Chapter 10 : Trolls, Jumpers, and Fire Whiskey
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He lays the paper in front of me swiftly. To some, its contact with the surface is soundless, but to me it's like he dropped a grand piano from a four story building.
And oh, does it hurt.
I gingerly finger the corner of the paper and flip it over, opening one eye as if the sight of it would burn my sockets out. A sharp, painfully large “T” is circled boldly at the top corner of the paper and below it, scribbled swiftly in red ink reads the oh-so-classically tragic, “see me after class” which is underlined. Twice.
So maybe I've never been the best student, but I've never been the worst. Maybe I should brush up on my studying a little—just a little—but none of this has ever been a problem before. I'm average. Sometimes above, sometimes below, but in general, just average. I'm the student that the teacher calls on because I'm not paying attention, but instead of stating the answer flawlessly or pulling words out of the air to conjure up a stupid answer, I say, “I wasn't paying attention.” And that's that.
Perhaps my grades have been lacking a little since I've had to pass my servitude under four particularly evil teenage monsters, and perhaps I've gotten too lazy to do any studying, and perhaps I don't try hard enough on my assignments. I'd rather sleep then do boring things like study for tests or finish potion papers.
“You told me to see you?” I say once the last student leaves.
“Sadly,” is the first word that drawls past Professor Harding's lips the moment I drag myself gingerly towards his desk. He is scribbling swiftly across a piece of parchment, and the only sound in the room is his obnoxiously loud pocket watch and the scraping of his quill. “So,” he articulates, “I am sad that it has come to this.” He shuffles around various papers and flicks of a speck of dust from his sleeve then folds his hands underneath his chin, his gold-green eyes searching my face. I wince.
Why must my world be surrounded by extremely attractive men who are completely untouchable? This is the worst.
Professor Harding is, by what some people would call, a good old-fashioned gentleman. Despite the fact that he looks like he came straight out of a Romantic novel, the way he speaks, the way he holds himself, everything about him seems otherworldly. He acts like a knight, almost. Gallant, polite, respectful... He's just so perfect that it's scary.
Defense Against the Dark Arts has never been my strongest subject. One, because I never found myself to be handy in “defense” and two, because I find it extremely difficult to learn anything when we have a new teacher every year teaching us new methods in different ways. Not to mention, I can hardly concentrate during class because of... well... he's a distracting man.
I've known of Professor Harding since first year. Actually, everyone pretty much has known him because he was the young genius that went to Hogwarts a mere four years ago. Only then, everyone called him William, or Will, or even Bill on occasion. Some people still struggle to call him Professor.
I find it very confusing as to why he was hired in the first place. Don't get me wrong, he's a wonderful teacher, I'm sure, but this isn't helping the fact that the majority of the female student body is in love with their DADA professor.
....Of whom, I might add, is engaged.
He clears his throat to break me from my daze. “Your grade for that test was simply unacceptable.”
“Oh, it can't be that bad,” I mumble uneasily with light chuckle, trying to hold in the fact that I really want to say, “your attractiveness is what's unacceptable” or “the fact that you're getting married is unacceptable” or “stop teaching because you're too damn prepossessing to be a teacher” or “I had the biggest crush on you third year so please keep that into consideration.”
“Miss Parker, do you understand what 'T' stands for?”
“No, it stands for you not working hard enough.”
I stare at him and blink a few times. “There's no T in that.”
“Let me show you something.” He searches through the scattered pieces of paper while he runs a hand through his tousled hair that has an uncanny likeness of color to milk chocolate. It looks soft. I've noticed that when he thinks he likes to bite the corner of his bottom lip.
...Not that I've been staring or anything.
“Ah, here it is,” he says. He perches his glasses that have been hanging on his collar precariously onto his nose like some old man. “Take a look at it and tell me what you think.”
He hands me the piece of parchment which is dated at the top with various names of people from my year with a letter next to them.
“What am I looking at?” I say dully.
“Well, tell me what you see.”
