|Title:||Slytherin Solidarity: Canto III – Of Dust, Dragonhide and Dreamscapes|
|Posted On:||2004-12-22 00:00:00|
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 III – Of Dust, Dragonhide and Dreamscapes
Complete exhaustion has a strange way of seeping into the limbs. The synchronicity normally provided in waking life seems to fade at times; it pauses and restarts itself, affixing the sluggishness to both mind and body. What’s worse, Blaise realized as he stalked the deserted halls of Hogwarts in the waning afternoon sunlight, is that it causes the images passing before the eyes to flicker and falter, producing strange superimpositions on the ancient stones and tapestries.
Dragging his feet, his deep indigo eyes scoured the castle with no particular purpose to his wandering. The Slytherin realized he’d merely draw himself away from the inevitable, avoiding what had come to pass was the best way he’s learned to survive – but at that moment, with his hands stuffed into the pockets of his school robes and his eyes combing the Gothic architecture that surrounded him, he couldn’t shake the numbness that was percolating in his bones. Distraction was most welcome. It would, he reasoned, keep him company with his tired and battered thoughts.
The vaulted ceilings sprawled twenty feet overhead, an architectural wonder, really – that such a curvaceous and beautiful structure could support the tons of mortar and sandstone used to build the old school. Muggle ingeniousness at its height – in later years the Gothic style had spurred a revolution of designers into countless revivals, fashioning furnishings, churches and ornament around the fashion, he’d learned through Muggle Studies. He’d dropped the class after fifth year, unfortunately. Draco had said studying a lower life form was nearly as drab as looking at the archaic remnants of odd and extinct magical fungi. Then again, Draco never quite captured the concept that regardless of what he’d been led to believe as a child, wizards and muggles have, and always would be, linked intrinsically – whether the pureblood elite liked it or not. The tapestries and portraits of these hallowed halls said exactly that.
His head was hurting again. The lack of a proper breakfast, adequate luncheon and consummated with the absence of a night’s rest were beginning to creep up on the Slytherin, so when the disembodied, floating silver form drifted through the west wall and aligned itself with Blaise’s slow stride he didn’t think much of it. Ghosts were common enough at Hogwarts, there were very few who were entirely unsociable, and fewer attempted to physically interact with the students deliberately. The fact that Blaise had been periodically seeing things that weren’t actually there out of the corner of his eye may have attributed to his slow response when the phantom raised its arm, placing a translucent hand on his shoulder and sending an icy chill through his flesh. He glanced around quickly, too quick in fact, for the sight that greeted him was not something he expected in the slightest. The face of the spirit, lightly dappled with silver freckles, shining pale eyes, thin turnip nose and square jaw were enough to send him staggering backwards into a suit of armour in shock and fright.
Blaise crumpled to the floor with a thud, his tailbone searing painfully, as the metallic contraption clattered in pieces on top of him. Struggling to relieve himself of the armour and cursing loudly, Blaise looked up again to find the staring, floating figure gazing at him interestedly. The boy’s smile had morphed into a small frown, the nose was longer, the limbs stockier – in fact, it wasn’t the same ghost he’d seen but two moments ago. In the place of small, silver freckles, was the light scattering of tiny, hoary drops of blood. The tunic itself was splattered heavily in shining gore, the clothing both ancient and resplendent. The Bloody Baron, Slytherin’s ghost, floated above him motionless, before shaking his head imperceptibly and tipping his wide-brimmed hat with a small bow, then drifting through the east wall.
“Barking,” Blaise muttered to the empty corridor. It couldn’t have been, it was impossible; his very eyes had just proved it otherwise… But he could have sworn that it had been Ted in the Baron’s place only moments before. Shaking himself roughly, Blaise stood, brushed himself off and decided it was about time he packed away some food before he completely cracked and they’d have to levitate him to the Hospital Wing.
Rounding the corner and preparing the descent four floors to the kitchens, the disembodied voices of three distinguishable Gryffindors carried all the way to the spot where Blaise had frozen mid-stride. It sounded as if a heated debate were carrying on between Weasley and Granger, obviously, there was nothing new there – the two sods had a row practically every other day.
“No buts, Ronald, I know what I saw,” she stated in annoyance.
“Well maybe you should go see Madam Pomfrey and have her check your vision. It’s impossible!”
“What is?” she fumed, “the possibility that perhaps there are more things going on in this school that we know about? It’s not like any of us are chummy with them.”
