The excitement of last night had calmed down, but Daphne had yet to properly gather herself. She hadn't slept since it happened, despite her best efforts. Her head was killing her, and not as a result of the alcohol. She was also shivering. Whether it was the nerves, or if the corridor she was sat in was freezing, she couldn't tell, either way she lacked the effort needed. to pull up her socks or tighten her robes.
She'd done her best to keep away from people. The dungeons weren't safe for her, she couldn't face seeing anyone from last night and was circumspect about what they would do if she did. But she soon found no matter where she tried to escape in the castle she received nothing but judgmental eyes and whispers. The hall she'd eventually found was entirely empty, outside from the light echoing of a hammer being struck against a wall.
Educational Decree Number Twenty-eight
Dolores Jane Umbridge (High Inquisitor) has replaced Albus Dumbledore
as Head of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
The notices had gone up immediately after Dumbledore's disappearance, but that had not explained how every single person in the castle seemed to know the intimate details of Daphne's breakdown so quickly. She put the blame on Pansy. She couldn't have confessed in front of a worse person, the prying brat probably made sure every human, ghost and portrait she'd come across knew every intimate detail her confession. Trust her to turn a night in between friends into a lynch mob.
The second anything became public knowledge it was impossible to take it back, no matter how exaggerated or untrue the claim was. That being said it was surprising how accurately the tale had been retold over the student body, bar a few exaggerations.
Albus Dumbledore was gone. Dolores Umbridge was back. Harry Potter was running an illegal duelling club. Harry Potter cheated on Ginny Weasley. Harry Potter was in a relationship with Daphne Greengrass.
A wave of sickness swept over her. The beating of the hammer was not helping her headache. As much as she'd love the curse the ladder out from under Filch, she failed to muster the drive to do anything about it.
The news had somehow gotten back to her father, because of course it had. She didn't know what he knew and didn't care to think about it. She'd received one letter hours after Dumbledore's expulsion and then a howler in the dead of night, both of which she had neglected to open. She was still getting used to being the scum of the school, she didn't even want to think about what her home-life had in store. There was no rush anyway, as he'd likely be filling the request to pull her from school any time now, if he hadn't already.
There was undeniably no way back from this. She'd well and truly blown it.
Five years worth of image building and it had taken a mere two months to destroy. She had worked hard to build a reputation among her classmates, she was an up-and-coming prodigy, she was no-nonsense, her studies came first and she was going to go on to do great things. Now she was the girl who betrayed everyone and doomed the entire school. The Ministry now had total and unrestricted control of the castle, something which they were quick to take advantage of.
Daphne's best and absolute only chance was to try and salvage the one thing she had left.
In the distance a muffled timer went off, followed by the mass mattering of footsteps.
The doors to the Great Hall opened and students began moving out. Gone were the usually upbeat attitudes of the Hogwarts students, these ones were sluggish and miserable. A few of them appeared to be crying, and every one of them was gripping their hand in some tight manner. They'd just finished Umbridge's detention, an act which spoke for itself.
Daphne stood and made her way through the crowd. Most of the students were zoned out. The few that recognized her made no effort to make their disdain for her known, though she did catch one particularly ugly glare coming from Granger.
She didn't know how many of Dumbledore's Army managed to escape during the skirmish, her efforts were spent trying to cease her housemates attack. It hadn't ended up mattering in the long run, as parchments identifying every member of the organisation had been found in the following cleanup, not allowing any of them to get off scott-free. All except her, mind. The knowledge she was the only one involved in the group -as little as that involvement was- to be let off without punishment was not lost on her.
One conversation and she could explain everything. It wasn't her fault, she'd just been an idiot. She'd taken a chance and thought she could have a shot at a normal life. She let her guard down. Explaining herself would do nothing to solve the situation she'd thrown them into, but if there was anything she could do to not make him hate her, she had to try.
He didn't give any acknowledgement of her presence, so she repeated his name louder. She just needed a few seconds with him. But she might as well have been under his invisibility cloak, as he walked by her like she wasn't even there.
She made no effort to halt him as she watched as he and the rest of his house disappear around the corner.
And that was it.
Her last hope at salvation, gone.
As the silence began to return around her, Daphne struggled her emotions. She almost felt like she was floating on the spot, she felt disjointed from the world around her. She wasn't even sad anymore, she was just there. was no difference between her and the bench she'd just been sat on. Part of her wanted to break down into tears, part of her wanted to chase after him and force him to listen to her. Neither option happened.
