Light Shines Brightest in the Darkness
I'm not sure what to say. Which I figure is as good an opener as any. A lot of firsts here: I've never written to a fugitive mass murder before. What's that like? Being a fugitive mass murderer I mean. I never did ask. If I am being insensitive, feel free to ignore that. I tend to kick the gift horse in the mouth fairly often. Miracle I haven't lost the foot yet.
With writing really being the only medium we have to communicate, I suppose I should introduce myself, better than before at least. My most defining quality I would say is that I am frankly, ridiculous. Which I'm very all right with being. Not sure how I'd still function if I was anything but.
Extraordinary things happen around me. Case in point: you, amongst other things. I would like to say that these things were self-orchestrated, or even voluntary, but most of the time, no, and it is my lot to accept it and move on.
I've been doing a lot of thinking about what you said, and I've started researching Animagi.
How is Buckbeak? By now you've probably realized his incredible fondness for dead ferrets, and if he likes you, he'll drop picked bones on your head. He likes sugarcubes by the dozen if you can get them, and I hope you two have become firm friends by now. I have a lot of fond memories with that hippogriff.
I don't know exactly where you're heading, and don't tell me, but if you'd accept my humble recommendation: go someplace with sun. Unless you're morbidly attached to overcast skies as I am, you deserve the sundrenched mornings kipping under trees, to feel the heat from the sun as a regular occurrence, rather than a mere break from the dreariness.
If there's anything you need, anything I can do, just ask. I am at your disposal, only an owl away. Hols started two days ago, and I've been outdoors a lot so far, flying, swimming- there's a beach right by where Minnie lives. Do you know how to swim? The weather might not be the best, but I've never been able to stand being cooped up for long. Do you understand that feeling? I'm sure you do, and I wonder if my parents suffered from the same affliction. Moony was always the patient calm one from what I've heard. If you'd like to regale me with tales from the past, please do, I'd like to hear them.
The truth is, I know very little about you. I don't know you. I'd like to.
Six weeks later
Minnie was packing Tempest's trunk when she stumbled through the door, tracking mud and grass in her wake.
"Boots outside," reprimanded Minnie, flicking her wand in Tempest's direction, the dirt vanishing from the wood. "How was your walk?"
"Almost fell off a cliff," said Tempest cheerfully, now sock-clad and padding towards Minnie. "Is there anything to eat? What's that?"
She was indicating a small wrapped package, roughly the length of her forearm, but very flat. She poked it for good measure, only to be swatted away by Minnie.
"Nothing that would interest you," said Minnie, "or at least it didn't when I said I was going to buy it for you, so any say you had in the matter is gone. There's bread on the table and ham in the pantry, dinner will be at six, so don't eat too much."
"Not to worry," said Tempest, shooting the mystery package another look as she made her way into the kitchen. She called over her shoulder: "Did any letters come for me while I was out?"
Back in the living room, Minnie was rolling Tempest's clothes, muggle shirts with no sleeves, jeans in blue, black and grey, and socks a poisonous green, to fit at the bottom of the trunk. Her school robes were folded neatly on top. "No- and I was watching. I'm waiting for a letter from Albus myself."
Tempest reappeared, talking around a mouthful of bread and ham, plate balanced in one hand, the other clutching a mug of steaming tea.
"Yes, security this year for the tournament."
Tempest arched an eyebrow. "Is it really that dangerous?"
The scotswoman paused to glance at Tempest. "I should say so. Thank the heavens you won't be able to compete, the past three years have already taken ten times that off of my life, thank you very much."
Tempest laughed, "well let's hope for a quieter year for me this year." A beat passed where she stared very hard at the trunk Minnie was now slotting textbooks in, beside neatly wrapped quills and inkbottles. "Didn't I pack that last night?"
Minnie sniffed. "Terribly. The buckles were about to burst, and you hadn't folded a single thing. How you meant to get your textbooks inside when it could barely close before is beyond me."
"Sheer force of will," grinned Tempest. "Thanks though- oh!"
The fireplace set in the wall, previously only flickering enough to send the occasional spark upwards, had leapt up in dancing flames, and there was a voice emitting from the embers. "Minerva? It's Amos."
Minnie turned to Tempest, "Would you mind-"
Tempest, accustomed to such calls, was already retreating with food and drink, very unconcerned.
"Amos!" She heard as she made her way upstairs and to her room, "Is Alastor alright?"
When Tempest reached her room, she set her plate on top of a stack of books, greeted Nyx, who curled around her ankles purring in welcome, and settled down in her cozy nook by the window.
She cradled her mug of tea in her hands, and Nyx curled up on Tempest's feet, luminescent eyes focused on the steam twisting upwards.
"Hogwarts tomorrow Nyx," Tempest told the feline. "Hogwarts, where I can use my wand. And Hagrid will be there, the twins, Ron and Hermione… and Snape… and whoever's taking over the Defense Against the Dark Arts position this year." She paused. "No one will top Remus though, that's for sure. Triwizard Tournament will be interesting too, if only they hadn't cancelled all the Quidditch games. Guess it means they won't pick team captain this year, even though Wood's gone. There wouldn't be much point."
Tempest looked over at her Firebolt resting on its stand. "Still, there's lots of potential for some games with the Weasleys, just no beating Diggory or Slytherin and Malfoy this year." She lifted her mug to her lips. "A shame that."
Tempest rose on the morning of September 1st to an empty cottage. Minnie always rose early on the first day of term to apparate to Hogwarts. Tempest took her time getting up. Stretching languidly, mimicked by Nyx, she dressed sloppily in clothes hanging over the back of a chair, and headed to the bathroom.
She caught sight of herself in the mirror leaving the bathroom, and doubled back to wet her hands and run fingers through her hair, flattening and taming the unruly strands. Hermione had suggested growing her hair out till its weight would keep it from tangling, but Tempest hadn't the patience to wait through months of broken combs to reach that hallowed point.
Breakfast was eggs on toast along with a mug of tea and a second that Tempest took with her as she made her way around the cottage, tidying idly and picking up odds and ends she'd forgotten to pack.
On review of her trunk, Minnie had done a far better job than Tempest had, which wasn't exactly hard, though now there were a few spaces that Tempest quickly filled, whether with Nyx's favourite toys or her swimsuit. Minnie never packed it herself, despairing of Tempest's laps in the Black Lake, citing dangers like mermaids and the Giant Squid.
It took a while to coax Nyx into her carrier, a half-hour that ended only when Tempest abandoned nicety, grabbed Nyx by the scruff of her neck and bundled the hissing and spitting cat into the container.
"I really am sorry," winced Tempest, as Nyx's betrayed eyes glared out at her, "I'll let you out the moment I get to the dorms, alright? I'd let you ride on my shoulders, I would, only last time I rather got in trouble when you attacked Neville's toad."
Nyx glowered out at her.
Once at Hogwarts, Minnie returned home only rarely, so there were stasis charms already in place around the cottage, ready to be left undisturbed when Tempest set out for the train. They had been cast that morning, and Tempest could feel the spells, like a slight pressure behind her ears, a low humming that Tempest felt rather than heard.
Finally set to go and twenty minutes before the train was due to leave, Tempest shrugged on her coat and shoes, wedged Nyx's carrier beneath one arm and grasped her trunk on the same side.
The sickle on the sideboard began to glow blue.
Tempest picked it up and held it tight. There was a jerk from behind her navel, and she felt her feet lift from the ground.
She landed unsteadily and swallowing back nausea in the middle of torrential rain.
