Classes after the holiday took a more intense turn. Lottie and Andrea found themselves with more homework, but just as Lottie had guessed, having a friend mollified the blow. With Andrea to help her, Lottie managed to pass Charms. Lottie wasn’t able to return the favor; she just couldn’t help herself when Andrea had trouble with a problem, and ended up telling her the answer and never actually teaching her anything.
The first year Palmyitors still hadn’t learned anything practical in Occlumency and Legilimency, but instead devoted all of their to time sitting on the floor taking notes on whatever Professor Breckenridge deemed necessary. All of the other first years were thrilled when Breckenridge announced, late one February afternoon, that he would be performing Legilimency on each student in the next class.
“Finally!” groaned Andrew Victorsen, one of the Palmyitor boys. “We’ve been taking notes for nearly six months now!” The other boys grumbled in agreement.
Lottie stuffed her hands into her pockets and pushed passed the boys. “Hey Lottie!” called Andrea down the long corridor. Just catching up, she added "Are you excited for tomorrow?"
Shrugging, Lottie continued towards the Great Hall.
Andrea raised her eyebrows. “Why not?” she asked. Not responding, Lottie picked her pace up to a trot. “Why not?” Andrea ran and stood in front of Lottie, arms crossed.
“I don’t know!” Lottie dodged Andrea and continued down a flight of stairs. “I don’t really want a professor having full access to my memories, is all.”
Andrea ran down the stairs behind Lottie. “What’s wrong with that? What do you have to hide?” Andrea paused for a moment thoughtfully before gasping in realization. “Oh don’t tell me this is about all of that Christmas eve business.” Lottie didn’t respond. “It is, isn’t it?!” Andrea laughed triumphantly. Nostrils flaring, Lottie spun around and glared at her. “Okay fine, it’s a sore spot, I know,” Andrea continued. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anybody; you just have to block him from your memories.”
“Don’t be stupid, Andrea,” Lottie said as she continued down the stairs. “His job is performing Legilimency and Occlumency. How could a first year outsmart him?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Andrea smiled wryly. “But it’s worth a try, isn’t it?”
Lottie sighed and turned down a corridor towards the Palmyitor clock with Andrea following at her heels. “But we haven’t even picked up our wands in that class,” Lottie said. “How would I know how to do anything?”
It took Andrea a half second longer to think of the answer. “Well, that’s what the library is for, isn’t it?” Lottie changed the time on the clock and clambered into the common room with Andrea following. “So what do you think?”
“I don’t know…” Lottie bit her lip. “I mean, we could try, but if we could learn everything from books, what would be the point of going to school?”
Andrea shrugged and added, “But if we didn’t use the library, what would be the point of having one?”
Lottie rolled her eyes. “But--” She fell into an armchair and started anxiously picking the stuffing out. “Fine. Whatever. We can try. It’s not going to work though.”
“Excellent! Save my seat!” Andrea turned around and started weaving through the crowds of Palmyitors to the stairs leading to the girls’ dormitories. She returned half a minute later with a stack of torn, leather bound books.
“What?” Lottie asked, half laughing. “Were you expecting this?”
“I was just trying to get ahead while I can…” Andrea said defensively.
Lottie snatched the book on the top of the pile. “How old is this book anyways?” The cover of the volume looked as though it was ready to fall apart if she touched it.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Andrea said, pulling another one off the top of the pile. “It was rescued from an old library right before the Dark Lord’s reign… I guess these ones just barely made it though,” she added as a chunk of pages fell out of her book.
Langley laughed from across the room at Andrea’s horrified expression. “Don’t worry about it, firstie,” he shouted over crowds of students. “It’s just a binding spell to fix it.” He didn’t even need to rise from his seat for the pages to magically reattach themselves. “Just turn ‘em slowly next time!”
Also laughing at Andrea, Lottie opened up her book. “Are you sure we’re allowed to be doing this?” she asked, searching through the fading table of contents.
Andrea cleared her throat. “Well--” she eyed Stanley who was busy in conversation with some seventh year girls “--technically these old ones have to stay in the library, but nobody notices when they’re gone.” There was no librarian at Alsemore, so there was hardly ever a professor in the library to catch a student taking out one of the precious books. “And the students do it all the time. You heard Langley! And he’s even friends with Stanley!”
