WELP, it's been like a month :/ Life is stressful, and this fanfic is my only haven XD Yay!
Also, I sometimes have people ask me 'is this the end of the fic'? Believe me, you will KNOW when this fic ends. I currently have 6th year, 7th year, and much stuff planned for after Hogwarts. This is gonna be a long fic XD And even if update time is lengthy, I will tell you if it's abandoned. I'm always working on it ;)
That said, check out my tumblr for (maybe) updates, comments, and previews. #spon. (I'm under VivyPotter, same as my username, for continuity's sake.)
On Wednesday, Tom found himself engaged in a passionate argument on the runic number system. The Slytherin Common room had significantly cleared out since the debate began, but the brave souls that dared to remain, stayed as far away from the couch as possible.
"No," Druella argued fiercely, clenching a pillow. "Mankind represents seven. There are seven stages of life: being born, infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood, old age, and death. And that's why it's the most powerful number: because seven represents us: magical kind."
Tom rolled his eyes drolly. "That's surprisingly naïve of you, Druella. Are we the most powerful magical beings? If mankind represented seven, why would seven be any more powerful than one? Do we hold dominion over unicorns?"
"I don't see unicorns casting stunners, or crafting wards," Orion pointed out. "We're superior to them, surely."
"I don't see wizards cursing those who consume their blood with a half-life either." Tom smirked loosely. "Our… creativity doesn't necessarily make us magically superior to them. Not in a way that runes would recognise, anyway. And life isn't unique to mankind."
"Well, what's the right answer then? Won't the superior Tom Riddle grace us with his knowledge?" Druella spat sarcastically.
Tom sent a swift stinging charm at Druella, which hit her breast. She couldn't rub or soothe the area- that would be quite obscene, as they were in public- so she settled for shifting a little and glowering. Tom gave her a satisfied smile in reply.
"I think," he said slowly, and his companions looked interested despite themselves. "That it's much more likely for a runic seven to be represented by a phoenix. For the reasons you suggested; the stages of life, but a phoenix continually cycles through them. Therefore you get strength from life, dead, and eternity aspects of the runes."
"That's genius," Orion breathed. "It would explain the constancy of the seven rune, and it's compatibility with fire…"
"It's a good idea," Druella admitted. "Are you going to publish it?"
Tom waved his fingers mysteriously. "Now that would be telling."
Orion's eyes were wide. "You should. It could completely revolutionise Ancient Runes."
Tom dismissed Orion's comment. He knew it was an excellent idea, but Ancient Runes wasn't a field he was interested in going into. Perhaps he would find a spare hour to write out his ideas with proper research, but he was currently focussing on Defence and the Dark Arts. It would also be quite amusing to see how long Orion lasted until he begged Tom's permission to do further research on the theory.
The portrait entrance swung open, and the sound of raucous laughter followed. Everyone turned to see what had prompted the noise. Perhaps inevitably, Tom mused, Harrison was involved.
Rupert was the first to stumble through the portrait, roaring with delight as he tripped over his own feet. Atticus followed, tittering shrilly and snorting. He scooped Rupert up on his way past, and together they scampered towards an armchair, ducking behind it.
Harrison marched through the entrance with great purpose, looking both furious and ridiculous. His nose was several sizes too big, and span on his face. It was, Tom noticed, an excellent piece of charms work. Atticus must have done it.
Harrison glared at the hiccupping pair, before- surprisingly- he stomped towards Tom.
"Break the spell," the large-nosed boy spat at Tom, his arms crossed.
"And you're unable to do it yourself?" Tom leaned back coolly. Orion looked like he wanted to say something, but didn't dare.
"If I could, don't you think I would have already?"
Tom waited expectantly.
Harrison sighed through his teeth. "It was flashing before. I stopped that, but I don't know how to cancel this bit." He gestured to the large, spinning mass. "If I shrink it, it could do something to the… the…"
"To the what?" Tom asked, thoroughly enjoying himself.
"To the fucking rotation," Harrison snarled. "Happy?"
"Bloody brilliant. Now fix it."
"What's the magic word?"
"Close enough," Tom shrugged, and flicked his wand. Immediately, Harrison's nose froze and shrank back to its normal size. Tom knew this transformation was a painful one, so he was mildly impressed when Harrison merely winced and gingerly poked at the bridge of his nose.
"You know," Druella said, watching the pair with interest. "Abracadabra comes from the killing curse. The muggles heard and misunderstood."
"Hear that, Peters?" Atticus taunted, poking his head up from behind a pillow. "Another thing your precious muggles got wrong."
Harrison growled. "I swear to god, if you weren't…" he trailed off into furious mutterings, his eyes flashing. Then he turned to Orion, asking pleadingly: "Get me out of here before I kill them."
