AN- Very, very sorry about the long break, but school has been hectic and I hit a bit of a writers block. PLEASE FORGIVE ME! I was also a bit depressed over the lack of response via reviews for the last few chapters and thought people were losing interest in my story, which may have put a damper on my motivation...
If you have any suggestions on how to improve my story, on what you like/dislike about it, please tell me so I can continue to make it better! Thanks!
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to JKR! I own nothing!
It's Your Life. Live it.
Chapter Six: Some people do stupid things because they don't think. Some people do stupid things because they do.
Tempest held the Marauder's map clenched in her fist as she hurtled down corridors like her life depended on it. Her wand wasn't even lit, and the corridors were a flat black, but Tempest wound her way through the corridors as though it was bright as day. Countless nights she spent traipsing the hallways after hours and in pitch darkness meant she knew her way through the school better than the inside of her coffee cup- and that was saying something.
Tempest was running as though her life depended on it- and as the dark halls flew by, she was reminded of the last time she had been running with the same urgency just a few months ago in a graveyard. A graveyard Tempest had been saved from by the very person she was sprinting towards right now.
Really, when Tempest thought back, it didn't make sense why Wormtail had saved her- he had nothing to gain, and was only digging a hole for himself by getting the snake off her… and from what she knew of the rat, he wasn't one to be self-sacrificing. At the time, she hadn't questioned his actions- who would have? But now… why had he done it? And why would he be stupid enough to come back to Hogwarts? Wormtail knew that Tempest had the Marauders Map- (she had found it in the imposter Moody's office at the end of the last school year) -he knew that she could see him on the map… even Wormtail couldn't be stupid enough to think that if Tempest found him she wouldn't drag him straight to Azkaban herself…
Tempest ran straight into a door.
Cursing and whipping out her wand, Tempest jabbed it at the lock, slamming her palms against the wood as it refused to open. Right. All doors entering and exiting Hogwarts were guarded with enchantments which couldn't just be broken with a simple Alohamora spell. Tempest shook her head in frustration. Of all things to be stopped by- it had to be a door for cripes sakes!
Tempest muttered Lumos quickly, and stared at the solid wood. Unlocking spells- no. If that was the only thing she had in her arsenal, then she really was pathetic. She could try picking the lock? George had taught her how in her second year after all… picking the lock…
Tempest let out a breath, thanking the stars that she always carried around Sirius's knife on the same keychain she had the bike. She dug it out of her pocket, twisting the blade into the lock until to her relief- it clicked.
Tempest shoved the door open, glancing again at the Marauder's map- at the last place she had seen Pettigrew's name. It wasn't there anymore, but Tempest started running again anyway, watching the tiny dot that was labelled as hers heading for the last place she had seen his name. She headed across the fields, ignoring the gleam of the moon reflecting off the surface of the black lake, sprinting straight towards the Forbidden Forest. There was a stich in her side, and Tempest was panting from running straight from their common room, across the whole school and to the forest, but adrenaline was still rushing through her veins, and Tempest wasn't stopping.
She had run straight off the edge of the Marauder's map- perhaps that was the line where the Hogwarts grounds ended- and now Tempest was just in the forest outside of Hogwarts. She had no means of finding Pettigrew now, unless she lit up every inch of forest ground, and scoured miles of woodland just to find him.
And then Tempest realized something. Idiot!
She shoved her wand up her sleeve, the map in her pocket, and then the next second, it was Temper on four legs, and sniffing the air.
Wolf eyes could see much better in the dark than human eyes, and Temper's nose and ears were so much sharper. There was the almost inaudible shifting of squirrels high in their holes in the trees, the smell of rotting birds in a near-by foxhole, the sound of a stream about a hundred meters away… Temper even caught the scent of a unicorn that had passed by recently, somehow instinctively knowing exactly how many hours ago it had been since it had walked by, the exact age of the unicorn in question, and that it had been limping with its left foreleg.
Sometimes, Temper thought it was worth being a wolf just for this… right then in that moment… and then the reason for her being there in first place returned, and Temper put her muzzle to the ground, sniffing for the scent of rat. There were a fair few rats at Grimmauld Place, and Temper knew for a fact that animaguses smelt very different from ordinary animals- for one, they were much cleaner, and second of all, they smelt different. While normal dogs smelt like dogs, Padfoot smelt just like Sirius, and Temper imagined it was the same with others.
Temper wandered deeper and deeper into the forest, but she couldn't seem to smell anything but the occasional mouse or squirrel. She caught the musky scent of centaurs several times, and even a hippogriff once or twice, but no Pettigrew.
That was until Temper tripped over a tree root, rolled down a steep incline and landed on her back, paws failing in the air, leaves that she disturbed floating gently down on her, smelling of dirt and the forest floor, mushrooms and fungi… and the pungent smell of something that was definitely not local wildlife.
Temper shot to her feet, following her nose as it led her winding through the trees with increasing speed until she reached a shallow hole near the trunk of a tree…
…and then Temper had her teeth around the struggling rat that wasn't a rat- but still tasted horrible- and the next moment, Tempest was wresting Peter Pettigrew to the ground, slamming her elbow repeatedly into his gut when he struggled, trying to get free.
Tempest pinned Pettigrew to the ground, whipping out her wand and tying the man to a tree in a very similar fashion to the way he had tied her to the gravestone just a few months ago.
After Tempest was certain that Pettigrew was tightly lashed to the tree and incapable of turning back into a rat and trying to escape, she merely stood there for several seconds, breathing heavily, not really sure what to do next now that she had caught him. She could send a patronus for Dumbledore… she could summon Sirius's mirror and call him for what to do… or… she had Pettigrew right there completely helpless, and he was the one who had betrayed her parents- he was the reason that James and Lily Potter were dead, he had helped bring Riddle back…
Tempest had her wand levelled at Pettigrew's chest, and it was like the world had just frozen in that moment.
