LOL sorry not sorry about that cliff hanger. I hadn't really meant for that last chapter to come out as angsty as it did, I just meant to add a bit a mystery but, oh well. I know in the AN I typically correct any misunderstandings that you guys voiced in the comments, but I think I'll just say most of you were wrong and leave it at that XD
Hope you guys like this chapter
A strange fog seemed to have fallen over the entire castle. A fog that only seemed to affect the younger three years, a select few upperclassmen, and a handful of the professors. The rest of the castle's occupants were blissfully unaware of the uncomfortable tension that would dominate classrooms when a certain Gryffindor would sneer at the professor, or shrug non-committally at a question. Or the uncertain gazes that lingered on Sherlock as he heartily scarfed down every meal.
It was like they were tip-toeing on glass, afraid of doing anything that would push their friend even further, into becoming a stranger. Gremione tended to boss him around a bit more than usual, trying to urge him to take more care in his studies, or to not goof off in the halls. John stuck by his side, but at the stiff distance of six inches at all times.
Mycroft was barely able to even see Sherlock anymore. Every time the blonde Slytherin came into view, Sherlock leveled a hateful glare so intense that it made nearby ghosts shiver. Ginny was the only Slytherin that Sherlock—that Harry tolerated. He seemed to not even consider her a real Slytherin at all. He often sought her out, pulling her away from her Slytherin year mates with a disdainful glower, then cheerfully dragging her over to where a cluster of Gryffindors stood watching in confusion or sad resignation. Ginny's face would always light up red, but by the time late October had brought Halloween week, she was comfortable enough around him to simply invite herself to the Gryffindor table at lunch.
"Hey, Harry!" she said brightly, leaning into his side. Harry beamed at her as he loaded up his plate. "I can't wait for the feast tonight, hopefully nothing like last year will happen." She made a face, noting with a smidge of ugly, prideful vengeance that John's face briefly twisted in pain. She leaned further against him, prompting the older child to wrap an arm around her, squeezing her shoulders before dropping his arm back down to enjoy his lunch.
"I dunno," Harry said with a grin. "Fighting a troll was pretty exciting," which prompted Ginny to bat her eyelashes and beg him to tell her (again) the story of how he single-handedly saved Ron and Hermione from the giant troll. Harry did, with great exaggeration, not noticing the slightly hurt and angry looks on the faces around him.
It's so fantastic, Tom! I really think Harry's starting to like me! I haven't seen him and Ron cuddled up once since we got here, but he HUGGED me at lunch today! Oh, Tom, I'm just so happy!
It's a bit odd, don't you think? Not that I'm not happy for you, Gin! Truly, you're a lucky girl to catch the eye of the Harry Potter…but he seems to be acting…a little off…I don't know. I just have a feeling. Are you sure he's well?
What are you saying Tom? I didn't use any potions on him, if that's what you're implying! I would never! I want him to love me for me!
Like he loves your brother? Please don't be angry, Ginny. I'm not accusing you I would never…but…
But what, Tom?
What if someone else, did. An enemy of your brother, perhaps?
Do you really think I'm that unlovable, Tom?
No! Oh, no, Gin! Not at all! After all, if I were alive I would love you very much. But it's not his attentions towards you, it's how you're describing his other actions. It's almost as though you're writing about a completely different person.
Maybe he just…grew up? That's what Mum thinks. She told me little boys often go through funny phases, but then they settle down when they meat the right girl.
You said when they…nevermind. It's not important. But I suppose you're mother would know more about little boys than I do. She raised several…I just was one, once.
I'm so glad you agree with me, Tom!
Tom was feeling somewhat…concerned for his supposed conqueror: the Boy Who Lived. Something felt off, but obviously there was nothing Tom could do about it but wait it out until…his whole being seemed to shudder with pleasure as a sweep of magic brushed over him. Realization dawned. Noon…it was Halloween. The connection of the earth's magic to it's creatures was just beginning to strengthen, and would continue to do so until Midnight.
