Chapter 2 : Sirius: Detention
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My detention that night was to take place in Greenhouse Three at seven o’clock. I was a bit annoyed that Viridian had split Prongs and I up but it did happen occasionally, when they were worried what we might do if we were left together for any length of time. Anyway, he was to report to Filch’s office at seven and I had to go to the greenhouses, so at least we’d be out of action at the same time.
I got there at about five to seven and quickly realised this was a group detention. Rosier from Slytherin was there – he was probably a relative of Aunt Druella’s so that was reason enough to stay clear of him. And a couple of gigglers were there as well, Hufflepuffs, young ones, who just stood together staring at me and, well, giggling.
Great. Some detention this would turn out to be.
Sprout was about to open up when a fourth person arrived. Laura Cauldwell. I couldn’t say I really knew her but she couldn’t be much worse than the other company on offer. I wasn’t entirely sure, though – she’d successfully humiliated me during OWLs six months earlier and I didn’t relish the idea of arguing with someone all night.
“Good,” Sprout was saying. “You’re all here.” Okay, so that was it, I wasn’t going to be spoiled by having someone decent show up. “Come in, then.”
We all followed her into the greenhouse, which was lit up with some floating lanterns. I wondered what would happen if I moved one of them close enough to one of those huge flowers by the ceiling, whether it would catch fire and we’d all have to leave. Could be worth a shot, I thought, then I wouldn’t have to spend my time with these people. Go and find Clio instead, perhaps – that would be much more fun.
Once we were in Sprout explained that we’d be fertilising the pots with some mooncalf dung that had been collected at the last full moon. Ah, yes, I knew when that was. That had been a good night, we’d frightened a herd of Hippogriffs in the forest and made them stampede right through where the Acromantulas lived. I started thinking wistfully about what we might do for the next full moon when I realised that I was supposed to be doing something.
Right. Where should I go? Not to the gigglers, that’s for sure. And not Rosier, I couldn’t spend all night talking to a Slytherin. Which left Cauldwell. I could always ignore her and work on my own, but I felt like some company. Okay. Cauldwell it was, then.
And she didn’t look like she was in a bad mood, so hopefully this wouldn’t be as painful as I’d thought it might. She had her hair tied back and with those huge dragon hide gloves in her hands she looked almost like a little girl. So definitely not scary. I wandered over to her.
“I don’t normally see you in detention, Cauldwell,” I said, thinking it would be a good idea to break the ice with something innocuous. “What are you here for?”
“The usual,” she said carelessly, not looking surprised I was talking to her. Though she was probably reasonably smart, with the subjects she’d got into, so she could well have worked out it was only by default. After all, she’d worked out the Yule Ball thing last year was a dare. “Hexing Slytherins. Maggie Flint, to be precise,” she went on with a smile. Good, she seemed to be in a good mood and not likely to pick a fight with me. “Did you see her elephant trunk?”
How could I not have seen it? That was hilarious, especially since it’d been obvious that McGonagall had made her go into the Great Hall so everyone could see the trunk before it was removed. “That was you?” I asked, probably sounding as surprised as I felt.
She picked up a handful of mooncalf dung. “Yeah, well, she’s an ignorant troll and she had it coming. Only problem was that I got caught.”
I couldn’t argue with that description of Maggie Flint, it was surprisingly accurate. But the second part of what she’d said caught me off guard. “Do I take it that you do that sort of thing often and don’t get caught?” For some reason Laura Cauldwell didn’t seem to be that type.
She shrugged. “Sometimes. But only if they deserve it.”
Curiouser and curiouser. “And what did Maggie Flint do to deserve it?” I asked, dropping a bucketful of mooncalf dung onto a single Mandrake.
She shrugged again, not really paying me much attention as she heaped fertiliser on her Mandrake. “She was having a go at Veronica Smethley in the toilets. For being Muggle-born and all that. Well, Veronica didn’t have her wand handy at the time, and I did, so I jinxed her. Not much to it, really – except that McGonagall chose that moment to walk in to see who was making all the noise.”
