Darci Cole is one amazing person. She writes. She moms.She takes the helm of WriteClub on Friday nights. She makes incredible wands. Yes. WANDS. She's the real Colevander's. Anyway, I met Darci through WriteClub and when she followed me back, I gotta say I fangirled a little. She's that cool, people.
She has a ton of talent and I was so very excited to have her join this blog series. And then I read her story. And I fangirled all over again. Because seriously, only Darci could pull this off. That's what I love about her. She takes risks with her writing and this always makes a writer better. She's pretty fabulous and I will just state it here, for the record, so that all of twitterverse and the interwebs can see it..her book Target will get picked up, published and she will be a success story and I can say I knew her when.
And that will be cool.
So here is her fabulous contribution to my series. It is fitting that Darci's story pulls the whole narrative in a new direction as we start making the final lap in this journey of the fabulous suitcase.
The Memory Project (continued)
Flashes of light flickered beneath my closed eyelids. My head throbbed. When I opened my eyes, I was sprawled on the floor, with Jesse's hands cupping my face. His expression changed from worry to surprise to happy and back to worry in the space of a minute.
"Are you okay?" His brown eyes full of concern looked at me. His brow wrinkled.
My mind was foggy. I couldn't remember exactly what happened. All I knew was I had felt something, strongly and then I passed out. But other than my head and the lack of knowing what was going on, I was ok. I nodded.
"You were out for twenty minutes. What happened?"
I shook my head. "I…don’t know." I started to sit up and a wave of dizziness cascaded over me.
"Uh, you don't look so good. You better lie back down." Jesse took off his shirt, rolling it into a ball and placed it underneath my head. He lay on his side next to me, propping his head up on his hand. With his other hand, he caressed my forehead tenderly. I closed my eyes and took in deep breaths. "You had me freaking out there. You were…like…stone cold. I thought…" His voice trailed off.
"Where's the book?" I asked, my voice faltering as I tried to talk.
"Nat. Forget about the book. It's doing weird things to you."
I opened my eyes and shot an angry glare at him. "So now you admit something's up with that book?"
Jesse clenched his jaws. "Yes. It's like it's taking you over or something. The more you look at it, the stranger you're acting. It's kind of creeping me out."
"Look, we're supposed to keep the suitcase. And that guy will come back for it. And I think he wants us to look at the stuff inside. Including the pictures."
"One, you don’t even know if that guy is still around. Two, we don’t have to do anything. Three, we need to go. We're missing your mom's party. And four, you just passed out. We need to get you home."
Jesse was right. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed since we started this whole little trek back from the swimming hole, but I was sure it had been at least an hour. It was hard to tell, since it seemed like time took on a different beat here, in this house. I sat up slowly. The dizziness wasn’t as bad this time and subsided after ten seconds or so. I looked out the window. The wind still whipped at the trees but the clouds were now a lighter shade of gray. If we were going to go, now would be a good time. This could be the calm before the storm.
The party was in full swing, but before I made my official appearance, I wanted to hide the suitcase, splash some water on my face and change into something a bit nicer. Jesse had argued with me all the way home, telling me how we should’ve just left the suitcase there. But something inside said we had to keep it. Like it had found us and we were in charge of something important.
I wasn’t sure if anyone was really going to come for it, so I compromised with Jesse. I'd told him that I'd keep it for a week. If no one came for it, we would take it back to the house and leave it. What I hadn’t said was I would go back by myself later and get it and bring it back home. I figured Jesse didn’t need to know that.
I looked at the clock. Jesse would be back any minute. He'd needed to dress up in something other than a tank top and shorts. I guessed now would be a good time for me to do the same. After putting on a summer dress and sandals, I plunked down on my bed with the suitcase. I stared at it like I was willing it open. I knew I shouldn’t look inside. I knew I needed to get to the party. I glanced out my bedroom window, and watched as my sister and her friends played a game of badminton. I looked back to the suitcase. I drummed my fingers against the top.
"Just one more peek. Until Jesse gets here."
I flipped the latches and pushed the lid open. At once, the dusty smell of the old house hit me. The scrapbook sat on top of the other contents. Was it me, or was it glowing? I rubbed my eyes. Could be a remainder of the fog in my head from my fainting spell. I pulled out the scrapbook, laying it gently on my bed.
