Chapter 1 : one kilo of tulip bulbs and a half-kilo of chocolate frogs
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Author's Note Thank you to Gina, Annie, Celeste, Mary, Rachel, Jordan, and basically anyone who has listened to my rants and whinings as justonemorefic and I, in our separate fics, venture down this rabbit hole of morbid curiosity and, er, Logan Lerman banners.
All of my love,
“Izzy, you genuinely make me want to die.”
“What’s stopping you?”
“You are. You won’t let me sleep.”
“To sleep, perchance to dream.” My mum adores Muggle literature. I don’t know why. But I like quoting it, because no one ever knows what I’m talking about.
“Oh, shut up.” Except Libby. She knows me too well to put up with my Shakespeare quoting.
“You shut up. I’m sleepy.”
It was three o’clock in the morning and Libby had been begging to go to bed since eleven. She crossed her arms, upset, and gave me something of a death glare. “Oh, now you’re sleepy.”
“Yeah. I have a headache.”
“Do not. You’ve been screaming at the top of your lungs about balloons and ice cream for an hour.”
“That caused my headache, I reckon.”
“You’re going to give me one, too.”
“A splitting migraine like mine?” I did, in fact, have a migraine. Now.
“Stop saying that. You’re fine.”
“Who are you to say I’m fine?”
“Your best friend.”
“Best friends don’t make each other want to die.”
“So we aren’t best friends.”
“Fine. I’m going to sleep.” Libby stood up, muttering under her breath, and stared at me from on high.
I grinned pleasantly at her. I’m very good at grinning. “Oh, no, you’re not. People who aren’t best friends don’t care about each other’s sleeping patterns. You’re staying here.”
She blinked. “That makes no sense. At all.”
“Remind me, does Albus like ice cream?”
“Ice cream and cake.”
“Is that a surprise?”
“No, it’s a nuisance. Now I have to get both.”
“You don’t have to do anything. You know that, don’t you?”
“Merlin, Libby, where have you been for the past three days? I have to do this.” My life depended on it. My happiness depended on it. The happiness of several people depended on my doing this.
“I repeat: you don’t have to do this.”
“I absolutely have to. I love him.” With all my heart and soul. That is the extent of my love.
“I do. Now shut up and go find me frosting.”
I hated frosting.
No, really. I genuinely hated frosting. I love sugar as much (read: way, way more) as the next girl, but frosting was… ugh. Even I’m not that crazy. Libby would tell you otherwise, but I’m here to tell you: no, I’m not that crazy. I fall asleep in the middle of the day, in the middle of class, especially in the middle of boring conversations, but I’m not narcoleptic. I live off of biscuits and jam, but who wouldn’t want to? Everyone else is just too scared to actually do it. Not me. I’m brave. I’m Gryffindor.
I’m literally the most normal witch at Hogwarts.
“Why do you keep saying that? What’re you trying to prove?”
“That I’m normal.”
“Not working. Nothing about this is working.” Libby considered herself a cynic. All holier-than-thou, your-teeth-will-rot-into-dust, why-can’t-you-stay-awake-when-Hugo-asks-for-homework-help all the time. It was not at all attractive. No wonder the girl couldn’t hold onto a boyfriend if she tried. “Why can’t you just–I don’t even know. Why can’t you just give up?”
“Isolde Dunham doesn’t just give up,” I sniffed, outraged. I waved my To Do List in her face. “I’m ready for this. I–we, Libby, you and me–can do this. It will happen.”
“It will not. It will blow up in our faces. Like that time–”
That time, I learned the hard way that enchanted pumps were not the best way to inflate a hundred balloons in fifteen minutes.
Well, honestly, excuse me for not reading boring things like spellbooks and instruction manuals. If a machine has only one button, it should do only one thing: blow up balloons. Not explode them all over the bloody common room and cause Pavel Ivanovich to have a bloody allergic reaction.
“We’ll inflate them by wand this–oh, yeah.” I scribbled order balloons and research inflating spell onto the To Do List before I forgot. Even though I was definitely not narcoleptic, I had a really bad memory. Catastrophically bad. I’m-sorry-I-didn’t-realise-you-were-traumatised-during-a-Quidditch-match bad. Tristan still hasn’t forgiven me for that. Can’t imagine why. That broomstick cleaning kit was expensive. “Seriously, though, have a little faith, would you? If you don’t believe in me, who will?”
“Faith has faith.”
Faith was Albus’ girlfriend. Real cow. She wore braid pigtails. Really. And she had lived in the Netherlands for a year. The Netherlands. Bitch had tulip bulbs and smiles shining out of her cute little arse.
Faith was also the one who hired me.
“Faith also has tulip bulbs and smiles shining out of her–”
Libby rolled her eyes. “I still think it’s weird that you always say that her arse is cute.”