To be frank, I hadn’t picked Cauldwell as being someone who’d go to someone else’s defence like that. Particularly when Flint was so much bigger than she was. Well, good on her! Maybe I’d misjudged her. “More to you than meets the eye, isn’t there, Cauldwell?” I said.
She moved to another Mandrake. “There’s times that it pays to be a nobody,” she said, Banishing her bucket and Summoning another one. “I don’t think Maggie even realised I was there. Then again, she doesn’t acknowledge half-bloods anyway, so that might not say much. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t think I had it in me.”
I had to agree with that. “Most people wouldn’t think you had it in you,” I pointed out.
She looked frustrated. “Yeah, well,” she said, “what you people need to understand is that, with my sister, I know every jinx and hex she and her friends ever invented.”
“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” I admitted. This bore some thinking about. But something wasn’t quite right, it didn’t gel with the experiences I’d had with her before. “But I thought you didn’t want to be thought of as her sister?”
She shook her head. “I can’t change that,” she said, still working on her Mandrakes, “so think what you like. What I don’t want is to be judged based on her behaviour, or treated as though I’m just like she is. Because I’m not.”
Ah, that was it. Don’t judge her based on what her sister did. Well, I didn’t want to be judged based on what Reg or, Merlin forbid, my parents, did, so I couldn’t argue. “Yes, that’s fair,” I agreed. “Right, I’ll try to remember that.”
The gigglers were making a nuisance of themselves in the next row and I noticed even Cauldwell was getting irritated by their behaviour. Good to see it wasn’t just me who found them infuriating.
“What would they be,” she asked, indicating them with her thumb, “fourth year? Do you think they’ve studied Bubotubers yet?”
And that was right where they were standing. Was she thinking what I thought she was thinking?
“Not sure,” I said, testing her. “It’d have to be touch and go.”
“Well then,” she said quietly, “one way to find out.” I stood back to watch – this should be interesting. Cauldwell started talking again. “Going back to my sister, Black,” she said, her voice significantly louder than it was a moment previously, “one thing that everyone did get right is that if I’m provoked enough, occasionally I can be just as petty as she can.”
She was looking at me when she said it, admittedly out of the corner of her eye, but definitely at me. Which was why I was so surprised when a wad of mooncalf dung suddenly flew from her hand to the Bubotuber next to the gigglers, where it hit a swelling square on and the pus burst out and splattered one of them. Did she really just do that? Without looking? There was evidently more to this Laura Cauldwell than I realised.
“Nice shot!” I said, trying not to laugh at the reactions of the girls in the next row. “With an aim like that, you should be on the Quidditch team.”
The injured giggler had disappeared in the direction of Professor Sprout and the other one moved much further away, so chances were I’d have no more grief from them tonight. That was a great throw. I felt like I owed her one.
She didn’t seem to like the idea of being on the Quidditch team much, though, pointing out that the three Chaser positions were well filled and she’d be hard pressed to dislodge any of them. And I had to agree, with the team going like it was there was no way known James would stand for it.
Speaking of whom – the mirror chose that moment to go off. I checked to see whether Sprout was back from the hospital wing yet, where she’d taken the giggler, but she was still out so I pulled out the mirror and answered it. Well away from Cauldwell, I might add, I didn’t want her finding out too much.
“Prongs, mate, how are you?” I said once I’d opened it . “And more to the point, where are you?”
“Cleaning up the third floor corridor for Filch,” he said with a wry smile. “Without magic. Seems he was getting sick of being followed around by Halley’s Comet all afternoon.” I had to stifle a grin – that one had been a good idea. “How about you?”
“Fertilising plants in Greenhouse Three,” I told him. “I’m not alone, though, so I can’t really talk.”
“Lucky you,” said James, raising an eyebrow. “Anyone interesting there?”
“Not particularly,” I said. “Cauldwell’s here, she gave Flint that elephant’s trunk last week. Rosier from Slytherin. And a couple of gigglers, though one’s had to go to the hospital wing already.”
Prongs immediately thought I’d been responsible, which on reflection was probably a fair assumption. “What did you do to her?”
