In the end, it isn't the dark itself that frightens us. It's what lurks in the shadows, just waiting for us to make that one step out of the road we were destined for that makes us wary, moving slowly, groping for an edge of reality we can hold on to and use as our guide in the dark.
'Hel-ga Hu-ffle-puff.' I countedthe rhythm in my head as I tapped the barrel two from the bottom, in the middle of the second row. The lid swung open, and I crawled into it. I straightened myself up and cleared the dust off my robes and fixed my silver-green tie. I walked forward until the Hufflepuff common room was in sight.
It seemed to be empty. The grandfather clock showed it was twenty-to-ten, May 24th.
And then I saw him, with his back to me, his foot tapping nervously against the floor. I found myself grinning.
Then he looked over his shoulder and his eyes found mine. He grinned too.
"Happy five months," I said softly.
His strides were wide. He reached me in an instant, held my face in his hands, and kissed me gently. "I love you," he whispered.
"I love you too," I said. I was amazed, time and time again, at how much my love for him grows each time I see his face.
We were close to finishing our third year at Hogwarts. In twenty minutes we had Astronomy lesson, and then we were supposed to go back to our common rooms. But I never bothered about what I was supposed to do. I wasn't supposed to be in the Hufflepuff common room. I wasn't supposed to go in the Forbidden Forest, but I liked being there with the Threstles.
I grinned. Even though there were countless occasions in which I had wished the Sorting Hat had placed me in Hufflepuff, there was something undeniably Slytherin about me.
A while later, we started ascending the many flights of stairs that led to the Astronomy tower. It didn't take long to get there, but we liked to arrive early and stargaze. There aren't many places where you can see the stars with such clarity.
"I wish," I started saying as we reached the eleventh and final staircase, "that our Four Great Founders had heard of escalators."
He chuckled, and opened the trapdoor that led outside. He inclined me to climb first. I giggled, pecked him on the cheek, and ascended.
It was a cloudless night. The telescopes were already set on the rail of the open rooftop. Professor Astoria, one of the only teachers I got along with, had set them up, knowing how Pyro and I liked to stargaze.
As he climbed through the trapdoor, I searched the sky for the Capricorn constellation. After years of practice, both in the Muggle world and here in Astronomy lessons, I found it with ease.
"What're you looking at?" he asked.
I went closer to him, and pointed to the constellation. "There, do you see it? Four stars there, and a bigger one there, and three tiny ones above it, that's the horns, back, and tail. The ones below, over there, are the face and body, and legs."
"Nope," he said. "Can't see it. Too many distractions." He grinned and I realised he wasn't even looking upwards, but at me. I blushed, smiling. And suddenly-
"Aaaahhhhrghh!" came a distant, blood-curdling cry, echoing through the ground. Both Pyro and I jumped and took out our wands, and he spread his right hand before me protectively. I held it tightly with my left.
"What was that?" I asked, my voice much smaller and higher than usual. I looked up and saw that Pyro's eyes were wide with fright.
"It came from the Forbidden Forest," he said quietly.
I swallowed. "That's wasn't a human voice, though," I said. "..Right?" I added uncertainly. "I mean, no human could make that noise." He didn't answer. "Right?"
I began to panic. "Pyro, what if that's a student?"
"We have to tell the Headmaster," he said.
