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The Itsy-Bitsy Spider by Vera Wayrthe
Chapter 5 : Queens, Quods, and Transfers
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8


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Disclaimer: As usual, JKR owns the world. Once again thanks to Abhorsen for Facetia, and the names of Bracken and the Queens. All Quodpot info comes from Quidditch Through the Ages. And here we go!




Quidditch was not a popular sport at the time and place. St. Hedwig’s had no Quidditch team, nor did any other schools of the area. Now, you might be thinking, “No Quidditch? How can anyone possibly live without Quidditch?!” and in response to such a question, I would answer, “We remembered to breathe every now and again.”

In all seriousness, though, we didn’t play Quidditch because America had its own airborne sport, invented sometime around the eighteenth century I believe, by the name of Quodpot. The story goes that one Abraham Peasegood migrated to America from a heavily Quidditch-oriented country with the intention of spreading the sport’s influence. When he removed a Quaffle from his baggage, however, it exploded in his face, having allegedly been packed too close to his wand on the journey across the ocean. So Mr. Peasegood got it into his head that exploding Quaffles might indeed make a fun game in themselves, and set out to recreate the phenomenon.

Thus, the noble game of Quodpot was born.

I didn’t play, and never intended to. I don’t do sports, particularly ones that involved things that might be blowing up. And so I didn’t pay much attention to the announcement tacked to the bulletin board in the Transfiguration room. Well, okay, I tried not to pay attention.

“Tryouts for the school Quodpot team will be held on Monday the 15th after classes.”

Every year. Every single year they did this to me.

“Thinking of trying out Arachnae?”

Her unnaturally high, grating voice sounded out my name as though it was three separate words. “Uh-Rak-Naaaaayyy,” Merlin, it drove me up the wall. All hail the mighty Amelia Bottle, and her court jester Elvira: the self-proclaimed and self-obsessed Queens of the Universe. And everything else besides. The most egotistical pair of virtual monarchs that school is likely ever to see. They could get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it, and thrice as fast as the next guy. Between the two of them, they knew everyone at St. Hedwig’s and hated half of them, while secretly hating the other half as well. They were normally surrounded by their current clique, which changed as often as the seasons, and with the same regularity. They probably had a schedule or something. They were witches in every sense of the word. I really would’ve liked to kill them when I was still perfectly okay with that sort of thing, but, alas, that train has come and left.

“I didn’t try out last year, or the year before,” I muttered, “Or any other year, come to think of it. What makes this year different?”

“Oh, but Arachnae,” I inwardly gagged, “I’m sure you’d be so good! You’re just amazingly coordinated and all…”

Second day of classes I’d walked straight into a door. They still hadn’t let me forget it. Chances are they only wanted me at the tryouts so I’d have another perfect opportunity to make a complete fool of myself. They were both on the team, of course. Amelia often complained about what the wind did to her hair. It didn’t really do anything to her flawless tresses, but it always helped her reputation to have something to complain about.

Before the strictly one-sided conversation could degrade any further, I was rescued by Facetia.

“Hello girls. Selling something? We’re not interested.”

Good old Facetia. Defender of the weak, protector of the small. She could take on those two any day, even Elvira and her intimidating jaw line.

“Oh look, the geek’s come to join the freak. You trying out?” Elvira cracked her knuckles slightly as Amelia spoke.

“No hand-eye coordination, I’m afraid. Couldn’t stay in the air for three seconds. Move along, now.”

Amelia gave us her best valley girl scoff before strutting off to take her seat.

“Thanks,” I said, dropping my books on the desk with unnecessary force.

“No problem,” she replied, scanning the pile before me, “What’re you reading?”

I extracted an older volume from amidst the glossy Transfiguration textbooks, “Nothing new.” I thumbed through it, choosing a page at random and looking it over. “How much trouble d’you think I’d be in if I used…” I jabbed a finger at an incantation near the bottom of the page, “an eye-removal hex on her?”

