Chapter 1: The last year
The early time didn’t bother any of the students, standing on the train station platform. Groups of first years, who had never experienced the wonder of waiting for the magical train, were either running around excitedly, or staying as close to their parents as possible. The fog that had followed everyone of them to King’s Cross Station was still to be felt in the air at the platform.
Constantly new students appeared on the platform. Some were seen speeding out of the stone post, others walked through it in a relaxed way, patting the owls on their shoulders and rats in their hands.
The black letters inside of the white colored circle on the red shield were enthroned highly above the young wizards.
The redhead Slytherin made her way through the crowd. She ignored the voices and let her gaze wander through the crowd, her hands holding her wand that was buried inside of her coat in the pocket specifically designed for it. Performing magic outside of school wasn’t allowed to her yet, nevertheless she held onto it.
There was nothing wrong with staying safe.
She looked to the ground, while everyone else was playing and laughing and waiting for the train to arrive. Only sometimes she looked up, to search for her best friend in the crowd. They had promised each other in one of the many letters they had written each other that they would meet up.
Still, she was nowhere to be seen.
The girl passed by some students she knew from the last year. Even though she probably should have started to get to know them a little better, she ignored them.
For a short moment she toyed with the thought of pulling out some Bombtastic Bombs she had bought at Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes only a few days ago, to scare the crowd and make them jump out of the way, but she eventually resigned from doing so. She didn’t want to risk people getting hit by the train that would soon arrive.
She wasn’t a monster.
Calling for her friend in the crowd was of no use, but as soon as she caught the glimpse of someone who looked like her best friend, she pushed people out of the way, so she could get to her.
“Riley? I’m here! Come here!”, someone shouted, and she recognized the voice as her best friend’s.
She got a move on and soon enough was standing right in front of her.
“Where were you?”, she asked.
“I could ask you the same question, Cai”, Riley answered. “Didn’t we agree on meeting at the stone post?”
She hugged her best friend briefly and then let go.
“Jeez, thanks for noticing us as well”, a friend of them, Lyra, muttered gloomily and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“Calm down, I didn’t ignore you”, Riley rolled her eyes. “I was just looking for Cai because we have to discuss some changes about the team. There’ll probably be a new member joining it this year and since I’m the captain I have to make sure everything happens smoothly.”
A boy with long, black hair took a step forward, sarcastically reaching out his hand to Riley. “Congratulations Riley. You haven’t even been here for a solid minute and already mentioned that you’re the new captain, that’s a new record.”
“Cut the crap, Bylon”, Riley said, while Cairo pushed his hand away. She rolled her eyes.
“What is it? Are you trying to pick a fight?”, Lyra asked and some fellow Slytherins cheered. “Come on Williams, you know that you’ll never be captain material.”
Riley would’ve probably whipped her wand out, and ended everyone right then and there, but she was interrupted by a loud noise coming from afar and the feeling of a slight wind tickling her under her nose.
She wheeled around and her trained eyes immediately found the black spot in the distance, that would soon grow to show the whole mightiness of the old Hogwarts express. She turned back to her fellow Slytherins, who were still waiting for her to whip out her wand and start a duel. Riley rolled her eyes and turned back to the train, walking away from them.
She deserved better than this.
She would be the best captain, not like they said.
As captain, she would crash every other team, no matter what they thought of her.
Chess made her way towards the train door and made an effort of getting on the train as quickly as possible. As a student in year seven she knew that free cabins would be hard to find. Especially, if she wasn’t alone and just waiting for her best friend, so she could get started on reviewing the basic topics she had covered in Herbology the year before. Her best friend, Kate, wasn’t particularly good at Herbology, so she relied on her. She quickly managed to find a free cabin and smiled to herself. She pulled her Gryffindor uniform out of her suitcase and put it down on one of the empty seats, for when they’d arrive and then stored her luggage away and sat down.
It was hard to believe that this would be the last time for her to get on the train for a new school year. The years at the most magical school she would ever get to know had gone by far too fast.
At least she had gotten to spend most of the time with her favorite people surrounding her.
And now, in her last year, she had even managed to get on the newly founded Quidditch school team. It was an honor to play with the best players of the school and compete against the best players of other schools.
And she was part of it!
It was like a dream coming true.
Maybe she would become a professional Quidditch player after mastering her N.E.W.T.s. She quickly shook her head. The thought of the N.E.W.T.s made it hurt again and she quickly tried to forget about them. “Nearly Exhausting Wizarding Tests”. She didn’t understand how someone could name tests this way. No wonder that everyone was panicking before taking them.
Someone knocked on the glass door leading to the cabin and Chess looked up, smiling. She opened the door for Kate, who was standing there with all of her luggage and looked a bit exhausted.
“Hey”, Chess smirked. “Do you need any help with that?”, she added sarcastically and pointed at the suitcases she was carrying.
“No, I’m just pretending that I’ll fall to the floor any second”, the younger girl deadpanned.
Chess rolled her eyes at her, took two suitcases from her and stored them away, Kate doing the same. The girls sat down, and Kate let go of a breath.
“Why are you carrying so much with you anyways?”, Chess asked, pulling two chocolate frogs from her pocket and handing one over to Kate.
Kate gladly took it, even though she didn’t eat it but pocketed it. “We’re only now seeing each other for the first time since the last day of school and I don’t even get a hug? I feel betrayed”, she pouted, and Chess laughed.
“God, you’re so childish, come here.”
They stood up at the same time and enveloped each other in a hug, laughing as they nearly fell over in the process. They awkwardly toddled around for a few more seconds hugging like this and then broke the hug at the same time, both of them smiling a little, and sat down on opposite sides of the cabin again.
“So, why did you bring your whole room with you?”, Chess asked again.
Kate shrugged. “I won’t go home during the holidays”, she explained easily.
Chess twisted her mouth a little. “Is it your brothers?”
“Nah, the whole family.” Kate sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “I can’t really stand them anymore, and now that it’s my sixth year here, you know... Everyone already wants me to study for the N.E.W.T.s even though I barely passed the O.W.L.s.”
She shrugged the subject of the Ordinary Wizarding Levels off, though. Chess remembered her own O.W.L.s all too well and understood. The panic she had felt before taking them was something she had never felt before. The unpleasant knowledge that she could fail hadn’t actually been calming. And now the N.E.W.T.s were already right on her doorstep.
“But what about you?”, Kate ripped her out of her thoughts. “Looking forward to your last year?”
Chess shrugged, letting her gaze wander a little.
There were still students passing by their cabin, in search of a free one for their friends and themselves. As always. The train hadn’t started moving yet, but it wouldn’t take long anymore. And then she’d be on her way to her last year of school.
She brought herself back to the conversation and shrugged again. “Yeah, I am. But I’m going to miss you after I leave. I don’t know what I’ll do without my favorite Gryffindor.”
Chess noticed Kate blushing furiously and laughed.
“Shut up”, Kate muttered. “And stop talking nonsense like this, you know that you’ll be great. You’ll blow all of them off their brooms.”
Chess shook her head. “Not after last year’s glorious loose of the quidditch cup.”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Would you forget about that already? It wasn’t that bad!”
“A Bludger hit my leg”, Chess deadpanned. Just the thought of it made a dull pain spread in her leg again, right where the ball of solid iron had hit it. “It costed us the quidditch cup and I wasn’t able to practice for two months straight because Madame Pomfrey wouldn’t let me.”
The words of the nurse were still burned into her brain. “Even with my techniques of healing your leg you won’t be able to function normally for the next three months, my dear.” It had turned out to be two months in the end, but it was still bad enough. The Gryffindor team had been screwed without their star Beater and with that it was all over. Chess still hadn’t quite recovered from the accident. Whenever she saw a broom, she still remembered the occurrences and a dull feeling of fear rose in her chest.
“But you’re fine now”, Kate answered easily. “You’re able to play. Don’t worry about it. And besides, Madame Pomfrey gave you emergency pasties, didn’t she?”
Chess sighed and nodded. “Yeah, she did.” The fact, that during the holidays she had illegally transformed them into the form of pills so they would last longer Chess omitted. Kate didn’t have to know.
