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Chapter 8 : By Your Command
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Alexander Derring had found me in the corridor the following week and pressed Frankenstein into my hands, demanding I read it as soon as possible. Two days later, I handed it back to him; he was taken aback that I'd finished it so quickly and told me his collection was open if I ever wanted to borrow anything else. It was all very odd.
Lynn hadn't failed to notice me talking to him and was pressing the subject as I tried to work on a huge project Slughorn would be assigning for the end of term.
"So do you think you fancy him?"
I sighed. "No."
"Oh," her expression became slightly confused, "who do you fancy?"
"Nobody, I suppose," I shrugged thinking, somebody. As the chances of those feelings being reciprocated were very slim, I decided against voicing it--that would only make my feelings more real when I was so close to believing I was just having delusions.
"There's gotta be somebody," she pushed.
"Yeah? Who do you fancy?" I did not want to be having this conversation.
"It's hard to say," she grinned, "I find so many boys fanciable…"
I rolled my eyes as I looked up the properties of dittany. She was on the verge of bringing the subject round to me again when Octavius skidded around the corner and dove under the table.
"Hide me, pretend I'm not here!" he hissed.
A moment later, Argus Filch bounded around the corner, his eyes wild.
"Where is he?" he snarled at us.
"Excuse me?" Lynn's eyes widened indignantly, "we're trying to study."
"You didn't see anybody come by here?" he eyed both of us suspiciously.
"No," Lynn glared back, "could you leave us alone now? This is a library…"
"Hmph," he hobbled off and we could hear him a moment later harassing another table. I glimpsed Madam Pince flitting towards the source of the disturbance through the rows of books.
"What did you do?" Lynn angled herself so she could see Tavi under the table.
"Shhhhh not yet," Octavius whispered frantically, "he might not be gone."
I could hear Madam Pince telling Filch off for disturbing the students, and a few moments later, a foul looking Filch stalked past us out of the library.
"He's gone," I informed Tavi.
"That was a close one," he emerged from under the table and settled into a chair.
"What did you do?" Lynn repeated.
"Oh, there was just a bit of disturbance in the Charms corridor. Can't imagine why Filch thought I had anything to do with it," he shrugged and tried to look innocent.
"Right," Lynn eyed him, "and I bet Potter and Black didn't have anything to do with it either?"
"Couldn't say…" he said vaguely.
"Is that Filch coming back?" I jumped and looked around.
"What?" Octavius yelped and dove back under the table.
"Did you really hear him?" Lynn whispered and peered around the books to try and see if anybody was approaching.
I shook my head, smiling.
"Brilliant," she grinned, "so… who do you fancy?"
There was a groan from under the table.
On a peaceful Sunday, Octavius and I were sitting in the common room playing wizard's chess. He was about to make a move that would allow my rook to take his knight when a horrible scream came from somewhere up in the dormitory.
Everyone was staring at the door to the staircases when a terrified looking Veronica Smethly came dashing into the room and jumped onto the nearest table, which was unfortunately the one Tavi and I were playing chess on.
"There's the biggest rat I've ever seen in my room! I'm not going back up there until I know that thing is gone!" she whimpered as the last of our chess pieces rolled off the table, Octavius' queen clinging to the edge for dear life.
I sighed and got up from the table. People stared curiously after me as I walked up to our room. The stack of parchment Veronica must have been holding when she saw the rat was scattered on the floor by her bed. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled around the entire room in search of the rodent in question.
My effort was fruitless, and after a thorough search I had to conclude the rat had probably left the room. As I was turning to leave, however, I spotted something that had definitely not been there before. Sitting atop my pillow was a small black box with a large silver ribbon tied around it.
I glanced at the door, then looked back at the box. Hesitantly, I crept towards my bed, drawing my wand at the same time. Pointing it at the wooden box, I thought, 'specialus revelio.'
No dark magic.
