Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, or anything else that may be referenced in this chapter.
A/N: Massive thank yous to you all for reading, reviewing, following and favouring; I hope you all enjoy this chapter! :)
A lump filled Rose's throat at his words; fresh tears curling yet again in the corners of her eyes. "I love you, too; so much." She replied softly, wiping the tears away behind her glasses. "So, what do you want to do?"
"What are you two doing- oh my Merlin, Rose- you- your arm." Pansy gasped. Rose and Blaise turned, Rose's heart sinking slightly. Pansy, Millicent, Theo, Crabbe, Goyle and Draco stood before the now open door of the broom closet, the light from within which now streaming out into the corridor. Pansy, Millicent, Theo, Crabbe and Goyle were staring at Rose's Dark Mark in shock. Draco, on the contrary, was frowning at Rose.
"I thought we agreed you were going to tell me when you were ready to tell everyone," he said, "and why the hell are you in here with him?" he nodded towards Blaise, a slightly hostile edge to his tone.
"What do you mean by that?" Blaise asked defensively. Draco glared at him.
"Wait a minute," Millicent turned to Draco, cutting him off before he could reply to Blaise. "You knew about this?" she demanded, gesturing towards Rose's Dark Mark. "When did this happen, exactly?"
The Slytherins jumped as a great noise of explosion sounded from the direction of the Entrance Hall above their heads, followed almost instantly by a loud, undoubtedly magically amplified shriek from a voice Rose vaguely recognised from the previous night as that of Alecto Carrow:
"ALL STUDENTS TO THE ENTRANCE HALL NOW!"
Theo started up the corridor in the direction of Entrance Hall, his expression wary. "What the-?"
"I SAID," Alecto Carrow's voice shrieked. "ALL STUDENTS TO THE ENTRANCE HALL NOW! IMMEDIATELY! THIS INSTANT!"
Rose winced as Alecto's voice reached an unnaturally high pitch, slipping out of the closet, pulling Blaise with her. "I think we should go up there," she said. "That's the new Muggle Studies teacher Alecto Carrow- I met her last night night, she's nasty."
Pansy's brow furrowed. "When did you meet-"
"Whoa!" Millicent grabbed Crabbe's arm, looking up as the celling above their heads shook ominously.
"…I agree with Rose," Goyle said as the others looked up at the ceiling, too. "We should go up there."
The others nodded in agreement, and the seventh years started forwards, hurrying through the dungeons towards the Entrance Hall. They were not the only ones following Alecto Carrow's orders- the sound of hasty footsteps and confused and nervous murmurs of their housemates followed them, growing louder and louder the more time passed.
"What on earth…" Rose trailed off, staring around as they reached the Entrance Hall.
It was about the time for the start of breakfast, but the doors to the Great Hall were closed. Alecto and Amycus Carrow stood in front of them- the latter a squat, lumpy man with a pallid, doughy, pig-like face and tiny, mean eyes. There were great cracks in the ceiling on either side of the door and one enormous crack ran the with of the Entrance Hall floor, starting at Alecto's feet.
So curious and rather nervous about their summoning were the students of Hogwarts that it only took a few moments for the Entrance Hall to fill up with students; and staff, too, Severus and the other staff members were walking down the Grand Staircase, presumably coming from a staff meeting, making their way through the crowd as quickly as it formed, stopping at the front of the left hand side of the crowd, close to the Carrows.
"Professors Carrow," Severus spoke coolly, his voice silencing the murmurs of the students as they stated at the Carrows and the cracks around the Great Hall. Severus's eyes were glittering dangerously, and it would not take a Ravenclaw to know that he was furious. "Whatever are you doing?"
"Introducing the students to the start of their new way of life while at Hogwarts, Headmaster," she replied a slightly mocking edge to her tone as she went on, "Do we have your permission to continue?"
Rose wouldn't have been surprised if Severus had pulled out his wand and cursed Alecto and Amycus where they stood. Her jaw dropped slightly, however, when instead of hexing, or cursing or even verbally tearing into the Carrows, his face twisted into a smirk and he gestured acceptingly.
"But of course."
