“What’s going on, Rowan?” I asked him as I entered the Courtyard. There was quite the commotion there, but I couldn’t see clearly what’s happening.
“Merula is threatening Ben Copper. He keeps trying to walk away, but she won’t let him,” he answered, worried about our friend.
I came closer to see what’s going on. Poor Ben was standing there, terrified, while all of the other students were just observing the situation. Not a single one of them seemed eager to help him.
“You’re an embarrassment to everyone in our year!” She yelled angrily.
“Just leave me alone!” Ben tried to get himself out of the situation, but Merula obviously didn’t want to listen.
“Disgusting Mudbloods like you shouldn’t ever be allowed in Hogwarts. Leave the magic to real witches and wizards,” she continued her harassing.
“It will be okay, Merula,” I interfered.
“What are you talking about?” She gave me a confused look.
“I’m sure your parents will eventually be released from Azkaban. Either way, just because they chose evil, doesn’t mean you have to be evil too,” I tried to distract her so that Ben can get away.
“Who told you about my parents?” She completely switched her attention to me now. At least that worked.
“A friend. You should try getting a friend of your own. You might not be so miserable,” I gave her a suggestion, but in all honesty, I am fairly sure this will just aggravate her further.
“You never learn, do you, Edwards? Why don’t you be more like your mad brother, and go missing?” She clearly tried to provoke me, and to an extent, it worked.
“You’re the person everyone wishes would just go away,” I replied.
“Make me, Edwards,” she threw another taunt my way.
“I’ll duel you if I have to,” I answered. I don’t intend to attack her, especially not after that weird message I got earlier, but I will defend myself if necessary.
“Try it. You’ll lose again like the loser you are,” she replied, filled with rage.
“I won’t let you hurt anyone else...” I stood my ground, ready for whatever she had in store for me.
She pulled out her wand, pointed it in my direction and yelled, “Flipendo!” I felt the impact of her spell as I instantly lost my footing and fell on the ground.
“Wrong again, Edwards,” she looked down on me while I was on the ground. I could sense a lot of hatred radiating from her. I quickly stood up, readied my wand and started waving it while uttering the magic word,
“Rictusempra!” She wasn’t prepared for that, apparently, and started laughing uncontrollably. Now’s my chance. I remembered everything Professor Flitwick taught me the other day. After taking a deep breath, I placed my focus on the wand in her right hand. I steadily waved my own wand as I spoke the word, “Expelliarmus!” Her wand got blasted out of her hand and flew all the way back to the other side of the Courtyard.
“How’d you learn that spell already? No fair!” She stood there, hopelessly confused.
“Wow! That was amazing, Dylan!” I heard Rowan and Ben cheering at me. Both of them seemed extremely happy to see me emerging victorious from the duel.
“You can’t be better than me! No one can be better than me!” She instantly changed her expression once she saw that many of the students who were previously terrified are now laughing.
“I beat you, Merula. Now apologize to Ben Copper, and promise to stop bullying everyone,” I said to her with a cheeky smile on my face.
“I’ll never apologize to you losers and Mudbloods!” She clearly got upset by my sudden demand. “I’m Merula Snyde! Fourth generation Slytherin! The greatest witch at Hogwarts! I do what I want when I want! I run this school! I-”
She suddenly stopped as she heard Professor Snape’s voice behind her. While she was self-absorbed in her monologue, she failed to notice the arrival of Professors Snape and Flitwick, who stood behind her and listened to her rant. Needless to say, she instantly became paralyzed and the expression on her face was priceless to look at. I don’t know why, but I even felt a bit bad once all the students started chuckling about it.
“P-Professor Snape!” She suddenly changed her voice tone to softer and apologetic one.
However, Snape’s eyes quickly changed their focus from her to me. He was observing me with a stern look, waiting for an explanation.
“Professor Snape, I…” I stuttered there, trying not to say anything that would get me in trouble.
“I suspect this is your fault, Edwards. Are you aware of Hogwarts’s policy on unauthorized dueling?” He calmly asked.
“Yes, Professor,” I replied.
“Did you cast the first spell in this duel, Mister Edwards?” Professor Flitwick interfered.
