Another one. I am unsure whether or not to capitalize fiendfyre. Let me know what terms y'all think should be capitalized or not. If you read back through, you can probably tell I keep flip-flopping. Enjoy, and please review!
Roland pointed his wand at the door, barely breathing the spell to lock it. His eyes were flicking between the wand, Hermione, and Thorfinn.
Ice licked down Hermione's spine. She couldn't even muster the anger to frown, too horrified at her misstep. Draco had tensed as well, back ramrod straight against the front of her legs.
Pretty young fool, a voice suspiciously like Badb's crooned. Blood flushed her cheeks and then fled, leaving Hermione with cold sweat on her nape. Her hand twitched on the wand, wishing she could slide it away and pretend no one had noticed. But Thorfinn's blue eyes were glacier cold. She had secrets he wanted to know. He had never looked at her with such ugly intensity- like he would flay her alive with a glance. She was an insect beneath the inimical magnifying glass.
"Well, Astarte, you've been keeping even more secrets than I thought," he murmured as if there weren't five other first years and a prefect present. The words were more threat than idle comment.
Hermione and Draco exchanged wary glances. She really didn't want to reveal that she had Morgan le Fay's legendary Dark wand in her possession, but it seemed her housemates would leave her no choice. Damn Thorfinn Rowle!
She knew she had acted rashly drawing it, but the beast had been clamoring and she hadn't been able to shake the feeling of impending doom. The Weasleys had not been planning a simple, silly prank. She knew in her bones that they had been out for blood. The creature caged in her body snorted in agreement and coiled restfully, content with her reaction despite the lack of bloodshed.
Thorfinn cast an additional silencing charm to prevent eavesdropping and shoved Draco aside to kneel before the young witch. Draco opened his mouth to protest, but shut it quickly as the room's temperature seemed to drop. Thorfinn's anger was magically affecting the atmosphere, the providence of the few and powerful. Everyone shuffled as personal space became a precious resource, leaving a tight ring of emptiness around the big seventh year.
"Show us," Roland breathed, eyes greedy. Hermione knew he had a special interest in Dark artifacts, so she wasn't surprised by his interest, but she was damnably scared. His eyes as they raked over her and the legendary length of wood in her hand were covetous. She didn't assume it was flattery that had Thorfinn and Roland eyeing her like a brood mare set to market. Their possessiveness was of an ambitious nature, not romantic or, Badb forbid, sexual.
"Not yet," said the witch, hardly breathing around the bundle of nerves in her throat. She hated explaining her secrets, but she was left with few options. The journey was another seven hours. Calling for help was pointless; she wanted to attract less attention, not more. And that wouldn't save her from questions come January, after those present had had time to comb their personal dark libraries and question their parents. She needed to nip this problem right then, before it spiraled beyond her control and all of the pretentious pureblood world knew what hid in their midst. "Everyone needs to swear an Unbreakable Vow first."
Thorfinn laughed darkly. "I don't think so, love. I don't compromise my magic just for anyone, not even a little bit like you."
"Then don't," she said easily, "but if you want to know my secrets, you will have to do this eventually."
The muscular blond went still, a vicious glint in his blue eyes. "Don't test me, Black," he whispered coldly. His left hand twitched; she had never noticed he was left handed. Why the detail seemed important, she couldn't figure. The panicked meanderings of a cornered witch, perhaps. "If I want something, I'll take it."
Hermione suddenly realized her predicament. If the older boys really wanted her wand, they would just take it. They may like her, but that wouldn't stop them from stealing something like the infamous wand of her ancestor. She knew she couldn't beat either of them in a duel one-on-one, much less both of them at once. Desperation choked her. How could she prevent them from taking what was rightfully hers?
The beast provided an answer, offering itself for her use. Wings spread wide and teeth bared, a glow gathering in its throat, the dragon snarled sub-vocally. She felt the deep reverberation echo from her torso down her arms. She took a deep breath to ensure she had control, recalling Badb's warning.
"You won't dare," she whispered, afraid that if she raised her voice, the dragon would ignite. Between her nerves, her fury, and her fear—she was on a precipice. Even as she tried to reign herself in, she felt cold pinpricks curve into her shoulders. The sharp, unmistakable prick of nails, cold and clear in their message. Do not forget who you are, sister mine.
"Why do you think that?" Thorfinn asked, equally quiet. His face was cold and disconcertingly serpentine; he was prepared to strike at a moment's notice. The heat the beast emanated banked the icy fear Thorfinn inspired. The atmosphere began to heat. He was not a wizard to cross, she knew, but she had never realized just how dangerous the wizard was.
But she was dangerous, too.
She breathed deeply again, and felt heat climbing the column of her neck. Smoke trailed from the corner of her mouth when she opened it again. "Because I will do to you what I did to Marcus Flint," the Morrigan spoke, urged by the claws curled into her shoulders. Heated magic met the fuel her chest and raced to every outlet. She raised a hand to reveal the shifting flames crowning each finger, and distantly found herself surprised she had not sprouted claws as well. The fiendfyre jumped and danced in glee at being summoned once more, eager to destroy.
