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Chapter 24

With a blink of an eye, Hogwarts was knee deep in Halloween, a holiday Alexis Rune was unfamiliar with. She recalled a few stories her father told about the one night a year children would dress up and beg for candy, of scaring others and dressing up. It sounded like fun, but to Alexis August would always be the time of fear when stories of Yurei and Yokai were told in dark corners.

The Halloween feast was all anyone talked about. Skye, Eloise and even Zack wouldn’t stop talking  and explaining their customs to her. They wanted her to join them all that night, but Alexis wasn’t sure if she could handle any more of the Gryffindors that day. It would be different if she could sit with Eloise at the Hufflepuff table or even Skye at the Ravenclaw table. Yet, rules were rules here and she’d just be watching everyone else have fun.

That night Alexis hid herself away in the library under the pretence of working on a Potions essay. She waiting until the festivities were well underway, when everyone would be down in the Great Hall and she could sneak up to her room alone. She saw nobody along the corridors or hallways. The moving stairs were also empty as she approached the Fat Lady’s portrait. Alexis was about to speak the password, her mouth was open and shaping the first syllable when the portrait door opened. Lilly Potter stepped out of the Gryffindor’s tower and almost ran smack into Alexis.

“Alexis.” Lilly said with in surprised. “I thought you were in the Great Hall with the others. We had a late Quidditch practice and I wanted to clean up before I headed down.” She said, a nervous smile on her lips and hands waving everywhere.

“I’m not going.” Alexis said. She gave Lilly the same awkward smile and attempted to move past Lilly into the common room.

“Wait, Alexis.” Lilly said, turning to following her back in.

“Yeah?” Alexis replied with some bitterness.

“I… well… you shouldn’t miss the feast. It’s always so good and there’s so much to eat.” Lilly said. Alexis paused, there seemed to be something else on Lilly’s mind. “Listen, I’ve been taking to Amelia and she told me what happened in the common room. What’s your deal?”

“Did Amelia tell you the whole story?” Alexis asked, her arms crossed in front of her chest.

“No, but Hugo and Rose did.” Lilly said with a sigh. “I wanted to say that… that Amy was out of line,” the last came out in a whisper. “But that didn’t mean you had to hit her! Do you like being in Gryffindor? You never spend any time with us besides the evenings, and you hang out with Zack Rowle. Zack Rowle! He’s a dick, not to mention a Slytherin.”

“There, that’s why I don’t hang out with you!” Alexis shouted back, her voice reaching the same level as Lilly’s. “You keep bulling each other, calling other houses names. Houses! Not the individual, but the entire House. Zack’s not that bad, he’s nice and doesn’t insult my house to my face. Skye and Eloise, same thing. They are at least helping me with the classes. Do you know how hard it is to start school in a new country? The language, the spells, they are completely different! It’s difficult and I’m struggling with most of my classes. Even Zack is helping me with potions! This House division has gone too far. Nobody should be judged on the actions of others, past, present or future.” Alexis paused, panting. She had not yelled like that… for months. All of her pent up anger at her parents death, about moving to Japan, her uncle who really doesn’t seem to care about her. It all came out right then, right there, at Lilly.

“I’m sorry.” Alexis said as the silence drew on. “I’ve been through a lot, and well I think I needed that little outburst, but not at you.”

“No… I… you’re right, in a way. It’s just the Sytherin’s always play nasty on the Quidditch Pitch, and Zack’s always been well, annoying.” Lilly said, then gave Alexis a sideways look. “The Rune’s… they have so many rumours around them, I couldn’t help but fall into Amelia’s words. Why did you move to England anyways?”

“It wasn’t by choice.” Alexis said. She paused, gave Lilly a hard look and sighed. It was time to tell someone. “My parents died over the summer and my mother’s family thought I’d be safer with my uncle in London.” Alexis saw the look cross Lilly’s face. She didn’t want pity, or to be treated any different. It was why she told no one until now. “You should go and meet up with Amelia at the feast.” Alexis said turning to the dormitory.

“Why don’t we all go?”

Alexis and Lilly jumped when the low voice of Albus Potter came down the boy’s staircase.

“You two are loud when you have a yelling match.” Al added putting a finger into his ear. “Alexis, you coming? You’r looking peckish these past few months, one big feast will put that colour back into your checks.”

“Peckish?” Lilly said, and looked towards Alexis. “You’ve been skipping meals.”

“No, just cutting down so I don’t hear all the whispers and taunts from my own House table.” Alexis said crossing her arms in front of her chest.

“Yeah… there’s been a lot of that.” Lilly said, eyes downcast.

“Too much if you ask me.” Al said, placing a hand on Alexis’s shoulder and pushing her towards the door. “Now, on to the feat, Prefect’s orders.”

Al didn’t let Alexis slip away, he stayed behind her and Lilly as they made their way down to the Great Hall. Sure enough the decorations were amazing. Jack-o-lanturns floated above the tables that were covered with delicate assortment of food and treats. Al sat Alexis down near the middle of the Gryffindor table, amongst all the eyes staring at her. He took the seat to her right, while Lilly took the seat to her left and began to fill both her and Alexis’s plate.

“Been wondering where you’ve been.” James said from across the table. “Almost missed the main course.”

“It’s good to see you eating with us too.” Rose added, sitting two chairs down from James. “You should join us more often at meals Alexis.”

“Ah, maybe. I’ve got a lot to catch up on.” Alexis said. It felt strange how nice they were being.

“What are you falling behind on?” Rose asked.

“Almost half of my subjects.” Alexis tried to joke. “Transfiguration had never been a strong point for me, but don’t worry Skye and Eloise have been helping me.”

“I’ve heard you’ve been hanging out with other people outside of Gryffindor.” James said.

