Natalie spent the next week in bed crying. She refused to get up for classes or meals, and kept the curtains drawn around her bed. She would only get up to go to the bathroom, where she would sit and cry even more until Sofia or someone else would come in and lead the sobbing girl back to her dormitory.
Sofia tried her best to comfort her friend, but nothing worked. She would hear Natalie crying late at night, a sound which broke her heart. She tried to convince Natalie to get up and at least eat, but the girl refused. At this point, Natalie’s schoolwork was the least of Sofia’s worries. The girl would starve to death or die of dehydration first.
Andrew was faring slightly better. He was at least attending meals and classes, though his eyes were always red and puffy. He put on a brave face, but Sofia knew it was wearing down on him.
One morning Sofia cornered him after breakfast as he was leaving the Great Hall.
“Hey,” she said to him.
“How are you?” She asked gently. He shrugged and refused to meet her gaze.
“I’m coping. Better than I can say for Natalie. Is it true she won’t leave her bed?”
“Unless it’s to go cry more in the bathroom, yeah,” Sofia replied with a nod of her head.
“Well I know how she feels. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry the entire time. But I know that’s not what Mother would want. I mean I suppose it would be easier for both of us if we could at least go home for the funeral so we could say goodbye properly.”
“You aren’t allowed to go home?”
Andrew shook his head, looking incredibly sad.
“I begged Professor Flickwit but he said Snape refused. I tried to go to Snape myself but he sent me away, told me to stay out of trouble.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Sofia replied.
“Yeah,” Andrew replied with a hint of anger. “Everyone is sorry. Everyone feels so bad for everything we’re going to but no one can do anything about it.”
“Andrew I’m just trying-“
“To help,” He finished for her. “Yeah, I get it. Everyone just wants to help. Well that isn’t going to bring her back so you might as well stop trying Sofia. Excuse me; I have to go to class.”
He spun around and marched away from her, disappearing into the throng of students that was leaving the Great Hall. Sofia watched him go for a moment and then hurried off alone to Potions class.
When she arrived, Marcus was waiting for her outside the door to the classroom.
“How’d it go with Andrew?” He asked.
“Bout as good as you could expect,” she replied dryly. “I mean, he’s lost his mother, his sister is falling apart, he’s trying to stay sane, and he can’t even go home to say goodbye to his mother properly.”
Marcus noted her sarcastic tone and looked away. He did not say anything to her for the rest of class. He knew his cousin. He knew that there were times she just needed to sit in silence with her thoughts.
Natalie and Andrew were the first to lose someone, but they would not be the last. For months Sofia and her classmates had lived in constant fear of something bad happening, but now the floodgates were open. How many more ominous letters would arrive over the next few weeks? How many more would receive news of a lost friend or family member? How many students would return home for Christmas and find no one waiting for them when they arrived?
The casualties of the war were mounting fast; both those who opposed Voldemort and those who merely were caught in the crossfire. Voldemort’s power was rising daily, as was the distance of his reach. Yet there was no news of Harry, no news on his efforts to bring down the Dark Lord.
Sofia went to Quidditch practice that afternoon with a clouded mind. Her thoughts were on the people she loved. How long would it be before one of them was lost? In her heart she knew it was inevitable. Her family was too close to the war, as were most of the other people she cared about.
Ginny flew them hard. It was their last practice before their first game against Slytherin, and she was desparate for a win. She had never lost to them, and she did not want to start now.
“Keep your head on the pitch, Sofia,” Ginny called out. “I don’t care if you’re friends with Malfoy or if half of your family is on the team. If you fly like this during the game we’re going to lose, and I’m going to be pissed.”
Sofia had completely forgotten that she would be flying against Draco. She had not spoken to him in a few weeks, but she missed him dearly. His absence in her life was only amplified by the absence of Luke as well. She was not on speaking terms with either of them.
Practice ended as the sun began to set. Sofia waited for everyone else to leave the pitch before she began to hike up on her own. She was not in the mood to talk to anyone.
She entered the castle alone and heard footsteps behind her.
She turned around and saw James walking towards her, still carrying his broom from practice.
“I wanted to talk to you after practice but I was in the middle of a conversation with Marcus and I didn’t want to just cut him off.”
