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Chapter 24 : Chocolate and Other Remedies
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Chocolate, and other Remedies
It was now January 10, 2005, and Sadie Thompson's family was running late. This was something that they habitually did, but this time, the consequences seemed much more severe. Sadie was afraid that she might actually miss the Hogwarts Express for the trip back to school.
They had woken up late, because her little brother had been up in the night with some ailment (possibly related to the fact that he was not going to Hogwarts the next day.) Mother had insisted on making Sadie a big breakfast so that she wasn't starving on the train, even though Sadie insisted that it wasn't necessary. Mother cooked slowly, especially when little Aiden was badgering her, and this put everyone further behind.
Just as they were about to leave, Sadie's grandparents had shown up at the house to see her off. Getting them all in the car for the ride to King's Cross had taken forever, with Grandpa and Aiden needing to get out of the car to use the bathroom, twice each. There was traffic on the Muggle roads, which Father jumped passed with a bit of magic. Grandma, though, scolded him for breaching the Statute of Secrecy, and made him drive normally the rest of the way.
By the time they got through the barrier, all the students were on the train already. Her father helped her stash her trunk in an empty compartment, then he got off as the train pulled away from the station. She didn't even get a goodbye kiss.
As she stood in the hallway, wondering what to do next, she realized she needed to use the bathroom. Fortunately, there were toilets at the back of each car, so she didn't need to go far to find one.
When she emerged from the bathroom, there were other girls waiting outside. She was about to say, "You don't need to wait. There's more than one stall," when one of the girls set a hand on Sadie's shoulder.
"There you are, Sadie," said Morwena Felwich. "We've been looking for you."
Sadie tensed as she gazed up at the much taller girl. Morwena and Sadie had seldom crossed paths before coming to Hogwarts. Sadie always thought her cold and snooty, a quieter, but more intimidating, version of Calliope. Since the start of school, Morwena and her Coven had never condescended to speak to Sadie.
Rhiannon's hand was on Sadie's shoulder. The orange- haired girl eased up to Sadie until their sides were touching. Behind Morwena, on either side, were Tess and Pauline.
Morwena gazed down at Sadie with her big brown eyes. Sadie could feel magic swelling around her. "We were saying, over the break, how cruel Calliope is to you. It's really unfair. She's jealous of you, I think."
Sadie doubted this very much, and was about to say so, when Rhiannon whispered in her ear, "Yes, she's jealous. Jealous of your beauty, of how smart you are."
Sadie squirmed away from Rhiannon, but Tess closed in from her left, cutting off her escape.
"Calliope hates you, Sadie," said Morwena firmly. "She's isolated you, turned the other Ravenclaw girls against you."
"It must be hard, sometimes, to be without a friend," said Tess, kindly.
This struck Sadie deeply. It was hard, not having a girlfriend. There had been some lonely nights that first term, and many tears. If it hadn't been for Liam, Sadie didn't know how she would have made it through.
"We could be your friends," said Rhiannon in her ear.
"Yes," said Tess. "We could be your friends."
From behind Morwena, Sadie could hear Pauline say, "We could be your friends." Pauline was holding open the door to a compartment. Sadie felt suddenly tired. Her vision clouded. She needed to sit down.
"Come and sit with us," said Morwena. "Let us be your friends."
Rhiannon whispered again in her ear, "We could be your friends."
From deep within Sadie, there was a spark of resistance. This is an enchantment! They're bewitching me! "Stop it," she mumbled. Her mouth was thick. It was suddenly hard to speak.
The spell hit the Coven like an ocean wave. Morwena and Tess stumbled, and Rhiannon clung to Sadie's arm.
The girls turned and shrieked in eerie unison, "Leave us! This does not concern you!"
In the middle of the hallway stood Gillian Roycester. Her wand was drawn; her blue eyes burned like two bright stars. Morwena glowered at her and sneered, "So, you can talk. Let's see how well you do when we're facing you!"
Slowly, Tess and Morwena drew their wands. For a moment, there was a tense standoff between the girls. Sadie despaired that Gillian could fight both girls at once. Gillian, however, was undaunted. She had a wild grin on her face. Her eyes darted from girl to girl, ready to defend herself.
Tess fired off a curse, but Gillian blocked it. "Protego!" she shouted.
In response to her cry, out into the hallway poured more Gryffindors, including Todd Roycester, and the Sixth Year Prefect, Sarah Miles. "What's going on, here?" said Sarah.
