Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don't
Drifting from the curtains draped over the chamber's large rounded windows, the Study Hall was bathed in the distinctive scent of fresh parchment and musky fabric. The afternoon's orange light that shone through the drizzling sun-shower, staining the once dry castle walls outside as a precursor to the oncoming spring, didn't manage to creep through the heavy curtains and thus the room was kept dark. Only the sounds of scratching quills and an intake of breath could be heard inside as Dominique pressed flat against a supporting pillar, skin brushing against stone as she sneakily peered around the hall.
An effervescent collection of turquoise globes lured her gaze to the room's far corner where, surely enough, surrounded in the centre as though she were their sun, Leanne sat studying. Her forehead was creased in concentration and her nose was almost lost in the moulding pages of an encyclopaedia of the Goblin Rebellions as she squinted down at the dusty tome.
Swallowing heavily, Dominique attempted to locate her inner nirvana and slinked from her concealed position, marching forward, determined to bury the past month. Leanne glanced up at the sound of approaching footsteps.
Nope, nope, nope. Not today. Nope.
It took a single glimpse of her steely glare for Dominique to choke on her pre-rehearsed speech, swivel-mid march and hastily stroll in the opposite direction. Scuttling out of the Study Hall to re-strategize, she asked herself when exactly her Gryffindor courage had disappeared and, perhaps more pressingly, how long peace negotiations were going to take. If I can't get the sodding words out they'll never forgive me, she mentally answered herself. And then all I'll have is Wood for company. Oh the horror…
But as much as she berated him, it was Oliver Wood's advice that'd stirred Dominique's epiphany. If she was destined to remain at Hogwarts until the time-turner was restored than she couldn't do so in total isolation. She'd go barmy. Well…barmier.
Regardless of her prospective sanity, it was glaringly apparent that she had some serious damage control ahead of her. Leanne, it appeared, wouldn't be embracing the platitudinal policy of 'forgive and forget' but instead had a strategy of 'resent and remember.' Dominique suspected that Leanne wouldn't be satisfied until she physically begged for forgiveness, allowing her to extract a metaphorical pound of flesh, and had therefor put that particular project on the back-burner.
There was an upside to Dominique's companionless limbo, however. Whilst trying to reconnect with the people she'd snubbed, she found herself observing the Hogwarts population and quickly realising just how blissfully oblivious it was. It was frankly astounding that nobody remarked upon the miraculous weakening of Professor Lupin's immune system each full moon, or that Aunt Hermione wandered around in multiple places at once, or that Uncle Harry spent abnormal amounts of time ogling a blank piece of parchment, consequently solving the mystery of the Marauders Map's whereabouts. Dominique was so enraptured in this game of Hogwarts safari that she forgot about the task at hand until break one afternoon when she spotted Mike walking up from the Greenhouses alone.
Acting on the spur of the moment (and a quiet hope that he was too lazy to hold a grudge), she followed, managing to corner him outside the Clock Tower courtyard. Although initially appearing confused when she called his name, going so far as to check over his shoulder, Mike's face wasn't contorted into a Gorgon-esque glower as Leanne's permanently seemed to be these days. Flashing him an uncertain smile, Dominique allowed the monotonous swish of the colossal clock's pendulum to calm her as she launched into an apology.
She was barely two sentences in though when Mike slung an arm over her shoulder and told her to quit being such a sap, grinning widely as though the past month hadn't occurred. Neither person was prepared for the sudden onslaught of emotions that barrelled over Dominique. Mike's relaxed expression quickly shifted into one of alarm when she nearly burst into tears, bottom lip wobbling as she threw her arms around his neck and promised to annoy him with her presence for the foreseeable future. After convincing him that she wasn't hyperventilating, and probably confirming his PMS theory in the process, Dominique ducked into the girl's lavatory to compose herself before classes resumed, knowing that she resembled someone who'd just rubbed jalapeños along their waterline.
Pushing past the bathroom door she was met with the dull hum of a whispered conversation. At the audible quieting of both voices upon her intrusion, she moved towards a vacant sink protruding from the opposite ivory tiled wall, shooting both Marietta and Cho tentative smiles on the way. Marietta, evidently, didn't possess the patience to wait for Dominique's departure before resuming their pressing discussion. "Look, he fancies you, Cho, I can tell! So if Cedric fancies you and you clearly fancy him, what's so hard?"
Dominique stiffened and tried to drown out Marietta's grating whisper with the water gushing from the faucet into the porcelain basin. This was not a conversation she wished to be privy to – Cedric was her…Captain, after all. Exhaling quietly, she smoothed her features so she wouldn't be accused of eavesdropping.
Whilst Marietta continued whining, Dominique caught sight of Cho gently inclining her head Dominique's way in the reflection of the chipped mirror hanging above the sink. "I don't know…maybe we should talk about this somewhere private," she suggested softly. Dominique, who personally thought that was a brilliant idea, cupped her hands beneath the faucet flow and splashed cool water across her ruddy cheeks.
"Oh, who cares if she knows, it's none of her business anyway," Marietta muttered.
But in a perverse sense it was exactly Dominique's business. If Cedric and Cho got together it would secure an integral part of the timeline and consequently help stabilise the universe. Now that the thought occurred, Dominique realised that it was probably a course of action that she should be encouraging. However for some reason the idea left an unappealing, bitter taste in her mouth that she couldn't quite rationalise. Perhaps it was that the relationship was doomed to end in tragedy. Maybe it was cruel to set Cho up for such heartbreak.
"Well, I just wish he'd ask me," Cho admitted, sounding disheartened at Cedric's lack of grandiose romantic gestures. Dominique pursed her lips. What did she think this was, an eighties movie?
