Pairings: FemHP/TMR, LP/JP, SB/OC, RL/NT
Disclaimer: I own no rights to the Harry Potter franchise and seek to make no profits from the distribution of this fictional work.
A/N: Thank you all for your continued wishes of support and for the many reviews, favorites and follows that this story has received. I've got a small announcement that will be at the bottom of the chapter in my closing notes but for now read and enjoy!
Caution: The end of this chapter is rather gruesome, there is a reason this story is rated M.
Behind the Veil
Hogwarts, Unplottable Location, Scotland
The first week of class at Hogwarts passed by in a flurry of activity, for many of the Third Year students it had served as a gut check as various professors lectured on the importance of study as they approached the Ordinary Wizarding Level exams. The students suddenly found themselves swamped with homework that demanded more from them than ever before, answers straight from the book weren't good enough anymore as they were asked to apply theories and concepts beyond the lessons.
Not to mention one particularly zealous Gryffindor Quidditch Captain who had taken it upon himself to make the lives of his team nearly unbearable with his dreams of claiming the school's Quidditch Cup in his final year. Of course the fact that he had made it into some of the professional training camps over the summer (as a participant and not a gate crasher) hadn't done anything to quell his fervor for the sport; in fact it had done just the opposite.
He had used his experiences to devise a training schedule unlike anything Iris had ever seen before, which was saying something considering this was the second time she had shared a team with the fanatic. After having their season prematurely cut off last year he was determined that they would begin the new season with nothing less than their best effort, so he had every one of his players up and on the pitch at the crack of dawn running laps and performing calisthenics for an hour before they even got into the air in an effort to see them faster and better than ever before.
But it wasn't the extra homework or the pre-dawn exercises that were stressing Iris out; she had already lived through the homework once and while she found the assignments were tedious they weren't difficult nor were the sheer joys of flying diminished just because she was sweaty before she soared through the air.
Instead it had been the tension and animosity that had sprung up overnight following the first day of class. She should have expected it really; the previous year had been fraught with suspicion where no one knew who to trust, a single summer away from the castle would not undue all the damage that had spiraled out from Grindelwald's horcrux.
As it stood there was an astonishing amount of hostility between Slytherin and Gryffindor, not that it was particularly uncommon for the two houses to be less than cordial to one another but the level of violence that had sprung up was more akin to a late year Quidditch game with both Cups on the line.
And it wasn't particularly hard to identify the source of the sudden tension in the school either.
Life-debts were serious business in the magical world; they had been the tangible links that had bonded families together over generations, forging alliances that had shaped and molded history. Likewise, the balance of a life had proven to be the undoing of Houses Ancient and Noble; much blood had been spilt over the centuries in the name of power.
For many Purebloods the control and power that a life-debt holds is enough for them to respect them but for those who held to the Old Ways, there was no bond more sacred. It was the Goddess herself recognizing the deeds of her Children, for someone in a life-debt could not willingly or knowingly allow grievous harm or death to befall their benefactor without their own life being forfeit until such a time as the debt was repaid.
So when Neville struck Blaise after having been saved he had broken tenets long revered by many ancient families but even for those who did not follow the Customs and Laws of the Children it was unseemly for someone to attack a person that had just saved their life.
However the tension was only exacerbated by what was happening beyond the walls of Hogwarts, months had passed since the Death Eaters had escaped from Azkaban and the Ministry had made no gains in locating or capturing the fugitives so the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had been ordered to raid wizarding homes in an effort to find them.
Frank Longbottom as the Head of the department had been singled out by the press as the man responsible for the raids and his competence and ability had been lambasted over the week. A few articles had appeared that had detailed how the DMLE was operating on a budget that shrank every year with an understaffed Auror office that was overworked to show the Daily Prophet was 'unbiased' in its reporting but the truth had been mostly buried in the minutia.
Between the two incidents the scion of House Longbottom had found himself the target of a small but very vocal group of students, mostly Slytherins who had been conspicuously present whenever the child celebrity had an 'accident.' It had been ignored at first but after Neville had returned from the Hospital Wing after having his arm broken when he 'tripped' down the stairs on his way to dinner one night the Gryffindors had tightened ranks around the boy. The situation had escalated to the point that the boy was escorted to and from class by now less than four Seventh Year and the barren, unused corridors of the castle had seen new life as fights broke out between the older students.
Iris had found the entire situation particularly frustrating as all over the place imaginary lines had been drawn; half her friends were suddenly no longer welcome at Gryffindor table, not even her position as the team Seeker would get them to budge on letting anyone with a green lined robe sitting on their benches.
So denied her friends' company at meal time she had done the next best thing, she had tried to join them amidst the towers of books in the library only to find that their favorite table was occupied by Slytherins, not just her friends but older students that had looked at the lion on the breast of her robe and pulled their wands. It had only been at the insistence of Blaise and Draco that the older students had provided them the clemency to depart without having been hexed.
The greater insult had been when she had gone to their tree, the ancient willow that stood on the bank of the Black Lake with its view of the castle rising out of the waters; it was her haven at Hogwarts, an island of tranquility in what had always been a tempestuous life. This was a place she had shared with her closest friends and now the dark boughs were occupied by smirking faces that looked down at her with an almost vindictive glee for having stripped her of the bastion.
Blaise had sat amongst them in the bows with Draco, the golden eyed boy had looked down at her with a look of grave sadness when he read the hurt and betrayal in her eyes but he had made no effort to climb down to greet the Gryffindors despite his best mate's furious gaze.
Daphne had taken the seat that had been formed amidst the roots of the tree that allowed her to hover above the calm surface of the loch; it was a rather tricky spot to get to and it provided some measure of solace that it was a friend in that spot rather than one of the others. It had been her pointed gaze that drew Iris's own to the damp robes that had been left in the sun to dry that hinted that some had tried and had failed, whether by themselves or been helped into the frigid lakes was anyone's guess, unless you could see the smirk that turned the lips of the pretty blonde girl.
By week's end it had taken a considerably effort on Iris's part to not lose her temper, the viscous beast that she had inherited from her mother, and unleash a storm of hexes upon the heads of certain students.
Partly, it had been because she didn't want to deepen the rift that had sprung up deeper than ever between the feuding Houses though she had given quite the tongue lashing to a few of her own Housemates for their actions, a few of the prefects had even had the decency to look ashamed for it too but Longbottom had been the last straw.
"Don't take it out on us, Potter, that you boyfriend has decided to show his true colors! He attacked me, remember? They started all of this, we're just defending ourselves!" Neville had waited until the Third Year had finished dressing down the most active Gryffindors in his 'protection' detail and the Common Room was focused on her before he made his little comment.
The gathered lions had watched with bated breath as Iris turned slowly to face the boy, the week of early morning runs had left her skin sun kissed and her vivid green eyes seemed nearly luminescent now that they reflected the light from the fireplace; with her wild black hair cascading in gentle waves, soft ringlets, and hard lines she captured a striking beauty that would only grow more pronounced in a few short years.