Morwena made no answer. She sheathed her wand, and Tess followed suit. Sadie shook the last of the enchantment from her head and ran to Gillian's side. Morwena gave Sadie one more glowering stare, then turned. The Coven retreated into the far compartment.
Gillian wrapped an arm around Sadie. "Are you okay?" she asked.
Sadie couldn't speak. She was shaking, and tears were running down her cheeks. Gillian led her into a compartment that was already full of people. They sat down together, squeezed tightly on the bench.
There was music playing, and the sound of many voices talking loudly to one another. Sadie wiped her eyes and tried to look presentable, but she was still shaking. She heard Todd say, "What's with the little Ravenclaw girl?"
Sarah answered, "Shut up a minute and let me take a look at her." Sarah knelt down in front of Sadie and gazed at her. Sadie looked down at the other girl's knee, at the thick red tights peeking out from the cover of her plaid skirt. Sarah turned away and dug into her bag. She pulled something out and began to fiddle with it. Sadie's vision was still cloudy, and she was shaking all over, so she couldn't focus on what Sarah was holding.
Sarah put her hand in front of Sadie's face. "Here," she said. In Sarah's hand was a round chocolate candy. Chocolate was Sadie's favourite treat, yet she hesitated. Sarah said impatiently, "Come on girl! You're plenty skinny. Don't be worrying about your thighs at a time like this. Eat the candy!"
Sadie picked up the chocolate and popped it in her mouth. As soon as the chocolate began to melt, the shaking stopped. "See?" said Sarah, pleased. "Dark chocolate trumps Dark Magic every time." The older girl ran her hand through Sadie's hair, and looked deeply into her eyes. "You're gonna be all right, kid. But, you let me know if those girls bother you again."
Sadie nodded, and suddenly she was crying again. She still could not speak. She leaned back in her chair and found that Gillian's arm was still around her. She curled up to Gillian and lay very still.
"I'll be your friend, Sadie," said Gillian. "And I won't even do any of those silly enchantments."
"What did they want with you, anyway?" asked Sarah. "I've never had any trouble from those girls."
"I don't know," said Sadie. "I've never even talked with them before."
"Who knows why Slytherins do stuff," said Todd, loudly. "They'd send their own mothers to Azkaban if they thought it would give them an advantage."
Gillian brought her head close to Sadie's and whispered, "I could hear them, in my head. I went out to see what they were doing. I looked into their minds before they were aware of me. Tess was thinking about Liam Wren."
Sadie sat up. "What do they want with Liam?"
Gillian shrugged. Maybe Tess just has a crush on him. She wanted to know what he was like. Maybe they thought they could learn about him through you.
The thoughts came into Sadie's mind without Gillian moving her mouth. Sadie realized that Gillian had been talking to her all along this way. Sadie had only thought they were whispers.
"How are you doing that?" asked Sadie. Gillian shrugged. Sadie sank her head back into Gillian's shoulder. "Thank you for saving me."
Gillian gave Sadie a tight squeeze. That's what Gryffindors do. We save the world from evil Slytherins.
It was true what Morwena had said: Sadie had been without a girlfriend at Hogwarts after she was shunned by Calliope and the other Ravenclaw girls. The net result of Morwena's attack was that Sadie and Gillian discovered one another. By the time they got off the train that afternoon, the two were fast friends. They made for an odd pair, the brilliant but temperamental Sadie and the reckless tomboy, Jill, but their friendship was deep and lasted for years.
In another part of the train, Liam sat with his friends and caught up on two weeks of news. Michael and Niles had sent him letters over the break, in response to those that Liam had sent out. Philip had done one better: he had mailed Liam a Christmas gift: a hardbound copy of Hogwarts, A History.
"Thanks for the book, by the way," he said to Philip as they settled in their seats and the train pulled away from the station.
"Did you get a chance to read it?" asked Philip, brightly.
"I looked through it a bit, but I didn't get too far. My uncle was interested in it, so I left it for him. I'll read it this summer."
"Hey, where's Sadie?" asked Philip.
Liam shrugged. "She's around somewhere, I'm sure."
"Maybe you finally shook her," said Michael.
Not bloody likely, thought Liam, remembering the pink envelopes that arrived at his house every few days during the break. Though he wondered idly about Sadie, he wasn't terribly worried about her. She wasn't the only person he was looking forward to seeing.