“So, you’re going to be fine Chess, don’t worry about it. You’ll have a great last year.” Kate smiled at her encouragingly.
Chess gave a small smile. “Thanks Kate.”
“Of course.” Kate grinned and leaned back.
Suddenly a jolt went through the train and it gave off a loud hoot. Chess heard the familiar clicking and clacking, smiled and leaned back, as she felt the vibration of the train at her back. “Well, off we go”, she smiled.
Kate nodded and softly nudged her own foot against Chess’. “This year is going to be the best”, she promised her.
As usual, they would get to the enormous castle by getting into one of the carriages that was drawn by invisible Thestrals.
Chess and Kate got in and sat down next to each other as they always did. Some other Gryffindor and Ravenclaw students, that neither Chess nor Kate knew very well, sat down in the carriage, as well, chatting about their holidays excitedly. They ignored them though, as no one of them had ever made a move of befriending them and hadn’t reacted to Chess’ and Kate’s tries to do so.
Kate yawned and leaned her head against her best friend’s shoulder. “Tell me again: Why are the train rides here always so fucking exhausting?”
“I never told you”, Chess chuckled.
Chess saw Kate rolling her eyes from the corners of her eyes and laughed a little. “You know what I mean”, Kate muttered.
“Yeah, I do. But I don’t have the answer”, she laughed, sitting up a little.
Kate’s head slid from her shoulder, which she complained about, but only a few seconds later the carriage started moving and she smiled at Chess again, thankful for being allowed to use her as a pillow. Chess gave back a “You’re welcome” – smile. Kate cuddled into Chess’ shoulder and murmured something Chess couldn’t understand. But she didn’t wonder about it and instead gazed out of the window of the small carriage, watching, as the trees seemingly passed her by.
It was already dark outside, and she could only make out the silhouettes of the trees, but something about the feeling of being lost and haphazard made her mind clear up and made her forget about the challenges that were yet to come. She noticed Kate’s breath growing even and smiled a little. It was always the same. They would talk through the whole train ride, and then, on the short way to the castle Kate would fall asleep on her shoulder and refuse to get up when they had arrived at the castle.
Chess closed her eyes for a short moment to take a deep breath and then opened them again.
The familiar raspy feeling of the material of the bench she was sitting on and the familiar scent of wood and the all too familiar sense of magic in the air nearly made tears spring to her eyes.
This was her last year at Hogwarts.
Pulling the box, she kept her pills in out of a pocket of her school uniform she sighed a little. No one noticed when she swallowed a pill and leaned back again.
She would make her year worth it.
Suddenly a jolt went through the carriage and it came to an abrupt halt. Chess frowned and looked up. What was going on? The other Gryffindor and Ravenclaw students were ripped out of their conversations as well and looked around, frowning. Kate mumbled something in her sleep. Chess looked down at her, but she was still sleeping peacefully. Something she couldn’t describe settled in her chest. It wasn’t a good feeling. Against all laws and rules applying to the grounds of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry she let her hand wander to her wand, which she carried in a side pocket of her uniform. There was a loud noise to be heard from outside and she flinched.
Kate mumbled something again and sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “What’s the matter?”, she murmured, still sounding sleepy.
Chess shrugged. “I don’t know, but it’s odd.” Kate looked at her again, raising an eyebrow. “Grab your wand”, Chess added silently. “I don’t know what this is, but I don’t like it.”
“Chess, what is it?”, Kate asked, still confused.
Chess didn’t answer, only continued starring out of the window. A few of the other students looked at them in a confused way, but Chess ignored it. There was something out there. Something she couldn’t name but didn’t like.
Suddenly a loud scream echoed through the air. The Ravenclaws and Gryffindors immediately looked around in the small, dark carriage in search of who had caused the noise. Chess looked away from the window and over to them.
As abruptly as the scream had started it ended and there was nothing left in the air but a cold, unsettling feeling.
“We have to get out there”, Chess murmured and stood up.
“What?” Kate stood up as well.
“We have to get out there!”, Chess repeated. “Didn’t you hear? Whoever’s out there right now needs help! And we’re the only ones around!” The walls of the carriage suddenly seemed far more interesting to most of the students in the cabin. They were acting as if nothing had happened and Chess felt a wave of anger at it. This wasn’t right. “Someone could be dying out there”, she added insistently.
A Ravenclaw girl with short hair that was tied into a short pony tail nodded. “I agree”, she said, her voice shaking a little. She seemed to be in sixth or seventh year as well. “There’s definitely something going on out there and…”
She was interrupted by another blood-curdling cry.
Chess pulled out her wand. “No one else will be helping us anytime soon! I’ll go out there.”
“You’re not allowed to use magic without a professor’s permission!”, a Ravenclaw boy, clearly younger than Chess, said.
“You could get suspended”, a Gryffindor girl added, pointing at her and Kate’s wands. Chess looked at her best friend, who was standing at her side in the dark carriage now and smiled thankfully at her for having her back. Kate smiled back.
“I honestly couldn’t care less about rules right now”, the Ravenclaw girl that had agreed with them stood up now as well.
Chess couldn’t stand waiting another second. “I’m going out there”, she stated, her voice shaking a little. Maybe it was just a joke of their Defense Against the Dark Arts professor. Maybe there was nothing out there. But maybe someone was being tortured right now.
Without wasting another second, she pushed through the students, that were still sitting on the benches and hopped out of the carriage. It was freezing cold outside; not like she had expected. It was this kind of cold she only experienced in the muggle world, when she felt disconnected from her real home – Hogwarts.
Kate jumped out of the carriage as well now, the Ravenclaw girl right behind her. Kate positioned herself next to Chess.
“What now?”, the Ravenclaw asked.
Chess shrugged a little helpless. “I don’t know”, she murmured. “But there’s definitely something wrong. I… I feel it.” There was no other way to describe it, but Chess knew that they weren’t safe.
She took a few steps forward. The crumbling of the branches and limbs under her feet were the only things to be heard. From far away she could see the silhouettes of all the other carriages, that were coming closer and closer to the castle.
“This is…”, Kate started to say, but she didn’t finish her sentence. Instead, she let out a high-pitched scream and as Chess spun around, she saw her flying backwards. She landed on the floor, breathing heavily.
Chess ran over to her. “Kate! What happened?”
“I don’t know”, Kate answered. Chess helped her to stand up and checked for any injuries. “It’s fine”, Kate shook it off. “But it felt like the stunning spell.”
“We should stay together”, the Ravenclaw now suggested. “That way the probability of one of us getting hit again is smaller.”
Chess and Kate nodded. “I agree”, Chess breathed out, glancing at her best friend, just to make sure she was fine. “I’m Chess”, she quickly introduced herself.
“Eva”, the Ravenclaw introduced herself.
“Kate”, Kate quickly said, moving closer to both of them. “Cool scarf”, she breathed out, pointing at Eva’s rainbow-colored scarf.
“Thanks” she smiled. “Are you ok?”
“Yeah”, Kate nodded.
“Guys, I really hate to end this conversation and if we ever get to know each other closer that would be great, but I don’t think that this is the right time”, Chess interrupted, looking around. Her gaze came to a halt at a point in the woods. “Guys?”, she then asked. Eva and Kate followed her gaze. “There are no death eaters anymore, right?”
“No”, Eva replied quickly, lifting her wand. “Lumos”, she murmured, and it lit up. It was of no use, though, so she quickly murmured "Nox" and let her wand sink again.
Kate lifted her wand. “Please don’t tell me that you’re seeing a death eater”, she said.
Chess shook her head but then nodded. “I…”
She pointed at a figure that was standing in the woods, right where the trees cleared. It didn’t do anything, only starred at them through the mask it was wearing. It was the exact same mask death eaters had always worn.
“I think I’m going to be sick”, Eva murmured. “How did they even get here? The school grounds are enchanted!”
“No clue”, Kate muttered.
The figure starred at them and painful seconds passed by, as no one moved. There wasn’t a single noise around, not even the turning of the wheels of the carriages far away was to be heard anymore.
And then the figure lifted its wand. Within the fraction of a second Eva was thrown back, letting out a shriek. She hit the carriage and fell to the ground.
