cxcvii. the muffled shriek

By the time Harriet departed the room and left Barnabus behind, supper had come and gone, and curfew had settled upon the school with a tangible pall of silence.

She'd spent only part of her time trying to cast magic. After her first go at it, she hadn't felt much up to any further attempts, so Harriet had spent the rare remaining Scottish daylight sitting cross-legged on the floor, thinking. She didn't pretend everything Professor Dumbledore had said made sense to her, but the idea of instinct and magic going hand in hand resonated with something Elara had mentioned about Gaunt to Hermione.

"Intuition and instinct are powerful factors for witches and wizardsI would say if Gaunt and the Dark Lord are connected in some manner, we should assume something in the Minister—however minuscule—recognizes Harriet."

Did Harriet have the kind of instinct that guided the Dark Lord? The kind of innate knowledge that would make her spells better? Her magic? The thought made her scoff. Harriet didn't have a fraction of Tom Riddle's ability, and pretending otherwise was silly.

Still, no one in their class could deny Harriet excelled in Defense no matter what tricks Professor Slytherin played on them. Hermione once told her she was a prodigy in the subject, and though Harriet didn't set store by that assumption, could there be something more to it? Could Harriet do better if she relied more on instinct than logic?

Hermione would thump me with a dictionary if she heard me say that.

She sighed as she picked herself off the floor and gave Barnabus one final, challenging look before leaving the room. She pushed her fingers against her temple as she went, rubbing at the skin as if she could massage the tension out of her brain. Harriet didn't look forward to more lessons like these.

The cold pressed close as the night built outside, and she made an idle motion with her wand, sewing a Warming Charm into her cloak. It wouldn't last long, but long enough to reach the dorms. Harriet hoped Professor Dumbledore had told Hermione and Elara not to worry about her.

She stood on the second-floor landing and paused to look across the white-cloaked grounds and the wreath of distant clouds. Harriet considered the best way to get to the dungeons and wondered who was on patrol this evening, if she had time to slip by them before getting caught out. That was when she heard the screaming.

In a moment she would later consider a sudden, stupid lapse in judgment, Harriet ran toward the screaming rather than away from it. Her heart lurched inside her chest and her wand all but leapt to her hand as she bolted. The noise came from behind a shut door belonging to the Ghoul Studies classroom, and Harriet slammed it open—

Only to find a wide-eyed Cedric Diggory in his Hufflepuff dressing gown, clutching a large golden egg.

"Merlin, you startled me, Potter," he said as his shoulders sagged in relief. "I thought you were Slytherin for half a second."

Harriet sputtered. "Me?! I startled you?! What's all that screaming, then?!"

"Screaming?—oh!" Diggory jerked the golden egg closed, and the discordant shrieking cut off. "The Silencing Charm must have worn off. I lost track of time working on this. Sorry about that." He gave his pink cheek a small, abashed scratch. "I didn't think anybody would be about. At least, not on this floor. What are you doing out of the dorm at this hour? You're not a prefect."

Harriet just stared at the bloke and ignored his question, realizing she recognized the egg as the one he'd picked up from the dragon's nest in the Tournament's first task. "What are you doing in here listening to that in the dark?"

"It is a bit odd, isn't it? But I can't exactly crack it open in the middle of the common room, and I'm meant to make sense of it to figure out the next task." Diggory traced a finger along the egg's seam. "I've gotten by just fine with the Silencing Charm."

"No, I mean—." Harriet released an aggravated breath and ran her hand through her already mussed fringe. She needed a haircut, but that meant going to Madam Pomfrey, who always cut it funny. "Why are you just listening to it?"

Diggory lifted his head, a puzzled look crossing his handsome face.

"Don't you take Care of Magical Creatures?"

"No? Is that relevant?"

"Bloody hell. It's Mermish. Can't you tell?"

"Mermish?"

"It's—just follow me, numpty."

If he objected to being called names by an exasperated fourth-year, Diggory said nothing. Instead, he smiled and gathered up his egg, gamely following Harriet into the corridor dressed in his night things. The room she meant to find was on the floor below, but in the wing across the castle. Reaching it required a lot of creative work on Harriet's part, including two passages through the Moon Mirrors and waiting on an upper mezzanine for Filch to slink past.