He was quite curious to see what effects, if any, his letter had made on Lara Guishar. From the moment they had first met, she had resisted him. For that reason, as much as for the fact that she was one of the prettiest girls in his year, he wanted to win her favour.
He hadn't seen Lara at King's Cross Station or getting on the train, but as they disembarked at Hogsmeade, he spotted her. Snow was falling as they waited for the carriages, and it was brutally cold.
Michael, his arms crossed tightly against his chest, exclaimed, "Who's idea was this, anyway, putting the school in Bloody Scotland?"
Philip, missing the sarcasm, jumped in with the answer, straight out of Hogwarts, a History. Over the top of Philip's head, Michael gave Liam and exasperated look. Liam smirked back, then turned away.
He looked again for Lara, but she was just getting into a carriage with Stacy and their other friends. Liam led his boys to the next one. It was cold and draughty in the carriage, but Liam cast his heating spell into the air, warming things enough to make the journey to the school more bearable.
The boys didn't speak much, but gazed out the window at the falling snow. When they reached the school, there was another line at the gate as the students were checked before being let through. The ground was slick and icy. Students were standing in clumps and shivering. Steam shot from Liam's mouth every time he breathed.
He spotted Lara again and eased up behind her. She wore a fur lined coat and hat, yet she too was shivering and looking miserable. He slipped his left hand out of his coat and sent his heating spell at her.
She turned around abruptly. "Stop it!" she snapped.
"What?" said Liam, grinning.
"I know it's you. Stop it!"
He started to say, "I'm not doing anything," when she slapped him across the cheek with her gloved hand. Before he could say anything else, she had stormed off.
"What was that all about?" asked Philip.
Liam was too shocked to speak. Michael came right to his defense. "That one's got a temper. She's always flying off the handle over something."
"I didn't do anything to her," mumbled Liam. He was furious with Lara for slapping him. What harm had I done her? What did I do to deserve that?
Soon, they were in the Great Hall, sitting at the Hufflepuff table. Liam and Lara avoided eye contact with each other. Philip and Michael seemed to think the incident was over, and they happily tucked into their meal. Stacy's worried eyes, however, darted from Liam to Lara and back again.
While they were eating, Cheryl said to Liam, "Sadie Thompson of Ravenclaw. Isn't that your little girlfriend, Liam?"
"I heard from Sarah, one of the Gryffindor prefects, that there was trouble on the train between the Slytherin and Gryffindor girls, and that Sadie was hit with a spell."
Liam bit down on his lip, and Philip burst out, "Is she okay?"
"She's all right," said Cheryl. "Sarah's good with her remedies. I wondered if you knew anything about it."
"No," said Liam. "We haven't seen Sadie yet."
"You're sure she's okay?" asked Philip, again. Cheryl nodded. "What do you think that was all about?" Philip asked Liam.
Michael added his two pence. "Wrong place, wrong time."
"No, I don't think so," said Liam. "Those Slytherin girls, they were looking cross-eyed at Sadie on the night of Caroling."
"That's it, then," said Michael. "She ran her mouth and ticked them off. That Coven's nothing to trifle with," he added sagely.
"And we are?" asked Stephanie, tartly. The boys ignored her and continued eating.
When the meal was drawing down, and the conversations along the tables began to rise in volume, Professor McGonagall stood. With her magically amplified voice, she said, "Welcome back, students and staff. I have a few brief announcements to make.
"Quidditch season will be starting up again soon. Students, third year and above, who wish to try out for their House teams should contact their team captains. The Quidditch Captains for this season are as follows . . ." she named four people, including Archie Stollencroft. The Captain of the Gryffindor team, Liam noted, was a Roycester.
"The Captains were selected by the Heads of House, on the recommendations of last year's Seventh Years. Please join me on congratulating these students on their appointment."
A round of enthusiastic applause followed. Archie stood and bowed to both sides of the table.
"I have one further announcement," said the Headmistress, and silence quickly fell once again throughout the hall. "The forest on the grounds is, and forever has been, forbidden to students. At this time, even the eaves of the forest have become dangerous. They must be avoided.
"Students coming to and from the Quidditch pitch are hereby advised to stay well clear of the forest. Any infraction of this rule will be dealt with severely." She looked to the Gryffindor table as she said this.
"It is good to see you all again. I expect you to be in class, ready to learn, Monday morning."
