproductive.” She laughed again, a mechanical sound, like a machine.
“You’re not some sort of tool, you know,” Harry called softly. “I’m not here to use you. You’re my friend, and I’d rather just enjoy your company. That’s what makes me feel better; being with people I love and care about.” He turned to look at the moon. “I don’t need my future read for me: I’d rather not know the possibilities. I’ll wait to see what comes my way, but I refuse to dwell on possible misery that may never come to pass.”
Cordelia wandered back to him, wrapping her arms securely around his shoulders. “You’re very kind to me, Harry,” she whispered, putting her head on his shoulder and pulling close. “Do you remember the day we first?” She felt him nod silently. “It feels so very long ago…but I remember it so clearly…”
Harry Potter found his way into the library in the dead of night, hidden beneath an invisibility cloak with a lantern held in his hand to light the way. At twelve years old he was still rather small for his age, with spiky black hair that stood at awkward angles, forever refusing to lie flat, and spicy green eyes that looked eternally troubled. He crept on tip toes, though he was barefoot, trying desperately to avoid being heard. He didn’t know why he wondered into the library this night: just two nights ago he had almost been caught trying to get into the restricted section of the library. Filch would be on the lookout for trouble for the next week. But despite his better sense, he felt compelled to go there, to be among the books. It was almost as if he was supposed to meet someone there, though he had not made any such plans.
The faint sound of crying drifted through the darkness, melting as the sobs found their way into his ears. Intrigued and slightly worried, he followed the sounds coming from behind a large shelf, where a young girl who looked about his age sat at a table surrounded by a large mountain of books, one open in front of her hands, though Harry could tell she couldn’t see a word written in the pages through her torrent of tears. She had thick golden hair, smooth as silk, pulled back into a messy bun, but her back was to him, so he couldn’t see her face. She looked small and frightened compared to all of the massive shelves with their impressive tomes and volumes of knowledge.
“Why are you watching me?” the girl spoke suddenly, not turning around to look at him, but somehow knowing he was there.
“Why am I watching you?” Harry repeated stupidly. “You’re crying in the library in the dead of night. What else am I supposed to look at?” His argument sounded logical to him.
“You could look at the books, you know,” she muttered, hardly understandable through her sobs. “That’s what most people do in a library. They read.”
“You’re not reading either,” he replied pointedly. “How did you know I was even here? I’m wearing an invisibility cloak.”
She laughed softly, a gentle sound that danced through the air and frolicked between the shelves, echoing enchantingly throughout the large room. “I felt you,” she said simply, turning to look directly into his eyes. He felt trapped. “I can’t see you, Harry Potter, but I know you’re there.” She walked over to him and pulled the cloak from his head gently, grinning at her correct assumption. For the first time he really saw her face, her young beauty, hidden beneath pre-adolescence, but a potential as great as any Harry had ever seen.
“That’s really very good,” he told her, eyes wide with delighted surprise. “What can you feel? My body heat or something?”
“What do I look like, superman?” she quipped. “I’m not a superhuman. I’m clairvoyant, but in a special way. I can feel your emotions and tie them in with your past, present, and future.” She didn’t say it arrogantly or with any form of pride: she said it like she read it from a textbook or a doctor’s report, all fact and no embellishment.
“Wow, I think I might have preferred superman,” he confessed, looking her in the eye. “At least he wouldn’t be able to tell me when and how I’m going to die.”
“I’m not going to tell you anything,” she declared with conviction. “The future is unstable and always changing, a cloudy thing that no one understands with certainty. I see many things from the future, and only a third come to pass. The others are mere possible outcomes: they are neither fact nor fiction. They just are.”
“Okay, so how did you even know who I was?” he questioned again. “I’ve never even seen you before, and I know I’ve never spoken to you. How did you know it was me if you didn’t see me?”
“Because I called you here,” she said simply.
“You felt the desire to come here, and it wouldn’t let you be,” she explained. “You don’t know why you wanted to come, but you felt the need. It would have eventually driven you insane, had you continued to ignore it. Or that’s my theory; anyway, it’s never actually been resisted.”
“Did I call you here?” she finished, grinning. “Because you haunt my dreams. Not you in person, but your nightmares invade my own, and they frighten me. Not because I fear the Dark Lord, I fear nothing, but because your fear envelopes me. I want to help you, but you wouldn’t come to me. I could have shouted from the rooftops for you to come, but even the most brave Gryffindor would not enter my sleeping quarters, in the dead of night or broad daylight.”
“I might have,” he argued, feeling insulted. “I’m not afraid to wander the castle at night.”
“Even some professors refuse to walk to the dungeons alone at night, Harry,” she whispered, pulling close to him. She watched with interest as he worked out her statement in his mind. “Your eyes grow wide with surprise and even fear now, knowing me for what I am. You liked me seconds before, but your contempt of my House leads you to feel contempt for me. Why does my house make me different? I’m still the same person I was moments ago.”
“You’re a Slytherin,” Harry breathed, pulling away from her touch. “They’re all evil, the whole lot of them. They should have been drowned at birth.”
Tears fell unchecked from Cordelia’s cheeks. “I’m not evil, Harry,” she proclaimed in fury. “Even Professor Dumbledore sees that. He offered to place me in another house, any house of my choice. I said no. Do you know why?”
“Because you prefer to be with others as cold-hearted as yourself?” Harry asserted, trying to hurt her feelings.