She knew the spell- she was the one holding the wand now, she wanted to do it… she needed to do it… just two words… and he deserved it.
He deserved it.
"I should kill you. Or drag you back up to Hogwarts, call Dumbledore and send you to Azkaban." Tempest didn't even know whether she was being sarcastic or not. "Or apparate to Grimmauld Place right now and let Sirius beat the living crap out of you. Or turn back into a wolf and maul you, because that seems really tempting at the moment."
Tempest's voice was strangely calm and her hand steady as she stared into the watery blue eyes of Peter Pettigrew.
She thought she would see fear, and she did. She thought she would see the cowardly stinking traitorous rat who was an example of almost everything Tempest hated in people, and she did.
What she didn't expect to see was remorse.
"So now you're sorry?" Tempest asked, angry suddenly, angry at him, at herself… "Now, when you've got a wand pointed at you and you're about to die, or get dragged off back to Azkaban- one of the two which I will see done by the end of this night… What was it you said to Sirius a year ago? That Voldemort would kill you if you didn't help him? Tell me- have your situations really changed that much? Only last time you would have died for a reason, had some meaning to the loss of your life… people would have mourned you- called you a hero… now if you died no-one would miss you, and you'd be labelled a coward and scum for the rest of time."
"I saved your life," Pettigrew squeaked, sounding much more like the pathetic excuse of a man that Tempest remembered, and only strengthening her resolve.
"And you think that changes things?" Tempest asked, laughing bitterly. "Your existence killed both my parents and sent a man to Azkaban for twelve years… Then I saved your worthless hide a year ago… and then you bring Voldemort back to power… so that puts five against you- and saving me in the graveyard only takes one off. You still owe me four lives, Pettigrew," Tempest snarled. "Not even counting the thirteen muggles you killed, the people who have died because Voldemort's back, and the people who have probably suffered by you betraying Order secrets."
"I… I am sorry…"
"Of course you are," Tempest snorted. Two words… it was so simple… just two words… "Damnit!"
Tempest swore, "Why did you do it? In the graveyard? Since when did the coward decide to change colours? And don't lie, wolves are good at detecting that sort of thing."
Pettigrew swallowed hard, and then as if compelled by a force other than himself, he blurted out; "I didn't."
Tempest arched an eyebrow. "Hmm?"
"I didn't- I wasn't going to help you," Pettigrew stuttered, as though he was walking towards death himself with every word he spoke. "I was chasing you with all the rest of the death eaters, and then someone hit me with a spell… and then-"
"Someone hit you with a spell," Tempest repeated. "And that spell made you help me?"
"It was the Imperius- I-"
"Hang on," Tempest said, shaking her head, "why on earth would anyone in the graveyard want to put you under the Imperius to help me? I thought you were all too busy in the process of trying to kill me."
"I- I apparated out of there after," Pettigrew said, "They tried to kill me- but then I got caught-"
"Who?" Tempest asked impatiently.
"My wand was snapped when I landed, so I couldn't get away, the unbreakable vow-"
Pettigrew ground to a stop, staring at Tempest, wide-eyed.
"Okay," Tempest said, taking a breath and trying to calm down so that she didn't do anything overly stupid. "Start again- what the hell is an unbreakable vow? No, screw that- who caught you? Who put you under the Imperius? And all of this, I'm making under the assumption that you're telling the truth."
And perhaps the name when it came didn't shock Tempest as much as it should have.
Laughing from the sheer absurdity of the situation and the fact that of all people and things- it was Lucius Malfoy…
Tempest had to sit down on a nearby tree root as she almost cried with laughter. "So- seriously?" Tempest choked out, "that's what you come up with? You helped me escape the graveyard because Lucius Malfoy put you under the Imperius… I actually would have believed that you had some sort of last minute change of heart more readily than that… I suppose afterward when he caught up with you he gave you a letter proclaiming his undying love for me?" Tempest snorted.
"He did give me a letter."
Tempest stopped laughing abruptly. "You have got to be kidding me."
"It's… it's in my pocket-"
"If this is a trick, then so help me-" Tempest summoned the supposed 'letter' and flipped it over. She recognized the handwriting, her name written in a bold black print. It was the exact same font that had been on that one letter that she had seen Draco receive months ago.
Shaking her head, Tempest flipped open the envelope and stared blankly at the message inside.
Miss Tempestas Potter-
A favour. One that shall not be repeated.
-Lucius Septimus Malfoy
"The hell?" Tempest muttered, flipping the piece of parchment over, seeing if there was anything else, but apart from an ostentatious wax seal with what she recognized to be the Malfoy family crest, there was nothing.
"Well that's helpful- damn!" Tempest cursed as the letter flared up and then crumpled into ash through her fingers.
Tempest remained staring at the ashes for a moment before she regained her senses and unfroze, striding back to Pettigrew. "What exactly did Malfoy say?"
"What did he say?"
"Well, I- I couldn't apparate, and I was just trying to get as far away as possible- and then a month ago-"
"Quit monologuing," Tempest snapped, "and skip to the bit where he caught you."
Pettigrew struggled against the ropes again, but stopped as he found Tempest's wand pointed straight between his eyes. "I- so- he, he made me take the Unbreakable vow not never reveal to anyone except for you that he- was- did-"
Tempest cut Pettigrew's stuttering off with an impatient jerk of her head. "Okay, this makes no sense whatsoever," she said flatly. "for some reason that I cannot fathom, I actually believe you, so say he actually is stupid enough to decide to for whatever reason help me via you… he doesn't want anyone to know about it… except me. How in any dimension does that make even the tiniest bit of sense?"
"Oh for goodness sakes, stop bloody stuttering," Tempest snapped impatiently. "I promise I won't kill you for the next ten minutes at least, just talk."
"That- that was it…. H-he just let me go after."
