CHAPTER SEVEN: SELF-DESTRUCTION
I awakened in a stone cell, iron links around my wrists. I looked around, trying to gather by bearings without much luck. Wherever I was had a dingy appearance, and a dampness covered the walls thick enough to cause slippery mold to form. I sat in an awkward position while trying to gather myself, but I had no such luck. I called out for someone, but no one answered. I could feel others around me, close by yet far away, but I heard no movement, no one call back from my cry. I spent hours listening, hoping for a response, but it was no use. I fell asleep with numbed arms hoping to find answers soon.
"She woke up earlier, Albus, but we didn't go to her. No one trusted her after what happened, no one at all," a man spat, his accent heavy and unfamiliar to me. I opened my eyes weakly to see Dumbledore standing with the man, who shuttered with a violent motion, "You do with her what you want, but I need her gone before she burns the others up."
"I doubt she'd do such a thing," Dumbledore sighed, standing beside the bars with a solemn gaze. "You have no idea what happened that night," he began, looking to my shackled arms. "There is only so much I can do to protect my professors or my students, no matter how valuable. Helping you before was a matter for the Ministry to handle. If the world knew Death Eaters had come so close to Hogwarts, we would not last the term. But I could not cover up this incident, this heinous accident. The officials know from my own tales that you could not help your actions, but they want you to pay for the crime you will never recall committing. They have powerful allies making sure the charges go through. They may even overpower me within the Ministry's courts, but you're out of my hands now. I enjoyed having such a powerful scholar within my school, but I worry now if I made the gravest mistake of my long life. You're a good person, someone who would never intentionally harm anyone, but your inner power is volatile and impossible to control. I cannot let you back onto school grounds without guards, without someone who can confront you properly."
"Please, tell me what I did," I begged, but he shook his head sternly. "Your father told me never to tell you, and he feels he should be the one to get your things from Hogwarts. Your mother revealed her location to him and to me during your absence. She wants to see you for the holidays, and we ask that you stay with her for the rest of your days. Your father will visit periodically, as will I, but you cannot return here, not if you want your life."
"I need to know if they want to execute me, Headmaster. Please, just a small hint?" I asked, but he shook his head again. I sighed heavily, "I want to get my things myself, when the castle is empty. I don't know what I did, but if that's the request you want to make, I'll honor it as best I can."
"The Ministry must approve your travel. I will be honest with your location. You are located within a well-guarded prison. It's a building far from the other criminals, a building that only houses the most dangerous criminals. You don't belong here with these horrid people, but they had no other place to put you. Wet stone makes up the entire building, and they felt you'd be best here," he sighed, looking around him nervously. "I hate what things have become, Seraphina. But when you return to your mother's side, you can forget this nightmare ever happened."
Suddenly he stood, leaving the room the same way he came. I tried to stand to see where he went, but my shackles kept me bound to the horrid walls. Marks formed on my skin from my inner heat charging the metal. I recognized the marks because I'd seen them on my own mother after a misunderstanding that happened years ago. Now I had my own marks, making me feel closer to her, but I needed to know what I did that was so horrible, too horrible for Dumbledore to help me with. I tried to focus, but my powers were weak. I sank down again, falling asleep from hunger and exhaustion. The darkness was comforting. I couldn't hurt anyone there, I hoped.
I awakened to tugging. People were escorting me to the surface, I realized, and a cold shoreline came into my view as we reached the top of a staircase. Dumbledore was by my side, as well as Professor Snape, and both removed my shackles once the prison's guards were gone. I was reluctantly allowed to leave, they told me, and I was escorted to a portkey that would send us to Hogwarts. No other form of transportation would be suitable, they said, not with New Year's Eve celebrations sending fireworks high above numerous cities during Muggle ceremonies. Mages would be sending up blasts of their own abilities, just as wizards would do with their wand-based magic. A hit from any number of those would mean more injuries, and possibly another unwanted death. I still knew nothing, but I knew I'd killed, slaughtered some innocent soul in a moment of weakness. Even when we landed on Hogwarts' snowy grounds, the two men remained silent.
