Dreaming of You
Author's Note: Well, I hadn't intended to post on anymore, but as so often happens, my resolve crumbled. Ah, well. So much for principles.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and all related characters, settings, and ideas belong to J. K. Rowling. The song lyrics are from "Insh' Allah" by Heather Alexander.
Part 23 – Silence Broken
dangerous path of truth I seek
I have spoken more than I wish to hear
And have found it weak
The ruin of the Owlery cast depression over the entire school. Of the students who did not own pet owls themselves, almost all of them had friends who did. The only owls to escape unharmed were those that were not in the Owlery at the time of the explosion. Over two-thirds of the birds were killed at once, and of those that survived, many were so badly injured that they died of their wounds before Madam Pomfrey could get to them. All students with knowledge of healing magic were enlisted, but since only the most basic of healing was taught in Charms class, they were woefully few.
The only positive aspect of the attack was that no humans had been harmed, and that was small consolation to those mourning beloved pets. Once the professors had ensured that what remained of the Owlery, and the tower beneath it, would not collapse any further, Dumbledore decreed that there would be a mass funeral for the dead owls that evening, open to all students.
When the time came to gather in the Great Hall, Autumn and Blaise went to sit with the Ravenclaws again – this time not to protest the Slytherins, but to support their friends. Mandy's owl, Irides the Third, had been one of those killed. While Mandy wasn't as devastated as some of the other students whose owls had been in their families for years, she was still upset. To give voice to her feelings, she'd dyed her hair a harsh, unbecoming black, and grown it out to her waist.
"You look like the Goth kids back at my old high school," was Autumn's opinion.
Mandy shrugged. "Black is for mourning. Irides was a good owl, you know. I figure I owe her something, and my hair's as good as anything."
At that point, conversation died away as Dumbledore stood up to speak. "Before I say anything else," he said gravely, "I would like to apologize to all the students who have been touched by loss today. We were attacked in a way that the other professors and I did not expect, and you are the ones who have been hurt. I only wish that we had thought to take measures to prevent this tragedy.
"Since we did not," the Headmaster continued, "I feel it is only fair to offer you an explanation of what occurred. Many of you may have already guessed the origin of this attack, but if you have, please bear with me while I explain. Lord Voldemort – " gasps were heard throughout the Hall " – sent an owl carrying a Muggle bomb into the Owlery. This bomb had no harmful magic in it to trigger our protective wards, and thus was carried into the school unhindered."
This statement produced even more of a reaction than Voldemort's name. Students turned to one another, chattering frantically, until the noise overwhelmed Dumbledore's attempts to continue. Autumn didn't blame them. She looked over at Mandy. "Isn't Hogwarts supposed to be the safest place in Britain?" she asked.
"That's what they tell us," Mandy said.
Autumn snorted. "I'd hate to live in the rest of Britain, then. Sounds to me like you lot attract the Dark magic attacks, not repel them."
"It's not usually this bad," Blaise protested. He frowned. "Well, okay, maybe it is, but usually the evil stuff just goes after the Gryffindors." He reconsidered. "Except for that one time with the basilisk. That was scary. I kept asking Draco about it, and he said the monster of Slytherin would crawl into our dorm room and eat me because I talked too much." Blaise grew thoughtful. "I don't think Draco knew very much about basilisks."
Autumn stared at him. "How did you get from owls to basilisks?"
"No, we don't need to hear it again," Mandy cut Blaise off, scowling at Autumn. "Really, wasn't once enough? Anyway, looks like Dumbledore's about ready to start again."
Or rather, the students were finally calming down enough to let their Headmaster speak once more. "I do not want you to misunderstand me," Dumbledore said, as soon as it was quiet enough for him to be heard. "Precautions have been taken against this sort of disaster happening again. From now on, all mail will be directed to the Post Office in Hogsmeade. Once a day, one of their employees will deliver the mail to the school, where your Heads of House will distribute it every day at dinner. The Owlery will be closed until further notice. I suggest that those of you who have surviving birds send your pets home to your parents. If you wish to send out a letter, I'm afraid you'll have to give it to your House Head, and it will be sent to Hogsmeade the next day. I apologize for the inconvenience of this approach, but it was necessary in order for the new protections around the school to be effective.
"Now," the Headmaster said, "let's head outside, where the rest of the ceremony will take place."
As the students all headed out to gather in the area just outside the castle entrance, Autumn realized that in the jostling, she'd ended up walking near Harry Potter and his two loyal followers. She winced at the shell-shocked expression on his face.
"Sorry about your bird, Potter," she said. She actually did feel bad for the boy. She'd been so upset when she'd thought Mali might be lost, and Potter had at least been involved in rescuing the ferret. She might not like him much, but he'd helped her out twice when he hadn't had to. Even if she did find that sort of unthinking kindness a little sickening, Autumn thought it was pretty rotten for all these bad things to keep happening to one of the few really nice people she'd met.
