Disclaimer: I don't own anything you see here! The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime belongs to Mark Haddon, copyright Jonathan Cape.
“She should be awake by now.”
“Heldman said anywhere in the hour.”
“Well, we’re almost out of the hour and she isn’t awake yet!”
“What if she doesn’t know who we are?”
“Don’t be stupid, Mia; she got hit in the head, not Obliviated."
It was a surreal sort of thing, regaining back a level of control that you weren’t aware you had ever lost. It was as if my body and my being had somehow become separated from one another and were just now merging once more, the soul piece of me floating back down to my physical form. Slowly, like pins and needles, I could feel myself again, could feel exactly where my fingers and limbs and toes were in relation to the rest of me, but I still couldn’t control my muscles enough to move them. So as the sounds around me began to grow clearer and clearer, all I was able to do was emit a little moaning sound, as delicate and as feminine as a cow giving birth.
“Oh, thank God,” I felt a warm hand grasp my arm, and all at once my senses came rushing back, leaving me squinting against the newly bright light I could see.
“Nellie? Do you know who you are?” someone asked anxiously from directly above me, and I knew it was Mia even before I was able to focus my blurry gaze onto her big brown eyes, which were wide open with concern.
“Obviously. I wasn’t Obliviated,” I said hoarsely, and I heard multiple laughs of relief; even Mia, who would usually hate to be ganged up on as the butt of a joke.
“How do you feel?” Scorpius asked anxiously from beside my head, and I realised his hand was the one holding mine.
“Fine,” I croaked. The hazy images in front of me slowly sharpened, revealing a whole group of people crowded around my bedside. “Did we win?”
“Yes, Nellie,” Benjy reached over to tousle the top of my head affectionately, in the sort of way you would ruffle the hair of a young child. “We won.”
“Did I catch the Snitch?” I asked, as the memories of the match slowly flooded back to me. “I did, right?”
“Yeah. And it was bloody brilliant,” Beck grinned at me from where she was perched on the end of my bed. Her raven hair cascaded down her shoulders easily, looking fabulous for just after a Quidditch match, and I could tell she had showered up thoroughly. Beside her was Moose and Milo, with Benjy, Kato, Flynn, and Mia flanking the sides of my cot. Scorpius sat closest to me, with Al in the chair next to him, and as I looked up at him he squeezed my hand in response.
“Wait! You should be in bed resting!” I gasped, pointing to my left at Benjy, who looked perfectly fine and very not unconscious.
“Nah, I got discharged already,” said Benjy. He glanced at Moose quickly and then back to me, his usual megawatt grin somewhat lacking in strength.
“Already? But you were knocked out!”
Benjy merely shrugged, while Albus took over. “What do you remember, Nellie?”
“After landing on the ground?” I frowned, trying to make sense of the foggy memories that were frustratingly out of reach from my general perceptions. “Nothing, I suppose.”
No one spoke for a moment. Kato became rather preoccupied with cracking his knuckles, while Beck worked hard to avoid looking me in the eyes.
“So, what’s wrong with me?” I asked lightly, very aware of how thin my voice sounded. “Did the hit to my head make me pass out?"
“No,” Moose shook his head. His dark hair was neatly combed down around his face, and as he went to adjust a curl, I caught the time on his watch. “It was that first Bludger that did you in. It ruptured your spleen and caused internal bleeding. You passed out because your organs began to shut down.”
“Nice,” I muttered. “But, hey! It’s only five o’clock and you lot are all showered and changed! What, did you all abandon my bedside the second you dumped me here?”
Flynn and Mia exchanged frowns, while Kato, Scorpius, and Milo scowled down at the floor, practically stone figurines.
Benjy grimaced. “Actually, it’s not five o’clock.”
“Then, what is it?” I glanced from person to person, hoping to catch someone’s eye, but no one would meet my gaze.
“Well, it is,” revised Benjy. “But-“
“It’s tomorrow,” announced Beck. “The match was yesterday.”
“What?” I yelped, sitting up. “Ow,” I said as an afterthought when a wave of dizziness and pain hit me.
“You really shouldn’t try to move just yet,” Kato helped Mia lower me back down. “You’ll be in the Hospital Wing for at least another couple of days."
“Missing valuable practice opportunities,” muttered Moose. Beck smacked him round the head.
“Why was I out for so long?” I demanded, but before anyone could answer, there were angry stomps, and then the matron, Madame Heldman, was nose to nose with my guests.