I tucked my wand back into my pocket and picked up the box. There was a note tucked under the ribbon, so i pulled it out and read it first.
'Jane, I hope you find this present to your liking--both the box and it's contents are my creation. Have a very happy birthday. Yours.'
I turned the note over, hoping to find a signature somewhere, but there was none. Untying the ribbon revealed an intricately carved dog adorning the ebon lid. I smiled as I took it in, tracing my fingers over the delicate lines of the carving. After a thorough inspection of the outside of the box, I opened the lid. Inside was a small, silver ball. My hand shook slightly as I reached in to pick it up. It was surprisingly warm to the touch, and when it cleared the box, wings unfolded out of it and it began fluttering in my hand.
In my surprise, I let go of the ball and it darted around the room; I suddenly realized that it was a snitch, but it wasn't golden. My eyes followed it's progress, my hand still up in front of me. When I came out of my daze, I looked back at the note and re-read it. There was definitely no signature.
Regaining cognitive function, I decided the best thing to do would be to capture the snitch and ask Octavius about it. He was the only one who knew it was my birthday, and by now he should've learned to shut up about it.
Unfortunately, the recapture was a daunting task, as the snitch was fluttering lazily near the ceiling about three feet out of my reach. I got up on a chair, but by the time I'd positioned it, the snitch had flown off in another direction. Accio was useless.
"Will you come here!" I demanded of it after a few minutes of fruitlessly trying to catch it.
To my surprise it flew directly into my hand and retracted its wings. I stared at the tiny ball in shock. This was incredible.
I carefully stowed it back in it's box and hurried down the stairs.
"Is it gone?" Veronica demanded when I reentered.
She gave me a skeptical look, but nervously edged back up the stairs. Octavius was righting our overturned chess set when I slid back into my seat across from him.
"I can't remember where everything was. Do you want to just start over?" he asked hopefully.
"Sure," I sighed.
"Fine--wait… really?" he was shocked. I had the uncanny ability of remembering exactly where the pieces should go; normally I would reset the board if ever our game was disrupted, which happened more often than was natural. Vixen was rather fond of chess pieces.
"You didn't get me a… a birthday present, did you?" I lowered my voice.
"After the great Zonko's disaster of '74? Wouldn't dream of it," he finished setting up the chess board and made his first move.
"It wasn't a disaster…" I mumbled. It actually kind of had been a disaster, but I was decidedly against talking about it, "did you tell anyone what today is?"
"Why would I ever want to deal with the consequences of that action? It's your go," he indicated time was ticking, so I absentmindedly made a move.
"The thing is… somebody knows. I--I got a gift."
"Oh? What sort of gift?"
"This," I quickly placed the box on the table in front of him, "and don't let it out of the box," I added hastily as he made to lift the lid.
"It?" he glanced from me to the box and back again.
"It isn't dangerous… I don't think…"
His eyes widened, but he lifted the lid just enough to peer inside.
"Whoa, Jane," he looked at me and then back in the box, "is this what I think it is?"
"If you think it's a snitch, then yes," I said as quietly as I could.
"Well… well that's bloody… cool. Can we go play with it? It's a clear day!"
"Tavi," I stared at him, incredulous.
"What? I bet it was one of the Gryffindors who gave it to you," he stood up, "let's go. Daylights burnin'!"
I sighed. Why would I want to go play with it outside? It wasn't like I ever neared a broomstick, and I certainly wasn't going to run around on the grounds after it.
"Bring a book," he demanded as he sprinted up the stairs to retrieve his broom.
Recognizing defeat, I packed a few different book options in my bag and trailed along behind him out to the grounds; he chattered the entire way about what an amazing present it was and how excited he was to go out and fly while I pondered who might have given it to me. It took me a moment to realize somebody was now responding to Octavius' rant on types of broomsticks. Both James and Sirius had fallen into stride with him and were talking animatedly about the new Nimbus something-or-other.
"Are you headed to take a few laps?" James asked Octavius.