Harry looked over at Autumn, startled at being addressed. "Thanks," he said simply.
Autumn nodded, and, passing through the bottleneck of the doorway out into the relatively open space, she moved away towards Blaise and Mandy. She might feel bad for Potter, but that didn't mean she was going to start hanging around with him. That would just be ridiculous.
Returning from the ceremony honoring the dead owls, Draco realized how few Slytherins had been in attendance. And then, thinking back, he realized that almost all the Slytherins who owned owls had sent them out on long trips over the past couple days. For that matter, so had any student whose parents were rumored to be supporters of the Dark Arts.
They'd been warned. There was no other explanation. A cold weight froze the bottom of Draco's chest. Why hadn't his father warned him? Had this been some kind of punishment, or a test? Had Lucius simply felt it was too much bother keeping two owls, and chosen this method to dispose of Draco's pet?
Draco shivered violently, and not just from the chill of the castle in late November. He'd been fond of his owl, and of the Owlery, and the Witness had destroyed them both. He felt something stirring within him, something deep and far-reaching, and he welcomed its numbing cold. If there was one thing Draco Malfoy knew how to do, it was hate. And this hate was far more powerful than any schoolboy grudge he harbored for Potter.
Draco had always known he didn't really want to be a Death Eater, but this was the first time he'd felt the immovable conviction that he was never going to serve Voldemort. It wasn't just a question of morality, or a newly-found conscience. It was the Dark Lord's strategy. The cold, calculating part of Draco was horrified at the lack of planning in the attacks. In the long run, what good would it do to kill all the owls at Hogwarts? Yes, it was making everyone scared and angry, and certainly confidence in Dumbledore was being lost, but the bad aspects Draco saw clearly outweighed the good. Now Dumbledore was on guard against further attacks, and a perfectly good opportunity to sneak traps into Hogwarts through the Owlery had been lost.
If anyone had asked Draco, he knew what he would have suggested. Any idiot knew how to use the element of surprise. He would have waited until Potter and Dumbledore were lulled into complacency, and then overwhelmed the castle with sheer numbers of Death Eaters. It wouldn't be hard to attack during, say, a mealtime. All the attackers would have to do would be to grab a few first years and hold them hostage. Anyone stupid enough to fight back wouldn't dare risk the murder of innocents. Once Potter and Dumbledore had been disarmed, the attackers could kill them at leisure. So Potter survived Avada Kedavra. There were other ways to kill someone. They could Stun him and chop his head off, if they liked, and do the same to Dumbledore. Problem solved.
But no one had asked Draco, and they'd gone ahead with that melodramatic Howler and the useless Muggle explosive device. The Howler frankly disgusted Draco – what was the point of giving an enemy fair warning? And destroying the Owlery hadn't done anything to Potter except make him furious. The whole slaughter had been pointless, like a child showing off just to prove he could. Draco might agree with some of the Dark Lord's principles about Muggles and Mudbloods, but not the way they'd been put into action. There was no way he was going to become a Death Eater, not if it meant following plans like these.
Draco was almost at the Slytherin Common Room when he stopped abruptly. He couldn't face going in there, not now. He didn't want to hear Pansy and Asin going on about how wonderfully clever the Witness was to have organized this. He didn't want to think about the Witness, not until he'd decided what he was going to do about her. Her actions still disgusted him, filling him with an indescribable loathing for her. Whatever he was going to do, it would be far more than the petty vengeance of a curse. He was going to show Autumn Vance how one should fight against a hated enemy.
Draco turned and went back the way he'd come, heading for the nearest staircase. He wasn't sure where he wanted to go yet, but since most of the school was above the Slytherin Common Room, up seemed like a good place to start.
"Mr. Malfoy, I believe your Common Room is in the opposite direction."
Draco looked up. Coming down the stairs towards him were Professor Snape and Professor Deva. "I'm aware. I'm not going there."
"It's hardly safe to be wandering around the corridors alone," Deva said.
Draco shrugged. "I have things to do."
"I'm certain," Snape said dryly. "So have I, and yet here I stand. The Headmaster has decreed that there will be another round of questioning the students. If I have to suffer, so do you. Back to the Common Room until we've gotten to you. Then you can wander till you drop dead from exhaustion."
Draco scowled. Aside from going back to the Common Room, he didn't want to be questioned. This wasn't like the Howler, where he hadn't really known anything about who'd sent it. He was going to have to lie his way through this interview, and while he normally didn't have any doubts about his ability to lie convincingly, Snape had the disturbing ability to sense a deception.
Deva seemed to misinterpret this scowl as an expression of how Draco's tender feelings had been callously wounded by Snape's cruel words. "Oh, that's not nice," she exclaimed, smiling cheeringly at Draco. "Really, Severus, if you're in such a hurry, why don't you go to the Slytherin Common Room and get started? I'll interview Draco here by myself, so he can go on to whatever he was going."