If Tom had a smile, he would have grinned. He just needed a bit more power from Ginny, and then he could finally begin the plan he'd devised so very long ago. And, maybe, get his body back in the bargain. He turned his attention back to Ginny, he needed to make her emotional.
…and there was talk about Neville hosting another Yule Ball. Oh, Tom, do you think Harry would take me if I asked him? Or should I wait for him to ask me. But then what if he doesn't ask me, and he asks someone else. What if Ronald asks him first!
Perhaps you should just ask him if he's in love with you?
Definitely. But be careful. If you do it wrong and he doesn't love you, then you could very well make him hate you.
Or just not want to be friends with you. At the very least. Maybe you should ask your brother for tips on what Harry likes, I'm sure he knows plenty.
No! Tom that's a horrible idea!
It is? Why? And what would you wear to the dance? Is it very formal? Like ball gowns?
! I don't know what to wear! Tom, help me!
How? I'm a book.
John couldn't help but glare at his sister from across the Hogwart's lawn. He had no idea what she was doing, as she strode purposefully across the grass, away from the castle, and honestly, he didn't care. Who did she think she was? She knew that he cared about Sherlock! His whole family did! Even Percy was appalled at how she was acting, and he usually stayed out of John and Sherlock's affairs for the most part.
He and Sherlock—he and Harry—were walking towards Charms, their last class for the day, from the Greenhouses. Feeling petulant and a touch peevish, John pretended to stumble, letting out a tiny gasp of pain. Harry's face was suddenly filled with concern as he spun to try and help his friend up. John felt slightly guilty for not feeling guilty. "Are you alright, mate?" Harry asked, gently. John forced himself to not grit his teeth, hating that Sherlock—that Harry had started treating him like he was several years younger than he was. But all the same, the attention felt…soothing.
"I lost my footing," John said, pretending to stumble slightly as he got up. He placed a hand on Harry's wrist. "Sorry" he said quietly. Harry shook his head.
"Don't be, it's fine! I was probably walking too fast." Harry smiled indulgently at John, and said nothing when the slightly taller boy adjusted his grip, so that their fingers were tangled together. John felt lighter than he had in weeks when Harry allowed the contact, even when they had stepped into the stone corridor.
Severus rubbed at his burning eyes, which stung from the fumes of the potion he'd been glaring at. It was the strongest revealing potion ever invented, and it was taking far too long to thicken. Nevertheless, the Potion's Master stood diligently above it, an uncorked vial with a few drops of stolen blood poised at the ready a few inches above the simmering cauldron.
Eventually, the slate grey or the potion softened to a cloudy off-white. Gently, Severus tilted his wrist, allowing a single drop of blood to splash into the center, the red contrasting almost prettily against the white. Tendrils of red snaked out, reaching like fingers. It took the better part of five minutes for the red to completely cover the white. Red, regular red.
Severus slumped, sitting down heavily in a nearby chair. That was it, he was out of ideas. And Poppy's friend couldn't do much without seeing the boy herself, which was not possible while the child was in school. A hissing noise startled Severus, making him look up sharply. He stood up so fast the chair toppled backwards, landing legs up.
The potion was no longer red. It was, once again, white. Severus frowned. That wasn't supposed to happen. If the blood was tainted with potion, then it should have turned green. If it was cursed, then yellow. If sick, then purple. Severus picked up the potion's recipe and scanned through it. There was nothing annotated concerning the potion turning white. And not even the off-white that it was originally. It was pure white, almost shimmering. Like snow.
Harry wasn't stupid. He knew that something was bothering his friends, and it was only logical to assume that he was the one causing their discomfort, based on the longing/hurt/angry/sad/confused looks they were constantly giving him. The thing was, he had no idea what he was doing wrong. It made him feel guilty, so guilty that it hurt. He didn't realize how bad it was getting until Ron stumbled on the way back to the castle from Herbology.