I pretended to be horrified. “Wasn’t me, mate. That Cauldwell, we’ll have to keep an eye on her. She did a great look-away pass with a handful of mooncalf dung and burst open a Bubotuber right next to the giggler so that it splattered her. You couldn’t have aimed better yourself.” I looked up at her and smiled despite myself.
Prongs laughed. “We’ll have to remember that one. Oh, rats, it’s Filch, I’d better go. Catch you later, eh, Padfoot?”
Just in time, too, as Sprout chose that moment to reappear. The last thing I wanted was to have the mirror confiscated, but fortunately she didn’t seem to have noticed it. “Less talking, more fertilising,” she barked before seeing me, standing alone in the middle of the aisle and clearly not doing any work. “Put your gloves on, Mr Black, you could lose a finger if you’re not careful.” Taken aback somewhat, I looked around to see I was standing next to the Chinese Chomping Cabbages, and hurriedly put my gloves back on.
Cauldwell was obviously pretty cluey. “Was that a two-way mirror?” she asked quietly, making sure Sprout couldn’t hear.
“Maybe.” I didn’t really want to talk about it, so I changed the subject. “Viridian thought it would be a good idea to separate James and I on our detentions tonight.”
She didn’t bat an eyelid. “This is for the model solar system you guys set up on the third floor today?”
I nodded. “Yep. For some reason he thought we might egg each other on to do something else if we were in detention together. Can’t think why.”
“No,” she said, completely straight-faced, surprising me by taking the bait. “That sounds completely out of character.”
I kept it up. “Well, yes, we’re both such good boys. After all, you’re clearly the troublemaker here.” That was hilarious, considering who I was talking to, but I had ammunition and I intended to use it. “I wasn’t the one throwing mooncalf dung around and dumping Bubotuber pus on other students.”
She shook her head, still not cracking a smile. She was better at this than I’d thought. “I didn’t do that,” she said, sounding for all the world like she was insulted by the very suggestion. “That was completely accidental. I knocked my elbow as I was trying to get my arm around the other side of the Mandrake. Where the dung landed was pure chance.”
A nice try, but a bit feeble. “Surely you can do better than that,” I said. “How about, a Venomous Tentacula nipped you right at the critical moment and, as a reflex action, your arm shot back and you let go of it.”
And it was on. “I got surprised by a leaping toadstool and everything I was holding went everywhere,” she said.
“You slipped on a pile of fertiliser I had dropped and were just trying to get your balance back,” I offered.
“I was tripped by an errant Screechsnap,” she countered, her eyes dancing.
“A Snargaluff bit you on the leg, you tripped and your bucket went everywhere,” I suggested, suddenly aware that I was actually enjoying this . A detention, talking to Laura Cauldwell, and I was enjoying it. Where did that come from?
Anyway it went on like that for the full two hours, joking away, to the extent that I was even taken aback when the time was up. Sprout walked the four remaining students back to the castle, leaving Cauldwell and I on the ground floor to head up to Gryffindor Tower by ourselves.
I wondered if she was going to keep talking or whether that was just a detention thing. Probably the latter – I knew at least that I didn’t intend to carry on a conversation with her once we reached the common room. Not that the conversation had been that bad, but the guys would be there and they won any battle for my attention. So I was a little surprised when she sniffed her hands and sighed dramatically.
“Ah,” she said, “the delightful smell of mooncalf excrement. They really should bottle it, you know.”
No, I hadn’t been expecting the discussion, but this was like holding up a big sign asking me to respond. “Yep,” I said, accepting the challenge. “They could call it ‘perfume for Slytherins’.”
She pulled her hair out of its ponytail and it looked rather nice falling past her shoulders. Had I ever noticed that before? “‘Essence of Mulciber’,” she said. “Scylla Pritchard would love it.”
Not bad for a first go, I thought. “How about ‘Eau de Snape’?” I offered. “Though really it would have to be ‘Eau de Snivellus’.”
She nodded. “Now with bonus extra grease. Or maybe ‘Avery’s Unction, the thickest you’ll find’.” We turned automatically on the second floor to take the short cut to the tower.