Before Snape could object, Deva had Draco by the arm and was steering him away. "I'll be down to join you in just a few minutes," she called.
Though startled by this sudden turn of events, Draco allowed Deva to lead him off. This would neatly solve both of his current problems – he wouldn't have to deal with the other Slytherins yet, and he wouldn't have to lie to Snape. It seemed that Deva had returned to her former good opinion of Draco, so lying to her shouldn't be too difficult.
Deva brought Draco into the first empty classroom they found, closing the door behind them and taking the precaution of casting a Silencing Charm around the room. "Now, then, Draco," she said, sitting at a desk across from him, "why don't you tell me if you know anything about this attack?"
"I'm afraid I don't," Draco said, schooling his expression to one of deep regret.
"Really? Not anything?" Deva asked. "Because I was sure that if anyone in Slytherin could have figured out something about these mysterious attacks, it would be you."
Draco smiled, pretending to be flattered, rather than irritated by such an obvious ploy. "Thank you, Professor, but I don't see how you think I could have any information about an attack," he said. "I was as surprised as anyone."
"Oh, that's right, I'd forgotten." Deva's face softened. "Your owl was one of the ones that died, wasn't it? You must have terrible luck. I think you might just be the only Slytherin to have lost an owl."
"Really?" Draco gave her a look of surprise. "Well, then I'm just glad that none of my friends lost their pets." He considered adding a line about how they wouldn't have to suffer as he did, but decided that might be a little much.
"How sweet of you." Deva smiled at him. "Anyone else would suspect some sort of conspiracy. It's so refreshing to see a young man with his faith in others still alive."
"Right." Draco blinked. Was that just a coincidence, or did Deva actually know that the other Slytherins had received warnings? No, surely she couldn't, or she and Snape would be breaking out the Veritaserum instead of asking stupid questions.
"Won't you try to jog your memory just one more time?" Deva urged him. "You're so observant, Draco – I'm sure you can think of something you want to tell me."
Draco shook his head. "You're asking the wrong person, Professor," he said. "I don't know a thing."
"Well… if you're sure," Deva said reluctantly, standing up. "But remember, Draco, if you think of anything that might be helpful – anything at all that you want to tell me – feel free to come talk to me at any time. After all," she smiled brightly at him, "that's why I'm here – to listen." With a friendly wink, she dispelled the Silencing Charm and left.
Draco blinked again, this time with horror. His professor had winked at him? Oh, that was bad. That put a whole new light on some of the things she'd said. Had she been flirting with him? God, he hoped not. Draco shuddered, cursing his Malfoy charm. It would be all he needed now if a teacher decided she wanted to be "more than friends" with him.
Quickly, Draco left the classroom before Deva tried to come back. For that matter, he decided to put a few floors between them. He headed up towards the library. Maybe he could find something to read that would take his mind off everything that had been happening.
Madam Pince gave Draco a sharp glance as he entered the library. "You ought to be back in your Common Room," she told him severely.
"They said I could go," Draco said, giving her his best smile. "You won't even know I'm here."
Madam Pince snorted her opinion of the likeliness of that, but left him to his own devices. Draco wandered over to the fiction section, idly skimming the titles. Nothing really caught his interest. When all was said and done, this was still a school library. The latest thrillers were hardly going to be in stock on these shelves. After realizing that a book he'd picked up, something about a little furry person called a "hobbit," had been written while his father was in school, Draco abandoned this section for a time when he had a bit more patience.
Not wanting to leave yet, Draco went into the considerably more extensive nonfiction section of the library. Maybe he could find a book on magical creatures – a proper book, not that God-awful biting one Hagrid made them use. Draco had had such high hopes for that class, before he'd found out that that oaf of a gamekeeper was going to teach it. Lucius never let Draco near any of the interesting creatures he kept on the grounds to discourage prowlers, considering his only heir too valuable to risk being torn limb from limb. Draco thought his father might as well not have bothered – with the way Hagrid organized that class, he might get torn limb from limb anyway.
But on his way across the library, Draco got distracted by another section – the books on Divination. Draco stopped as if in a trance, staring up at the shelves of books on Divination. Why hadn't he come here in the first place? This was it – these were books that could tell him more about the vision he'd had. What had triggered it? Would it happen again? Why had it happened to him? He could find the answers here.
That is, if he could figure out where to look. There had to be at least a dozen shelves on the subject, each full to bursting. How could he sort through all this, to find what he needed to know? Draco knew better than to ask Madam Pince. Even assuming she'd actually help him, he'd have to deal with pointed questions about why he wanted the books, what he was going to do with them, and whether he intended to eat while reading them. All Hogwarts students quickly learned that it was easier to muddle through the library on their own than to ask Madam Pince for help.