Instead of advising Cho to drastically lower her expectations, Dominique's attention shifted to her impassive reflection. The harsh, yellow beam of flickering light above gave her now shoulder-length hair a waxen quality as she ran a hand through it. She was thankful at least that her eyes weren't puffy and thought maybe the hazel distracted from her slightly aggravated whites. Back when her irises were blue - a bright, Delacour azure that she shared with Victoire, Louis and her mother - it was easy to see when she'd been crying. But now they, like her hair, were coated in a veiling layer of brown. At least her Weasley freckles remained.
Scrutinising her face, Dominique felt like a warped puzzle of people. It was deeper than simply dividing things into Dominique Weasley and Samantha James; rather, as Cho and Marietta's conversation faded to the background, she picked out features she shared with the family that had forgotten her. Small glimpses of a life abandoned. As her pupils unfocused, she could almost pretend that it was a window, rather than a reflection, she was staring into.
Somewhere in the depths of manufactured hazel, Dominique came to a decision. If it protected the future and protected her family, it was worth it. "I know it has nothing to do with me," she echoed Marietta and abruptly turned towards the startled pair, "but I think you should go for it, Cho."
"You were listening?" Marietta gasped, affronted.
Dominique graced her with a disparaging raise of the brow, not bothering to point out that they hadn't exactly lowered the cone of silence. Cho, conversely, didn't appear to mind Dominique's eavesdropping. She was clearly torn. "You really think so, Sam? I mean…you don't mind do you?"
"Why would I mind?" Dominique grimaced through a spontaneous case of lock-jaw. "You know men are clueless. Girls always have to make the first move these days," she replied sagely, moving to dry her hands. She glanced up again, offering a tight-lipped smile at Cho's visible blush. "You two deserve some happiness."
At least before everything goes to shit…
Intending to track down Mike before class recommenced, Dominique made to leave, pausing partway into the hall and poking her head back in. "And about the past few weeks – sorry for acting like a stand-offish wanker."
"You weren't being a wanker!" Cho immediately exclaimed. Marietta, on the other hand, looked like she rather agreed with Dominique's assessment.
"I was definitely being a wanker," she assured them. "But I've put that all behind me now, so if we could all move on…?" she trailed off hopefully. Cho nodded, smiling warmly, and Marietta grunted in acquiescence.
Dominique left the lavatory with the distinct sense that the latter had preferred her absence; the impression wasn't lessened when her voice carried out into the bustling school corridors. "See, even Sam thinks it's a good idea."
Mood as high as it was, Dominique only rolled her eyes. Twat.
By the morning of the eagerly anticipated Gryffindor-Ravenclaw match Dominique still hadn't approached Leanne, who had mastered the art of cold-shouldering, or Katie, who was so entirely under the slave-driving whip of Wood for the upcoming game that Dominique only caught snatches of her during classes. Amidst all this, Mike had become her closest companion and upon his announcement that he'd received detention on the morning of the match for failing to submit his Astronomy homework for an impressive sixth week in a row, Dominique had considered forgoing the game.
But Wood's enthusiasm about Harry's Firebolt was apparently contagious; Dominique hadn't seen him this cheery since Hufflepuff was flattened by Ravenclaw months ago. "You're going right?" he badgered during tutoring. "This isn't something you're going to miss – I mean," Wood's eyes glazed over, "a Firebolt…"
It wouldn't have surprised Dominique if he started drooling. She laughed, all the while thinking that the sight of the Firebolt zipping around the pitch wouldn't exactly be as breath-taking as Wood assured. In her mind it was more of a family heirloom – something that the older Weasleys and Potters would admire fondly during family get-togethers whilst their children played backyard Quidditch at the Burrow on far sleeker, far faster brooms.
Still, the Firebolt's maiden voyage was an interesting prospect and Wood's pestering finally convinced Dominique. She started questioning this decision a few hours before the match, pushing around a mountain of cold, buttery scrambled eggs on her plate as the Great Hall filled with spectators donning their chosen side's colours. Further along the Hufflepuff table Cadwallader and Max were bickering about Hufflepuff's chances in their next matchup with Mike, who'd yet to depart for detention. Dominique mushed her fork into the sunny gruel, watching eggs squeeze between the grooves as she listened in uncomfortable silence.
Her current relationship with the Hufflepuff team was shaky at best. She was unsure where exactly she stood after her recently attempted mutiny but now that she'd made peace with her position in the past she wasn't ready to sacrifice Quidditch – it was the one selfish outlet she was allowing herself. If they replaced her Dominique would seriously consider staging a coup. Visions of insurgency swimming in her head, she at first didn't register Mike's animated gasp. It was only once he started violently whacking her forearm that she snapped back at him. "Ow!" Dominique yelped, yanking her now tender limb out of his trajectory. "Merlin Mike, can you hit any har – oh you've got to be kidding me."
Following Mike's awestruck gape, Dominique's gaze landed on a throng of Gryffindor boys who were walking in a square around her uncle. Harry was clutching the Firebolt to his chest for truthfully unnecessary protection, considering that the others were providing it with a practical Guard of Honour. Heads to turn in a wave as they passed. They certainly knew how to make an entrance.
Across the table, the piece of bacon Cadwallader was about to ingest hung suspended from his fork, swinging lamely and making no progress towards his slack-jawed mouth. Likewise, Mike seemed to have lost the capacity for proper speech, only managing to exhale two syllables. "Fire…bolt."
Dominique propped her chin upon her bridged knuckles and watched in amusement as Wood cleared the Gryffindor table, placing the broom in the very centre, name side up, so that the golden glow emanating from it basked the Gryffindor Quidditch team in its expensive, name-brand light. People throughout the Great Hall appeared to be struggling with their reactions to it. Along the Hufflepuff table people were simply gawking, their breakfasts forgotten. The Ravenclaws had more of an air of preparing for a funeral than a Quidditch match. Even the proud Slytherins couldn't quite conceal their shocked, covetous stares. Eventually people started timidly approaching the broom, hesitating as though it were a skittish animal they were afraid to startle.
