Forster was doing his usual mid morning rounds. Having a free period meant he could help patrol the halls, which he was more than happy to do. He flipped his wand off-handedly as he walked down the Defense Against the Dark Arts corridor.
It was quiet down the hall, with no mid morning classes, but that was usually when trouble could happen. As he walked down, he thought he heard the sounds of yelling toward Professor Qasim’s office. Curious as to what would be causing the all the yelling, The Hufflepuff prefect crept closer to the Professor’s door. The closer he got to the door, the louder he felt his footsteps got. He started to shuffle his feet, sliding along the stone more and more toward the door. When he got close enough that he could hear the words, his heart lurched a little as he heard Kat screaming at the top of her lungs.
“I said I’m not doing it anymore!”
“Katherine,” Qasim’s low baritone voice echoed off the walls, “this assignment was given to you to accomplish. How would it look on the rest of your career if it was left uncompleted?”
“I don’t care!” The Ravenclaw’s voice hovered on near-hysteria. “I’m never doing it again… no matter what you say.”
“That is unfortunate to hear.” The professor spoke with unsettling calm. There was a long pause, it made Forster more and more nervous as the seconds ticked by. “You an extremely talented witch, Ms. Tarbell. I was just about to write Barnabus Cuffe; he and I are very close friends thanks to Professor Slughorn. He was most interested to have you join his staff at the Prophet after this term was over.”
“You don’t understand. I’m done! I can’t let what happened in December happen again. Ever.” With those last words, she stormed out of the Professor’s office and nearly ran straight into Forster as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “Watch where you’re going!”
“Hey,” Forster held up his hands, “everything alright, Kat?” He wore a concerned smile, “I thought I heard yelling?”
“It was nothing,” she snapped. Then, with a glance back at Qasim’s door, she grabbed onto his arm and held on with an almost painful grip. “You’re my friend, right?”
His grin widened a little as his hand took the hand that had grabbed his arm. “I thought I was more than that?”
She stared at his hand then shook her head. “This is no time to be cute. I’m… Forster, I’m really not someone you want to be spending a lot of time with.”
“So,” Forster wiggled his eyebrows, “you think I’m… cute?”
“You’re so… so…” Without warning, she grabbed him by the front of his robes and pulled him into a fierce kiss.
Forster returned the kiss. After a few moments, they pulled away. “If you think that’s going to shut me up,” Forster smirked, “well if we keep doing it, you’re prolly right.”
Since she didn’t push him away or tell him that they were never going to do that again, Forster decided to take it as a sign that they were going to kiss again. He leaned in to do just that, the tears that lingered on her cheeks doing nothing to dampen the mood. His lips had barely touched hers when he caught the sound of a light step behind them.
“Oh, excuse me. I was just… ohmygosh!” Ambrosia Sheridan stood frozen in the hallway, staring at her friend like he’d grown a second head… a head that had decided to take leave of its senses and kiss a really unpleasant girl.
“Oh uh errr,” was all Forster could get out.
Rose stared at the Hufflepuff. Letting him off easy would be the nice thing to do, but kissing Kat didn’t exactly make him deserving of niceness. “Oh I’m sorry. Did I interrupt something?” she asked, blinking with exaggerated innocence.
Forster’s face reddened. “Truth be told,” he said shyly, “it’s not the first time.”
“And it’s none of your business,” the brunette girl snapped. She shot Forster a frosty look and began to move away down the hall. “We’ll talk later.” There was something distinctly ominous in her tone as she turned her back on them both.
“Well, that’s not…” He swallowed hard, “good.”
“Not good? Forster, you were kissing Kat. Mean, snoopy, doesn’t like anyone, Kat! What were you thinking?” the blonde asked, still trying to get over the shock of actually seeing them together.
“Well she does like…” Forster put his hands on his hips indignantly, “me.”
Rose looked down at her shoes. “I’m sorry, Forster. Of course she does. You’re one of the nicest people I know. It’s just… kinda a surprise.”
“Is it?” Forster folded his arms across his chest. “And why is that?”
The Ravenclaw bit back her first response and decided to respond politely. “You’re right. It shouldn’t be. She’s a single girl, you’re a single boy… What could be more natural?”
Forster sighed as his body relaxed. “I’m sorry, Rose,” he said a little ashamed of himself, “but that’s why we didn’t say anything. We both knew how everyone would react.”
“Well I certainly proved you right on that one,” she laughed. “Kat’s hurt a lot of people, sometimes indirectly, sometimes pretty much on purpose with that paper of hers. But if you’re happy…” I’ll try not to gag in front of you, she added silently.
Lunch in the Great Hall was always one of the most chaotic times of day. With people moving from table to table talking to friends and grabbing a quick sandwich or a bite of something else on their way to the library or another quiet place to study.
Tom narrowly escaped getting bowled over by a third year Hufflepuff who was storming his way out of the Great Hall with a muffled sorry as he talked through the roast beef sandwich clenched in his teeth.
After settling himself back to balance and hurling a few choice curse words at the back of the Hufflepuff, Tom went to his own table and grabbed several pieces of roast beef himself and shoved them into a cut open roll before heading to the Ravenclaw table.
“Afternoon, squire.” He said to Dan as he sat down on the bench next to his fellow Gentleman with his back to the table. “And how was Arithmancy this dull dreary January day?”
“Nae bad,” Danny replied with a smile. “Vectra keeps trying tae git me tae tutor some o’ th’ third ‘n’ fourth years, bit A’ve convinced her that ah’m nae suited fur it.” He laughed at the thought of him teaching anyone anything. “Ah think she kin huv roped Bill intae th’ jab.”
The Ravenclaw man shook his head as he took a bite of sausage. “Tae be fair,” he continued after dropping his fork back down on the carved plate, “yuir hoosemate is richt talented at arithmancy. He’s in the advanced elective tae.” As he was talking, Dan’s left eye began to twitch slightly.
