CHAPTER THREE: no, we don’t carry ginger dragons or colouring books
In the end, Albus didn’t participate in the diving competition. Awful Dutch Cow came up to him just as we were getting to the Entrance Hall and started shrieking like a Dutch banshee about some sort of personal emergency that you absolutely have to help me with. I didn’t catch what it was about, but Albus ran off with her and left me all alone.
When I got back to the common room (if Albus wasn’t diving, I had no reason to look at skinny fourth-years who were still waiting on chest hair), I found out exactly what Faith’s little emergency was.
The three of them were standing in front of the fire: Albus, Faith, and Rose. Faith was sort of cowering in between the cousins as they tried to rip each other’s faces off. With words.
Libby was watching them go at it, stuffing gummy sweets in her mouth. She liked watching people fight. Seemed to think she was part of a crusade against human decency and wanted new recruits. I stand by the idea that she hasn’t been hugged enough. Probably she needed some sweets as well.
“This is better than a diving competition,” she whispered gleefully.
“Is not!” Albus without a shirt totally outweighed everyone else not having one. “What’s going on?”
Libby shrugged. “No idea, but look at his face!”
Righteous Albus was hot, too.
Was there no expression he couldn’t pull off?
While we watched, admiring Albus for different reasons (he was hot and righteous), the screaming got much louder and Rose’s face resembled the flower she was named after (my God, I hate these people’s names), Faith looked like a Dutch caterpillar (never seen one, but I bet it looks squishy and has braids), and Albus kept on being hot-angry. Then the argument or whatever sort of exploded in this moment where Rose stomped on Albus’ feet, Faith squeaked out in Dutch terror, and Albus roared, “This is the last bloody straw, Rose!”
Then the stupid totally mismatched couple ran off, holding hands and looking awful together.
I mean, really. He’s Albus Potter. She’s got braids.
Libby was disappointed that it was over so quickly. “I didn’t even get to see the whole thing,” she grumbled as people finally decided it was okay to move around. No one went near the fire, since Rose was still there and giving off a little smoke herself.
“I didn’t even get to see Albus in swimming trunks,” I pouted. “I win.”
“Why is everything a competition with you?” she sighed, shoving the bag of sweets in my hands.
“Just because you don’t care about anything doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t.”
She and I took a loveseat on the edge of the circle of seats. I kept popping the sweets in my mouth. They weren’t exactly Hobnobs, but they were enough for my mid-afternoon sugar high.
“You people care about the wrong things. Like boys and public opinion.”
“Those are really important things right now, Elisabeth.” I reached the bottom of the bag and frowned. Gone already? Even my sugar-devouring ability frightened me sometimes. Usually they just made me happy. And hyper. “We’re sixteen. We’re in Hogwarts. There are Potters and Weasleys running around the halls and–”
Speak of one of the devil’s spawn (aka Rose Weasley) and she will come.
“Hi, Isolde.” She didn’t believe in nicknames either. Good thing, too. The only nicknames she used were rude. Me calling Faith the stupid Dutch cow was nothing on Rose. At least I’m subtle about my grudges. “Elisabeth. Shove up.”
Libby got up instead. If Rose sat down, we’d be squished together. Human contact hives, remember? Just another one of the things Libby and I had to work on. Then she left, stomping up to the dorms, leaving me alone with the ginger dragon all of Gryffindor feared even speaking to.
“Hi, Rose,” I said. Totally chipper and everything. She can smell fear. Best to hide it under… chipperness.
Ginger didn’t beat around the bush. “You’re doing my idiot cousin’s birthday, aren’t you? And don’t bother lying, Lou already told me so.”
Ugh. Louis. That stupid communist baker boy needed to learn some bloody manners or something. Don’t squeal about secret projects to dragon ladies. That’s the fourth rule of Weasley party planning.
“Er, yeah, I am.”
“Did she hire you to do it?”
“My client will remain nameless.”
“Is her name Faith Summerby?”
Trust me, there’s only so much you can avoid not answering Rose’s questions. She was like a nundu. If she breathed on you, you’d combust. Or something. I never took Care of Magical Creatures. Libby did because she thought she’d like animals more than people. Then she met Hagrid.