Water soaked her hair instantly, sheeting off her trunk and coat, making Nyx hiss in displeasure inside her carrier. Cursing, Tempest made her way out from behind the pair of bins she'd appeared by. She tucked the sickle into her pocket and made her way through the parking lot and into the Kings Cross terminal, shaking the water from her hair.
London weather. Identical to the weather in the corner of Scotland that Minnie lived, but the city-folk didn't have the same sunsets.
Tempest didn't bother with a trolley, unwilling to force herself past hundreds of other damp commuters to fetch one, instead heading straight for platform nine and three-quarters. She waited for a sudden rush of people disembarking from platform ten, and then in the bustle and distraction of their crowd, slipped easily through the seemingly solid stone barrier.
Platform nine and three-quarters materialized before her.
The Hogwarts Express, a gleaming scarlet steam engine, billowed clouds of steam in every direction. A haze of white mist drifted down on the heads of students and parents alike, appearing like ghosts as she drew closer. Nyx shifted irritably in her carrier, and Tempest abandoned any thought of finding anyone she knew on the platform. The Weasleys usually arrived fairly late, travelling from the Burrow, and the best she could do was save them an empty compartment.
She found one fairly quickly, though she had to elbow a girl from Ravenclaw who made for the door as she did. She stowed her trunk overhead and sat Nyx's carrier down on a seat beside her. The steam outside her window had settled enough between puffs for her to catch a clearer glimpse of students and their parents. She could see Lee Jordan and his mother, Neville saying his goodbyes his grandmother, and… right on the far end of the platform, furthest away from the hubbub of other students, she caught sight of three blonde heads.
Tempest had last seen the Malfoy family with near identical sneers at the Quidditch World Cup. It seemed no different on the platform. Narcissa Malfoy was bidding her son goodbye, while Lucius Malfoy stood by haughtily. He said something that made Malfoy nod and Malfoy the senior's expression became approving. He clasped his son's shoulder briefly before turning to go.
Another cloud of white smoke descended, and Tempest turned away from the window to wait for Hermione and the Weasleys.
They tripped in a minute before the train was set to leave, the hissing of the pistons and screech of releasing brakes almost drowning out their enthusiastic greetings.
"Sorry about dripping water everywhere-" Fred and George sat heavily on either side of Tempest, making her dive to save Nyx and resettle the container on her lap, "Merlin, the weather's awful."
Hermione, settled down opposite Tempest and fussed about with Ron's luggage. She made a noise of assent. "How was the weather up north, Tempest?"
"Better," said Tempest, going to greet Crookshanks in her own carrier, then Pigwidegon, Ron's owl, who hooted so shrilly in excitement, that Ron swore and dropped a horrendous frilled robe over his cage.
"The bloody bird wouldn't stop making a racket in the taxi here," he said, "the driver must've thought we were mental." He shot the twins a filthy look, "you two didn't help, going on about your ton-tongue toffees and whatnot."
"How are those coming along?" Tempest said interestedly, "last I heard the recipe was just about perfect, part from the bit where there was the danger of suffocation-"
Hermione choked, her eyebrows narrowed disapprovingly.
Fred grinned, "just that mild setback- and mum had to confiscate most of our stock, but they should be ready for the market within the month if we can get the right resources in time."
The rain became heavier and heavier as the train moved farther north, the storm clouds moving with purpose alongside them. The sky became so dark and the windows so steamy it was difficult to see outside, and the lanterns were lit by midday. The chatter was idle and familiar; they had already caught up during the holidays. When the lunch trolley came rattling along the corridor, Tempest bought a bunch of assorted snacks for them to share, settling on a sugar quill and a pile of chocolate frogs for herself.
The afternoon went by with the twins, Ron and Tempest reliving the Quidditch World Cup match, Ron digging out his miniature Krum figurine to have him walk along the floor of the compartment. Hermione grew tired of the talk, burying herself in The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4, a book whose spine was already creased from use.
The twins went off to find Lee Jordan after a while, Ron watched Krum pace around, bumping into his shoe and scowling upwards while Tempest started aimlessly at the opaque window. Somewhere out in the world, there was a post owl winging its way towards her, carrying a letter from Sirius. Remus she had written a few days afterward, and thought warmed her as she gazed beyond her blurred reflection in the glass.
"You know," she said, Ron and Hermione looking up, "I have a feeling this year will be a good one."
"I must have missed something," drawled a voice from the compartment door. "What would give you that idea?"
Draco Malfoy had slid the door open. He was as blonde and pointy-faced as ever, though up close he had grown many inches in height over the summer. He was not alone either, behind him, the figures of Crabbe and Goyle loomed. They'd grown a foot at least, becoming even more heavyset and thuggish.
"Need something Malfoy?" she said coolly, "or were you looking for company more stimulating than those apes?"
Crabbe's dull face contorted into a sleepy sneer, his piggy eyes narrowing.
Malfoy smirked. "Avoiding the question Potter? I imagine you'll be entering. Never miss a chance to show off, do you?"
"Enter what?" said Ron suspiciously.
"There's an age limit, Malfoy," said Tempest calmly. "Not something your father told you?" Evidently not, as Malfoy's face fell a fraction, and Tempest pressed home. "I suppose you were thinking of entering? Amazes me. I wouldn't have thought it'd be your thing. Too… hands on."
"And what exactly are you implying?" said Malfoy dangerously.
In the background, she could hear Ron hiss to Hermione: "What are they talking about?"
"That you're an entitled prick who couldn't take on a simple challenge let alone three death-defying ones? Not at all."
Malfoy's face reddened, potentially memories of a duel that never came about, that night in the Forbidden Forest, of a bludger whipping towards him, and a hippogriff attack crossing his mind. His eyes slid sideways, and caught on something.
"Weasley… what is that?" said Malfoy, pointing at Pigwideon's cage. A sleeve of Ron's horrible robes was dangling from it, swaying with the motion of the train, the moldy lace cuff very obvious. Ron made to stuff the robes out of sight, but Malfoy was too quick for him; he seized the sleeve and pulled.
"Look at this!" said Malfoy in ecstasy, holding up Ron's robes and showing Crabbe and Goyle, "Weasley, you weren't thinking of wearing these, were you? I mean- they were very fashionable in about eighteen ninety..."
"Eat dung, Malfoy!" said Ron, the same ghastly shade as the robes as he snatched them back out of Malfoy's grip. Malfoy howled with derisive laughter; Crabbe and Goyle guffawed stupidly.
"So... going to enter, Weasley? Going to try and bring a bit of glory to the family name? There's money involved as well, you know... you'd be able to afford some decent robes if you won..."
"They're mine actually," interrupted Tempest, glancing at the dreadful robes. "I happen to like the colour."
Malfoy looked at her incredulously. "They're your dress robes." His face contorted as though about to break into another laughing fit.
"Yeah they're mine," said Tempest, she stood quite suddenly, finding herself face to face with Malfoy. "You see, unlike you, I'm not so insecure I need my robes custom made every time. And I don't need to run others down for a laugh." With a tight smile, she slid the compartment door firmly closed, forcing Malfoy to jerk his fingers back hastily.
For one moment, it looked as though he was tempted to go for his wand, and Tempest's own fingers twitched in anticipation.
Then Malfoy jerked his head at Crabbe and Goyle, and stalked off down the corridor.
Tempest settled back down, with a short exhale. "You know somehow every time I see him, I think he'll finally have gotten his head screwed on right."
"I think he came like that," said Hermione critically. "But Tempest, more importantly-"
"What were you two talking about?" Ron demanded. "Entering what? This is the same stuff mum and Charlie were going on about, isn't it? They kept saying something was happening this year, and you and Malfoy know!"