Orion leapt to his feet. "Let's go to the Greenhouses! We need to get an example of a carnivorous nocturnal plant for Herbology… Have you done the essay yet? I haven't done the essay. I've been too busy keeping up with Quidditch. Did you know that the Galloping Glimpies haven't lost a match since 1822? I personally think it's down to their unique broom line…"
Orion didn't stop talking until the portrait door slammed shut behind the both of them. There was silence for a minute, and then a loud surge of whispered gossip took its place.
Atticus and Rupert emerged from their shelter and swaggered over to the couch, dramatically falling back onto the cushions.
"Well, I think we came out of that rather well, all things considered," Rupert declared, and exchanged a satisfied nod with his blonde cohort.
"You're looking remarkably cocky for idiots who just hid behind a sofa," Druella drawled.
"But we live to prank another day, and that's victory in my books."
Druella liberated a pin from the elaborate hairstyle twisted against the back of her neck, and threw it at the two. "I hope you're pleased with yourselves. This newfound rivalry with Peters is ridiculous."
The pin bounced off of Atticus' forehead, and he batted it away. "Well, if he would just admit that wizards are better than muggle, maybe we'd leave him alone."
"But he's never going to do that, because he doesn't believe it."
"I don't particularly care if he believes it or not," Atticus scoffed. "Just that he says it. Preferably in front of witnesses. Lots of them."
"And you, Dolohov?" Druella questioned cautiously. "You don't really care what Peters believes. What do you get out of it?
"Atty here said, if I helped, he'd convince Daisy Meadowes that sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence," Rupert grinned lecherously.
"But she has a boyfriend."
Rupert winked. "Precisely. I hear there's trouble in paradise."
Druella stood, dusting off her long skirt disgustedly. "You both have the maturity of leprechauns," she sneered, and added, "Though I suppose shouldn't have expected anything else from boys."
"That's sexist!" Rupert protested.
"I was referring to your age," Druella sniffed, and then, with a sweet smile: "Though I suppose gender works too."
She was gone before anyone could object.
"She's only a year older than us, too," Atticus complained.
"It's certainly a mystery what a difference a year can make." Tom just had to remind himself that he valued Atticus for his magical strength and connections, not his cutting-edge wit.
"I'd still bang her, though."
But thank Merlin Tom had Rupert to provide scintillating commentary like that.
The entire year, including Tom, watched Harrison for the next few days. They were waiting, with bated and slightly anxious breath, for his retaliation. Harrison Peters struck none of them as the type to take an insult lying down, especially not when the instigators were Atticus Avery and Rupert Dolohov. Harrison was a Slytherin, after all- if not a particularly subtle one. Underhanded vengeance was their middle name.
The vengeance didn't come the next day. Neither did it come the day after that. Nor the day after that. Nor the week after that. In fact, life continued on quite normally; with Atticus and Rupert springing increasingly uninventive pranks upon an increasingly unresponsive Harrison.
The next prank they sprung was the standard hair-changing prank, tried and tested by millennia of Hogwarts students. Tom was unimpressed, and so vanished the pink from Harrison's hair before the other boy had even noticed it was there. Now that was just uncreative.
The next prank was slightly more imaginative. Whenever Harrison went to use his wand, it would flop in his hand, and become like the consistency of jelly. This was marginally impressive, as charming things like magical conduits was difficult. Tom left Harrison to figure that one out on his own which- more impressively- only took an evening.
And then there was the next one: where Atticus and Rupert charmed a bucket to follow Harrison around, and dump icy water on him, every 30 to 40 minutes. Tom particularly enjoyed the moment when Harrison manipulated the spell into depositing rose petals instead, and got asked on a date only moments later. The look on Atticus and Rupert's face was quite amusing, considering the girl in question was Rupert's girlfriend at the time. Harrison said no.
"You're handling this remarkably well, Harry," Orion remarked one day, as rose petals wafted down onto Harrison's head.
"Well, what else am I supposed to do about it?" Harrison asked, batting away a petal from the tip of his nose. "Go on a murderous rampage?" He laughed.
Orion and Tom exchanged a look.
"Well…" Orion began, twisting his fingers. "If we look at past experience…"
"Oh alright," Harrison admitted. "But I'm turning over a new leaf. This is a new, chilled out me."
"How admirable," Tom remarked, and wondered how much money he could make if he started a betting pool on Harrison's 'chill' would last.
"How are you doing it?" Orion asked. "No offence, but you're not a very calm person..."
"Oh," Harrison said sunnily. "I just remember that, insignificant as they are, they can't cause me any pain."