Once inside, I was told that the remaining students were gone on an off-campus trip to Hogsmede. I was led into my dungeon room, still fireproofed properly. My mother's dragon leather sleeve for her book had arrived at some point, and I placed the book inside gingerly as Professor Snape watched. He hadn't been inside my new room yet. I could tell he was fascinated by my mother's things, but I didn't feel like explaining each item. Dumbledore rejoined us after a sweep of the area, making me even more nervous. If he was willingly turning against me, I couldn't trust him anymore. I didn't know if Professor Snape was on my side either, but I knew it didn't matter anymore. I packed necessary items into one bag and pointed to the other items I'd need to have sent to me.
"It will be arranged," Dumbledore nodded, turning as a figure skipped through the hallway. I instantly recognized the girl, my father's battered broom underneath her as she played cowgirl in the halls. She sang a rhyme I couldn't understand as she stared at us, stopping mid-step. "Seraphina is leaving. Tell her goodbye," Dumbledore murmured, hoping Professor Snape couldn't hear him. But he had, and he looked around the hallway with a perplexed stare.
"There's a cursed girl here, invisible to everyone she doesn't need help from," I whispered. "I guess she'll stay cursed now. It's too risky to release her, in Dumbledore's opinion," I sighed, packing a final item. "I'm ready to leave now, Dumbledore. What method do you suggest I use?" I asked. He shook his head, looking down to the weeping girl with a sad stare. "Headmaster, you told me it was too dangerous to help her. My powers are weak from…whatever happened those many nights ago. I can't help her, not anymore."
"I have the countercurse, Seraphina. I'll give it to you, and once we're outside the castle, we can signal to you to show we're far enough away. You can then perform the ritual, and I promise that she will be the only one within the castle," Dumbledore explained. I shook my head. "You're her final hope for many years, Seraphina. I would not ask this of you if she had any other options. It would also redeem you in the eyes of those who know of her. It would keep your secrets hidden as well. She saw what happened the other night. Do you really want the future powerful ones knowing you performed a heinous act and left without helping her? That would be a second heinous act in her eyes."
"I want someone to explain to me what happened or I refuse to use my abilities," I said sternly. "I know I did harm, but I want the entire story from someone, anyone. Don't make me learn for her with her horrid rhymes that have kept me awake night after night!" I hissed, eying them both sternly. Professor Snape threw up his hands, heading towards the entryway to await my decision. Dumbledore stepped forward, kneeling down beside the silent, weeping girl and placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. "You never need to know. If you survive freeing her from this curse, you do not need the burden of knowing what you've done. You would collapse under the pressure, self-destructing from within. You cannot know if you want to lead a normal life."
"My so-called 'normal life' was taken from me at birth," I whispered spitefully. "If you don't tell me, I will make her do it before I free her. Do you really want me threatening her like that, tormenting the one you want me to save? Be honest for me this final time, Dumbledore. I'd expect it from you, my one ally in a school full of people who never understood me."
"I don't want to tell you what you don't need to know," Dumbledore sighed. "Threaten her if you wish. Professor Snape and I will wait near Hagrid's hut. Give us at least thirty minutes before you begin anything, and…be gentle with her. Her mind is fragile after her experiences through the years. Don't break her during her final moments within this curse."
I watched him leave, as did the girl. High above, I heard the doors lock shut behind them. I looked down to the girl, who smiled gently as she tried to reach for her broom. I held her shoulders, shaking my head. She gave me a pouting look before breaking into screams. She didn't want me touching her, holding her down. I kept my grip, asking her for silence. After a few minutes, she realized I was stronger than her. She stopped writhing in my hands, her wide eyes staring at me with a twinge of hurt.
"I want you to tell me what happened in the tower. I know you know what happened, and if you don't tell me, I won't save you," I said quickly and sternly. To my surprise, she laughed at me, cackling wildly as she tried to fall to the floor. I gave her a perplexed look, holding her shoulders until her laughter stopped. "I don't see how any of this is funny."
"You don't need to know. Dumbledore told you that. Don't you listen to your masters?" she asked, sticking her tongue out at me. "I don't have to tell you anything," she grinned, throwing her legs out from under herself. She fell with a plop, the pain of landing on a stone floor nonexistent to her. "I don't need to tell! I don't need to tell!" she sang.