Right, my turn. “‘Flint’s Fragrance’,” I suggested as I stepped over the trick stair. Not my best effort but it was the first one I came up with, and at least it was alliterative.
“‘Spirit of Slughorn, with the goodness of slugs’,” she countered.
“‘Scylla’s Elixir’,” I threw back at her.
She smiled and it nearly distracted me. You know, in that light she was almost pretty. “Nice one,” she said, and I was strangely pleased that she appreciated it. “All right, how about ‘Baddock’s Bouquet, now with added Bulbadox’?”
That made me laugh, the idea of putting Bulbadox powder in perfume. In fact, a lot of what she’d been saying had made me laugh, a fact that quite surprised me. I shot a look at her. “Have you always been this funny?”
“Well, you know what they say,” she said, shrugging. “You have to watch the quiet ones.”
You’re not wrong, I thought. Maybe people like Cauldwell and Macdonald were actually worth talking to, if this was the sort of thing they came up with. That’s if you could understand what Macdonald was saying, with that accent. Cauldwell had an accent too, but it was Welsh or something like that, not nearly so strong.
Of course, there was always the possibility that this was all for my benefit, but I wasn’t getting that impression from her. No, it seemed this was normal. She wasn’t a giggler.
We got back to the common room and went in separate directions without really even acknowledging each other. Good, I thought, I didn’t really want her starting to hang around thinking she was my friend or anything. This was something not quite at that level – maybe acquaintances who occasionally shared a joke. Yes, that sounded about right. And Prongs was back from the third floor already so I didn’t have to wait till he got back.
“How bad was it?” he asked conversationally when I sat down. “Did you get bored to death?”
I shrugged. “No, it wasn’t all that bad,” I said, sounding more surprised than I’d meant to. “Have you ever talked to Cauldwell? She’s funny.”
“Really?” James looked surprised. “Cauldwell? You’re not taking the piss, are you?”
Moony spoke up. “No, he’s not. She did come up with the idea of making Snape glow in the dark, remember.”
I started – I’d forgotten that but, thinking about it, it was true. I wasn’t sure if I appreciated the support or not, though: if Moony had known about this, then why hadn’t he mentioned it before?
“That’s true,” Prongs was saying thoughtfully, his eyes flicking to the girls’ table by the window which, I saw, Cauldwell had just joined. He was probably looking at Lily Evans rather than her, but part of me felt a little annoyed, like he was trying to steal my thunder or something. What thunder that was, I had no idea, but I didn’t like it.
Whatever it was, though, it didn’t matter, because Wormtail moved a bit closer to me and got a whiff of my hands, and changed the conversation. “Phew, Padfoot, you stink! What have you been doing, rolling around in dragon dung?”
“Mooncalf dung, actually,” I said shortly. “I’ve been in the greenhouses, remember?”
“Who’ve you been rolling around WITH, though?” Prongs asked, a mischievous grin on his face. "Just how well HAVE you been getting along with Laura Cauldwell?"
“Very funny,” I shot back, not in the mood for this.
Wormtail, who I’d thought was just playing with his wand, suddenly made it emit a loud farting noise. “What?” he said innocently when we looked at him. “Just thought you needed the right sound effects for the smell.” He looked expectantly at James. “Right, Prongs?”
“Definitely,” Prongs agreed, getting his own wand out and joining in. Wormtail, as usual, looked relieved, and I prepared myself for what I could see becoming a long night. Finally, having had enough, I cleaned my hands magically and deliberately pulled out my homework in order to put a stop to this behaviour.
“Aw, what’s wrong, Padfoot?” James asked mockingly. “Scared that if you stink you won’t get so many girls after you?”
“Yes, of course, that’s precisely what I was worried about,” I said sarcastically. “Seriously, though, if I don’t get a start on this Defence paper it’ll never get done before tomorrow.
“It’s what you get for leaving things till the last minute,” Moony pointed out.
“Yes, because I planned this detention, didn’t I?” I muttered. “Still, if I get started now, it shouldn’t take long.” And I found my favourite quill and settled down to write my essay, not wanting to know just why it took so much effort not to turn around and glance at that table by the window.
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