“You alright, lad?” Tom said with a note of concern, “You look like you’ve been studying too long.”
“Ye ken me, brother. Ah ne’er study tae hard. Ah juist..” Danny trailed off as a Gryffindor second year started twitching and spasming, falling from his seat onto the stone floor.
“Oi! Whit’s wrong wi’ Shunpike?” Dan asked, his own eye still twitching.
“What the hell?” Tom said standing up. His head jerked toward the staff table, but as it was a Wednesday, only Professor Kettleburn was at the staff table, and he was nearly useless.
“Whit’s aw this?” Foozle stood behind Danny, watching one of the prefects ran from the hall. “Problem?” Both of the other Gentlemen nodded in the direction of the sight that held the attention of most of the other Ravenclaws at the table. Stan Shunpike lay on the floor as a few Gryffindor second years helped to steady him.
“No shuir…” He looked up to his Scot brother.
Foozle’s brow furrowed. “Uh… Danny? Ye hivnae bin lickin ony skitterworms, hiv ye? Acause…”
Danny let out a small gulping sound. Sweat started to appear on his forehead. He dropped down to one knee.
“Danny!” Tom dropped down next to Dan with Orlando right behind him.
“Ye aricht, brither?” Lando said with an extremely worried voice.
Danny was now panting heavily but could not catch his breath.
Tommy’s head swerved quickly from his friend to the staff table. Professor Kettleburn was ripping a piece of meat off of the leg of a turkey and was too busy to notice.
Tommy grabbed the nearest student, a little Ravenclaw first year. “Go, now! Get Professor Flitwick and Madam Pomfrey now!”
The little first year gave a scared nod and ran out of the hall.
“For now, we need to lay him down.” Tom said to Lando over Danny’s head.
“Aye.” Lando nodded.
The two gents helped Danny lay down and that seemed to ease Danny’s breathing a bit. At that point Tommy turned his attention to Stan. He helped the younger Gryffindors lay him down as well. As the sixth year stood up, he started to see more and more of the students in distress.
“What is this?” The Care of Magical Creatures called out.
“Oh, now he notices.” Tom said under his breath. “It’s seems there is something wrong with the food sir. People are taking ill.”
Professor Kettleburn started to walk around the staff table when there was a muffled strangled scream from down near the end of the Ravenclaw table, and then a sickening thud. Tom’s head whipped around to see a small group of seventh year screaming as Kat lay prone and unconscious, her spasms worse than any other person in the hall.
“What the devil is going on here?” Professor McGonagall’s voice seemed to fill the entire hall.
“People have taken ill, professor,” Tom said wiping the sweat off of his brow.
The Transfiguration Mistress surveyed the hall quickly. “Can they be moved, Michael?”
Tom ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t know Professor. All I can tell is it’s not regular food poisoning. This is different.”
Just then, Madam Pomfrey and Professor Flitwick joined Tom and McGonagall at the mouth of Great Hall.
“Oh my word.” The matron held her hands up to her mouth.
“Students who are not unwell,” Professor McGonagall called out, “please leave the Great Hall immediately.”
Tom and Lando stood outside the Hospital wing waiting for word on Danny and the rest of the students. Rose paced back and forth near the pair, sometimes stepping between them, but never straying far from the door. She’d given up asking if he… they, were going to be okay. The boys didn’t have any answers. They were all stuck waiting together.
“Brosia,” Foozle reached forward and snagged the blonde’s little hand in his as she made another pass,”Danny’s gauntae be fine.” He gave her a reassuring smile as best he could muster. “An yuir gauntae mak me seasick gif ye keep pacing lik tha.”
She let his hand stop her forward motion, squeezing her fingers around his. “I wasn’t even in there to help,” she said for the millionth time since hearing about the disaster.
“We established tha,” he said, nodding. “Tommy an A wis and we counda dae onything fer it either.”
Tommy nodded. He had been leaning against the cold brick wall of the castle, with his arms folded across his chest. “I’ve never seen anything like this.” He said more to himself than to the others. “Do you all think it has something to do with the other things that have been going on this year?”
“Stairting tae be awfu suspicious, yeah?”
The blonde took a matted lock of hair from between her teeth. “That’s even worse. Why would anyone do this to people?”
The door to the hospital wing opened and a figure stepped through shutting the door behind it. Once the door was shut, Forster leaned against it and heaved a heavy sigh.
“Fors what’s going on in there?” Tom pulled himself off of the wall and rested a hand on The Hufflepuff.
Forster wiped a tear of either frustration or tiredness from his face and sighed. “Well,” he said in a shaky voice, “Madam Pomfrey says what ever happened wasn’t any kind of food poisoning. Whatever it was shut down parts of the victim’s brains. Most people are more or less ok, Madam Pomfrey was able to make a potion to counteract it, but some people…” his voice trailed off.
Rose squeezed Orlando’s hand harder. “Some people?” she prompted, terrified to hear the end of Forster’s sentence.
Foozle gave her a little tug into his side. He asked the hanging question. “Hou’s Danny?”
“He,” his voice staggered, “he barely had any at all he should be ok.”
“Thank Goodness.” Tom sighed.
Leaning heavily against her friend, Rose echoed Tommy’s sigh of relief. Then, trying to remember that other people had reasons to be worried too, she took a closer look at Forster. “You’ve been working really hard in there. Do you need to take a break or anything?” It hit her slowly as she watched him shake his head. “Wait. Forster, how’s Kat?”
Forster broke down at that point.He slid down the door of the Hospital Wing and began to cry in earnest.”She got the worst,” he said between sobs, “Not even the most powerful potion we can make can help. She’s in a coma, and she may never come back.”