Coil - Chapter 28 - Allegory_for_Hatred - 文豪ストレイドッグス (2024)

Chapter Text

"There's no need to be so harsh," Mori had written, in response to one of Dazai's less-than respectful comments, "the fruits of our labors will reveal themselves shortly."

The letter had arrive just that morning. In fact, Featherbrain's awful hooting had woken Dazai up when she'd arrived. He'd startled, sitting up wide-eyed and throwing his blanket to the floor, only to find the owl preening, self-satisfied, on the sofa's armrest. She'd promptly dropped the letter in his lap. The only good thing about the whole situation was that Featherbrain had gifted him one of Mori's really fancy pens—the kind that Dazai knew she must have pilfered. Mori was probably fuming over the loss. That thought made Dazai smile, so he hadn't scolded Featherbrain to hard.


The fruits of our labors...

Dazai had read that line over three times before finally burning the letter up with an incendio. No evidence left behind ever again.

And also no orders. Mori's letters continued to be largely useless. Dazai was starting to think Mori just missed having someone around to pester constantly.

The letter's contents had bounced in his head the entire walk to the Great Hall. Dazai stretched his arms over his head and cracked out a yawn on the way. The halls were perfectly still, save for a few twitching statues and watchful paintings. Dazai paid them no heed, and they largely ignored him in return. The only exception had been a particularly Hufflepuff-looking painting that had cursed down at him when he'd passed underneath it.


It left his ears ringing, but still could not swamp out the echo of Mori's letter.

The fruits of our labors...

Dazai had to push the grand doors to the Great Hall open himself. It was still far too early for the other students to be awake—the sun wasn't yet fully risen—so the halls were empty, the doors closed, and the souring smell of healthy breakfast foods had yet to waft through the air. It was honestly the only time Dazai could really appreciate the Great Hall. Because of this, he was frequently the first student to arrive. Today was no different. He started for the Gryffindor seating and—

The entire staff table whipped to face him.

Dazai froze in place. His spine snapped straight. He stood, still, half-way between his seat and the ajar door.

Typically at this hour, it was only Dazai and a few staff awake. McGonagall, usually. Snape, sometimes. A few assorted others. Trelawney and Vector always arrived together, and usually several minutes late. This morning, they were all here. McGonagall, Snape, Trelawney, Vector, Lockhart, Flitwick—Dazai could go on, but he didn't actually care to know all their names. It was evident from their harried stares and the way they were huddled, that the staff had been deep in some important conversation.

"Mr. Dazai," Snape said first, cutting through the tense silence they'd abruptly fallen into, "what are you doing here?"

Dazai frowned. He suddenly became aware that Dumbledore wasn't among them.

"Breakfast?" Dazai said, like a question. "Maybe I should be asking you that. What's going on, Sir?" Dazai's mind was at once buzzing a mile-a-minute. No Pomfrey—so it wasn't that. But there was still glaring at him, like whatever bee had gotten in their bonnet was still somehow Dazai's fault.

"Ah! The demon arrives?" Spleen said, bouncing. Among the staff, he stood out like a sore thumb. Where the others were quiet and tense, he was excitedly looking around, and hovering just over his back was that notebook of his. A quill was levitating above the paper, writing something frantically.

Several of the professors shot him a scathing glance—Snape most notable among them. Dazai observed this all with a calculated stare. Mori's missive echoing in his head. Dumbledore's absence. The way Spleen seemed to practically be vibrating in place. The pieces clashed together at once, and Dazai blurted, "Where is the headmaster?"

Snape twitched, and around him, some of the staff shared quick, horrified looks.

Finally, it was McGonagall who stepped out of their huddle. Her shoulders were a stiff line, and the wrinkles around her eyes seemed more pronounced even from this distance. "Sit down, Mr. Dazai," she said, voice leaving no room for question. "An announcement will be made shortly."

Dazai rocked back on his heels, and for several seconds they only stared at one another. The other staff had yet to leave their huddle, but they had also yet to return to their chatter. Dazai's presence had evidently disrupted them. That realization itched at him, and, rather sitting as McGonagall had told him, he asked, "how much of this is my fault?"

McGonagall blinked, clearly caught off-guard by the question. Behind her, Snape's eyes narrowed, and several of the other professors turned a suspicious eye onto him. Spleen's quill jotted down something. And Lockhart—for once looking a little subdued—suddenly let out a single, bursting laugh.

McGonagall sent Lockhart a silencing glare, and he winced back. "This is nothing to do with you," she said. Then, skeptically, "Why?"

"If something bad happens, I'm bound to be blamed for it," Dazai told her honestly, and saw Snape's expression tighten all the way across the Hall. "Some time to prepare myself would be appreciated."

Now, more than ever.

Now, when Mori's words—the fruits of our labors—were telling Dazai this time, it probably was his fault. And if his suspicions were correct...

McGonagall's stare didn't shift, and her lips remained in a thin, pursed line. "Sit," was all she said after a few seconds.

Dazai puffed out a sigh. But he did as he was told and trudged to the Gryffindor table. His friends hadn't arrived yet, so Dazai settled himself at the head of the table, alone. It was where Percy usually sat, which meant he was liable to being relocated after the prefect woke up in a few minutes. But it was also closest to the staff table, and Dazai loved a good eavesdropping. He settled his bookbag on the table in front of him. Unlike for the other students, food rarely ever manifested before him. Dazai wasn't hungry now, and wouldn't have eaten if it had, but he might have appreciated having something to look busy with. As it was, the staff were shooting him suspicious looks all the while he got settled. Dazai pulled a book out from his bag and pretended to read.

'...Due to transfiguration magic's unique fundamental qualities, it can have many varied applications. Ranging from minor alterations—such as the traditional 'match-to-needle'—to the more complex form changes—animagi being the most exceptional—'

"What are we going to tell the students, exactly?" Vector asked, voice hushed in a tense whisper.

Dazai flipped the page, but his eye didn't focus on its contents. At the staff table, McGonagall made a sound of displeasure.

"We will tell them what we must," she said.

"Not everything," Snape cut in quickly.

There was a pause, where Dazai imagined McGonagall might have glared at the potion master for his interruption. But he didn't look up to check, and only squinted down at a strange figure depicting a man transforming into a dog.

"Well, why not?" Lockhart asked. "If it's the demon's fault Albus is gone, we should say!"


Lockhart coughed. "It's the truth."

"It's speculation," McGonagall hedged.

"It's Albus' own inaction that got him removed as headmaster," Snape said.

Dazai's finger twitched, and the paper of his book made a resulting shff! noise. He flipped the page to cover it up. None of the staff shouted at him, so he didn't think they'd noticed his reaction.