“No. Merula hit me with Flipendo first,” I answered honestly.
“Miss Snyde cast the first spell, Professor Snape. Mr. Edwards was only defending himself,” he said to the Potions Master.
“And I wonder where he learned the Disarming Charm,” Snape turned to him as if he was blaming him partially for this whole situation.
“Clean yourself up, and see me in the West Towers to face the consequences of your actions, Edwards,” he continued.
Soon after, the Professors left the Courtyard, and all of the students instantly started talking to each other. Some of them were openly cheering for me, while the others were giving me the strange looks. Needless to say, I’ll be the point of their conversations for quite some time.
Now that I’ve looked around, Merula was nowhere to be seen…
What will happen now? Am I to receive another punishment for dueling, even though I was only defending myself? I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that was the case. After all, Snape does seem to hold a grudge against me… Perhaps he hates me because of Jacob? Maybe he aggravated him somehow, which is why he is using every opportunity to punish me…
“Hello, Dylan Edwards,” I heard a voice while traveling through the West Towers Corridor to see what the Professor has in store for me. I raised my head and saw a gorgeous looking young girl smiling at me. She had a long, blond hair, neatly styled with two lovely braids that were falling down her shoulders. Her deep blue eyes radiated with happiness and positive energy, and her smile was simply mesmerizing… She was Penny Haywood, the most popular girl in year one, and by far the most gorgeous one.
“You know who I am?” I asked, unsure why would someone as beautiful as she want to strike up a conversation with me.
“Does that surprise you?” She answered my question with one of her own, slightly chuckling in the process.
“Yeah, I mean, you’re Penny Haywood. You’re the most popular girl in our year, and I’m… not popular,” I replied, still wondering about her reasons for speaking to me.
“I disagree, Dylan,” she said while maintaining her smile. “Everyone is talking about the hero who was brave enough to stand up to the tyranny of Merula Snyde. Not to mention all the rumors surrounding your brother…”
So, she’s heard of Jacob. Apparently, everyone in the school has… Great… So much for laying low…
“Did you want something?” I decided to go straight to the point.
“I wanted to say thank you,” she kindly replied. “Hogwarts is supposed to be fun, but Merula was making it miserable for everyone. I especially appreciate how you used your wits to make Merula stop bullying Ben Copper.”
“Someone had to do something,” I said, trying to be modest about it.
“I agree, but only you were brave enough. I hope Professor Snape doesn’t punish you for your bravery. Let me know if I can ever help you with anything, Dylan,” she smiled. “I know the gossip around Hogwarts, and I’m pretty good with potions if I say so myself.”
“I will. Thanks, Penny.” It sure feels nice having someone appreciating my efforts to help Ben.
“Thank you, Dylan. I’ll see you around.”
With that, we parted ways and I went on to meet the Professor and see what punishment awaits me. He was standing near one of the paintings, silently awaiting my arrival. Merula was beside him. The moment she noticed me approaching, she turned to my side and gave me a wicked smile.
“Now that Mr. Edwards is here, I can discuss your punishment,” Snape started. What does he plan to do, I wonder… I hope I won’t lose any more House Points because of this…
“Expulsion seems to be the most logical option,” he continued.
“I had nothing to do with it, Professor. I only defended myself when this loser attacked me!” She was quick to defend herself with a shroud of lies, so obvious that not even the most gullible person would believe. She was brave enough to pull this off, with a cheeky smile even. I give her credit for her bravery, but I doubt Snape will be fooled by this.
“Everyone saw you cast the first spell, Miss Snyde. This, however, does not excuse Edwards’ behavior,” he resumed and changed his attention to me. “Since you arrived, you have fought in the corridor, made a mess of my classroom, and dueled on school grounds. This, after the damage your brother did to Hogwarts. Why shouldn’t you receive the harshest punishment for your actions, Edwards?”
“I know I broke the rules, Professor. I’m sorry. Please don’t be too hard on me,” I apologized.
