The week of time following the Anabelle incident felt as if the universe had somehow devised the most hellish experience of my life.
First it was dealing with the entire night in question.
Rumors surged fast among Hogwarts halls and I was already getting disdainful looks from others for skipping out on Rosier for the aloof Regulus Black. Some of the stares were envious as Regulus was certainly not hard on the eyes in the least. But everyone realized we weren’t becoming something quickly. We hardly made eye contact in the halls, most chalked it up to us finding Anabelle that evening, the only seemingly good news in all of this.
Charlotte Hendrix, a pureblood Ravenclaw, made a point to ram her should into mine in passing period quite consistently. I had heard that she had carried a torch for Regulus Black for some years after he had kissed her under mistletoe our second year. I also knew that kiss had been a dare from one of our friends.
The Auror's had stuck around for the time being, though with finals the rules were more lax. They had doubled their forces in an effort to patrol more, no corner of Hogwarts was left unchecked.
Dumbledore chose not to release the part about torture and unforgivable curses in hopes of not adding more hysteria to the minds of students.
It was hard to bear all of the looks, though they ranged in appearance. Most of those in Hufflepuff settled for pity, others chose a grimace at imagining stumbling upon someone who had been attacked, and others chose a glare for the situations surrounding it.
It seemed that the week following this incident would be especially difficult academically as we were only a week away from midterms. As a NEWTs level student this meant benchmarks to ensure we were keeping pace in our final year. I had gotten lax particularly in my potions work, as I was far more passionate about wand work. I spent nearly every evening holed up in a nook in the library for this, studying my heart away. I needed an escape anyway.
My mother’s response wasn’t quite what I expected. The evening after my escape and then finding comfort in laughter with my friends my mother had sent an owl. The message was short and to the point. My mother was disappointed, and my father would be home when I came back for the holidays; they would deal with me then.
Now returning home was only five days away and I entirely dreaded it. I had three essays and two practical examinations before that, however, so I pushed it to the recesses of my mind.
I stared down at my potions textbook now, willing that the information somehow lock down in my mind.
“Misses Nott?” came a clear voice, one I heard often, yet made my heart thump a bit faster in fear.
“Yes, Headmaster?” I said evenly, peering up to look at the half-moon spectacles of Dumbledore.
“I was wondering if I might ask you some more questions about the other evening,” Dumbledore said, peering over his glasses and at my eyes, his a piercing blue.
“Yes sir,” I said shifting to sit up and to leave room to sit down in the window seat as well.
“You and Mister Black both claim to have gone down there to meet one another that evening, correct?” He took a seat next to me, all the while keeping my gaze.
I felt my cheeks flush appropriately, “Uh, yes sir.”
“And how did you find Anabelle?”
“Well, sir, we had agreed to meet in a lower classroom, more, uh, deserted. Bla- Regulus mentioned he would be down there around that time because of his patroling schedule. When I got down there I noticed that a classroom down the hall had an open door and so I went in out of curiousity as none of the others were open. And, um,” I said swallowingly thickly, “there she was sir. Just, uh, awful.”
Dumbledore nodded sympathetically, “And you saw no one else?”
I nodded now, “It was just me. Until I screamed and Regulus found us.”
“But he brought Misses O’Malley up to the infirmary and you didn’t arrive until sometime later?” Dumbledore’s thick white eyebrow rose with this question.
I blanked for a moment and cursed mentally.
“I, uh, needed to gather myself sir,” I said looking away from him now and drawing my arms around myself, “It was hard to see my best friend like that.”
“And you wouldn’t know why someone would report seeing Rosier down there that evening, would you?” Dumbledore looked away from me now and focused on the bookshelf in front of us.
“No sir,” I said quickly, “I mean. Maybe he knew Regulus and I were meeting that night, and he may have wanted to have it out with us. We had just broken up, I told him I didn’t love him, you see.”
I felt like this gave motivation to Rosier being outside his dormitory at the same instance.
“I see,” Dumbledore paused a moment, causing me to become more aware of the thudding of my heart in my ears.
“I do wish we could bring whoever did this to justice, Misses Nott,” he sighed towards the end, his mouth down turning and his brow furrowed.
