For the Snakes and Ladders Challenge - with Padma Patil.

For the Acrostic Competition, where each paragraph starts with a successive letter from the title.

I don't own the characters or the situation.

Midnight, of course. At Hogwarts, all important things seemed to happen after midnight. Padma was on Prefect duty, patrolling the hallways with Anthony Goldstein. They were on the sixth floor, silently walking side by side. Did he know how she felt? Did it matter? Was midnight on Prefect duty the right time to tell him? (But did he feel the same? What kept him in silence beside her?) Her thoughts kept her too preoccupied to say anything about the weather.

Outside, stars shone and Padma was distracted, looking out the window at them. Astronomy was to Padma what Astrology was to her twin sister - in it she found her haven, and she wished to one day take her place among the stars. (Would Anthony join her, if she asked, and spend the night outside, just watching them take their course?) There was a crash above, and chaos followed; there hadn't been noise like this in weeks. It had been almost eerily silent, but now the crashing was getting closer. It was her job to investigate it, of course. But that didn't seem right, not this time. Something about the noise was ominous, and she looked to Anthony, questions filling her eyes.


She didn't have to be told twice, and Anthony took her hand as they sprinted toward Ravenclaw tower. She wasn't sure what was causing the fast-paced beating of her heart - the chaos she was escaping, or the feeling of his hand in hers. At the entrance to the tower, her mind was so cluttered with the chaos they left and the chaos he gave her that she couldn't answer the riddle. Anthony did, though, and she smiled at him, grateful, but not wanting his pity.

"Move aside." Her voice was authoritative again when she noticed the crowd around a single window of the tower; there were fifteen windows, so she knew it wasn't the weather. What was everyone doing awake? Had they heard the chaos too?

"Oh, Merlin," came Anthony's voice from beside her, and she pushed in front of him to see what he saw. He was staring in the direction of the Astronomy Tower. Her refuge. She hoped nothing had happened to it, but now that she thought about it, the chaos had seemed to be heading in that direction. Why hadn't she stopped them?

Reaching the window, Padma looked up and out, squinting in anticipation of whatever might be wrong. She didn't have to squint, though, because snaking up into the sky was a green light, cloudy, and hiding the stars.

"Damn." Anthony looked at her questionably, and Padma couldn't blame him. She hadn't said so much as Merlin in her life - that was Parvati's job. But there were some situations, she realized, that swear words were made for. And if seeing the Dark Mark above Hogwarts wasn't one of them, she didn't know what was. She sat down in a chair, ready to collapse, wondering who had died, and who had gotten in to cast it.

Returning to the corridors or heading in the direction of the tower never crossed her mind. She sank down into an easy chair and buried her face in her hands. She was intelligent, but not brave like her sister. Perhaps she wasn't brave because she was intelligent. At any rate, she wanted to bury her head in the sand and pretend she hadn't been there, so close, when whoever had cast that thing had probably arrived.

"Everything will work out," Anthony said, sitting down on the armrest of her easy chair. Normally she would chastise him for it, but to have him there and close and comforting was more important than the proper treatment of furniture. She blushed when he put his arm around her and she leaned in to his side. (She had no way of knowing, of course, but she forever felt guilty, even after they married, that she was kissing Anthony Goldstein in the middle of the night while Dumbledore fell silently from her favorite place at Hogwarts.)