Tempest arched an eyebrow and then glared up at the sky. Why did everything go back to her? Voldemort targeting her of all people- Malfoy Jr deciding that of all people, she was the one that he wanted to screw over… and then just when she thought it was all behind her, and just a stupid phase that all people went through… then Wormtail had to turn up out of the blue, bringing Malfoys back into her life and making it even more maddeningly complex than it already was.
"What guarantee did Malfoy have that you wouldn't just run for it and stab him in the back as soon as he let you go?" Tempest asked finally. "After all, anyone who's known you for longer than thirty seconds knows that it would be suicide to trust you with even a quill."
It was too dark to see Pettigrew's expression , nor did Tempest care enough to wonder what he was thinking at the moment… what mattered was what he said next.
"The Unbreakable vow-"
"Okay, that's like the second, third- whichever time you've said that… what the hell is the 'Unbreakable Vow'?"
To her eternal astonishment, Pettigrew gave a low, weak laugh. "You sound like James when you act so ignor-"
He broke off with a pained yelp as Tempest slammed her fist into his stomach- punching him again and again, slamming her fist into every part of him that she could reach.
Hours of Sirius's punching lessons paid off, and Tempest for the first time understood how good it felt to just let it all out… to just stop thinking, and just let her body just wreck as much destruction as it was physically possible… until finally Tempest staggered back a step and collapsed on the ground, panting.
"Don't you dare say his name," Tempest said lowly, in-between breaths, her hands still clenched and her entire body still thrumming with barely suppressed energy. "You have no right."
After a few minutes silence which was only broken with Pettigrew's pathetic moans, Tempest pulled herself to her feet, grabbing her wand back from where she had abandoned it. Lighting the tip, Tempest surveyed the pathetic mess that Pettigrew was with some sort of twisted satisfaction. However much her wand was part of her, however much magic she could use with it… at the end of the day, it was just a tool, and while perhaps the results were more impressive, in terms of satisfaction, there was nothing like the feeling of using her own two hands…
Oh great. Now she was quoting Sirius.
Figuring that even with his silver hand and all, Tempest could easily take Pettigrew- with the added advantage of having her wand, and even if Pettigrew turned into Wormtail and tried to escape, Temper could easily catch him- Tempest took out Sirius's knife and sliced through all of the ropes, letting Pettigrew collapse limply to the ground with a moan of pain where he remained in a sobbing heap.
"Now, I'm not stupid," Tempest said, taking a breath, "It wouldn't be called Unbreakable if you could break it… what happens if you try?"
Pettigrew didn't reply, still moaning pitifully, and Tempest gave him a vicious kick in the side, making him start to cough violently, broken words forming. "If- if… b-b-bro… -en… eath."
"If broen eath?" Tempest drawled sardonically. "Is that some sort of language that I can't understand saying that if I don't answer properly in the next ten seconds I'm going to get kicked in the gut again? Because if it is, you're correct, and you've got eight seconds left."
"Six," Tempest said, ignoring Pettigrew. "Five. Four. Three. Two-"
"No!" Pettigrew choked out, "You die- t-that's what happens- if you break the vow you die- please…"
"Now that wasn't so hard, was it?" Tempest asked mockingly, a plan already forming in her mind. If the vow worked the way she thought it did, then she knew what to do... "And after you tell me exactly how it works- you and me are going to make one, and then you're going to have to do a little favour for me."
Forty-five minutes later, Tempest trudged back up the school, exhausted and drained, both mentally and physically. Tempest felt tired to the bone- not just because her hands were now aching, and cramped into half-claws at the moment- but because after everything that had just happened, there wasn't really any other way to feel.
Tempest felt rather like she just wanted to sleep, just sleep and let all her worries melt away… but she still felt wide awake at the same time, too many thoughts running through her mind… if Tempest went back up to Gryffindor Tower, she'd probably just lie there for hours staring up at the ceiling. She could call Sirius- but just after sending Pettigrew to Grimmauld Place, a tonne of questions would be waiting for her, and Tempest did not feel like talking. Or thinking. Or anything else that required excessive effort.
So, somehow, Tempest found her feet leading her to the place- which in her opinion- was the absolute best place to be at the moment.
The Hogwarts kitchens at night were not at all like the Hogwarts kitchens in the day time. In the day time, the cavernous room was filled with the lively beings, always rushing forwards and offering food and services… now at night, the entire room was deserted.
Peering through a side door, Tempest saw rows upon rows of bunk beds, each with an elf tucked into a mini-bed with a pillow and fluffy duvet. Tempest spotted Dobby snoozing peacefully and she gave a slight smile. Really, if Hermione could see the elves now, she would have absolutely nothing to complain about… these living conditions as compared to Tempest's at the Dursleys were pure heaven.
Tempest quietly closed the door and snuck over to the freezer.
Frozen fish… A few pies… A roll of pastry… Vanilla ice cream… Chocolate ice cream… another roll of pastry… and then finally- Lime ice cream.
Tempest pulled out the whole tub and then rummaged around in another cupboard looking for… a packet of dates… dried fruit and a bag of flour… and then Tempest saw it. She snagged the bag of cooking chocolate, then carrying the ice cream and chocolate, she dragged a chair over to one of the kitchen benches, found a spoon and then set about shoving chunks of chocolate into the ice cream.
Once the bag was empty, Tempest dug her spoon into the tub and took a mouthful of ice cream giving a low whistle. "That really hits the spot."
"Good night, Tempestas."
"Shit!" Tempest yelled, trying to whirl around on her stool, then overbalancing and toppling over backwards.
"Are you alright, Tempestas?"
"Yeah," Tempest muttered, pulling herself up with the stool and seating herself again. "What are you doing here, Luna?"
Luna's glowing eyes peered out of the darkness from the other end of the bench. "I couldn't sleep. Like you I suppose."