Harry panicked. Was Ron's limp coming back? What had cured it last time? Harry thought hard the entire walk to Charms, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember, only that he had something to do with it. The guilt gnawing at him intensified, and he squeezed John's hand, which was still clasped in his, a little harder.
Ron down up at him, surprised, then smiled widely. Harry felt like a heel. He paused outside the Charms classroom. They were a few minutes early yet, the Ravenclaws were already in there, seated, and most of the Gryffindors were probably half way across the castle, rushing to get here in time. They were alone in the hallway. Standing on his toes, Harry embraced his friend, wrapping his arms around Ron's neck.
"You sure you're okay?" Harry asked. To his horror, Ron sniffled.
"Yeah," he said, his voice sounding slightly strangled. "I'm fine, Sh-Harry, really."
Harry let go of him. "You can call me Sherlock if you want to," Harry said. It really was silly, getting so upset over a nickname that Harry vaguely remembered previously adoring. He'd only been angry from Snape's detention at the time, he hadn't meant to snap at his friend. However, instead of smiling like Harry had expected him to, Ron seemed to wince.
"N-no," Ron shook his head, rather decisively. "I'd much rather call you H-Harry," he said. Then he tagged on a smile, though even Harry could tell it was weak.
But he didn't push it. "Alright," Harry hesitated a moment, then picked Ron's hand back up. Together, they walked into the classroom. He ignored the way Flitwick smiled and squeaked when he saw them holding hands, instead stoically finding seat for him and Ron. Though once he was sitting down, he fidgeted, feeling the weird smiles from across the room almost stabbing into his skin.
Honestly, the whole castle had gone completely nutters.
The Great Hall was filled with chatter, laughter, and amazing food. Harry caught Ginny's eyes from across the sea of students, and raised his goblet of pumpkin juice to her in a cheerful, mock toast. He felt strangely pleased and warmed when she blushed and returned it. Ron was silent at his side, picking at a candy apple. Harry wanted to ask him what was wrong, but he'd already done that, and Ron had replied that he was fine. Wanting to respect his friend's space, Harry had accepted it and tried to start a conversation with Neville.
That failing, Neville seemed strangely afraid to talk to him, Harry turned to Hermione. "I heard there was talk about you making reserve Chaser!" he said encouragingly. Quidditch try-outs had been earlier that week. Hermione smiled at him.
"It's true," she said, puffing up with pride. "Of course, I'll only play if, Merlin forbid, one of the actual players gets injured or is otherwise unable to play, but practice is still tons of fun! You should have tried out, Sh-Harry!"
Harry shook his head. "It's bad enough watching you and Ron fly about up there. I couldn't handle doing it myself. Very much content with keeping both my feet on the ground, thank you." Hermione laughed a bit, then veered to topic onto Hagrid and what would happen if he were given permission to open a zoo. It was lighthearted conversation that made the time pass easily. A couple times during the feast, Harry glanced up, trying to spot Ginny again, but each time he failed to find her pretty face amongst the other students. Something niggled at the back of Harry's brain, but in the end, he pushed it aside and simply enjoyed the company of his dormmates. All too soon, Dumbledore was standing up to give a Halloween blessing, then sending the children off to their beds.
Ron slipped his arm through Harry's as they pushed their way through the throng of students headed towards the Gryffindor Commons. Harry gave him a fond smile, hiding his concern, thinking that Ron was probably afraid of tripping on his bad leg and being trampled to death, or knocked down a moving staircase. The thought of it made Harry feel slightly nauseous. So, when he wrapped an arm around Ron's waist, then used his other hand to grasp one of Ron's, well it was purely for the benefit of their mutual health.
Ron pressed in closer to him, Harry looked down confused. But then he realized that the crowd was getting thicker. Like the people at the front had stopped moving. There was a scream. Then several more. Harry's grip tightened on Ron, and felt it returned.