“Names and letters.” I squint. “Er—grades.”
“What kinds of grades?”
“Well, all I see are O's and E's,” I say, scanning the extensive list, running my finger down the line of grade letters.
I freeze. “Oh,” I say, feeling my lip twitch. “I see.”
“Miss Parker,” Professor Harding sighs. “You were the only one in all of my classes to completely fail that test.”
“Completely?” I repeat.
He looks at me straight in the eye and continues in an even, controlled tone. “It was to my belief that one of the questions asked what color a common welsh green is. Do you recall what you answered?”
I raise an eyebrow. “Green.”
“No,” he says bluntly, yet hesitantly. “Your answer was chocolate.”
“Now, I understand chocolate can be considered to be a color, but in all seriousness, how distracted were you to answer such easy questions in such a manner? I don't think you even had the correct spelling.”
“Surely, that can't be—”
“Miss Parker, you're not hiding something, are you?” He then lowers his voice. “It isn't drugs, is it?”
“I had a peer a few years ago who got into the wrong crowd and what happened was he threw his—”
“No! Professor, of course not. It's not that....” How can I possibly explain my situation? I work for hours on end for the Marauders resulting in lack of sleep and besides, your hair looked extra chocolate-y that day? I'm sure he would take that impeccably well. Which reminds me....
“Do you happen to have the time?” I blurt.
He takes a quick glance at his pocket watch but lightly slaps his hand on the table. “Don't distract me, Ivy. What we're talking about is serious.”
He called me Ivy. That's weird. No, that's extremely weird. I was getting used to him calling all of us “Miss” and “Mister” all the time. Why don't professors ever call us by our first names? It's odd. Does he even remember me from before he became my professor?
“I'm sorry sir, but I have to be—”
“It's the end of the day. I'm sure there's no urgency as to where you have to be right now.”
I can't argue with that. Except, I have to be somewhere. I was supposed to meet them soon....
“There are times, Miss Parker,” he continues, “when a teacher knows that something's wrong with his student.”
He holds up his hand. “It's one thing for a student to completely fail a test. However, it's quite another when that student is the only one who fails a test out of the entire class. Especially since that test is possibly the easiest test anyone has ever seen.”
“Something's distracting you, Ivy. I can see it.”
I take a quick look at the door. Maybe I can run. “There's nothing. What are you talking about?”
He sighs, and rubs his eyes tightly underneath his glasses right before taking them off. “I know this is going to sound extremely cliche,” he begins, seemingly unsure with himself, “But if anything's wrong, and I mean anything, don't hesitate in telling me about it. Alright?”
“Thanks for your concern,” I say stiffly. “Can I leave now?”
“Before you run off,” he begins gravely, “I'm going to have to get you a tutor.”
“A tutor? But sir—”
“It's the only way, Miss Parker. Make arrangements for every Tuesday afternoon.” He takes off his glasses, setting them down neatly. “And that's final,” he adds before I can say anything in protest.
He gets up from his desk and walks me towards the door. I can feel myself blush as his hand brushes against my back as he reaches to open the door for me, and for a moment time slows down. And then that annoying voice in the back of my head starts to scream.
No Ivy, he's a professor. Bad. Off limits. He's getting married and he's your professor. HE'S GETTING MARRIED AND HE'S YOUR PROFESSOR. HE'S GETTING MARRIED AND—
“Ivy, I've been looking all over for you. Where have you—”
I look up at Professor Harding who seems to have totally regretted interjecting that, and I see a slight tinge of red in his cheeks.
“Good afternoon, Professor,” Sophie says with a cold indifference. “Don't suppose I could steal Ivy from you?”
Is she glaring at him?
Professor clears his throat after a pregnant pause. “O-of course. Just finished with her.”
Sophie switches her glare towards me and grabs my wrist. She doesn't say anything to Professor Harding and merely turns on her heel and drags me behind her. I hear the door slam behind us.