"Oh," Tempest muttered. "And you don't have to call me 'Tempestas' all the time, it's far too long."
"But I heard that only your friends call you that."
"Well, you are my friend, aren't you?" Tempest stated, frowning slightly, her second spoonful of ice cream halfway to her mouth.
"I am?" Luna said, "That's nice."
Tempest, not knowing what to say, decided to eat more ice cream. She was on her fifth spoonful before Luna spoke again.
"Your robes are torn," she stated, "And your hands are purple."
Tempest cursed as she glanced down. Her knuckles were indeed bruised and using the word 'torn' on her robes was far too tame. There wasn't really anything Tempest could do about her hands, but she had learned how to fix clothes with magic.
Done, Tempest turned awkwardly to Luna again. "Er, you won't tell anyone about- well… will you?"
"No," Luna said, her eyes fixed on some point over Tempest's head. "But your eyes are silver again and they might notice that."
"Huh?" Tempest asked, "Like the train?" She licked her spoon and glanced at her reflection in it. Even in the distorted reflection, Tempest could see a pair of eyes that definitely weren't green staring back at her. The silver mirror-like irises aside, even the size and shape of them was different. That was… weird.
It wasn't as obvious as Tempest imagined it would have been, but in the dark, it was easy to see that they weren't their usual green, something Tempest wasn't sure whether she liked or not. It certainly made her look more intimidating though, that was for sure.
Then Tempest blinked, and her eyes were green again.
Tempest shut her eyes, counting to ten, then peered at herself in the spoon again. Still green.
Shaking her head, Tempest resumed eating ice cream until she felt the urge to break the tenseness in the air. Usually she would have taken it as a test of the wills to see who would break the silence first, but Luna was for lack of a better word- different.
"So do you come down here often?" Tempest asked, "To the kitchens I mean."
"Quite often," Luna replied. "When I can't sleep. Sometimes I like to talk to the elves that are still up."
"Oh?" Tempest said, her spoon still in mouth, "Do you know… maybe an elf named Dobby… and maybe one called Winky?"
"Yes!" Luna said, her face suddenly animated and she leaned forwards, her eyes wide with excitement. "I really like Dobby, he's always ready to talk, and he always listens- sometimes I just come down her to talk to his especially. All the other elves… they're welcoming, but they don't really understand him that well, it's sort of like me in a way, I mean, not many people understand me… so it's nice to have someone to talk to. Winky is the same I think, but she's still trying to get over her last master…"
Tempest had stopped eating to listen to Luna, and was beginning to feel more than a little guilty for not coming to visit Dobby or Winky at all that term so far. She had actually forgotten about them in wake of everything else that was happening, too hyped up after an entire summer with Sirius, and occupied with thoughts of the toad.
"So where have you been?" Luna asked suddenly. "You seem very perturbed."
"Do I?" Tempest said. "How can you tell?"
Luna shrugged. "It's very obvious."
"How'd you mean?"
"Oh I can tell," Luna said vaguely.
"Ohkay," Tempest muttered, "I just have stuff on my mind I suppose."
"Quite understandable," Luna said.
"Whatever," Tempest decided. "So, how's your life going at the moment? I heard from Ginny that your dad sent you a um, I think it was a, uh, was it Blibbery Hippopotamuses?"
"A Blibbering Humdinger," Luna corrected. "He gets me one every year for my birthday."
"Happy late birthday," Tempest said. "Why one every year though? Wouldn't that be a bit much?"
"Oh no," Luna said, "If you keep them in a cage for too long then their limbs rot and fall off, so you have to set them free."
"Okay," Tempest said, shrugging. After all, it was hardly the oddest thing she had heard that night. "What do they look like? I might try and see if I can see any around."
"They don't usually come near populated areas," Luna said with a sigh. "That's why I only get one once a year. They're really hard to find."
"Okay." Tempest said. "Anyway, I think I've got to go now. There's someone who I've been delaying a conversation with, and I really shouldn't keep them waiting…"
"Goodbye." Luna said serenely. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Tempest muttered a farewell, then exited the kitchens and sped off to Gryffindor tower. The ice cream really had helped clear her mind a lot- or maybe that was Luna, but oh well- she felt far more ready to face Sirius than she had before.
"Hi." Tempest began.
"Hi." Sirius repeated. "You send that cowardly snivelling rat to our front door step, and then say 'hi'?"
"So the portkey worked?" Tempest muttered, "good… that was a first. I swore I got the spell wrong when the branch turned green instead of blue… ah well."
"You don't flipping say 'hi' when you send someone who you know I have been wanting to get my hands on for fourteen years to our home!" Sirius steamrolled straight on, as though Tempest hadn't spoken, "You say 'hi' when you're passing someone you know on the street! You say 'hi' to the bartender when you're buying firewhiskey! You say 'hi' when you get home after the holidays- you don't say 'hi' when-"
"Yeah, Padfoot, I think I got it!" Tempest said loudly. "Sorry."
"Sorry?" Sirius's voice reached a pitch that Tempest swore only dolphins could hear.
"Yeah, yeah, got it." Tempest sighed. "look, where is he anyway? Have you killed him yet, or fire called Dumbledore?"
"No." Sirius said, sounding rather surprised at himself. "You found him first, and beat the living shit out of him, but didn't kill him. I'm guessing you sent him here for a reason."
Tempest fiddled with the frame of the mirror for a moment before replying. "Look, I don't know, Sirius… I loathe his guts and despise every single thing about him, but you put me there- in that place…" She stopped and started again. "I think that for a moment I was actually going to do it. Moody- or the impostor Moody… he said that you had to have all the motivation, have the focus to cast the spell… I had it, Sirius, I could have killed him- that feeling… I don't know!" Tempest shook her head furiously. "Alright I took the easy way out, okay? I couldn't decide so yeah, I'm shoving the responsibility over to you. Sue me. From now on, I'm done with Pettigrew- I don't give a rats ass whether or not he dies in a ditch tomorrow, or whether he repents and becomes ruler of the world… I'm done."