Chess lifted her wand. “Stupefy!”, she shouted, but the death eater parried it off easily.
“Reducto!”, Kate shouted, but it parried it off again. Only a second later it shot back a spell that hit Kate.
Eva got up from the ground again and Chess looked around helplessly. She lifted her wand again and ran away from the spot she had been standing on. Running would buy her some time. And time was exactly what she needed right now.
“Stupefy!”, the death eater shouted.
“Protego!”, Chess screamed turning around and watching as a shield built up in front of her that shot the curse right back to the death eater. “Stupefy!”, she added shouting. “Expelliarmus! Reducto!”
The death eater blocked the spells and came closer to her, running now. Chess ran as fast as she could.
“Sectum Sempra!”, Eva shouted behind her.
“Stupefy!”, Kate shouted.
Chess wheeled around and watched as the death eater kept blocking the spells. She looked at Eva and Kate panting and swallowing hard. “Continue!”, she shouted at them.
Kate looked at her worriedly and gave a quick nod, blocking another of the death eater’s spells.
Chess tried to regain her breath, swallowed one of the pills in her pocket to clear her thoughts and looked at the death eater. If she could just manage to produce a perfect Patronus. The light would distract the death eater just long enough for them to have the inside track. She swallowed hard and lifted her wand. She envisioned the best – most positive – memory she remembered in front of her inner eyes and murmured: “Expecto Patronum”. She felt something tugging at her wand, but as soon as she opened her eyes, the protection spell was gone.
She cursed herself and watched as the death eater got closer and closer to her, while also fighting Kate and Eva back to the carriage.
Without a second thought she sprinted towards it and lifted her wand. “Stupefy!”
The spell was blocked as expected and Chess hoped that Kate and Eva got the clue to attack the death eater, while she was distracting it.
“Expelliarmus!”, she shouted. The death eater came closer to her.
“Now”, Chess thought. “Please now!”
“Arresto Momentum!”, the death eater shouted in a chesty voice as Chess tried running away again and she felt her feet being glued to the ground. “Stupefy!”, it then added, and she was thrown back, against a tree, her wand landing on the ground.
Her eyes fluttered, as she tried to keep them open. The death eater came towards her, she felt blood dripping from the back of her head. From the corner of her eye she saw Eva running towards the death eater and let go of a short breath.
“Expelliarmus!”, Eva shouted, and the death eater’s wand flew across the ground, landing more than twenty feet away.
Chess managed to stand up in the meantime and gathered her own wand from the ground.
The death eater looked around, its hands shaking a little. But before Chess could do anything else, it had shouted “Accio wand” and gotten it back. They pointed it at the ground right before Kate, who had just lifted her wand to curse the death eater. “Bombarda Maxima!”, it shouted and the ground in front of Kate exploded.
Chess’ heart stopped. Before the smoke of the explosion had cleared the death eater had apparated and was nowhere to be seen anymore.
Eva and Chess looked at each other and at the same time they started running towards Kate, who was lying on the ground, fifty feet from where the explosion had happened. Chess immediately kneeled down next to her as soon as she was standing next to her and lifted her head from the ground. She felt her pulse and checked her breathing. There was dirt all over her face, but she didn’t care.
Eva arrived only now and kneeled down next to Chess. “Is she breathing? Does she have a pulse?”, she asked out of breath.
Chess nodded. “But I can barely feel it”, she murmured. “We need help. I don’t know how we’ll get it, but we need help.”
“Let’s get her back to the carriage”, Eva suggested quickly. “We’ll get the Thestrals to continue pulling the carriage up to the castle.”
Chess swallowed hard and nodded. “That’s a good idea.” She looked up from the ground and searched for the carriage, but it was nowhere to be found. “Where is it?”, she breathed out.
Eva looked around as well and Chess, who was still holding Kate, noticed her hands starting to shake.
“It’s gone”, Eva breathed out.
Chess looked up to where the path to the castle led and saw something that made her blood run cold. There was the carriage, what felt like miles away from them, and standing on its roof was the death eater.
It pointed its wand at them again, and then disappeared.
Above Chess and Eva, a sudden explosion of red stars erupted in the sky.
Both Chess and Eva looked up and then back down again. “At least they’ll have to find us now”, Eva murmured gloomily.
Chess nodded, ignoring the pounding in her head, and felt Kate’s pulse again. Her breath got caught in her throat. She looked at Eva and nodded a little again, panting.
“And they better be fast.”
The feast in the great hall was in full swing. The long tables were filled with masses of food, they threatened to break. Headmistress McGonnagel had already held the annual Welcome-Back-speech and the students were digging in.
Right then Chess and Eva entered the hall.
No one noticed, of course, but they looked at each other and both didn’t feel like eating at all. Madam Pomfrey had pushed them out of the hospital wing after getting Kate there, after they had been found by Professor Flitwick near the carriage.
“What are you girls doing here?”, Professor Flitwick asked. “Get in the castle. What happened to Ms. Dalton?” Neither of them answered. Professor Flitwick knelt down next to Kate and examined her with wide eyes. “Go, go to the castle! I will look after Ms. Dalton. I will get her to the hospital wing.”
They did as they were told. All the way up to the castle both of them kept quiet, neither of them knowing what to say, both still in shock. As soon as they arrived, they went to the hospital wing. Kate was already lying in a bed, her breathing shallow and her eyes closed.
Madam Pomfrey turned around.
“Kate”, Chess took a step forward, reaching out a hand to her best friend. She didn’t answer.
“She won’t react”, Madam Pomfrey said firmly. “Ms. Dalton”, she tried. But as she had said, Kate didn’t react.
Eva took a step forward now as well, so she was standing next to Chess. “Kate, tell us you’re ok.”
Again, she didn’t react. Her breathing suddenly grew uneven and her chest started rising and falling in erratic distances. Madam Pomfrey hurried to her side and shooed Chess and Eva away. She felt Kate’s pulse and her expression darkened. She turned back to the girls.
“You need to eat. Go.”
She turned back to Kate and started yelling at other nurses – probably names of pasties. She looked at the girls again. “Go”, she said firmly.
Though the last thing the girls thought of right now was eating, they left. But not without constantly looking back at Kate, trying to get a glimpse at her. They only saw her chest stopping to fall and her eyes staying closed before turning the corner.
Still, neither Chess nor Eva were hungry even in the slightest. The picture of Kate – pale and blandly lying in bed, her chest stopping to fall, and her eyes closed – was burned into their brains. How she hadn’t reacted when they had tried talking to her and hadn’t even reacted, when Madam Pomfrey had tried talking to her.
How Madam Pomfrey had felt her pulse, and her facial expression had darkened.
Now, in the Great Hall, everyone had already engaged in conversations, probably about their holidays or how good the food was.
Chess let her gaze wander upwards, to look at the enchanted ceiling. Enchanted, so it would always show the exact way the sky looked like. Today it was cloudy, maybe even fog-shrouded. It wouldn’t let her see through it. The opposite was the case, it seemed to solidify like iron and press down on her any second. She was trapped.
“Are you still going to visit Madam Pomfrey today?”, Eva ripped her out of the small gap that had been left between the sky and herself.
Chess took a quick breath and looked at Eva. She nodded hastily. “Yeah… I-I will. I can’t not ask her about Kate.” The name of her best friend sounded weird on her lips. Waves of this stifling feeling of fear – of not knowing whether Kate was fine or not – flooded her. The uncertainty made her go crazy.
“Can I come with?”, Eva asked.
Chess looked at her a bit confusedly for a second, but quickly nodded. “Sure”, she said over the noise of the feasting students. “After dinner?”
Eva agreed and they decided on trying to take their minds off things – at least for a while. They made their way to the tables of their houses; both were located at the right side of the Great Hall, the Gryffindor one next to the wall, the Ravenclaw table next to it. But before either of them could sit down and pretend that they were only late because of a misunderstanding, a long and thin shadow appeared on the floor in front of them. As the girls looked up, they saw Professor Minerva McGonagall’s observing – hawk like – look resting on them.
“Would you two care to come with me?”, she asked calmly, her voice allowing no argument.