The next prank had Harrison in unimaginable agony whenever he took a step. This, Tom imagined, was probably more 'significant' than rose petals. But Harrison simply used a levitation spell to float himself from lesson to lesson that day, until the spell wore out. Curses of that magnitude never lasted long without an anchoring sacrifice, and apparently Atticus and Rupert had forgotten to ritually spill the guts of a cat.
The pranks increased in frequency, getting ever more elaborate. Homework went walkabout (as in, literally sprouted legs and walked away); bags mysteriously split, and glasses frames were charmed to show everything bathed in the soothing glow of disco lights.
But Harrison remained... 'chill'.
Tom wasn't convinced. He knew there was something wilder lurking beneath the surface of Harrison's skin; something cornered and unpredictable. What makes someone more unpredictable than knowing the future, after all? Tom knew Harrison was just biding his time.
And, as usual, Tom was right.
It was a Transfigurations lesson when it all came to a head. Dumbledore had been particularly cheerful that lesson, and it was grating on Tom's nerves. He'd already mastered the spell for that lesson- kittens into top hats, for some reason- and was now staring at Dumbledore as he rambling on, his features glazed over.
Suddenly, there was a loud and distinct bang!
Tom turned to the back of the classroom, and started coughing as a cloud of smoke hit his face. His eyes watered, but the fog soon cleared away to reveal Harrison, looking sheepish. He was brandishing his wand at Avery and Dolohov, who were clutching their throat and gaping.
Dumbledore wasted no time in sweeping towards the trio. "What's going on here?"
"I'm so very sorry, sir," Harrison fretted, comically over the top. "I was just trying the spell, and I think I did the wand movements wrong. I don't know what I was thinking!"
It was very clear to Tom- and anyone else in that room- that Harrison had known what he was thinking.
"Don't worry about it, my dear boy. We all make mistakes, especially in an art so complicated as Transfigurations." Dumbledore soothed him momentarily, before turning his attention to the silent duo. "Now what seems to be the matter here?"
Atticus and Rupert mouthed without making a sound for a second, looking increasingly concerned, before Rupert blurted out: "Now what seems to be the matter here?"
"Ah," Dumbledore said gravely.
"Ah," Atticus squeaked, slapping a hand over his mouth.
"I see you've been gifted with the curse of repetition."
"I see you've been gifted with the curse of repetition," Rupert croaked reluctantly.
"But that's just awful!" Harrison declared dramatically, flapping his hands and getting to his feet. "Oh dearie me, what ever shall we do? Isn't there any way you can remove the curse, Professor?"
Tom had a feeling that Harrison knew very well the answer to that question.
"No, my dear boy, the spell is a lasting one. I should say it will be a good week before we see the symptom alleviated. Fortunately, Misters Dolohov and Avery shall only be forced to repeat the phrases directly addressed to them, and not the entirety of what they hear, so it isn't as bad as it could have been."
"Shame," Harrison said; and Tom knew exactly which part of Dumbledore's statement he was referring to.
Tom grinned subtly behind his hand, not wanting Dumbledore to see his amusement.
"But Professor!" the Gryffindor sat next to Harrison said petulantly. "They'll be so disruptive!"
"Nonsense, my dear girl. Just don't address Mr Avery and Mr Dolohov directly. I'll send a note around to your teachers."
Of course, people did address Atticus and Rupert. Directly and frequently.
It became almost a game to see the increasingly ridiculous things that you could get the unfortunate two to repeat. Tom was very impressed with Harrison's revenge- Rupert and Atticus were the subject of ridicule for almost two weeks.
It was actually a rather delightful few days. The constant tension of waiting for Harrison's vengeance had been dissolved (obviously), and Atticus and Avery provided mostly harmless fun. The teasing was reserved to seeing how fast they could repeat tongue twisters and other mature phrases like 'vagina' and 'sex'. It amused the second years endlessly.
Certainly, Atticus and Rupert glared at Harrison a lot, but the menace value was lowered somewhat, by the fact that they were simultaneously repeating 'anal penetration' dully to the cackling of lower years.
The only serious moment occurred on Friday afternoon, when Harrison approached the pair for the first time. Harrison hadn't actually taken advantage the curse yet, just casually told the population of Hogwarts about its existence whilst wearing a mock trite expression. He wore a very sombre expression as he entered the dormitory (which was were the only place where the cursed couple had been able to escape from the taunting). Harrison barely glanced at anyone else: not Orion, not Lestrange, not even Tom; but simply marched towards Atticus and Rupert.
They raised their chins anxiously.
Harrison stood, towering over them with his arms crossed. Despite his diminutive height, he seemed to tower over everyone else in the dorm.
What a thrilling display of righteous anger, Tom rolled his eyes, but was interested despite himself.
