Chapter 20 : Chapter 20
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Fred and Hermione had been right, by Easter break everyone was talking about the final quidditch match of the season and not me. Hermione had also made up with Ron Weasley and Potter. She began spending most of her time between them and school work. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed, but I knew they were best friends and shrugged it off.
There was an advantage to Hermione’s absence. I was able to disappear easily after dinner. Tsukino had told Kuniye, who then told me that yes, she did know that a bit of a workout in the physical world would be beneficial. It was frustrating that something was being held back from me, however I doubted they would tell me anytime soon and I was in no position to force it out of them. I could also appreciate that physical strength was important. Dimitri used his for an advantage. I’d never be as strong as him but being able to survive if I lost my wand? That’s what I was aiming for.
A handy spell that would summon a small punching bag and a pair of gloves had been conveniently left on my bedside table one morning. I began using it every night, just starting small because apparently all the work I’d done while sleeping didn’t transfer over to the real world very well. Had it been all useless then? Well not quite, according to Kuniye, it helped memorize movements and drills so I could anticipate what I needed to do next. Now I just needed to get my body up to the same level. Running would have been a good choice too, more stamina was never a bad thing, but with all the security for Black, it wasn’t an option. During the summer I could run, Malfoy Manor certainly had enough property.
Not everything was looking up though, Hagrid had lost his case. I knew he would, that didn’t make it any better. What had Hermione said? The magical world was ‘unjust and hypocritical.’ With people like Lucius who could buy their way through life it certainly was a corrupt place. There was nothing I could do, if Buckbeak just disappeared one night they would obviously assume it was Hagrid. Plus, how do make a hippogriff understand that it has to go into hiding? Stupid Lucius Malfoy, wish I could summon a punching bag shaped like his head.
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Tomorrow was the big game and everyone was acting crazy. It was kind of funny in that awkward ‘what the hell is going on, did that person just sprout leeks from their ears,’ funny. Little fights were breaking out all over during the past few days. Some Slytherin seventh years had even tried to curse me as I was walking to Gryffindor tower.
They ended up in detention when Professor Flitwick caught us. I’d lost twenty points but Flitwick did mention it was a rather nice piece of wand work. Thank you Russian Charms book for teaching me how to make hair and skin flash bright red and gold alternately every second. Changing their uniforms into diapers was also enjoyable. The best part had to be when Flitwick had said he needed to speak with Professors McGonagall and Snape about the incident. Before he cancelled the spells, the Slytherins had been forced to stand in the entrance hall while Flitwick retrieved our Heads of House from the Great Hall. Quite a few other students had walked by, gawking and laughing. Someone even took a photo.
Fred and George were delighted and blew up the photo, hanging it in the common room. They told me twenty points was definitely worth it. Fred grabbed me from behind and told me proudly that he knew this day would come. I pushed him away smiling and telling him to bugger off. It hadn’t dampened his spirits though. Tonight he and George were making even more of a ruckus than normal. I wonder if anything really upsets them.
Walking into the Great Hall the next day I was surrounded by a sea of red and gold. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were cheering for Gryffindor too. Heading for a seat at Gryffindor table I saw the Weasley twins and the rest of the quidditch team leaving.
“Good luck,” I whispered to the twins as they passed. They both nodded and George slapped Fred of the back while smirking. I turned and noticed George whisper something in Fred's ear.
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This was a rather dirty game, even I could tell that. The Slytherin team was doing whatever it took to win, usually ending up giving Gryffindor a foul shot. When Draco grabbed Potter’s broom I narrowed my eyes furiously. Did Draco resort to cheating to win now? The Weasleys were getting a work out too. Bludgers were flying all over the place. Finally the snitch was caught, by Potter of course. A small part of me was disappointed that he had until I remembered the dirty plays by the Slytherins.