Tempest grinned. "Well I wouldn't have known if it wasn't for Minnie. She wouldn't have told me if she could have avoided it, but it's a bit difficult to plan for a massive secret project when you have a live in student. Malfoy probably found out from his father-"
"But what is it?"
"Triwizard Tournament," said Tempest.
Hermione continued to look confused, while Ron's eyes widened to the size of saucers.
"No," he breathed, "wicked!"
"It's this inter-school competition," Tempest informed Hermione, "three wizarding schools, this year it's Hogwarts, Durmstrang and Beauxbatons, have one of their students compete in three challenges for the Triwizard Cup and a bunch of money. It means we won't be having any Quidditch matches this year, but I suppose it'll be fun to watch-"
"It's wicked," said Ron, "the last games were ages ago. I heard they made a lava pit last time and the champions had to make their way across it to fight a banshee-" his eyes lit up. "The twins don't know yet! Oh I will lord it over them-"
Ron's enthusiasm lasted through the rest of the journey, still bouncing when the Hogwarts Express slowed down at last and finally stopped in the pitch-blackness of the Hogsmeade station.
It seemed the skies had taken it upon themselves to dampen Ron's mood, as there was the rumble of thunder overhead. Tempest bundled Nyx's carrier into her cloak, Hermione mirroring her actions, while Ron left his lace-frilled robes over Pigwideon's cage, and the three made their way out into the night, heads bent against the downpour. The rain came down in buckets of ice water, instantly plastering her hair to her head and soaking through her robes.
"Hagrid! Hi!" Tempest yelled above the rain, seeing a gigantic silhouette at the far end of the platform and waved with her free arm.
"All righ', Tempest?" Hagrid bellowed back, "See yeh at the feast if we don' drown!"
First years traditionally reached Hogwarts Castle by sailing across the lake with Hagrid. Tempest could still remember her first view of the castle, glowing against the sky as the lights reflected in the lake like a sea of stars.
"Oooh, I wouldn't fancy crossing the lake in this weather," said Hermione fervently, shivering as they inched slowly along the dark platform with the rest of the crowd.
"Dunno," said Tempest, setting her jaw against the chatter, "I'd say it adds to the adventure. A little taste of the near death experiences to come…"
"Mate, you realize not everyone almost dies each year?" Ron said, losing the battle with his own teeth, enamel clacking together inbetween words, "It's not actually normal, you know?"
"Well I wish someone would tell whoever wrote my life," said Tempest.
A hundred carriages drafted to individual thestrals stood waiting outside the station, the rain sluicing off the skeletal backs of the beasts. Tempest, Ron and Hermione climbed into one, door shutting with a snap and leaving the inhabitants to wring their sodden clothing out onto the floor. The carriage lurched upwards, rumbling and splashing their way up the track towards Hogwarts Castle.
The ride was a damp shivering one, though the sight of Hogwarts steadily approaching through the downpour eased the discomfort somewhat. The carriages swayed dangerously in what was fast becoming a gale, and lightning flashed across the sky as their carriage came to a halt before the great oak front doors.
Those in the carriages in front of theirs were already hurrying up the stone steps towards the Great Hall. Tempest, Ron and Hermione followed suit, dashing up the steps, only slowing when they were safely inside the cavernous, torch-lit entrance hall, with its magnificent marble staircase.
"Blimey," said Ron, shaking his head and sending water everywhere, "if that keeps up, the lake's going to overflow. I'm soak- ARRGH!"
A large, red, water-filled balloon had dropped from out of the ceiling onto Ron's head and exploded. Drenched and sputtering, Ron staggered sideways into Tempest, who lost her balance, looking up for the source.
A second water bomb dropped, narrowly missing Hermione. It exploded at Tempest's feet, sending a wave of cold water over her boots. They had held up against the deluge outside, but now her socks were soaked, and she squelched, following the shrieking people around them to get out of the line of fire.
It was Peeves the Poltergeist, floating twenty feet above them, a little man in a bell-covered hat and orange bow tie, his wide malicious face contorted with concentration as he took aim again.
"PEEVES!" yelled a familiar and angry voice, "Peeves, come down here at ONCE!"
Minnie, here and now, Transfiguration Professor McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress and head of Gryffindor House, had come dashing out of the Great Hall; she skidded on the wet floor and grabbed Hermione around the neck to stop herself from falling.
"Ouch- sorry, Miss Granger-"
"That's all right, Professor!" Hermione gasped, massaging her throat.
"Peeves, get down here NOW!" barked Minnie, straightening her pointed hat and glaring upward through her square-rimmed spectacles.
"Not doing nothing!" cackled Peeves, lobbing a water bomb at several fifth-year girls, who screamed and dived into the Great Hall. "Already wet, aren't they? Little squirts! Wheeeeee!" And he aimed another bomb at a group of second years who had just arrived.
"I shall call the headmaster!" shouted Minnie, "I'm warning you, Peeves-"
Peeves stuck out his tongue, threw the last of his water bombs into the air, and zoomed off up the marble staircase, cackling insanely.
"Well, move along, then!" said Minnie sharply to the bedraggled crowd. "Into the Great Hall, come on!"
Tempest, Ron and Hermione slipped and slid across the entrance hall and through the double doors on the right. They were still trying to wipe water out of their eyes with equally wet sleeves when they seated themselves at the Gryffindor table beside Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor Ghost.
"Good evening," he said, beaming at them, his partially severed head this night held in place with a particularly large ruff.
"Isn't it?" muttered Tempest, setting about unlacing her boots and withdrawing her wand from her sleeve. She emptied the water out of them, and waggled her wand in a complicated twist, "Siccus Calidus." A blast of hot wind emitted from her wand, making the long heavy oak table shake dangerously, and the robes of those nearest to her flare out in sheets of cloth.
"Sorry," said Tempest sheepishly, but unapologetically, slipping her feet back into now toasty shoes.
Just then, a highly excited, breathless voice called down the table. "Hiya, Tempest!"
It was Colin Creevey, a third year who had been infatuated with Tempest since he'd first heard of her existence in the Wizarding Community.
"Hey," said Tempest warily, slipping her wand back into her arm holster.
"Guess what? Guess what, Tempest? My brother's starting! My brother Dennis."
"Ah, great," said Tempest. Another Creevey. She could only hope the second would be less prone to shoving a camera beneath her chin and blinding her with the flash.
"He's really excited!" said Colin, practically bouncing up and down in his seat. "I just hope he's in Gryffindor! Keep your fingers crossed, eh, Tempest?"
"Yeah, all right," assured Tempest. She leant back out of his line of sight to look up at the staff table. Remus was not present, and she knew she wouldn't be, but the disappointment resettled in her gut as though it were the first time she had heard he was leaving. There were other empty seats as well; Hagrid was probably still fighting his way across the lake with the first years, while Minnie was still in the entrance hall.
"Where's the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?" said Hermione urgently, nudging Tempest.
"Late?" she suggested. "Held up in the face of their sheer incompetence when faced with Professor Lupin last year?"
Hermione laughed before sobering quickly. "I liked him a lot too Tempest, but if they couldn't get anyone for the position this year, then that'll leave a massive gap in our learning, and there are OWLs next year!"
Tempest glanced back up at the staff table. All the other teachers were in their usual places, Professor Flitwick, Professor Sprout, Sinistra, Dumbledore and Snape. Tempest's gaze lingered on him, heated and vicious. He was the reason for Remus's resignation.
It was fair to say though, that Snape despised her as much as she he. She had helped Sirius escape at the last minute, less than three months ago from right under his nose- Snape and Sirius whose dislike for each other ran back to their own school days.
"Oh hurry up," moaned Ron, beside Tempest, "I could eat a hippogriff."
