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Chapter 31 : Chapter 31
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You're right, there is no place like Hogwarts. That's why getting back is all I thought of during my year back home. Maybe it's because it was the first place in the Muggle world that I was exposed to at length in all of it's glory and eccentricity. I think Muggle borns and people like me who were raised as Muggles, are affected by it more than others because it's so different than what we're used to. We've never imagined any place so wonderful and splendid so we fall for it heart and soul.
I've been thinking about the portraits because of something someone else reminded me of. Some of them have been around for centuries -- can you imagine the things they've seen and know? I've always loved talking to them. Whenever it was rainy or cold out I'd just go around the castle and visit with the portraits for hours on end. You should try it sometime -- you wouldn't believe the things they know.
I'd come by and help you exercise Fluffy if I could but I know that his presence there isn't supposed to be common knowledge. I'm sure he's really something else and I'd love to see him some day. Have Ron and Harry ever quit pestering you about him?
By the way -- I finished last term head of the whole school. Thought you might like to know.
Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Charlie Weasley: January 18, 1992
Dear Dragon Expert Extraordinaire, Charles Weasley
Thanks so much for the wonderful letter filling me in on all the doings of the Weasley clan.
I'm so proud to hear that Bill is doing well. They ought to pay him well for the kind of work he does. The other day Tonks's friend Willow was talking about the Egyptian methods of securing the pyramids. She's a Magical History major who wants to be a researcher at Stonehenge when she finishes up and she's taking a class on ancient curses. Those Egyptians were very creative. Humans have very fertile minds when it comes to inventing ways to hurt each other. No way would I want his job.
Now, about Percy. He's hardworking, dedicated, and not obsessed with wasting time on Quidditch. He has his life on track, knows what he wants to do and how to bring it about. Why is that so horrible? And if he wants to be Head Boy -- good for him. That's something that will be a plus on any college or job application. He's going to be a very accomplished, successful person one day.
Granted --- he annoys me too sometimes, but you have to remember how horrible OWL year is. Everyone gets cranky during OWL year. You guys are way too hard on him.
As for Fred and George, if I were you I'd send them some of that dragon doo and that should fix them.
I'm glad to hear you're...making friends....does your mother know you're dating a Romanian girl? When Remus and I had dinner over there she was talking about how you and Bill were 'getting to marrying' age. I like your mother, but I wouldn't want to be the girl that either of you take home to her. I kind of have the feeling your mother is the type who thinks no one is good enough for her sons.
I'm okay too, keeping busy. The band is really coming along. Some time I'll have to get someone to take pictures of us onstage and send them to you. We're doing about four concerts a week at the werewolf clubs and have our foot in the door of the vampire circuit. I am meeting some VERY interesting characters lately.
So anyway, stay out of trouble and don't get eaten by anything. Talk to you later.
Letter from Cerridwyn Howard to Severus Snape : January 18,1992
Yes, teachers do have senses of humor --- but yours is MEAN ! You always say that you're strict so you can push your students to succeed, but do you deny that you get a lot of fun out of being what you call 'strict'? (And speaking of which...do you remember that time you put me in detention because you caught Aedennan teaching me to dance?)
I hope that when my time comes I won't refer to my students as 'the enemy'. Can you imagine Professor Dumbledore making a statement like that? If you really hate your job that much then why don't you just quit? You're a potions expert and have good credentials. Research in the healing field pays well. Go after some of that fortune and glory you're always encouraging me to pursue.
There's this to think of too. If V-dmrt actually ever does come back and finds you that close to Dumbledore....well....that can't be a good thing. It might be a good idea for you to get out of there. On the other hand, if he's in touch with Aedennan Quirrel then he may already know. You really need to be careful.
Your somewhat convoluted explanation of the things you want to teach me sounds fishy at the least. Muggles have an expression "guns don't kill people, people kill people." You're talking about unforgivable curses aren't you?
In answer to your question -- no -- I don't know any shortcuts in the area you're talking about. But have you thought about asking the portraits along that corridor if they saw anything? People tend to overlook them but they're always there watching, and most are pretty quick to talk. Sometimes I think that's where Dumbledore gets his information. It's like having a fly on every wall.
My roommate is driving me nuts trying to make me go to some stupid Valentine's Ball. The world goes crazy this time of year. Can I assume that you hate this holiday as much as I do? I could use a little anti-Valentine's sympathy over here.
Thanks for the gold you sent - always much appreciated.
