A/N: Hi again, everyone! I am so glad to be uploading the second chapter of this story, especially after the truly wonderful response the previous chapter received. My excitement caused this one to get a little long, however, clocking in at around 3k words more than my usual fare. It also includes a scene that I was very conflicted on adding into this story (I had thought of adding it in a sort of spin-off publication), so I'm excited to see what you all think of it! (You should be able to figure out what I'm referring to once you get to it, haha).
Thank you so much to everyone who favorited and followed after the last update, and, of course, an extra big thank you to my lovely reviewers: drwatsonn, RunningGolden, Cecilia Romano, XxThereAreTwoTypesOfLaborxX, paulaa90, and – my first reviewer! – DoctorArwrenWren.
Enjoy the chapter!
Chapter Two: Time
"Time is a great teacher,
but unfortunately it kills all its pupils."
– Hector Louis Beriloz
August 31, 1977
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry
Amelia awoke with a gasp.
She blinked herself back into existence, her eyes wearily flickering open as her senses returned to her. The first of which was pain, pain that manifested itself at the base of her skull and jaw. Amelia groaned as she tried to move, snapping her eyes shut, her muscles fighting any attempts she made to stretch them. She vaguely registered the familiar feeling of a hospital wing cot beneath her, though her mind could only focus on the aches that seemed to grow as the seconds beat on.
"Take it easy," murmured a familiar voice, one that immediately dragged her consciousness back to reality.
She opened her eyes and found herself utterly and completely mind-boggled.
"Neville…no, you're…it can't…who are you?" she whispered, her voice little more than a painful rasp as she attempted to identify the man staring down at her. He looked like Neville, that much was certain, but Amelia could hardly say he was. This man was older, leaner; she could almost find it within herself to call him handsome. Besides, Neville was back at her house and —
Amelia let loose a shuddering breath when a surge of memories rushed to her. The Death Eaters. Neville Longbottom grabbing her arm. Her mother lying dead on the kitchen floor. Her father being tortured and Andrew being…she needed to get back.
That rotten Time-Turner couldn't have sent her back more than a few hours…if she was lucky. Maybe she'd be able to stop everything from happening in the first place and warn her family! But first she needed to figure out how she ended up at Hogwarts hospital wing, with Neville's long-lost twin brother hovering over her.
"Hi, Amelia," the man greeted, a strange, melancholy little smile creeping onto his lips. "It's good to see you."
"You…too?" she stuttered, confused, before repeating to him, "Who are you?"
"Oh, my dear," Amelia's attention shot to the opposite end of the room, where a pretty blonde woman in Healer robes had just emerged from Madam Pomfrey's office. "I hadn't expected you to wake up so quickly!"
As the witch grew closer, Amelia was able to take in the finer features of her face: soft blue eyes, rosy round cheeks, a smattering of freckles across her nose—bloody hell, all that was missing was the graying hair and the frown lines!
"Madam Pomfrey?" Amelia choked out, certain this was the woman who had healed so many of her Quidditch injuries over the years. "Why…why are you young?"
The Healer looked at her with worry, her eyes travelling between Amelia and Neville as she nervously wrung her hands together.
"So you were right then, Neville," Madam Pomfrey murmured, almost to herself. "She's the other one. You're Amelia."
The last two words were directed towards Amelia in an almost accusatory way, and she found herself straightening in the bed, despite the pain it caused her to feel.
"Of course I am, Madam Pomfrey," she said slowly, a frown tugging on her lips. "Don't you recognize me? I mean, I know I got banged up in the Battle, but I don't look that different. If anyone should be having trouble recognizing people – it should be me! Now," she turned her attention to the man beside her. "You are not Neville."
The man sighed deeply through his nose, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth as he looked at Amelia with a general weariness that the Neville Longbottom she knew wasn't capable of possessing. It was almost comforting to her, as it was the first unfamiliar trait the man had displayed.
He turned to Madam Pomfrey, motioning awkwardly for her to leave them alone. The matron frowned, sending him an unreadable expression, but after giving Amelia one last befuddled look, she stepped into her office and shut the door with a neat snap of her fingers.
Amelia immediately turned back to the man.