"No, I'm serious! I'm done- I don't want to hear another thing about Pettigrew, alright? Kill him- send him to Azkaban- use him to clear your name, use him to clean your teeth- I don't care."
"Well what am I meant to do with him?" Sirius exploded. "I can't just kill him, because as much as I damn well want to, Dumbledore would blow his top, and you know I can't kick him out because you gave him the secret, and he knows where we live-"
"It's your problem now then," Tempest snapped irritably, all of her previous semi-good mood long gone. "go talk to Remus- whatever. I've had a long night, so I'll be going to sleep now, alright? I'll talk to you in person in a few days. Full moon. Goodnight."
"Tempest, if you so much as dare to-"
Sirius's voice was cut off as Tempest cut him off, stuffed the mirror under her pillow and proceeded to fall asleep.
MINISTRY SEEKS EDUCATIONAL REFORM DOLORES UMBR1DGE APPOINTED FIRST EVER HIGH INQUISITOR
"In a surprise move last night the Ministry of Magic passed new legislation giving itself an unprecedented level of control at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
'The Minister has been growing uneasy about goings-on at Hogwarts for some time,' said junior Assistant to the Minister, Percy Weasley. 'He is now responding to concerns voiced by anxious parents, who feel the school may be moving in a direction they do not approve of.'
This is not the first time in recent weeks that the Minister, Cornelius Fudge, has used new laws to effect improvements at the wizarding school. As recently as 30th August, Educational Decree Number Twenty-two was passed, to ensure that, in the event of the current Headmaster being unable to provide a candidate for a teaching post, the Ministry should select an appropriate person.
'That's how Dolores Umbridge came to be appointed to the teaching staff at Hogwarts,' said Weasley last night. 'Dumbledore couldn't find anyone so the Minister put in Umbridge, and of course, she's been an immediate success, totally revolutionising the teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts and providing the Minister with on-the-ground feedback about what's really happening at Hogwarts.'
It is this last function that the Ministry has now formalised with the passing of Educational Decree Number Twenty-three, which creates the new position of Hogwarts High Inquisitor.
'This is an exciting new phase in the Minister's plan to get to grips with what some are calling the falling standards at Hogwarts,' said Weasley. 'The Inquisitor will have powers to inspect her fellow educators and make sure that they are coming up to scratch. Professor Umbridge has been offered this position in addition to her own teaching post and we are delighted to say that she had accepted.'
The Ministry's new moves have received enthusiastic support from parents of students at Hogwarts.
'I feel much easier in my mind now that I know Dumbledore is being subjected to fair and objective evaluation,' said Mr. Lucius Malfoy, 41, speaking from his Wiltshire mansion last night. 'Many of us with our children's best interests at heart have been concerned about some of Dumbledore's eccentric decisions in the last few years and are glad to know that the Ministry is keeping an eye on the situation.'
Among those eccentric decisions are undoubtedly the controversial staff appointments previously described in this newspaper, which have included the employment of werewolf Remus Lupin, half-giant Rubeus Hagrid and delusional ex-Auror, 'Mad-Eye' Moody.
Rumours abound, of course, that Albus Dumbledore, once Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, is no longer up to the task of managing the prestigious school of Hogwarts.
'I think the appointment of the Inquisitor is a first step towards ensuring that Hogwarts has a headmaster in whom we can all repose our confidence,' said a Ministry insider last night. 'Wizengamot elders Griselda Marchbanks and Tiberius Ogden have resigned in protest at the introduction of the post of Inquisitor to Hogwarts.
'Hogwarts is a school, not an outpost of Cornelius Fudge's office,' said Madam Marchbanks. 'This is a further, disgusting attempt to discredit Albus Dumbledore.'
'(For a full account of Madam Marchbanks's alleged links to subversive goblin groups, turn to page seventeen.) '
"Yeah turn to page seventeen-" Tempest snorted. "Even without Skeeter…"
"So this was what Percy meant," Ron said, glancing at Hermione.
"-and how we ended up with Umbridge! Fudge passed some 'Educational Decree,' and she was forced on us! He's even give her the power to inspect the other teachers."
"What about this situation is funny in any way?" Hermione asked incredulously.
"I can't wait to see McGonagall inspected, Umbridge won't know what's hit her."
Against her will, Tempest felt a small smile creep up on her face. "Oh that would be fun…"
'Well, come on,' said Hermione, jumping up, 'we'd better get going, if she's inspecting Binns's class we don't want to be late…'
But Umbridge was not inspecting their History of Magic lesson, which was just as dull as the previous Monday, nor was she in Snape's dungeon when they arrived for double Potions.
They got their moonstone essays back though, and Tempest glanced down at the spiky black 'O' scrawled in the upper corner of the page. For some reason though she didn't feel the rush of satisfaction that she usually did when Snape was forced to give her 'O's'. In fact, she rather felt like she was half asleep, not really paying attention. After all, a petty grudge against a teacher who was biased against her father wasn't exactly on the top ten things she had to worry about at the moment.
"What did you get?" Ron muttered, nudging Tempest's arm.
Tempest didn't bother to reply, shoving her paper towards Ron.
"I got a 'P'."
"Don't let Hermione see." Tempest replied darkly.
"I have awarded you the grades you would have received if you presented this work in your OWL," Snape said with a smirk, overriding whatever Ron was about to say, his eyes fixed malevolently on Ron. "This should give you a realistic idea of what to expect in the examination."
Snape reached the front of the class and turned on his heel to face them. "The general standard of this homework was abysmal. Most of you would have failed had this been your examination. I expect to see a great deal more effort for this weeks essay on the various varieties of venom antidotes, or I shall have to start handing out detentions to those dunces who get a 'D'."