"Firstly Longbottom, dissuade yourself of the notion that Blaise is anything more than a close friend of mine; one who your petty rivalry with has prevented me with even speaking to! I'm sure that even someone like you who has the emotional depth of a teacup can appreciate what it would be like if someone else's row meant that you couldn't even speak to Ronald!" Iris began cuttingly as she advanced on the poor boy who had suddenly realized his grave error in attempting to have it out with the girl.
"Secondly, he saved your life! Even if your family no longer practices the traditions of our ancestors, the very least you could do is respect them! You threw the first punch! It would have been in his power then to declare blood feud upon your House as the last heirs of your families and then just as easily strip you of your magic!" Iris ended the last part in a whisper that still managed to find itself in the ear of every student in the Common Room.
"And lastly, what are you defending yourselves against? The last time I checked, this whole bloody mess started because you were getting pranked. And what was the first thing you did when everyone was picking on poor little Neville? You came crawling to the House to protect you! Did you even bother to show a bit of spine and try to handle it yourself? You couldn't last a week! Some Gryffindor you are!" Iris's words were cutting, she knew the moment the words left her mouth how hurtful they were but she also knew they had to be said.
Neville had grown up in the limelight for a deed he had not even done, his mother's sacrifice and love had been the cause of his survival but all the attention had gone to his head; he was just as bigoted and egocentric as Draco had been in Harry's time and she owed it to the sweet and caring Neville who had stood up to Death Eaters from that time to make this one a better person. Even if she had to be hurtful to make him see reason.
Silence hung heavy in the Gryffindor Common Room as Neville stood with a gob smacked look on his face as he looked on in shock at having someone so brusquely smack him down, his face contorted into a look of outrage as he opened his mouth to retort but one look at those glittering green eyes and the words died in his throat unuttered.
He had been about to say that she didn't know what it was like to have the animosity of the school directed towards her but that was a lie, practically everyone had thought she was behind the attacks last year and had been made into the pariah because of it. She had been twelve when it happened and she hadn't backed down, hadn't gotten looking to a teacher for help or begged the protection of the House. She had stood and taken it all and then she had gone into the bowels of the school and saved him from a decidedly wicked fate.
But he was the Boy-Who-Lived, the people of Britain owed him for putting an end to the Blood War that had risen up at the emergence of Voldemort and his master Grindelwald; no one should look at him without respect, he had earned it!
But if that was the case, why did the Dementors invoke his mother's plea that he be spared in exchange for his life? Why did he see the flash of green light that so looked like Iris's eyes at that moment in all her anger?
Shutting his mouth and looking around, Neville saw some of the older students and many of the younger students nodding their heads in agreement with Iris's words; they were looking at her with respect not because she was entitled to it but because she had earned it.
When was the last time he had earned anything? He couldn't rightly say.
And with that realization, Neville turned on his heel and with as much dignity as he could muster; he climbed up the steps towards the Boy's Dormitories in full view of the House and slipped into the room he shared with his friends. As the door shut behind him he didn't notice the quiet discussions that had blossomed in the wake of his departure as he flopped down on his bed.
He had been lying back on his bed for a few minutes before the door opened and the heavy footsteps of his best mate sounded out as he closed the door behind him and crossed over to his own four poster bed beside Neville's. The mousey brown hair boy heard the squeaks of Ron's mattress as the taller boy sat down at the edge, offering his friend an ear in the way that teenaged boys do; with a grunt.
It took Neville a few moments to work up the courage but eventually he sat up and looked at the ginger-haired boy sitting across from him; with a weary sigh he rubbed his hands over his face before speaking, "She's right isn't she? I've been a right git haven't I?"
Ron shuffled his feet nervously, he knew better than anyone that Neville had a short fuse and could go off at the drop of a hat but he also knew that his friend needed to hear the truth, "A bit mate to be honest, she made a good point. A few actually."
Neville looked at his friend with a glare but it had no real weight behind it, "I suppose I deserved that but it's hard!" The brunette whined, "My whole life I've been told that I'm the Boy-Who-Lived, Vanquisher of Grindelwald, the next Albus Dumbledore, destined for great things!"
"Nev, I'm not saying it's the same or anything but my whole life I've been compared to my brothers; Charlie's the next in line to take over the biggest dragon preserve in Europe. Bill's made a name for himself as a hell of a curse breaker for Gringotts and Percy's Head Boy this year. Even as loathe as mum is to admit, she's even proud of the twins, she wishes they took their schooling more seriously but she's pleased they've got a passion and they're good at it; she always got this little smile on her face whenever Professor Flitwick sent a letter home about one of the pranks they pulled.
"Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I know what it's like to have so many expectations on you, all the time and that no matter what you do; someone's always going to be measuring you to see if it's good enough." Ron took a steadying breath after having rushed through all of that, he had never said it of course but he knew that his mother had high hopes for her youngest boy and it had weighed heavily on him.
Neville for his part looked a bit shocked at his friend's sudden outpouring, he had never really appreciated what kind of pressure his friend was under and of course he hadn't made it any easier lording over him with all of his celebrity and whatnot. He had been a lousy mate to the boy that had befriended him in that compartment on the train to Hogwarts.
"No, you're right Ron; I've been nothing but an arrogant and selfish prat, letting my big head get in the way of everything. I took everything around me for granted, even my friends. I never thanked you for what you did our first year, helping to get us through those protections around the Stone and then dealing with all of my foolishness last year. I owe you an apology Ron Weasley and a debt I can never repay." Neville said solemnly as he held out his hand to the other boy.
Ron was taken aback at the sudden display from Neville and his ears turned red in embarrassment as he shook his head, "You don't owe me anything Nev, it's what any friend woulda done!"
"Exactly Ron and any friend worth having would have appreciated that face far sooner than I did!" The brown haired boy said meaningfully as he left his hand hanging in the air between them.
Ron took a moment to process those words before he took up the hand and the boys shared a firm handshake, the weight and symbolism left unspoken between them but both knowing full well that things had changed.
As they got ready for bed, Neville looked over at Ron and caught the boy's eyes in a strong gaze; "If I start letting all of the fame get to my head and start acting like a…"
"Dunderhead" Ron supplied with a light grin.
Neville laughed and nodded, "A dunderhead then, set me straight would you?"
"Oh, you can trust me on that, wouldn't want Iris to have another go at you. I hate to have to find a new best mate 'cause she picked you apart." Ron agreed as they finished changing into their pajamas and climbed under the comforters of their beds and bid each other good night.
By the second Tuesday of the term things had settled somewhat among the Houses, tensions were still high but the Gryffindors had ceased their attempts to antagonize the Slytherins and were now solidly sticking to just watching the backs of the younger students as well as Longbottom.
The sudden change had not gone unnoticed by the teachers, especially Minerva McGonagall; it was her job after all to watch out for her lion cubs and to know the inner workings of her House. So it didn't take long for her to hear about the elder Potter sister taking the House firmly to task for their behavior and the dressing down that she had laid upon young Mister Longbottom.