Dumbledore was fired, he thought to the book. So it was true—Mori's schemes were beginning to take effect. This was the confirmation he needed. Because there was no way this wasn't what Mori had meant by fruits.

"Exactly! He should have expelled the demon months ago!" Lockhart was saying.

"Inaction about the petrifications, you fool!" Snape argued.

"Oh," Spleen said, "can't it be both?"

"That's true. The Department of Education cited both the petrifications and the Demon Students as reasoning."

"You mean the petrifications caused by the demon?" Lockhart said, chuckling out a laugh.

McGonagall snapped at him, "There is no evidence of that."

Lockhart choked. "Er... yes. Ma'am."

Ma'am? Dazai perked up at that. He'd never seen Lockhart show deference like that to anyone!

"Minerva. Regarding Mr. Dazai. Have you heard back from—" Snape started to ask.

"The Daily Prophet? It's only been a few hours since I sent the letter, Severus."

Snape blew out a tight-sounding breath.

"Keep quiet about that Demon business," Vector said, voice so hushed Dazai had to strain to hear it.

"I mean," Trelawney hummed, voice just as low, "he is sitting right there."

The conversation lapsed into silence for a long moment. Long enough that Dazai looked up from his book to see what had happened. Upon looking up—

Immediately, the staff jumped and looked away. They must have been staring at him. Only Snape and McGonagall didn't turn away, guilty, so Dazai gave them a friendly wave hello before sticking his nose back in his book. It was talking about animagi still, which Dazai thought was both interesting and way above his skill level. He flipped through a few pages until finding something a bit more basic to skim over.

Someone sighed.

"This is a cluster."

"It is."

"Well, what are we going to do?" Flitwick asked. "Can we expel... you know who? Could Albus come back then?"

McGonagall scoffed. "That isn't happening."

"Well, why not!?"

"We need Albus here!"

"I'll be the one saving the day, don't you worry," Lockhart stage-whispered to Spleen.

"Can I quote you on that?"


Snape grunted—Dazai could recognize that disgruntled voice anywhere. He found himself perking up on instinct to hear what his favorite professor had to say next. "It's up to Minerva what we do," he said, tone gravelly. "Seeing as—"

Snape cut off abruptly as several footsteps suddenly began filling in the Great Hall. Dazai looked up—first to the staff, then to the door. Just like Dazai had, the students froze briefly before entering before hurrying off to their tables.

"We'll finish this later," Snape grumbled. "As for the students..?"

McGonagall ran a hand down her face. "I will tell them what I must."

"Lying to the students?" Spleen pipped.

"Avoiding a riot," McGonagall said dryly. There was a sound of rustling cloth as she ushered the rest of the staff back towards their table. "Sit. I will make the announcement shortly."

They did as they were told, and a variety of breakfast foods magically appeared in front of each chair. A steaming pair of coffee mugs manifested in front of Snape and McGonagall and they drank without waiting for them to cool.

With the staff no longer in a huddle, Dazai thought the Great Hall looked as it always did. A calm, morning air around them. Food slowly beginning to populate the tables. Only he and the few other students present were privy to the previously tense atmosphere. Because of this, when the next bunch of kids arrived, they sleepily stumbled to their tables as though nothing were wrong. Dazai flipped through his book to avoid the stares going his way. It was a relief when Fred and George finally showed up.

"Mornin'," Fred greeted with a massive yawn. He all but collapsed on Dazai's right.

George sat on his left, looking no less awake. "Morning, Little Snake."

"Wake up, you two," Dazai said by way of hello. They continued to sleepily pile up their plates, and responded only with a grunt each. "We have work today."

"Work?" George asked. "So early?"

Fred lathered up two slices of toast with butter, then passed one to George. In turn, George gave his brother a cut-up grapefruit.

"Guess that's what we get for asking let in on the plan," Fred said. "Well, what's up?"

"Work," Dazai repeated non-specifically. He waved a hand around. "You know."

"Actually, we don't ever know what's going on in the brain of yours."

"Not usually, anyway. So what's—"

Before he could finish, Hermione and Ron sat down the table across from them. The twins' mouths blew open into wide grins, looking a little more awake now.

"Morning, you two," Fred beamed, "come looking for Dazai's latest scheme, too?"

"Oh?" Hermione blinked, fishing across the table for a fruit. "Are you checking out the girl's bathroom today, Dazai?"

"Checking the what?" Ron sputtered.

"Basilisk," Dazai told him, though Ron still looked more than a little dubious. "And that's the plan. Why, you want to tag along?"

Hermione smiled "Only if you'll have me."

"More the merrier, then," Dazai said. "But we'll have to be quick. I have a lesson with McGonagall this afternoon, so we'll need to finish up before then." Dazai glanced to the staff table. McGonagall was staring out over the sea of students, speaking lowly to Snape beside her. He looked away. "Probably. Anyway, I just want to get the lay of the land. I'm saving the big stuff for later."

"Nothing dangerous, I hope," Percy said, arriving in step with Ginny and Luna.

"Big bro is worrying again," Fred and George snickered.

He shot them a scolding look before looking skeptically back to Dazai. "Do I need to be worried?"

Dazai grinned. "Not today, no."

"...good. Let's keep it that way."

"No promises!"

Ginny tittered. "Good luck, Dazai. Let me know if I can help."

"If we can help," Luna said, and Ginny flushed a pleased shade of pink. "I've always wanted to perform an exorcism."

"Luna, I don't think that's..." Ginny trailed off as she and Luna took their seats a little further down the table. Percy sat beside them, though the prefect seemed only to be here for breakfast and never once chimed into their conversation.

"Performing an exorcism, are we?" Fred asked, and George said, "don't let Nearly Headless Nick hear you say that!"

At the mention of one of Hogwart's resident ghosts, Dazai pouted. "I want nothing to do with ghosts." After all, ghosts were about the only thing at Hogwarts that could sense No Longer Human. He didn't need any of that.

"Ooh! Sounds like drama."

"Yeah, spill, Snakey!"

"Nothing to share. I just don't like them."

Hermione perked up. "There's no need to be so hostile, Dazai," she said. "Actually, I have a rather interesting fun-fact about the Hogwart's ghosts that may change your opinion on them!"

There was no changing Dazai's mind. And Hermione's 'interesting fun-fact' actually turned out to be several not-very interesting lectures. They all humored her spiel, only occasionally breaking off into side-conversations or making off-hand remarks. Hermione was half-way through the story of how the Bloody Baron died (a suicide! Dazai continued to be terribly jealous over that tidbit), when McGonagall suddenly commanded the Great Hall silent.

