|Title:||Slytherin Solidarity: Canto II - In This Haze of Green and Gold|
|Posted On:||2004-12-16 00:00:00|
Slytherin SolidaritySlytherin Solidarity
Summary: The journal of Blaise Zabini falls open, revealing the story of the last Slytherins before the great battle begins. A house broken and torn from the inside, and the greatest of loves – lost to the ages.
Disclaimer: A non-profit adoration of J.K. Rowling’s characters. No money is being made by this endeavour and characters, places and curses remain the property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Warner Brothers and all those other profiteering bigwigs.
Canto II – In This Haze of Green and Gold
September 10, 1997.
He couldn’t stop shaking. The tremor in his hands had broached the point of reasonably uncontrolled and had all but overtaken his ability to write legibly. The two words stared up at him from the weathered parchment of the dragonhide-bound journal, but it didn’t make it anymore real. Overhead, the clock chimed 4:00 a.m. Dawn would break soon, and then the school would explode.
And Draco told me not to go to him.
Blaise pinched the bridge of his nose between a thumb and forefinger. He couldn’t look at his mates directly, though they were seated around him like a protective battalion.
And I listened to him.
He dropped his quill, a fine spotting of black ink dotting the hearth rug.
Draco had physically restrained him, not long after to be joined by Pansy, clutching at his sides and cradling his head to her chest. The girls had barged into their dorm shortly after he’d begun screaming – he’d woken the entire house bellowing Theodore Nott’s name, over and over, until he’d grown hoarse from the effort.
It had been Higgs who’d had the fortitude to get Snape, and Snape to summon Dumbledore and Pomfrey. Everything thereafter was a blur of red, white and green. The scene kept playing itself out in his mind. There was so much blood. They’d draped the lifeless body of his best friend in linen, and bundled the carpets to take them for cleaning. Blaise hoped they’d burn them. He recalled Draco’s speech; the magic is in the blood, and bit down on his lip to keep from howling again.
The word “Don’t,” echoing eerily in his exhausted mind. He was a fool, and his hesitation had cost his friend his life.
Blaise sat in Draco’s seat facing the hearth fire, he did not wish to glance at the table and chairs where Ted had sat only hours before. He wanted no reminders of the ghostly trail left by his best ally. Tracey and Pansy were curled next to him, Parkinson’s soft blond curls fanned over his legs. Looking down at the delicate girl, he noted the streaks of dried tears on her cheeks; she’d cried herself into exhaustion and fallen asleep where she lay. Draco, however, was stolid – he hadn’t broken yet, and nor had Crabbe or Goyle. The three were sitting in chairs facing the fire, Goyle snoring lightly where his chin dropped onto his shoulder.
Higgs was another matter altogether, he’d remained awake the entire time, curled into a foetal position with his arms hugging his knees. Though every half hour or so, his breathing would change and he’d hyperventilate for a good five minutes or so before picking up a paper Honeydukes bag nearby and breathing into it harshly. Intermittently, Tracey would wake from a half-sleep with a harsh gasp – her dreams chased by nightmares since she’s fallen to slumber. Draco would reach over every time her eyes snapped open and would stroke the palm of her hand until she’d settle once again, all the while never removing his slate grey eyes from the crackling fire. Millicent had locked herself in the girl’s shower, Tracey had said around two o’clock the large girl had stopped howling into the running water, but had refused to come out thereafter.
It wasn’t until nearly six in the morning that the common room door opened and Professor Snape entered looking sombre, with a sallow-faced Millicent shuffling behind him.
“Slytherins,” he addressed them, his tone grave as the black-clad man gently guided Millie to a seat near Crabbe, who opened his arms and pulled her onto his lap, she was shivering visibly and her wiry hair was damp still. Snape looked at each of them, the lines around his onyx eyes more visible than ever. His gaze rested on Blaise for a moment longer before turning to address them all as a group. “As seventh years, you are looked on by the younger members of this house. Although it grieves me to have to tell you this, I expect each of you to be present at breakfast this morning. A great tragedy has befallen us, but we cannot show weakness in the face of adversity.”