"Okay, then… LISTEN UP!" Alecto Carrow shrieked, continuing in a more measured tone. "For those of you with short-term memories, I am Professor Carrow, your new Muggle Studies Professor; and this Professor Carrow, your new Dark Arts Professor." She gestured to her brother. "We are also the new heads of discipline here at Hogwarts. In light of this, we have decided to create some new rules- and reintroduce some old rules- just passed this very morning. First and foremost, mealtimes. At my signal, you are going to line up. Boys on the left side of the hall- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin- in order of year level; girls on the right side of the hall- Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin- also in order of year level. You will stay in this order and enter the Great Hall at my say-so. Boys will sit on the left hand side of the table, girls on the right. Whether you eat or stay for the entire meal or not I don't care, but you will be present at the start of meals and you will enter the hall at every meal as instructed; and rest assured- the Great Hall is the only place you will be able to get food, for the House-elves have been given strict orders not to serve students who come to the kitchen, rather they will be reported and punished accordingly."
"What?" Goyle's brow furrowed. "That's stupid."
He was not the only one who thought so- there was an outbreak of angry muttering at Alecto's words, but Alecto seemed most unperturbed as turned towards the doors to the Great Hall and raised her wand again.
Several people screamed, ducking as another crack appeared in the wall, this time above the door to the Great Hall.
"What the hell- she's insane!" Millicent hissed, taking a step back.
"Secondly, Hogsmede visits are no more… nor is the inter-house Quidditch Championship." Alecto continued loudly, turning back around to face the school as though nothing had happened.
Though several people scowled, no murmurs ran around the hall, for fear of Alecto's creating another crack in the wall or in the floor. Just as Alecto opened her mouth to speak again, another voice rang through out the hall as a girl with long red hair and robes adorned with red stepped out of the crowd, her eyes narrowed.
if possible, the Hall fell even quieter as all eyes fell on Ginny Weasley. Both Alecto and Amycus started at her for a moment, too, clearly not expecting to be challenged. Then-
"Who're you?" Alecto demanded, starting towards Ginny.
"Ginny Weasley." Ginny replied clearly, holding her head high and glaring fiercely at Alecto.
"Well, 'Ginny Weasley'…" Alecto paused in front of the girl, glaring back at her. "…It's because," she snarled, "We-" she gestured between herself and her brother, "-say so. And unless you want to be the first to experience our new regulations for detention and get some new additions to that pretty little complexion of yours I suggest you shut the hell up and step back."
"Now, now, Professor Carrow," Severus's voice cut through the Entrance Hall as Ginny opened her mouth to reply. "Time is passing rather quickly and it is necessary that both students and staff have breakfast before lessons."
Alecto scowled heavily. "… Consider yourself lucky." She spat at Ginny- actually spitting as she spoke. Ginny did not flinch, even when lumps of Alecto's spittle visibly landed on her face. Alecto regarded her for a moment, looking most displeased, but no doubt feeling the gazes of Severus and the rest of the staff on her, especially Hagrid and Professor McGonagall, who had started to edge out of the group of staff, she moved away from Ginny and cleared her throat anew, her eyes searching the crowd of students as she spoke:
"Lastly, curfew is at half-past nine. No excuses or exceptions."
Her gaze landed in Rose as she spoke and she paused, her eyes narrowing pointedly. Rose narrowed her eyes coolly back at her, determined not to appear intimidated- clearly, Alecto was still smarting from her encounter with Rose and Severus the previous evening and Rose wasn't going to give the woman the satisfaction of intimidating her at any time, whether she was the head of discipline or otherwise. After a moment, however, Alecto looked away, scowling heavily.
"Why was she looking at you?" Draco muttered out of the corner of his mouth, frowning.
"It's part of what I was saying before; when I met her last night," Rose murmured back.
Draco raised his eyebrows, but before he could speak he was forced to cover his ears as Amycus, this time, raised his wand, pointing it at the wall beside him.
"That's the signal- MOVE! SILENTLY!" Amycus roared over the noise of the new crack forming in the wall. The doors to the Great Hal swung open at his words.
Exchanging glances, the students complied; moving to line up in their houses as Alecto had instructed and file into the hall in silence. Rose caught Severus's eye as she lined up behind Pansy and Millicent, opening her mind as she did so, forcing her way through Severus's Occlumency wards as he dropped them to speak with her.
'What the hell are they playing at?!' she demanded, 'You can't allow them to get away with this it's lunacy- and why on earth did you buckle like that and let her talk?!'