Well, Draco reasoned, he had to start somewhere. Just looking at the covers of the books wasn't going to do him any good. He picked a book at random. The World Beyond: The One True Guide. Well, that sounded promising. Not inclined to sit at a table where anyone could see him, Draco leaned against the opposite bookcase and began flipping through the book. It seemed to be mostly about the different methods of divining.
"If you're looking for a book on Divination, that's hardly the one to start with."
Draco looked up, startled. A Chinese girl was watching him with mild interest. Draco vaguely recognized her as a Ravenclaw from his year – Susan, was it? No, Su, that was it. Su Li. "What do you want?" he snapped.
Su shrugged. "Well, at the moment I'd quite like some books to help me with my Divination charts, but you seem to be blocking them."
"You know what I meant," Draco said. "What were you talking about before?"
Su laughed. "I should think it fairly obvious. That book you're reading with such an intense scowl is one of the least effective books on Divination I've come across. If you knew anything about Divination, which I'm quite certain you don't, you'd have realized it the moment you read more than a paragraph."
Draco looked down at the book in disgust. He'd begun having thoughts along those lines himself before Su had spoken. "Then what's it doing wasting shelf space in the library if it's so awful?"
"Professor Trelawney is fond of it, I believe," Su said. She sighed. "It really is most unfortunate that the only Divination teacher our dear Headmaster could find had to be such a – how can I put this delicately?" Su frowned thoughtfully for a moment. "I don't believe I can. Shall we say a talentless charlatan preferring the foolish fripperies of the Arts over the substance? That does cover it nicely."
"Oh?" Draco recalled his mother saying something of the sort when he'd been considering taking Divination as one of his electives. Narcissa's family apparently had strong views about fake Seers, and she'd insisted that no son of hers would take lessons from a fraud.
"Indeed," Su said. "If you wish to continue reading your book, I certainly wouldn't dream of stopping you, but I thought it only fair to warn you of its contents. I should hate to think that any student might gain false information from a book when it lay in my power to prevent such a horror."
"Then what book do you think I should be looking at?" Draco asked hopefully. If she could direct him to the more useful books, it would save him lots of time and effort.
"Well, that would depend on what you want to learn, wouldn't it?" Su said reasonably. "For example, there are several lovely books on astrology I might recommend, but they would be perfectly useless to you if you sought information on the lives of famous Seers. At any rate," she shrugged, "I see no benefit to myself in helping you with your research. I've delivered my warning, but beyond that I can't think of one reason for me to aid you."
Draco sighed. Why did every Ravenclaw have to demand a price for help? "Fine. Do you want money, or am I going to have to buy you something?"
Su laughed brightly. "Oh, nothing like that, dear," she said. "I'm nowhere near so crassly material as Mandy. No, I can certainly afford to buy anything I wish for myself." She leaned forward. "What I lack is amusement. People are so dreadfully dull. If you can make it sufficiently entertaining, I shall help you most gladly."
"How am I supposed to entertain you?" Draco asked incredulously. "Forget it. I'll do it myself."
"Oh, no, you needn't," Su protested. "It's hardly difficult. Tell me what mystery of the future brings you to the shelves of Divination. Never have you shown any interest in such things, except for the more easily comprehended answers of Arithmancy. Such a tale could hold nothing less than fascination. Grant a moment of your time to tell me your story, and I shall give in exchange a moment's search for books to aid you in your quest."
Draco considered it for a moment. He really wanted answers to his questions now, without having to wade through all these books… but then again, he didn't want anyone to know he'd had a vision till he understood it better. It was more than just a Slytherin's common sense – it could be dangerous if word got out that Draco had visions. "No deal," he said finally. "I know how Ravenclaws gossip, and I don't fancy having my private affairs spread through the school by this time tomorrow."
Su sniffed. "Fine, then. You may do whatever you please, of course. But for the sake of my reputation, let me assure you that I do not spread secrets round when told in confidence. What pleasure is there in knowing dark and thrilling tales when all the world knows them just the same? If those who confide in me thought I would repeat their secrets, they would not dare to tell me more."
Draco hesitated, thinking quickly as Su scanned the shelves behind him for the books she'd come for. Most Ravenclaws did have their own rigid codes of honor, though not the noble chivalry that defined Gryffindors. He'd never heard of Su gossiping, and he did try to keep up with school news. Besides, even if Su was planning to spread rumors about him, there could be ways around that.
"Wait," Draco said, before the Ravenclaw could turn to go.
Su looked at him smugly. "I see you have changed your mind."
"Right." Draco prepared to tell her a tale about how his family was considering hiring a Seer and he'd wanted to research their abilities –
– when the skull-shattering pain in his head returned, worse than it had been the first time. With a strangled gasp, Draco slumped to his knees, barely feeling his body hit the floor as a violent wind seemed to whip around him from all directions. A piercing wail knifed through him, and didn't stop even when he tried desperately to cover his ears. He was cold, so cold, and helpless as the wind and the screeching rocked his body back and forth. When the soothing darkness of unconsciousness rescued him from the noise and the pain, it was a blessed relief.