"What are you doing?" he asked lightly.
"Making my dad proud," Harrison replied. "They're going to repeat after me. I don't believe in senseless killing."
There was a brief heavy pause as Avery's expression turned from mildly apprehensive to twisted fury.
"Come on then, say it," Harrison insisted more confidently. "I don't believe in senseless killing."
"I don't believe in senseless killing," Atticus spat.
"Muggles are just as valuable as wizards."
"The dark lord will fall," Harrison smiled with a hint of teeth.
"The dark lord will…" Atticus wrestled with himself, and for a moment Tom thought he might bite out his own tongue. At last, Avery relented, biting out: "…fall."
Harrison grinned triumphantly. "Boobs."
"Really?" Tom spoke over Rupert's repetition.
"I might as well have some fun," the green-eyed boy shrugged, grinning. "This is revenge for that afternoon I spent communicating entirely through operatic arias. I don't even like opera!"
"It seems a little sad, though," Orion reflected from his position on his bed, where he was crouched with quill in hand over a sheet of warding movements. He looked up for a moment, watching Atticus and Rupert. "I know you didn't mean it, but it must be awful to be trapped in your own head, saying nothing of your own thoughts but reflecting back the people around you…"
"Even worse when the people around you seem to say nothing other than profanities," Tom added drily.
"They just repeat stuff, and they can't even reply to the constant laughing. I'd hate to be unable to communicate," Orion said thoughtfully.
"Oh, I think they communicate just fine," Harrison waved an arm airily. "A glare that ugly doesn't need words."
"It's just quite humiliating for them," Orion frowned.
Harrison looked defensive. "What? And singing wasn't?"
"It was different when they were doing pranks on you. You're more capable than them. This is like… kicking puppies."
"I just feel sorry for them. Anyhow, I'm going to take them to Madam Hallpepper for their check up," Orion decided, and stood up. He addressed the pair. "Let's go."
"Let's go," Atticus sighed, climbing to his feet.
"No, I didn't mean for you to say that-"
"No, I didn't mean for you to say that-" Rupert mimicked.
"Never mind." Orion gathered his things, and made his way out of the dorm.
"Oh, stop it!"
The door swung shut behind them, leaving Tom and Harrison to watch each other cautiously, in the mostly silent dorm. The clock on a bedside table ticked steadily.
"It's curious," Tom observed slyly, catching Harrison's eyes. "I never took you for a bully."
He froze. There was no other word for it: Harrison's face simply shut down. Tom could see the cogs and wheels turning. The boy gulped slightly, and his jaw clenched. Harrison swayed, like he was struggling to stay in place on his feet. "You don't get to say that to me."
"I'm not the bully."
"It seemed like bullying to me. You make someone vulnerable and then you kick them whilst they're down." Tom had plenty of experience from the orphanage. "I'm not saying them didn't deserve it- they've been tormenting you religiously. I'm just saying you don't seem like the type."
"Well, I'm a Slytherin, aren't I?" Harrison said challengingly.
"And up until now, I was confused as to why."
Harrison worked his jaw. "My dad and his friends used to do stuff like this all the time."
"Well then, your father and his friends were bullies."
Harrison took a step forward, like he might lunge at Tom and enact unspeakable violence. His glasses flashed white.
Tom held up a pacifying hand. "I'm not saying I disapprove of your actions- they were highly amusing." He smiled faintly.
Harrison blanched. "So you- what? Approve?"
"Exactly. That's precisely what I just told you."
"And it's something you'd do?" Harrison asked uncertainly
"Without a doubt."
"And you thought I took the right course of action?"
"Damn." Harrison deflated, brushing his hand over his fringe. The tip of yet another scar peeked out from underneath, white and substantial.
"What?" Tom asked curiously.
Harrison practically pouted. "When Tom Riddle agrees with something, you know you've gone too far."
Tom bristled, but brushed the remark off. It was just another occurrence of that strange dislike that would soon disappear.
Harrison groaned and fished something out of his pocket, holding up a small bag, fastened by a silvery length of string.
"A spell pouch," Tom remarked with surprise. "That's obscure."
Harry nodded sadly, before setting the little pouch on fire. It flared into an inferno, and Harrison dropped it quickly. The two boys watched the flames diminish and shrivel on the harsh stone floor. A blackened, curled lump of herbs and roots disintegrated, melting into the slates. The little yellow sparks of light licked, grasped desperately for anything to feed it, and then finally died.
"Well, that's my fun over with." Harrison complained, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Are you happy now?"
"I never said I wanted you to burn the spell pouch. You made that decision all on your own."
"Well, whoopee for me," Peters said sarcastically.