'The Dark Lord expects reform at Hogwarts,' Severus replied, his 'voice' shimmering with suppressed rage. 'It appears that the Carrows are starting early- and it is likely these reforms were approved by the Dark Lord. I do not like being spoken too like that, but if I protest too much, it may raise suspicion with the Dark Lord with regards to my loyalty. But I will see to it that the floor and walls are repaired and they find a less destructive signal.'
Rose couldn't help but feel dissatisfied with this response. 'I don't think that's going to be enough to keep people safe- she threatened Ginny,' she replied. 'You assigned Draco and I as Head girl and By to protect the students but realistically we can only do so much without getting detention. You're Headmaster- you can do more. If the Dark Lord wanted the Carrows to be Heads he would have appointed them- like you said last night when you put Alecto in her place.'
Severus was silent for a moment before replying. '…You and Draco figure out how to keep the students- especially those like Weasley- in line,' he said at last, 'I'll take care of the Carrows.' He pushed Rose out of his mind as he spoke, and put up his wards before she could reply.
Rose started at him helplessly, but as Severus avoided her gaze she sighed, looking away and filing into the Great Hall with the rest of the school. It definitely was not going to be a normal year at Hogwarts.
"That was mental," she remarked quietly as the Slytherins left the Hall at the end of the meal, holding their new timetables Slughorn- who was doing Severus's old duties as Slytherin's Head of House- had given them.
"I know," Pansy agreed, her expression twisting slightly as she looked at Rose, "We need to talk- all of us- about this morning."
"We'll do it at lunch? We can eat quickly then leave- if it's anything like breakfast everyone'll be out of there was quickly as possible." Theo suggested as the Slytherins left the Entrance Hall for the Herbology. The others agreed, falling silent as Daphne, Tracey fell in with them and the Ravenclaws came into earshot, following the Slytherins to the Greenhouses.
"Okay," Pansy snapped, folding her arms and turning to Rose as Theo closed the classroom door behind them all. "I want to know what the hell is going on with you and I want to know right now."
It was lunchtime, but the day had not improved very much since breakfast. Free as they apparently were to walk between classes and roam the castle during breaks, for nothing had been said otherwise, the entire school seemed to be very nervous indeed, hurrying silently from class to class in groups, looking around furtively; and huddling in the classrooms in their groups during break. The atmosphere around the castle was incredibly tense, and lessons did little to improve the mood. Though Professors Sprout and Flitwick started respective first lessons with the seventh years in the way Rose imagined they would at the start of any other school year, by talking about NEWTs and how it was more important than ever before in their education to pay attention in classes, put effort into their homework and revise regularly, their expressions were pinched and their tones too serious to be entirely related to exams.
"Word to the wise, students," Professor Flitwick had squeaked at the end of Charms as the bell rang for the start of break and the seventh years got to their feet. "An important part of this year is making sure you have enough time to complete all of your work, so avoid getting detention." His tone was carefully light-hearted, but the significant look he gave them all as he spoke conveyed his words as they were intended- as a warning. His warning, however, had not stopped him joining Professor Sprout in assigning the seventh years an enormous essay as homework.
The Slytherins did not get the chance to talk during break- the miserable weather meant that they, along with the rest of the school, were reluctant to go outside, and Rose and Draco, along with the rest of the prefects had been asked to watch over the first, second and third years in the Entrance Hall, and then the Slytherins were separated as they went to their elective classes. By lunchtime, however, the weather had cleared up somewhat and after they had eaten many students ventured outside, leaving the seventh years free to find an empty classroom to talk. With the exception of Draco and lesser exception of Blaise, the others had been rather awkward towards Rose all day. Additionally, Pansy had been remarkably cool towards both Rose and Blaise, the former more so the latter, since breakfast, and the increased tensions around the castle did little to improve her mood; thus, Rose realised that when the time came that Pansy could actually get answers, at least from Rose, she went after them angrily. This realisation, however, did nothing to make Pansy's snapping at her any less jarring.
