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Game Theory by GubraithianFire
Chapter 1 : Act I. A Plea.
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8

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Act I. A Plea.

Scene one. Entrance Hall of Hogwarts School. Breakfast.

Emma Holland, a seventh-year Gryffindor girl, was close to foaming at the mouth. Her eyes were all wide with crazy behind her glasses. She was too distraught to even condition her hair properly.

That was when Clara knew some ‘serious shit’ was about to ‘go down.’ If this had happened two weeks ago, she would have smirked to herself and met Emma’s crazed gaze with the cool, almost-mocking-but-not-quite self-possession she met pretty much every female gaze directed at her. But after two weeks of weathering similar outbursts of crazy, Clara was getting bored.

“You can’t just go on holiday!” Emma shrieked, sounding less intimidating than pathetic, which was just as well and completely not enough to catch Clara’s interest in the first place. “The Inner Eye doesn’t go on holiday, Ramsey. You can’t just up and abandon all of us–”

In one universe, Clara might have countered with All of you and what army?, but that was quite out of the question. There certainly was an army out there mumbling direly to themselves about the blasted holiday; Emma was just at the back of it. “I didn’t say the Inner Eye was going on holiday, honey, I said I was going on holiday. Very big difference there.”

Emma was fidgeting with her frizzy hair and kept tapping her fingers on her thigh and looked very close to having a nervous breakdown. “But what if you have any… any visions? Would you keep them from us? That’s not fair, that’s not fair at all, especially with the first Hogsmeade weekend coming up soon, and I need to know if–”

Hugo Weasley was as attracted to Emma Holland as Headmistress Sinistra was to Professor Longbottom. That is to say, not even sort of. “If that happens, that’s a different story. But since it hasn’t, and I doubt it will, we’ll stick to the original script, shall we? I’m taking a holiday. It won’t be forever, and you can always hang out with me if that’s what you want.” It wasn’t, and they both knew it. “Don’t worry about Hogsmeade–this is just me talking, by the way, not my third eye–you’ll be fine, you’ll have fun…” Blah blah blah. She’d already given this speech about five separate times in the past two weeks, and by now had given up on even slightly changing her delivery of the lines.

Emma harrumphed some more, this close to stomping her feet on the stone floor in a tantrum. This was also not an uncommon reaction to Clara’s placid reassurances. When it came to potential dates, girls tended to go a bit off the deep end. They got worse when their one window into boys’ minds unceremoniously shut and refused to budge.

Clara was that closed window. She’d been an open, very transparent window for almost eighteen months, and after faithful service to the female population of Hogwarts at large for that long, she definitely deserved to curtain off that window and take a holiday.

“Have a happy holiday, then.”

“I will. See you around!”

Emma shot her a glance nearly as dirty as her glasses and stalked back to the Gryffindor table, leaving Clara to her breakfast at last.

Scene two. Lots of exposition-heavy paragraphs. Feel free to skip if you so wish.

This was the ninth time in the past two weeks that a meal of hers had been interrupted by another one of the desperate, the desolate, or the merely mournful. With the Resident Relationship Seer of Ravenclaw not working anymore, much of Hogwarts’ female population was in a state of misery not matched since Teddy Lupin’s graduation. Not that anyone here remembered that day anymore, but legend lives in memories that are not true. So had Clara’s own personal legend spread: through facts that were not the least bit true.

Like that part about her Inner Eye.

She did indeed have a special kind of sight. It just did not require a capital letter.

Sometimes Clara worried for the future, when she thought that far ahead. If all of these poor girls, the ones vaunted as cool and popular and Future Leaders of Wizarding Britain, thought she had the Sight, the future couldn’t possibly end up being too nice a place.

She wasn’t even really sure where the assumption about that super special version of Sight had come from, if she were being completely honest. One day she was making snarky observations, as one did, about who fancied who and who was cheating on whom and so on and et cetera. The next, she was a Seer, and knew the identity of the soulmate of every single person in Hogwarts. That last bit was quickly dispelled, but it remained a demonstrable fact: Clara had a Seer-worthy insight into interpersonal relations, and the romantic relationships that could possibly spring from them.

This made her a somewhat valuable person to know.

Aisling Statham was lucky in that sense. Long before The Seer’s Secret was “revealed,” Aisling considered herself Clara’s Best Friend, which meant that her social status went way, way up when it was “revealed.” Imagine, being Best Friends with the only Seer in school. Clara wasn’t really sure why she let Aisling be her Best Friend (she tended to be only a slightly more self-possessed version of the bimbos who so often flailed about boys to her, and more often than not put way too much stock into her own completely destructive relationship with her boyfriend to be worthy of any modicum of actual respect), but it was an arrangement that pleased them both, so it continued.