Many of the staff were wondering how long the cease fire would last before the hostilities picked up again, even the Transfigurations Mistress had her reservations on how long Miss Potter's words would echo in the minds of her fellow lions before something new stirred up the hornet's nest. If her prediction held true then it would be the announcement of this Junior Dueling Club that Albus had Filius putting together, once word got out that there would be a school sanctioned club with teacher supervision that encouraged students to bloody one another; the whole school would descend into pandemonium.
Not that there weren't already whispers and hints, after all it had only been just that afternoon that a teacher had been pulled out of their own class by the new Counselor that Albus had provided. And of course it had been Professor Riddle, who admittedly wasn't the warmest man to be around but he was certainly a fair bit more polite and civil than the acerbic Potions instructor.
It had taken very little prompting from her to get Lavender Brown to divulge the events of her afternoon class in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
By her account things were going as usual, Professor Riddle was sitting at his desk in the corner of the room marking papers while Professor Lupin began explaining that they would start their first lesson of the year by studying boggarts.
From Miss Brown's descriptions it sounded to Minerva that the two men had struck up an easy working relation, Remus would handle the theory while Riddle worked through his paperwork and they shared the floor during practical lessons.
In any case, Lupin had been just about to begin his lecture when Counselor Sinclair entered the classroom. For all her lack of academic drive, Miss Brown was a rather observant girl (she would to see about getting the girl to pay her classwork the same diligence she did fashion) because she was able to describe the Counselor's perfectly coiffed blonde hair, the powder blue robes she was wearing over a white winter dress and her matching heeled boots.
Artemis had greeted the class warmly and apologized for the interruption before she had cut through the classroom and approached the professors, whatever words had been shared had been behind a privacy ward that had kept the students from hearing (of course by Miss Brown's account, there hadn't been any need since the students would never have attempted to eavesdrop).
The discussion had only taken a few moments but the reaction had been startling, few of the students had ever been on the receiving end of Professor Riddle's ire, normally he only handed out detention to students who failed their exams or had carelessly cast a spell that had injured or nearly injured a classmate.
Except for Iris of course, he handed her detentions like they were candy which was odd since the girl was at the top of her class and there wasn't anything in her file about the girl having been disciplined by Riddle. In fact, by Minerva's accounting the majority of the points the girl earn for her House were directly attributable to Riddle's class and Potter had never complained to her about being unfairly singled out by the Defense instructor. It was all very curious.
Regardless, all of the students had seen Riddle just about lose it with the counselor and even Lupin had seemed shocked at what was going on because as soon as the privacy ward had come down, Artemis had turned to address the class again.
"As all of you are aware, Professor Lupin has recently received his Mastery in Defense Against the Dark Arts with a specialization in Dark Creatures. This has proven quite beneficial for you as the Third Year curriculum deals extensively with the handling of such creatures, as such Headmaster Dumbledore and myself feel it prudent that Professor Lupin should take over this class.
"That is to say he will act as the primary instructor for all Third Year classes so any assignments, detentions, or marks that he dictates should be seen as final unless you wish to appeal them with myself or the Headmaster." Sinclair had announced, essentially telling the class that Professor Riddle was being cut out of his own classroom.
The Counselor had then pointedly looked at the Deputy Headmaster and waited for the man to file out of the classroom before she followed him, though she had stopped to whisper something to Iris that had made the girl stiffen and then follow the blonde woman's exit with narrowed eyes.
That too Lavender hadn't managed to hear and her questions had only gotten Iris to say that the Counselor wanted to see her about something. Minerva of course knew that the Artemis was conducting interviews with all of the students that had been affected by the attacks the previous year and between Liatris Potter's attack and Iris's own misadventure in rescuing Neville Longbottom; the girl was definitely on that woman's list.
Still, the situation with the Deputy Headmaster didn't sit well with the Transfigurations Mistress; she was quite fond of Remus, how could she not be when he had been one of her own cubs. He had grown into a good and fair man who had stood by his friends during a terrible conflict and then helped to raise their children as if they were his own.
But he was new to teaching in a classroom environment and despite his qualifications there was no guarantee that he would fare well under the pressure, Severus proved that a Mastery was not enough to make a good educator. Minerva could only wonder if thrusting so much responsibility at Remus so quickly was the appropriate action despite the faith she had in the werewolf.
She had never been one to oppose the Headmaster; he had ample wisdom and experience as a teacher, a fact she knew first hand as he had been her instructor in his youth. His instruction and guidance had been invaluable and his dedication to the Light and the good of humanity were unquestionable, he had after all defeated Grindelwald and ended years of bloody conflict in the Great War before he had taken up the mantle of defending the Magical World again against Voldemort and his master.
However, she worried that her mentor had taken too much upon himself, the Headmaster position alone was difficult enough to manage even with a Deputy but Albus was also balancing the challenges of being the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards.
McGonagall pulled herself away from her thoughts with a heavy sigh as she looked out at the courtyard that her private office looked out over. There she could see the students sitting outside, enjoying the remnants of warm weather before winter rolled in and claimed the Scottish highlands that held the castle. The stern old witch turned her attention back to the parchment that was resting on her desk that had led her thoughts down their meandering path.
"I hope you know what you're doing Lily," Minerva muttered softly as she looked down at the elegant scrawl of one of her favorite students before she took up a quill and began to pen her reply, "I've a terrible feeling about all this."
Thursday arrived with all the pomp and ceremony that it deserved which, for those who would be spending the morning hours in the bowels of the castle in the cold and damp confines of the dungeons with their Potions Master, was none at all.
Iris trudged along the stone corridors with a certain amount of resignation, after the events in the Vault she had found that the dank passageways filled her with trepidation. She felt the palms of her hand moisten with sweat as she felt the ghost of fathomless dark blue eyes staring at her from the shadows. With a hard line to her mouth, the young witch clutched at the strap of her bag that was slung across her chest and violently shoved the memories back into the shadowy recesses of her mind; it was enough that she replayed the events at night without having to see them during her waking hours as well.
Turning one final corner the potions laboratory came into view and with it a congregation of Third Year students that were staring fiercely at one another. An undeclared line bisected the corridor such that the Gryffindors were on the right side of the undoubtedly locked door to the classroom while the Slytherins were on the left.
It was easy to see who was leading in the staring contest, Neville was standing defiantly with his arms crossed and glaring at Theodore Nott who was matching the intensity of the other boy's stare with a smirk twisting his handsome features.
Nott was possessed of a squared face but it suited his strong jawline and the delicate nose and cheekbones that gave him a certain roguish quality. His thick dark hair had shades of browns and reds that offset his hazel eyes and tanned complexion. His height and broad chest added to his dashing good looks and thus it was no surprise that the fourteen year old was talked about heavily in certain circles.
Unfortunately the boy was as bigoted as they came, spouting his pureblood supremacy to anyone that he considered inferior, and he had a mean streak a mile wide.
