TEMPUS INTERFICERE, HARRY POTTER

XII. moondust

“Please take out your books and turn to chapter seven. You will continue to read where you left off and take notes. And there will be-”

“No need to talk...” The class muttered under their breaths, an all too familiar phrase rolling off their tongues. Professor Umbridge smiled, if you could even call it that, returning to her desk. When she sat, it was barely noticeable-- she was so short it didn’t even make a difference.

Cordelia let out a breath as she opened her textbook, flipping to the page titled Chapter Seven. A piece of parchment and a quill had already been placed on her desk, because, for some odd reason, Professor Umbitch didn’t like students using their own belongings. She supposed it was because of the upward trend in usage of sugar quills, but it didn’t really make a difference.

She glanced across the room to where Harry was sitting, staring daggers at Umbridge as she sat behind her desk, innocently scribbling away at paperwork with a pink-feathered quill. She felt her heart drop, and she knew then she had to do what she had been putting off since the night before.

Rummaging in her bag, she tore off a piece of parchment, slowly so that she wouldn’t draw too much attention to herself. She spread it out so it was no longer wrinkled (she had a bad habit of stuffing her belongings into her bag, and Winnie liked to harp on her for it), dipping Umbridge’s loaned quill into the ink as she thought about what to write.

A thought suddenly loomed into mind, in the form of a memory. She remembered Winnie’s voice after dinner the previous night: ”Harry’s been stressed lately. First, he gets detention for saying what was on his mind and then is banned from Quidditch! He just needs a way to, well, let loose. I guess.”

A lightbulb went off in her head, and she was scrawling on the page within seconds, confident that this would get the message across.

Or, more rather, that evening would.

An hour or so later the bell rang, and she folded the note discreetly into a square. She waited until the classroom was nearly empty, save for her, Pansy, Draco, Crabbe, Goyle, and Millicent Bulstrode who, unfortunately, had also stayed behind for lunch to speak to the crude woman about the ‘Inquisitorial Squad’. She tried not to be bothered by it, but Millicent and Winnie looked so alike it made her skin crawl.

When Harry stood to collect his things, she walked over to him, slid the note onto the desk. She tried to avoid looking him in the eye, but his green eyes were too captivating to miss, so she warily glanced at them as she turned to walk back to her seat, seeing a confused expression on the boy’s face.

When she had sat back in her seat, and Harry was out the door followed by Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, Cordelia hoped that he had opened the little piece of paper and was considering her offer that was written on it.

( He had, in fact, unfolded the letter as he left:

Potter,

I know this seems unprecedented, but if you’re able, will you meet me at the top of the astronomy tower tonight at nine? I want to speak to you about something.

Cordelia

When he handed it over to Hermione for inspection, she simply told him to go, and that was it. Ron, on the other hand, had some, well, not so nice things to say: “That girl just let Malfoy ramble on about Mum! Don’t go, Harry, it’s not worth it.”

He was going to go anyway. )

Umbridge neatly stacked the papers on her desk and stood up, making her way over towards the six snakes that were left in the room. Cordelia briefly made eye contact with her cousin before perching herself at the edge of her desk as she waited for the pudgy woman to speak.

“I see you all have taken up on my offer,” she said brightly, her voice high-pitched and doll-like. “And you, Ms. Flint, I’m glad I won’t be needing to write to your parents.”

Cordelia gritted her teeth. “As am I.”

The corners of Dolores Umbridge’s mouth twitched slightly. “We’ll just wait for the others to arrive, then.”

As if on cue, the door swung open to reveal a few more Slytherin students, all in their older years. She recognized Adrian Pucey and Cassius Warrington, both friends of her brother and players for the Slytherin Quidditch team, followed by a girl she knew as Carmela Winston, another girl in Marcus’s year. They sauntered in, and a few minutes later Marcus was inside as well, face set in a grimace as he kept his arms tightly folded across his chest.

