The Other Tower
Gryffindor tower faced the lake, and got the morning sun. But Ravenclaw tower faced the forbidden forest and the sun had never caressed Natalie Kerrington in the morning. She had chosen the bed furthest from the window, closest to the door because she didn't like looking at the foreboding landscape. She rather liked the lake, though, and spent a lot of time studying on its shore. She was a little jealous of the Gryffindors and their lakefront view but the Gryffindors always got the best of everything – quidditch players, headmasters, and heros. The sorting hat had discarded the idea of putting Natalie in Gryffindor first thing, probably because it had been the house most on her mind. Good people, strong and brave people came from Gryffindor and she had wanted, at the age of eleven, to be good and brave but that hat had told her she was not a Gryffindor and what could she do but believe it?
She was not a Slytherin, either. She didn't have the mean streak or the genealogy to be put there and it was just as well because she didn't much fancy living in the dungeons. She had asked the hat not to put her in Hufflepuff because her father had told her it wasn't a respectable house at all and so that had left Ravenclaw.
"You'll have to work hard," the hat had said but Natalie had worked hard her whole life and so it was settled. She would live in the other tower. She was not as brave as she wished to be but Ravenclaws were respected too and it could have been worse. The Hufflepuffs lived by the kitchens in the middle of the castle and had no view at all, except for maybe of the Greenhouses but that was hardly spectacular. When Natalie pined for a bit of nature, she just went outside. She was a decent flyer, also, and she liked to take her broom out and circle the castle on nice days, on weekends when the blur of her blue and black robes wouldn't be noticed because no one was in class, looking out a window, wishing they were elsewhere.
Natalie always wished she was elsewhere. She didn't have a particular destination in mind, she just knew that fitting in at Hogwarts was not easy. There were too many unspoken rules, it was all to complex for her taste. When she still went to her Muggle school, when she learned about grammar and arithmetic, making friends was easy. She skipped rope on the blacktop during recess and held hands with her blonde friend, Amanda. But when her letter came and her father had told her that she was special, like him, she didn't see Amanda anymore. Her father had been a Ravenclaw, too. He was a lawyer and when she asked him why he lived with the people who weren't special, he wouldn't answer and wouldn't look her in the eyes. She'd wondered what she was getting herself into.
It was her fifth year before she decided to give making friends another go. Ravenclaws didn't make friends, they made alliances and connections. People who would later help them along in their chosen professions. Ravenclaws didn't gossip or skip class or hold hands in the hallways. Ravenclaws were always number one.
Except, of course, for Hermione Granger. Hermione was a sore spot in Ravenclaw tower. It was obvious to all who wore blue and bronze that Hermione Granger was incorrectly sorted. It didn't matter that she was brave and loyal and friends with Harry Potter, she was too smart for that house and had she been put into Natalie's tower instead of the other, she wouldn't have to constantly waste her breath nagging those Gryffindor boys of hers. Natalie respected her ability to make friends, however. She thought it was the skill that the Ravenclaws lacked, the skill that perhaps landed them in Gryffindor.
And yet, somehow, Looney Lovegood had done it. She had cracked the code. Luna was a year ahead of Natalie and had swiftly, if not gracefully, integrated her self into that little knot of Gryffindors. With Harry Potter and Hermione Granger and that Weasley and Longbottom, who probably ought to have been in Hufflepuff, but then, as Natalie knew, the hat had its reasons.
At meals, she sat on the side of the Ravenclaw table that faced the Gryffindors and left her back to the Slytherins. She watched them with a sort of resigned longing. It was what she wanted, but what she could never have.
She had two classes with Ginny Weasley, and had thought about talking to her a few times, but it was the year that Ginny started to date Harry Potter and so Natalie decided to keep to herself. The last class of her day was Double Potions with the Hufflepuffs. Natalie was generally good at everything but she loved potions. Double Potions seemed to always go faster than her single block classes. She got lost in the cutting, measuring, stirring, in the science of it all. This year there was a new professor, the bulbous Slughorn who was so stout and so boisterous that she almost missed professor Snape. Snape was a smarmy bastard, anyone could see that, but he'd never given her a detention or taken any points off Ravenclaw. In fact, once in her third year, he'd given her five points. Her lab partner that year was a Hufflepuff girl named Linda and she'd added Armadillo Bile into her potion when she'd needed to add Dragon Scales. The cauldron had started to smoke furiously, and so Natalie threw in the rat's tail she'd been slicing to counter act the Dragon Scales. The potion was ruined, of course, but it wasn't going to explode either. Snape had cleared the mess with his wand.
