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Chapter 42 : Easy Come Easy Go
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Oh well. It's fun to see the boys when they're in wolf form. They were out in the yard roughousing when I went to leave for work. They didn't seem bothered by it but I felt sorry for them having to be out in the cold. I let them in for a while to pick anything they wanted out of the refrigerator. It was funny being surrounded in the small kitchen by all of those bushy, wagging tails. My mother would have had a fit to have seen those "animals" with their heads in the refrigerator, but what she doesn't know won't hurt her.
Mary Ann stayed in my room while they were there, under the bed I'm guessing. I guess she doesn't trust me to be able to fight off werewolves either. Well, of course not -- she thinks I'm "so stupid" after all.
Tonight was the deadline for Severus and I to find the chamber since school has started again. I'm not happy about it at all, although he seems to be. He didn't want me involved in this anyway and he's glad that nothing has happened to put me in Voldemort's notice. I'm unhappy because I've failed in the job that Dumbledore asked me to do.
"At least we know where the chamber is not." Severus tried to console me.
"If someone dies, it will be my fault."
"I do wish you would stop trying to take the blame for the things that the Dark Lord does."
"Standing by and letting things happen is just as bad." I pointed out.
"You haven't been doing 'nothing'. You have been giving up your evenings to search the sewers."
"For all the good it's done. I need more time."
"No." said Severus, and it sounded like he was biting back irritation. "You can best serve the school by graduating with a teaching license."
"Oh I'll graduate. It's not like I could fail. I might not make valedictorian if I keep spending my nights here, but who cares?"
"Because your priorities are messed up." I accused.
"I wish you had been a Slytherin. You would have been able to see sense."
"I want to talk to Dumbledore."
"A pity you don't have the password to his office -- which I will not give you." said Severus, smirking a bit. And he escorted me out of the castle to make sure that I didn't try to ask anyone else for it either.
Well fine. He can't stop me from writing to Dumbledore, although I doubt that doing so would do much good. There does seem to be mutual respect between Dumbledore and Severus, and I expect that Dumbledore will live up to his side of the compromise they made when they brought me into their confidence.
Basil and Augustus were by today with bad news, but one heck of an interesting story. It seems that they can't do anything at all in the ordinary way, not even getting fired from a job. When they get caught goofing off, they have to do it on a grand scale.
I knew something was wrong when they came by this afternoon. It was while Tonks and I were trying to do homework, of course. For some reason that's the only time anyone ever comes by. Although it's only the first week, Tonks already seems completely bored with school and was glad for the distraction.
"Where's the kid?" asked Basil, looking around as he walked in the door.
"Breaking into houses?"
"If you can't be nice I'll kick you out." I threatened.
"You should be nice to us because we had a bad night. We got sacked." Augustus informed me, sitting down heavily on the sofa.
I resisted the urge to ask, "Already?" "Were you too worn out from the full moon to stay awake?" I asked instead.
"Not exactly....promise you won't laugh." said Augustus.
"What happened?" asked Tonks, pushing aside her books and sitting back, ready to hear what was probably going to be an entertaining tale. When any of these guys say "promise you won't laugh" usually the story that follows is a good one.
"We got caught playing with our broomsticks." said Augustus seriously.
I saw Tonks's lips twitch and had to look away before she set me off. "Playing with your --- doing what?" she asked as calmly as she could manage.
Basil rolled his eyes. "Well you know that we like to goof around and stuff."
"It was late." said Augustus defensively. "We were tired."
"We started talking Quidditch."
"No one was around though."
"And we were sweeping the floors ---"
"Oh --- those broomsticks." said Tonks in comprehension. "I was wondering."
She caught my eye and I quickly looked at the floor.
"What broomstick did you think we meant?" asked Basil.
"Never mind." I said, still trying to ignore Tonks.
"So you were playing with your broomsticks..." Tonks prompted, her voice strained.
"We were bored." said Augustus desperately.
"We started talking Quidditch." Basil resumed his story. "And talking about broomstick technique."
Here, Tonks almost choked. I stepped on her toe as I fought to keep a straight face.
"So you were discussing technique for playing with your broomsticks." Tonks managed to say.
"Yeah...." said Basil, while Augustus rolled his eyes. "And then I was showing the best way to sit on one."
"With a Muggle broom?" I asked.
"Well they don't fly but you don't need it to for what I was doing. I just sort of straddled it, you know. And then Augustus disagreed with how I was doing it, so he took his broom and showed me his way."
"We were really bored." Augustus reiterated, looking embarrassed.
"Let me get this straight. Augustus didn't like how you were playing with your broomstick so he showed you a better way?" asked Tonks, her face almost as pink as her hair with suppressed laughter.
"Yeah..." said Basil, looking at her and seeming to realize that she was being amused. "So there we were, just two blokes playing with our broomsticks in the middle of the store." he began in a heartier tone.
"He started it." Augustus interrupted. "He took off his shoes and started running and sliding on the floor in his socks with the broomstick between his legs like he was riding it."