The binding cracked as I opened it. I flicked past the pages that I had been looking at, feeling the presence of fear even though I wasn't actually looking at the photos. I'd skip those, and move to something different.
A new heading caught my eye.
Things in Other Places.
Still a little shaken remembering the dark feelings of the photos before it, I reluctantly inspected the pictures. A train station. And the distinct feeling that I'd seen it before. Somewhere.
(to be continued)
By Darci Cole
Blinding sunlight glinted off the large window of the train station. Colin lowered his camera, smiling at the beauty he knew that shot would capture.
“Colin! Colin, look!” his brother Dennis hissed in his ear. Colin turned to look and felt his stomach turn to knots.
Daphne Greengrass was smiling at him.
He swallowed hard, his skin turning from pale to pink in an instant. She waved a couple of fingers before one of her friends saw, and snatched her arm down. Then Daphne blushed, more out of shame at being caught, Colin suspected, than of seeing him.
“She’ll come ‘round soon enough,” Dennis said. “You know she likes you.”
“Even if that’s true,” Colin hissed, “how would everyone react knowing I fancy a Slytherin? Especially the way things are?”
Dennis frowned. “I know, but she’s a nice Slytherin. Not like that Pansy girl. At least Daphne smiles and says nice things.”
Colin remembered his father’s words about Arthur Weasley putting his life at risk to get Colin and Dennis off the muggle-born registry.
Keep your heads down, their father had said. Keep out of sight, and don’t do anything to make them suspect your blood status. You’ll be fine.
Colin stole one last look at Daphne, who was pulling her dark waves of hair into a ponytail. He had a bad feeling about this school year. “Come on, Dennis. We’d better get a seat.”
Colin nearly dropped his sandwich when the train lurched to a halt.
“What’s going on?”
“Why have we stopped?”
Colin looked out the window of their dining cabin, but couldn’t see anyone in the surrounding fields. Students all around him turned their heads left and right to find the source of the problem.
“I’ll bet I know what’s going on,” Ginny Weasley muttered. Beside her, Neville Longbottom nodded, a grim look on his face.
A large man burst through the doors, looking around furiously. He stared at each face in turn, his wand held at the ready. Colin blanched when Neville stood to face the man.
“He’s not here,” Neville said. His voice was low, and more ominous than Colin had ever heard.
The man glared. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
Neville shrugged. “You don’t. But why would he be here? It’s the first place you stupid Death Eaters would look. Of course he’s not going to be here.”
With one last look around the cabin, the Death Eater grunted and left.
Colin leaned back in his seat, an ache forming in his chest.
He turned. Daphne stopped next to him in the line for Potions. He saw her friends move on, sneering in his direction.
“H-hi, Daphne.” He blinked furiously, his heart hammering in his chest.
“I heard you’re a whiz at potions?”
He smiled, trying to be humble. He was the best in his year, and Professor Slughorn had praised his abilities on multiple occasions “Er… I’m all right.”
“Would you tutor me?” she asked quickly. He got the feeling she was trying to do it before she changed her mind.
“But… you’re a year ahead of me in N.E.W.T.’s. Surely – ”
“Oh but I’m terrible,” she said, grasping his sleeve. “I could really use the practice. Please?”
He wasn’t going to argue. “Of course. How about Monday night?”
She beamed up at him and nodded. “I’ll see you then.” And then she was gone.
Every few minutes, the sleeve of Daphne’s robe swished against Colin’s. Each time, he had to take a deep breath to calm his nerves.
“What’s next?” she asked, leaning toward the book they shared between them.
He cleared his throat as her hair wafted a sweet fruity scent over him. Pineapple. “Er, we need to add three scoops of powdered root of Asphodel, then stir clockwise for five minutes, keeping it on low heat.”
She turned away to get the jar from her bag of ingredients. Colin took another breath before reaching to his own bag.
“Colin? I don’t have any. I must have used it all in class. Can I borrow some from you?”
“Sure,” he said, pulling his jar out. When he turned, she was right before him. He nearly jumped back, but managed to keep it to a flinch.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Yes, of course,” he said, removing the lid and offering her the jar.
She took it slowly, watching his face, which he tried to keep expressionless despite the rush he felt at her touch. He was sure his look betrayed him when she gave a small smile before turning away.
And this was only their first lesson.
Colin stood next to the stone gargoyle, watching left and right down the seventh floor corridor. Behind him and above, he could hear Neville, Ginny, and Luna working a pick into the lock on Snape’s office. How they’d managed to find the password, he didn’t dare ask.
