Chapter 2 : Plan
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"Hey Marjie," Hugo said, a swagger in his step as he walked gangily over to the Ravenclaw table.
"Hi, Hugatron," Marjorie Barrows replied, smiling slightly, pushing her horn-rimmed glasses up onto the bridge of her nose. "What brings you over?" Hugo stared at the dimple in her left cheek a moment before responding.
"I found out all about Quidropopots," Hugo said, sitting down at the bench opposite Marjie, pushing a small boy out of the way to do so. Marjorie frowned deeply at him.
"Hey, kid, sorry."
"Now get out of his seat."
"Get up. Now."
Hugo got up, shoving his hands in his pockets grumpily. His bottom lip stuck out as he pouted.
"You can sit next to him, you know," Marjie said, pointing with the rubber of her pencil at the empty spot next to the small boy. "His name is Marcus. Shake his hand."
Hugo stuck out his hand unwillingly, and the small boy Marcus shook it genially.
Hugo frowned in the smirking way that he thought was pretty cool and sat down next to Marcus, leaning his chin into his palms to watch Marjie study.
"Aren't you going to tell me about the Quidropopots?" Marjorie asked, taking her glasses off with one hand and folding her arms, looking up at him. Her short brown hair was sticking up a little in the back, and the freckles across the bridge of her nose and cheekbones were especially vibrant in contrast to the coolness of the winter hue of her skin.
"Oh, yeah. Well, they're most commonly found under metres of ice. But you might be able to find them in the Forbidden Forest. Aaaaaaand, they can be used as Quaffles." Hugo raised his brows impressively.
Marjie stared at him blankly for a second before shaking her head slightly and putting her glasses back on, looking back down to her book. "What about their magical properties?"
"Oh, yeah. Well, they heal most exotic diseases plus, they have these gems in the middle that are powerful and the ancient Egyptian gods used to put these in the middle of their headdresses."
"Well, well, well…someone's been doing his research," Marjie said and reached across the table to tweak his nose. He frowned, scrunching his face.
"You know, you're only two years older than me, you don't have to act like my nan," he said, rubbing the throbbing proboscis.
"I am two years older than you, you're right. You had best keep that in mind." Marjie threw him a warning look over the top rim of her glasses. It was a stern, maternal look, one that Hugo might not have minded if some other girl were to shoot it his way, but one that bothered him a little coming from Marjie.
Hugo liked to think of himself as a specialist. He'd met Marjie in Muggle Studies despite their age gap. Of course, Marjie had been a Muggle-born, and so knew all about Muggles--but there was only a certain level to which one could rise in the subject, limited as it was to those who were either Muggle-born or half-blood. Very few pure-bloods were ever interested enough in the inconvenient culture of the rest of the world, so they didn't take the class.
"Also, it might be nice if you occasionally remembered that I'm the teaching assistant in that class. And you should be doing your homework more often, by the way. You have potential but you waste it all." Marjie frowned. "I don't know what you do, you know, when you're not doing your homework."
"Do I have to tell you this every day?" Hugo said exasperatedly, throwing up his hands. "I play Quidditch. I'm on the house team, remember?"
"Eh--this information may or may not ring a bell," Marjie said, biting down on the soft pink rubber on her pencil as her eyes scanned the pages of her book.
"Why do you read that so much?" Hugo asked, tapping his fingers on the table idly. Marjie reached up and smacked the back of his hand without tearing her eyes from the page, or her pencil from her mouth. Hugo frowned. "I mean," he continued, as ever refusing to back down, "you probably have it memorised by now anyways."
"Hugo!" Marjorie said, looking scandalised, "one can never--I repeat (though I doubt you care)--never be too prepared." She raised her brows at him to make her point, setting her pencil down. The tip of it was dark, moist.
Hugo made a face at it. Marjie was staring at him. He stared back until he couldn't take her unreadable gaze (she looked half-amused) and gave in. "What?"
"You make the weirdest faces sometimes. Like you're a cartoon character or something." She made a face.
"Ha, ha." Like I know what a cartoon character is, Hugo thought, smirking.
From the head table Neville Longbottom looked on to the Ravenclaw table attentively. Something clicked in his head as he watched Hugo Weasley and Marjorie Barrows interact.