"Actually, we're headed to the grounds to play with Jane's birthday pres--frak," he realized what he said a moment too late.
"Birthday present?" Sirius arched a eyebrow at me as I winced, "is it your birthday today?"
"I'm going back to the common room," I glared at Octavius, choosing to ignore Sirius' inquiry.
"Aw, come on Jane, it was an accident! What if we just get them to promise they won't say anything? Or do anything?" he added hastily at the expression on my face.
"What's the problem?" James asked.
"Jane has some-er-issues with her birthday…" Octavius trailed off.
"Oh?" both Sirius and James looked from Tavi to me and back.
"Just… pretend like you didn't hear anything, okay?" I pleaded, my heart racing in my chest.
"Why don't you like your birthday?" James asked.
"Now, Prongs, don't pry," Sirius elbowed him in the ribs, "I'm sure Jane would rather keep it to herself. We won't tell a soul."
All I could do was stare, wide-eyed, at Sirius.
"But your present… what was it?" James asked.
Octavius looked at me for permission, so I sighed and nodded. He handed the box to James, who lifted the lid and took the tiny ball between his thumb and forefinger.
"Wow, who got it for you?" he and Sirius both had their eyes fixed on the silver snitch, which had began fluttering it's wings.
"I don't know," I said quietly.
"Someone's got a secret admirer," James smirked, "hey Pepper, mind if I join you?"
"Certainly," Tavi grinned as I gaped at James.
"Let me just go grab my broom," he trotted off down the hall.
Fifteen minutes later, the four of us reached the quidditch pitch. Sirius insisted upon accompanying me into the stands while Tavi and James took turns catching the almost invisible snitch.
"So why don't you tell people it's your birthday?" he asked me once we settled.
I eyed him momentarily before making a decision.
"I… don't like the attention," I sighed, "and… well… getting presents makes me uncomfortable…"
To my surprise, Sirius began laughing at this.
"You're the first girl I've ever met who has taken that attitude," he said between chuckles. When I didn't say anything he continued seriously, "it should make you feel good--shows somebody cares about you."
"A silver snitch can hardly have been cheap," I whispered, staring at the ground, "and what's more, I can't even thank them or get them something in return."
"Maybe they don't need anything in return. Maybe it's enough to try to make you happy," he said resolutely.
This statement startled me into looking at him properly. His face was set and his eyes were so intense my breath caught. His mouth opened as the steel grey eyes flashed with determination, but before he could say anything, a yell caused my head to snap towards the field.
My heart stopped.
The scream echoed around the stadium and Octavius' lifeless form that had been plummeting towards the ground suddenly slowed. He hit the grass with the force of a feather, and only then did my heart beat again.
"Jane, come on," Sirius pried my hands from the edge of the stands and towed me down the stairs. "What the hell just happened?" he said more to himself than to me, "just take some deep breaths, I'm sure he'll be fine."
I did as he instructed, but my breathing didn't get any less ragged until we stepped out onto the field and I saw Octavius sitting up, James crouched next to him. Without conscious decision, I began running towards them, Sirius on my heels.
"What happened?" all four of us said at once.
"You took a bludger to the head, mate," James' hand was clenched tightly around the fluttering snitch and he was fuming, "I heard the crack and saw the Slytherin quidditch captain rushing out of the stadium. McGonagall will hear about this."
"Am I a quidditch player?" Tavi looked dazed.
"I think you should go to the hospital wing," I put my hand on his cheek and looked him over. There was a trickle of blood running down the side of his face.
"Sure thing," James hoisted Octavius to his feet, "I'm surprised you came to so quickly. You're lucky to be alive. Who cast the levitating charm?"
"Wasn't either of us," Sirius suddenly seemed sullen as Tavi practically collapsed onto me.
"Come now, Pepper, got to stay awake," James pulled him back upright and smacked him across the face.
"By your command!" Octavius shouted as we entered the castle.
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