I think I'd heard of these kinds of things happening before, in the cinema or in romance novels, and I think that's why I fully decided to take the plunge with this whole Teddy thing. I mean, sure, when I met with Muggle friends to watch films, or when I tucked myself away late at night inside my parents' house, the books were deep and the characters eventually fell in love, and yes, more than likely something bad was to come of it, but my point is, I'm not like those girls in such media. I'm just Farla. I'm just me. There's nothing special about me that Teddy Lupin could fall in love with, and besides, I persuaded myself that I was doing this for the good of female kind. We needed to find out why boys were such jerks, and how we could change it by wriggling into their minds. The plan was perfect, and for the benefit of everyone. No one would get hurt because no one needed to know, and most of all I would remain the same person. I would not find Teddy so appealing that I fell into the trap that was his heart. He and Victoire were destined for one another. The sooner everyone realised that, the better.
And yet occasionally I told myself that yes, I was being naive, and yes, someone was bound to get hurt. But the pros weighed out the cons and when I woke up the next morning, I was refreshed and fully decided. I was doing nothing wrong.
"This morning, Farla, we are going to do your hair," announced Hannah, prodding me infuriatingly in the head as I continued to slumber into my pillow, my breathing soft and contented. I lifted my head up for a few inches before blinking at her with tired eyes, the sleep sticking in gluey gunk to my lashes, before dropping my head heavily once more and raking out a sigh.
"I am quite capable, thank you."
Hmph. How insulting. As if I needed a bunch of girls doing my hair for me, as if I were incapable of performing such a thing myself. Burying my head back in my pillow with a stifled groan, Hannah prodded me once more, resulting in a heavy sigh and a slight temper tantrum. I sat up and pushed back the covers, rubbing the grains from my bleary eyes and fixing Hannah with a scowl. Swinging my legs round, I realised that today was Monday, the weekend having passed all too quickly, yet luckily I had spent yesterday completing my homework. The ground was cool to touch, and pushing Hannah out of my area, I pulled the curtains around for a bit of privacy and quickly began to dress, glad that I had showered last night, for more than certainly the others had beat me in the rush for the bathroom this morning. It was almost eight fifteen and I needed breakfast to warm my stomach before I could even hope to get through today's lessons.
Dressed plainly in my too-long skirt, I finally found myself comfortable with my hair pulled back into a tail, light brown curls coiling to itch my neck and trail down my back. A lot of people used to say I was delicate, and that I believe is the reason I did not make the Quidditch team. They compared me to a china doll, as if my chalk-white arms would snap at any moment and my hair could be pulled and would just spring back into place. Not that I was beautiful, oh no, and more so not that I was tidy in my appearance, but my dad calls me a doll and my mum calls me her angel. Its just the way it goes, I suppose. It seems I'm doomed to have to stick to this damn labelling forever.
Breakfast was a solitary affair. As the others talked, I ate, not saying a word as I washed down the thick lumpy porridge with a mouthful of fruity tea. I hurried to clean my teeth, as you do, gathered my school books together and met Amy in the corridor. We walked to class as usual, and stood in the fresh morning gold to observe Professor Sprout as she watered a plant with Muggle petrol fuel. Over all, the lesson was boring, but when I was paired up with Artuan, it seemed luck was just twisting to my advantage. I offered him a shy smile and he nodded at me politely in return; I could feel the pressure of curious eyes driving into my back. I knew Mary and the others would be desperate to hear the details later. For my part, I pretended not to be aware of this and acted as casually as possible.
"Ouch!" I screamed in outrage, biting down on my thumb and using my tongue to sooth the welt that was growing there. "It bit me!"
Atruan smirked and glanced down at the plant with amusement, before he continued to water it, placing the can down and passing me an almost concerned look. That didn't cause me to forget that he had found it funny just moments ago, however. "Are you alright? Did it get you?"
"Yes," I fumed, my eyes narrowing as I glared accusingly at the plant. "Vicious thing."
"Well, you knows the rules of Herbology, so you can hardly complain," he observed, raising his eyebrows and picking at the soil. "Don't Prod, Poke, Provoke or -"
"Yes, I know," I snapped. "But that doesn't make it any easier, does it? The point is, I still got bitten." I tossed some mooncalf dung to the plant, knowing it aided the magical in growth, but hardly feeling the plant deserved it. Scowling bitterly, I put my gloves on this time before approaching the plant again, a much more sensible option, something I should have noted to begin with. Sniffing disdainfully at my own stupidity, I turned to find Artuan grinning at me. "So, chess," I spoke both slowly and carefully. "Are you currently recruiting people for the club?"
