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Latet Anguis in Herba by Slide
Chapter 5 : September 1st, 1993 Fourth Year
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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“…and you’ve remembered all of the books that you’ll need?”

“Yes, mum.”

“Even that old Arithmancy book from last year I saw stuck under your bed last night? Did you get it out?”

“Yes, mum. It’s in my trunk.”

“And Tibs? You have all of his food?”

“Mum, it’s not as if they don’t provide pet food at Hogwarts,” Tobias sighed at his mother finally, resisting the urge to roll his eyes as they came to a halt on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, both of them oblivious to all of the mad hubbub of other students around them. It was twenty to eleven, and so there was no need to rush; it wasn’t as if either of them were new to this routine.

Melissa Hart rested her hands on her hips and regarded her only son evaluatingly. “It’s just as well, because you’d forget to feed him otherwise,” she said at last, reaching down into the cage by Tobias’ feet to lightly stroke behind the ears of the small grey and black tabby, Tiberius.

“That’s not true!” Tobias protested weakly.

“Oh yes? So why is it he always lurks around me during the summer time? He knows he’s more likely to get food out of me than you?” his mother challenged wryly, raising an eyebrow at him.

Tobias made a grumbling noise. “Just because you give him milk and I don’t. It’s bad for him, all the cat books say that.”

“He’s a cat. Cats drink milk. They like it, he can have it. He deserves it, for putting up with you, I’d think, anyway,” Melissa said, straightening up and smirking at him.

“Thank you, mother dearest,” Tobias mumbled dryly. “But what one ‘likes’ isn’t always what one should get.” His expression grew slightly more serious as he glanced around the station, taking in the hubbub of the mad crowd of students, all bustling to get on board the red Hogwarts Express.

“You grow up fast,” Melissa told her son, not without her own wry tones. “You should be careful this year, Tobias.” She nodded as he looked at her curiously. “I mean it. Sirius Black is around, Dementors are looking for him…”

“Oh, that won’t affect Hogwarts. I’m more worried about you, mum!” Tobias said, looking at her honestly and not without a touch of concern. “A mad serial killer on the loose, he’s not likely to stop by Hogwarts to pester students.”

“I doubt he’d pester them. Just… just remember to not push it. I do remember the letters from Professor Snape for disturbances. You even had detentions, Tobias – you’ve never received detention in the past,” Melissa continued, her warnings turning into chastisement, as was rather typical for most mothers.

“It was a difficult year,” Tobias said, shifting his feet uncomfortably. “That’s all about to change, though, mum. I told you. If I want a prefect badge, I’m going to need to keep my head above water, and that means no more run-ins with Gryffindors. I promise. I want to do it as much as you want me to.”

Melissa sighed, and smiled a very little. “I know you’ve always aimed for things, Tobias. Just make your decision, choose what it is you want, and seize it… and don’t let petty Gryffindors get in your way.” Her smile broadened slightly. “And don’t think I can’t remember how annoying they are.”

“They’re nothing. Tanith hexed Wilson into a mess of boils and pus last year; they’ve backed off,” Tobias said, shrugging dismissively. “I think the Slytherins have won this round.”

Melissa laughed slightly, and patted her son’s shoulders. “Not that I don’t like seeing the age-old traditions of inter-house warfare being continued, I really don’t want to see you in trouble anymore. So if you honestly can’t help yourself, and have to make trouble with the Gryffindors, for Merlin’s sake make sure you don’t get caught!”

“Is that the Hart family motto?” Tobias asked with a smirk. “If you just can’t help yourself, make sure you don’t get caught?”

“It’s the Grey one, too. Your father was as bad as you with homework,” Melissa told him, shaking her head a little. “Now I’d suggest you get moving, or the Hufflepuffs will steal all the compartments. I remember what they’re like, too.” She gave the train a shrewd glance.

Tobias chuckled again, then stepped forward to hug his mother firmly. In recent years he’d reached the stage where he was actually taller than her; she was a fairly small woman, and even at the age of fourteen, he’d inherited enough of his father’s height to stand above her and above all of his classmates.

It had always felt odd, leaving her at the beginning of every school year, and this year was no exception. After a childhood spent at a local Muggle school, which had been enough to convince Tobias that the only world he belonged in was the magical one, the inescapability of the boarding school set up at Hogwarts did tend to tug at him. Being an only child, with his father dead, for the longest time he and his mother had only had each other. That hadn’t changed, and even though their lives had in ways that prevented them from always being around each other, the bond wasn’t about to break.

When Tobias pulled back, his mother was wearing that broad smile she always had when she was trying not to cry. Rather preferring to avoid a complete emotional breakdown in the middle of the platform, he bent down to pick up his trunk with one hand, the other gently lifting the cage that securely held Tibs.

“I’ll write to you by the end of the week,” he said, nodding at her firmly.

Melissa returned the nod, seeming to have got more of a grip on herself by now. “I’ll make sure to reply with Vesna, so you don’t have to rely on the school owls all of the time. You really could have brought her with you, if you wanted to…”

“She’d never get on with Tibs. It’s alright; she hangs around a few days in the owlery, so I’ll have plenty of time to compose those letters. I don’t think she knows if she belongs with you or me,” Tobias said wryly, referring to one of the family owls. Considering Melissa’s job with Gringotts, which regularly required quite a lot of correspondence, they relied on several birds around the house for all their letter-writing needs.

As Tobias turned away and headed for the nearest door up onto the train, it didn’t take long before he was intercepted by a boy with dark hair that was already distinctly longer than he ever remembered it being.

“Ahah! Freedom from the parental units. I suppose we’ve got another year of liberty ahead of us, hey, Grey?” His new companion clapped him on the back lightly as he dragged a small and smart case behind him that put Tobias’ faintly raggedy trunk to shame.

“Liberty, save from the teachers, and Filch, and what have you,” Tobias sighed, giving Gabriel a sideways glance and wondering if his friend had ever had a haircut in all the time he’d known him. He was definitely pushing the floppy fringe out of his eyes a lot more than he’d had to in recent months.

“Well, apart from that… they can be dodged easily,” Gabriel declared, shrugging.

“Sure. If you can turn invisible.”

“Hey, compared to my mother, that’s an improvement. She’d be able to see me even if I did have an invisibility cloak. Which I don’t.” Gabriel paused as he lifted his trunk onto the train, glancing back to look at Tobias. “You don’t have one, do you?”

“No! What made you think that?”