"Hey, back off a bit, yeah?" Blaise frowned at Pansy. Rose looked at him, surprised he was saying anything after he, too, had been awkward with her. "She's doing her be-"
"No, I will not back off, Blaise," Pansy interrupted, glaring at him. "We made a promise, all of us years ago, that no matter what happened we would stick together and now these two-" she pointed at Rose and Draco in turn "-have gone off and joined the Death Eaters without a word of warning and neither of them said a word about it upfront; as soon as they had the opportunity. Not to mention- I don't know if you and Rose know how being exes works, but generally speaking two people who can't speak to each other after a break up don't defend each other and don't have hushed conversations in broom cupboards, much less conversations where you show Dark Marks!"
Blaise opened his mouth to reply, then closed it again. "Yeah, good point."
"I know." Pansy smirked. "So?" she demanded, turning back to Rose.
Rose looked at Blaise questioningly; silently whether or not he wanted her to tell tale of their lying about their break-up.
'Say whatever you want; I support you,' he seemed to say as he nodded back; taking out his wand and pointing it at the classroom door.
"Well?" Pansy raised her eyebrows at Rose.
So Rose cleared her throat and told her friends everything. She started from the day she and her friends had watched Severus's memories in Goyle's grandmother's manor; how she had argued with Harry at Remus and Tonks' wedding; the agreement they made to use Kreacher to reach each other of need be; how they had been separated by the order and she had gone to Zabini Manor, how she and Blaise had agreed to hide their relationship from everyone for safety; how Severus had come to Zabini Manor and she had left with him; how Draco had come to Spinner's End top explain his side of letting Death Eaters into the castle; how she had got home to find the Dark Lord in her sitting room; how she had no choice but to join the Death Eaters. Then she went onto the previous day and night; how her conversation with Pansy and Theo on the train had made her feel as though she couldn't tell anyone about her Dark Mark; how she felt she had to leave Hogwarts and join Harry on the run in his hunt for the Dark Lord's Horcruxes; how she had stood Blaise up in order to do so; how Severus had caught her and made her realise that the last thing her hiding her relationship with Blaise, and/or running away would do was protect everyone.
"…I was explaining about my Dark Mark to Blaise in the broom cupboard earlier, that's what we were doing," Rose concluded, her voice trembling slightly with nerves and slightly horse from talking. "I was going to tell all of you, too- I tried to tell Pansy and Millicent earlier, when we were gong down the stairs to the common room- but I couldn't get the words out in time. I'm sorry I didn't tell you all on the train, but I couldn't; I've only just come to terms with the Mark myself, honestly, and I'm sorry for lying about me and Blaise; but I promise that I'm going to tell you guys everything from now on. No more secrets." Rose said firmly, looking back at Pansy.
"I'm sorry, too," Blaise spoke up, "for lying. Like Rose said- it won't happen again."
"… It's okay; I get it." Pansy said softly after a moment. Rose and Blaise looked around at Theo Millicent, Crabbe, Goyle and Draco.
"Yeah; me too," Millicent said; Theo, Crabbe, Goyle and Draco nodded in agreement; though the latter hesitated slightly.
Relief crashed over Rose in a giant wave; and as the bell rang for the end of lunch and the seventh years left the classroom, Blaise lifting the muffliato curse as they did so, Rose couldn't help but feel, perhaps naively a glimmer of hope that, ultimately, everything was going to be okay.
"That was a strange day," Rose ran her hand through her hair, pushing it from her face. It was past curfew, and she and Draco were walking the second floor corridor near the library, on patrol. They had given themselves the first patrol of the term and the week to try and gain some favour with the prefects, though truth be told that was unlikely to occur. The rest of the school day had been largely uneventful- Rose's afternoon had been taken up with double potions, during which Slughorn appeared so nervous that Rose wouldn't be surprised if he ran away from Hogwarts. His nerves hadn't, however, stopped him from giving them a great amount of homework at the end of class, which, along with the essay assigned by Professor Flitwick and Sprout that morning had taken up all of the Slytherins attention between dinner and the start of curfew. "Bit of a rollercoaster, really."
"Mmm." Draco murmured shortly, avoiding Rose's eye. He had hardly looked at or spoken to Rose, at all since lunchtime, but Rose was so relieved that the others had forgiven her and Blaise- Draco included, or so she thought- for everything that, stupidly, she didn't realise he was angry until that moment.
"What's got your wand in a knot?" Rose asked him, frowning.
"You lied to me," Draco turned to face her, scowling haughtily, "About 'breaking up' with Blaise."