"Bloody fuck!" someone exclaimed. She didn't know who; she wasn't listening. Her eyes were glued to Thorfinn's, waiting for his next move. Their previous camaraderie withered as each knew that she would incinerate him if he tried to take what was hers. Azkaban awaited her next move. Her lips quirked in half-mad amusement. Perhaps she would meet her father in a few hours rather than her mother.
The blond wizard leaned forward achingly slow, careful not to make a sudden move. The beast's talons were sunk deep into Hermione's collar bones, snout angled up her throat in preparation, leaving her instincts raw and animalistic. An exposed nerve. She remained still as Thorfinn brought his face a foot from hers. From that close view, she could see the blond tips of his eyelashes, and absently admire how his eyes splintered in glacier shades from the black, black center. He grinned, and she noticed the blonde stubble roughing his cheeks and jaw. The air superheated.
"I like you, Astarte Black," the older wizard purred.
The absurdity of the statement shocked her out of her reptilian hindbrain. The fiendfyre went out without a wisp, and she suddenly realized her throat and mouth were filled with foul-tasting ashes. She began to choke, and Roland sent Greg to fetch water from the trolley, breaking the tension that had held them all stiff.
"Merlin, you're a lech," Hermione croaked, gratefully accepting the water from Greg as he quickly returned. "And don't call me Astarte."
"I can always depend on flirting to break through your thorny shell," Thorfinn laughed. "I can see now why Draco here has been following you like a dog, even though he wanted you dead only a few months ago. You've gotten yourself a little group of followers, love. Is that how you keep them in line? A little fiendfyre? A casual mortal threat every time they ask you to pass jam in the morning?"
"I didn't know I could do that until just now," she admitted between sips of water.
"It was from your hands, this time," Draco said quietly. His face was so pale he would have blended in with the blankets of snow outside. "Last time, it came from here," he tapped his sternum. "It was bigger, too."
Roland whistled, actively choosing to shove his fear away in favor of being impressed. "Wandless fiendfyre. Quite a trick you got there, Hermione."
"We need to do an Unbreakable Vow," Theo suddenly interjected. His face was set. Serious.
"Why so supportive now, Nott?" Thorfinn queried. "You weren't so quick to back my witch up a minute ago."
"Not your witch," Hermione snarled. Ashes rose in her throat at the grated command, and she began to cough again.
Theo patted her back comfortingly, still beside her despite the cold sweat at his temple generated by the rapid atmospheric changes. "If anyone in here says a single word, she's gone. Whether to Azkaban, killed by the Light, or kidnapped for experiments by Unspeakables, it's all the same. She'll be killed or taken. I don't think the Dark Lord could just summon fiendfyre like that. Dumbledore definitely can't. People will either want to destroy her or use her. Everyone in here needs to make an Unbreakable Vow that they won't reveal what… what she can do," he finished.
"He's right," Blaise said. His voice broke and he cleared his throat nervously, body still pumped full of adrenaline. "She's a right swot, and sometimes an honest bitch—but I don't want to lose her. I know the rest of you feel the same way."
"I already promised to protect her," Draco shrugged. "I've already seen what she can do. It's you lot I worry about," he sniped, secure and smug in having pledged himself inviolably. Hermione barely restrained herself from rolling her eyes.
"I don't want you to be hurt," said Greg quietly. "I'll take a Vow, if you want."
"I want someone like you on my side," Vincent agreed.
The two older wizards exchanged looks. "I'm doing it," Roland shrugged. "It's about time someone draws the Blacks back into the fold, don't you think, Thor?"
Thorfinn withdrew his wand, smiling as if he had been on board from the start. "What are we waiting on?" he asked. "Dumbledumb's permission?"
Roland distributed the wands, and everyone offered their palm to Thorfinn for him to cast a weak slicing hex.
"Not going to join us, love?"
"I am," she answered Thorfinn, "but I'm going to use my real wand."
With a deep breath, she pulled out Morgan le Fay's wand. The ebony outer layer drew in the light.
Roland rudely pressed past his friend to get a better look, eyes blown wide as they voraciously devoured every immaculate inch. At eleven inches, it was quite long for a wand. Its craftsmanship was as evident as its age. Vision gained ancient weight when cast upon it.
"Merlin," Roland breathed. Hermione pursed her lips. "It's gorgeous!"
"Cold shower, mate?" Thorfinn questioned, pumping his hand.
"There is a lady present-" Theo began stiffly, swift to uphold the veneer of junior politick.
"Oh bollocks, shove off," cursed Thorfinn. "You're calling Astarte Black a lady? Like calling a rabid wolf a spaniel."
"Hermione," the witch seethed.