Sofia waited for him to catch up with her and then they started walking up to the common room together.
“Have you heard from Evanna and Lillian today?” he asked.
She shook her head. She had been avoiding conversation today.
“Well you’d better come with me then,” he said with a grave expression, veering off suddenly and heading towards the library.
Sofia followed him cautiously, not sure what to expect. They entered the library and Sofia looked around nervously, sure that if Madam Pince saw them with their brooms in the library that she would throw a fit. She followed James as he walked over to a corner of the library where the rest of her family were huddled looking ominous.
“What’s going on?” Sofia demanded.
Ollie, Daniel, and Marcus were huddled together on a bench looking wide-eyed and uncomfortable. Lauren and Julius had their heads together whispering furiously. Lillian was holding Evanna, who was crying into her older cousin’s shoulder.
“One of Evanna’s friends got in trouble with the Carrows,” James said. “He was just a first year and they used the Cruciatus curse on him.”
Having been subjected to the Carrows torture first hand, she knew just how excruciating the pain was. She could only imagine the damage it would inflict on a first year.
“He was j-just asking h-how D-Dumbledore would have t-taught D-Defense Against the Dark Arts,” Eavanna stuttered. “He j-just said D-Dumbledore’s n-name and Amycus flipped out on him. He s-screamed and begged for Amycus to st-stop but he wouldn’t.”
“Is he okay?” Everyone just stared at Sofia. “What happened to the boy?” She demanded.
Evanna tried to speak but ended up just sobbing harder. Lillian squeezed the youngest girl’s shoulders and looked up at Sofia.
“He passed out. He’s in the hospital wing. Madam Pomfrey said he is not doing well.”
“He’s just a child!” Marcus said angrily, standing up. “What do they expect to gain by hurting children?”
“They expect to gain conformity,” James said. “They think that if they show they’re not afraid to hurt children then the world will think that they can hurt anyone. Then everyone will be afraid so no one will stand up against the Dark Lord. Also, the boy mentioned Dumbledore. I bet they are doing everything they can to wipe Dumbledore off the face of the Earth, make sure people realize that he is dead and anyone who believed in him will die also.”
“But children…” Lauren said, trailing off.
“Think about it,” replied James sadly. “If adults are rebelling against him, they are doing it because they have someone they love that they do not want to grow up in a world with the Dark Lord in charge. If he threatens that which they are trying to protect, they are not going to risk him killing them by continuing to rebel. Think about our own family. Think about Aunt Guinevere, how she would do anything to keep the Dark Lord from Sofia and Daniel because she chose the life of servitude and they did not. If he asked her to kill for him, she would, because she knows she has to in order to protect her children.”
“We don’t need protection,” Daniel said.
“It doesn’t matter whether we need or want it,” Sofia told him. “She’ll do it anyway because she can, because she must. When she became a mother, she became a protector. It’s who she is. It’s who we all are. Whether someone we love is capable of defending themselves or not does not matter to us, to any of us. If it came down to it, all of us would sacrifice ourselves for the people we love in no time. That’s why Voldemort targets families.”
“But doesn’t he fear love?” Ollie asked. “Shouldn’t he be afraid to kill someone who is dying to protect someone else?”
“He’s afraid,” Sofia answered. “But not nearly as afraid as he should be. You see, when Voldemort was defeated before, he killed Lily before he tried to kill Harry. Lily could have moved out of the way. She could have lived. But she didn’t. She preferred to die than to hand her son over to the Dark Lord. He learned then that he would have been better off to just get her out of the way, kill the boy, and then kill her. Now that is what he does. It is far more torture for a parent to watch their child die, powerless to help, than stand in the way and die to protect him. Now, tortures the parents by making them watch and then he claims to be merciful by taking them out of their misery and killing them.”
“That’s terrible,” Lillian said as she held on to Evanna.
“That’s Voldemort,” Sofia said. “He can’t love. He can’t feel compassion. He can’t understand the agony. That’s why he doesn’t care how many of his followers die. At the end of the day, as long as he still has power, the losses are worth it. He will only feel pain when he realizes he cannot live anymore, when he has no more power over people.”