“Too much,” she answered, closing the book. She flashed her teeth at me, and I smiled back. It was almost a daily routine; we both knew I’d never utilize anything Dark on either of the Queens, or anyone else for that matter. Reading about those spells always seemed like a hobby, something harmless like needlepoint or fencing, both of which Facetia enjoyed in her spare time. It wasn’t as though she was going to stab anyone with a rapier. And at the time, the same was true with me and the Dark Arts.

I wonder, knowing now what I didn’t know then, if I would have done anything undesirable to those girls, if given the chance. I like to think that I wouldn’t have, that my depravity came later; that I was, at one point, innocent, a term that has no place within me now. The shadow that still roosts in my mind, spreading its dark wings before my sight, was nothing more than a glimmer, a thought in a distant place; a joke between friends. But the tiniest seed, when nourished, grows to be an enormous tree in time. All it takes is time, the thief of youth and deliverer of degradation and death. The thing that they say heals all wounds, but at the same time feeds the hungry pestilence, slowly wasting everything it comes into contact with. Time helps all things to grow, some of which should have been stunted at conception.

Some things, however, never really take off to begin with. My love of Quodpot, for example. Or lack thereof.

And so it was with drooping eyelids and a heavy sigh that I found myself at every game of the year. We didn’t have the option. Bracken made it a point to have every student in the stands, supposedly to ‘promote school spirit and togetherness’ or some sappy crap like that. He was probably hoping that an enormous comet would strike the earth near the field and wipe us all out in one fell swoop. More than once I wondered when he was going to stop wishing and just hex some comet to turn St. Hedwig’s into a crater. He probably would have sooner or later, if he wasn’t always looking for the easy way out.

At this particular game, we were playing the Engelbracht Institute, a school famous for their high Herbology scores on the L.L.A.M.A.s (Largely Lackluster Assessment of Magical Aptitude), but were in no way renowned for their Quodpot ability. Though I must admit, knowing how to tame a Venomous Tentacula for medical purposes is a far more useful skill than being able to handle a rather volatile version of a Quaffle. Sure, we were winning the game, but would we survive an encounter with a shrieking mandrake? I think not.

At this point I should make it clear that Headmaster Bracken is quite the cheapskate. Exploding Quods can be very dangerous, particularly if a player is holding one of them at the time of detonation. Sane schools have muffling charms set all around the playing field, the stands, and one-hundred yards farther out from the actual structure, should anything go… awry. The result is that an exploding Quod is more like a popping balloon in one’s hands, as opposed to the full-on time-bomb that it is in the professional leagues. Bracken spared every expense he could while still conforming to the minimum safety specifications, meaning that he used the cheapest charmers available, and had the muffling wards erected only around the field. The stands, as well as that dangerous hundred yards beyond them, were completely unprotected.

We weren’t only the ‘best magical institute for witches in America,’ we also held the prize for the highest number of injuries resulting from playing a school-based sport.

So Facetia and I were in the unsafe stands, clapping politely when our team scored, and clapping very politely every time the Quod blew up in Amelia’s face. The latter didn’t happen as often as one would think, though. As much as I hate to admit it, Amelia can play a mean game of Quodpot.

About halfway through the game, though, something miraculous happened. Almost too miraculous if you catch my drift here. Amelia dropped the Quod. Just dropped it, like it was a hot dish she could no longer hold on to. She wasn’t about to hit anything, no one was coming her way, there was no teammate below her to catch it – except me. She’d dropped that ticking time bomb at such a precise angle that it was headed straight in my direction. Most people were smart enough to get out of the way. I, however, could only stand there like a deer caught in headlights. Given the speed of the fast-approaching ball, and the rate at which my mouth generally moves, I guessed I had time for maybe two words before impact. And by Merlin’s excessively long beard, I used them well.

“Oh, shit.”

There was a loud noise rather like a cat sharpening its claws against a chalkboard. The world then decided it was tired of standing up straight and upended itself a few times before going completely dark.




