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Sat Aug 8, 2015 23:08

Hogwarts was burning.

Hungry orange flames licked against blackened walls, devouring everything in their path and crackling with delight. The huge beams that had once formed the roof of the hall had collapsed in on themselves and now lay smoldering in the wreckage, leaving the surroundings open to the inky sky. Cold air rushed down wards to meet with the rising, blistering heat and where they collided, great clouds of smoke formed. They choked out soot and sparks and smothered the life out of anything they found still breathing.

There was screaming. Bodies littered the floor, dead children with dead eyes, indiscriminately slaughtered where they stood. It was worse for the wounded, who lay alongside the corpses of their friends whilst they suffocated. Those who could still run tried desperately to escape but teachers and student alike were caught in the merciless jaws of the fire. The metallic taste of blood was as thick in the air as the smoke.

Over the chaos and the burning and the screaming there was another sound, more terrifying than all of the death and destruction. Laughter. Joyful, wondrous laughter.

There was a sudden jolt as she woke up, struggling for breath. Thin, bony fingers clutched at the soft flesh of her throat whilst her lungs tried to rid themselves of the non-existent smoke. Huge, whopping coughs forced her chest to heave unnaturally and every fibre of her being was telling her she had to escape. The surroundings were unfamiliar, though no where near as perilous as the charred rubble of her nightmare. An ordinary bed, with the other side still made, in an ordinary bedroom. Nothing had ever seemed so dangerous.

Just as she was about to echo the painful cries that still lingered at the front of her mind she heard another noise. She expected laughter so it took her a painfully long time to recognise it as something else, something not even human. Curiosity instantly replaced her body’s need for oxygen and she moved swiftly from the bed to the window. A car pulled into the driveway below and after a few moments a man emerged. He had silver white hair, carried a cane, and was met on the door step by another man. They shook hands as she watched and she heard the sound of a door closing.

Somehow she found her way onto a landing, full of locked doors and the sounds of undisturbed sleep. Every footstep felt like a memory, as though she had lived here once but couldn’t recall when. The voice of the visitor travelled upwards from the hall.

“Sorry for the lateness of the hour,” he was saying. It was met with mumbling as the second man accepted the apology and led him into another room and out of earshot. Cautiously she followed, avoiding the creak of the third step, until she was pressed against the wall of the kitchen and able to hear their conversation once again.

Idly her eyes moved across the opposite wall and the various notes and reminders pinned to it. From this she could deduce the host’s name was Mr F. Hardy, that he often travelled to London and that someone needed to take four tablespoons of an unnamed potion every morning and every night.

“Just a flying visit, old chap,” the visitor said apologetically, resting his cane against the wall. “But your message sounded urgent…”

“It is,” Mr Hardy replied sternly. A piece of parchment was produced, though from this distance she couldn’t read it. “This came in the post this morning,” he continued and handed the letter over to the first man.

Whilst the white haired man pondered over paper she took the opportunity to look more closely at Mr F. Hardy. He was younger, though still well into his forties, and was familiar in the same way that the hall had been. Something, at the back of her mind, told her that he was the owner of the other side of the bed.

“I don’t see the problem,” the first man admitted eventually, accepting a drink from his host.

“Henry,” Mr Hardy said in a warning tone. “You know this isn’t what we agreed.”

“Things at Aelcrest are going well,” the man called Henry replied. “Even the Minister has been singing its praises. They’re calling it a, ha, triumph of education.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a stone’s throw from Hogwarts,” the host growled. The skin on the back of her neck tingled as memory stirred itself. Hadn’t she just come from there?

“Hogwarts is a pile of rubble,” the visitor shrugged dismissively. “Your son finished a whole year at the new school, without incident. In fact, from your reports I’d say he’s doing rather well.”

“My daughter is more difficult,” Mr Hardy sighed and slumped into his armchair.

“Well, that is something for the faculty to worry about. I am only interested in the logistics of the matter and the facts remain that it is much easier for my people to do their jobs here than it is at say Durmstrang or Beauxbaton’s. We have jurisdiction here.”

“But not safety.”

A heated exchanged followed, punctuated with loud sighs and strained whispering. Every sentence seemed to take them further away until it was reduced to fractured syllables. Then there was a pause and a change in the tone of their broken words. Sensing the danger of being discovered she traced her steps back along the hallway and ascended the flight of stairs, leaning over the banister to hear the final goodbye.

“My mind is made up,” Henry declared suddenly, getting to his feet as though the conversation was finalised by his words. Just as he was about to leave he glanced upwards, his grey eyes trailing the shadows of the landing. “How is our patient?” he asked, almost as though he didn’t care.

“Jane is fine,” Mr Hardy answered, equally carelessly. Clearly the conversation had not gone his way.

“Hm,” the visitor frowned, lost in his thoughts. He found himself again just as quickly. “Well, I must be going. Thank you for the nightcap Hardy and…try not to worry, eh? I have my best people on it. Trust me.”

Silently she slipped back into the ordinary bedroom, into the ordinary bed and listened the sound of the car driving away again. When the door creaked open she kept her eyes shut, pretended to be asleep as he crawled under the sheets to lay beside her. Then she waited for the orange glow of the dawn and tried not to laugh.