“What was that all about?” I ask, “Do you have a grudge or some—”
“Never you mind,” she snaps. It's the only thing she says for a while until we turn a couple of corners and stop near the doorway to the common room.
“What do you want?”
“What do I want?” she sneers. “You know bloody well what I want.”
“No, actually, I don't.”
She jabs her finger at my shoulder. “Why the hell are you wearing my lucky jumper?”
Pfft. She has a lucky jumper? I look down at what I'm wearing and suddenly realize why it seemed to hang off on me this morning. And I thought that the house elves stretched it out....
Damn her and her above average-sized breasts.
“Oh, er, sorry, I didn't know,” I say uncomfortably.
“Of course you didn't,” she scoffs, rolling her eyes. She holds out her hand menacingly. “Give it here.”
“What? C-can't that wait? I mean, we could go to the nearest restroom or-or the dormitory, or—.”
“No,” she jeers, “I want it now. So take it off.”
“No but's, Ivy Parker, take it off.”
“Okay, okay, don't need to be so pushy,” I grumble, as I lift the sweater over my head.
“My, my, my, what do we have here, and why wasn't I invited?”
I know that voice. Ew. Not that voice.
I scramble to throw the jumper off into Sophie's hands, my hair flinging in a static-y mess. “It's not—”
“Oh, grow up, Black,” Sophie sneers. “Maybe you should try it some time. It should do you some good.” She walks away, pushing Sirius towards the wall, no doubt that the look on her face would burn a hole into any substance she directs it to.
“Ooh, ouch,” Sirius hisses. A smug smile smears across his face as he watches Sophie disappear around a corner, not hesitant in staring at her derrière on her way out. “There's a reason why I stopped going for Slytherin girls.”
“Huh. Good thing, too,” I mumble.
“I like my fair share of debauchery, but would you mind explaining that?” He smirks.
My eyes narrow. “What did you hear?”
“Enough for it to sound....”
I dart away before he finishes his sentence, only for him to follow closely behind.
“You're going to use that against me, aren't you?”
“Use what, now?” Sirius asks blamelessly. “And who said anything about using something against you?”
I stop and turn around. “Oh, I apologize. Maybe you don't recall anything from the past, since blackmail totally isn't your thing.”
Sirius blinks a few times to look innocent and confused. “Whatever are you talking about?”
I glare at him.
A smile cracks on his face. “Okay, maybe I was going to use it against you. But what does that matter, hmm?” He slings his arm around my shoulder, like a heavy weight. “It's all in good fun.”
“Two weeks,” I say, stiffening. “It's been merely two weeks, and the letter wasn't enough to hold against me?”
“Oh, my dear, dear, drudge,” Sirius sighs, as we begin to walk, “I thought you would have us all figured out by now. And I thought our intentions were quite clear.”
I peel his arm off my shoulders and step away. “By intentions, you mean making my life a miserable hell-hole filled with—with hate and suffering?”
“Hate is a strong word.”
“Good,” I spit. “Because I hate you.”
He secures his arm around my shoulder again, using me more as a human walking stick than anything else. He smiles brightly at my furiously red face. “I see that we have made some progress, and that is absolutely brilliant.”
I drag myself into the Gryffindor boys' dormitory for what it seems like the hundredth time since I've started. Guess how many times I've walked in with it being total bedlam?
No need to guess—it's practically every time. Typical men.
I've had rules strictly outlined for me (in paper, of which I have so unfortunately lost) for the span of my servitude. Rule number one: always do what I'm told. Naturally, that'd be a rule, but of course it can be bent in many different directions. After all, when they tell me to shut up and find a hole to dig myself in, obviously that shouldn't be taken seriously. I hope. Secondly, I must never talk back to them, a rule which I find to be extremely difficult to follow, seeing that I hate them so much all I ever seem to say are retorts or insults. I try to hold them in mentally, when I can. Thirdly, I am to have at least one day off a month, however, I am never supposed to go looking for them or snooping around for the exact reason why I get the day off. When I learned this, I was rather surprised. I expected them to work me to the bone (which they pretty much do), but yesterday was my day off, and I must say it was much more than well earned. The last rule, which gave me quite a bit to question, is that I must not, under any circumstances, become emotionally involved with any of them. I hope that will not be a problem whatsoever.
