Chapter Twelve: Animosity
"Just kill me now."
Harry muttered in agreement and grasped his wand, standing with the rest of the class as they shuffled to make two lines in the room. For today's Defense lesson, they were practicing the Obscuro spell, learning how to blindfold people and objects. And while the spell could be mildly useful, it wouldn't really be helpful in a fight and Harry, like the rest of the class, was less than thrilled.
"How are we supposed to defend ourselves against Voldemort if we're stuck learning these spells?" Harry said in a frustrated undertone to Ron and Hermione.
"You know, maybe he's been hired by Voldemort. Purposefully teaching us nothing so we aren't prepared." Ron said.
Harry sent off the spell half-heartedly, watching as Hannah Abbot across from him deflected it easily.
"I would almost agree if he weren't terrified of Voldemort. Do you see how he reacts when Dumbledore talks about him? He looks like he's about to pass out each time."
"Yeah, I-" Ron shut his mouth quickly as Professor Landel walked around them. Harry sent off another spell at Hannah. Not paying much attention, the blindfold quickly wrapped around her eyes. Landel nodded in approval, turning to Ron when he saw no spell coming from the redhead.
"Well Mr. Weasley, let's see your spell then!"
Ron pointed his wand at Harry's face, and a moment later, Harry felt a thick blindfold cover his eyes. Harry stood still, listening to the professor's hums and letting him tug on the cloth. He waited for his approval before he pulled it off, rubbing his nose where his glasses had pressed into his skin.
"Well done Mr. Weasley! Now could I see if you have the accuracy down from a distance? Try it on Miss Patil over there."
Ron shuffled his feet but nodded, raising his wand towards Parvati. He stuck out his tongue slightly, his eyes narrowing as he shot the spell, the black cloth hitting the wall three feet away from her.
Landel snapped his fingers, "A close shot! Have no fear Mr. Weasley, just a bit of practice is needed that's all. But no worries, that's why we have this class!" he looked across the room, quickly leaving their side, "Ah, Mr. Thomas, this spell's not meant to be used for that-"
Ron started up again the moment he left, "I thought we had this class to learn Defensive spells. My mistake."
"Ron," Hermione admonished lightly, "be nice."
"I'm only speaking the truth," Ron said, giving a shrug. Harry had to agree and his frustration began to mount the longer they practiced, the overall demeanor of the room flat and bored.
"Alright class, I believe that's all we have time for this period. I'll let you go a few minutes early, don't want you to be late for lunch! No homework, and next time I'll be teaching you some very interesting spells-"
"Doubt it," Ron mumbled, earning a swat from Hermione.
"But here's a bit of a teaser," Landel finished, raising his wand.
A bouquet of flowers emerged from his wand a moment later. The class was less than impressed, but Harry offered a strained smile. Only a few girls murmured their interest.
They quickly collected their things, exiting the room in relief.
"Right, because that's what we should be concerned about. Conjuring flowers," Harry said. "Where's his head at? Doesn't he understand that we're in the middle of a war? It may be just beginning, but it's going to get worse."
"To be honest I don't think he's aware of much that goes on," Hermione said, sitting down beside him for lunch.
"Finally! You admit he's a horrible teacher," Ron said.
Hermione frowned, gripping a roll in her hand, "I never said he was a great teacher, I just said he's not the worst we've ever had."
"Depends on your definition. Last year was just a joke."
"Or a nightmare," Harry said, rubbing the back of his hand subconsciously.
Harry quickly piled his plate, chatter around him breaking out as a number of owls flew down to the tables, dropping the same bulk of papers throughout the students.
"What's all of this? The morning post already arrived," Ron said, looking around in confusion.
An owl swished overhead, dropping something on Hermione's plate.
"You still get the Prophet?" Harry asked, watching as she quickly unwrapped the newspaper from its protective packing. "It's nothing but rubbish now. Or them simply trying to backtrack from last year."