"Out of the way! Move please! Prefect, coming through!" Percy's familiar voice rose above the clamoring voices. Harry moved quickly, dragging Ron along with him, staying close behind Percy as the prefect waded through the crowd. They followed him until the crowd ended, the students at the front of it all staring at a couple of Fourth Year Hufflepuffs Harry didn't recognize and one pale-faced Cedric Diggory. Beyond them was Flich's cat, hanging eerily still by her tail from a torch post.
"THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED, ENEMIES OF THE HEIR…BEWARE" was written above the still feline in…what looked like blood. A voice read the grisly epitaph aloud. Harry turned his head, recognizing the boy as Zabini, one of Malfoy's cronies. Then, Harry noticed Malfoy looking at him in…fear?
It took but a few moments for the professors to arrive on the scene. Mrs. Norris was taken down from the torch post b a sobbing Argus, and then the three Hufflepuffs who first found the dead cat were escorted down the hall to Lockhart's office by Dumbledore with Sprout, Severus, Filch and Lockhart in tow.
Then the prefects sprung into action, herding their respective houses back to the dorms, trying to quiet down the sudden roar of noise as the students began demanded what the heck had happened. By the time the entirety of Gryffindor was safe up in their tower, it was nearly one in the morning.
Aeldin stood hunched over with his hands on his knees, breathing heavily. He'd done it. He'd finally done it. The door that had held him prisoner for so long was in splinters, blown away by the sheer force of his magic and will. Aeldin smiled fiercely, then it faltered. How long had it been since Sherlock had visited?
Wondering if there was any way he could see what was happening on the "outside", Aeldin tentatively pushed his way through the ruined doorway, gingerly avoiding the sharp, mangled edges that used to be the door. Then he paused. He was in what appeared to be…a palace. There was a graceful swooping ceiling overhead, held up with elaborate Greek Columns. The design on the plaster was intricate yet elegant. Windows twenty meters tall let in sunshine, which pooled on the marble floors in patterns and rainbows. It would have been beautiful…if it didn't look like it had been ransacked by the Huns.
Bookshelves had been toppled over, books—memories, Aeldin assumed—were scattered about and some even ripped to shreds. A few of the columns appeared to be charred, others were crumbing. Several windows were shattered, the glass floating about in the air, as though unaffected by gravity. There were holes in the walls that almost looked like they were caused by cannon fire. Pieces of the floor and chunks of the ceiling were missing. Display cases stood open, broken and empty.
Something uncomfortable churned in Aeldin's gut. Where was Sherlock? Aeldin stepped forward, his foot splashing down in…water? No, not water. Aeldin remembered enough from when he had his own body, when he'd used Occlumency to organize his own mind to look like the Slytherin Commons…this was magic…but…Aeldin's magic had been like light. Like energy pulsing through his mind in steady streams and beams. Compared to that, Sherlock's seemed…. pathetic. Languid almost. But that couldn't possibly be true. Aeldin knew first hand how powerful Sherlock was.
Sherlock's magic trickled across the floor in a weak facsimile of a brook. With no other ideas, Aeldin followed along its edge. The magic webbed out across the entirety of the palace not really leading anywhere, and throughout the palace, the same sad dilapidation was present.
What the heck was wrong with Sherlock?
Cedric felt sick to his stomach as he watched Professor Lockhart poke and prod the corpse of poor Filch's cat. The squib was inconsolable, sobbing loudly and wetly into his hands. Cedric rubbed Addie and Jahong's backs, trying to comfort the younger Puffs who both looked equally ready to pass out and vomit.
"She isn't dead, Argus," a gentle voice interrupted Professor Lockhart's rant about how painful a death the cat must have had. Cedric inspected the Headmaster curiously, then he looked back at Mrs. Norris, who, quite frankly, looked rather dead. "She's been petrified."
Ah. That made sense.
Cedric felt genuine relief as Dumbledore explained that the cat's condition was curable, with a potion what was relatively easy to make once the mandrakes in the greenhouses were fully matured. He may have never been fond of Mrs. Norris, but no creature deserved her fate, no matter how wretched they were. And even then, Mrs. Norris was just doing what her owner had trained her to do, the poor kitty was just doing her job.