“He has to die,” Julius said.
“Yes, if we want love to exist, he has to die.”
“Then we’ll kill him,” James said angrily. “I mean, surely together with our parents we can kill him.”
Sofia shook her head.
“No, James, we cannot. That task lies with another.”
“Harry Potter,” Evanna chirped suddenly.
“Yes, Harry Potter.”
“Is that where he is?” Julius asked. “Is he finding a way to kill the Dark Lord?”
“I believe so,” Sofia replied. She thought back what Origant had told her last year about Voldemort needing to become more human. “Although I do not know how or how long it will take. I know that only Harry can do it though.”
“So what do we do?” Lillian asked. “Do we just sit here and let bad things happen to the people we love?”
“No,” James said firmly. “We protect them the best that we can. We have so much power, and between the nine of us I’m sure we can protect a lot of people. I know we can’t be out there fighting on the front lines, but we can protect Hogwarts.”
“There is one thing though,” Sofia said. “If we become protectors, as you are saying, we cannot join the DA in the rebellion here. All our efforts will have to go to defending the innocents and healing the wounded. We will not have enough time or energy to launch an offensive against the Carrows as well.”
“Alright fine,” Evanna said. “Just tell us what we have to do.”
“Right now all of you need to go back to your dormitories,” Sofia replied firmly. “I am going to go see the boy in the hospital wing and then I have some people I need to speak with. I will let you all know once I have set everything up.”
She dismissed them quickly and watched as they walked away. Then she hurried up to her dormitory to put away her broom. She then hurried back downstairs to the hospital wing.
The boy was small, even for a first year. He had dark hair, and his skin was pale and cold. He was lying limply on a bed, numb and unconscious, his breathing shallow and uneven. Madam Pomfrey was standing over him. She looked up as Sofia entered.
“Ah, Miss Adema, may I help you?” she asked. Her eyes were kind but Sofia could tell that she was worried.
“I came to check on him,” she indicated towards the boy. “What’s wrong with him?”
“It seems that the torture curse struck his heart. It caused it to spasm, and his brain shut down in an attempt to regulate it again.”
“Will he be okay?” Sofia asked.
“I don’t know,” Madam Pomfrey replied. “If I could I would invite your mother here to see if there was anything she could do, but at the time I do not think that would be wise. The boy’s brain seems to be alright, but I have no idea the effects on his heart. He may have permanent damage.”
At that moment Professor McGonagall burst into the hospital wing, a look of terror on her face.
“Oh, Poppy,” she said hurriedly. “How is the boy?”
She walked quickly to the boy’s bedside.
“He’s weak. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
Professor McGonagall burst into tears, a sight which shocked Sofia. The older woman had always been so strong and collected. Even when Dumbledore had died, she had held herself together in front of the school, holding them all together when no one else could.
“Oh, I-I just w-wish he was still here. He would know what to do, how to keep the students safe.”
Madam Pomfrey reached for Professor McGonagall and led her away. Sofia thought she saw tears in the healer’s eyes too, as the two women held each other and left the hospital wing.
Even the teachers were at a loss for how to protect the students. Even they were powerless against Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
Sofia sat on the bed beside the boy. He was so small, so young, and so innocent. How could anyone hurt him? Sofia grabbed his hand and squeezed it. It was so cold, so lifeless, compared to Sofia’s warmth.
Touching his hand, Sofia could feel a sort of electric energy, but it did not belong to the boy. It was her own. It belonged to her, lived in her skin, and flowed through her blood. Perhaps she could pass that energy on to him.
As if on command, the energy began moving. She felt it flowing across her fingertips and into the boys own hand. His skin began to glow soft golden where she touched him, making Sofia jump and pull her hand away. The golden glow disappeared slowly. She stepped back to the boy and placed her hand over his heart. She could not see his chest because of his robes, but as she held her hand against him, she could feel his chest warming up. His skin was regaining some of its color, and his cheeks now flushed red.
His breathing began to even out, and Sofia stepped away from him. He looked so much better than he had when she first entered the hospital wing. Looking down at her own hands, Sofia saw that there was a soft golden glow to her skin. It faded quickly, leaving her with nothing but a warm tinge.