He heard a click. “Got it!” Ginny whispered.
“Hurry!” Colin hissed.
The three tumbled into the office, and Colin heard them bustling around. He swallowed hard, and did another check left and right. His sweaty hand clutched tightly around his wand. He was shaking.
“How much longer?” he asked.
“Not long now,” Neville said. But Colin could tell from his voice they were having a difficult time of it.
“Do you need my help?”
“Oh no,” Luna said, sounding completely unfazed. “We’ll be done in no time.”
Footsteps sounded to his right, and Colin panicked. “S-someone’s coming,” he whispered.
“What?” Neville asked, his head poking out the doorway above.
Colin’s heart was racing so fast, he couldn’t form words. He managed to look up at Neville and point down the corridor. Neville got the message, and his face blanched. He swung a hand at Colin. “Go! Get out of here! We’ll be all right!”
Colin didn’t want to leave his friends, but he thought of Dennis, and Daphne, and his own questionable blood status. As quietly as he could, he scuttled to a niche in the wall, a little farther down from the gargoyle. The footsteps soon revealed a person, Professor Snape. Since Colin had just been standing there, the gargoyle hadn’t had time to move back to its guard post, and Snape looked around with narrowed eyes.
A clunk from the office drew his attention, and he hurried up the steps. Colin listened as Snape, rather than yelling like any normal teacher would, softly described the horrors that would befall their families if Neville, Ginny, and Luna continued to defy him. Colin slumped down against the wall, his head on his knees.
Subconsciously, he rubbed at the knot in his chest.
He moved slightly to the left. Then back to the right. Then shifted the bag on his back. Daphne would be here any minute, and everything had to be perfect.
“Three months, three months,” he whispered, shuffling his feet. The sound echoed through the entry hall. He couldn’t believe it. He’d been tutoring Daphne twice a week for three whole months, and she was constantly sending him hints that he didn’t pick up on until after their lessons. Hints that she wanted to be with him. His close call with Snape left him feeling terrible. His friends were sent into the Dark Forest when they were caught. Colin chided himself. He should’ve been braver. He should’ve stuck up for them, or led Snape away, but having been petrified in his first year, he didn’t fancy any kind of punishment. Now, Christmas was coming, and there was something he had to do with his remaining courage before Daphne left for the break.
He turned when he heard footsteps coming up from the dungeons. She appeared, smiling.
“Evening, Daphne.” He nodded
She stopped when they were only a few inches apart, and he thought he might bolt. “So, why aren’t we meeting in the potions room?”
He grinned, his nerves a bundle of knots in his stomach. “I thought we’d do something fun tonight. Come with me.”
Without thinking, he took her hand and led her out the huge doors into the dim snow-covered grounds.
“Colin, wait! What if Professor Snape – ”
“Snape’s in his office and Filch is cleaning the bathrooms, I made sure. Trust me.”
She shook her head but followed.
He didn’t stop until they were hidden behind heavy canvas of the now unused Quiddich stadium. He dropped his bag, and took hers as well. Then he stared at her.
She was so lovely. Her dark hair fell around her face in soft waves, making the sly smile on her lips stand out. He knew why she’d been put into Slytherin. Her mind was sharp, and she really did use any means to get what she wanted. The way she looked at him now, he knew she’d been waiting for him to come ‘round to this.
He put one shaking hand to her face, leaned close, and pressed his lips to hers.
“Colin! Dennis! How are yeh?” Hagrid’s booming voice echoed in the afternoon air.
“All right, Hagrid, and you?” Colin said.
“Fine, fine. Come on in, everyone else’s here.”
The brothers entered to see the remaining members of the DA: Neville, Ginny, and Michael Corner, sitting at Hagrid’s table. The absence of Luna still hit Colin hard. He rubbed at his chest.
Colin took a seat next to Michael and Dennis next to him. Hagrid sat, still towering over them, and began to speak.
“I hereby call to order the first official Support Harry Potter Party. Tonight we’ll talk about Harry and nuthin’ else.”
“Have you heard anything from the Order, Hagrid?” Ginny asked, leaning forward on the table.
“Not much. ‘S far as I can tell no one knows where he is.”
“Well, no news is good news if you ask me,” Michael said, crossing his arms.
