Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter
Tom held out his hand. "Your wand?" He kept his tone light.
Sawyer's eyes grew impossibly wide and he clutched the wood to his chest defensively. "What?" He squeaked.
"Well, it wouldn't really be a test if you could simply summon the stone to you as you entered the forest, would it?" Tom pointed out mildly.
The mudblood shook his head quickly, "I won't, I promise!"
Tom forced the sneer down with effort. Sawyer didn't have a trustworthy, loyal bone in his body. "Don't you trust me?" He smiled.
Right on cue, soft mutterings of disapproval hummed from the purebloods behind him; the peer pressure only increasing the indecision in mud-brown eyes.
With a shaky hand, Sawyer held out his wand, clearly not wanting to part with his only defence in the forest.
Tom nodded in approval, watching with amusement as some of the unease left those nervous eyes.
"I'm going to leave it here," Tom threw the wand at the base of the tree they were all standing in front of, next to the Black Lake. "As soon as you collect the stone, your wand will be here and waiting for you."
Sawyer sagged in relief, certain now that they weren't setting him up to fail. He'd have his wand as soon as he completed his task. He wouldn't even have to wait until he reached the common room.
"See?" Abraxas drawled, looked pointedly at the mudblood. "Isn't that fair?" He stressed the words warningly, silently telling Sawyer that his obvious suspicion and worry was uncouth, and Riddle was being magnanimous to overlook such rudeness.
Sawyer's back straightened in such an obvious show of 'taking the message on board' that Tom was able to sense the disdain wafting off those at his back.
"Yes," The mudblood nodded, swallowing past his disquiet in an attempt at covering his fear. It didn't work.
"Off you go then." Nott made a shooing gesture with his hand, his black eyes glinting with cruelty.
Sawyer turned decisively towards the trees and started off. Half way there, he paused and turned back. Arcturus groaned in impatience behind him.
Mud-brown eyes looked straight into slate, over pouring with admiration, lust and trust.
"It is safe...isn't it, Tom?"
"Your choices are your own, Sawyer. No one is forcing you to do anything you don't want to do."
The mudblood closed his eyes, arguing with himself. "It's my choice." His tone was questioning as he spoke to himself. "It's my choice," He said strongly.
Sawyer glanced up at the group, his eyes shining brightly, arrogance and triumph superseding his fear, for the moment at least. It would be a very different story once he was beneath those perilous trees on his own, Tom was fully aware of that.
"Save me a seat in the common room," Sawyer ordered Darla Black superiorly.
She hissed quietly at his back.
The mudblood walked confidently into the trees.
As soon as he was gone, the group relaxed, shooting glares and exited glances at the forest as they slowly made their way back towards the castle.
Tom gave a subtle wave of his wand towards the trees.
A lone, loud howl suddenly pierced the silence of the night.
He smirked, glancing up at the sky; his lips curling at the corners as he took in the bright, glowing, sliver orb against the carpet of black.
The werewolf always answers the call of its own kind.
"One foot in front of the other; left, right, left, right," Grant spoke to him-self, trying to drown out the rising worry of his thoughts as he shuffled deeper and deeper into the dangerous trees.
It was so quiet.
He'd never been in a forest that was so quiet.
It wasn't natural.
He looked back anxiously. There was no sign of the tree line. If he'd really only travelled two hundred meters, surely he should still be able to see the tree-line. Right?
He turned back around slowly, his footsteps small and reluctant as he forced himself to continue forward.
Where was this fork in the road that Moon had spoken of? His eyes combed the rough dirt path over and over, the darkness making it difficult to see.
Turning so that he was sideways on the path, he glanced back. Maybe he'd missed it?
It seemed like he'd been walking for longer than two hundred meters, and he couldn't see the tree-line, but...he sighed and forced himself to move forward again. He had been walking really slowly; his steps were practically heel-to-toe.
A large grin spilt his face and he hurried forward. The fork!