I unclenched my hand from his arm, and started pacing all around. "There's no time for that. Whoever made that sound is in danger. They might get killed! Maybe they already have... Pyro, we have to do something!" "Ok," he said. I was surprised his voice was so stable, but I saw that there was a lot going inside his head. "We need to help whoever's in there. There's no time to use the staircases. We have to jump." He stepped forwards, nearing the edge, and muttered, "Spongify," pointing with his wand at the ground, a few dozen meters below us. I was trembling. It's not that I hated heights, it's just... having to jump from a height like that... "Together?" I offered, nearly silently. He nodded, took my hand, and we jumped over the edge. * It was like flying. My hair rippled above me. I kept my eyes open, despite the air that made them sting, and watched the ground getting nearer and nearer. A few seconds, and then it was over. The ground acted like a giant trampoline, bending downwards as we hit it. It lifted us back about a meter into the air, and we landed on solid ground. I let out a panicky, exhilarated burst of laughter. I looked at Pyro, to find he was very pale. Another horrible scream from the Forest. Whatever or whoever was there, was still alive. It drenched the little colour his face still had. "Let's go," he said. We ran, as fast as we could, towards the forest. There were never many people outside by now. After dinner in the Great Hall, most people either go to their common rooms or hang out with friends from other houses inside. The lights from the castle's many windows and the moonlight were the only things that prevented the grounds to be pitch black. In minutes, we reached the edge of the Forest. I took a second to catch my breath and muttered 'Lumos'. I glanced at Pyro, who lighted his wand, too. We entered the Forest. "Where are they? Where did that scream come from?" I murmured to myself. "Homenum Revelio," I heard Pyro say. A humming noise came from his wand, and the light at the tip of it started flickering on and off. He led the way. Deeper and deeper into the Forest, until there was no longer a path and I couldn't see beyond the circle of light my wand emitted. Another scream. It was so loud, it seemed we were standing right next to the source of it. It was shrill, and echoed in my head long after it was over. "It's here," said Pyro. "What do you mean?" I said. "There's no one here!" I spun around, raising my wand higher so it would cast more light. And then the ground slipped from under my feet, but I found myself standing on a swaying ledge of ground, just wide enough for me to place both my feet on. I was so high up, but Pyro was still next to me, and the trees still reached far above my head. Nothing made sense! But I wasn't trying to make sense on things, I was trying to not fall. I was starting to get dizzy. I couldn't hold on to anything. It was so high up! The ledge swayed right, and I lost my balance- And then I saw Pyro, looking at me, worrying, frightened. If I fell from this impossible ledge, I would surely not make it. It was too high. It was too much. And then the ledge disappeared, and I was on the ground. I looked up, to see Pyro standing over me with a disgusted expression. 'WHY DO I EVEN LOVE YOU? YOU'RE WORTHLESS. YOU AREN'T WORTH THIS. YOU MEAN NOTHING TO ME!' His voice. It was the same voice that screamed before. That's screaming now. Screaming at me. I'm worthless, I'm nothing. 'I HATE YOU! I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN! I CAN'T BELIEVE I PUT UP WITH YOU FOR FIVE WHOLE MONTHS! WE'RE THROUGH!' His every word was like a dagger. Plunging straight through me. Again, and again, as his voice echoed inside of me. This was a nightmare. This had to be. This couldn't be. I got up, onto my feet. I looked into Pyro's eyes, and saw nothing but hatred and disgust. My tears broke through, and I walked back a few steps. And then I saw that behind Pyro, stood... Pyro? I wiped my eyes from the tears, and looked again. Yes, there were two Pyros. One was screaming at me, but I wasn't concentrating on the words he said. The other was standing behind him, his wand raised, a hurt and confused expression on his face. The screaming Pyro saw I was no longer looking at him, and twisted to see what I was looking at. He walked towards the other Pyro, and wisps of smoke engulfed him as he did. He reached him, and the smoke disappeared. Now, another figure stood there. A girl. I could only see her back. 'You are pathetic,' she said, in an arrogant, patronizing tone. She began to circle him. 'Do you really think you're good enough for me? That you're good enough for anyone?' I saw her face. She was... me. But she wasn't! And Pyro was looking from her, to me, and back. 'Five months of my life- WASTED! On YOU! YOU PATHETIC, GOOD FOR NOTHING, NOBODY!' And suddenly, I understood. My greatest fear - or so I thought - was falling from high, unbalanced places. The swaying ledge. I was standing on it, and then I saw Pyro, and the ledge disappeared, and turned into a Pyro that couldn't even bear to look at me. And then it saw Pyro, the real one, and turned into a me that didn't love him. "Pyro!!" I shouted. "It's a Boggart!!"
