Chapter 3 : October 1995
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Fred Weasley was lingering around the corner when Delphine and I sauntered outside, leaning against the open door. Filch was eyeing him suspiciously – the sort of glance someone might give to a wet stick of dynamite.
“What’re you doing, Fred?” George called to him from ahead. His brother made no response, and stuffed his hands into his coat pockets. He followed closely behind Delphine and me, separated from his brother by three different groups of friends. I noticed George twisting his head over his shoulder every now and then, throwing Fred curious expressions. “Fred!” he finally yelled, waving his arm. “Get up here!” I wasn’t sure whether Fred mouthed an answer or indicated something with his hands, but George gave up and fell back from Lee, Rachel, Angelina, and Alicia, allowing us to pass him so that he could join his twin.
“These trips to Hogsmeade would be much better if we had a train to transport us,” Delphine complained through fogged-up glasses. “It’s too cold!”
“Really?” I answered, my attentions fixed on a point several feet behind us. I tried to maintain a normal pace, warring between the impulse to slow my feet so that I could eavesdrop on the Weasley twins and the instinct of my legs to run whenever I was keyed-up. “I think walking is the best part of the trip.”
“We do plenty of walking in Hogwarts,” she muttered, her pink-tipped nose poking out from many layers of bulky scarves. She was eternally afraid of catching cold, as she despised the side effects of Pepperup Potion, and went to extreme lengths every winter to avoid becoming sick. “All of those blasted stairs…”
“Mmhmm.” I was trying to listen to whatever Fred and George were discussing in quick, low voices, but couldn’t hear them over Delphine’s loud whinging.
“I also find it appalling that we don’t have chaperones,” she went on, kicking stones out of her way. “Cedric was supposedly killed by You-Know-Who, wasn’t he? And it all happened in the maze. Which means that You-Know-Who was here, at Hogwarts. He could reach out and kidnap any one of us. We could be next.”
“I don’t think You-Know-Who was hiding inside the maze, Delph,” I corrected irritably. The image made me think of a tall vampire in a black top hat, which was for some reason always how I had evisioned He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, crouching behind a row of shrubbery as the four Champions jogged in confused circles around him. “The Triwizard Cup was a Portkey, don’t you remember?”
“Sounds awfully fishy. I still don’t know if I believe it.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe you should ask Harry Potter.”
I instantly regretted mentioning him, because Delphine burst into a fit of girlish giggles. “Harry Potter! Did I tell you how I ran into him after his Transfiguration class last week? That girl was with him again, that bushy-haired know-it-all from Gryffindor, and I took care to push her extra hard.”
“That’s rude,” I scolded. “I don’t care how much you fancy Harry Potter, that doesn’t give you permission to just –”
“Hark!” a voice trilled. Two ginger heads appeared on either side of us, and George pulled Delphine’s hat lower over her eyes.
“Geroff –” she pawed at the air with her mittens, baring her teeth in a growl.
“What did I hear about fancying Harry Potter?” Fred taunted, keeping stride with me. I could feel his laughter tickle my neck, and became convinced that I was blushing quite as crimson as Delphine was.
“Don’t you dare!” Delphine’s voice was shrill. “You two are horrid.”
“Nah, I’m all right,” George assured her, pulling her hat down over her eyes again so that she was reduced to a wriggling mass of scarves and static-y hair. “He’s the one you’ve got to watch out for.” He jerked a thumb at Fred, whom I could sense was watching my reaction.
“Have you got a thing for The Boy Who Lived, Hollis?” he teased in a whisper. “You like your men young and Chosen, do you? Well, it's better than Montague, at any rate.”
I elbowed him in the ribs. “Shut up, Fred.”
There was a pause, and I caught a significant exchange of looks between the twins. “George! Fred!” Lee shouted from the group of seventh-year Gryffindors. “Come on! Don’t you remember what we’re doing today?”
“See you later,” Fred told us, and forged ahead. George followed behind, looking like he was biting back laughter. I wondered what he had found so amusing.
