IX. poor marks
𝕿he silence was deafening.
The only thing she was able to hear was her own ragged breathing and the loud thumping of her heart in her chest as she stared down at the pearly-white tile floor, the cleanliness of which was now tainted with the scarlet blood of the boy lying face down.
Stumbling backward, Cordelia gripped onto the wall with her left hand to steady herself. She had suddenly felt very faint, her head spinning and acid creeping up her throat.
When she finally regained her balance, she started to run towards the staircase to her second floor, where she would be safe in her bedroom. She heard a crashing noise down below and she quickened her feet, bolting faster up the stairs. Then the sound of footsteps and someone running began to follow her, and her breath suddenly came in short, disorderly spurts as she struggled to catch her breath.
She was almost to the door, her hand outstretched to reach the doorknob when her whole body became rigid like a plank, and she tumbled to the ground, hitting her head on the stone floor. Stars swam in her vision, temporarily making her blind as the cold voice of a man she knew too well spoke, the emotion completely drained out of him.
“What did you see?” He asked her. There was not even a grain of remorse in his voice, and that is what hurt the most.
She couldn’t answer-- the spell that was keeping her bound didn’t allow for it. He muttered something, a spell that she knew too well, and suddenly the vision of what had happened just moments prior forced itself to the forefront of her mind. Instead of seeing black, they appeared like she was standing there all over again.
But as soon as they started, they stopped.
“That will be all.”
His footsteps echoed down the hall as he left, leaving Cordelia lying alone on the cold floor in the body-bind curse--
Her eyes flew open, and she saw that she wasn’t again on the floor, but in her four-poster bed. Her heart was still beating erratically as if she had seen the events firsthand, but in that moment she knew it was a nightmare.
Bringing a hand to her face, she found that it was wet with tears. The tears she wasn’t able to cry in the nightmare. She blinked, and she laid eyes on Daphne Greengrass who was sitting upright in her bed, watching her with a concerned expression on her face. Pansy, who had always been a very heavy sleeper, was still fast asleep in her own bed, barely identifiable save for the lump under her covers.
“Are you alright?”
Daphne’s voice was soft and soothing, a tone she had never heard come out of the girl’s mouth. If she was being honest, she had never really heard any tone-- they didn’t often have conversations, even before their interaction in the courtyard. She nodded warily, still dazed and confused. Cordelia had hoped her nightmare would have stayed unnoticed, but alas, it hadn’t.
“You were yelling.”
“I was?” She tried to keep her voice calm, but it shook nonetheless.
Daphne nodded and picked at the sleeve of her nightgown, a sympathetic smile on her face. “It wasn’t intelligible, but you seemed scared. Are you sure you’re alright?”
“Yes!” Cordelia said immediately. She winced, realizing that she had spoken much too quickly, but, if Daphne had noticed, she didn’t react. She cleared her throat. “I mean, yes. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
Overkill, Cordelia, her thoughts raged in her head, pounding in her head like a persistent headache. She groaned and fell back against the pillow, covering her eyes with her hands. She laid there for a moment, breathing heavily as if she was trying to catch her breath after she truly did run up those stairs, and once she calmed down, she let her arms fall to her sides.
She was staring at the ceiling when she asked, her voice groggy, “What time is it?”
She heard shuffling on Daphne’s side of the room as she searched for her watch. The clock on their wall had broken the night previously for reasons unknown and they had all been too tired to repair it themselves.
“It’s... um, quarter-till-six,” the girl said, and Cordelia saw her out of the corner of her eye lay back down onto her pillow after setting the watch back down on her bedside table. “Too bloody early.”
It wasn’t even six in the morning. “Claire?” She asked, her voice quiet as to not wake Pansy, hoping to get a response out of her best friend, but the louder girl did not make a peep. She let out a sigh. “Early morning Quidditch practice?”
Daphne yawned and pulled the covers up over her chest. “Probably.”
