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Natural colds

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Lisa Turpin accidentally left her potions textbooks at Herbology. Fearful of losing house points for being unprepared for class later, she snuck away from the line of students Professor Sprout was leading back to the castle. Maybe she should have been more concerned about the Dementors everyone was buzzing about. Maybe she should have felt a little more guilty for failing to care about Ravenclaw's standing in the House Cup, but nothing could distract her from the mortifying prospect that the other students would remember her existence as Professor Snape would mention her name.

One foot in front of the other, keep your head down, focus on the ground. Focus on slipping farther and farther into your robes and away from view.

"Shit."

She had been told they floated slightly above you before closing in on you fast as hawks; she thought keeping her head away from the clouds could help to keep her safe. She had been told they were physically imposing as well emotionally tolling; she couldn't have expected one to be half her height. Yet, this little one crept into her view along the hems of her robes, hovered around her feet dancing.

The Dementor's dark, bony finger stuck towards her mouth then curled back towards whatever face was hiding behind its tattered, black hood as it floated up to meet her height.

For a moment, what must have been its face looked like a mirror staring back at her, her features fully intact. Abruptly, the image vanished; in its place was the vivid reality of nothingness.

Her friends had guessed nothingness to be the deepest black, a chillingly dark sensation, but she knew that wasn't nothingness. Nothingness was whatever was hid behind it until it flashed white to a blur of colors too tangled to latch onto anything specific; nothingness was the confusion of time - the breath-stealing realization there was no tomorrow, no today.

The hypnotizing kaleidoscope of every color all at once hiding behind that drooping black hood circled to her right, her gaze obeying the command to follow. After the Dementor spun her around seven times, she could have sworn it smirked at her before mouthing something that wasn't quite a kiss to abruptly release her eyes from its trance.

A sharp chill ran up her spine, and the tiny Dementor slid back under the back of her robes. It pulled away its hold on her thoughts in its retreat, left her body quivering, her mind reeling.

The cold dissipated through her limbs; her scattered thoughts cleared. In their place, a small ball of dread knotted into her gut. She mustered the little strength left at her disposal to push it deeper from the surface and walked back to the castle for class.

***

Luna Lovegood was buried in the latest issue of The Quibbler when she heard the common room door creak and watched Lisa Turpin walk in with her head pointed directly towards her toes, shoulders slouched.

"Hey, Lisa," Luna offered with a smile. "Everything alright?"

"I'm fine." The Dementor hiding beneath her stirred to lightly tickle her ankles. "Just tired."

"Okay, if you need anything..."

The almost soft tickles became aggressive - Lisa twitched forward and hastily turned towards the dorms. No one caught that, right? She felt the Dementor shift left then right as though it was replying with a firm "no" then looked over her left shoulder back towards Luna and quickly mumbled, "Thanks."

As she stepped up the stairs, the little Dementor relented.

***

Hours turned into days turned into weeks, and the little bugger wouldn't leave her alone.

The tickling, the bouts of sudden colds grew unremarkable then unnoticeable - everything blurred into a hardened, all-encompassing nothingness.

Even though her grades didn't slip, her interest in charms slid away. Essay topics she used to approach with vigor became mechanical; her wand flicks lost their luster.

Luna worried more and more as Lisa withdrew more quickly from her meals to the common room before others got there, then to her room as soon as her housemates turned in for the evening. She smiled and tried to engage her with the latest from The Quibbler or her favorite moments from Care of Magical Creatures. Luna offered an eager ear and big, patient eyes day after day or just quietly sat nearby when she could, but she just couldn't get through.

***

One day, Lisa was staring listlessly out her dorm room's window - the Dementor sitting at her side, its fingers playing at her shoulder - when one of the castle's owls dropped the letter it was carrying on the lawn. Frantically, the barn owl dove down towards the puddle where the note landed.

As the letter floated down the puddle, the owl scampered towards it, tripped over its legs twice. The letter reached the edge of the puddle and shored onto the grass. Instead of picking it up, the owl lingered to twist and shake as if to take a bath - forgetting there was no way for it to get clean in the dirt-filled water.

Unamused, the Dementor shifted to its right, pulled Lisa's arm towards it, away from the sight of the now dirty owl writhing around in its muddy bathwater.

"I'm watching that!" She snapped at the dark, little form. Unable to look away from the owl's movement, she broke out in an exuberant laughter - the kind that comes from the bottom of your belly.

The Dementor kept tugging at her sleeve, but minutes passed - Lisa kept chuckling. Inspired by the barn owl, she peeled away towards the girls' bathroom to sing through a long hot shower, and bored, the Dementor waltzed away.