“How many of you are in here?” she screeched. “I said three of you may stay. Only three! She needs her rest!”
There were noises of dissent from my friends, but they all rose from their seats, leaving just Mia, Scorpius, and Beck by my side.
“Guys, it’s okay,” said Benjy, shooting me a quick smirk. "The more rest she gets, the quicker she can go back to being our Bludger punching bag."
“Exactly,” said Heldman briskly, as she checked all of the potions by my bedside.
“We’ll visit you later, okay?” Flynn grinned down at me, his auburn hair blown to one side in a style I’m sure he thought looked perfectly windswept. “After you don’t look so post-mortem.”
“Gee, thanks,” I muttered. Milo laughed.
“I’m glad you’re alright, Nels,” Kato paused over me to smile his lopsided smirk, brushing some hair from out of my eyes lightly. “Thought we were going to have to find a new Seeker.”
“Moose would’ve resurrected me just to kill me again,” I said casually, speaking through the way my breath caught in my throat and my stomach fluttered slightly.
“Get some rest,” Kato saluted me, and then the large group was gone.
“Burke, drink this,” Madame Heldman ordered, and I obediently took the vial from the matron. It smelled awful, so I pinched my nose, threw my head back, and took it as a shot. Beck started to snigger and promptly made a drinking joke, at which Heldman admonished her for partaking in such activities and stomped off to her back office, muttering about youths and their destructive party cultures.
“How do you feel?” Scorpius asked after a couple moments of silence. Delicate purple circles were easily visible under his translucent skin, and as I inspected him further, it appeared that he hadn’t washed up like the others had.
“How do you? Did you stay here all night?”
Scorpius grimaced slightly; a reluctant yes. I opened my mouth, prepared to lecture him, but I stopped once I saw the tortured look in his eyes.
I knew why Scorpius had stayed. For him, this was like when Astoria passed away a few years ago. She had been sick and frail for a long time, ever since she gave birth to him. But when she was finally ready to let go, Scorpius wasn’t there with her, and he still hasn’t forgiven himself for it.
So instead of telling Scorpius off, I clasped his hand tightly. “Go sleep, Scor. You look absolutely terrible; you’re doing everyone around you a disservice, really.”
“I can stay,” he offered, but it was weak and without conviction.
“She’s fine, Scorpius,” Mia squeezed his shoulder tightly. “You can visit her again tomorrow morning.”
Rather reluctantly, Scorpius stood up. “I’m so relieved you’re okay, Corn. You really scared us for a moment there.”
“Sorry. Love you.”
“Not your fault. Love you, too.”
We hugged. And then, he was gone.
“So,” I turned to Beck and Mia, who had migrated to the chairs closest to me. “What happened after I caught the Snitch?”
“Like, the full story?” Mia’s eyes gleamed slightly, the prospect of dramatising a tale too enticing to pass up.
“Go for it,” I said. I’d rather get it over now in the privacy of my hospital bed than hear it as a distorted fable later.
“Okay, so, you were playing Quidditch, people kept trying to hit you with balls, Benjy fell, you caught the Snitch, blah blah boring, whatever, and then you landed on the ground,” said Mia, twirling her dark hair around her finger, round and round and round. “I mean, you were acting like you were fine - Moose even picked you up.”
“And then we were in the hospital wing, and we were all worried about Benjy - especially Dominique Weasley, do you know anything about that?” Beck asked eagerly, but I shook my head.
“I think everyone was all over Benjy because he had just woken up, but then I realised you weren’t with the rest of us.” said Mia rather proudly. “And Beck and I were right behind Kato when he was trying to talk to you.”
“You still seemed okay, just...out of it,” said Beck, and as she bit her lip I could tell she felt some level of guilt for not helping me earlier. “And then Potter came up and started trying to tell you that he didn’t order Finnigan target you - which is bullshit by the way - and Kato got mad and they started yelling.”
“And then you passed out - no, wait!” Mia interrupted herself excitedly, leaning forward. “James was, like, teasing you when you said you were in pain, but when you passed out he somehow lunged forward past Kato - who was trying to physically fight him, by the way, honestly, what was he thinking? But James caught you just before you hit the ground!”
“And so I was trying to slap your face and get you to wake up, but then Potter felt your pulse and started swearing and then just sort of scooped you up - and, I have to be honest - at first I thought he was going to, like, take you to a secluded place to finish the murdering job, you know?”