"Students," she called, voice equally solemn and stern. The Great Hall fell into a hush immediately. "Thank you," she said. "This is a sensitve announcement, so I ask you to keep your speculation and questions to a minimum."

A few worried titters echoed around the room. Dazai heard Ginny's nervous voice among them, "Percy, what's going on?"

McGonagall stepped forward until she was at the head of the student tables. Her eyes passed over the gathered children and never once lingered. They skipped over Dazai like she hadn't even noticed him. Eventually, her gaze settled somewhere on the far wall. "Albus Dumbledore has been removed from his position as headmaster of Hogwarts—"


"Oh my stars!"

Uproar thundered out of the Great Hall. Several students shot to their feet in shock, only to be tugged back down by wide-eyed friends.

"The headmaster is gone!?" Hermione squeaked.

"I mean," Ron gasped, "it's been in the papers for weeks, but I didn't think it'd actually happen!"

At McGonagall's back, the staff were looking to one another frantically. And Dumbledore's usual seat at the center of their table remained empty as ever. Around the room, many of the students seemed now to be realizing his absence. Shouting shook the Great Hall. Dazai, who had already gleaned this information, only watched the proceedings with a stoic frown.

McGonagall raised a hand, and a tense quiet fell again. But an anxious energy still buzzed in the air so potent the hair of Dazai's arms rose. McGonagall waited a few moments until it was clear the shouting had died down. Only then, did she continue, "This was not a decision made by Hogwarts staff, but one made externally. I can assure you, this was not a decision taken lightly." Another pause, this time to take a heavy breath. "I have been appointed Headmistress in his place. The rest of this school year will continue as normal—I will speak with each of my classes individually regarding potential changes to my teaching schedule in light of my increased workload. Thank you."

With that, McGonagall dismissed herself from the room. She walked with shoulders pulled back and a straight spine past several tables of gawping students. Her demeanor left no room for questions. Finally, after many tense seconds, McGonagall vanished out the door.

Predictably, the Great Hall exploded into conversation the second she was gone.

"That's crazy," Fred and George gaped.

Dazai glanced at them, ducking his head and very aware that several eyes all around the Hall were now flicking his way—no doubt finding him responsible, somehow. "Is it?" he asked. "Ron is right, I've been reading about it in the paper for ages now."

Ron chewed through a slice of toast as quick as he could manage, then said, "S'true! That Deer Organization, or whatever."

"It's DOE," Hermione corrected. "As in Department of Education."

"Right. That."

"I'm not sure where they came from. I mean, just a couple months ago, I'd never even heard of them! And now they're making hiring decisions at Hogwarts?" Hermione shook her head.

A few seats down, Luna leaned forward. Her hair slipped over her shoulder and landed in a bowl of oatmeal. She didn't even seem to notice. "My Father had never heard of them, either. This Department of Education is quite mysterious, showing up out of nowhere. Perhaps they've some alternative motive? Though I fail to see why ever they'd want Headmaster Dumbledore gone. Everyone loves him."

Ginny lifted Luna's hair from the bowl and began wiping it clean with a napkin. "Well, that's not exactly true. Is it? I mean, he didn't do anything about the... the petrifications."

Percy shifted uncomfortably at her side. Then, he shook his head. "That's enough. Professor McGonagall told us not to speculate on the matter. We will leave it at that."

"Aw, but that just makes me want to speculate more," Dazai drawled, leaning into his palms. Nevermind that he already knew the truth behind Dumbledore's dismissal, and DOE's role in it.

Percy shot him a look. But before he could say anything about it, he suddenly blinked and sat up straighter. Dazai frowned at followed his gaze.

Snape was walking towards their group. There was no mistaking that focused gait—he was heading straight towards them.

"Good morning, Professor," Percy greeted.

Snape grunted. "I would hesitate to call anything about this good," he grumbled. Percy squirmed, but Snape had turned to Dazai instead. "Mr. Dazai. Minerva's recent promotion puts her in a tight situation. Your private lessons with her are hereby cancelled. Do not use this free time to put yourself into trouble. Do not practice transfiguration on your own. Do not—"

"—have fun?" Dazai finished for him. Snape glowered. "You're such a stick-in-the-mud, Sir."

Snape glared.

Dazai sighed. "Fine. Whatever. I'll behave myself."

He nodded. "Good," he said. Then, with pinched brows and a low tone, "this talk about hunting down the basilisk better be a joke, Problem Child."

Hermione and the twins shared a frantic look beside him. Dazai only grinned. Snape waited for several seconds for Dazai to answer. But when he received nothing more than a sh*t-eating grin for the entire breath's duration, he sighed, long and aggrieved. He pinched the bridge of his nose. Under his breath, he grumbled, "I need to put tracking spell on you." Dazai pretended not to have heard, and a moment later Snape dismissed them to their weekend.

Around the room, whatever students weren't still lingering to chat or eat were leaving. It was a small crowd—in part because attendance was low these days, and in part because there was a lot to chat about. And while Dazai loved a good chat, he also had business to get on to. "I'm going to get moving," Dazai told his gang, eyes still searching out over the crowds.

"What, now?" Fred and George blinked. "You haven't even eaten breakfast yet!"

Dazai made a face. "I'll eat lunch," he bartered.

"Dazai! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! You've got to have something." Hermione said.

"Whoever told you that was lying. The most important meal is lunch. I read that. Somewhere."

"What? Where?"

Dazai sniffed, then looked away to avoid the apple Hermione was suddenly shoving under his nose. "I'm messing with you, 'Mione. Who cares about that sort of thing?"

"I do!"

He turned to the twins next. "Tagging along?"



Dazai nodded—and just about chinned the apple Hermione was still pushing his way. If only to stop her from fussing, he plucked it out of her hand. She made a satisfied noise that he ignored.

He tossed the apple up and caught it. Then, he got to his feet. "Then let's get moving, gang."

The twins got up first, and Hermione followed a second later. Ron, Ginny, Luna, and Percy stayed in their seats. They were still finishing up breakfast. Or, in Percy's case, eyeing the oncoming shenanigans dubiously. Dazai bid them all a quick farewell before hurrying away.

Hermione caught up to him just as he was walking out the door. "We can take our time and look around, now," she was saying, "since your lesson today was cancelled."

"That's right," Fred said.

"More time to look around for..." George trailed off. "...what are we looking for exactly?"

Dazai glanced around the hall before answering, wanting to be sure they wouldn't be overheard first. Lowly, he replied, "wherever it is the basilisk spends most of its time. The Chamber of Secrets, I think."