Today the university was littered with violently pink flyers bright enough to rival Tonks's hair. Illustrated cupids flapped their wings on either side of ornate gold lettering that announced an upcoming Valentine's ball. I hadn't spared it more than a disgusted glance until Tonks dragged me over for a closer look at one when we met for lunch.
"So?" I asked, scanning it again.
"So -- it's the biggest social event of the year except for the graduation ball." said Tonks incredulously, as though I should have known.
"It sounds a bit formal. Somehow I have trouble picturing you in a ball gown."
"Why? Because I'll trip over the hem?"
"You said it, not me." I pointed out as I turned away.
"Well what are you going to wear?" Tonks persisted, following me across the frosty courtyard in the direction of the potions building where I had my next class.
"I'm not going."
"But -- you have to. Everyone does. If you need a date, I can get you one."
I jerked my thumb in the direction of the message board where my name still glittered at the head of the list of the top twenty five students. "You think that was easy to do? And that's with a double course load. I don't have time for balls."
"Take one of the boys with you." Tonks suggested, apparently not hearing a word I'd just said.
"Sure. I'll bring Streak. He'll be the life of the party when he takes off his clothes and starts comparing wand sizes."
Tonks didn't even smile. "You could get a date if you wanted -- loads of guys around here are crazy about you and you just ignore them. You can't miss this ball."
"I've never been to a ball before so I don't see why ----" I began.
"What? What about your graduation ball?"
"I skipped it."
"The Yule Balls?"
"I almost went to my first one but I got put into detention and missed it." I said with a resolved sigh.
"You? Detention?" asked Tonks, momentarily sidetracked. "For what?"
"I'd rather not say."
"By who? Never mind...only Snape would be so horrible as to ruin a girl's first ball. You can't miss this one, Kerri. Why do you have to be so stubborn?"
"Okay -- I give in. I'll go." I said with a perfectly straight face that somehow failed to convince her.
"You're not being serious, are you?"
"No. I'm trying to shut you up."
I heard her shout something at me in a very annoyed tone as I entered the potions building and firmly shut her on the other side of the door.
I am not going to that stupid ball. Valentine's day is such a waste. The only people who benefit are candy makers and shallow girls who want their boyfriends to prove their love in material objects. What a joke.
Tonks's wheedling has put that old memory into my head as vividly as if it happened yesterday.....
--- I strongly suspect that I have my brother's sense of dignity and pride.
It was my fourth year at Hogwarts and I was anxious about the upcoming Yule Ball. For one thing, the only remotely suitable dress I could lay hands on was a borrowed one. My mother wouldn't have bought me a ball gown even if she could have afforded one. She resented the fact that I was at Hogwarts at all and never did anything to encourage it if she could help it.
Then there was the thorny problem that I didn't know how to dance. Not actual ballroom dancing, and I knew there would be some of that at the big event. I'd been asked out by one of Charlie's buddies and wanted to attend, but the horror of admitting that I couldn't dance was almost too much to stand.
I've always hated admitting ignorance or asking for help. Maybe it's because when you're the kind of student I've always been, people just expect you to know everything. It's like they think it comes easy or something, and you have so much pressure to keep up that illusion that it's embarrassing to admit if you don't really know what you're doing. Besides -- I have my brother's sense of dignity and pride.
I went to the library in the vague hope of perhaps finding a book about dancing or a spell to help me fake it. I've found that I can teach myself to do almost anything if I just have a good book in front of me, so I figured it was worth a try at least. Besides, I couldn't see any solution other than suffering the indignity of asking someone for help.
I'd been there most of the day and was getting very annoyed and frustrated wehn Aedennan Quirrel found me. That was his final year at Hogwarts and overnight he seemed to have blossomed into this self assured, steady, handsome young man who was ready to take on the world.
"P-p-practice is p-postponed." he told me. "Till Friday. W-w-w-what are you d-d- doing? You look up-upset."
"Nothing." I said shortly, shoving a book back into place and swinging my bag onto my shoulder. "I've had it. I'm getting out of here." I still had a crush on him, and having him catch me trying to find a way to teach myself to dance was just too much. Looking back it seems so silly, but at that age everything was tragic.
Aedennan followed me out. He was somewhat of a big brother figure to all the younger Ravenclaws and always anxious to help out wherever possible. I knew he was concerned and wasn't going to just drop it, but I wasn't in the mood to talk about it. On the other hand, I knew it was a lost cause. He had a magnetic personality and a genius for getting other people to open up to him. He was just one of those people that you felt safe telling things to because he never teased or told.