“But,” Mia shot a pointed glance at Beck. “James put you directly on a cot and yelled for Heldman until she took it seriously. And Kato was absolutely furious at him; I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so mad-”
“And when Heldman kicked everyone out Kato absolutely lost it so Moose had to calm him down before he was allowed back here to see you later.” interceded Beck. “And then when he saw Potter go in to check on you, he nearly had it with him again, right then and there.”
There was a more important element to the story than the one part I clung onto. Kato had gotten into two fights, but for some ineffable reason, all I could focus on was-
“Potter visited me? Why?”
“Beats me,” shrugged Beck. “When he came we didn’t even know if you would be okay yet. Besides, he only stayed for a couple of minutes, anyways.”
“He probably just felt guilty that he told his Beaters to try and kill me.” I scowled.
“I mean, maybe, but - eurgh, I hate to say this - Potter sort of saved you,” said Beck, grimacing as if she had bitten into something sour. “He figured out it was your stomach that was injured, not your head, which we all thought it was, including Heldman.”
“It was a miracle he did. A few more minutes, and you could have been...” Mia shuddered delicately, while Beck grew uncharacteristically moody. The atmosphere was shifted now, as the grim weight of the past few hours settled in the space between their words, and I knew it would be up to me to turn it around.
“Right,” I said briskly. “Well, I’m not dead, so everything’s fine.”
“Moose was so angry with Finnigan he head-butted him and got a detention.” said Mia conversationally, attempting to lighten the dark cloud of what ifs that had descended upon us.
“‘Course he did,” I rolled my eyes. “Is Finnigan in any trouble at all?”
“As far as I know, he has weekday detention for a month,” Beck nodded. “I don’t think they’ve figured out the Quidditch side of it yet.”
“A month? That’s so much!” I marveled, more vindicated than before.
“Kato lobbied hard on your behalf,” Mia grinned rather slyly, and this time, at the mention of Kato I sat up a little straighter.
“Why was Kato so mad at Potter?”
“They’ve never gotten along,” Beck shrugged as she inspected the strands of her hair, the tension gone from the shape of her shoulders. “They’re always competing in class and on the Pitch. You just ended up being their newest argument.”
I frowned slightly, and although something just felt off about the statement, I said, “Listen....Beck, I think I fancy Kato.”
“That’s great!” Mia squealed, while Beck continued to examine her split ends like she had been doing before I had said anything.
I waited for a moment. “Beck? Did you hear me?”
“You don’t,” said Beck conversationally, still enthralled with the tips of her hair.
“You don’t fancy him,” Beck finally looked up, smirking slightly. “He’s protective of you, not to mention fit, which makes you think you fancy him, when really you just desperately wanted someone to crush over.”
Mia pouted and tried to argue it - “Kato is so right for Nellie!” - but I merely gaped at her.
“I think you’re right,” I said finally. I only really felt feelings for Kato when he was paying attention to me or being guarding, and as much as I wanted to really like him, I just didn't. But still, I couldn’t deny that I felt a certain level of connection with him - the butterflies were real, however lightly they might’ve fluttered. “How’d you know?”
“Same thing happened to me and Henry Mulligan when I was a Fifth Year,” said Beck, and then grinned her usual impish smile. “Well, I suppose the same thing happened with you and Henry too, since you dated for most of last year.”
I narrowed my eyes. “That was different.”
“You could say that.” Mia pursed her lips disapprovingly, and I shot her a look. She had never hid her intense distrust for Henry, the one real boyfriend I’d ever had, even as we were dating.
“Anyways, it’s always the Quidditch ones with you,” said Beck airily, leaning back in her chair.
“It is,” Mia seconded, and after a brief moment of indignation I had to shrug in agreement.
Beck and Mia continued talking about the new drama around campus and other relatively trivial things while I allowed my heavy eyes to fall shut and my head to rest back against the soft pillows behind me. I was just beginning to drift off - or at least, I thought I was - when a persistent prodding of my arm jolted me awake.
“All right, Nels?” Flynn Klein asked brightly, peering into my half opened eyes, Milo and Albus hovering behind him.
“Yeah,” I said groggily, pushing myself onto my elbows so that I could look at them, wincing at the pull in my abdomen. “What time is it?”
“Around ten,” Flynn supplied, throwing himself into one of the chairs beside my bed. “Breaking curfew just to see you, I might add.”
“How selfless of you,” I said dryly, but Flynn of course took it as an actual compliment.
“We just wanted to check in and bring you some Cauldron Cakes,” said Al, and then paused. “Milo, where are the Cauldron Cakes?”