“Can I ask why?”
Rose glowered. She glowered a lot. “You don’t like her, do you?”
Snort. “Er, not partic… er, actually no.” You can’t lie to Rose, either. She’ll find out. She’ll kill you. And if she killed me, how was I supposed to declare my love for her cousin? I had to make sure her opinion of me stayed neutral. Too dangerous to try to get her to like me. I’d be screwed if she hated me. Hence, neutral.
“So why’re you doing it?”
Gulp. “She’s a paying client, and it’s a big event. Good publicity for me.”
She nodded. She understood all about money and reputation. She had both. “I have a proposition for you.”
Libby sounds like an elitist (which she is) when she uses big words. Albus sounds smart. Rose sounds like she’s eaten about a million syllables of threatening words for breakfast and she’s about to have you for high tea.
It was almost five o’clock.
“Let’s hear it.”
I braced myself.
“I’ll pay you triple if you don’t do it.”
That was unexpected.
“If I… don’t do it.”
“Can I ask why?” You have to ask if you can ask when you want to ask Rose something. She gets mad if you don’t.
“Because I don’t like her either.” Her version of the bitch-can-stick-her-tulips-where-the-sun-don’t-shine face could actually kill. Maybe I should learn from her. Kill Faith myself. “I want her humiliated. I want Al to leave her. Immediately. And this is the quickest way to do it.”
Rose was also an evil genius. Making Faith look like a bitch for not doing anything for her famous, hot boyfriend’s seventeenth? Causing Albus to rethink his choice in girlfriends?
I want to be this witch.
“So? You’ll do it?”
Why did Libby have to go away? I needed her for things like this. My mind is a crazy place. I don’t trust it to make decisions.
“Er… could I have a bit to think it over?” I asked meekly. Hopefully the fact that I’d asked twice before would excuse the fact that I didn’t ask if I could ask now. “Not doing it would probably hurt my reputation if word got out, you know?”
Rose grumbled and stuck her bottom lip out. She was annoyed with me, but she wasn’t angry. Yet. “Oh, all right. You’ve got ‘til breakfast tomorrow. Remember, triple pay. And even more business from me in the future.”
She got up, smiled at me (some animals bare their teeth to intimidate people), and then waltzed out the portrait hole like she wasn’t actively breaking up her cousin’s relationship.
Ginger dragon lady knows how to bargain.
Libby was not happy when I told her what Rose offered me.
“She doesn’t kid.”
“Elisabeth, what’re we going to do?” I flailed, falling down at the foot of her bed. She wrinkled her nose at me, and actually put away her book. Nietzsche or something. Typical.
“What’re we going to do? This is your problem. It’s your business. Gingersnap came up to you.” Libby opened up the Nietzsche again, using it to jab my face when I tried to stare her down.
“She’s going to pay us–you, Libby, she means you too–triple what Faith could even dream of.”
“But what about your bloody existential love letter?” she asked. “Can’t profess your unhealthy obsession with the bloke if you don’t interact with him.”
“Where were you when we just had totally meaningful and deep interaction? Hmm?”
“I guess in theory,” she went on, totally condescendingly, “you could find some other similarly convoluted way to let him know you dream of having his babies, but when would that be? There’s nothing planned for right after exams, because his party is supposed to be the big shindig, and organising another party when you reject another one’s just bad form, isn’t it? And then it’s hols, and–”
“I can’t wait all summer!” I whined. “The timing for my existential love letter was perfect, Libby, perfect! You know, we’d have all summer for each other and then come back for our seventh year and it would be perfect!” I reached out with my hands because I could feel my perfect plan slipping away.
Actually what I felt was the cover of the Nietzsche book. I think I pushed it into Libby’s nose. She squeaked.
“Plus,” I added, “we basically contracted Louis and Sabrina already, didn’t we? And we got lists and negotiations with businesses who depend on our patronage and are already preparing and flying ponies, for crying out loud.” The poor ponies! They were booked and everything! I didn’t want to abandon them to… grazing, or whatever they did all day when they weren’t being contracted for young people’s epic parties. Poor things had to have something to live for.
“So… you want to do the party,” Libby said coolly. “That’s fine.”
