I meet Vic at the base of the marble staircase at quarter to eight. She blushes when she sees me and I grin. Tentatively I reach out and grasp her hand. To my enjoyment, her fingers lace through mine, and we head palm to palm down in the direction of Hagrid's hut. It looms out of the darkness quite suddenly, as the night is a bit foggy, and we find Hagrid out behind the pumpkin patch holding a pair of shovels and a large lantern. Grawp lumbers around in the nearby forest, grunting and tuneless melody in his deep gravely voice.
"You two got yer gloves then?" Hagrid intones by way of a greeting. "Yes Hagrid!" I practically shout. With his enormous wiry beard of pure white and his sagging wrinkly face, Hagrid is quite deaf and if you want to be heard you must put some volume behind your speech. "Grand. Lets be off then," Hagrid motions for us to follow him. Vic glances at me, her eyes filled with apprehension, and I smile at her. After an incident in Vic's third year involving a kelpy, a boggart, and a doxy she is slightly reluctant to enter the Forbidden Forest.
To my surprise Hagrid doesn't lead us through the ancient trunks. Instead we skirt around the edge until we meet up with the gently lapping bank of the Black Lake. While handing us each a shovel Hagrid says, "Look a' the edge o' the water. See tha' grimy stuff?" He is pointing to an out of place gooey substance that seems to coat the shore line. "Headmistress McGonnagal wants samples for study. We donna' know what the bleedn' stuff is. Put on yer gloves and start shovelin' it up into this 'ere bucket. I'll tell ya when ta stop." He plunks a large bucket down on the sand then adds "Don' touch it mind. It burns like centaur piss." After we acknowledge his instructions loudly he walks off into the forest in the direction of the crashes caused by Grawp.
It turns out that the bluish goo is surprisingly resilient, and stubbornly reluctant to be shoveled. It is a bit like muggle pudding, except each time you pierce it with the shovel it seems to recoil and glom back on to the mass you were trying to remove it from. Vic and I are sniggering as we attempt to get more then a teaspoon of it into the bucket. "It doesn't seem to want to go." Vic laughs then adds "Here hand me your shovel." I do, and watch as she cleverly uses the shovels like tongs, scooping a bunch of the blue goo into the bucket.
We take turns with the tong-shovel method and I tell Vic about my qudditch training regime. She listens attentively and I realize that this is one of the things I love about her. No matter what it is, I know I can talk to Vic about it. She might joke or tease, but she always takes the things that matter to me seriously.
I am distracted by my thoughts until an excruciating burning sensation assaults my hand. "Bugger!" I swear and drop the shovels. "Teddy what happened?" Vic comes up to me and we both look down at what was recently a perfectly good pair of dragon hide gloves. A small drop of the goo has seared through the thick leather and into my palm. I try to shake it off, but the air just seems to make it burn worse. Vic pulls out her wand and murmurs a banishing spell softly, causing the small drop to leave the wound on my hand and then fly into the bucket. "Blimey! What in Merlin's name is this stuff?" I exclaim. Worry creases Vic's forehead as she tries several healing spells with no success. "I dunno, Teddy. I can't seem to heal your hand, and I haven't heard of that many substances that can burn through dragon hide. That kind of leather is supposed to be almost magically impervious."
We turn to the edge of the water and Vic holds up the lantern that Hagrid left with us high. The deceptively innocuous looking goop lines the shore for as far as our lantern light can permeate the darkness of the falling night. Our eyes meet and no words are necessary, we are both wondering what has caused this goo to exist.
After Teddy and I have filled the bucket with care, avoiding touching or splashing the mysterious goop at all, Hagrid comes back and relives us of our duty. When we show him the wound in Teddy's hand that is still bleeding freely into his handkerchief Hagrid murmurs and oath. "Why dinna yer tell me tha' 'append? Goon up to the infirmary, Ted. 'hat looks sore. This blasted stuff is worse then I though'." he adds.
The matron is appalled. "How on earth did you acquire an injury such as this, Mr. Lupin? It looks like a curse wound." Madame. Aeolus bustles around the ward, shooting me a disapproving look as if I'd caused Teddy's misfortune, while she removes the ruined dragon hide glove. "We were in detention Madame. It was no body's fault." Teddy's answer cuts through the matron's glare, and her face immediately softens. I have noticed that with a small smile or a brief wink, Teddy can cause a lot of good humor in the female population of Hogwarts. The tutting matron fetches a bottle of dittany, mixes it with ground mandrake root, boobertuber pus and a hint of carefully dispensed powdered horn of erumpent before spreading the poultice liberally on Teddy's wound. "Miss. Weasley, bandage this up will you. Henrietta Edgecombe has had a mishap with an anti acne charm and she needs my attention." Without waiting for an answer, the matron hurries off.