Cordelia didn’t respond. Her body began to shiver with the sudden rush of cold air that hit her skin and she wrapped herself tightly with the covers, flipping her pillow over so the cold side would be where she rested her head. She focused back on the ceiling, trying to keep herself from diving back in and revisiting the nightmare.
Just the thought of it made her heart thump louder and her breathing quicken. The nightmare, after all, had been a real experience-- it wasn’t at all something her subconscious had created to scare her. It was real, and the memories had begun to seep into her state of serenity, the only place she had felt safe, the only place where reality couldn’t break her.
She had put up a wall to protect her mind from the laceration, but the foundations of peace and tranquility were cracking-- everything would soon fade into nothingness, and she would be left to fend for herself.
Cordelia’s head pounded as she and her fellow Slytherins through the dungeon corridor, feeling slightly ill. She hadn’t been able to sleep since she woke up from her nightmare that morning, and she hadn’t had much of an appetite, either, prompting her to skip breakfast to try and get more rest. Now, however, her stomach grumbled as it protested her fast. Her stomach needed to make up its mind-- she wouldn’t be surprised if her appetite was gone again within the hour.
Pansy and Draco were walking on opposite ends of the group, both looking extremely forlorn. Draco had a scowl etched upon his face and Pansy had her arms folded tightly over her chest and her eyes were blotchy and red as if she had been crying. Cordelia wondered briefly if they had broken up as they stood in the queue outside the Potions classroom.
Theo appeared at her side.
“Good morning to you, too,” he said gruffly, remarking on the fact that she hadn’t appeared in the Great Hall that morning. “Slept well?”
He seemed to notice the dark circles under her eyes. “Fine,” she told him. “I slept fine.”
“You did, huh?” Theo raised a dark eyebrow as his eyes bored into hers as if they were searching for something. She broke eye contact to glance in Draco’s direction-- he was still sulking, but he was now talking to Blaise Zabini. His cheeks were flushed slightly pink, which was very noticeable on his pale (almost stark white) skin.
“Yeah, I did,” She replied, wiping her now sweating palms on her robes. She quickly changed the subject, not wanting to explain why she had ditched the first meal of the day. “Do y’know why Pansy and Draco are acting strange? Usually, they’re forcing themselves down each other’s throats, and now they’re... well, see for yourself.”
Theo snorted, and a real grin bloomed on Cordelia’s lips. “I heard Draco talking about it with Goyle, super early this morning,” he answered, now looking over to Pansy who seemed about ready to burst into tears at any given moment. He lowered his voice so as to not attract any eavesdroppers: “They broke up, apparently. Something to do with Draco and the way he looks at another girl, I suppose. Didn’t say who.”
Footsteps started to echo down on the other side of the dungeon, signaling the arrival of the Gryffindors. She groaned inwardly, not wanting to see any of their faces. But, in the back of her mind, a small voice echoed quietly: Harry Potter is coming! She had to pretend that it wasn’t there to keep her cool. She wasn’t going to let him distract her.
“That’s odd,” she reckoned, turning her back on the approaching lions. She briefly caught sight of Potter (Harry, her mind screamed) talking animatedly with his group of friends. “Wanna bet they’ll be back together by the end of the week?”
“I doubt it,” Theo sighed, moving closer to Cordelia to let Claire into the line (the girl had just come bolting down the stairs and into the dungeon: this was a frequent occurrence-- the two had grown accustomed to Claire Tamashiro being just on time and knew not to ask where she had been) just as the dungeon door swung open, revealing Professor Severus Snape and his greasy, black hair and hooked nose.
Cordelia’s godfather pursed his lips. “Inside, all of you.”
They filed into the classroom and moved to sit in their usual seats. As Cordelia sat down at the table beside Theo, as they always did, a shock to her backside made her jump up with a yelp. Looking around, she saw that the majority of the class had a shocked expression on their face after the same thing happened with them.
“You are all,” Snape drawled, moving to stand in front of the chalkboard, “To be assigned new partners. You will wait to be seated until I tell you your partner and where you will sit.”
