Chapter 22: A Silver Tiara on Her Head She Bore
I froze. My heart beat in my ears as I looked over the animal in front of me.
My eyes swept from the bottom to the top; over the orange fins to the orange scales and then the human skin, the orange starfish, the gash that ran the length of her neck, the long blonde hair, beautiful face and comically-wide-open, amber eyes stretched wide with death, the pupils so large they almost covered the irises, making them appear black.
I gasped as realisation dawned – the amber eyes, the long blonde hair, the orange and yellow scales and the tail. I felt the colour drain from my face. Professor Gibliry was a mermaid. Professor Gibliry was dead. Silver blood gushed from the wound in her neck into the water, mixing and swirling as the water struggled to settle in the corridor.
I have just seen death. I have just seen death. I have just seen death. Death. Death. Death. Death.
I collapsed onto my knees beside her. Blackness started to creep at the corners of my vision but I kept on staring and I was still awake. My heart was pounding. It was in my mouth. The world tipped. I choked as I struggled to muffle a sob.
She is dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
Why hadn’t I noticed that she was a mermaid? There had to have been some tell-tale signs! Then the memories hit me and I almost fell over with how obvious it was.
‘Hey, was there something… odd about Professor Gibliry? Do you remember?’
‘Yeah I remember. But she seemed fine.’ Avery chuckled. ‘Except for her office. It was THE strangest office I have EVER seen!’
‘What was wrong with it?’
‘It was… all… blue.’
‘So?’ I asked, feeling crestfallen.
‘Well, everything was an ocean blue… and there was this HUGE tank at the back. It was so big it was almost like an aquarium. There were only a few fish in it so she hardly needed a tank that big. I think she must be a big lover of the ocean. There were shells everywhere too.’
Her eyes flashed black when she was angry or worried in the hospital wing when she pushed me back onto the pillows. Maybe her pupils just grew with supernatural mermaid abilities?
So that explained the water… but who would cut her throat?
Echoing footsteps interrupted my pondering and my head snapped up in alarm. What if I get caught next to her body? I’ll be expelled… or… arrested… or something horrible!
So I did the only thing I thought I could… I ran for it.
Sprinting along the corridor, my soaking robes weighed me down and my shoes splashed through the water. I tried to keep my footsteps as light as possible. I looked back over my shoulder and saw the shadows of teachers approaching the scene. Their voices were raised in alarm as they questioned what happened.
I jumped into a broom cupboard that I hadn’t noticed before and watched out of a crack in the door. I didn’t look at what was inside because I was too interested in the goings on of outside.
I heard Professor McGonagall exclaim. ‘Good heavens! What has happened here?’
A strangled cry ripped through the space and echoed off the spacious walls. Professor McGonagall dropped to her knees beside Professor Gibliry.
‘No! Amber! Amber you listen to me! Amber!’ A choked sob came from someone in the group. Professor McGonagall had Professor Gibliry’s head resting on her knee. Her hands were on either side of Gibliry’s head and she was calling into her face. Her usual stern, self-control was gone. ‘Wake up! Amber, listen to me! Don’t go! You’re going to be fine!’
Then Dumbledore’s calming voice boomed out, ‘Minerva, I am afraid it is too late. She is already gone.’
The scream ripped through my chest like a blade and I gasped in pain. My throat burned from the effort of not crying and I turned my back against the back of the cupboard to rest against it. I fell backwards and stumbled clumsily as my feet stepped to try and regain my balance.
I turned around slowly, wondering what I had gotten myself into. A huge room opened up in front of me. Enormous piles, stacked to the high ceiling of junk met my eyes. Chairs, wigs, statues, lamps, books and everything else you could ever imagine.
I looked around, wonderstruck. This room couldn’t have been there before, otherwise I would have been too curious not to have had a look around.
I took one step and recoiled backwards as more echoing footsteps slapped down the aisles of junk. Someone was inside.
The footsteps started to fade as if they were heading in the opposite direction so I drew a deep breath and plucked up the courage to take a brave step in the direction of the noises. When no more footsteps came near me I started to follow the echoing footsteps. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack. Smack.
