A/N: Sorry the chapter took so long. I'll try to get the next one up sooner.
As I walked into the Great Hall, I could feel them trying to catch my eye, but I pretended not to notice. I immediately sat at the Slytherin table, and didn't look up during the Sorting; I barely touched my food, and the moment Professor Dumbledore allow us to go to our Common Rooms, I bolted out the door. I was angry at myself, again. I had let them control me, again.
That night, my eyes were tearful as I fell into a fitful sleep. I think I dreamt about something regarding that day, but I didn't remember what.
Transfiguration was my first class, double block, Slytherins and Gryffindors. I took my usual seat in the far corner of the room and waited for Professor McGonagall to arrive and begin the lesson. I'd always enjoyed Transfiguration, even though I spent the class in the back completely focused on my notes and in-class work. But before the day's lesson could begin, something happened that I was not expecting: Ted and Shrouder came in and sat with me. Shrouder was next to me, and Ted in front.
My shock must have shown on my face, for both boys asked "What?"
"Well, I-- I just thought--"
"So you felt tired after the feast. Happens to the best of us," Ted said with a wink, turning around as Professor McGonagall entered her classroom.
I smiled, opening my notes to a new page as the lesson began.
Ted, Shrouder, and I all had a free block the class before last that day, because our rather. . . unbalanced Divination teacher, Professor Mallory, had a "vision" that anyone who went to class that day would end up drowning in the lake or something, and absolutely refused to hold any classes that day.
Ted and I were sitting beside the lake - not in any danger of drowning - and it would have been a pleasant view of the landscape around Hogwarts had Shrouder not been standing in the lake, pretending to drown.
"You know," Ted called out, "one time you really are going to be drowning, and we won't know you scrawny butt needs saving until we see it floating with the current."
Shrouder stopped his splashing and stood up (the water only reached his midriff). "Well won't you feel bad," he said, and resumed his act of Professor Mallory's "vision" come true.
"At least we'll still be feeling; I hear you lose that ability once you're dead," Ted shot back, but Shrouder either didn't hear him or chose to ignore him. "Impossible," Ted whispered to me.
"I know the feeling," I said aloud, and without meaning to.
Ted looked at me oddly, like he hadn't expected me to say what I did either.
"What?" I asked quietly.
"Nothing," he answered. At least he hadn't responded as though I had sounded defensive.
It was then that I realized who was sitting so close to me, who was looking right at me. I could feel my pulse rise, and I tried not to show it as I mentally forced my face to stay its usual color. Unfortunately, I was so enamored by the situation I was in that I failed to notice the large sum of water over our heads, until it was let down on top of us.
"Shrouder!" Ted yelled.
Ted and I were soaked to the bone, just as wet as Shrouder - who was laughing in the water - was.
"What the heck was that for?!" Ted was on his feet, wiping water out of his eyes.
"The opportunity was just so perfect," Shrouder said through his laughter.
But Merlin, I hadn't realized how cold the water would be.
Ted offered me his hand and pulled me to my feet. I took out my wand and muttered a quick drying spell on myself, and when Ted pulled out his wand, I expected him to dry himself. Instead, he turned his wand on Shrouder. A flash of light later, and a large piece of seagrass was - semi-effectively - trying to strangle Shrouder.
"Ted! That's not funny!" Shrouder called as the aquatic plant wrapped around him.
I had to fight to suppress a smile, the sight was rather amusing to watch, but Ted looked as though nothing more had happened than him sending an owl as he dried himself off.
"C'mon, we're going to be late!" Ted called when the bell rang.
I went to Charms, and my two friends were in Potions. After this lesson was the end of classes and supper though, so sitting for an hour in a room full of Slytherins didn't look nearly as bad as it usually did.
Supper, however, was. . . interesting. I met Ted and Shrouder outside of the Great Hall, and Shrouder was still soaked with the seagrass wrapped around him.
To my questioning look, he said, "You don't really expect me to let Kelpie dry out, do you?"
"He named it," Ted answered in a voice suggesting lost hope. "Now he won't let go of it."
"He even knows his name; watch! Come here, Kelpie, give Daddy a kiss!"
"And he charmed it."
