Chapter 3 : Retribution
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One day towards the end of what had to that point been a relatively uneventful Care of Magical Creatures class, our teacher, Professor Kettleburn, was engaged in helping Lily and Martha try to catch their Porlock, which had wrested itself from Lily’s grip and was heading off at a rate of knots towards the forbidden forest. James, Sirius, Remus and Peter, watching Kettleburn hurry off away from the other students, finally saw this as their chance to get back at Avery properly. Everyone knew it was coming but no one was particularly worried: their pranks on fellow students were generally aimed to embarrass rather than injure, and this was expected to be no different.
“Watch this,” I told Mary, my eyes, like everyone else’s, fixed on Charon rather like he was a train wreck. “They’re definitely up to something.”
Mary nodded, holding our Porlock tightly – after all, we didn’t want to lose it like Lily and Martha had – while she looked through her hair at the boys who were slowly encircling the hapless Avery. He had by now noticed what was happening and had to face them alone, as Scylla Pritchard, who he had been working with, made her excuses and scampered away quickly with their Porlock when she too saw the Gryffindors coming in. Snape and Mulciber were also watching from a distance – it seemed that none of Charon’s friends had either the courage or inclination to come to his defence.
Cornered, Avery started fumbling inside his robes in what seemed a vain attempt to locate his wand. “Got a problem, Black?” he growled, looking at the person directly in front of him and giving the distinct impression that he was trying to sound much braver than he was actually feeling.
Sirius pretended to think about that. “I don’t think so,” he said lightly after a couple of seconds of feigned deliberation. “But then, I’m not the one who uses Unforgivable Curses on children. Would have said you had more of a problem, myself.”
Avery, who still hadn’t managed to get his hands on his wand, glanced quickly over his shoulder in search of Professor Kettleburn, but he was still trying to corner Martha and Lily’s errant Porlock. The boys surrounding him moved in closer, as if for the kill.
“Locomotor mortis,” said James, pointing his wand at Charon. It was the leg-locker curse – Avery couldn’t move without falling flat on his face.
“Engorgio,” Sirius added, directing the charm at Avery’s mouth. His lips started swelling up until he had trouble keeping his head up with the weight of them.
“Furnunculus,” continued Peter, making boils sprout out all over Charon’s face. This time he did fall over, a painful-looking mess of burst boils and foot-wide lips, with his legs jerking around, unable to separate.
“ENOUGH!!!” yelled a voice from behind Avery – it seemed Professor Kettleburn had finally worked out what was going on. He was hurrying as fast as his limp would allow him towards the disturbance, his wand out and his white hair standing out furiously from his head. Remus, with his wand out, looked a little disappointed he would not be able to join in the fun.
“FIFTY POINTS FROM GRYFFINDOR!!” Kettleburn shouted angrily, breathless from his short run. “I don’t know what you were thinking, Mr Black, Mr Potter, but there is NO excuse for attacking a fellow student!! Even if is Mr Avery,” he added, more quietly this time as he recognised the victim. I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Kettleburn felt Charon deserved all he got, but as a teacher he couldn’t exactly say that.
“Mr Lupin, you are a prefect,” Professor Kettleburn continued, making each word sound like it should have its own capital letter. “What in Merlin’s name were you thinking? Mr Avery, I’ll have to escort you to the hospital wing. Oh – sorry – Finite incantatem,” he added, unlocking Avery’s legs so he could in fact go where directed. “Reducio,” he went on, shrinking Avery’s lips to a more manageable size.
Charon threw a filthy look at James and Sirius as Kettleburn marched him off towards the castle. Of course, with the teachers constantly chaperoning him around between lessons he couldn’t actually do much, but it was clear he’d filed the incident away under ‘reasons for revenge’, to be reopened when it was possible to extract it.
Avery’s chance for revenge came rather sooner than he would have anticipated, though it didn’t exactly go off like he had probably hoped. A week or so after the Care of Magical Creatures incident he somehow managed to slip out of the Great Hall after supper without any of the teachers noticing.
The fifth-year Gryffindor boys and Martha, who for whatever reason had eaten with them that evening and was now firmly attached to Sirius’ arm, had just left the hall and were at the foot of the magnificent marble staircase in the Entrance Hall on their way up towards Gryffindor Tower. Charon wasn’t dumb enough to take them on alone, and had recruited Severus Snape and Irving Mulciber for his little outing. Mary and I, exiting the hall behind the Slytherins with the intent of going to the library, stopped in our tracks and watched breathlessly to see what would eventuate.
