Cedric and I followed Fleur, Roger, Krum, and Hermione out onto the brightly lit dance floor, and next moment, Cedric had placed one hand on my waist and held my hand with the other. We revolved slowly on the spot, Cedric steering me along.
Cedric bent down and whispered into my ear, "You look really pretty tonight." I looked up into his handsome face, smiling, but next moment the doors to the Great Hall burst open, and in walked Lord Voldemort. Everyone screamed. Voldemort stared straight at me and a jet of green light, aimed straight at my heart, shot out of his wand. Before I could stop him, Cedric jumped out in front of me, and the curse hit him hard in the chest.
"NOOOO!" I screamed as Cedric fell to the ground with a loud thud.
I awoke with a start. I looked around me. Everything was pitch black and in the bed next to me, Hermione was snoring softly. It was just a dream, I told myself, as I wiped cold sweat from my forehead. I closed my eyes, and the details of the dream came flooding back to me. This was only the third Cedric nightmare that I had had that took place at the Yule Ball. Almost always, the dreams took place in the graveyard, but they all ended the same way: with Cedric dying.
It had been almost half a year since Cedric died, and I was still having nightmares. The month after the third task, I had dreams of Cedric dying almost every night, but they were becoming scarcer. I hoped that soon the nightmares would end for good. I hated reliving that night.
I thought back to the real Yule Ball and remembered dancing with Cedric all night. It was one of the best times I'd had at Hogwarts.
I sighed and tried to relax. Already, the details of the dream were slipping from my mind. I listened to the pitter-patter of raindrops against the window frame and drifted off to sleep.
* * *
"What do we have first today?" I asked Hermione at breakfast.
"Double Potions," she said, not looking up from her book on Ancient Ruins.
"That sucks," said Ron, through a mouthful of toast. I nodded in agreement. Potions was by far my least favorite class, but Defense Against the Dark Arts was a close second this year, with Umbridge as our teacher. I hated that I had the worst teachers in the classes I was best at, although according to Snape, I was the worst in the class, besides, of course, Neville.
"We should get going," said Hermione, slipping her book into her bag.
"Crap," I said. "I left my Potions book in the dorm. I'll meet up with you guys soon."
I hurried out of the Great Hall and went back to Gryffindor Tower to grab my book, then hurried down the many flights of stairs that led to the dungeons. Snape would probably take twenty points from Gryffindor if I was late. When I was just a short distance away from Snape's dungeon, I heard a voice call from behind me, "Potter! Why in such a hurry?"
I turned around and saw Draco Malfoy walking lazily toward me. Great, I thought, and I continued walking at a quick pace. I could hear Draco jogging up to me from behind, and he soon appeared in front of me, blocking my way, since he was considerably taller and broader than me.
"You didn't answer my question, Potter," he sneered.
"We have Potions, dumbass," I said. I moved to walk around him, but he stepped in front of me again. "Get out of my way, Malfoy. You're going to make me late."
"That's too bad," he said sarcastically.
"You'll be late too," I said.
"Yes, but I'm Snape's favorite student."
"Oh right, how could I forget? So when are you two announcing your engagement?"
Draco scowled, and I quickly walked around him before he could block my way again. I jogged to where everyone was lined up outside Snape's door. The door opened, and I heard Snape say in a soft, deadly voice, "Everyone, into the classroom." Ron, Hermione, and I took our usual seats at the table the furthest away from Snape's desk and started setting up our cauldrons.
"Today we will be mixing a potion that often comes up at Ordinary Wizarding Level: the Draught of Peace," said Snape, once everyone was set up. "The ingredients and method are on the blackboard, and you will find everything you need in the store cupboard. You have an hour and a half… start."
Everyone got to work. When there were only about twenty minutes left of class, Snape called out, "You should be on step eight by now, and your potions should be clear."
I looked down at mine and was happy to see that it was perfectly clear. I glanced at Ron's potion, which was lime green, and at Hermione's potion, which was clear, but I couldn't help noticing that mine was just a little bit clearer.
"How did you guys make your potions clear?" asked Ron, desperately.
"You're simmering it at the wrong temperature, and I think you forgot to add the syrup of hellebore," I said.
