The Twilight Before
by alejandra


The books that Padma needs for her essay on Dionysius Agaric for Potions Theory are missing from the Restricted Section. Madame Pince scowls at her when she asks where the books are, demands to see her permission slip again, even though she saw it when she let Padma into the Restricted Section in the first place.

Padma silently hands over the permission slip, Professor Snape's bold, slashing signature almost leaping off the page. She wonders about the properties of ink, whether it can be transfigured to actually leap off the page -- or whether it --

"That book isn't here," says Madame Pince, interrupting Padma's thoughts.

"Oh," says Padma. "Yes, I knew that. But where is it? I am the only one with permission --"

Madame Pince squints, and Padma knows she's running the catalogue in her head, going through who has checked out which books, who has touched which books, where they all are in Hogwarts. Padma thought for a while that she might like to become a librarian. That was before the Death Eaters burned the three Great Libraries. There's not much of a point in specializing in APTBvH-era Potions texts if there are none left except those in private collections. Plus, Padma wasn't sure she wanted the magical head implant that allowed her to catalogue the books in her head; it was strange, and sometimes changed the personalities of those who received it.

"It's not here," says Madame Pince again, and now she's frowning. "It's not here."

Padma wrinkles her forehead. "What do you mean, it's not here?"

"It's not here," she says, and begins to scream.

Madame Pomfrey sedates Madame Pince, and Padma is allowed to watch -- for research purposes only, of course -- as Madame Pomfrey extracts the library catalogue from Madame Pince's head. There are holes, big holes, and they're spreading, rimmed in black. Madame Pomfrey's eyes get wide, and she ushers Padma from the room.

As Padma is walking back to the Ravenclaw common room, trying to figure out what could cause that, she sees Professors Snape, McGonagall, Firenze, Flitwick, and Vector, all rushing together, all converging on the corner of the hospital wing, all frowning.

She immediately changes directions and heads for the Gryffindor common room. There's no meeting of Dumbledore's Army tonight, but she might have to call one. She's not a Ravenclaw for nothing -- she's logical, and she knows when there's a problem. And there is a problem.



The staircases in Hogwarts have stopped moving.

Maybe Neville isn't so good with his wand -- yes, he's heard all the jokes, ta very much -- but he notices things and he notices people and he notices when the House Elves stop serving seven types of juices. No one else notices, because no one else drank pumpkin-cranberry juice except Neville. Now he can't, because they don't put pitchers of cranberry juice next to his plate at every meal.

Neville notices that the staircases have stopped moving, there are only two Rooms of Requirement when there used to be four, books are going missing from the Restricted Section, Hermione is taking one less class than the maximum allotment, and none of the Slytherins have tripped him in the hallway in twenty-six days.

He's not sure what's going on, and he knows better than to ask, since no one would tell him anyway, but something is going on. Something is happening. Neville wants to be there when it happens, because even though his wandwork isn't so good, he's strong, and he's smart enough, and he knows which is the side of the right and the good and he's going to do everything he can to make sure they win. So he sticks close to Harry, as close as he can, even follows when Harry goes to Snape's offices and waits outside, follows Harry back, follows Harry everywhere.

Harry is going to be there, wherever there is, when it happens, whatever it is, and Neville is going to be right beside him.



"Do you think they know?" whispers Hannah.

"Of course not," says Ernie scornfully in his normal tone of voice.

Hannah, Laura, and Kevin all shush him at the same time.

"Be quiet," says Laura furiously. "The portraits will listen to us if we speak loud!"

"No one knows," says Kevin in a low voice. "Why would anyone suspect us?"

"Yeah," says Ernie. "Right. We're Hufflepuffs. We're -- loyal."

"We are loyal," says Laura.

"That's what I said," says Ernie.

"What's going on here?" The foursome look up as Susan Bones descends on them.

"We're talking," says Hannah. "Is that allowed?"

Susan makes a face.

She thinks she's so important because her aunt is the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, thinks Ernie scornfully. What an arse.

"Sorry to interrupt," Susan finally says, and walks away. Hannah and Laura breathe twin sighs of relief; Ernie and Kevin exchange eye-rolls.

"We have a meeting tonight. One AM," says Kevin. "If you're worried about people finding out..."

"I'm not worried," says Hannah. "I'm just --"

"Worried," says Laura. "Think what will happen to us!"

"We'll be protected," says Ernie. "They promised. We're soldiers. You can't fight a war without soldiers."

"You're so stupid, Ernie." Laura shakes her head. "Soldiers die."

"Yeah, they also win." Kevin glares at Laura, then at Hannah. "Come on, Ernie -- let's go."



Blaise examines his fingernails carefully. One of them is slightly longer than the others, and the end is ragged. He uses his wand, fixes it, examines again. When Draco enters the room, Blaise looks up, but only for a moment.

"Are we finished proving our evil powers by flying about on a broomstick?" he says. Draco doesn't answer, so Blaise looks up again. Draco is muddy and dirty and wet; it must be raining, as Draco would never allow himself to sweat so much. He's still -- hm. "Why are you still in that horribly tacky uniform?"

"We cut practice short," says Draco, and starts to undress. "Snape was called away by Madame Pomfrey. Apparently --"

"Yes, Madame Pince." Blaise nods, sets his wand down, and enjoys Draco's pale skin coming into view. Blaise has no use for Quidditch, but plenty of use for the muscles Draco has developed playing it. "I suppose it's started."

"I suppose so," says Draco sarcastically.

"You knew this day would come," says Blaise. They all knew this day would come.

"I thought." Draco cuts himself off, and when he speaks again, his voice is icy and disdainful. "I suppose now it's time for us to take over the world."

"Ah, I believe that would be the Dark Lord's plan, Draco, not ours." Blaise smirks at Draco's glare, then refocuses on Draco's arse as Draco towels himself off.

"I suppose now it's time for Lord Voldemort to take over the world," says Draco. He turns and sits to put on pants and trousers, and Blaise licks his lips.

"Perhaps that can wait a few moments?" suggests Blaise. "After all, one must do what one must in times of war."

"Morgana, you're horny again?" says Draco, but he doesn't sound irritated. "Fine, you may suck me off."

"Rather," says Blaise, "I may fuck you and make you scream."

"No," says Draco.

"Yes," says Blaise. He kicks off his shoes as he approaches Draco, pulls off his shirt, unbuttons his trousers.

"Do you think anyone but us realizes what's about to happen?" says Draco. "Those ridiculous Gryffindors and their posturing -- do you think --"

"If you say Harry Potter's name while I'm fucking you again," snarls Blaise, his mouth next to Draco's ear, "I will leave you tied up and naked outside the Gryffindor common room." He pulls Draco's hair to tug his neck back, and applies his teeth to the delicate skin over Draco's throat.


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