“Too cold for October,” Delphine sputtered. “No chaperones. Breakfast was much too rushed – I don’t even see why. It’s not like we haven’t ever been to Hogsmeade before. If there’s a queue outside Gladrag’s, I’m not going into it again. I told you, Hollis, they’re all rude in there. The counter lady thinks she’s so much better than everyone else. I swear, when I told her I was in Hufflepuff, she bewitched the price tag of those earmuffs to be more expensive because she thought she could pull a fast one on a Puff.”
I looked at her. “Huh?”
“What are you looking at?” She wiped her glasses with a bit of drooping scarf. “Are you looking at those Gryffindors?”
I linked my arm in hers, smiling. “Have you noticed Harry Potter’s hair today?”
This successfully distracted Delphine Hornby, as she zealously began an account of Harry Potter’s various hairstyles throughout the past week, and which ones she preferred (this depended on how much his hair stuck up in the back, apparently). Despite the fact that she had never been gutsy enough to speak to the boy, Delphine knew much more information on him than seemed appropriate. I kept my eye on the back of Fred Weasley’s ginger head, allowing Delphine’s continuous flow of Harry-related opinions to drift through one ear and out the other.
We soon made our way past the Hogsmeade Station, and chose also to bypass The Three Broomsticks in favor of shopping. “Zonko’s!” I announced cheerily.
“Honeydukes is closer,” Delphine argued, pulling me off to the left side of the road toward a shop emitting smells of caramel and apple cider sweets. Edible Bats flapped their wings around the store’s interior, squeaking.
“Oh, come on,” I urged. “Whenever we go into Honeydukes we end up staying in there for an hour. Let’s go to Zonko’s first, please. We can look for something to put into Alice’s and Orchid’s pillowcases.”
“Ooh!” Delphine brightened instantly at this prospect, and we set off for the joke shop. I was determined to get my hands on some Belch Powder. I could put it into her tea – in a Nose-Biting Teacup, of course – and listen delightedly to Alice’s belches during Potions on the following Monday. I grinned vindictively. I’d long forgotten exactly why I loathed the girl, but we seemed to have created strong enemies in each other. Delphine and Orchid, ever so persuadable, grew to hate each other as well just because they wanted a nemesis of their own. Truthfully, we all enjoyed hating each other too much to give it up.
A parade of students straggled around the street corner, making their way to The Hog’s Head. The Hog’s Head? That was an odd choice – the place was extraordinarily dodgy. “Maybe the Three Broomsticks was full,” Delphine commented, also watching them. George pulled open the pub’s door, allowing Rachel, Angelina, and Alicia entrance. He was about to follow them when Fred touched his sleeve. They both turned their heads in our direction, where we were loitering uselessly outside Zonko’s. I whipped around immediately, yanking Delphine by one of her scarves into the shop.
“Hey!” Delphine coughed, doubling over a cauldron filled with Stink Pellets. She tore at a scarf that had tightened around her throat, choking her. “You almost killed me. You’re paying for all of my Pepper Imps when we get to the sweetshop, just because of that.”
“I always do,” I reminded her with a grin. It was true: Delphine was a tightwad with her Sickles, and was eternally plotting ways to get other people to buy stuff for her. I’d seen the bottom of her trunk – it was layered with pocket money she’d been saving up ever since she was ten. The girl was loaded.
Moments later, while Delphine and I were examining a kit of Grow-Your-Own-Warts and debating its effectiveness, the shop’s bell tinkled again. A familiar pair of voices drifted along the merchandise, sending my pulse racing.
“Hurry up,” George warned edgily.
“It’ll only be a minute,” Fred responded. He sounded distracted.
“Maybe a trick wand instead?” Delphine asked, her high-pitched voice suddenly muffled in my ear. I gained control over my frozen muscles, trying to be casual. What was the matter with me, anyway? Couldn’t I be in the same store with Fred Weasley without going completely loopy?