He stared at me suspiciously, as if I were plotting something terrible. Honestly, its scandalous the way human minds think. Its as if you're going to charge them with Roman legions or something, simply by asking a slightly personal question. Fine, so I admit that I'm not the sort of girl who looks like a chess fan, nor would I EVER enjoy such a pointless game. For example - my mind is constantly searching for the creative, and although moving a few pieces of metal around a board can seem interesting to others, and working up a strategy could be seen as a huge accomplishment, it just wasn't a sort of thing I'd jump around squealing about. So why did I ask? Well, wait and you shall see.
"What?" I enquired innocently, my eyes widening as I turned back to observe the plants. "I was interested, that's all."
"Sure," he muttered under his breath, snatching his hand back just in time before the plant could outstretch its oh so evil leaves to harm him. I folded my arms across my chest, eyes narrowed and all but fuming. I turned my head quickly to glare at the others, wondering not for the first time why I had been chosen for this job, when I was clearly quite terrible at it. Note to book - Don't ask boys personal questions. They start shifting around as if you're plotting stuffing chocolate pie under their pillow at night. Honestly. Still, the look on Mary's hopeful face calmed my anger, and I turned to face Artuan with a sweet, simpering smile, gathering what little I knew of chess and presenting it to him through expert words.
"I'd like to learn the correct properties of a, erm, bishop, and the way a knight can more in an "L" shape across the board."
Ok, so perhaps not so expert. I'm not even sure if amateur would cover it, but it curved a smile on Artuan's lips and he turned to face me with raised eyebrows.
"Properties? Its more than that. Chess is like a war game; the possibility of losing is like eight weeks of detention. To be a chess expert, you have to have a passion, to live, breathe and love the game. To dream up strategies inside your sleep, to bend determination into ambition. To triumph every time, and suffer no defeat."
"Uhuh," I nodded, clearly confused. My eyes strayed to the plant once again as I desperately strained not to laugh. "Well, I may not be an expert, but I certainly have ambition enough to give it a try." I dropped my arms to my side and brushed down my overalls, smiling. "I might bring my friend, Mary along as well, if that's ok with you. She's far more of a chess fan than I, and it will be . . . interesting, to observe a game. Perhaps you could even teach us yourself?"
He snorted. "I doubt it. There's no point in starting at the top. Work your way up from the bottom."
Another note to consider and add to my ever-growing book. Boys are egotistical. If they have a hobby, they must be the very best at it. Never venture to tell them otherwise. "Great," I told him through gritted teeth. "So, when's the next club meeting?"
"Tomorrow," he informed me, turning away and dismissing me completely. I had to restrain myself from leaping on him and pounding him with tiny fists. Yes, I mean what I say when I told you that my people say I'm "breakable". "Seven thirty, after dinner. We tend to hold our meetings in abandoned classroom number fifteen."
Luckily, the lesson ended then and I walked away, hanging up my apron and leaving the greenhouse, striding across the grounds with Mary in my wake. I contemplated not telling her, leaving the whole situation as a surprise, but her eyes were so pleading that I found myself caving in easily enough.
"So," she began breathlessly, "what did he say?"
"Chess club, tomorrow evening," I informed her shortly, hardly able to keep the grin from my face. "I told him you're quite the fan."
"What?" Mary stopped in her path behind me, pausing yet bursting into movement once again when she saw I wasn't waiting for her. "But I'm not! I don't know anything about chess! Farla, why did you tell him that?"
I rolled my eyes. "Mary," I sighed, "you're the one who wants the boy. You've got to work for him, not just me. So, run to the library, and you'll find on the third row of the fourth column of the second shelf, there's a section on chess. Don't ask why, Madam Pince assumed it necessary, and now it seems it is." I entered the Entrance Hall, Mary still trying to catch up with me. "Study. By tomorrow, you should know a little, if any information upon chess. Like Artuan said, you have to work from the bottom to the top. We'll get you your boy somehow."
I don't think she was convinced, but I hadn't the mind to assure her. Mary would have to find her confidence her own way. For myself - well, it was time to update the Boy Book.
