Chapter 3 : Finding Friends
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It was the beginning of the first lesson of the week, bright and early on a Monday morning. Professor Flitwick watched as the third years he was teaching chattered and argued lightly while they settled down for the start of the lesson. Waiting a moment, Flitwick smiled around the room before gently chastising a few of the more rowdy thirteen-year-olds. "Miss Vaughn, Mr Ellison, please settle down and get out your Standard Book of Spells, turned to page thr- Yes, Miss MacDougall, page three. No, Mr Turnbull, you may not sit next to Mr Grieve, you caused too much chaos last lesson." He weaved through the desks, nodding at each student who had all their equipment and who was waiting quietly for instructions― which, thankfully, was the majority of the class that day.
"Now, Mr Collins, if you could collect in the essays due today and place them on my desk, please?" Flitwick called over his shoulder, passing by Miss Banes and Miss Sinistra's desks. Eventually, he reached Mr Crouch's desk, right at the back of the classroom, and turning around, he called out, "Cheering Charms today, class! Please work with the same partners I assigned on Friday." He walked briskly back to his desk and sat down, getting out a pile of essays his fifth year class had handed in. He sighed as he scanned the first page. His fifth years obviously hadn't taken in anything he'd said about Colour-Changing Charms.
There was a hubbub of noise as the third years moved around to work with the partners he'd chosen, and suddenly a shattering sound echoed through the classroom, as well as a gasp.
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" Aurora Sinistra cried, clasping her hands anxiously and looking at Barty Crouch, her cheeks growing red. "I'm awfully clumsy! Tergeo! Tergeo!" She pointed her wand at the ground, prodding at the spilt ink, but the puddle remained no matter how many times she attempted the spell.
"Tergeo. There. Never mind, no harm done." A smile stretched across Barty's face, as he looked back at Aurora. Aurora smiled back, her expression changing from anxiety to relief as fast as the ink had been cleaned up.
"Thanks, Barty! Er― don't suppose you have another nifty spell to get rid of the broken glass, do you?" Aurora asked, looking hopeful.
"No, sorry, I don't," Barty answered, shaking his head. "Vanishing Spells are still a bit above my level." Professor Flitwick, who had been listening vaguely, walked over and flicked his wand, so that the vial of ink fixed itself and flew back onto Barty's desk.
"Now, Miss Sinistra, could you please go and work on Cheering Charms with Miss Vaughn, as I decided last lesson, and Mr Crouch, please go and find Miss Banes," Flitwick said, thinking to himself that Barty could hopefully help Gertrude Banes, who was rather poor at wand-work, although she wrote brilliantly thoughtful essays.
Flitwick marched along the corridors, humming softly to himself and checking his watch from time to time. It was a year after the spilt ink episode, during October or November. The time was nearing midnight, and he was patrolling the Astronomy tower, due to a sudden lack of healthy Prefects from the bout of mild dragon-pox going around the school.
He heard talking in the distance, and, checking in case it was some badly-behaved students, he walked towards the noise. He came out on top of the tower, and saw two familiar fourth years sitting next to each other.
"See, look, Barty," said one of the students, pointing up into the sky. "There's the North Star, and there's Sirius, the Dog Star, and, if you look very carefully, you see those specks over there? What're those, do you know?" she asked, looking from the sky to Barty.
"Er― Jupiter? And… Mars? Saturn?" Barty guessed.
"No! Haven't you learned anything?" the girl said, irritated but good-natured.
"Never mind. They're the Taurus constellation― note that down." Barty's head bent as he scribbled on a piece of parchment.
"This is the one subject I can help you in," Aurora added with a giggle, "I'm going to make sure you nail it."
Flitwick decided to venture forward and interrupt their conversation. They were breaking rules, after all, much as he knew they were doing no harm.
"Miss Sinistra, Mr Crouch," he said, and the fourth years jumped and turned around, “please return to the Ravenclaw common room and go to bed, as it is a long time past the fourth year curfew. You must come to my office tomorrow morning to receive your punishment." The students hastily gathered the Astronomy equipment laid out on one of the desks and scurried off down the stairs, Aurora still teaching Barty all the way.