“It’s not a complete disaster, is it?”
“Why do you care?”
Libby knew why I cared. Ever since Albus asked Faith to the winter Hogsmeade trip, they’d been bloody inseparable. They made me want to die.
“She’s not even that good of a girlfriend,” I said authoritatively, putting down the list and looking Libby super seriously in the eye. “She hired someone else to do her boyfriend’s seventeenth. It’s his most important birthday and she can’t even bother to lift one of her Dutch fingers to do anything about it.”
“Izzy, she’s not Dutch.”
“That just makes it worse.”
Libby shook her head at me.
I ignored her. As usual. There were more important things to do, anyway. “Elisabeth, I’ve told you my master plan about a thousand times in the past four days, right?”
“Right.” The way she said it, you’d think she was heading off to be executed. She wished she was so lucky. “The party is basically your huge, existential love letter to Albus Potter.”
“How is it existential?”
“How should I know?”
She liked throwing around words just because. Instead of helping me negotiate with the stupid house-elves (they wanted to unionise, for crying out loud), she’d sit in the corner and read a dictionary just to have words to throw around to make everyone else feel stupid. Actually it made her look stupid, but no one really took our darling little cynic seriously. Everyone knew she acted that way because she was actually scared of her feelings or something.
“Anyway, this can and will go perfectly.” If it didn’t, I’d have wasted two weeks of my life and about a hundred Galleons on it (costs add up once you decide that flying ponies aren’t too much). “If you’re not going to be positive, go find me someone who will be.”
I made a face. Disgusted face. Bitch-can-stick-her-tulips-where-the-sun-don’t-shine face. “Whatever. Did you ever find that frosting?”
Libby edged closer to me. She was wearing her own sourpuss face. It suited her well. I literally don’t remember the last time she wasn’t wearing it. “I still don’t get why you can’t just let Louis loose in the kitchens and let him at it.”
“Louis supports elf rights,” I said darkly, thinking back to our conversation yesterday about him doing his cousin’s birthday cake. He was easily the best looking bloke in school–something to do with that hair the colour and brightness of tiny suns and the eyes like large stars–but he had morals. Ugh. “Won’t work in their kitchens unless he gets their permission, which won’t happen, the way negotiations are looking now, so I need all the ingredients and a kitchen-like space for him to bake in just in case they keep stonewalling me. Hence, frosting.”
She was impressed with my problem-solving skills, I could tell. She only grinned like that when she didn’t want to admit something (read: when I was right. Which was basically all the time). “Honeydukes will reply tomorrow with prices.”
Next to frosting on the To Do list I added Honeydukes price list (?). I hoped they ramped up their fees for students like us, and even more since we’d have to rush order. Nothing was as satisfying as going up to Faith and telling her she needed to pay me more so I could make my grand romantic gesture to the boyfriend she didn’t deserve.
“Izzy, you’re staring into space again. Please don’t fall asleep.” She poked me to make sure it wouldn’t happen. Preemptive measure and all that. “Isolde. Isolde, look at me.”
I looked at her. She was pointing to the next thing on the list. It got my attention quickly, I could give her that. Someone touching the To Do List was not a happy thing. What if the oils on their fingers contaminated it? What if they smudged it? What if–oh. She was still poking me.
“Look! You still have to find another place for Louis to bake.”
“That’s not on the list.” It wasn’t. She was pointing to make sure someone cleans dorm toilets (the elves gave up on that too, which was their greatest crime so far).
“Add it, then.”
“Okay, I will.” I did.
“And you’ll have to get other things, too, like milk and eggs and butter.”
I added groceries to the list to make her happy. Because apparently these tiny food-related details were making her… happy. That didn’t happen a lot. Libby liked being unhappy. It was like she got off on being emotionally distant and shit. And she’d been clear ever since Faith approached me that she thought this was a bad idea.
“Why’re you being all thorough about this all of a sudden?” I asked, putting down the portable quill (no need to carry an inkpot all the time and the best invention since the biscuit tins that kept the freshness sealed in). “It’s like you care or something.”
Libby shuddered, because that was what she did with emotions. Poor thing. And she thought I needed to see someone about my problems. (The only person I’ve ever seen about them is my grandmother, whose response to my biscuit diet is to send even more to me every week. I love that woman.) “I don’t care about any of this. I don’t. I just think if you’re going to write down shit like find a blanket to ride pony bareback you can afford to write groceries.”
I grinned broadly and slung an arm around her shoulder. I could feel her tense up. Bodily contact made her break out in hives. That’s what she claimed, anyway. I just think she hasn’t been hugged enough. “Elisabeth,” I giggled, “you want me to succeed, don’t you? You want this to go well for me?”