“We all agree on that,” Neville nodded. “I think Harry’s done a brilliant job staying safe. But for us, we need to keep standing up to Snape. He and the Carrow’s have three first years locked up in the dungeons. I think we should get them out.”
“How?” Dennis asked, sitting straighter.
“We’ll need Filch’s keys,” Ginny said.
“And a distraction,” Colin added.
“We can be a distraction!” Dennis said, looking to Colin. “You and Daphne could – ”
“I’m NOT putting Daphne in danger,” Colin said.
Dennis wilted in his seat.
“I can get Filch’s keys. I know he keeps them in a drawer in his office,” Michael volunteered. “Then I’ll run to the dungeon and free those kids.”
“The rest of us will have to keep Filch and Snape busy,” Ginny said. “But I think we should wait until after break. They’ll let them go to go home, won’t they?”
“I hope so,” Neville sighed.
“You lot jus’ be careful,” Hagrid said. “You know they’re not the forgivin’ types – ”
He cut off as footsteps sounded outside the hut.
“Hagrid,” a rough voice singsong-ed in. “We know you’re in there. Having a little party, are we?”
“Out,” Hagrid whispered. “Out the back and hide.”
Colin shoved Dennis off the seat and toward the back door. As soon as they were out, he heard Hagrid speak. “Amycus, Alecto. What can I do for yeh?”
“You’re in trouble, big fella,” Amycus said. “We know you were having a gathering tonight.”
“Where’d the little brats run off to?” Alecto’s high screech carried on the wind, making Colin shiver.
“We’ve got to get away, run!” Neville whispered.
They ran, ducked low behind Hagrid’s fences, around the edge of the Dark forest, the Black Lake, and back to the school. Checking around every corner, they made their way back to Gryffindor tower, leaving Michael at the third floor to go his separate way to Ravenclaw.
Once inside the common room, Neville went straight to bed, followed closely by Dennis. Colin slouched in a chair, rubbing at his chest.
“Are you all right, Colin?” Ginny asked.
He nodded. “Just worried. We still don’t know what happened to Luna.”
Ginny nodded, sitting on a couch nearby. “But we’ve got to keep trying, right?”
“We do. But it’s getting harder and harder, isn’t it?”
She nodded. “I just… I have to believe.” Her voice became firm. “I have to believe he’s out there.”
“I’m sure he is,” he said. “And that’s exactly why things are getting worse.”
“Colin, I need to speak to you,” Neville said.
Colin and Daphne turned in the grass. Neville looked tired, worn out. Instead of asking Colin to stand, or Daphne to leave, Neville plopped down next to them.
He stared at Daphne for a moment and said, “Can I trust you to be silent about something?”
Neville sighed. “Ginny didn’t come back after break.”
“Word is, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were caught by snatchers and taken to the Malfoy’s. Since they know Ron’s with them now, that puts the whole Weasley family in danger, so they’ve gone into hiding.”
Colin rubbed his face with a shaking hand. “At least she’s safe,” he whispered.
He felt a hand on his back, and turned to see Daphne’s eyes filled with concern. She looked from him to Neville and said, “How can I help?”
Neville smiled weakly. “Well, we do need help freeing some first years from the dungeons.”
Colin’s hands were cold against the stone. He frowned down at Daphne who stood between him and the wall. She leaned against it, but her posture was stiff. She held her ground.
“Please don’t make me do this,” Colin begged.
“It’s my choice,” she said. “You’ve done so much to help, and I’ve done nothing. The least I can do is help get some first years out of pain.”
His brow pinched, and his chest ached horribly. “All right.”
They stood in silence, waiting for their signal. Just as Colin was about to second guess himself again, Michael Corner came around the bend, running toward them.
“I’ve got the keys. Neville’s being lectured by Snape, but Filch is right on my tail. He’ll stop when he sees you though.” He winked. “Just make it good, all right?” And he was gone.
Colin could hear Filch’s hobbling gait coming nearer. Taking a deep breath, he looked down at Daphne. Before he could say a thing, she wrapped her hands around his neck and pressed her mouth to his, hard. She was everything. Her hair tickled his face, his hands held tight around her back. She kissed him like she’d never kissed him before, and he suddenly realized how out of his league she really was.
Then he was yanked backward, and thrown into the opposite wall. Daphne screamed.
“None of that, little ones,” Amycus growled. Colin saw Alecto and Filch hurrying past, toward where Michael was still working.
