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One Step Ahead by quicksilver
Chapter 4 : James has gone mad
 
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BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP-


 


 


 

"SHUT THE STUPID ALARM CLOCK UP, WILL YOU, ROXY?"  Laurel's annoyed voice cut through the stillness of the morning.  I groaned.  Why my friends feel the need to make so much noise in the morning, I'll never know.


 

 


 

 


 

Note to self:  Get Roxy an alarm clock that plays music or something less disturbing for Christmas.  Should have done it years ago, but that's all water over the dam now.




 

 


 

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP-




 

 


 

"ROXY!"


 


 


 

Roxy gave a sleepy groan.  "What's with the noise?"


 

 


 

 


 

"It's your alarm clock, you dumbarse!"


 

 


 

 


 

Laurel has such a way with words.




 

 


 

"It is?"




 

 


 

The sad thing is that this has happened before.  Pretty much every Monday since Roxy got that dratted clock.


 

 


 

 


 

"YES, ROXY, IT IS.  JUST LIKE IT WAS LAST MONDAY, AND THE MONDAY BEFORE THAT, AND THE MONDAY BEF-"


 

 


 

 


 

Right. Time for me to step in before they start whacking each other with pillows and books and the water jug.




 

 


 

They get less violent once it's sunk in that it's morning and they have to get up, promise.




 

 


 

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP-





 

"Silencio!" 




 

 


 

The alarm clock promptly shut up.  I'm such a win.  Laurel and Roxy stopped their argument to stare at it.

 


 

They're such fails in the morning.

 


 

"Right," I announced sarcastically as they continued staring like the dimwits they are.  "Now that we're all awake, why don't we get dressed, then go get something to eat?"

 


 

"FOOD!"

---

 


 

"Practice tonight at five!"  James sang as soon as we sat down.  Laurel groaned and banged her head against the table.  James ignored her and reached over Roxy's shoulder to grab the last chocolate-covered doughnut.
 




 

"Should we be bringing any extra equipment?"  Roxy asked, referring to the extra padding we sometimes needed to use when practicing new, dangerous moves.
 




 

"Yup," James said happily, taking a ginormous bite out of his doughnut.  It left a large smear on one corner of his mouth.
 




 

It's amazing how a seventh year like James can sometimes resemble a little kid.
 




 

"Should I even be asking what we're going to be doing?"  Roxy asked warily.  Laurel's head popped up, suddenly interested.  Noticing the partly eaten doughnut in James's hand and the lack of more chocolate doughnuts on the table, her eyes narrowed.
 




 

"Nope!" James sang.
 




 

"Then should I be asking what state of mind you were in when you thought whatever new move you've got up?"
 




 

"What do you mean, state of mind?"  James exclaimed, looking insulted.  He set his doughnut down so it wouldn't hamper him in his glaring at Roxy.  "I'm always in a perfectly sane state of mind!"
 




 

"What time, then?"
 




 

"I fail to see how that's important!"  James grumbled.  "But it was about two in the morning, why?"
 




 

Laurel's hand darted out and grabbed James's doughnut.  He didn't notice.
 




 

"Do you really think you were in possession of all your senses at two in the morning?"
 




 

James mock-glared at Roxy.  "Um, yeah.  Duh."
 




 

Roxy raised an eyebrow.  "Really.  When I saw you up at two in the morning once, you were rambling on about flying zebras and how you could incorporate that into one of your next moves.  There's two things wrong with that- zebras don't fly, and even if they did, how would that work into your crazy, life-threatening plays?"
 




 

"They're not life-threatening!"  James argued, wisely deciding not to argue with the zebra point.  "Crazy if you're the other team or don't know the plays, but there is a method to the madness!"



 

 

Roxy raised an eyebrow and didn't comment, deciding that arguing with James was a lost cause and the time would be better spent eating her breakfast. James, deciding that he had won, turned back to his plate to triumphantly eat his doughnut. 




 

The doughnut which was, of course, no longer there.  James stared at his plate for a few moments as this sad fact slowly registered. Then-




  
 

"Where'd my doughnut go?"