She took a heavy breath. She'd be crying right now if she hadn't already run herself dry.
The guilt had done such a number on her that she no longer felt anything. Her heart was racing but her mind had slowed to a miserable halt. No tears, just silence. She'd used up all of her emotions last night, yet here she remained, an empty shell of what she once was. It had taken one night to have her life torn apart and then stitched back together, and now she was on her own to pick up the pieces.
"Let's go back to the common room."
Daphne's head snapped to the side.
Tracey was standing in the archway that lead to the grand staircase, her hands brought together in front of her. Daphne hadn't heard her approach, nor knew how long she'd been stood there.
The acknowledgement of her name was the only word she could muster.
"I know, it's okay," she offered her a sad smile.
There was a reason why Tracey, not anyone else, was the one she considered her best friend. She was the only one on her side when the entire house had turned against her last night. She had tried physically restraining her from talking, attempted to hex Pansy and had then been the one to wake Professor Snape as their class ran up the Room of Requirement. Just about everything in her power that she could do to help, she did. Millicent had overpowered her eventually, but her efforts hadn't gone unappreciated.
Tracey took her by the hand and began to slowly lead her away.
Daphne's gaze was kept firmly on her feet as they descended into the castle. Even Tracey seemed to understand the severity of Daphne's action, as the trip down was taken in complete silence. It was rare her sister ever understood social cues, but Daphne silently thanked her for not trying to lighten the mood.
And although she'd never usually admit it, right now she was truly grateful someone had come to her aid. For the first time in her life she felt completely powerless. She wanted to lock herself in her dorm and never come out. Who knows, maybe if she had done that in the first place, last night wouldn't have happened.
As they entered the Slytherin Common Room, Tracey slowed and Daphne didn't. She made a beeline for the girl's dormitory without looking.
"Don't want to talk to us now you're sober?" a voice leaked over from the side of the room.
The little color remaining in Daphne's face drained from it. Her heart took a somersault and she suddenly felt very vulnerable.
"Just ignore her," Tracey told her.
There was a shuffling of feet. Daphne looked up and to see Pansy blocking the way to the dormitories. Draco lingered nearby, looking at her with furious eyes but keeping his distance.
Tracey pushed in front, taking a defensive posture between them and her. Again Daphne found herself mentally thanking her, as she was not in the mood to be confrontational.
"What's wrong, we not good enough for the great Mrs Potter?" Draco taunted sourly.
Tracey groaned. It wasn't a tired noise, but an annoyed one. There was aggression in it.
"Seriously, you guys? Haven't you done enough?"
"We've done enough!? That's rich, considering she's been hiding from us all day!" Pansy took another step forward, cocking a hip. "I think we've all just about earned an explanation for this mess she's caused!"
"An explanation for what mess? The ones you guys tricked her into doing!?"
"An explanation to who exactly she thinks she is!" Draco roared. "She's been lying to all of our faces! Our house is a laughing stock because of her, and she doesn't even have the balls to face us!"
"She should be begging us for forgiveness…" Pansy gave her look up and down, and then spat, "not that the little blood traitor would get any."
The second the words hit her ears, Daphne felt a movement inside her.
Just like that, suddenly she wasn't empty anymore. She was angry. An unknown, unwanted, yet terrifyingly powerful rage began to bubble inside her. She was very angry. She wanted nothing more than to string someone up by the ceiling all of a sudden.
Tracey didn't budge from her spot in between them.
"She doesn't owe you anything."
Pansy merely scowled
"Get out of here dyke, nobodies interested in you."
All the eyes in the room were suddenly on Daphne. She quickly moved past Tracey and sealed the distance between her and Pansy.
"I have had enough of you," she spat. "You're self-entitled cow who thinks the world should bow to you, yet you live in ignorant bliss that nobody even likes you! You think you're the smartest, prettiest little bitch in the castle, yet all you do is spend your time obsessing over a boy like a little school girl! A boy, who I'd like to add, degrades you and constantly treats you like shit..."
She paused to swallow. Her heart was beating very fast and she nearly found herself vomiting.
"But you don't see any of that," she continued, "because you're fine with being unhappy, so long as it keeps up this delusion that you're better than everyone else! You don't get to talk to me about Harry, because the last thing I have to do is seek the approval of someone like you!"