"I just don't see ze point," Miache complained, pacing Snape's office. "Vhy vould Voldemort destroy ze Owlery vhen it does nozzhing but draw attention to 'im?"
"I certainly don't know," Severus said. "And nor do any of the Slytherins, as far as I can tell."
"I suppose zhere is only vun person in zhis school 'oo knows vhy zhis 'appened," Miache said. "And she isn't talking." She picked up an open jar containing something slimy and shriveled. "Vhat is zhis? It smells like it's gone bad."
"Put that down, it's meant to smell that way," Severus snapped, removing the jar from her grasp. "No, she wouldn't talk to us, even if we knew who she was. Pity it wasn't that Vance girl. That would have been easily dealt with."
"True," Miache agreed. "Now ve are back to vondering 'oo vould turn against us." She sighed. "I zhink per'aps ve are approaching zhis from ze wrong angle."
Severus frowned. "How so?"
"Razzer zhan trying to identify ze Vitness from vhat information she lets drop, ve should go directly to ze source," Miache said.
When Severus realized what she meant, he glared at her in extreme annoyance. "You mean your contact finally has a date when we can meet? Why didn't you say so at once?"
"I enjoy tormenting you," Miache said, smirking. "Besides, I 'oped you might 'ave spotted somezhing zhat I did not."
"There was nothing to spot," Severus grumbled. "Well, get on with it – when do I meet him? I trust he's come up with a properly secure location."
"Oh, quite secure," Miache said, smiling in amusement. "Vhere better zhan ze safest place in all of Britain?"
"He's coming here?" Severus said, startled. He studied Miache through narrowed eyes. "You are aware that this is not some sort of game, aren't you? You can't choose locations for their shock value."
"I am 'urt zhat you vould underestimate me so," Miache said, not sounding hurt in the slightest. "I do not make decisions based solely on 'ow much zhey vill irritate you, zhough I admit it is delightful vhen circumstances allow it. 'Ogvarts is ze best choice for many reasons. It is isolated, it is protected, and it 'as a conveniently large and mysterious forest right next to it. Our spy shall not be entering the castle itself, merely ze forest. As I understand it, 'e cannot enter ze castle at zhis time."
"Another vampire?" Severus asked, frowning. "When everyone knows you work here? That will look suspicious."
Miache sighed theatrically. "'Ow little faith you 'ave in me, Severus," she said sadly. "I am most disappointed. I cannot explain my reasoning vizzout revealing my contact's identity, but I 'ope zhat you will believe zhat I 'ave zhought all zhis zhrough." She smiled. "I should 'ate to zhink zhat you 'ave a low opinion of me."
Severus rolled his eyes. If she was fishing for a compliment, she wasn't going to get one. Honestly, the woman took far too much pleasure in badgering him. She'd begun to do it constantly, and had the gall not to confine her pestering to their private meetings. It was unnerving, and worse, it seemed to be affecting the other professors. He'd caught some of them giggling at him the other day – including Sprout and Vector, who ought to be far too old for such nonsense. And when he'd glared at them, they'd only laughed harder.
"I 'ope you are free Vednesday night," Miache said thoughtfully. Severus merely raised his eyebrows, refusing to allow her to bait him. She nodded in acknowledgement of his efforts. "Because zhat is ze time vhen our contact can be 'ere. I vill meet you at ze south edge of ze forest, and guide you in."
"I think I can manage without your help," Severus said, irritated.
"I don't doubt it," Miache said. "But 'ow vill ze poor boy know not to kill you on sight if I am not viz you? 'Ow vill you know not to kill 'im? You are both far too suspicious for your own good."
Severus conceded the point. "All right, then," he said. "What time on Wednesday? Midnight?"
"Oh, no," Miache said. "Zhat early, students are still prowling about. I zhink two o'clock vould be a much better choice. Ve are, after all, children of ze night."
"You may be a creature of the night, but rumors to the contrary I assure you I am nothing of the sort," Severus said. "Still, now that you've finally found someone it would be a pity to have him go up in flames during a daytime meeting. Two in the morning it is."
"Perfect," Miache said as she headed for the door. "I shall look forvard to it." She smiled brightly, and left. Watching her go, Severus couldn't shake the feeling that he'd missed a vital part of that conversation.
Knowing that he felt rotten because of a reaction to a vision, rather than because of a hangover, did not make Draco feel any happier about his situation when he woke up. But at least some merciful soul had closed the drapes around his bed, keeping the light from reaching his too-sensitive eyes.
Wait – bed? An alarm bell went off in Draco's head. Hadn't he been in the library? And anyway, this wasn't his bed. His sheets were softer, and his pillow was fluffier. He wondered where he could be, but even that much speculation had made his head pound. He dismissed his worries for a time when he didn't feel as if all the Gryffindors were having one of their horrible post-Quidditch parties in his head.