He sighed again. "Amelia, there isn't an easy way for me to explain this, so I apologize for being blunt here…" he began shakily, situating himself on the edge of her cot. Amelia's heart sped up inexplicably as he made eye-contact with her, a solemn expression on his face as he slowly, but clearly, stated: "You're in 1977."
She frowned, her eyebrows knitting together in confusion. Surely she had misheard him. "I'm sorry?"
"You're in 1977, Amelia, as in the year," Neville repeated, wincing. "The Time-Turner broke when you stepped on it. It…it uh, it sent me to July 31, 1970, which is why I look like — " he paused, motioning vaguely to his face, and Amelia began to process the wrinkles that had begun to appear around his mouth and eyes— "like this, I suppose. I'm so, so sorry. But it's the truth."
Amelia didn't – couldn't – respond at first. Instead she ran over the last few minutes in her head, coming to the horrible realization that the explanation did make sense. It explained why Madam Pomfrey was young, why Neville was older, why the castle was in impeccable condition despite the recent battle…but the full meaning of travelling twenty-one years into the past was far beyond her comprehension, and she found herself shaking her head despite the logic of Neville's announcement.
"No," she said, disbelieving, "That would mean…it'd mean…"
She stopped herself, the familiar feeling of tears choking her, blocking any more words from escaping her mouth.
"I know," Neville said, almost comforting. He placed a hand over hers, but she flinched away at the sight of a pale white scar across his knuckles, which had been a violent, raised red the last time she saw him. He sighed. "Trust me, I understand everything you're feeling right now, and I know it's awful. None of it will ever really make sense, not even after seven years."
She froze, a realization causing her entire body to quake.
"Neville, you've been here for seven years!" Her mouth had gone dry, and a panicked feeling was beginning to brew in her chest. "You mean we can't go home?"
"I'm afraid not, Miss Harper," an achingly familiar voice said, striking fear deep into her core.
Amelia paused, took a deep breath, and glanced to her left to see a very much alive Albus Dumbledore standing over her cot, a curious intrigue twinkling in his blue-eyed gaze.
A number of emotions surfaced at the sight of her old headmaster, and she couldn't help but hold back the conflicted cry that leapt from her throat. This was not mentioning the finality of his tone – if Albus Dumbledore said there was no way home, then there was no way home. She was trapped in the seventies, with no one but Neville Longbottom to keep her company.
She blinked a few times, letting that thought sink in.
About four seconds passed before she erupted into sobs.
"Miss Harper — "
"It's Hobday!" she snapped through her tears, giving Dumbledore a high-browed look as she tried futilely to steady her breathing. Her emotions were running unchecked, adding self-loathing to everything else she was feeling at the moment. "My last name is Hobday," she added, her voice a mere tremor in the soft fall breeze.
"I'm afraid that's no longer true," Dumbledore gently corrected, flashing her a rueful smile. "When Neville appeared here himself seven years ago, we created a new identity for him, as he is now Neville Fogg. We had done the same for you, in the event that you eventually arrived yourself. You are now Amelia Harper, born in 1960 like the majority of our seventh year students. You're to attend Hogwarts for your final year of education, and then we'll work out a long-term plan for your future, just as I've done with Professor Fogg."
Amelia shook her head, which was spinning as it attempted to digest the information that had just been spilled on her.
"No – that isn't – I mean – bloody hell, you can't just expect me to go along with this, can you?" she whimpered, garnering surprised expressions from the two wizards. "If this is really the past, then half of the people here are dead in my time…and, oh Rowena…I can't just sit here and watch them die! I can't see Cedric and Fr – Fred…"
Neville put a hand on her shoulder, and Amelia shrugged away from him as though his touch was poison, ignoring the unexplained, sharp burst of pain that erupted in her lower abdomen with the action.
"Don't you bloody touch me!" she warned, glaring at him.
"Amelia…" Neville trailed off, looking at Dumbledore helplessly.
She was wheezing now, her mind running leagues ahead of her physical form as she tried to force herself to calm down. A little voice – one that had taken up residence in her head during the war – brutally chastised her for letting emotions overtake her again.
You are stone.
Everyone you love is gone.
Feeling will result in heartbreak.
Her breathing slowed. The reminder was harsh, but necessary, and she took a moment to compartmentalize, not caring if Dumbledore and Neville were staring at her like she was a madwoman. Amelia just had to look at the situation differently. Use her objective, strategist brain, rather than her all-to-emotional heart. She could turn this problem and turn it into…into an opportunity.