 

 

Brilliant.



 

 

---





 

 It was raining hard by practice time rolled around. Of course, James being James, he refused to call of practice just because "it's a tad cloudy outside."



 

 

Never mind that it was dark as night outside and the rain was coming in sheets.




 
 

Was that thunder I heard?




 
 

It was.



 

 

I groaned as I stood in the doorway of the locker rooms, peering out at the pitch.  James was already outside, turning on the huge lights that illuminated the area, completely ignoring the flashes of lightning that were occurring more and more often.




 

"Is he fucking crazy?" Laurel's annoyed voice came from right beside me.  She, too, was glaring out at the sky.  "How are we ever supposed to learn a new move in this mess?"
 

"You tell us, you're the one in love with the guy," Roxy stuck in from behind us.  She looked like she was trying to remain calm, when I was sure she was worrying on the inside about who she would have to bring up to the hospital wing.




 

 


 

Laurel whipped around.  "I am NOT in love with-"




 

 


 

"Who's Laurel in love with?  Nobody distracting her from Quidditch, I hope," James’s amused voice came from the door.  We all whipped around.  He was soaking wet, with a smirk on his face.  Laurel's face was rosy red.  "Is everybody ready?  I want people out on the field right now!"




 

 

"James, it's raining!"  Brandon protested loudly.  "And I heard you're introducing a new move to the Chasers today- it's not at all safe!"




 

 

"Oh, don't worry," James said airily with a wave of his hand.  "It's all been taken care of.  Laurel, Essie- you should get that extra gear on now, before you go outside."




 

 




 

Crap.  Normally, when James is airy and unconcerned, it is reason to be worried.  I triple-checked my extra padding and gear before grudgingly heading onto the field.




 

 

"Laps, team!"  James sang as soon as we were all assembled in front of him.  "Fifteen! And no slacking off just because of the rain!"

 


 

I think he's on something.



 

 

"What illegal substances have you been partaking in, James?"  Roxy demanded, hands on hips and glare on her face.



 

 

I knew that girl was my friend for a reason.





 

"Nothing!" James exclaimed with a wounded look on his face.  "Now run!"



 

 

We ran.





 

I hate running in the rain.  I don't mind the rain as much, but we don't have a proper track around the field, so the dirt track we run on gets all mucky and it's really hard to run.  Unless we're careful, the slick mud makes out feet fly out from under us and we fall.


 

 


 

 


 

Ahead of me, there was a shriek and a splat as the first person fell victim to the mud.




 

 


 

Twenty mud-filled minutes later, we once again stood in a ragged half-circle around James, all of us covered in at least one layer of mud, if not several.  The rain was slowly washing off the outer layers, and I shivered violently as the cold seeped further into my bones.





 

Remind me again why Laurel is in love with this freak?




 

 


 

"Now, after that lovely warm-up, we'll start the real work!" James exclaimed.


 

 


 

 


 

This. Boy. Is. Too. Happy.




 

 


 

"Warm-up my arse, we're all freezing!" Roxy cried. "You're crazy, James, nobody would train in this weather!"

 


 

"Exactly!" James exclaimed, grinning like a madman.  "Nobody else trains for bad weather! They're all fair-weather fliers!  We'll have the best edge over them if it ever rains during a game!"

 


 

"Oh, well, in that case, let's get practicing, them!" I exclaimed, sarcasm dripping from every word. "We wouldn't want to miss the chance to have an edge over other teams in the tiny chance that it rains harder than a sprinkle during an actual game!"
 




 

"That's the spirit!" James exclaimed happily, patting me on the back.  "Now, team- on your brooms and in the air for dives!"
 




 

"But the wind-" Albus protested. "It's freaking strong!"
 




 

It is.  The flags in the stands are standing straight out, and trees in the Forbidden Forest are swaying like anything.  Some of the less protected trees on the grounds were almost being blown over.
 




 

James nodded eagerly.  "Sometimes we have to play in strong winds.  Flying and diving in strong winds will help us learn how to keep our brooms on course by teaching us how to compensate for the wind."
 