“Potter!” Avery snarled at James’ retreating form.
James stopped and turned around when his name was called, but turned back equally quickly at the sight of Avery, Snape and Mulciber. “Remus, did you hear anything?” he asked casually, jumping slightly to avoid a blue flash that had come from Avery’s wand towards his feet. His reflexes really were excellent, probably a by-product of being on the House Quidditch team for the past two and a bit years, and he evaded it with ease.
“I don’t think so,” Remus said evenly, casting a Shield Charm between them and the Slytherins.
“Must have been my imagination, then,” James commented matter-of-factly, as though he was discussing the weather or something equally innocuous.
“I expect so,” agreed Remus, acting for all the world like he hadn’t seen Charon or his friends at all. “Peter, did you hear anything?”
“Not me,” said Peter. “Though I did see some Slytherin scum seeping out of the Great Hall. Do you think I should see if I can find a teacher?” He too jumped, though rather later than would have been necessary, as a yellow flash bounced off the shield Remus had erected and hit the floor just behind him.
Martha, standing with Sirius on the second stair, had obviously decided to join in. “I don’t think so, Peter,” she said, smiling broadly. “It could spoil our fun. Silencio,” she added, pulling out her wand and reaching over the Shield to successfully hit Mulciber with a Silencing Charm so he couldn’t send any more hexes.
The Shield Charm by this time was almost shattered by the wave of jinxes that had hit it, so Remus set about re-casting it to make sure all five of them came out of this encounter intact.
Sirius had been watching, expressionless and silent, throughout the whole affair. He spoke up now. “You know what?” he said to no one in particular, a rather ugly expression of contempt creeping onto his otherwise handsome face. “I really don’t think they’re worth it. Honestly, if this is the best they can do – not even able to shatter a Shield Charm – what are we worried about?”
Snape blanched at the insult, but before he could respond James hit him with another Silencing Charm. Clearly the Slytherins weren’t yet able to cast non-verbal spells that would enable them to get past that particular impediment, which wasn’t really surprising considering we weren’t supposed to learn them until sixth year.
“Avery? Did you hear what Sirius had to say? He doesn’t think you’re smart enough to bother with,” James said with mock politeness.
“Like I care what that little son of a bitch thinks,” Avery growled.
Sirius laughed sourly. “I didn’t realise you knew my mother, Avery!” he quipped. Charon scowled, but Sirius was grinning humourlessly. “Say hi to her for me next time you see her, okay?” And, grabbing Martha by the hand, he turned on his heel and walked up the stairs towards Gryffindor Tower without pausing or looking back once.
It seemed the school year had only just begun but already the teachers were piling on the homework, and those of us who weren’t extremely well organised (in other words, normal people) were having trouble keeping up with it all. Every night after supper Mary and I could be found in the common room, cloistered away at our table by the window, trying to finish the latest Potions or Herbology assignment. One night in mid October, however, we had to give that up entirely as it became impossible to study there.
We were halfway through our homework for Defence Against the Dark Arts (‘Explain with examples the situations in which minor curses and jinxes are appropriate’ – eighteen inches at least) when the furniture in the common room suddenly began to spin around randomly, knocking people over and settling itself over school bags, people and other furniture. Watching triumphantly from a vantage point near the boys’ staircase were James and Sirius, their grins becoming wider as the furniture wreaked more and more havoc. Our own table became part of the action soon enough, taking our chairs on a merry trip up part of the girls’ staircase, over the banister and then doing pirouettes in front of the fire.
Once it became obvious that the boys had absolutely no intention of returning the common room to its usual state, Remus, who was a prefect after all, walked over to them with a resigned look on his face and tried to talk them into stopping the charm (or whatever it was). After all, we’d tried Finite incantatem and it hadn’t worked, so this clearly needed something a bit more specific. Mary and I had been chased by a table and one of the armchairs to a spot close enough for us to hear the conversation.
“All right, you two, let it off. You’ve had your fun.” Remus sounded almost exasperated, as though he had hoped in vain that his prefect status would give him some degree of authority over his friends.
“Nah, we haven’t,” came James’ voice above the palaver. “We’ve only just begun.”
That sounded ominous, and clearly Remus thought so too. “Just begun what, exactly?”
James laughed. “Come on, mate, it is Friday night. Let’s have some fun to get the weekend started!”
Sirius plainly agreed. “And it’s not like we’re actually breaking any rules. We checked, and there definitely isn’t one that specifically says you can’t make the common room furniture do cartwheels of its own volition. So you can’t force us to stop because we’re not doing anything wrong.”