Of course, all the professors knew it--Hugo and Marjie were, miraculously, friends. But they couldn't possibly (Neville conjectured with a smirk) be more different.
Marjorie Barrows was the picture-perfect student. She took too many classes and excelled in all of them. She was exceptionally witty and commanding in the classroom and made every teacher's job a bit easier by helping out the rest of the students. And she didn't just have a talent for memorising and absorbing information--she was truly intelligent and could apply her knowledge to real-world situations. Yep, Neville thought, loading some potatoes onto his fork, every teacher's model student.
But even more importantly, he reminded himself with a small shake of his head, sawing on some bacon, she was a nice girl. She befriended the lonely and stood up for the weak (Neville's eyes flicked to Marcus Lidel), and was willing to give absolutely anyone a chance. Well, yeah, Neville thought, watching her talk calmly to Hugo one moment and then order him to do something kind the next, you'd have to be that kind of person to take on this piece of work.
So now he thought he understood Hugo's sudden interest in a distant and random magical herb--but what effect did this have on the pleading look he thought he had seen in Hugo's face when he asked the question?
Surely it couldn't have been the mere thirst for knowledge, which was backed by the flimsy motivation of impressing a girl that was a million leagues ahead of him and racking up some more. No, it was something genuine in Hugo's eyes that had arrested him so and caused him to ponder the state of his being.
Shrugging, he turned back to his roasted tomatoes.
Hugo was hatching a plan. He'd been reading for a few days all about cartoon characters. He had forgotten for a brief moment when Marjie had mentioned them the other morning at breakfast what, in fact, they were. But of course, being the expert as he was in Muggle Studies, Hugo soon overcame this bothersome forgetfulness and his knowledge returned to him.
He stared down at the suit in his hands, noticing for the first time a small puddle of moisture on one of the shoulders. He poked at it and didn't understand what it was, so dried it up with his wand. He scrunched up his nose, shrugging.
First, I'll wear the suit. I think I look quite dashing in a suit. Then, I'll tell Marjie exactly what cartoon characters are, even though she already knows. Then, I'll walk her to class. She'll forget that I'm fifteen and she's seventeen, and she'll forget that I'm only a student in her class. She'll think, 'how dashing he looks!' and then she'll ask me to the Yule Ball. But wait, I'm a fifth-year. I can ask people to the ball. Du-uh! So I'll ask her. But the rest of the plan…I'll still carry it out, like planned.
"What are you doing?" Rose asked from the doorway. "Is that a ...suit?" She folded her arms, laughing a little.
"What are you doing?" Hugo asked, hiding the suit sloppily behind his back, staring at his sister out of one eye, attempting at insinuation of a threat. "It's my room."
"I'm headed up to see Albus, he had an urgent question," Rose replied, leaning against the doorway, her blue eyes narrowing. "Tell me, Hugo."
Hugo stared a moment at his older sister, taking in her large quantity of red hair and her narrowed eyes and decided after some initial hesitation that it would be beneficial to obey her. If she didn't look quite so much like his mum he might have refused for the sake of denying her something she seemed to care about, like any normal brother would, but then again, any normal brother hadn't had Mum for their mum.
Hugo rolled his eyes, sighing hugely, and pulled out the suit from behind his back. "Yes, it's a suit."
Rose frowned, biting her lip. "Why?"
Hugo narrowed his eyes, and opened his mouth to retort with a line full of sass, but then decided against it last minute at the flash in those bright blue eyes. He couldn't sass her; she had it mastered so entirely that nothing was effective against her anyways. His mouth flapped closed. He slurped a little before explaining his plan to woo Marjie into accompanying him to the ball.
"How is that going to be impressive?" Rose asked after the moment full of wink-peppered Hugo stare had ensued his explanation, which was spotty, to say the least. "If you can, think about this for a moment. It's different to tell someone all about this plant they're wondering about and being able to, only by chance, because your sister's read the eight-hundred-page volume that happens to mention its uses in modern herbology—much different—than telling her about something she already knows about."
"Yeah, I know," Hugo said, shaking his head. Silly Rose. "That's what the suit is for."