A groan of displeasure erupted around the room, more pronounced on the side where the Gryffindor’s were huddled. It seemed like they were itching to not be with the snakes, but, alas, Cordelia knew it was inevitable. She just hoped she wouldn’t get Weasley or Potter (Harry!), or, even worse, Longbottom. He had a tendency to make Potions fail within the first couple of seconds of brewing.
“Let’s see...” said Snape, watching them with an eager glint in his black eyes, like he was keen on making them miserable. His eyes landed on Pansy first, who’s eyes were still shining with tears as she stared daggers at the back of Draco’s head. “Parkinson, please go sit in the back of the room with Mr. Weasley.”
Ron Weasley’s mouth fell open in shock and Pansy froze, suddenly as still as a statue. “You can’t pair me with her!" He choked, pointing at Pansy. Pansy nodded her head in agreement, but Snape simply gave them a cold smile.
“Would you like detention, Weasley?” He ordered, a stern look on his face. It was obvious he was enjoying this.
“No, but--” Weasley started, but Snape held up a palm to silence him.
“Then sit where I told you, with Miss Parkinson,” he said calmly, gesturing to the table. “Do not argue with me, Mr. Weasley.”
Weasley’s ears turned a bright red and Pansy narrowed her eyes at the Potions master, reluctantly making her way to the back of the classroom along with the red-haired boy. When they sat beside each other, they made sure to be as far away from each other as they could manage.
“Now...” Snape jeered, his eyes lingering on Cordelia and where she stood with Theo and Claire. “Tamashiro, you’re with Mr. Malfoy, sit with Mr. Weasley and Ms. Parkinson at the back table.”
Cordelia’s mouth fell open as Pansy let out a little shriek of horror and Draco’s eyes widened-- it sure looked like they weren’t on good terms. Not wanting to get on Severus Snape’s bad side, he and Claire walked over to the fuming Gryffindor and the now-crying pug-faced girl. Claire grimaced as she sat down on Pansy’s other side while Draco sat beside Ron Weasley, who was positively fuming.
She glanced over to Theo, who shrugged his shoulders.
Snape continued to give out partners, and when it came to her, she was sure she would be paired with Theo-- but, when Snape gave the word, she was surprised to hear her name followed by that of Harry Potter.
“Ms. Flint and Mr. Potter, sit over there--” He gestured to a table in the middle of the room, and Cordelia cursed inwardly. She looked over to Harry Potter, and he gave her a small smile as he sat down at the table. Giving a look to Theo, who waggled his eyebrows suggestively, she sat down beside the bespectacled boy. “-- and then we can begin.”
He tapped his wand sharply on the chalkboard and a set of instructions appeared: they would be working with the Invigoration Draught. Cordelia scanned over them a few times, making a note of the ingredients, and then stood up to go fetch them, with Theo following.
As she collected the Peppermint into a small bowl, Theo muttered, “We’re going to fail this potion. I swear on Merlin’s saggy left--”
“Don’t even,” she snapped, now adding in the dried Billywig stings. Her hands were shaken and she nearly dropped the bowl to the floor. “Harry’s not that bad.”
Fuck. She called him Harry. She hoped that Theo wouldn’t notice the slip-up, but sure enough he had heard it and again gave her a suggestive look. “On a first name basis now, are you?” He said, pulling a bottle of infusion of wormwood off the shelf and nestling it in the crook of his arms. “Interesting development.”
She stuck her tongue out at him, also taking down a bottle of infusion of wormwood off the shelf. She narrowed her eyes and whispered loudly, “If you make any sort of comment about this arrangement, I will not hesitate to break your neck--”
“Ms. Flint,” Snape droned from his place at the desk, his hands clasped together. “Would you like me to tell your dear father about your threats of murder? Or will you carry on with the task at hand so I don’t have to go through the trouble?”