Gently, I grasp Teddy's large hand and begin wrapping the pristine cotton around his wound. He hisses, his hair changing to grey, and I softly tease him, "Don't be such a plimpy, Teddy." As was my intention he chuckles, reverting his locks to a pale yellow. Once the bandage is firmly bound I place a whisper of a kiss at the base of Teddy's wrist.
"I found a book in the library." I say.
Teddy smiles and jibes, "That is generally what one discovers in the stacks, Vic."
"It isn't an ordinary book, Teddy. It is about Veelas."
Teddy just looks at me waiting for me to continue. I add, "There was a part about that touch thing. You know, what happened in the broom closet." My voice is diminished by shyness, but I continue speaking. "It says that the 'pleasure touch' is something that all Veelas can do, not just me."
His grin gets even larger, "Well, aren't I a lucky bloke. I just happen to have a Veela girlfriend you know."
A blush creeps up my cheeks. "I'm your girlfriend?"
Teddy looks confused and asks laughing, "What did you think you were? A blibbering humdinger?"
Impulsively I kiss him hard on the lips, unhindered by the nearby presence of Madame Aeolus. It is a bit strange; normally I am quite shy and don't show much affection publicly, but when it comes to snogging Teddy my 'normally' seems to fly the coup. I pull away before things can get too carried away and Teddy grumbles a bit. "You can't just spring that on a fellow then walk off Vic... You're pushing me off my rocker." He is laughing as he says this and I know his comment isn't entirely serious.
Once Madame Aeolus has given us the ok, Teddy and I head in the direction of Ravenclaw tower. As we walk slowly through the deserted corridors, Teddy's uninjured hand holding mine, we postulate on the origin of the goo.
"I can't think of any books that I read that mentioned something like that... There was so much of it. It must be really doing a number on the shoreline."
Teddy looks thoughtfully out a nearby window at the lake far below, the reflection of the moon glittering over its surface. "I wonder what the merpeople have to say about it. It has got to affect them loads." His forehead is furrowed in concentration, and we have momentarily stopped walking.
"Didn't you do a unit on Mermish in Ancient Runes? D'you think we could ask them?" I inquire.
He answers first with a soft snort then, "I only know how to say 'don't spear me' with a really terrible accent. I dunno if I could ask a merperson anything."
"Well maybe we can find someone who can." I respond. "In any case, we should go to McGonnagal and ask if she knows more than what Hagrid told us. She probably won't let on if she dose, but it'l be a good place to start."
We have reached the end of our journey, or at least I have. The spiral staircase leading to the entrance to Ravenclaw tower awaits me and Teddy and I come to a halt. Teddy initiates a kiss by yanking me by my hand until our chests are touching and our lips are bonded. I respond to his eager advance with equal fervor, and soon I am pressed against the wall, my legs tangled in Teddy's and my hands buried in his now pink hair. We are heatedly intwined, Teddy's lips branding a trail down my neck, when we are unfortunately interrupted. This is becoming a frustrating habit of ours.
"Ahem..." Someone coughs loudly and Teddy and I untangle ourselves to find Melanie Fern looking at us crossly. "This isn't Madame Puddifoots, Weasley. You can't just hook up here like some five knut slag." Apparently our amours display has ruffled poor Melanie's feathers. My annoyance turns to anger when she dose not leave us be after she'd spoken her rather uncreative insults.
I'm standing in front of Teddy, glaring at her when something surprising happens. My hand, which was clenched in a fist at my side, starts to heat up. As much to my alarm as Melanie's, my hand seems to have become a torch. This is not the random combustion of days gone by. When my anger is overtaken by shock, the fire fizzles out, leaving my hand unharmed. Melanie's eyes are wide with fear as she spits, "You're just a nobody freak!" then sprints up the stairs.
"Are you alright Vic?" Teddy takes the hand that was so recently on fire into his. "Blimey. You haven't got a scratch on you." I bite my lip and respond hesitantly, "I had really better finish reading that Veela book." Teddy chuckles a bit, then places a light kiss on my cheek. "If your certain that you're fine, I'll be off. I'm knackered." I give him a nudge in the direction of Griffindor tower and bid him goodnight.
At the top of the stairs I find Melanie Fern glaring at the unresponsive eagle door knocker. I raise one eyebrow at her, knowing she had failed to answer the inquiry, before letting the heavy handle fall with a resounding clang. The bronze eagle asks "From which seven letter word, once four letters have been removed, will have just one left?" I look at Melanie and think for a moment and my mind snags on our earlier discourse. The echo of Melanie calling me a 'nobody freak' sounds in my thoughts. While looking pointedly at her uncommunicative form I say to the eagle door knocker "Somebody."
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