Monday morning wasn’t very eventful. As instructed, Xallia and I me with Professor Morgan in the dungeons. He wasn’t into making us do anything in particular. Xallia ended up rummaging through the classroom supplies. She wanted to start on a potion for something or another, while I studied for another class. Morgan thought it was best to get in a nap. It was weird to see a teacher sprawled over their desk, but I got used to it after a few minutes. It didn’t even feel like detention. More of a glorified babysitting. The hour went by without a word ushered from any of us. I don’t think Morgan would have minded if we talked to each other. Neither Xallia or I wanted to wake him up though so we stayed quiet.
“It’s in the closet in the back,” Morgan grumbled in his sleep. He didn’t even pick his head up. Xallia glanced at him with a confused look on her face. Professor Morgan must have somehow known what she was brewing. Either that or he was lucky. Xallia went into the back room where Morgan kept much of the more rare materials. A few minutes later she was back with what she was looking for. There was something else too, but I didn’t get a good look at it before she stuffed it into her bag. Morgan rolled over in the desk. He must have been dreaming about something wonderful. I only thought that because of the smile that stretched across his face. He might have a different expression if he knew Xallia took something else.
I might as well have not gone to school for the rest of the day. Every moment I was away from Xallia, I couldn’t help but think about her. It was even worse when we were in the same room. It was a godsend when we had lunch together midway through the day. It wasn’t as romantic as I wanted it to be since another friend of ours decided to join us. Marcus didn’t get the things going on between us. I couldn’t blame him though. He wasn’t human after all. It’s alright though. School lunches aren’t supposed to be romantic. We could save all that stuff for after school, weekends, or even holidays. I wondered how my parents were going to take the news about us. I think I’ll worry about that when it gets to that point.
Friday morning came. Once again the two of us found ourselves in the potions room for Morgan’s pathetic excuse for detention. Why did he even bother coming out of his quarters if he was going to pass out on his desk? Even if it meant I had to spend an extra hour of my day in school, it was still nice to get away from the horde of students above. The whole school treated us different ever since Xallia and I went public about dating. Most of it wasn’t bad, but there will always be those jerks who felt the need to make life complicated. There were even a few who congratulated us and wished us well. The one who didn’t change at all was Marcus. I don’t think he understands the concept behind dating anyways.
I started to daydream about the upcoming weekend and the fun I was going to have with Xallia. Should I plan something? Stereotypically, the man is supposed to plan the days. Who makes the plans when the guy isn’t there? I thought back on our relationship. Up until that I was always letting Xallia take the lead. Did that make me the submissive one? I guess so. My mind drifted towards the more dirty meaning of the word submissive, a piece of parchment slid by my hand. I glanced down at it and saw a crude drawing of a tree with a bold question mark written over it.
I smiled and took the piece of parchment and folded it over. I nodded with joy as I put it into my pocket for a physical reminder. I don’t think I needed it, but I wanted it for peace of mind. During our second year, Xallia and I wanted a place to call our own. A secret place only the two of us knew about. Well, Marcus too, but I don’t think he’d be invited this time. It was hard to find a place where we wouldn’t be bothered. It wasn’t like the grounds were a private place. The secret passageways and hidden rooms were an option, but there wasn’t one only we knew about. So, we went somewhere we knew no one would go. Somewhere they weren’t allowed to go. Somewhere within The Forbidden Forest.
There was only one way to get to our humble home away from home. To find it, someone had to fly to the tallest tower in Hogwarts. From there they would go into the setting sun into the Forbidden Forest. We built a treehouse few miles beyond the first layer of trees. The tree house used to be little more than a few planks of wood over the branches. Over the years it expanded into a full-fledged home with a roof, four walls, and a place to land from the air. It may have been in a dangerous area, but we looked over it and loved it regardless.
