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 My dream came again last night. After studying Inferi for class, I realized that fire was more significant to my life than I had previously thought. I have never been outright afraid of fire, of course. I had never really been outright afraid of anything. But my nightmares, the unease I felt at the Gryffindor party, the fright I got from Sirius’ muggle lighter, it made sense. Inferius are only stopped by fire. This was proof: my inferius side was taking over.

I let myself float back up to the surface of the bath in the Prefect Lavatory, and whipped my hair back out of my face. The steam rose high in the room, and the windows fogged up. The heat was therapeutic on my body after a rough Quidditch practice.

The dream was the most quizzical. What was it about Remus’ voice? Why was he in my head? And the violin thing; well I had never picked up a violin in my life so I don’t know where that came from. It was…puzzling. And I did not like to be stumped.

“Charlotte,” a voice said from behind me. I turned around, wrapping an arm around my chest and looking for the origination. “I am here,” it said again. I didn’t see anyone, and the steam wasn’t that thick.

“Charlotte Malkin,” it said again, curiously. Lily Evans stepped forward out of the steam with a towel wrapped around her. I blinked twice, the water clinging onto my lashes, just to make sure it was really Lily. “Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize anyone was in here,” she apologized, backing up and heading towards the door.

“Wait, Lily,” I called, making her pause. “Did you hear that?” She turned back to face me, a confused look on her face.

“I said your name,” she offered, shrugging. “But I didn’t hear anything else.”

“Okay thank you,” I said breathlessly, taking in another deep breath. Lily waved goodbye, and then went into a stall to change back into her clothes. I swam over to the opposite edge of the huge bath and checked my watch. It was already 10 o’ clock. I should be getting back to the dorms.

I pushed myself up out of the bath and pulled my towel off a rack, wrapping around myself. I turned off the faucet and opened the drain, letting the water pour out of the tub. That definitely wasn’t Lily talking to me. So I’m hearing voices now? Just one more thing that I have to worry about. I started pulling on my robes behind the large fountain of faucets.

But the fire: why wasn’t I scared in my dream? Why did I let it burn me, and why didn’t it hurt? I collected my belongings and headed back towards the Ravenclaw Tower. My steps were loud in the emptiness of the wide corridor, and my hair dripped with water that smacked against the marble floor. The Prefect Lavatory was not exactly convenient, but it was a nice amenity.

“This does not bode well, Headmaster,” a voice whispered, echoing from around the corner. “The darkness outside the castle is seeping in,” the voice whispered. I glued myself to the wall, stopping as two long shadows stretched across the floor in the moonlight, and held my breath. I recognized the voice to be that of Professor McNamara, the Divination professor. What were they thinking, discussing such dark matters in the corridors?

“You are right, Professor McNamara,” he agreed, seemingly mystified. “Unfortunately for our students, it cannot be helped. They will all be exposed to the darkness of our world soon enough.” He paused, and I saw their shadows retreating down the hallway towards the Divination Tower. “Some of them already have been.” I dashed down the hallway to my dormitory.

 

When I got back to my dorm, my hair dry after a simple charm, Emmeline was sobbing on the floor. I stepped around her and over to my bed, and Emma glared up at me.

“What?” I mouthed at her. She looked pointedly at Emmeline, and mouthed back, “Come here.” I rolled my eyes, dropped my bag and towel on the bed, and went to comfort Emmeline.

“What happened, Emmeline?” I asked, sitting on her other side and patting her on the back.

“M-mum and d-dad we-we-were killed!” she finally managed, throwing her head into her hands and shaking profusely. My eyes widened and my hand stopped moving on her back. Emmeline’s parents were in the Auror Department.

“I’m sorry, Emmeline,” I said blandly. My mind was running faster than I could think. Is that what Dumbledore was doing out so late? Giving the news to Emmeline? And how was I going to tell him now that I was hearing voices? He would just think I was in on it, think I had somehow gotten access to them from Emmeline. And as much as it scared me to say, I might have.

The worry has always been that Voldemort could somehow get into my head. Now that I was hearing voices, having dreams, it only made sense that he was controlling me. The next step would be me losing control over my actions. And I don’t even know how I would know if someone was taking over my brain. What if it was happening right now?

“I just got correspondence, from my m-mum,” she said shakily, holding tight onto a letter now soaked in tears. “She couldn’t tell me where they were, but they were out on a mission. Where will I go for holidays?” she asked weepily. Emma and I shared a glance, and Emma shrugged.

That’s settled. I wasn’t murdering people while I slept, or anything of that sort. I wouldn’t even have known where Emmeline’s parents were.

“Come on, let’s get you in bed,” Emma said softly, picking up Emmeline gently by the armpits, taking some of her weight as she limped towards her bed. Emmeline sniffed again, but Emma got her into bed with relative ease. “I’m right there if you need me,” Emma whispered, pointing at her bed next to Emmeline’s.

I unbuttoned my robes and slipped them off, turning to my trunk to pull out some pajamas.