  • Volume One (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 22:45
    • Prologue - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:08
    • 1.1 "The Chandelier (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:07
      • 1. Welcome To Aelcrest (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:14
        • The Heads - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:16
          Summer was over. The various footsteps of the student body mingled into one, some excited, some less so, creating a cacophony of noise as they clattered into the Hall. Fresh faced first years lined... more
        • Balgren House - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:16
          Thomas Schuler had enjoyed his first twenty minutes in Balgren House. He and the other new students had been herded into a group in the middle of the table and immediately forced into what they... more
        • Reym House - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:15
          Leo Hardy was the perfect student. Weir House was known for them, but he exceeded even that stereotype. His grades were excellent, his Professors sang his praises and he had never, ever been in... more
        • Weir House - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:15
          Over at the Weir House groupings, the younger students had been sat in one of the centre tables, where they could be observed and introduced and discussed without bothering the others. The general... more
      • 2. Settling In (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:14
        • Balgren House - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:38
          If Troy had any intention of celebrating his return to Aelcrest in the Balgren Common Room, he didn’t show it. Long after dinner had officially finished he was still going from table to table,... more
        • Reym House - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:35
          On the way to the Reym common room, Grace pointed out the basics: The Courtyen, the Infirmary, the classrooms, where you could find the bathrooms and why you should never try the third bath stall... more
        • Weir House - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:18
          Randy and Leo met the two girls the next morning in the common room before breakfast. It turned out not to be the best time to start the tour as Leo kept answering Ellie’s questions with “Huh?” and... more
      • 3. A Non-Existent Student (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:14
        • Blackwell & Sundbee - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:40
          Elias Sundbee removed his glasses. Blinked and rubbed his eyes. Put his glasses back on again. No. There was no mistaking it. He muttered something quite rude under his breath, stood from his chair... more
        • Blackwell & Rose - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:40
          Once the sorting feast was over Flidias excused himself and went immediately to the Courtyen. It was his favourite room in the whole school and the only reason he was ever in his office was because... more
        • Blackwell & Shoney - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:39
          Myrrh stared around in the almost pitch black, looking for the shadowy figure of Professor Shoney. The lake was illuminated by the underwater lamps installed by the Ministry for the ‘protection of... more
        • Dagon & Margot - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:39
          The cold rose, seeping through the thin silk of his pyjamas and into his bones. Dagon opened his eyes. He was surrounded by swimming colours: blues, greens, reds. Beyond them, high above a shimmering ... more
        • Sean Wills - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:39
          Sean had begun spending a lot of time in the Courtyen. Not many other kids did so he have to worry about being disrupted. He sat at one of the benches used for Herbology, working on his homework.... more
      • 4. Sibling Dangers (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:13
        • Grace & Ted - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:02
          The lights came up again with a vengeance the next morning, signalling the start of the day. Grace murmured some very unladylike things into her blanket but got out of bed anyway. She had spent most... more
        • Grace & Leo - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:02
          The breakfast chimes were already ringing from the Grandfather clock in the main hall when Grace entered the dining room. There were kids already there, with some shuffling, some running. It was... more
        • Grace & Orion - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:01
          Orion woke up with her face in a pile of school books, spread eagled on the floor with a rather nasty bruise on her back. She moaned and peeled her face away from a page of Charms for Beginners:... more
        • Orion & Randy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:01
          Orion stomped into the Dining Hall, curls running wild in a messy halo around her head and the haze of sleep still firmly settled in her eyes. Lunch looked like a roast dinner and she sat down at the ... more
        • Grace Schuler - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:00
          It really didn't make a lot of sense when you thought about. The Infirmary/Nurse’s Office was all the way up with the classrooms. I mean if you were really sick or injured, did you really want to be... more
        • Grace & Randy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:00
          In the Dining Hall, Randy was just watching Orion’s back worriedly when Grace entered. "Oh no," she sat, dropping into the recently vacated seat. "You talked to her didn't you?" “Yeah I did,” Randy... more
      • 5. Wizard's Race (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:13
        • It was a pleasant late autumn afternoon, the lawns and gardens of Aelcrest were filled with students laughing and playing. The lake was calm and placid, giving it a strange eeriness. In the distance... more
        • Sophie & Ted - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:04
          It was well known that the second class of the day started at precisely 10:15, in which the register was quickly taken and the week‘s newest lesson expanded upon. Unless that class was... more
        • The library was practically empty except for a few students. After all, classes hadn’t started yet, why would any one need to use it? This meant that the sudden appearance of six students in the... more
      • 6. First of the Year (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:13
        • Orion & Troy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:11
          The balcony on the first floor was always crowded. It overlooked the Courtyen and the trailing branches of the Wisteria tree that stood in the centre came so close that students could pluck the... more
        • Grace, Orion & Troy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:10
          Grace was thinking about what she’d done. What she had done was finally find the right combination of moves to annoy Professor Ethaire enough that she was sent to go out of the classroom and ‘think... more