“I don’t know. I just figured one of us ought to have been able to get our hands on one, so I thought I’d might as well ask. You’re the mysterious one, remember?” Gabriel declared, hopping onto the train and disappearing down the corridor before Tobias could even heft his own luggage on board.

“I thought that was you,” he mumbled under his breath as he wrestled trunk and cat up the short steps leading to the doorway, then putting them down on the floor of the train heavily. He clambered up afterwards, standing tall at the doorway and looking back out across the platform, taking in the deep, cleansing breaths of… station air. Faces were hard to discern in the crowds of students and families still present, and try as he might to hunt for his mother back where he’d left her, underneath the clock, she was gone. Maybe she’d left; she wasn’t the sort to sit sentimentally and wave the train as it disappeared. That just wasn’t the way of either of them; they tended to be more understated in their affection. They’d both agree it would be a waste of time to wait until the train moved across the horizon or around the next bend…

“Are you going to help me with this, or just stare into space uselessly until the train moves and you fall out onto the platform? Or, possibly better, the track next to this one? Because you’re standing there looking like you’ve just been hexed to hell and have had all of your cognitive functions ripped away from you. Not that this is a novel development, of course.”

The sharp voice reached Tobias’ ears rapidly and, indeed, did the intended job of jerking him out of his reverie. Most people would have reacted curtly to such words, but he had recognised the speaker and thus there was no need for a harsh retaliation. Well, it wouldn’t get him anywhere.

“It’s nice to see you too, Tanith,” he declared, reaching down and picking up the trunk she had half-lifted onto the train, not without difficulty. He didn’t want to know what she’d managed to fit in there, but it was definitely enough to strain a muscle. He had no idea how she’d even got this far with it.

Tanith smirked at him as she hopped onto the train after the trunk, and lifted it a little. “Well, I would go for a nice greeting, but that seems like a waste of time. Are you just here on your own, waiting for me to come along and fulfil your life?”

Tobias gave her a long look. “Yes, that’s exactly it,” he said dryly, shaking his head. “No, Gabriel was here a second ago. No sign of Cal, it seems. He went off… uh… this way…” He gathered his trunk and Tibs’ cage, and headed off down the corridor of the train in the direction Gabriel had set off in.

Fortuitously, the train wasn’t too full, considering they had a good fifteen minutes before departure and most people were still on the station, dealing with the madness. Thus there weren’t too many bodies to push through, or would-be-tripping feet sticking out to hop over as they made their way down the compartment. They passed the door of one where Gryffindor pain-in-the-rears (in Tobias’ opinion) Cormac McLaggen and Nick Wilson sat, and Wilson opened his mouth for a jeer at the sight of Tobias, but seeing Tanith trotting after him gave him pause for thought.

Tanith and Tobias waited until they were past to exchange a smirk, but a smirk was exchanged; it seemed as if Wilson hadn’t forgotten his encounter with her last year. Now that was definitely a point scored in favour of Slytherin.

Finally, approaching the end of the carriage, they found the compartment Gabriel had settled upon; and it turned out he’d been successful in finding Cal, too, for the pair of them were already engineering Gabriel’s trunk into the overhead rack, Cal’s safely stored beside it.

Tanith gave Tobias a pointed yet not unamused look, and with a sigh he lifted hers. It was only half a joke, though, for she did give him a hand in manoeuvring the heavy case into the rack above, though once it was settled didn’t wait to return the favour; merely seated herself promptly at one of the window seats. Tobias rolled his eyes, stowing his own trunk, then sat down next to her as Cal and Gabriel claimed the opposite bench.

“Well, that was more hassle than it should have been,” Cal sighed, nodding to them both. “Did anybody else find the streets of London to be mad than usual? Traffic was just insane. I don’t know if the Muggles have something on, or what.”

Tobias shrugged. “I don’t know… I got the Portkey in, as per usual…” Tanith made a noise of agreement.

Cal nodded again. “Ah. Well, Will drove in; he insisted on it, though I don’t see what’s wrong with the Portkey myself. It’s just as well he has an early shift today, otherwise we’d have been late; though without the traffic, I guess I’d have been sitting here since quarter past ten, and that would have been boring, let me tell you.”

Gabriel looked confused. “What did a car have to do with the traffic? Dad drove me in; I’m here fine…”

“A Muggle car, Gabe,” Cal explained. “Will owns one. Well, it’s not completely Muggle, because it would have been a pretty huge drive down from the Peak District, let me tell you… all registered, and everything!” he added, keenly aware he was sitting next to the son of the Director of the Department of Magical Transportation.

Gabriel shrugged. “As long as it gets you from A to B, I don’t give a rat’s arse what it does. It just seems like a load of unnecessary hassle to have a car where you can’t just skip in and out of the Muggles. They never notice a thing; it’d be a minor enchantment, mate…”

“I dunno. Will has his mad tendencies.” Cal shrugged.

“Yeah, well, Muggle-borns.”

Tanith clearly decided this was a good time to intervene; and she was probably right, considering the sharp glance from Cal Gabriel’s comment had won. “So, anything interesting done over the summer? No holidays?”

Gabriel raised a hand slightly. “Prague. Nice place. Great wizarding history… not that I’m particularly interested in it, but it was sort of pleasant, I guess.” He nodded at Tobias. “You’d have loved it.”

“Then send me in your place next time, you philistine, instead of having great cities wasted on you as I kick around Sussex all bloody summer with nothing but my books, my cat and my mother for company,” Tobias told him, rolling his eyes as he released the aforementioned cat from the cage. Tibs stretched and sauntered out, before beginning to prowl around the compartment with a sense of ownership.

Cal eyed the feline dubiously. “Does he have to do that?”

“He’s been cooped up a while. Give him a minute, and he’ll settle on a knee, don’t worry,” Tobias declared, stroking Tibs’ soft fur slightly.

“Just as long as it’s not my knee, we’re fine.” Cal shook his head, then glanced back at Gabriel. “You have an easy time of it, Gabe. The most exotic thing I saw this summer was another bloody hill. I mean, I like the Peak District and all, but it would be nice to get away for once.”

“I suppose Rayner’s work doesn’t exactly encourage holidays,” Gabriel sighed.

“Nope. Never been anywhere, me,” Cal said, shaking his head.

Tobias blinked at him. “You’re kidding. Never been on holiday?”

“Not unless you count Skegness.”

Tobias wrinkled his nose. “I don’t.” He shook his head. “You know, once we’re of age and out of school, we need to go on a world tour, or something. See the sights. I’ve only ever been to France, mind, never anywhere further afield, but I’d like to see more of the world. It’s one of my aims.”