"Who said anything's wrong?"
"B-b-b-because you're scary w-when you're m-mad. Even P-p-p-Peeves gets out of the w-way."
That was true. At fourteen teenage angst was setting in and my temper was getting volatile. Already I'd begun the search to answer my question of where my gift of parseltongue had come from, but had no idea where that search would lead. I kept walking, refusing to answer.
"Is it about this b-ball.? All the g-girls are going n-n-nuts."
He read affirmation in my aggravated silence. "Because of a g-guy?"
"Are you g-g-going?"
"Are you?" I shot back.
"What? D-do you think I can't get a d-date?"
He sounded flustered by my question. I hadn't meant it like that. "I know you can." I told him, slowing my pace slightly. "You're popular."
"So are you. Who are you g-going with?"
"Aidan from the Gryffindor Quidditch team asked me."
"I can't dance." I admitted, not looking him in the eye.
"Is that all? W-w-w-we can fix th-that. Where are you g-going now?"
"I was going to go down and help Hagrid get rid of some kelpies."
"Can you g-go later?"
"I guess, but....I'll never hear the end of it." I said as a pack of Slytherins passed by.
"Hey --- it's Aedennan Squirrel." one shouted.
"That's m-me. T-t-t-totally nuts." said Aedennan cheerfully as we kept on walking. "Kerri, p-people like you. They d-don't care if you c-c-can't d-dance. And so what if they l-laugh? Look what I p-p-put up with, and I don't care."
"I care. I wouldn't put up with the crap you do."
"W-words are just words." said Aedennan placidly.
Somehow he'd stopped following me and I'd begun following him. He led me to an unused classroom in a remote section of the castle. That's one thing about Hogwarts -- it's so huge that there are always plenty of places where you can go when you want privacy. I watched him jam a chair underneath the doorknob to secure it and then start moving the rest of the furniture against the walls. "Relax, w-will you? Any st-st-stiffer and I'd have to b-bury you."
"It'll look suspicious if we get caught alone in a locked room." I pointed out.
"The t-t-teachers know us b-better than th-that. Now....we should have m-music but I g-guess we'll have to m-m-manage. Nothing t-to it. Easier than ancient r-r-runes. P-p-put one hand here...now take mine l-l-like this."
Story of my life. People are always determined to force me to have fun whether I want to or not. I felt stupid and clumsy stepping on his toes like I was. I was rigid in his arms, both from inexperience and the attraction that I had to him.
Nevertheless, what might otherwise have been a torturous experience became a pleasant one over the next couple of weeks. We practiced in secret every day and he spared my dignity by never once telling anyone what we were doing. It came to be more like hanging out with a friend than self conscious dance lessons....I even quit stepping on his toes....mostly.
Things were going beautifully until Snape came along and ruined it all when he walked in on one of our lessons, if 'walked in' isn't too tame a phrase for the entrance that he made.
BANG. The door flew open so violently that the chair pushed against it scraped against the floor, ramming into the wall and tipping over. There in the doorway, face contorted with pure fury, stood Professor Snape.
Aedennan and I had separated and I had given an involuntary flinch before swiftly recovering. In the year that had passed since the potions incident I had given up trying to please Snape. I knew that he was going to do whatever he felt like in regard to me whether it was fair or not. I wasn't outright rude, nor did I go looking to offend him, but I didn't cower before him any more either.
"What...in the name...of Salazar Slytherin....do you think you are doing?" Snape had asked slowly, as though trying to keep from losing his temper completely.
Aedennan had stepped forward between Snape and myself, taking responsibility for the situation. "W-w-w-w-w-we were p-p-p-p-pr---" he stuttered thoroughly agitated by Snape's sudden appearance.
"Perhaps Miss Howard should explain, as you have the verbal skills of a one year old." said Snape, turning from him to me. "Never mind. It's clear enough what's been going on here. A boy and a girl locked in an empty room together? If you get pregnant, it will make your already stressful OWL year even more difficult."
Now it was my turn to get angry and I knew my face had gone red too. "That's not what was going on!" I snapped. "We were practicing for the ball."
"I was under the impression that it was to be a ball, not an orgy. Never presume to speak to me in that tone and you will address me as 'sir'."
"I wasn't talking back...sir." I said, hurling the title at him in a tone that turned it into an insult. "I was explaining. You asked for an explanation."