There was also an unwritten rule that should there be a tie hanging from the doorknob of their dormitory, I am absolutely forbidden to enter. That rule was mostly for you-know-who and I try my best to ignore the lewdness of it all. They keep adding rules whenever it seems fit, and that one hasn't exactly been made official yet, not that I would challenge it. Eck.
I sigh, repeating what I do practically every day. I fluff the pillows by hand and tilt them against the headboard at a forty-five degree angle, lay the sheets until they're totally wrinkle free, tie back the curtains from the four-posters, pick up trash, wrappers, etc, send clothes to the house elves, feed the owls, and lastly, find missing pairs to socks. This is my daily routine, and I find pride in having gotten all of them down in a thirty minute time span. Although, the latter, I think, will never be finished at the rate I'm going.
Don't get me wrong, though. Do you expect me to just work all the time? My laziness and short attention span have often gotten me side tracked into searching through various knick knacks that the guys seem to hide away. Remus has stashes of chocolate and piles of books and ointments underneath his bed, Peter has a diary (no, not journal, diary) buried deep in his mattress, Sirius has a variety of magazines he hides that I rather not look at, and James has (surprisingly) lines of poetry and love letters stashed away; however, many I find to be unreadable since they're so terrible. I suppose those could be set aside in my memory for further blackmail....
Just before I get to feeding the owls, a light knock is heard at the door, and in peeks Remus' head. He always knocks, which I find very nice, but really, it doesn't make much sense to knock into your own room, especially since all I do is clean.
“Afternoon,” he yawns as he rubs his heavily-bagged eyes. “Don't mind coming down, do you?”
“Er, sure,” I say, not quite used to his constant politeness.
He opens the door wider for me to pass, and I slip by him. From the quick glance at him I notice that he's much paler than usual, to the point where he almost looks... gray. He follows me down the stairs closely, but a few times I swear it seems like he's dozing while walking. At least if he falls I could catch him. Possibly.
I enter the common room, keeping my head low like they always tell me to do in case other Gryffindors catch a look at my face. The sun is creeping down the horizon, throwing long, angled shadows on the furniture. I find James and Sirius sprawled on the couch, Peter sitting on the floor next to them like he's their pet, but unlike the others, he is wide awake. James has his leg thrown over one of the arm rests, one of his arms behind his head, with a hand tousling the hairs that fall on his forehead. His eyes are closed, and it seems as if he's mumbling or maybe humming to himself. Sirius is thoroughly asleep, his head leaning against the side of the couch, his lips slightly parted to a faint grin. An image flashes through my mind of Regulus in the hospital wing nearly a month ago when I had to take care of him at his bedside. I shiver. Not good, Ivy. Not good at all.
As we come closer, Remus falls onto one of the seats and disappears behind a book. I stand there in silence for a while, waiting for at least the smallest amount of acknowledgment from someone besides Peter.
I clear my throat loudly. “You called?” I drone. No reply. I clear my throat again.
James' eyelids slowly open, his pupils drag towards me. “Oh, hey. You're here.” He yawns and straightens up, running his fingers through his messy hair.
“Same as ever.”
“Oi, Paddy, wake up.” He flings the back of his hand at Sirius' chest, and he jumps awake with a snort.
“Mmm yeah, awake,” Sirius mumbles as he rubs his eyes. He looks at me sleepily. I can feel my cheeks turn pink.
I hold in a breath, mentally yelling at myself for being so stupidly attracted to him. Merlin save me.
“We called you here because—.” James stops mid sentence to yawn widely. “Wow, excuse me. We called you here... because....” His voice trails off. I think Sirius fell back asleep, and no doubt that Remus isn't even reading anymore.
What the hell.
“Guys?” I squint.
“Oh yeah. Erm—what were we talking about?”