"You missed out the strengthening agent anyway. It only would have lasted another day," Tom reminded him, having little time for self-pity.
"How do you know that?"
"Dumbledore said. A spell pouch of that strength should have lasted a good year, maybe indefinitely. But he said it would only last a week, if that. You missed out the crushed spider mushrooms."
"It was written on the recipe in very small writing," Harrison groused. "And I have awful eyesight."
"You're wearing glasses."
Harrison touched the brim of his glasses protectively. "Well, they can't do everything. And tiny, handwritten text is hard to read, if you don't have eyesight as perfect as Tom Riddle's."
"Sounds like a burden," Tom drawled.
"Yet luckily, one I think I can manage."
"Yes you can, can't you?" Tom hummed, observing the boy before him. He was surprisingly competent. He'd duelled well, stood his ground in arguments, and showed initiative in responding to taunts. Tom hadn't expected it when they'd met. It just made Harrison more valuable, and proved Tom had to keep an eye on him.
Harrison went towards his bedside cabinet and slid open the drawer, rummaging through the content. Finally, he pulled out a small vial of something.
"It's odd," Harrison mumbled distractedly, staring into the glass. "I only came up here for a Pepperup Potion. That thing with Atticus and Rupert was all very last minute. I'd mostly been planning to avoid them."
Tom cocked his head. "The things you made Dolohov and Avery say… they didn't believe a single word."
"I know." Harrison replied with a wistful smile. He twirled the vial between his fingers. "I just wanted to hear them say it."
Atticus and Rupert were at dinner, complete with renewed voices, but they were suspiciously quiet. Harry watched them over his pumpkin juice goblet, as third years approached the pair and then left disappointed. They said barely a word, but didn't repeat anything either, so Harry knew that burning the spell bag had worked. Pity, he'd almost hoped it wouldn't.
…Okay, so he might have taken this whole 'revenge' thing a bit far.
But in his defence, he'd just been pranked nonstop for several weeks and while, yes, nothing was too extreme, it was irritating. Harry was being pranked for believing that muggles were actual people, as ridiculous as that sounded, and he was pretty fed up of it. He'd always had a bit of a temper. He didn't have to put up with this kind of treatment- he was the child of a Marauder.
He could handle this appropriately.
And so he spent a good day in the library, searching for a way to shut them up. And he found the iterum charm bags- a branch of magic he'd never even looked at, and was apparently pretty obscure- and it seemed perfect.
Orion hadn't agreed. Oh, he didn't know Harry had done it on purpose, but he thought the repetition curse was awful. After hearing so much complaining from Orion and so much endorsement from Riddle, Harry knew he had to end it early. Also, he'd gotten fed up of Montgomery sniggering in the background.
"Excuse me, students!" Dippett called, standing up and tapping on the side of his goblet with a spoon. "Excuse me!"
The noise died away, as all eyes turned expectantly to the Headmaster.
"Thank you," Dippett said, frowning down at them.
Harry wondered if it would be terribly inappropriate to grab a Yorkshire pudding whilst everyone was distracted.
"I have some bad news. I'm afraid to say that Miss Daisy Meadowes, one of our seventh year Ravenclaws," Dippett announced, "has been attacked."
No amount of goblet-tapping could silence the Great Hall now. There was a huge eruption of noise, especially from the Ravenclaw table; where Harry could see some of her housemates begin to cry. The Slytherin table was actually the quietest; but even they had low exchanges of 'did you know her?', 'Meadowes: awful family', and 'she was the one with the huge boobs'.
The noise was so deafening that it took Dumbledore bellowing "SILENCE!" and shooting a flock of orange doves into the air to quieten the students.
"Yes, thank you, Professor Dumbledore," the Headmaster coughed, looking older than ever. "I suppose you should all know what happened. Miss Meadowes was bludgeoned viciously by an unknown assailant late last night, and then discovered early this morning. She was taken immediately to St Mungos, where she currently resides in a magically-induced coma. I'm sorry to say-"
His words were lost amidst the sea of students' chatter.
"I am sorry to say!" Dippett said firmly, and the room quietened once more. "That I will not be allowing anyone to visit Miss Meadowes- except her sister, of course."
A fifth year gave a broken sob.
"I will, however, say this:" Dippett continued. "There was something missing from Miss Meadowes' person this morning; a locket, with a daisy engraving on the front panel. The Meadowes family would greatly appreciate this being returned, so if it is found, please bring it to my office."
"But who did it?" A brave little Gryffindor boy piped, standing up despite his friends pulling at his sleeve.
"I'm afraid we just don't know."
"But you must know-"
"We don't," Dippett said firmly. "That said, if anyone knows anything about these events, please come forward. Your perspective would be valuable."
