A HariPo oneshot
Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not to me. This was done for the Alliterated Pairings Competition in the HPFC. Err, I believe this is the first fic for the pairing, so please enjoy the randomness of it. Read, review, and enjoy!
Pairing: Michael Corner/Millicent Bulstrode
Song:"Five Minutes to Midnight" by Boys Like Girls
Prompt: Piano key
"We'll make the clock stop
Make your heart drop and come alive"
—Boys Like Girls, "Five Minutes to Midnight"
Michael Corner, in his fifth year, thought himself a lucky, stupid boy. Being in Ravenclaw didn't mean anything; that simply meant that he could occasionally have a stroke of genius. Dating Ginny Weasley=smart. Following her and joining Dumbledore's Army=mental.
As if being in a secret club when there weren't supposed to be any weren't bad enough, then came that damned Inquisitorial Squad—Umbridge's select students. They were really the bullies of the school. Draco the ferret, Pansy the pug-face, Crabbe and Goyle the goons, and…
"Bulstrode, the box with arms."
Ginny had punched Michael in the arm for thinking aloud. They'd been outside studying with the Inquisitorial Squad nearby. "Shh! Do you want to cause an unnecessary ruckus?"
Michael had shut up then, forced to glare at the square-jawed witch in silence. Millicent Bulstrode was almost as repulsive as they came—she was second only to Pansy Parkinson. To Michael, the only package he would ever consider included both brains and beauty.
One thing led to another after that, and Michael found himself in a short fling with Cho Chang. Dating Cho Chang=smart (she was brilliant and gorgeous, you see). Dating Cho Chang=ridiculous. She was a weepy girl who, whenever a fire was lit in her, put all her strength into regretting Harry and wishing Cedric alive, and then she was a melancholic eyesore again.
Sheesh. At least he could expect some semblance of peace for his last year.
If he thought the Inquisitorial Squad had been bad, then Michael had a thing or two to learn.
"Get to your common room before they see you." These words were almost his last. Michael had been wandering the halls on his way back to Ravenclaw Tower one evening in his seventh year. He was coming from a secret meeting of the reassembled D.A. and was glad that he'd strayed.
Before him was a Slytherin boy. He was obviously a first year and certainly scared to death. "I-I've forgotten my p-password," the blond boy spluttered.
Michael fought down his groan. "I can't help you there. Try seeking refuge in McGonagall's or Flitwick's class; they might hide you."
The boy nodded but froze as he heard footsteps down the hall behind him. Michael looked up and locked eyes with the newcomer.
Brown irises met. Millicent Bulstrode had arrived on the scene.
Michael scowled and hid the boy behind him, though he knew it was useless. There was no way she hadn't seen. He'd have to talk his way out of this one.
"Can I help you, Bulstrode?" Michael tried to keep his tone stable and not clipped.
"I can see a Slytherin behind you," she stated, coming closer. "Give me my Housemate. I'll take him to the dungeons."
Michael almost sneered. "Do you expect me to believe that he won't be punished?"
"He won't," Millicent asserted. "Now let my underclassman go."
A set of thundering footsteps came from the same direction as Millicent's. Michael's heart pounded in his chest, for those footsteps could only belong to the worst of the worst currently at Hogwarts:
Michael glimpsed horror on Millicent's face that flickered to apathy once Alecto and her brother, Amycus, drew within arm's reach.
"Hmm… Corner," Alecto said. Her expression was that of a hyena encountering its supper. The blonde Death Eater smiled approvingly at Millicent. "What is going on, Miss Bulstrode?"
Millicent was at a loss for words. "Well, I…I was coming down the corridor…"
"And you caught Corner pestering this young pureblood, correct?"
Amycus snatched the stick-like arm of the Slytherin boy and induced some pain with a halfheartedly-given Cruciatus Curse. "This one shouldn't have been out to begin with," he snarled.
"Leave him alone!" Michael erupted. He knew this was a mistake; he didn't need the open look of shock on the seventeen-year-old witch's face to tell him so. But he didn't like to lose or back down—it was one reason why Ginny had left him.
Searing pain coursed through him as Michael sank to his knees. Alecto had decided he needed the Cruciatus Curse, as well. Distantly, he heard the younger boy's cries, but soon it was all Michael could do to try and focus on the spots in his eyes. He gasped for air between his own screams. Somewhere, vaguely, in his mind, it occurred to the Ravenclaw that Millicent didn't look like a box anymore… She'd lost weight… But who hadn't, these dark and terrifying days?
