Sunday was a relief when it came, since it meant freedom from classes for the day. Eileen decided she needed to reinforce her Occlumency lessons, making her way to the dungeons to find her godfather. She knocked on the door, not wanting to incur his wrath for interrupting his studies.
"Professor?" She called timidly. She heard a shuffling sound on the other side of the door, along with several clicks and sparks, before the door cracked up to reveal a familiar surly mug peeking out at her.
"Oh, it's you," He grumbled before opening the door for her. "Come in."
She slithered through the doorway and shut the door behind her, leaning on the heavy oak with a sigh. "I'm sorry to bother you on your day off."
"I'm a teacher," He responded as he rounded his desk and resumed some paperwork. "I don't get days off during the school year."
She nodded but stayed standing by the door for a moment before taking a deep breath and stepping away from it, making a beeline for a chair by his desk and flopping in it. "I need your help again."
"With?" He looked up curiously, half paying attention as he scribbled notes on some scrolls in front of him. She caught the word "imbecile" before he rolled it up and moved on to the next sheet of paper.
"My Occlumency lessons, I think I need to practice a bit more," She sighed, leaning back in the chair like she was home.
"Because of what happened? I spoke to Dumbledore," He huffed, stabbing the paper and sending ink squirting across the text. He waved his wand to correct his mistake. "He said as long as no one was hurt, he allowed the lessons to continue."
"I wasn't hurt, something inside me reacted to it though. Something dark," She stared around the room at the various jars and tubes of strange substances and animal parts. "I was afraid of it, but it wouldn't let me go."
Severus stopped mid-scribble to look up at her. "And you're sure it wasn't him?"
"No, it didn't feel foreign, it felt like I've known it a long time," She looked down at her lap with a slight frown. "I think it was the part of me that kept losing control, the chaos I always felt when I felt threatened. It was just more...collected this time."
"Perhaps the Occlumency lessons have helped your instincts to sharpen," He mused. "It would make sense since you've been working on controlling your reactions to people and attacks."
"So now instead of losing control, I just turn into a heartless killing machine?" She looked unhappy. "I'm not sure which is better."
"What stopped you? If you couldn't stop yourself, then what did stop you?" Snape asked curiously, as if analyzing a puzzle.
She thought about it for a moment before coming to a conclusion, "Cheryl did."
"What did she do?"
"She just touched me," Eileen seemed as puzzled about it as Snape did. "I heard her call my name and felt her hand on my shoulder. That's all, it just let me go after that."
Setting his quill down, Snape steepled his fingers under her nose, his mind racing with ideas. Narrowing his eyes, he said thoughtfully, "Do you think she used a spell on you?"
"If she did I didn't feel anything," Eileen shrugged. "I don't really understand what happened either."
"Hmm," He puzzled a moment before resuming his writing. "She could just have a calming effect on you. I would try to keep her close in case this happens again."
"I can't really force her to follow me around everywhere," Eileen frowned at him.
"Then ask her to," He looked up as if it were a simple task. "Friends tend to travel together, you're in the same classes and the same House. You consider her a good friend, correct?"
"Well yes, I suppose so," She didn't want to mention that she may not want to be around if she was with Fred, nor would Fred want her around from what she gathered.
"Then until we can determine the cause and try to resolve it, we can continue with the Occlumency lessons," He seemed content with that decision. "If I could get you out of the Dark Arts class I would, but unfortunately it's required."
Eileen was quiet a moment before speaking up, "I would rather stay in the class."
He looked up, confused, "I know you can be a masochist sometimes but he's highly unprofessional and dangerous."
"So am I, at least for the dangerous part," She sat up more in the chair, "And so are the people who may some day come looking for me. I would rather know what they can do than be surprised when I face them."
Snape clearly wasn't happy about her decision but he understood her intentions, letting out a grumpy sigh, "You have a point. I still don't like what he does to you."
"I know," Eileen smiled ironically. "But I can do worse to him, I'm afraid."
Memories of the incident in the Slytherin dormitory flooded back to Snape as he fiddled with his quill anxiously. "Yes, you can."
She looked away, "What if I do the same to him that I did to you? Or Fred?"
"You won't," He didn't sound convinced by his own words.
She sighed, "I should get some fresh air. I've been inside too much..." She got up from the chair. "If we could schedule some further lessons I would appreciate it."
"Of course," Severus stood as she cross the room to go to the door. "Eileen?"
She turned back to look at him, happy he used her first name today, "Yes, Severus?"