“Me too, sir,” I said in a small voice, a lump forming in my throat.
I believe they deserved the worst cell in Azkaban quite frankly. But that would be a betryal.
“Thank you for your time, please continue with your studies,” Dumbledore rose now, giving a twinkling smile and parting on his own way.
I let out a breath, feeling calm wash over me once again.
We were all safe
I brushed a stray hair from my face as I faced Finch-Fletchley. Following our first encounter as partners we had warmed to a decent respect as duelers, in fact we had chosen one another for our midterm.
“Commence,” Turley said evenly, signaling the beginning of our duel. The entire class’ eyes rested on us.
He raised his wand and began to mutter a spell, but I quickly shot an expelliarmus his way. He moved quickly and shielded. He countered swiftly with a jelly legs charm, which I narrowly missed. We had learned one another in a short couple of months and so our dueling kept most everyone’s attention. The admiration for my wordless spells was evident in those who had yet to know about it.
I lost my footing when Finch-Fletchley shot a binding curse my way and crashed hard into the ground.
I heard some flinch and take in breath and a few mutters at my hard crash. A person nearest my side of the duel whispered an insult; the words Slytherin slag rolling over me. I felt a burning in my chest at that insult.
I turned quickly shielding as Terrance flew another curse my way and quickly the rope binding spell coursed through my mind. A rope sprang from my wand and snaked around Finch-Fletchley’s body more quickly then he could react. It pulled tight and squeezed, Terrance fought, his breathing getting heavier.
“Nott, enough,” Turley’s voice rang out evenly and I pulled back, realizing everyone in the room was staring at me in slight fear.
Most of the other duels had ended in a simple disarming of the partner.
I suddenly felt the urge to break down in tears again.
“As many of you know we are still unaware of who or what caused Misses O’Malley’s attack over a week ago. The Auror’s are investigating. She is recovering at St. Mungo’s and this morning woke up, the doctor’s are hopeful that she will make a full recovery and is finishing the end of this term at home,” Dumbledore said evenly, eyes briefly flitting to the notes below him, “Now I want to address this. In times like these where darkness and sadness loom, we must all realize that the future of who we are as people resides in this room. The decisions you make after you finish your schooling shape what wizarding kind will become. Do so strenuously, always remembering that the ends does not justify the means.”
Dumbledore gave a pointed stare at each table in the room, my eyes peeking over at the scowls planted on the Slytherin faces. I could practically hear them muttering about how much they intended to shape who we as wizard-kind would become.
On some level I knew Dumbledore suspected the truth. He had been a professor of Lord Voldemort’s when he attended Hogwarts, he was surely aware of how capable his reach was. His pointed questions the other evening had indicated he knew more than what Regulus and I had admitted to.
“With that in mind, as our time before the holidays draws near, keep safe outside of these walls. Be wary of what is going on in our communities and be on guard. Sometimes evil has the face of friendship.”
I felt my teeth clench down sharply and that annoyingly pointed feeling of being called out.
“Sleep well tonight, the holidays are upon us,” Dumbledore said, giving his twinkling smile and nodding at us for dismissal.
I rose with Mary Lou and Cher quickly, as others in the Great Hall began to draw up to go to their dormitories.
“Nott!” came a familiar voice, one I had not heard in a little over a week.
Others turned too at the spectacle of us actually regarding one another in public.
“Black?” I said questioningly, catching his eyes for the first time in quite sometime.
It was awful for a boy to be this beautiful, this handsome. I felt my heart stutter.
He approached quickly, coming close to speak lowly to me while people through the rush of the crowd were swept off.
“Headmaster Dumbledore has given you permission to see Anabelle this evening before they move her home,” He said evenly, hands shoved into his robes and his eyes only regarding me for small moments before checking around the crowd for onlookers.
“Thank you for letting me know, I’ll head to his office then,” I said turning to see Cher and Mary Lou had marched on, probably thinking I needed alone time with Black.
“Hold on,” He said catching my arm as I tried to walk off.
I turned quickly, brushing away his touch.
“I’m to go with you,” Regulus said his hand casually moving to tousle his hair in what appeared to be the only awkward motion I had ever seen overcome him.