Professor McGonagall turned and sat down once more at the staff table. The students began to get up and go off to their common rooms. Randal led the First Year boys down the stairs to the Badger's Den. Liam stayed clear of Lara and the other girls. He went to his room in the dormitory and changed into pajama bottoms, a worn t-shirt that was very soft, and a big sweatshirt. Then he went back out to the common room and sat down in his squashy chair.
For a while, he watched the bustle of the common room. Students sat in pairs and in small groups and talked. People moved to and fro, going from group to group saying hello and joining in the conversations. The fire burned merrily in the hearth.
That was where Stacy found him. She was wearing a thin flannel robe over a long plaid nightgown. There were slippers on her feet. "Can I talk to you a moment?" she asked him.
Liam shrugged. "Sure."
"It's noisy in here," she said, idly. "Do you mind if we go outside a minute?"
Liam thought this request was strange, but he made no protest. He and Stacy went out into the dark hallway together. Outside of the warm, cozy Den, it was cool and slightly damp. They walked down to the far end of the hallway where a torch lit a circle of flickering yellow light on the stone floor.
"Did you have a nice holiday?" she asked him.
"It was fine." He was figured he knew why she wanted to talk to him, and wanted her to get to the point. But, that's not the way that girls do things.
"Thank you for the letter, by the way," Stacy continued. "We were impressed that we all got one. And, we had a good laugh when we realized the letters were, word-for-word, exactly the same."
"Hmm," said Liam, not knowing what to say to this. Though he expected the girls to share the fact that each got a letter from him, he hadn't expected them to share the contents.
She leaned against the stone wall, opposite the torch. "What happened between you and Lara today?"
"Nothing," said Liam, crossly.
"It wasn't nothing! She slapped you! I saw it!"
"Why don't you ask her then, if you're so nosy!" snapped Liam.
"What did she say?"
"Well, we agree on something for once!"
"Liam, I am trying to help you! I got you out of that mistletoe trap. I'm trying to help you now."
Liam, though, could not speak. All the anger that he had buried after Lara had slapped him had rushed up to choke him. He fought back the urge to cry. Instead, he bit his lip and looked down at his slippers.
Stacy waited in silence for him. Finally, she asked, "You did one of your custom spells on her, didn't you?" He nodded. "Philip said you can make things warm with a wave of your hand. You tried to make her warm today, didn't you? She was shivering, and you tried to help her."
"And she yelled at me and slapped me," said Liam. He looked up at Stacy. Her brown eyes watched him kindly. Her arms were crossed over her chest.
"Have you ever cast that spell on anyone before?"
"Sure I have! Cast it on myself sometimes. I've cast it on Philip. I even made the carriage cabin warm with it today."
"Have you ever cast it on a girl before?"
"What difference would that make?"
"I don't know. Maybe it would make a difference." She came off the wall and stood a little straighter. "Cast it on me. Let's see what it does."
Liam looked at her suspiciously. "You're not going to slap me, are you?"
"I won't! I promise."
The cool hallway had been refreshing at first, compared to the stuffy common room, but now they were both getting a little uncomfortable. Stacy gave a little shiver, encouraging him onward. He stuck out his left hand and cast the spell on her.
Right away a flush came to her cheeks, and she knocked her knees together. "Oh Liam," she said softly. Then, she began to laugh. "This is definitely not juvenile magic."
He let the spell fall away. "What is it doing to you?" he asked.
She gave him a sly smirk. "I'll let the next girl tell you that. But, you must wait. Eleven is a little young for this sort of thing."
"But I don't understand!" said Liam "What is it doing to you?"
She wouldn't tell him. Instead, she crossed the space between them and gave him a quick hug and a peck on the cheek. Her lips were warm. "I'll straighten things out between you and Lara, okay?" Liam nodded. "Let's go back."
Liam did as he was told, and did not use the heat spell on a girl again until he was thirteen years old. The recipient that time was Sadie, during their brief romantic period. Sadie was able to describe, in great detail and with scientific precision, exactly what the heating spell did to girls. Afterwards, Liam could not look Lara or Stacy in the eye for a month.
In their later years at Hogwarts, on very cold days, Stacy would beg Liam to cast the spell on her. Though reluctant, he never refused her. To her great frustration, she never found another boy who could turn the same trick.
Meanwhile, in another part of the castle, Morwena Felwich was getting a tongue lashing from her prefect . . .
[Thank you very much for reading! Next up: Kane v Wren, part 3!]
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