Pansy had taken several steps back. The sudden outburst had instilled a fear in her, evidenced by her wide eyes and dropped jaw. Draco also seemed to have lost his gall. They both stayed silent the whole time, which annoyed Daphne further. A lifetime of not shutting up and they suddenly decided now was the time to sit down and take it, when Daphne wanted to have a blazing row.
"I'm worth a hundred of you. The only mistake I made," she finished, "was thinking you were worth my time."
She didn't allow time for them to respond as she marched away. As she did, she instantly wished she'd taken the time to properly revel in the expression she knew Pansy was pulling right now.
As she crossed the common room, white spots began spreading through her vision. A heartbeat was loud in her eardrums. That had felt good, but it hadn't gotten the anger out of her system. All of the self pity she'd been feeling just a few moments ago was now weaponized and ready to be unleashed. She needed to get away from other people before she did something she'd regret.
A harsh silence was left behind in her wake, but it didn't last very long.
A force hit Daphne in the back and all of a sudden the wall of the common room shot towards her at incredible speed. She swung around mid-air, crashing legs-first into a bookcase and shattering one of the shelves with her knee. She dropped to the floor with a thud and a wheeze as the breath was knocked out of her. She had no time to prepare for the impact and had landed dodgy on her rib-cage. Her breaths were now in slow wheezes, but the pain had barely occurred to her.
With the adrenaline pumping around her, it didn't take her long to regain her senses. That was the last push she needed. Attacking while your opponent had their back was turned was a dirty move, but it was the last one she was going to let Pansy make.
She twisted around on the floor and jabbed her wand into the air.
The force of the spell that erupted from her wand annihilated everything in its path, causing a section of the common room to explode behind Pansy. A thunderous shock-wave spread through the room, sending dust and debris in all directions. A loud shriek reverberated across the dungeon walls.
In one quick motion, Daphne dragged herself up. She gritted her teeth against a sudden sharp pain in her lungs. She circled around the destruction, her brain flushed with adrenaline. She saw a figure roll through the dust-filled air and gave it no time to recover.
"Stupify!" she yelled.
The spell hit its mark. The dust clouds were pushed clear and Pansy was catapulted into the air like a ragdoll. With a cry, she hit the glass separating the dungeons from the Great Lake and dropped to her knees. She immediately rolled to the side, attempting to crawl out of sight.
Daphne leaped forward, her wand still aimed. Pansy's shriek of pain had done wonders for her to hear. Hatred was rising from a place in her she'd never experienced before. She got a savage pleasure from the years of aggression finally getting a release. She wanted more. She caught sight of the girl dive behind a fallen sofa and began mentally casting her next spell.
The spell was not hers, but had come off from the side. She had no time to cast a counterspell and braced for impact.
A second spell shot towards her and collided with the first. The blasts of magic exploded on impact and sent a burst of energy deflecting across the room, hitting a glass-fronted cabinet on the wall. The cabinet fell to the floor and burst apart, splinters of wood and glass flying everywhere. The save came just in the nick of time, as the collision was so close to Daphne she felt the heat of it on her face.
Tracey dropped into the scene and dove to her side. Her wand was out and aimed at Draco, who had fired the first jinx.
Pansy rose from her hiding spot and snatched up her wand, which had been knocked from her. Blood was trailing down from hairline, but she didn't look like she was about to yield. In fact, she and Draco both looked determined for blood. Daphne sucked in a deep breath.
"Don't try it," Tracey warned.
Pansy let out a growl. Daphne flicked her wand, but the beginning of her offensive spell was cut short.
A tight grip sealed around Daphne and she was unable to move. She prepared to be hit with a follow up spell, but a glance around the room told her the caster hit everyone.
The entire dungeon was suddenly still, outside from the dust still floating in the air around them. The wreckage of the common room loomed into view: a carpet of debris covered the floor, the leather sofas had been upturned and destroyed and a few of the shelving units were knocked down and shredded. The duel had only lasted for a few seconds but had succeeded in annihilating most of the room.
A figure stepped into view behind them, making their arrival known. At her angle Daphne couldn't quite make out who it was, but an answer was given to her when Tracey's expression dropped.
Just when she thought she'd hit rock bottom, she suddenly found herself doubting that things could get any worse. She was wrong.
"Greengrass, my office."