I narrowed my eyes. Libby didn’t approve of anything I did. She always had better ideas and complained when I didn’t use them. “Is it really?” I asked. “Is it fine, Elisabeth? Because I don’t think you think so. And I’d like to know what you actually think.”
Nietzsche was not put aside. From behind the stupid book (bad idea bear, that Zarathustra, mark my words), she cleared her throat. Then she said, “It’s your business, Isolde. Whatever you want to do.”
“Bollocks. You have an opinion on everything.”
“Don’t let me derail your business instincts.”
“Oh, so I should just let you read about what stupid Zarathustra said? Who is he, anyway? Is he more important than me?” My eyes shone with emotion. I am excellent at emoting. Especially when I’m so blatantly being betrayed. “I’m asking you a simple question. I want your opinion.”
“What was it again?”
“Is it a good idea to go on with the party?”
“Huh? No. Of course not. Is that really all you wanted to know?”
I was taken aback.
“Yeah! Why didn’t you just answer me in the first place?”
She shrugged. “I dunno. I wanted you to make your own decision for once, but if you insist…” Then she put down the book. I made to grab it and throw it on Rose’s bed (once something ended up there, it stayed there forever, because obviously no one messed with her stuff), but she actually didn’t let it go. Drat. “You know what she’s like. She will make your life a living hell, Izzy. It isn’t worth proclaiming your love in some weird abstract matter. Take the bribe money and then actually go up to Potter and tell him that you fancy him. Like a man.”
I wrinkled my face in distaste. I was a girl. I didn’t do things like a man. “You think throwing a party as a way of telling him I love him isn’t assertive?”
“It’s assertive but stupid.”
“If you want to call it that, sure. All I’m saying is that you should be smart about this. Rose Weasley isn’t easy to say no to.” Her voice was flat. Why the execution voice all the time? One of these days, after Albus was hanging off my arms and begging me for babies, I would have to sit Libby down and do some hardcore psychoanalysis.
(Libby, eight years old, is drawing at the kitchen table. Mrs. Seward is in London again, chasing after another audition with another up-and-coming director who will give her the big break she’s wasted decades dreaming for. She hasn’t been home for three years. Libby remembers her as a voice singing her a lullaby, as a soft touch on her forehead when she had a fever. Mr. Seward comes home from his quill-pushing Ministry job. You’d think after decades of service, the higher-ups would recognise his hard work and promote him or something. But no. He is an embittered man and he doesn’t care about the kid at the table.
He blinks at her. Dismissively. “What?”
Little Libby waves her drawing triumphantly in his face. “Do you like it, Daddy?”
“What is it?” he asks. Irritably.
Little Libby doesn’t notice it. “It’s us, Daddy! See? Here’s Mummy and there’s you and there’s me in the middle, and that’s our house, and that’s my pony–Mummy promised me a pony, remember, Daddy? Can we go find one?”
He glares at her. Disbelievingly. “You can’t have a pony. You can’t take care of it.”
“Mummy can help!”
“Your mummy,” he spits, “can’t take care of herself or her family. Forget her.” He snatches the drawing. Forcefully. Then he rips apart the drawing, the colour representation of the family Little Libby wants but doesn’t know she can’t have.
She doesn’t even cry.
“I think that’s why I don’t like wearing colourful tops.”
“I think that’s why you have such a black heart.”
“I… think I’ve had a breakthrough! Thanks, Healer Izzy!”
All in a day’s work.)
Forget Firenze. I’m the new hot crazy Seer at Hogwarts. Not a weird narcoleptic. Not at all.
“So… we’re stuck,” I sighed, adding a frown for good measure. Emoting and all.
On the one hand, I could keep on with the party and insist on proclaiming my love for Albus Potter. My reputation would stay mostly intact and I wouldn’t have to un-hire my collaborators.
On the other hand, I’d get way more money and a promise of more Weasley-sponsored events. Also, Rose wouldn’t hate me and I could still stand a chance with her cousin.
“What do we do?”
“I said it already. Do what you want.”
“But you don’t want me to do what I want.”