Cadwallader soon rose in a sort of zombified state to Frankenstein his way over with Max following closely behind and Mike at the rear. Unfortunately, Professor Sinistra chose that exact moment to surface at the head of the Hufflepuff table. "Mr McManus!" she called sharply.
Mike looked like he might cry. He remained stationary, with only the slight twitching of a nerve in his forehead betraying that he wasn't petrified. Perhaps he thought Sinistra's vision relied on movement like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It did not. As her already testy patience waned, her lips thinning to an almost invisible line, Dominique gently shoved him towards the irritated professor. With his departure she was left standing awkwardly amongst the throng of people swarming around the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Caught at the back of the lively crowd, Dominique only caught hints of the Firebolt but she certainly heard Katie and Angelina's snappish warning to a group of Slytherins, including Isaac Brody, to maintain a perimeter around the broom. Smiling fondly, she turned to leave and walked straight into an unsuspecting bystander.
Who, of course, happened to be Cedric Diggory.
Dominique raised her head towards the crisp, cloudless enchanted ceiling. Why? She asked. Whhhhhhhhhhy?
Cedric craned his neck upwards too, following her gaze with a perplexed look. "Er, Sam, what are you doing?"
Muttering that she was "checking for rain", Dominique finally dropped her head to meet Cedric's inquisitive eyes, higher up than she recalled. At the rate these Hogwarts boys were growing Dominique had to suspect that the house-eves were slipping growth-hormones into the meatloaf. She would have to ask Tippy later. But for now she had a painfully awkward reunion to get through.
"Hi," she said, uncertainty drenching her voice. Considering how she had treated him upon their last interaction Dominique wouldn't be surprised if he told her to piss off. She thought she might've deserved it. But it was Cedric Diggory she was dealing with, who apparently couldn't hold a grudge towards anyone.
"Hi, Sam," he replied. Although he was polite, Dominique could still sense some hesitation in his manner, like he was unsure what to say. That made two of them. "How are you?"
"Alright, I guess. I saw a First Year run screaming bloody murder through the Fifth Floor corridor with Peeves on his tail earlier so that was interesting." Dominique thought she saw the barest hint of a smile burgeoning on Cedric's face but he looked away before she could be sure. Thankfully, just as an awkward pause threatened to develop they were saved by the distraction behind them. People were swarming around the broom like bees to a hive and the crowd was becoming boisterous, to say the least.
"Did you get a look at the Firebolt?" she asked, motioning to the bustle. There was the sound of a crunch and an audible wince as somebody got elbowed in the face after attempting to squirm their way to the front. Seconds later a Third Year emerged, clutching his bloodied nose with a murderous scowl before running to, presumably, the Hospital Wing.
Yikes, Dominique cringed. Quidditch really does make people crazy.
Watching the exchange along with her, Cedric eventually responded. "Yeah, I did. Potter's pretty lucky." With a guilty look at Harry, who was in turn mooning over the Firebolt adoringly, he admitted, "I still feel bad about his old Nimbus."
"Well I'd say he managed to get his hands on a decent replacement," Dominique laughed at her uncle's love-struck expression. Cedric nodded in agreement and Dominique bit the inside of her cheek, questioning why he was acting so civil after she'd practically bitten his head off the last time they spoke. If she were him she wouldn't be giving herself the time of day. And yet here he was. "Ced, why-?"
At the same time she started to ask, Cedric spoke. "Listen, Sam-" He paused and smiled sheepishly, Dominique mirroring the motion. "You first," he said.
Dominique suddenly decided that she didn't really care why exactly Cedric was still speaking to her, simply chalking it up to his inhuman kindness, and realised that it was more important that he was speaking to her in the first place. Foolish though it may have been, she wanted to keep it that way and so launched into an apology before she could chicken out. "Ced, I owe you an apology. Actually I owe a few people apologies, but you most of all I think. The other night, about all the Quidditch stuff, I was…well, I was being a bitch," she said bluntly.
"Sam, you weren't-" Cedric protested but Dominique cut him off. He was too gentlemanly for his own good. Apparently to the point of blindness. In a way it reminded her of Cho. Dominique pushed that off-putting comparison to the side as she continued.
"I just…I was dealing with some stuff, and I know it's not a good excuse but it's the only one I have at the moment. I said some stupid things and I'm sorry."
"You weren't being a bitch," Cedric repeated resolutely, earning himself a mildly exasperated look from Dominique, who wished he would just accept the fact and move on. "I get it though, with everything that's happened to you...you don't have to apologise, you know? Not for anything." Dominique answering smile soured her features. She had a lot to apologise for - not just for what had occurred, but for what she was going to let occur. Biting back a sigh, she ignored her darkening thoughts. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. As Cedric went on, his suddenly formal demeanour contained a teasing undertone. "I do have one condition though," he said with a grave expression that spread to a grin. "You have to stay on the Quidditch team."
Dominique snorted at that and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear as the crowd around them started milling out of the hall, heading towards the Quidditch pitch. "Nothing in the world could keep me away." She was jostled about as the surge of people continued and allowed herself to get caught in the current so she wouldn't miss the start of the match. "I'll see you down there, Cap?" she asked, raising her voice about the ruckus.
"Yeah! I'm serious about Quidditch though! I'm making you run laps next training for attempted desertion!" He called back over the sea of heads.
Dominique's bark of laughter rang out over the crowd's murmur as she moved further away. "I may just be conveniently ill that day!" At that point she lost sight of him but his promise to drag her out of the Hospital Wing, adding the Madam Pomfrey would probably provide assistance, was audible enough. That she didn't doubt. Grinning at the image, she pushed herself up on her tip-toes, a witty retort on the tip of her tongue.