"Are they going to get us?" A young Slytherin girl stood up this time, aiming her impetuous question directly towards the staff table.
"No, we believe this was a tragic incident that will not occur again. That said, all students should be on their guard. It is recommended that you don't travel alone, and instead pick a partner and travel with them from class to class. That is all." And he sat down.
The hall exploded once more.
"Poor Lobelia!" Walburga fretted, flapping his napkin fussily. "It's just awful."
Harry furrowed his brow. "I thought her name was Daisy?"
"Oh, no-" Walburga shook her head. "Lobelia's the sister. See the dear little girl crying at the Ravenclaw table over there? She's such a darling, and quite the admirer of yours too, Harrison!" (Harry looked taken-aback.) Walburga dotted at the corner of her eyes with the linen. "Oh it's such a shame. And in her owl year, too!"
Druella looked unimpressed. "I think we should be pitying Daisy, rather than Lobelia. You do remember Daisy, don't you? The one in a coma?" She arched a brow. "I wonder who did it. They have to have some sort of idea."
"Oh, it was her boyfriend, I imagine. He's a complete brute," Walburga said airily. "Daisy probably refused to visit a broom cupboard with him, and he beat her to pieces. She wasn't a very capable witch, bless her."
Harry gaped. That was very casual.
"It's always the boyfriend," Druella said grimly. "We'd all be better swearing off relationships."
"Oh I don't know," Walburga sighed. "Not all boys are bad. Apus, for example, is a wonderful specimen. He sent me a Parisian handkerchief the other day- you know how I adore the French- and it's simply divine."
Druella snorted, but didn't say anything in response.
"It could be someone other than her boyfriend," Orion pointed out reasonably. "And I'm sure he wouldn't hurt Daisy. George isn't a complete monster."
Walburga huffed. "You've never caught- or rather been caught by him at the Malfoy Ball, when he's had a few too many glasses of mead. I'd like to see you try and defend him then."
"He laid his hands on you?" Druella turned to her friend.
"He tried to. I halted him swiftly."
Druella looked relieved, but gave Walburga a proud nudge nonetheless. The girls shared a smile.
Rupert leered at Walburga suggestively. "He was just doing what any red-blooded male would do."
"You're a disgusting misogynist, Rupert Dolohov," Druella said tartly, popping her fork into her mouth.
Harry looked around their group, and focussed on one person in particular. Cassius was being very quiet- but he wore a slight smile, and Harry eyed him suspiciously. His mind flickered back to that conversation in the library, and the unsettling truths Harry had learned.
"Do you have something to add, Cassius?" Harry asked, an unspoken challenge in his words.
Everyone looked at the boy, who bowed his head. His dark hair fell into his face, and he looked almost angelic. His beauty was marred- like Riddle's- by Harry's knowledge of his true nature.
"Yes, Cassius," Riddle hummed. "You always have such interesting contributions."
Cassius took a long, theatrical breath. "I was the one to find the body this morning," he said softly.
Harry's eyebrows shot up. That was unexpected.
Walburga gasped in sympathy, but was drowned out by Druella.
"Body!?" she demanded. "You're talking like she's dead."
"Not yet," Cassius replied absently. "It was a lot worse than Professor Dippett described. She was really quite broken. I called for the teachers."
"You poor, sweet boy," Walburga cooed. "It must have been awful."
"It must have been," Cassius murmured.
"What were you doing out so early?" Riddle asked, and his eyes were narrowed. Harry hid a smile- he knew Riddle wouldn't be taken in by Cassius' innocent act. He was too smart for that.
"I was returning my book to the library. I needed a new one, when I just… happened across her." Cassius' eyes were distant, as if he was seeing the scene before him. For all Harry knew, he could be. "Spread across the floor like a discarded doll; like someone just snapped her strings. She was a human, until she was just a pile of flesh and a sticky floor. I think I must have screamed."
"Very poetic," Harry said doubtfully.
Riddle cocked his head. "Was there anything odd about the body?"
"Filthy." Cassius said swiftly.
"She was dirty?"
"No: 'filthy'. The word. It was written across her body in blood."
Harry shuddered, both at the image created, and at Cassius' disaffected tone.
"So she was a mudblood," Atticus said, and he sounded relieved. Harry itched to go back to the dorm and craft another charm bag.
"No, she was pureblood," Walburga corrected sombrely. "Their parents- Daisy and Lobelia's- are quite respectable."
"Couldn't say the same for their daughter," Rupert sniggered. "I've had a few romps with Daisy Meadowes. She was a good eight. Noisy, but the boobs made up for it."
"Have some decency, for Morgana's sake," Walburga hissed, glowering.
"She was worth more than her body," Harry added. Great, now he was the one talking about her like she was already dead.