From the tension hanging in the air it was all too apparent that the boys had been having some kind of argument, rather surprising since she hadn't caught a word of it echoing through the dungeons. She discovered why a moment later as she approached and ended up walking through the edges of a silencing ward, an uncomfortable pressure settled in her ears for a moment as she crossed the barriers of the spell and gave an involuntary shudder of discomfort.
It was the downside of her magical sensitivity, even when she wasn't actively tuned into the world of colors and music that her Magesense gave her she could feel magic; some were quite pleasant but others were considerably less so. She was hoping that at some point she'd be able to sense wards before she got within inches of them so she could avoid moments like these.
Hermione raised an eyebrow questioningly and Iris muttered something about privacy wards and inconsiderate gits that made the bushy haired brunette smile behind her hand as they drew closer to the standoff.
"Well c'mon Longbottom, let's see it! We've all heard it before, trained by Hagen Metzger was it? Surely you wouldn't be opposed to putting on a bit of an exhibition for us; we're all dying to see if you can actually handle a wand!" Theodore was smirking quite nastily now as he looked at the Longbottom heir with unhidden contempt.
It didn't take an alchemist to put the scene together, Nott was baiting Neville into drawing his wand and casting a spell whether because he wanted a chance to humiliate the boy personally or because he was hoping that Snape would emerge from his classroom and catch him in the act was debatable but neither outcome was good.
He must have been doing a fairly decent job of it too considering that Ron was being restrained by both Dean and Seamus to prevent him from launching himself at the boy. The young ginger was practically frothing at the mouth to have a chance to swing on the Pureblooded git, and he would swing on him too; Ronald when sufficiently incensed always moved to physical violence rather than draw his wand.
On the other hand, Neville was surprisingly calm as he just stood there and allowed his death glare to bore into his adversary. Oh, he wanted to draw his wand of course, his wand hand twitched as though it desperately wanted to be holding the shaft of wood that would allow him to wipe the smirk off of Nott's face but he was displaying an amazing amount of self-control in restraining himself.
Iris had to admit that she was mildly impressed considering that she, or rather Harry, had participated in a fair number of hallways duels with an equally if not more bigoted arse than Nott was. Then again many of them had been spurred by defending the honor of the Muggleborn witch standing beside her so without that incentive maybe it was easier for Neville to resist the temptation.
"Well this can't possibly end well." Hermione muttered crossly as she watched the two boys gauging each other before she evaluated everyone else in the hallway, her mind putting together the scene that would unfold.
Once Ron got free of his minders he would charge at the Slytherin and immediately take a spell to the face and that would prompt Neville to draw his wand, as soon as that happened Seamus and Dean would back him up and all havoc would break loose as it devolved into a fight between Houses.
The brunette said as much and Iris quietly concurred, "Guess we'd better do something about it then shouldn't we?" the raven haired witch put forward as she flashed her friend a smile that was more teeth than anything else before striding purposefully into the middle of the fracas.
Hermione released an exasperated sigh and shook her head in disbelief, grumbling angrily to herself about having friends that were more brass than brains. Iris snorted at that considering that her rankings were among the top five in their year, then again she did have an unfair advantage over the others.
The pair drew the eyes of just about everyone in the corridor as they stepped into the middle of the brewing altercation, Iris knocking firmly at the laboratory door as they did so. For Hermione, it was a decidedly uncomfortable experience to have all that attention focused on her and she couldn't help the blush that rose into her cheeks as well as the twinge of jealousy she had as Iris stood there nonchalantly seemingly oblivious to the situation.
"Ah, why if it isn't Potter and her pet mudblood! I was wondering when you'd show up to save Longbottom," Nott drawled as he looked at the newcomers appraisingly ignoring the sudden stiffening in the girls' posture as his gaze flitting between them and the Boy-Who-Lived while he considered how he could work their presence to his advantage.
"Y'know we're all quite curious about what happened last year Potter, the way you managed to track down Longbottom after the Halloween feast; it almost seemed like you've got a sixth sense for him. Then all that business with the attacks, why is it that when the fat lump disappeared you were the only one who managed to track him down?"
Iris didn't need to look around to see that Nott's words were having a tremendous impact on the students as she could feel their gazes settling on her, even Neville and Hermione were looking at her with a quiet intensity as the fell victim to the boy's ploy. Bugger, he played this game much better than Draco had in her other life.
"I don't see why it's any concern of yours Nott but if you must know it's because I have an exceptionally strong sensitivity to magic." To emphasis her answer, Iris reached out to her magical core; that deep well of energy that resided within her and hovered at the edges of her awareness.
Dipping a metaphysical finger into the ether she could feel a slow expansion of her senses; colors were suddenly more vivid, sight was brought into stark relief, she could hear the breaths of everyone around her, she could smell the vanilla shampoo that Hermone used and the starch in Theodore's collar as well as the way that the cool air flowed around her.
And over this hyperawareness was magic, she could feel it running through her and pulsing through the walls of the castle; she could feel the pounding of the cornerstone in the depths of the dungeons that would take her to Vault like a pulse as well as the static hum in the distance that were the wards that protected the castle.
"For instance, I can tell you that it was Parkinson that cast the privacy ward over this hallway so your dispute wasn't overheard. I can also tell that used a Breath Freshening Charm this morning instead of brushing your teeth Nott." Iris enjoyed the look of surprise in the boy's face that gave him away before it disappeared behind an angry glower, still it was long enough that people had seen it and there was tittering laughter at his expense.
Letting go off her Magesense was difficult, there was very tangible sense of loss as her senses returned to those of mere mortals but she bit back on the sigh that threatened to escape her as Nott glanced over her head at Neville.
"A neat parlor trick Potter but what's all this about your heroics then? Did you really come face to face with this 'Judge' just to save Longbottom's arse?" Nott's haughty glare said it all really, he didn't believe for a moment that she had done anything of the sort.
Truthfully, if their positions were reversed she would probably have felt the same way but she had the nightmares to prove that she had not only come face to face with the remains of Helga Hufflepuff but also Dementors, a basilisk, mountain trolls and two different Dark Lords as well as their followers. All in all, she didn't rightly care if he believed her or not, she had nothing to prove to the spoilt Death Eater spawn.
"Frankly Nott, I don't see any reason to indulge you any further. Why don't you run along and polish your wand before I embarrass you again?" Iris replied with a sneer as she dismissed the arrogant boy.
Nott fought back the snarl of anger that had worked its way up into his chest at the Halfblood's quip. Glowered vengefully down at the girl he drew himself to his full height to loom commandingly over the witch, "Now, now Potter; no need for all that nastiness. I'm sure if you behave nicely I could show a jumped up Halfblood like you how a real wizard breaks in a witch. Maybe I'll even show your Mudb-!"
He didn't get the chance to finish his statement as Iris all but threw herself at him, he was suddenly very aware of the girl pressed up against him; how her hand was buried in the hair at the nape of his neck and her chest was pressed against him so that he could feel the swell of her breasts. She was looking up at him with those brilliant green eyes through the long black lashes and she was inching her lips closer to his own.