“Eugh, no.” She tried to shimmy her way out of my grasp but of course that was a failed attempt. People don’t get hives unless there’s coconut shampoo or cashews involved. “Izzy–Isolde, stop it. Stop it before I–”
“Grow a heart? Oh, Libby!” I actually gave her a hug. Hugs are good things, like jammie dodgers. Hugs are not bad things, like frosting. “Just for you, I’m going to make this the bestest party Hogwarts has ever bloody seen.”
I don’t think she had a pulse for the entire time I was hugging her. So I did end up letting go. For her own good.
Once she was recovered (that actually took a good minute or so as she rocked back and forth, maybe crying a little inside), she squeaked out a question for me. “What about Albus?”
Albus. Just the name made me want to vomit sunshine and sugar and shortbread.
“Oh. Him too.” I got up to my feet and tried to help her up, but she wouldn’t take my hand. I had to wait for her to get up on her own (still hugging herself, poor thing) before I could ask my own question. “Do I still have the chocolate frogs we got that time we were negotiating with Rosmerta?”
“No, you ate them yesterday.”
“I did not.”
“You were asleep.”
“I was not! You can’t eat when you’re asleep!”
“You can. It’s a symptom of–”
“It is a symptom of nar–”
“Which I don’t have!”
“See a Healer, please.”
“I will when you will, Miss I’m-Allergic-to-Social-Interaction-and-Biscuits.”
“I’m not allergic to biscuits!”
“But you are allergic to social interaction?”
“Maybe it’s just you I’m allergic to.”
“You love me, Elisabeth. Now go find me my bloody frogs.”
Back at Gryffindor Tower, after scouring the entire wardrobe I stored my biscuits in (biscuits are greater than clothes, every time), it was clear that my chocolate frogs were, in fact, gone.
“I said you ate them yesterday.”
“I totally did not.” I flopped down on my bed, upset that my frogs were gone. I didn’t even really like frogs. They hopped.
“I told you so.”
“But I didn’t, so can we drop this now, please?” Of course I was upset that my frogs were nowhere to be found, but we had bigger things to worry about. “You up for a trip downstairs? I wanted to get my strength up first, but if they’re not here.”
Libby shook her head. “I’ve had enough of collective bargaining to last a lifetime. Besides, I have homework.”
I gasped. No one did homework at Hogwarts unless it meant getting someone hot to tutor you. Like Albus. That’s when our friendship/courtship started, you know. A smart bloke staying up with me into the wee hours of the morning, rocking a trim grey sweater and a mischievous grin? The boy had me at “Have you even read The Standard Book of Spells?”
Of course I hadn’t. But if I had, would he have had to tutor me?
“Fine, I’ll leave the elves alone today,” I sighed. “We can go get more money from Faith–”
“Do you ever get tired of that?”
“Fine. Go.” Libby looked bored. I don’t know why. She liked bothering people as much as I did, because it meant she could take out her own frustrations with herself on other people. “You have fun. I’ll sit here–”
“And do homework? Oh, no. I won’t stand for it.” Academics are useless anyway. No matter what we do, we all end up working sexy, prestigious Ministry jobs anyway. I’m hoping for one in international relations myself. I want to travel the wizarding world with my lawyer boyfriend (Albus wants to be a lawyer–see, he has no morals), schmoozing with foreign dignitaries and fighting injustice.
Sexy can I.
As I daydreamed (not actual dreaming–but considering how bloody vivid it was, it might have been a narcolepsy dream–don’t tell Libby I said that), an idea occurred to me. An actual idea. A brilliant one. It was on par with the one I had about me hiding in the cake. (Libby laughed at me when I told her. She thought it wasn’t a good idea to have a narcoleptic pseudo-stripper in a huge cake. I reminded her that it was for Albus. She kept laughing at me.)
“Let’s do something actually productive, then,” I suggested cheerfully. “We could talk to Hagrid about stables for the ponies.”
Libby hated Hagrid. Hagrid loved everyone not in Slytherin. He made her want to crawl into a ball of self-pity and emotional distance. “Do that yourself, I’m not going all the way down there after we were actually outside.”
I tried not to smile. The plan was working. It always worked. “Or we could talk to Sabrina Urquhart about decorations.”
“But she won’t do anything unless her cousin approves.”
Note the use of her cousin instead of the name.
Plan Grinch-Heart-Growth was officially underway.
I leaped off my bed, trampling all over the old sweets wrappers on the floor. I had a lot of them by my bed, even more now that the stupid elves didn’t clean anything. “Then let’s go find her cousin.”
I sauntered to the door of the dormitory and waited.
“Oh, all right, if you insist.”
If I would hide in a birthday cake for Albus Potter, Libby would go out of her way to talk to Scorpius Malfoy.
And she thought I had it bad.