Blaise cocked an eyebrow and leaned against the wall. This could prove to be interesting. Never in his seven years at the school had he heard a member of a different house sticking up for one of his own. Chancing a glance over his shoulder to make sure the corridor was deserted and there was no one exiting the library, ghosts or human, he relaxed behind the bend and out of the Gryffindors’ direct line of sight.
“So you’re defending him, then? Is that it?” The Weasley’s voice rose in volume slightly.
She blustered, “No! I just think it’s best to analyze the situation the best we can.”
“Hermione! What’s there to analyse?” Ron stamped his foot. Blaise rolled his eyes and made himself comfortable against the stone masonry. The effing child was going to draw this tirade out, undoubtedly.
“It’s all an illusion! He’s just trying to get you to see things his way so he can suss you into some devious mind game. All-Slytherins-are-Death-Eaters! They’re no good, the lot of them.”
Another voice sighed. “Guys, perhaps this isn’t the best place to carry on this discussion. Anyone could walk by.”
Weasley scoffed. “Right Harry, you’re just trying to delay the inevitable.” He paused, “Or maybe they’ve gotten to you to…”
“Ron, stop it! Look, I saw both of Zabini’s arms and they were perfectly clear of any markings. Furthermore, he –” She quieted abruptly.
“What? He what?!” The redhead was practically yelling.
“Ron shut up!” Potter hissed.
“Let go of me, Harry!” Weasley lowered his voice menacingly. “What did he do to you ‘Mione?”
“Nothing, Ron, he just –”
“If he laid as much as a stinking, slimy finger on you –”
“Ron, stop it! You’re overreacting!” She sounded more frantic than exasperated by this point. “He didn’t do anything!”
Well, that last statement wasn’t entirely truthful – if you counted the fact that he’d probably gotten more action lying on top of the girl fully clothed than Weasley had seen in the last seven years. Blaise grinned at the thought, slimy indeed.
As much as he disliked the witch, Blaise had to hand it to her; she was doing a right good job of covering her own arse right about then, even if she did sound partially hysterical.
“I don’t believe a word of it,” Weasley hissed. “When I find out what that smarmy bastard’s up to –”
“Ron, I think someone’s coming,” Potter said quickly, a nervous hitch in his breathing.
Granger continued, ignoring Potter’s warning. “You didn’t see his face Ron! The look in his eyes when he said…” She faltered. “It was awful.”
Blaise heard her suck in a breath, if he didn’t know better he’d say the little chit was about to bawl, and over him no less. This day couldn’t possibly get any stranger.
“He just wants your sympathy, ‘Mione – A nice shoulder to cry on, now that his Death Eater buddy’s rotting. I bet it was a set up.” There was a sound of a fist smacking an open palm; Blaise bristled awaiting the next words to fall from the idiot’s mouth. Unlatching the holder on his wand, he extracted the delicate rowan instrument silently. Weasley continued, “I bet his own housemates killed him to set an example.”
That instant, as Blaise flung himself around the corner, there was a sizzle and a loud smack as a body hit the ground. At the opposite end of the corridor, Malfoy, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle were advancing on the party of three rapidly, wands drawn and robes billowing behind them. Potter had leapt back and was attempting to untangle his wand from the waistband of his pants; Granger was staring with her mouth agape at her fallen friend.
In an instant, Draco descended on the downed Gryffindor and thrust the tip of his wand into the taller boy’s neck, wrapping a fist into the front of his robes to draw his face up to meet his.
“Say it again,” he hissed through clenched teeth. “Please, Weasley, do me this honour. I’d like nothing more to try out some experimental curses on your miserable hide.” Draco’s face, though partially concealed by a fan of platinum blond hair, was pinched and blotchy scarlet in places. From where Blaise stood, a mere three feet away from Weasley’s sprawled form, he noted the large vein thrumming in Draco’s neck. Definitely not a good sign. Throwing a glance at Goyle, the larger boy intercepted Potter and pushed him towards the wall to clear the area in case of one Draco’s jinxes flew wildly. Crabbe looked towards Granger, standing with her back to the Italian, but Blaise shook his head and reached out for her hand. He didn’t have the opportunity, however, because as Draco released the gangly wizard and stepped back a pace to take better aim, Granger shoved the blond Slytherin roughly out of the way and leapt on Weasley herself.
The strangled sob the Head Girl emitted as she pulled him up to his feet by the front of his robes was nothing short of incredible. For a moment, Blaise thought he’d misheard a grunt or some sign of effort in pulling the wizard to his feet. It was only when he noticed the tear coursing down Granger’s cheek that he knew something was a little off, his suspicions were confirmed, however, when she drew back her hand a smacked Weasley across the face.