“But that’s not really the point, though, is it?” asked Remus, still in remarkably measured tones. I marvelled inwardly at how good he was at keeping his temper and not allowing himself to get worked up. “You’re interrupting the study of everyone in here and basically being a nuisance.”
“So?” Sirius’ arrogant streak was rearing its ugly head. “What difference does that make?”
“So you should show some consideration to the other people in the common room. It’s not all about you.” Ooh, that last sentence was a killer. Privately I thought Remus should most probably have quit a bit earlier – saying something like that to Sirius Black, particularly when he had his wand out, was never a good idea.
Sirius, however, just shrugged, in what must have been a testimony to their years of friendship. Certainly if anyone else had said that to him they would have been flashing orange by now. Or have suddenly grown some Re’em horns. “Dunno what you mean,” he said. “Of course it’s about us. Who else would it be about?”
James chimed in, a broad smile across his face. “Absolutely. We’re just showing a little love to everyone else in Gryffindor House. A touch of Potter and Black.”
Sirius was nodding. “And we all know how much people like us to touch them.” He grinned mischievously, and Mary and I looked at each other and groaned.
“Ge’ yer hand off it, will ye,” Mary muttered under her breath, then turned to me. “Wha’ dae ye say we finish off i’ th’ library?” We ducked a wayward armchair which had been hurtling towards us, bouncing over some second-years trying to play Exploding Snap and spinning off towards a furious-looking Lily, who had just come downstairs to discover the mayhem being inflicted on Gryffindor House and was marching towards the perpetrators with her eyes flashing. Better to not be in the room when she got started with them, I thought, Merlin only knew what might happen.
“Never was there a better idea,” I agreed quickly. “What did we do to deserve sharing a common room with those two?”
“Must hae bin Grindelwald i’ a previous life an’ all,” she said with a grin as she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder.
I laughed, ducking under the fire tongs as they spun towards my head. “Can’t have – he’s still alive. But maybe one of his chief henchmen, do you think? And now we’re being punished.”
Mary laughed. “Where dae ye suppose Martha is?” she asked, as though Martha’s status as Sirius’ girlfriend, if she disapproved of what he was doing, would have made any difference whatsoever.
I shrugged. “Beats me. Though I have the feeling that if anything she’d probably be encouraging them.”
“Aye, ye’re prob’ly richt,” Mary nodded in agreement as we tentatively made our way to the portrait hole and headed downstairs to the library, grateful to escape the commotion.
If the piles of homework being inflicted on us weren’t enough to keep us occupied, every Sunday my Sunday Prophet informed us of the news, most of it quite distressing, from outside the castle walls. I used to quite enjoy sitting down after breakfast on Sunday mornings to go through it and catch up on the news for the week, but as a by-product of the current war between the Death Eaters and, well, let’s call them sensible people, the paper was now more and more often filled with news of deaths, disappearances and incidents of torture. My mother, as a Muggle, also kept me up to date with what was happening in the Muggle world, and it became increasingly evident that a lot of things going on there were also due to Voldemort, either attacking the families of Muggle-born witches and wizards, or just Muggle baiting for the hell of it.
“Let’s see what the damage is this week,” I said to Mary one morning as we flicked through the paper looking for the list of the most recent dead, injured or missing. “Right, here we go. Forty-three dead definitely due to the war, another eighty-nine dead due to circumstances that might be linked to it. Seventy-one tortured or otherwise injured by Death Eaters or those acting on their instructions. And thirty-seven missing, though some of those had the Dark Mark above their houses so anything’s possible there.”
“Aboot normal, then,” she said grimly. “Hoo’s the Ministry copin’ wi’ it all?”
I shrugged. “Probably the same as usual, as far as I know. Which is, they’re not. Mum reckons Dad’s going spare, no one seems to know what’s going on and the Obliviators are going from place to place without even knowing who they have to modify the memory of or what’s happened this time. It’s a shambles, apparently.”
“Aye, tha’ doesna surprise me,” she said, rolling her eyes dramatically. “Makes lookin’ after Bea almos’ seem lik’ an easy job, doesna it?”
“As though that’s ever easy,” I said with a groan. “You remember how last week she gave Damocles Belby an elephant’s trunk? Well, that was because he beat her in a Potions essay. I mean, Potions. It’s not even like she likes the subject, but she was still ticked off that he did better than she did. I swear, sometimes I think that girl is going to be the death of me.”
Mary giggled. “An’ wha’ aboot tha’ thing yesterday?”