Cordelia let out a breath, feeling more at ease because of her brother’s presence as he went to stand beside her. Umbridge cleared her throat (the hem everyone came to dread), and picked up a small, black box that she then gripped tightly in her hands.

“Hello, everyone,” she said, smiling widely now. Marcus snorted slightly but was able to conceal it with a cough as they all replied with a greeting. “Well, let’s get started then, shall we?”

She tapped the chalkboard with her wand and the instructions from Cordelia’s D.A.D.A class was replaced with the words, THE INQUISITORIAL SQUAD in big, bold letters. “I’ve handpicked you all to help me restore order within the walls of the castle, you have all proved to be very... promising, in that aspect.” She briefly let her eyes settle on Cordelia for a moment, flashing before they returned to their beady, black state. “I hope you are all ready for the challenge.”

“How will we help you achieve that, Professor?” asked Millicent innocently, picking at the sleeves of her robes that were slightly frayed along the edges.

“Very good question, Ms. Bulstrode,” Umbridge replied sweetly. She tapped the board again and a numbered list appeared on the board. “But I would like to make it clear that we do not start business until the following term, after the holidays, as we are running low on time. I do not expect you to be able to handle these responsibilities in such a short period of time. But, once we are back in session, you will have the ability to take house points from activities that you deem irresponsible or inappropriate.”

A small murmur of approval rang out in the room. Although it would be interesting to be able to give and take house points from anyone whenever she wanted, it didn’t appeal to her as much as it did the others. She took note of Draco’s eyes gleaming with delight and Adrian Pucey’s grin of pleasure, and she wished more than anything that her parents had not forced her to attend.

Marcus seemed to think the same because he leaned over to whisper in her ear as Umbridge went on to explain the other points on the board: “This is stupid.”

She waited for the woman in pink to look away to reply, “Can’t we just leave?”

“No, not unless--”

A hem echoed in the room and she flinched. “Do you have a question, Mr. Flint?”

“Oh,” Marcus choked on his own saliva, caught off guard by Professor Umbridge addressing him. “No, professor. My apologies.”

Draco sniggered from her other side, and Millicent shot them a look. Cordelia tilted her head and glared back at her. The blonde narrowed her own eyes, and they silently agreed that the tension between them was here to stay.

“Well,” said Dolores Umbridge, watching the two Flint siblings with eyes that rivaled a raging fire, “Do me a favor and stand in a line.”

Marcus and Cordelia shared a look as she took herself off the desk to stand beside Cassius Warrington, who towered over her. He looked down at her and gave her a smirk, and she felt her insides squelch with disgust. Why her brother was friends with this boy, she didn’t know, and she couldn’t be more eager to get out of his presence. At least Adrian Pucey wasn’t as bad (or revolting).

Umbridge opened the lid to the small box, and the insides glitter silver. She lifted something out of it, and it seemed to her like it was a small pin that shone in her stubby, short-fingered hand. The professor used one hand to fasten it to the front of her pink sweater and gave the room a chilling smile.

“Once I fasten this pin on your robes, you will be an official member of the Inquisitorial Squad,” she said, moving closer to Pansy Parkinson who stood at the opposite end of the line, staring fixated at Draco as he talked in a low voice to Goyle. “I will have more information for you once we return from the holidays. I expect you all to be prepared and ready for this responsibility, as I am counting on you to make sure no one resists the Ministry’s regime. Do you understand?”

They all nodded, but that didn’t seem to be enough for the woman.

“Please say it,” she told them. “Say, I understand, Professor Umbridge.”

“I understand, Professor Umbridge.” Everyone said simultaneously, and Umbridge grinned.

“Perfect!” She began to walk in front of the line, reaching into the little box to take out the pin. As she fastened it to everyone’s robes, Cordelia noticed it was shaped like a tiny, silver I, a cute pin but not one she wanted to parade around the castle with.

When Umbridge got to her, she was just tough enough with the pin to stab her in the chest with the end of it. When Cordelia winced, she said in a voice only loud enough for her to hear, “Behave yourself, Ms. Flint.”

