The Order of Things

Chapter 27

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Erroneous Timeline

This was destined to be the detentions of all detention. It was a detention that we should have no part in. And yet here we are, thanks to our own stupidity. Or my stupidity, because I am supposed to know when things happen. At least things regarding the golden trio. Fred and George flanked my sides as we walked out of the castle and started the trek to Hagrid's hut. Each of us had our perspective hats on our heads. The air was cold and crisp. The usual fare for an early spring night in Scotland. In the original detention, the detention from the first book, it would have been slightly warmer. Since it was supposed to happen sometime after the Easter Holidays! Not now. Something must have happened to skew the timeline. But what? The biggest thing we changed was Pettigrew, but theoretically, that shouldn't have any effect until year three and Harry's summer vacations. We hadn't done anything to Philosopher's Stone storyline. At least, not yet.

I shivered and scrunched up my shoulders as we trailed after Filch and his glowing lantern. Lee walked ahead of us. He had the four of the five first years in hand. Trying to convince them that just because we were going into the forbidden forest didn't mean they were in danger. His line of logic is that the creatures in the forbidden forest preferred munching on Slytherins rather than Gryffindors. However, Harry, Ron, Neville, and Hermione were not convinced. That was another change. In this version of events, Ron had not been bitten by Hagrid's baby dragon. So, he did not end up in the hospital wing. Meaning that he participated in getting the dragon to Charlie's friends for its delivery to Romania. It was a hard fact to stomach. My baby brother was marching into something I didn't want him anywhere near. Hell, the three of us were marching off somewhere I didn't want any of us to be near. I sighed, Damn it all. Another thing was that Malfoy was no longer the only Slytherin on this expedition. Thanks to me, Pucey was also serving detention. He walked behind Filch and in front of Lee and the Gryffindor first-years. Malfoy was practically hanging onto his robes, though he was trying to be subtle about it. Pucey appeared to be annoyed. I'd be too if I had to listen to Filch go on and on about the good old days when he could hang students by their toes, and put up with Malfoy crying about potential werewolf encounters. Lee's comments weren't helping in that aspect. The only reason why I wasn't annoyed, was because I knew what was potentially waiting within the tree line. The timeline was different now. So, maybe Quirrell wouldn't be out and about tonight to feed his parasite. But I couldn't be sure. I was also worried about Adrian. The golden trio didn't have any important knowledge in their heads yet, so we weren't concerned about their minds being broken into. Fred, George, and I have our impenetrable hats. But Adrian, occlumency skills or not, had information that was better kept under wraps.

Hagrid was waiting for us outside of his hut. He had his crossbow slung across his shoulders, and Fang panting at his side. "Bout time," Hagrid said once Filch was in hearing distance. Us students stopped away behind him. This was defiantly different that the type of manual labor we usually get assigned in detention. I wondered what the logic was behind punishing students by sending them into an out-of-bounds area. Probably a plot device in all honesty. "I wanted to get started earlier" Hagrid went on to explain as he took his time looking at each of us. He didn't linger on the Slytherins. But he nodded in the direction of Lee, myself, and my triplets before turning to his favorite students. "Ron, Hermione, Harry, all right?" he asked the Gryffindor first-years but left out Neville. I think this might actually be Neville's first experience with Hagrid. I wasn't terribly sure. But judging by the state of Neville's shaking form, I don't think he minds not being included with his classmates.

However, Filch was not pleased with Hagrid's common curtsies. "Don't be friendly with this lot, Hagrid", Filch reprimanded the half-giant. "They're here to be punished".

But Hagrid had his own thoughts on the matter. "You were late 'cause you've been lecturin' them. It's not your place".

If there was one thing Fred, George, and I knew it was that Filch hated to be told about what he could and couldn't do. Instead of replying to Hagrid, Filch turned to sneer at all of us students. "I'll be back at first light". His yellow teeth gleamed in the dim light of his lantern. "For what's left of them," he said before walking past us and towards the castle.

Hagrid sighed, with a shake of his big beard at the caretaker's retreating back. But he didn't show his disapproval for long. "A'right you lot, come over here for a second. And I'll tell you what we're doin'".

All of us Gryffindors and Pucey had no trouble stepping closer to the gatekeeper. Although Neville was shaking something fierce. If we weren't about to enter the forbidden forest, I would have accused the boy of having low blood sugar. Malfoy stayed put, almost with a dejected sort of expression when Pucey left him so easily. It kind of made me wonder what Malfoy would have turned out like if he had an older sibling. Probably still egocentric, and arrogant, but maybe not as spoiled. With Pucey looking anywhere but at him, Malfoy turned to Hagrid. "I'm not going in there", he declared with panic leaking into his Slytherin bravado. In front of me, I caught Harry and Ron exchanging pleased looks. It probably felt like karma that the boy that turned them in feared this detention.