“One of many. Surely to become Minister of Magic, you need to stay in this country?” Tanith asked with an amused air.

Tobias gave her a look as the whistle blew and the Hogwarts Express slowly came to life, gently pulling away from the station. None of them had anybody to lean out of windows and say goodbye to, he noted wryly.

“I never said anything about wanting to become Minister of Magic,” he corrected her. “Or even working for the ministry.”

“Yeah, I know.” Tanith glanced out the window. “But, bloke like you… you’re headed somewhere at the top. Might as well be the very top.”

“Can you see me stomaching all of that paperwork?” Tobias scoffed. “I have trouble with Snape’s essays!”

“But you do them, which is more than I do,” Cal offered, raising a hand. “Last minute, or with many excuses, but they get done. And you regularly get the better marks than any of us.”

“Well, Tanith does better than me at Potions,” Tobias pointed out.

“Just because she’s Snape’s pet,” Gabriel replied, and Tanith smirked.

“Snape has no pets. Only brilliant students and stupid ones. Unfortunately for you, very few make it into the former category,” Tanith declared, chuckling a little.

“Well, in Potions. Of our year, I think he tolerates me more than some of the other idiots,” Tobias mumbled. “I swear I thought he was going to kill Pucey last year when he hexed that member of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. And he was right; it shouldn’t have been done.”

Gabriel waved his hand dismissively. “Spinnet’s a Gryffindor; that means she deserves it. Snape just cracked down on Pucey because he can’t exactly let that sort of thing go unpunished, but I bet you he applauds it.”

“Oh, trying to get into the minds of teachers now, are we, Doyle?” Tanith asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m just saying, he gets this look in his eye that he approves whenever he tells you off for hexing a Gryffindor,” Gabriel declared, shrugging. He gave Tanith a piercing look. “Don’t tell me something about him wasn’t smiling when he ripped into you for hexing Wilson last year?”

“Snape never bloody smiles,” Tobias mumbled.

He was ignored by Tanith, who nodded a little. “I suppose he did seem faintly... amused. Didn’t stop the detention, mind.”

“Well, that’s Snape. If it were any other teacher, it would have been detention for a week, not a day. But a bit of him approves of these wars of ours,” Gabriel said, leaning back in his seat.

“Great. So he approves of Montague baiting the first-year Hufflepuff Muggle-borns?” Cal asked, looking distinctly unamused.

“Probably,” Gabriel declared, not pushing his dark hair back from where it had flopped into his eyes. “For Merlin’s sake, Caldwyn, the man was a Death Eater. He’s going to have had no love for Muggle-borns.”

“That’s just a rumour, Gabe,” Tobias tried to correct, but weakly and knowing it would fail.

“Yeah, with an ounce of truth in it. You look at that man, and tell me you see him in any other role in the war?” Gabriel was smirking now, in that knowing way which Tobias knew was more annoying than even his own knowledgeable grin. “Come on, you think he was an Auror or something?”

“There’s a line between Death Eater and Auror. Lots of lines, actually,” Cal mumbled. “I don’t think he was a Death Eater. He wouldn’t be here if he were a Death Eater. You think Dumbledore would allow a dark wizard to teach at Hogwarts?”

“I’m not saying he’s a risk. But that’s just all the rumours have been retelling, and I can see it quite clearly, myself,” Gabriel sighed, shrugging.

“Well, they’re just rumours,” Tanith said disarmingly, “so it’s probably best to not encourage them or act on them. Honestly, if Snape’s not, do you think he’d be particularly happy if he knew such rumours were going around? It’s a pretty tall accusation.”

“Snape’s a pretty tall bloke,” Cal mumbled, but with a smirk that let her know the matter had been dropped of the venom it had held for them all. Tobias marvelled at how they functioned as friends at all, with the regular head-butting. Granted, said head-butting was mostly caused by Gabriel winding up Tobias or Cal, and the fact that he didn’t seem to care merely encouraged more anger in the pair of them.

Tobias turned to Tanith. “You went somewhere this summer, didn’t you,” he said wryly. “I can tell. That’s why you asked. You had a great time somewhere…”

“Tobias!” Tanith looked offended. “Why would you imply that I would start a conversation asking about other people if the intention was to draw the talking back around to myself? That would just be megalomania of the highest order!”

“Yeah, I know… it’s because I know you, see,” Tobias retorted, smirking.

Tanith shook her head. “Well, alright. It was just northern Italy. Mum and Dad have a little villa in Tuscany out there…” She had the good grace to look sheepish at this, and Tobias noted, not for the first time and not without a little wonder, at how easily she managed to display her family’s wealth and yet how quickly she seemed embarrassed of it.

The fact remained that there were certain class boundaries between them. Tanith did come from a family of wealth, breeding and influence, and had never known anything else. Tobias, although a half-blood, came from a very old and respectable wizarding house on his mother’s side; not quite of the standard of the ancient wizarding names such as Black, Malfoy, Drake… or even Cole, though his Muggle father tended to lose him any ground this gained with those who put stock in blood.

Cal’s parents had been pure-blood… and a pair of Death Eaters, the both of them, so that hadn’t counted for much in the long run; the fact that he had been raised by a Muggle-born wizard only strengthened the boy’s lack of respect for blood. And Gabriel’s family had the breeding and influence, but not quite the wealth of past generations, by all accounts. Tobias knew this to be a comparative term, and thus wasn’t entirely sure it was that much of a limitation.

This was why the four of them tended to get quite heated in discussions of politics or inheritance. It had taken some time indeed to find a balance, and the equilibrium had proven to be easily disrupted in the past.

Of course, with a long train journey ahead of them, conversation topics could sometimes peter out so they were left with nothing but the inflammatory. Past trips to and from Hogwarts had at least imbued them with the sense to avoid talking at all in such an event.

About three hours in, when the sun was high in the sky and conveniently shining directly through the window into their compartment just so they would be blinded by the light, or heated to an almost unbearable level, they had decided to rely on silence. The heat had caused both Cal and Gabriel to drift off, both lounged back in their seats on their side of the compartment.

Tobias had long ago fished out a book to read; he’d uncovered his father’s collection of books over the summer, and although he wasn’t particularly sure he liked the odd Muggle called Hemingway, if Robert Grey had thought there was something of value in this literature, then he was intent on giving it a go.

It was rather distracting, mind, to have the scratching of pencil against paper in his right ear, for that was all he could hear once Tanith had set to work with a sketchbook she’d managed to wriggle out of her over-stuffed trunk. Seeing his friend scribbling away at something wasn’t an unusual sight; it was what she tended to do in a quiet time, when something was needed to fill monotony. Just, right then, it was beginning to grate on his nerves.