This image was just too much to take. Tonks and I burst out in a round of uncontrollable giggles.
"He did it too." said Basil, not looking at all ashamed as he watched Tonks laugh. "And then we started racing each other --- "
"It was late. No one was around and we were bored."
"Well, no one was around until our boss walked in."
"And we got sacked." Augustus summed it up. "And you said you wouldn't laugh."
"I'm sorry -- I'm sorry -- I'm sorry." I kept gasping. "I know, it's horrible."
"Yeah. After everything we went through to get that job." said Augustus glumly.
"Well, we'll just get another one." said Basil. "We know what not to do now."
"Yeah. No playing with your broomsticks on the job." laughed Tonks.
Basil laughed too. "We never see you anymore." he complained. "It's been forever since you've been to one of our concerts. What have you been doing?"
Tonks hasn't been to watch us since Basil insulted Gideon from the stage while I was away at Christmas. Since then she's pretty much been avoiding him.
"I've had an interview with the Auror office."
"Awesome. Good luck. If they don't pick you, they're complete morons. I know you'll get it though. Hey -- when you do we'll go out and party."
"If you promise to behave." said Tonks cautiously.
"I'll behave any way you want me to."
"We better go before you get into trouble." said Augustus, echoing my feeling that Basil had better quit while he was ahead. "Anyway Kerri, we wanted to let you know."
"What are you going to do in the meantime?" I asked. "I'm guessing you just abandoned your jobs at the cauldron factory."
"Which is just a polite way of saying that you told us so." answered Augustus looking slightly sheepish. "Yeah, we did. I guess we'll just get by the way Mel did when he was out of work."
"We'd better go grocery shopping then." said Tonks.
"How are Royal and Celestia doing?" I asked.
"Great...which is what's scary." said Augustus seriously. "Fenrir must be plotting something really bad."
Or maybe he's proving my point that his bark is worse than his bite. I didn't say that though because I'm sick of people looking at me like I'm insane when I do. I wish he'd just give me the excuse because then I'd show them all what a Hogwarts graduate can do.
Probably for the first time in my life, doing homework seems like a complete waste of my time. I think my time could be much better spent looking for the chamber but no one else seems to agree.
I almost don't care if I'm valedictorian or not in light of the things going on at Hogwarts right now. I really feel that it would make more sense for me to be down in the sewers still, hunting for the basilisk. Over the last week or so I've seen the occasional suspicious looking sign that it might have been in the area, but nothing definitive. Severus just refuses to listen to reason and Dumbledore won't either so my hands are tied. I just wish they'd given me more time.
It doesn't help my concentration having Mary Ann lounging around, going back and forth between practicing magic and complaining of boredom. She's eager enough to learn new spells but not interested in understanding the theory or doing any serious study. I've tried to get her to read some of my old text books but she refuses. I think this is partly because she doesn't read very well but she's not interested in working on that either. So while Tonks and I study she levitates objects, flips channels on the television, complains that it's been a long time since she's seen Leo, complains that there's nothing to do, complains that there's no one to talk to, complains that there's nothing to eat, complains that it's too cold to go out, complains....about pretty much everything.
"Aren't you going to miss us when we're gone next year?" I asked Tonks, who only has to put up with Mary Ann because I brought her in the house.
"I'll probably be too busy to notice. Some of the training will take me away for days at a time."
"I wonder where I'll be living this time next year?" Mary Ann wondered aloud.
Good question. So far we haven't heard from Vashti yet. Personally I don't care if we ever do.
I've been by Hogwarts to see if there is any news. Usually on school days I stay at home and obsess over my work but with this going on I just can't bring myself to do it. I'm going over there anyway, so why shouldn't I be allowed to keep searching?
Severus wasn't there when I arrived at his office although I knew almost immediately where he was. I knew because there was smashed crockery in front of the door, what looked like the remains of a teacup and teapot. Last year the mysteriously appearing mop and now this. It's such a silly prank and yet it's driving him up the wall. I wonder who it is? I think he thinks it's Harry Potter but he blames that kid for everything.
"Did you catch them this time?" I asked as he came sweeping around the corner.
"What are you doing here?" he snapped.
"I came to join the tea party but it seems to have been broken up." I answered, prodding the broken china with my toe.
"This has not been a good day. If I find that you have been in the sewers..." Severus threatened as he unlocked the door.
"I wrote to Dumbledore who won't extend the deadline." I admitted. "And you stay away from the sewers too. I'm the one that can reason with the basilisk. If you go down there and run into it you'll get yourself killed."
"I wonder if I could entice Lockhart down there somehow? Would you look at this? He sent it just before I went looking for the teapot prankster, otherwise I'd have destroyed it by now."
I followed him into his living quarters where a large pink iced cake was setting on the table.
"For my birthday." he explained.
"Almost a month too late."
"And that isn't all." said Severus, gesturing at a pile of books stacked unceremoniously on a chair. "Signed copies of all of his books."
"Well...seeing as they're signed, you might want to keep them. Maybe they're worth something." I tried to look at the bright side. "Never mind." I added as he began throwing them into the fire one by one.