'Just like Father said, Mudbloods, Halfbloods, show them the power and superiority of being a Pureblood and they'll throw themselves to ride your broomstick.' Theodore thought to himself with a wicked grin before the air was snatched from his lungs and pain burst into being behind his eyes.
He wheezed and fell to his knees, his hands moving to cover his injured organ as a collective gasp and flinch came from the gathered male student body.
Iris was smirking nastily down at the boy and pointedly use a sanitizing charm on the knee that she had driven into the wizard's groin, "I'm sorry it seems I've rudely interrupted you, would you like to continue?" Iris waited a moment for dramatic effect before she crouched down so she was at eye level with her victim.
"In that case allow me to retort, you're pathetic Nott! All that rubbish about putting Halfbloods and Muggleborn in our place and look where you are. On your knees and in front of a witch no less; that reversal must be harsh on your delicate sensibilities." Iris mocked the wounded boy who was staring at her most hatefully as he struggled to regain his composure after having his dignity so thoroughly stripped from him.
"It really is a shame Teddy dear, you really are rather handsome. Your behavior though, utterly unattractive." Iris tsked as she pat him on the cheek like he was a little boy, "You best shape up, the next time I hear such foulness coming out of your mouth I'll drop you for the whole school to see."
Nott opened his mouth to say something but was cut off abruptly as the door opened and Severus Snape stepped out of the classroom and glared scathingly at the assembled students, before looking down at the two students on the floor with a raised eyebrow; question left unspoken.
"Theodore got tripped up Professor, I was instructing him in proper etiquette and reminding him that running wild was a poor idea." Iris stated simply as she drew herself up and adjusted the sling on her back as she stood beside a shocked looking Hermione.
The greasy haired professor looked down at Nott, taking in the boy's position, the flush of humiliation in his cheeks and the way he was staring with outright loathing at the green eyed witch. He sighed mentally but when the boy rose shakily to his feet and didn't offer a rebuttal he simply nodded and turned on his heel, moving to the front of the class with his trademark black robes billowing out behind him.
The students filed into the classroom slowly; talking in hushed but animated whispers over the fight they had seen this morning.
Hermione followed her friend to the front table and glanced around the room, noting that Daphne and Draco had taken the table to her left and she greeted the blond pair with a smile that they returned. Her eyes continued to rove around the classroom until she spotted the much darker skin of her Italian friend sitting in the rear of the classroom beside a fuming Nott.
Brown eyes met gold and she was about to smile at him in greeting before he wrenched his head to the side and fixedly kept his eyes on the board. Hermione frowned at the blatant attempt to ignore her and looked again at Nott to find the pureblood glaring at her with unveiled contempt and rage as he muttered something softly to Blaise.
Golden eyes flickered back to her and then back to board as he gave a response, while not overly expressive Hermione got the impression that her Slytherin friend was keeping an even stonier expression than normal.
She returned her attention to the front as Snape began his lecture on the Shrinking Solution they would be brewing but she only half-listened as she worried about the boy in the back of the room. She hadn't failed to notice who had surrounded the boy over the last couple of weeks, Nott had firmly attached himself to the Italian along with his usual group of friends.
It was troubling because while Blaise came from a wealthy family and was a pureblood he had no political connections in England so it made little sense for him to be given the kind of attention he was receiving. So in Hermione's eyes the only other prospect was that they wanted to use him for something and she had a strong suspicion it had something to do with this life-debt he had hanging over Neville.
As Snape pointed his wand at the blackboard and the instructions for the potion appeared in his cramped, spidery hand Hermione busied herself with setting up her ingredients as well as her textbook in case this was one of his "Did none of you read the book?" lessons.
"Did you see who Blaise is sitting with?" Hermione whispered to Iris quietly as the raven haired witch set up her cauldron and began to fill it with conjured water from the tip of her wand.
The girl glanced over her shoulder and looked at the back of the classroom through the veil of her hair for a moment before nodding at the bushy haired brunette.
"It's not right is it? We know Blaise comes from money and that his family can basically appoint the Italian Minister of Magic but they've never been so…focused, on him before." Hermione muttered as she began to chop at her ingredients carefully.
"No, it isn't right. Draco has been saying that the older students are definitely up to something and he can't figure out what specifically. Still, I can find it in me to be too concerned, if it was something serious and their plans involved Blaise then he would tell us." Iris replied nonchalantly with a shrug as she began to add sliced caterpillars to her cauldron, Hermione blinked for a moment as she looked at her friends antics and then up at the board and then at her book before looking back at the other witch utterly bewildered.
"Umm…Iris, what if he can't tell us? And what are you doing? You're supposed to add the Shrivelfig juice first."
"There's no reason why he can't. What do they have to hold over him? We're practically attached at the hip so it won't be us. Draco has his two pet bodyguards and his father's protection so they won't go after him. Daph's untouchable, her father is the Director of St. Mungo's the largest privately owned hospital in England and her mother is the niece of the French Minister of Magic.
"And Lia is always with Pol when she isn't with us so they've got no one to threaten and none of us is stupid enough to go anywhere with someone we don't trust." Iris explained quietly as she tapped her cauldron with her wand and increased the temperature bringing the water to a boil as the liquid slowly began to haze with pink before she began to work on peeling her Shrivelfig.
Hermione continued to watch her friend's actions while she followed the directions and began to stir her potion clockwise while she considered the girl's logic. She had to admit that they were all fairly well protected but even then there were always opportunities to separate or corner them, far too many opportunities for her Iris to be so flippant. So why was she…?
"You're planning something yourself aren't you? You'd never be so cavalier with Liatris's safety otherwise. Spill!" Hermione demanded quietly as she removed her glass stirring rod and wiped it clean before tapping her cauldron to raise the heat.
Iris leant in closer as she slipped her peeled Shrivelfig into a vial and began shaking the fruit to release the juices, "It's quite simple 'Mione, after all the trouble I just went through putting Nott down he's going to be eager for revenge. I'll give him the opportunity, on my terms and when he takes the bait I'll get the information that I want."
Hermione couldn't believe what she was hearing and was about to say so when a sudden bout of snickers from the back of the class drew her attention. Twisting at the hips to look at the offending clump of Slytherins who were holding their guffaws behind their hands she managed to catch Nott elbowing Blaise in the ribs lightly as he laughed. The golden-eyed boy didn't deign to notice his lab partner as he continued to brew his potion in silence though he did glance up to meet her eyes for a moment before he quickly looked away again.
"I hope you know what you're doing. Nott might be an ignorant bigot but he's no slouch with a wand and there's no way he'll come at you fairly." Hermione muttered angrily as she turned back around and began using her knife to chop up her daises with more enthusiasm then was strictly necessary as she imagined the delicate flowers were Nott's fingers.
Iris nodded her agreement with a thoughtful frown of her own as she slipped her shrivelfig into the blood-red waters of her cauldron, the concoction quickly shifting to a bright yellow as Snape approached their workstation. The sallow skinned professor looked first at Hermione's potion and gave a satisfactory nod before looking at Iris's.