Milo grinned guiltily and shrugged from behind Albus, his entire frame ducking with the motion.
“Christ, Milo,” Flynn rolled his eyes up to the high ceilings and then back down. “Well, in any case, we brought you another gift.”
“We did?” Milo glanced at Albus, but he seemed just as perplexed.
“Me,” Flynn pronounced. “I mean, c’mon! I’m basically a God. My presence itself is a present, innit?”
“Please make him leave,” I said to Albus and Milo, who were both attempting to slap the back of Flynn’s neck, an action that was commonly used across Hogwarts as retribution for some stupid or disappointing action.
“So, how do you feel?” Milo settled down in the chair next to me, putting up his spidery legs up on my bed and resting them atop mine.
“Like shite,” I said cheerfully, kicking his feet away. “How are you all?”
“You’re lying there half dead, and you ask us how we are?” Al asked mirthfully, but I could see fatigue etched into the lines of his face and I knew Scorpius hadn’t been the only one with a sleepless night.
“Well, I for one am sub-par,” Flynn said before I could respond, leaning back into his seat in a comfortable way that only he seemed to pull off. “I got rejected by Kinsley McDermott earlier today.”
“What’d you do?” asked Milo, warily.
“Well I saw her leaving the Great Hall, right,” Flynn started, and I settled back into my pillows, anticipating one of his long and highly embellished tales. “And so I said ‘lo 'cos she's well fit, and then she asked me how I was and I told her I was really gutted about your condition, Nels. So then she starts trying to comfort me - because keep in mind, I was very distraught - and she asks me what would make me feel better, so then I told her if she went to Hogsmeade with me I reckon I’d feel much less upset about you probably dying. And for some reason that didn’t seem to sit well with her.” He ended with a rather put-off shrug, and Albus and I stared at one another for a moment before I turned back to Flynn.
“You used me as sympathy bait?” I asked him incredulously, although I wasn’t mad, not really. Flynn was always doing stupid stuff like this and getting into trouble for it; it was much more entertaining to make fun of him than to actually be offended at his brazenness.
“I tried to use you as sympathy bait,” Flynn corrected. “I didn’t actually do it.”
“That’s another neck, mate,” Albus shook his head, and even though he reached over to slap Flynn’s neck Flynn dodged him, using my cot as a shield against Al’s attempts, and honestly it was so nice to be back into the familiar flow of things; of Flynn being annoying and Albus settling everyone down and Milo just being forever clueless and, well, Milo.
The three of them stayed and talked until I became tired enough to tell them to piss off and leave me alone. I had just fallen into a comfortable sleep when a loud noise jolted me awake; the sound was so sudden I immediately jolted up in bed, glancing around wildly before I even had a grip on my surroundings.
“Hello?” I asked after a moment to the world of uncertain darkness over the sound of my heart pounding in my chest. It had sounded like the door falling shut, but there was no one there and no evidence to would prove it had even been open in the first place.
A couple of moments later, after my pulse had slowed and I had settled back down into bed, something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention.
A single cauldron cake sat on on the edge of my bedside table, a golden Snitch painted delicately into its frosting.
When I was released from the Hospital Wing two days later (with strict directions against physical activity or stress of any kind), I received a hero’s welcome back to Ravenclaw. Flowers had been placed by my four-poster bed, chocolates piled up on my nightstand, and get well soon cards strewn across my sheets. Benjy and Kato even conjured a red carpet from the Hospital Wing all the way back to the dorm, but around the Statue of Barnaby the Great they were caught by Professor Longbottom, who insisted they undo their handiwork.
My friends, however, were not as supportive as the rest of my House.
“God,” Mia wrinkled her nose, shifting her posture away from mine. “That fucking stinks.”
“Well, I can’t help that,” I said defensively, screwing the top back onto one particularly pungent potion that Madame Heldman had given me.
“Please,” said Scorpius, from next to me on the Ravenclaw sofa. “For the greater good of everyone around you, have a mint.”
I stuck my tongue out at him as I settled back into the cushions, but I still took the candy he’d held out to me, sucking on it in a rather put-off manner.
“Hey!” said Flynn suddenly, from the armchair across us. “Hey, guys! Raise your hand if you still have a spleen!”
“I do, I do!” Milo bounced up and down in his seat like an excitable child, while everyone else kept their arms in the air with this slight smugness that I absolutely resented.
“Funny,” I scowled. “Really funny, making fun of the temporarily handicapped girl-”
“Oh, no,” interrupted Albus, sadly. “She’s in denial.”