Rose's face contorted into a simultaneous frown and smile. It was the look Hugo often saw under a quite different context, when something she'd been reacting too was too ridiculous or monstrous for a simple eye-roll. She looked back up at him after staring at the ground for a moment, and then smiled a bright white smile. Hugo was puzzled. He almost realised, for one split second, why Scorpius was always saying that she was the loveliest girl the the whole world, but the consciousness was strangled brutally by his own brotherly knowledge. He was a bit surprised with himself.
Rose nodded suddenly, shoving her hands into her pockets. "Well," she said, sighing, seeming almost…happy—"Well, good luck, Hugo." She kept nodding, smiling, and turned to walk up the stairs, still grinning goofily.
Hugo frowned and sat down on his bed, laying the suit out next to him. He looked at it, spotted with more of that dampness, and dried it lazily with his wand. He had been sure a moment ago that his plan would work—but Rose had more of a knack for social situations, plus, she was a girl. She would know what would be impressive, wouldn't she?
But wouldn't it be more impressive if he could find a Quidropopot? And bring it back? Perhaps he'd even be mentioned in the next revision of that eight-hundred page volume. Yes, he thought, smiling to himself, a glazed look assuming position in his green eyes, that will make Mum and Dad proud. And, of course, Marjie. And, I suppose, it couldn't hurt if Rose was pleased too.
I have to go see Neville—Professor Longbottom—Neville—ugh.
Hugo got up, leaving his suit and the sloppily-copied notes he'd made on cartoon characters (just in case he forgot) on the bed, and began to run out of the dormitory. He stormed down the spiral staircase, his trainers squeaking supernaturally loudly as he twisted and turned gawkily, trying to maintain his balance, his arms and legs becoming tangled as he felt himself loosing footing and before he could stop himself, or even react, he launched through the air and tumbled a few times before skidding to a halt on the common room floor, colliding with an oof into a pouf close to the fire.
"You okay, Weasley?"
Hugo looked up to see most of the inhabitants of the common room watching him intently. He smiled brightly, getting up and running towards the portrait of the Fat Lady, jumping through the portrait hole and tumbling out the other side. The Fat Lady called out after him, but he scrambled to his feet, fearing her reproach. Mum was hounding him from all angles—he couldn't really escape her always-knowing eye. First Rose, then there's Professor Neville, now the Fat Lady calling out after him for leaping out of the common room…
"It saves me a bit of time!" he yelled out defensively into the air behind him as he made his sloppy way down the corridor, his tie flapping in his face. He grabbed at it, peeling it off of his cheek, and looked back to see Addae Jordan shooting him a thumbs-up from the other side of the hall, the other hand in his pocket.
"Shouting at paintings, hm?"
Hugo heard a voice from his left side, and he looked up, wide-eyed, at Scorpius Malfoy, who seemed to be returning from classes. Hugo nodded, shrugging sheepishly, his hair flopping up and down. Scorpius's eyes flashed up to it and back down to Hugo's chin, which seemed to be perpetually shining from an excess of particularly stubborn drool. Scorpius thought that if he cleaned himself up, Hugo could actually be recognized for something other than his untucked shirts and backwards cloaks and wild dives out of the common room; something like being an incredibly talented Quidditch player, or being a total flop in his classes. Anything, really, would far surpass in status a dribbly chin and wide, irregularly-winking eyes.
"So," Scorpius said, attempting to break the awkward, wink-filled silence that passed between them as they stood facing each other in the middle of the corridor. "Where are you headed in such a—a hurry?" He had almost said, "in such a mess," but that would only confuse Hugo more than he seemed to be already. He maintained with admirable ferocity a blissful ignorance towards the state of his appearance, no matter what it happened to be. It was a wonder that he managed to get himself dressed in the morning, Scorpius wondered as he watched the cogs slowly wind in Hugo's mind as he decided how best to answer—In fact, it's a wonder he's Rose's sister. Or his mother's son.
Hugo replied slowly, with the all-too-familiar, half-startled, half-confused, and semi-dazed expression of a Grindlylow out of water: "I'm headed out to see Professor Longbottom." He pronounced the last word with such a tangible pride that Scorpius thought that for a second Hugo might not have actually remembered his name and only have come upon it in an extremely rare collision of chance and lucidity. He nodded, trying not to grimace sympathetically. But he ended up grimacing, like he always did. Lucky for him, Hugo could interpret a grimace as anything from a wail to a smile; his own motivations were hardly important.