"Five points to Ravenclaw for averting disaster," he'd said and sent Linda over to the sinks to scrub cauldrons. Natalie had blushed furiously and went back to her own potion, silent.
At night, when Natalie slept, she dreamt of things that would later come true. She dreamt of snakes in the walls, she dreamt of Cedric Diggory's cold, lifeless eyes, and most recently, she'd been dreaming of Snape leaving. In her dreams, Snape, angry and pale, would run out of the front gates with the Hogwarts crest in rusty iron, and then he would disappear into the night. She'd never mentioned her dreams and she most certainly told no one that they came true but when she saw Snape's angry and... and scared face, she felt like she ought to do something. But what could she do? Ask him not to go?
In Herbology the next morning, Natalie was first to the greenhouse. She was an early riser and since the dreams had started again, she hadn't been sleeping much. There was a good ten minutes until class started and she was using her wand tip to draw pictures in the layer of potting soil that was on her table. She saw two people walking toward the glass building, their images distorted by the thick glass. One was obviously the round shape of Professor Sprout but the other was much taller and until they entered the building, Natalie was almost certain it was Harry Potter. But no, it was Neville and he was talking softly and quickly to Professor Sprout.
"Ahh, Miss Kerrington, always first." Professor Sprout said, patting her shoulder as she walked by to start setting up the first lesson of her day.
"Hullo, Natalie." Neville said, sitting awkwardly on the stool next to her. Natalie gaped for a moment, surprised the Gryffindor sixth year knew her at all.
"Hi," she whispered. She knew that fate was presenting her with an opportunity for human interaction so she decided to seize it. "What are you here so early for?" she asked.
"Oh, Professor Sprout accepted me as her apprentice! I have a free period so I'll be assisting your class." he explained, excitedly.
"Congratulations." she said, pleased. She could hear the rest of her class staggering out to the greenhouse for their first class, with cloaks wrapped around them to ward off the autumn chill. He stood and went to help Professor Sprout at the front of the room. Soon enough, class was underway, and Neville didn't speak to Natalie again for the rest of the period.
In her common room, Natalie sat near the fire working on her History of Magic essay when a whole gaggle of sixth years came through the portrait, Luna Lovegood among them, but not with them. She wandered away from the group and sat next to Natalie. Luna's tie was askew and she wore her cork necklace and stared into the fire for a good six minutes before speaking to Natalie.
"Can you tutor me in DADA?" Luna asked, finally.
"Excuse me?" Natalie stammered, not sure if Luna was really speaking to her.
"I don't think anyone in my year will do it and Ginny Weasley said you were really clever in that class. Harry used to tutor me but he's busy this year." Luna said. Natalie looked down, embarrassed.
"I don't know," she said. "I don't know what you're studying." Luna considered this but shrugged.
"It's okay if you don't want to." she said.
"That's not what I meant," Natalie said, quickly. "I don't mind trying." Luna smiled widely.
"Thanks, Natalie," she said. "You're a life saver." Luna bounded up off the couch and up the stairs leading to the girl's side of the tower. Two people had spoken to her that day and Natalie couldn't remember being happier.
In the next Defense Against the Dark Arts class, Natalie did something brave. She waited until all the other students had filed out and approached Snape's desk with quiet footfalls.
"Professor?" she asked. He looked up from the stack of paper on his desk and raised a dark eyebrow.
"What?" he asked, and she thought that he looked tired and a little haggard around the edges.
"I was wondering if I could have a copy of your sixth year syllabus?" she asked, looking at the desk instead of his face.
"Why would a fifth year want that?" he sneered.
"Sir, I... ah, I told Luna Lovegood that I would... help her, I mean, tutor her and, I just... I thought that it might help me get, get acquainted with her material." she stumbled.