But Hagrid had spent all his patience on Filch. "If you're not comin' go and pack". He said to Malfoy. "Correct your wrong, or leave Hogwarts".

Malfoy had a look on his face like he wanted to argue further. But Pucey was shooting him a look over his shoulder. One that actually had the younger Slytherin straightening his spine. Curious. Cowed, Malfoy looked down before he scurried a couple of steps to Pucey's side. Pucey sighed but didn't say anything as we all looked back at Hagrid.

"Right the", Hagrid said, all business. "listen up, 'cause it's dangerous and I don't want no one takin' risks". If he looked directly at Fred and George when he said that, no one reacted. This detention did seem counterintuitive. Hagrid had spent the last three years chasing Fred, George, and Lee away from the forbidden forest, and now he was letting them go in as some sort of punishment. Holding his lantern away from his body and in the direction of the treeline, Hagrid directed our line of sight. "See that silvery stuff? That's unicorn blood. Somethin' been hunting unicorns. I found one dead a couple of days ago. So, we're gonna try to find the poor thing and do what we can".

Neville gulped loudly, but we all ignored it. "What if whatever is hunting unicorns finds us first?" Ron asked. He was standing next to Harry, but slowly twitching backward, where George was standing. That was the thing about Fred's, George's, and Ron's relationship. Fred and George teased and messed with Ron mercilessly, but when it came to outside threats, they were good big brothers. And Ron knew that.

"You'll be fine" Hagrid assured. Or at least, he tried to assure. "As long as you stick to the paths". He looked at each of us as if coming up with a plan of action on the spot. "We're gonna form groups. And follow different paths. It's a good thing, I suppose, you older students being here. We can 'ave one-third year to every first year. Let's see" Hagrid muttered to himself as he surveyed us. "We'll keep the Slytherins together". Malfoy looked pleased; Adrian looked like he would have preferred to go into the forbidden forest alone. "Ron with Jordan, I think", Hagrid continued without sparing the two housemates another look.

I stepped forward on the last one. I would prefer it if Ron stayed with me or Fred and George. Cannon wise, Ron wasn't supposed to be here in the first place, and I'd never be able to look Mum in the eyes if I got her youngest son killed by a monster in the forbidden forest. But Fred grabbed my arm and held me back. "Don't embarrass him", he whispered in my ear.

"At least, not in front of Malfoy", George chimed in as he whispered into my other ear. And they were right, even if I didn't like it.

At my pained expression, Fred whispered, "Lee's not going to let anything happen".

"Misters Weasleys can partner with Hermione and Neville", Hagrid said, unaware of my inner turmoil. "And that leaves Miss Weasley with Harry". Hagrid nodded, proud of himself. He probably never had to manage this many students before. I suppose it was good practice before he comes a professor Ron's third year. Hagrid squared Fred and George with a contemplative look as he thought through his plan. "You four", he said after a moment, gesturing to Hermione, Neville, Fred, George. "Will come with me". Hagrid turned his whole body towards Lee and Ron. "You two will walk the perimeter of the tree line. See if the unicorn has wandered out of the forest". That made me feel better. Perhaps Ron wouldn't have to enter the forest until his second year after all. Ron didn't seem all too thrilled to go off with Lee. Not that he has had many experiences with Fred and George's best friend, but just the fact that he was their friend was probably enough to cause his apprehension. Hagrid nods his head to the rest of us. "That leaves you four to take the other path". Us four referring to Malfoy, Pucey, Harry and myself.

Of course, Malfoy wasn't happy with the arrangement. "Then, I want Fang to come with us". He said, gesturing to the boarhound.

Hagrid shrugged. "Alright. But you should know, he's a coward".

Our three groups separated not long after. We had directions to send up red sparks if we ran into anything amiss or any trouble. The third-years were also tasked with keeping an eye on the first-years. There wasn't much time to dwell on what was awaiting us in the forest if there was anything at all. As lee and Ron started to walk away with their wands alit, I called after them with a little bit of panic seeping into my voice. "Lee?" I couldn't help it. Ron wasn't supposed to be here. Neither was any of us third-years, but still. Fred and George have skills they can use to keep themselves safe, and they knew what could be in the forest. Ron was just learning magic, and clueless.

Lee looked over his shoulder at the sound of his name. His dark eyes found mine, and he smiled. 'I got this' he mouthed, before turning back around and slinging his wand free arm over Ron's shoulders. Even though Ron immediately tried to throw the older boy off him, it did make me feel better. Thanks, Lee. I thought as I turned to my own group. "Stay on the path" Hagrid reminded us as he led his group in the opposite direction. Fred and George each had a first-year underwing.