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than the doors of the Great Hall opened and silence fell. Minnie led a long line of first years up to the top of the hall. Sopping wet and dripping, they appeared to have swum across the lake rather than sailed. Tempest noticed a small mousy-haired boy draped in Hagrid's moleskin overcoat, so large it looked as though a furry black circus tent had collapsed upon him. He looked painfully excited, mouthing I fell in the lake! to Colin Creevey.
Minnie now placed a three-legged stool on the ground before the first years, and on top of it, an extremely old, and dirty, patched wizard's hat. The sorting hat lay still for one long moment where all eyes in the hall rested on it. Then a long tear near the brim opened wide like a mouth, and the hat broke into song:
A thousand years or more ago,
When I was newly sewn,
There lived four wizards of renown,
Whose names are still well known:
Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor,
Fair Ravenclaw, from glen,
Sweet Hufflepuff, from valley broad,
Shrewd Slytherin, from fen.
They shared a wish, a hope, a dream,
They hatched a daring plan
To educate young sorcerers
Thus Hogwarts School began.
Now each of these four founders
Formed their own house, for each
Did value different virtues
In the ones they had to teach.
By Gryffindor, the bravest were
Prized far beyond the rest;
For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
Would always be the best;
For Hufflepuff, hard workers were
Most worthy of admission;
And power-hungry Slytherin
Loved those of great ambition.
While still alive they did divide
Their favorites from the throng,
Yet how to pick the worthy ones
When they were dead and gone?
'Twas Gryffindor who found the way,
He whipped me off his head
The founders put some brains in me
So I could choose instead!
Now slip me snug about your ears,
I've never yet been wrong,
I'll have a look inside your mind
And tell where you belong!
After the song, the sorting proceeded, with Dennis Creevey being sorted into Gryffindor, joining his brother with much enthusiasm. After the last first year was sorted into Hufflepuff, the sorting ended, and Professor Dumbledore got to his feet. He smiled around at the students and his arms opened in welcome. "I have only two words to say to you," he told them, his voice echoing around the Hall. "Tuck in."
"Hear, hear!" said Ron loudly as the empty dishes filled magically before their eyes.
Tempest loaded her plate with potatoes, thick slices of chicken and ham, and dug into her portion heartily, the buzz of conversation filling her ears comfortably. Hermione got into some tiff or other about House Elves at Hogwarts, and refused to eat a bite more, even as Ron wafted plate after plate of dessert beneath her nose.
"You can't support this," insisted Hermione to Tempest, who looked at her past the large mouthful of banoffee pie she was devouring.
Tempest swallowed hard. "I'm sure Dumbledore treats them better than the Malfoy's treated Dobby," she said, and nudged a tart towards Hermione, "come on, what are you going to do- starve?"
When the puddings too had been demolished, and the last crumbs faded off their plates, leaving them sparking clean ("At least the elves don't need to do the washing up," said Tempest) Dumbledore got to his feet again to give his opening speech. He announced the cancellation of the Quidditch Cup matches to the expected disappointment and appalled faces of those on the teams, and was about to announce the Triwizard Tournament when the doors of the Great Hall banged open.
All heads turned to the man standing in the doorway. He leant upon a long staff, shrouded in a black traveling cloak. A convenient flash of lighting brightly illuminated the figure, who lowered his hood, shaking out a long mane of grizzled, dark gray hair, beginning to limp heavily towards the teachers table, dull clunks sounding with every other step. Another flash of lighting threw his face into sharp relief, revealing a face that looked to be carved out of weathered wood by someone who had only the vaguest idea of what human faces were supposed to look like, and was none too skilled with their knife. The scars crisscrossing his face made Tempest's own, snaking down the left side of her face, look pale in comparison. The man's mouth was a diagonal gash, a large chunk of his nose missing, and his mismatched eyes were unnerving.
One was small, dark and beady. The other was large, round as a coin, and a vivid, electric blue. The blue eye was moving ceaselessly, without blinking, rolling up, down and from side to side, quite independently of the normal eye.
On reaching Dumbledore, the two shook hands, muttering an exchange unheard by the rest of the hall. The stranger sat down then, shook his hair out of his face, speared a sausage from a plate, and began to eat, his blue eye continuing to spin widely around the Hall.
"May I introduce our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?" said Dumbledore brightly into the silence. "Professor Moody."
The applause was limp and lackluster, and Dumbledore moved on to introduce the Triwizard Tournament, to a flurry of whispers around the hall. The mention of a death toll had Hermione spinning to look at Tempest, "death toll?" she whispered, looking alarmed.
She was the only one though, many others seemed far more excited than concerned, Tempest amongst them. It would be nice to take a sideline to danger for once. George caught her attention, leaning down across the table to hiss at her: "Fred and I are going for it! Are you with us?"
Tempest opened her mouth to deliver the bad news, but Dumbledore beat her, announcing the seventeen-years-or-older rule, his blue eyes twinkling as he looked directly at the furious faces of the twins.
After Dumbledore's dismissal, there was a great scraping and banging as all the students got to their feet and swarmed toward the double doors into the entrance hall.
"It's fucking outrageous," growled George, who had stood, but was not joining the crowd, glaring darkly in Dumbledore's direction instead. "We'll be seventeen in April anyway."
"Hard luck, mate," Tempest said, clapping him on the shoulder as she passed, "c'mon, we'll get stuck behind this lot if we don't move-"
"They're not stopping me from entering," said Fred, who followed them with a final glare in Dumbledore's direction, "the champions'll get to do all sorts of stuff you'd never be allowed to do normally. And a thousand Galleons prize money!"
Ron seemed most interested with the latter aspect, while Hermione tried fruitlessly to convince the twins that glory versus mortality should lean very much in one direction.
"Give it up, Hermione," said Tempest as they split off from the boys to head towards their dormitory, "when's threat to life ever held up those two?"
Hermione gave Tempest a suspicious look. "You aren't thinking of trying to trick this judge, are you?"
Tempest scoffed. "Of course not. I'm having a nice, quiet year of neither safe nor sane mischief making..." She paused as they reached their dormitory, where Lavender Brown and Parvati Patel were chattering as they changed into their pajamas. Tempest set about unpacking a few items from her trunk, which had been deposited at the end of her bed, and letting Nyx out of her carrier. "I'm not saying the perks aren't tempting," she added, watching Nyx leap onto her bed and claim half the pillow, "but to be honest, I get into enough trouble on my own."
The following morning was gloomy, with clouds hanging so heavy in the sky, Tempest felt as though she could reach up and touch them. She considered going for a flight later that day as she, Ron and Hermione examined their new course schedules at breakfast. They were not joined by the twins, who with Lee Jordan, were plotting their bluff into the Triwizard Tournament.
The first day back at school began with copious amounts of pus (Herbology) followed by Hagrid's new pet project, crates of Blast-Ended Skrewts, lunch, then Divination, a surefire way to set Tempest's eyes stinging and mind to sleep.
The incense in the air was cloying when she and Ron emerged through the circular trapdoor to the room where Professor Trelawney lived and taught. Checking Divination in third year had been a mistake of Tempest's, one she was constantly bemused by. Why had she taken it again? She felt sure it had been for a laugh; only Trelawney had proved to be mentally exhausting.
She and Ron sat down at the same circular table, ignoring all of the chintz chairs and poufs that cluttered the room.
"Good day," said Trelawney, her voice coming from right behind Tempest, making her jump.
Trelawney circled around, peering down at Tempest with the same tragic expression she always adopted when she saw her.