He breathed out a breath of relief. The voice in the back of his mind that had been growing louder, saying he'd been played, that they were pranking him, quietened with proof of the truth of Moon's instructions.
His steps quickened. He didn't want to spend more than a second longer than he had to beneath these trees.
The glade came into view almost immediately, silencing any lingering worries as to the distance he was from the entrance to the forest.
He'd been right, it had just seemed that way because he was moving so slowly before.
Eyeing the water with reluctance, he began peeling off his outer robe and toeing his shoes off.
The first touch of the small pool of water made him gasp loudly, "Holy hell!" It was so cold!
Squeezing his eyes shut, he jumped, the water splashing loudly as it sloshed over the moss-covered rocks that formed the natural boundary around the glade. He swam awkwardly towards the small waterfall, smiling widely as the falling water filled the eerie silence that had seemed so oppressive before.
Standing up, he reached an arm through the water grasping around the naturally formed nooks and crannies for any hint of the prized stone, his face twisting in effort as he reached higher.
A sharp crack made him freeze. Poking his head out of the waterfall; he glanced sharply around the small glade.
What was that? He drew back from the falling water, trying to hear clearly.
Standing silently under the icy water, his body grew numb with the cold, but he didn't move. His over active imagination was providing him with plenty of ways a werewolf could come leaping over the small circle of tress enveloping the area, jaw wide and ready to swallow him whole.
His eyes swung to the left when the leaves of a bush shook and Grant almost fell back into the pool when something jumped out onto the grass, scaring half the years off his life.
A small, tan rabbit with a white fluffy tail looked at him, startled.
Grant brought a hand to his chest, the fast beating of his heart easy to feel against his thin ribcage.
It was just a rabbit.
He laughed shakily, shaking his head, taking a few deep, calming breaths before resuming his search.
As soon as he had the elusive stone he swam quickly back towards his discarded clothes, wanting nothing more than to leave the forest as soon as possible. He shrugged on his robe, loving the feel of the dry fabric against his icy skin.
The small red stone caught his attention and, in that moment, his whole world coalesced into a single point.
"I did it," He whispered reverently.
Bending to pick up the stone, he held it up, inspecting the water smoothed edges as a warm, victorious arrogance grew in his heart.
"I did it!" He yelled gleefully, tossing the stone up into the air, determined to catch it with the same flare and elegance that Hadrian Carrow had caught that ruby apple.
A rumbling growl from behind him stopped his heart, the stone falling right past his limp, outstretched hand to land on the forest floor.
Grant spun around, his heart loud in his ears.
Huge glowing eyes, bright with cruel hunger seemed to smile at him in satisfaction.
He staggered back, a distressed cry falling from his mouth.
The beast followed his movements, stepping out of the bush with slow steps. Powerful, healthy muscles rippled beneath coarse grey fur as the wolf began to stalk forward.
Grant spun around, his legs tripping over each other in his haste to escape, and ran.
Oh God, he ran.
His leg muscles screamed in protest, his chest hurt from the cold, dry gulps of air he gasped in, his exhales catching on his sobs, tears obscuring his vision as he tried desperately to remember the direction of the timberline.
Without warning, a deafening howl of victory pierced the forest making Grant scream in terror even as he sobbed.
Oh God, Oh God, Oh God.
This wasn't happening!
Behind him, the wolf gave chase. Leaping over glens, breaking sturdy tree branches as if they were twigs, skirting hidden hollows with undeniable skill.
Grant pushed his legs harder; somehow managing to find speed that he never knew existed as he flew through the forest, his mind given over entirely to terror. All he knew was to run.
He could hear the loud breaths of the wolf at his back, feel the warmth of its mouth hovering as if it were really there.
He couldn't breathe!
With a cry, his bare foot caught on a protruding root, his body falling in on itself.
His wrist, caught beneath his body as he fell, snapped.