 

Roxy clapped slowly, eyebrows raised.  "I didn't know you knew such a big word, James.  I'm impressed."
 




 

James scowled.  "Dives.  Now."

 


 

---


We were, predictably, covered with mud by the time James finally let us go.  The rain had washed off part of it, but not even the hurricane-style conditions could get us clean to the skin.





 

Rather, they drove all sorts of flying things towards us until we were all covered with scratches and bruises. Lovely.





 

"I'm going to kill James," Laurel complained loudly.  "I'm all for keeping in shape and being able to play in storms, but having practices that are just as insane as our regular ones during a storm is just too much."





 

There were nods of agreement all around.  Even Albus, who regularly stayed away from our group, was listening in without his usual disagreeable expression.





 

"What new move did James teach you guys?" Roxy asked me.



 

 

"It's a move that's supposed to be designed for bad weather," I replied.  "The thing is, how we do it depends on the conditions.  So James says we'll have to have more practices like this one."





 

There was a general noise of "gaaaah!"


 

 


 

 


 

Nice.






---

 
 

"Hey, you guys!" Scorpius Malfoy said cheerfully, flopping down next to our group in the library.  He set his Magikcomp down in front of him.  "Essie, do you have any more information than this on the Defense topic?"  He flipped open the Magikcomp to the information he had gotten on our latest Defense Against the Dark Arts topic- horcruxes and how to destroy them.  The page had very little information- there was a snippet from a History book and a general remark that Horcruxes were very Dark magic.  "You have more information than I do on your computer- did you check yet?"





 

"Not yet."  I flipped open my computer and quickly typed in "Horcruxes".  Enter.  The screen filled up, and I gave a sigh of relief.





 

"Hey, I think I remember Uncle Harry saying something about those once," Roxy said, leaning over to look at the screen.  She almost fell off her chair before Scorpius caught her.

 


 

"Then the evil one might know more?" Laurel asked.


 

 


 

 


 

"I don't know. Maybe.  But she usually doesn't use information unless it comes from a "reliable" source," Roxy said sarcastically.  "Parents and relatives don't count as reliable, since they're not books."





 

"Mmm."  I clicked on one of the more promising-looking links and skimmed through the information there. "Ew.  Remind me to never make a horcrux."





 

"Request noted."  Laurel hopped out of her seat to look at the page.  Her nose wrinkled up as she read. "Gross.  Definitely never splitting my soul, then."




 

 


 

Scorpius laughed.





 

----





 

Two hours later, we had all finished with our essays.  We had had some mimed gagging at some of the details, and Laurel and Roxy decided to act out part of the process, to the amusement of both me and Scorpius, who I thought was being quite nice putting up with some of their odder antics.




 

 


 

The whole business about horcruxes was quite gross, but apparently that didn't stop some wizards from making one.  Voldemort made seven.  That's really twisted.





 

"There's absolutely nothing on that subject in this whole place!"




 
 

Rose's whiny voice floated through the library.




 

 


 

"You're sure?"




 

 


 

"Of course I am! Absolutely nothing!  I've even asked!  Apparently there haven't been books that really cover the subject here for years.  The paper is totally unfair!"




 

 


 

Her voice is starting to give me a headache.  Honestly, Rose is so dumb sometimes.  She could owl her parents, asking for a book on the subject.  They would no doubt drop everything to go out and get a book for their precious daughter.  But no, Rose finds it necessary to whine and try to make everybody else as unhappy as she is.





 

Little ray of sunshine, she is.





 

"Talk to the teacher, then.  She can't expect you to write an essay without information."




 

 


 

Ah, Albus.  Always the ray of reasonableness in that group.  How he ever got corrupted into believing Rose was a nice, reasonable person, I'll never understand.




 

 


 

"But she'll think I can't do it by myself!"




 

 


 

"Obviously, as you aren't a book."




 

 


 

Rose went off on a rage at Albus, scolding him for "thinking this is a joking matter".  I could hear Albus's muttered apologies all the way across the room.