"Miss Kerrington, I have never seen you speak to any of your classmates at all, do you know enough words to tutor Miss Lovegood?" he chided spitefully. She hung her head, realizing she probably should have just asked to see Luna's or one of the other sixth years but she had wanted to be prepared for their first session.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said, and turned to go but he sighed and pushed his chair back, the wooden legs scraping painfully against the rough floor.
"Take your syllabus, Miss Kerrington," he said, taking one from a drawer in his desk and thrusting it at her. She accepted it gratefully. "I expect Miss Lovegood to improve greatly, however, so this little conversation wasn't wasted breath." She nodded and hurried to get her bag and leave the classroom swiftly. She enjoyed Defense Against the Dark Arts but not as much as she had liked taking potions from him but still, she found that being alone in a room with Snape was not something she wanted to repeat. She rushed out the door and nearly toppled someone over in the process.
"Whoa, slow down," the voice said and Natalie looked up, startled.
"Sorry," she said, "I'm so sorry,"
"It's okay," Hermione said, a look of pity on her face, "Heaven knows I've run out of his classroom enough times myself." Natalie smiled. "What's your name again?" Hermione asked.
"Natalie," Natalie said.
"I'm Hermione. Hey, don't let Snape worry you," she said, her voice lowering to a whisper. "He's a grumpy bugger, but his bark is worse than his bite... most of the time."
"Miss Granger!" Snape's voice floated into the hallway, "I suggest you get in here before you are late and I'm forced to take house points,"
"Gotta run," Hermione said, smiling. 'Bye," and she disappeared into the classroom. Natalie floated back to her tower. Hermione Granger had spoken to her, and not only that, she'd introduced herself like there was a way Natalie could have not known who she was! Luna, Neville, and now Hermione, all inside a week. Before she knew it, Harry Potter himself would be speaking to her! But she chuckled, laughing at her self. That would be the day.
It was nearly a month later, nearly a month of tutoring Luna twice a week, when Natalie's dream changed significantly. Luna had turned out not to be bad at Defense Against the Dark Arts, but mostly scared of Snape. She tended to revert into her own head whenever he came near and this resulted in botched spell casting or, most often, nothing at all happening. Natalie worked more on helping Luna stay focused than what was in the text book but Natalie had fun spending an hour in the library with someone else so she didn't mention stopping. She had walked with Luna back to Ravenclaw tower and the girls had separated to go into their own dorms. It was an hour before curfew and so Natalie was the first one in the room. She changed into her sleep things and climbed into bed, feeling tired. The next day was a Saturday and so she didn't have to worry about setting an alarm. She read for a little while but quickly fell asleep.
She woke up screaming, with four girls crowded around her bed trying to shake her awake. Even after she'd woken up she kept screaming and screaming until half the dormitory was pushed into their small, circular room. Finally, Professor Sinestra pushed her way through the crowd.
"What is it?" she cried, shooing the other girls away. "Miss Kerrington, stop screaming!" Natalie closed her mouth and the sound issuing from it stopped. She looked at the commotion she had started and felt mortified. Not only had she woken the entire tower, but her head of house was looking down at her with concerned eyes.
"I... I had a bad dream," she said, her voice shaking. She reached up and touched her face and found wetness there. She was crying.
"Come on, I'll take you to Madame Pomfrey, she'll give you something to help you get back to sleep." Professor Sinestra said, helping Natalie out of bed. "Everyone else get back to bed!" She let Professor Sinestra help her out of bed and into her robe and slippers. It wasn't far to the infirmary and Madame Pomfrey was already awake when they got there. The mediwitch gave her a dreamless sleep drought and tucked her into a clean, white bed. No one asked what she had dreamed about, and she was glad.
In the morning, Madame Pomfrey sat down in the straight back chair next to her bed.
"How do you feel, Miss Kerrington?" she asked. Natalie, squirmed, not quite knowing how to answer, but not wanting to lie.