"I want to keep up to date with what's going on, now that they've improved somewhat. Even if it's not entirely truthful, most stories at least have a hint of the truth somewhere, if you look close enough. Besides, if they do start up any sort of nonsense about you again, I want to know."
Harry nodded, turning to eat his food once again.
"It's an urgent story release," Hermione said in concern, her eyes quickly scanning the page.
Harry's interest peaked as he shuffled closer to her.
"What does it say?"
Her face didn't let go of its hard hold as she laid the paper on the table for Harry and Ron to see. Harry's eyes immediately found the bold letters at the top on the page:
Hector Robbins Reported Missing, Reports Confirm You-Know-Who Abduction
"Who's Hector Robbins?" Harry questioned, but before he could read to find out, Hermione began talking.
"He's an elite employee of the Department of Mysteries."
"Why would Voldemort want to take him?" Ron asked.
"Anyone in that department may have information that he'd want. There's no telling what they research. Was it maybe for information about the prophecy?" Hermione whispered to them, making sure no one nearby could hear her. Not that anyone was paying attention, everyone in the hall was buzzing over the article. "I know you said it smashed Harry, but maybe he knew something about it?"
Harry shook his head, "No, Dumbledore said he was the only one who had heard it. Aside from the Death Eater who reported the information to Voldemort."
Harry's forehead creased as his concentration shifted to the words printed across the page.
Aurors confirmed early this morning that Hector Robbins has been abducted by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Mr. Robbins has been missing since his wife reported his disappearance to authorities late Monday night, after he failed to return home from work. Early reports indicated that Mr. Robbins seemed to have disappeared without a trace, until late last night when a source in Haltwhistle (Robbins home) had come forth to authorities; stating he had seen a man of Robbins' description being led by two strange men on the night of his disappearance. Our source told us that he thought Robbins had a large gash on his face, but he couldn't be sure.
After a detailed description of the abductors, it was reported that Antonin Dolohov was one of the men involved.
"Dolohov?" Ron said vehemently, his face becoming hard. "The bastard who hit Hermione at the Ministry?"
"Yes," Hermione said her hand going unconsciously to her stomach at the name. She stared at Ron's angered face for a brief moment before returning her gaze to the article.
Why You-Know-Who wanted Robbins still remains a mystery but Aurors remain determinedly active towards the case-
"They won't find him," Harry said sadly, pushing the article away from him, "If Voldemort wanted him, you can guarantee that he won't let him go." He looked up towards the staff table, Dumbledore missing from his usual high backed chair. "I wonder if Dumbledore knows of anything."
"Probably why he's gone," Hermione offered.
A loud groan from Ron escaped his lips as the food on his plate disappeared in an instant.
"Wha? I'm still eating!"
McGonagall rose, waiting for the talking in the hall to cease before she announced the start of another meeting. The students broke away from their friends, walking to meet their partners with much more ease than it had been the first few meetings. Lavender was at Ron's side in an instant, already gushing to him about her Divination class earlier that day. Bradley came a few seconds later, Hermione and the brunette quickly engaging in an energetic conversation about Ancient Ruins. In a matter of a minute, Harry found himself alone. He stood up, squaring his shoulders as he walked towards the end of the Gryffindor table, halting near a few Hufflepuffs. His eyes scanned the Slytherin table, most of them begrudgingly heading off to meet their partners. His eyes raked the table for a second time, his search coming up short when the mass of blonde hair he sought was nowhere to be seen. Harry picked up his bag hesitantly, still searching the room for Ella as he made his way into the Entrance Hall.
He passed by Hermione and Bradley on their way out the doors, Jared laughing loudly at something Hermione said. She gave him a wide smile before she paused, catching Harry's eye. She gave him a curious glance and gestured behind Bradley's back as to where Ella was. Harry shrugged, spinning around slowly as he looked around before he made his way to the side of the room, leaning up against the wall and waited.