"Detention, Miss Howard. And ten points from Ravenclaw." said Snape, rounding on me. "And if I ever catch you alone in the arms of a boy again, I will have you expelled."
"N-nothing w-w-w-was ha-ha-happening." Aedennan protested.
"Ten more points from Ravenclaw." said Snape turning toward him with an especially nasty smirk. "If I were you I'd spend more time learning to speak correctly and less time putting my hands on the girls."
"He was teaching me to dance!" I protested. "Where is there a rule against that....sir?"
"Another ten points from Ravenclaw for talking back once more." said Snape silkily. "Oh dear...that brings the total to thirty. I suppose that has just put you down to third place for the cup hasn't it? Care to try for forty?"
I was so furious that I was dizzy with it but I knew that arguing would only make things worse. "May I go professor?"
"Get out of my sight and don't let me catch you in this situation ever again."
Turning on my heel I stormed from the room with my head held high, Aedennan right behind.
"Asshole." I loudly finished for him, not caring if my voice carried back. "I hate him and I'm going right to Professor Flitwick. I'm sick of putting up with his crap."
I had indeed gone to Professor Flitwick with my grievance. He managed to smooth things over slightly, talking Snape into giving us back the points but not out of the detention. Naturally Snape made a point of scheduling the detention to take place on the night of the ball so all my worrying about not knowing how to dance was nothing more than a big waste of energy.
By the time the next Yule Ball rolled around I had solved the question of my parentage and was in the midst of a depression. Balls were of no interest to me whatsoever. It wasn't long after that that I made my resolution to never get married and dating became rather pointless. Hence, I had never attended a Hogwarts ball, or any ball for that matter.
Sometimes, if I let myself think about it, I realize that I've missed out on a lot. When you're a little girl you imagine how things will be when you grow up -- the dances you'll attend, the beautiful dresses you'll wear, and the handsome boys you'll charm. Sometimes I think my life is just passing by without me ever having done anything really worthwhile.
But that's silly. I was prefect, head girl, I won awards, I'm the top student at Merlin. Isn't all that worthwhile? Those things are surely more important than balls and dates, aren't they?
Then why do I feel so empty when Valentine's day rolls round? I hate this time of year.
The boys stopped by to visit me today on their way home -- Basil and Augustus at least. All of my classes for the day were over with and I was taking advantage of a clear day to unwind with a little target practice out in the yard
"Whoa...you can shoot that thing?" asked Basil as the two of them came up the lane.
"You see arrows in the target don't you?"
"You could have cheated and stuck them in there by hand. I don't think-----ACK!"
Basil had screamed like a little girl as I took swift aim and shot in his direction. The bolt stuck in the ground at his feet, waving back and forth with the impact.
"You're nuts!" he exclaimed. "I knew you were for hanging out with a bunch of werewolves. Who taught you to shoot?"
"What absolutely insane person taught you to shoot?" Augustus clarified.
"The Hogwarts gamekeeper. I've been shooting since I was about thirteen. Come on in and get warm -- want some cocoa?"
"Has no one ever told you that chocolate is bad for canines?" asked Basil as they followed me toward the house. "First shooting and now poison."
"What are you guys doing here anyway? I think you'd be anxious to get home -- Remus fell asleep in the car last night."
"It sucks to be him." said Basil. "The little bit of life he doesn't work through, he sleeps through."
"And it sounds like he was managing to do both at the same time last night." Augustus laughed. "He fell asleep at work today too. He came back from lunch half an hour late."
"Why didn't you wake him up?" I asked.
"Because the old guy needs his sleep. He wasn't in a place where anyone would notice, and we were okay covering for him. He was about ready to kill us though. Fine way to show your appreciation."
"He needs to do one job or the other -- not both." said Basil.
"I know. He said he'd do both for a month and then make a decision." I answered, heading for the kitchen.
"We wanted to talk to you about his birthday coming up." said Basil. "Assuming he's still around then. Can we have the party here?"
"After the last one -- you're kidding, right?"
"Hey -- it wasn't us playing with shooting starts. That was the university students." Basil defensively pointed out.
"Just a small party." Augustus coaxed. "Nothing wild -- Remus is an old guy after all. We don't want him to keel over from too much excitement."
"He is not old." I said, annoyed.
"Just us from the band, Royal and Celestia...Remus...and his date if he can find one at his age." said Basil evilly. "And Tonks too."
"Basil likes Tonks." Augustus announced.
"Shut up." said Basil, not sparing him a glance. "What do you think?"
"I think Tonks is very popular -- most of the guys she knows like her."