The double doors to the solar she sought popped open with ease, revealing a dusty space holding dozens and dozens of crystal balls and—more importantly—several raised stone basins. They were flat and best resembled bird baths, though gems and runes heavily inlaid the furled rims.

"I dunno if Trelawney actually uses this place, but it's meant to be where the Divinations professor can teach Scrying," Harriet explained as she hopped down the wide, arching steps to the room's belly, approaching the largest basin. It rose slightly above chest height on her, and she imagined an instructor could use it at the same time as a student. "It should suit your needs, though."

Cedric looked around him in interest, his lips parted. "How do you know where to find all of this?" he asked in wonder. He stepped up next to Harriet as she flipped the tap's silver handle and poured cold water into the basin. "I thought Professor Flitwick didn't know how those odd mirrors worked?"

"He doesn't." Diggory stared at her, and Harriet cleared her throat. "Err, I'll tell him eventually. I will!"

He laughed, and Harriet felt her cheeks warm. She knew he didn't mean to do so meanly, but she didn't much like being laughed at, especially by an older Hufflepuff. It made her think too much about Petunia Squabs and her cackling counterparts.

"You'd probably know more about the castle if you didn't spend so much time with dimwitted cows," she grumbled.

"What do you mean?" Diggory asked, sounding genuinely curious, but Harriet didn't respond, instead reaching out to turn off the tap. The final bit of water dripped into the filled basin with a lingering plop!, and Harriet waved her hand.

"There. Stick the egg in—and your head, so you can hear."

He did as she said, though the egg didn't fully fit, so Diggory tipped it onto its side before submerging his face just past his ears. Harriet couldn't help her burning curiosity when she saw the egg part, a soft, ethereal hum vibrating in the glowing water. She snatched her glasses from her face and plunged her head into the basin. The hollow echo of the empty stone room muffled, leaving the Mer voices to echo around her and resonate loud and clear in Harriet's ears.

"Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground,

And while you're searching ponder this;

We've taken what you'll sorely miss,

An hour long you'll have to look,

And to recover what we took,

But past an hour, the prospect's black,

Too late, it's gone, it won't come back."

As the song ended, Harriet jerked her head back out with Diggory, both taking sharp, sudden breaths as cold water dripped down their faces. Harriet shoved her damp hair out of her eyes and wiped her face with her sleeve before replacing her glasses.

"Well," Diggory said, a polite inflection in his voice. The water trickled down his jaw and soaked the striped collar of his pajamas. "That was unexpected."

"Have you lost anything lately?" Harriet asked him. She shivered, figuring that dunking herself in frigid liquid while snow still lay thick outside hadn't been the brightest of ideas. She replaced the Warming Charm on her cloak. "Anything you've missed."

"No, not that I can think of." He put a hand to his chin, gaze directed toward the ceiling. "Nothing I would 'sorely miss,' surely, else I would have noticed by now."

"They haven't taken it yet, then. They probably won't until the day of the task."

Cedric made a soft noise of agreement.

"Looks like you'll be floundering about the lake for an hour. Hope you can swim, Diggory."

He grinned, not at all taken off guard by Harriet's rather sharp humor. "I'm sure I can figure it out."

"Mmm, forgive me for not being certain. You could always use Gillyweed. It gives you gills and webbed toes and whatnot for an hour or so if you eat enough of it."

Absorbing this information, Diggory studied Harriet, an incredulous line forming between his brows as he continued to smile. "Why are you helping me out?" he asked. "First with the dragons, then with this. You could have left me with my screaming egg. After a while, it almost sounds like a progressive brand of singing."

Harriet snorted. "Well, what else am I supposed to do? Let you dither about like a flobberworm while Delacour and Krum get information from their Headmasters? Pride of Hogwarts, indeed. The Goblet wasn't meant to pick nitwits, but here you are."

"Isn't Krum your boyfriend?"

Harriet glared as she crossed her arms. "He is not."

Diggory mimicked her posture, and one of his brows rose toward his hairline. The light still emanating from the submerged egg glittered against his eyes and on the flat surface of his straight white teeth. "You're a fiery one, Potter."