The man was quite skilled at controlling his facial expressions but Hermione still managed to catch the blink of surprise and the twitch at the corner of his lips as he inspected the canary yellow potion that was slowly darkening as Iris tapped the cauldron to bring it down to a simmer.
"An interesting recipe Miss Potter, wherever did you get it?" The potioneer asked the question with a surprising lightness as he looked at the young witch with what might have been fondness.
"My mum taught it to me a while back when we were helping a neighbor with an overgrazing issue, she told me an old friend had shown it to her." Iris said with a knowing twinkle in her eye that actually made the Professor give her an exceedingly small smile before he wandered off and immediately began to snap at Neville and Ron for getting their potion ingredients mixed together.
Hermione stared at the side of Iris's head and waited for an explanation of that little exchange but the girl only gave her a shrug as Neville walked angrily passed their table to get fresh ingredients from the student's storeroom. With an indignant huff that made Iris giggle quietly she resumed to work while Snape took points from Ron for grumbling loudly while he set about cleaning his potion station.
The snickers amongst the Slytherins were unrestrained this time as they openly mocked the pair of boys in the back of the room for the point loss, turning back to glare at the worst offenders Hermione noticed Nott sliding his wand into the pocket of his robes without taking his eyes off of Neville, a vicious smirk playing across his features as he watched whatever was about to happen with an eager anticipation.
'Bugger, this isn't going to end well.' Hermione thought to herself as Neville dropped a piece of wormwood over his cauldron as he did his best to tune out the Slytherins laughter and the jeers they were directing his way. She watched with a rising feeling of dread sinking into her stomach as her eyes tracked the falling herb as it fell through the air.
She watched as it hit the liquid with a plop and stared for a moment, it was like First Year all over again as she had watched Ron get smacked down by the monstrous chess pieces. That feeling of helplessness welling up within her as she didn't know what to do, a crushing hand that gripped her lungs painfully and wrenched her gut into knots.
A clinical part of her brain reasoned that there was nothing she could do, she was across the classroom and without knowing what Nott had done there was no way of knowing where to begin fixing the problem. And while she acknowledged that it was true and that it had only been a matter of seconds since she had realized what was about to happen she could not stop the surge of guilt that sprang up in her.
There was a soft whump of rapidly expanding gas muffled by liquid and then Neville's cauldron buckled as boiling hot potion surged up and sloshed over the Boy-Who-Lived. His cry of pain sheared through the classroom as his exposed skin took on an unhealthy red glow as blisters formed before their eyes, swelling with fluid before splitting open and coating his skin with viscous yellow pus.
Hermione gagged as bile and gorge rose into her throat and a foul smell permeated the room to accompany Neville's howls of pain. The brunette turned away from the sight and shut her eyes as she swallowed back down the contents of her stomach and took several deep breaths.
In her distraction she paid no heed to Snape's yells as he sent Ron to escort Neville nor did she hear the guffaws of the wretched children that delighted in seeing the 'savior' suffer. She focused instead on the soothing circles that Iris was rubbing into her back while the green eyed witch met Nott's gaze, memorizing the satisfied smirk on his face and the vindictive sneer that he directed her way.
It was a look that said 'See what I did?! I can hurt you and get away with it!'
It was unfortunate that Iris still needed to drag information out of the boy or she would have let all her masks drop in that moment. She had walked to her certain death with calm and allowed the most powerful Dark Lord of all time throw a curse at her without flinching; she had a different name then, a different body even, but being the Master of Death was etched into her soul.
If she had fixed the boy with the stare that she was capable of, Nott would have pissed himself in terror and never let himself be alone in her presence. That was integral to discovering his machinations though she suspected the schoolboy's devious plot was a trifling matter considering the threats that were waiting beyond the castle's wall. She couldn't dismiss him out of hand though, Draco had taught her that much though it had been Harry who learned the lesson.
She replied with a smirk instead and a look that said 'What? Was I supposed to be impressed? Try harder sport.' The dismissal when she turned her back on him was the crueler insult though since it told him he was so small a threat she could turn her back on him without fear.
Theodore's face darkened with rage as he drew his wand again, 'How dare she!? Assaulting me like some filthy muggle and then disregarding me as if I was the one beneath her! She will suffer for that!' His father had shown him just the curse for teaching the filth to respect their betters, leaving the shaft of oak at the girl's back he was about to whisper the incantation when a crushing hand seized his wrist and shoved his arm down so it was hidden by the worktable.
"Mister Nott, I do hope you weren't thinking of cursing a student in my class. Sabotaging Longbottom's potion is one thing but openly attacking a student and that student no less would be most unwise. I'd have no choice but deduct points from my own House and you know that I don't like doing that, don't you?" Severus Snape whispered softly into the dark haired boy's ear as he tightened the grip he had on the boy's wrist until he could feel the grinding of the bones underneath his fingers.
Theodore winced in pain as he felt his Head of House squeeze painfully until he nodded his head in affirmation, "Good, you will do well to emulate your father and uncle. They understood that you only strike when you have the advantage and when you are not likely to get caught. Cunning, Nott, cunning is what wins the day." Severus hissed as he released the boy's wrist and straightened so that he was bent over the child's shoulder.
How he despised the Nott brothers, they had been favored by the Dark Lord; the pair of them had been talented assassins and interrogators. They had also been utter cowards, the moment a battle had turned against them they had fled to safety and they consistently avoided punishment by foisting their failures on others.
Truly disgusting and utterly disgraceful, he knew that the only reason his Lord had ever suffered them to live was because their skill set made them valuable as had their coffers. Theodore and his elder cousin were of the same cut of cloth as their fathers, and it seemed that young Theodore had set his eyes on Iris Potter as his next victim.
Severus recalled those frosty emerald eyes that had peered up at him from the face of an eleven year old, the age and weight that existed in them had been terrifying. He recalled that same child laying in the Hospital Wing as Albus explained that the compulsion he had laid on the girl to protect Neville Longbottom had caused an unexpected development, indeed a child slitting the throat of a possessed teacher was anything but expected.
That was the intellect that Theodore wanted to attack, a child who had taken a life at the tender age of eleven and one who radiated magic. The Potions Master didn't know whether he should fear for the boy or hope he succeeded, for all that he loved Lily; her eldest child terrified him.
To those in the know, Hogwarts's rumor mill is a finely tuned machine with cogs to be found in every House and Year. Unfortunately, each of these cogs often takes it upon themselves to introduce new gossip and with different points of view and different embellishments it is more accurate to say that something happened rather than try for any actual substance in the tale.
So by the time lunch was over the story of what had happened in the dungeons was something like; Theodore Nott and Neville Longbottom were involved in an honor duel over the hand of Iris Potter, the duel had ended with Neville in the Hospital Wing from an especially nasty curse and Nott on bended knee proclaiming his love for Gryffindor's Princess.
That none of it was close to the truth mattered little to the student body.