“Perfect,” I said into a sigh, letting a large tight grin over take my lips, “Bloody perfect.”
We separated from the masses headed towards dormitories in pursuit of Dumbledore’s office, and we walked in silence, walking as closely to opposite sides of the wall as possible.
“How did she look last time you saw her?” He said evenly, sliding his hands into his robes.
“Better. I expected her to look…” I said with a pause, and shrugged, “Beat up, I suppose. But she didn’t.”
Regulus nodded, letting the silence envelope us as we drew near to a statue I had only seen at one other time in my life. It was when my parents were attempting to do without Muggle Studies in my education.
“Cauldron cake,” the dark haired Slytherin said evenly, staring at the gargoyle in front of us.
The sound of stone scraping against stone erupted as the gargoyle began to twist upward and reveal an eagle on the other side. A staircase billowing up as the statue twisted upward. We waited for it to stop and then walked up the stairs quickly.
I had only been to Dumbledore’s office once before this evening, on the occasion my parents had decided to make a scene and confront the Headmaster about the need for Muggle Studies for all students. It was heedlessly embarrassing.
Regulus paused at the large oak doors at the top of the stairs and gave a small knock. The door moved slightly ajar and we hesitantly stepped into the Headmaster’s office.
“Headmaster, we have to seriously consider how dangerous keeping the doors of this school open may-“ McGongall’s sharp tone was cut short by Regulus clearing his throat to our enterance and I felt my face burn.
Professor McGonagall startled and moved from leaning forward on the Headmaster’s desk to smoothing her robes and giving us slight nods.
“Mister Black and Misses Nott, pleasant last evening of term I assume?” She said evenly, giving us a curt smile.
“They’re here to floo over to St. Mungo’s, Minnie, we’ll speak later,” Dumbledore said evenly, rising from his large high-backed chair.
She gave a sigh exited the office, her thick robes billowing behind her in a way many students considered menacing.
“Are you both prepared to leave for the train in the morning?” Dumbledore asked shuffling from behind his desk and towards the dwindling fire in the small fireplace of his office. He moved to snuff out the coals.
A couple of the portraits on the wall shuffled in curiosity to watch as he interacted with us, while some of the others had nodded off.
I noticed an ancestor of mine dozing in his frame, Nott embellished in steams of silver and green in his frame.
“Yes, sir,” I said giving a slight smile; I had packed away my things the previous evening. Dreading the next time I would see it’s contents in my room at home, the holidays were sure to be unpleasant this time.
“Of course, sir,” Regulus said evenly, making eye contact with Dumbledore who in turn gave a nod to him.
In all honesty it was a strange interaction, even though small. I wasn’t sure I had seen Regulus interact with Dumbledore in any setting, much less warranting a ‘sir.’
“When you enter the fire with the floo powder in your hand simply state the place you wish to visit clearly, that is vitally important, and throw the powder at your feet,” Dumbledore’s instructions interrupted my thoughts as he grabbed a jar filled with dark powder and gestured towards me.
I grabbed a handful of the floo powder aware of its uses but having never used it for traveling. And I stepped in to the large fireplace, barely having to bend over to fit underneath the mantle.
“St. Mungo’s,” I said evenly and threw the powder at my feet. Green flames grew and quickly engulfed my body, instinctively I closed my eyes at the bright light of the flame and when I opened them I was standing in a fireplace on a floor of St. Mungo’s. I stepped out, brushing soot from my cloak.
It seemed the room we were in was floo central, various fireplaces lined the white walls of the floor.
Some were exiting from a set of fireplaces, which held the Hospital’s emblem over top. It's shining cross bone and wand glinting on the white walls. Those leaving were wearing lime green robes and others donned pale green ones. They were obviously workers in the hospital, healers and healer's assistance.
I sighed as I noted Regulus had yet to appear, wondering why he had yet to spring from the green flames.
The other fireplaces seemed more like emergent cases of people seeking out family members or loved ones. Often those exiting rush towards the inquiries desk while the welcome witch instructed them to the correct floor.