"St-Stop…," he rasped.
"Make him punish the boy," Amycus jeered, pushing the little wizard into Michael's arm.
"Imperio!" Alecto screamed. Merlin, her screech resonated in the empty hall… No one would stop or come out to watch this… Even the teachers were frightened… Of all the possible witnesses, Millicent Bulstrode was the lot Michael had drawn.
He wished they'd just use the Killing Curse now.
Alecto twisted her wand this way and that, trying to break the Ravenclaw's will. If he'd had enough energy, he might've smirked. Another reason Ginny had left him: he was pigheaded. But having such a strong will finally came in handy this one night.
The Carrow witch eventually gave up on trying to control him. She opted instead for several more goes with the Cruciatus Curse and stopped when sounds of a fifth rib cracking as he hit the floor again reached her ears.
"Toss him to the dungeons," she told Amycus of the Slytherin boy. "You," Alecto ordered Millicent, "take Corner to the Hospital Wing. I want him in perfect health for round two for future…infractions."
Millicent ducked under Michael's wand arm and, though staggering slightly as he was somewhat limp, dragged him away from the scene of the crime.
He awoke to the sound of plinking piano keys.
They sounded like noise, but they gradually came together into a soft, classical song. It was strong and welcoming, and it caused Michael to stir.
Millicent was still there.
"Get out," he spat in spite of his dry, cracking lips. He licked them, tasting only blood. Ugh. Things would never get better under this regime… His faith in Potter and his mates waned—they'd only run away.
"You're awake," the Slytherin witch pointed out dumbly as the imaginary music faded from the front of Michael's mind.
"Of course I'm awake!" Michael snapped. He sat up and winced; those broken ribs hurt a lot more than he'd originally thought. "I'm awake and demanding some solitude."
With a hard shove to his shoulder, Millicent pushed him back down. "Oh, cut the crap, Corner. You could be a little thankful."
He grumbled and crossed his arms in front of his chest—gingerly, since he hurt and ached so much. Michael watched her sit down. The wizard recalled her terrified countenance earlier. "You didn't flag the Carrows down," he deduced.
Millicent stared at the bed sheet. "No, I didn't. I— That's all I'm saying on the matter."
An odd beat passed. "Thanks," he finally answered.
She shrugged and clammed up as Madam Pomfrey bustled over to change his bandages. He winced as the nurse poked his bruised chin, and the wizard tried to follow any instructions given to lessen his pain. He didn't mind having an audience as Pomfrey tended to his ribs; he, like many other Hogwartians, had become numbed to most of the humiliating scenarios. Everyone nowadays was a hollow shell and, if they had any emotion left in them, it was fear.
"Shouldn't you be getting back to your House?" Michael asked his peer after several minutes of uncomfortable silence.
Millicent didn't wait for Pomfrey to finish her business. The dark-haired girl stood and smoothed her robes. "I suggest the next time when you stop to help a student, you do so in the shadows. See you, Corner." She turned on her heel and left then, leaving only the sounds of the returning music and Madam Pomfrey with him.
"What's that music?" he asked, wincing as the nurse finally released her hold of him.
"Soothing, isn't it? Miss Bulstrode knows a thing or two about recuperation; she was the one who suggested I play something for you while you heal," Pomfrey replied.
Oh. So it hadn't been imaginary after all. Michael scrunched up his nose. "Classical?"
Pomfrey chuckled. "At her suggestion, though I don't really need them. I know that classical music boosts recovery and mental stability."
When Michael closed his eyes to rest that night, he found he was feeling peaceful. He was also changing certain impressions of certain people. Millicent had brains, after all.
But the complete package, he insisted, was still brains and beauty. And Millicent, though no longer lacking one, still lacked the other.
Whenever Michael thought on the end of his Hogwarts life, he skipped the memory of the Battle of Hogwarts.
Sure, his seventh year had been awful. Torture and Dark teachers and real Dark Arts… Nothing was ever the same after that year, especially not Michael's perception of people. His fellow D.A. member, Zacharias Smith, had run from it all. Yet Millicent Bulstrode… She hadn't helped Michael that one time alone. She'd helped him several more times, and both of them had managed to escape the Carrows' radar.
The most amazing thing was that Millicent had fought in the war. On the side of the light.