I kept on following the hurrying footsteps until I came to a fork in the aisle. My head snapped from side to side as I tried to figure out where the footsteps had come from. Then they stopped. The rhythm had somehow been keeping me calm and now the silence pressed in against me. My ears rang in the loud silence. My head kept swinging quickly from side to side as I tried to identify small noises like the occasional chirp of a bird or the quiet scurrying of a rat’s feet, each one a sudden danger. My heart was beating so loudly that I was surprised I could hear anything at all. Anything could be creeping up on me right now. I spun around so fast that I nearly knocked an umbrella off a three-legged stool. I wanted to catch the person creeping up on me in the act. But there was no one there. It is amazing how the human mind works, creating dangers out of sounds and whispers.
I jumped as the loud footsteps began to slap, slap, slap again. I could hear now that the invader had taken the left fork so I began to run down it, terrified of losing them, terrified of catching up.
I skidded to a halt as I heard the breathing of the intruder. I was getting close. I peered around the end of an aisle cautiously, my heart in my mouth, my pulse in my temples.
I gasped loudly as I saw the face of the intruder snap towards where I was hiding. I clapped a hand over my mouth to cover up my loud breathing.
Voldemort was looking straight at me. He matched his description. Pale skin and dark hair, young in years but old in experience. His eyes were cruel and dark as they searched the piles of hidden objects for the source of the noise. Voldemort was standing less than four feet away. I started to back-up, hoping to god that He hadn’t actually seen me but had heard what He thought was a gasp but could be mistaken for something else. I could still see Him as I backed away. I was puffing into my hand and starting to get dizzy from breathing in carbon dioxide, when he turned away, unafraid of the noise he had heard. As I watched, I caught sight of the reason for Voldemort’s venture into the Room of Hidden Objects.
From under his cloak, He pulled a shimmering tiara. I did a double take in shock. My eyes stretched wide in the darkness as I tried to determine if I had seen the right thing. Yes it was definitely a tiara. A beautiful silver one with what looked like huge sapphires in it. What in the name of Merlin’s designer dress shirt would Voldemort, The Dark Lord, want with a pretty tiara?
He held it at His eyelevel and His face showed affection, an emotion many had sworn that Voldemort lived without. But something about that tiara made Him want to hide it, protect it, love it.
He opened a black velvet box and placed the crown gently into the velvet. Then without warning, he spun around and headed straight for me. I gasped into my hand again and backed into some chairs in my haste to stay hidden. The chairs cascaded down under me with loud bangs and crunches. I was on the ground in amongst the chairs. Voldemort stopped. Voldemort could see me clearly and I could see him. His slight figure was swirled in a dark robe that appeared not to be a solid but a gas instead, floating around him.
He raised his wand. His white, spiderlike fingers crept slowly along the powerful stick. He sliced it through the air with lightning speed and swept away as a sharp pain stabbed my chest and my back was forced backwards into a chair.
I looked down and saw a large cut across my chest. It was bleeding profusely into my grey nightshirt. I gritted my teeth as I tried to stand up. Pain shot through me and I collapsed on the ground again. It was stinging so badly I could have died and I was breathing fast with agony. My head started to throb but I was too angry to pass out again. Voldemort jinxed me. Voldemort’s going to get it.
With my right hand supporting me, holding onto the chair with my left hand, I managed to haul myself to my feet and use that propulsion to start walking quickly back the way I had come. Voldemort was no more than a wisp of black smoke by now having used his legendary flying powers to get away quickly. Anger and rage were now pulsing through my veins along with fear and pain. They mixed together to form an emotion I had never felt before. I wanted to sit and cry but the logical part of my mind knew that something horrible was going on and that my friends were in danger. Voldemort’s in the castle. Voldemort’s at Hogwarts. Voldemort’s going to kill everyone. Voldemort. Voldemort. Voldemort.
I persuaded my feet into a run and every breath tore at my chest, making the wound deeper and causing more blood to flow from the cut. It hurt so much that a suicidal voice entered my head.
Wouldn’t it be easier if you just gave up? Wouldn’t it be easier if you just… stopped breathing?
I found the door much faster than I thought I would and wrenched it open, literally spilling out of the cupboard.
‘Voldemort’s in the castle! Voldemort’s here! He’s here at Hogwarts! Volde –’ I yelled.