“Nellie,” Scorpius said to me, very slowly. “You will never have a spleen. This is not temporary.”
“I know Post-Traumatic Spleen Disorder is a very difficult thing to grapple with, but you better accept your condition now,” said Mia gravely, attempting to clutch my hand into hers.
“I have accepted it!” I protested, ripping my arm away from her reach. “I don’t feel any different; it’s like it’s still in there-”
Albus gasped, a look of delight spreading across his face. “Oh, my God,” he pronounced. “She’s got phantom spleen syndrome!”
“I don’t fucking have - ergh!” I flopped my face into the sofa pillow, flipping the my finger into an obscene gesture behind me.
“I miss the old Nellie,” sighed Flynn after a moment, the sound of it heavy and full of longing. “The one who was so nice to all of us. And who had a spleen.”
“God, I’m almost glad that I have to meet with Flitwick right now,” I said, my words slightly muffled by the pillow as everyone made similar noises of assent.
“Well, you know what they say,” said Milo, heartily, and I could just tell he’d been waiting to get this one in. “Keep your friends close and your spleens closer.”
“Right,” I sat up from the couch, stray wisps of hair floating in front of my face, while Scorpius fistbumped a very proud Milo. “Thanks, guys. I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Have fun at your Charms recitation!” Mia called, as I grabbed my backpack and stalked towards the exit. “Don’t lose an appendix this time!”
At that one, I couldn’t help but laugh, but I held it in until after the porthole door had fallen shut - I obviously couldn’t let their egos inflate any more than they already had.
In the span of just a couple of days, I had not only lost an organ but additionally fallen so behind in all of my classes that I needed to go to extra hours to catch up on the material covered, as well as do extra review work to make up for the time I hadn’t been in class. Like the great friend that he was, Milo had taken it upon himself to finish a Potions’ essay for me (in my handwriting no less), but the stress of all the other unfinished work I had yet to tackle was still an unwelcome weight on my shoulders.
Something else was bothering me, too. My secret nighttime visitor, or “The Curious Incident of the Cauldron Cakes in the Nighttime,” as Mia had dubbed it, still remained a mystery. Every single one of my friends swore up and down that they hadn’t snuck in to leave me the dessert, and none of them knew who had either. So who did it?
And I was rounding the corner, mulling over this, when without warning a hand clapped itself over my mouth and I was being tugged sideways behind a floor-length tapestry. On instinct I twisted my head away from their grip, prepared to lick or bite or do something, but before I could they released their hold over my face, and as I whipped around a powerful sort of jolt ran through me the instant I realised who it was.
“So,” James Potter said casually, his eyebrows slightly raised in the indifferent disposition I’d come to expect from him. “You’re alive.”
I wrenched myself away from his grasp as quickly as I could and took a large step back. “What the hell are you doing?”
Potter shrugged slowly, as if he didn’t know himself, all the while never removing his sharp eyes from mine. “Needed to make sure you were okay.”
“Well, I am,” I said frostily, crossing my arms over my chest. “No thanks to you.”
“Actually, it was thanks to me, Burke.” Potter was suddenly glaring at me, any ounce of mirth or civility erased from his expression. “Look, you told me to piss off and you were fine, and then suddenly you’re in my arms all pale and barely fucking breathing and everyone thought you would die, for Godric’s sake!”
“Well, you didn’t have to help me,” I retorted, but he was on a roll; his hard eyes were blazing and his hands were clenched tightly into fists, and I could tell that once he started there would be no stopping him.
“Just how absolutely juvenile are you? Why the fuck didn’t you just stop playing after you got hit? Then your spleen wouldn’t’ve exploded all over your other bloody organs and caused this mess-“
“Are you asking me to apologise for getting hit with a Bludger?” I interrupted, matching his anger easily. “That you ordered against me?”
“I didn't! I already said, Finnigan targeted you by himself, I even told him to not do it again, but-”
“Well, the least you could do is apologise to me for not controlling your players, but then again I still don’t buy the fact that Finnigan just felt like murdering someone he barely knows!”
“I am not apologising! Besides, I helped saved your life! You should be thanking me!”
“So, this is about you feeling like a fucking hero?” I said, and now the familiar energy that always seemed to crackle and burn in between us had returned malignantly. “I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised, since you think the bloody universe revolves around you! Fuck!” I hissed, as my abdomen began to feel as if it was being stabbed from the inside out.