I had to bite my lip to keep from bursting out laughing when I saw "Kelpie" place what Shrouder only could have interpreted as the seagrass's head against his lips.
"You don't even know where that thing's been!" Ted said disgustedly.
Shrouder put his hands around Kelpie's ears (or where they would be if Kelpie had ears) and said, "Don't listen to him, Kelpie, he doesn't mean it; he's just in denial."
"Of losing my best mate to a weed? Yeah, I'd say that's entirely possible."
Despite my attempts to subdue it, my laughter broke out in a small chuckle, which caused Shrouder to round on me.
"Oh, so you agree with him, do you?"
"Well, I don't disagree," I said cautiously, realizing that Ted and Shrouder were standing by the Gryffindor table, and I had somehow followed them.
"Fine then, Kelpie and I don't need this. . . this jaundice! You stay here and we'll take your seat!" Shrouder said defiantly, and, before I could even begin to process what he had said, he marched off, his wet shoes squeaking loudly on the floor, to the Slytherin table.
"What's he doing?" I asked Ted, afraid that I had caused this.
Whatever was in my voice, Ted seemed to catch, because he said, "Don't worry, he's just being Shrouder. Just sit down; if you go over there now, he'll probably start running all over the school screaming about how his weed has feelings too. I already got an earful of that in Potions when Slughorn said it'd be best to brew the thing, and I really don't want to have to run around after him."
I didn't quite know how to respond to that, so I just nodded and sat next to Ted. No one raised any objection to my sitting there, but then again, I don't think anyone noticed a Slytherin eating at their table. Out of curiosity, I looked over at the Slytherin table, and saw Shrouder had seated himself next to my sister (who had a look of disgust plastered on her face) and was chatting animately with her - probably about Kelpie.
"Actually, I think he was doing something similar to then when he decided no one would use his real name and we'd all have to start calling him 'Shrouder', " Ted added as an afterthought.
That reminded me of something I was almost surprised I didn't know. "What is Shrouder's real name?"
Ted shook his head, swallowing the bit of mashed potatoes he was eating before using words to answer. "He'd kill me if I told, and I promised I wouldn't."
I didn't to answer, though, because at that moment a loud shriek was heard over at the Slytherin table. Apparently, Shrouder had Kelpie kiss Bellatrix, and she hadn't responded too positively to that.
"Mr. Phamet!" Shrouder's Head of House yelled.
Ted and I watched - Ted with amusement - as Professors McGonagall and Slughorn made their way to where the commotion was. Slughorn sent Bella out of the Great Hall, probably to the Common Room, and returned to his seat at the Head Table. Ted said this was because he was done dealing with Kelpie. McGonagall, however, threatened Shrouder - or "Mr. Phamet" - with a detention the next time he tried something like that, took a point from Gryffindor for dragging Kelpie all around Hogwarts, and walked him back to the Gryffindor table.
She quietly said, "Miss Black, you are welcome to sit here so long as you do not cause any disturbances as Phamet has been doing." She then produced her wand and Shrouder visibly flinched. McGonagall ignored this and dried Shrouder with a flick of her wand.
When she left, Shrouder opened his eyes and looked all around himself.
Ted turned away. Anyone who hadn't been sitting as close as I may have thought it was because he didn't want to witness Shrouder's reaction, but I saw that it was to hide his laughter. Kelpie was gone.
"KELPIE!" Shrouder howled, throwing himself, crying, on both Ted and me. "Oh, Kelpie, he's gone!"
"Well, he's. . . at a. . . better. . . place. . .," I said unconvincingly, awkwardly patting the wailing Shrouder on the back. That, however, just made him cry harder.
Ted just handed him a cracker soaked in cheese, dipped in ketchup, and sprinkled with relish. To my shock, and slight disgust, that immediately quieted him, even if he still looked heartbroken over losing Kelpie.
Not a minute later, though, Ted caught my eye and we both snickered as Shrouder hummed a soft funeral march while he walked the cracker into his mouth.
"I only hope he agrees that that Kelpie thing is in a better place once he finishes that cracker," Ted whispered to me.
I only hoped Ted didn't notice that I blushed when his warm breath tickled my ear. His distance may have only been so close so that Shrouder wouldn't hear, but I really didn't care.