A rolling growl rumbled from directly behind him and his body started shaking. Beyond terror, beyond reason, beyond thought, all he knew was fear.
Grant cried and cried, pulling with numb fingers at the root keeping him captive.
Without warning, his injured, frozen body was driven hard into the ground as the beast leapt on him, pinning him easily beneath its weight.
Large glistening teeth sank deep into the muscle of his shoulder, driving down into the bone.
Grant screamed, loud and long.
It wasn't very late. Almost everyone was still in the common room.
"Where does he get off ordering me about?" Darla suddenly snarled, her eyes not moving from where they were glaring into the hearth's flames. "I hope he trips and breaks his neck," She said seriously.
Tom's eyes gleamed with pleasure as angry murmurs and scornful words left those surrounding him.
They'd surprised him tonight. At the very least he'd expected some trepidation to emerge once they realised exactly what he intended for Sawyer. For their consciences to pull at them when the potential consequences of this revenge became all too clear. But they hadn't blinked.
Werewolves were a very real threat, and although there was only a small chance that Sawyer would encounter one on his expedition, especially one he couldn't outrun as the wards were only three hundred meters away, it was still possible.
At least, Tom smirked up at the ceiling, if left to chance.
But every single one of his Slytherins were willing to live with the possibility of that outcome occurring. The hate and disdain that the mudblood had managed to inspire in them was such that it had ensured their hearty co-operation.
From the corner of his eye, Tom saw the exact moment that the portrait hole was pushed hastily open and their Head of House rushed in.
"Riddle?" Slughorn called urgently, squeezing through the gap without waiting for the entrance to widen fully.
Tom smothered his smirk of satisfaction and rose confidently to his feet. He'd been expecting a summons any minute now, the professors certainly didn't disappoint, did they?
Slughorn was pale in the face, dabbing his sweaty forehead with the silk handkerchief he kept in the pockets of his robe. "Tom, come. The Headmaster wants to see you." He waved his hand impatiently.
"What's this about?" Arcturus stood at his side, the feigned confusion on his face believable to almost everyone in the common room.
Horace Slughorn frowned at the pair in a manner he never would have considered had he not been bursting with nervous tension. "Never you mind, Mr Black," He snapped.
The common room stilled, all eyes suddenly becoming watchful as they realised whatever had their Head of House in such a state was not of the norm.
"Come along, Riddle." Slughorn frowned, glancing around at his silent snakes in annoyance; he ought to have known better than to act so emotionally around the most cunning students in Hogwarts, he'd only raised their curiousity.
Tom glided out of the common room without a word.
As the portrait hole shut, Slughorn hurried down the halls travelling quickly towards the Headmaster's office.
They climbed the last staircase before they reached the seventh floor in silence.
Riddle's head shot up at the surprised call of the Professor.
Sure enough, there was Carrow; a book in his lap as he lounged in a clearly conjured armchair, looking to the entire world the epitome of comfort. Picture frames were floating through the air around him, charmed buckets of hot water and polishing cans along with rags in which to apply it, cleaning the paintings until they shone.
Viridian orbs took in the pair, those eyes missing nothing.
"Well..." He let the book fall to his lap."This certainly looks interesting," Carrow commented; showing no concern for having been caught using magic in his detention.
Tom's lips tightened, and for the first time since Sawyer had walked into the forest, his mood soured. Ever since they had been boys, the way that Carrow would use powerful, advanced magic for such ridiculous purposes had always annoyed him.
"Carrow," Slughorn closed his eyes in realisation. "Go back to the common room, your detention is finished. I shall inform Professor Baird myself."
"Huh," Emerald eyes darkened, sliding towards Riddle in thought. "I see...Well, don't let me hold you up," He waved an arm in invitation for them to leave.
As soon as they reached the top of the stair and were facing the stone statue guarding the entrance, the potions master cursed softly, and Tom couldn't help rolling his eyes at the man's forgetfulness.
"The password is Oslo."