"...be careful," He advised, doing his best to show concern.
"Of course," She smiled at him. "Thank you. Have a good rest of your day." With that she left his office and headed for the outdoors.
It was a crisp autumn day outdoors, the weather had cleared up from the beginning of term and there was now a nice breeze coming across the mountains. She shivered a little and pulled her scarf closer around herself before venturing across the grounds toward the lake, not really having a goal in mind.
She breathed in the clean air and thought about the times she was with her mother when her father wasn't around. She wished she was still around to see how far she had come, how she had so many new friends and a makeshift family of sorts. She also wished she still had her mother around to talk about boys, she honestly didn't know what to do with Fred and it frustrated her. She couldn't just read about it in a book or ask Severus because he knew less than she did about such things. Plus she didn't want the potential that Fred would be murdered in his sleep for touching her, so there was that.
Settling beside the water, she removed her shoes and dipped her toes in the cold water. It was chilly, but it felt nice to feel it lapping at her toes, wiggling into the ground beneath the water's edge. She turned her gaze to the skyline, watching the clouds slowly roll overhead, gray and miserable like most of the UK felt to her.
She tried to clear her mind, let her thoughts smooth out like the water's surface. As she sorted out her thoughts, she felt a presence inside her lurking in the darkness. She tried to approach it, but it shrank away from her.
Who are you? She thought, trying to reach out to it. Are you the one who locked me away?
The dark blob-like figure shifted and zipped out of reach, disappearing into the dark hallways of her mind.
She tried to chase after it but lost sight of it. I won't hurt you, I just want to know who you are, and why you... She thought about her wording. No, you weren't trying to trap me, were you? You were trying to protect me...
The shadow peeked around a corner ahead of her, still keeping its distance.
She sat down in her mind, watching it curiously, That's what you were doing, wasn't it? I...I understand, She hung her head. I don't believe I'm strong enough...that's why you're here.
It continued to watch her closely, staying at a distance. It slowly moved out of the corner and sat down, emulating her pose as if it were just her shadow.
I would like to say I don't need you anymore, but I'm not sure if that's true, She smiled sadly. At least he's gone, right? We don't have to be so scared anymore.
The shadow didn't move at first, then formed into a blobby shadow version of what she assumed was Alistair Moody.
Professor Moody? She frowned. You think he's a threat?
The blob nodded then dissolved back to the androgynous shadow it was before.
That makes sense, he is rather gruff, She agreed. But he's a teacher, he wouldn't hurt me.
It then formed into a small, long object and bounced around the hallway before settling back into its sitting position.
Oh yes, there is that, but he probably deserved it, Eileen figured it was referring to Draco's unfortunate ferret experience.
The shadow did not respond.
Sighing, Eileen hugged her knees for security. He couldn't do that to us, we wouldn't let him.
The shadow seemed to agree as it floated toward her. Suddenly a cage formed around Eileen as the shadow settled beside it and stroked the bars.
No! Please don't lock me away, Eileen begged, clinging to the bars. I don't need to be protected anymore, I was wrong! I'm strong enough, really! Let me prove it!
But the shadow wouldn't release her. It reached through the bars to stroke her cheek, thought she felt nothing.
Please, Eileen tried to reach out to it, I don't want to hurt any more of my friends. We don't have to always fight, we have friends now! We have Severus, Fred, George, Cheryl, Lucas...please, give me a chance. I can be strong now, just let me try!
The shadow seemed to just stare at her for a while before the bars slowly dissipated and left them sitting in front of each other.
Thank you, Eileen whispered with a smile. I won't let us down.
The shadow disappeared, as did the pathways of her mind as Eileen came back to the lake. She felt herself fall back and slowly ease down to the dirt bank before her eyes focused on the sky above. She hadn't expected her subconscious to release her but it gave her hope that she could control that side of her with time. A shadow came over her and she looked up more to see an alarmed boy looking down at her.
"Eileen?" He asked timidly. "Are you alright?"
"Oh, Lucas," She tried to sit up but her body felt extremely heavy like she had run a thousand miles. "I can't move..."
"You were, um," Lucas tentatively knelt next to her. "You were floating, I wasn't sure if you were practicing something...weird..."
"Floating? Oh not again," She sighed. "Is my nose bleeding as well?"
Lucas looked worried and fretted a bit, "Yes, oh no! What happened? What were you doing? Oh, what should we do?"