Draco gaped. Potter stopped struggling against Goyle, and Greg actually released him, his deep-set eyes latched onto the spectacle before him. Crabbe stared after the Gryffindor’s retreating back as she turned heel and tore down the length of the fourth floor corridor and out of sight. Blaise blinked, shoved Weasley out of his way and into Potter, and snatched Draco by the armpit, heaving him down the corridor after her.
It was a moment before Malfoy returned to his senses and struggled free of Blaise’s grasp. “Zabini, what the fuck do you think you’re doing? I had a perfect shot at him!” The blond waved furiously at the long end of the corridor where Weasley and Potter stood staring dumbly in between each other and the withdrawing Slytherins, Ron rubbing his reddened cheek. “Blaise!” Draco shouted. Blaise however, had other things in mind as he swept down the staircase with his three housemates at his heels, Draco spluttering angrily. “Damnit, Zabini where are you going?”
“To find Granger,” he said levelly.
“The hell for?” Draco’s voice echoed off the deserted stairwell, as the staircase they were descending rasped against its fixtures and began to swing in a wide arc to reposition itself. Pausing, shoulders squared, Blaise spun around to face him.
“To thank her for such a creative display of house loyalty, what do you think Draco?” he snapped.
Malfoy narrowed his eyes, behind him Crabbe and Goyle were looking between the two wizards and shuffling awkwardly, as if they weren’t entirely certain which way they should lean their loyalties if they were to split and go in opposite directions.
“You had something to do with this, didn’t you?” he replied with a calculated air. Blaise turned away and marched off the last stair, not wanting his housemates to see him bristle. On the one hand, Granger had just slapped the daylights out of someone who was supposedly her best friend, something Blaise would ordinarily laugh hysterically at for hours afterwards. On the other hand, she’d reacted violently for a member of a rival house who had enough slated against him even in death to cause a stir in the Ministry – even if the allegations were unfounded. What was worse is that she’d reacted out of sympathy for him. She’d said so herself! The display at breakfast had been quite enough, to think that she’d seen something in his face when they’d sat by the lake was enough to have Blaise reeling. He was nothing but guilty as charged.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he retorted and continued to stride down the next set of steps. Malfoy paused at the landing, Crabbe and Goyle behind him looking between each other worriedly.
“Zabini you owe no gratitude towards that filthy mudblood.” Draco’s words echoed in the large stairwell. Blaise, however, paid this last quip no heed and continued walking, leaving his friends behind him.
Draco continued to holler after him, “It’s not safe, Zabini – mixing with their kind! You can’t let your guard down around them!”
Incensed, he only realized when he’d reached the first floor that he had no idea which way Granger had gone. Like he’d actually try to understand Granger’s motivations, he just wanted her to stop whatever sympathies she’d sprouted and get on with her life. Draco’s complaints had distracted him thoroughly, and he now found himself apparently alone in the deserted foyer. All the better, he needed to think, clear his head –
“Ah, Mr. Zabini!” Blaise stiffened and turned around slowly. “Just the man I’ve been looking for,” Dumbledore, robed in long swishy robes of deep purple stood before the stairs leading down to the kitchens.
“Sir,” he said. So much for solace, Blaise thought as he inclined his head slightly towards the Headmaster. Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled behind his half-moon spectacles, as he gestured in the direction of the kitchens.
“I was just on my way for a mid-afternoon tea; would you care to join me Mr. Zabini? Perhaps an informal atmosphere and a bit of pudding would still your wanderings for a short time.”
Blaise’s stomach rumbled in response. Bugger it, he’d find Granger later. He’d deal with Draco later as well, along with Edsel and Samuel and every other bloody thing that could possibly come to pass on this positively spiffing day. Right now, Dumbledore’s invitation sounded mighty appealing. The shelter of the kitchens and a sandwich, concluded by a nap in the sanctity of his bed hangings would do him wonders. He obviously wasn’t thinking clearly, he had just seen the face of his recently deceased best friend and he could have sworn he had he just been running after Granger.
The aged wizard smiled benignly at Blaise’s lack of response, and led the way down the set of steps to the kitchens. Pausing before a large portrait of a bowl of fruit, the wizened man tickled a fat yellow pear. With a giggle, the fruit morphed into a brass door handle, and Dumbledore opened the portrait, guiding the Slytherin inside.