Slowly, I took a few breaths to calm myself. Potter sighed, the sound of it long and heavy, quite unlike anything I’d ever heard from him before.
“No,” he said finally. He ran his hand through the back of his hair to the front a couple of times, his eyes cast down, as if looking at me was a punishment he couldn’t bear to take. “You’re right.”
I blinked once, rather shocked that he had just admitted defeat, and through my confusion all I managed to squeak out was, “I am?”
“Yes,” Potter looked up at me, and even though there were no hints of jest or deception etched into the slight frown knit between his brows, I was still instantly suspicious. Because it shouldn’t’ve been that easy, right?
“I should apologise for the way I treated you at Slughorn’s dinner, too,” Potter continued, and as he reached up to ruffle the back of his hair I saw the edge of what looked like a dark tattoo on his bicep. “It was completely out of line.”
“Oh, it was out of line when you told me I was nothing and then equated my morality to my blood status?” I asked acerbically, my previous incoherence forgotten. “Really, was it?”
“Yes,” Potter snapped, and then softened once more. “Yes, it was, and I truly didn’t mean it.”
The quality in his gaze that reminded me a bit of Albus was back and more earnest than ever before, and as I struggled with how to respond I could feel him tracking my every move, his light eyes less dangerous and more analytical with every second that went by.
“It’s...fine,” I came out with finally, brushing away a few wisps of hair from my face as I did. “I said some things, too, that weren’t nice. So it’s fine.”
But James Potter shook his head. “It’s not. I just needed to tell you that I don’t have anything against you, and that I did not order Finnigan to target you." When I didn’t say anything, he rushed on. “Because Sinistra and Hopkins are holding a disciplinary meeting about it tomorrow, and they’re going to ask you.”
Oh. His ulterior motives were suddenly so transparent that I almost laughed out loud at my own stupidity for believing his apology.
“So, it’s not only about you being a hero. It’s politics.” I spat, and now I was seething - I knew it shouldn’t have been that easy and that he shouldn’t be trusted, and yet I’d almost wanted to trust him - so stupid, Nellie, getting tricked by something as obvious like that.
“It’s my Captaincy,” Potter shot back, almost pleadingly, but I wasn’t falling for it again. “My career. And I am telling you, completely openly and honestly, that I had no part in what happened.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “And why should I believe you? You have every reason to lie.”
“I will prove it to you,” he said, and the way his eyes seemed to blaze with something that could only be undiluted determination made my insistence of his guilt flicker and falter once more. “I can. But I need you to trust me first.”
“To trust him?” Beck repeated. “What a bloody psychopath, trying to squirm his way out of trouble and force your hand like this, that’s unbelievable-”
“I don’t know,” said Mia thoughtfully, leaning her elbows against the Ravenclaw table and resting her head in her hand. The natural light from the windows behind her was mostly obscured by thick clouds, but the setting sun managed to escape the blanket of grey for a split second, and for that one moment and she appeared to be almost illuminated by the golden rays. An angel, with a halo made of dust motes and photons. “He seemed pretty adamant that it was Charlie going rogue. Plus, he was really worried when you were in the Hospital.”
“Not enough to take a shred of responsibility or explain himself!” Beck leaned forward, and the sun disappeared behind the safety of the clouds once more.
“But, he did visit Nellie at, like, midnight when we were all waiting for Heldman to give us an update. He could’ve gotten in trouble, but he still came.”
“A guilty conscience,” Beck insisted. They both turned to me expectantly.
“I...don’t know,” I admitted meekly, and Beck growed with frustration.
“Out on the pitch, you said it yourself! You told us this was Potter’s revenge at you!”
“But, I don’t know if that theory makes sense,” I pressed back at her. “He’d already embarrassed me in front of Slughorn - why would he want more than that?”
“He wouldn't,” Mia agreed emphatically, and Beck sighed exasperatedly.
“You really think that Finnigan just...went after you all by himself?”
“That...also seems unlikely,” I winced, and Mia threw her hands up in the air in annoyance.
“Nellie, you are a lot of good things, but decisive is not one of them,” she huffed, tossing her dark hair back from her face in a way that only she would ever be able to pull off.
“Well, the meeting is in fifteen minutes,” Beck checked her watch, smirking slightly. “I hope you’ve sorted it all out by then.”
“Fuck,” I groaned, just as someone tapped my shoulder.
“Nellie,” Albus said, shifting from his left foot to his right foot in a way that made it painfully obvious that he was nervous. “Can I talk to you?”