 

 


 

"She's a disgrace to Ravenclaws, Rose," Scorpius said as the voices drifted off.  "Honestly, she has no consideration for other people if they aren't helping her or bowing down at her feet."





 

We nodded.




 

 


 

"Do you think anyone would mind if I hexed her to a tree in the Forbidden Forest?"  Roxy asked absently as she capped her inkwell.  "Not too far in, so people would find her before she starved or anything, but not in plain sight either."




 

 


 

Scorpius laughed.  "And you call yourself her cousin."




 

 


 

"Not by choice, believe me."




 

---





 

"So, I'm thinking it's about time to start thinking up the first of this year's house-wide pranks," Roxy said quietly to us as we sat down to dinner.  We had gotten more careful about planning and carrying out our pranks as the years went on, as, as sixth years, we were now considered to be possible suspects.  Of course, we had overheard the teachers once and they thought it wasn't one group of people pulling the pranks, but several, of course older students, who would prank until they graduated, then train in new students and pass the tradition down.




 

 


 

It wasn't a bad idea.  Some of the Weasley cousins would be easy enough to corrupt, I think.  They could help us prolong the tradition of house-pranking for a couple more years.  Most of them have already gotten a long track record of detentions; it wouldn't be a waste to teach them how to prank and run before they get caught.




 

 


 

Trust us to use the teachers' theory against them.





 

"Which house should we do first this time?"  Laurel leaned forward, her eyes alight and shimmering purple as they always did when she was excited.  We had switched up the house order every year, least year starting with Gryffindor and ending with Hufflepuff.  "I was thinking the Huffles should go first this year."




 

 


 

Roxy nodded approvingly.  "Good idea.  And, now down to the fun stuff- what should we do?"




 

 


 

There was a long pause as we thought. Then we started tossing out ideas.




 

 


 

"Obnoxious alarm really early in the morning!"




 

 


 

"Stuff in their shampoo!"




 

 


 

"Cursed furniture!"




 

 


 

"Cursed clothes!"




 

 


 

"Could we get their shoes to pull themselves off and do a tap-dance in the Great Hall?"




 

 


 

"Dancing gophers!"




 

 


 

"Dancing gophers?"




 

 


 

"Singing schoolbags!"


 

 




 

"Fake ghosts! It is almost Halloween, after all-"




 

 


 

"Ooh!  We could charm their clothes to turn into crazy costumes as soon as they put them on!"




 

 


 

"Brilliant!  Let me grab my quill to write some of this down-"




 

 


 

"What are you guys up to?"




 

 


 

We all fell silent as James's voice cut through our planning.  Laurel had frozen in place, her mouth open and one finger up, about to pronounce another brilliant idea.  He looked totally confused as we all gave him a wary look.



 

 

"Hi, James!"  Roxy said awkwardly.  "So, um, what are you doing here?"




 

 


 

James looked insulted.  "One would think you don't want me here.  Geez, if you're going to be like that, I'll just go, then...."  He made a move to stalk away.  Laurel looked slightly alarmed.





 

"No, we didn't mean it like that-"





 

Roxy and I snickered.  We're such great friends.





 

"I know," James informed her cheerfully.  "But I saw my friends come in just now, so I thought I might as well go join them-"





 

"What, so we're not your friends?"  Laurel shouted jokingly at James's back. "I thought I meant more to you than that, James, I really did-"

 


 

James laughed as he waved his hand protestingly at Laurel without turning around. She giggled before turning back to face us.
 




 

"So, where were we?" she asked, peering over the pile of grapes in the middle of the table to look at the parchment I had pulled out to write ideas down on.  "It's blank!  Essie, why hadn't you written anything down yet?"

 


 

I gave her a mock glare.  "Because James interrupted us before I could write anything down.  So, what were we on?"

 


 

"We should have a Halloween theme," Roxy said, nodding her head importantly.  "And the prank should happen on Halloween."





 

"No shit," Laurel muttered under her breath.  Roxy ignored her.





 

"So, Halloween theme," I prompted, writing it down.  "What else?  The clothes turning into costumes, fake ghosts....I take it that the ghosts would be scary, not like the Fat Friar?"