The entire room buzzed efficiently, like a machine; it was exhilarating in a sense. These people worked with such purpose to heal others and save them, it drew me back to the moments of sitting across from Professor Sprout and expressing my deepest desire to pursue healing. It was a secret I had yet to even confide in Anabelle, as I was sure it was a lost dream.
“Ready to go along,” Regulus said next to me, causing me to startle.
I glared at him, “Took you long enough,” and trudged towards the lift with Black in tow.
A cool voice noted we were in the basement floor and as the grate shut and we began to climb I could feel the suffocating feeling of being confronted by the night that had happened nearly days ago.
We had made it to the fourth floor were Anabelle was being kept and crept up close to the frosted glass doors before her room. I could hear her mother fussing over her in there and Anabelle talking hoarsely and assuring her mother she was fine.
I took a deep breath and caught Regulus’s eye, his steely eyes boring into mine. Had it really only been a little over a week’s time since we had met on those stairs? I could remember how thick the air had felt.
He gave me a sound nod, reassuring despite the fact that I had denounced our friendship. But I desperately needed someone in my corner at this moment. I moved forward and tapped on the glass, sliding the door gently to reveal myself.
“Uh, hello,” I said now bashful, glancing at Anabelle’s mother and Anabelle in the bed.
Her jaw clenched slightly at me, but relaxed.
“Oh, dear, your friend is here,” Anabelle’s mother piped in her face beaming with joy.
"It seems Headmaster Dumbledore granted your request for my friend to come," Anabelle said stiffly, regarding me.
"I'll go get a spot of tea before we get moved home, dearie. Give you time to say good bye for the holidays," Her mother said, shuffling out past me as she squeezed my arm warmly.
I couldn't fight the smile that overcame my lips at the warm gesture.
I looked to Anabelle as her moth left. Her brown hair was braided in a plait over her shoulder, much like when she played Quidditch. Her skin tone was even and tanned, her eyes were bright and alert. She seemed entirely normal on the outside.
“How are you?” I said cautiously moving closer to her bed, and sitting on the edge of the mattress she rested on.
“Aside from the recurring nightmares of being tortured and a new fear of your lifelong ‘friends,’ I’m doing swell,” She commented dryly, her hands clenching at the bed sheets.
I sighed deeply, closing my eyes and willing myself not to cry again. I think my longest stint not crying in this time was about 6 hours.
“I am so incredibly sorry, Anabelle,” I started, feeling the words choking out of my throat, “If I had any earthly idea, I never would have tried to be your friend again this term. I should have left you alone, I should have made sure you were safe.”
Anabelle faltered a bit at this her eyes welling with tears, “How did they know about my boyfriend, Claire? They mocked me, called me a 'muggle lover' as they tortured me.”
“They heard me talking to you in the hospital wing, about your boyfriend,” I commented lowly, “Crouch was in the bed next to you. Rosier wanted to get back at me too. I hadn’t been living up to his expectations as a girlfriend.”
Anabelle reached for my hand now, and squeezed, “Is this how those people are? Is this why you’re always holding something back from me when we talk?”
I felt my lip quiver at this and I held on tightly to Anabelle’s hand, “These are my people. The ones I was born into. They are a part of me. But I did not choose them, I’m quite sure I never would.”
“What does this mean then? How did we get out of there?” Her eyes fixated on mine, her brows furrowed.
I felt a smile quirk up on my lips, “I told them off. I basically used my last name to get them to back down and had Regulus take you to the hospital wing.”
“A double edged sword I’m sure,” She said with a sigh, squeezing my hand once more and grimacing.
"Have they asked you about that night, yet?" I started uneasily, the fear of my well planned story crumbling and the ripples it would cause back home.
Anabelle shook her head, "No, I suppose it seems too traumatic for me right now. I want to tell them the truth, Claire."
I squeezed my eyes tightly, feeling my self shifting between my own safety amongst my people and my need to put Anabelle before myself.
Anabelle squeezed my arm again, "Claire? Would that put you in danger?"
I felt my bottom lip quiver, and I bit hard into my tongue. I managed a nod. She sighed deeply, her head leaning back on her pillows.
"I won't speak a word of it. I'll tell them I never saw my attackers. I was grabbed outside our dormitory and tortured. I won't omit the names they called me, but I will not name names to keep you safe," Anabelle said slowly, her warm amber eyes regarding me protectively.