She stared up at the sky forlornly, "I don't think I could move, could you run back to the castle and ask for Pomfrey?"
"Are you going to be okay out here alone?" He looked concerned, looking around. "What if someone from Slytherin finds you before we get back?"
She laughed a little, "I'd be more concerned for them if they tried to mess with me. It's okay, I'll be right here when you get back."
Lucas wasn't so sure about leaving her, mulling it over before pulling his coat off and draping it over her. "I'll be right back!"
He took off at a swift run and disappeared over the hill to the castle. It took him about 10 minutes to return with Madam Pomfrey in tow, along with Hagrid. The trio hurried over to Eileen who still had not moved from her spot, huddling around her to block the wind.
"Miss Pierce, my goodness, again?" Pomfrey fretted, going to work tending her. "Is it the same as before?"
"Yes, I'm sorry, I fear I brought it on myself," She sighed as she was fussed over, trying to relax her body to relieve some of the dull ache.
"Did someone try to hurt you this time as well?" Pomfrey checked her pulse.
"Blimey, are ye in trouble? Who would hurt a little witch like ye?"" Hagrid looked concerned as he towered over her.
"No, well, not with anyone at school," She assured him. "It's more my problem, I'm sorry to worry you all. I'm trying my best..."
"Hush, now, you're in poor condition, dear," Pomfrey seemed satisfied and stood, motioning to Hagrid. "She should be fine to move, please bring her up to the hospital wing, Hagrid."
Obliging, Hagrid gingerly picked Eileen up and cradled her like a doll in his arms. "Yer as light as a feather, ye are!" He attempted some humor. "I could toss ye there."
"You will do no such thing!" Pomfrey scolded him. "Up to the castle now!"
"Yes, Madam," Hagrid said sheepishly, shuffling up the hill to enter the school, whispering to Eileen. "Was only meaning a bit o' fun..."
Eileen smiled at him gratefully, "I appreciate it."
The group trailed up and into the school to deposit Eileen in a hospital bed again for further healing, Lucas settling himself in the seat beside her bed and fretting as she was tended to.
Hagrid disappeared, presumably to return to his caretaker duties on the grounds. A few moments later, Professor Dumbledore appeared in the room, sweeping over to Pomfrey who was putting together a potion to administer to Eileen. They spoke in hushed voices before he stepped over to Eileen's bedside with his usual kind smile.
"Hello, Miss Pierce, how are you feeling?" Dumbledore inquired gently.
"I'm alright now," She raised her hand a little to flex it, still feeling achy but able to move a little with effort. "I imagine Hagrid told you?"
"You always were an intuitive one," He smiled. "I have been keeping up with your progress here and was concerned with recent events."
"You mean Dark Arts class."
"Yes, I was hoping that Alistair was not causing harm to our students but I have heard some concerning things," He sighed wistfully.
"I think I have determined what happened that day, Professor," She mused. "I thought on it for a while this afternoon."
"I see...which lead to the nose bleed?" He seemed almost amused.
She smiled at him, "Unfortunately yes, I think I delved too deeply into my subconscious that it fought back."
Dumbledore mused a moment before smiling at Lucas, "Luckily young Beowulf discovered you so you received needed care."
Lucas blushed, scratching his head, "She was kind of hard to miss, what with her floating a couple feet off the ground and all."
"Really? Do tell," Dumbledore cocked his head curiously.
"Oh, well, I don't know what else happened," He motioned. "I was walking across the courtyard when I saw something white flapping around. She was just hanging out there in mid-air like she was under water, it was weird. I thought she was practicing some sort of magic cause," he looked over at her curiously, "I could almost feel the magic radiating off her."
"Curious," Is all Dumbledore had to say as he, too, looked at Eileen, a twinkle in his eye.
Uncomfortable with their gazes, she fidgeted and looked away, "I wasn't really aware it was happening."
"I believe you, my dear," Dumbledore smiled kindly. "The question is: What really was happening to you?"
Eileen wasn't sure what he meant but before she could ask, he turned and spoke with Pomfrey again before heading toward the exit. Pausing, he turned back and said, "Oh, Miss Pierce, I would advise you rest for the remainder of the day and then come see me tomorrow before class if you are feeling better."
Surprised and a little worried, she nodded and watched him leave.
"What was that about? Do you think you're in trouble?" Lucas looked worried. "What did they mean about something that happened before?"
Sighing, Eileen closed her eyes, "It's a long story..." One she did not feel like discussing before a long, deserved nap.