Iris delighted in it though and with a few whispered words to the right person it was easy to spread word that Theodore was quite smitten and had even been willing to give up his family name and holdings to be with her. It was easy to see when the ripple of misinformation reached the Slytherin's ears because he had glared at her from across the length of the Great Hall with every intent to see that she dropped dead.
She had just smirked and blown him a kiss in return as she grabbed her bag and left for her last class of the day, a double period of Defense with Hufflepuffs and her Uncle Moony.
Admittedly she was rather nervous about this particular class session, Boggarts weren't especially dangerous creatures to the prepared witch or wizard but in the right hands or rather the wrong hands the information that they could unveil had the potential to be incredibly damaging.
For the witch this was especially true, she wasn't just some thirteen year old teenager with a teenager's fears. It wouldn't be a spider that emerged from the wardrobe that would be her keenest fear and somehow she doubted that it would still be Dementors, the soul sucking creatures were still able to draw out her despair and the darkest of her memories but she had learned new terrors since the last time she had come face to face with a boggart.
So it was with a great deal of trepidation that Iris walked into the Defense classroom, the normally crowded room was strangely barren as the desks were pushed to the edges to create an empty space in the middle of the room. At the front was the large and heavy looking piece of furniture with its darkly stained wood, trembling as the creature inside of it sensed the presence of people.
Iris set her bag down on a table and leaned back against the hard surface as the other students filled in before Remus closed the door behind them. The werewolf looked around and took a headcount as he prepared.
Lupin stood in the middle of the empty space and addressed his audience, "Welcome to your first practical lesson of the year, as you'll remember today we will be handling boggarts. Before we get too carried away, I want to remind you all that you have an essay do on Tuesday describing the proper way to approach an identified boggart, contain and remove it.
"Now then, a brief recap of boggarts. Does anyone know what a boggart looks like? Miss Granger." Remus nodded at the brunette who was practically quivering at Iris's side in eagerness to respond to the question.
"No Professor, boggarts as described by the Ministry are non-beings possessed of the ability to take on whatever form you find most terrifying." Hermione responded with relish while Iris smiled at her friend indulgently.
Remus chuckled himself, "Yes Miss Granger, take five points for your answer. So suffice it to say that the boggart behind me has yet to assume a form but will do so the moment I open the doors of the wardrobe. Mister Finnegan, what defeats a boggart?"
Seamus flushed at being called out but quickly composed himself before replying, "The Riddikulus spell professor."
"Not quite, while the spell is used for defeating boggarts it isn't strictly necessary. Would anyone like to provide the answer for a shot at some points?"
"Laughter, Professor." Zacharias Smith said from his place off to the side of the classroom, smirking as Hermione subsided in disappointment at someone else giving the answer.
"Correct Mister Smith, take five points as well. Laughter is what ultimately defeats the boggart to that effect the aforementioned spell forces the creature to take on a form that we find humorous. Therein lies the challenge, to properly cast the charm requires concentration and thought even in the face of what you fear. An uncommonly difficult task I assure you but it can be done.
"Mister Finnegan, since you gave us the spell you'll be first up. Now then, let's begin." Remus clapped his hands together with a reassuring smile as he tapped the radio he had set off to the side and a jaunty, lighthearted tune began to fill the classroom as the young Irishman approached the closed wardrobe which began to rock from side to side.
Giving the boy a pat on the shoulder for encouragement, Remus took a step back and gestured at the wardrobe with his wand. A sharp click could be heard as the furniture unlocked and from the confines emerged a woman with floor length black hair in a dirty white dress. Her face was skeletal with empty eye sockets save for two pinpricks of glowing blue light.
She drew a raspy breath and then there was an otherworldly scream, it sounded of pain and misery, despair and sheer terror.
Iris could feel the wash of magic that blanketed her like a clammy hand, making the hair on the back of her neck stand up as gooseflesh ran the length of her arms. A sudden nausea roiled in her stomach and lights began to dance in her vision before she managed to get her hands up and cover her ears.
Others in the class reacted similarly as they clamped their hands over their offended ears while Seamus needed a nudge from Dean to snap him out of the grip of fear as she shakily raised his wand and cried "Riddikulus!" In his urgency to make the screaming stop it seemed that his thoughts caused the boggart-banshee's scream to sputter out and descend into a hoarse coughing fit.
Seamus seemed to find that funny as he chuckled at the green skinned woman's hacking coughs which made the banshee's back stiffen and with a small "Eep!" she darted back into the wardrobe, the door slamming behind her with a bang.
"Well done Mr. Finnegan, well done indeed!" Remus congratulated the teen who heaved a breath of relief but seemed to have a satisfied grin on his face as he walked to the back of the classroom to hearty backslaps from his friends.
The class proceeded in a similar manner, a student would step forward and collect themselves for a moment before Remus opened the doors and a fear would emerge to be confronted before it was conquered and sent running back into the dark.
There were a few surprises for Iris since the last time she went through this lesson, for one she was more affected by some of the creatures that emerged then she had expected to be. Like the boggart-banshee she could feel the simulated magic at work and by the time half of the class was done, she was drained from having her magic senses essentially smacked every time something with a nasty aura walked out.
The other surprises were likewise unpleasant as some of the fears that her classmates had were different than they had been. Like when Hermione stepped up in front of the class for her turn and Professor McGonagall didn't step out.
Lily Potter did, the beautiful red haired enchantress had emerged looking serene and gowned in her favorite pale yellow sundress. She looked about the room curiously for a moment before setting her sights on Hermione and grimacing. The look was so wrong on her mother's face that Iris couldn't comprehend it for a second as the boggart stepped forward and sneered down at Hermione.
"What do you think you're doing at Hogwarts Hermione? You've failed every exam! You've failed to show that Muggleborn deserve a place right beside those Pureblood bigots!" the faux-Lily's voice was soft but the words were cruel and the disgust that filled them was as biting as any shouted reprimand, "You're not worthy to be a witch! Do us all a favor and snap your wand before you disgrace yourself any further!"
The bushy haired teen was stricken as her greatest fear came to life in front of her, Lily Potter was beautiful and intelligent and one of the most compassionate people she had ever met. She had proven simply by existing that Purebloods like Nott and Parkinson were wrong, even the Dark Lord had courted her allegiance because she was so formidable an adversary. And she had said that Hermione was worthy of being a witch, that she was undeserving of the magic that had been gifted to her.
Such was Hermione's grief that she didn't notice when Iris came up behind her and wrapped her arms around her waist and pulled her back against her in a comforting embrace. "Hush 'Mione, y'know mum thinks the world of you." The raven haired girl's voice was soft and soothing as she spoke in a voice that only she could hear.
"B-but she said…" Hermione trailed of brokenly as Iris squeezed her arms and rested her chin on the older girl's shoulder, "That's not mum 'Mione, you know that. Besides it's wrong, you're the cleverest person I know and my best friend; there isn't anybody in this school more worthy of being a witch than you."
The brunette clung to Iris's clasped hand like a lifeline as she replied with a shaky voice, "R-really?"