Several House-Elves scurried around squeaking and carrying loaded trays of sandwiches, biscuits and tea, while the Headmaster took a seat at what appeared to be the replica of the Hufflepuff table. The room was large, the walls covered in an assortment of cooking utensils, pots, and pans. Arranged similarly to the Great Hall, the four house tables stood bare in the middle of the room, later to be filled by the evening’s dinner and sent up through the ceiling. Dumbledore gestured for him to take a seat across from him, as a house elf with greying hair tufting from its ears pushed at his legs with a large plate and motioned for him to take a seat.
“Mr. Zabini,” Dumbledore began, looking less bemused and somewhat grave. “Please, have a seat and enjoy a well-deserved snack,” he said gesturing at the teetering pile of sandwiches. “I daresay the subject matter we will be discussing shortly will leave you bereft of your appetite.” Glancing at the aged wizard, Blaise reached for a ham and cheese creation and took a bite tentatively. His stomach snarling in response, he proceeded to consume no less than eleven quartered pieces of bread, meat and cheese, intermittently slurping at his pumpkin juice. When he was sated, Dumbledore surveyed the Slytherin above his spectacles. Though he tried to conceal his discomfort beneath the Headmaster’s gaze, Blaise had the distinct impression that the wizard knew precisely what had happened between dawn that morning and the very sluggish thoughts dragging themselves through his head at that very moment.
“Due to recent events,” The Headmaster began, “I feel it is best to discuss with those who were closest to Mr. Nott certain things which have come to light.”
Blaise stiffened, suddenly fully alert and attentive.
“Professor Snape informs me that the members of your house are drawing closer together in this time of tragedy. I am aware, Mr. Zabini, of your ties to Mr. Nott and the friendship you shared. I am most sorry for your loss, Blaise.” Dumbledore’s eyes had lost their glint temporarily; he wore a small frown that caused the wrinkles in his weathered skin to sag into large creases around his mouth and eyes. “I must ask you, however, in the dark times ahead to remain vigilant and to be strong.”
Blaise nodded dully.
“Mr. Zabini, as you are no longer a child I must speak to you as an adult now. Though as Headmaster of this school you are still under my careful watch, you will not be forever. I am well aware of the rift being created by the onset of war, choose wisely Blaise. Guide those who will follow you where you can.” The light blue twinkle was back. Dumbledore was deliberately dropping a suggestion; the old wizard always knew whenever something particularly ghastly lurked in shadowy corners and beneath unturned stones. What is was exactly, Blaise had no idea.
“I’ll do my best, Sir,” he replied, noting that his mouth had gone somewhat dry.
“Good.” Dumbledore smiled benignly once again. “I trust you will make the right decisions Blaise. There will be many who will look to you for guidance in the future – you are undoubtedly one of the brightest in your year, and I daresay one of the most ambitious. The courage you demonstrated today alone was most worthy of your House’s reputation.”
Blaise could barely stop his eyebrows from shooting up. Never in ten lifetimes did he ever think to hear Slytherin synonymous with courageousness. The Headmaster merely chuckled in response.
“Today, you chose to protect Edsel Nott and remove her from a potentially scarring situation. It was an act of selflessness that is rare among the Slytherins if I’m not mistaken, and yet you moved to guard her in her mourning. You see Blaise, the defining lines are never so cut and dry, black and white.” He paused, “Red and green.” He looked at the Slytherin meaningfully. “I may have been a Gryffindor once myself, but that does not stop me from valuing all of my students equally – regardless of the colors they wear. Remember that in the days to come.” Dumbledore stood from his seat and stroked his beard thoughtfully. “If there is anything at all that you wish to discuss Blaise, please remember that I will always lend an open ear, free of bias or discrimination.”
“Thank you, Sir. I’ll bear it in mind.” Blaise found himself shocked to admit, he actually meant it. If ever there was an ally at Hogwarts, it was the Headmaster, surely. He would be damned to see any more of his friends fall to the madness wrought by the Dark Lord if he could help it.
Dumbledore was twinkling again. “Get some rest, Mr. Zabini. I daresay you’ll need your strength up.” With that, the purple-clad man ascended the stairs and disappeared in the swish of a star-strewn cloak.
Blaise propped his elbows onto the table and clutched at his ebony locks. The wood grain was beginning to swim before him, the sleeplessness and swirling cocktail of emotions finally beginning their descent. If he kept up the brave face any longer he’d crack. N