“I have no idea. You never finished your sentence.” I grit my teeth, holding back the thoughts in my head for another time.
“Get me a pick-me-up, my little cog. I'm far too exhausted,” James yawns. “I do believe there's a bottle of fire whiskey hidden in our room somewhere.”
“In my trunk,” Sirius adds.
“Yeah I know,” I mumble.
“Well, go on, fetch it.” James gestures insignificantly in the air. “We employed you for a reason.”
It wouldn't be employment if they don't pay me.
I sigh, as I drag myself back upstairs into their dormitory. I think this is the first time that I've actually seen this room clean coming in, albeit I just was here ten minutes ago...but still. It's happened before—from perfect godliness to pandemonium in minutes. Merlin knows how they managed to do that.
Rolling my eyes, I go towards Sirius' four poster, to his trunk that seconds as a night stand for him and I open the large trunk. I've noticed that he has the most extravagant of the other three. It's lined with gold bands, embellished with a small amount of precious gems on the locks. On the deep, mahogany colored leather, a coat of arms is embossed in gold leaf with the words toujours pur scripted underneath. However, all of this is crossed out quite violently with what it seems like claws.
I grimace. How wonderful.
I go digging for the bottle and the smell of rich wood and leather slithers underneath my nostrils. I tunnel past several forms of contraband that I am pretty sure are illegal in most countries, until my hand finds a neck of a bottle, and as I pull, a folded up piece of parchment slips from the pile of things, and on it, scribbled swiftly is Regulus.
I suck in a breath, and I look around behind my shoulders. I was told to not read things I'm not supposed to in here, but....
I can't help myself. What? So what if it's bad to go through personal belongings? What else do you expect me to do? Lay it back down and pretend that it's not there? I'm curious, dammit.
I quickly unfold it halfway so that only the top is showing, and I squint at the letters, which seem to have been written in extreme haste.
By the time you read this, I am surely gone. You know why I've left. I'm sick of our family, and I hate to say it, but I'm sick of you. My leaving is beneficial for me and our family and I can assure you that I will be far from missed. I can't say I'm sorry, because I'm not. However, I want to tell you something that you mustn't let any one else know that I've said this. Although I don't
“Ivy?” Sirius's voice carries from the down the stairs as I hear his footsteps sound closer and closer. “James wanted to remind you to get—what are you doing?”
“I, er, don't know.” It takes me a while to realize how I ended up in the rush to hide the letter back into the trunk.
He stares at me inquisitively for a while until he says, “Well, you're sitting on my trunk. With fire whiskey in hand.”
“Well, that was what I was sent up here for, isn't it? I'm just... resting.”
I make up the best bullshit ever.
“Riiiight. We need glasses too, so go get some. Or something.” He yawns again, and wipes his eyes.
“Why are you so tired?” I ask precariously. “Usually you're always... not tired. Did it have to do with you giving me the day off yesterday? Was there a party or—”
“That time of the month. But thanks for your concern.” His eyes narrow at me, as if to tell me that it's none of my business.
“I told you to get some glasses, so you might as bloody well go get them,” he sneers, rolling his eyes. “Don't question me. I do believe you just broke rule number three, young lady.”
“Merlin quit acting like such a mother. No need to be so choleric.”
“Rule two. And I don't have cholera,” he says indignantly.
“Forget about it,” I sigh. What an idiot.
He gives me an odd stare again before leaving the room. I slip off the trunk and conjure up some glasses, all the while wondering why he came up to tell me in the first place. He must be hiding something. The letter, perhaps? But that seems unlikely, seeing that it's practically insignificant to my point of view. I shake it off then start to head back downstairs before they yell at me for taking too much time.
“Here you go,” I drone. “A nice fresh bottle of fire whiskey and glasses for everyone, like you requested.” I set everything down on a table by the overstuffed chair.
“Don't just stand there, pour us some,” James whines, half of his body hanging off the side of the couch.
Sirius juts his arm up lazily. “Me too.”