"Let me save them," she pleaded, frowning when Dumbledore went rigid, a refusal already forming on his lips. "Please, sir, I can't go through it all again – bloody hell, I can't watch my younger self go through it again."
Dumbledore's lips parted way for a response, but it was Neville's soft voice that answered her.
"It's just too risky," he told her, a touch of genuine regret painted on his face. "We've discussed the possibility of doing something a million times, but there's just too many variables to account for. Too many things that we don't know about that could change the future for the worst. We win the war in the end. We can't jeopardize that by trying to save the people we care about."
The people we care about.
Amelia frowned – hadn't Neville's parents been students around now?
"Your mum and dad," she threw out, noting how he stiffened at their mention. "How could you just go and let them die when you have a chance to prevent it? What is wrong with — "
He abruptly moved from her cot, his hands closing into fists as he stared harshly down at her. And for the first time in that Amelia could recall, she felt scared of Neville Longbottom.
"It's for the greater good," he snapped, sounding more like he was convincing himself than Amelia. "I'm lucky enough to be their Professor and get to know them – that's more than I got the first time around, for Godric's sake. We can't go gallivanting around as heroes all the time, sometimes we just need to let things run their course."
Amelia scoffed in disbelief, wondering what in the world had happened to her slightly dopey, impeccably kind friend in his seven years here. This was not the Neville Longbottom she knew – no, this was Neville Fogg. She rolled the name over in her head a few times, as well as her own. Harper. Amelia Harper. She had to begrudgingly admit it had a certain ring to it, but it didn't change the fact that it seemed irrefutably wrong.
All of this seemed wrong.
She thought back to the battle, remembering Hermione and Lupin's strange words to her right before they both had been killed.
"We need you alive."
"You're going to fix everything, I know you will…"
She felt her mouth go dry as she considered the meaning of words. Was it possible…?
"Headmaster, Neville," she whispered, her hand reaching down into her jumper pocket and clasping around the beaded bag inside. "What if I told you that I could come up with a plan to fix everything, with every variable accounted for? Would that make you reconsider letting me change things?"
Dumbledore eyed her with some suspicion, his mouth pressed firmly into a thin line, much like Professor McGonagall had a habit of doing when she was bereaved.
"I don't see how that could be possible, Miss Harper," the ancient wizard said flatly, readjusting his half-moon glasses on his crooked nose. "Unless you've somehow brought a comprehensive history tome through time alongside you."
Amelia chuckled humorlessly, pulling the handbag from her pocket.
"Well, I don't have that, but I can do you one better," she announced, tossing the bag to Dumbledore, who caught it with surprising dexterity. "In there, you'll find seventy-seven journals written by Hermione Jean Granger, a Gryffindor who was involved in essentially every facet of the war since Harry Potter first showed his scrawny self at Hogwarts in 1991. She gave these to me right before she died. Her last words were, "You'll fix everything, I know you will.'"
Both Dumbledore and Neville looked justifiably shocked at this development, the latter getting misty-eyed at the mere mention of his old housemate.
"Now, I've never been one for Divination, and neither was she," Amelia continued, not able to contain the smile that was working its way onto her face, "but it sounds to me like she knew that Neville and I were going to come here. I haven't the foggiest idea how, though you must admit the evidence points in that direction."
Neville looked at her sternly. "Hermione really gave you these? And she...she really said that?"
His voice faltered slightly at the end of his question, but Amelia pretended not to notice and simply nodded instead. Neville stared at her for a moment longer before turning to Dumbledore, a hysteric look in his eyes.
"Albus — " Amelia flinched at how foreign Dumbledore's forename sounded coming from her classmate's mouth — "this changes things. Hermione was a brilliant witch – I'd entrust the entire world to her. If she planned for this to happen somehow, then we've got to do it."
Amelia grinned a little at Neville's tone, his pitch had risen with his excitement, and he sounded just a tad bit more like the boy she had grown up alongside. She tried to sit up again to watch Dumbledore flip through the notebooks, wincing as she did.
"Bloody – what happened to me?" she mumbled, flinching as she ran her hand over her waist, the pain still fresh and raw, as though she was being wounded all over again.