Rose folded her arms, stung by the self-righteousness in his tone. "Like you've never lied to me? You did last year- about letting Death Eaters into the castle last year."
Draco flinched. "I apologised."
"So did I- Blaise and I both did." Rose replied calmly. "Look, all Blaise and I were trying to do is keep each other safe, and we figured the best way to do that was to tell everyone that we were broken up. It's not like I don't trust you, or it was something malicious, we were just focused on each other. I really am sorry, Draco."
Draco shrugged, but after a moment he let the matter drop. "don't worry about it- but just tell me the truth in the future."
"I won't if you won't," Rose nodded.
"Deal," Draco nodded, too, continuing after a moment. "…So, just so I'm clear, are you Blaise together or not?"
Rose ran her hand through her hair. "… I'm not sure- I mean, at the moment, yeah, but we haven't had the chance to finish our conversation, yet- we're either going to go public again or break up for real." She answered. "But whatever happens we're going to be civil… can I ask you a question, though?"
"You just did." Draco smirked. "What?"
"Why were you so annoyed with Blaise earlier? When we were in the broom cupboard? You were hostile and glared at him."
"Well- you're my sister," Draco replied. "and Blaise may be one of my best mates, but he's still a bloke; and I'm a bloke, so I know how they think- especially about their girlfriends; and Blaise told us that you two broke up because he didn't want you to go with Potter, but you weren't sure what you were going to do, so you fought and ended it- like you told me- and he clearly really missed you. So, when the others and I realised that you two weren't with us and we heard your voice in the broom cupboard I thought that Blaise had pulled you in there to talk about get back together. And I just thought that no bloke gets to try and stop you doing something you wanted to do; break up with you over it; then try and get back together with you when you end up doing what they wanted of your own accord- and even though I misjudged the situation, thanks to you- but that's over now; I'm always going to defend you."
"Aw, you care about me," Rose grinned, reaching up and pulling Draco into a headlock.
"'Course I do, Four-Eyes," Draco grinned back, reaching around and pulling Rose's glasses down her nose so they were hanging off her nose as they staggered up the corridor, trying to get the upper hand on each other. "... In all seriousness, though, you should break up with Blaise."
"What?" Rose let go of him and moved away, pushing her glasses back up her nose as she stared at him, slighted.
"I'm serious." Draco replied, "Look, I know how you feel about Blaise- it's written all over your face every time you look at him. You're in love with him and obviously you don't to be without him and the thought of not being with him makes you feel sick, yeah?"
"Yeah," Rose nodded. "So? What's your point?"
"So, I've been in your shoes before," Draco said, shoving his hand into his pockets. "And I've learnt that sometimes, when you love someone, you have to let them go in order to protect them. It's hard and it's the last thing you want to do and it kills you to stop seeing them when they make you feel like you're on top of the world; like you could be- and are- a better person; but the only way you can guarantee that they won't be in danger- that you won't be the cause of that danger, at least, is to let them go. You have to learn when to let go, Rose, even if it's just for a little while."
He flinched as he spoke, his eyes widening slightly as he looked down at his right hand as he withdrew it from his pocket. In his hand was what looked like a regular galleon, but the way he was staring at it told Rose that it wasn't- and after a moment the answer to the mystery occurred to her. The only thing she thought it could be was Draco's fake Galleon; one of many Hermione had created as a means of communication for the members of Dumbledore's Army two years ago.
"You still carry that?" Rose asked, staring at him in surprise. She hadn't the best idea where her own galleon was, probably in a pocket of her jeans or robes somewhere in her trunk. Another thought occurred to her as this lack of knowledge passed through her mind and Rose folded her arms, arching an eyebrow at Draco he didn't see. "You're a fine one to talk about letting-"
"Shhh- look at this." Draco interrupted, beckoning her over as he continued stare down at his galleon.
Rose scowled at him. "Don't tell me to-"
"This is hot," Draco interrupted as he held the galleon up, raising his eyebrows pointedly at Rose, "and the numbers are moving."
"What?" Rose forgot her annoyance, moving forwards to see for herself. "Oh my…" she trailed off, her eyes widening in surprise as she felt the side of the galleon and saw that he was right. The galleon was hot against her fingertips and the numbers around the edge of the coin that would normally stand for the Goblin that made it were shifting, moving unmistakeably to form a date and time.
A/N: Please review! :)