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Darcy --

 

Pain shoots up her legs, her shins are on fire, her thighs aching. Hands touch her cheeks, cradle her face, fingers brushing dirt and tears from her cheeks. But they aren't her mother's hands -- these hands are callused and larger than her mother's, but they are equally as gentle, loving, protective. Strong arms lift her from the ground and she nuzzles into warm, familiar skin, the pain in her legs subsiding slowly, until the pain is nothing more than a dull throbbing.

 

"Darcy!"

 

Soft and gentle hands. They shake Darcy roughly, shaking her awake. Her eyes snap open to find Emily standing over her, her fingernails digging into Darcy's arms. Emily's eyes are wide, but she doesn't seem very surprised to find Darcy in this situation. Darcy throws herself into a sitting position, her heart hammering painfully in her chest. Her thin shirts sticks to her chest, her pillow soaked with her sweat. 

 

Emily -- and Darcy -- has woken the other girls in the dormitory, and the three other girls flock to Darcy's side. Julia, Darcy's favorite out of the three, brings her a glass of water with shaking hands; Delilah opens the nearest window to let in fresh, cool air; Sarah watches on curiously, arms wrapped around herself protectively. 

 

"You were thrashing and screaming," Emily croaks, her hair a mess, eyes still heavy with sleep. Her grip tightens on Darcy's arms.

 

"I'm fine," Darcy mutters. She wriggles out of Emily's grip and throws her blankets off. She's drenched in sweat, every inch of her, and she takes the glass of water over to the dry sink in the center of the dormitory, splashing her face with it. The water is lukewarm and does little to help her. When she turns around, she finds everyone still staring at her warily. Darcy frowns at them all. Just a single look at the three girls and they grab their robes quickly, throwing them on over their pajamas and hurrying out the door to leave Emily and Darcy alone for a few moments.

 

"Darcy . . ." Emily begins in a serious tone, crossing her arms. "You haven't had a dream like that in a long time."

 

"I know," she snaps, still able to recall the flash of green light from her dream. "I know, I know, I know. You don't have to say it."

 

Emily watches Darcy undress, her eyebrows raised almost to her hairline. Darcy throws the sweaty clothes aside, picking clean ones out of her trunk. "Does Harry know?"

 

"Harry and I shared a bedroom for years, and now our bedrooms are right across the hall from each other," Darcy hisses back at Emily, not bothering to look up at her until she pulls a pair of pants on. "Of course he knows that I have nightmares. He's just tactful enough not to ask me about them." At this, Darcy shoots Emily a dangerous look, but Emily doesn't falter.

 

"Does he know they're getting worse again?"

 

"He doesn't need to know." Darcy pulls her shirt over her head. It's old, and part of her stomach shows. She tries to force it down, but it doesn't work. "Just . . . forget it."

 

"Darcy, I can't wake you like that every morning. You need to tell someone. Madam Pomfrey could get you some of that potion -- you know, to help you sleep without dreams."

 

"I won't rely on a potion for all my life just because I have a few nightmares," Darcy says, though she does entertain the idea for a moment. The potion has served her well in the past, particularly throughout her younger years. "I'm fine. They say it always gets worse before it gets better."

 

Emily blinks, searching for an answer to such a stupid response. "Who says that?"

 

"I don't bloody know!" Darcy shouts, pulling at the hem of her shirt once more. She gives up with trying to cover her entire midriff and crawls back into her damp bed, running her hands through her hair. The sheets stick to her exposed skin and she gets back up.

 

"Aren't you having dinner with Lupin again soon? Why don't you tell him?"

 

"Why would I tell him? Would you just walk up to someone you've never met and tell him all about your private nightmares?"

 

Emily purses her lips. "You said he knew yours parents, I only --"

 

"Can you just drop it?"

 

Emily shrugs, throwing up her hands in surrender. "Maybe we could visit Hagrid later today," she sighs, defeated. "He'll listen. He always has."

 

Darcy moves to the open window, letting the cold air blow on her face. Her eyes scan the dark grounds, the leaves of the trees blowing in the slight breeze, the grass swaying, the lake completely still. The absence of noise seems ominous, but Darcy's sure she just can't hear the insects and birds over her pulse pounding in her ears. Emily moves closer to her, putting a hand on her shoulder and squeezing gently. Darcy tenses and Emily lowers her hands back to her side. 

 

"That dream," Darcy begins, swallowing hard. "It was so real. I -- I saw my mother die. She was . . . right there. She kissed me. She spoke to me, said my name." She touches her lips, her nose, her forehead.