I pour two glasses, and I begin to start pouring another until Remus interrupts me. “None for me, Ivy,” he says with a faint smile. “I prefer not to drink.”
He opens his mouth to say something, but James interjects.
“We don't let him drink. The last time was too dangerous.”
“Fine then. One for James, one for Sirius.” I hand them each their glasses and they gulp them down caustically and eagerly.
I grimace. It wouldn't be hard to imagine them being raging alcoholics when they get older....
They both hold their glasses out and I oblige them grudgingly with more.
“So what we were talking about,” says Sirius, sipping another drop of the drink, “We were thinking, and we have a little plan for you.”
James nods as he takes the bottle from my hands and pours another serving. “We have found your presence to be rather... advantageous.”
I raise an eyebrow and hold back my tongue. Damn rule number two.
“What do you want me to do?” I sigh.
“You were invited to that Slytherin soirée this weekend, am I correct?”
The side of my lip begins to twitch. I forgot all about that. “Per...haps.”
James grins, standing up to tower over me. “You,” he says, flicking a finger at my shoulder, “are going to serve as our little double agent.”
“A double agent?” I repeat. “You want me to infiltrate the party?”
“It wouldn't be called 'infiltrating' if you were invited—so, no. We just want you to help us gain access to the little shindig.”
Sirius pouts. “And we hate to miss a chance of good, old fashioned fun,” he coos.
“So I go to the party and sneak you guys in. Is that what you want?”
“That's the idea.”
I roll my eyes. “What are you going to do? Am I entitled to know?”
“Now that,” James says, slipping a glass of fire whiskey into my hands. “Is a secret.”
“The only catch is,” Sirius begins with a smirk, a mischievous glint in his gray eyes, “you have to take my dearest brother.”
“As a date.”
“And slip a little something into his drink.”
“Thought we'd add that idea too.”
“What?” I hiss. “You want me to—”
“You heard us. Besides, what with your feminine charms and being a clever Slytherin as you are, it won't be too difficult of a task, hmm?”
I feel my chest go numb, my head spinning. I shake my head frantically. “No,” I say, “I can't do that. I'll get expelled if they find out I drugged someone.”
“Which is precisely why you're under our protection.” Sirius smiles, flashing his teeth at me when I notice his rather sharp canines. He could be a vampire.
He sure knows how to suck happiness out of someone.
“Not that you could say no to begin with,” James adds.
“Why him?” I cry incredulously. “Why do I have to get a date to begin with?”
James blinks. “Why not? You like him, don't you?”
I bite my lip uneasily. “No... I don't.”
“Well good. That'll make it easier to knock him out.”
“It doesn't mean that I don't have a conscience—”
“You're from Slytherin. You're not supposed to have a conscience,” drawls Sirius, as if it's common sense.
“Think about it. Do you really have a choice?” James smirks as I recoil, standing in uneasy silence for a good while.
“This weekend?” I squeak.
“That's when it's scheduled, is it not?”
“What if he says no? What if—”
“Shhhh,” Sirius hushes calmly as he holds up a finger up to my lips, his breath leaving traces of alcohol in air. “We'll make sure he doesn't.”
“And how do you suppose you'll be doing that?” I sneer, smacking away his hand distastefully.
James looks at Sirius, and Sirius looks at James, and at the same time a grin slowly crawls up their cheeks. I shakily take a quick gulp of the fire whiskey and I feel my eyes water as it burns down my throat.
“Ivy Parker,” James begins, “I think it's time for us to put you to some real work.”
Please. Don't remind me. Yes, I know how long it's been. And yes, I have been slacking off a bit, but please understand that finding time to write is hard as it is, so please forgive me. I never stopped thinking about how much I've been neglecting you guys. I'm pretty sure a lot of you have already forgotten the plot. :( I never anticipated this to take so long. I must have written at least three different drafts but it never seemed right. Hopefully this will never, ever, EVER, happen again! I'm so sorry! LEAVE A REVIEW!
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