- - - -
"Mary!" I gritted my teeth impatiently, glowering at the girl through narrowed eyes. "Are you aware we're going to be late? Its seven thirty already and we haven't even left yet!"
"Yes, I know, I know," the girl hushed me frantically. "I just don't want to look like a dolt, that's all."
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and instead sat down on the bed with a large "hmph". Folding my arms across my chest I leant back against the bed post and regarded the girl with scrutiny. She was stood before the mirror, brushing back her hair roughly. Once it had been let loose, it shone brightly, and she quickly pinned it back on her head, a few stray strands touching her rather round face. She cleaned her spectacles hastily, stared at them, and then placed them upon the dressing table decisively.
"You'll need them," I pointed out hastily, wondering at how the girl could be so thick as to assume she wouldn't.
"Don't be silly," she rebuked me. "What makes you think he'll pay any attention to me with these things on?"
"Hey," I stood up, walking over to her and picking up the glasses, turning to place them on Mary and offering her an encouraging smile. "There's nothing wrong with glasses. I think they suit you. In fact, sometimes I rather wish I had some myself. Now come on. If he doesn't like you for who you are, then he's not worth the bother."
"Why would you want glasses for yourself -?" Mary was saying, but I ignored her, directing my footsteps into a purposeful march towards the door. Tonight, I assured myself, would be successful, and Mary was my top priority. For starters, she had to have confidence in both herself and her appearance. There was no use turning up both late and shy. I'm no expert, but my guess is that if you want to snag a boy, you have to capture his attention first. The way Mary was going, I wouldn't be surprised if she picked up a cardboard box on route and stuffed it over her head. The girl's self-esteem was horribly low.
On the way, I quizzed her on chess, trying to force bright interest into my voice, even though chess still seemed utterly pointless in my opinion.
"So, name the game pieces on the board."
"Well," Mary began hesitantly, rinsing her fingers nervously through her hair. "There's the King. He can move horizontally, vertically or .. . diagonally. The bishop - there's two of them, I think, can only move onto the same coloured square, so it has to go diagonally -"
"That seems a bit unfair," I pointed out uselessly. "I mean, in comparison to what the King can do -"
Mary rolled her eyes at my interruption. "That's because Kings are always assumed to have the most prestige."
"Not necessarily -"
" - The rook moves horizontally and vertically," she continued, ignoring me, "the queen is the one who goes diagonally, vertically, horizontally - she is the one after the King."
"Sounds dangerous, and exciting. I'd like to be a Queen . . ."
"And then there's the pawns. They apparently have the most complex movements of all."
"And what's that?"
Mary faltered, pausing, her eyes widening with panic. "I - I don't know."
A silence stretched out, and I did my best to smooth the discomfort. "Well, never mind. What about the chess pieces? How do you recognise which one is which?"
Once again, Mary was silent, dumbfounded. When she found her voice, it shook a little precariously. "I have no idea as to that, either. But chess has been around since the fifteenth century, after emerging from games of both Indian and Persian origin . . ."
Finally, we reached abandoned classroom number fifteen. Opening the door a crack, I peered inside, suddenly nervous not just for Mary but myself also. After all, the place was stuffed with boys and a couple of nerdy looking girls, one of which who had plaits, the braids ending with sapphire ribbons. Great. The majority of these people were Ravenclaws, meaning they were likely far more clever than both Mary and myself but together, and I could never keep up with their intellectual conversations. Suddenly wondering why on earth I was doing this, I turned to Mary and passed her a hopeless looked. She seemed just as nervous as I, and clinging to one another through our fright, the soft sound of someone clearing their throat came from behind us. We both jumped and shrieked, spinning around to face no one other than Teddy Lupin himself. My lower lip trembled and I found my cheeks reddening with embarrassment. Well, this certainly wasn't going to plan. Suddenly I seemed more nervous than poor Mary.
"Is there a reason you two are spying on the chess club or are you actually planning on joining us?"
My mouth refused to work, and it was Mary who spoke first, her words a little shrill from fright.
"Us? You mean, you're in the chess club too?"
Teddy nodded, slowly, as if it were both the most obvious and unimportant fact in the world, and I found myself spluttering a little, fighting to gain composure.
"Yes, actually, we are joining. I said I'd accompany Mary - she's quite the expert, you know . . ."
