A.N. This chapter is dedicated to all of those who have made this story a favourite - you keep reading it, and I'll keep posting it!
The next few days flew by, as they always did when I was dreading something. All too soon it was Thursday, and I was reluctantly heading towards the library. Despite three solid days of serious rumination, I hadn’t come up with a single good reason to get me out of our little arrangement, and so as I walked, I focussed instead on how to teach him the spell as quickly as possible. I had never actually tutored anyone before – I suppose because no-one had ever known I had the talent required – and I found myself becoming increasingly nervous. I can’t do this – magic and all just comes so naturally to me! What do I know about helping a normal person to do it?
Entering the library, I felt at least a little better; its soothing atmosphere having its usual effect on me. Thankfully, the place was deserted, and even Madam Rossiter, the new librarian, had retreated to her office. The last of the evening sun was streaming in through the windows, casting a soft yellow glow about the place and keeping the usually-chilly room comfortably warm. All in all, the evening was starting pleasantly enough, though I had every faith that it would soon be going rapidly downhill.
I made my way to the back of the room, which we had agreed would be the best place to work. The tables back here were smaller and closer together, so we could seem to be sitting apart if anyone was to venture in. From the doorway, we were completely concealed, as the large bookshelves of the restricted section blocked us from view.
Just as I sat down, I heard footsteps behind me, and my pulse leapt instinctively. I spun round, but it was only Malfoy. He was looking a tad out of breath, and I wasn’t sure if that was due to him hurrying to be on time, or because of all the books he was carrying. He grabbed a chair at the desk next to mine, put his stack down, and then swivelled to face me, a slight smile on his face.
“One library not enough for you?!” I asked, highly amused. Malfoy frowned sharply, and I instantly felt a mixture of apprehension and guilt.
“Not all of us can just do it first go, you know.”
“Sorry,” I replied sincerely, “it’s probably good that at least one of us knows what a book is for. So, what have you learnt so far?”
His expression relaxed as he accepted my apology and change of topic, and he answered:
“You mean other than the incantation itself and the fact that your dad could do it in his third year? Well, it was first invented in 204 AD, by Castor Black, to repel Lethifolds. Since then, it has primarily been used to ward off Dementors, and as such is rarely needed by the general public. Each Patronus takes on a unique appearance, based on the witch or wizard casting it. Oh, and a corporeal one is graded at E in the defence against dark arts NEWT.”
Whoa, did Rose and Scorpius do a body swap that I wasn’t aware of? I decided that more sarcasm wasn’t that best plan for the moment, so instead answered:
“Right, well that’s...” dull? Irrelevant? Completely beside the point? “...undoubtedly true. Still, I was thinking more about the details of how to actually cast the spell.”
Scorpius blushed. Aww, how cute! Wait, what? I do not find his blush cute!
“Oh. I know you pronounce it ‘ex-PEK-toh pa-TROH-num’, and you emphasise the flick, not the swish.”
“Yep, that’s definitely how I do it.” Scorpius raised one eyebrow at this, and I realised what I had just admitted to. Crap, did I say that? Well, he as good as knew anyway. Keep on focus, Lily. “OK, show me what you’ve got.”
He stood up, raised his wand, and clearly incanted “Expecto patronum!”
“OK, well, it looks fine.” I said brightly, as his shoulders slumped. “Let me think...oh, I know, what are you thinking about?”
He looked at me, mystified, but answered “Mainly, swish and flick. What else would I be thinking?”
“That’s just it – a patronus is the embodiment of your own positive thoughts. You need to think about something positive, a happy memory, when you cast one.”
Scorpius frowned for a moment, before squaring up.
This time a silvery mist appeared, hanging between us for a few seconds before gently dissipating.
“You did it!” I was thrilled by our combined success.
“Hardly! A silver mist does not constitute a full patronus.” He sat back down, but didn’t look quite as despondent as before.
“Oh, come on, no-one gets these things on their first go.” Again, he raised an eyebrow. “OK, no-one normal does. I’ve been reliably informed that practice makes perfect. I’m sure we’ll get it eventually.”
“Eventually isn’t fast enough. I need this down in a month tops.”
Now it was my turn to look mystified. “You battling any Lethifolds I don’t know about?”
“No, but I will be facing a couple of Dementors.”
I gasped. Why on earth would he have to do that? Seeing my shocked expression, he explained:
“I’m guessing you know all about my grandfather? Well, unfortunately the wizarding community is still pretty anti death penalty, so he was sent to Azkaban. Generally, we don’t have any contact with him – my parents’ attempt at distancing themselves I guess. Once a year though, we do go there, to wish him happy birthday.”
“And I’m guessing that’s coming up?” I ventured, everything suddenly making a lot more sense.
“February eighteenth. Every year I dread it. Seeing the guy is bad enough – he was apparently a miserable piece of work even before he was caught – but the whole thing’s made worse by my dad’s yearly lecture on my failure as a wizard.”
“Your dad calls you a failure?” I murmured, my heart going out to him. Clearly, something in my words snapped him out of his trance, as he abruptly replied:
“It’s no big deal – he just likes to compare me to your dad. You know: ‘Potter could conjure a patronus in third year. What’s wrong with you?’ Stuff like that.” He could see I wasn’t convinced, so added, “Seriously, it’s not the end of the world. I’d just like to, you know, avoid giving him the chance this year. The Dementors make me quite miserable enough.”
