Sziasztok, mindenki! (Hello, everyone!) I'm gonna keep this brief. This story has been cooking for about 18 months. I had most of it written within two months of starting it, but I just could not get the ending to work out. Now I've found a way to make it end semi-satisfactorily, at least for me. Thus, I am now posting it here. You'll be pleased to know I already have everything written (a real shocker, since this is me we're talking about). Therefore, I plan to update every Saturday until this little plot bunny is complete.
I happen to be a sucker for good Boggart fics, as well as awesome foil characters, so I hope you enjoy this story, 'cause I had a lot of fun writing it! (P.S. WARNING right up front for future torture and other heavy subjects. This fic is rather DARK. If this ain't your cup of tea, I suggest you leave now.)
Disclaimer: I don't own either Harry Potter or Lord of the Flies. There, I said it.
Additional notes: This takes place post-LOTF and during Prisoner of Azkaban. I admit I borrowed a tiny bit of dialogue from PoA for this chapter.
Loss of Innocence
Of Cousins and Mysterious Acquaintances
It was only during Third Year that Harry learned Ron had a cousin, and the kid set off warning bells in his head right away.
He was the son of Molly Weasley's distant relative (an accountant) and his name was Jack Merridew.
Harry had been introduced to Jack as soon as their usual group had found an empty compartment (with the exception of the mysterious R. J. Lupin) on the Hogwarts Express, and had already decided that there was something off about him.
Jack looked normal enough.
He had the classic Weasley hair and was nearly as tall as Ron. His face was thin in a way that reminded Harry of Draco, and his eyes were a bright blue.
Perhaps it was the eyes that put Harry on edge. There was some kind of darkness in those eyes; some shutter had fallen over them that left them disturbingly blank and unreadable.
Harry had been sitting across from Jack ever since the train had left King's Cross Station some hours ago, and he had yet to see him make an expression of any kind.
Jack had barely said a word since they'd been introduced, choosing instead to stare out the window at the passing scenery. Ron seemed to accept his silence easily and began to ask Harry what had happened to him over the summer. Harry reluctantly revealed what had gone on between him and the Dursley's, keeping an eye on Jack the entire time.
He thought he saw Jack smirk when Harry revealed the fate of his Aunt Marge, but it was gone so fast Harry wasn't sure it had been there at all.
After he was finished explaining his ordeal, Hermione surprised them all by turning to Jack.
"So, Jack," she began, trying valiantly not to flinch when his frigid stare turned from the window to focus on her, "are you a transfer student?"
Jack stared at her in silence for a moment, and just when she began to squirm a little in discomfort, he spoke.
"Something like that."
He turned back to the window.
Ron rolled his eyes, "Don't be such an arse, mate."
Jack turned to glare at him, and Ron cowered away after a moment, dropping his eyes. Harry didn't blame him; Jack's expressionless stare was extremely intimidating.
There was a tense silence for a few moments before Jack sighed and stood up. He opened the sliding door and left the compartment without a backward glance, tossing a short, "I'm going to the loo," over his shoulder.
As soon as he was gone, everyone relaxed. After a moment Ron seemed to gather up his courage and turned to Hermione.
"Sorry about that," he said, "Jack's always been a bit of a git."
Hermione still looked a little pale, but she nodded and managed a small smile. Ron sighed and sat back, running a hand through his hair in frustration.
"It's just that Jack's had a tough time," Ron began, looking both of them in the eye, leaning closer and lowering his voice as though he were going to divulge a great secret, "He wasn't always like this. He was marooned on an island, y'see. Spent a couple weeks there with a group of other boys. No grown-ups. When they finally got rescued things had already gone to hell, and all of them were pretty messed up.
Ron cringed, "I heard some of them went completely mental. Anyway, Jack's been in therapy for the past year. Everyone thought he was a Squib like his dad, Uncle Arnold, so he didn't get an invitation to Hogwarts when he turned eleven. His magic appeared after he was rescued from the island, though; apparently he was a bit of a late-bloomer, according to Mum.