Unfortunately, though Draco was prepared to go back to sleep and ignore the world, it wasn't prepared to let him. The curtains around his bed had been gradually changing to allow more light to pass through as his eyes adjusted. Though there wasn't much light shining through, it was enough to prevent Draco from sliding peacefully back into sleep. He groaned.
That sound brought him an explanation of where he was. "Oh, are you awake?" Madam Pomfrey asked. "I was wondering how long it would take you. You slept through the night."
It was morning? Draco wondered in astonishment how long he'd been unconscious.
"You're very lucky, you know," the nurse added. "If Miss Li hadn't been nearby when you collapsed, you might be waking up on the cold library floor right now." She sighed. "Well, I'd better have a look at you. Maybe this time I'll be able to do something for you. Close your eyes before I open the drapes."
Not wanting to be blinded by sudden light, Draco quickly shut his eyes. It was a bit unnerving, not being able to see what the nurse was doing as she examined him.
"Well, it's the same thing that happened to you before, as far as I can tell," Madam Pomfrey said at last. "I'm going to give you more hangover cure, but now I'm much more inclined to believe this was something else. I simply don't know what. If the hangover remedy doesn't work – well, then I suppose we'll see."
Draco nodded gingerly, trying not to unleash any more pain on his aching head. Madam Pomfrey briskly helped him to sit up against the headboard and handed him a cup of liquid. He grimaced, recognizing the smell of the tonic he'd had before. It was made all the worse for knowing that a hangover remedy wouldn't have any effect on his current problems. Still, he wasn't about to let on to Madam Pomfrey that he knew exactly why he felt this awful, so he steeled himself and downed the cup.
"Good," Madam Pomfrey said, satisfied. "Now, we'll give that some time to see if it works, and then –" She stopped sharply. "Yes, Miss Li? How can I help you?"
"I merely wanted to inquire after Mr. Malfoy's well-being."
Draco forced himself not to wince at hearing Su's voice, but it was a near thing. Why had she come back here? For that matter, why had she helped him in the first place? She knew a lot about Divination – she couldn't have figured out what had happened to him, could she?
"That's very kind of you, Miss Li, but Mr. Malfoy is not up to visitors at the moment," Madam Pomfrey said firmly. "Out, if you please."
"I suppose I must," Su said, not sounding particularly disappointed. "Still, since you insist on sending me away without even speaking to him, I hope you will not refuse to deliver these books to him."
"Books?" Madam Pomfrey's footsteps moved towards the door.
"Yes, of course," Su said politely. "He had them in the library, but in my distress at seeing him fall unconscious to the floor I failed to bring them here last night. Please present them to him, along with my hope that he will have a speedy recovery."
"That's very kind of you, Miss Li," Madam Pomfrey said approvingly. "I'll do that."
"Then I bid you farewell," Su said solemnly. Presumably she left after that, because Madam Pomfrey came back over to Draco.
"I'm sure you heard that, since your ears haven't been damaged," she said, putting something heavy on the bed beside Draco. "Here are your books, if you feel up to looking at them. I have other patients to attend to, so I'm going to close your curtains again. I'll be back to check on you in twenty minutes or so."
After hearing the curtains swish closed, Draco cautiously opened his eyes. Although his head did not stop pounding, there was no added jolt of pain either. Encouraged by this, Draco picked up the first of the three books on the pile beside him and squinted at the title. When he read it, he paled. Su had given him Windows to the Soul: a Seer's Guide to the Second Sight by Raphael Cosmas.
Draco tried to reassure himself that of course this didn't mean Su had guessed that he was a Seer. After all, couldn't she have just felt bad that he'd collapsed? But a look at the other two books dispelled that hope when he realized that they were more of the same. He was considering expressing his feelings by throwing the books across the room when he noticed a bookmark sticking out of one of the books, with the words READ ME written across the top. It was in a very unimpressive, battered volume that he probably wouldn't have picked up until he'd worked his way through every other book on the twelve shelves. The title was also rather off-putting, in Draco's opinion – The Idiot's Guide to Divination by Elda Ollivander. Draco objected quite strongly to being called an idiot, even indirectly.
Still, Draco opened the book to the marked page, and discovered that the bookmark was in fact a note.
"I'd start with this chapter," the note advised. "If you follow the instructions, it should help with the headache."
"So… tell me again why the Quidditch match is continuing despite the attack on Hogwarts," Autumn said to Mandy and Blaise as they headed out to the Quidditch pitch.
"Oh, it has to continue!" Blaise said cheerfully. "I can't miss my date with Terry!"
Mandy looked from Blaise to Autumn. "You know, I still can't decide if it's better to enlighten him now, or after Terry curses him again."
"Enlighten me?" Blaise looked down at himself, bewildered. "Am I getting fat?"