"Rested," she said. "Can I go to breakfast?" Pomfrey looked unconvinced but let her go. Natalie went back to her tower to change out of her pajamas and into something appropriate for breakfast. Most people were in the Great Hall already and she was glad because she knew she would be getting some strange looks for her behavior from her fellow Ravenclaws. She thought that it might be gossip for the whole school before she realized that no one would bother to talk about her and if they did, she would probably be forgotten by the next meal.
She got a few furtive glances as she sat down but no one approached her. She had some toast – there was no marmalade so she used the strawberry jam instead. She had some pumpkin juice though sometimes she just wished they had regular old orange juice and this morning when she needed comfort most, she wished for orange. She didn't really know what to do with herself when she finished, and when she glanced up at the enchanted ceiling, she saw that the first snow fall was probably not far off. She wanted to study outside but she didn't much want to freeze to death. Finally, she gathered a few text books and one of her muggle novels and went to the library to settle in for the morning.
She'd been there under an hour, her nose buried not in homework but in the collected letters of Jane Austen when she was interrupted by Hermione Granger.
"Hi, Natalie," Hermione said, with a little wave.
"Hello," she said, whispering. She'd never been shushed by Madame Pince and it was a record she was proud of.
"Are you going to Hogsmeade later?" Hermione asked, sitting down in the chair across from her. Natalie had forgotten it was a Hogsmeade weekend but she didn't often go unless she wanted a new book or to get her cloak mended. She didn't much care for butterbeer and didn't have friends.
"Oh, I doubt it," she said. Then again, no one had ever invited her to town before.
"Oh, well, okay." Hermione said, looking like she was struggling to find a new topic of conversation. "Luna says you've been helping her out a lot for Professor Snape's class." she said. Natalie, suddenly, knew what this was about.
"You don't have to talk to me," Natalie said. "I'm not sick or crazy so don't worry about it." Because wanting a friend was one thing but pity entirely another. Hermione looked taken aback. "I mean, I know you probably heard about last night." she continued.
"I did," Hermione admitted. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay, I didn't mean to offend you." Hermione stood and pushed her chair in quietly.
"I'm... thanks." Natalie stammered and then buried her nose back in the book, while Hermione went away. She felt a little foolish for snapping at Hermione Granger, who wasn't only Harry Potter's friend but a prefect. Still, her dreams were her own whether they came true or not and she didn't have to tell anyone.
But every time she closed her eyes, she saw Snape with that awful green light shooting out of his wand and the crumpled form of Albus Dumbledore.
She didn't go to Hogsmeade and she doubted anyone missed her. Instead, she went back to the infirmary and told Madame Pomfrey that she didn't feel well and managed to spend the rest of the day in bed. She tried not to fall asleep but counting rafters wasn't exactly as stimulating as she'd hoped it would be and it wasn't long before she could see it again – the unforgivable spell taking the life out of Dumbledore and the old wizard pitching off the astronomy tower, landing crooked and very, very dead.
This time she woke up without screaming. The infirmary doors had banged upon a swift opening and startled her out of her nightmare. It was dark, after curfew, and there were only a few candles lit. Natalie had found the firelight of the wizarding world quaint at first but she soon tired of it realizing it created more darkness in shadow than actual light. The candles were doing this now; she couldn't see who entered the infirmary, just the silhouette of a man carrying a woman.
She pushed out of bed to get a better look. Madame Pomfrey appeared in her dressing gown and with a wave of her wand, the sconces along the walls lit. The man was Professor Snape and the woman was Hermione Granger. She could recognize Snape's voice now, breaking on "Poppy," like he was trying not to cry. No one paid attention to Natalie standing there in her socks and night gown and so she watched unabashedly. She gathered that it was a potions accident because Hermione was covered in something that was quickly burning right through her clothing. Pomfrey shooed Snape away and pulled the curtain around her and Hermione. Snape stood helpless.
"What happened?" Natalie ventured, stepping into the scope of the light so Snape could see her. He look startled.
"It was my fault, I lost track of the time, I waited to long to add, to add the..."