Tom glanced down into sharp emerald eyes.
He nodded his appreciation, unsurprised that Carrow knew the password to the Headmaster's office.
"Oslo," He said clearly.
"Thank-you, Hadrian. Now off you go, and no detours. Straight back to the common room, is that understood?" The portly professor muttered distractedly.
"Understood, sir." Carrow nodded.
"Good, good." Slughorn stepped onto the stairs, rising quickly out of sight. Tom was about to join him when a soft voice stopped him short.
"I hope you know what you're doing, Riddle."
Tom smirked, looking up at the door to the Headmaster's office. "I didn't know you cared, Carrow."
He stepped onto the stairs confidently, rising swiftly. He shook his head, bemused by the excitement such a small encounter with Hadrian had left him with.
The door was open and he stepped through without hesitation.
"Good Evening, Headmaster."
"...I never would have gone in if they hadn't told me I had to!"
Albus nodded along with the crying boy lying in the hospital bed, his life ruined and in tatters.
"I-I just w-w-wanted to be one o-of them!" He wailed into his hands.
"Mr Sawyer," He kept his tone calm and comforting, his heart aching for the miserable life now promised to the young man in front of him. "This is not the end of the world. I know it must feel like that, but you must have faith."
"How?!" Sawyer demanded, angry. "Werewolves are the only thing more hated than muggleborns in the Wizarding world, and now I'm both!" He yelled.
Dumbledore caught the boy's hand and squeezed it tightly. "I will try and convince the Headmaster to allow you to stay here at Hogwarts and finish your education. I will also try and convince him that informing the Ministry of your new status isn't needed, which will allow you to escape the werewolf registration, at least until you graduate."
Large brown eyes were staring up at him with growing hope, "Y-you think you can?" Sawyer whispered.
Albus let the twinkle in his eyes brighten. "I'm fairly certain," He all but promised.
And he was. It would take convincing, there was no doubt of that, but he knew that he could talk Dippet into doing as he wanted.
"But the students-!"
He held up a hand, "Have no need to know." He said firmly.
A small smile began to pull up the corner of Sawyer's mouth before it faded. "Someone will find out, they always do, and then my life will be ruined. Everyone hates werewolves; they think that they're monsters and shouldn't be allowed near people."
"I don't think that, and I'm a part of everyone. And I know more people that have no issue with werewolves," He assured the scared boy. "Do you think that?" Albus asked pointedly.
Sawyer's face fell. "…I used to," He said with a small voice.
Dumbledore nodded wisely. "Sometimes it takes experiencing the unfairness to appreciate its faults."
Sawyer perked up, nodding in agreement. "Do you really know others, sir? People that haven't any problem with werewolves?" He asked in excitement.
"I do," He smiled. "There's more tolerance out there than you think, Grant. Yes, there are those that are frightened by your transformation, but it's based on ignorance, nothing more. You should pity their lack of understanding. Your life is far from over, my boy."
Sawyer was grinning widely, his head nodding slowly as he mulled over his Transfiguration Professor's words. "Pity them..." He murmured with smile.
Dumbledore's face grew serious, "I take it the group of Slytherins I've seen you with these past two days are the people you are referring to?"
Grant nodded easily, seeing no problem giving up their names. "Yes."
"And Mr Riddle? He was also a part of this group?" Albus pressed; his thoughts worried.
For the first time, Sawyer hesitated, and then nodded slowly, "Yes."
"Thank-you, Grant." Dumbledore patted the boy's hand, rising from the hospital bed. "I will go to the Headmaster directly. I believe the nurse still has a number of tests she wishes to run on you, but then feel free to return to your common room."
"Thank-you, Professor Dumbledore!" Sawyer called out, his eyes brighter, certain now that rumours of werewolf hysteria had been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, he was different, but really, if it was only specific groups of people - who didn't even understand in the first place - that had a problem with him, he'd been worrying for no reason.
"No need, my boy."