"Woah, that is so cool."

"Glad I've got your attention," Dazai told the twins cheerily. "I'd like to find the entrance today."

Hermione nodded, serious, while the twins beamed excitedly. But they all stuck with him, regardless of their emotions on the matter. Dazai supposed he couldn't really ask for better subordinates, on that front.

Dazai was about to tell Hermione to take the lead—she was certainly a better guide than him—when Pansy suddenly turned the corner, speed-walking a mile-a-minute.

Straight at them.


The twins followed his gaze. Immediately upon seeing the Pansy-shaped missile impending upon them, they squared their shoulders and took a protective step in front of Dazai. Dazai appreciated the thought, but—

"Oh, quit it," Pansy spat. The twins blinked several times at the open hostility. "This loser and I are on speaking terms now. I'm not going to attack him or anything."

The twins shared a look. "Evidence speaks to the contrary," George hedged, and Fred crossed his arms.

Pansy's frown blistered, and she shot a glare through the gap of their barricading bodies at Dazai. "Tell them I'm not going to kill you."

Dazai made a so-so gesture with one hand that Hermione balked at.


"Alright, alright," Dazai huffed. He gave the twins each a pat on the back, disarming. They met his eyes for a long moment, before finally stepping aside. But there was no mistaking how they were still tense at his sides. "I'll call my guard dogs off, but if you try to hit me they will bite."

"Damn right we will!"

Pansy's nose scrunched up. "That's disgusting."

The twins glared at her. And even Hermione, at Dazai's side, was scowling at Pansy. Dazai decided his guard dogs had the hostility factor covered, so he asked a (slightly) more amicable, "What do you want, Pansy?"

She turned to him, and looked straight past the others as though they were the only two occupants in the entire school. Hermione made a sound of offense. "You're looking for the basilisk right now, yeah?" she asked, then didn't wait for an answer. "I'm coming with."

"You're what now?"

"You can't just invite yourself!"

"Yeah. This is like. An exclusive event."

Pansy scoffed. "It's hardly exclusive. Seems like Dazai's just inviting anyone to join." Here, her eyes fell somewhat accusatory to Hermione.

Hermione's mouth dropped open, then a blooming red covered her entire face. "Excuse you!"

"Now, now, children," Dazai said, stepping forward. "I'll pay attention to all of you if you stop yelling."

"Oh, bite me," Pansy snapped. Then, she seemed to remember herself and glanced a bit nervously to the twins. She took a wary step away from them.

"No thanks," Dazai said. He turned to a glaring Hermione, "keep leading the way, please?"

She gasped. "You can't serioiusly be okay with her coming with, Dazai! I-I know you broke her arm, and if you feel sorry about it, that's—"

"Oh, I don't feel sorry about that at all."

"Idiot," Pansy sniffed.

Hermione blinked several times. She shook her head. "Dazai..."

"I don't want her coming with," he said, "but Pansy will follow anyway. She's like a burr in my side. Or a tumor."

"Don't call me a tumor."

"A jealous tumor," he amended sagely.


Dazai lifted a brow, then devilishly replied, "I'll call you what I want, until you finally choke up the word Boss."

Pansy stared at him, deadpan. "Boss."

"Not like that," Dazai frowned. "With feeling!"

Pansy said nothing more, so Dazai only turned back to his gang. The twins were watching him with skeptical stares, and Hermione with something a little more contemplative. But after a few moments, she conceded. "If you're sure."

"I guess it's only a little embarrassing if she kills me in a girl's bathroom," Dazai said, cheery when Pansy tried and failed to smack him in the arm. "So Pansy can tag along just this once. Blaise would be happy we're hanging out, anyhow." He could almost imagine Blaise's pleased little smile when he saw they were getting on. It would be just a little tilt of his lips. Or even something as small as a shift in his eye. Blaise was good at subtle expressions like that.

...Pansy was not.

Hermione started guiding them again a few stalling seconds later. Dazai and the twins, in one line, followed up behind her. Pansy took up the rear several feet behind them.

If Dazai didn't know any better, he'd say she wasn't a part of their group at all. It actually kind of looked like she was stalking them, from that distance. And every time Dazai glanced over his shoulder at her, Pansy's entire face would be puckered up like she'd bitten a lemon. Her arms were crossed and her shoulders were pushed up to her ears. The only decent thing about her was that she at least wasn't stomping. Pansy was actually fairly quiet behind them. It was only that she'd tried to kill him a couple times that had Dazai's attention always lingering on her, despite it all. Pansy caught his eye and scrunched her nose. Dazai stuck his tongue out at her before spinning around to face Hermione's back once again.

It very quickly became clear that Dazai did not know where they were going.

The second floor... he was sure he had classes on this floor. But for the life of him, he couldn't place their surroundings. Stone. Brick. Suits of armor and those awful paintings. Everything was the same as everywhere else, and yet distinctly different all the while.

"Typical Dazai," Pansy said amusedly at his back when he mentioned this aloud.

Hermione whirled a glare on her. Dazai preemptively lifted a hand to ward off a fight, not wanting to draw attention to this currently-abandoned part of the school. When she saw this, she deflated a little, but there was still a spark in her eyes. And when they finally arrived at their destination, Hermione's voice was clipped when she said, "this is it. The closed girls' bathroom."

Fred and George both clapped—ready for business, and Dazai found himself echoing the gesture.

Pansy, however, was again making a face. "This is your big plan?" She eyed the bathroom door with some distaste. "A bathroom?"

"I've got it on good authority that we'll find what we're looking for in here."

"And whose authority is that? Your own?"

Riddle's, actually, Dazai thought. He grinned instead, and Pansy sniffed. Hermione rolled her eyes at their bickering. Then, with one hand braced against the bathroom door, she looked quickly down one end of the hall then the other. It was empty. Beside him, Dazai saw the twins subtly check the Marauder's Map as well.

Dazai was about to suggest they hurry inside before someone did show up to bust them, when the twins blurted, "Looks like we've got company."

They all jumped, hurriedly looking to-and-fro for any sign of an audience. The corridor was just as empty as it had been seconds ago. And the only sounds around were their own talking—not even the distant echo of footsteps sounded out. Dazai and Hermione shot the twins asking looks, and Pansy scowled at them distrustfully.

George cleared his throat to gather their attentions. "It's Dazai's unlucky day," he said mournfully.

Dazai, looking between Fred and George bemusedly, asked, "Isn't it always? What now?"

George stuck his thumb out at the bathroom door. Hermione's hand, still hanging there, suddenly pulled back as if burned.