Aisling was not one of the people who believed blindly in the whole Inner Eye thing, but she took advantage of the aura it afforded the Supposed Seer as thoroughly as any of those big film studio executives took advantage of the peons underneath them to fetch coffee and read horrid scripts. That way they got only the best while paying someone else to do all the rest. Again, Clara didn’t mind it, because Aisling didn’t really have any hope of being popular on her own, and besides, it wasn’t much trouble to do what ‘work’ came her way.

But ever since Clara went ‘on holiday,’ Aisling’s popularity-related paranoia had been… well, the polite term is skyrocketing to previously unimagined heights of insecurity about her (and her Best Friend, she supposed) social status.

Scene three. Entrance Hall. Breakfast. Still.

“So, my cousin Willa–”


“–has never had a boyfriend, has never even been kissed–”

“Good for her.”

Aisling plopped down on the bench and snatched a cranberry muffin from a platter on the table. While she unwrapped it, she said, quite energetically for half eight in the morning, “Clara, I respect you for taking a little time for yourself, I do. But you’re always talking about how it isn’t even real work for you, and how could it be, all you’ve got to do is shut your eyes and poof! You get a vision of the whole white-horse-drawn-carriage-kiss-riding-into-the-sunset-swelling-romantic-theme-in-the-background thing happening, and that’s basically it. So squeezing just one person in, my extremely deserving cousin, shouldn’t be too hard, should it? She’s right over there, at the Hufflepuff table, I’ll go get her and then you can have your vision thing and–”

Clara blinked.

“Oh, come on!” Aisling savagely rippled the muffin top off the now unwrapped muffin. “It’s been two weeks already. That’s more holiday time my dad gets off from work.”

“I thought he got three weeks, you all went to Majorca last July,” Clara said evenly.

“Doesn’t matter. The point is, how long is this holiday supposed to last?” She fixed the Supposed Seer with a glare and lowered her very energetic voice. “You weren’t serious the other night when you said–”

There was a mysterious glint in her eye, and she wiggled her fingers, also in a mysteeerious fashion. “I don’t know, Ash. Was I serious? Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. Maybe it really is time for me to get out of this business. My Inner Eye’s been overworked for a year and a half.” This of course was a blatant, cheerful lie. “It’s hardly even fun anymore.”

This utterly bamboozled Aisling. “How can you be bored of always being right?”

“I’m not always right,” Clara said, sounding quite sincere. “But it’s the same thing all the time, and that’s no fun.”

“What about the satisfaction of bringing a happy couple together? That’s nice, isn’t it?”

If Clara were feeling particularly candid that morning, she would have said that she had never really cared about bringing together a happy couple. The joy and gratitude of whatever party had come to her (usually the girl) was secondary to the knowledge that, once again, Clara was right. She liked knowing the world and those in it operated based on certain fixed, always observable patterns. Matchmaking for her was not about the match itself; it was barely about the endgame, or the girl or the boy, or them as a single entity. It was about making the match: the patterns of behaviour, the rules of interpersonal contact, were what appealed to her. Matchmaking was an extension of Clara’s ego, a way of imposing her fixed vision of the world upon its denizens.

But she was not feeling any bit candid that morning, so she not-quite-lied and said, “Yes, but people have found their significant others long before I came around. You did, remember?”

Aisling brushed aside the reminder about her nearly two-year-old relationship with Grayson Kruger like it was a reminder of a particularly unpleasant recurring dream. Which was not that inaccurate a description for that relationship, it must be said. “Since you are around, though, and you’ve been happy to do it for other people, near strangers who’re just using you, why not just really quickly but thoroughly get my cousin a boyfriend?” When the Supposed Seer was stoic, Aisling chucked the wrapping of her muffin in her face. “Really, Clara, I’m your best friend and I don’t ask for much, but I know it won’t kill you or your other eye if you do it–”

“Aisling, you’re my best friend and you just tossed muffin paper in my face. Any slight inclination I had for wanting to do this for you and your cousin completely just dissipated.”

This result apparently had not occurred to her, so she offered her Best Friend the bottom of her muffin. “How about now?”

“If you’re going to bribe me with half a muffin, at least bribe me with the half that has sugar on it.”

“But it’s my muffin top. I licked it already.”

“Did not.”

Aisling’s tongue poked out of her lip gloss-smeared mouth and jabbed the center of the sugary half resting in her palm. Then she held out the saliva-infested treat with an impish smile. “Still want it?”

Clara was speechless, for once. Torn between her appreciation of all things baked and delicious and her disgust for all things Aisling’s tongue had touched.

In the end, neither of them was really surprised by which pole of emotion won out.

Aisling gobbled her treat.

“I’ll bring her outside the library during break, yeah?”

Clara bowed her head and nibbled at the bottom half of the muffin. “Yeah, all right.”

What else were Best Friends for?

Author's Note ... well, then. A new story! Again! I promise this one will not go the way of a vast majority of my WIPs do; this one is massively prewritten, and over halfway done. Which, you know, is helpful when it comes to planning out updates (not that I've done that or anything). Anyway, it's a teeny bit different from what I usually do, but I hope you all enjoy and stick around!

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