Chess gasped for air and looked at Eva next to her, who seemed to be scanning the Ravenclaw table, probably in search of a friend or someone who would get her out of this. Chess didn’t look for anyone though, she just looked up at Professor McGonagall again.
“Why?”, she managed to ask, her voice small.
“I think you know why”, Professor McGonagall stated coldly. She passed them by and without another word Chess and Eva complied with her request, following her out of the Great Hall.
“Do you think it’s because of earlier?”, Eva whispered, moving her head a little closer to Chess’, so she would hear her.
Chess nodded. “What else can it be? She obviously held her welcoming speech already and we’re probably the only one’s who were late. And we used magic on school grounds.”
Professor McGonagall turned the corner and went down a big stone floor, that Chess remembered lead to her office. The headmistress’ office. This seemed to be more than just a small complication.
“Can’t we get suspended for that?”, Eva panicked whispering.
Chess swallowed hard and nodded. “If we hope hard enough maybe we’ll forget about it until we’re sitting in her office.”
“So, what you’re saying is that we will be expelled.”
“We could be”, Chess replied dryly.
Ms. McGonagall turned the corner again. The floor was only lit up by a few candles on the wall and dipped it into an odd light of mystery and darkness at the same time.
“Have you ever been called to Professor McGonagall’s office?”, Chess whispered, and Eva shook her head. “Me neither”, Chess murmured.
This was something way too serious to experience on the first day of school.
Chess and Eva followed Ms. McGonagall up countless of moving staircases, until they had finally arrived at the second floor and were walking down the Gargoyle corridor. By now, the girls were completely sure that they were being taken to the headmistress’ office. They came to a halt in front of a big statue, that neither of them had had to face up until this point: The majestic Stairwell Gargoyle, that was guiding the entrance to the headmistress’ office. It was golden, its face looked like the one of an eagle and it had its wings wrapped around itself, allowing no entrance.
Ms. McGonagall cleared her throat and then loudly said: “Bombtastic Bombs.”
“This must be today’s password”, Eva whispered, and Chess nodded in agreement. She had already heard students talking about the mysterious password of the headmistress’ office that got changed more often than the menus that were prepared by the house elves.
The Gargoyle gave a shriek and without any further noise, it opened its wings. A staircase leading upstairs in a spiral was revealed, as it spread its wings until they were careering along the round stone walls and then froze again, as if nothing had ever happened.
“Please, follow me.” Ms. McGonagall looked back at Chess and Eva and then walked up the stairs. The girls hurried to follow her. Every step upstairs made them feel more like they had done something terribly wrong and at the same time, as if there would never be a privilege higher than seeing the mysterious and highly debated office.
Some said that there were countless of magical beasts in there, others told stories about spells that no one had ever used before being written on the walls and still others talked about magical props, that not even the Ministry of Magic knew of.
But what Chess and Eva saw, when Professor McGonagall opened the door to the office was even more fantastic than they could’ve ever imagined. Countless of portraits of former headmasters and headmistresses smiled at them from the wall and talked to each other, among them the two men that had been headmasters before Professor McGonagall had become headmistress: Severus Snape and Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
Professor Cuthbert Binns, the History of Magic professor who just so happened to be a ghost, had taught the girls about them already, when they had talked about the Battle of Hogwarts that hadn’t happened all that long ago.
On one of the countless shelves that were stood next to the curved walls lay the Sorting Hat.
“Wow”, Eva breathed out and Chess nodded, looking at the girl whose mouth had fallen open.
“Sit down please”, Professor McGonagall ordered, sitting down behind the big desk.
Chess tore her eyes loose from the portrait of Severus Snape and sat down, her eyes searching the floor, as if she was looking for clues of what to say, so she wouldn’t get thrown out of school.
“I suppose you know why I called you here.” Professor McGonagall looked at them, a piercing look in her eyes. “It’s about your friend. She is your friend, isn’t she?”
Eva and Chess nodded.
“How is she?”, Eva asked silently. “Is she ok?”
“Madam Pomfrey is doing her best”, Professor McGonagall dismissed the subject quickly. “But this isn’t about her. This is about the two of you using magic on school grounds, even though you were clearly in a state of knowing that it is not permitted. Especially since you haven’t come of age yet.”
“W-we had to”, Chess stuttered. “T-there… there was a…”
“What?”, McGonagall raised an eyebrow at Chess. “Would you please continue.”
Chess thought about her words again. The more often she repeated them in her head the less sense they made. “There was a death eater”, she imagined saying. How could there be a death eater? There weren’t any death eaters left! Lord Voldemort was dead, every death eater was either dead or in Azkaban.
Still, Chess trusted her eyes.
“We couldn’t have done without magic”, Eva now jumped in. “There wouldn’t have been a chance for us to survi-“ She interrupted herself and bit her lip. “It was very serious.”
McGonagall let go of an annoyed breath. “Ms. Sanchez. Would you care enough about this situation to tell me some details, or are they supposed to stay hidden away in the dark?”
If Chess had been brave enough she would’ve probably agreed to McGonagall’s second suggestion, but she kept quiet, just like Eva, who was now looking down. “I’m sorry, Professor”, Eva murmured, barely understandable. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
Professor McGonagall nodded. “Ok then.” She eyed both girls again. “Is either of you still going to tell me the truth?”
Chess and Eva both remained silent.
“Ok then. Detention, starting next week. The both of you”, Professor McGonagall stated. “I will supervise you myself. Meet me in the Transfiguration classroom after dinner.”
The girls nodded lamely. They couldn’t do anything else anyways.
“Good. And now go back to the Great Hall and grab something to eat. You will need all your strength.”
They nodded again and stood up, staying close to each other, just for comfort. “Oh, uhm, Professor”, Chess remembered. McGonagall looked up and Chess cleared her throat. “Are we allowed to visit Kate in the hospital wing? We’re worried about her.”
“I suppose you are”, Professor McGonagall nodded. “But as soon as she wakes up, tell Ms. Dalton to meet me. She will spend detention with you, too.”
“What? But that’s not fair!”, Eva promptly shouted. “She’s the one who got hurt!”
“But she used magic on school grounds without a professor’s permission”, McGonagall stated matter-of-factly. “If she’s injured or not doesn’t matter, she violated the rules, so she is to be punished. And now please go.”
Eva and Chess let their heads hang. They left the office in silence and went down the stairs to the floor leading away from the office, a thick fog of unspoken words hanging between them.
“This wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be”, Eva broke the silence, when they were already walking down the corridor leading to the Great Hall.
Chess nodded. “We got away with detention, I guess it could be worse.”
“It could definitely be worse.”
The conversation died again.
“How about we visit Kate after dinner?”, Chess suggested as they entered the Great Hall. “We don’t have detention yet, so, let’s make use of the time. We could… I don’t know, see her, I guess.”
Eva nodded. “Sure, let’s do it.”
They awkwardly waved each other goodbye and then parted, to make their ways to their tables. Something gave Chess the feeling, that she wasn’t alone in having lost her appetite.
Kate felt her eyelids blinking without her control. She felt like she was floating on a cloud of not being herself. She felt nothing. At least nothing bad. Sometimes, there was a moment where she felt a sharp sting or a dull pain in her body, but as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared again.
“Bombarda Maxima!”, someone in her head kept shouting and it felt as if suddenly hands held her body. At the same time a soft something seemed to embrace her and make her feel comfortable and warm.
But the more her eyelids fluttered and begged her to finally open them, the fogged up her mind became.
“Get going girls”, a syrupy voice said. “I understand that you’re worried about your friend, but I can’t do anything for you. We just have to wait until she wakes up.”
Kate recognized the voice as Madam Pomfrey’s. Why was Madam Pomfrey around?
“Please, Madam Pomfrey, we just want to see her.” Kate immediately recognized the voice as Chess'. She would have been able to recognize it even if it had been drowned by thousands of other noises. “We know that she’s asleep, but can we please just see her?”
“She needs time to recover. And she has to be alone and needs silence”, Madam Pomfrey insisted.