“We must not,” Snape continued, seeing their horrified expressions, “Lose all sense of ourselves entirely. It will take great strength of character from each of you, but the younger students will look to you for both guidance and succour.” The Professor looked diminished and worn, regardless of what he was telling them – it sounded as if he did not like it one bit. Pansy had roused herself from Blaise’s lap and was now clinging to his arm, a glance at the girl showed her lip to be quivering. “You will be excused from lessons for the next few days, but your presence is crucial at mealtimes.” At this, the teacher visibly stiffened and a familiar hard look came over his features. “I will not have my students wasting away from lack of proper diet and sleep, is that understood?” He gave them all a penetrating look. “You will all need to be strong, for yourselves, for the house and for the school.” Draco straightened in his seat and an impassive look claimed his angular features. The Professor was right of course, the facade they presented to the rest of the school would determine if anyone could break them. From Draco’s expression, and the groused appearance of both Crabbe and Goyle, Blaise knew that regardless of how empty they felt, none would let anyone see it – no one other than their housemates. Tracey’s lips were set in a straight line, and Daphne was rubbing her eyes, wiping away the last tears and beginning to harden her expression.
“You all have my permission to use the Prefect’s bathroom on the fifth floor as it is that the seventh year dorms will need to be cleaned. You will find a fresh change of clothes for each of you, as well as some of your personal belongings already there for your use. Since I may not offer this privilege solely to the young men in my presence, this invitation is extended to the ladies as well. Please see to it, Ms. Parkinson, that you keep that quivering lip in check.” She nodded, clutching Blaise around the bicep a little more forcefully than necessary, though her lip continued to quiver slightly. “Ms. Bulstrode, although you have spent the better part of the night in the showers, you may accompany your housemates as well. I do not expect any of you to be separated over the next few days, in fact, I would advise against it strongly. It would not be prudent to let your guards down, I daresay, regardless of whatever misfortunes befall this house; your fellow students may attempt to test your resolve.” He grimaced, folding his arms. “I cannot stop any of you from being reactionary, though do try to maintain some semblance of decorum if you feel you must rise to their remarks – especially you, Mr. Malfoy.” Snape shot the blond a look, though once he turned his back the boy sneered openly. “I will return this evening if any of you wish to share counsel privately.” At that, Snape made a point of looking at Blaise. Unintentionally he felt his back stiffen as he gave the Professor a curt nod. With that, the older man turned to sweep out of the room. At the door he paused, and addressed Blaise over his shoulder. “When you are ready, Mr. Zabini, the Headmaster wishes to have a word with you in his office.”
“Thank you, sir,” he replied stiffly.
As the teacher left, Blaise threw a cautious look at Pansy, and carefully pried her fingers from his upper-arm. There would be bruises, of course, but Blaise knew he wouldn’t feel them for a long time – he was numb, completely and utterly. A dull tingling spread through his fingers as he snapped his journal shut and tossed it into a corner of the couch, as he stood and helped Pansy to her feet. Draco nodded and rose, followed quickly by Goyle and Crabbe, who lifted a weak-limbed Millicent along with him. Daphne and Tracey were soon to follow, both with grim expressions set to their faces.
The only person who remained seated and shaking was Higgs, though he was quickly lifted by his collar by Greg, who then proceeded to brush him off and give him a sharp slap to his cheek to cause him to focus. The two boys nodded at each other, Blaise nodding at Malfoy and then at the girls.
It was Malfoy who spoke first, their unofficial leader and representative taking it upon himself to lead the crew out into the harsh glare of the school corridors. “Right, then, shall we?” He gestured at the door in a demure manner, the mask already set to his face with a small, pink-lipped smirk already in place. Blaise gave him a perfunctory nod and proffered his right arm to Pansy, who still seemed to tremble slightly though her face was moulded perfectly for the outside world, her lips pursed and eyes narrowed. He would have to push down the bile in his throat along with his emotions for a few more hours. Blaise could do it; Blaise could poison the entire effing student body by tainting their pumpkin juice if he had to. It was in this frame of mind that the seventeen year old designee of the Zabini legacy snapped the fastenings on his robe, and tucked his wand austerely into a concealed pocket of his sleeve. Pity the fool who crossed him this day.
“Strength in numbers,” Millicent mumbled shakily from next to Crabbe, though her back was straight and shoulders set.
“Strength in numbers,” the rest replied as a group as they left the security of the dungeons.
Breakfast was going to be an obscene affair and a fantastic assessment of wills, Blaise mused as he strode down the Charms corridor and turned abruptly, leaping to catch a moving staircase before it swung too far out of reach. Vince and Millie were the only stragglers, but just barely, as everyone else had made the stair before it ground into motion.
He let his eyes rove over the portraits as he continued down the steps towards the Great Hall, his expression set like chiselled marble. Breakfast would just be starting; ergo the Slytherins’ entrance would not go unnoticed – Draco’s idea, obviously. Why? Who in Hades knew? He’d long ago written off Malfoy’s penchant for the dramatic as self-serving and flamboyant.
