The days went by in a blur. I didn't particularly care for any of the events that had taken place, be it class assignments or fights bursting among my peers. They all seemed rather pointless to my opinion.
Things were still pretty much on edge with Ron and Hermione, especially Hermione. She was probably more bothered by my outburst than Ron was, a fact that became known by the multiple times she sought to breach the subject with me, and most of those times hadn't had a happy ending.
The subject of Tom Riddle had become rather sensitive to me in the past few days, something that even Ron caught a whiff of.
Needless to say, Hermione didn't make any further attempts to engage me in conversation about that particular topic. Not that I had any objections.
Malfoy was making quite an effort to avoid me. At one day in particular, I caught his gaze from across the Great Hall and he just-stared- at me for a good minute or two before he decided to break eye contact, something that's just plain suspicious on its own. Malfoy never, absolutely never, tore his gaze away first; his pride didn't allow it. Simple as that.
My initials were constantly in a knot, and I was nearly out of my mind with the anxiety that was clawing away at me.
The shock was finally beginning to wear out by now, and I was entirely grateful for that. The days that followed after that revelation, I was constantly numb. Most of the times I wasn't aware of what I was doing, or what I was saying. My brain would just supply me with the response that was required and it would be out of my mouth before I knew it.
It was kind of frightening… I had become kind of frightening, at least to those that were close enough to me to notice.
Ron and Hermione's stares would always be wary, as if fearing that I would just pull out my wand and curse them to oblivion. Ginny would sneak concerned, confused glances at me whenever she thought I wasn't looking and Neville had actually come up to me one day and asked me if everything was alright.
Dean and Seamus always looked away whenever our eyes would meet after that day they found me with a blooded hand and mirror pieces spread all over around me. They had shouted, tried to bring me back to my senses but it was like my body had been on autopilot. I just kept yelling, screaming incoherent things while punching the mirror in front of me, and the one next to it, and the other one besides it, and the next, and the next.
Now that I think about it, the lavatory of our dormitory seemed like it had been struck by a tornado.
I don't really recall, but I believe I had actually snarled in Parseltongue, hissed at them to get their hands off me when they tried to restrain me. I can still remember their stricken expressions, not that I blame them of course.
They had reared back as if struck, looking at me like I was possessed or something. And in all honesty, I had been; possessed by fury and ire, and desperation, and fear. The two boys had run off then, bolting out of the room and returning seconds later with a frantic Hermione and Ron in toe. My friends had grabbed me, one arm each, while screaming for me to snap out of it. I had tried to push them away, but when their grip didn't yield, I had howled at the top of my lungs, all of my pent up emotions finally breaking free.
My memories of that day are somewhat fussy still, but I remember that when I finally escaped from whatever state I had been in I was in the hospital wing with Madam Pomfrey lecturing me about my carelessness and idiocy.
I learnt later on that Hermione and Ron had told her that the bathroom had been flooded. I didn't notice the water on the floor in time and thus, I ended up slipping forward, my hand smacking with the mirror when I flung it out lessen my fall.
I imagine that they must have been pretty shaken up themselves to purposefully lie to the medi witch.
They haven't come up to me about that incident yet, and I have no idea whatsoever what I'm gonna say when they do. How do I explain to them that I got fed up with my own reflection? How I hated the image I saw now that I knew the reason behind its similarity with Riddle's was due to that bloody piece of him inside me?
And Riddle himself wasn't making matters any easier for me! Had he ignored my message? Thinking it to be the foolish rumblings of his enemy? If he had actually replied, Malfoy would have told me already, right? Even he isn't stupid enough to ignore something as important as this.
No matter, the fact still remained; Malfoy was purposefully avoiding me. Something must have happened for sure; otherwise he would have confronted me already. Either way, I wasn't going to let this farce continue.
Catching him off guard was, in fact, far easier than I had first thought, especially when one has the aid of a perfect invisibility cloak. Already aware of the location of the Slytherin common room thanks to my little excursion with Ron back in our second year, all I had to do was wait under the Cloak till Malfoy made his appearance. Considering that students were already leaving the Great Hall long before I did, it shouldn't take long for his group to arrive.
And as if on cue, their predictability didn't disappoint me. Slytherins never wasted time in the Great Hall. They stayed for as long as necessary to fill their bellies and then were on their merry way for their House. Obviously, there were better ways to entertain themselves in the safety of their slimy dungeon.
Well… I may be exaggerating a little, seeing as their common room had been anything but slimy, despite the fact it's right under the Black Lake.
Still, the quality time they seem to have come up with merely worked in my favor. I couldn't keep the frown off my face when I realized that it was more than his two cronies tonight. Parkinson's presence didn't come as big surprise, but Nott and Zabini's certainly did. It was as if they had been actually anticipating an ambush and all the Death Eaters junior decided to stick together.
Pfft… paranoid bastards.
I moved out of the shadowy corner I had been occupying for half an hour, stepping closer to them as quietly as possible. Zabini and Nott were speaking in hushed tones among themselves, their whispers becoming lost to me once they stepped through the Hole. I didn't even hear them saying the password. Crabbe and Goyle were next, only sparing one last glance towards Malfoy before passing through.