“Please, Madam, we promise we won’t say a word”, another voice now said. Kate’s memory came back and the more she thought about it, the more the voice sounded like the one of the Ravenclaw she had fought with. Eva was her name, Kate remembered.
There was a short pause before Kate heard Madam Pomfrey’s resigned voice again. “Good, five minutes. And not a second longer.”
A few seconds of Chess and Eva thanking Madam Pomfrey over and over again followed and then Kate felt a beam of light hitting her eyelids. She blinked again and her eyes opened just slightly. She closed them immediately afterwards though, being blinded by the sudden light. Slowly, she opened them again. She was met with the silhouette of two very familiar figures and a sudden dull pain in her back. Taking a deep breath, she was met with stinging in her chest and she let go of the breath again.
What had happened?
She opened her eyes again, even though she hadn’t even noticed closing them and looked up, something inside of her head thumping and burning.
“Kate, oh my god, are you ok?” Chess’ voice was only a whisper. She sat down on the bed. Kate noticed her fidgeting with the bracelet around her wrist and reached for her hand. Chess took it.
“Are you ok?”, Eva now asked as well. She didn’t sit down on the bed though, only looked at her worriedly.
Kate nodded slowly, her head thumping harder. “I think so”, she whispered, her voice hoarse and breaking after the first word.
“We were so worried”, Chess stated softly. “We were so scared, this… this thing just… hit you with that damn charm and then you were lying on the ground and you weren’t moving and…” Chess silenced.
Slowly Kate started to remember everything.
“We could barely feel your pulse”, Eva continued silently. “Sometimes, I couldn’t feel it at all. And a few hours ago, you were… I don’t know, your chest was falling up and down like crazy and then it didn’t do anything. And Madam Pomfrey told us to go.”
Kate swallowed hard. “That’s fucked.” As soon as the statement had left her mouth, she could’ve hit herself for it. How stupid had that sounded?
“It was”, Chess chuckled, letting go of Kate’s hand now, after not so subtly feeling her pulse again. “How are you feeling?”
Kate wanted to shrug, but resigned from doing so, after trying to lift her shoulders off the bed. “Don’t know”, she answered. “Everything kind of hurts.”
“Should I get Madam Pomfrey and make her brew something up for you?”, Eva offered, already taking a step away from the bed.
But Kate shook her head. “It’s ok. Not that bad.” Eva nodded and took a step closer to the bed again. “Thanks though.”
“Of course”, Eva smiled.
Kate sighed a little. It was good – seeing her friends right after waking up. “How long do I have to stay?”
Chess shrugged looking at Eva, whose facial expression gave the same answer. “No clue”, Chess sighed. “But Professor McGonagall wants us to tell you to meet her. And that you’ve got detention.” Kate looked at her in shock. “As well as Eva and me”, Chess added bitterly, glancing at Eva, who wore a bitter smile.
“What, why?”, Kate asked louder than before. “We-we fended off a death eater, they should be thanking us, not making us copy hundreds of pages from our books onto parchment.”
“We didn’t tell Professor McGonagall about the death eater. That’s the problem”, Chess clarified.
“She wouldn’t have believed us”, Eva continued Chess’ thought. “I mean… look at us, we’re students who arrived later than everyone else, left the carriage that was supposed to bring us here and used magic on school grounds. If we had told her about the death eater, she would’ve probably declared us crazy and put us into St. Mungo’s.”
Kate sighed at the name of the hospital and nodded. “Ok, that’s fair. Makes sense. But still, detention?”
Chess and Eva shrugged helplessly.
Kate looked down at herself and groped at the pockets of her pants. She rolled her eyes. “Man, the chocolate frog you gave me is gone, as well”, she stated dryly with a look at Chess. “Now I can’t even eat that.”
Chess chuckled. “I’ll have a look at my luggage. Maybe there’s still another one in there.” She turned her head to face Eva. “You can have one, too, if you want to.”
Eva smiled. “Thanks.”
“The five minutes are over!”, Madam Pomfrey now pushed the curtain to the side and appeared right next to Eva, who jumped a little and gave off a yelp of surprise.
Kate sighed. “Can’t they stay for a little longer?”
“No”, Madam Pomfrey stated, gentle, but still determined. “Especially not now that you’re awake. You need some rest.”
“Can we come and visit Kate tomorrow?”, Eva asked, and Madam Pomfrey turned towards her. “I mean, we’re not allowed to stay now, so can we at least come tomorrow?”
Madam Pomfrey sighed. “Well, I guess there’s nothing keeping you from doing so, so of course. But now go.”
Kate smiled a little at the two, as Madam Pomfrey ushered them away. She lamely waved them goodbye and then looked at the school nurse again. “How long do I have to stay?”
“Until I’m sure that you’re ok and ready to go back to class”, the nurse stated. “Do you want something to eat, dear?”
Kate shook her head. “Not really. Thanks though.”
Madam Pomfrey nodded in response, a small, sympathetic smile pulling up on her lips. “You’re going to see your friends again tomorrow”, she assured her. “But for now, you need quiet.”
“Sure”, Kate sighed. “Do you at least have any spare pain killers for… everything?”
“I’m going to produce an ointment and a pâté, that’s going to help. Try not to move too much until then, Ms. Dalton.”
With that Madam Pomfrey left, and Kate let go of a breath.
What kind of mess had she gotten herself into?
With a loud thump the trunk fell to the ground and was opened by small hands, that soon after threw various pieces of clothing through the room. She took whatever she could grab and threw it away. Soon enough the whole floor was covered in clothes.
Farrah stood up with a proud grin building up on her lips, as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Now this feels like home.”
She sat down on the bottom bed of the bunk bed and leaned back, crossing her arms under her head, waiting for her sister to come and visit her in her dorm, like she always did. Shocking her sister on their first day back at Hogwarts had always been something she loved the most about staying at the magic school.
Shortly afterwards someone knocked on the door and it was opened.
“Farrah, listen up, we need to- holy sugar-fairy Farrah, what is this!?”
Farrah immediately started laughing and stood up from her bed. “Like it?”
“What the…? Farrah, what are your roommates going to say about this?” Annleigh stayed stood in the doorway, looking at Farrah in shock.
Farrah laughed loudly. “Just seeing the look on your face is so worth doing this. It’s just for you, sister, light of my life", she said sarcastically.
Annleigh rolled her eyes. “God, you’re so annoying.” She shook the subject off though and ran a hand through her hair. “Anyways, you better clean this mess up. Riley wants the new team to meet up in an hour or so for a ”first get together and getting to know each other event” as she calls it.”
Farrah frowned rolling her eyes and let herself fall onto her bed again. “What is wrong with her? It’s only our first day back, why does she already want to work?” She practically spat out the word “work”. She simply hated it, especially since she hadn’t even settled in in her new home for the next months, yet.
“I don’t know, she just wants to stay organized. So, get up and get all of this”, Annleigh pointed at the floor, “back into this”, she pointed at Farrah’s trunk, “and then get ready to meet up with the new school-team.” Annleigh underlined the word “school-team” by painting an imaginary rainbow in the air. “See you in an hour, I have to get ready”, she then turned around and left the dorm.
Farrah leaned back sighing and rolled her eyes. Not even at Hogwarts she could enjoy herself. If she hadn’t been such a great quidditch player, she would’ve probably never signed up for the school team anyways. But the team needed a Seeker and what better position was there for herself than this one?
She stood up, pulled a bottle – that was already lighter than at the start of the train ride here – from her trunk and took a big swig from it. The beverage immediately stung in her throat.
“Then let’s go”, she murmured, putting the bottle down and picking up the first piece of clothing.
Riley wandered the same line of the quidditch field up and down, nervously thrumming at the tip of her broom. No one else on the team had brought their brooms with them, but Riley had already gone for a spin around the quidditch field before the meeting.
She let her gaze wander over the dimly lit field, breathing in the ridges of the high from a few days ago.
She missed the warmth. Training when it wasn’t dark outside yet and not having to wear a jacket were ideal quidditch conditions, at least in her opinion.
Taking a deep breath, she turned around to look at her team.