“Contains ingredients imported from Algeria,” Delphine read. “That’s good, right? It sounds like it would be black-market material or something, so it’s bound to work. I wonder how we could do it…”
“Right.” I cleared my throat, bending over the warts kit. “We could...well…” This was pathetic. I couldn’t even think properly. I read the instructions on the back label several times before the words actually sank in, trying to ignore the easy footsteps of the twins. They split up – one of them bolted upstairs, and the other was browsing around a revolving rack displaying Fanged Frisbees nearby.
“Right,” I repeated, clearing my throat again. “We could coat her hairbrush with this, and then she would get them on her scalp.”
“And Orchid, too,” Delphine reminded me. “Don’t forget Orchid. She’s such a boggart...I’d like to burn her hair curlers…”
Quite aware that it would take about two seconds for the warts to be removed by Madam Pomfrey in the hospital wing, we began to giggle to ourselves about the hilarious scene of Alice and Orchid covered in giant warts. “I think we should put this on their lipstick,” Delphine suggested. “Mouth warts? Now there’s a sight.”
“Ooh!” I cried, bouncing excitedly. “Their shoes! We could dust their shoes with it!”
“But then no one would see them.” She scrunched up her face in disapproval. “Where’s the satisfaction?”
“They would walk funny,” I explained, wobbling along in a zigzagging line to mimic how Alice would look. “And we don’t need everyone to see evidence of our prank. As long as we know it’s there and causing them discomfort, that’s all the satisfaction we need.”
“For you, maybe,” she grumbled, lowering the package back onto a table.
My eyes slid past a shelf stocked with Self-Enlarging Spiders (the louder you scream, the bigger they grow!) and locked onto a set of light brown ones that were watching me through a gap in the shelf. Fred. We smiled sheepishly and severed the gaze, meandering anticlockwise around the shop until I was the one standing behind the Self-Enlarging Spiders and he was by the Grow-Your-Own-Warts.
“You like these?” Delphine inquired, selecting one. “I wonder if they’d recognize them, though. They’re awfully fake-looking.”
“Well, that’s because they’re not moving yet,” another voice cut in. Fred appeared behind us, reaching out to take the box from Delphine. “Just say its name, and that sets it off.”
“They have names?” Delphine answered incredulously.
“Of course. How else would they work?” Fred flipped the box around. “This one is called Timblehopp.”
The spider’s legs began to squirm, and its body doubled in size. The arachnid remained tightly strapped to the inside of the box with a series of plastic wires, but it was still creepy enough to make me shriek in a very embarrassing way. Even Delphine laughed at me, and she herself had fallen backwards over Fred’s shoes and bumped her head on a talking jack o’ lantern.
A smile tugged at the corners of Fred’s lips as he replaced the spider to its home. “Timblehopp,” he said again, and it shrank back to its original size, motionless. “Realistic enough for you?”
“I was impressed,” Delphine admitted. “That’ll be fantastic to set on Alice and Orchid.”
I swerved to penetrate her with a Hades-worthy scowl, and Fred leapt on Delphine’s slip of the tongue. “What is this I hear? My, you girls are just festering with gossip! First it’s Harry Potter’s many lovely qualities, and now you’re planning to unleash the terrors of Timblehopp on two unsuspecting Hufflepuffs?” He made tut-tut noises with his tongue. “I can hardly believe my ears.”
I was going to deny this when my less-than-tactful best friend intervened.
“Orchid Strauss isn’t just a Hufflepuff,” Delphine spouted angrily, clenching her hands into fists. “She’s the bane of my existence! And she keeps rearranging stuff in the loo, putting my toothbrush into a different drawer all the time. It’s maddening.”
“I know!” She folded her arms, glaring sourly at the spiders. “It would serve her right to wake up with a ton of spider babies in her blankets.” I didn’t bother to tell her that these gag items could not physically reproduce, since I’d already ruled them out as an option ever since they caused me to release a blood-curdling scream (and lots of unattractive flailing) for all the world to hear.
“Girls, girls,” Fred chided. “You’re thinking small-scale. There’s such opportunity here! You should try my Puking Pastilles – they’re sublime.”
“We don’t really want them to puke,” I said reasonably, even though Delphine looked like she didn’t quite agree with me.