"Now, you'll remember what I taught you, won't you? If you don't, just tell me and I can teach you again – but during allowed hours," she added hurriedly.
"Yes, all right," Barty said, with a warmth in his voice that Professor Flitwick suspected meant he was smiling, though he couldn't see because of the dark. "Thanks, Aurora."
"No problem!" Aurora said, just as they entered the Ravenclaw common room, Flitwick watching to ensure they didn't sneak out again.
Flitwick leaned back in his chair. The room was hot and stuffy, the pile of essays to mark seemed as if it wasn't getting smaller however much work he did on it, and he was incredibly bored. He could hear voices from outside, as if they were drifting in on a draught of spring air. Sighing, he closed his eyes and relaxed, listening to the voices but at the same time, not quite meaning to listen in.
"Nice, isn't it, out here?" came the first voice, one Flitwick recognised. Aurora Sinistra.
"Mm," came the second voice, a fainter mumble.
"C'mon, Barty! Liven up! What's wrong?" Aurora persisted. Flitwick smiled to himself.
"Nothing," grumbled Barty so quietly that Flitwick barely caught the words.
"Barty!" exclaimed Aurora loudly. "Either cheer up and start talking to me, or tell me what's wrong!"
"Nothing's wrong!" Barty said, indignant.
Aurora giggled. "Sure about that?" she checked.
Aurora giggled again. Then, there was a silence, while all Flitwick could hear was the twittering of birds and faint voices of other students. He wondered if the two fourth years knew they were sitting right below his window.
"I like it here," Barty said, breaking the silence abruptly.
"Me too!" Aurora said happily. "Just why didn't we discover this place earlier?"
"I don't know," Barty mumbled. There was a content silence and then Barty coughed. "Aurora… didn't we come here to do homework?"
"Oh! Yes, yes, we did," said the girl quickly. Filius heard a rustle as they both got out their schoolbooks. "Okay, Barty," Aurora began, "What's the favourite food of a Bowtruckle, d'you know?"
"No idea," Barty admitted, after a brief silence. Aurora chuckled.
"Me neither," she said.
Professor Flitwick smiled, tipping his head back and basking in the warm sun. He was patrolling the grounds, taking over while Hagrid was out sick, and he quite enjoyed it despite the extra work. It was early summer, the weather was very warm for such a day at Hogwarts, and with the students wandering around the castle and grounds, it all made for a pleasant atmosphere.
Flitwick looked around as he walked, watching the students pass. There was a group of chattering fifth years, a few lost-looking first years, though how they could be lost after more than six months living in the castle, he didn't know. Over further away there were two students, one tall and one shorter, standing with their backs turned away from him.
Flitwick walked over, following the patrolling route he had decided on, and came close enough to catch a snatch of conversation.
"Barty, how do you know of these things?" said the taller student incredulously. "You're only fifteen!"
"Oh, I hear around, I understand what I hear. Then I think of my own ideas and opinions of such things." Barty said airily. "Honestly, Patrick, it's really not that hard!"
Flitwick didn't want to appear suspicious so he carried on, striding along as if nothing had happened. His brain was whizzing.
It wasn't the first time he'd seen Barty Crouch with an older student, but Patrick Esling also wasn't the type to seek out help from a fourth year. Flitwick shook his head slowly. What they'd been discussing, he didn't know, but Mr. Esling had always been a sullen boy, mixed up with a dodgy group of older students. Flitwick sighed quietly to himself. If Barty was hanging out with those types, he didn't know what to do, if anything. But then again, there was no way of telling what Barty and Mr. Esling had been talking about.
"I knew it, Filius," Helena sighed, shaking her head, "He was bad from the very beginning!"
"Helena, I've been trying to persuade you that what you're saying is far from the truth! Barty was a model student, or as close to model as an ordinary teenager could get. I merely pointed out that I found Barty speaking with an older student of questionable character. Barty helped anyone who asked," Filius pointed out.
"But Filius," the Grey Lady said suddenly, as the thought struck her, "Barty knew far from ordinary teenagers, didn't he? Just think of Rabastan Lestrange!"
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