Brilliant. Only one more to go. Now, if only I could figure out how to dislodge Parkinson from Malfoy's arm without her noticing, all would be perfect.
Seriously, I would have snorted if I could.
I ghosted my hands over her shoulder, giving it the lightest of taps in the hopes of catching her attention, but she didn't even bat an eye. I could feel my teeth grinding together as my opportunity seemed to slip right out of my hands. Here I was, with Malfoy within arm's reach, and I couldn't get the information I needed out of him. Simply put; it was absolutely maddening.
…And something that I wouldn't allow.
Sighing in resignation at the only choice that I was left, I wiped out my wand and before none of them could react, I cast the Stunning Curse. Good thing that the Ministry hadn't qualified that spell into the Dark category, because I doubt that Hogwarts wouldn't have notified the Headmaster. As luck would have it, Parkinson let out a particularly loud screech from the slight sting of the curse, before dropping in an ungraceful heap on the dungeon floor.
As expected, Malfoy spun around in the blink of an eye, wand out and grey eyes jerking in every possible direction in an attempt to spot the perpetrator. He had adequate reflexes, I would give him that.
"Perhaps it's meaningless to say this now," Malfoy's entire body seemed to stiffen as my voice carried over to him, eyes flickering wildly all around, "but we really need to talk."
"Where are you?" he grumbled, not even bothering to raise his voice in the stillness of the dungeons where all noise was intensified tenfold.
I chuckled humorlessly. With one quick motion I sent a stinging jinx straight into his back, figuring that it'd be satisfactory enough. Malfoy yelled, swearing as he whirled around and promptly favoring me with one of his infamous glares the moment his gaze caught mine.
"That," I said while tucking away my Cloak, "was for ignoring me on purpose for the last couple of days."
He pulled out his own wand, taking the proper defensive stance we had been taught while in the middle of a duel. I noticed that his posture was far more relaxed, his movements deliberately slow. I guess that being the sole heir to an ancient line of purebloods was equated with perfectionism. Or I could simply dismiss that as him being his usual stuck up, snobbish self and wanted to look down on me from his much too high post.
"What exactly is this?" he spat irritably, "Can't stand it when people are giving you the silent treatment?"
He could be so fucking amusing sometimes. "Normally, I'd thank the heavens for such small mercies, but you have something I want." One platinum eyebrow arched upwards, eliciting a narrowed stare from me as I elaborated. "An answer."
His shoulders stiffened in an instant, proving that my suspicions had been correct all along. "Talk." I gritted out.
Silence reigned over for the first couple of minutes, my patience diminishing little by little. He kept glancing at me, briefly and intensely, before letting his gaze turn downcast and away from my gradually narrowing eyes.
"Malfoy!" I hissed lowly, impatiently.
He spared me a baleful glare, which I didn't hesitate to return vehemently. He grunted shortly after, eyes rolling to the ceiling exasperatedly before he reached within the folds of his robes. I could feel my eyes trailing the movement almost obsessively. This was it, right?
He hesitated for a second, causing me to take a step forward, ready to tackle him to the ground if necessary and take by force whatever it was he was hiding from me.
His eyelids fell to half-mast, seemingly in resignation. Heaving a sigh, he withdrew his arm, flicking something at me. I flung my hand out in front of my face, encaging it with my fingers. It was small and light, and my curiosity spiked suddenly. I brought my hand close for inspection, unclasping my fingers tentatively.
All I could do was blink. Was this supposed to be some kind of joke?
"What the hell is this?" I ground out, showing the white chess piece in my hand.
Malfoy shrugged his shoulders, his posture clearly uneasy, but it did nothing to deflate my temper.
"He just told me to pass this to you."
Damn, I don't think I've ever felt so humiliated. No, wait. There was this time in my second year that Ginny had made that poem for Valentine's Day and had it sang to me by that blasted, angel-clad creature in front of the entire Great Hall. Back then I had felt ready to die from mortification. What had made her do something so foolish is beyond me.
But this was worst. The Dark Lord himself was clearly mocking me with this.
Well, screw him!
I felt the piece digging painfully into the flesh of my palm from the way I was gripping it, but I could care less. I spun around, intent to find some solitude and desperately needing something to punch, something that wouldn't protest, preferably. A wall perhaps?
"Potter!" Malfoy called out, bringing me to an abrupt halt.
"What?!" I snapped back, with more viciousness than the blond deserved. He was, after all, only the messenger.
"One more thing. He said to speak, and it'll answer."
At my incredulous stare, Malfoy lifted a hand to scratch at his chin, expression thoughtful. "Yeah, I've no clue either. I tried a couple of times, just some random words in case it triggered an incantation, but…" he trailed off, and I got the gist of what he was trying to say.
Exhaling deeply through the nose, I nodded once.
He returned the gesture tensely and crouched down, readying to lift the Stunning Curse from Parkinson. It was my cue to leave, unvoiced but present all the same.