"It's okay, sir," Natalie said, quieting him. "Why don't you sit down?" He nodded, and sat in a nearby chair. She sat next to him, on one of the unoccupied beds. He stared down at his hands which were burning as well, from carrying her here. Natalie gasped, seeing the skin bubble, and rushed over to the medicine cupboard to find a burn salve. Bringing it back to him, she unscrewed the cap and took his hands into her lap where she slathered copious amounts of the thick paste onto his skin. He sat there, letting her, and she wondered if he was in shock. His skin, however, already started to heal.
Madame Pomfrey reappeared. Snape stood up quickly, leaving the salve smeared all over Natalie's lap.
"How is she?" Snape asked.
"Miss Granger will be fine. I've healed the burns and put her out for the night." Madame Pomfrey assured him. "It wasn't bad at all." She looked at his glistening hands and then at Natalie.
"His hands were... were burning," Natalie whispered, suddenly shy.
"You did the right thing," she assured the girl, talking the salve from her hands gently. "I'll have a look at him too. Why don't you go back to bed?" Natalie knew when she was being dismissed but she walked slowly, and quietly to her bed. She wouldn't sleep, now. Her hands were greasy and her nightgown messed.
"What in the world was she doing out of bed this hour anyway?" She heard Pomfrey hiss, but Snape's reply was muffled as they moved into the office. Natalie gathered her things and returned to her tower.
In the morning she returned, intent on finding her other sock which had been left behind and to see if Hermione was well. She went during breakfast so there wouldn't be swarms of people surrounding the popular girl. The sock wasn't where it had been the previous night but she wasn't concerned with it. Knowing the elves, it would probably turn up laundered with her fresh clothes one morning. Hermione was sitting up in her bed with a tray of food. Her skin looked pink and stretched but it looked more like she'd stayed in the sun too long, not peeling and wet like it had been the night before.
"Hello," Natalie said, walking up to the bed. "How are you feeling?"
"Oh, fine. News sure travels fast, though, I see." she said.
"I was here last night," Natalie explained. "I saw Snape...bring you in." She meant to say that she saw Snape carry her in blind with panic but she didn't want to sounds judgmental or speculative. Hermione colored and looked down at her breakfast tray which she picked up and set on the night stand. "I won't tell anyone what I saw." Natalie promised.
"Accidents happen," Hermione said, flippantly. Natalie sat down on the chair near Hermione's bed, feeling the need to share her secret with someone, anyone. Hermione was smart and maybe she would be able to help. She felt the words crawling up her throat and sitting dank on her tongue.
"Sometimes I have these dreams," she said, and Hermione looked a little confused.
"About people, people here in the school, about things." she said, looking down at her hands. Her nails were bitten to the quick.
"That's normal, you live here." Hermione said, her interest waning.
"One time, I dreamt that there was this snake and that it could speak to me and it lived underneath the school and when I pressed my ear to the wall, I could hear it calling to me." Natalie said. "When I was a first year."
"You mean the Basilisk?" Hermione whispered, "You dreamt of that?"
"Once, I had a dream that..." Natalie stopped. "Remember when it was the tri-wizard tournament? And, and, there was that maze? I didn't go because I had a fever from one of the Mandrakes biting me and the bite got infected. I was here, sleeping, and I had this awful dream that Cedric died and then, and then it happened!"
"Do you know what you're saying? You're having prophetic dreams, like Harry." she said. "Do you have seer blood in your family?"
Natalie shrugged. "My mother is a muggle, and my father doesn't really talk about his childhood. I know he was a Ravenclaw, like me, but..." she trailed off.
"Why are you telling me this?"
"I don't know much about Professor Snape or you or Harry Potter," Natalie started, looking down at her ragged nail beds. The urge to stick her pinky nail in her mouth was almost overwhelming but she made fists with here hands and looked up at Hermione's red face. "I always see you and Professor Snape together and you don't seem to... irritate him the way the rest of us do. I guess because of that, I thought I should tell you what I saw."
"Our relationship really isn't any of your concern," Hermione said, pulling the sheet up over her breasts protectively. She looked for all the world as if she was hiding something.
"I don't dream about you, I dream about Snape, and he's... there is a fight and," Natalie looked away again. "He kills the headmaster."