"You essentially got splinched by Time," Neville explained, rolling his sleeve up to reveal a dark purple scar wrapped around his left bicep. "It happened to me, too, and it never fully heals, either – it still hurts like hell when it gets pressed on." He smiled crookedly. "Apparently broken Time-Turners don't take well to transporting two people at once."
Amelia scoffed. "Shocking."
"Horcruxes?" Dumbledore spluttered, ruining their moment of levity and looking horrified for the first time that Amelia could recall as he flipped through the pages. He shook his head, muttering to himself, "Oh, Tom, how could we have let this happen…?"
Dumbledore closed the notebook he was reading, his face blank and his emotions indiscernible as he looked between Neville and Amelia, both with genuinely hopeful expressions on their faces for the first time in years.
He sighed. "We'll begin to discuss our course of action tomorrow," he declared, and Amelia felt her heart leap with unadulterated joy, "Right now, Miss Harper, you need rest. We'll move you into the Gryffindor dormitories in the morning."
"But I'm a Ravenclaw!" she protested, tapping the bird-shaped pin on her pullover.
"I think you'll find Gryffindor will much better suit your needs," Dumbledore said with an air of finality, an odd twinkle in his blue eyes. "It is my understanding that a certain band of young troublemakers are quite important in your future," he added, and upon her confused look said, "Perhaps you'd know them better as their collective name – does 'The Marauders' ring any bells?"
It certainly did. The Marauders; they were the infamous Hogwarts pranksters that Fred had idolized beyond belief, though she knew them for more intimate reasons than that.
One was Harry's father, another his godfather.
One was Cedric's killer.
And one was the man she'd let die.
She took a deep breath, her previous bravado fading into nothingness.
This was going to be more difficult than she thought.
September 1, 1977
The Next Evening
"Slowly now, Amelia, don't hurt yourself."
Amelia glared a bit at Neville, who hovered next to her in the hallway with unabashed concern in his soft brown eyes, a moonlit glow trickling in from the windows and casting a pale light over his worried face.
"I'm fine, Neville," she promised, though she shook slightly as she began ascending the staircase to the Gryffindor common-room. "Madam Pomfrey wouldn't have let me go if I wasn't."
He gave her a small, sheepish smile, still looking mildly concerned.
"I know that," he said softly, twiddling with a loose thread on his plum professor robes. "It's just, you're the only other person who knows, and if something happened to you, I'd be — "
"I understand." Amelia nodded with a melancholy grin of her own. "But if I die, it bloody well won't be because I tripped on the stairs."
Neville nodded agreeably, though her attention had slipped away from me as they reached the top of the staircase.
Portraits that she remembered being destroyed looked at her with curiosity, and already they began to whisper amongst themselves about the strange new witch roaming the halls. She didn't even notice them.
"Neville, it's all so normal," Amelia said, beaming despite herself. "It hasn't looked like this since Dumbledore was the Headmaster."
Neville's eyes widened as he shushed her, looking around the hallway in a panic.
"Keep your voice down, will you?" he hissed, clapping a hand over her shoulder and leading her down the hallway. "Dumbledore is the Headmaster, and you can't call me Neville here—it has to be Professor Fogg." He sighed irritably. "Didn't you listen to anything that he told you this morning?"
She rolled her eyes, recalling Dumbledore's excessively long speech about how she had to keep her true identity a secret from everyone except the professors, or else he wouldn't let her fix anything. The man must have thought she was an idiot, seemingly forgetting that she had already been through one war; she'd never jeopardize a mission like that – and what's more, she had no one to tell.
"Of course I did," she scoffed, chuckling at the sight of Peeves chasing after a corpulent man she assumed to be Professor Slughorn in the distance. "Tell me you weren't in awe when you first got here, go on."
His expression soured.
"I landed in the middle of the library," he snapped, the memory clearly paining him to recall. "When I first got here I was mostly preoccupied with trying to stop Madam Pince from turning me into a paperclip."
Amelia would have laughed at the image had Neville not seemed genuinely bereaved about the ordeal, and she instead restrained herself to merely smirking at her friend's expense.