When she finally spotted him though, his attention was already being drawn into a conversation with somebody else. Cho was decked in her navy flying robes, her long hair tied back into a sleek ponytail that she tossed over her shoulder with a sweet smile at Cedric. Dominique sank back down and allowed herself to get pulled along towards the Quidditch pitch, a niggling sensation forming in her gut. It was forgotten rather quickly, however, upon detecting Cormac McLaggen's imminent arrival from the corner of her eyes. Weaving through the spectators, Dominique negotiated the puddles their footsteps rippled along the slippery, mulchy, muddy path all the way to the top-most Hufflepuff stands. Atop the rickety stairs she ducked to avoid Luna Lovegood's precariously balanced enormous eagle headpiece, which could flap its wings on command, and with her eyes still trained on it, she failed to comprehend where exactly she sat. At the strange stiffening of the person beside her, Dominique turned towards them and groaned.
Because this morning couldn't get any more awkward.
"Come on, Leanne," she sighed. "Can't we get past all this?
Leanne, who'd been resolutely glaring ahead, finally inclined her head towards Dominique. "Oh hello, Sam, I didn't see you there," she said in a clipped voice. "Actually I was under the impression that you'd left the school." Hannah Abbot and Susan Bones on their opposite side shuffled away, becoming absorbed in their own conversation.
"Just hear me out. Don't make me beg," Dominique pouted and clasped her hands together, wringing them imploringly before Leanne, whose lips twitched almost imperceptibly. Before she could capitalise on the crack in Leanne's frosty mask, the sharp cry of Hooch's whistle caused both of their heads to snap towards the pitch where figures in scarlet and navy were already dashing across the sky.
The harsh noon sun shimmered the air and Dominique couldn't tell at first who had possession of the quaffle until a trio of Ravenclaw chasers went pelting after Katie Bell a few metres ahead. Beside her, Leanne returned to vengefully ignoring her existence and whilst Dominique mentally listed increasingly desperate ways to earn absolution, Lee Jordan's commentary resounded through the stands. Much to Professor McGonagall's consternation it was more of a Firebolt advertisement than anything else. "…The Firebolt, incidentally, has a built-in auto-brake and -"
"Jordan!" McGonagall snarled into the microphone, causing a collective stadium wide cringe.
Regardless of his economic impetuses, Jordan's commentary fixed everyone's rapt attention on Harry, who was a blurred speck across the pitch. Dominique was taken aback by the Firebolt's overwhelming speed in comparison to all other brooms decorating the sky; she could suddenly appreciate her uncle's continued reverence of it. As such, she thought Cho's tactic of tailing and blocking Harry in the knowledge that her Comet 260 could never beat the Firebolt in a race for the snitch, was rather clever if somewhat underhanded.
Seconds after McGonagall temporarily seized the microphone from Jordan, Katie scored the first points of the match and both Dominique and Leanne jumped up, their cheers drowned out by the tumultuous roar of the Gryffindor stands. Dominique's eyes flickered towards Leanne, who was still snubbing her, as they lowered themselves down in silence. Once they sat though, her eyebrows shot up into her hairline when Leanne broke the stillness. "I'm surprised you bothered to show up," she said.
Dominique's lips scrunched up at the implication. She sounded like an absentee parent who'd just rocked up to their kid's soccer game for the first time in several years. Refocusing her attention on the pitch where a Ravenclaw chaser had just managed to slip a shot through the hoops she muttered. "Just because I wasn't around didn't mean I stopped caring about you all."
Skywards, the Gryffindors chasers formed into a Hawkshead formation that scored twice more. The Ravenclaw Captain Roger Davies looked distraught as he flew past. Minutes ticked by and, again, Leanne's abrupt words were unexpected. "You could've spoken to us about it," she said, finally facing Dominique. Her expression had morphed from flinty to guarded. "We might not have been able to do anything about it but we would've listened."
"I know I was being dumb-"
"That's an understatement," Leanne interrupted scathingly but she smoothed her expression and waved a hand for Dominique to continue.
"I wasn't thinking straight. This whole homesickness thing…I thought if I ignored it, it would go away," she admitted quietly. "I shouldn't have cut you guys off because you and Katie are my friends – some of the best friends I've ever had actually. And if it makes you feel any better I was miserable the whole time too. I'm sorry." Leanne scrutinised her face, seeming to consider the apology. "So do you forgive me?" Dominique prompted. "Because if you don't I'm just going to jump from the stands to save myself the loneliness."
Leanne's lips split into a smile and with freely rolling eyes she hugged Dominique. "You are such a drama queen," she said. "Yes, you're forgiven. Just don't go all hermit on me again."
"Never," Dominique promised, squeezing Leanne back. Looping their arms together, the reconciled pair turned back to the game. At the same time Leanne sprang into a description of the school's latest gossip, catching Dominique up on the surprisingly vast amount of information she'd missed. Although admittedly she'd rather focus on Quidditch, she thought it premature in their reconciliation to say so and instead divided her concentration between the game and Leanne's jabbering monologue.
The Hogwarts rumour mill certainly was alive and kicking. Making sure to nod and gasp in all the appropriate places, Dominique kept an eye skywards where Harry, inches from the snitch, was blocked by a Ravenclaw bludger. Whilst one of the fuming Weasley twins immediately vented their frustrations by pelting it right back at the offending Beater, the Gryffindor Captain, who was hovering at the hoops closest to the Hufflepuff stands, cracked his knuckles menacingly.
Although he couldn't see Dominique, Wood was close enough that the sweat beads glistening along his lined forehead were visible from her position. When he stretched his neck she could see hot blood pulsing flush beneath his dark olive skin from an adrenaline rush she was all too familiar with. Wood's athleticism was put on show as he blocked another wild shot from a Ravenclaw chaser, muscles straining against his robes, and Dominique caught a glimpse of the famous Quidditch player he'd eventually become. Overall she had to admit, when playing Quidditch he looked sort of fit…
And then her brain started screaming at her. No! No! No! What are you thinking? This is Wood! Oliver Wood! Who is not to be admired – physically or otherwise!
