The Hospital Wing was fairly quiet at this time of day. Other than Rowan, there were only a few other students resting at the moment. As I was approaching his bed, I noticed that Penny is there as well.
“Hi, Penny...” I greeted her once I came close.
“What happened, Dylan?” She gave me a concerned look. “Madam Pomfrey says Rowan hasn’t moved!”
“We finally found a Cursed Vault, but the door attacked us with a freezing spell when we got too close. Rowan got hurt, but I brought him here as fast as I could,” I explained.
“Why didn’t you tell me? I could have helped.” She asked.
“I know. We should never have gone in the first place,” I answered, agreeing with her it was foolish to head there on our own. “I was just desperate to work out what happened to Ben, and to find any clues about my brother.”
“Don’t blame yourself, Dylan,” Rowan replied. His voice was very quiet, I could almost sense how weak he is at the moment.
“Rowan! Are you okay?” I asked him, still worried about his health.
“I feel like I got run over by the Knight Bus,” he answered with complete honesty.
“I wish I could stay with you, but I have to go to Potions Class,” I replied. “You stay here and recover, I’ll let you borrow my notes later.”
“Thanks, Dylan, I’ll see you later, then,” he smiled at me while I was leaving the Hospital Wing.
Madam Pomfrey said he’ll recover in a couple of days, so thankfully, his injuries weren’t as severe as I thought. We were lucky enough to leave that corridor alive. Next time I head there, I’ll be prepared. At least, this time, I know what to expect.
The Potions classroom was dark and gloomy as always. Just this time, Rowan wasn’t there, so I didn’t have a friendly face near me to distract me from that. I immediately noticed Merula sitting on her spot. She turned to me once she noticed me approaching.
“I haven’t had to see much of you outside of class, Edwards. What have you been doing?” She asked.
“I’ve been investigating the Cursed Vaults in hopes of finding my brother,” I answered honestly. Truth be told, that wasn’t the only thing I was doing, but it was occupying my mind a lot, lately.
“I’ve been investigating the vaults myself. You would never believe the things I’ve discovered...” She replied. “Like everything else in your life, your search for the Cursed Vaults is doomed. I’m working with someone to locate and break the Cursed Vaults before you. The vaults and their power will be mine.”
She seemed pretty confident about this. Perhaps she discovered something important…
“What makes you think you’ll open the vaults before me?” I asked curiously.
“Because, unlike you, I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” she answered confidently.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” What is she willing to do? What is she planning?
“You’ll see...” she said with her usual grin.
“I’ve received information that will have dire consequences for you. We will discuss it at the end of class.” I heard Professor Snape’s voice addressing me. I was too busy talking to Merula to even notice him while he was approaching us.
“You are in for it now, Edwards. I wonder… will Professor Snape expel you, or murder you?” She commented.
I tried to focus on the class, but so many things were on my mind. What did Merula mean by saying that? Did she find something related to the vaults? And what information has Professor Snape received? Could it be that he’s planning to punish me again for something? I certainly tried not to give him any reason to do so…
The class was nearing its end. I somehow managed to complete my potion. It wasn’t as flawless as Snape expect it to be, but I sincerely doubt that he’ll pay much attention to it. As soon as the class ended, he approached me again.
“Not long ago I visited your dormitory, Edwards,” he said with his usual, calm voice.
“Why?” What could he hope to find there? I wasn’t keeping anything there that could potentially get me into trouble…
“I received information that you have been stealing supplies from my classroom,” he replied.
“That’s ridiculous. Why would I do that?” I asked with a surprised look. I certainly didn’t take any of his supplies…
“Because you thought it would somehow help with your foolish pursuit of the Cursed Vaults? Because, like your brother, you insist on testing the boundaries of school rules, and my patience? I have no desire to know what goes on in your warped, tiny mind. Explain why there were stolen potion ingredients in the drawer next to your bed.” He said with a sharp, serious tone.