 

Emily is quiet for once, tears welling in her eyes. In all their years, Darcy has never told Emily what truly happened that night, insisting she couldn't remember, that she was too little and the experience too traumatic. Darcy is sure that Emily say right through that lie, but being the good friend she is, she never delved deeper, nor asked for details, nor cared to know so long as Darcy never wanted to tell her.

 

"Emily," Darcy cries softly. "I remember everything."

 

Emily only looks at her for a long time. Darcy continues to cry, resting her forehead against Emily's shoulder. 

 

They climb into Emily's small bed together, having to lay on their sides to have enough room. Emily strokes Darcy's sweaty hair, holding her head to her chest, the blankets pulled up to her chin.

 

Darcy cries herself to sleep.


"Have you spoken to him? Professor Lupin?" Darcy asks, stroking Max's chest as he nuzzles into her. Max is quite fond of her, rubbing his face all over hers. She looks over to Harry, who's finally coerced Hedwig down onto his arm. She looks at him indignantly and finally hoots when he gives her a treat. Max flutters over to steal a treat himself, ruffling his feathers and puffing his chest out. Darcy smiles at him.

 

The owlery is rather chilly this morning and cool, autumn wind blows their hair around. Darcy pushes her own auburn hair out of her face and tucks some behind her ears, but to no avail. She watches Harry feed Max some owl treats and he takes them eagerly, flying up to the top of the owlery with his beak full of food. 

 

"Once or twice -- and during class," Harry replies.

 

"I did my detention with him. He's . . . very kind," Darcy says. "He knew our parents, did you know?"

 

Harry looks at Darcy sideways, peering up at the many owls perched on the high rafters. Most of them are resting after a long night of hunting, but some look down at Darcy suspiciously, keeping a close eye on Hedwig and Max. "He's mentioned it to me in passing," Harry shrugs, holding out his arm to try and coerce Hedwig back down. "I like him. He's better than Lockhart was."

 

They both laugh, as if having shared a scandalous piece of gossip. "It's true, isn't it?" she giggles.

 

Darcy smiles at her brother as he looks out the window, down at the mountain range surrounding them. Snow already covers the peaks of the higher mountains and she knows it will not be long now until the snow covers the grounds of Hogwarts. Slowly, her smile fades, and she knows she must tell Harry what she brought him up here to say.

 

"I'm having nightmares again," she says solemnly. "They're worse than before. They're clear and -- it's like I'm there, in the house -- in our house."

 

"I know. Emily told me."

 

Darcy grows suddenly angry with her friend, but it goes away just as quickly, knowing that of course Emily would tell Harry. "Of course she did," Darcy laughs softly. "She means well. I need to remember that."

 

"Have you told anyone?"

 

"Emily. And you."

 

"No offense, but I don't think Emily has much experience with nightmares about Voldemort killing our parents."

 

"I was thinking about talking to Professor Lupin," she says, watching Harry closely to gauge his reaction. To her surprise, he hardly reacts at all. He holds on tight to the railing that keeps them from falling from the owlery to their death, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. "He said we could have dinner again, to talk about things."

 

"Yeah, you could tell him."

 

"I just don't want him to think any differently of me," she admits. "I don't want him to think me as weak or -- or troubled."

 

"Then don't tell him."

 

"You're not helping, Harry!"

 

"I'm sorry!" Harry snaps.

 

He turns on his heels to face her and Darcy sighs. She's bursting to tell him everything, to tell him the other half of the reason she's been so frightened. She remembers clearly what Mr. Weasley had told her in her bedroom at the Leaky Cauldron. She had promised him she wouldn't let Harry go looking for Sirius Black, not that she wouldn't tell him. Mr. Weasley would probably expect her to tell Harry, wouldn't he?" Yet at the same time, Darcy doesn't want Harry to fear for his life -- she doesn't want him to have nightmares about Sirius Black at night that are as crippling as her own.

 

She makes her decision and plunges on, not wanting to change her mind and back out. "Harry, I have to tell you something."

 

This gets his attention. Harry looks at her, waiting for her to continue. 

 

"Sirius Black is --"

 

"-- after me. I know."

 

Darcy is stunned into silence for a few moments. Harry's reaction is the very last thing she expected. How can he be so casual about it? So unafraid and fearless? He's only a little boy, she tells herself, and little boys are always fearless. "You know?" she stammers. "How could you possibly know?"