Iris could feel tears of her own prick her eyes at the desperate tension in her friend's voice, she nodded and hummed affirmatively without moving her head from the other girl's shoulder, "Really! Now remember how mum looked when she made us those biscuits last summer?"
Hermione nodded and closed her eyes as she scrubbed away the silvery tear tracks from her face with the back of her hand before she raised her wand and looked at the sneering woman in front of her. She took a deep breath as the simulacrum began another cutting spiel, "R-Riddikulus!"
There was a soft pop as Lily Potter's dress was suddenly covered in flour and her face had a streak of smeared butter from her cheek to her chin and she had a tray of misshapen chocolate chip biscuits on it. The sight and the happy memories got the pair of girls giggling at the display and with a yelp of surprise the boggart-Lily tossed the tray over her head and jumped back into the wardrobe.
Iris pulled Hermione into a one-armed hug and walked the girl over to the side of the classroom and fixed the class a glare that dared anyone that wanted to face a painful demise to make fun of her friend.
The Gryffindors politely looked away but some of the Hufflepuff students like Susan Bones and Hannah Abbot gave her approving nods and smiles, loyalty was a prized 'Puff trait after all.
The class continued on in a more somber mood after that, it was all the proof that Iris needed to recognize that as young teenagers the rest of the class was not prepared for dealing with adult fears. It was also a reminder for Iris that for all the memories that she had of a strong and independent Hermione who had endured torture and suffered at her side through a war, the witch she was comforting was just as emotional and wracked with all the insecurities of any other developing witch.
By the time class drew to a close and everyone filed out of the classroom it was just Remus, Hermione and Iris left in the classroom. "You're the last one Iris, I know you're probably looking forward to freshening up before dinner but I'd like for you to face the boggart so that I can give you a mark for the day."
The green eyed witch shook her head and was going to refuse when she felt Hermione tug on the strap of her back and pull it off her shoulder. Her eyes were still a bit bloodshot from her crying earlier but she still managed to pull off the look that said she wasn't getting a bad mark.
Iris considered her predicament for a moment but finally relented, if she couldn't trust these two to see her fears than who could she trust?
"Alright Uncle Moony, let's get this over with." Iris ground out reluctantly as she flexed her forearm and felt her holly wand slide out of its holster and drop into the palm of her hand. Stepping forward to the spot that everyone else had stood on that afternoon, she cast a look over her shoulder and saw a pair of eyes looking at her warmly and giving her reassuring nods.
Iris turned back to the wardrobe and shook her head, 'Let's see what horribly scarring terror I've got in my head nowadays.' She thought grimly to herself as she heard the soft click of the wardrobe unlocking.
The wooden door swung opened and exposed a pitch black interior; Iris raised her wand and unknowingly slid into one of the dueling stances that Riddle had drilled into her as she waited expectantly for some kind of horror to emerge.
Seconds ticked by and then a minute with nothing emerging from the dark confines of the wardrobe, finally she turned around to look at Remus and a scream caught in her throat.
Moony was affixed to the wall, his arms held above him as stakes of silver were hammered through his wrists. Blood ran down his arms in rivulets disappearing under the tatters of his robes until it dripped from his bare feet onto the floor and merged with the pool that had gathered below him. His chest was mangled, she could clearly see that his ribs had been shattered and the word "werewolf" had been carved so deeply into his flesh that she could see muscle and viscera through the gaping wounds.
Hermione was even worse as she dangled from the ceiling like someone's horrifying interpretation of a marionette; hooks were buried into the flesh of her joints and gossamer threads ran up into some kind of wooden joist. Her uniform was nothing more than ripped blood-soaked rags that did nothing to cover the witch any longer, leaving the bare skin of her most intimate places exposed.
The young witch moved jerkily as the strings that held her aloft were manipulated so Iris could see the girl's face, where there had once been eyes of the warmest chocolate brown were gaping holes with bloody trails running over too pale cheeks.
"Why did you do this to me Iris?" Hermione asked with a voice laden with agony, hoarse from screaming.
"I-I d-didn't…w-wouldn't ev-ever…" Iris stuttered out brokenly as she looked at her best friend in horror before retched as the sight overcame her flimsy self-control.
"You did this!" Remus yelled at her with the fury of the wronged, the werewolf heaving himself forward so that his impaled wrists came free of their stakes with a sickening slurp that caused Iris to gag and heave as he fell boneless to the floor. Dragging himself towards her, Iris could see him trailing his intestines behind him from where they had slipped out from his ruined abdomen.
"No! I s-swear! Pl-please Moony!" Iris didn't know if she was begging him to believe her or if she was begging him to stop moving so he wouldn't hurt himself or if it was some combination of the two.
"Yes you did!"
Iris spun with her wand raised to identify the lilting voice that had come from behind her, the voice that had sounded so pleased as it spoke in sing-song.
She was not prepared to see the raven haired girl that was staring back at her with her own eyes and a manic grin on her face. The doppelganger's arms were covered from finger to bicep in the slick gleam of fresh blood, in her right hand she was playing with Hermione's eyes; rolling them in circles in the palm of her hand.
"You see Iris, you did it! You let Him in y'know." The doppelganger crooned as she walked forward, the scent of ozone and copper rising off her like some kind of biblical storm. "Just like you let Dumbledore in, you let Him in! Just like you let Grindelwald in, you let Him in!" The girl spoke quietly as she drew closer to Iris, the manic grin never slipping away as Iris felt her breath coming in shorter and faster.
Iris didn't need to know who he was as she saw the face of her doppelganger shifting, saw the nose disappear into serpentine slits as emerald-green eyes turned the color of dried blood. Distantly Iris could feel her lips tingling as her hands went numb and her wand slipped from her grip.
"I-I d-didn't! I-I w-won't!" Iris said softly, brokenly as she realized that she hadn't let Dumbledore or Grindelwald in either. They had taken; they had been in her head and used her.
"Now you're getting it Princess. You're just up for the taking and once they've got you; who's to say what you'll do. But it'll be you that does it." The snake faced version of Iris grinned maliciously as she held up Hermione's eyes and crooned in that melodic sing-song voice, "So how do you like my pretty eyes?"
She knew she was falling, that she couldn't seem to get enough air. But it all seemed so far away as she was swallowed by oblivion.
Author's Note: So about that announcement, I've finished chemotherapy! It's been a long nine months but it's finally over and I want to express my most sincerest thanks for all the well wishes that I've received from you wonderful readers. They brightened my days and encouraged me even when I was feeling rotten as have all of the reviews and favorites.
Also, I highly recommend A Butterfly Effect by SlyGoddess to any of you who haven't read it yet. I find her writing to be excellent and very compelling so I encourage those of you who enjoy an incredibly well written romance story to check it out and give her tons of support! Let her know I sent you her way.
Anyway thank you all again for your best wishes, the critiques and words of encouragement, the favorites and follows, and all of the delicious questions that you send my way!
Next Chapter: Machinations, Deception, and Confrontation