Mary shot me a glare and I immediately cringed. We were so doomed. Tonight wasn't going well at all, and we hadn't even stepped through the door yet. Teddy, however, was beaming, and it was he who nudged the door open a little further so that it creaked and the group all startled from their concentration to watch us, before returning to become immersed back in the games.
"Come on then," Teddy's voice nudged us gently, and I carefully steered Mary through the door, all my earlier confidence gone. Well, this was my fate, or so it seemed. To publicly humiliate myself in none other than the school chess club and die an embarrassing death before Teddy's eyes for extreme ignorance. Great.
We seated ourselves, Mary and I suddenly becoming inseparable like glue, on either side of a vacant chess board, and Teddy moved off to greet a friend. Mary and I exchanged panicked looks before our eyes strayed around the room.
"What now?" Mary hissed frantically, hand trembling over the King on the board.
"No idea," I returned helplessly, cringing. "Chess . . . why Mary, of all people, did you have to choose the chess club leader . . . ?"
Mary laughed a little, a shaky, silvery laugh, that soon rattled my nerves away and very soon the two of us were in hysterics, which meant we received several glares from those who were trying to concentrate. The next few hours were spent shoving chess inexpertly around the board whilst feverishly trying to study the chess guide beneath the table. Needless to say, the evening wasn't entirely successful.
It got even worse when Teddy challenged me to a game and Artuan approached to observe. Mary and I sat on the opposite side of the board, Mary whispering strategies in my ear which she had blatantly just read from the book, her brow creased into a nervous frown.
"Try Ngf3," she encouraged, frantically biting on her lip. I shot her a stare of both incredulity and impatience twisted into one.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Honestly, why was it chess had its own language.
"It's algebraic chess notation."
I gaped. "I'm sorry, Mary, but I'm afraid I don't speak algebraic notation! English is about as far as my vocabulary extends."
She shrugged and quickly drew a line across the book with her index finger. Teddy was patiently waiting, whilst Artuan's eyes were narrowed horribly with suspicion. "It says it means that the knight in the g-file moves to square f3 . . ."
"But Mary, I don't have a knight left, and his pawn is sat in f3!"
"Oh," she replied vacantly. "Well then."
As if that settled everything.
The end of the evening couldn't have been more fervently desired, and when at last Mary and I managed to leave the classroom, our faces were crimson with embarrassment. Mary was oddly quiet as we walked the long way back to the Gryffindor common room, and this made me uncomfortable. I didn't attempt to nudge her from her thoughts, however, as I didn't want to probe into what likely wasn't any of my business. In the end, it was Mary who volunteered what was on her mind.
"This is hopeless," she stated darkly, her voice full of tears. "This whole idea - the hope of me .. ." I watched her shoulders heave into a shrug before they loosened again, and her eyes gleamed with moisture in the dim candlelight. "How could I ever expect to get a boyfriend, and Artuan for that matter . . ."
My mouth narrowed into a line and immediately, I seized her and shook her a little, as if trying to drive sense into her brain. "Mary, don't you dare say anything like that! Every girl deserves to get her man, and we will make Artuan see how truly wonderful you are. After all, look at the lengths you're going to in achieving your dreams. If he really means that much to you, you'll keep on trying, and stop with all this self-doubt. Don't let tonight get to you. There's plenty of other chances, other things we haven't tried yet."
"Such as?" she mumbled faintly, her eyes down-cast.
I bit my lip. "I don't know, but well - we'll think of something, I promise."
Mary seemed to cheer up a little, although the strain hardly lifted from her shoulders and I could see the pain etched into her face. We departed in the dormitory, her seeking out her bed and me racing to dive into the shower. The water was refreshing, its downpour reviving both my hopes and my senses. I thought suddenly of how much Mary was putting into this, how she was trying so hard to be someone more exciting other than herself, and that would have to change. But more than that, I thought of how little Victoire was doing, and how I was willingly doing all the work for her. Did love work that way? Even admiration seemed to be something you had to strive for to get returned, but Victoire was doing nothing. It seemed a little unfair, and one day, I intended on telling her so. But for now, I went to bed with one thought on my mind and one sentence driven into my diary.
Author’s Note: Thanks to Wikpedia for it’s fabulous aid in a guide to chess. I’m starting to think that maybe I need a beta, as sometimes being one’s own critique means it’s not quite accurate, but I think I’m too stubborn and full of pride to allow someone else to do my work . . . However, if my spelling is annoying you or anything, do tell me and perhaps it will encourage the idea!!