Lottie squinted at the light text, but didn’t look up. “Okay, as long as nobody will care…” She sighed over-dramatically. “I can’t read any of this. The print is nearly the same color as the page.”
Langley caught Lottie’s comment as he was passing to pull Stanley away from the older girls. “Oh, that’s an easy one, too,” he said, whipping out his wand. He muttered an incantation and suddenly the ink on the page was the grey color of the stone. “It’s only temporary,” he warned. “So just pray it doesn’t fade while you’re reading!”
Lottie watched him leave before skimming through the newly readable table on contents. “This entire book is about Occlumency,” she said. “Where do I start?”
“Don’t be stupid; you start at the beginning.” Andrea spun her wand carelessly through her fingers. “Okay, this book says that you need to clear your mind first… it doesn’t really specify how, though.”
Lottie opened up to chapter one in The Basics of Occlumency and searched for any more clarification on the process of Occlumency. “Oh, here’s something. Occlumecy is a complicated process in which one must clear his or her mind to avoid a Legilmens having access to memories and emotions… That’s all it says.”
Over the next few hours, the common room got more and more deserted until Andrea and Lottie were left in the common room alone. Lottie slammed the last book shut. “We’re done.” She threw the book back onto the pile. “We’ve looked through every single book and there isn’t anything here. There’s nothing to do. I guess I’ll just have to make up some story or something.”
Andrea looked up. “What? But we’re so--”
“No, we’re not close.” Lottie stood up and shut the book in Andrea’s hand. “We’re never going to figure this out. Honestly, he’s a professor in Legilmency and we’re never going to outsmart him.”
Andrea slowly put the book on the pile. “But he’s going to find--”
“Yeah, and so what? I’m going to get a few days of detention? I’m going to get expelled? They’re going to send me to the Dark Lord and kill me? What’s the worst that could happen?” She stood up and crossed her arms. “We missed dinner. I’m tired and hungry and--”
“Okay, fine!” Andrea picked up the stack of books. “I get it! Let’s just go to bed and hope for your sake that you retained enough information from those books.”
Lottie spent the rest of the next day trying to clear her mind, but found her attempts to cause more mental clutter. When she entered the classroom for Occlumency, her mind was so full of worries that she had nearly given up all hopes blocking Breckinridge.
Breckenridge stormed into the classroom and anchored himself in front of the class. "Woolbright,” he spat, pointing at Andrea, “you first.”
Slowly, Andrea rose to her feet and pulled out her wand. “Go ahead and try to stop me,” Breckenridge hissed, “any way you can.” He pulled out his own wand. “Legilimens!”
Lottie’s grip on her wand tightened as Andrea stumbled backwards and fell to the floor. After watching her try to ward off his attacks for a few unsuccessful seconds, Breckinridge lifted his wand smirking. “Got it?” he asked as Andrea pulled herself up, using the wall as support and nodded warily.
Smirking, Lottie asked, “Happy we wasted all of our time looking this up?”
Andrea shot her a warning glance and shushed her loudly. Lottie watched each student face Breckinridge apprehensively. Lottie’s stomach flipped when she realized that she was the only one left in the room who had not had her turn yet. Shakily, she stood up and stood directly across from the professor.
He had just raised his wand when the room faded out around her. It was an unnervingly familiar experience. Flashes of the past flew by Lottie’s eyes. She couldn’t tell if she was standing or had fallen, but felt as though she was upside-down, either way. In the Muggle Camp, she spotted an older boy and threw a rock at his turned back, just managing to hide beneath a garbage bin in time. Her mother cried as she left for Alsemore. A man at Odin Alley stuffed a piled of robes into her duffle. Her hands were stuck to the Ivory Table. She left the Charms classroom to find Ally waiting across the hall…
Lottie stopped breathing for a moment. No, he couldn’t see that. The memory continued; Ally’s taunts reached a crescendo until the memories suddenly ceased.
The Occlumency classroom spun back into focus. Lottie hadn’t fallen to the ground, but was leaning heavily against the wall. Panting, she sat down next to Andrea and stared intently at the ground, determined not to make eye contact with Breckinridge again.