"Right," I said, with my heart leaping in my throat as I looked down at Harry. The first-year Gryffindor had moved closer to my side when we had started to split up. I pulled the pink Sherlock Holmes hat down until it was a snug fit. At least I had this to protect me. If Quirrell and you-know-how were really out there, poor Adrian had nothing to protect him. But it's best not to focus on that. "Stay close to me, yeah?" I asked Harry. Of course, it would be my luck that I'd get paired with the first-year that attracts trouble. But I would do what I could to keep him out of harm's way. Even though, that is probably impossible.

Harry gave me a half-smile and nodded as he looked up at me. He had his wand clenched in his right hand, and other than looking a little pale, Harry was unshaken. This kid. No self-preservation. Pucey leads the way with Fang on his heels, with his wand raised to allow Lumos to light our path. He was probably only leading to keep Malfoy from clinging to his robes. "Weasley", he called over his shoulder, ignoring the younger students. "Keep up". This was going to be a long night.

This is wizard hell. There's no other way to describe it. Trouncing through the forbidden forest in the middle of the night in the company of Pucey, Malfoy, and Harry was never how I wanted to spend my time. Malfoy couldn't take more than three steps without throwing barbed words at Harry and I. None of his comments are very original. All of his comments revolving Harry had to do with his scar or the fame Harry didn't want. And he seemed to be under the impression that I was some sort of gold-digger. Lucky for Harry and me, Pucey had no patience for Malfoy. "Malfoy", he hissed after only a few steps into the forest. He turned around, with Lumos lighting up his face in a frightening way. "We are walking through a forest full of magical beasts in the middle of the night. A forest that contains something fast and smart enough to kill a unicorn. So, for the love of Merlin, keep your mouth shut and focus on our surroundings!" He sounded like a territorial alley cat.

Harry and I looked at each other and stifled our sniggers. It was a treat for the both of us to see Malfoy get a tongue lashing from another student. The boy did seem completely startled by Adrian's reprimand. I doubt he has ever had an equal take him in hand like that before. Though, I guess Pucey really isn't his equal. He is an upperclassman after all. "About time" Harry muttered to me. And I had to hold back more than just sniggers. It looked like sassy Harry did exist during his first year. Based on the books, I thought we wouldn't see that side of him until his third year. I ended up bending at the waist and holding my stomach in the effort to keep quiet. To laugh out loud now, might just undo all of Adrian's hard work and cause Malfoy to open his mouth again.

"Weasley", Pucey barked in the same tone of voice he had used on Malfoy. My laughter died in my throat and I straightened up immediately. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Pucey was a drill sergeant in his past life. However, when I looked up at him, Adrian was looking off into the forest. Giving me a good look at his slightly red cheeks. "You and Potter should walk closer to with the rest of us". He muttered; his voice transformed from one for consternation to one of reluctant concern. Aww, he does care.

Coughing a little, I used a free hand to push Harry closer to the Slytherins. "Sure", I agreed; feeling my face heat up. For a moment, the only sounds were Fang's panting and the wind running through the trees of the forbidden forest as the two first-years stared at us third-years in turn. It took Adrian abruptly turning around and walking down the path to end that little moment. Malfoy followed close behind, almost getting tangled with Fang.

It seems that we weren't quite over our spat and make-up session in the trophy room. I wonder how long it would be until we stopped being awkward around each other. Harry and I followed a step behind Malfoy, walking a lot closer to the others than we were before. "Holly", Harry whispered at me as we wandered deeper into the forest. I hummed at him to tell him that he could continue. "Are you… Are you two dating?"

I almost stopped walking again. A part of me wanted to deny it. Reflexively, I wanted to refuse that there was even a chance that Pucey and I could be anything other than friends. But another part of me recognized a golden opportunity to mess with the boy who lived. "It's much worse than that, I'm afraid". I said as if I was delivering news of a departed loved one. "Pucey's under the impression that we are unofficially engaged". Harry's green eyes widened marginally, but he didn't say anything. Though when he looked forward and stared at Pucey's back, I think he was looking at the older Slytherin in a new light.

We must have walked for another hour, deeper and deeper into the forbidden forest, before Harry spotted silvery blood. His wand free hand reached out and tugged on my robe sleeve. "Look," he said, also drawing the attention of the others.

"It seems to be a trail". Adrian reasoned once he caught on to what Harry was seeing. His comment leads us to see more splashes of silver, shining blood. Thicker splashes of blood. At a standstill, we follow the spots of blood to a larger, gleaming white object lying on the forest floor. Gulping, Adrian inched forward, with the rest of us on his trail. It only took a few inches and then we could make out the form of a dead unicorn. My breath hitched at the sight as my eyes started to moisten. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen. Not even my own death was this awful. How could something so beautiful, so pure, so innocent just be slain like this?

"Are you crying?" Malfoy accused me. But his voice was so high pitched, I think he was just trying to push his feelings off on me.