Swallowing, she nodded, and Umbridge gave her a compassionless leer as she continued to her brother, who seemed to get the same threat but without the spoken words. He stared the plump woman down, and she stared back as she fastened the pin to the front of his robes.

Oh, how she hated that fucking woman.

▬▬▬▬

The spiral staircase up to the Astronomy Tower was empty, allowing the sound of her footsteps to carry up through the tower as she walked. She really wasn’t supposed to be out this late, as curfew was at nine, but she didn’t care. The fresh air looming from the top of the staircase seemed to carry her absentmindedly up towards the tower.

She pushed the door open as she reached the top of the staircase, and the cold air greeted her. She immediately wrapped her arms around herself, cursing inwardly for not bringing a warmer sweater; she had forgotten how cold it got at this time of night, especially at this time of the year.

Cordelia reached the edge of the tower and leaned against the railing, her eyes drifting across the view. The wind blew across her face, slightly lifting her hair off her shoulders and grazing her skin. She breathed in the air, the coolness calming her nerves.

She didn’t know why she was nervous. She shouldn’t be, if anything, Harry should be nervous, not her. He didn’t know what she was going to say-- for all he knew, she could be planning to push him off the astronomy tower! She wouldn’t be surprised if he thought that, as her being a Slytherin should’ve given him a reason not to trust her in the first place.

The only light that fell upon the tower was from the moon that shone overhead, alongside the stars that glittered in the sky like diamonds. The constellation Orion was above her, and she smiled, feeling calmer than she had all day. She wondered why she didn’t come up here more often--

“Cordelia?”

She jumped, her heart suddenly in the back of her throat. She spun around to see Harry. His eyes brightened, but his expression had hardened and his jaw was set.

“You needed to talk to me?” He asked, not moving from the spot where he stood. His green eyes and glasses reflected the moon and she stared at him for a moment, loss for words, before clearing her throat.

“Yeah,” She said, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly. The railing was digging into her back as she thought of the words. “I wanted to apologize.”

Harry wrinkled an eyebrow. “Oh, really?”

“You seem surprised,” she said lightly, turning back around to face the open sky. He still stood behind her, watching her carefully as she kept her back toward him.

“Oh yeah, why would you ever think that?” His voice crawled with sarcasm, his feet planted firmly on the stone floor. She didn’t bother to look around at him, staying focused on the stars above her head.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t stop Draco from saying those things,” Cordelia told him.

“You could’ve said something.” His voice was low, and when she turned her head to look at him, the Harry she saw was one completely different than the one from the DA meetings and the one she had seen in the kitchens. This Harry was hurt, and she felt the guilt again. “I thought you were better than that.”

“You thought I was better than what? You barely know me,” she argued, stepping closer to him.

“You’re right, I don’t,” Harry snapped, his green eyes flickering beneath the surface of his round glasses. The moonlight trickled on the pale of his face, making his skin glow as he ran a hand through his hair, tugging furiously before muttering disappointedly in under his breath. “Looks like Winnie was wrong about you, then.”

A pause, and then she gritted her teeth. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She said you were different,” Harry spoke, stuffing his hands into his pockets. He shook the hair out of his face and his lightning bolt scar became visible on his forehead, and instead of looking at his eyes, she focused on that instead. “But you’re just like the others.”

“If you would just let me fucking speak,” Cordelia hissed, “Then maybe you would find out that I’m not like them at all. Just because you and Draco have hated each other since day one doesn’t mean all Slytherins are bad.”

“If that’s true, then why didn’t you stop him?” Harry fumed, leaning forward so he stood over her. “You were right there, Cordelia.”

“I know that!” She snapped, turning on her heel and going back over to the railing. She took in a breath of the fresh air again to regain her composure— looks like her apology wasn’t going very well. “I know that! Okay, look, you need to understand that he’s just trying to get under your skin—”

“What, and that means that I have to sit by while he insults Ron’s and my family?”