"None of us are worth more than our bodies in the end," Cassius said philosophically. "They're all we leave behind."
"We leave memories too," Orion said, hopefully.
"And then those that knew you die, and it's like you never existed," Riddle said darkly.
The group sat in unified contemplation, and Harry saw Walburga slip her hand into Druella's. Harry resisted the urge to glance back at the Ravenclaw table: to see Lobelia Meadowes, only a year younger than them. How did it feel; knowing a sibling was lying in a hospital bed, life gradually ebbing away whilst you sat, surrounded by friends, in the Hogwarts halls?
Harry stole a look at Orion, who had been unusually mute during this conversation. He supposed Orion would know.
"I liked Daisy," Orion said abruptly. "She was my introductory Runes mentor. She used to combine the elemental runes to create mini weather patterns inside. She was brilliant."
"I didn't know you knew her," Harry said.
Orion shrugged glumly. "I wouldn't say knew her. We spoke for a few months in my third year, that's it. But I liked her. Everyone thought she was just a pair of breasts and a short skirt, but she was sweet, too. She asked about how Rigel was doing, when the news got out."
Druella scowled. "You don't have to start mourning her. She's not dead."
There was a pause.
"Well, they have to take George in for questioning," Walburga said airily. "They'd be irresponsible not to. Where is he, anyway?" She started looking around the hall. "I would have thought he'd at least be present. Have they taken him in already?"
"He's been crying in the boy's bathroom all morning, and he'll be there for a while." Cassius told them. "He's clutching photos of her."
"Guilt?" Rupert suggested glibly.
Riddle frowned. "Or perhaps he didn't do it."
"But if it wasn't him…" Atticus said.
"Then it could be anyone," Harry finished.
The hall felt suddenly colder as everyone (except Riddle and Cassius, of course), exchanged nervous looks. Harry peered over towards the Ravenclaw table
Just then, the bell rang to signal the end of dinner. Everyone stood to exit the hall- the hustle and bustle was insane. As he was pushed from side to side, Harry felt someone latch onto his arm and pull him away. It was Atticus.
"I'm not a toddler," Harry said irritably, as he was dragged back towards the middle of the hall. "I don't need to be tugged."
"Sorry," Atticus muttered.
"So what do you want? We're not exactly on speaking terms. Or repeating terms," Harry smirked.
"Very funny," Atticus said bad-temperedly, then turned almost… sheepish? "That's actually what I wanted to talk about-"
"What, the repeating? Because I'm not apologising. I think it was pretty justified-"
"No," Atticus dismissed. "I wanted to speak about our… relationship."
"Our relationship." Harry said doubtfully. "Do we have one?"
"That's what I'm hoping. Obviously, my stance on the matter of… wizarding superiority hasn't changed-"
"Obviously," Harry drawled.
"But the situation in Hogwarts has changed. And I would rather not be at odds with one of the most powerful wizards in our year," Atticus spoke, as if every word physically pained him.
Harry felt a pleased smile spread over his features. "You think I'm powerful?"
An eye roll. "Of course. You drew with Tom in a duel, you do well in classes, and you're not entirely unintelligent. It would be stupid to disregard you, no matter how much I might dislike you."
"Charmed." Harry felt flattered, despite himself. Here, without the title of 'the Chosen One' or 'the Boy Who Lived', any compliment gotten was on his own merit. It was nice to have that assurance and still be told he was a decent wizard.
"I respect power," Atticus said begrudgingly. "And I respect you, even if I don't respect your opinions."
"This is a very inspiring speech," Harry laughed.
"I just… would rather not have you as an enemy whilst there's a possible murderer on the loose."
"I don't go out of my way to make enemies with people, you know. I can be reasonable."
"So what's with all the unprovoked hatred towards Riddle?" Atticus asked quickly.
"Riddle… he's a special case."
"Of course he is."
"Don't worry, Atty-boy," Harry snorted, clapping the blonde Slytherin on the shoulder. "No matter my feelings towards Riddle, I'll protect you."
Atticus growled irritably and stalked out of the hall, robes tangling around his knees.
All of a sudden, Harry realised he was alone in the Great Hall.
It had been cleared quickly: students presumably not wanting to hang around after the news. And with Atticus gone, the silence immediately became apparent. He took a few steps back, and the sound of his shoe heels echoed through the eaves. The Great Hall was as magnificent as it would be in fifty years; all huge architecture and structure that couldn't be achieved by muggle means. It was, without a doubt, magical.
Harry felt incredibly small, surrounded by years of aged stone and history. Without thinking about it, his feet carried him up the centre aisle, to stand just below the staff table. Harry just breathed for a minute, feeling oddly nostalgic.