Albus closed the door to the hospital wing with a heavy sigh.
He hoped that he'd been able to bolster the young man's spirits somewhat. His life would be hard, and if he grew to hate every person that turned their nose up at him or turned him out because of fear, he'd become bitter very soon.
Light blue eyes flashed darkly behind half-moon spectacles.
He'd known something like this would happen. Since that day he went to the orphanage and saw the cruelty and sadistic leanings of that small child, he'd known it was only a matter of time.
Tom Riddle had essentially cost Grant Sawyer his life tonight. Nothing in this world could convince him that it had happened by accident.
"Tom," Dippet sighed tiredly, gesturing towards the chair in front of his desk, his face distressed. "Do you know why I have called you here?" He asked.
Tom sent the Headmaster an unconcerned look, shaking his head, "No, sir."
Dippet sat back with a frown. "Mr Grant Sawyer was infected by a werewolf bite tonight, Mr Riddle. He says that you and your friends forced him to go into the forest, knowing that it was a full moon, to retrieve something as part of an initiation into your group."
Tom let a horrified look spread across his face and glanced up at his Head of House for confirmation, as if he couldn't quite believe the news.
"You mean he actually went in?!" He exclaimed with just the right amount of horror, shock and perplexity.
The Headmaster exchanged a look with Slughorn, clearly not knowing what to make of the situation. "So you did tell him to go into the forest, even knowing it was a full moon?" He tried to clarify.
"We didn't tell him to do anything, sir. Professor," He turned to his Potions teacher deliberately, "Do you remember breakfast a few days ago? Sawyer dropped the eggs, covering everyone in it?"
"Yes," Slughorn nodded uncomfortably.
"Sawyer's been getting on everyone's nerves lately, so we decided to play a harmless prank on him to let him know he needed to cut it out. This was never supposed to happen," He said firmly.
"But you told him to go into the forest?" Dippet frowned.
"To collect a stone," Tom said. "He could have picked up any old stone and we wouldn't have known the difference. We were planning on having him get caught out after curfew, that's all. On the off-chance he actually went in, we told him the glade to find the stone was three hundred meters from the timberline, which there is. We never expected him to be crazy enough to go in, and we never forced or threatened him into acting as he did either."
He could see the belief spreading quickly across their faces. They'd probably already come to a similar conclusion.
"Horace, you know Mr Sawyer, do you believe him capable of being so...careless?" The Headmaster picked the word carefully, clearly wishing to use a more negative description.
Slughorn nodded, "Unfortunately, yes. I believe Mr Sawyer could act so...carelessly."
Tom easily smothered his smile and added that little bit extra that would appease their consciences. "We even left him his wand. I told him exactly where I was leaving it, beside the tree, he saw me put it there. None of us ever had any intention of leaving him defenceless. It was just a prank." He shrugged helplessly.
"And look what your simple prank has wrought, Mr Riddle. You have destroyed someone's life tonight." The severe voice at his back made him tense.
"And I can't express my shock or shame enough, Professor Dumbledore. But that doesn't change the fact that I never wanted this to happen," He said stiffly.
"Albus, this is beyond tragic, no one is disputing that. Nevertheless, this awful accident and circumstance of fate is no one's fault," Dippet said with a frown.
"So it seems," Dumbledore walked into the room, coming to a stop at the side of the Headmaster's desk. Tom avoided the heavy judgmental eyes with the ease of practice. "I would like to recommend that Mr Sawyer be allowed to continue here at Hogwarts."
Tom's head snapped round.
"You can't be serious, Albus!" Dippet exclaimed. "A werewolf, studying at Hogwarts?! The parents would never accept it!" He shook his head resolutely.
Slate eyes narrowed on Dumbledore. He might hate him, but there was no denying that the wizard was annoyingly clever and cunning when he wanted to be. He had a plan.
"There is no reason for them to know," Dumbledore stated simply.