“Yeah, ‘course,” I said, sliding out from the bench.
“Good luck!” Mia called after me, and Beck mumbled something similar but much less enthusiastic as I followed Al, waving goodbye to both of them.
“How’re you feeling?” Albus asked me once we were well outside of the Great Hall, but I brushed his question away with a wave of my hand.
“Just get to it. Is this about your brother?” I asked, and Al grimaced in a clear affirmation.
“Look, I know none of this concerns me,” he said evenly. His green eyes were kept perfectly trained in front of him, and after a moment I mirrored his attitude, as neither of us slowed our strides. “But I know my brother, and if James said he didn’t have a part in it, he didn’t.”
“You know, after the Slug Club dinner your brother told me that I was a bad person because I’m a Pureblood,” I remarked rather bitterly. “But, you know. I’ll keep that in mind.”
Al sighed, finally stopping to look at me. “Nellie-”
“No,” I said, and I softened my tone considerably. “Sorry. I get it. I would do the same for Adam.”
“I know you would,” said Al, smiling down at me in that comfortingly mild way he always did as we began walking again. I hadn’t realised he had gotten to be so tall over the summer, but he had to have at least an advantage on Scorpius now, a feat that was impressive on its own.
“You can’t be mad at me for telling them what I think,” I warned him. “Even if you are, you can’t be mad at me. You just can’t.”
“I know. I won’t be.” Albus said, and as I reached the door leading to Professor Sinistra’s office, that was the one thing I knew for certain.
“Ah, Ms. Burke. Please, sit down,” Professor Sinistra said the moment I entered, gesturing to one of four open chairs that were across from her and Madame Hopkins. Hogwarts was largely divided over her as an administrator: some people absolutely demonised her, saying that she was much more hardcore in her duties than necessary, while others swore up and down that she was one of the fairest Depuy Heads that we’ve ever had. I personally didn’t have much of an opinion on the matter; aside from the detention she gave me a few weeks prior I’d never really had much of an opportunity to interact with her.
“I’m sure you know why you’re here,” Professor Sinistra began after a nod from Madame Hopkins. “As Deputy Headmistress, it is my duty to handle all potential violations of the student code of conduct. I, along with Madame Hopkins, will be conducting the investigation into what happened during the Ravenclaw versus Gryffindor Quidditch match.”
“Right,” I said rather awkwardly at her pause.
“Let’s get to it, then,” Sinistra said briskly, and Hopkins conjured a notepad and quill. “Can you tell me what happened the first time you were injured during the match?”
“Er...I was just looking for the Snitch when a bunch of Bludgers came at me and I realised the Gryffindor Beaters were following me. So I flew away from them towards Jack - Jack Robinson - for protection, but then another one came at him so he had to stretch all the way out to block it, and since he had flown straight through it I was left unprotected with another one coming right at me. And I couldn’t move because Charlie Finnigan was holding onto the end of my broom.”
“Okay,” Madame Hopkins said, speaking up for the first time. She had a round, inherently kind face, and she smiled encouragingly at me before asking her question. “Do you believe that Mr. Carpenter, the Gryffindor Beater who hit the Bludger that caused your injury, meant to aim for you?”
“No,” I said. “He was clearly aiming for Jack Robinson, but it was a bad shot. It wouldn’t have hit anyone unless-”
“Unless Mr. Finnigan hadn’t grabbed the end of your broom so that it would make contact with you?” Professor Sinistra finished, her long neck raising up slightly.
“Yes,” I nodded. Hopkins scrawled something on her notepad.
“And the second Bludger Mr. Finnigan targeted at you that hit your head - was there anyone in your general vicinity?”
“I don’t think so,” I said, but I honestly couldn’t really remember. “Maybe Benjy and Dominique Weasley?”
“Okay,” said Sinistra, and now she leaned in closer, her bird-like features sharpening. “Now, do you have any reason to believe that Charlie Finnigan was instructed by anyone to intentionally harm you?”
And there it was. I had been preparing for this question for the past day, mulling over the possibilities and principles of each potential answer almost obsessively. But yet, when it came down to finally make a decision, I didn’t hesitate in the slightest. I just knew - not what the real, unabridged truth was, but that innocence until proven guilty was still innocence, and even a slight risk of condemning a blameless individual was too much of a liability.
“No.” I said, clearly. “I don’t.”
Professor Sinistra and Madame Hopkins both glanced at each other and then back to me.
“In that case,” Sinistra said finally. “Galinda, go fetch Potter and Finnigan, please.”