“Ok, hi all of you”, she smiled widely. “I’m Riley, and I will be this year’s captain of the Hogwarts school team. As you can probably see”, she pointed at the crest on her uniform, “I’m a Slytherin. I’m in my last year here and I think that if we just work hard enough and be a team, we will win every match against any other school. We’ll probably play against Beauxbatons and I heard their team is pretty good, but we will be better.” She took a deep breath, looking at the girls again. “But until then, how about we just introduce ourselves and then I’ll tell you more?”
Everyone nodded and gave their Ok’s.
With a smile Riley nodded as well and counted the girls again. A frown built up on her forehead. “Uh, where’s our last team member? Someone’s missing.” Thrown off track her hands started shaking a little.
A girl in a Gryffindor robe took a step forward and cleared her throat. “Kate’s in the hospital wing”, she stated.
This made Riley gasp for air. This was only their first meeting and one of the team members was already injured? “Kate?”, she frowned a little, to gloss over her worries.
The girl nodded. “Yeah, that’s the name of the missing member. Kate. She had an accident and has to stay at the hospital wing. I don't know when she'll be ok again.”
“Well, aren’t we off to a great start”, Cairo commented under her breath, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
“No wonder you two are best friends”, a girl in a Slytherin robe – Farrah, Slytherin’s Seeker – stated and took a step towards the Gryffindor girl.
“What do you mean?”, she asked.
“You were injured for a pretty long time last year as well, weren’t you? You’re Gryffindor’s Beater, right? Chess?”
Riley remembered the girl now. Chess was one of the best members on Gryffindor’s team. Slytherin had won last year's match against them, though. Slowly, Riley remembered why.
Chess nodded looking at Farrah. “I was injured. But I’m ok now.” Riley noticed Chess swallowing hard.
“Oh yeah, I am as well, in case you were wondering”, Farrah changed the subject. “After you used your bat to make the Bludger hit me, I had to stay at the hospital wing pretty long, as well.”
“Listen, I didn’t mean to hit you”, Chess immediately defended herself.
“Let it be, Farrah”, Annleigh – who Riley recognized as one of Slytherin's Chasers – interfered. “Just forget about it.”
“I was hurt! I could’ve died!”
Now Cairo rolled her eyes. “Bullshit.”
Riley noticed her hands shaking even more at the loss of control over her team and cleared her throat to get the girls’ attention. It didn’t work, so she cleared her throat a second time. Why did no one listen to her? No one ever listened to her!
“Guys!”, she yelled eventually, her voice wavering slightly. It worked and the girls looked up at her. “I’m thinking it’d be a good idea to postpone this meeting. There’s no sense in meeting up with a member missing, so how about we just meet up next week?”
At first the girls looked at her confused, but then they nodded and seemed to end their fight. The shrugged it off and agreed nonchalantly, acting, as if nothing had ever happened.
“Good, then… see you next week.” Riley waved a little and took a deep breath, as the girls separated – Chess and Farrah immediately getting as much distance between themselves as possible – and went back to the castle.
Riley's breath stuttered. How was she going to explain this to Madam Hooch, after practically begging on her knees for permission to use the quidditch pitch this evening?
“Riley, are you coming?”
Riley looked up from her thoughts and found Cairo looking at her expectantly.
She nodded quickly. “Yeah, I am, sorry.”
The fact that a team member was already missing caused Riley quite a headache all the rest of the evening long. This year was supposed to be perfect, yet here she was: She was the person who immediately had to call off the first meeting of the team without even properly getting to know the people on it.
She spent the rest of the night telling herself that it wasn’t her fault. That it was ok. But deep down something didn’t stop telling her the opposite.
Things were already spiraling out of control.
Happy new year y'all! I can't wait to continue making our favorite characters suffer :D thanks for reading and I'll hopefully read you next time!
Cool air was sipping through the leaking window. It fell like a waterfall; spread on the floor like a cool lake that’s only aim was to drown everyone taking a step into it. Just like the lake a few miles away. It was seethed with creatures barely anyone had seen before. Creatures that promised death. The air tickled Cairo under her nose and made her open her eyes from an uneasy sleep. Dark shadows without a specific figure wouldn’t leave her dreams. They circled around her and sucked energy and every positive thought she had ever had from her. It hadn’t been dementors, though. Dementors felt differently – at least they were described differently in her schoolbooks. A cold feeling enveloped her. She shivered. Sighing she turned around and pulled the blanket over her head. Just when she felt herself drifting off to sleep again, a noise ripped her out of it. She pressed her eyes shut. “Sleep”, she thought to herself. “Sleep.”
“No”, another, higher, voice said. “Please.”
“Sleep”, Cairo thought again.
But she was wide awake. She recognized the voice as Riley’s and turned around again, away from the wall. Everyone else in their dorm, including Lyra, was sleeping peacefully. Except for Riley. She wouldn’t stop murmuring things in her sleep. Things that Cairo didn’t understand, things that didn’t make sense to her and somehow still managed to scare her. She slipped out of bed and on tiptoes, careful not to wake anyone else, walked over to the canopy bed Riley was lying in. The girl’s red hair was covering her face. Cairo noticed drops of sweat on her forehead. Riley’s mouth twisted and twitched restlessly.
“No”, she repeated with a small voice. “Please. Stop.”
Cairo let a hand rest on one of Riley’s shoulders. “Riley”, she whispered. “You’re dreaming, wake up. I can’t sleep, when you’re talking all the time.”
A shock went through Riley and she let out a silent yelp. “No”, she said loudly.
Cairo’s heartbeat increased. “Riley”, she said, more urgently now. “Riley wake up. Come on, you’re ok.”
Riley’s hands started shaking. Cairo noticed her eyeballs starting to move behind her eyelids. Her best friend was trapped in a nightmare that had to be of a horror Cairo could only begin to imagine. Big beads of sweat dropped down her forehead.
“Riley!”, Cairo said loudly, shaking Riley’s shoulder, having lost all care about everyone else in the room. Riley’s wellbeing was so much more important than the good night’s sleep of their dorm mates. Cairo shook her best friend’s shoulders. “Riley, wake up!”
Riley awoke with a start and sat up straight in bed, breathing heavily. Disoriented she looked around. When her eyes met Cairo’s, she let go of a shaky breath. “Cai”, she breathed out. “What…?”
“It was just a dream”, Cairo stated calmly. From one of the beds someone snored and turned around. Cairo took Riley’s hand. “Let’s go to the common room”, she said, already standing up. “We can talk there.”
Riley nodded slightly. “Ok”, she mouthed, the words seemingly trapped in her throat.
Cairo pulled her up from her bed. She didn’t miss the fact that Riley fastened the grip around her hand on the way to the Slytherin common room. The room hadn't appeared comfortable when Cairo had seen it for the first time, but she had gotten used to it. By now there was no place better than this one to her. Especially now, at night, it had something to it that just made it appear like the most inviting space in all the castle.
Cairo sat down next to Riley on a couch that stood near a chimney. The still glowing embers gave off warmth and just enough light; they promised comfort and safety.
“What were you dreaming of?”, Cairo asked. “It seemed pretty intense, you wouldn’t wake up even though I shook your shoulders and everything.”
Riley blinked a few times before looking up at her, a frown building up on her forehead. Energetically she shook her head, wiping sweat off her palms at her pants. “It was just a dream about… losing the championship.”
Cairo wasn’t convinced. “Losing the championship?”
Riley nodded. “M-hm. It was a- a tight match. We barely lost because I didn’t manage to keep that one Quaffle from going through the lowest door post.”
“You told someone to stop. You kept saying “No” all the time and then repeated “Stop””, Cairo frowned. “Were you talking to someone from the opposite team?”
Riley didn’t react for a while, only stared right into the fire - at the still glowing embers. Shaking her head to regain focus she broke her gaze loose from it to look at Cairo again. “Yeah”, she said; her voice was quiet. “Yeah, th-that’s it.”
Cairo still wasn’t convinced. But she was smarter than to continue questioning Riley about it. Something told her that she wouldn’t get much information out of her best friend. So, instead of doing anything else, she let go of a breath and kept quiet. She gazed into the fire, getting lost in the flames, their uneven flickering, like little fairies that chased each other. They could be playing a game as well, though. Maybe they were even playing quidditch. Cairo yawned.