"You know he has a class right now?" Scorpius asked, with increasing concern for the boy in front of him. He thought a more appropriate question would have been, "You know who he is, right?" but he didn't think he felt like explaining an old family friend to someone who had actually known him all his own life, when it would still take Hugo more time to recognize him than someone who didn't know Longbottom as well. Scorpius's head seemed to fill with things he could do to avoid Hugo…but he came to the conclusion after imagining several testy conversations with Rose that Hugo just needed help.
"Yeah, but we're old friends, he won't care," Hugo said, scoffing amusedly. He made a face. Duh, Scorpius, you know that! Scorpius nodded. Hugo wondered why it had taken him so long to realise that Neville would see Hugo's desperation and understand it as a top priority. "I can always count on good ol' Neville," Hugo said, smiling widely, chuckling a little. He straightened his tie and patted down his robes, trying to look discreetly at Scorpius's attire and mimic it with equal subtlety. He saw Scorpius smile. Wondering why, Hugo bade Scorpius goodbye and took off quickly, taking long strides. He checked his watch, shaking his head as he saw that he'd just wasted three whole minutes. Silly Scorpius.
Scorpius watched Hugo hurry off, his trousers flapping around his skinny ankles wildly. Well, at least I know that he actually does know who Professor Longbottom is.
Neville Longbottom had just begun reciting a particularly interesting lecture on the use of Cherry wood in wandmaking—really, who wouldn't be interested in all the research done on the subject? fascinating—when he happened to look up and see Hugo Weasley standing in the doorway to the greenhouse, gesturing wildly with his hands, which flapped dangerously close to his face and consistently wide eyes.
Neville tried not to falter in his lecture, but he couldn't ignore Hugo there, his appendages mirroring almost exactly the frenzied movement of Bouncing Bulbs. He stammered over a specifically riveting portion of the Cherry tree's heightened reception to magical currents and made it painfully through an explication of its differing qualities when paired with each of the three mainstream wand cores before deciding to heed the pitiful figure in the doorway. He excused himself politely from his attentive third year Ravenclaw-and-Hufflepuffs and made his way through their tables, encouraging the odd student on their studious note-taking.
His eyes seemed, of their own accord, to roll towards the greenhouse roof as soon as he walked close enough to Hugo to see that the bit of spittle on his chin had frosted on the run over. He quite thought that things were coming to an extreme—in all the years he'd known Hugo, yes, he'd always been quite oblivious to the impact of his strange behaviours, he had an astounding disregard for his own appearance, and he failed to recognise basic societal rules, such as class takes precedent over whatever imagined emergency engaged his attentions—but the spittle. He just wasn't sure that this was pardonable.
He'd have to think of a rather crafty way to bring it up.
There he was, standing there gawkily, with the same sort of desperate plea in his eyes that Neville had seen a few days earlier. His mind flashed to Marjie—but surely Hugo could separate true emergency from a distantly burning desire to impress a girl who would hardly ever entertain the notion of thinking of Hugo as something closer than a younger brother. Neville had half a mind to give Hugo a long talking-to, to try to drill it into his brain, which seemed incapable of absorbing information that hadn't been previously anticipated, that Marjie just wasn't going to fall in love over his delivering her interesting facts about plants, however fascinating they were.
But something in Hugo's eyes and stature, a sort of second layer to his winks and his wide stare, even something about the way that he moved his arms, that stopped Neville from delivering this certain lecture to him. It was an arresting communication, whatever its nature. Neville was sure that he could have come within a mere second of spelling it all out for Hugo, but at one glance, everything would have been dammed, incapable of flowing out unrestricted.
Well, he'd just have to harness some of that constricted energy into dispelling Hugo's fears.
"Professor Neville—I mean, Professor Longbottom—I need your help."
Even though Neville had been expecting something of the sort, as he took in Hugo's defenseless, sloppily-dressed form, he took an overwhelming pity on him and in a single moment, all of his preconceptions vanished and he was left with no other thought than to give the boy help. With a sigh, he met Hugo's eyes and asked him what was wrong.
a/n: edited 26 august 2011...go grammar! yay spelling!
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