"At least you didn't get that." Tempest said, hoping she sounded sympathetic.
"Small consolation," Ron said, glancing across Tempest to Hermione.
Shrugging off Ron's moaning, Tempest started on Snape's Strengthening potion.
"Really, I would love to have gotten an 'O'," Hermione said as they walked to the Great hall for lunch.
Ron was studying the floor as though it was the most interesting thing since chocolate lime ice cream.
When neither Tempest nor Ron answered (Tempest not really listening) Hermione continued. "But at this rate I don't really expect the top grade, and it's not like he's marking to OWL standard, but a pass is encouraging at this stage, wouldn't you say?"
Ron mumbled something under his breath that put Tempest off lunch.
"Obviously, I'd have been thrilled if I'd got an 'O'-"
"Oh for heaven's sake, Hermione!" Tempest snapped, "If you want to know our marks then just freaking ask! I got an 'O' if you have to know!"
"And I got a 'P'." Ron said, ladling soup into his bowl. "Happy?"
'Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of,' said Fred, who had just arrived at the table with and sat down on Tempest's right. "Nothing wrong with a good healthy 'P'."
'But," said Hermione, "doesn't 'P' stand for…"
"'Poor', yeah," said George. "Still, better than 'D', isn't it? 'Dreadful'?"
"So top grade's 'O' for 'Outstanding'," she was saying, "and then there's 'A' -"
"No, 'E'," George corrected her, "'E' for 'Exceeds Expectations'. And I've always thought Fred and I should've got 'E' in everything, because we exceeded expectations just by turning up for the exams."
They all laughed except Hermione, who ploughed on, "So, after 'E' it's 'A' for 'Acceptable', and that's the last pass grade, isn't it?"
"Yep," said Fred, dunking an entire roll in his soup, transferring it to his mouth and swallowing it whole. "Then you get 'P' for 'Poor'-" Ron raised both his arms in mock celebration - "and 'D' for 'Dreadful'."
"And then 'T'," George reminded him.
"'T'?" asked Hermione, looking appalled. "Even lower than a 'D'? What on earth does 'T' stand for?"
"'Troll'," said George promptly.
"You lot had an inspected lesson yet?" Fred asked them, beginning to eat .
"No"' said Hermione at once. "Have you?"
"Just now, before lunch," said George. "Charms."
"What was it like?" Hermione asked.
"Not that bad. Umbridge just lurked in the corner making notes on a clipboard. You know what Flitwick's like, he treated her like a guest, didn't seem to bother him at all. She didn't say much. Asked Angelina a couple of questions about what the classes are normally like, Angelina told her they were really good, that was it."
"I can't see old Flitwick getting marked down," said George, "he usually gets everyone through their exams all right… and Tempest, are you okay- you seem awfully quiet-"
"Well you don't sound great, and you look terrible Hedgy-"
"Yes, I was meaning to say before-" Hermione cut in, "What happened to your hands?"
"Don't." Tempest snapped, pulling the sleeves of her robes up so that her bruised knuckles were covered . "I'm seriously not in the mood."
"Well what crawled up your ass and died?"
"Nothing- I'm busy- would you just-"
"Hedgy, you're eating lunch- how busy can you be?"
"George, sense the tone."
"What? Isn't it Snickerdoodle anymore- Hedgy- Tempest- wait!"
George stared blankly after Tempest as she stormed off.
"Hey- Hermione- what's up with Hedgy?"
Hermione glanced from Tempest's disappearing figure to George's face. "Um… I'm not sure. She went to bed really late last night, around one in the morning, she woke me up when came into the dorm, so…"
"Did anything happen last night?" George asked, "I mean, I saw her in the common room before I went to find Fred, and she seemed fine then- but that was only around ten or so…"
George stared at Hermione's downturned head. "Do you know something?" he asked suspiciously.
"No." Hermione replied quickly.
"Well, er… Angelina did say something to me… and I might have-"
"Oh that's just bloody brilliant!" George yelled, knocking over his stack of toast and sprinting out of the great hall.
"Did, uh, did George find you?" Hermione asked in Arithmancy.
"What?" Tempest asked, looking up from page 67 in her book.
"So he didn't- oh okay… nothing."
For a moment Tempest wondered if she should pursue the subject, then decided she didn't care enough to, and let it drop. After Wormtail, Tempest realized that nothing was like she had previously assumed, and if there really was something with George… then he'd tell her. She was perfectly happy with George just being her friend- he was the absolute best friend she had ever had anyway, and she didn't want more than that.
George was really her first ever friend, even before Hermione really. He was the first person ever to make a promise to her and keep it…
Don't worry… If you fall, I'll catch you.
And that was a first, because he had caught her.
DADA was not what Tempest needed at the moment. DADA with Moony. DADA with the fake Moody… either of the latter two Tempest would have been happy with, but DADA with Umbridge….
The toad was wearing a repulsively smug expression as they filed into the class, and apparently her victimization of Trelawney in Divination before was the reason why.
"I was almost sorry for the crazy bat," Ron had said. "She could barely string two words together with the toad breathing down her neck."
She was humming and smiling to herself as they sat down and as they all took out their copies of Defensive Magical Theory, Ron told them everything that had happened in Divination. Hermione was indignant, something that Tempest had never thought that she would feel for the professor.
Unfortunately before Hermione could begin grilling Ron, Umbridge called for silence.
"Wands away," she instructed them all with a smile, and those people who had been hopeful enough to take them out, sadly returned them to their bags. "As we finished Chapter One last lesson, I would like you all to turn to page nineteen today and commence 'Chapter Two, Common Defensive Theories and their Derivation'. There will be no need to talk."
Still smiling her wide, self-satisfied smile, she sat down at her desk. The class gave an audible sigh as it turned, as one, to page nineteen.