“Is that a problem?” Alexis asked, not sure if she should be offended or not.

“Nope, though I’d still watch your back with that Rowle kid.”

“Why is everyone against him?” Alexis asked, noticing that whenever her plate seemed to empty, move food appeared, either by Lilly or Albus.

“He’s not bad of a quidditch player, actually one of the more honourable players on Slytherin.” James mused more to himself then to anyone else. “I guess if you had to make a Slytherin friend, he’d be one of the better ones.”

“I’ll tell him that when I see him next.” Alexis giggled, along with Lilly and Rose.

“You’d do no such thing!” James said with wide eyes, a little fear in his eyes that some ego would be lost.

The meal went by well, Alexis hadn’t had her fill in over a month. It was great not have that subtle rumbling hunger pain. The conversation around her continued and picked up with other students nearby. Whatever the hesitation or distance they had before wasn’t there now. They asked her questions about her life in Japan, her archery, and school traditions. As she talked, Alexis noticed Amelia looking down at them from her place further down the table. She seemed unhappy and dissatisfied at her and Lilly. Alexis liked being included now, even if it was with the Potters and Weasleys, but she didn’t want to break up any previous friendship.

“Lilly, is Amelia okay?” Alexis asked as the evening drew to an end and students left to their respected dormitories.

“No, not really. She’s still not convinced that you’re supposed to be in our House.” Lilly said with a sigh. “I bet she’s even upset at me now for choosing you over her.”

“But you’re not, really. You two are good friends I thought.”

“Yeah, me too. But lately she’s been saying a lot of nasty stuff I didn’t know was in her. I need some distance I think.”

“That will be hard when we all share a bedroom.”

“Tell me about it.” Lilly sighed.

That night, a new nightmare visited Alexis’s dream. She had hoped that she they were finished now, though it seemed the spirit world had something else in mind. She found herself in a dark room with no windows, there were stone walls, and damp. Alexis shivered in the dream. It was hard to move, first she tried her hand, but it felt confined somehow. She tried to move her legs, but they too were bound. She took a while to realize that she was in a chair in the middle of the room. A light sung above her, casting unusual and terrifying shadows along the walls.

Relax… it’s just a dream… Alexis said inside of her mind, a way to calm the rising panic and attempt to force herself awake.

A shadow moved from the corner of her eye, but never came into her sight. She tried to move her neck and felt something hard wrap around it, tightening itself against her windpipe. Other parts of her body felt the same constricting tension grew. A numbness filled Alexis’s senses.

Wake up! Alexis told her mind. Breathing was coming harder now, and fear she would suffocate in a dream scared her as she wiggled her body again. Wake up! WAKE UP!

“Don’t move!” A voice echoed near Alexis as the dream cell blurred and vanish, replaced by orange lights on the other side of her closed eyelids. She opened them and saw a terrified Lilly a few feet away from her bed. “Where’s Professor Longbottom?” She cried in distress.

The suffocating feel from Alexis’s dream did not die away upon waking. Again she tried to gasp for breath but no air came. Something was moving around her body, squeezing her. That was when she heard the hiss. Her eyes darted to her right to see a head of snake, with fangs rear up next to her, mouth open ready to strike.

Someone yelled a spell, whatever the intention it seemed to have backfired as the snake whipped it’s head over to the girls surrounding Alexis’s bed. It struck out at whomever was closest before turning back to Alexis. The snake’s fangs never entered Alexis’ neck as the door to their dormitory burst open and a stunning spell hit the snake directly in the head.

It went limp and Alexis quickly struggled to get out of its coils to fall on the floor gasping for breath. Her body shivered and shook violently. Professor Longbottom’s round face was thrusted in Alexis’ sight as he lifted her chin to make sure there weren’t any bite marks before letting out a sigh of relief.

“Is everybody else all right?” He asked, his eyes turning to each of the six other girls in the room. They all looked pale and frightened, but nodded their heads to his question. He then looked back to the snake on Alexis’ bed, with a flick of his wand it rose in the air and vanished from sight.

Other girls heads were peering into their room, wondering what was going on. Rose pushed her way forward, trying to force everyone else back.

“Rose, get everyone downstairs.I want to address everyone now.”

“Yes sir.” Rose said with a start.

Minutes later, everyone had gathered downstairs in the common room with Longbottom standing in the middle. Alexis sat in a cushioned chair with Lilly and Sarah next to her. A blanket wrapped over her shoulders to stop the shivering but it wasn’t working.

“I’ve had enough of you all insulting one of your own.” Longbottom said. “Tonight, a snake was summoned into the Girls Fourth Year’s dorm, directed at Alexis Rune.” Everyone burst into questions, Alexis noticed Al and James look over at at her. Longbottom raised his hands and waited for everyone to settle back down. “Nobody was hurt, but the culprit will be found. If anyone here knows anything I’m giving you the next twenty four hours to come forward.”

“You don’t think one of us did it!” James shouted.

“We’re not that low,” a sixth year girl added.

“It was most likely a Slytherin,” came yet another voice.

“Enough. I’m not blaming anyone but the fact remains that somehow the snake found a way into the Griffindor Tower, something that no student would or should know how to do.” Longbottom said. Everyone went silent as they too realized that to be attacked inside their Tower made things much more dangerous.

“I believe it is time for you all to act like a House to the new girl.” Longbottom added before taking his leave from the common room which burst into conversation the second the Fat Lady’s portrait closed behind him.

Many tried to talk to Alexis about what happened, Evelyne and Sarah filled in as much as they knew to anyone around. Thankfully Rose and Lilly took her back up to her room, though sleeping in the same bed did not appeal to her.

Chapter 23                                   INDEX