"Excellent!" Lockhart said, clapping his hands together. "I'll get started on that potion at once, you know it takes several moon cycles for the preliminary potion to prepare…"
"Rubbish," Severus snorted. "You obviously have no idea what you're talking about. Therefore it's my reluctant duty to take responsibility for the brewing of said potion." Cedric felt the strange urge to ask the Potion's Master what was wrong. This was a feeling not uncommonly expressed in the Hufflepuff dorms as of late. Everyone could tell something was off with him. He simply wasn't himself. It was very likely that his distress came from Sherlock Potter's oddness as of late. Cedric didn't know the young Gryffindor that well and even he was unsettled by the strangeness. A common rumor was that Severus was actually Sherlock's biological father, which would account for several of Sherlock's personality quirks, and that Sherlock was conceived after it was discovered that James Potter was unable to sire children. As much as Cedric hated to indulge in idle gossip, it seemed that it was becoming more and more believable as he watched Professor Snape become more and more withdrawn.
"Mr. Diggory," Dumbledore snapped him out of his musings. "Can you please explain just what you were doing in that hall whilst everyone else was enjoying the feast?"
"You might had heard, sir," Cedric said respectfully "that our chaser, Jase Cadwallader, took a nasty fall this morning off his broom. He's up in the infirmary regrowing the skin on his left arm and both shins. We wanted to take him up some treats," to prove his story, Cedric pulled a shrunken bundle of goods from out of his uniform pocket.
"Very well," Dumbledore smiled at him before turning to Jahong and Addie "And you two were on your way with him?" The both of them nodded frantically.
"They're lying!" Filch howled. Cedric felt a bit affronted at that. It was against everything Hufflepuff stood for to lie about such a thing. "I want to see some punishment!" Out of the corner of his eyes, Cedric saw Jahong's face pale.
"If you must, punish me," Cedric said. "I practically dragged Jahong and Addie along. I admit I find the upper part of the castle a bit creepy at night."
"So you admit to it!" Filch cried in triumph.
"I admit to leaving the feast early, and I admit to coercing Jahong and Addie into joining me, but I promise you that I didn't harm Mrs. Norris. We found her like that."
"Oh, do be quiet, Argus!" snapped Snape. "They're Hufflepuffs! Their tender little virgin hearts don't have the capacity to perform Dark Magic, much less animal abuse." Cedric might have felt affronted if he hadn't been too busy agreeing whole-heartedly. "Send them off to bed, Albus. It's clear they don't know anything."
Albus chuckled a bit. "Very well. Mr. Diggory, why don't you finish up checking on young Mr. Cadwallader, then escort yourself and your friends back down to your dorm." Cedric thanked the headmaster and awkwardly bowed before all but fleeing the room.
"Kill…must find…must kill, rip, tear…blood…where are you? Sent to kill…must find…must feed. So hungry…need….kill…feed, swallow whole…" Harry woke up with a start, feeling tense and anxious. He sat up, grimacing at the sticky feeling of dried sweat on his back and arms, as well as the inside of his legs, making his nightclothes stick to him uncomfortably. He breathed in deeply.
Slowly, he reached out and grabbed the curtain that hung around his bed, and he pulled it open a fraction, until he could see the bed across from him, illuminated by the moon. At the sight of Ron, nestled up in his sheets, the tightness in his chest loosened, and he breath came easier. Harry laid back down, facing his friend.
"Must…find…master…obey…kill….destroy" Harry shot back up. Without hesitation, he leaped out of his bed and clambered into Ron's. Surprisingly, the blonde Gryffindor didn't wake up, allowing Harry to get comfortable next to him in the warm bed without having to try to explain himself.
"Oh, don't worry Ron. Nothing's wrong, I'm just hearing voices that want to kill me."
Sherlock sat curled up in the corner.