“You can go back to sleep, Cai”, Riley spoke up. “You don’t have to sit here with me.”
“But I want to”, Cairo fended her off.
Riley looked at her raising an eyebrow. “Don’t kid yourself, Cai. I know that you need to sleep at least eight hours. Otherwise you’ll be grumpy all day. Go to sleep. I’ll go to sleep in a few minutes as well.”
Cairo nodded. Normally it wasn’t like her to give in that easily, but this was about her best friend. If Riley asked her to go, she would. “Are you sure?”, she asked, standing up, and putting a hand on Riley's shoulder. "I want you to be ok."
Riley smiled tiredly nodding. “Yeah, go back to sleep.”
Cairo sighed. “Ok. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight”, Riley smiled.
Riley’s heart was still pounding out of her chest. Shaking she leaned back against the warm, soft pillows. The common room was empty, only school supplies students who had been too tired to take with them were left. With Riley being seated in the middle of it all. The images of the dream still haunted her. How everyone laughed at her, as she fell off the broom, as she broke every bone in her body, but felt no pain. Instead only the numb knowledge that she had failed. That she had failed her parents.
Her gaze fell at a point on the stands that seemed to be irrelevant. It was yet another group of people. But they were Slytherin’s circled by Hufflepuff’s. The Hufflepuff’s cheered Slytherin on as well, while no one even noticed Riley having fallen off her broom. Her heart hammered, she heard its beating in her ears, the voices from the stands were swallowed by a curtain, though. A thick curtain that killed all the noise and would eventually also kill her.
Her heartbeat increased. She didn’t feel her arms and legs. They were numb, like someone had just taken them from her. The only indication Riley had of them still being attached to her body was the fact that she could still see them. But maybe her eyes were playing tricks on her? She looked around again, hoping desperately to find a hint of information she could hold on to. Something that told her that she was just imagining things. But nothing would appear, instead she grew surer of the fact that this was real with every passing second. That there was no one protecting the Slytherin’s goal post and no one noticed her lying on the ground. Why was no one protecting the goal post? She wasn't the Keeper; it wasn't her duty! So, why was no one there?
Her breath caught, she looked around herself like an owl. Why did her neck turn that wide? Was she dead already? No, she couldn’t be! She wasn’t allowed to be dead! She hadn’t reached anything in her life yet! Still not feeling her limbs, she tried to stand up but to no effect. She was still caught on the floor. Her eyes searched for help, she tried to call for it, but her mouth wouldn’t open. Suddenly she recognized two familiar pairs of eyes in the stands. Two grown up people, wearing casual clothes between all the uniformed students.
They glared at her. “What have you done?”, Riley heard her mother’s voice in her head.
“I don’t know”, Riley wanted to cry, but again her mouth wouldn’t open.
Her parents’ gazes drilled into her, like sharp posts that would normally kill vampires. But right now, they seemed to kill her. “I don’t know what happened! I’m sorry.”
She was weak. Powerless.
Riley’s breath shortened again. A pain in her chest multiplied at the thought of the dream and she bit her lip. She didn’t have her wand with her. What if someone decided to attack her? She would be helpless. Shaking her head, she got rid of the thought. She was in Hogwarts! She was safe!
“You’re safe”, she murmured to herself. “You’re safe.”
Her breath was shortening; her voice didn’t quite sound like her own.
Why was she so scared of the dream? It had just been a dream. Shivering she went over to the chimney, trying to warm herself up.
Sometimes, she doubted that she was a real Slytherin. Slytherin’s were cunning and would never let anything hold them back. But right now, and far too often already, she had thought of giving up, before she would eventually make a fool out of herself. Like when she didn’t prevent the other team from scoring. Or when the team was playing in the complete opposite way as she had told it to, and they were losing. This feeling of powerlessness, of knowing, that she had a way to make things perfect, but everyone ignored it, hurt. Sometimes, being a Slytherin hurt.
She scooted a little closer to the fire, sitting down on the cold stone floor. The fire had a certain mysteriousness to itself, it allowed Riley to forget for a moment and just let go of a breath, while goosebumps from the heat rolled down her spine. The heat sipped through her pores and spread inside of her, making her relax. She started to feel like herself again.
“Riley!”, a voice suddenly said.
Riley let out a silent yelp and looked around, immediately trying – and failing – to get her wand again. It hadn’t magically come flown towards her yet.
“Riley, listen to us.”
It took Riley a second, and then made her heart skip a beat, when she realized that the voice came from in front of her. Not the chimney, but the fire. She leaned towards it. What she saw made her gasp for air.
Kate woke up from an unsettling sleep.
Her whole side ached, as if it was screaming for attention. She couldn’t even make out bruises when she examined it, but still, it hurt like someone had cast a spell on it. Madame Pomfrey kept applying various types of lotions and making her drink different potions. She had eventually given up on the pastries after not a single one of them had done its work and actually helped Kate in the slightest.
So, Kate was stuck in bed. Since no quidditch match had happened yet, and probably because no one else got in a duel with a death eater, she stayed alone for most of the time, as well. Except for occasional visits from students, who had accidentally hexed themselves or someone else or hadn’t managed to master “Wingardium Leviosa” - the spell that made objects levitate - and had accidentally hit someone in the process of trying to get the object to fly, she was alone.
She didn’t mind being alone. And it wasn’t as if she was living in solitude. Chess came to visit her every day, sometimes Eva joined them as well. They told her about their classes and how much homework they already had to have completed until the end of this week, as well as essays that were due at the end of the month but required working every other day.
Even though Kate didn’t experience a single one of the classes, it felt as if she had been with Chess and Eva the whole time. And she didn’t like it. On one hand she couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital wing and finally play quidditch again, but on the other hand, she was sure that she would miss the quietness of the hospital wing. It gave her time to wonder.
Wonder about the death eater.
But in the end, she always pushed the thoughts down to the depths of her mind. It wasn’t worth thinking about it, especially not that long. It didn’t make sense.
She hadn’t informed her parents about the accident, so obviously they hadn’t written her any letters. Still, there were a few letters lying on her nightstand, that she kept reading over and over. Chess’ fathers had sent them, after Chess had told them about the accident – leaving out the detail about the death eater, of course. Thinking of the moment when Chess asked Kate if she was ok with her telling her fathers about the accident still made a smile pull up on Kate’s lips. It was Chess' consideration and firm belief that her fathers would care that made Kate feel warm from the inside. And Chess thought - that her fathers would care - had been proven right. Only a day later a black owl with a letter from Chess’ fathers bound to its leg flapped its wings right through the window and landed on Kate’s stomach. Ms. Pomfrey had immediately shooed it away, but Kate couldn’t help laughing.
She had only been in the hospital wing for four days, still Chess’ fathers sent her a letter every day. And she kept reading and rereading them all the time.
Right now, Kate was lying in bed and was bored out of her mind. Chess had brought some of her schoolbooks, so she wouldn’t fall too far behind. But claiming that everything still hurt too much for her to study still passed as an excuse to leave them unopened, so she decided to procrastinate on studying for as long as possible. It was around 3 p.m. when the door to the hospital wing opened and Kate sat up to smile at her friends, already having waited for them all day. But who she saw instead made her raise an eyebrow and made her heart skip a beat.
It was Professor McGonagall.
She sat up even straighter and pushed a strand of hair out of her face. “Professor…”
“Ms. Dalton.” McGonagall walked towards her and looked around herself. “Is this seat taken?”, she asked, pointing at an old wooden chair. Kate immediately shook her head, and McGonagall sat down. She crossed her legs, folding her hands in her lap. “I’m assuming you know why I came here.”
Kate searched her brain for an answer, but then shook her head. “I’m sorry, professor, I have to admit that I’m not quite sure”, she said, careful to choose the right words. It wasn’t like her to think about what she was saying, but she had to admit that the head of Gryffindor house scared her.
McGonagall cleared her throat. “It’s because of the… let’s call it incident you and your… I’m assuming friends had on your way to the castle.” She paused and pulled a piece of parchment from a pocket of her robe, before putting on her glasses and continuing. “Your friends already told me their side of the story. Now I’d like to know yours.”