Ron quickly lowered the temperature of his potion and added the syrup, and his potion became somewhat clearer.
"Thanks," he said.
Snape got up from his desk and began walking around the classroom, peering at everyone's potions. He stopped at Neville's to make a snide remark, but complimented Malfoy on his. Pansy Parkinson, who always looked like a dumb blonde by hiking up her skirt and twirling strands of fake blonde hair with her finger, leaned over to say something to Snape. It was so obvious that she had a huge crush on him. All the Slytherin girls did. I personally could not see how that was possible. Sure, he may be good looking on the surface, with his sharp features, long black hair, and tall, muscular body, but on the inside, he was hideous.
Snape was nearing our table. He approached as I was carefully cutting my veraline roots, and I could feel him hovering over me, but I tried to ignore him and not let him ruin my concentration. Snape's hand shot out suddenly and picked up two pieces of veraline root that I had just cut. I turned to see him examining them.
"Can you read, Potter?" he asked nastily. Everyone's head turned to us, and the Slytherins starting sniggering. They always looked forward to watching Snape make fun of me.
"Yes," I said, annoyed.
"Then, tell me, what does step ten say?"
I looked up at the board and read, "Cut the veraline root into twenty small, equally sized pieces."
Snape then held up my two little pieces of root and sneered, "Do these look to be of equal length to you?"
I looked at the roots. One was maybe a millimeter shorter than the other.
"Er, one is a tiny bit shorter than the other," I answered.
"These are completely useless now," said Snape, and with a wave of his wand, all of my carefully cut roots disappeared. I could hear the Slytherins laughing, Draco being the loudest, and my cheeks flushed with anger.
"Time is up," announced Snape to the class. "Pour a sample of your potion into a flask, label it, and put in on my desk."
Snape walked to the front of the room. Hermione filled her flask, while Ron was hastily trying to finish cutting his roots. His pieces of veraline root were not even close to being equally sized, but Snape didn't say anything to him. I would have to leave my potion unfinished, because Snape had gotten rid of all of my roots. I poured some of my uncompleted potion into a flask and brought it up to Snape. Just as I was about to place it on his desk he said, "Don't bother handing that in, Potter. I don't accept incomplete potions. You will receive a zero on it."
I opened my mouth to protest, but closed it quickly. Anything I said would probably land me in detention, and Angelina would freak if I missed any more Quidditch practices. I could still remember how angry her face looked that time when I had told her Umbridge had given me a weeks worth of detentions.
I walked back to my desk, enraged, and was very relieved when the bell rang. I was the first one out of the class.
"That was really unfair," said Hermione, as soon as she and Ron had caught up to me.
"Yeah, well," I said, "since when has Snape ever been fair to me?"
Ron and Hermione didn't answer; we all knew that Snape had hated me from the moment I had set foot in Hogwarts.
* * *
Christmas break was only two weeks away, and I was looking forward to spending the holidays at Grimmauld Place with Sirius. The weeks leading up to the break past by quickly. Angelina was scheduling Quidditch practices four times a week, because our match against Hufflepuff was only two weeks after we got back from break. With Quidditch practice and all the homework the teachers were assigning us, I only had time to hold two D.A. meetings.
The night before break, Ron, Hermione, and I were sitting together in our favorite arm chairs in the Gryffindor common room.
"I'm so glad that vacation is tomorrow," said Ron. "No homework for two weeks. The teachers have been giving us so much this year!"
"Well, we need to be prepared for our O.W.L.S., Ron," said Hermione.
Ron rolled his eyes.
"So, are you excited to go skiing in France?" I asked Hermione.
"Not really," said Hermione. "I'm not that good."
"What did you say?" said Ron with pretend shock. "There's actually something you're not good at?"
Now it was Hermione's turn to roll her eyes. "I'm going up to bed," she said. "You coming, Alyssa?"
"Yeah," I said, getting up from my chair. "See you, Ron."
I followed Hermione up the spiral staircase. Parvati and Lavender were already asleep when we got into our dormitory.
"'Night," I said to Hermione as I got into bed.
"G'night," said Hermione. A few minutes later I could hear her snores. I closed my eyes and was soon asleep.