"You are preoccupied, my dear," she said mournfully to Tempest. "My inner eye sees past your brave face to the troubled soul within. And I regret to say that your worries are not baseless. I see difficult times ahead for you, alas… most difficult… I fear the thing you dread will indeed come to pass… and perhaps sooner than you think…"
Her voice dropped almost to a whisper. Ron rolled his eyes at Tempest, who rolled hers back.
The lesson began, with the deciphering of stars as farce-like as anything else they'd ever done in the class.
Yet against her will, Trelawney's words echoed in Tempest's ears. "'the thing you dread will indeed come to pass…'" What did she fear to come to pass? She couldn't think of anything she was dreading particularly at the moment. Not unless you counted Sirius being caught, but he was resourceful and Trelawney was, after all, a fraud… save for that one time-
"-take Tempest, here, her life rife with despair. She was clearly born under the baleful influence of Saturn."
Tempest redirected her attention to Trelawney, who stared down at her expectantly.
"Born… under Saturn." Tempest said blankly. "The planet."
"Yes dear, Saturn," said Trelawney, a note of annoyance entering her voice, clearly irritated by Tempest's lack of concern. "Clearly Saturn was in a position of power in the heavens at the moment of your birth… your dark hair… your stunted growth-" here Tempest mouthed 'stunted growth?' over to Ron, who appeared to be choking back snickers. "-tragic losses so young in life… I think I am right in saying, my dear, that you were born in midwinter?"
"No," said Tempest, "I was born late July."
Half an hour later, they were assigned the dull task of finding the position of the planets at their birth. It was tedious, and poring over star charts and planetary positions, Tempest was looking at several intersecting planets, still ruffled by Trelawney's comment. She finally broke the stupor they had fallen into.
"What did she mean 'stunted growth?'" she snorted, regretting it shortly afterward as Trelawney's perfume made her sneeze. "I'm taller than you are."
"Probably meant you're a beanpole," said Ron, "and I'm going to get taller."
"That why the twins fondly refer to you as a midget?"
Ron shoved at Tempest, who crowed, and brandished her parchment beneath his nose. Ron, as it turned out, was born under the influence of Uranus.
They headed down to dinner, still bickering, joined by Hermione halfway down the staircase. They had just reached the end of the line of people queuing for dinner, when a loud voice rang out behind them.
"Weasley! Hey, Potter!"
Tempest, Ron and Hermione turned. Malfoy was brandishing a copy of the Daily Prophet at them, Crabbe and Goyle flanking him. They all looked thoroughly pleased.
"What's in that?" said Tempest shortly.
Malfoy shot her a malicious look, and turned to Ron. "Your dad's in the paper, listen to this!"
FURTHER MISTAKES AT THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC
It seems as though the Ministry of Magic's troubles are not yet at an end, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent. Recently under fire for its poor crowd control at the Quidditch World Cup, and still unable to account for the disappearance of one of its witches, the Ministry was plunged into fresh embarrassment yesterday by the antics of Arnold Weasley, of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office."
Here Malfoy paused in his reading. "Imagine them not even getting his name right, Weasley. It's almost as though he's a complete nonentity, isn't it?" Malfoy straightened the paper with a flourish and read on:
Arnold Weasley, who was charged with possession of a flying car two years ago, was yesterday involved in a tussle with several Muggle law-keepers ("policemen") over a number of highly aggressive dustbins. Mr. Weasley appears to have rushed to the aid of "Mad-Eye" Moody, the aged ex-Auror who retired from the Ministry when no longer able to tell the difference between a handshake and attempted murder. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Weasley found, upon arrival at Mr. Moody's heavily guarded house, that Mr. Moody had once again raised a false alarm. Mr. Weasley was forced to modify several memories before he could escape from the policemen, but refused to answer Daily Prophet questions about why he had involved the Ministry in such an undignified and potentially embarrassing scene.
"And there's a picture, Weasley!" said Malfoy, flipping the paper over and holding it up. "A picture of your parents outside their house- if you can call it a house! Your mother could do with losing a bit of weight, couldn't she?"
Ron was shaking with fury. The line had fallen silent and everyone was watching them.
Tempest grabbed Ron's arm. "Fuck off, Malfoy."
"Oh yeah, you stayed with them this summer, didn't you, Potter?" sneered Malfoy. "Tell me, is his mother really that porky, or is it just the picture?"
Tempest tightened her grip on Ron's arm, her fingers digging into his sleeve. "His mum's lovely," she said through a tight jaw, "much less can be said for yours. C'mon Ron, ignore him."
Malfoy's expression became jeering. "Got your girlfriend to fight your battles for you now, Weasley?"
Now that was new.
Tempest's grip on Ron's arm became as grounding for her as she meant it for him. Ron was saying "she's not my-" while Tempest stared fixedly at Malfoy. "If you want to talk about mothers, Malfoy, yours? That look she has, like she'd expected better- is that a result of all the inbreeding, or was it just because you were with her?"
Malfoy's pale face went slightly pink.
"Don't you dare insult my mother, Potter."
"I was insulting you both really," said Tempest, turning away.
Several people screamed- Tempest felt something white-hot graze the side of her face, the smell of burning hair caught in her nostrils- she slid her wand out of her sleeve, but before she'd even turned with a curse of her own on her lips, she heard a second loud BANG, and a roar that echoed throughout the entrance hall.
"OH NO YOU DON'T, LADDIE!"
Tempest spun around. Professor Moody was limping down the marble staircase. His wand was out and it was pointing right at a pure white ferret, which was shivering on the stone-flagged floor, exactly where Malfoy had been standing.
Tempest's mouth fell open. There was silence in the entrance hall, nobody but Moody was moving a muscle. Moody turned to look at Tempest- at least, his normal eye looked at Tempest, the other one was pointing into the back of his head.
"Did he get you?" Moody growled. His voice was low and gravelly.
"No," said Tempest, swallowing. "He missed, look, thanks, but isn't this a bit mu-"
"LEAVE IT?" Moody shouted.
"Not you- him!" Moody growled, jerking his thumb over his shoulder at Crabbe, who had just frozen, about to pick up the white ferret. It seemed that Moody's rolling eye was magical and could see out the back of his head. Moody started to limp towards Crabbe and the ferret, which gave a terrified squeak and took off, streaking toward the dungeons.
"I don't think so!" roared Moody, pointing his wand at the ferret again- it flew ten feet up in the air, fell with a smack to the floor, and then bounced upward once more.
"I don't like people who attack when their opponent's back's turned," growled Moody as the ferret bounced higher and higher, squealing in pain. "Stinking, cowardly, scummy thing to do…"
Moody advanced on the ferret, which flew through the air, its legs and tail flailing helplessly. Tempest found herself drawing nearer, even as all the other students backed away.
"Professor," said Tempest, coming up behind Moody, her eyes fixed on the ferret, "and hell I don't like Malfoy, but uh, I think this is a bit inappropiate-"
Moody however, seemed unable to hear her, and the ferret continued to bounce, hitting the stone floor repeatedly as Moody schooled, "Never- do- that- again-"
Tempest wondered how to intervene- if she should intervene, because even as she winced when the ferret smacked against the ground, she couldn't say that Malfoy's comeuppance didn't leave her a tad satisfied. She was saved from having to.
"Professor Moody!" said a shocked voice.
Minnie was coming down the marble staircase with her arms full of books.
"Hello, Professor McGonagall," said Moody calmly, bouncing the ferret still higher.
"What- what are you doing?" said Minnie, her eyes following the bouncing ferret's progress through the air.
"Teaching," said Moody.
"Teach- Moody, is that a student?" shrieked Minnie, the books spilling out of her arms.
"Yep," said Moody.