"Spaniels are mean, too," Vincent interrupted. His round, doughy face pinked as everyone looked at him. "My great aunt had one. Nasty thing."
"Oh, brilliant addition, Crabbe," Blaise applauded.
"Spaniels are mean," Hermione defended. "In fact, the English Cocker Spaniel is consistently ranked as one of the most aggressive dog breeds."
"While it is just heartwarming to see our little friend defend Vincent Crabbe so honorably, there are more important things to discuss at the moment. For instance: where did you find this beautiful, terrific artifact?" Roland was very rarely rude or rushed; things were completed in their own timeframe, and he simply ensured all was up to snuff. He considered himself the disciplinarian of his age cohort, which was unfortunately inundated with rapscallions such as Thorfinn Rowle and Caspar Rookwood. Thorfinn was an unrepentant harlot, which he got away with due to good looks, wealth, and popularity as quidditch captain. Caspar had beaten Roland six times in a row at wizarding chess while high on some sort of muggle drug, which had Roland convinced the fellow student was a scoundrel masquerading as an average person. Roland felt as though his volunteered duties entitled him to some leeway with the rest of his house. After all, they all went to him when Rowle said something offensive.
"It was in my vault," Hermione answered, deciding on the bare sketch of truth.
"Morgan le Fay left a vault?" Theo asked.
"Gringotts wouldn't let the Ministry touch her personal vault," Hermione explained. "It didn't have much in it, anyway."
Draco knew she was lying on that point, but had the intelligence not to contradict her. He looked as stressed as she did by the questioning. She knew Thorfinn Rowle made the first year nervous; their fathers were familiar with one another. He had once told Hermione in a low whisper at dinner that Lucius had warned him not to step on that one's toes—Thorfinn had a well-known temper.
"May I look at it more closely?" Roland requested. He was having trouble restraining himself.
The witch was hesitant to relinquish the wand, but did so with a clenched jaw. He wasn't about to bolt out the door with it, but she despised the thought of anyone else touching what was hers. Gratefully, reverently, Roland took the wand into the tips of his fingers and held it up to his dark eyes.
"Hand it back before you bust one, Avery," Thorfinn suggested with a grin and a wink at Theo, who looked apoplectic at the impolite insinuation. "We need to make this Vow."
"I was wondering," Blaise groused, "because this slicing hex is beginning to sting a bit-"
"If you could stop complaining for more than five minutes, I would eat Dumbledore's knickers," Draco declared. "This barely hurts at all!"
"If one more person references intercourse or underwear, I will leave," Theo threatened with furious finality.
"Merlin," Thorfinn rolled his eyes. Hermione fancied he could see the backside of his thick skull, the motion was so dramatic. "I hope you all grow up one day. Intercourse and underwear go hand in hand, and if you're lucky, some bint's underwear is in hand. Let's get this over with before Avery here loses his shite over a bit of wood."
Theo turned scarlet and mutely held his bleeding palm to clasp Hermione's wrist. Around the train's cabin, the others did the same, until everyone was connected. The air was thick with intent.
"Who would like the honor? Lady Black?" asked the blond seventh year.
She supposed it was only right she put an end to this foolish back and forth and intone the Vow to bind them all to her secrets. She wanted this whole situation over with. Not only was one of her most important secrets out in the open, the witch was convinced the testosterone poisoning would kill her soon. Roland handed over the wand with a sigh, and Hermione considered her words.
Using her free hand, her left, she tapped the black wand to the back of her right hand, which was clasped around Thorfinn's wrist. Gold sparks showered onto the skin painlessly. "I, Astarte Hermione Black, do bind thee wizards to keep all that has happened here a secret and to keep secret any confidences I share, upon punishment of having his magic stripped. Are all in agreement?"
"Agreed," they all chorused, in varying degrees of civility.
"Not the most eloquent, but it will do," said Roland hurriedly. "Now, can I see your wand again?"
She handed it back over, less nervous than before. Roland slumped to the ground, back to the compartment door, and looked intently over the ancient wand. Everyone settled more easily. Hermione set to casting simple episkeys on her friends with her vine-wood wand, trusting the seventh years to know their own healing spells.
Thorfinn still held his palm out to her, plaintive with a quirked grin. She glared. "You're an adult."
"Don't be rude."
"I will absolutely be rude to you, Thorfinn Rowle! Why are you even here, still?"
"I have more questions. And, despite the lacking company," he winked again at Theo, who glared impotently at the older student who would soundly thrash him, "you lot manage to be more interesting that listening to Wilkes talk about his French fiancée."
"I heard she's French," Blaise commented to Draco, "I would quite like to hear about her, myself."
Hermione pressed one finger to her temple and began to massage it slowly. Six hours remained on her train ride. As Thorfinn began to pepper her with questions, ranging from outlandish to outright offensive, she despaired of anyone in the compartment making it to London in one piece.