They moved in a comfortable silence after that. Amelia silently marveled at the sight of the castle in all of its former glory, though her heart ached at certain facets of the hallways. They passed the broom closet she had first kissed Fred in, the window she used to talk for hours in with Cedric, and even the place where Draco Malfoy had bullied her for the first time.
She stanched her sadness by reminding herself she was here for them—Fred, Cedric, Hermione, Lupin, her family, and even Malfoy. There was no way she'd allow their stories to end in tragedy or heartbreak this time around.
The pair eventually arrived at the portrait of the infamous Fat Lady, and Amelia turned to Neville, a strange feeling of anxiety fluttering in her stomach.
"Anything I should know about Gryffindors?" she asked tightly, trying to keep her tone casual.
Neville chuckled conspiratorially. "Our password is 'Thunderbird,' and if someone offers you a drink, tell them no."
Her eyes widened in shock. "What do you mean by that?"
He smirked. "I guess you'll have to wait and find out, won't you?" he teased, turning to the portrait on the wall. "Thunderbird."
The Fat Lady eyed Amelia suspiciously before allowing the door to swing open, a wave of heat and the rustic smell of wood burning smacking her in the face as she did. The ambience seemed a far cry from the cool, fresh feeling of the Ravenclaw Tower, but Amelia wouldn't say it was necessarily unpleasant.
She stepped into the portrait hole, waiting for Neville to lead her inside, but he had turned away from her and his eyes had trained somewhere down the hallway.
"You go on in," he ordered, stepping away from her. "I think I just saw someone running down the hall –I'll be a minute."
Amelia started to voice a protest, but he raced off before she could get anything out. Now completely terrified, she stepped inside, and barely had a chance to admire the empty common room, plush scarlet and gold decor, and soft-looking carpet when a wand found itself pointed at her heart.
Her body reacted immediately, and Amelia automatically sprang into action, casting a wandless Expelliarmus spell which ripped her opponent's wand from his grip. The wizard yelped in surprise as she took the moment to pull her own from her pocket, taking a defensive stance as she held it in his direction.
Then she took a look at his face and staggered backwards in shock.
Her arm fell to her side as he lifted up his fists, clearly resolving to fight her the Muggle way. But now battling was the furthest thing from her mind. No other than Harry Potter himself was staring at her, looking simultaneously angered and awed. She ignored the expression, choosing instead to take a moment to drink in the sight of her old friend – the familiar face an admitted comfort – as she wondered how on Earth he'd gotten here, and why Neville hadn't warned her about his presence.
"Who's that?" he demanded, his face splitting into a furious expression. "Who are you?"
Amelia's brows furrowed – had he forgotten her? It couldn't be possible, if Neville had then he…
That's when she noticed them.
Hazel, not green.
The wizard standing in front of her was not Harry Potter.
She scanned him again, more careful this time, and quickly came to the realization that he looked exactly like Harry, yet somehow…more. He stood taller, his skin tanner, his hair methodically tussled rather than untameably messy, and while Amelia had never found Harry particularly attractive, this boy was objectively handsome.
It was almost as though he was a visage of what Harry would've looked like had he not been raised in such a poor environment.
Unable to muster anything coherent to tell him – she had just attacked the boy in his own common-room, for Rowena's sake – she sheepishly held out his wand, taking note of the golden Head Boy badge hanging proudly shined on his robes. Fabulous – she'd nearly hexed the Head Boy into oblivion.
Dumbledore would have kittens if he found out.
The imposter-Potter snatched the wand back immediately, pointing it back towards her with a heightened fervor. His hazel eyes were furious, and Amelia got the distinct impression that – whoever he was – he was not the type of wizard who tended to be disarmed so easily.
"Already terrorizing the new students, James?"
Amelia gasped openly. James. There was only one James she knew to be attending Hogwarts in 1977, and with this boy's appearance – that had to mean he was the James Potter! Harry's father. The man who had gone up against Voldemort without a wand (which, after their interaction, seemed to be a habit of his). She had just disarmed one of the greatest wizarding heroes of the twentieth century.
Should I be mortified or proud? She couldn't stop the thought from running through her head.
"Professor, she just tried to kill me!" James snapped, his expression haughty as he glared at her, his bright hazel eyes darkening. Something about his whiny tone immediately humanized him; he was no mystical war hero – at least not yet – right now, he was just a teenaged boy. "She should be executed immediately for her actions."