"No!" cried Minnie, running down the stairs and pulling out her wand; a moment later, with a loud popping noise, Malfoy had reappeared, lying in a heap on the floor with his sleek blond hair all over his now all over his flushed face. He got to his feet wincing, his eyes watering with pain and humiliation.
"Moody, we never use Transfiguration as a punishment!" said Minnie, her voice sounding as though she were amazed the words needed to be said, "surely Professor Dumbledore told you that?"
"Might've mentioned it, yeah," said Moody, scratching his chin unconcernedly, "but I thought a good sharp shock-"
"We give detentions, Moody! Or speak to the offender's Head of House!"
"I'll do that, then," said Moody, staring at Malfoy with great dislike.
When Moody had dragged Malfoy off to the dungeons to speak with Snape, the rest of the line returned to their conversations, an excited babble about what had just happened. Tempest slid out of it however, and went to speak to Minnie, who was just magiking her fallen books back into her arms.
"Professor McGonagall," said Tempest.
"Miss Potter," Minnie returned, "what can I do for you?"
Tempest glanced in the direction that Moody and Malfoy had went and grimaced. "Moody- Professor Moody… He's not… unhinged, is he?"
Minnie sighed. "Alastor was an auror for a long time under Crouch, back when the Ministry of Magic was using extreme force to bring death eaters in." She shook her head. "Some aurors afterward became less restrained, and Alastor… well, he wears his history on his face, doesn't he?"
The next two days passed without great incident, other than a few mishaps with Neville and Snape, Snape whom was in a foul mood, more so than usual.
The cause of his mood was easily traced back to Moody. Snape had disliked all their past Dark Arts teachers, (Tempest really couldn't blame him for Quirrell or Lockhart) particularly Remus, and shown it- but he seemed strangely wary of displaying overt animosity for Moody. Indeed, whenever Tempest chanced to see the two of them together- at mealtimes, or when they passed in the corridors- she got the impression that Snape was avoiding Moody's eye, whether magical or normal.
The two people at Hogwarts who Tempest disliked most, Snape and Malfoy, had been taken down a peg by Moody. Tempest should have admired Moody. It was odd though, when her first lesson with him rolled around on Thursday, she could only feel an uneasy rolling sensation in her gut.
Most of the Gryffindors were in awe of Moody now, his reputation from other classes filtering down to them, and the story of him and Malfoy-the-ferret quickly spreading. They arrived early to his class after lunchtime on Thursday, and waited expectantly for Moody to arrive.
They didn't have to wait long before they could hear his distinctive clunking footsteps coming down the corridor. Tempest could just see his clawed, wooden foot protruding from underneath his robes. He took the register first, his normal eye moving down the list, while his magical eye swiveled around, fixing upon each student as he or she answered.
It seemed that this year they would not be dealing with Dark creatures. Moody began the lesson discussing curses. Fred and George, who had had Moody earlier that week, had gone on at length about how he had known what it was like to be out there, and Tempest understood now entirely. Moody spoke to prepare for the worst, that a wizard about to use an illegal curse wouldn't announce themselves- and Tempest knew that. She'd lived that.
"So… do any of you know which curses are most heavily punished by wizarding law?" Moody was asking.
Several hands rose tentatively into the air, including Ron's and Hermione's. Moody pointed at Ron.
"Er," said Ron slowly, "my dad told me about one… Is it called the Imperius Curse or something?"
"Ah, yes," said Moody appreciatively. "Your father would know that one. Gave the Ministry a lot of trouble at one time, the Imperius Curse." Moody got heavily to his mismatched feet, opened his desk drawer, and took out a glass jar. Three large black spiders were scuttling around inside it. Tempest felt Ron recoil slightly next to her. Moody reached into the jar, caught one of the spiders, and held it in the palm of his hand so that they could all see it. He then pointed his wand at it and muttered, "Imperio!"
The spider leapt from Moody's hand on a fine thread of silk and began to swing backward and forward as though on a trapeze. It stretched out its legs rigidly, then did a back flip, breaking the thread and landing on the desk, where it began to cartwheel in circles. Moody jerked his wand, and the spider rose onto two of its hind legs and went into what was unmistakably a tap dance.
Everyone was laughing- everyone except Tempest and Moody.
"Think it's funny, do you?" he growled. "You'd like it, would you, if I did it to you?"
The laughter died away almost instantly.
"Total control," said Moody quietly as the spider balled itself up and began to roll over and over. "I could make it jump out of the window, drown itself, throw itself down one of your throats… Years back, there were a lot of witches and wizards being controlled by the Imperius Curse. Some job for the Ministry, trying to sort out who was being forced to act, and who was acting of their own free will. The Imperius Curse can be fought, and I'll be teaching you how, but it takes real strength of character, and not everyone's got it. Better avoid being hit with it if you can. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" he barked, and everyone jumped.
Moody picked up the somersaulting spider and threw it back into the jar. "Anyone else know one? Another illegal curse?"
Hermione's hand flew into the air again and so did Neville's. That was unusual in itself. The only class in which Neville usually volunteered information was Herbology, which was easily his best subject. Neville looked surprised at his own daring.
"Yes?" said Moody, his magical eye rolling right over to fix on Neville.
"There's one- the Cruciatus Curse," said Neville in a small but distinct voice.
Moody was looking very intently at Neville, this time with both eyes.
"Your name's Longbottom?" he said, his magical eye swooping down to check the register again.
Neville nodded nervously, but Moody made no further inquiries. Turning back to the class at large, he reached into the jar for the next spider and placed it upon the desktop, where it remained motionless, apparently too scared to move.
"The Cruciatus Curse," said Moody. "Needs to be a bit bigger for you to get the idea," he said, pointing his wand at the spider. "Engorgio!" The spider swelled. It was now larger than a tarantula. Abandoning all pretense, Ron pushed his chair backward, as far away from Moody's desk as possible.
Moody raised his wand again, pointed it at the spider, and muttered, "Crucio!"
At once, the spider's legs bent in upon its body; it rolled over and began to twitch horribly, rocking from side to side. It made no sound, but given a voice, Tempest could hear the screams reverberating around her head. She felt rather nauseous, a similar feeling to when she had seen Moody tormenting the Malfoy-ferret. Moody did not remove his wand, and the spider started to shudder and jerk more violently-
"Stop it!" Hermione said shrilly.
Hermione did not seem concerned with the spider; she was looking at Neville. Neville, whose hands were clenched upon the desk in front of him, his knuckles white, his eyes wide and horrified.
Moody raised his wand. The spider's legs relaxed, but it continued to twitch.
"Reducio," Moody muttered, and the spider shrank back to its proper size. He put it back into the jar. "Pain," said Moody softly. "You don't need thumbscrews or knives to torture someone if you can perform the Cruciatus Curse… That one was very popular once too. Right… anyone know any others?"
Tempest felt justified in her ill feelings now. She looked at the spider in the last jar, and knew the spell that Moody was asking for. Tempest saw Hermione's hand rise into the air, but Moody's normal eye was fixed unwavering on her. The three unforgivable curses. Imperio. Crucio.
Tempest met his gaze. "Avada Kedavra."
Moody nodded. A slight smile twisted his lopsided mouth as he reached for the last, frantically scrambling spider. It tried to evade Moody's fingers, but he trapped it and placed it upon the desktop. It started to scuttle frantically across the wooden surface. Moody raised his wand.
"Avada Kedavra!" Moody roared.
There was a flash of blinding green light and a rushing sound, as though a vast, invisible something was soaring through the air- instantaneously the spider rolled over onto its back, unmarked but unmistakably dead.
Moody swept the dead spider off the desk and onto the floor.