“Twenty points from Gryffindor. I should take another twenty for your sniveling. As I said, expulsion is the logical punishment for dueling on school grounds. Unfortunately, our Headmaster is illogical and believes that expulsion is unfair in this case. If either of you are ever caught dueling on school grounds again, I can assure you that you will not be so fortunate.”
Twenty House Points… And all I did was defend my friend… I didn’t even strike first… And she… she didn’t even get reprimanded for her doings… That’s not fair… Not fair at all…
I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I didn’t even notice when the caretaker approached us.
“What is it, Mr. Filch?” Snape asked him.
“Professor Snape, you must come with me right away. It’s about the… vaults,” the caretaker silently replied, however not silently enough for me not to comprehend what he said.
“Return to your Common Rooms,” Snape sharply addressed us before heading off with Mr. Filch to one of the corridors.
“They must be talking about the Cursed Vaults!” Merula concluded, still smiling about her apparent “victory”.
She then went straight after the two of them, despite being said to return to her Common Room. I guess I should follow her, this could have something to do with Jacob’s disappearance after all…
“Get out of here!” She said to me once she saw me getting into the corridor.
“Shh!” I quickly pulled her into one of the alcoves on the side, to avoid getting noticed.
“Let go off me!” She angrily replied. “What do you think you are doing?”
“Saving us from getting expelled,” I silently answered. “Did you really think they won’t see us standing right there in the plain sight in an open corridor? The caretaker may be old, but he definitely isn’t blind…”
Come to think of it, the spacing of the alcove was far too small to accommodate both of us. We were so tightly squeezed against one another that we barely had space to move at all. I could sense the smell of cloves radiating from her. It was very pleasant, actually, unlike her personality.
“Are they talking about the Cursed Vaults?” I asked, trying to avoid saying anything related to our current, awkward situation.
“I can’t tell because you won’t shut up,” she answered, trying to focus on the topic of their conversation. I could, however, notice the slight blush on her cheeks while we were squeezed in the alcove.
“Who else knows about this?” Snape asked.
“Only me and Mrs. Norris saw the ice, sir. Was going to report the incident to the Headmaster, I was,” the caretaker proudly answered.
“I will inform Professor Dumbledore. This may have to do with the Edwards situation,” he calmly replied.
Edwards situation? Does this prove that the vaults are real? So, Jacob was right all along…
“Is it true that the vaults are filled with gold and powerful prophecies and artefacts from before Hogwarts existed?” Filch asked with a slight grin. “And that’s why the Edwards boy lost his mind trying to find them?”
“Don’t worry about what’s inside the vaults. Worry about keeping everyone out. Lock this door, and keep it guarded,” Snape ordered with a cold tone.
“What is ‘the Edwards situation?’” I quietly asked her.
“Who cares? This is another clue to the Cursed Vaults,” she replied, still trying to push me to the side and make more space for herself.
“You think the Cursed Vaults are real? And you’re trying to find them? You always call my brother mad for doing that exact thing,” I questioned her logic.
“Even if I cared to explain myself to an idiot, I wouldn’t do it here, and risk getting caught by the two meanest people at Hogwarts,” she coldly replied, while turning her head away from me. She was trying so hard to hide the fact she is blushing.
We remained in the alcove for a bit longer, awkwardly squeezing against each other while trying to hide the fact that we are both uncomfortable about the situation. She was directly in front of me, awaiting the right moment to flee the corridor. If I didn’t know better, I’d say she was quite cute. I was kind of mesmerized by her deep, violet eyes. There was something special about those that was drawing me towards her. Perhaps, she isn’t so bad? After all, the message said to keep her safe and I assume that preventing her from getting expelled falls into that category. I hope I’ll get to know her better, at least that way I’ll be able to keep her from doing something stupid…
“Now!” She whispered while pulling me out of the alcove. I was too absorbed in my thoughts to notice that both Snape and the caretaker were looking the other way.
We quickly left the corridor, before they had the chance to spot us. Once we were at the safe distance away from it, she turned to me with a very angry face.
“If you even mention this to anyone, I’ll make your life a living hell!” She said and quickly ran off.
“I guess I should keep this a secret for a while…” I thought to myself while smiling. “At least, the alcove part…”