        • Cindy & Georgia - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:09
          The girls bathroom on the third floor was unlike any other to be found in the Manor. Large mirrors had been installed on the walls, at the expense of Victoria Parker’s father if you believed the... more
        • Grace & Orion - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:08
          Outside the bathroom door, the vague outlines of two Reym girls could be seen leaning against it eagerly. To Ri, it felt like hours since they had planted the fireworks and her foot tapped against... more
        • Grace Schuler - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:08
          The afternoon sun had warmed the weather up just enough to make going outside pleasant, so pockets of students gathered in the back lawn, closer to the Manor than the lake, in case the weather... more
        • Leo & Orion - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:08
          In one of the lower level study rooms in the library, Leo was desperately trying to get his sister to shut up for three seconds together so he could get his Transfiguration essay done, something she... more
        • Blackwell, Grace & Orion - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:07
          Grace was just outside the study room door when Blackwell returned. Ri looked at Grace expectantly. Much to her frustration, Grace was pointedly not looking at her. Like she wasn’t there. Like she... more
      • 7. Shadows & Charms (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:12
        • Thom & Troy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:14
          Thomas sat on the stairs, waiting. He could hear Professor Rose, still going on and on (...and on and...) with his lesson in the Courtyen and he tried his best not to glaze over. He'd been trying his ... more
        • Ace & Dagon - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:13
          In the cool light of his room, Dagon Hounslow finished unpacking, removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He had eaten too much at the Welcoming Banquet, which had given him the sort of headache his ... more
        • Thom & Troy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:13
          Honestly? Thom loved the library. He really did. And not just because it had a “Special Collections” section (why didn’t they just hang a sign that says “break into me”?) But because it had the... more
        • Cindy Hutton - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:12
          Cindy Hutton had been tipped off by, well let’s just say a new acquaintance, on where, let’s say an old acquaintance, would be this particular night and what would be on offer. Clutching a small... more
      • 8. Forfeit (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:12
        • Orion & Randy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:17
          It was half past eight when Randy entered Reym and made his way up the steps of the girls’ dorms. A few paintings gave him suspicious looks, despite the fact that he’d been doing this for almost two... more
        • Grace & Leo - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:16
          It was pitch black in the corridors, except for the dim bubble of light that emitted from the tip of her wand. Strange noises rustled in the corridor and the wind battered trees against the windows,... more
        • Orion & Randy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:15
          “So, it’s a shadow?” Ri asked, for the hundredth time. “Yes,” Randy sighed. “And it’s alive?” she pressed. “Also yes.” “Then how come that kid can touch it?” “Because he’s a hunter. He fights the... more
        • Grace, Leo, Orion & Randy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:15
          Grace opened the door to the sound of a whimper and Randy whispering words the Heads would find unacceptable. He was sitting on her bed with Ri in the next, both surrounded by various sweets and... more
      • 9. Morning Swim (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:12
        • Talora & Troy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:19
          Talora liked to begin the day in this manner. Early she rose and stepped out through the grounds, often still swirling with early morning white mists. Down the sloping paths she went until she... more
        • Becca, Ellie & Randy - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:18
          Aelcrest Manor was sadly lacking in the necessities of life, like Cable TV, the internet and cell phone communication. That’s why Ellie was doing homework in the middle of the afternoon. She was... more
        • Talora & Zydrie - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:18
          Zydrie opened the door at the very top of the staircase and buzzed in like a fly. There was someone already there, seated in the window seat, book open on her lap. "Ohhh, sorry did I get the right... more
      • 10. Cunning Plans (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:12
        • Grace Schuler - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:21
          Cleck Stupid Detention. Shhhwooomp Stupid Files. Thump Stupid Ri. Clank She would have added Stupid Blackwell to the list, but she didn’t dare. So she stuck with thinking bad thoughts about Mister... more
        • Thom found himself knocking on the table in vein. It really shouldn't have been this hard to get a meal. “Come on…it’s gonna be breakfast in a couple of hours anyway. A French toast casserole is not... more
        • Ace Crandell - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:20
          Ace Crandell slowly squeezed himself between the glass doors of the Courtyen and tried not to make a sound. He was looking for something, not in particular, but something. A boy in third year –... more
      • 11. Suspended (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:11
        • Bradley Bryant - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:22
          "Argh!" he screamed and kicked a wall, waking up a rather annoyed looking Sir Eglemont of Boudevoir. They had no right, no damn right. And all for something so stupid. So a couple of kids were... more
        • Dagon & Shannon - TBS, Sun Aug 9 02:22
          “Oh, Dagon!” It was just past Potions and Dagon emerged with the funk of a concentration draught still clinging to his clothes. As such, he was quite unprepared for the willowy form of Shannon Booker ... more
      • 12. Vanished (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:11
      • 13. Search & Rescue (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:11
      • 14. Consequences (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:10
      • 15. Crystal Maze (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:10
      • 16. Trading Places (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:10
      • 17. Bob (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:09
      • 18. Maps & Mirrors (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:09
      • 19. Chandelier (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:09
      • 20. Petals (nm) - TBS, Sat Aug 8 23:09
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