"He would've come to Hogwarts last year, but he was still in therapy so that's why he's transferring in this year," Ron concluded.
Hermione nodded slowly, accepting this information, but Harry was fixated on one thing.
"He was marooned on an island?"
Ron nodded, "Yeah. He doesn't talk about it, but from what I know it was pretty bad."
Harry's brow furrowed, "How was it bad?"
Ron glanced at the door to make sure Jack was nowhere in sight and lowered his voice even further when he replied, "Blokes died, Harry. At least two, maybe three, and no one knows how. Their bodies weren't ever found and the kids who were rescued refused to talk about it."
Hermione looked horrified, and Harry was speechless for a moment. Bloody hell, he thought in astonishment, a sick feeling twisting his stomach into unpleasant knots, kids died? No wonder there was something strange about Jack. He'd been marooned on an island, for crying out loud!
Ron looked like he was about to say more, but then the compartment door slid open and Draco Malfoy appeared, flanked by his cronies Crabbe and Goyle.
"Well, well," Malfoy sneered, "If it isn't Potty and the Weasel."
Harry tensed, knowing nothing good would come of this.
"Heard your father got his hands on some gold this summer, Weasley," Malfoy continued. "Did your mother die of shock?"
Ron snarled and stood up, startling Crookshanks from his perch and onto the floor. He made a move to rush at Draco, but Hermione held him back. Harry stood up to defend his friend, but someone else beat him to it.
"Is there a problem here, cousin?" Everyone froze as a chilling voice sounded from behind Malfoy and his entourage, causing them to start and whip around to see who the intruder was.
The distinctive red hair and blank blue eyes of the speaker revealed him to be none other than Jack Merridew.
Malfoy quickly got over his shock at the interruption and puffed up indignantly. "Who the bloody hell are you?" he demanded, glaring at Jack.
Jack trailed his eyes over Crabbe and Goyle - perhaps sizing them up - before turning the full force of his expressionless gaze on Draco. For a moment Jack regarded him in silence, and it was during this time that Draco began to have an inkling that perhaps he had made a mistake. There was something about this obviously-related-to-the-Weasel stranger that was slightly sinister. Under the scrutiny of those unnervingly blank blue eyes, some deeply buried instinct in Draco awoke, urging him to cower and flee before it was too late.
Before Draco could decide whether or not to give in to his fight or (preferably) flight instinct, Jack said softly, "I'm Jack Merridew. Now scram if you know what's good for you."
The fight-or-flight instinct within Draco was screaming now, urging him to get away. Draco did just that; he turned and fled, scurrying down the hallway with Crabbe and Goyle on his heels.
After the Slytherins had disappeared, Jack entered the compartment and sat down again without a word.
Ron cleared his throat, "Um, thanks for that, Jack. I appreciate it."
Jack didn't respond, instead choosing to stare out the window again at the passing scenery, which was now misting faintly with rain. A moment later the compartment door opened once more, again revealing a kid about their age with blond hair. Except it wasn't Draco.
For one thing, this kid wasn't a Slytherin. In fact, his robes were unmarked, like Jack's. For another thing, his hair wasn't the same shade of blond as Draco's. It was more of a sun-bleached blond instead of platinum, and it sprung from the boy's head in uncontrollable tufts and curls. He was rather trim, and had a timid smile on his face instead of Draco's customary sneer. His eyes were blue instead of grey, and something about them made Harry pause and do a double-take.
How strange, Harry thought, This bloke's eyes remind me of Jack's, except they're not as dead-looking. Indeed, the mysterious blond's eyes were shuttered and dark, similar to Jack's, though there was a haunted look about them that set them apart from those of Ron's cousin.
Before Harry could further contemplate the enigma of the blond's eyes, the boy cleared his throat and spoke.
"Excuse me," the boy said softly, his voice surprisingly charismatic. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw a blur of movement and realized Jack had suddenly turned his attention from the window to the boy at the sound of the new bloke's voice. Curious, Harry turned to look at Jack and nearly reeled back in astonishment.