A melodramatic one, at that.
Neville gave her a disappointed side-eye, and Amelia shrugged, not feeling sorry as James had been the one to egg her on.
"You'll be trouble, won't you?" he sighed, shaking his head and looking away from her. Though his voice carried a distinctly professor-esque tone, she knew that Neville was referring to much more trouble than a typical problem student. He was now addressing James, whose anger had been diluted with confusion. "Mister Potter, allow me to introduce you to Amelia Harper, the newest addition to the Gryffindor house."
"Sorry?" James interrupted, his dark eyebrows leaping to his hairline. "She's at least a fourth year."
Amelia's left eye twitched as she forced herself to stand as tall as she possibly could, though that hardly put her even with the lanky Gryffindor's chest.
"I'm seventeen," she huffed, her voice taut with annoyance. "Don't be daft."
James paused his fuming to look at her, his eyes briefly sweeping over her form. He nodded after a moment, still staring at her, and Amelia's face flushed with an indescribable discomfort.
"Professor Fogg, what are you doing here?"
Amelia spun away from James, happy to rid herself of his pervasive stare, to find another student had entered the common-room. She was a pretty redheaded girl, made up of long, soft contours and draped with smooth pale skin – an obvious foil to Amelia's war-hardened appearance, though she didn't mind; she had given up on caring about the physical long ago.
The witch's ginger eyebrows were knitted together in confusion as she eyed Amelia with a stark curiosity.
"Miss Evans, perfect. You are just the young witch I wanted to see!" Neville greeted amiably, his fond smile wordlessly divulging his opinion on the girl as he gestured to Amelia. "This is Amelia Harper, a new student."
"Lily Evans," she girl greeted, stepping closer to Amelia and holding out a hand, a welcoming, blindingly-white smile on her face. "Head Girl."
Amelia shook Lily's hand, stunned, as she stared directly into the pair of vibrant green eyes she had searched for in James. "Pleasure."
Her heart stuttered as the fact that she had just met both of Harry Potter's parents sunk in, and her knees began to quake when she realized that their lives were both in her hands; her actions here would quite literally decide if these two students lived or died.
"Aren't you a little old to be a first year?" Lily asked confusedly, though not unkindly, as Amelia steadied her breath in the wake of her realization.
"I'm a seventh year," Amelia started, nervously fiddling with the silver bracelet on her wrist – a nervous habit. "I was homeschooled, but my parents, uh, died suddenly and…now I'm here."
"That's terrible!" Lily wailed, while at the same time James queried, "How'd they die?"
Lily turned on the bespectacled boy, her expression as fiery as her hair as she smacked him soundly on the shoulder.
"Don't be insensitive, you toe-rag!" she snapped, shaking her head before turning her attention back to Amelia. "Feel free to ignore him liberally – my owl has more tact in her little talon than he does in his entire body."
Amelia couldn't help but let a small smirk slip through her lips; it seemed Harry had inherited his infamous cheekiness from his mother.
"Miss Evans," Neville cut in, looking utterly finished with the entire interaction. "I'm leaving it up to you to help Miss Harper settle into Hogwarts life – show her around, answer any questions she may have, and keep her from the –" Neville glanced briefly at James– "wrong sort of student."
James scoffed at the insinuation, while Amelia tried – to little success – to wordlessly indicate to Neville that she had no desire to be shown around the school by Lily.
"I don't know what you're trying to imply, Fogg, as I have been nothing but the definition of goodliness this entire school year."
"It's the first day, Potter," Lily said dryly, rolling her bright eyes. "I'm sure you'll have blown something up by dinnertime tomorrow."
Though the comment was clearly not meant kindly, James looked as though Lily had just paid him the highest of compliments, his lips parting into a gigantic grin and his hazel eyes shimmering with delight.
"You think so?" he asked, slightly dreamy.
"I'll leave you all to get settled then." Neville sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, an expression of clear discomfort on his face. "Have a good night; I'll see you all in class tomorrow."
He left the room with a flourish of his magenta robes, the portrait door slamming shut with an air of finality to it that made Amelia shudder. She was now all alone, in 1977, in an unfamiliar common-room, with Harry Potter's parents.