Blaise cracked his neck audibly. Hearing the satisfying pop he arranged his features in such a way that could be taken as passive. He could hold it up for an hour or so, and if he faltered, someone would cover for him. They always did.
Raking one long-fingered hand through his dark locks, he made a last diagnostic check on his appearance by pressing his fingers into his clothing, and briefly into the angles of his face. His hair was straightened enough to hang past his ears, at the back it often brushed his shirt collar but it never got long enough to be obscenely shaggy. He was tall enough for his age, muscled enough to cause a stir if a patch of flesh showed, but not enough to be labelled a ‘lumpy couch’ by any means. Everything else about him screamed Adonis, from his arched eyebrows, firm jaw line and trademark Italian nose – somewhat longish but the size balanced out his other features, inclusive of his full lips and rather girlish eyelashes, which Pansy repeatedly told him she envied him for.
He found it was best this morning to charm the bloodshot look out of his eyes – if he had to meet anyone’s gaze he’d prefer that all they saw was the strong color of deep oceans, unmarred by unshed tears and infected with sleeplessness. His clothing he’d found were cleaned and pressed immaculately thanks to the superb staff of house elves the school offered. Everything was tailored for his height and build, his shoes polished, tie tucked in neatly to the charcoal grey school sweater, and robes draped perfectly over his broad shoulders. He knew he looked good, and he carried himself as such – even if he felt like three-week old tripe.
Nearing the Entrance Hall, Pansy sidled up next to Draco and tossed her curls over her shoulder. Tracey had seen to it that she’d collected herself, and after dumping Pansy on a bench on the boys’ side of the lavatory, Draco had attacked Pansy’s sagging and limp ringlets with a ferocity that went unrivalled in magical hair care.
Blaise slowed his pace, letting the group merge ahead of him. Catching the wafting aroma of eggs and bacon, his stomach rolled, forcing him to pause mid-stride and swallow – hard.
“Zabini?” Draco cast a hard look in his direction just before the doors of the Great Hall.
“Go on, I’ll catch you up,” he said, sucking in a deep breath to quell the rising bile in his throat. Shaking himself, Blaise picked up his stride and filed into the Hall.
Silence permeated by fervent whispers and the shuffle of cutlery greeted the Slytherins upon entry to the Great Hall, the house flags had been replaced by black curtains bearing no emblem and overhead, the sky remained grey, still virginal to the morning sunrise. Many of the students looked up as he passed them, Blaise noted, but his gaze was fixed on the empty end of his house table. He wouldn’t bear the distraction of forced condolences, not yet. He wouldn’t suffer the stares and curious mutterings of these vultures. Heads would roll before that. Reasserting himself, he set his jaw and swept to his place among the seventh years of his house.
For a moment, he merely stared at the empty spot on the mahogany bench next to him, before averting his gaze and focusing on the empty dining ware before him and clenching his jaw shut firmly, an unfamiliar prickling tugging at the corners of his eyes. Draco slid over to occupy the empty spot and poked him, roughly but discreetly, on his thigh below the table. Blaise merely shot him an acknowledging glance.
At the Teacher’s Table at the head of the Hall, Dumbledore was standing, preparing to deliver the news, as if the pecking order hadn’t already heard.
A Death Eater was dead, slashed up his arm real fine – right through the Mark, did you know?
Blaise glanced down the row of students seated at his table and caught the hardened gaze of Samuel Nott, before the boy turned his amber eyes back to his plate and continued to brutalize his breakfast. The fourth year’s face appeared oddly blank, though the look in his light eyes betrayed him. The younger brother of his deceased best friend had made no quarry the night before as to how or why Ted had killed himself; he’d merely nodded and retired to his dormitory with that ugly, stony look in place.
Blaise could have spat his disgust it was so palpable.
At the head table, Dumbledore was clearing his throat, only to be broken off by a choked sob, as a small, ashen-face second year leaped up from the Ravenclaw table and ran the length of the room, throwing herself bodily into Blaise’s arms. The best he could do was shut his eyes and wrap Edsel Nott in his embrace, as her noisy crying sliced through the silent morning air.