The bell for the end of classes rang just as she sat, and Andrea helped her stand back up. “So what’d you think?” Andrea asked in a hushed voice once the classroom was out of earshot.
“That’s happened to me before,” Lottie said shakily.
“Somebody--Death Eaters and--” Lottie shook her head “--Palmyitor. They did that before. It’s happened before.”
“Are you sure?” Andrea asked suddenly. “I’m sure Palmyitor wouldn’t do that to a student without good reason.”
“I think she would.”
Andrea shrugged wordlessly and turned the time on the Palmyitor clock.
In the common room, an excited crowd was forming around a piece of parchment pinned against the wall. “What does it say?” Andrea asked loudly.
“Oh, nothing special,” Stanely said, passing by with arms full of Charms text books. “Just the usual Valentine’s Day trip to Odin Alley tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Andrea asked. “Oh, does this mean we get new soap?”
“Yeah, thank Merlin,” Stanley said with a laugh. “How’s your soap supply holding up, Rowe?” he asked, noticing Lottie’s solemn expression.
“It’s fine. I have enough left for a few more days, so I could really use a new bar,” she answered dully. Without another word she pulled her duffle down the stairs into the dormitory, Andrea following at her heels.
Andrea, leaning in the doorway of the dormitory, asked a little too loudly, “What’s wrong?” After a prolonged silence, she continued, “Is it about that Legilimency thing?”
“I just didn’t like that is all,” Lottie answered, flopping onto her bed. “I don’t like that people have control of my memories. And maybe more people can do it. Maybe the entire school can do it! What if they’re going to do it for every class to find out--”
“Breathe, Lottie,” Andrea muttered. “It’s fine. That’s why you’re learning Occlumency to begin with. Who would you rather have access to your mind anyway, Breckinridge or the Dark Lord?” She put her Occlumency book back in her bag. “We have tomorrow off, so don’t stress out. Get some rest for Odin Alley tomorrow.”
Early the next morning, Andrea shook Lottie awake. “Come on! Get up!” Lottie groaned. “Everybody else is up,” Andrea continued, throwing a pile of clothes onto Lottie’s face. “All of the first year Palmyitors will have to miss if you don’t wake up! And I’m telling you, if I don’t get any soap until August because of you, I’ll hex you so--”
“Okay! Okay! Just shut up for a second so I can change.” Lottie snatched the clothes that Andrea had so unceremoniously thrown on her face and changed behind the curtain of her four-poster.
She just barely had time to put on a scarf when Andrea grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her up the staircase, through the common room, and through endless corridors to the Entrance Hall.
“First years?” Palmyitor said sternly, pacing up a row of Palmyitor first years. Lottie and Andrea snuck into the short line, trying to hide their panting. Checking off a list of names, Palmyitor sighed. “Alright, then. Go ahead, and don’t break off from the group.”
Palmyitor held out a large cauldron. “Now, everybody put a finger on this.” Lottie glanced at her suspiciously before placing her finger on the rust caked cauldron. “This is called a Portkey. It will take you to Odin Alley.” She smiled at the confused looks on the first years’ faces. “Three… two… one!”
A scream escaped Lottie when she was pulled from the ground. She could hear the other first years shouting as they bumped into each other on their journey. Suddenly, a loud clanging filled her ears and she was lying on the floor of Odin Alley.
Pushing herself up, she muttered, “What the hell was that?”
Andrea shrugged and rubbed her back. “Who cares, as long as we’re here.” Sighing, she said, “I really needed to get out of school for a bit.”
Lottie didn’t say anything, but secretly agreed.
“Come on then!” Stanley waved the first years towards him. He pointed at the nearest set of wood double doors. “You can refill your toiletries in there.”
“Thank you!” Andrea shouted, pushing through the crowd to get through the doors. Lottie apologized as she shoved through crowds of upperclassmen to catch up with her friend.
“What was that about?” Lottie asked, half laughing, once she finally reached Andrea.
Andrea didn’t respond, but filled her bag with new soap, a new toothbrush and toothpaste.
“It was sure nice of you,” a loud voice cut through the crowd, “to let the people who have been waiting much longer go first.”
“You know what?” Lottie spun around to find the Maelioric boy -- Colm -- collecting his soap. “Oh it’s you.” She rolled her eyes.