It's not like he needed any thanks.
Actually, by all standards, I shouldn't even have asked him of this. The Boy-Who-Lived, requesting a message to be delivered to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?
The world was seriously coming to ruins, wasn't it?
My legs were beginning to cramp from the pacing I had been doing for the past hour or so. It'd be dinner time soon, and thankfully the rest of my dorm mates had gathered in the common room, leaving the dormitory all to myself.
I glanced at the chess piece in my hand for what felt like the millionth time in just fifteen minutes.
Like Malfoy, I had tried any random word that came to mind, and when the random ones didn't seem to do the trick, I attempted being more specific.
None of them had been of much help. I was at my wit's end here. What the heck was he expecting from me?
Speak and it'll answer. Ha! How enlightening!
My next step paused in midair.
He wouldn't have…- No, it was impossible. There wasn't a spell like this, right?
Then again, that sink in Myrtle's bathroom would only open if ordered in the serpent tongue. And if a sink had been enchanted to react solely on Parseltongue…why not a plain piece of chess?
I twirled the white piece in my fingers, now looking at it in a new light. Should I?
For precaution's sake, I cast a Muffling Spell on the door, just like Hermione had done, and made sure to lock it as well.
Looking down at the piece in my hand, I couldn't find what was so special about it that Voldemort would feel the need to send it to me. Did it have something to do with what I asked Malfoy to tell him?
I brought it closer to my lips, unsure whether the distance mattered on not, and feeling ultimately stupid by the action.
If only Skeeter could see me now; Harry Potter, conspiring with a chess piece. Oh, the Prophet would have had a field day.
As if a switch had been flipped, the reaction to those two, simple words was instantaneous.
I choked back a gasp as I dropped it from my hand. The piece rolled on the ground, going in tiny little circles around itself for a good few seconds or so. By each twiddle that it performed, the blacker it was becoming, more and more of its white surface darkening further.
It came to a stop at my foot. It was like it had been dropped into an inkwell, the pitch black color it was now sporting nearly glistening under the light of the dormitory.
I bent down, watching it warily before reaching out and lifting it off the floor.
I frowned, turning it about in my hand and I could swear that my heart literally skipped a beat. On its other side, from top to bottom, was scrawled a single word in white, contracting violently with the rest of the blackness.
This was… W-what the hell was this?
Only then did I realize that the piece I had been holding, and pondering on its meaning all this time, was the Queen.
A White Queen, ordered in the language of serpents to reveal her true colors, and it transformed into a Black Queen, betraying her King for the leader of their enemies.
I laughed, I couldn't help it. I laughed long and hard, sinking down on my knees and grasping my aching sides. Honestly, if anyone were to hear me, they'd surely claim I had gone insane from the sound of my laughter, which steered way too close to cackles even to my own ears.
The metaphor Voldemort had used was so fucking accurate that it was bordering on ridiculous.
Yes, I suppose that if were represented on a chess board, those would surely be the roles we'd be adopting.
Albus Dumbledore; the defender of the weak, the innocent and the good. A White King, determined and brave.
Tom Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort; the esteemed leader of all that is dark, merciless to his enemies. A Black King, unyielding and powerful.
Harry Potter; the beacon of light and symbol of hope. Selflessly protecting his people, and aiding his leader, the second more powerful of the Light Side after the King; a White Queen, brought out to fight the battles of the White King.
But the White King had made a mistake, a fatal one at that.
He wanted to use his most powerful minion to weaken the Black King, deeming the sacrifice of his devoted follower unimportant if it'd provide him with victory.
And by doing so, he converted the White Queen for good.
"Damn it," I muttered under my breath, not sure why I even bother with whispering.
And the worst irony of all?
If Dumbledore had discussed this with me, informed me about the gravity of the situation and of the role that I was going to play in this war, I would have probably opted to be the sacrificial lamb on my own. If it meant the safety of my friends and all the people I loved, I wouldn't have hesitated to do it.
But he did none of those!
He didn't give me the liberty of choice at all. The right to decide for my own life wasn't even in my hands! All this time…all this time he had been raising me, guiding me with his advice and words of wisdom, caring for me like a parental figure, and for what? So that when the time was ripe, he'd have in his hands the perfect sacrifice. Someone that'd willingly give his life; the perfect martyr!
Who the hell gave him the right to decide for me?! Who gave him the right to play God?!
Voldemort, on the other hand, wasn't stupid. Far from it actually.
I stared down at the Black Queen, seeing it for what it really was. Voldemort at least had given me an alternative. Remain his foe, or join forces with him. That's what the chess piece represented; the choice I had in this matter.
A choice that Dumbledore never felt compelled to grant me with.
I abandoned my crouched position and lied down fully, bringing an arm up to eye level, the words that been created by Voldemort's hand staring back at me.
Well, who said that I still couldn't protect my friends from the other side of the chess board? I could feel my lips stretching out, pulling and pulling until an ear-splitting grin was covering my face.
Yes, there's more. I decided to leave it here because it'd become too long.
So, yep, one more chapter to go!