“What are you doing?” he had to ask at last, setting down his copy of A Farewell to Arms. “Trying to make the lead bore a hole in the paper? Because that’s what it sounds like.”

Tanith ignored him, still sketching away. She raised a finger of her free hand to her lips, then nodded across the compartment to where Cal and Gabriel sat snoozing. “Shh. You’ll wake them up.”

“And what a pity that’ll be. Maybe they’ll actually be sociable travelling companions,” Tobias mumbled bitterly.

“You were the one who started reading. I only picked up my sketchbook afterwards.”

“You were reading the crappy magazine!”

“Of course I was reading the crappy magazine! There wasn’t much else to do. But you should probably know by now, Grey, that I’ll happily give up reading a crappy magazine the moment anything more interesting comes along. And so many things are more interesting than crappy magazines that even you would be a welcome diversion.” She had stopped drawing now, and was fixing him with a half-glare.

Tobias sighed, slipping a bookmark in between the pages of his reading material and setting it to one side. “What were you drawing, anyway?” he asked, leaning towards her thoughtlessly to try and peer over her shoulder.

There was a pause as Tanith instinctively pulled the sketchpad away, then grimaced and straightened up so that he could see it. It was, quite simply, a drawing of both Cal and Gabriel sound asleep next to each other, both looking as if it would take a thunderstorm to wake them both. It was also, Tobias had to admit, pretty damn good.

“Nice,” he said honestly, nodding and glancing at the two slumbering friends before he paused, fixing her with a quizzical expression. “Why the static drawing, though? Surely the wizarding way of this would have the two of them moving.”

Tanith ignored him for a minute, continuing with her sketching. “Firstly,” she said slowly ay last, “they’re asleep. There’s not much movement to capture. And secondly… sometimes the Muggles have the right idea with their static pictures.”

Tobias raised an eyebrow. “Sometimes the Muggles… is the apocalypse coming, or are my ears deceiving me that Tanith Cole mentioned that the Muggle way of doing anything might be better?”

Tanith rolled her eyes. “I’m just saying that many pictures aren’t about the subject; it’s about the drawing itself, and sometimes capturing a single moment, a second of life, is more effective than necessarily holding a perfect duplicate of your subject on paper.” She sighed, looking over at him wearily. “Movement’s all very well for Chocolate Frog Cards and even the portraits around school, but for something devoted more to art for art’s sake… well… sometimes wizards get too caught up in being flashy because they can.”

“Again, you’re saying that the Muggle way of doing things can be better,” Tobias told her, his smirk broadening.

She sighed again, this time with exasperation. “No. Muggles are limited because they don’t have the choice. Wizards are limited because they don’t recognise the choice is there. Sometimes simpler is better; magic isn’t the way forwards for everything.”

Tobias was eyeing her suspiciously by now. “I never knew you felt like this about things.”

“Well, this is what happens when you have a Squib for a tutor.” Tanith glanced up at him. “Altair has always shown me that it can be best to do something without magic, if at all possible. I think he’s often wrong about it, but when it comes to art, he has a point. Just because I could make these pictures move doesn’t mean I should. It would ruin the entire ambiance of the piece.”

Tobias continued to look at her suspiciously, before he shook his head and picked up his book again, wondering if he’d ever understand this war the Muggles were going on about between the pages. “You’re mad,” he declared at last, scratching behind Tibs’ ears as the cat shifted in his sleep a little, then decided to promptly ignore her.

 

§

 

“This is bent,” Cal decided at last as he shook his head, folding his arms across his chest. He sighed deeply, but nevertheless returned his gaze to Tanith. “Alright, next question, then. If you must.”

“I must. I’m bored. And these sorts of things are always interesting,” Tanith insisted, turning a page in her magazine. “Alright, alright. Last question. ‘The only thing in your wardrobe to wear is a slinky red dress that shows off more of your body than another item of clothing might. When you turn up at dinner, your date clearly can’t take his eyes off you – he’s practically drooling.’

“Very attractive, I’m sure,” Gabriel snickered, his gaze fixed on the darkness outside the window of their compartment even though he was clearly listening..

Tanith ignored him. “So… ‘Do you: A) Accept the obvious interest gladly. After all, revealing dresses are the only ones you own, so the last one left in your wardrobe is no exception to your usual garb. B) Act uncomfortable throughout the evening. You only wore this dress because you felt daring, but now he’s staring at you, you’ve lost your nerve. C) Make an excuse to go to the bathroom, and there try to secure your dress and preserve your modesty by making adjustments. This really was the last thing left in your wardrobe of otherwise-sensible clothing, and you didn’t have much of a choice’.

Cal scowled. “I tell him to stop drooling over me, and if he doesn’t, then I punch his lights out.”

Tanith smirked. “That’s not one of the options.”

“It’s new, Secret Option D,” Cal replied stoically.

“You’ve chosen that every time. If there’s a ‘Mainly Secret Option D’ results page, then it’s going to tell you that you’re a scary gay transvestite who ought to not let women test you with their girly magazines,” Gabriel said dryly. He had been watching the proceedings since the start, and interjecting with his own comments at every opportunity.

Cal groaned. “Alright, A. If I’m going to be put in this position, I ought to at least make the most of it. Let’s give the pervy bastard a show.”

“You do scare me, Cal,” Gabriel said, glancing over at his friend at last.

“Good. At least I’m not going to be ignored,” Cal grumbled, looking over at Tanith. “So? What are my results?”

“I’m just adding up your points, hang on,” Tanith told him sharply. “Don’t be so impatient.”

Tobias shifted behind his newspaper, which hid him from view. “No, because we’re all dying of anticipation here to find out what sort of date Cal is.” He had been snippety ever since Gabriel and Cal had woken up and Tanith had collared Cal for the quiz, not taking part and with his attention completely focused on his reading matter.

Tanith ignored him. “Alright! Thirty-two points. That’s the first category. ‘You certainly are one confident girl, and it’s not likely that any bloke you go on a date with will forget the experience very quickly. You’ve got assets and are proud of them, are definitely not a boring conversationalist, and always know exactly what you want out of the evening. But beware; your strident manner and predatory sexuality might just scare off any dinner companions; sometimes it’s a good idea to hold back’.

Cal stared at her. “Oh… good. I think. I’m a sex beast?”

“Apparently,” Gabriel snickered.