"Not nice," he said calmly, "Not pleasant. The killing curse. There's no countercurse, no blocking it. Only one person has ever survived it, and she's sitting right in front of me."
Tempest was sure she had become very pale as she stared straight forward. She could feel everyone else looking at her, just as Moody's eyes were fixed on her face. Avada Kedavra. Her first memory, her first certainty. Even now she could hear the echo of the words from across the past, she could still remember that light, the blinding green that had washed over and through her like a wave.
It was the light that had taken her parents. When she had lived with the Dursleys, believing they had died in a car crash, she had assumed the light had been from a traffic signal, amplified a thousandfold. When she had learnt they had been murdered…
She could picture it now, James and Lily Potter falling to the ground like marionettes with their strings cut. They would've been standing, Tempest thought. James, in the hallway beyond the bedroom, trying to delay Voldemort, to defend his family, alive and shouting to Lily to run… Lily would have been before Tempest's crib, shielding her from harm, pleading for him to kill her instead, knowing James was lying dead outside. Before the same flash of green light faded, she too would lie dead on the floor.
What was it that had saved Tempest? What was it that had turned the spell against Voldemort when he had used it again and again without consequence? She didn't know. She didn't think she'd ever know.
With great effort, Tempest pulled herself back to the present, sitting in her chair and listening to Moody.
"Avada Kedavra's a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it- you could all get your wands out now and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I'd get so much as a nosebleed. But that doesn't matter. I'm not here to teach you how to do it. Now, if there's no countercurse, why am I showing you? Because you've got to know. You've got to appreciate what the worst is. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you're facing it. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!" he roared. "Now... those three curses - Avada Kedavra, Imperius, and Cruciatus- are known as the Unforgivable Curses. The use of any one of them on a fellow human being is enough to earn a life sentence in Azkaban. That's what you're up against. That's what I've got to teach you to fight. You need preparing. You need arming. But most of all, you need to practice constant, never-ceasing vigilance. Get out your quills... copy this down…"
When the bell rang and they were dismissed, Tempest rose to leave with the rest, silent amongst the torrent of chatter that burst forth. People were discussing the curses in awed voices, as though it had been some sort of show, fantastic and entertaining.
"Are you alright?" asked Hermione.
Tempest felt very disconnected, her limbs moving automatically. She caught sight of someone in a side passage.
"Better than Neville at least."
Neville was standing alone, halfway up the passage, staring at the stone wall opposite him with the same horrified, wide-eyed look he had worn when Moody had demonstrated the Cruciatus Curse.
"Neville?" Hermione said gently.
Neville looked around. "Oh hello," he said, his voice much higher than usual. "Interesting lesson, wasn't it? I wonder what's for dinner, I'm- I'm starving, aren't you?"
"Neville, are you all right?" said Hermione.
"Oh yes, I'm fine," Neville gabbled in the same unnaturally high voice. "Very interesting dinner- I mean lesson- what's for eating?"
Ron gave Tempest a startled look. "Neville, what-?" But an odd clunking noise sounded behind them, and they turned to see Professor Moody limping toward them. All four of them fell silent, watching him, but when he spoke, it was in a much lower and gentler growl than they had yet heard.
"It's all right, sonny," he said to Neville. "Why don't you come up to my office? Come on… we can have a cup of tea..."
Neville looked even more frightened at the prospect of tea with Moody. He neither moved nor spoke. Moody turned his magical eye upon Tempest.
"You all right, are you, Potter?"
"Why wouldn't I be?" said Tempest in a hard sort of voice.
Moody's blue eye quivered slightly in its socket as it surveyed her. Then he said, "You've got to know. It seems harsh, maybe, but you've got to know. No point pretending… well... come on, Longbottom, I've got some books that might interest you."
Neville looked pleadingly at Tempest, Ron, and Hermione, but they didn't say anything, so Neville had no choice but to allow himself to be steered away, one of Moody's gnarled hands on his shoulder.
"What was that about?" said Ron, watching Neville and Moody turn the corner.
"I don't know," said Hermione, looking pensive.
Tempest said nothing. She could hardly be the only one with a difficult past.
She drifted through the rest of the day in a sort of haze, an odd sort of in-between feeling, where she felt both very heavy yet in danger of coming loose. She… she felt very tired, like she wanted to do nothing but curl up with Nyx as a soothing weight on her stomach. She didn't want to talk, but she wanted to sit, preferably close to a fireplace and simply be. Tempest missed Remus incredibly in that moment, and she considered going to find Minnie in her office, but decided against it at the last minute. Hell, she wanted Sirius. Sirius who she really only knew through the half-a-dozen letters they'd exchanged throughout the holidays.
Tempest ran into Neville later that night. He was heading up to his dormitory with a book tucked under his arm.
"All right, Neville?" asked Tempest.
He looked calmer, though his eyes were rather red, and he nodded jerkily.
"I'm fine, thanks. Professor Moody just let me this book-" He held up the book: Magical Water Plants of the Mediterranean. "Apparently, Professor Sprout told Professor Moody I'm really good at Herbology," Neville said. There was a faint note of pride in his voice that Tempest had rarely heard before. "He thought I'd like it."
It was a very tactful way of cheering Neville up, Tempest thought, he needed to know he had his strengths. It was the sort of thing that Remus might have done, and in that, Tempest wondered why Moody still unnerved her so much.
"You are great at Herbology," Tempest said instead, "those times we've partnered in class are the best marks I've ever gotten." It was no lie. Even with Hermione's supervision, plants withered and died beneath Tempest's touch.
"Thanks," said Neville, looking happier, and Tempest bid him a good night.
Tempest sat and screwed around with her Divination homework with Ron for a good while, then left to join the twins. Ron had made a shit joke about learning his parents had been in a terrible accident. Tempest had laughed it off, and then spent a minute feeling like she had been hit over the head with a broomstick.
She joined the twins, who welcomed her with easy smiles and much shuffling of a piece of parchment they had been poring over.
Fred hesitated, and George smacked him over the shoulder. "It's Tempest!" he said, as though that were all the argument needed, and he turned to Tempest.
"Remember that bet we made with Bagman?"
"That Krum would catch the snitch but Ireland would win-"
"Oh," Tempest saw where this was going. "He didn't pay you back."
"He paid us back alright," scowled Fred, "in leprechaun gold."
"It disappears at midnight," George informed at Tempest's blank look. "Anyway, now the scum is trying to get out of paying us back, and we've sent him letter after letter trying to get him to pay up…"
"This is meant to be the last polite letter we send," said Fred, "we don't want to sound like we're accusing him of taking our money, only… he's an official in the Ministry, you know? If he had the money, why isn't he paying it?"
"That was all our savings," said George darkly. "Without them, it's a massive setback. We can still make stuff like… our Canary Creams, but Headless Hats, the fireworks…"
"If you guys need an investor," suggested Tempest, "I could invest. Give you a bit of a boost-"
George shifted uncomfortably, though Fred opened his mouth as though to agree. They shared a look.
"We'll keep trying Bagman," said Fred eventually, "he's got to give."
Tempest shrugged unconcernedly, and the talk turned to the Triwizard Tournament. The twins were trying to get their hands on an aging potion: "It wouldn't have to be much, just enough to age us up a few months." George turned to Tempest, "I don't suppose-?"
Tempest was the brewer. It was a shame really about Potions at Hogwarts. It would easily have been her best subject, were it not for Snape. Transfiguration may have been her favourite subject, but Potions had come easily to Tempest.
"That I can do for you boys."
By the time Hermione came through the portrait door after her latest stint in the library, Tempest had rejoined Ron and they were just finishing up their predictions for Divination. Hermione joined them, looking very pleased with herself. She set down a sheaf of parchment and a box that rattled beside Tempest, and pulled their homework towards her.