"What is it?" She asked cautiously.

"Well, it's Dazai's least favorite thing, of course!" George gestured. "Or, one of them, at least." He shook his head. "There's a ghost inside!"

Pansy stared. "What in Merlin's name are you on about? How would you even know that?"

With Pansy's attention suitably distracted, Fred hastily stuffed the map back into his cloak and out of sight. He cast a surreptitious glance in Pansy's direction, then nodded, evidently confident the Slytherin girl had not seen the Marauder's map. Those twins sure could be sneaky when they wanted to be. Freed up, Fred whirled on them, "Well, I suppose it could be a living, breathing human person. But with a name like Moaning Myrtle..."

"That's a ghost for sure. Only ghosts have names like Moaning Myrtle."

Pansy's gawp morphed into a scowl. "But how do you know someone is in there?" She didn't wait for an answer and whipped to Dazai. "How do they know?"

Dazai, feeling both vindictive and a little amused, only grinned. "Call me Boss and we'll see if I tell you."

"Ugh. I can't stand you."

"The feeling is mutual," Dazai intoned. He turned to the others. "The ghost is a problem," he said, thinking of No Longer Human, "but I really need to get a look in there."

Hermione hummed. "Maybe this Myrtle is like Professor Binns?" She wondered. "As in, not entirely aware? Maybe they won't even notice we're here."

"Or maybe they'll scream bloody murder and the staff will give us all detention for sneaking into closed-off areas," Pansy grumbled. "And then a suspension for hanging out with this loser." She gestured at Dazai.

"Just say I'm kidnapping you. That's worked for me before," Dazai told them.

The twins coughed out a laugh.

Pansy didn't argue the point, only squared her shoulders. Dazai thought she must have agreed with his idea. Otherwise, she would have yelled at him and called him a name. When she didn't, Dazai indicated to the rest of his gang it was time to get moving.

Then, they were stepping through the door. Hermione went in first, a puff to her chest that told Dazai she was steeling herself against the rules they were about to break. Once she was in, the twins made a sweeping gesture for Dazai to follow.

Immediately, a shiver ran up his spine. There was a chill in the air and it rose the gooseflesh of Dazai's arm. He hunched up his shoulders and stepped further into the bathroom. "How long has this place been closed for?" he asked, looking around.

The bathroom was, for lack of a kinder term, in total disrepair.

Actually... Dazai wouldn't mince his words—it was gross.

He lifted his coat so it wouldn't drag across the floors, which were a moldy and wet gray stone. The row of stalls was scratched and knocked around. One of the doors sported a spray of graffiti which Dazai couldn't read for how bad the handwriting was, and another door had been torn entirely off its hinges. Hanging on the wall was a cracked mirror, stained with spots of water and soap. Dazai wondered if the sinks were still operable. They didn't look it.

Hermione coughed at the room's musty smell. "I-if your theory is correct—"

"Oh, about fifty-years I'd say. Not that anyone's been counting."

Everyone jumped—except for Dazai, who had felt the ghostly presence some moments earlier.

Hovering three feet above the air with legs and arms crossed, a translucent girl was pouting down at them. She had wide-rimmed, cracked glasses and pig-tails spouting out from the sides of her head. But the most notable thing about her, of course, was the deathly and see-through quality of her skin. A ghost.

Dazai double-checked that he was still wearing his gloves, and Pansy shot him a strange glance across the room.

"If you're here to paint all over the walls, you'd best be leaving now!" The ghost warned. "I'll scream until a professor comes! Or-or I'll possess you!"

Fred and George laughed heartily. "If a ghost could possess us," they said confidently, "then surely Peeves would'a done it by now!"

"Right! That's a bluff if I ever heard one."

It was scarcely noticeable, but Dazai thought the ghost blushed. "Oh! Boys are the same no matter the era! You're all just here to bully poor, stupid Myrtle, aren't you!" Myrtle drew in a breath Dazai wasn't sure she really needed, being dead and all, then blubbered out, "Just get out! Just get out, I won't hear it!"

"Wh—please calm down," Hermione said, "I'm sure they meant nothing by it. Isn't that right, you two?" She shot a pointed look at the twins.

Fred coughed into his fist. "We didn't really do anything."

"Just pointed out the truth, y'know, and—"

Hermione's stare needled.

Dazai, deciding he didn't want to stand around bickering in such a disgusting place all day, took charge. It was his job as boss, anyhow. "Miss," he said suddenly, drawing everyone's eyes to him. "We're actually hear to get your help with something."

Myrtle blinked. "My help?"

"Who else's?" Pansy asked, arms folded over her chest. She was still standing by the now-shut door and had yet to move further in with the rest of them. The curl of her lips told Dazai she was just as disgusted as he was. When she shifted on her feet, the floor squelched.

Myrtle looked between all of them with a reassessing gaze. After she did her rounds of them, her eyes fell back onto Dazai. Her brows furrowed. "What's that about you? That arua." She asked, floating in close to hover near him. "Never seen an aura before, y'know. But that's one, if I'll ever know it."

Damn. It was only a matter of a few seconds before No Longer Human was getting called out! This was exactly why he didn't like to pal around with ghosts.

Dazai cringed and took a step back. It had him nearly bumping into a wall covered in a green-and-black mold. He lifted a gloved hand, palm out. "I wouldn't touch me, if I were you."

"Oh!" Myrtle squeaked. She reeled back in the air. "Why not? 's it dangerous?"


Myrtle phased through a stall door and vanished from sight.

When she didn't appear for several more seconds, Pansy whirled on Dazai. "An aura, huh?" She drilled him with a stare.

Dazai shrugged.

Pansy looked to Hermione, Fred, and George for explanation, only to find them sharing a look of their own. She whipped back to Dazai accusingly. Dazai ignored her. Instead, he took a tentative step further into the room—still careful to keep Mori's coat from getting too grungy on the floor. He started towards the stalls, then decided better of it thinking he might accidentally nullify Myrtle. In front of Pansy no less.

"Don't just ignore me, idiot," Pansy barked, splashing as she stomped over to him. "I'm getting involved in your you-ness whether you like it or not. So just tell me what's going on!"

Dazai stared into his reflection. It was hard to make out with all the stains on the mirror, but he could see where his hair was poking out in odd places around the bandages. He huffed out a sigh, and caught Pansy's eyes in the mirror. She was scowling. "You've already guessed it last time we talked," he told her tiredly. "It's just lazy if you make me spell it out."

'My entire body felt like it had frozen. Everything. And I couldn't use magic.'

Dazai saw the exact moment when Pansy recalled this conversation, because he was recalling it now as well. She'd asked him about No Longer Human, despite not having the words to articulate her suspicions. Now, her eyes widened minutely, then narrowed into thin slits.

Hermione cleared her throat uncomfortably at their backs.

Pansy leveled Dazai with a final, assessing glare before turning to Hermione. Dazai didn't move, but did search out Hermione's blurry reflection in the mirror. "What?"

Hermione looked nervous for all of one second before returning Pansy's hostile gaze in full-force. Dazai and the twins snickered to see it. "We're doing important research into the history of Hogwarts, you know. There's no room for squabbling or secrets," she told them both with a notable look. "Pansy—if you can't stay focused, then I'm certain there's no place for you in our basilisk investigation!"

Dazai's snickering turned to an outright guffaw.

Pansy shot him a simmering glare that Dazai pretended not to have seen and fussed with on of the sink taps instead. It creaked but didn't move.

"I'm more focused than you could ever be, mudblood!"

"That's it! I won't tolerate you—"

Moaning Myrtle's head suddenly popped out of floor.

"Did someone say basilisk?"

Hermione and Pansy both screeched. They stumbled into one another to avoid stepping into the ghost's head, then glared like it was the other's fault.

Dazai finally turned from the broken sink. The twins manifested at his sides one each.

"You know about the basilisk?" he asked hopefully.

"No," Myrtle's voice drew out, sounding like a long moan. "What sort of business are you all up to?"

"No good," Fred pipped.

"Rumor has it," George said, "there's a snake maybe living around here somewhere! Seen anything, have you?"

"A snake!" Myrtle gasped. "Where?!"

While they talked, Dazai let his eyes slip shut as he felt around for magic. It took a lot more concentration than usual because of how Myrtle's ghostly presence kept flickering and buzzing at the forefront of his senses. But when he really focused, her magic slipped away. He cast about the bathroom.

"No idea. Round here, abouts," Fred guessed.

"Eugh! Well, I haven't seen any snake. But no one comes in here anymore. Oohh! Maybe there is a snake. S'not like anyone would come and shoo it out for me... Now I'm all creeped out! Look what you've done!"

Someone took a step and splashed water.

Hermione spoke. "Er... I'm sorry. Can we all stay on topic, please?"

Pansy snorted.

"That goes double for you," Hermione told her. "I let you out of my sight for five minutes and you're trying to kill my friend!"

There was a pause, where Dazai imagined Pansy to be rolling her eyes.

"Gossip!" Myrtle whispered in a voice full of awe. "It's been ages since I've heard any gossip!"

Dazai, giving only the barest of attentions to the conversation, continued to throw his senses around the bathroom. He felt a faint buzz of magic coming from the grafitti'd stall. The paint had a spell on it. Probably to make it impossible to erase—Dazai could ask the twins about it later. If anyone knew a spell for general annoyances like that, Fred and George would. There was also a small spell tucked within the sinks, still and inactive. But that could be anything.

"You said the bathroom's been closed for fifty-years," Pansy was saying when Dazai blinked his eyes back open. "was that when you died?"

The twins, upon seeing Dazai was back with them, each gave him an encouraging grin. Dazai looked to Hermione. She was watching Myrtle, but, apparently sensing Dazai's eye on her, looked to him promptly. Understanding shot between them.

Fifty years ago.

The last time the basilisk was loose.

The student that died.

"Dreadfully!" Myrtle insisted. "I died dreadfully!"

Pansy grunted. "In a disgusting bathroom," she said, lifting her heel and grimacing at the slick sound it made, "that's embarrassing for you."

Hermione whirled on Pansy, but the damage was already done.

Myrtle screeched—so loud the mirror cracked.

"Awful! You're all awful! Bullied even after death, I can't believe!" Myrtle sobbed loudly and vanished once again into one of the stalls. "Ohhh..." the stall door wailed.

Dazai eyed Pansy, who was looking a little bewildered but not particularly apologetic. Then, loudly he announced, "I apologize for my awful subordinate's behavior, Miss Myrtle. I'm still training Pansy not to bite."

"You—!" Pansy reached to swat at him, but Fred caught her hand mid-air. He only let go after she stopped struggling. "Don't start with that, idiot! You were thinking it too!"

Maybe. But Dazai certainly wasn't going to say it to Myrtle's face when they were still trying to wring information out of her. Besides that...

Dazai took a single step towards the stalls, but didn't get so close that he might accidentally kill the ghost is she suddenly sprung out again.

"I'm actually something of a death enthusiast, myself," he told the empty stall, voice singing longingly. "I would love to join you in being dead someday. No body, no brain. Just a splash of blood where my corpse would be... I bet you don't even need to breath. That sounds lovely..."

His friends were all giving him strange looks now. But Dazai ignored them, because a few seconds later, Myrtle's head popped back out of the door.

" mean it?"

Dazai smiled. "Absolutely! Can't imagine a better thing to do than dying! I'm really jealous, you know."

He wasn't.

Dying sounded lovely. Being dead sounded better. But this strange, blurred in-between thing—ghosts—Dazai didn't like that at all. Life after death was just another kind of trap. It felt too much like the sentient paintings around Hogwarts for his liking. Imprisoned behind ornate, gilded frames and at the mercy of whoever had painted them. Unmoving. Dazai still didn't like even thinking about them. And at some point, he'd begun considering the ghosts and paintings something like a cosmic enemy of his.

But most of what Dazai had told Myrtle was true, and she seemed to believe him either way. She sniffed, and wiped at her eyes.

"I don't," she said snottily, "need to breath, that is. But I like pretending."

Dazai nodded like that made sense. She hovered a little closer to him. "...what did you want, again?"

He beamed. "Tell me how you died! I've really got to know."

Myrtle pulled herself together. Around her, the others stepped in to listen. "Ooooh, it was dreadful. It happened right in here. I died in this very stall," Myrtle said, sounding a little excited at having so much attention. She hovered in front of one of the unbroken and un-graffiti'd stalls. "I remember it so well. I'd hidden because Olive Hornby was teasing me about my glasses. The door was locked, and I was crying, and then I heard somebody come in. They said something funny. A different language, I think it must have been. Anyway, I was really busy crying, you know? So I unlocked the door, to tell them to go and use another toilet, and then—I died."

Dazai blinked at the abrupt ending.

"Just like that?" Hermione asked.

"Did you even see who it was?"

"Oh, some boy," Myrtle said.

"That isn't helpful," Pansy told her plainly.

Myrtle sighed. "You know, nobody missed me even when I was alive. Took them hours to find my body—I know, I was sitting there waiting for them. Olive Hornby came into the bathroom—'Are you in here again, sulking, Myrtle?' she said, 'because Professor Dippet asked me to look for you—' And then she saw my body... ooooh, she didn't forget it until her dying day, I made sure of that—"

"A sudden death without pain or fuss... Now I'm definitely jealous..." Hermione shot him a warning glare—the kind she always sent him when he started to speak too fondly about suicide. He pivoted accordingly. "This boy you saw..." he said thoughtfully. Something like suspicion was starting to claw at his mind—the feeling you get when several little details are beginning to add up. Until the final confirmation comes in and blows the truth wide open. "That was probably who killed you, huh?"

"I suppose," Myrtle said. She looked a little put-out at having been interrupted.

Dazai's gaze wandered around the room before eventually settling on Myrtle again. "Where was the boy standing?"

She shrugged. The small gesture had her entire body floating up and down with it. "Over by the sinks, I guess."

Dazai went back to the sinks and began inspecting them again. A film of grime coated the entire thing. He was glad to be wearing gloves for this. Hermione came up on his side. She opened one of the taps, and a thin stream of water ribboned out. It splashed noisily against the porcelain basin.

"What do you think, Dazai?" She asked, shutting off the flow of water and trying the next one. "Could this be the entrance to the Chamber?"

Pansy crossed her arms. "It's just a bunch of old sinks. Maybe there's a secret door in one of the stalls." Saying this, she walked past them—nearly phasing through Myrtle in the process—and to the stalls. She threw open a door an peered inside. Her nose scrunched up at the smell.

"I hope its the sink," Fred said, pinching his nose. George nodded swiftly.

Dazai crouched down, balancing on the balls of his feet delicately. Most of the pipes below the sink were leaking. A steady drop-drop-drop echoed out from each of the sinks as Hermione tested them, a puddle was slowly forming on the floor beneath. Dazai carefully did not step into it. Only one of the taps didn't start—the one Dazai had tried earlier. Hermione made a curious hum when she found it.

"You said he was speaking another language?" Dazai asked. He flicked a pipe and it made a hollow noise.

Myrtle, who had floated over to Pansy and was ineffectually trying to swat her away from a particular stall, drifted over to him. "That's right. I've never heard anything like it."

"A spell?" Hermione said. Looking around, she guessed, "Alohom*ora?"

"I know the what the unlocking spell sounds like!" Myrtle huffed. "I was a student too, you know. If he was using some kind of spell, I think I would know it. No, it was some other tongue entirely. Like—"

Here, Myrtle opened her mouth and let out the strangest series of noises Dazai had ever heard. It was lisping and spitting and slurring. And maybe a bit like gargling blood. She sounded almost like a feral animal! But she did it all with a very straight face.

Pansy snorted. Without Myrtle's attention on her, she'd slipped into the stall and was now beating against the wall with her fist. The wall was solid.

Myrtle gasped and zipped back over to her. "Get out! Get out! Don't you know to respect where someone died!"

"Ew," Pansy grimaced, which only sent Myrtle into more hysterics.

The twins sighed, drawing their hands to their hips. "Well, that's a dead-end."

Dazai stood back up. He stretched out his back until it popped, then found the broken tap with his eye. Hermione had moved on from it and was now dragging her finger across the mirror like she was searching for some hidden contraption in it.

A dead-end.

Dazai didn't think so, actually. Riddle had told him about this—albeit in not so many words. But the basilisk could be controlled, he'd said, by speaking its language. Parseltongue. The language of snakes. And now, with Myrtle's testimony...

He thought about Tom Riddle. The diary—no, the soul indwelling the diary—who spoke parseltongue, knew everything about the Chamber and its basilisk, and had been withholding information regarding the events of fifty-years prior.

Dazai's eye narrowed.

"Someone alohom*ora this," he pointed to the broken tap.

"That's the entrance to the Chamber?" The twins asked, leaning in. They both drew out their wands, but Hermione had already grabbed hers and was casting the spell.


There was a click!

But that was all. Nothing more happened. Hermione frowned, and tried the spell once more to the same effect.

Dazai nodded. He hadn't expected anything else. But the spell wasn't entirely unsuccessful. Just as that click! sounded out, Dazai had felt a roiling of magic in the pipes. Behind the wall. In the floor. There was definitely some kind of magical lock behind the broken tap. Only, they couldn't get in without parseltongue.

"It didn't work," Hermione pouted. She was staring down at her wand like it betrayed her.

"Oooh," Myrtle hovered over them. "A secret door? That's exciting."

"It would be exciting. If we ever get in." Pansy sniffed.

"We will," Dazai said, unduly confident.

Pansy eyed him skeptically. "And you're sure it's this thing we're looking for? If it's just a broken tap, you're going to look so stupid."

Dazai didn't grace her with a response, and Pansy scoffed.

He gave the sink another flick. "I have an idea," he told them.

They all perked up—even Myrtle.

"You do?"

"Goodness, now I'm excited!"

"How are we getting in?"

How would they get in? Tom Riddle would know. Tom Riddle did know. Had done it himself.

Dazai was sure of that, now. The diary was still hidden in his desk drawer. Sitting there, doing nothing but waiting for Dazai to return and ask his questions. The events of fifty-years ago. When Moaning Myrtle died, overhearing a boy speaking a strange language, Dazai thought, that was you, wasn't it?

"I'm good with picking locks," Dazai said with furrowed brows and thoughts elsewhere.

"Um," Hermione coughed. "No offense, Dazai. But this isn't something you can shove a hairpin into."

The twins agreed. "It must be a password of some kind, like the headmaster's office," George said.

"Not that we've ever tried to sneak into the headmaster's office before!" Fred laughed ambiguously.

This particular lock was impossible to pick with traditional means. But Dazai had spent the better part of twelve years learning how to sneak into things he wasn't meant to, or how to shift a deck of cards so you wouldn't realize he'd swapped a five out for an ace. Cheats were his thing. Cheating a lock was no different, really. Not to him. And on top of the plan steadily bubbling to life in his mind's eye, Dazai had Riddle. And Riddle would tell him what he wanted eventually. Everyone always did, when it was Dazai doing the interrogating.

"A pass-locked door," Dazai turned to face them, grinning slightly. "In a different language, no less," he puffed up. "Not to worry. I've got a plan."

Pansy groaned like she'd been stabbed. "You and your plans..."


Wiggins blinked once. Then twice.

She rubbed at her eyes, squinted down at the pad of paper, and read it again. It was several pages long and all covered in notes, arrows, and nervous-looking doodles. The medical jargon she understood. The speculatory ramblings, too. But. Blinking again did not clear up Wiggins' dilemma.

"Uh," she said.

Spleen looked up from his cauldron. It was pluming up thin, white vapors around his face and fogging over his glasses. He hadn't moved to clean the fog off, so Wiggins assumed he was still able to see. Somehow. The cauldron smelled faintly of roses.

"What?" Spleen asked, giving the potion a quick stir. The floral scent became almost cloying immediately after. "Did you find it?"

'It' being the magically sensitive child Pomfrey had been writing to them about.

"I'll get to work on the the cure," Spleen had declared just as they returned from breakfast, "you find our kid."

"Kid?" Wiggins had asked a little nervously. "Not. Uh. The demon?"

"No, no, not that blasted child!" Spleen had yet to forgive the demon and his little friend for how they'd bullied him the other day. Wiggins had initially been just as horrified to hear their disrespect. But now, several days later, she actually found it a little amusing. Not that she would be saying that aloud any time soon. "The sensitive one! Until the demon brat winds up in my care again, I'll have to write about this other one. Find me their papers already."

So Wiggins had.

It had taken a few hours. Pomfrey's organization was very precise, but not in any way that Wiggins understood. Nothing was alphabetical, or chronological, or symptomatic. It simply was, and Wiggins had no idea what to do with that. So she'd just picked one wall of the office and worked from there. It wasn't hard work. Most students at Hogwarts only saw the matron for bodily injuries. Falls from brooms, fights with bullies. The like. Wiggins only slowed her steady progress around the room to really inspect the notes when the student's condition was chronic—or sometimes if it just looked interesting.

But now...

Wiggins passed off the papers without a word. She didn't really know what to say, so she didn't say anything. Spleen took them forcefully, and they crinkled under his grip. He read them.


Took off his glasses and cleaned them. Then read them again. "What is this?" he asked.

Wiggins sweated and shrugged. "Uh. The magically sensitive child?"

"I mean," Spleen's voice rose. He stabbed the page with a finger. "What is this?!"

At the top of the paper, where Pomfrey always wrote the student's full name, she had instead written this:

Problem Child

Wiggins wrung her hands.

She had known that Pomfrey was wary of them, if only because their correspondences had largely been ignored and otherwise been met with succinct responses. But still... this was something else entirely! Why was Hogwarts' matron going to such lengths to prevent this student's name from getting out?

"Damn that woman," Spleen cursed, ostensibly thinking the same as Wiggins. "She must have been planning to write a paper on the child herself."

Wiggins very much doubted that, having read the notes herself. But she wisely did not comment this.

"Well," she said, "there are only so many students at Hogwarts. What's the likelihood they're still here?"

"Slim. This basilisk nonsense has chased most of the brats off."

Wiggins' brows pinched. "Surely, the other staff would know—"

"Bah! The only reasonable person here is me. None of these fools will tell us a thing."

Spleen, still bearing into the Pomfrey's notes, seemed not to notice how his potion was starting to bubble over. Wiggins hurried forward to push him back a step before it sizzled over and splashed against the floor. The spilled potion steamed a small hole into the stone below.

Spleen and Wiggins blinked down at it.

Someone knocked on the door.

"Brats. Did Pomfrey just let anyone barge in here?" Spleen grumbled. He waved a hand and muttered a spell, cleaning up the acid spill. "Let them in, Wiggins."

She nodded a little stiffly then opened the office door.

The Slytherin Prefect was standing tense at the other end.

"Good afternoon," Wiggins greeted, then paused upon realizing she did not recall this girl's name. "Um..."

"Gemma Farley," she reminded.

"Right. Yes. Of course. You're..." Wiggins looked the girl up-and-down. "...hurt?"

Gemma shook her head. Her eyes trailed off Wiggins' face and to Spleen, who was rather huffily lowering the potion's temperature to prevent further spillage. Her brows knitted upon finding the freshly burnt hole.

Wiggins cleared her throat. No need to dwell on their mistakes, now. And certainly not in front of some impressionable child. "Then what can we do for you, Miss Farley?"

Gemma looked back to her. "I'm not interrupting, am I?"

Spleen scoffed from his corner of the office. "Only the cure for the basilisk victims," he said snidely.

Gemma shifted in place self-consciously. Wiggins, taking pity on her, offered a sunny smile that she did not feel at all. "Nonsense. What seems to be the matter?"

Gemma bit her lips and rocked in place. Whatever she had come for was significant, Wiggins could tell, and not something she had decided upon lightly. The hesitation rolling off of Gemma now had Wiggins all the more eager to hear what she had to say next. But when she finally spoke, Gemma's voice was sure as anything. "Is it true you want to write an article about Mr. Dazai?"

"We came here to help," she objected, offended.

At the mention of the Demon Student, Spleen straightened up. He whiled to face them. "What of it?"

Spleen's immediate interest gave too much away, but rather than berate them like the kids had before, Gemma seemed only to straighten with relieved confidence. Now, her face was pieced together with surety and stone. "I want to help."

Spleen and Wiggins both stared at her, bewildered. "Help?"

She nodded. "I can get you information. Or tell you the things I've seen. Whatever you want. I need..." Gemma sucked in a breath and drew up to her full height—which was nearly that of Wiggins' own, "...I need the world to really understand how bad he is. I need him expelled."

Wiggins almost laughed, but the severity of Gemma's expression made it difficult. She cleared her throat. "Have you read the papers on the Demon? I don't think anyone is saying good things about him!"

"But a real picture," Gemma insisted. At some point, she'd turned to face Spleen in particular. Clearly, she'd noticed the way his eyes were twinkling with interest. And more than that, the way Wiggins' eyes were not. "Of what it's like to live with him. Every. Single. Day. The constant fear of having to wake up a bed away from a murderer. To sit next to him in class. To eat breakfast next to someone who has never hesitated to injure a classmate. If you write that article, the headmaster—the headmistress, I mean—will have no choice but to expel him!"

Forget the headmistress, Wiggins thought, its DOE that gets things done these days!

Spleen stepped forward, entirely enthralled with Gemma's offer. "What can you tell us?"

"Anything," Gemma said. "Everything. Whatever will get him out of here and away from my housemates."

Spleen laughed. The potion, again forgotten at his side, started to bubble ominously. Wiggins inched away from it. Just in case.

"Dear girl," Spleen's glasses fogged over again, "I think this arrangement will benefit the both of us quite nicely."

The smell of flowers was cloying, and Gemma gagged.

Coil - Chapter 28 - Allegory_for_Hatred - 文豪ストレイドッグス (2024)


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