He watched partners come and go, his confusion building the longer he waited. Where was she? He knew she didn't exactly want to do these meetings, he didn't either. But he thought they had both decided that the detentions were much worse. While their last meeting was uncomfortable and awkward, and he'd been angry by the time he left, he thought they had come to a mutual understanding.
He waited until there was no longer any movement in the hall, partners having already decided to spend their time inside the Great Hall or outside enjoying the weather, when he gave up. He pushed himself from the cool stone wall and began the trek back to the common room, his footsteps echoing through the silent halls. He walked off the moving staircase to the seventh floor, contemplating Ella's no show when a hand shot out from a side door, yanking him inside.
Harry stumbled as he was tugged inside, alarmed by the disruption. He didn't have much time to react before the lights in the room flared and he found Ella standing in the middle of the room.
"About time you showed up, I've only been waiting twenty minutes."
Dumbfounded, Harry stared at her while she rummaged through her bag, pulling out a quill and taking a seat. She looked at him expectantly, "Well? Aren't you going to sit down?"
"What are you doing in here?" Harry asked, standing where he was.
"Trying to do our assignment so I can leave, an objective in which you aren't being very helpful with."
"I mean why are you up here? I waited for you downstairs-"
"I'd much rather not advertise the fact that we're meeting."
Harry shook his head, "Why?"
Ella sighed, "Look, I love the twenty questions game, but can we just get this over with? I'd love to spend as little time in here with you as I could." At Harry's indignant silence she continued, "Do you have the question sheet?"
Harry reached inside his bag and pulled out the wrinkled question sheet for this meeting's assignment. He handed it to Ella who quickly swished her wand, creating a duplicate before pushing the original back into his hand.
"If you could be an Animagus, what animal would you be and why?" she said, diving into it.
Harry pulled out a chair, not letting her get off so easily. He didn't understand why they had to do these assignments in dusty old classrooms. Why make themselves suffer more than they had to?
"Why are we doing this in here? We should be outside. Or somewhere with ventilation at least," he said, pulling at his tie. The room was so small, just their general body heat was warming it up.
Ella breathed heavily and shut her eyes, "Could you just answer the question?"
"Could you just answer mine?"
Ella put down her quill, hitting it on the table a little harder than necessary.
"I don't want to advertise the fact that we're meeting. I'd never hear the end of it if I said I was agreeing to do these meetings with you. No one exactly understands how awful those detentions were and the fact that I'd rather not subject myself to them again. Happy?"
Harry's eyebrows knitted together, "Why does it matter? It's not like we'd choose to if we had a choice."
"It just does. We're doing them in here, or I suppose we can go back to doing detentions if you really want to. Your choice." She paused for a second, smirking slightly at Harry's silence, "Now can you just answer?"
His anger flickered, not liking the stipulations she put on these assignments. Just like a Malfoy to say her way or no way. He could care less if her Slytherins thought less of her for lowering herself to do the assignments with him.
Still, his answer came rather easily. "A bird of some sort… maybe an owl? Or an eagle. So I could fly and go wherever I want, whenever I want."
Ella jotted down his response, pausing as she thought of her own.
"Some sort of a cat. One that was strong, but could easily sneak through the shadows unnoticed," Ella said.
Harry thought the animal was fitting. Just like a Slytherin to want to be a sneak.
She shook her head at the next one, muttering under her breath, "Who's your favorite band?"
Harry had to agree with her, these questions were incredibly ridiculous at times.
"I'm not sure. Whatever's on the Wireless."
She sighed, "I don't exactly think that answer would suffice. Just pick a band."
"The Dragon Drivers," Harry said, liking the guitar and drum beats.
"The Weird Sisters."
Harry scribbled her answer down, glancing at the sheet to the next question. "Worst homework assignment?"
Ella stared down at the table, tapping the tip of her quill against the desk. "Lockhart had us do a horrible research assignment on him and spent the entire next class period gloating about himself."