And yet, she thought bitterly, Somehow this isn't the worst situation I've been in recently.
She shifted on her feet, her gaze hopping between her two fellow Gryffindors – that would take some getting used to; she had been the Ravenclaw Quidditch captain, and house pride ran deep for her – while her mind tried to come up with something intelligent to say.
Her mouth was dry, which was ridiculous. She used to be such an extrovert, but these two had her frozen in place. In her defense, how could she act normal, knowing that these two lives were in her hands? One wrong move and they'd be dead again; two more tallies on the ever-growing list of bodies that fell around her.
Getting attached would do more harm than good, she knew, and decided then to be nothing more than a casual acquaintance to the pair.
Before she could speak, though, Lily picked up the conversation with a flourish. "Oh, we'll be wonderful friends – I can already tell," she assured Amelia merrily, grabbing her arm and tugging her towards the plush fireside couches, James following like a nervous pet dog. Amelia held back a sigh.
It seemed as though the universe was trying to make this as difficult as possible for her.
"Let me take you through the entire history of Hogwarts! Are you familiar with the concept of talking portraits?"
"You are going to tell us everything you know about the Order of the Phoenix."
Amelia hissed as a masked man twisted her arm, bringing hot tears to her eyes. Her head still pounded from the Stinging Hex they had used to render her unconscious on the train, and she didn't want to imagine what kind of welt it left. Still, she pressed her lips together, staring at the blond man in front of her with hard eyes.
Another twist – wrong answer.
"This would be much easier if you cooperated, Miss Hobday," Lucius Malfoy drawled, twirling his wand casually between his pale fingers. Amelia watched it wearily. "I wouldn't want to hurt one of Draco's…friends."
The words were unconvincing – mocking, almost – and Amelia knew he was taunting her. He knew well and good that she and Draco hadn't spoken civilly since their fourth year, but still she couldn't help but correct him.
"He's not my friend, you bloody wanker," she growled, gasping for breath as the nameless Death Eater yanked her arm again, her shoulder seeming to remain in her socket by the sheer force of will alone. "He's just as bad as you."
"Just as bad?" chortled the wild-haired woman beside Lucius, her deep-set eyes and maniacal grin making her easily identifiable as Bellatrix Lestrange. "Well, let's see! Alderfair, bring Draco in here, won't you?"
Another masked man rushed out of the dungeons, a quick flash of light coming and going as he opened and closed the door to the rest of the Manor. Lucius stared after him, and Amelia could've sworn she saw concern momentarily glow in his harsh, dead gray eyes, as if he was fearful for Draco.
It was a little late for remorse. He'd allowed him to become a Death Eater, after all – sold his only son's soul over to a monster and put a target on his back for the good guys to aim their wands at.
For the briefest moment, Amelia felt bad for Draco Malfoy.
Then there was another flash of light from the open door and the wizard who had been holding her shoved her roughly to the ground. Amelia yelped as she went down, feeling a sharp bolt of pain as her right wrist snapped in half from the impact, Bellatrix's grating laugh ringing in her ears.
"Is that—Hobday?" breathed a familiar voice above her head, and Amelia forced herself to look away from her contorted appendage to stare up at a pair of silvery gray eyes, framed by the two dark bags beneath them.
Years ago, she had likened his eyes to stormy skies, to ash and steel blades and all things destructive in the universe. Now there was none of that. The spark was gone; where there was once vibrancy and fire there was nothing but exhaustion. The gray was duller; like the rubble of buildings ruined in a war.
"Malfoy," she spat out, not bothering to try and win his sympathy. There was none left for him to give; she knew that from his actions over the past year. The whispers of kindness she swore were buried inside of him had all flown away with the wind long ago. "Wonderful to finally see you in your natural habitat."
He opened his mouth to say something, but she glared at him with all the venom that she could muster, and he seemed to get the message and kept quiet.
"Draco, your little girlfriend here isn't cooperating with us," Bellatrix informed him in a sickeningly cooing tone, coming up behind her nephew with all the grace of a snake slithering through a forest. "We thought maybe you'd have a better chance of convincing her to talk than we have."
Draco's eyes hardened further; clearly he understood what his aunt was implying, and if Amelia knew any better she would've thought the idea of hurting her almost upset him. It was a foolish concept; he had no trouble doing so while they were at Hogwarts, so why would now be any different?