“It’s really starting now,” Emma whispered to me, sitting on the end of my bed.

“I know,” I said quietly to Emma, stepping into my pajama pants and then sliding into bed.

“What do you think we should do about Emmeline?” she asked in hushed tones, her eyes falling to her lap.

“I don’t know. She should be fine after a bit,” I said, glancing over to Emmeline, who was still shaking but turned away from us on her side.

“Well you lost your parents. How do you cope?” I gave Emma my most frightening glare.

“I didn’t lose my parents, Emma, they aren’t like a pair of your favorite trousers,” I said bitterly. “I never had any parents.”

“Okay fine.” She took my semantic correction and swallowed it. “Can you at least try and help her a bit?” She lowered her voice even further, leaning in for me to hear. “Otherwise we’ll be stuck with a crying roommate for the next couple of weeks.” Emma knew exactly how to deal with me. It was disconcerting.

“I’ll try,” I said, appeasing Emma. She could be incredibly relentless.

“Alright, I should get to bed, too,” Emma said quietly. She hopped off my bed and stood in between Emmeline and I, who must have drifted off to sleep. “Try not to wake Emmeline up when you run off at 5 a.m., okay?” I nodded, biting my bottom lip and my tongue.

 

“Inferi fear only one thing,” Professor Magnolia “Fire.” The class sat lazily in front of Professor Magnolia, but I was extremely alert. My eyes roamed the classroom, falling the backs of Remus, James, Sirius, and Peter.

“We do not know why, as up until recent years they have been sparse creatures. But if you ever cross an Inferius, all you need to do is set a fire, and they will be kept at bay for at least the time being.” My eyes widened as Remus raised a hand.

“But Professor,” he wondered as Professor Magnolia pointed at him, “how are Inferius killed?” he asked. I could have sworn that Sirius glanced back at me. I shook my head, and focused back on Professor Magnolia.

“As far as we know, the monsters cannot be killed until their caster is.” Professor Magnolia’s answer echoed, bounced around in my mind. The monsters cannot be killed. Cannot be killed. I heard students’ quills scratching against the parchment.

“Professor Magnolia,” said a quiet but commanding voice from the doorway. The entire class turned to see the eccentric Headmaster standing in the small threshold. His hat crumpled at the top of the doorframe. “May I see Charlotte Malkin?”

“Certainly,” Professor Magnolia said, tipping her head towards the Headmaster. “Charlotte, you are free to go.” I turned my chin up as most of the class turned to look at me. I collected my things, stumbling on my way out the door. That was the thing about Hogwarts: everyone saw everything.

 

“Headmaster,” I greeted Professor Dumbledore as I sat in my usual chair across from his desk.

“Hello again, Charlotte. I am glad you came to chat with me.”

“Well it’s not as if I had a choice,” I grumbled, crossing my arms. Dumbledore gave me a look of disapproval. But, actually, I have to talk to you about something,” I said hastily, not wanting for Dumbledore to have a chance to interrupt as he did.

“Madame Pomfrey has informed me of your dreams, and I have consulted Professor McNamara. We both agree that this may simply be a common nightmare. Surely nothing to-,”

“That’s not what this is about,” I said suddenly, cutting him off. Dumbledore raised his white brows at me, and I suddenly felt guilty for something. “I’m sorry. It’s just…this is not easy to say.”

“No, I apologize my dear. I should let you speak.” My nose crinkled as Dumbledore called me ‘my dear’.

“Okay, well, it’s been getting worse, I fear.” Dumbledore keep silent, and I tried to open my mouth, but nothing would come out. “I have heard voices…in my head. And I don’t know if I am imagining it or not, but I thought you should know. After the dreams, and Emmeline’s parents, and the memories,” I trailed off, realizing far too late that I had not yet told Dumbledore about my father.

“What memories?” he asked calmly, far too calmly for me. My mouth trembled slightly and I clenched my jaw. “Charlotte, we need to-,”

“I know!” I barked. “I know, I just, I just don’t even know if this is real or not.” A weight lifted off my chest as I said it out loud. Dumbledore waited again silently for me. I ran my hands back through my hair and leaned my head into my hands.

I stood up from my chair, unable to sit still any longer. Dumbledore let me pace back and forth in front of his desk without bothering me; for once I appreciated Dumbledore’s silent presence. I was stupid for thinking that I could handle this all by myself. I wanted to think I knew everything, but Dumbledore knew so much more and had access to so many more resources than I did. So why had it taken me so long to trust him? And why didn’t I trust him to know about my father?

“Charlotte,” Dumbledore said suddenly, worry growing on his wrinkled face.

“What?” I snapped back. It sounded like my voice was under water. “What?” I garbled again, more urgently, turning on my heel to face Dumbledore, but wobbling on my feet. Dumbledore’s face began melting.

“Charlotte!” he growled, standing up from behind his desk and rushing over to me. Dumbledore got progressively taller than me, and then he was leaning over me. And that is the last image I had before everything went dark.

 

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