"Yes, you're enormous. You really should lay off the chocolate frogs." Mandy sighed, relenting as Blaise appeared seconds away from bursting into tears. "That was sarcasm again. I didn't mean it."
"But you said it," Blaise objected. "Why would you say something you don't mean?"
"Don't worry about it," Autumn advised. "It'll only make your head hurt."
"Okay," Blaise said agreeably. "I wouldn't be able to enjoy being with Terry if my head hurt."
"Hopeless," Mandy muttered.
"Well, with Terry or without him, I'm looking forward to seeing a Quidditch match," Autumn said. "It had better be exciting."
"It generally is, if you like that sort of thing," Mandy said, shrugging. "The players tend to get injured, which is usually pretty entertaining."
"One of the balls attacked Harry Potter in second year," Blaise said. "But he caught the Snitch anyway." He frowned. "Slytherin lost that game because of him."
"You're just figuring this out now?" Mandy asked incredulously. "Sometimes I wonder about what goes on inside your head."
"Lots of things are inside my head," Blaise said cheerfully. "All my brains are there. And Draco says I've got cobwebs and dust, so there must be spiders too. Maybe they catch all the flies that get in through my ears."
Autumn gave Blaise an odd look. "Flies can't get into your head through your ears."
"But they have to be able to," Blaise said reasonably. "What else would the spiders eat?"
Autumn was distracted from trying to come up with a response when they reached the Quidditch pitch. Despite herself, she gaped at the soaring hoops and towering stands decked out in House colors.
"Impressive, huh?" Mandy said, grinning at Autumn.
"Just a bit," Autumn said, trying not to look as though she'd been awed. Mandy smirked.
"There's Terry!" Blaise squeaked, pointing into the Ravenclaw stands.
Autumn squinted up at the seats. "How can you tell? They all look like blobs to me."
"He's the Terry-shaped blob." Blaise waved frantically as they approached the stands. "He isn't waving back! Do you think he can't see me? Maybe I should send up sparks. I could write 'I love you, Terry!' with them."
"And then he'd die of humiliation and you wouldn't get to sit with him," Autumn pointed out.
"Oh, right." Blaise nodded. "You think I should try for something more subtle? I was thinking about a moonlight serenade outside his window, but then I remembered that four other boys live there. It might have gotten confusing."
Mandy stopped short, narrowing her eyes at Blaise. "Do not," she said flatly, "sing outside Ravenclaw Tower."
"Why not?" Blaise asked, frowning. "Do you think I should play the kazoo instead?"
"No," Mandy said. "No music of any kind."
"Doesn't Terry like music?" Blaise asked. "All right, then. I'll remember that." He nodded to himself. "No music."
"Good," Mandy said, continuing forward to the staircase that led up to the top of the Ravenclaw stands.
Much to Autumn's disgust, Terry was seated all the way at the top of the stands. Of
course, those were supposed to be the best seats, but knowing that didn't make the walk any shorter. She wondered if there was some sort of spell she could use to make the walk go more quickly. She was considering levitation when they finally reached the top.
"Hi, Terry!" Blaise said, beaming as he wriggled through to get to the seat next to Terry. "I'm here!"
Terry looked over at Blaise, then at Autumn and Mandy. "You should put him on a leash," he muttered, before turning his attention back to the empty field.
Autumn studied the pair sharply for a moment, to make sure that Terry wasn't going to curse Blaise again, then turned to Mandy. "So what kind of injuries can I expect to see here? Are people going to plummet?"
"Probably not," Mandy said. "I think being able to stay on your broom is a requirement for getting on a team. But there might be some broken bones, and at least three collisions. It would be more if the Slytherins were playing, but the Hufflepuffs tend to be nicer."
"And I assume we're cheering for Ravenclaw," Autumn said.
"Oh, naturally," Mandy said, grinning. "We probably won't win unless Chang gets the Snitch, though. Hufflepuffs tend to be better at teamwork than Ravenclaws, so they usually control the Quaffle." She paused, frowning suddenly. "Hold on – how come you know what I'm talking about? I know I haven't explained Quidditch to you."
Autumn blinked, thinking fast. Even if she'd wanted to tell Mandy about the Potter books – which she didn't – she certainly wasn't going to do so in such a crowded area. "Oh… I read a book about it."
"You did not!" Mandy said indignantly. "You've been whining on and on about how you've got so much schoolwork you haven't had time to do anything else."
"It was a short book," Autumn said defensively, wishing she'd thought of a better excuse.
Mandy snorted, and was about to continue when the voice of the announcer blared through the stands. "Welcome to the second game of the Hogwarts Quidditch season – Hufflepuff versus Ravenclaw!"
Mandy scowled, since it was clear that the only way she'd be heard over the announcer was to scream. "Later," she mouthed darkly. Autumn shrugged back. At least this would give her time to come up with a better excuse.
The players flew onto the Quidditch field, accompanied by an icy wind. Autumn shivered. It was so cold in Scotland already, and it wasn't even the worst of the winter yet. She hoped she made it through all right.