Jack's eyes were wide with shock and his mouth had fallen open slightly in surprise. Jack, the scary, expressionless, never-before-heard-of-cousin-of-Ron, was showing emotion for the first time since Harry had met him. And, Harry realized, it was all because of this kid who had appeared out of nowhere.
The boy continued to speak, "Sorry, but do you mind if I sit here? Everywhere else is -"
"Ralph?!" Jack cut the boy off, staring at him as though he couldn't believe his eyes. Then, as Harry looked on, Jack's face underwent a startling transformation. His eyes suddenly became alight with a kind of sinister, predatory glow, and his mouth twisted into a hungry smirk.
The boy in the doorway went stock-still at the sound of Jack's voice, and immediately zeroed in on him. When he made eye contact with Jack, the boy - Ralph, apparently - went white as a sheet. His previously timid expression abruptly morphed into one of absolute terror, and he whispered, "Jack?"
At the sound of his name, Jack's smirk became a full-blown evil grin that made Harry shudder, and he was suddenly struck with the urge to get as far from Jack as possible.
Ralph apparently felt the same, because he began to back out of the compartment, keeping his horror-struck eyes on Jack as though he were afraid the redhead was going to lunge at him.
"It can't be," Ralph said softly, his terror mixing with stubborn disbelief. Hermione stood up to try and soothe him, but Ralph continued to back away.
"No," he whispered, staring at Jack, "no, no."
And with that, Ralph spun around and sprinted off down the corridor, slamming the compartment door shut behind him. Jack leaped up, about to give chase, but the entire train suddenly lurched as it began to slow down, and he lost his footing, tumbling back into his seat.
"Something's wrong," Hermione said nervously, "We can't possibly be at Hogwarts yet."
Jack paid her no mind and stood up again. He made it to the door and threw it open, only to be bowled over by Neville and Ginny as they burst into the compartment. Jack pushed them off of himself with a snarl, and by that time the train had come to a complete stop.
Ron, who was trying to see out the rain-streaked window, suddenly said, "Oi, I think someone's getting on the train!"
Then the lamps winked out and everything went black.
"What's going on?" Ginny asked fearfully, trying to navigate the sudden darkness, "Ron, Jack, where are you?"
"Over here, Gin," Ron said: which didn't help much because nobody could see anything in the inky blackness. A brief struggle ensued, as everyone tried to regain their seats without stepping on someone else's fingers or toes. When everyone was finally settled, Neville spoke up nervously, "D'you reckon we've broken down?"
"Dunno," Harry replied, "Maybe, but then, who was getting on the train?"
"Quiet," an unfamiliar, gruff voice commanded suddenly, causing Ginny and Hermione to shriek in surprise. A small group of flames suddenly appeared in the cupped hand of the now-awake R. J. Lupin. The flames illuminated his pale, tired face and cast menacing shadows over his dark eyes.
Harry noticed Jack recoil from the flames out of the corner of his eye, but dismissed it and focused his attention on the haggard man in the corner of the compartment.
"Don't move," Lupin said, standing up and making his way over to the compartment door, "I'm going to go see what -"
The door slid open before he reached it, and Harry was suddenly overcome with a wave of cold unlike anything he had ever felt before. It was as though he had been dunked stark-naked into a glacial lake, except the cold sunk into his very bones.
Shuddering, Harry caught sight of a horrible skeletal figure that stood silhouetted in the doorway. The creature was extremely tall and thin, and was wrapped in a cloak of dark gray rags from head to toe, the tatters of the cloak floating eerily in some sort of nonexistent breeze.
Harry allowed his eyes to slowly trail up the creature, starting from its feet, but where its face should have been, well, there was just no face. All Harry could see was an empty black hole where the mouth should have been. And as he stared at the horrific creature, he felt a different sort of cold sink into his bones and imbed itself in his very soul.
Fear. Despair. Horrible agony as every drop of happiness was sucked out of Harry and he was forced to recall every bad thing that had happened to him in his life. It started with Malfoy's recent verbal attack on Ron, and went all the way back to Harry's first memory of the cupboard under the stairs. And just when Harry thought it couldn't get any worse, he was blinded by a flash of eerie green light and heard a woman's terrified scream.