 

Harry smiles, slightly abashed. "I heard Mr. and Mrs. Weasley talking about it one night at the Leaky Cauldron -- I wasn't eavesdropping . . . I just heard them talking about it and I didn't exactly move to walk away. And then Mr. Weasley, he -- he told me right before we got on the train. You know how hard it is for him to keep a secret."

 

Darcy smiles fondly at the thought of Mr. Weasley. Harry's right -- Mr. Weasley has always broken down when charged with a secret regarding she and her brother. "Are you afraid?" she asks gently.

 

Harry thinks for a moment. "No," he finally says. "No, I'm not. You're here. Dumbledore's here. I'm safe here. Hogwarts is the safest place in the world."

 

Darcy almost laughs out loud. "How can you believe that? After all that's happened here? To us? To you?"

 

He doesn't hesitate this time. "Dumbledore's here."

 

Darcy and Harry make their way to the Great Hall for breakfast a little while later, arriving slightly after everyone else. She waves to Carla as she passes the Hufflepuff table and sits beside Harry and Emily at the Gryffindor table. Emily has already made a plate for her, and Darcy sees that a few of her sausages have large bites taken out of them.

 

Emily wipes her face with her napkin and smirks. "Professor McGonagall made sure I'd tell you that she noticed you weren't at breakfast on time," Emily smiles. "And she wants me to ask you how Mr. Weasley would feel if he had to receive another letter from her."

 

"It's a Saturday," she growls. "Since when was it a rule that I had to be a breakfast right on time?"

 

"Lupin probably told her he caught us," Emily suggests, glancing at the teacher's table. "Or she's just generally suspicious of you."

 

Darcy glances up at the staff table, as well, looking at McGonagall. She doesn't even notice Darcy's gaze -- she's deep in conversation with Professor Dumbledore, her thin eyebrows furrowed. She then looks to Hagrid. He's chatting with Professor Sprout, waving his large arms about and almost knocking the Herbology teacher in the back of the head multiple times. Hagrid doesn't notice her looking, either. Finally, she shifts her gaze to Lupin, who's listening to Professor Flitwick talk his ear off, mainly focusing on his breakfast.

 

Lupin looks up when Darcy's eyes find him, picking her out of all the Gryffindors immediately. He smiles at her, lips stretched tight as he swallows the rest of his food, Flitwick still chattering into his ear, not knowing or caring that Lupin is no longer paying attention. Darcy smiles back, but when Emily taps her arm, she looks away. 

 

"I'm going to tell Professor Lupin," Darcy says suddenly, and Emily raises an eyebrow. "About my nightmares."

 

"Were you listening to anything I just said?"

 

"What?" Darcy frowns. "Sorry, but no."

 

Emily looks at her with a smug grin, chuckling to herself. "Can you please pass the sausage?"

 

Darcy hands her the platter of sausage and Emily forks a few onto her own plate. "Did you get the paper today?" Darcy asks her.

 

"Max brought it," Emily replies, bending over to dig around in her bag to retrieve it. "Don't worry, I made sure he got a reward for his service. I let him eat some of your sausages."

 

Darcy scrunches her nose, forcing herself to swallow the piece in her mouth. "I thought you ate my sausages . . . gross."

 

Emily hands her the Daily Prophet and Darcy snatches it out of her hands. She scans the front page, looking for something interesting. When she opens the first page, Sirius Black's face is staring up at her, baring his rotting teeth and shrieking silently in front of her. She closes the newspaper straightaway, placing it on the table, covering some buttered toast from view. Her heart begins to pick up speed as she attempts to force the image out of her mind.

 

"I can't bear the sight of him," Darcy murmurs, folding the paper up and shoving it back into Emily's hands. "If I have to see that damned photograph of him again, I'll go mad. It's the stuff nightmares are made of."

 

"Though not yours, hm?"

 

"That's not funny."

 

"I'm not laughing." Emily sighs, placing her fork on her plate and pushing it away. "I'm glad you're going to talk to someone."

 

"Which reminds me -- why did you tell Harry about my nightmares?" Darcy asks, a little too harshly. 

 

"Because I love you and you know that," Emily says, rubbing Darcy's arm and smiling weakly. "It's not good to keep things to yourself. Haven't you learned that yet? They'll only get worse if you bottle it all up."