His eyes widened, and realization struck him, too. He looked back to the Boggart-me, and yelled out, "Riddikulus!" Nothing happened. "Riddikulus!!" he tried again. The Boggart-me raised her chin and let out a cold laugh. Laughter! That's what kills a Boggart! And Pyro doesn't laugh much.. So that's why his Riddikulus didn't work!! I squared my shoulders, and focused with all my strength on the image in my head. I lifted my wand. 'Riddikulus!!' I cried out. The smile was wiped off the Boggart-me's face as she began to tremble. She was shaking all over, and then- Poof! The burst of laughter that rose from my throat was unstoppable. Were the Boggart stood before, there was now a tiny chibi version of me, that looked very angry. 'What have you done?!' it squeaked. I chuckled again. It started to run, probably attempting to ram into me, and as it was just about to reach me, I casually stepped sideways, and the Boggart ran straight into a tree.
I was doubled over, clutching my stomach, nearly crying with laughter. The Boggart was shaking again. I glanced over to Pyro, who was standing there with an amused grin on his face. The Boggart got up from the ground, and stumbled dizzily towards me. It was actually trying again! I laughed harder, and its shaking increased. Then, with a final 'Ha!', it disappeared into wisps of smoke. Pyro's grin widened. I walked over to him and hugged him tightly. "You know I didn't mean what I said... right?" I mumbled into his shoulder. "Huh?" I couldn't see his face, but I could hear his grin had gone. "When the Boggart was me. You know none of that was true." He held my shoulders and pushed me back, looking into my eyes. "Just... just as long as you know what the Boggart said when it was me wasn't true." "I know," I said. And I did know. I loved him so much, and as much fear and hopelessness that the Boggart made me feel, it was strangely worth it, as long as I know that Pyro fears losing me as much as I fear losing him. I was no longer afraid. I leaned upwards and my lips met his. * The ornate objects decorating the shelves of the office whirred and ticked as Dumbledore gazed at the two of us over his half-moon spectacles. We had just finished telling him the whole story (more or less; we skipped the kisses and me sneaking into Hufflepuff common room). "So," said Dumbledore, in a stern tone with just a hint of amusement. "You heard screaming, and decided to just see what it was for yourself, skipping an Astronomy lesson along the way." "Professor, it wasn't like that," I said. "There was no time. We thought it was an actual student out there! I never knew wild Boggarts have ways of luring people to them and then feeding on their fear. You should really put that in the Defence Against the Dark Arts curriculum..." I trailed off as I realised I may have gone too far. No one wanted to get on bad terms with the Headmaster of Hogwarts. "Perhaps I should," he chuckled. Maybe getting on bad terms with him was simply impossible. "But I am afraid that two house points must still be taken off from both Slytherin and Hufflepuff, for class-skipping and entering the Forbidden Forest." I slumped in my chair, exchanging 'oh, well' looks with Pyro. It could be worse, though. Two points aren't that much, I guess. "But," the Headmaster started saying, a twinkle in his blue eyes, "you did defeat a wild Boggart; one that could have lured more students to it. And for that, I award both houses seven points." Hm. Wait, what?! It took me a second to understand. Five housepoints!! I think I'll skip Astronomy more often! I was grinning so much my cheeks hurt. "Thanks, Professor Dumbledore," said Pyro. The Headmaster bowed his head in response. "And now," said Dumbledore, "I think it's time for sleep. For all of us! I have a new nightcap that I'd like to try out." "Erm, good luck with that," I stuttered, while Pyro nodded. We went down the spiralling staircase. As we made our way to the bottom floors, I came to the conclusion that if I was ever going to come across a Boggart again, I'd definitely try and make it Dumbledore with a night cap. And gown. Both in a shade of hot pink. Pyro didn't quite get why I started laughing all of a sudden.
So, wow. Five months. I'm actually having trouble believing it. I swear, just a second ago, there was more time to wait until we saw each other than the time we had already been a couple. And now, five months! And only thirty-six days to go until we actually see each other. Borg, I can't wait. May there be many more months to come.. (: