twenty

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GUILT HAD CELESTIA'S STOMACH in knots. They have been back at Hogwarts for nearly two weeks now, and she had yet to tell anyone else about the Dark Mark marring her skin.

The rest of the spring holidays had passed by in a daze. She had spent minimal time with her friends without arousing suspicion, and she worked almost on autopilot to avoid everything she could.

Draco had become more protective of her, and if her friends noticed, they didn't say anything. Usually, he would be sat beside her; in classes, meals, and while they were studying. They were practically glued together by their hips, one always trailing after the other.

She hated herself for not telling her friends, the guilt of it racking up day by day. Since when had she begun to keep so many things from them? Sometimes, when her friends would glance at her for a moment too long, she feared that they knew. That they were about to stand up and yell for the entire school to hear "Celestia's a Death Eater!" even if she knew in her heart that they would never announce such a thing.

Celestia's tip about Harry's undisclosed group had finally been followed through a couple days ago. Proffesor Umbridge had not believed her at first, most likely because her father was currently all over front pages of the Daily Prophet stating that he was rallying Death Eaters to overthrow the Ministry. In the end, her loathing for Harry won out, and she and the Inquistorial Squad — a group she had not been selected for due to her father, she assumed, but all her friends had — had caught Potter and his group of bandits red-handed.

Harry had not been the one to take the fall, however, which should not have surprised Celestia. Dumbledore had been the one to take the blame, claiming that their little group was of his doing, a small army of teenagers he was training to supposedly overthrow the government. He had disappeared, and in his place, Umbridge had become headmistress.

Celestia disliked Umbridge as much as the next girl, but she found that in a place of authority, she much preferred her than Dumbledore. Harry, however, was seething with hardly refined rage.

She was not surprised when he took out his anger on her. It was much to her astonishment, though, when he snapped at her in the Great Hall at breakfast one morning.

It had been subtle, yet entirely intentional. She arrived late that morning, having purposely slept in so that she wouldn't have to spend too much time mulling over her guilt around her friends than necessary. The fact that she was avoiding them because of her guilt, only made her feel more guilty.

"Yeah, I don't get it either, Ron. Honestly, all Slytherins are, are evil. Do you remember when—?" Harry had said it loudly as she passed, him and his posse were walking out of the Great Hall after finishing breakfast.

She should have ignored it. She knew that she should have ignored it. It was bait, yet she still took the bite. All that regret she felt for getting the Dark Mark, even if it meant the safety of her friends; that guilt she felt for keeping secrets from her friends like she never had before; that anger she felt that her father had not contacted her in over a year, not even for a birthday; it all snapped in her like a thread.

"Peter Pettigrew," said Celestia as she passed.

His head snapped towards her, confusion evident on his face. Ron and Hermione had turned to look at her too, the latter looking more worried than confused.

"What?" asked Harry.

"Ironic that you call Slytherins evil, but Peter was in Gryffindor, wasn't he? You would think that you'd consider the man who fundamentally murdered your parents to be the biggest evil; but no, kids in green are the one you're worried about," she stated.

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