Anger started burning within him. It wasn't enough. It wasn't enough for Sawyer to suffer with the curse his whole life; he wanted him thrown from the school. He wanted him to know what the real world was, in so stark and inescapable a manner, that no matter how hard he tried to delude himself into something different, reality simply wouldn't allow it.
"You mean...hide it? Impossible! As soon as the Ministry knows, the parents will know anyway."
Tom clenched his jaw as the Deputy Headmaster put forward that there was no need to inform the Ministry yet either.
"Except the students that were a part of Mr Riddle's group tonight, who will no doubt be able to connect the dots, us, and Mr Sawyer of course, no one knows of his condition. Precautions could be put in place on the nights of the full moon, other than that the boy is a normal, human student. There would be no risk."
"No risk?!" Dippet scoffed. "I feel sorry for the boy, don't get me wrong, but we have to think of the rest of the students, Albus, and not let our hearts run away with themselves. He might only transform a few nights a month, but his temper will be shorter, his strength and other senses will be enhanced. That combination is potentially dangerous to the safety of the students!"
"I believe Mr Sawyer has the temperament and will power to control both if the need arises, Armando." Dumbledore fixed his superior with a look of reproach.
Tom had to stop his eyes from rolling; what a blatant lie. Sawyer didn't have any willpower whatsoever; he wouldn't be surprised if the idiot didn't even know that his strength would increase due to the curse.
Seeing the way Slughorn and the Headmaster were folding under Dumbledore's pressure, he spoke up quickly. "Excuse me, sir." Hard blue eyes, absent of any twinkle focused on him. "I understand that you only wish to do right by Sawyer. Yet, I don't think it would be legal or even ethical to monitor what students can and cannot say to their parents." His expression was earnest and contrite.
Dippet took the offered argument and ran. "Quite right, Tom. Albus, you might ask them to keep their silence but we have no right to force them."
"Perhaps not a legal one," Dumbledore nodded, Tom watching him cautiously. "But I don't see any person that was truly sorry for being indirectly responsible in causing such a tragedy from refusing to promise their silence. After-all, it's such a small thing," He smiled genially, as if that settled the issue.
Tom gnashed his teeth together furiously. Dumbledore had beaten him. If he spoke out now it would be like admitting to not being 'truly sorry'.
He smiled innocently at the expectant faces that turned towards him, expertly covering any irritation or anger. "Of course," He nodded with agreement.
Grant walked into the common room a little hesitantly, unsure of how he should act.
When no one paid him any extra attention, he smiled. He was no different from them. They couldn't even tell what he was!
Confidence boosted, he strutted into the room, careful not to pull on the bandage on his neck.
"Hadrian," He sneered openly at the pureblood lying sideways across an armchair, legs casually bent over one of the sides.
The memory of telling his housemates about Carrow, about how the heir had manipulated them all from the get go, the delicious moment when they'd all fallen silent with the level of their shock and sudden, absolute understanding of how things really were. He'd never forget it. And Dear God did it feel fabulous to know what he knew looking at Hadrian now.
Carrow suddenly glanced up, an odd look in his eyes.
Intense viridian orbs ran the full length of his body before, without a word, the pureblood suddenly slammed closed the large book he was reading and got up from his chair, striding towards the portrait hole.
"It's after curfew!" He called obnoxiously.
Carrow showed no sign that he'd heard him.
Pushing open the entrance, the dark heir left without one word of acknowledgment.
He knew it.
Carrow was all talk. As soon as he actually had to stand up to him without the backing of the purebloods, he ran from him. He smirked in satisfaction; they were his friends now.
As he walked across the common room towards the far end that his classmates always occupied, he thought on what Dumbledore had said. More and more, the longer he'd thought about it, he realised just how right the man was. Being a werewolf wasn't actually that bad, nothing like the horror he'd thought it was when he'd woken up in the hospital wing.