As his vision dimmed, Harry saw a flash of red out of the corner of his eye before his world faded to black.
When Harry woke up, it was to Lupin waving a bar of chocolate in his face.
"Eat it," Lupin said, "It'll help you feel better."
Harry reluctantly took the chocolate and looked around the compartment. The lamps had flickered back on and he could now see everyone. Hermione, Ginny, Neville and Ron were sitting on the benches, giving him concerned looks. Harry realized that he couldn't see Jack, and immediately twisted around to search for him.
Harry was startled to find Jack on the floor next to him, apparently out cold. After making sure Harry was capable of sitting up on his own, Lupin turned to the redhead and shook him awake.
Jack's hand shot out and grabbed Lupin's wrist with alarming speed, startling the man and causing everyone to jump in surprise. Jack ignored their fright in favor of glaring at Lupin.
Harry's brow furrowed; there was a wild look in Jack's eye that he didn't like, but it faded almost immediately and Jack released Lupin from the death-grip on his arm.
Lupin crouched next to Jack for a second, looking thoughtful, before he took out another chocolate bar and offered it to Jack.
"Here, eat this," Lupin said, "It'll help with the after-effects."
"The after-effects of what, Professor?" Hermione asked, "What were those things?"
Lupin sighed and seemed to age ten years as he replied, "Those were Dementors. They are the wardens of Azkaban and feed on fear and despair. They suck the happiness out of anything nearby. Chocolate helps counter their influence after exposure, but be sure to rest awhile, okay boys?"
Harry nodded in acknowledgment, but Jack just stared into space, evidently lost in his own thoughts. Lupin watched them for a couple of seconds before he stood and headed towards the door.
"If you'll excuse me," he said, "I need to have a word with the driver."
He left the compartment and softly closed the door behind him. After he was gone, Harry turned to his friends and asked, "What happened? Did anyone hear the screaming?"
His friends traded nervous looks with each other before Hermione opened her mouth to reply.
"Harry," she said slowly, "There was no screaming."
Harry's brow furrowed, "What are you talking about? Of course there was! I heard a woman screaming!"
Ron shook his head, "Nobody screamed, mate. You and Jack just sort of had a seizure and collapsed."
Harry glanced at Jack, hoping for some support, but the redhead was still lost in his own world. Disgusted, Harry turned away and focused on the gloomy weather outside the window as the train started to move again.
The rest of the trip passed without incident, and by the time they arrived at Hogwarts, Harry was so irritated he couldn't wait to get off the train. It was only after he stepped onto the platform that he remembered the strange blond boy who had fled at the sight of Jack.
"Oi, Jack!" Harry shouted. Jack, who was about to get into a carriage (after staring at the empty space in front of it like a lunatic for some time), stopped and glanced back. Harry caught up to him, Ron and Hermione following.
Once the foursome had entered the carriage and the Golden Trio regained their breath, Harry turned to Jack.
"Jack," he began, "who's Ralph?"
Jack's reaction was instant but he managed to hide it rather well. His jaw clenching was the only major change in his face, but his eyes betrayed him. At the mention of Ralph, Jack's eyes suddenly burned with something very close to hatred but not quite. Harry couldn't figure out just what it was but the intensity alone was enough to make him nervous.
"Jack?" Harry asked warily. The fire in Jack's eyes increased.
"Ralph is an old acquaintance," he said softly. Then he looked away, obviously unwilling to say any more on the subject.
Harry watched him for a moment, suspicious. Eventually he shrugged and turned away, adding Ralph to the growing list of mysteries surrounding Ron's cousin.
. . . I'm just getting started. Please review if you have the time; I would love to hear if the suspense is well-written. Otherwise, thank you for reading and please tune in next week!
Random question: What is your favorite television series and why? Currently I am totally in love with Prison Break because of its superior actors and plotline. :)
~Home By Another Way