"Get away from me," Hermione's voice was low. "You're just a silly girl trying to get attention and I don't want to hear your lies anymore. Twenty points from Ravenclaw for lying to a prefect." Natalie, though she shouldn't have been, was surprised by that. The force of Hermione's words made Natalie rise from her chair and stumble back.
"I didn't mean, I'm not..." she steeled herself. "I'm not lying." But Hermione's ragged breathing and raised voice alerted Madam Pomfrey and when she came to see what the fuss was about, the little bit of courage Natalie had left her and she fled, her cheeks red and her heels loud against the corridor. Her lungs burned and though she had tried to run to her bed, she found herself outside standing at the edge of the lake. The waves lapped at the toes of her shoes.
She felt like, suddenly, she would never be able to do anything right, to please any one. Now, the waves washed over her black shoes, the water seeping in and filling the empty spaces. It was easy enough to just keep walking. Her robes floated up around her and she pushed them down impatiently. Her teeth chattered – the water was cold and she couldn't ever remember anyone swimming in the lake, except for the tournament that had killed Cedric. There were things in the lake, mer-people and she didn't know if there was really a giant squid but she didn't doubt that there could be. Still, she kept walking, wishing she had transfigured her shoes into stone. She kept trying to float and had to fight to keep her feet on the bottom.
Then, there were arms around her and she was so startled she swallowed a mouthful of disgusting, grimy lake water. She thrashed, trying to escape whatever beast that had grabbed hold of her. But they were stronger than she was and she was being drug toward shore. She was flung down, her face in the mud and she had to get up on her hands and knees so she could cough the water out of her lungs. Her long, black hair was limp in her face and her robes were almost too heavy to stand.
Natalie looked up to see Professor Snape staring at her, his face white with anger. He was just as wet as she was, shivering and miserable. She didn't have anything to say to him.
"What did you think you were doing out there?" he continued, grabbing the back of her robes and dragging her to her feet. Natalie had never really been on the receiving end of Snape's wrath but she was strangely calm facing him now. She had, after all, seen that face before in her dreams. He looked positively murderous, and just as equally defeated.
"You're going to kill him, aren't you?" Natalie asked, looking up at him, using her muddy hand to push back her hair. Her dark blue headband was now somewhere at the bottom of the lake, probably.
"What?" Professor Snape's voice was low.
"The headmaster, you're going to kill him." she repeated slowly, so he could understand.
"100 points from Ravenclaw." he sneered. "Now we're going back to the castle immediately."
"I don't understand why you stopped me. Hermione must have told you, it would have been better if you just let me drown." she said, bitterly. "I don't fit in here."
"I am not the person to talk to about this." he said, fishing his wand out of his robes and drying his robes off. He didn't offer for her.
"Aren't you?" she laughed, hollowly. "You were never popular either." He grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her around to face him.
"Only foolish, stupid, silly girls choose death." he said, staring down at her. "I may have hated it here as a child and I may hate it here now but I would never end my own life because I am not a coward."
"I'm not a coward," she said. Snape stared at her for a moment.
"Good." he said.
"I know you have to," Natalie said. "I know you have to kill him but I hope that you can find another way."
"They are just dreams, Miss Kerrington. Try not to let your imagination run away with you." But he looked vaguely green as he said it and she felt sorry for him.
Madame Pomfrey kept her for a week. They talked about sending her to St. Mungo's psychiatric ward so she didn't try to kill herself again but she had promised to be good, and when Dumbledore had written to her father, there had been a brief, terse reply telling Natalie to stay at school and push through.
People talked for a day or so, but it died down. Luna didn't come to tutoring, though, and when she saw Hermione Granger, the prefect lowered her eyes and wouldn't quite look at Natalie. She was once again, an outcast except this time she wasn't a nobody but the nobody who tried to drown herself in the lake.
In Ravenclaw tower, she stood between two of the other girl's beds so she could look out the window into the density of the forbidden forest. Now, she didn't go near the lake because people would talk, again, and yell at her mockingly, not to go in.
She sighed deeply. She would learn to love the view of the forest, the view from her tower. She would learn to accept being a Ravenclaw and not long for something she couldn't have. And when Snape did his horrible deed, she would accept that, and when the new dreams came (and they would come), she would keep her secrets to herself.