Colm smirked and picked out a new toothbrush. Clenching her fists, Lottie resisted the urge to hit him. He did not belong at Alsemore. He was far heavier than the other bony first years. He was different in every way from his weight to his overly fancy robes.
“You just didn’t move fast enough,” she spat. “The entire world’s at war now, and you have to fight if you want to win.” Lottie smiled, eyeing the Maelioric boy. “In times like these, you can’t afford to be a pampered, porky prince.”
Turning a deep scarlet, Colm snatched his bag of toiletries and stormed out. Lottie laughed coldly waved as he left.
“That was a little cruel,” Andrea said quietly once he left.
“What? You too? Oh come on, he’s a git and you know it.” Lottie sighed at Andrea’s expression. “He’s not like us.”
Andrea kept a stony silence until they reached a room filled with quills and ink. “You know, I would apologize if I had said something like that,” she finally said, loading her bag with new quills.
Lottie rolled her eyes and dropped her ink refills in her bag. “Well I guess you’re just a better person than I am,” she replied stiffly. “He has it coming for him. I mean, he could at least try to act like everybody else instead of being such a pompous ass. I’d give him three years here before he either leaves or gets himself killed.”
Andrea dropped her bag, spilling quills all over the floor. “Lottie! That’s horrible!” she shouted, as she bent down to scoop up her bag.
“Well it’s true. In a war like this you can’t afford to--”
“Lottie, we’re first years. We’re not fighting the war yet. He has just as much time as we do to learn how to fight.”
Rolling her eyes, Lottie followed Andrea out of the store and into the last set of doors. Professor Clynalmoy stood at the door, eyelids drooping from boredom. “You can get one thing from this room, but only one,” he repeated tonelessly. Lottie imagined the three heads taking turns with the most boring job of the day.
“I’ve been waiting for this all day,” Lottie said brightly as she searched through piles of books for something that might interest her.
“Don’t change the subject, Lottie,” Andrea muttered, inspecting a Sneakoscope. “You’re going to feel bad soon enough. And who knows, maybe he’s a great fighter.”
“Oh come on!” Lottie abandoned the pile of books and looked through shelves of potion ingredients. “Everybody knows that people who aren’t good at anything else get into Maelioric; that’s why there are so many more of them. Colm Scrivener’s just a big loaf of worthlessness.”
Andrea sighed. “Fine, think whatever you want. But don’t come complaining to me when you’re rotting with guilt.”
Lottie selected a thin vial of fairy eggs for potion making and waited for Andrea to pick what she wanted. “You’re defending him a lot,” she said matter-of-factly. “Seems like you like him or something.”
Rolling her eyes, Andrea said, “Now not even you’re that immature, are you?”
“Oh you’re just angry because I hit the nail--” Lottie grabbed the book from Andrea’s hand and held it above her so Andrea, being much shorter, couldn’t reach it “--right on the head!”
“Don’t be stupid, Lottie!” Andrea reached for the book. “I just feel bad for him, is all!”
Laughing, Lottie held the book tight to her chest and started running past the crowds of students to the Portkey. Andrea panted behind her, just barely keeping up with Lottie’s pace.
“Give it back!” Andrea shouted through fits of giggles. “Come on!”
Lottie stopped and changed directions, circling around a crowd of seventh year Clynalmoys.
“I’ll give it back if you can get it from me!” Lottie shouted, throwing the book in the air and catching it. “Go on then!” She tossed the book again. “Try to--”
“Rowe!” Palmyitor pushed her way through the first years waiting for the prefect. Andrea’s book fell to the floor. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Erm… Nothing, Professor! I mean--we were just having fun.”
Panting, Andrea added, “It’s just a game, Professor.”
Palmyitor narrowed her eyes and scoffed. “We don’t have time for worthless games at Alsemore, Rowe.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lottie said quietly, handing the book back to Andrea.
Palmyitor shoved a small Portkey in the two friends’ hands. Blushing a light pink, Lottie glanced around at the other students staring with raised eyebrows. The last thing she saw before the Portkey whisked her back to school was Colm waving snidely behind Professor Palmyitor.
Write a Review Halfway To Infinity: Chapter Eight: A Practical Lesson in Occlumency