He wondered how Daisy Meadowes felt, alone in St Mungos. Was she even awake, or was she floating in darkness, body broken and shattered? Had the last face she'd seen been that of her boyfriend, looming over her with a vicious grin? Or had it been a stranger, whose name she hadn't even known?
Why the fuck did destruction and misery seem to follow Harry wherever he went?
Daisy had been a pureblood, so the attack probably wasn't prompted by blood prejudice. Was it really just a handsy, aggressive boyfriend- who cried in the bathroom over images of her face?
For once in his life, Harry didn't really want to know the answer. He hated the thought of a girl: scared and alone, without justice… but what could he do here? Here, he wasn't the boy who lived, or the chosen one. He was just 'Harrison Peters'; above-average wizard. He had no purpose other than to cause as little disturbance in the timeline as possible.
Had Daisy been scared?
Had she cried?
"Don't be too sad for her- she welcomed death," a voice promised solemnly, and Harry's gaze darted to the large doors. Cassius lingered by the door frame, fingers lightly resting on the wood. How long had he been there?
"Her end will lead to new things, and the upheaval of old."
"That sounds dramatic," Harry responded slowly, feeling an intense tickling apprehension in his chest.
"It will be." Cassius smiled: slow and long. "If nothing else, I can promise you that. It will be."
"Night!" Harry called, and received a few grumbles in reply. He ascended the stairs in the dormitory, leaving the rest of the sixth-year boys behind him in the Common Room. He opened the door to the dorm, and slammed it shut behind him.
"Oh!" Harry yelped, coming face to face with Caspar Grahams. "Grahams… I didn't know you were in here, mate."
The boy in question simpered, offering Harry a sickly smile. "Usually, I stay out until late with my numerous friends in Hufflepuff, but I just didn't think it was safe to be wandering the corridors at night."
"Good call," Harry said awkwardly, giving him a thumbs up.
"Was… Tom downstairs, by any chance?" Grahams wheedled, looking hopeful.
"Yeah, he is, actually."
"Wonderful," Grahams declared, and Harry controlled his revulsion. "I'll go see him then," and he swept out the dorm without another word.
"I'm sure he'll be delighted," Harry muttered dubiously, picturing the scene where Grahams hung onto Riddle's arm as he tried to play cards with the others. Poker had never been more inconvenient.
Harry kicked off his shoes and sat on the edge of his bed, mind still unsettled about the attack on the girl. Hogwarts: the safest place in the world. Harry snorted. Yeah right.
Harry stripped, and clambered into his pyjamas. He scooted back across the mattress towards his pillow, and threw his sheets over himself. He closed his eyes, sinking into the welcoming warmth of darkness, burrowing beneath the covers. As they settled over his face, he experienced the sudden sensation of suffocation, like someone had settled a hand over his mouth and was squeezing tightly. Harry began struggling, and it was as if the sheets were wrapping tighter around him. His heart strained at his ribs, and he kicked the white sheets off. His panting was deafening in the silence of the Slytherin dormitory.
He still had to clean his teeth. He groaned with exhaustion, but obligingly sat up, heaving himself sideways off the bed.
He stumbled to his feet, blinking at a clock. It was only 11, but Harry felt as if he'd been awake for days. Bathroom. Right. He plodded across the carpet, when suddenly his foot impacted on something, kicking it across the floor and sending it skidding. Harry let out an inaudible 'humph', but followed it to the corner of the dorm. He bent down to pick the thing up, rubbing at his eyes, but froze at the sensation of metal beneath his fingertips.
He scooping the little disc up, not daring to look at it. He weighed the object in his hand, noticing how light it was. Smooth, too. Finally, he gathered some of that famed Gryffindor courage, and peeked.
A little locket lay in his palm, about the size of his thumbprint. It was delicate and feminine; silver and elegant. And engraved with delicate little furrows on the first panel, was an unfolded, tiny daisy.
"Well shit," Harry muttered.
It could be nothing, he assured himself. It could have gotten into their dorm in so many ways: one of Rupert's various conquests; Cassius could have stolen it (he seemed the type); Orion could have picked it up and meant to return it… It wasn't even necessarily the right locket. It could mean nothing.
Still, he squinted down at the locket, and ran a finger over its scratched surface. As he swung it on his finger by the chain, it glinted under the candlelight of the well-lit dorm. Backwards and forward, backwards and forwards…
Backwards and forwards.
More notes: If anyone would be interested in maybe betaing in a more 'read the chapter before publishing it and provide feedback' way, that would be great. I have a wonderful beta who is wonderfully thorough, but her betaing is a lengthy process, and I would like some more immediate pre-publishing feedback.
Just thought I'd put it out there: any takers? XD