Peering over the railings to the rough turf miles below she wondered if it was too late to jump as she'd threatened to earlier. Perving on Wood was…disturbing. But Dominique's existential crisis was eventually deterred by the vaudevillian interlude of McGonagall and Lee Jordan, the former of which was struggling to control the latter's increasingly avid descriptions of the Firebolt's various qualities. "…The Firebolt's precision-balance is really noticeable in these long-"
"JORDAN ARE YOU BEING PAID TO ADVERTISE FIREBOLTS? GET ON WITH THE COMMENTARY!"
Cackling along with the rest of the school, Dominique's attention was abruptly drawn from their ensuing battle for the microphone when Leanne started up again. "Woah, hold up what was that last part?" she asked, twisting around.
"Cho and Cedric Diggory!" Leanne repeated giddily. "She asked him to the next Hogsmeade weekend and he said yes!"
Nodding to herself, Dominique pondered why, if this development was indeed as convenient as it sounded, it made her stomach squirm like she'd just chugged a carton of live Flobberworms. "Ced failed to mention that," she murmured, glancing around the rows until she found him sitting with Cadwallader and Summerby. His attention was completely absorbed by the Ravenclaw seeker, who was in the midst of blocking Harry yet again. Dominique started picking at a hangnail with feigned casualness to ignore the strange queasiness overtaking her. "So are they, er, dating?"
"Well, not yet, but fingers crossed! I wish I had a handsome bloke to take with me to Hogsmeade…" Leanne answered wistfully. Dominique nodded again, half-heartedly listening as Leanne described her ideal man. Teenage romance was a tiring thing.
Breaking her contemplation, McGonagall's bellowing set of lungs were suddenly replaced with another's, not on the microphone but far closer to the Hufflepuff stands. "HARRY, THIS IS NO TIME TO BE A GENTLEMAN! KNOCK HER OFF HER BROOM IF YOU HAVE TO!" Wood's frantic roar caused Dominique to snort, purely because it was such a Wood comment. She really needed to retract her previous suggestion to him about authoring some self-help books.
Harry, it turned out, was saved the shame of jousting with Cho because moments later a horde of towering Dementors hovered onto the turf below. Their appearance collectively numbed the stadium; some people screamed, but everybody froze.
Everybody except Harry.
Dominique's uncle clearly didn't have time for the Dementor's interruption because without a perfunctory glance he whipped out his wand and shot hazy white smoke at the black shrouded figures, who were knocked to the ground, revealing not the terrifying sight of three uncloaked Dementors, but a tangle of teenage boys that Dominique recognised as the Slytherin Quidditch team. At the same time, Harry's boots touched ground and he raised his fist high in the air, where, clutched inside, the golden snitch thrashed against its prison.
Lee Jordan's announcement that Potter had caught the snitch was lost to Dominique as the Gryffindor stands erupted. She jumped up as people started flooding from the rows down to the pitch and Leanne grabbed her wrist. "Let's go find Katie, she'll want to see you!"
Running amidst streaks of red and gold, Dominique could easily trick herself into believing that this was a match from a very different time and that if she searched long enough she'd spot James Potter up on someone's shoulder in the crowd, yelling himself hoarse and waving his playbook around victoriously. And although it was a very different Gryffindor throng she was engulfed by, the warmth was familiar.
Katie beamed so widely when they found her that Dominique feared her chubby cheeks would tear. Over her shoulder, Dominique spotted Wood holding Harry in a headlock, crying "that's my boy!" on repeat. Managing to pull Katie aside as much as possible in the mountainous cluster, Dominique couldn't hear herself over a chorus of 'Go! Go! Gryffindor!' but this didn't seem to matter. Katie shook her head and heaved both her and Leanne into a bone-crunching hug. Angelina and Alicia latched on and the Weasley twins called a pile up that nearly suffocated Dominique. But asphyxiation was a small price to pay for the moment; any sense of remaining loneliness slipped away in the huddle.
"Get off her, you lot!" someone chuckled. A hand wrapped around Dominique's forearm, pulling her out of the fray only for her to land in another pair of tightly folded arms. She unthinkingly hugged Wood back, peering up to return his dazzling grin and feeling a bit lightheaded. Half a second later they both suddenly realised whose embrace they were enveloped in and hastily separated themselves, Wood clearing his throat at the same time Dominique's cheeks flushed hot.
She personally blamed it on the raised body heat of all the people surrounding them and spoke to cover her embarrassment. "Um, good match, Oliver," she said, wishing that her scarlet cheeks would calm down a bit.
"Thanks," he replied quickly. "Good, er, watching. I mean, well not watching, but-"
Katie, who was standing off to the side with Leanne, decided to save the pair from themselves. "Hey Sammy, you coming?" she called.
Dominique couldn't have bolted there fast enough, despite knowing what she was in for. "Don't you have a party to attend?" she hoped, motioning to the Gryffindor team which was being half-carried back to their Common Room.
"I'll go later," Katie waved her off. "First we have some catching up to do."
"Major catching up," Leanne chimed in as each girl grabbed one of Dominique's swinging arms. With a grim nod and a quick prayer, she prepared for her interrogation.
The awareness was instantaneous. She was back.
Dominique followed the stream that flowed in reverse almost languidly, knowing that it would eventually spill into the unmoving, marble fountain. Nothing had changed since the first night when the hummingbirds froze and although weeks stretched between dreams they waited, petrified in the whiteness, for her return. Bare feet slicing softly through the steams' current, she felt neither cold nor wet; the lack of sense in this dream realm was what separated it from reality. As always, the passage of time was immeasurable until the fountain hazed into view, but when it finally did Dominique's heart stopped.