On page nineteen, Tempest proceeded to finish what she had begun instead of her DADA homework- decorating the page with an intricate drawing of a dragon eating someone who looked suspiciously like Umbridge. That was until she realized that Hermione had her hand up.
Umbridge had noticed, too, and what was more, she seemed to have worked out a strategy for just such an eventuality. Instead of trying to pretend she had not noticed Hermione she got to her feet and walked around the front row of desks until they were face to face, then she bent down and whispered, so that the rest of the class could not hear, "What is it this time, Miss Granger?"
"I've already read Chapter Two," said Hermione.
"Well then, proceed to Chapter Three."
"I've read that too. I've read the whole book."
Umbridge blinked but recovered her poise almost instantly.
"Well, then, you should be able to tell me what Slinkhard says about counter-jinxes in Chapter Fifteen."
"He says that counter-jinxes are improperly named," said Hermione promptly. "He says 'counter-jinx' is just a name people give their jinxes when they want to make them sound more acceptable."
"Well I disagree," Tempest interrupted, her voice ringing in the silent classroom, making heads turn towards her. "Oh sorry, am I interrupting? I thought I was part of this conversation- anyway… ferro mittitur and all that crap- if we're going to go down the rabbit hole… Hermione do continue. (The die is cast)
"Alright then," Hermione said, sounding rather amused. "So Mr. Slinkhard doesn't like jinxes does he? It's pretty clear. But I think that they can be very useful when they're used defensively."
"Oh, you do, do you?" said Professor Umbridge, forgetting to whisper and straightening up. "Well, I'm afraid it is Mr. Slinkhard's opinion, and not yours, that matters within this classroom, Miss Granger."
"But –" Hermione began.
"That is enough," said Professor Umbridge. She walked back to the front of the class and stood before them, all the jauntiness she had shown at the beginning of the lesson gone. "Miss Potter, Miss Granger, I am going to take ten points from Gryffindor house."
There was an outbreak of muttering at this.
"What for?" burst out Ron angrily.
"For disrupting my class with pointless interruptions," said Professor Umbridge smoothly. "I am here to teach you using a Ministry-approved method that does not include inviting students to give their opinions on matters about which they understand very little. Your previous teachers in this subject may have allowed you more licence, but as none of them - with the possible exception of Professor Quirrell, who did at least appear to have restricted himself to age-appropriate subjects - would have passed a Ministry inspection."
Tempest gritted her teeth. Just fifty more minutes…
The rest of the day passed with Tempest not seeing a peep of George, but he never left her mind thanks to Hermione.
Finally on the way up to the common room that night, after Hermione had somehow dragged George's name into the conversation for the seventh time, Tempest snapped, grabbing Hermione's arm and pulling her behind a tapestry.
"What the hell, Hermione?" Tempest snapped. "What is with your weird obsession with George? If you flipping think that he likes me, then great, it's his choice on whether or not to say something!"
"So if you know something that I don't that's gonna changed my mind somehow, then spill, otherwise just ditch the subject!"
Sir George the knight in shining armour walked into the grand castle and saw the fearsome dragon.
"Greetings fair dragon," George began, "I have come to proclaim my undying love for you… will you go out with me?"
The dragon roared and then roasted Sir George with a burst of fire.
George shook his head violently.
Don't overthink this… don't over think this… don't over think this…
George had never realized how much he thought until now. Now, he had way too many thoughts.
So she knows- no big deal. No. Big. Deal….
WHAT THE FRICKING HELL? Of course it was a big deal! She'd probably think he was a creep- having a crush on her for four years… And to have heard it from Hermione, who had heard it from Angelina… Oh merlin… even if by some miracle she isn't creeped out, then all chances that she would look at his feelings in a positive light would be gone. After all, Tempest wasn't one to look at an incapability to act very favourably.
Damn it, damn it, damn it…
Why him? Why her?
"She's in the Owlery."
George's head snapped around. "Who?"
"Who else?" Fred snorted. "The girl on your mind for four years? The girl whose name you've been muttering all day? Half the school thinks you're high on fairy dust by now."
"Yeah, thanks." George mumbled. "so the Owlery, you said?"
"Good luck mate!"
And George went off to face the dragon.
I'm going to die.
When George entered the Owlery, Tempest had her back to him.
Tempest didn't reply.
Don't overthink this… don't overthink this…
Oh, that was a good sign, wasn't it?
"So uh… good weather huh?"
Merlin! Don't talk about the weather! How stupid are you?
"It's raining, George."
It was raining, hailing actually- water dripping down off the roof and the hailstones hitting the floor where Tempest was standing.
Oh shit. Um, well, say something else. You can't really make this worse…
"I love you?"
George wanted to cut out his tongue. No- he wanted to cut it out and then castrate himself. That would be far less humiliating than this. Why did he say that? And why did it come out like a question?
Then Tempest turned around, her arms folded, and feet apart.
She was smiling.
George felt as though his heart was being stomped on and he could actually feel the molten heat of shame slowly and painfully melting him. She was laughing at him. He should laugh it off- pretend he didn't mean it, but this situation was just so not funny…
"So you love me?" Tempest asked, the smile still there. It wasn't even an encouraging smile either… George wasn't sure exactly what sort of smile it was.
Tempest laughed, and George felt like dying.
"George… do you even know what that word means?"
Do I… did he?
No, no he didn't.
But that's what he had always thought he felt- for four years… surely it was the only thing it could be…
"No, I don't." he said honestly. "But whatever I'm feeling… it's the only thing I want that word to mean… so… yeah. I love you."
Tempest didn't say anything for a long time, her face blank, then slowly her arms unfolded and she began walking towards George, who didn't know whether or not he should run or what.
"Don't overthink this." Tempest said for the first time.
And then George's heart stopped as Tempest placed her hands on his arms and leant in… and hugged him.
George stopped breathing.