 

"Of course," Laurel said. "Blood, chains, shrieking, heads falling off, guts, the works."




 

 


 

"Right, right."  I scribbled it all down.  "How about the obnoxious early alarm has spooky music?  Then they would get the day off with a real kick."




 

 


 

"Yeah!"  Roxy nodded again.  "And the fake ghosts could be in their faces right when they wake up!"





 

I wrote faster, my quill scratching against the parchment.





 

"The stuff in their shampoo could make their hair spooky colors."





 

"Their schoolbags could sing spooky songs!"





 

"Haunted tap-dancing shoes!"

 


 

"The furniture in their common room could look spooky!"
 




 

"Okay, okay, let me get this all down!" I exclaimed as I scribbled down haunted tap-dancing shoes and spooky furniture.  "Now we just have to find the spells for this stuff."



 

 

Laurel made a bit of a face.  She enjoyed the brainstorming and carrying out more than looking for spells that might not even exist.  For example, I highly doubt that there's a spell for creating fake ghosts.  The scary music and spooky furniture would be easy enough, and the spiked shampoo would also be fairly easy, as Laurel was great at Potions.




 

 Now, if we could pull this off, the Hufflepuff Halloween Prank would be something to remember.

---

"I found the music spell," Roxy said, reaching out to swipe a sticky note from my bedside table.  She stuck it in the book before continuing to flip through the pages of the well-worn, often-used prank book her dad gave us.  We had since stuck a fake cover on it, so that anyone coming in would think that Roxy was deeply absorbed in her Charms homework.





 

"Have you found anything else?"  I asked, glancing up from my (real) Charms homework.  Roxy nodded, spinning to book around and holding it out for me to look at a couple marked spells.  They were nothing fancy, but they would add to the spookiness effect when they were all bundled together.  Roxy had written down a couple other things we could do, too, besides the big parts of the prank, details that Laurel and I tended to overlook at times.





 

Laurel looked over my shoulder, ignoring my attempt to shoo her out of my personal bubble.





 

"This is gonna be awesome," Laurel said, grinning like a maniac. She shoved her bouncy curls out of her face.  "They're not going to know what hit them."




 

 


 

"Be nice, Laurel," Roxy droned boredly from her spot on her bed.  "No harassing the Hufflepuffs."





 

Funny, given that Roxy's come up with some rather dodgy prank ideas before.





 

See, we try not to be too mean.  We don't want to hurt anyone with our pranks, and we don't want people crying, either.





 

Of course, some people are whiny and cry whenever something doesn't go their way. That doesn't count.  We ignore them.




 

 


 

Plus, the house elves are more likely to help us if our pranks are just funny, not hurtful.  House-elf help is always useful to have.  That way, they don't turn us in when they catch us up at two o'clock, setting up sinkholes and fireworks in the Slytherin common room, or Transfiguring all of the Ravenclaw's furniture into robotic unicorns, or casting odd spells at the Gryffindor table, or trying to sneak a potion into the Hufflepuffs' food.





 

Instead, they help us set up the fireworks where they are least likely to hurt anyone, suggest that we might want a couple robotic dragons as well, ask what spells we're using and what they do, and put the potions in the food for us.




 

 


 

It's very helpful. And they have loads of ideas for things we could do.  They even occasionally add their own spells and twists to our plans, so that we're totally thrown off when something we weren't expecting happens.




 

 


 

Who knew that house elves could be so sneaky?





 








A/N I'm so sorry that I haven't updated in forever!  My muse seems to like writing chapters out of order, which is a bit of a pain when I want to write a bunch for the chapter I'm supposed to be working on.

My brain is crazy. I apologize. 

Speaking of crazy, I apologize in advance if the spacing is odd.  It was fine when I typed it up, then it got all wonky when I save it, so I spent forever trying to fix it. As of right now (8:19 pm on december 8th), it appears to be fine, but who knows.  Perhaps the house elves will pull a prank on me by messing it up again.

Reviews are always welcomed/appreciated/loved!
 


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