I groaned again. “What, when Stamford Jorkins started reciting poetry for no reason?”
“Aye, tha’s th’ one,” she agreed. “Tha’ wa’ her, too, wasna it?”
I nodded. “Absolutely. I haven’t even been able to get her to tell me what that was about, she’s clammed up for some reason. But yeah, she and Cynthia and Sturgis have perfected this spell that means you can only speak in couplets. It took Madam Pomfrey and Professor Dumbledore two hours to work out how to reverse it.”
“I’m gettin’ th’ feelin’ tha’ ye’d rather deal wi’ th’ war than Bea,” she said. “Shall we ge’ back t’ th’ paper, then?”
“Why not,” I said glumly. “Who knows, it might even cheer me up.”
Mary busied herself with flicking through the paper looking for anything that didn’t relate to Voldemort and the Death Eaters, while I helped myself to some kippers. Suddenly she let out a loud groan. “Ye’re kiddin’,” she said. “E’en th’ birth notices are linked t’ th’ war. Here, look, prood t’ annoonce th’ birth o’ Gideon Crumb, son o’ th’ late Wilfred Crumb who wa’ killed las’ week by Inferi, believed t’ be under th’ control o’ Death Eaters. Th’ Inferi, tha’ is, nae th’ bairn.” She looked at me and made a face. “Tha’s it, I give up.”
In fact, aside from the front-page (and admittedly sensational) news that the captain of the Montrose Magpies Quidditch team had been killed in a collision with a helicopter, which we had already discussed at length, and the sports reports, there was virtually nothing in the Prophet that wasn’t connected with the war in one way or another. Reading the paper was no longer a relaxing event, but I couldn’t stop myself from doing it: I was drawn to the information with the same sort of morbid curiosity that compels people to follow particularly gruesome murder investigations.
Having said that, I often got a little upset by what I had read, particularly when I recognised one of the names, and so afterwards I generally needed to calm down a bit and clear my head, invariably heading down to the Quidditch pitch to take my broom out for a bit of a spin. Mary soon knew to not even look for me after breakfast on a Sunday until I wandered back up to the common room looking rather windswept but peaceful again.
Not that the castle was necessarily a quiet and serene place where one could forget one’s problems either – though this time I’m not referring to the likes of Charon Avery or even Dione Turpin. Or even Peeves, Hogwarts’ resident poltergeist who liked to randomly drop heavy objects on people’s heads and could only be controlled by the Bloody Baron, the rather sinister-looking Slytherin ghost. No, this was more about the threat our peers presented. The more proficient we got at spell-casting, the more likely it was that we would be hexed in the hallway by someone in our year keen to practice a new jinx. And, as we were discovering, you couldn’t always rely on the appointed authority figures within the student body to behave themselves in this regard.
Leaving lunch the following day on our way to Defence Against the Dark Arts, we saw James Potter suffering from the unmistakeable effects of a Jelly-Legs Jinx and noticed Lily hiding behind a statue in the Entrance Hall and watching him with a gleeful expression on her face, her wand spinning around in her hand.
“So much fer prefec’s settin’ a good example,” Mary muttered, though she was smiling.
“Wonder what he did this time,” I said.
“Micht nae hae bin anything,” she pointed out rather wisely. “Sometimes she jus’ feels lik’ hexin’ him. Though I canna say I blame her.” Really, Lily and James were sometimes like kids in the school playground, pulling pigtails and the like. Though it also reminded me of something else …
“Yeah, it’s a bit like him and Severus,” I agreed. “You get the impression they just jinx each other for something to do.” And because they both desperately want the same girl, I thought, but that was so obvious it went without saying.
As I sat in my final class for the day I found my attention was waning. Ancient Runes was held in a normally abandoned classroom on the ground floor that day, as someone – rumoured once again to be James and Sirius, who had a habit of doing this sort of thing when they were bored – had bewitched all the suits of armour on the third floor so that they threw gobstones at anyone who came near them, and the teachers hadn’t managed to catch them all yet to undo the spell. Professor Babbling had hurriedly cleared out a room not far from the Great Hall and we had moved in there for the day, fortunate that it was a class that we didn’t need anything other than our textbooks and parchment for.
However, as I mentioned, my mind wasn’t really on Ancient Runes that afternoon. In our Defence class Professor Dingle had taken the opportunity to teach us about Dementors and their effects. Oddly enough Dumbledore had refused to allow a real Dementor to be brought to class, but Dingle had magically created the effects of an attack and as a result I was feeling less than inspired. While Babbling droned on about common pitfalls in advanced rune translation I allowed my mind to wander as I gazed outside to the bright October sunshine.