“Well, this year, nothing’s going to get you down, not with me on the case.” Suddenly I was determined to do whatever I could to help.
Two hours later, and we eventually called it a night and headed back to our respective common rooms. Over the course of the evening his attempts had not been uniformly improving, but overall I felt that he was getting the hang of it. Regardless, I eventually had to wrap it up, as he was clearly too tired to make any more progress – on his final attempt he had actually produced a shower of grey sparks rather than anything approaching a silver form, and so I had hastily called time. I had happily agreed to more sessions though, and so we arranged to meet up next Saturday afternoon. As it was a Hogsmeade weekend, we figured that it would be less conspicuous if we both went with our respective friends, and then slipped off somewhere quiet later on. The plan was to meet up behind Scrivenshaft’s Quill Shop at three, and from there head over to the ‘quieter’ side of the forbidden forest.
Normally, the concept of venturing into any part of the forbidden forest would have freaked me out (I’m no goody two shoes, but nor am I exactly a dare devil). Today though, I was too busy mulling over the weirdness of the last two hours, or more precisely, the lack of weirdness. Spending time with Scorpius was supposed to be horrible, awkward, and potentially dangerous. Instead, it had actually been fun, and dare I say it, comfortable? I just couldn’t get over how easy it was to talk to him, particularly once we had gotten the inevitable parental issues out of the way.
Eventually, I reached the Fat Lady’s portrait, only to find Louis leant against it. He had come over to the Gryffindor common room every night so far this week, and so I felt duty bound to tease him mercilessly.
“Did Hugo forget to let you in? How odd! It’s almost like he didn’t know you were coming. Hmm, very odd indeed! Oh wait, I know,” I continued, smacking my palm against my forehead in mock realisation, “maybe you’re here for someone else!”
Louis glared at me for a long moment, before coolly replying “I’m here to return a book. Now, are you going to let me in, or just continue practising your stand up routine?”
I smiled widely. “Oh, I’m definitely letting you in. What better way to get stand up material than watching you and Electra pretend not to stare at each other.”
“She’s staring at me?” he gushed in surprise, before covering with, “I mean, I don’t know what you’re referring to; there’s nothing going on.”
“Fiddlesticks.” I answered calmly, watching him look slightly surprised at my comment, and then even more surprised as he fell through the opening portrait hole.
“Quite right!” the Fat Lady chuckled as she swung back shut behind us. I held out my hand to help Louis off the floor, and he reluctantly took it, before quickly striding over to a sniggering Hugo. Chuckling myself, I made my way across to Chelsea and Electra, who were pretending to work on our Potions essays. I sat down with them, and went to pull out my own textbooks, when I heard someone behind me clear their throat.
“Lily, how’s things?”
I spun round, bemused, to see Louis attempting to appear nonchalant.
“Talking to me again?” I asked pointedly.
“Of course I am, dunno what you mean. Hi Chelsea, hi Electra,” he added, as if just noticing them beside me. Ooh, very smooth, I thought to myself. Keeping a straight face, I asked sweetly:
“Did you want something in particular, Louis?”
“Just thought I’d see how training was going – Hugo says James is being really militant.”
“Ooh, are you trying to steal their team secrets?” Electra added, seizing her moment. Looking relieved, Louis turned to her, and replied flirtatiously:
“Why, what would I have to do to you to get them?”
“Well, what do you want to do to me?” Electra countered with a ‘coy’ smile.
I rolled my eyes as Chelsea mimed gagging. I shook my head in exasperation, before helping her to gather her books, and heading over to the next free table. For a few precious minutes, we got down to studying, and I actually began to hope I might get my homework done on time for once. Then I heard a sigh, and looked up to see that Chelsea had once again given up. Putting my quill down, I asked her:
“What’s up, Chells? I thought you’d be happy for Electra.”
“I am! I just don’t know how she does it. I could never act like that with Hugo.”
I looked over my shoulder, to see exactly what had inspired this despair.
“They’re just talking.” Electra pretended to smack Louis, and then left her hand on his chest. “OK, and touching. Still, it’s not like they’re kis... oh, gross!” I turned away quickly. I mean, come on, he’s my cousin; I so don’t need to see that!
“See! No way could I be that forward.” Chelsea sighed again.
“Why not – you’ve had boyfriends before. What’s different about this time?”
“That’s just it. All my previous boyfriends asked me out; I’ve never had to try before.”
“Well, just treat him like you treat any other guy then – odds are he’ll eventually join the club and ask you out too!” I smiled at my own genius, but Chelsea just shook her head.
“It’s not that simple – I can’t treat him like any other guy. Mainly, because I lose the power of speech whenever he looks at me. Besides, he barely even knows I exist.”
Wow, she’s fallen hard. I had no idea. “Well, now we have an in, don’t we?”
Chelsea looked confused, so I explained, “Electra can help you organise accidental double dates. Next weekend for example – we’re going to Hogsmeade with her, right? Well, get Electra to arrange to meet up with Louis at lunch, and odds are, Hugo will tag along.”
“You wouldn’t mind?”
“Course not. I’ll stay for a bit, help you regain speech functions, and then slip off once you’re settled.” And meet up with Scorpius, mwah ha ha! This secret keeping is easier than I thought.
“Wow, you’re like the best friend ever!” Chelsea gushed. I smiled weakly back, suddenly feeling a little guilty. Fingers crossed Electra is as trusting, ‘cause if I have to lie any more I’ll pop.