“What else is new?” Tobias mumbled, still hidden behind his paper. “Surely you had something to do that might have been more worthwhile, Tanith, because that really was a waste of bloody time.”

“We’re stuck on a train, Grey. There’s still a way left before Hogwarts. We’re bored, and we’re entertaining ourselves. What else do you expect us to do?” Tanith retorted, giving him a glare.

Cal raised a hand slightly. “Actually, Tanith, you were just entertaining yourself at my expense. I’m not sure that’s fair.”

Gabriel shrugged. “I was amused.”

“Shut it.”

“And what were you doing that was so exciting, huh?” Tanith continued as she glared at Tobias, speaking as if Cal and Gabriel had remained silent. “Sitting there reading the paper for an hour instead of being sociable? Gripping!”

“Yeah; there’s only so much to be found in the Daily Prophet before it gets dull. Unless you’re like Cal and can be entertained by the cartoon section for hours,” Gabriel added, nodding his head wisely and shifting away from the light, teasing punch Cal aimed at his shoulder.

“It’s not the Daily Prophet,” Tobias said, a little haughtily, though with the air of one who knows his friends know perfectly well what he’s doing and are getting it wrong to just to annoy him. “You know I don’t read that piece of Ministry-controlled propaganda.”

“Oh, great. You’re reading the Clarion again? You really ought to avoid pieces of political clap-trap run by Muggle-loving, monster-right-demanding, house-elf-liberating lefty wizards,” Gabriel groaned melodramatically, leaning back in his chair and covering his face with his hands.

“It’s not any of those things, and you know it. It is an alternative paper for the wizard who likes to think outside of the box and doesn’t swallow everything the establishment had to offer. Fudge is an idiot, the Ministry are controlled by old, influential and reactionary families who are more interested in preserving the status quo than doing what’s best for wizardkind.” Tobias lowered the Clarion slowly, giving them all dubious looks. “I know this paper can be extreme, and I take what I read with a pinch of salt. But at least I do my best to enlighten myself as to what’s going on beyond the limitations of my own life, which is more than any of you do.”

“Hey, that’s harsh, Grey, I read the Prophet if I have the time and Doyle has a daily subscription,” Tanith protested.

“Only because his parents have paid for it and think that he’s educating himself to become a more well-rounded wizard and member of society,” Tobias mumbled, lifting the paper a little.

Gabriel shrugged. “He’s got a point; I don’t read it. When I give it to you, Tanith, it’s often untouched unless there’s something major in the headlines.” He looked back at Tanith and Cal, ignoring Tobias for now.

“This paper does not advocate giving any monster rights, or freeing house elves, or any other such insane ideologies… well, not much,” Tobias conceded, but he had fixed Gabriel with a glare as he spoke. “But a day may come when you’ll thank the Clarion for not being controlled by the Ministry, like the Prophet.”

“And on that day, Tobias, I’ll pick up the Quibbler for entertainment,” Gabriel sneered.

“The Clarion cannot be compared to the Quibbler!” Tobias protested, sitting up. “One’s actually a respectable form of journalism…”

Just as Cal was considering intervening – because Tanith looked as if she wasn’t about to, and thus he would have been left with the unenviable position of playing peacemaker – he was fortunately saved the effort by the lights flickering above them briefly, then dying.

The argument was, indeed, forgotten in that instant as they all half-leapt to their feet, rather impeded by the lack of space in the compartment, and mostly bumped into each other before deciding to remain seated. Any curses were also cut off by the faint screech of breaks and noticeable adjustment in the train’s speed.

Tanith pressed her face against the glass of the window. Cal doubted she could see much more out there than the darkness of a Scottish evening, but still waited quietly for any available information. This was not a usual occurrence on board the Hogwarts Express.

“We’ve stopped moving,” Tanith said, her voice cold and a little empty. Cal wondered if this was about as afraid as Tanith Cole ever got.

“That’s odd… I wonder what it might be…” Tobias murmured, surprisingly calmly. Cal couldn’t quite believe that he was treating this incident with his usual scholarly and inquisitive curiosity. It was a very Tobias-like thing to do, just baffling to Cal.

“I don’t know, but somebody’s coming on board,” Tanith said grimly, tearing her gaze away from the window. “I can see shapes moving out there. I don’t know what… and why did the lights go out?”

Gabriel, who by now had had the presence of mind to rapidly cast Lumos, shifted his wand in her direction. “Because otherwise they can’t make us panic quite as well,” he said grimly, also without his usually buoyant nature that Cal had by now accepted Gabriel Doyle faced the entire world with.

“There’s probably just something wrong with the train, which is why you can see people out there; it’s almost certainly the driver trying to work out what’s gone wrong,” Tobias groaned, pulling out his own wand and pointing it at his newspaper, returning to reading.

Cal reached out and snatched the copy of the Clarion away from Tobias urgently. His ears pricked up as he heard a creaking, and glances at the faces of the others confirmed that he wasn’t just imagining footsteps. “Then why the hell haven’t they sent out a nice message telling us not to panic.”

“I don’t know, but panicking sounds good, as they haven’t expressly forgiven it,” Gabriel declared, tightening his grip on his wand.

“Look, I’m sure it’s… nothing…” Tobias’s voice trailed off as a slight chill filled the compartment. Cal found himself shivering slightly at the subtle yet rather noticeable difference, and any reassuring dismissals of Tobias’s ended at the sight of the shadow moving outside the compartment door.

Gabriel bit out a curse, then stood hurriedly. “I’ve had enough of this,” he said, though his voice shook a very little as he stepped forwards. “I’m just going to ask, right now, what in Merlin’s name is going on…”

But his decisiveness froze as he yanked the compartment door open, falling back a step when a tall shape in billowing black robes was silhouetted standing in the corridor. Silence was heavily upon them, broken only by a deep, rattling breath being drawn that chilled Cal yet further.

He knew what this was. How could he not, with his heritage? To be so keenly aware of Azkaban prison as he was, Cal could not fail to recognise a Dementor when he saw one… not that he had ever encountered one before.

But such a train of thought disappeared the moment his eyes fixed on the monstrous form, and voices filled his head – voices that definitely weren’t those of his friends, who had all fallen similarly deathly silent.

“Come on, Caldwyn… down here, into the cellar. Just hide – don’t say anything, and I’ll come and get you when it’s all over!”

“But… I…”

“Don’t argue, child! Just pipe down, and get in there…”

A cellar door closing. Footsteps pounding above. Complete darkness. Then the loud thump of the door being thrown open above, and voices, muffled for the most part, filtering through the ceiling. A flash of sound, magical energy, filling the air all over…

This is how servants of the Dark Lord repay his enemies!”