Through the window I could see Lily and Severus Snape, walking along the cloisters that surrounded the courtyard, deep in conversation. His face had a voracious look as he watched her, but she seemed unaware of it, her arms flapping about wildly as she tried to make a point. I watched them for a while, wondering why she never noticed the way he looked at her – I was sure that I could never be that oblivious – but she was as impervious as ever, talking unconcernedly as he gazed hungrily at her.
“Honestly, he gives me the creeps,” I said to Mary that night at dinner as I told her the story. “Every time anyone came near them, even if they weren’t even paying her any attention, he’d reach for his wand and look absolute daggers at them. I’m amazed she didn’t notice.”
“I’m nae surprised, though, really,” Mary said. “He’s always bin possessive o’ her, e’er since firs’ year. Remember, he’d insis’ on walkin’ her everywhere, e’en when he wa’ supposed t’ be somewhere else.”
“Yeah, but that was four years ago,” I said. “She can look after herself by now, she’s one of the smartest in the year. By hovering over her all the time like that it’s more like he’s stalking her than protecting her.”
Mary giggled. “He prob’ly is,” she said. “Stalkin’ her, tha’ is.”
“Yeah, well, it doesn’t look healthy from this distance,” I muttered, keeping my voice down a bit as Lily walked along the Gryffindor table towards Martha and Charlotte, having just finished another conversation with Severus by the doors into the Entrance Hall.
This opinion was strengthened at the Hallowe’en feast later that week. When we arrived for supper the Great Hall was a masterpiece of giant pumpkins and hundreds of live bats flying around above our heads. The Hallowe’en feast was always a highlight of the school year, and this year it was on a Friday so we really could let our hair down, so to speak. The resident ghosts (with the exceptions of Peeves and Professor Binns) had been talked into doing a bit of formation gliding and put on a very impressive show, and the food and drink surpassed even its usual quality.
Halfway through the night Severus came over to our table to talk to Lily who, knowing the effect his presence would have on the rest of the Gryffindors, stood up and walked with him to the back of the hall. As usual he eyed her greedily and I was sure I even saw him licking his lips as he watched her. Lily, as always unaware of this behaviour, was talking to him cheerfully but distractedly, watching the ghosts doing their dance and enthusiastically joining in the applause when it was over.
The drama started when one of the younger students, who wouldn’t have been any more than second year and was probably even younger than that, got a fright from a suit of armour that jumped out rather close to him and ran terrified from the hall. At least he would have, if he hadn’t run headfirst into Lily by the door and almost knocked her over. Lily of course wasn’t bothered by it and was more concerned about the younger student’s welfare than her own, but Snape instantly got his wand out and put the boy in a full body bind before hitting him with a jinx that made his toenails grow at an alarming rate. Lily just stared at him, shocked.
We couldn’t hear what they said to each other due to the noise and palaver in the hall but Lily was clearly horrified by what Severus had done, and before long both hexes had been reversed and the poor child was sobbing in the corner, being comforted by Professor Sprout. Lily glared at Snape and took off out of the hall, while he just looked like he wasn’t quite sure why she was so upset, like he couldn’t for the life of him work out why what he’d done might have been inappropriate.
“He’s go’ t’ be kiddin’, doesna he?” muttered Mary next to me. “He reckons he ca’ impress her by cursin’ bairns?”
“If he thinks that,” I said, helping myself to a piece of pumpkin pie, “he doesn’t really know her at all, no matter how long they’ve been friends. That’s the last thing that would impress Lily.”
“I dinna lik’ th’ way he looks a’ her either,” she went on. “It’s lik’ ye said th’ ither day. He looks all greedy, lik’ he wants t’ possess her or summit.”
“He probably does,” I agreed. “Why she can’t see it I will never understand. I mean, it’s not like he’s subtle or anything.”
“She’s only e’er seen him as a frien’,” Mary said wisely. “An’ she canna understand why any o’ us think it micht be more than tha’. On his par’, a’ leas’.”
“I dare say you’re right.” I watched Snape make his way back to the Slytherin table, having been chastised by more than one member of staff for his little indiscretion. We could see through the door that the emeralds in the Slytherin hourglass in the Entrance Hall moved, indicating that points had been taken from him as a result, though he still seemed nonplussed about what had happened. In my opinion, the boy clearly had difficulty telling the difference between right and wrong.
Author's note: Again, not brilliant, but certainly better. And as good as I'm going to get it at the moment!
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