The sun began to set over the horizon and together we made the journey. We had to fly high up so no one would spot us, but it was fine. The student body had become accustomed to us flying around. Once we were out of sight from the naked eye, we flew towards to forest. We flew until we could see a large tree in the center of a clearing. The same old tree house was on the tree in the center. We landed with caution and began to set up wards and enchantments to keep us safe. We may have been reckless and dangerous at times, but we weren’t stupid. This was one of the few areas of magic where I was better than Xallia. By the time she had set up her first layer of protection, I was already five deep. It made me feel proud of myself to know I was better than her at something.
By the time we were finished, the sun had set on us. We were alone together. There may have been a curfew enacted, but no one would know as long as we didn’t walk through the front door. For the prefects to see us. Or even worse, professor Morgan! Now that nothing could see us from the outside, it was safe to set up a fire. Xallia used a quick flick of her wand and through some logs onto the pit we made.
“Incendio!” She said. A fire shot out of the tip of her wand and lit the logs in an instant. I used my broom to float up into the house itself and grab a blanket while Xallia stoked the flames. When I came back down I saw Xallia setting something up on a nearby stump. The area wasn’t always a clearing. We did that so it would be easier to spot from the air. Since it was The Dark Forest and all, that meant there were several stumps lying around.
“What’s that?” I asked her as I draped one of the blankets around her shoulders and another around mine. On the stump was a large wooden board with intersecting lines painted on it. Next to the board were two bowls each filled with either black stones or white stones. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was. It was the thing Professor Morgan had during our confrontation with Headmaster Augustine. What was she doing with it though? My thoughts jumped back to when I overheard Morgan and Augustine talking in the dungeon. Was this board dangerous? It couldn’t have been. It was a piece of wood. Then again, so was a broom and that piece of wood could fly.
“Well, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be, but I made a game out of it.” Xallia cheered with glee. “You wanna play?”
“Um, sure. I guess.” I agreed without much enthusiasm. Xallia wasn’t someone who was into board games so I was thrown off by the invitation. Still, I was happy to do pretty much anything if it involved her. “You’ll have to teach me to play of course.”
“Okay. So the game is super simple. We take turns placing down a single stone on one of the intersections on the board. That’s the first rule. The second rule is that the pieces we remove the pieces from the board if they have no lines coming out of them. Think of them like lifelines. If the other player takes out all the lifelines then the pieces die out. The player with the player who has control over the most of the board by the end wins.”
I counted the lines on the board. There were nineteen of them going each way. I didn’t want to do the math in my head, but I knew nineteen multiplied by nineteen was a big number. This game was going to take awhile. She seemed excited about it though so I decided to play the little game she had made up.
“Where did you get this?” I asked her even though I already knew the answer.
“I swiped it off of Professor Morgan on Monday. It was in the closet when I went to that that ingredient. Remember?”
“You go back there all the time though. Don’t you think he’s going to suspect you?”
“Anya, there were dozens of these boards in there. They’re not even magic. I don’t think he’ll even notice one of them is gone. Not until Monday at least.”
“Well, alright. I won’t worry about it then.”
“Anyways. Black goes first so I’ll begin.” Saying that Xallia picked up a stone between two fingers and slapped it onto the board. Right in the corner in front of me. Right as the stone contacted the wood, I felt a rumble go through me. As if that stone was a two-ton boulder and had been dropped nearby. I ignored it and went on with the game. I didn’t have a clue about what to do. Strategy games weren’t really my thing. Xallia was the exact opposite. Every move she made was calculated beyond measure. It was as if she was an expert in the game. She may have made it up, but there was something more to it. Something that told me she played this exact same game before. Then there was the consistent shake that came every time she placed a stone down. As if something enormous was coming our way. How did she not notice it? The board started to get crowded with all the pieces. It was obvious I was losing, but Xallia was having fun so I kept going.
“I think I’m going to pass the turn,” Xallia told me while she returned her stone to the bowl. “I don’t think I can take any more territory from you, so yeah, I’ll pass the turn.”
“Okay, but what if I don’t think I can get anything else either? Should I pass the turn as well?”
“I guess. I never thought of how the game should end. Both players passing turns seems like a good way to end it.”