 

Breakfast comes to an end quickly; dirty plates, half-eaten food, and empty platters disappear before their very eyes and the teachers watch the students move towards the tall doors to leave the Great Hall and truly begin their weekend. Darcy and Emily stay for a little while, to avoid the clamor of excited students. Darcy rests her head upon her hand, elbow upon the table, as Carla and Gemma head the crowd out into the entrance hall; Harry, Hermione, and Ron leave with them, as well, until the Gryffindor table is nearly empty. Darcy's finger drum against the table top.

 

As the students file out and the crowd begins to thin, the staff stand and make their way down the Great Hall. Darcy and Emily are the only two left at Gryffindor table, and they stand as Professor Lupin walks past them with a smile and a nod to the both of them.

 

"Professor Lupin!" Darcy blurts out, and she stumbles over the bench and into the aisle. Accidentally running into Professor McGonagall in her haste to catch him ("Do watch where you're going, Potter!"), Darcy mutters a quick apology over her shoulder. She chases Lupin for a few paces, touching his arm to get his attention before he exits the Great Hall and is lost amongst the students. "Professor Lupin." He stops in his tracks and turns, smiling at her -- seemingly always smiling at her. "May I ask you something?"

 

"Of course," he says, holding his hands behind his back. He looks Darcy up and down and frowns. "Are you feeling well, Darcy? You look . . . ill."

 

"It's nothing," Darcy says. "I didn't sleep well last night."

 

"I'm sorry to hear," he replies sympathetically before smiling again. "I'm sorry -- you wanted to ask me something. Go on, Darcy, ask away."

 

Darcy pauses, her cheeks turning pink. She waits for Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore to pass. McGonagall squeezes her shoulder gently in acknowledgement as she passes, and Dumbledore gives Darcy a warm smile. "I -- er, well --"

 

"Don't be nervous," he laughs. Lupin raises his eyebrows, prompting her to continue, leaning in slightly.

 

"I thought perhaps we could have dinner tonight instead of next week."

 

Lupin hums, crossing his arms over his chest. "Is something on your mind?"

 

"Yes, and I don't know that it's a good idea for me to wait any longer." Darcy clears her throat. "So . . . can we?"

 

To her surprise, Lupin finds that idea quite agreeable. His eyes flick over Darcy's shoulder as Emily approaches them. "I'll have dinner brought up to my office." He flashes a small smile at Emily. "Miss Duncan. Enjoy your weekend, ladies. Darcy, I'll see you tonight."


"So you're telling me that Sirius Black escaped Azkaban just to kill Harry?"

 

"That's what Mr. Weasley told me. And Harry heard it from him, as well."

 

"And who did Mr. Weasley hear it from?" Gemma asks, raising an eyebrow suspiciously, lunging to stretch her legs.

 

"I -- I don't know. Around work, I suppose." Darcy readies her wand in front of her. "That's just what he told me, and I know Mr. Weasley wouldn't lie about that."

 

"So you don't know for sure that Sirius Black is after Harry?" Gemma asks again, groaning as she reaches down to touch her toes.

 

Carla flicks her wand, her face set and purple from concentrating so hard. Darcy waves her wand lazily and blocks the spell coming right for her. Her Shield Charm disappears into thin air and Carla grumbles under her breath.

 

"When has it ever not been Harry?" Darcy snaps back, lowering her wand to give Carla time to prepare. She flips through the pages of her Defense Against the Dark Arts book, sighing heavily, and Darcy uses this time to turn towards Gemma. "There is no doubt in my mind that Sirius Black is after Harry. He wants to finish the job Voldemort started."

 

Emily sits off to the side, sitting cross-legged on top of an old, rickety desk, knitting a sweater. Her fingers work the needles furiously, deftly, her wand lying at her side on the desktop. "So that's why the dementors are here, then," Emily concludes without so much as looking up from her sweater. "Because Sirius Black is going to try and get into Hogwarts."

 

"Yes," Darcy answers. "And Harry's certain that we're safe here."

 

"Is he?" Emily snorts, finally looking up to share an incredulous look with Darcy. "After all that's happened?"

 

Darcy nods, pleased she's not the only one who takes this view. "Exactly!"

 

"I feel like I should be more surprised about this than I am," Gemma ponders. "But for some reason, I feel like deep down, I always knew that Sirius Black escaping had something to do with you damn Potter kids."

 

Emily is the one who answers her. "That's not funny, Gemma. You know what Black is capable of doing."

 

Carla casts another spell without speaking, but Darcy blocks it lazily again. She casts another, and another, and another, inching closer to Darcy all the while, but Darcy blocks them all. Carla moves closer again and traps Darcy against the wall of the empty classroom, but this time when she casts a spell, Darcy's Shield Charm causes the hex to rebound, hitting Carla square in the chest. She crumples to the ground, moaning and covering her face.