When I awoke, the world was a bit bruised in some places, but otherwise right-side up again. My first conscious thought was something along the lines of, “Squirrelly towels,” and while I’ve no earthly clue why I was thinking that at the time, my second waking thought made altogether much more sense.

“Amelia is going to die.”

“Sorry dear, but that’ll have to wait.” The school nurse’s kind but commanding voice greeted my ears with a rowdy slap on the back, rather than a pleasant ‘hello.’

“Where is she?” I asked, trying to focus in on some of the shimmering, indistinct shapes that swam before my eyes.

“Miss Bottle is likely in class, now. You were out for ‘bout two days.”

“Wha-”

“But,” she cut me off, “I don’t suggest you try to kill ‘er just yet. That was one nasty concussion, there. I’ve been tellin’ Bracken for years to put up better wards…” She trailed on, mumbling to herself a bit before continuing, “Oh, and that Facetia girl left some chocolate for you when you woke up.”

She lobbed a small package onto the sheets next to me. Within an hour, I’d devoured the candy and was feeling better just in time for Charms. There was only one problem.

Facetia wasn’t there.

I asked around. The story seemed to be the same with everyone: she’d been called away from school yesterday and hadn’t been seen since. I assumed that maybe she was just sick. Or that she was just taking the last week before break off, and why not? We’d talked about doing that a few times, and exams were over; there was nothing holding her back, really. The only weird thing about it all was that she’d left me behind.

Finally, the school year was at an end, and my best friend was still nowhere to be found. I resolved to ask Dad about it upon arriving home.




“England?!”

He nodded. I sputtered. Conversation was not made.

“You’re kidding, right?” I said at last, finding my voice.

He shook his head. In the back of my mind, I wondered briefly how nodding and shaking one’s head ever became adequate responses for ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ In the front of my mind, though, I was still rather gob-smacked.

“Just… I mean… Wha… Why?! How?” I finally managed to spit out.

“She’s transferred,” he said, using actual words for once, “to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

“That’s a long name,” I remarked absentmindedly, “So… what, she’s living with her father, now?”

“Well… no. No, not exactly.”

“Then…?”

He paused. It wasn’t one of his, “Hm, let me think about it,” pauses. It was closer to a, “Gee, I wonder if I should tell her,” pause. Living with my dad for my entire life had taught me that nothing good could come from that kind of pause. Sensing that I was verging on what might be considered uncomfortable territory, I asked a different question.

“Nevermind. How do you know all this?”

“Fenrir,” he replied, with decidedly less unease than before, though the edge hadn’t quite gone out of his voice, “He wrote to me last week, after she left.”

I wasn’t exactly paying attention to his answer. The awful reality of the situation was settling over me like dust. Facetia was, more literally than anyone would think, my only friend. And what, now I was never going to see her again? That might have been an exaggerated train of thought, but it was a possibility, wasn’t it? I was not going to let that happen.

The answer brushed across me like a feather duster sweeping away that reality-dust I mentioned earlier. It was so simple.

“Well, I’ll just have to transfer with her, then.”

What?!” He posed this question very loudly.

Mom chose that moment to make an entrance.

“Why all the yelling? Normally we save all the wild antics till seven. You haven’t started without me, have you?”

“Arachnae wants to move to England!” He interjected, still rather noisily.

Mom didn’t even flinch. “Don’t blame her. I wouldn’t mind moving there myself.”

“Jess, this is serious!”

“Now wait a minute,” I said, trying to get a few words in, “I never said anything about moving there. Just going to school at Hogwarts. With Facetia.”

She took the seat that Dad had sprang from, “Well, I say go for it, if they’ll let you.”

A wide grin stretched my face as Dad let loose with another loud, “What?!

“Dear, you’re going to lose your voice if you keep screaming like that.”

He leaned on the counter, drumming his fingers fervently against the marble. He didn’t say anything for a while.

“So…” I started, breaking the silence, “How would I go about it?”

“I would suggest writing a letter to the Headmaster,” she said, rising to find a piece of parchment and a quill.