Her face warmed and Pansy, through her tears of anger, barked out a little laugh. Cordelia whipped around to give her a glare, saying in the calmest voice she could muster, “No, professor. I’ll behave myself.”
Snape nodded. “That’s what I thought.” He returned his attention to the paperwork in front of him, picking up his quill and dipping it into the inkwell.
When she returned to the table beside Harry with a scowl on her face, he opened his book to the page assigned in their textbook without saying a word. She and Theo shared a look while Daphne simply watched, perplexed, as the two exchanged their knowing glances as the class went on.
She was stirring the potion when Theo cleared his throat awkwardly. “How’s your hand, Potter?”
Harry put his bandaged hand under the table so fast that he hit it on its underside. Wincing, he said, obviously trying to mask his surprise at being spoken to by Theo, “Erm, fine. It’s healing.”
Theo nodded and gave Cordelia another look. She stifled a laugh before saying, “You still have detention with her, then?”
Harry nodded and continued chopping his scurvy grass. “Every day until Friday, now. I reckon she hates me.”
Cordelia snorted but managed to turn it into a cough before it became noticeable. Daphne’s face was pink with suppressed giggles as the blue-eyed girl across from her tipped a vial of the infusion of wormwood into her cauldron and watched it bubble. “She hates everyone at this point.”
Harry simply nodded and an awkward silence fell over the four of them like a heavy blanket, scratchy and uncomfortably warm as they continued to brew their Invigoration Draught. Cordelia’s hair started to frizz and Harry’s glasses began to fog due to the heat in the room.
After a few solid minutes of quiet (with the distant arguing of Pansy, Weasley, and Draco with Claire in the background trying to keep them all on task), Harry cleared his throat. “So, um, did Winnie end up stealing your scarf again?”
Daphne perked up at this as she chopped her Vervain infusion. Theo had unfortunately chosen this precise moment to take a drink of the water he had in his bag— he choked, spitting water all over himself and accidentally getting some into his potion, which began to fizz uncontrollably.
"Theo! You dolt! We’re going to get a bad grade on this!” Daphne hissed, stirring the Potion defensively.
Cordelia and Harry exchanged a look as Theo wiped his mouth and began apologizing, many of his words became drowned out as the potion started rising, rising so much that it began to spill over the top of the cauldron.
“Fuck!” Theo grunted, throwing in some Peppermint, but that only made it worse— the texture suddenly changed into what seemed like tar, now oozing over the side of the table.
“Nott, language!” Snape yelled, not bothering to look up from his desk.
“Sorry, Professor!” Theo said, now very panicked, as he waved his wand to use the cleaning spell: but Daphne, in her attempts to fix it, had tossed her Vervain infusion into the tar-like substance, but lost her balance and tripped, sending Theo backward out of his chair and onto the floor.
Then the potion exploded.
Harry raised his arms to shield himself from the burst of the potion (if it could even be called that anymore) and Cordelia ducked under the table— big mistake: she had let it slip her mind that it had been seeping over the edge, and she found herself a dumpsite for the remainder of the potion that had been left on the table.
When the commotion had finally calmed, she stood up, the tar-like potion in her hair smelling like acid. She wrinkled her nose.
“To answer your question, Harry,” she said, waving her wand above her head so that the Potion that had become matted in her hair disappeared, “She did take my scarf again.”
Harry laughed, and Cordelia found herself smiling.
“Poor marks for this one, Nott, Greengrass,” Snape’s deep voice drawled, now walking over to them, his cloak billowing behind him. “Next time, I recommend you don’t drink water.”
“I would also recommend,” said Cordelia under her breath to Harry as Snape vanished Theo and Daphne’s potion, “That you not mention Winnie in front of him during class time.”
She had to think about it for a minute, not wanting to say anything misleading. “You could say that it’s a sore subject for him.”
As Harry adjusted his glasses and grinned, she did not realize how correct she was about what she had just said.
Winifred Bulstrode was, in fact, the sorest of subjects for Theodore Fucking Nott.