Cordelia looked at him again, feeling her face flush with anger and irritation. Was this idiot really going to suggest that she doesn’t care about anyone? That was really fucking stupid of him.

“Of course not! Let me ask you this, would you really think Winnie would continue to associate herself with me if I was like the ‘typical Slytherin’?” she used her fingers to make quotations in the air. “You’ve seen the way she is with her sister, Potter. You know we’re not alike in the slightest.”

“From what I’ve seen,” Harry said, avoiding eye contact. “It seems like you’re pretty close with Malfoy. It would make sense why you defend him.”

“I— Are you fucking kidding me?” She let out a groan of frustration. “Can you just let me apologize? I wasn’t able to get him to stop because he wouldn’t bloody listen to me, okay? He’s stupid and arrogant, and of course, I wouldn’t defend him!”

Harry stared at her, eyes widening a fraction of an inch as she threw her arms up in the air in exasperation. “If you don’t believe me, fine. I was trying to be civil and apologize, but okay. Fine.”

Cordelia returned her attention to the skyline as the trees shook and a flock of birds rose up into the air. She heard footsteps behind her and thought he was leaving, but she saw him out of the corner of her eye join her as she leaned again against the railing.

“If you really think he’s ‘stupid’ and ‘arrogant’,” he asked, turning his head as he looked at her. She didn’t return his gaze, but she knew that, just by the tone of his voice, she had done something right. “Then why are you friends with him?”

She snorted. “He’s a... family friend,” she said, glancing over in his direction, surprised to find his eyes still on her face. “Known him since we were children. Can’t really get away from him.”

Harry just nodded and looked up at the sky. They were silent for a moment before he spoke again, still watching the stars as if they were the most fascinating thing in the world. “Why did you ask me up here?”

“To apologize.” She replied simply, giving him a small smile.

“Why did you really ask me up here?” He asked again, voice low. Her breath hitched at the sound of it, and she had to clear her throat to regain her voice.

“Winnie told me you’ve been stressed lately,” Cordelia told him with the shrug of her shoulders. Her eyes drifted across his face as he continued to look up at the sky. “I thought I’d ask you up here. Always helps me when I’m anxious.”

“You’re right.”

She raised an eyebrow and moved closer to him. “About?”

“It helping. I feel... better, now.” The ghost of a smile was on his lips, and she felt one coming on too.

“Oh, really? You were just snapping at me,” she chuckled lightly, and he rolled his eyes.

“Well, I have reason to believe you’re being honest with me,” He implored, dipping his head so he could look at her. “Winnie’s a good judge of character, I think.”

“That,” Cordelia grinned, feeling better now that she knew he accepted her apology. “Is true.”

A pause, then: “You two are really close, aren’t you?”

“Very,” She sighed, stretching out her arm so she could examine her hands. “Ever since we were kids. Us and Millicent and my older brother. But once she got sorted into Gryffindor and Max got sent to Durmstrang it sort of fell apart. Well, our family stopped sending her around. But we’re still close.”

“I’m glad she has someone like you,” he said. “She needs a person like that. She really does. Someone to rely on.”

“Yeah, I guess.” She picked at her fingernails. “You seem nice enough to be her friend, too.”

“Nice enough?” Harry tilted his head and gave her a sarcastic smile. “Wow, thanks. Really.”

Cordelia laughed, a sound that echoed across the Astronomy tower. “You know what I mean.”

Again, a silence fell over the two as they both looked up at the sky, the stars still shining brightly above them. She felt calmer, calmer than she had been in days, and feeling finally under her own control.

She let out a breath.

“You know what I find so strange?” She asked him as she stared at the Orion constellation above them.

“What?”

“Everything seems so small when there are thousands of stars above us, while worlds, even, and we’re here,” Cordelia observed. “It’s beautiful, really.”

Harry gazed back down at her as she continued to stare up at the world, entranced by the stars that looked so much like scattered moon dust in the sky. “Yeah, really beautiful.”

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