“Thought you could distract us, eh? Well, it might’ve worked on Filch, but not us. CRUCIO!”
Colin arched on the floor, a scream he didn’t know he had escaped his mouth.
“No! No, please, please stop!” Daphne screamed.
“You’re lucky you’re not a blood-traitor like this one, dearie,” Amycus growled, releasing the spell. “But I wouldn’t snog ‘im like that if I were you. Might get contaminated.”
Colin curled up on the floor, his breath heaving, while Amycus stalked off.
Daphne knelt over him. “Colin? Colin, please say you’re all right, I’m so sorry.”
“What are you apologizing for?” He squinted up at her, forcing a grin. “That kiss was worth it.”
Her smile was one of relief as she helped him stand.
Colin leaned against her slightly. “Let’s go get some pumpkin juice from the kitchens,” he said. “I’m parched.”
Colin sat on the floor across from the Room of Requirement. Barnabus the Barmy hooted behind him in his never ending attempt to teach trolls to dance. Neville was behind that wall, Colin was sure of it. Before he could be caught, he stood and made his way down to dinner.
“Hello, Colin,” Daphne whispered as she sat next to him in the library. He smiled at her and leaned over for a quick kiss before Madame Pince could catch it. As he pulled away, he noticed her eyes were slightly red and puffy at the edges.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
She was shaking. Leaning forward, she whispered. “I just got a letter. My father’s been recruited by the Death Eaters. Colin, I’m so frightened.”
He took her hand and held it tight. He wanted to do more, but here in the library they’d be given detention for sure.
“Daphne, listen. It’ll be all right.” But even as he said it, he wasn’t sure. “Come with me.” He packed his bag and carried hers as well, leading her out of the library. Reaching a tapestry, he ducked behind it and into a hidden corridor he usually used to get to Gryffindor Tower. He dropped their bags and hugged her. He wasn’t sure what else he could do besides offer a shoulder to cry on. When the Death Eaters took Luna from the train after Christmas, he hoped that would be the worst. Then Ginny hadn’t returned after Easter, Michael Corner was tortured for letting those first years go, and Neville disappeared shortly after, Colin didn’t know what else could be done.
“Colin, what if he has to hurt people?” she asked, looking up at him. “My parents aren’t like the Death Eaters. They may not like muggle-borns much, but they’d never hurt them.” She let out a little gasp when she realized what she’d said, and to whom. “Oh Colin, I’m sorry. I didn’t – ”
“It’s fine,” he said, laughing it off. “I’ve been programmed to hate Slytherins my whole wizarding life, so we’re both out of our element here.”
She threw her arms around his neck and he let his thin arms wrap around her. They stayed close for a few moments, before she pulled away.
“Have you,” she lowered her voice, “have you heard anything about Harry Potter?”
Colin sighed. “Not for a while.”
They were interrupted by the sound of people running around the corridors. Colin motioned for Daphne to stay behind, and pulled the tapestry aside slightly.
He found students darting left and right, some shouting for their friends.
“Did you hear?”
“It was him!”
“Was it really?”
“They’re saying it was Potter!”
“On a dragon!”
Colin turned and took Daphne by the hand. “Sounds like something’s happened.”
He watched as Daphne made her way out of the Great Hall with the rest of the Slytherins. She looked back and caught his eye once.
She staggered, as though she wanted to leave the queue. Her friend grabbed her by the arm, and she had to turn back to follow the crowd.
Neville put a hand on Colin’s shoulder. “She’ll be all right, mate.”
“I know,” Colin said, feeling very small. It wasn’t Daphne he was worried about.
He rubbed at the ache in his chest. It never seemed to let up anymore.
Spells flew everywhere, Dennis was right on his heels.
“Stupefy!” he shouted at a Death Eater.
“Reducto!” Dennis called behind him.
The man flew backward, slamming into the stairs that led to Hogwarts’ oak front doors, and slumped to the ground.
The brothers ran toward the stairs, trying to avoid being hit by anything. Colin swore at himself. It had been stupid of him to think he could sneak back without Dennis following. He had to get him to the Room of Requirement.
Almost to the doors, he yanked Dennis up and prayed the way would be clear.
“Not so fast, boys!” a screeching voice cried out from behind them.
Colin whipped around to see Bellatrix Lestrange’s wand pointed at his chest.
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