“Your vaunted Dark Lord is dead, Robb. You’re clinging to a pointless way of existence…”

“Perhaps… but then maybe you can find out when you join him, Rayner!”

“Actually, no. See, I may be no angel, but I doubt I’ve got the lowest level of hell reserved for me…”

“Caldwyn! Caldwyn!”

The lights were flickering back on when Cal blinked to realise he was being shaken by Gabriel, rather firmly, and that the shadowy shape of the Dementor was definitely gone. The other three looked pretty much as bad as he felt.

That was strange. He knew what effect the Dementors were meant to have on people, but to experience it was probably the most draining event of his entire life. Though Idaeus Robb and his Death Eater cronies had failed to kill Will, thanks to the rapid response of the Magical Law Enforcement officers, and Robb had in fact ended in Azkaban, even being five years old had not prevented Cal from being utterly convinced he was about to die.

“They’re gone,” Tobias was saying, his head stuck out of the compartment door. He had gone a strangely green colour which, with the darkness of his robes, made him look intensively ill. Or ghostly. Or both. Then again, Cal didn’t think he’d have the nerve to check the corridor himself, so mocking Tobias would be rather unfair.

“And we’re moving again,” a rather pale Tanith added from where she was bundled in the corner under Tobias’ cloak. She shivered slightly, and drew it up to her chin a little tighter, peering out of the window. “So… I guess… that was just a… small hiccup?”

“Something like that,” Cal mumbled. “Why… why… did we have Dementors on board?”

Gabriel and Tanith exchanged glances. Out in the corridor, Tobias seemed locked in conversation with Jacob Van Roden, one of the first reasonable Slytherin prefects the house had seen in years. He seemed to be doing the rounds, making sure others were in one piece.

“Sirius Black is my guess,” Gabriel said. “But are you alright? You went all stiff for a second there… your eyes just sort of went out of focus.”

“I’m fine,” Cal said roughly. “Still… was that… weird for anyone else?” He glanced at them quickly, even though he knew they’d be quite mad to have been unaffected by the influence of a Dementor.

“Of course it was weird,” Tobias mumbled, closing the compartment door. “It was a Dementor. It’s not meant to be cheerful.” He forced a smile that was so transparent it actually made Cal feel worse. “Still… we’re okay, aren’t we? Van Roden said somebody fainted, but he doesn’t know who.”

“Don’t entirely blame them,” Cal groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Let’s just… just make sure that doesn’t happen again, okay? That was freaky.”

Still, as the train sped away, back on track for the journey to Hogwarts, Cal was distinctly aware of the fact that controlling whether or not he would have any future encounters with Dementors was quite beyond his power.

 

§

 

“The man,” Tanith mumbled as she and Tobias slouched along the corridors of Hogwarts three days later, “is a tramp. Why would I want to be taught by a tramp? Do you know any tramps who’ve been in possession of particular pearls of wisdom that have enriched your life? Because I sure as hell don’t.”

Tobias scratched at his chin, and hefted his bag on his shoulder, stepping around a gaggle of Ravenclaw first-years who seemed surprisingly at ease in their surroundings for students who were new to the school. “Does Cal count?”

“No, Cal does not count. Brynmor does not walk around in scruffy robes with patches all over them, looking like he’s in need of a good night’s sleep. Brynmor does not appear as if he’s going to drop dead any time soon. Lupin, on the other hand, thanks to crazed hair and that constantly semi-conscious expression of his, does,” Tanith said snappishly, giving him a sideways glare.

Two days into lessons at Hogwarts, and they were already having slight issues with their new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor.

Tobias sighed. “Since when did you have such an obsession with the appearance of our teachers? Save last year, when you branded Professor Lockhart an arrogant jerk locked in the styles of the 19th century… not that you weren’t right, of course.”

Tanith threw him a look of intense irritation. Tobias briefly wondered why he always allowed himself to be her verbal punching bag, but was too overwhelmed with relief at the fact that he wasn’t a physical punching bag to truly analyse this phenomenon.

“I’m just saying that Professor Lupin looks like he’s had too much of an encounter with the Dark Arts to really teach us about them. And by that, I mean he looks like he’s done five rounds with some deranged pixies,” Tanith explained, faintly vexed.

“Deranged pixies?” Tobias echoed sceptically. “Are those actually dangerous?”

“Shut up, Grey.”

At this most common of instructions to be uttered by Tanith, Tobias decided it would probably be best to comply, especially as they turned the corner to approach the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, where the rest of the Slytherins in their year were assembled.

Cal and Gabriel were waiting already, lounging against the wall next to where Montague was laughing about something rather loudly with Bletchley. Tobias didn’t particularly want to hear the topic at hand, but it was pretty difficult to avoid the bellowing voice of the Quidditch player.

“…the look on that Gryffindor’s face when Warrington turned up!” Montague was cackling. “He thought it was his freedom! The good and mighty prefect here to save him from the nasty, bullying Slytherins!”

“He realised soon enough that Warrington was just coming to join in, didn’t he!” Bletchley laughed. “Oh, he’s a nasty one, that Warrington.” There was little sympathy or shame in their housemates’ voices. “A right joker.”

Tobias’ expression dropped, and he slowed his pace, Tanith falling into step beside him. “Yeah. A regular comedian, that Caspian Warrington,” he mumbled bitterly. “Does Dumbledore give prefect badges to bullies in Slytherin to try and ruin our house more, or is he just too dumb to notice people?”

“Don’t underestimate Snape’s influence,” Tanith replied. “Besides, I doubt they did anything all that bad. I mean, they’re just messing around. They’d have their badges taken away from them if they were really that terrible.”

Tobias smiled humourlessly, stepping over to where Montague, Pucey and Bletchley stood laughing. “Hey, guys,” he greeted them with convincing false cheer. “What’s the joke that I missed? Some Gryffindors decided to get uppity?”

“Yeah.” Bletchley smirked. “A couple of Mudbloods thought it might be fun to set off some dungbombs in the corridors, so we tried to stop them.”

“See? Maintaining law and order about the school,” Tanith said to Tobias, nudging him quickly. “Doesn’t that sound quite fair and even? Keeping up the spirit of fairness and not letting little Gryffindor gits get uppity?”

“Yeah. You’re true paragons of justice,” Tobias, who had flinched at Bletchley’s use of ‘Mudblood’, said blandly. “What’d you do to them, then? Seeing as you’re not prefects and all…”

“Oh, just threatened to hex them if they set off any dungbombs anywhere near us.” Montague smirked. “I hate getting dungbombs on my boots, you see. They make a right mess.”