"If you want to have your curse broken, you'll describe every moment!" I hissed, but her song never stopped. I felt my temper growing, and I grabbed her shoulders harder as I kneeled in front of her. "I'll end you!" I screamed. She pulled back, begging me not to. "Then tell me what you know!" I demanded. She took a moment, biting her lip slightly.
"But Dumbledore was right. You'll be hurt. You don't need to know. You never needed to know," she whispered, eying the broom carefully. "He doesn't know. No one knows what happened, just me. And Dumbledore said not to tell. Don't you want to listen to him? He's the greatest wizard ever."
"If he's so great, why hasn't he helped you yet?" I asked coldly. She thought for a moment, pondering the question. "He's tossing me out of here. He doesn't want to help me either, and he never wanted to help you. You've been here too long. Don't you think he would've found the solution by now?"
"But he is the greatest! Everyone says so, even if he didn't help me," she sighed. "And he won't help you either?" she asked. I shook my head. "Seraphina was supposed to save the day though. I knew that," she whispered. I shook my head again. "You never belonged here, did you?"
"I never did. I'm different, you know. That's why I need you to tell me. No one else like me will ever enter Hogwarts. After what's been done here, they won't allow us back for the rest of time, so no one will ever be able to help you. If you just tell me what I did, why we'll never be allowed back, I'll save you. I'll save the day for you."
"It's really bad, Seraphina. I don't want to hurt you," she pleaded, but I shook my head. I didn't care how much it would hurt: I needed to know what happened that night. "You were up in the tower. Your power kept growing and growing. You finished what you were doing, but it didn't want to go back to sleep. It made you explode. You became a fire storm."
"I remember that part. What happened afterwards?" I asked. She shook her head, tears streaming down her face. "Please, I need to know," I begged. She sniffled, tucking her knees under her chin and whimpering slightly, "Someone came through the door. He heard the noise and thought you were in trouble. Richmond came in! He became a puddle of water and didn't wake back up!" she sobbed.
I immediately knew why Dumbledore didn't want me to know. I'd murdered Richmond, my one and only ally in Hogwarts. His family, the only people outside my own clan who'd ever wanted to offer me their knowledge, probably hated me now. I'd destroyed the greatest person I'd met, all because I wanted to contact my mother.
"Seraphina, will you break the curse now? You can be upset later. I told you Dumbledore didn't want you to know. I told you it was bad," the girl argued. I nodded to her, "You were both right. I'm sorry for doubting either of you. I'll perform the ritual now, if I can."
She stood up happily, wiping her tears away. She stood in front of me, in my room filled with precious treasures from my mother. I couldn't perform the ritual here, not if it could destroy the things we loved. I led her into the empty potions classroom, eying the clock. The desired time had passed, meaning that Dumbledore and Professor Snape would be safe. I picked up the scrap of parchment, Dumbledore's handwriting shimmering on the page. He'd fireproofed the paper in case something went wrong, but I hoped not to need it.
I said the words, and a bolt of orange lightening hit the room with a thundering bang. I was slammed against the wall, sending dust all over the room. I felt myself bleeding, my injuries tearing away at my life. But then I felt the power seeping from me, the power needed to free the girl from her lasting torment. She was changing before my weak eyes, the image of her flickering in and out.
"I…I can't…I need…," I called out, but the lightening was still thundering. I felt myself sink into the debris, my life fading. I saw things I'd never seen before, namely a beautiful flickering light made of many colors. Within in, every mage type welcomed me to our special afterlife, an afterlife I'd only heard odd stories about in my few years. I knew it was a place where we could live in harmony with our own kind, without the outside world and its laws causing us problems.
While I knew I was wanted in the world, I knew I couldn't live with my errors. I embraced the light, letting it overtake me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I'd done the right thing. It was during my final moments, when the little girl turned into a middle-aged woman, free from singsong rhymes and broken broomstick horses. She thanked me, stroking my injured face. She cried over me, deeply saddened by my death. I watched every moment as I lifted towards the lights, but I never tried to fight them. I knew where I belonged now, and it was as far from that world as possible.