Her gasp woke the dead world.
Two blurred figures stood at the fountain's base, each with shocks of platinum blonde hair. Dominique's first cautious steps rapidly transformed into an all-out sprint as the jarring recognition surged her forward.
Victoire gradually turned, like a music box doll. "Dom." Her smile was sorrowful but her whispered voice carried across the void. Louis donned an equally sombre expression when Dominique's gaze carried to him. Their faces, blurred by her tears, knocked the wind from her lungs and she shuddered to a halt.
"You're here," she choked out, throat constricted. She took a step closer but her siblings made no move to bridge the vast distance stretching them further and further apart. Although growing smaller, as though Dominique was fastened to invisible chains that were pulling her away, the crystallised blue of Louis' irises burned into hers.
"But you're not," he said.
Dominique's face screwed up in confusion as she continued to struggle forward. "I – I don't understand-"
"You left, Dom," he said. Victoire placed a hand on his shoulder, shaking her head gently. Something resembling defeat coursed through their stance. They were fading.
"I'll be home soon!" Dominique sobbed. "I'm coming back!"
The unknown force tugging her backwards strengthened, more tornado than chain now. Dominique whipped her head around to check the emptiness for a source and when she turned back only the marble fountain remained. Louis appeared directly in front of her before the desperate scream could tear from her mouth. "You won't forget me, Lou? Promise you won't forget me!" Dominique pleaded. Louis didn't respond, but merely watched her as the white world disappeared around them.
A great rush of air seared Dominique's shuddering lungs as she darted awake, wide eyes stinging with dry tears as the dormitory formed around her. Someone's parting words echoed in her memory, their voice far older and gravellier than her brothers'. But it was their promise that frightened her the most.
"I'm the only one who won't."
Several minutes later Dominique's leaden limbs dragged along the stone corridors leading to the Great Hall. Although she struggled to force her lids open she could sense her pale, sullen appearance, offset by the dark circles tattooed under her eyes, which screamed 'unholy demonic possession' rather than 'I am a sexy, mysterious vampire dominatrix' as one would hope. Gracefully completed with a very untidy ponytail, Dominque was aware that she was hard-core channelling Professor Lupin's signature look, without the shabby-chic vibe.
Mind still reeling from the presence of Louis and Victoire in her typically less traumatising dreams, she was forced back to reality upon entering the Great Hall. Halfway to the Hufflepuff table she spotted Cho practically sitting on Cedric's lap in the dead centre, causing a spontaneous re-direction to the Gryffindor table where Katie was chatting with Alicia and Angelina.
It was going to be one those days.
Realistically, Dominique supposed that she should be thankful for Cho and Cedric's disgustingly public displays of affection because they implied that their Hogsmeade date of the past weekend had progressed without disaster and that, more importantly, the stars were re-aligning. Yet immediately after witnessing them the thought of stomaching breakfast became immensely unappetising and so without acknowledgement of the trays of food piled upon the Gryffindor table, Dominique plonked herself down and collapsed her forehead into her folded arms. Allowing her heavy eyelids to shut, the schools murmur muffled to a hush.
Katie, still deep in discussion with her fellow chasers, distractedly patted her shoulder and murmured something to the person across from them. Dominique recognised the distinctive squeak of Neville Longbottom and the sound of feet shuffling against stone floor as he retreated. Katie sighed, allowing him to leave and Dominique wondered why she'd even attempted conversation in the first place.
Rumour had it that after Sirius Black's latest break in and the ear-splitting Howler his grandmother had promptly sent, the disgraced Neville had become about as talkative as a monk, practically taking a sacred vow of silence. After all, it was his scribbled list of Common Room passwords that the exceedingly irritating Sir Cadogan had decided would pass as Black's security clearance. Likewise, Dominique's uncle Ron had been effected by the break in too, however his reaction was (somewhat predictably) of the complete opposite sort; for all intents and purposes he was relishing the infamy of his almost murder and enjoyed retelling the story on an hourly basis.
Either way, Black's latest episode radically increased the castle's safety measures in the form of security trolls so colossal that even Filch didn't complain when the human-sized clubs they dragged everywhere streaked his polished floors and, innocent or not, Sirius Black solidified his image as a crazed lunatic in the eyes of Hogwarts' student population. For an innocent man Dominique thought he was doing very little to contradict his rather negative public image.
As she wondered why in Merlin's name the man wouldn't stop acting like a guilty nutter, Katie started prodding her. "Wake up, Saaaammy," she said. Dominique groaned and lifted her head to glare, causing Katie to physically recoil. "Merlin, what's wrong with you? Are you sick?" She slapped a hand to Dominique's forehead that Dominique pushed away before burrowing back between her arms. She hardly heard Katie's murmur. "Of all the days…"
Moments later the table dipped slightly as somebody replaced Neville in the spot opposite them. An amused voice muffled by the mouthful of food their words were formed around made Dominique wish she'd sat at the Hufflepuff table after all. "Is she alive?"
"Bugger off, Wood," Dominique muttered. Their strange interaction at the Quidditch match had thankfully been forgotten and both seemed to have an unspoken agreement to never mention it again. This however, didn't make him any better company - if anything after their fleeting closeness Dominique found Wood somehow more unreasonably annoying than ever before. He reached over and shook her shoulder, and although she didn't find the energy to shrug him off she did make a noise like an irate grizzly bear. "You want to lose that hand?"
"No, she's fine," Wood informed Katie cheerfully. Dominique emerged to glower at him as she had Katie, staying stony when he startled. "James, when was the last time you slept?"
"About fifteen minutes ago," she grumbled.
Alas, Dominique's ghastly complexion didn't brighten as she started towards Potions, running into Leanne on the way, who half carried her down to the dungeons. En route Dominique's nostrils filled with a light floral scent and she curiously sniffed the air, discovering that the aroma emanated from Leanne herself. "Are you wearing perfume?" she asked quizzically.