The party in the tower that night went on and on. Even Percy was having a good time. Fred and George set off a few fireworks and brought up a ton of food from the kitchens. I watched them from the corner of the room, they always seemed to be entertaining people, enjoying being the center of attention. Honestly I hated large groups of people. I preferred to be silent in the background. Maybe growing up with lots of siblings made you more likely to crave attention.
I leaned my head against the window beside me imagining what it would have been like growing up in the Weasley household. A lot more fun I’m sure. Not having to act so proper, you could talk freely to your parents. Your money and public image weren’t as important as love and acceptance. It seemed like a bizarre life to me, I guess I’ve spent far too much time with the Malfoys. Letting out a sigh, I reached up to rub my shoulder.
“Why do I always find you frowning?” I turned to find Fred beside me.
“I’m not sure,” I answered. Ugh, I sounded pathetically depressed, I didn’t want that. “Don’t worry about it. Enjoy your night. Congratulations on the win,” I said in a fake cheerful voice. This made Fred start frowning. “Really, I’m fine. Thank you for being concerned though.” Then I sent him a smile.
“You’re a horrible liar.”
“I’m an excellent liar,” I responded instantly.
“Tell me why you’re upset.”
“You didn’t bring any cheesecake,” I said thinking up a quick answer. Fred looked at me skeptically, ok maybe that wasn’t my best lie.
“Come on,” he said holding out his hand. I looked at him, confused. “Trust me.”
I didn’t grab his hand but I did get up and follow him. He led us out the portrait hole and past the security trolls who leered at us.
“This is a horrible idea,” I whispered through the dark. “It’s eleven at night, teachers are bound to be patrolling.”
“We’re not going to get caught,” Fred replied as he pulled me behind a tapestry.
“One of your secret passages?”
“Course.” We must have walked down several floors, though I wasn’t sure how many exactly. We came out in a dark corridor that I couldn’t make out clearly. “Nearly there,” Fred assured me. He stopped in front of a statue at the end of the corridor. “Loki,” he whispered, making the statue move. “Ladies first.” He gestured me to slip in the gap then slid inside after me. The statue moved back in place and Fred started leading the way again.
“Well no wonder you never get caught,” I said sarcastically, making him chuckle. This passage was much shorter and flat. We came out in a dimly lit hall that I did recognize. We walked towards a familiar fruit bowl painting.
“Now this, this is one of George’s and my greatest secrets.”
“Tickling a pear?”
Fred looked me with narrowed eyes. “Well if you’re going to ruin the moment.” He tickled the pear which turned into a green handle. He opened it and indicated that I should go in first.
“Sorry for ruining some of the mystery,” I said as I walked past him.
“How’d you find out?” he asked curiously, following me inside and closing the door.
“Hmm,” he said suspiciously. A handful of house elves approached us. “Could we get a cheesecake? And two forks?” Fred asked them.
“Did we really just risk detention for some cheesecake?”
“Pfft, you’re the one who wanted it,” Fred said, sitting down at one of the tables. I sat down beside him and the elves placed a whole cheesecake in front of us along with two forks.
“Thanks,” I called out as they retreated. I picked up a fork and dug in on the opposite side of where Fred had started.
“So…cheesecake,” Fred pondered while taking another bite. “Does your mum make this for you?”
“No,” I answered harshly.
“Right, don’t mention her again I suppose,” Fred said delicately.
“I don’t live with her,” I explained, feeling slightly guilty for snapping at him.
“They’ve been gone since I was two,” I said, reaching up to rub my shoulder. “I live with my aunt and uncle.”
“Oh, er…sorry,” Fred said awkwardly.
“Don’t be, I’m not.” Rather pitiful life when you prefer Lucius Malfoy over your own parents.
“You don’t miss them?”
“No.” I really didn’t like where this conversation was going. “You know you’re missing your own party,” I stated, attempting to change the subject.
“You’re more interesting to talk to.” I scoffed. “You are! You with your endless wisdom. You’re discreet about it, but I’d bet all my gold you’re even smarter than Hermione.”