Don't overthink this…
They had hugged before- Tempest hugging him, him hugging her.. but they were rough, boyish, playful hugs, actually more painful than anything else, and maybe on a subconscious level that was what the both of them
But this… George's mind went blank. Tempest smelt like rain, coffee… and suspiciously like gunpowder, and George was very aware of the way that her body was right there…
"Go out with me?"
Don't overthink this…
Tempest pulled away, a smile pulling at her lips.
Don't overthink this…
And George didn't need to. He just knew. This was Tempest.
"Yeah, okay." she laughed. "Absolutely."
Lucius Malfoy regretted a lot of things.
Of course, he would never admit to it if confronted, but that didn't make the facts any less true.
Why was life so hard for him?
Well, he knew the answer to that question- it was really all his fault, the decisions he had made, ect… Thinking back, he had no idea why he had let Pettigrew go. He should have killed the rat as soon as he caught him. Sending him off with a letter to Potter… … … why?
No, actually- why had he even decided to help her in the first place? Actually the answer was quite simple. Draco.
The foolish boy had to go and think he was in love… and even that Lucius could handle. But not with the Potter girl. Perhaps even a Mudblood would have been preferable. In fact that wasn't even a perhaps. A Mudblood would have been preferable. Easier to dispose of, easier to manipulate…
But nooo. It had to be the Girl Who Lived. Impossible to manipulate and completely insufferable if the encounter at Kings Cross was anything to count by. Blackmail was still an option, but if Draco found out…
Lucius felt a pair of arms wrap around him from behind and a head rest on his shoulder. "What are you thinking about?"
"I recently received a letter." Lucius said blandly, flicking the piece of parchment at Narcissa who had to stoop to catch it as it floated down to the ground.
Narcissa opened the folded piece of parchment, noting the ragged edges, having clearly been torn out of a notebook.
There were various crossing outs over the page, and the scrawly writing was barely readable, but by the end, Narcissa managed to get the gist of it.
"'To the idiotic who-' actually, a moment, that was crossed out… It begins, 'To the moron that thought-' no, actually correction-"
"My apologies," Narcissa said, hiding a smile and returning her attention to the letter.
To Mr Malfoy
I would just like to ask what the hell- Hi. I was wondering if- What right do you think- With all due respect, which isn't much- Could you just- No, actually, scratch that- Could you tell me why the he- You know what, this is just a-
Hi. Ignoring all of the above, judging by the amount of effort you put into secrecy, I'd say that you don't want certain people knowing about your part in the graveyard incident a few months ago, especially the two parties which you would suffer most from if they found out. The ministry may not believe me, however due to a decision you made that I do not fully understand, I have recently acquired new information which I may use to your disadvantage.
Should this information slip out to the general public, it would spell the end of you, whereas I have only to gain.
Therefore, to reach a solution that benefits us both, I'd say we need to talk. Like, face to face. Working at the ministry I know that you know that letters are intercepted, so I'm sure that you'd prefer that we don't go over this stuff via owl.
Sunday 10pm outside Gringotts
"Well?" Lucius snapped.
Narcissa put the letter down slowly, her expression unreadable. "Well…" and then she began laughing, dropping gracefully onto the arm of the chair that Lucius was sitting in.
"And what exactly would be funny?"
"She is blackmailing you!" Narcissa laughed. "A fourteen year old is blackmailing you."
"I- you- She is not blackmailing me!" Lucius said indignantly. "And she is fifteen!"
"Oh believe me darling, she is most definitely blackmailing you." Narcissa said. "It is obvious to her that you don't want anyone-" she gazed pointedly at Lucius's left arm, "to know about your actions in the graveyard whereas she has no such qualms about releasing that information."
"Oh for Salazar's sake!" Lucius snarled. "I should have just-"
"Draco would never have forgiven you."
"He's a teenaged boy," Lucius muttered dismissively. "He'd get over it."
"Perhaps," Narcissa shrugged, "But you still did the right thing. No one should just stand there and watch a girl that young die if in a position with the opportunity to stop it."
Narcissa paused for a moment, staring at Tempest's letter before speaking again. "So… Lucius… dear, why exactly did you decide to… take action?"
Lucius said nothing.
"Oh very well," Lucius sighed, "as you so eloquently put forwards before, our son would not have forgiven me had she died."
"But you said that he would have gotten over it." Narcissa stated. "And do not even think of saying that you actually considered his feelings at that moment. Contrary to what you may think, I do know you better than anyone else Lucius. Admit that you helped her because based on the handful of girls his age that you actually deem of acceptable blood status for him, out of the Potter girl and say… that despicable Parkinson girl, she would undoubtedly be the better option."
Lucius snorted. "Ridiculous. A half-blood?"
"Oh very well then, if it wasn't for our son, and if it wasn't for your preferences in who he chooses to date, then what is your excuse?"
"I hardly think that I am entitled to give detailed explanations to you over every minor detail of my life." Lucius said coldly, only to quail seconds later at the look on his wife's face.
"Cissy… maybe I don't know."
"Lucius," Narcissa said firmly, grabbing Lucius's chin and making him face her. "We've been married for twenty three years and I know better than anyone else that nothing you do is without a reason."
Lucius shook his head in disbelief before running a tired hand across his forehead. "Perhaps because… there may be a certain… I might be reconsidering… that the dark lord might not be what I at first thought all those years ago… and it would not be in my- our- best interests to… continue being loyal to such a…" he paused. "I recently found an old letter from my father…"
"Mmm." Lucius replied. "And it occurred to me that the dark lord may in fact be a half-blood named Tom Riddle…"
"The dark lord? A half-blood?"
"We Malfoys do not do service, much less to half-bloods," Lucius muttered. "It occurred to me that-"
"Calling anyone master is rather degrading, and the sudden knowledge that the person whose feet you kneel at is beneath you and that perhaps the world would be a far better place without this… Tom?"