How could the potion ingredients end up in my drawer? I don’t understand… I am fairly sure that Rowan had nothing to do with that, and I surely didn’t place them there, so who could’ve… Then I noticed Merula grinning at me ever so slightly… Could this be related to her saying she’s willing to do whatever it takes to find the vaults? It could explain some things… I could think of no one else wanting to set me up…
“Merula obviously put them there. She’s sabotaged me before, and she’ll do anything to get me expelled,” I answered with complete honesty.
“How would Miss Snyde even get into the Gryffindor Common Room?” Snape asked the most logical question.
“I wouldn’t put it past her to bribe or blackmail or trick someone into helping her,” I said.
“Is this true, Miss Snyde?” He turned his attention to her.
“Of course not. I want to see Edwards expelled, but only because he’s a disgrace, and a danger to everyone at Hogwarts,” she answered.
“I genuinely wish you weren’t lying,” Snape said with a cold tone.
“Excuse me?” She got so surprised by that sentence, she almost jumped out of her chair.
“Your eyes dart back and forth ever so slightly when you aren’t telling the truth, Miss Snyde,” he explained. “You are an absolutely atrocious liar, Particularly for a Slytherin. You will stay after class every day for the remainder of this year to clean and organize my supplies as punishment for attempting to frame Edwards. Dismissed.”
I was preparing to leave the classroom when I noticed her stare. She was looking at me with a particularly angry face. I guess she didn’t expect this turn of events. At least now, she’ll be too busy cleaning the classroom to search for the vaults. That way, she won’t put herself in danger, and I guess that’s good. The bad thing is that she’ll now hate me more than ever… Not only have I ruined her plan, but she also got punished for trying to set me up. I guess that will only make matters worse between the two of us. Now that I think of it, I am unsure if this was the right thing to do… My mind tells me that it is only logical that I did what I did, but my heart disagrees… I turned around while I was leaving the classroom. She was sitting there, looking into the distance. Her expression was completely different, she was… sad… I could see it in her eyes, she looked like her entire world crumbled to dust…
She was still gazing into the emptiness when I left the classroom…
“Dylan! You came to visit my sick old bones.” Rowan gave me a big smile. He was still coughing while speaking, but he seemed noticeably healthier than before.
“I brought Chocolate Frogs, my star chart from Astronomy Class, and a book about Wendelin the Weird,” I said as I was placing those items on his bedside drawer.
“Ooh, she’s one of my favorite witches from the Middle Ages. Thanks, Dylan,” he replied.
“How are you feeling?” I asked.
“Better, but not great,” he answered. “I think that cursed ice did something to me. It felt like the longer we were in that corridor, the more the cold drained my strength.”
“We’ll definitely dress warmly when we go back next time...” I said.
“Yeah. Next time...” He replied. The tone of his voice was telling me he’s upset about something.
“Is something wrong?” I asked, hoping to find what’s bothering him.
“I think I’m just tired. let’s talk about what you can do differently when you return to the Cursed Vault...” he answered. “You should dress warmly, and learn Incendio, but aside from that, I’m not sure there’s much else you can do to prepare.”
“I’ll work on finding some warm clothes, and learning that spell while you recover,” I replied. “You should be ready to head back to the Cursed Vault by the time I’m finished.”
“I’m not going back,” he said with a silent voice.
“What do you mean?” I was caught by a surprise. I recall him being very intrigued by the vaults, and now he changed his mind?
“I want to help you, but I’ll never be strong enough to help with the Cursed Vaults,” he explained. “I’m only holding you back...”
“I understand, Rowan. Just get your rest, and I’ll work out a way to get inside the Cursed Vault.” I replied.
“Thanks for understanding, Dylan. It’s just that confronting that door was the closest I’ve ever come to dying...” His voice was full of disappointment, mixed with a dose of fear.
“Send an owl when Madam Pomfrey says you’re strong enough to leave the Hospital Wing. It’s time for Flying Class, but I’ll keep doing what I can to prepare for another trip to the Cursed Vault...” I said, determined to uncover this mystery.
This complicates things a bit. If Rowan doesn’t want to go back to that corridor, then I have to find someone else willing to help me with this...