It was the only thing Michael let himself remember about the battle. It was the one thing that constantly stood out in his mind about that dark May. He still wondered why she'd made that decision, why she'd blasted away some of the Death Eaters that at least some of her fellow snakes openly supported.
He also still wondered how he'd managed to survive that year and that war. And it was not until ten years later that he stopped questioning himself.
He hadn't known what to do after Hogwarts. He was a well-qualified wizard. He had talents. But he didn't know how to use them.
That was how he became involved with the Office of Misinformation at the Ministry of Magic. The office was rarely called upon, as it was only needed during times of severe exposure, which seldom happened. To this day, the biggest job the office had was perpetuating the "hoax" theory behind the Loch Ness kelpie. Michael enjoyed toying with that a little bit, as he did with the few other cases that came his way. The office was meant for those who had a talent for lying.
As the raven-haired wizard put it, the Office of Misinformation was the place for witches and wizards who wanted the cushy life. The employees were paid handsomely since they weren't often called upon, and when something did occur the stress levels weren't all that bad.
Dare he say it—Michael enjoyed his job.
Until he heard these words:
"We've no idea how to explain the existence of a manticore."
He was sure he would never hear similar words. They came from his boss, Lindquist Brisbane. Brisbane entered the office and announced it as if it were the end of the world.
Michael nervously scoffed. "It's just a manticore. It can't be too bad reining it in."
"Oh, its existence has been reined in, all right, by the first Greek Ministry officials on the scene," Brisbane stated. "But blokes from their Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures are there and haven't stopped the bloody thing yet."
"It hasn't—?" one witch asked tentatively.
"'Fraid so," Brisbane replied. "And the Greeks have asked for our help. So come on, folks. We've got to start working while the Committee tries to prevent further deaths."
Michael sat down almost immediately, scanning his notes and books for information on manticores and creating vivid stories to feed to the Muggle press. The best he could think of was that a deranged serial killer was going around dressed in animal skins, killing those who crossed his path with a narrow, poison-tipped blade. As he racked his brain for anything better, Brisbane grabbed his bag and plucked Michael from his desk.
"Corner, you're coming with me to the scene," his boss told him. "If we're in Greece, we should be able to straighten the story out right then and there."
And thus Michael found himself using the International Floo Network for the first time.
When Michael and Brisbane arrived, the scene didn't appear chaotic. Actually, it was far from that. All the former Ravenclaw saw was a peaceful landscape.
"I s'pose the Committee managed to calm things down then," Brisbane said, more to himself than to Michael. "C'mon. We'll meet with the Committee first and then hear from—"
"Watch out for—!" Michael hated it; any other time, Brisbane was the one most ready. Today, however, Michael felt as if it was a repeat of protecting that Slytherin boy from all those years ago. He shoved Brisbane out of the way just as claws swiped at his left arm.
The pain was instant and mind-numbing, as if someone were branding him. He screamed as if someone had used an Unforgiveable Curse on him, and he barely heard shouts from others. He was near to fainting when he saw a horrified face he could only remember too well:
"…says you. I say…c'mon! Lookit him! It's obvious…"
Michael didn't find out what was obvious as he woke up and struggled to sit up. He heard mutterings on either side of him, and a gentle hand pushed down on his shoulder to get him to rest.
"Well, you weren't helping a student, at least," Millicent quipped shortly as he gave in and reclined on his pillow. He had no idea where he was, but at least Brisbane was with him. Though…since Millicent had helped him before…he supposed he didn't exactly dislike having her there, either.
Her comment received a mild smirk. "Been too long for that." Michael briefly closed his eyes before asking, "What the…?"
"…hell am I doing here? I work on this beast breeding reservation," she answered. She moved around the room, getting medical supplies from cabinets and shoving them into Brisbane's arms. She was burly again, but she now looked more suited to handling dragons and other beasts than bullying those smaller than she was. Her face was still thin from the past, though, haunted by shadows under her eyes and cheekbones. Michael had a feeling that those shadows wouldn't disappear any time soon, certainly not if they hadn't already.
Brisbane grunted. "Where are the Committee members?"
"In the hostel up the road, with my coworkers." Millicent grabbed one salve from a shelf and then took the load off the department head. "You can go right up."
As she sat down and got to work tending to the gashes on her patient's forearm and seemed to know what she was doing, Brisbane appeared to decide his employee was in safe hands. "Well," he said to Michael, "I'll go catch up with them and see what the situation is."