Do you know who the Headmaster of that school is?” Dad hissed in her direction.

Mom responded with only a poisonous glare that weighed entirely too heavily in her blue eyes. The silence put a new feeling into the room, as though a blind madman with an axe had suddenly materialized, and would chop all of us to bits if we so much as drew a breath.

The tension was finally stirred when Mom said simply, “Yes.” She began to rummage in a drawer for parchment.

“I won’t have my daughter attending school under the watch of that man!”

“And what exactly is it that you have against him, Icarus?”

I was utterly lost. There are only a few times in my life when I can say that I have been absolutely clueless, and this was one of them. It was like they were both suddenly conversing in Japanese backwards. Dad had moved in closer to her and was speaking under his breath.

You know very well.

Mom said nothing, and, having found her paper and quill, returned to the table, pushing the items before me. Dad returned to the counter and began tapping away again, clearly restraining himself from saying anything more.

“Now,” Mom began in an attempt to dispel the unease that still lingered, “You’ll probably want to start with–”

“Wait,” I said quickly, determined not to remain out-of-the-loop, “What were you two talking about? Who’s the Headmaster?”

“Albus Dumbledore.”

So much for dispelling unease. The pace of Dad’s finger-drumming increased drastically as a low growl escaped him, involuntarily, most likely.

Alright, I’ll admit that my desire to attend Hogwarts faltered slightly there. Certainly everything we’d learned about Dumbledore in History of Magic was good – dragon’s blood, alchemy and whatnot – but when your father used to work for Grindelwald, the man who brought him down tends to get blown out of proportion in casual conversation. It’s like Vlad the Impaler; just because the things he did are so unacceptable today doesn’t make him the vicious, blood-drinking scoundrel that most of us believe him to have been. Dad had always made Albus Dumbledore out to be this very powerful, commanding wizard with a perpetual scowl, and maybe the odd tail or horns, depending on the story.

My discomfort must have been evident, “There’s nothing wrong with Dumbledore, Arachnae.”

“I know,” I replied, perhaps a bit too quickly. It didn’t matter if I was afraid or not, I was three hundred percent positive that I would surmount any obstacle to follow Facetia to England, strange as that may sound. Sirius used to say I was clingy.

I hate having to stick ‘used to’ in those kind of sentences now.

Anyway, I wrote to Dumbledore. Something along the lines of whether or not he was accepting transfers, and if so, would I be able to pull it off, etc. But with all formalities and niceties included, to be on the safe side. I suppose I didn’t really expect a reply, even though I know I was hoping for one, but I certainly didn’t expect one so soon. About four days later, I got a letter back, not from Dumbledore, but his Deputy Headmistress, Minerva McGonagall.

Miss Firmin,

Due to the recent forced transfer of a student, the Headmaster has agreed to admit a handful of transfers to Hogwarts, on a strict first-come, first-serve basis.

If you truly wish to attend Hogwarts, we will need your records from your previous school for placement purposes. Please send them back with the owl.


My smile was steadily broadening as the note went on. I continued:

Enclosed is a list of books and supplies that you will require for your sixth year. Please note that you must come prepared, or not come at all.

I look forward to seeing you,

Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress


Following that was the supply list, along with a set of guidelines. Even given the terse nature of the letter, I couldn’t have been happier. Not only was I going to see my best friend again, I’d be rid of the Queens for good.

Considering, though, all that would happen at Hogwarts – people I’d meet, decisions I’d make, how it would all affect me, and what it would ultimately lead to – many could argue that I made the wrong decision.

I beg to differ. I think that even though some very bad things would come about as a result of my attending Hogwarts, some decidedly good things happened too, and I’m sure the good and the bad balance out, in a way.

But then again, I’m not the best judge of good and bad.




a/n: Sorry this took so long. Writer's block played a part in the delay, and then I couldn't seem to stop the thing. I think this one's a bit blah myself, but I'd like your feedback, and constructive criticism is much wanted, as per usual. =)


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