I let a smile find my lips, a relief at the deep kindness of friend, even if it came at the cost of her own justice.
I took a deep breath, calming the bought of emotion that had risen in me, "What'll be next for you, Anabelle?"
She quirked a small smile and looked toward the frosted glass that outlined Regulus’ silhouette, a wider smile pulling on her lips now.
“I’m going home,” She said easily, “I’m going to be with Thomas. He doesn’t know much about who I really am. But I have a feeling I’ll need to tell him soon. Especially because of the nightmares.”
I nodded in knowing, my dreams were all too full of flashes of red light and pain. Illicited pain. Sometimes it was different boys behind the wand, often Evan’s face in shadowy psycho fashion.
“His name is Thomas?” I shifted closer to her now in an excited fashion, given the circumstances I knew we could talk freely at this point. No boys in the next bed to rat me out. Only Regulus at the door but he had kept my other secrets to this point.
“Yes,” She said beaming now, “Thomas Oliver Wood, he’s magnificent. A babe, Claire dear. A gentleman.”
Leave it to two teenage girls to flutter over boys even in such a time.
“And he won’t hate you? He won’t…try to control you?” I said brow furrowed and hoping not to insult her.
She looked at me with an eye roll, “What kind of bullocks are they givin’ you on your side Claire?”
I chuckled now, “I’m discovering that I know little about muggles.”
She chuckled a bit too, looking over at me now. Her face slowly drew more serious and she sighed, wisps from her braid shifting in her breath.
“Will we still be friends? Or I suppose can we still,” She said as I met her gaze evenly now, my mouth running dry.
I wasn’t sure, to be fair. I knew my parents would forbid any contact. But my heart ached at giving up a friendship with Anabelle. She was a breath of fresh air after having realized the poison I had been subdued by my entire life.
“In the coming days it will be hard, my dear friend,” I said evenly, pressing my lips into a thin line now.
Anabelle sighed, leaning back on the pillows mounted behind her and closed her eyes tightly.
“But, all bad times end. Wars and prejudice will not outlast us, our friendship. They are the present, yes. But they don’t have to be our future,” my eyes focused on the dotted pattern on the sheets next to her body, “We’ll make it.”
She leaned her head up, my eyes now taking in the tears falling down her face, “We will, Claire Nott. Don’t lose that in the middle of this. Don’t lose what makes you different.”
I smiled now, tears welling up in my own eyes. I had never been more proud of being different.
Regulus poked his head in now, “Nott, we need to get going. We’ll need sleep before the train tomorrow.”
Anabelle and I both looked at him, his face registering the tears on both of our cheeks now.
“Ah, when you’re ready then,” He said, sliding back to man the door.
We looked back at one another, Anabelle and I, and giggled girlishly.
“I don’t think I’ve seen Black quite that ruffled, Claire,” Anabelle said between her giggling and wiping her face.
I nodded, wiping my own face and grinning, “He doesn’t ruffle easily.”
I paused nervously here on the subject of Regulus, wanting in some length to tell her about things with Black but at a loss with him at the door.
“He carried me out?” Anabelle nodded towards Regulus’ outline at the door, her eyes trained on his form.
I nodded in response, color rising in my cheeks for some strange reason.
“Oi, Regulus!” She shouted abruptly, full Scottish lilt in swing.
He stepped in to the room, his steel eyes alert and surveying us both.
“You will take care of her, Black, while I can’t. Understood?” She said, her voice strong now and staring at him with a look I presumed she gave her team before a Quidditch match.
Her shoulders were squared and everything about her made a person want to prove her right, and I remembered the moments I saw Anabelle like this. She was radiant, full on sunshine.
“I give you my word,” He said evenly, matching her look with his own of determination.
Regulus was her opposite in every way, on the other side of this oncoming clash and even his features seemed polar to her own.
But if Anabelle was sunshine, then Regulus was the moon.
A/N: A lengthy new chapter, I was feeling inspired. Thank you for reading, leave a review if you please!
Track This Story: Feed
JOIN HARRY POTTER FANFICTION
Get access to every new feature the moment it comes out.Register Today!