"She has no new information," Draco said evenly to the adults in the room, his expression unreadable. "No one from the Order has reached her since the summer; Snape has been intercepting all of her mail. Mostly from Fred Weasley – just a bunch of useless love letters. You'd have better luck with Loony."
"What?" shrieked Amelia, forcing herself up into a sitting position only to be forced back onto the ground by one of her captors. Fred had been trying to write to her? The tight knot that had been tied up in her chest for months seemed to unravel all at once, leaving room for something akin to warmth.
"You're sure?" Lucius demanded, his eyes flickering between his son and Amelia, who felt ready to weep with happiness at the thought of Fred writing her. Draco nodded, and his father sighed. "Alright. Lock the girl up for now and send the letter to her father. Bring in the other student."
The other student. Amelia's good spirits vanished at once. That meant Luna; they were going to hurt Luna.
She couldn't let that happen.
"No!" she called, struggling against the man who tried to force her backwards towards the cells. "Don't touch Luna—you can hurt me, but not her!"
Everyone froze for a moment. Bellatrix and Lucius shared a look, as Draco sent her one that told her she would soon regret her words.
"I suppose we're flexible," Bellatrix declared with all too much glee, and the last thing Amelia saw was the widening of Draco's eyes before her entire world gave way to unbearable pain. "Crucio!"
"Woah, hey! Wake up!"
Amelia awoke with a start, sweat dripping down her face as the nightmare melted away from her consciousness, completely disoriented.
She found herself in front of the still-smoldering fireplace, nestled on one of the too-plush couches that had been shoved near it. A faint trickle of sunlight twinkled in through the window; she must have fallen asleep while Lily was blathering on about the talking portraits – how embarrassing!
Though she could hardly find time to fret about that now, as she noticed a pair of long, jean-clad legs standing before her.
"My eyes are up here, love."
Her eyes snapped upwards, and something was immediately jolted inside of her. The first thing she noticed were his eyes, elegantly tilted and the most impossible shade of silver-gray she had ever seen. There was a haughtiness to them that seemed horribly familiar, and she couldn't help but study the rest of him as she tried to identify him. His face as a whole was unfairly just as immaculate as the eyes – a sharp jawline, shapely nose and mouth, lofty eyebrows and a mop of inky black hair to frame it – but she couldn't quite place him.
"You were shouting in your sleep, so I figured I'd wake you up," the boy said, his tone posh and smooth as butter, nearly masking the meaning of his words. "What are you doing down here, anyway? It's not even five-thirty yet.
She blinked, startled by his upfront attitude. Something about it just seemed so familiar, and yet distinctly different from anything she had ever encountered. "My name is Amelia Harper," she said dumbly, giving a small wave. "I'm a new seventh year, I transferred and—"
"That doesn't answer my question," the boy cut in, his dark brows inching together. "Why are you down here? No one is ever down here before six."
"You're down here," she pointed out, feeling defensive to his haughty tone. He didn't even know who she was and already he was acting like a jerk; he reminded her more of an entitled Slytherin git than a supposedly brave and chivalrous Gryffindor. And maybe it was the fact that she was still truly a Ravenclaw, but Amelia did relish in the opportunity to debate with people.
The boy frowned at her. "That's because I was shagging a Ravenclaw bird and wanted to sneak in before the third years woke up – the little buggers are the biggest gossips in the castle, I swear to Merlin."
The crass words fell so easily from his mouth that Amelia didn't even have time to feel scandalized by them.
"Oh, well, I guess that makes sense — "
"What did you say your name was again?" he asked, once again cutting her off. Amelia felt her eye twitch slightly; she absolutely despised being talked over, and if it weren't for the unfortunate circumstances she would have already jinxed the pompous Gryffindor three ways to next Tuesday.
"Amelia Harper," she hissed through gritted teeth, holding out a stiff hand to him. "And you are?"
He glanced at the outstretched appendage and smirked with amusement for whatever reason before enveloping it in his own, large one, which felt strong and smooth against her own callused and rough fingers.
"No need to get all snappish," he chided, his smirk giving way to a straight row of blindingly white teeth. "My name's Sirius Black—I'm sure you've already heard of me."
Oh, come on.