“I did say before, we aren’t comparable,” I told him, rolling my eyes.
“I’m still trying to figure that part out.”
Dumbledore already knew, along with McGonagall. I guess Fred and others knowing didn’t particularly matter any more. “She has to work at remembering things. I just need to see it,” I explained.
“See it?” he asked confused.
“Photographic memory. Once I see it, I never forget.”
“Never?” he questioned skeptically.
“I can repeat that book I made you word for word if you’d like.”
“Bloody hell,” he said impressed. “You never have to study, useful gift to have.” Everyone always thought of the positive first, never considering that there may be things in your life that you want to forget. “You’re frowning again,” Fred pointed out, bewildered.
“Sorry. Bit of a habit.”
“Frowning is a habit?”
It develops when you have a less than stellar life. “Really, that’s just how I look when I’m thinking.”
“What were you thinking about?”
“Slytherins,” I blurted out. Really? That’s the best I could think of?
“I can definitely understand the frowning now,” Fred said seriously. “What about them? Not those blokes who were trying to curse you?”
“No, not them. Their quidditch team. They were playing dirty, nearly cheating. Where’s the joy in winning if you cheat for it?”
“Huh, they are Slytherins. Normally they just care that they do win, not how,” he responded thoughtfully.
“Still, I don’t know, I just can’t see the ends justifying the means.”
“And that is precisely why the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor.” Both Fred and I jumped and turned around quickly.
“Professor Dumbledore,” Fred exclaimed, sounding worried.
“Mr. Weasley. Miss Lestrange,” Dumbledore greeted pleasantly. “I must admit, I’m surprised to find the both of you down here. I’m sure the rest of Gryffindor house is partaking in a rather eventful party.”
“Ah, well cravings Professor,” Fred joked, indicating the half eaten cheese cake.
“I see. I must admit that is the reason I am up at this hour as well,” Dumbledore responded while taking a seat across from us. “Perhaps a slice of what they are having,” he told the elf who approached.
It was beyond strange sitting here in the Hogwarts kitchens in the middle of the night, eating cheesecake with Dumbledore. Fred seemed to be adjusting to it well. “Congratulations on your victory Mr. Weasley, I have not seen Professor McGonagall so overjoyed in many years.”
“Thank you sir. Oliver’s probably as overjoyed about it too.”
“Yes, Mr. Wood’s dedication is unmatched by most of the quidditch players I have seen lately.” Silently I wondered if Fred had many late night meetings like this or if he was very good at acting casual. “And how are you Miss Lestrange?” Dumbledore asked.
“I haven’t been questioned by Aurors in a while so pretty well I suppose.”
“Yes, well Rufus wanted to be sure about any possible assistance being given to Black. He prefers to question people first hand even though I informed him that I did not believe you were helping Black.”
“You told him that?” I asked doubtfully.
“I don’t get you,” I said after a minute of silent eating.
“Hmm?” Dumbledore asked inquisitively.
“Normally I meet people and I can tell what sort of person they are within ten minutes. You? I can’t figure you out at all,” I replied honestly.
“Perhaps we are cautiously trying to figure each other out.”
“And what have you figured out about me?”
“That you are not what I expected. What might I ask, have you figured out about me?”
“That you enjoy midnight snacks.” Fred choked on his food, laughing. Dumbledore smiled and seemed to ponder my observation.
“I should do a more thorough job, you are clearly ahead of me,” Dumbledore said thoughtfully. He finished his slice of cheesecake and stood. “You should return to Gryffindor tower. I believe Professor Snape is prowling for any students out of bed. He’s taken this loss very hard.” Fred and I finished the last bites and stood as well. “Good night,” Dumbledore called as we went our different ways in the hall.
“Bloody hell,” Fred said as we slipped into the first passage way. “That was surreal.”
“You can tell your children someday about the night you sat eating a midnight snack with Dumbledore,” I teased.
“Long as mum doesn’t find out, she’d probably go bonkers.”
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