“In that case I-” I started, but immediately stopped. It was like when I was outside the Ravenclaw tower. A vision with Xallia, fire and an endless sea of screaming. What was triggering it though? Was there a threat outside the enchantments? Was Xallia a threat to herself? Was I the threat? “I pass the turn.” I finished once the vision subsided. There was no need to count the pieces on the board. I knew I lost. I started to scoop up the pieces but stopped once I saw that Xallia wasn’t moving. I looked up at her. Her eyes were jumping back and forth. Her hands were opening and closing at a rapid pace. The rumbling sound was getting louder.
“Xallia, are you all-” I began.
“A captain of the stars. Twelve worlds all for the sake of a god. Marcus isn’t human. Marcus is supposed to be here. Marcus doesn’t exist.” She shot out.
“What are you talking abou-”
“A ghost boy fights a demon. Two men fight them for money. The owl rises and gives forth feathers to the damned. He is nothing more than a pawn.” Xallia continued while she went to cover her eyes.
“Xallia, you're scaring me. Snap out of it.”
“And you!” She cried with every bit of her attention focused on me. “You were apart of everything from the beginning. You’re with the captain. You set this all up. You aren’t supposed to be here. You’re not real. You shouldn’t exist!” she bellowed towards me.
“Avada Kedavra.” a voice grieved out with sorrow. A green light engulfed Xallia. Her eyes faded in the short time her body went limp and fell onto the hard dirt below. Directly behind her was Professor Morgan. “I’m sorry,” he said with the same sorrowful tone while he put his wand away. It was him. He cast that awful curse. That unforgivable curse. He was the one who killed Xallia.
“What have you done?” I screamed at him while I pulled my own wand out.
“It wasn’t supposed to end up like this. It never is, but it always does.” He wailed back at me.
“I’ll kill you!” I yelled at him.
“I have no doubts about that. You’ve done it before. You can do it again.”
What was he going on about now? Why didn’t any of this make any since? Why was he talking as if this all happened before.
“Come on Anya. Do it. It’s only two words. I know you know them. I made sure you knew your first year.” He taunted me. Did he want to die? He was right, I did know the spell. Casting a spell wasn’t that hard, but could I live with the guilt afterwards? Could I live with myself knowing I had killed a man?
“Do it Anya.”
What if I couldn’t? What if I was just getting ahead of myself? Was it all just an empty threat then.
“Do it.” He repeated.
I looked at Xallia’s lifeless body. Her eyes were empty, soulless.
“Do it Anya!” He howled at me.
“Avada Kedavra!” I howled back with a quick jab of my wand through the air. A green beam of light shot from its tip and landed square in the professor’s chest. “What have I done?” I said to myself as I dropped to my knees. The silence around me was maddening. I wanted to hear Xallia one more time. I wanted to hear that laugh of hers. I wanted something. Anything, but not this. I tried to hold it in, but in less than a minute I was bawling my eyes out. I was unable to move from that spot. I was rooted in despair. In a few measly minutes though, that despair turned to fear. A fear that sunk farther down than anything Xallia and I had faced together. Beyond the dragon, beyond the lake, and beyond the storm.
It was a laugh.
A horrid laugh echoed through the clearing. I searched for where the source could have came from, but to know avail. Until I realized who’s laugh it was. It was Professor Morgan. The laughter grew in direct proportion to the newly resurfaced fear I now faced. He was alive, but how? I didn’t want to stick around to find out. With what little courage I had left, I turned around to try and get to my broom. It was useless though. Another person had appeared in what we thought to be our sanctuary. This time it was Headmaster Augustine.
“To be honest Anya, I truly pity you.” he said as he raised a hand to me. There wasn’t a wand though. Nothing more than an empty hand with a finger pointed outwards. “Perhaps next time it will be better. Until next time.” he said as he poked my forehead with his finger. I didn’t get a chance to respond. The world went white. There wasn’t a happy ending for me. No life after Hogwarts. No final goodbyes, no more flying and most painful, no more Xallia.
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