My eyelids fluttered open as I heard the soft click of the lock, and for a moment I was at a lost. I didn’t recognise where I was, and I fought the panic rising in my chest. Scanning the darkened room around me, I saw the hazy silhouette of beds and cabinets and the yellowing light coming from the gas lamp. Finally my brain registered where I was, and I sank down into my bed with relief. It was the hospital wing, the neatest place in the castle where Madame Pomfrey reigned supreme.
“Kaitlynn?” a husky voice whispered to the left of my bed, and I half jumped. My spine was stiff with nervousness, and I tried to even out my breathing. Whoever that was, they must not know that I was awake.
“Kaitlynn, I’m so sorry,” said the voice, and I turned over ever so slightly to face Kaitlynn’s bed. At the sight of the falling black hair of the boy perched on Kaitlynn’s bed my heart gave a start.
“It’s not your fault Tom,” Kaitlynn whispered back, “Why are you apologising for the freak accidents that happened to me? Just come here and hold my hand.”
Tom shifted on the bed and leaned towards Kaitlynn, offering her his long fingers. She grabbed them and burrowed her face in his palms, and as Tom and I waited her breathing evened. Tom didn’t speak until Kaitlynn was snoring lightly.
“It wasn’t meant for you Katy,” his voice was almost inaudible, “I only wanted to hurt the damn Mudbloods and those halfies. Not you.”
I bit my lips hard, stifling the gasp that was about to escape my mouth. I never felt so aware of my lineage before, of the half Muggle blood flowing through my veins. Was he the wizard who opened Hogwart’s door to the Dementors? And the Chamber of Secret? My back was damp with sweat, and I prayed to any God who would listen to take Tom Riddle out of the hospital wing as soon as possible. I fell asleep half delirious, my knuckles white from clenching the blanket like a shield around me.
“Zo? You awake?” Aubrey’s familiar voice called me from my sleep, “Madame Pomfrey said we could go today.”
“Aubrey! Are you feeling better?” I said, sitting up in bed.
“Never better. I was only a bit strained from using the Patronus charm,” he told me, his hands gathering the cards and chocolates on the side table into his bag, “What about you? Dementors haven’t hurt you, have they?”
“I thought I was going to die, but now I’m great,” I smiled at him, “Just in time for the first Quidditch match too. But Aubrey, I need to tell yo...”
“Oh Zo, haven’t they told you?” Aubrey said sadly, interrupting me.
“Told me what?”
“Quidditch’s cancelled this year, too many Dementors,” he said, then added as an afterthought, “And Jamie’s gone anyway, so...”
“The mental asylum,” Aubrey told me, his eyes heavy, “The Dementors did too much damage on him.”
I staggered back, my heart dropped to the pit of my stomach. Sitting down heavily on the hospital bed, I thought about sunny Jamie, friendly and funny Jamie who could always make me laugh. And this is the same boy who’d been sent to a mental asylum because of bloody Dementors? No. No, absolutely no way. Jamie would’ve survived anything. Aubrey sat down beside me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder. I could feel Kaitlynn’s gaze on my back as she stopped her packing to stare at me breaking down.
“I’m so sorry Zo,” he told me, “I shouldn’t have told you like that.”
“No,” I said to him, “It’s just... I can’t believe it you know...”
We sat there like that for a while, me clinging onto Aubrey, trusting him to keep me from falling apart. Finally he stood up and pulled me up with him.
“Come on Zo, we got to pack and get back to the dorms,” he told me, “Classes are as normal this afternoon. Come on, I’ll walk you back to Gryffindor. Didn’t you say you had something to tell me before?”