 

Darcy moves quickly towards her; Emily jumps off the desk, throwing her needles aside, and Gemma kneels down beside Carla. Carla's hands are covering her mouth and tears stream down her cheeks. Darcy grasps her wrists and pulls her hands away from her face; Carla's teeth are growing and growing, longer and longer. Pointing her wand at Carla's teeth, Darcy mutters, "Reducio."

 

Carla's teeth begin to shrink then, and when they're about the same size as they were before, Darcy puts her wand away and helps her friend to her feet. "Thank you," Carla squeaks, feeling her front teeth. She runs her tongue along them.

 

Darcy frowns. "You were trying to hex me," she says, glad that her teeth are still the way they were before. "The deal was, I'll help you with non-verbal spells, but you can't use any hexes!"

 

"I didn't mean to use that spell!" Carla cries, helped to her feet again by Gemma.

 

Darcy narrows her eyes. "What do you mean to do?"

 

"I only meant to make you dance!"

 

"Almost time for dinner," Emily announces, glancing down at her watch. "We should start heading down. Come on, Carla, Gemma -- we can walk together."

 

"Aren't you coming, Darcy?" Carla asks, grabbing her bag off the floor and stuffing her wand and book into it.

 

"Didn't she tell you? She has an important dinner date tonight," Emily jokes, putting her needles and yarn away and slinging her own leather bag over her shoulder. "With Professor Lupin. And you best believe I'll be asking him if you told him about your nightmares. You know that I will."

 

"Nightmares?" Carla snaps, turning quickly towards Darcy. "You're having nightmares again?"

 

Gemma frowns at Emily. "Why would you even feel the need to overstep and check-in like that?" she frowns, scrunching her nose. "Don't worry, Darcy, I definitely will make sure Emily does not ask Lupin if you told him or not."

 

"You didn't tell us you were having nightmares again," Carla insists, a bit louder this time.

 

Darcy gives Emily a sideways look and a scowl. "They never really stopped," she murmurs. "It doesn't matter. Professor McGonagall told me Sarah asked to switch dormitories."

 

"Sarah's a right prude," Gemma interjects. "She is so fucking boring."

 

Carla gives Gemma a disappointed look.

 

"No, she's right," Emily assures Carla. "She's really fucking boring." She smiles sweetly at Darcy again. "Don't listen to Gemma. You told me you'd tell him about your nightmares, and I just want to make sure you follow up on that promise."

 

"Em," Gemma hisses. "Stop it. You're not doing that."

 

Carla looks hesitant, tying her curly hair up in a ponytail. She seems to be fighting some internal battle in order to say what she truly wants to say. "You don't find that a little . . . strange?"

 

Darcy cocks an eyebrow. "Find what strange?"

 

"Having dinner with Professor Lupin. In his office. By yourselves."

 

"Sounds a proper dream to me," Gemma grins, making Carla laugh nervously. 

 

"No," Darcy replies, laughing. "He's a family friend. Or -- was. Or, would have been, I suppose." She grows quiet for a moment, thinking about her beautiful mother, her laughing and smiling father. "He's kind to me, and I would feel more comfortable speaking to him about my nightmares than to anyone else. He wouldn't hurt me, if that's what you're thinking."

 

"Well, I mean --" Carla fumbles for words, blushing. "Sure . . . but maybe it isn't so smart to be alone with someone you don't know, with Sirius Black on the loose. And if what you say is true . . . that he's coming after Harry . . . Darcy, you don't really know Professor Lupin."

 

"I know him well enough that I'm certain he's not plotting with Sirius Black to kill me. And he said he knew my parents."

 

"He could be lying to you," Carla protests. 

 

"No," Darcy replies quietly, but firmly. "No, he's not lying. He knew me -- he knew who I was."

 

"Everyone knows who you are," Gemma retorts. "I quite like him, myself."

 

"Carla, stop scaring her," Emily interrupts. "Lupin isn't out to get her. Besides, he looks like a strong gust of wind could knock him right over. I don't think Darcy has anything to worry about." She throws an arm around Carla's shoulders, escorting her to the door, Gemma trailing after them. "We'll see you later, Darcy. Be sure to be in bed by curfew, lest Carla sends all of the Hufflepuffs to look for your corpse."

 

"I wouldn't," Carla says sharply.

 

"I know, lovely, I know," Gemma coos, winking at Darcy as they leave the classroom.

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