“Professor, we were all there, I’m sure that their story is just the same as mine…”
“Oh, I’m sure about that”, McGonagall faked a smile. “Just tell me, so I’m sure to remember every detail.”
“Uh, ok”, Kate murmured, the letters she had read dozens of times on her nightstands becoming more interesting than this conversation. What if she said something wrong? On the other hand, what wrong things could she possibly say? “So, uh, we were on our way to the castle, inside of the carriage. And then we… heard a noise.” McGonagall listened intently, apparently not caring that Kate gave it everything to make the story sound as boring as possible. “We heard a strange noise and… then the carriage stopped. And we didn’t know why.”
McGonagall nodded. “Go on.”
“We were worried”, Kate remembered. “And then we heard someone screaming. We didn’t know where the noise came from or why this… voice was screaming.” Kate closed her eyes as the sound of the memory sent a shiver down her spine. “It sounded so helpless. Like it was in the biggest of all dangers.” She opened her eyes again, finding McGonagall having raised an eyebrow. She shook her head, like she could remove the memory that way. “And then we thought to look into it, to help this voice… this thing, whatever it was that was screaming.” Kate found it best not to mention that Chess was the one who had suggested this idea, she didn’t want her best friend to get into even more trouble.
“So, you have no idea who could have caused the voice? If it was a muggle, or a wizard, or a supernatural creature?”, McGonagall intervened.
Kate looked up at her and shook her head. “No idea”, she clarified, her voice wavering slightly. “We just heard screaming and after getting off the carriage, we didn’t see anything. We only saw…”
“Saw what, Ms. Dalton?” Kate’s last sentence seemed to have caught McGonagall’s attention, she was sitting bolt upright now.
Kate bit her lip, hard. What if McGonagall would tell her parents about the thing with the death eater, if she got wind of it? Her parents would lecture her for hours on end, would shout at her, would tell her that she was just imaging things and that - even if she wasn’t - a real Gryffindor would’ve fought and won, and not been knocked unconscious by a explosion.
She swallowed hard. “Nothing.”
McGonagall studied her for a few seconds. Her forehead was scrunched up and she looked at her in a state of wonder, maybe even anger about obviously not having found out the truth. Kate faintly remembered a truth-potion called Veritaserum. Hopefully McGonagall would ignore its existence.
“Is that all?”, McGonagall asked eventually.
Kate swallowed hard and nodded again. “Yes. There was… nothing out there. And when we wanted to get back on the carriage, it was gone. And… I had been knocked over, by …”
“By a tree”, Kate tried to save the situation. “I stood in its way. It had all right to knock me over.” She closed her eyes for a few seconds, massaging her temples. “It was a tree”, she repeated, as if to make herself believe the blatant lie.
McGonagall sighed heavily. “I am supposing that this is everything you have to tell me”, she stated, her gaze resting on Kate. “Or am I wrong?”
Kate shook her head. “You’re not. This was all that happened.”
With another sigh McGonagall stood up, smoothed out the folds in her gown and eyed Kate for a few seconds, before clearing her throat. “I’m hoping you know that I’m expecting to see you in detention as soon as you’re ready to go, which, judging from the conversation Madame Pomfrey and I had earlier, shouldn’t take much longer.” She turned around without another word.
“Ok”, Kate murmured, too overwhelmed to say anything else.
“Oh, and Ms. Dalton?” Kate looked up again, to find McGonagall looking at her, frowning slightly and a worried look in her eyes. “Be careful. Don’t let anyone or anything that doesn’t feel right near you. Look after yourself… and your friends.”
Kate gasped for air. Before being able to say anything else, McGonagall had left the hospital wing. Kate was left wondering.
Did McGonagall somehow know about the death eater? Did she secretly know the truth and was now only waiting for Kate to do something else wrong, so she had a reason to kick her out of school? Did she want to expel Kate? What if she got expelled? Her parents would for sure disown her, tell her that she was the worst Gryffindor the school had ever seen. But how would McGonagall know? On the other hand, why wouldn’t she? The thoughts swirled in Kate’s head, making her feel sick. The only thing left for her to do now was waiting for Chess and Eva to visit and tell them about the conversation. And even though it felt like an eternity until then, she still immediately sat up straight, as soon as she heard their familiar voices from the corridor. Some Slytherin was lying in the bed next to her – they had arrived this morning – but she ignored them. Right now, all she could think of was talking to her friends about McGonagall. Not to mention the fact that it probably wouldn’t take much longer for her to leave the hospital wing and that she would attend classes again, soon.
“You better get out of here fast”, Chess started talking, before even having taken a seat or having greeted Kate. “Flitwick assigned a shitload of homework and potions… oh god, you don’t want to know how much homework we have to do.”
“First off: Hi, thanks for visiting!”, Kate said sarcastically. Chess rolled her eyes but simply grinned afterwards. Eva simply lifted her hand to greet Kate, a movement Kate mirrored, before sighing. “Charms, really? I already don’t understand a word. Do you really think I’ll keep up with the new stuff? Flitwick’s cool and shit but…” She gave up on complaining with another annoyed sigh.
“Uh, if you want to, I could help you out”, Eva offered, sitting down on another chair. “With studying for charms class, I mean.”
“Really?” Kate blinked quickly to make sure that this wasn’t a dream.
“Yeah sure”, Eva shrugged. “It’s no big deal.”
“Oh god, thank you so, so much! You’re the best!”, Kate exclaimed. “If I wasn’t lying in bed, I’d hug you right now.” Kate noticed a slight shade of red creeping up on Eva’s cheeks, as she shrugged the compliment off. Kate smiled at her reassuringly, nevertheless. “Really”, she grinned.
“So, any news on when you’ll be able to join me in our dorm again?”, Chess asked. “It’s so boring in there without you. I mean, everyone else is cool as always, but I want you there again.”
Kate blushed a little, but immediately rolled her eyes, partly at herself, partly at Chess. “I don’t know, can’t be long. At least nothing hurts all the time anymore, so that’s cool.” She sighed a little, her eyes briefly flickering to the letters on the nightstand. She would have to go without them as soon as she was out of the hospital wing. She’d miss them. “But….”, she started again. “I have news. McGonagall stopped by to talk to me.”
Eva’s and Chess’ eyes grew wide. “What did she want?”, Eva asked, frowning just slightly. Kate didn’t know why, but everything about Eva's facial expression gave away that she was a Ravenclaw. This look she had, like she was lost in thought and completely present at the same time. The fact that she always found something to think about and immediately found possibilities on how to solve a problem. Kate had experienced that during the battle with the death eater already, and it still astonished her.
“She asked me about what happened on the way here. Apparently, she didn’t quite buy your story”, Kate explained, looking for Madame Pomfrey from the corners of her eyes, not wanting her to listen in on their conversation. “So, she asked me.”
“What did you tell her?”, Eva asked, still looking like she was thinking deeply.
“That we were worried and heard screaming and that we left the carriage. And then I just told her that there was nothing out there.”
Eva nodded, as well as Chess. “That was probably for the best”, Chess stated. “We can’t risk losing our house even more points…” McGonagall had taken fifty house points each from them, for the incidence. “And we can’t risk getting ourselves into more trouble than we’re already in.”
Eva didn’t say anything, she seemed to be brooding over the situation over and over again.
“I doubt that that’s even possible”, Kate muttered gloomily. “But on the other hand, Harry Potter thought that, too, so whatever.” She shrugged the topic off. “I say we just try to forget about it and keep pretending that nothing happened”, she suggested. “It’s better if no one we’re related to finds out, in the end, we could get expelled.”
“Wow, I never experienced you thinking this far ahead, are you ok?”, Chess asked, furrowing a brow - a sarcastic tone to her voice.
Kate shook it off. “Just don’t want my parents to find out.”
“I’ve got it!”, Eva suddenly said, tearing her gaze loose from a place far off. “I know how we can find out what was up with the death eater.”
Heyyyy, So sorry that this took so long, a Lot has been happening and there was no way for me to upload. Still, thank you SO much for reading, I really really appreciate it! I'll read you next time!