Instead of dying down, the wind increased as the players lined up to begin. Autumn noticed several people quietly performing charms, presumably for warmth, and she wished she knew a spell to do the same. As Madam Hooch threw the Quaffle into the air, a particularly violent burst of wind tossed it away from the players.
As the Chasers scrambled to get to the Quaffle, Mandy sighed. "Well, this should be interesting," she said dryly. "Maybe the wind will score some goals for us."
Terry's habitual scowl deepened. "I don't like this wind," he said.
"Yeah, well, you don't like much of anything," Mandy said dismissively. "Sure, it's inconvenient, but it'll be entertaining to watch the players deal with it."
"That wasn't what I meant," Terry said. He raised a disapproving eyebrow as Blaise tried to snuggle closer to him for warmth. "You keep your distance."
"But I'm cold," Blaise said, looking up at Terry appealingly. "You don't want my fingers to turn blue and fall off, do you? Because that's what happens when I get cold."
"Whatever." Terry rolled his eyes and, to Autumn's surprise, stripped off his leather coat and passed it to Blaise. "There. You can wear that for the rest of the game, if it means you'll stop trying to hang all over me."
Blaise stared at the coat with the air of a believer who has been casually handed the holiest of relics. Then, lest Terry change his mind, he quickly wrapped it around his shoulders, grinning with delight. Terry rolled his eyes again and began casting a series of charms on his clothing to make up for the loss of the coat.
As the game progressed, Autumn was beginning to wish that she had a coat, instead of her cloak. The wind kept flapping the cloak wildly around her, no matter how tightly she tried to hold it closed. Looking around, she noticed that everyone else in the stands seemed to be having the same problem.
"Isn't this wind ever going to die down?" Mandy asked irritably, raising her voice a little to be heard over the gusts. "I thought it was supposed to be mostly clear today."
"Obviously not," Autumn snapped, snatching at the edge of her cloak as the wind tore it away from her yet again. "This wind is crazy!"
"I told you I didn't like it," Terry said, his hair whipping demonically around his face. "Don't you know anything about the weather?"
"I read a book on Meteorological Magery last year," Mandy said doubtfully.
Terry shook his head in irritation. "Not magic – the weather. The wind shouldn't sound this way." Autumn and Mandy looked blank. Terry exhaled sharply, his annoyance multiplying. "Doesn't anyone else ever pay attention? Listen to it!"
Autumn frowned, and concentrated on the sound of the wind. She hadn't thought much about that until Terry had mentioned it, but why should she have? It was just the wind.
Except that it wasn't. Now that she was concentrating on it, Autumn realized that the wind actually sounded like a sustained voiceless scream. "What the hell is that?" she demanded.
"What makes you think I know?" Terry said. "It's not natural, though, I can tell you that straight away."
The girl sitting in front of Terry finally turned around in exasperation. "Will you lot shut up?" she snapped. "Some of us are trying to watch the game, thank you!"
"Stop whining, Morag," Mandy said irritably. "We're talking, not obstructing your view."
"Fine, if you're going to be picky about it, I can't hear the announcer," Morag said, rolling her eyes. "Just be quiet!"
"Why do we have to be quiet?" Blaise wanted to know. "The wind isn't being quiet. It's blowing and screeching and making all sorts of noise."
Morag started to reply, but frowned suddenly. "The wind?"
"Yes, the wind," Autumn said impatiently. "You know, that great big blowing thing that's trying to knock the players out of the sky?"
Morag gave Autumn a Look. "I know what the wind is. My God, why must you Slytherins be so nasty all the time? I meant, did you say the wind is screeching? Like a person?"
"Listen for yourself," Mandy said with a shrug. "It's not like we can stop you."
Morag did so, her frown getting deeper. "That shouldn't be happening."
"Thank you, MacDougal, for that startling revelation," Terry growled. "We've covered that. If you're so fascinated by your game that you have to interrupt other people's conversations, watch the damn thing and let us be."
Morag ignored him, absorbed in her own thoughts. "I thought these winds only came in the middle of the night. I suppose I could be mistaken – after all, this isn't Ireland, so it could be different here."
"What are you talking about?" Autumn asked suspiciously. "Who cares if we're in Ireland?"
Morag blinked, resurfacing from her musings. "Well, Ireland has different types of magical inhabitants from Scotland. Really, I've only read up on the Irish types – family history and so on – but I think I came across a few Scottish versions here and there."
"Explain yourself right now, Morag, or I'll turn you into a Snitch and let Chang catch you," Terry said sharply. "What magical inhabitants are you babbling about?"
Morag smiled faintly. "And you call yourselves Ravenclaws. Really, I should think it were fairly obvious." She turned and looked out over the Quidditch pitch, where the players had finally decided to take a short recess in the hopes that it would soon become less hazardous to fly. "I think it's a banshee."