Leanne pursed her rose-coloured lips. "Maybe."
Dominique squinted at her, at last noticing her friend's rather done up appearance. Leanne's perfect curls and coated eyelashes prompted Dominique's gaze to rake over the other students passing by, realising that most had put extra effort into their presentation that morning whilst she, on the other hand, resembled a bloody Tim Burton character. She was definitely missing something here.
Moments later, Mike surfaced at Dominique's shoulder, his hair neatly combed and a suave expression carefully in place. "Ladies," he greeted in a rich baritone voice, wagglingly his eyebrows. Garnering little reaction he dropped the sophisticate air with a shrug. "Worth a try, right?"
As they came to a stop outside of the Potions dungeon, Dominique's red-rimmed eyes travelled between the girls tittering at one side of the dank corridor and the sulking boys at the other. "Why is everyone acting loopy this morning?" she exclaimed, gesturing between them. "Did I miss the part where we all drank the Kool-Aid?"
"Just be thankful you weren't here last year with Lockhart. It was anarchy," Mike shuddered, shaking his hair so that it returned to its usual style.
"Aw, I thought it was fun," Leanne said. "Those cupids were so cute!"
"You're kidding me, right? They were terrifyi-"
Dominique held up a hand to stop the escalating argument. "Okay, hold up. What is going on here?" she demanded, earning peculiar frowns from both Leanne and Mike.
"Can't you read a calendar, Sammy?" he asked mockingly.
"Of course I can !" she scoffed. "It's Monday!" The pair nodded encouragingly for her to continue so Dominique counted off the date on her fingers. "Monday the…the…" She trailed off, stomach sinking. "Monday the…14th...Valentine's Day." The worst day of the year. The day of…feelings.
"So you wanna be my Valentine?" Mike asked.
"No," Dominique replied flatly. "Why don't you ask Snape?"
Unfortunately for Mike, Snape wasn't in the mood to be seduced. He swept around the dungeon in usual Snape fashion, carrying with him an aura of misery that Dominique found oddly comforting; after snapping at Cho and Marietta to stop giggling and get on with their potion, she formed a bizarre kindred connection with the Potions Master. At least he was as equally sickened by the googly eyed, love-sick teenage fawning and general hormonal atmosphere unfolding around the dungeon.
"Sammy, you're about to chop off a finger if you don't watch what you're doing with that thing," Leanne warned.
As Cho's plans with Cedric that afternoon carried back to Dominique's station she had begun dicing her ingredients with more force than was strictly necessary. She compelled her rigid fingers to unclench, visualising a calm ocean wave washing delicately upon a tropical shore and prayed for a quick escape so she didn't have to hear any further details of her Captain's canoodling.
She didn't expect her silent prayers to be answered so expeditiously.
A tiny peep and a knock at door transformed the classroom into a graveyard as people curved to see who had just condemned themselves to a horrible, merciless death. Snape's noxious regard zeroed in on Derek the First Year, who was shifting on the spot as though trying not to wet himself. "A message from Professor Dumbledore, sir," he squeaked.
Alright, so he'll speak to Snape but not to me, Dominique thought. That's just insulting.
The Potion's Master, meanwhile, looked very much like he was considering cursing the messenger. "Well, what are you waiting for?" he snapped. Dominique winced as Derek shot to the front of the classroom like a champagne cork. Whatever they were paying him, it definitely wasn't enough. Snape's cold gaze raked over the parchment. "Miss James?"
The blood rushed from Dominique's face like potion down dungeon drains. She schooled her features into a mask of utter astonishment to assure him that she was in no way complicit in such an atrocious disruption. "Sir?"
"The Headmaster requests your presence," Snape hissed. "You are instructed to take your things with you." Dominique hastily stuffed her books into her satchel as Snape banished her pitiful concoction with a violent slash of his wand. Tearing out of the classroom with Dennis in toe, his shouts followed them up the damp dungeon corridors. "Don't you all have potions to complete!"
Dominique flinched, as did Derek beside her. Realising that he hadn't escaped yet, she tried her luck. "So Derek, messages during classes now too?" At that he broke into a sprint in the opposite direction and Dominique hollered after him. "YOU CAN'T IGNORE ME FOREVER!"
Nevertheless, she continued the journey to Dumbledore's office with only the questioning stares of the portraits decorating the castle walls for company. Upon arrival, the Headmaster's door stood ajar and she was suddenly drowned in unease at the realisation that Dumbledore had never pulled her from class before.
Was she going home?
Crossing the frame, Dominique immediately saw that the Headmaster's chair was eerily vacant. She yelped as an unexpected rustling sounded beside her, hand flying towards her wand until she noticed Dumbledore's hunched figure by an enormous rickety cabinet covered in strange runic markings. Heartrate relaxing, Dominique watched him rile through worn pieces of parchment, selecting a few for a pile at his side. "Er, Professor?" she asked uncertainly.
"Good morning, Miss James," he greeted. "If you would be so kind as to allow me a moment, I shall explain the reason for your summoning. Please take a seat."
Dominique obliged, rubbing her tired eyes as she sank into a chair by his desk. Although Dumbledore's tranquil tone had released the tension from her shoulders, she could sense an underlying gravity in the way he considered an individual parchment page with a frown before nodding softly. With a wave of his wand the other selections soared back into their places and the Headmaster joined Dominique at his desk. "First of all, I must ask you to excuse my rudeness," he said. "How do you find yourself this morning?"
Dominique shrugged. "Same old, same old, I guess – sir," she quickly added. Sometimes it was hard to remember that she was talking to the world's most powerful wizard during their conversations and not some eccentric elderly neighbour. Her ensuing questions about the status of her time-turner were halted by a broad yawn that she tried unsuccessfully to stifle.