“Indeed they do. So you figured you’d intimidate them instead of reporting them to a teacher or a prefect?” Tobias asked stiffly.

“Hey, nobody was in sight.” Bletchley shrugged.

Tobias’ humourless smile broadened. “Sounds like Warrington was.”

“Yeah, well, we didn’t know that,” Bletchley insisted. “They tried to claim that we were in the wrong when he turned up, though! Said we were bullying them! As if they hadn’t been setting off dungbombs and just trying to cause general mayhem! It’s bloody impudence, that’s what it is.”

“Yeah, I know. Who’d have thought they’d have had such an extreme reaction to being threatened to be hexed?” Tobias mumbled. The sarcasm in his voice was missed by Bletchley and Montague due to their heads being full of the recent encounter, but this didn’t stop Tanith from elbowing him in the side. A fight in the first few days would go down badly.

“Well, Warrington sorted them out. Gave them all detention for bothering us unnecessarily,” Bletchley said, nodding firmly.

“Not for the dungbombs?” Even Tanith couldn’t quite let this slide.

“Hey, we’d dealt with that.”

“And no docking of house points for, I don’t know… threatening a bunch of first-years?” Tobias wondered aloud.

Montague blinked stupidly. “They didn’t threaten any first-years.”

“I meant you, you imbecilic –“

Fortunately – of fortune above fortunes – this was the moment that Professor Lupin decided to make his appearance, at long last, pushing the thought-to-be-inevitable confrontation to one side. Montague and Bletchley would forget it, and it would take a new issue to incense Tobias to the level where he’d openly challenge them.

This was the way of things.

Lupin, however, didn’t seem as asleep as Tanith seemed to claim he was, for although he still looked faintly dishevelled he still wore an expression of curiosity at the obvious tension amongst the Slytherin students. Bletchley and Montague were still shoulder to shoulder as they eyed Tobias, who stood tall but a little tentative, with Tanith by his side trying to diffuse the situation, and backup in the shape of Gabriel and Cal lurking just behind them all discreetly.

“We can argue over the Quidditch practices later,” the Professor said quietly, causing everyone to jump slightly and jerk back into reality, bickering forgotten. He also won a look of intense gratitude from Tanith, a rather sudden shift in stance from the prickly girl. “Right now, I think it’s lesson time.”

“Yes… sir,” Tobias said quietly, giving their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher a respectful nod. “We were just… talking.” His expression was faintly grim, and his eyes didn’t leave Bletchley’s – of all the more difficult individuals in Slytherin, Bletchley was easily one of the smartest. A family of old blood, no particular links to any dark sides of magic, and very much on the right side in the war… simply possessed of most of the prejudices that came with it.

They filtered into the classroom as Lupin opened up the door, and Tobias was distinctly pleased to see that the display had shifted from the decorations that Lockhart had adorned the classroom with the previous year. Instead of posters advertising new books, pictures of the professor, and magazines framed on the walls, there was a more respectable and bare array of dusty volumes, and various wizarding artefacts Tobias only vaguely recognised. A tramp Lupin may have been according to Tanith, but he definitely wasn’t a megalomaniac.

“Please, sit down,” the professor said quietly, and for once, the Slytherins were actually inclined to do as he said. Not that the fourth years were particularly difficult compared to many other years; in fact, they were more balanced than most, lacking a figurehead of density such as Warrington in the year above, or Malfoy in the year below. Montague was too dense, Bletchley too smart, and nobody else had any such inclination.

Once they were settled, gathering quills and paper and Gabriel tilting his chair back the obligatory twenty degrees, balancing with irksome poise, Lupin stepped around to the front of the class, where a large wardrobe rested next to his desk.

“I’m aware that last year, under the tuition of Professor Lockhart, your focus in lessons was on curses and counter-curses. I’m also aware that, as a result of sub-standard teaching, there might be some… gaps in your knowledge,” he started, his voice soft yet carrying across the room with surprising efficiency. “Whilst I have no doubt in Professor Lockhart’s ability to teach you all the styling charms your hair will ever need, should you find yourselves needing to protect yourselves, a glamour spell might not be all that useful.”

There was a faint chuckling across the room; still filled with a faint hostility, as Slytherin knew of the dislike the head of their house held for their new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, and weren’t about to cosy up any time soon. If Snape had a problem with Lupin, then that was a good reason to treat him with suspicion.

“So we shall be focusing on that, mostly, this year. However, an opportunity has come my way that I am loath to not share with you all. I believe you covered dark creatures, for the most part, with Professor Quirrell, but that it was difficult to gather hands-on experience. That sort of practice, I have found, is the most valuable of all.” He stepped back, and gestured to the wardrobe.

“What? Is it an evil wardrobe?” Gabriel asked, not as belligerently as Montague or Bletchley might have said it, but certainly with an edge.

Lupin merely smiled at this, and shook his head. “Not at all Mister Doyle; we are now more interested in what lies inside it. Parchment away, wands out; this shall be a practical lesson for now, which can also make a good introduction. From next lesson, I believe we shall be focusing on counter-curses and jinxes.”

There was a rustling as everyone stowed their affairs and gathered their wands, but Tobias kept a close eye on the teacher. “So what’s in the wardrobe, Professor?” he asked, as politely as he could manage without sounding obsequious.

“A Boggart,” Lupin replied calmly, moving the tables to the side of the classroom with a single flick of his wand as the students stood up, leaving a large space for them to gather in. “It was lurking in here from when this was in the staff room. I had it moved down here for my classes. I’m assuming you have covered them before, and are aware of the spell required to deal with their kind?”

Riddikulus,” Tanith replied wearily. “Professor Quirrell did cover all of this with us, Professor Lupin.”

“Indeed, but I’d imagine you have yet to put most of your knowledge to the test? Theory is always so much easier than the practical. I find that the exact frame of mind needed to cast most defensive or offensive spells can never be found in a text book, no matter how many you may read.” Lupin gave her a cheerful smile that took some of the edge away from her irritated expression.

“It may have been two years ago, but how hard can it be?” Tanith pointed out.

Lupin smiled again. “In that case, Miss Cole, I’m very pleased to see that you have volunteered to go first. Very good. The first step in being able to defeat your fears is being actually willing to not run from them.”

“It’s just a Boggart. Can’t be that bad,” Tanith mumbled, stepping away from the group of Slytherins in the middle of the classroom. Still, Tobias noted how she was gripping her wand in a distinctively aggressive manner, very clearly prepared to whip it up at even the slightest hint of a threat from the wardrobe.