“Izzy, be reasonable for once.” She sighed, like I was some hopeless child who had no chance of making it in the world. Totally condescending. People did not go for condescending. Especially not boys. Although, Scorpius is an arrogant, attractive, elitist kind of guy, isn’t he? So maybe the condescension isn’t so bad… “You can’t lie to Rose. You can’t cheat her. She will kill you if you don’t do what she wants. Save your skin or save your rep, whatever you want.”
I sighed again. Libby was right. Which I hated. Rose was a nosy, ruthless little bully who liked intimidating people. She had people throw competitions, Quidditch games, slack on exams to ruin the curve, and now she was coming to me to stop Albus from having a party. I didn’t stand a chance against her.
Wait a minute.
Me stand a chance against the ginger dragon lady of Gryffindor?
I liked the sound of that.
“Here’s a thought,” I said excitedly. I even flailed a bit to look totally enraptured by my idea, but really I was just trying to get Libby to let go of her book. Didn’t work, as she shoved it under her blankets when she saw what I was trying to do. Worth a shot. But anyway–exciting idea. “Say I do tell Rose I’m not doing it. She pays triple, Faith is crushed and upset and my rep goes down the toilet.”
“But what if… what if the party happens anyway?”
Libby looked me straight in the eyes.
I don’t think she was impressed with my plan.
“Yeah. What if we organise the party ourselves, on our own terms?” I grinned broadly. The ideas already started jumping to my head. “No clients or contracts or anything. Rose’s pay is already triple what Faith’s is so we’re not losing money, and she just said she doesn’t want Faith to do it, which she wouldn’t be if we were doing it, and then Faith can just sit in a corner and cry herself to sleep or the Netherlands or something, and it’ll all be perfect!”
My eyes shone with emotion again. They were getting a lot of exercise today.
Except this time the emotion was real. It was about perfecting my already perfect plan for winning over Albus Potter. It was so perfect… I can’t even explain. God. Forget about being an evil genius, I’d rather be a sneaky one.
Libby was not nearly as excited as me. “Sounds iffy to me,” she said after a minute. She was trying to find the right words to say. She cared a lot about words. “Rose said no party, not just no Faith throwing party. You’ll piss her off, you know.”
“She won’t find out until it’s too late!” I chirruped. “Not until the party’s all over. In fact, she’s not even going to be invited. She’ll never know it happened.”
“That will work perfectly.”
“Oh, hush with the sarcasm, it absolutely will. It’ll be more involved planning than before, but… yeah. Yeah. It could happen. Why not? She doesn’t even like Albus that much.” Why she didn’t was something I couldn’t understand. He was the sweetest, hottest bloke Hogwarts had ever bloody seen. Even his cousin should have appreciated that. “She wouldn’t want to come. I’m sure we can distract her, keep her away.”
“All night?” Libby asked. I think Zarathustra talks about skepticism or something. She ate that stuff up like I ate cookie dough. “You can’t expect her to–”
“She could be kidnapped and taken to the basements!”
“We could drug her!”
“What’s wrong with the second one?”
Libby buried her face in her palms.
“You actually think you can pull this off, don’t you?” she mumbled through her palms.
I thought about it for a minute. Cheating Rose Weasley was bad, but I wasn’t actually cheating her. And thwarting Faith Summerby was always a good thing. I could write my existential love letter on my own terms with my own money, and Albus would finally see how much I loved him and how much Faith didn’t.
Libby removed her hands, turned around on her bed, and faced the wall. Then she let herself fall back onto the bed, her face landing in a bunch of pillows. “I’m suffocating myself.”
“Great. Want any Chocoballs?”
She held out a hand.
One of these days I’d have to give her a colouring book and see what she did.
In the meantime, all I had were Chocoballs and schemes.
Two of my new favourite things.
Disclaimer As surprising as it might seem, I did not come up with Thus Spake Zarathustra. That's Nietzsche's. He's a real person. He's got a Wikipedia page and everything. Me? I have a fanfic author's page.
(I put the disclaimer at the end because I didn't want to spoil anyone.)
Author's Note What'd you guys think? Is Izzy being a total bitch (keep reviews 12+, loves!) or does twu wuv justify her? I derno, you tell me! Updates come whenever Gina decides to emerge from coding and write.
Thank you all!
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