"I'm a girl, and there's a dead unicorn right in front of me. I am allowed to cry". I said as Harry took a cautious step forward before, I could stop him. He made it past Adrian before anyone, including Fang, noticed the hooded figure slithering out of the shadows and over the Unicorn's corpse. Craaap! I drawled out in my head as shivers shoot up my spine. Any hope I had of this timeline being different vanished as the cloaked figure swept over the corpse and lowered its head so that it might consume the unicorn's blood. This was so much more gruesome to see in person than it was to read about in the books. My stomach turned at the sight. Especially, as I thought about how Quirrell's body must be bending in order for him to be able to allow you-know-who to drink. Was Quirrell a contortionist?

A lot of things happened at once before I was able to move again. Harry let out a bloodcurdling scream as he staggered backward into Pucey. Meanwhile, Draco let out a terrified yelp and bolted with Fang following suit. Not that I expected the Malfoy heir to do anything different. In the original story, a centaur would have come to our aid. But this time, the cloaked figure rose, with silver blood dripping out from under its hood. It started to glide towards us at a pace that my agitated heartbeat. With a tremor in my hand, I raised my wand and set off a series of red sparks. I used my free hand to reach out to the first-year. "H-harry" I called when I realized that I was too far away to grab the boy. But Harry continued to scream. His scar was probably burning too much for him to regain his senses.

Adrian, at least, still had his senses to him. He grabbed Harry by his hunched over shoulders and hauled the boy back. It seemed just a little more distance between Harry and you-know-who was all that was needed for Harry to stop screaming. "Get out of here", Adrian yelled at Harry and I. "Let's head back to the grounds!". He was making a logical decision; run and live another day. Unfortunately, Adrian's interference only served to draw attention to himself. Once Harry was out of his Arms, Adrian gasped and clutched his head with both hands. Despite his wand being in one of his hands.

"Adrian!" I called, as Harry ran to me, face twisted in pain.

But Pucey didn't respond to me. He turned so his back was no longer facing the hooded figure. "Get out of my head", He growled.

My eyes widen. No. I thought we were done with all of this. The hooded figure glided closer to Adrian to the point that there were about ten feet between them. "Harry, run and find help!" I yelled at the first-year as I pushed him in the direction we had come from. I had set up red sparks. So, maybe he would run into Hagrid, if not Firenze. But Harry didn't move.

"Black" you-know-who rasped in a malicious hiss. What did he say? "Regulus Black". My blood ran cold. So, you-know-who was able to piece together the images he had seen of Pucey's past life. And he knew. Knew that Regulus had betrayed him. I had to do something. Leaving Harry, I run a couple of steps forward with my shaking wand raised. However, I had no idea what I should cast.

"Leave him alone". I yelled at Quirrell. Because in my mind, that was all I could allow the cloaked figure to be. If I was honest with myself and allowed myself to recognize you-know-who for who he was, I wouldn't have been able to yell at him. Briefly, I glanced back at Adrian. A small stream of blood was trickling down his nose, and his expression was vacant. Did you-know-who already get past his occlumency shields? "Adrian" I yelled at him. "Try to push him out!" Of course, I don't actually know how occlumency works so my words were useless to him. If he could even hear me.

"Traitor", the hooded figure hissed as it slowly inched closer. "Regulus Black you betrayed me". And Adrian dropped until he was a crumpled heap on the forest floor. In a matter of seconds, he started to convulse, looking like a puppet that was having its strings jerked in an unforgiving manner.

"Adrian!" I yelled again. However, I knew what I needed to do once I finished yelling. Adrian didn't have a hat. He didn't have an impenetrable hat to keep you-know-who from shredding his mind to bits. Despite my instincts screaming at me not to do so, I turned away from the hooded figure and dropped to my knees beside the seizing boy. Behind us, Harry was still standing by, watching. "Go get help", I yelled at him again before I ripped my ridiculous pink hat off of my head and jammed it on Adrian's head. It took a moment, but he stilled and lay like a log amongst the fallen leaves of the forest.

"Holly", he croaked in a worn voice as confused eyes studied my face in the dark. At the moment he was probably unsure if he was Adrian or Regulus. But at least he was no longer convulsing. My relief was short-lived. It started with a flash of memory. Jessie stood in front of a full-length mirror running a brush through her hair. And then I was back on in the forbidden forest. Hunched over Pucey. But, who am I? Was my name Holly or Jessie? Another flash, and there's Jessie in the arms of some man, their faces pressed together. Stop! Stop! I yelled in my head. But it did no good. Holly helping Mum in the kitchen. Jessie taking fresh muffins out of an oven. Holly sharing her class notes with Pucey in the hallway. Knife. Jessie painting her toenails in her living room. Blood dripping off the knife. It came to a point that everything was so jumbled the only things I could remember or focus on was searing pain and blood… blood…blood…