"Not that. About the party. Idiot."
I let 'idiot' pass. That's still a lot of people to squeeze in here -- especially if Royal and Celestia bring all the kids. I guess we can manage. I'll have to run it by Tonks first, but I'm sure she'll be okay with it. She likes parties. What about food? Do I have to cook?"
"We can all bring something, I guess. We'll have to go around and make up a list. I hope Celestia makes those brownies of hers."
"Any ideas what we should get him?" asked Augustus.
"Something for his house." I promptly answered. "He needs a table. Maybe one of those fold up ones he can put out of the way when he isn't using it. That place he's living in is smaller than this."
"His house is severely lacking comforts. "Augustus agreed "But it seems like a boring present."
"I'm making him an afghan. He drew a beautiful picture for me for Christmas so I wanted to make something for him."
"We'll just have to think about it." said Basil. "Old guys do like practical stuff I guess."
"When your birthday comes I'm going to buy you a leash and collar." I teased.
"Make it black leather with spikes and I'll wear it."
"Especially if Tonks leads him around with it." Augustus laughed.
I think Augustus is right about Basil having a crush on Tonks because his reaction wasn't to joke or argue but to just shoot Augustus a pained sort of look. Wouldn't Tonks and Basil be cute together?
"We'll run the idea by everyone and see how much people can chip in." said Basil. "We don't know what we can get until we know how much we can spend. Hit Tonks up for us, will you?"
"Sure." I said quickly, because Augustus had just opened his mouth and he had a teasing expression on his face.
"One more thing we wanted to run past you." said Basil, his tone more serious. "The Howl Off."
"Howl Off. One a year the werewolf bands get together and compete. Whoever the judges pick is Alpha Band for the year. Pretty much that just means that they get to say they're the best ---- I want it so bad."
"There's the trophy." Augustus pointed out.
"They turn green within a month." Basil scoffed. "Anyway, the next one isn't until Halloween but it's never too early to start thinking about it. Problem is, Full Moon rising is arguing that we don't qualify to compete. They say you're not a werewolf so we aren't a werewolf band."
"You want me to quit?" I asked.
"No. We just want you to know what's being said."
"That's Vashti's band, isn't it?"
Basil nodded. "We told Remus he can't go out with her until she plays nice."
"Well, you know I'll step down if I'm getting in your way."
"You're not in the way -- people like you -- you know how to work a crowd. And it's months away yet. And everyone listens to Royal and he's on our side."
"Vashti is popular too."
"Vashti is easy." Augustus snorted. "That doesn't mean people really like her. She's kind of nuts. People listen to Royal and everyone likes him."
"Except Fenrir." Basil pointed out. "But then he hates everyone."
"But don't worry about him." said Augustus. "He rarely goes after anyone these days unless they really tick him off or there's money to be made."
"I don't know....he's getting pretty reckless lately." Basil contradicted.
"He likes Kerri, though.''
"Just because it pisses Remus off."
"You two make me feel so safe and reassured." I said sarcastically.
"If we thought for one second he was going to mess with you, we'd mess him up first." said Augustus with deadly seriousness.
"But if you ever do see a werewolf as wide as a car coming at you -- shoot to kill.' said Basil.
"Hey -- we'll come by tonight so you can see us in wolf form." said Augustus. "Is that okay?"
"Don't expect Remus. We've never even seen him in wolf form." said Basil, rolling his eyes. "He seriously needs to get over it. I'm told that I make a very beautiful werewolf myself."
"Modest fellow, isn't he?" asked Augustus.
So....I'm sitting here waiting but they haven't shown up yet. The thought of being visited by full blown werewolves doesn't worry me at all, but it does make me nervous that they go out running around on full moon nights. There are plenty of wizards who would think it an act of civic duty to kill them in cold blood, and even running into a trigger happy Muggle with a gun would not be good.
You can really tell I've been around Hagrid a lot --- I sympathize with misunderstood 'monsters'.
Author's Note : Thank you so much for the kind and generous reviews.
Next Chapter : The boys show up to visit Kerri and Tonks on a full moon night. Tonks continues trying to talk Kerri into going to the Valentine's ball.
"So Kerri..." said Mel brightly. "You need a date for a ball?"
"NYMPHADORA TONKS !!!" I gasped.
"Nymphadora? Your name is Nymphadora?" Streak laughed.
"What's your name then?" asked Tonks coolly.
"Studmuffin." he answered quickly and without batting an eye.
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