A minute after he'd left, Michael coughed and opened his eyes fully. "What is the situation?"
"One escaped manticore," the witch answered. "Technically dangerous as we can't seem to find it, but this is a pretty locked-down area."
"What about the Muggle deaths?"
"Six of those, with one body missing. We figure the manticore devoured it," Millicent replied as if they were talking about the forecast. "The real problem is the beast using its stinger. Instant death, you see. It likes to roam and, being a magical creature, can probably weaken a spot or two in the barrier around this reserve by using its sturdy stinger."
Millicent changed the wrappings around his arm silently, pressing the salve into the wounds on his forearm. She flicked her wand around the two smaller cuts and sutures appeared. For the three bigger marks, she wrapped another bandage around his limb.
"You're lucky the thing just clawed you. Only one escaped to do this kind of damage, though the Committee members killed another that had moved no more than ten meters outside the pen. But it's really the one causing all the trouble."
Another moment of silence fell. Finally, Michael asked, "Why are you working here? And why the need for such a place?"
Millicent took her time before answering. In fact, she stood and put everything away first before returning to sit at his bedside. "This place is like a haven for researchers."
"Like the International Confederation of Wizard observers," he supplied.
"Yes, they visit often. But not just them." She stood and paced the room. It appeared that she was not used to having to explain herself or her job; she twiddled her fingers before finally giving them something to do by busying herself with clipping up the sides of her still chin-length hair. "We…provide a place for safe observation to be done. As well as safe and secure harvesting."
"'Harvesting'?" the wizard echoed.
"Yes. You didn't think the Dragon Plains workers collected the hides themselves that are made into dragon-skin armor?"
"Well…I presumed so."
Then the weirdest thing happened: Millicent smiled. Just barely, but she did. "Any creatures that can be moved from their habitats and raised here are the ones used for potion ingredients and Dark Arts defense materials."
"Manticore skins repel nearly all Charms," Michael breathed with a groan of realization as he recalled the obscure piece of trivia from his school days.
She nodded. "How're you feeling?"
"I dunno…" His words trailed off. His arm…felt a lot better. He moved it around and flexed and extended. It felt almost one-hundred percent already. "I feel great!" he said, astounded. "What was that you gave me?"
"An herbal remedy. One of my mates mixes it; I know when to apply it." Millicent chewed her bottom lip. "Do you want to go meet with the others or take a tour?"
He swung his legs over the bed's edge and stuck his feet into his shoes. "Brisbane's sifting through all the details," Michael responded; he'd known his boss long enough to know what to expect. "He won't need me until he calls on me," he finished as he fixed his shirt and covered his injured arm with its respective sleeve.
"Then get up." She had him follow her outside into the dusk, and she spread out her arms. "Welcome to the Nursery."
Never before had he seen so many magical creatures in one place. It was rather like a paradise for the beasts; the remaining manticores were in a pen next to a lake of kelpies, a pond of kappa on the other side. Though the Nursery housed no centaurs or dragons, it boasted several of almost every other kind of magical creature known to the Wizarding world.
"It's like a punch in the gut, huh?" Millicent asked. She glanced sideways at him as he reflexively clutched his middle, recalling just how strong she truly was.
That was what broke the ice. Looking around and seeing the absurdity and yet normalcy of the Nursery, he realized that everything lived in relative peace. Taking a cue from the animals, Michael laughed while she chuckled. Maybe he could live in harmony with someone who'd once been his adversary, too.
Reining in the Muggle hysteria about the manticore was tougher than either Brisbane or Michael thought.
Since Greece was a place already steeped in mythology and magic, it was harder trying to convince the populace that it had been a mere madman (Brisbane liked Michael's idea, it turned out). Those who could turned to the Greek Orthodox religion to seek peace of mind; those who couldn't cried out about conspiracies. Those who didn't have one opinion or another carried on as if nothing had ever happened. Unfortunately, the last type was in the minority, and Michael ended up stranded in Greece with his boss for two months.
It didn't bug Michael much. Since finding an old schoolmate, he'd felt better than he had all the past years after Hogwarts. It was almost as if the time was set before the second war and Millicent had always been one of his friends.
