|The Heart of War
Author: ChimericalParoxysm PM
Michael Corner is frustrated, defeated, and the final battle is coming. AU because Cho is still at Hogwarts.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Drama - Michael C. - Chapters: 8 - Words: 5,761 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 04-06-11 - Published: 03-02-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6790150
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: In response to Amortentia-of-Nyx's Uncommon People Challenge. My given character was Michael Corner.
Also, done in Schermionie's 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 format, wherein the chapters get progressively shorter by 100 words each time, starting at 1000 and ending at 100. The word counts are based on Microsoft Word's word count feature, and will all (I hope!) be exact.
Screaming wasn't much of anything anymore at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and so, rather than indulging in concern, Michael Corner carefully drew his mind from the sound and returned it to the male Carrow at the front of the room. It wasn't an easy thing to do though, and his stomach twisted furiously at his blatant betrayal of his own values. The nausea was building just as it always did—he hardly ever ate anymore, though mealtimes were the only portions of the day that were consistently free from the cries of his classmates—and with great difficulty he swallowed the acrid taste in his mouth.
He looked to Terry at his side, then to Cho on his other. Anthony was long gone, though no one knew where. Students at Hogwarts had acquired a new habit of disappearing suddenly and without word or warning, and with each one, the morale and hope of those they left behind would plummet into another level of despair. Most students had taken up delusions of their escape—surely their friends weren't gone, they had just found a way to get out, and they were getting help, and everyone would be free soon of this reign of terror, and somehow live happily ever after. Cho was one of these, and Terry and Michael steadfastly refrained from shattering her hope. They, themselves, however, only allowed these dreams to infiltrate that brief moment between being awake and falling asleep—that moment of peace before the terrible storm of their nightmares, nightmares that didn't end when they awoke.
Another scream sent his blood shivering through his body, a terrible mix of furious adrenaline, and chilling fear. He knew, rationally, that there was nothing he could do besides try desperately to hold himself and his friends together, but one day soon… Oh, one day soon he was going to snap—was going to forget his duties to his remaining friends, and do something extremely irrational and stupid. It was building stronger every day, this need to do something, anything, because he could barely take it anymore. It needed to end. It had to end.
Cho was looking at him in concern, as though she knew his thoughts, knew he was close to breaking point. He forced a comforting smile onto his face, and slipped his hand into hers. They'd broken up at the beginning of the year when her constant fear and worry over Harry had led her to confess her residual and very strong feelings for The Chosen One. But there had been no room for resentment or for distance in this place so overrun with fear, and so they were close, even though—or perhaps especially because—their feelings for each other had long dissipated. There was no room for much at Hogwarts anymore. It was a place of terror and despair, where things like love and faith and hope had been too long submerged to have endured; where the strength required to survive consumed the strength required to feel anything beyond impotent anger and sadness.
He looked around the classroom in frustration. There were 15 people in this room, all sitting docilely. Seven of them were Slytherins, plus Carrow, leaving them narrowly outnumbered—one of the strategies set in place to prevent revolt—but several of the others had been in the damned DA, surely they could do it. Just lift their wands, think the spells… Everyone would be caught off-guard. Then they could move to the next classroom—
Terry elbowed him sharply, pulling him back to reality, where he was just one boy. Alone. Helpless. Useless. And he sank back into the seemingly endless pit of empty self-loathing. He didn't notice the look that Cho and Terry exchanged over his head, nor did he pay attention to the rest of the lesson—A History of Muggles and Why We Hate Them—, which tended to be dangerous to a person's health.
Time dragged on immeasurably until Cho shoved a scrap of paper beneath his nose that read, "Muggleborns—steal magic—elaborate!" He shot her a grateful look, and dutifully answered Carrow's question. Cho had just saved him several painful detentions and risked several, herself, and the act was enough to buoy him a little. Hope perhaps had died, but there was still kindness, and there was still altruism, and maybe, just maybe that was something that could be worked with. Maybe that could be enough to rekindle hope and end the Death Eaters' reign over the school. His mind instantly flew into a detailed sequence of abstract and probably impossible plans and schemes he'd never actually bother to follow through on.
As soon as they entered their common room after dinner, Michael was grabbed roughly by the front of his robes, and slammed forcefully into the wall.
"We are not a bunch of sodding Gryffindors, Mike," his friend hissed furiously. "We are Ravenclaws. You will not go barrelling headfirst into some absolutely moronic situation. We'll plan something out. We'll do this logically, when it's logical to bloody well do it."
Michael took a deep breath, trying to slow his racing heart, and also to calm his sudden flare of fury, which seemed always close to the surface lately. "You really still think about house distinctions, Terry? You really think any of that shit matters anymore? Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin—it doesn't make a fucking difference now. We're all just a bunch of scared kids."
Cho's eyes narrowed in confusion. "You're comparing us to Slytherins, Mike? Since when are they like us?"
He sighed heavily. "Do you two really not see them? Even Malfoy was scared of this shit last year and he's the one that bloody well let them in. This is a war not a bloody Quidditch match. If you look at things so damned black and white, you're not half Ravenclaw." He shoved Terry off him and stormed back through the portrait, a dull silence lingering in his wake.