Dumbledore consider her thoughtfully. "I hope it is not ill-mannered of me to say but you appear exhausted, Miss James. Have you been sleeping well?" Although his air appeared light and courteous, Dominique sensed a deeper concern lurking in the depths of the question.
Her fingers unconsciously travelled to the purple crescents encircling her eyes. "Actually I've been having these…dreams…quite often," she admitted. "Well…more like nightmares. You would have seen them during Occlumency practise I suppose - I mean they are memories in a way."
Dumbledore's pensive expression shifted into a smile, the skin around his twinkling eyes crinkling. "Believe it or not, but your skill has increased markedly since our lessons began; you have been able to keep me out quite successfully these past few lessons. You may find yourself an accomplished Occlumens before these trials come to an end." Dominique almost laughed. Most of the time all she accomplished after their lessons was an intense migraine.
Before she could point out as much, the Headmaster continued, a neutral tone concealing his weighty thoughts. "Impertinent though it is, may I ask what these nightmares are about?"
Dominique traced her fingertips over a grooved chip in the arm of her. "It's usually the same sort of things - things that don't really make a lot of sense. There are these hummingbirds and a fountain and this ticking noise that normally wakes me up. But last night…last night my family was there. My brother and sister were waiting for me but I – I couldn't get to them." She stopped to compose her wavering voice. "But, I mean, they're just dreams, right?"
"Yes, yes," Dumbledore swiftly assured her, but something indistinguishably distant in his demeanour caused Dominique to think that part of his attention was drawn elsewhere. "Just dreams. I would think that your siblings' presence there can be explained quite simply. You miss them. Our dreams, much like our magic, are bonded to our humanity. And here, I believe, is an excellent place to move onto the point of our discussion."
All fatigue was forgotten as Dominique watched an ancient piece of parchment hover over from the runic cabinet and land with a soft thud on the desk before her. Judging by its almost translucently thin pages, barely visible script and powerful musty smell, it was extremely old and extremely delicate. As such she didn't dare touch it, fearing that it would crumble to dust and slip through her fingers. Dominique leant forward and squinted at the ghostly remnants of elegant French script. "What is it, sir?"
"It is part of a manuscript containing designs for an exceedingly powerful magical device conceived around the late seventeenth century. A section of Rimbaud's manuscripts."
"You found it?" Dominique whispered, gaping at the parchment with the same reverence one would an atomic bomb. Complex, volatile, dangerous – much like the time-turner itself.
"A section, Miss James," Dumbledore clarified. "Incomplete and therefore not as helpful as one would hope. Nonetheless, I believe we may have stumbled upon some rather marvellous luck in finding this precise section. It mentions, in passing, a location very likely to house the remaining pieces of the puzzle. Rimbaud's personal residence, le Château de Verre,"
"Château de Verre?" Dominique repeated, words hitching in her throat. The Castle of Glass.
Dumbledore suppressed a chuckle at Dominique's reaction and continued. "Of course being so favoured by the royal house, Rimbaud was rumoured to possess many such estates but by all accounts, this was his preferred. Heavily protected and incredibly secure, the location was lost through the years as magic faded from his bloodline. Nobody has been able to uncover it…until now." The Headmaster's aged hand rested carefully on the parchment, directing Dominique's attention to pale sketches of a grand rectangular chateau. "If his writings endure they will be there."
Silent seconds passed until Dominique sensed Dumbledore's solemn gaze trained on her. "And with that knowledge, I must ask something of you I truly wish I did not have to, Miss James. It is imperative that the estate be searched but gaining access will not be easy. Rimbaud was a cautious man, not one to allow such destructive an instrument as his time-turner to fall into unwanted hands…and yet it did. I believe that this is more than mere coincidence; the time-turner is bonded to you. I'm afraid I cannot explain why but I am sure that your fates are linked and because of this it is quite possible that you alone will be able to uncover its secrets. Please understand that I would not ask you to accompany me if I believed there was any other way."
Dominique's hands were clutched together so rigidly in her lap that the skin around her nails was turning purple. Dumbledore's words marked an unspoken shift. The perils of the past thus far had been limited to running into people she should be avoiding and blurting out information she should've been concealing but now a true, physical threat was looming before her.
The time-turner was finally leading Dominique down the dangerous path that had been stretched before her since picking it up in a bathroom sink half a year ago. She stuffed her slightly trembling hands in her pockets and met Dumbledore's apologetic gaze. At least she'd have the greatest wizard in the world along for the journey.
Dominique swallowed. "When do we leave?"
"As soon as I am able to discover the exact location of the Chateau. It may take some time, however I must ask you to be prepared to depart at any moment. I believe that is all the information I can share with you today, Miss James."
Churning this new onslaught of knowledge over in her mind, Dominique nodded and grabbed her satchel, slinging it over her shoulder as she made to rise. "I have to go back to class now, don't I?" she sighed, aware once more of her drooping eyelids.
"You'll find, that exhaustion can be as dilapidating as illness," Dumbledore said warmly as he walked with her to the gargoyle guarded staircase. "As such, it is my recommendation that you return to your dormitory for some officially mandated rest. I shall inform your Professors that you are unable to attend the day's remaining classes, under my instruction."
Dominique beamed at him until his chuckling form disappeared behind the closing office door. As she plodded down the stairs she focused on the one comforting thing to arise from their meeting. She could now spend Valentine's Day as she liked to best. Unconscious.
AN: Happy New Year, kids! Double digits woo!
The most under-rated relationship of the entire Harry Potter series is the co-commentating of McGonagall and Lee Jordan, I had to sneak some in. I've been asked a few times about how long I think this fic will be and I don't really have an answer yet, I'm sort of just riding the waves atm. That said, I am planning on moving the story to GOF times soon (probably by Chapter 15) because I'm pretty sure we all want to see some Delacour Drama™ when Fleur rocks up.