“Shhh, Eddie. Hush now,” he whispered, stroking the child’s long hair and rocking her on his lap. “It’ll be ok, I promise.” The words were lost on the twelve year old, however, as she continued to sob into the crook of his neck. He chanced a glance around the Hall, noting dually that not only was the entire student body gaping at this spectacle, but one face in particular stood apart from the rest of the crowd. The Head Girl, a Gryffindor and muggle-born witch, was looking at him with an expression that could only be described as pity, unshed tears sparkling in her doe eyes, and her mouth tugged down at the corners in a small frown.
Incensed, Blaise clutched the shivering Ravenclaw to his chest as if to shield her from their collective, unscrupulous stare. Ganger’s expression was worse than the combined snivelling and whispers of the entire school; in that one flicker of emotion in her eyes, she’d marked the Slytherin as a human capable of compassion, and it would not do at all to be branded as such. Not now, not in the days to come. Not ever if he had any say in the matter. In one swift motion he lifted himself off his seat, Edsel in arms, and strode away from the table, carrying her from the Hall.
Her choked wails echoing through the Entrance Hall, Blaise carried her the length of the foyer, down the school steps and out into the crisp air outside. He didn’t look back to see if anyone followed. Rather, with the top of Ed’s head tucked beneath his chin, he carried the light bundle of a child all the way to the lake before placing her on the grass and wrapping his school robes around them both to shield them from the early autumn chill. As her sobs gave way to sniffles, the pale hazel eyes that were so much like her older brother’s turned on him, looking for reassurance. He found he couldn’t meet her stare; he had no words of comfort for the small girl, especially when he had none for himself.
“You haven’t cried yet?” she asked softly.
Staring towards the dark trees of the Forbidden Forest he shook his head in response, his throat clenching involuntarily. A light mist was forming over the lake and beginning to spread towards the bank on which they sat.
“You will, won’t you?”
He sighed, his gaze remain trained on the line of old sycamores ahead of them. The sun was barely peeking over the treetops in the east, casting the sky in a light purple-grey hue.
“It’s not healthy if you don’t, you know.” He glanced at her, not a trace of jest on her soft features.
“I know, Ed. I will.”
Edsel rubbed at her lightly freckled cheeks, wiping away the last traces of tears. It wasn’t such an odd characteristic of the young Ravenclaw to grow steely so quickly. Many of the Ravenclaws Blaise knew were sops, but things tended to be slightly different when the rest of your family came from Slytherin.
“Blaise, will you be like my eldest brother now that Ted’s gone?”
He stiffened slightly, remembering the cold look on Samuel’s face in the early hours of the morning. “You have an older brother, still, Edsel.”
Her eyes narrowed and she pulled away from him slightly, measuring him with a look that would make Bulstrode jealous of her predatory features. The young blue and bronze clad girl was shrewd, no doubt. Blaise sighed again, “I’ll be here for you always, Eddie.”
Her features softened, though she whispered mournfully, “Samuel should have died.”
“Ed, don’t say that.” Blaise squeezed his eyes shut. “You don’t mean it –”
She sniffed. “He’ll never be half the person Ted was. He’s just like my father.” With that, Edsel Nott pushed away from him, a loud sob choked on the cold breeze, and tore across the grounds in the direction of the school.
Turning his gaze back on the tall trees on the opposite side of the lake, Blaise grit his teeth and stilled himself momentarily, trying to stifle the white hot prickling in his chest before the anger welled up and he exploded. The entire school and half of Hogsmeade would hear him if he did.
Instead, he breathed heavily through his nose, shut his eyes tight and tried to sooth the rushing sound in his ears. Edsel may not have expressed herself fully, but Blaise knew damn well what she meant. Samuel had grown into the footsteps of Nott Senior, where Ted had not. Sam would have taken the Mark gladly and cowered dutifully when asked, a scrap of power, a dab of fame was all it took to persuade him. Ted did not. Ted had chosen to take his own life instead of succumbing to servitude under the Dark Lord. Ted had chosen the path of the righteously unaffected, before he could be turned into a monster himself. Samuel found shame in his brother’s sacrifice; Blaise could feel it – as hot and soiled as the angry throb in his veins.
How in Hades could he protect someone who wanted to wilfully place their neck on the chopping block?
Glaring at the forest beyond, Blaise was startled out of his seething as a loud flapping and the crackling of branches punctuated the still backdrop. Out of the treetops, a large, black, skeletal creature soared high into the air above the forest. It’s black, membrane-filmy wings spread wide, Blaise could just make out the emaciated body of a black winged horse before it snapped its maw, and dove back into the foliage.
He shuddered involuntarily and shifted his weight to stand, unable to tear his eyes away from the now gently swaying branches. Never in his life woul