"Not going to have a very good month, are you?" she said sardonically to Ron, before glancing over to Tempest's. "Either of you."
Tempest shrugged, while Ron yawned, "ah well, at least I'm forewarned."
"Right, well what's this all about?" Tempest motioned at the box, and began to read the top piece of parchment upside-down. It was covered in Hermione's neat print, and seemed to be a summary of House Elves' standing in Wizarding society for the past millennium. And written in large letters above above: "Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare," read out Tempest, "Hermione?"
"S.P.E.W, for short," said Hermione brightly, "I made badges-" she opened the box on top and shook about fifty badges, all different colours and bearing the letters S.P.E.W beneath Tempest's nose.
"Spew," said Ron skeptically, leaning over Tempest's shoulder and picking one up for inspection. "Who's going to go around wearing badges saying 'spew'?"
Hermione's look was telling. Ron groaned. "Hermione, tell me you aren't still banging on about House Elves. They. Like. It. They like being told what to do!"
Hermione redirected her attention to Tempest. "I've been researching it thoroughly in the library. Elf enslavement goes back centuries. I can't believe no one's done anything about it before now. Our short term aims are to secure house-elves fair wages and working conditions. Our long-term aims include changing the law about non-wand use, and trying to get an elf into the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, because they're shockingly underrepresented."
"Right," said Tempest, "but don't you think that to achieve all of that you should really start working on the very last bit first?" She looked around at Ron, "Ron's right really, I mean I know you mean well, but ultimately the house elves know best how they want to be treated."
Hermione's brow furrowed. "But they've been conditioned-"
But Tempest was no longer listening.
There was a soft tap, tap on the window of the common room. There, across the empty common room and illuminated by the moonlight, a tawny brown barn owl perched on the windowsill. Tempest launched herself across the room to pull open the window, uncaring of the gust of chill air that surged into the room. "Finally!"
The owl hooted gratefully, fluttering to land on Tempest's proffered forearm, it's clawed feet sinking into her sleeve. Tempest stroked down its head and neck with a finger, her eyes fixed on the roll of parchment tied to the owl's leg with twine.
"I think I'll have an early night," said Tempest, already walking towards the girls' dormitories, "gnight Ron, Hermione."
Once in her dorm, Tempest hastily got ready for bed, then drawing the curtains around her bed and spelling them to remain closed. It was always best to stay on the better side of post owls, so Tempest fed the owl some of Nyx's tidbits before she went to unknot the parchment.
It was the same letter she had last sent Sirius right before she left to stay with the Weasleys for the Quidditch World Cup.
Her letter read:
Dear Sirius- Your letter was hilarious, thanks! I really needed that: earlier I'd just broken my arm: I hit a rock swimming. Minnie fixed it eventually, so it just aches a fair amount now. Your letter arrived just in time to save me from moping about for an afternoon.
I have no idea where you find these birds, but this last one is the size of a small boulder. Useful though: you should expect a parcel delivered by boulder-bird not too long after this letter arrives, I doubt he'll be flying very quickly with the weight I'm strapping to his legs. I'd feel bad, but he isn't the one running around the world in threadbare rags.
I did manage to broach the subject of animagi with Minnie and I don't think she suspected anything. What I understood ultimately is the Ministry places a lot of scrutiny and checkpoints in place for people applying to become registered animagi, and it really slows the whole process down. So it took her five years to shift into her cat form as opposed to you and James, where it only took about two. Do you suppose, with all of the resources and research available to me, and your help, I could do it in about a year? I know it sounds ambitious, but it's all for Remus.
I've tried these few weeks to make the Wolfsbane but it's an immensely complex potion. I'll keep working on it of course, but it's hardly as though I could ask Snape for help. Merlin.
Wishing you well, as always. Has Buckbeak stopped moulting yet? I hope he's less irritable now, I really had no idea, and we studied them for a good while in Magical Creatures. I wrote Hagrid, said it was for curiosity's sake, and he says giving a hippogriff a good brushing down will make him feel better.
I'm about to leave Minnie's and stay with the Weasleys for the Quidditch World Cup, but I'll be back before the end of the holidays so I can get some more reading on the whole animagi business done. I must say from what I've read so far, it's far less spell casting and more meditation that takes place. I wonder what I'll turn into. You can hardly choose after all. Some sort of bird would be quite cool, though something large and four-legged would be useful around Moony.
What do you think the odds are of my turning into a doe?
On a side note, something odd happened last night: I had a really vivid dream, one I only vaguely remember now. It was Voldemort and Pettigrew plotting to kill me. Hardly inspiring I know, except my scar hurt. Last time that happened was second year at Hogwarts when I came in contact with a shadow of Voldemort living in a journal. I checked but he wasn't anywhere near. No one knows the exact location of where I live anyway, save for Minnie and Dumbledore. Is it normal then, for curse scars to hurt afterward?
It probably is just coincidence, I might have hit my head when I broke my arm, and that's all it is, I thought I might as well ask though.
My best to Buckbeak. Stay safe.
Sirius's reply was scrawled hastily out in pen on the back. It read:
Tempest- Your misadventures never cease to amaze- sorry amuse. At some point you'll become little but scar-tissue held together by magic and sheer force of will. Now who does that remind me of? Thanks for the clothes, and the food. The underwear was a highlight, and the socks. One never really considers socks do they? Not until you don't have any: then they become priceless. The bloody bird is fine- by virtue of rubbing all of his feathers over me: I spent a whole afternoon hacking up his down when he chose to moult all over where I was sleeping. He's a menace and if we weren't friends, I'd pluck him and stuff a pillow. I'd say your odds are pretty good- your patronus is one, right? Does are useful too, bloody good at running. Of course, contrary as you are, you could very well be a flamingo for all we know. The meditation was what really held James and I up, we couldn't seem to get into the right headspace for whatever reason. I'm flying back north right now. Even where I was, there have been a string of strange rumors, and your tale of your scar hurting caps it all. Curses don't usually leave scars, you see, not unless they're meant to. We can talk more as I get closer: if anything else unusual happens go straight to Dumbledore. You'll hear from me soon I promise. –Sirius.
Nyx leapt up onto Tempest's bed, curling up on her ankles with a greeting purr, then focusing narrowed eyes on the owl that perched innocently on Tempest's coverlet, cleaning its feathers.
Tempest reached for a piece of parchment, quill and ink from her bedside dresser, setting about writing a reply. Thoughts of what to write first sprung to mind, thoughts such as: 'What do you think you're doing?' 'You just escaped Azkaban, are you really so eager to return?' 'Sirius, forget my paranoid ramblings: I'm fine, you just stay safe and. Out. Of. Britain.'
Settled, she set quill to parchment.
Sirius- I suppose it's futile to tell you to stay put? To stay safe and out of Britain? The initial excitement might have died down, but I still see your face on a wanted poster every now and then. Don't jeopardize your freedom for some paranoid inkling of mine. Whatever rumors you've heard, I'm sure Dumbledore's heard as well. Take your own advice and leave it to him. Please. In the event that you don't listen to me, which is incredibly likely, be careful. If you need anything, owl me. Stay under the radar. Also, I think you're an idiot. –Best, Tempest.
After watching the owl wing its way across the moonlit sky, Tempest returned to bed. She flattened and smoothed out the creases in Sirius' letter, before folding it neatly into a quarter of its previous side and fishing around in her trunk to withdraw a thick stack of letters held together by elastic. She added the last letter to the pile, slipping it in under the elastic and returning the bundle of letters to the bottom of her trunk.