Her nose wrinkled as Harriet's face burned with heat. "Take your stupid egg and go away, Diggory."

"Sure thing."

He scooped the golden egg out of the water, making sure to snap it shut beforehand, and the light died, leaving them both standing in the semi-darkness lit only by the torchlight sneaking through the ajar door. Cedric made to leave, and Harriet couldn't stop herself from calling him back.

"You should, I dunno, give Longbottom a hint about this. Last minute, of course, but in the spirit of…fairness."

"I thought you wanted Longbottom to lose?"

She did. She definitely did—and yet, Harriet couldn't quite forget how small Longbottom had appeared when stepping into the arena the first time, charged to face whatever waited for him there. She remembered the booing, and the overwhelming terror of the Hungarian Horntail breaking the chain, shattering the wards. Anything involving the Merpeople didn't sound nearly as dramatic, and yet….

"It'd be nice if he didn't bloody drown," Harriet admitted. "I know his fat head is filled with air, but that doesn't mean he can breathe underwater."

"Ah, I see. Don't worry. I won't tell Neville how fond of him you are."

"I'll hex you with boils in unmentionable places if you do."

Cedric chuckled and saw himself out of the room without another word. Harriet remained behind to clean up the water, pulling the plug from the basin's belly to let it drain. She watched it go, listening to the steady drip and gurgle.

This was one of Elara's favorite rooms. She liked watching the scrying pools, though she'd never seen anything worth mentioning; she said she liked looking to the future, whatever it might be, and Harriet always thought that rather profound for a girl so prone to nihilism. She hoped Diggory didn't tell his horrid friends about this place and ruin it.

Harriet heaved a heavy, tired breath and turned away, following the path Diggory had out the door. It swung shut, and Harriet stopped when she heard a distinctive thump-step-thump approaching her from the alcove. The Auror Moody curled his lip as he looked at Harriet, the magical eyes whirring in its socket.

"You think you're terribly clever, don't you, lassie?"

She blinked. "Pardon?"

He stepped closer, and Harriet stiffened, her brow furrowing.

After his confrontation with Snape, Moody gave the impression of not liking Harriet very much, whether by his own choice or because he hated Snape and thus thought poorly of her by association. Harriet tried to keep an open mind, but sometimes the scene she'd witnessed in Dumbledore's Pensieve would pop unbidden into her mind, and she'd remember Snape's bowed and broken posture, the bruises littering his body. Those hadn't been from Death Eaters. Those had come from Aurors.

She didn't know if Moody had been a part of those responsible, and she couldn't say she'd have been better after everything that occurred in the Wizarding war. That kind of anger needed an outlet—but Harriet couldn't forget. The image stayed with her all these months later, visceral and haunting. It made being in the man's presence uncomfortable.

"I heard you in there, giving the Diggory boy information about his task. That's against the rules."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Harriet fibbed. "It's not against any rules for me to show him the Scrying Hall."

"And if he just so happened to drop his egg in one of those basins? That's no business of yours, eh?"

"None at all, sir."

Moody's good eye narrowed, and the other ceased its restless revolutions to settle on her. "I don't care much for unfair advantages, Potter," he growled. "I care even less for cheating."

"Karkaroff and Maxime will have told Delacour and Krum what to expect—and if Longbottom has any kind of wits at all, he'll recognize the Mermish. But that's his problem, not mine."

Moody glowered—though, perhaps, he had no other expression, his face twisted by curses and spell-fire and overwhelming paranoia. "I'm watching you, Potter," he settled on saying. "You and that Dark creature you're passing off as a familiar."

Harriet didn't grimace, but it was a close thing. Instead, in a fit of mean-spirited mischief, she told the dodgy wizard, "I'll tell Livi you said hello," and flicked her damp plait over her shoulder. She ran off for the dormitories before any other annoying wizards could stop her.


A/N: Unlike Harry, Harriet knows about Mermish and Gillyweed because her CoMC class is taught by Grubbly-Plank instead of Hagrid. Love Hagrid, but they learned fuck all taking care of Blast-Ended Skrewts lmao.