Harry involuntarily winced in sympathy. If his detentions with Lockhart were anything to go by, he understood how that felt. Harry thought quickly of his answer, obviously thinking of any of Snape's classes, but he didn't know how well that would go over. Not only would that start something with the girl across from him, but Snape would be reading his answers… who knows what repercussions could come of it.
"The dream journals we had to keep in Divination in third year. Trelawney only wanted exciting, foreboding predictions, so we just made them up most of the time. It was a waste of time."
"What's your favorite Quidditch team?" she asked, not skipping a beat.
Harry shrugged, "Any of England's teams. I like the Arrows quite a bit because their games against the Wasps are pretty exciting to listen to. Or Puddlemere United because Wood made the team."
"As second string reserve for Puddlemere… not much to brag about." Ella said, just loud enough for Harry to hear.
Harry jaw tightened for a moment. Wood was a great Keeper, despite his slightly over zealousness for the game. Harry was proud he made it on a team, he deserved it. But of course she couldn't give credit to anyone outside of Slytherin. "How many Slytherins have gone professional lately? In Quidditch at least."
Harry knew he struck a nerve. Ella paused and raised her head, her eyes flashing as she glared at him, "Implying something Potter?"
Harry shrugged nonchalant, knowing she had thought about Death Eaters just as he had inferred. "Of course not, did your mind instinctively go somewhere? What did you think I meant?"
With seemingly great force Ella looked down at her sheet, ignoring him, "I like the Harpies because they can beat a majority of the more arrogant teams. Like the Arrows and Puddlemere. Not that beating them is a very difficult feat."
Harry stared determinedly at his parchment while she read the next question out loud.
"Where's your favorite place at Hogwarts?"
"The Quidditch pitch," Harry answered roughly.
"The Slytherin common room," she said just as curtly back.
"What is your favorite flavor at Fortescue's ice cream parlor?"
They finished the rest of the questions rather quickly with short, brisk answers. Ella tossed her things in her bag the second her last answer tumbled from her lips.
"Back here on Saturday," was all she said as she slung her bag over her head. Harry opened his mouth to object, ready to challenge her, but she had already walked quickly through the door and out of sight. Harry frowned heavily, heaving a great sigh as he trudged out the door as well. Why could nothing in his life go smoothly?
"Where have you been all day?"
Ella stopped short as she entered the common room a few hours later, Draco looking at her strangely from a few tables away. Pansy sat uncomfortably close to his left, her fingers lightly stroking his arm. He twitched his arm, her hand retracting only to relocate to his hand a moment later.
She didn't hesitate, "I've been hiding out. Didn't want any of the professors to find me."
"Why not just hide in here?"
"Snape came come in here, can he not?"
Draco nodded, jerking his arm from Pansy's grasp.
"What about you? How was meeting with Lovegood?"
Draco scowled, "Bloody awful, as always. The things she carries on about… I just did my homework."
Ella smirked to herself, sitting down across from him. Blaise entered a moment later, scanning the room until his eye landed on them. He walked towards her, sitting in the vacant seat beside the blonde.
"Draco, Ella, Pansy."
"Blaise," the three of them said in unison.
"How was your day?" he asked, turning to look at her.
She shrugged, "Got some homework done. You?"
"It was good. Grace and I just answered our questions and did homework."
"Grace?" Draco said with a smirk, "First name basis with a Hufflepuff, Zambini?"
Blaise shrugged a little too indifferently, "She's not as bad as the rest of them."
"She's a Hufflepuff… that's bad enough," Pansy complained.
"She's smart, she doesn't hold the same Muggle loving notions as a lot of other students. Not that she hates them either, she's just… politically indifferent. She seems fine to me. I'm looking forward to Saturday's meeting already," he said, sitting as if waiting for some sort of a response he wasn't receiving.
But the topic quickly changed, "Montague wanted me to tell you we have Quidditch practice tonight," Draco said.
Ella's mood increased at the prospect of going for a fly.