There was no reason they even had to know about his condition. He had a feeling they might be a part of that group that simply didn't understand. Walking forward, a bounce in his step, he realised it felt great to hold something over them, to silently pity them for their ignorance.
"Hi!" Grant chirped, flopping into the space beside Nott on the black leather couch.
He never noticed how all conversation immediately came to a halt; too busy luxuriating in the fact that he hadn't even had to ask for a seat, they'd saved him a spot.
"You'll never guess what just happened! Did you tell Carrow about what happened today or something? Because all I said was his name and the guy couldn't run out of here faster," He laughed.
When there were no accompanying sounds of hilarity, he finally glanced around and almost flinched.
He was being fixed with the most disgusted, cold looks he'd ever seen.
Grant frowned in confusion. "Did I miss something?" He asked weakly.
A snort of unrestrained derision escaped Stacey Moon. "You miss so many things Sawyer, I think it would be far quicker to list the things you don't miss. One, you're a guy, two, you're a pathetic one. All done," She smiled sweetly.
"What?" He scowled at her with angry confusion before looking around for any defenders. None came.
Looking up from the letter he was reading, Arcturus fixed him with a disdainful look.
"Leave," He ordered coldly.
Flabbergasted, Grant looked hesitantly behind him. The Black heir was looking straight at him but he couldn't possibly mean him. He must be talking to someone else.
But no one was there when he looked around. Everything seemed perfectly normal, the students of Slytherin house socialising with each other just as they did every other night.
He turned back around and raised a finger to his chest, "Me?" He asked with disbelief.
He watched without understanding as the Black heir suddenly gave a low laugh. "You say that with such a genuine tone of bewilderment Sawyer that I can't help but wonder what living in your self-made reality must feel like."
Self-made reality? Grant frowned deeply. What was he talking about?!
"Oh, I'm sure he's six-foot and possesses a killer smile." Came the sarcastic reply from beside him.
Grant whipped around to look at Nott, a furious look on his face. "I thought that we were past this!"
"My my, Sawyer, standing up for yourself now, are you?" Darla Black sneered at him, and Grant had to quickly turn around once again in order to face her. "All it took was a hefty dose of imagination, superficial flattery, self praise and viola! You almost have a spine."
Grant looked around, his confusion mounting by the second. These people were his friends, were they simply teasing him? Was this normal conversation between them? It seemed strange but the thought that it was anything more was so alien to him by this point that it was the only explanation his flustered mind could come up with.
"No, Darla, don't you remember?" Bevin Greengrass piped in with a mocking smile. "Sawyer is a powerful, cultured wizard that is merely misunderstood through no fault of his own. What seemed like failures were actually well designed plots that Hadrian constructed in order to boost his own image within the House."
Grant stared at his ally with shock; betrayal written clearly across his features.
He'd confided in Bevin out of trust; to hear him mock Carrow's design like it hadn't caused him years of wasted opportunities and made him a social outcast, hurt.
"Please stop," Abraxas demanded. "Even in jest, it's too soon. My ears are still bleeding from the absolute shit it was forced to hear today."
Grant looked around wildly not understanding anything anymore. It sounded like…but it couldn't, they were his friends now. So why did he feel like he was being attacked on all sides?
"Why are you all acting this way?" He finally demanded, looking instinctively towards Arcturus for answers.
The Black heir leaned back in his chair and fixed Sawyer with a penetrating gaze. "Can't you guess?" He mocked cruelly. "The thought didn't cross your mind?…No doubts? Hints? Perhaps a little voice in the back of your mind that said, 'this is too good to be true'?" Tilting his head to the side, a lock of dark hair fell across Arcturus' face, drawing attention to the slow smirk spreading across his lips. "Did you really think it was real, Sawyer?"
Grant heard the words, saw the condemning eyes that surrounded him and shook his head. "No," He said sternly. "No, that's not it. That's not it. You're lying. I don't know why," His voice trembled. "But you're lying! Why are you lying?!"