Yet, despite becoming mates now, Michael sensed in her what remained in him—the hollowness of seventh year. Neither of them had really regained their other emotions after that time. He doubted they ever would. Last he heard, even Potter and Ginny (who'd been married a while) were struggling to live a normal life with a toddler and a newborn. The war truly had left invisible scars on them all.
"You don't know the half of it," Millicent told him one evening as they finished supper outside. She cupped her cheek in her hand and stared at the stars. "I doubt you'd care…but even Draco's half the person he used to be. Last I'd heard from Pansy and Blaise—they're married now—he's a ghost of himself. His poor wife, Astoria. I can't see how she could've married into that life."
"I don't know much of what happened to my friends," Michael told her, leaning back in his chair and stretching his left arm. It had healed quite nicely thanks to Millicent's surprisingly good care. "I don't hear from many of them. Terry's Merlin-knows-where. I think Padma was planning on landing a Ministry job. Her sister and her sister's best friend both work for the Daily Prophet, as does Smith. Last I'd heard, Brown was with Thomas and Parvati was with Smith."
"And then there's us, the odd-ones-out."
"Yes…" His eyes flickered to her before staring at the sky, too.
This was it. He knew it had to be the time to ask. All his questions, all this time— This had to be the moment.
"Millicent, why did you—"
She abruptly sat up in her seat. Over her shoulder, she swished her wand, and the wireless clicked on with a grinding wind-up. Static poured out until the device tuned itself and settled on one station.
Classical music filled the nighttime air.
"I can give you some of the answers you want," she supplied, slightly comforted by the music. She took a sip of her gillywater before continuing. "So ask all you want. It's pretty safe around here."
He frowned, wondering if she'd leave him with just the music as she'd done ten years ago. "Why didn't you send for the Carrows that night?"
"Easy. I was just as frightened of them. If they thought I was in cahoots with you, I'd have gotten into a lot of trouble myself, don't you think?"
"But there's more to it."
She hesitated. "Michael… I'm actually squeamish about seeing others hurt."
He nearly laughed. "But you used to be a terror!"
"Never to the point where someone was severely hurt," the witch retorted pointedly. "And I helped you other times for the same reason; I didn't want to see so many people hurt."
"Why did you fight against them?"
"I'm not evil." When he was done snickering, she repeated herself, her cheeks flushed. "I'm not! Besides, why are you laughing? We're both completely different from when we were kids!"
He grew quiet. Then, in a voice barely above a whisper, he inquired, "Why stay with me in the Hospital Wing? Why the music?"
This was what really got to her. "I don't like seeing people hurt and…I wanted to see you recover, to fight back. I thought if you could, then maybe I could, too. That's really why I fought against You-Know-Who's side; I found the strength in me to stand up for myself. Besides, it's much easier to bully when there are people around to bully." She said this with a small laugh, but it wasn't hollow like what he'd first heard when they'd reunited. There was something in her voice; it didn't catch, but it certainly wanted to. "Can I ask you something?"
"Does…the music bother you?"
He thought for a while. He was silent so long that her face faltered. Before too long, however, he broke into a mischievous grin and leaned forward so that their faces were very near each other. "It doesn't," Michael answered, knowing she wasn't asking if the music bothered him, but if she did. "It reminds me of this one time when I reconsidered something. Something I'm reassessing again."
"What?" Millicent asked, very much the victim to his own kind of bullying as their breaths mingled.
He didn't verbalize his reply. Instead, he kissed her, realizing that she most certainly had brains and—as clichéd as he knew it to be—beauty on the inside, though that was starting to show quite a bit on the outside as well now. It clicked, being intimate with her like this. He felt a rush of warmth inside him as he felt himself come alive again and, judging by Millicent's returned fervor, she was feeling whole again, too.
Pomfrey was right. Classical music boosts mental stability. But Michael discerned it boosts the emotional kind, too.
Wow. This was…just amazing. I honestly really love this piece. I can't believe I managed to turn Millicent Bulstrode into a rather likeable character. This makes me want to continue their story, perhaps in a sequel oneshot sometime. But for now, this oneshot is all they have. Plus the classical musings of those cupid-like piano keys. ;)
Thanks for reading, and please review!
2016 note: Wow. I actually came to be fond of a lot of the minor charries over the years, including Michael and Millicent, though I think that, much as I like this fic, I'd prefer their friendship to a relationship. Plus, 6 yrs gave me time to develop a lot of headcanons for them anyway… XD But this was still fun to write (and reread)!