Here’s the next section of Secrets Internalized. Thanks so much for following along this far! If you’re just starting out, the previous sections are here: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10; Part 11
Astrid watched from a few yards back. He passed Florean Fortescue’s, and it was clear where he was headed next. She hesitated. She never ventured into Knockturn Alley. Just the thought gave her anxiety. But then she thought of Rita and, with a new resolve, darted forward.
When she turned the corner, everything went instantly darker. Looking up, she saw faint starlight. The place was so creepy, even the sun wouldn’t show its face here. She shivered. There was a new chill in the air. Having no idea now of where Barty had gone, she was very leery to continue. She stepped timidly forward and, with a gasp, tripped over someone resting against the wall below her. She was unsure whether the man was dead or drunk. This was not the place for her, and she knew it.
She paused again in front of a window display of shrunken heads to let her eyes adjust to the murkiness. “Oh, you look lost,” one of them jeered at her, and another chimed in with a false motherly tone, “Do you know where you are, dearie?” They all began to cackle. Astrid, frightened that their voices would have alerted Barty and anyone else in the vicinity to her presence, spun to flee back into the light and bumped right into someone standing stock still behind her. Unable to withhold a scream, she looked up and saw that it was Barty, and wasn’t certain whether this was more or less startling.
His face was expressionless and shadowed in the dim light cast by the Borgin and Burke’s storefront. She grasped for anything she could say to him, further disconcerted when she noticed he was holding his wand.
“Why are you following me, Miss Featherley?” he said. He was calm and cool, not at all unnerved by the situation. Not like she was.
“I—I wasn’t really,” she began.
He stared. “You weren’t.” It wasn’t even a question. He didn’t believe her; of course he didn’t. “Sneaking around is not a talent of yours.”
She felt mildly insulted and more than a bit silly. “I wasn’t sneaking, I mean,” she said. “I—I was trying to catch up to you. I was surprised to see you. I never got to say goodbye when you left Hogwarts. I never…got to tell you how much I admired you,” she said, an idea forming in her mind.
“Admired?” he said. The expression on his face had not altered, but by a slight change in intonation, she could tell she had sparked his interest.
“Yes,” she said. “Of course. Admired. You were the brightest wizard of our generation. Top grades, great OWLs…not to mention very attractive.”
It wasn’t a complete lie. His name was eponymous with the phrase ‘tall, dark, and handsome’. He definitely looked surprised now, and a bit pleased with himself.
But ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ wasn’t all he was known for. There were those rumors that had led her to follow him today. “And I think we hold the same ideals,” she said, her voice wavering slightly.
He frowned. “What ideals are those?”
She took a deep, shuddery breath and clutched at her wand. “We both want the purification of Wizarding schools.”
There was a long pause, and then he licked his lips. It was a subtle tic she had begun to notice in his final year at Hogwarts.
“Interesting,” he said finally.