The next few days were filled with a burst of whispers concerning Professor Stricken. The professors including the Headmaster, Prefects, Head Boy and Girl with the aid of the 7th years had scoured the entire castle and grounds to find nothing. Even the Auror's were called in, but nothing amiss was found, Professor Stricken had simply vanished from the castle.
Some whispered, that he had been taken by the spirits, while others said that he'd been eaten by a creature while out in the forbidden forest for a midnight stroll. But the most popular theory was that he'd finally snapped after the exams and run off to become a famous dueler in the underground wizarding world. But only one person knew the truth and that was Rowan, and she wasn't about to breathe a word of it to anyone.
The last few days at Hogwarts found Rowan rather subdued and quiet with deep dark eyeshadows under her eyes. This time around it wasn't only Severus that was worried, but the girls, as well as they, watched her rather listlessly poke at her food during meals. It wasn't until they reminded her to eat that she would numbly begin to chew again.
It certainly didn't help things that the rumor mill of Bertha Jorkins picked up on this little tidbit and whispered that Rowan had been dumped by Lovegood. Not that there wasn't any truth to the rumor, but Rowan did receive an awful lot of smirks or pitying looks from the girls. Why even the marauders tried to console her to only suddenly find themselves with bright lilac-colored hair to the laughter of the rest of the school, but most especially Terry. He thought it served them right for having turned his hair bright pink the year before.
On the last day of the term exam results came out as usual and to no one's surprise, Rowan got top marks in every subject including potions except for Gobbledegook. Dirk Cresswell received a perfect score closely followed in second place by Severus. And it was thanks to that single score that Rowan and Severus tied for the highest marks in their grade. Of course, it was a bit of mystery who had been given the final score in DADA as Professor Adric went missing before the final grades were out.
Silvia and Bethanie did rather well for themselves as Tiffany proudly declared that she'd not only passed all her courses, but even gotten good marks in some of them. Tiffany was rather thrilled as she knew she would be shopping in France as promised. Terry, on the other hand, had paled as he might have skimmed on his History of Magic exam and just barely passed the exam by a hair. His parents most certainly weren't going to be pleased with the results.
As for the marauders, they all not only passed but even received high marks in one or two subjects. Pettigrew was over the moon as he would be able to proudly show his grades to his mother. This was rather ironic given that Pettigrew had outscored Sirius on the exams much to Sirius's chagrin and the laughter of everyone else.
The day of the Feast finally came, and the Great Hall was decked out in crimson and gold to celebrate the Gryffindor's having won the house cup. A huge banner showing a lion covered the wall behind the High Table. The Slytherins were a bit gloomily barely having missed out on the house cup by a mere thirty points.
Seeing Rowan so very still and lifeless like when they were younger, Severus finally clears his throat. "Rowan, you know, you can still talk to me about anything-," Severus nervously stammered as he eyed his twin for any reaction.
A bit of sadness crept into Rowan's eyes as she leaned over to gently take his hand as Severus gently squeezed back. "I'll be alright soon, Sev," Rowan promised as she remembered her own resolution that seemed so very long ago. "I've just been having nightmares, but soon they'll go away."
"Okay, but you can talk to me about anything," Severus said as Rowan withdrew her hand.
Rowan offered a weak smile in reply as she hardened her own heart. She knew it wasn't going to be easy when she chose to accept the task. There was bound to be sacrifice'sm and if there were going to be, it'd be far better she bears them then to have another suffer the same burden. With that in mind, she straightened up back and turned to gaze straight ahead.
The Great Hall grew silent as Dumbledore rose to his feet. "Another year has come and gone. And we have learned much that I'm sure shall nicely fade away before the next year starts," Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eyes. "Now, the house cup needs awarding and the points stand as: In fourth place, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and ninety-three; Ravenclaw has four hundred and twenty, Slytherin, with four hundred and fifty; and Gryffindor, four hundred and eighty!"
A storm of cheering and stamping breaks out from the Gryffindor table as the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs politely clap, while most of the Slytherins remain sullenly silent. After the cheering everyone promptly began to dig in as Dumbledore took a seat at the head table. Having made up her mind, despite not having much of an appetite, Rowan began to eat. Causing much surprise and relief to Severus and her friends.
The rest of the feast passes by in a blur and all too soon, their wardrobes were empty, trunks packed, and the usual reminder note handed out warning them not to use magic over the summer holidays. Promising to write over the summer again they all went out to the front entrance to wait for the carriages. Though with a fond smile or a smirk, they watched the 1st years all follow Hagrid back onto the lake.
Severus, Terry, Lily, and Rowan climbed into one of the musty carriages that carried them to the Hogsmeade platform. The Hogwarts's Express was filed with loud chatter and laughter as they all boarded the train. Pulling Rowan to the side, Lily quietly thanked her, before entering into their train compartment.
This time around, Rowan didn't allow herself to be manipulated into playing Exploding Snap as she dozed off in exhaustion. It was the first real sleep she had in days.
All too soon, Rowan was woken up by Severus as the Hogwarts Express pulled into the station. Exchanging their wizard robes for jackets and jumpers, they all eagerly climbed off at platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross Station. Saying goodbye, they all promised to write again, before each went their separate ways.
Reginald Prince furrowed his brow at seeing the thick eyeshadows on his granddaughters face, but still embraced the twins. "Why is it that the two of you seem to be growing like bean sprouts?" For, sure enough, they'd grown another inch since the last time he'd seen them.
"It's not our fault!" Severus pouted as he pulled out of them embrace.
Reginald merely chuckled, before turning to more seriously say, "Rowan, dear, you know that you will be properly punished for your little night mishap, yes?"
"Yes, grandfather, I am aware that my youthful error has earned me some sort of punishment," Rowan dully replied.
"Good," Reginald said with a nod as he led them away to the car. Strangely enough this time around, Rowan found that she didn't even fell a twinge of nausea. But then again, she had experienced something far worse. What was a violent car ride in the face of that?