Lupin observed her approach with a fairly impassive expression, his hands clasped behind his back, head tilted to one side. “Ready, Miss Cole?” he asked politely enough, and when she replied with little more than a sharp jerk of her head, he reached out to swiftly pull the wardrobe door open.

All there was at first was the sensation of movement, of something emerging from the dark and apparently empty wardrobe, and Tanith’s wand-hand rose immediately in preparation. But there was hardly a second before the indeterminate shape had shifted, to a tall, dark and imposing shape.

Tobias blinked as what most closely resembled vampires of books he had studied materialised in the centre of the classroom, large and foreboding and pale and most notably very sharply fanged. He could see Tanith’s whole body stiffen at the appearance, but to her credit she waved her wand with conservative efficiency. “Riddikulus!”

Her voice had hardly faltered, and Tobias wasn’t too surprised – this was Tanith, after all, and within seconds the vampire was on its knees, frantically hunting around for fallen fangs. Tanith let out a relieved, faintly nervous but very distinctively victorious chuckle and stepped back, giving Professor Lupin a deep and sarcastic yet not completely mocking bow.

Lupin gave her a positive grin, then nodded over at the crowd. Montague was at the front, and eager to step out, and even he managed to deal with the rampaging Chimera that appeared next with absolute ease. Thus it continued – Pucey with a skeleton he made collapse into a pile of bones, Melanie Larkin dealing with the utter darkness that consumed the room by illuminating the classroom with disco lighting, and so forth. Gabriel was confronted with an admittedly odd and slightly freakish giant dancing mannequin, whose dancing he found a good deal more amusing after its feet were set fire to. Tobias made a mental note to deal with that himself, but had little time to consider it before his turn came.

Oh, no, it’s going to be… yes, it is, isn’t it…

The flaming mannequin shifted, and suddenly, in the centre of the classroom, a rather large snake raised its head and looked Tobias in the eye. It wasn’t quite of Basilisk proportions, but was still fairly formidable.

Great. In the middle of a Slytherin classroom, he’d declared to the world that his worst fear was a serpent.



Still, Tobias was in no mood to waste time for this, even as he felt a shudder run through him as the snake moved in that unnatural, slithering way of theirs. A slight distaste for the creatures had just been compounded at the realisation that the chaos of the year before had been caused by a Basilisk.

He whipped his wand out and pointed it directly at the snake. “Riddikulus.” He kept his voice low and even, and concentrated on happier things.

At first, nothing happened, and Tobias felt a faint surge of panic within him, both at failure and the snake. But then, suddenly, the serpent unwound and even hopped lightly into the air, settling down gently as a giant, inflatable balloon of a snake. The balloon had hardly landed before it popped, and Tobias’ wry laugh was just as victorious as Tanith’s had been.

As he shifted back into the crowd of his classmates, he felt his aforementioned friend tugging on his sleeve lightly. “Your Boggart’s a snake?” she asked dubiously, raising an eyebrow at him. “You do know you’re a Slytherin, right? Is that meant to be ironic, or something?”

“It’s meant to be that I don’t like snakes.” Tobias scowled somewhat, before nodding back at the wardrobe. “Heads up. It’s Cal’s turn.”

Cal Brynmor didn’t seem to be in the slightest bit composed as he stood before the reforming Boggart. His wand was held somewhat unsteadily, and though Tobias couldn’t see his expression from behind, he could imagine it wasn’t that confident.

And yet the Boggart’s change was fairly unimpressive, from his perspective. Just a white mask on the floor.

It was only when Cal’s wand was already moving that Tobias realised it was the mask of Death Eaters, and that Cal’s Boggart probably tapped into much more adult fears than any of theirs had. Though he didn’t want to know what a Muggle psychologist would make of his deep-rooted fear of the symbol of his Hogwarts House.

As Cal’s incantation finished, Tobias let out a breath he hadn’t even been aware of holding as the mask on the ground leapt up into the air and hovered there for a second, before suddenly transferring to a carnival mask, bright and colourful and moving – as wizard theatre masks usually did, pulling a silly expression.

And then, finally, it was Miles Bletchley’s turn, the Slytherin Quidditch Keeper dismissing Boggart into the wardrobe, as a zombie now dressed in drag. Lupin closed the wardrobe door behind the creation without complaint, and gave them all a questioning look, challenging them to pass comment first.

Surprisingly, it was Cal who spoke up initially, sounding fairly calm. “See, Professor? This level of study’s two years old for us. Can we get back to curses and counter-curses now?” To others, Cal would have sounded haughty and indifferent. To Tobias, the note of his voice that insisted they move on to other topics was quite clear.

Professor Lupin gave him a nod. “You did, indeed, all perform admirably. But how many of you feel more confident in your ability to place the theory of the classroom into practice? I’m sure Professor Quirrell had you waving your wands and saying the words quite happily, but…”

“In practice, it works better. Yes, professor.” Tobias spoke up quickly to forestall any snide comments he could see lingering around on Gabriel’s or Bletchley’s lips. “We’re glad you gave us the opportunity.”

Behind him, Tanith was leaning over to the aforementioned Gabriel, in an inquisition similar to what he, Tobias, had undergone. “A dancing mannequin? What psychological issues are we touching on here, Doyle?” Her voice was questioning and wry rather than mocking – though, of everyone, Gabriel Doyle would take the mocking more easily than anyone.

“Hogsmeade festival six years ago. A dancing enchanted mannequin scared the hell out of me. Don’t tell me that you didn’t find that to be freaky, just now?” Gabriel whispered back.

“Well, not exactly. But then again, I’m not eight years old. Point conceded,” Tanith chuckled.

“Now, because of your sketchy teaching last year,” Lupin was saying as Tobias tuned back in to the professor’s teaching – that which they were actually supposed to be paying attention to right then, rather than the little ramblings and questionings of Gabriel and Tanith, “I’d like to see how far along you are today, so that I know what to cover and what I don’t have to.”

“Professor Lockhart didn’t leave notes?” Bletchley asked, for the first time sounding truly indignant about the standard of teaching.

“Professor Lockhart forgot to pack. Do you know how many posters I’ve had to remove from the office?” Lupin replied with a sly smile. “No, there are no notes. So I’m going to have to evaluate you all myself.” He pulled his wand out and, with a whip of it, the wardrobe shifted to the back of the room, sliding into place and becoming instantly indistinctive. “So… wands out again?”


 


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