"Fantastic," Ella said with some enthusiasm, leaning back into her chair.
"Why are you practicing so late Draco?" Pansy said, "I was looking forward to spending some time with you. Alone. Upstairs."
Ella made a face at the implication, catching Blaise's eye as he suppressed a shudder too.
"Because we have a match against Gryffindor coming up. We should get all the practice we can so we beat them," Draco said vehemently. "I want to make sure we crush Potter and Weasley."
"Just sing a bout of 'Weasley is Our King'. That usually does the trick," Blaise said.
"All I need is the Quaffle in my hand and I'll make him nervous enough within the first five seconds of the match," Ella said confidently. She had no doubt she could easily score on Weasley. It was luck last year that the Gryffindor team had managed to beat them, he had no real talent as a Keeper. She was sure that the only reason he got the position was because Potter was Captain. Anyone with half a brain wouldn't have picked him. She was glad Potter did though, it would make winning a lot easier. And a lot more satisfying.
"Any word from Potter, Ella?" Draco asked suddenly, turning to focus his attention on her.
She shook her head, answering coolly, "No more than you get on a daily basis."
Draco smirked, "I bet it's upsetting him so much to be disappointing his idol headmaster. Do you have detention tonight then?"
Ella hesitated for a moment. She hadn't thought of that. She sat up straight, confidently carrying on. "No, they didn't give us one tonight."
"Why?" Draco asked.
Ella shrugged, busying herself with her bag, "I suppose they want to give us the opportunity to see the 'error in our ways,' " she mocked. She knew that would be enough to throw Draco off. And it was, he nodded a few moments later, going back to complaining about Potter. Ella took this as her chance to avoid any more questions. She stood with her bag, pushing her hair behind her ear, "I'm going to head up to the dormitory."
"Why, it's only six? What about practice?" Draco said, his eyes wrinkled in confusion.
"I'm still going. Just, ah, not feeling the greatest. Figured I'd go lie down for a while."
"Oh, alright," Draco said, turning to Blaise. "Want to play a game or something?"
Blaise was still focused on Ella however, "I hope you feel better soon. Get some rest."
Ella gave the smallest of frowns at his response, not used to his friendly attitude, if you could even call it that. She wondered what brought it about.
Ella trekked up to her dorm and flung herself back onto her bed, staring up at the canopy. She closed her eyes as the comfort of the bed relaxed her tense body. The assignment with Potter had gone off easily enough, though he irritated her to no end. Who was he to try to say where they'd do their meetings? She would do them wherever she damn well please and he'd comply if he didn't want to do anymore detentions. Which he did, she had known that Potter wouldn't put up much of a fight, he never did. She flipped onto her side, irritation still smoldering under the surface from his comments, especially the implications that she knew he made on purpose. Following the Dark Lord's ideals was a respectable cause. Magic should be kept within the bloodlines of the magical community with no outside defect. Purebloods had the right to learn magic, Mudbloods didn't.
As irritated as she was with the black haired boy, she was thankful that they had gotten into some sort of a rhythm. She wondered how long the professors were going to insist upon this ridiculous bonding. This last assignment with Potter had gone by civilly enough, but she wouldn't hold her breath forever. Having a Gryffindor and a Slytherin together was bad enough, but a Potter and a Malfoy… She just couldn't wait to be done with them.
A/N: Just have to say, thank you all for the awesome reviews! Last chapter was the most I ever received for an update, and I love that you are all intrigued by the story. This chapter was a little tougher for me to write, just because I was adding things that will have a bigger emphasis later on in the story and was trying to build Harry and Ella's tension filled relationship some more. So nothing too terribly exciting happened.
I don't want to give too much away from questions asked in reviews, but yes, Blaise likes Ella. More time will be spent in that area in upcoming chapters. As for what Draco will do when Ella's world is eventually turned upside down, and what Voldemort plans to do will still have to remain a mystery, but it's all in the works!