“No,” she replied serenely, looking up with a fierce pride Harry recognized as similar to his own. “I chose to stay because I feel the sorting process breeds bad blood. I’d rather fight the rest of the school and prove my worth, when all are set against me, than be trusted simply because I wear blue or yellow or scarlet.”
Harry looked as if he was about to reply, but Cordelia threw up a hand. “Filch is coming, Harry. Put on your cloak and go back to your room before you get yourself into trouble.”
“What about you?” he asked, not caring if she was Slytherin or from Mars. “You’ll catch it for sure!”
“He won’t catch me unless I want to be caught,” she told him confidently, moving backwards, away from the door. Harry heard footsteps outside of the library door, and threw his cloak over his shoulders.
“Don’t be stupid!” Harry nearly shouted, realizing that he had never asked the young girl for her name. “Nobody escapes Filch and Mrs. Norris easily!” He rushed over to her and threw his cloak around her shoulders and forced her under a table. She suppressed the urge to laugh, but made no movement to escape. They watched in silence as Filch walked by, Mrs. Norris right behind him. She looked directly at the two of them, as if she could see them. Harry found himself wondering yet again if invisibility cloaks worked on cats.
“Come, my pet,” Filch said fondly to the animal. “There is no one here.” They turned and left. They waited ten minutes after their footfalls had vanished before re-emerging from underneath the table.
“That was close,” Harry exclaimed, adrenaline pumping through his body.
“Yes, it was,” she agreed. She smiled at him. “You tried to save me, even though I didn’t need it, despite my being a Slytherin. Don’t you want to be my friend, Harry? I think I’ve proven I’m not mean. I told you danger was near, as a friend would do. Won’t you look past the green and silver, and see the gold underneath?”
Harry hesitated, then took her hand, shaking it. “Hi, I’m Harry Potter. It’s nice to meet you. What’s your name?” He smiled.
“My name is Cordelia Anne McLean, Harry Potter, and it’s an honor to meet you.” She shook his hand firmly, an act which surprised him. “I think it’s best we get back to bed, Harry,” she spoke softly, her breath tickling his neck. “Can we eat breakfast together tomorrow morning? I’d like to meet Hermione Granger, if it’s all the same to you. She needs a friend who understands her pain.” Harry didn’t ask, only nodded his head and gave her a quick hug, an act which he would think of later. Then they turned and walked out, going their separate ways at the stairs.
Despite her assurance that she would not be seen, Harry watched her leave from the top of the stairs. She backed into a wall and seemed to become a simple part of the shadow, slipping about like a tendril of darkness that moved because of the imagination. “A most powerful witch indeed,” he thought before turning to walk away.
“You know, you never told me why you were crying,” Harry said suddenly, pulling away to look into her eyes.
“I should have thought it was obvious,” Cordelia replied, placing her head against his chest once more. “I cried for you.”
Harry was confused. “Why?”
“Because you would fall in love with me,” she told him, pulling away from him, leaving only their hands linked. “I tried to prevent it by meeting you, by telling you I could see you. I meant to make you fear me, but instead I sparked the very event I tried to prevent.” She started crying, wiping away the diamond tears that leaked from her sapphire eyes. “I know you fell in love with me that night, Harry; I know you love me even as we speak. And by loving me, you may doom the life of another.”
“Who’s life do I destroy?” Harry asked, curious and afraid at the same time.
“Draco Malfoy.” She searched Harry’s face for a reaction, but she got none. “You don’t care?”
“He’s evil,” was the blunt reply.
“Because he’s a Slytherin.” It wasn’t a question.
“Because he is. You can look into his eyes and see it.”
“NO!” Cordelia cried out, pushing Harry away from her. “You’re blinded by your human naivety!” Her eyes blazed with a fury he couldn’t fathom. “He’s not evil yet, he only appears evil because he mimics the only role model he has: Death Eaters. We can save him, Harry, he can save us! He could help all of us in such ways you could never imagine, if only you believe in him.”
“How do you know Malfoy so well?” Harry asked, anger creeping into his voice.
“I was in Slytherin house for six years, Harry,” she reminded him calmly, sensing jealousy rising in his heart. “I observed him, and I looked into his soul on the train just after we left the station today.” Her last statement did not go over well.
“And did you hold him the same way you held me?” Harry demanded, his voice rising despite knowing Hermione slept just inside. “Did you get close, tease him a little, before looking into his eyes and reading his soul? Did you?”
“Harry, you’re being a ridiculously jealous fool,” Cordelia warned; her voice hardening as it lost its serene, dream-like quality. “You’re frightening me.”
“Am I?” he asked, pulling her forcefully to him.
“Yes,” she whimpered, feeling his darkness grow stronger. He kissed her then, pressing his lips to hers with a need both of them felt, though neither had ever known before. Cordelia let her lips linger with his for a few moments, then pulled away slowly. “I should warn you, Harry, that I have an insatiable appetite for darkness. I’m drawn to it, needing to cure it. Don’t kiss me like that again.” She kissed his cheek. “Goodnight, Harry. You may use my broomstick; I’ll get it from you in the morning.” She turned and walked inside. “By the way, Harry, don’t love me. I’ll only break your heart by falling in love with another. Even if I don’t marry him, I will not go to you. You’re heart belongs with another, as does mine.” With a swish of silk, she was gone.
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