“Meet with me later,” he urged. “I have loads of products you might find favorable.”
“Your Wheezes?” Delphine remarked dryly. “Yes, I’ve had the luxury of picking up a Nosebleed Nougat once. It was dreadful, I hope you know.”
“Really? Excellent. How long did you bleed? Did you get any headaches? Fever? Nasal congestion?” He whipped a notepad out of his pocket, sticking a quill between his teeth. “Any unexplained dizziness or dreams about Lee Jordan naked?”
“Fred,” someone else said, and I saw George lounging by the door with his arms full of Zonko’s shopping bags. “Let’s clear out. We’re going to be late…”
“Oh,” Fred replied, his mouth twitching in slight disappointment. “Right. Coming.”
He nodded his head at each of us. “Seven o’ clock. I’ll meet you outside the portrait of the Fat Lady, and I can let you into our common room.”
“The Gryffindor common room?” Delphine squealed. “We’re going to get to see the inside of the Gryffindor common room?”
Fred departed with one last smile, joining his twin as I stood there listening to Delphine’s tangents about what their common room would look like. “I heard there’s a living, breathing lion in there and they let it sleep on one of the sofas!”
We ended up purchasing a kit of warts and spent the following hour filling bags with Acid Pops and Chocolate Frogs. We also swung by Scrivenshaft’s so that I could get another bottle of ink, since I’d wasted all of mine by tipping it into a tube of mascara that fell out of Marietta Edgecombe’s handbag in Potions.
The whole time we lurked around Hogsmeade, the streets seemed to be rather deserted. I didn’t see Cho Chang or any Weasleys – and was reminded about fifteen times that Harry was nowhere to be found, either. I was somewhat crestfallen because I didn’t get to see Fred again, but my spirits rose when I remembered our planned meeting for later that evening. Buoyant and hands laden with Hogsmeade loot (most of it a complete waste of Galleons, to be honest), we headed joyfully back to the castle.
“Did you write that Herbology essay yet?” Delphine inquired happily, sucking on a Jelly Slug. “I need to copy it.”
“What?” I groaned. “Oh, Delph. I was waiting to copy yours.”
“Want to rock, parchment, sword for it?” she offered.
I knew I would lose this – I always lost because Delphine cheated by waiting just a margin of a second after I showed mine to show hers. I grudgingly indulged her, however, and we came to a halt in the middle of the road. Around a great curving path, I could see a bit of the Black Lake and the entrance doors to Hogwarts, thrown wide open. A tiny dot of a person I assumed to be Filch was lording over the entrance, pacing back and forth impatiently and waiting for students to return.
“On three,” I said, and we each held out a hand. “One, two –”
A pair of cold hands slipped over my eyes. “Agghh!”
“Easily spooked,” the person mused.
I wrestled out from underneath the hands. “Of course I was spooked, George. You bloody snuck up from behind me.”
“Is that ‘rock’?” Delphine questioned, motioning to the fist I had curled my fingers into. “Because I had ‘parchment’…which means that you’ve got to write the essay.”
George looked surprised, but he was grinning widely, head cocked to the side. “How did you know who I was?”
“I heard your voice, you dolt.”
“That’s not what I meant. How did you know that I’m George?”
I stared at him. “But you are George.”
“Yes, but how did you know that I’m George and not Fred?” Fred looked ready to interject, having been standing just behind his brother, but George somehow sensed this and held out an arm to silence him. “Our own mother can’t even tell us apart half the time.”
My mouth dropped open, and I had to think speedily. “Well, would you rather I called you Forge or Gred like other people do? I can tell the difference, that’s all.”
“But we’re identical,” he insisted.
Fred was staring hard at the castle.
I smirked at him, tugging on Delphine’s wrist. “Not entirely identical, George.” I twisted her around and we continued walking – me feeling self-satisfied, and Delphine a bit puzzled.
“What was that?” she whispered.
I bit my lip, picking up the pace a little so that they would be left far behind. “That was a turning point, my friend,” I told her with a brilliant smile.
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