“They’re here?” I asked dumbly, and Sinistra looked at me a bit strangely, and I realised a second too late it was because that was what a fucking disciplinary hearing was, a compilations of accounts and a mediation - Merlin, I was seriously thick.
It was only moments before Charlie Finnigan and James Potter were sitting down in the chairs adjacent to mine, thankfully leaving an open seat in the middle of us as a divider. I kept my face turned forward until Sinistra nodded at me and turned to Charlie expectantly, her eyes narrowing.
“Mr. Finnigan, is there anything you’d like to say before we begin?”
“Erm,” Charlie muttered, much more to the carpet than to me. “Nellie, it was wrong to target you, and I’m really sorry you got hurt.”
“Is that an adequate apology, Ms. Burke?” Hopkins asked, and her voice seemed to soften slightly as she addressed me.
“Yeah,” I muttered, even though Finnigan sounded about as sincere as Calliope Yaxley looked when she smiled.
“Well, alright,” said Sinistra, briskly. ”Finnigan and Potter, stay here. Nellie, you are free to go. Thank you for your cooperation and I hope you’re healing well.”
I nodded quickly at the two administrators, and even though I could sense the gaze of James Potter on me, could physically feel the way his cold eyes were boring holes into the back of my skull, I refused to look back at him. I just had handed him yet another victory, and I wanted nothing less but to witness his triumph.
The air outside of the office seemed less stifled than the tensioned atmosphere within, and I allowed myself to take a slow breath, in through my mouth and out through my nose.
It was over. Everything would be normal again. The thought was comforting, but hopelessly naive. Because no sooner had I taken two steps, Potter burst out of the room, glancing around maniacally before he settled on me. And as he barreled towards me, I had everything prepared in my head. I was going to tell him that I didn’t say what I did for him, but because there was no evidence he was involved, and Al practically begged me to, and all of that, but before I could even open my mouth Potter was pulling me behind a tapestry for the second time in twenty-four hours.
"Don’t move,” Potter murmured in my ear, low and urgent, and then he was gone as quickly as he had come.
For a moment, I just listened to myself breathe quick, startled breaths, but then I heard the door to Sinistra’s office open once again and I suddenly understood what Potter was trying to do.
“What’d you get?” Potter asked gruffly. They were only a few metres away, and I had to clap my hand over my own mouth to stop myself from gasping noisily.
“Can’t practice for three weeks and I have detention for four. Not bad, considering.” And here, Charlie chortled slightly.
“Considering what?” Potter asked, and although his voice was controlled, it was almost too much so, as if he were fighting against some fury hidden beneath. When Finnigan didn’t respond, Potter continued.
“Considering the fact that you purposely targeted a Seeker - the one position that is illegal to aim for - against my direct orders?”
“Well, yeah,” Finnigan said casually. There was a moment’s pause.
“Why the fuck would you think that was a good idea?”
“Are you joking?” Charlie matched Potter’s tone. “Burke nailed you with a Bludger in our scrimmage! It was an eye for an eye!”
“Don't try to make this about me, Finnigan.” And I could hear their footsteps stop, right in front of my hiding place. “It wasn’t an eye for an eye, it was an eye for her head, so tell me, what do you have against Burke?”
“C’mon. You know who her family is, right?” Finnigan hissed. “Her grandfather was Thelonious Burke! They’re bloody Death Eaters!”
It was a shock to hear my grandfather’s name uttered from the lips of someone like Charlie Finnigan when I had only ever heard it spoken by anyone in my family accidentally. It was common knowledge I was a Pureblood - especially after the infamy of Borgin and Burkes, a dark magic shop that used to belong to my great Uncle - but I had no idea people still remembered the legacy of them, that they still held grudge against me for all of the terrible things they did.
“Thelonious Burke is dead, and there are no more Death Eaters,” said Potter, coldly. “If you can’t leave your personal prejudices off of the pitch, you will no longer have a position on my team.”
“Are you taking the fucking piss-”
“Play my way or don’t play at all. Your choice.”
There was a weighted pause, and even though they were far enough away from me I held my breath, waiting for the final verdict.
“Fine.” Finnigan finally muttered. Their footsteps resumed down the corridor, leaving me still crouched behind the musty smelling tapestry, utterly perplexed at the revelations that had just been exposed.
Author's Note: We are BACK! I have a bunch of chapters written so please please review to let me know how you like the direction/just to say hello again!
Up next....A story of letters, stars, and fetuses.
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