"Well, the cake doesn't look bad at least." I said, thinking of Mary Ann. "Before you start on it, I'll cut some to take home."
"It's pink." said Severus, sounding extremely insulted. "Why would he send me a pink cake?"
"Because he has suicidal tendencies?"
"He's been hinting at Valentine's day plans also."
I couldn't keep from laughing. "Dinner in town?"
"No...some idiotic plans for the students obviously. Don't be stupid. I abhor stupid people and I spend most of my days dealing with them. If you can't talk sense then you may as well leave."
Severus was not at all in a good mood so I decided that would be best. Whether we're friends now or not, he can be absolutely impossible to put up with at times. I liberated a large section of the cake and decided to take some down to Hagrid.
"Stay out of those sewers." Severus hissed at me as I left. "And leave through the back."
Hagrid was in a much better mood, going through seed catalogs in anticipation of spring. Usually he does this around Christmas which goes to show just how concerned he's been about the Chamber of Secrets thing. I'm glad to see that he's starting to be more optimistic.
"Been over a month since the last attack. Maybe it's over again." he said hopefully.
"Maybe." I agreed, not wanting to burst his bubble. I wonder what sort of effect a basilisk stare has on half giants?
We pored over catalogs together while he filled me in on little bits and pieces of Hogwarts news. Many of the names were unfamiliar to me. Well, I'd rather teach people I don't know than people I do. The former will remember me from when I was a student and I'll probably have to work twice as hard to earn their respect. Just imagine how horrible Fred and George will be. And I hear that Gustav Goyle has a younger brother.
"Hermione got out o' the hospital wing today." said Hagrid cheerfully.
"Hermione. Harry and Ron's friend. They were up to see me today. Never seen kids eat so many rock cakes. They really seem to like them."
Or they're very good at slipping them into their pockets when Hagrid isn't looking, which is much more likely. If they care about Hagrid's feelings then they're already in my good book. "Why was she in the hospital wing?" I asked.
"Don't know exactly, but she's been there since around Christmas. Nice girl -- smart girl. Reminds me a lot of you. You'll see next year."
"And next year I can help with the garden."
"It'll be nice having you here again." said Hagrid fondly. " Fang misses you when you're not here. I notice you're visiting a lot more lately."
"Well....this term is going to be easier than the last one. I'm done with my clinic hours. I have a little more time on my hands. I really ought to take Mary Ann to visit Leo. At the end of this year I'll bring him here and turn him loose. He's big enough now that he'll be fine, but I don't want to release him in the forest in the middle of winter."
"Speaking of the forest --- I saw Arthur's car the other day."
Mr. Weasley's illusive Ford Anglia -- it puts me in mind of the way Muggles will occasionally catch glimpses of sasquatches and sea serpents. Since I did not want Hagrid to know about my basilisk related expedition into the forest a few weeks ago I feigned surprise.
"Yeah. Looks like the centaurs have been shooting it." Hagrid continued. "Good thing Arthur doesn't want it back."
" I don't think it's a question of wanting it. It's more that he's not allowed to have it. Maybe it's best to be single after all."
"How're things with you and Remus?"
"Fine. My dress for the ball has arrived. Wait till you see it. We'll be over around eight or so on Valentine's night." I'm starting to feel excited about it despite my dread of meeting Remus's parents.
"Good. I'm looking forward to it. I haven't seen Remus in years." said Hagrid cheerfully.
I think that going to see Hagrid that night will make me feel less nervous about the meeting Remus's parents thing. For the most part, Hagrid really is an optimistic person and that optimism can wear off. If something happens to him through this Chamber of Secrets thing I don't know what I'm going to do. I guess I just have to trust his giant blood to keep him safe from the basilisk and Professor Dumbledore to keep him safe from Azkaban. Of course that won't prevent me from worrying about Severus and all the others.
But no pressure there Kerri. Just do your homework and don't worry about the rest.
Author's Note : I found last week's April Fool's prank extremely annoying. How about you?
Next Chapter : Kerri has an argument with Franklin McNair and a heart to heart with Jillian
"Maybe he's jealous." Jillian suggested. "With my mother I still think her main problem is that she figures that I'll never have children and she wants grandchildren...which brings me to another thing. There's something that's been bothering me lately. You don't think Ryann and I are fit to adopt Mary Ann, do you? You've even gone to that woman that you can't stand to ask for help, but you haven't come to us."
I felt stunned, like I'd been hit upside the head. Now that she said it, the solution seemed so embarrassingly obvious. It had been right under my nose all along and I had not been able to see the forest for the trees.
"You're looking for the perfect couple." Jillian softly continued, now sounding hurt. "We don't measure up to your ideal."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way...I just wasn't thinking." I stammered.
"Because we aren't exactly traditional. Never mind that we care about her and have the means to take care of her." said Jillian, a touch of anger creeping into her tone. "But we're fine for babysitting, of course. We can't possibly corrupt her morals in that length of time. Never mind what her parents have done to them already."
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