"Oh please, Sawyer!" Nott drawled, rolling his eyes at what he saw as pathetic dramatics. "What? Did you really think you could strut up to us at breakfast, invite yourself to join us and suddenly we'd forget that for the past six years you've been less than the dirt beneath our boots?"
Cold dread began seeping into his bones and his eyes darted amongst the damning disgust reflected around him.
"But Tom-?" He was grasping at straws.
Abraxas leaned forward, an eager light in his eyes. "First of all, Sawyer, it would be my advice to refer to Tom as Riddle from now on."
He had been forced to tolerate the mudblood's presence for days now without retaliating. The level of Sawyer's insanity astounded him. He'd always known that the muggleborn was a waste of space but even he hadn't realised just how repulsive his dorm-mate was.
It wasn't enough to just curse him. He wanted to tear Sawyer to psychological pieces and all he needed in order to achieve that, was the truth.
"You see, none of us," Abraxas pointed to the group widely, "could understand why Grant Sawyer would, seemingly of his own free will, act in such a way as to negatively impact on the only thing that was keeping your hide relatively safe."
"What are you talking about?" Grant frowned at the Malfoy heir.
"I always knew you were stupid, Sawyer," Moon snapped sharply. "But to purposefully move to get Carrow into trouble with the teachers while we all could overhear you? Personally, I thought that even blatant stupidity couldn't account for such a moronic move. Congratulations," She smiled without meaning, "you proved me wrong."
Grant scowled. Carrow. He'd gotten to them. He breathed out slowly. Despite his anger at Carrow once again trying to mess up his life he was relieved to finally understand where this was all coming from.
He raised his hands. "Okay, okay," He said in a placating voice. "I understand where this is all coming from now." He looked at them all with put-upon forgiveness. "Carrow obviously said something to you, but you shouldn't let him plant his doubts in your heads so easily!"
Bevin snarled at the presumptuousness. "Shut up, Sawyer!" He hissed poisonously. "No-one here wants to hear your truly ludicrous conspiracy theories."
Grant drew back, affronted. "Just listen-" He began to insist, only to be cut off by Arcturus' serious voice.
"The only reason you have escaped practically unscathed in your years within Slytherin is only because of Carrow's protection. The thing you seem to resent so much has kept you alive."
"You have no power, Sawyer. Your arguments border on the ridiculous."
"That's not true! He's gotten to you!" Worry began to once again take hold as he saw the absolute belief in all the faces surrounding his. "Wait!" He exclaimed with panic, "Whatever Carrow told you, you can't believe what he said! If you told him about what I said at the Lake this afternoon and he denied it, you can't just take his word for it! What else was he going to do? I told you earlier, he twists everything to his advantage in order to create this deception of me being in his debt-"
"Your whole…theory about Hadrian," The Black heir spun his wand in his hand skilfully, "rests on a fallacy, Sawyer. One which simply isn't true and one which you seem incapable of identifying."
Why were they so intent on always believing Carrow?!
Arcturus' eyes suddenly glanced up to pierce his own. "You believe Hadrian is looked down on within Slytherin house. You believe that because he is a pureblood and an heir to a dark family he is merely tolerated by us."
Grant swallowed as those clear, unemotional words drifted over him. Unlike all the other things he'd heard, for the first time he was hesitant. Because those words were absolutely true. More eloquently put, but essentially, yes, that is what he believed.
"Somehow, you arrived at this understanding," Arcturus stated coldly. "But that isn't the fallacy in your theory that I was talking about. The amount of holes in your thinking are too numerous to point out."
Grant gritted his teeth with aggravation, his hands clenched into fists against his knees as, without even wanting to, he found himself hanging on the pureblood's every word.
"Your biggest misunderstanding…" Arcturus looked him straight in the eye so the truth of his next words couldn't be avoided. "Was believing that Hadrian Carrow ever gave enough of a damn about you to put such a strategy into effect."
What did you think? I'd love to hear! ;D