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Chapter 2 : II. Sticks and Stones
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saturday@TDA has got skills
II. Sticks and Stones
Hogwarts, sadly enough, was a whole lot harder than it looked, and unfortunately for Albus, he came upon this revelation right in the middle of a particularly difficult Transfiguration lesson. Now, Albus didn’t usually find Transfiguration difficult. Actually, he found himself doing surprisingly well in the subject, much to the delight of his Transfiguration Professor. It was just that today, he was struggling a bit more than usual.
“Verto!” Albus muttered, flicking his wand repeatedly at the group of three scuttling beetles on his desk. “Verto! Verto!” Normally, he could transfigure one beetle into a button just fine. But when there were three beetles, all running all over his desk and not keeping still - well, it was needless to say that maybe it was a little bit harder to do the spell.
“Albus.” Even with his name being called from right beside him, Albus ignored it and his rushed whispers of “Verto! Verto!” still continued. “Albus.”
“What?” Albus sighed in exasperation, turning around, eyes as wide as they could go. “Um. Oh. Hi, Claire.” Claire Sutton and Jeremy Blackwell - Jem, to Albus and Claire - were the only ones in Gryffindor House in Albus’ year that had the pleasure to be able to talk to him without Albus stuttering foolishly. The three had instantly bonded in a fight at the Start of Term feast where they each tried to grab the last treacle tart. Claire had won eventually, but they had become fast friends.
“You know it’s not going to work like that,” continued Claire, nodding at his still-moving beetles, not noticing Albus’ lapse into thought. “One at a time, not all at the same time, Al.” Albus’ forehead furrowed, confused. He appreciated the advice, but that had not been what Professor Bridge had said, and he told Claire so.
“But Professor Bridge told us we had to try changing them all at the same time!”
Claire rolled her eyes good-naturedly at him, and said, “Everyone’s doing it. It isn’t possible to change the beetles into buttons all at the same time. And you have tried, haven’t you? So have I, and Jem has, too.” Jem turned from Albus’ other side, immediately starting up a protest at being included in Claire’s bending of the rules, and between the three of them, an argument started up on what they really should do, with Albus and Jem on one side and Claire firmly on the other.
Contrary to Claire’s belief, not everyone was transfiguring the beetles into buttons one by one. Indeed, most people were, but at least one, like Albus, was still trying her best to stick to the rules.
“Verto!” Rose mumbled under her breath, concentrating as hard as she could on transfiguring at least one beetle into a button - or even a part-button! As long as something happened. “Come on...”
“Ooh, is little Rosie-Posie having trouble with a spell?” a voice behind her mockingly cooed, but Rose merely gritted her teeth and kept mumbling the incantation of the spell. Behind her, Nydia Leighton rolled her eyes irritably, slightly sulky that Rose hadn’t reacted to her jibe. “Gosh, Rose. Just do what I did - instead of flicking, just wave your wand in a circle over the three beetles. Well, if you can get them to be still enough, that is.”
Narrow-eyed, Rose glanced over her shoulder warily at Nydia, but she still followed the other girl’s advice - and much to her surprise, it worked. With a slightly rueful smile on her face, she twisted around to face Nydia and said, “Thanks, I suppose. Where did you learn that?” From the introductions in the dorms a couple of nights ago, Rose had gathered that Nydia was a Muggle-born, so how had she known what to do? However, Nydia merely leaned back in her chair with a smug smile, patting down her short brown bob.
“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?” she teased. Her partner, a blonde girl who was much nicer than Nydia appeared to be, scowled and nudged Nydia in the side with her elbow.
“Well, I certainly would have liked to.” Harriet Langley - Hattie, Rose and Nydia called her, though not without a slightly evil glance at each other - wasn’t often miffed with someone who might as well have been her best friend in the few days she had known her, but today, she was. “Give it to Rose, who you don’t even like that much, in case you’ve forgotten, and not me? I thought you loved me!”
Nydia put a hand over her heart - or where Rose thought her heart should have been - and her jaw mock-dropped. “Oh, dearest Hattie, how can I ever apologise for such an atrocity on my part? I promise that I shall never do so again!” Rose rolled her eyes at their dramatics.
“Oh, God,” she muttered to herself, eyes cast upwards at the heavens - well, technically the ceiling, but the heavens sounded much more dramatic to her. “Please save me from buffoons such as these.” Hattie and Nydia paid no attention to her - now, they were entirely focused on Professor Bridge, who had started to speak.
“I’ll come around and inspect your buttons, now, class,” Professor Bridge said briskly, quickly striding up and down the spaces between the desks and just barely glancing at the various buttons, half-buttons, and even some beetles that were scattered on the students’ desks. Of course, Rose knew perfectly well that she wasn’t really just looking at them - she was properly examining them and pointing out little things that no one else, least of all her, would have noticed, but it looked that way from her point of view.
“Well, I can safely say that I know perfectly well that most of you have skipped the challenge,” Professor Bridge said with a disappointed look on her face. From her seat, Rose saw the brunette girl next to Albus stick her tongue out at him. “However, I would like to award five points each to Miss Weasley and Miss Leighton for achieving what the rest of the class apparently can’t.” She gave the both of them appraising smiles, and Rose felt her heart flutter. She always wanted to make a good impression on everyone. “Class dismissed.”
The room was suddenly filled with the chatter of more than twenty different Hogwarts students from Gryffindor and Ravenclaw alike, but Rose gathered her books in silence. While behind her, Hattie and Nydia chatted eagerly to each other about how else they could get points and how easy Professor Bridge had made it, and while Albus was already making his way out of the classroom with the brunette girl from before and another dark-haired boy, Rose was alone. She didn’t find it as easy to make friends as they did, and walked with her head down, avoiding everyone’s eyes.
“Sorry,” a mumble came from somewhere up above, and Rose looked up in surprise to meet shy blue eyes. The girl from the boat. Admittedly, Nathalie Levett had looked far more intimidating sopping wet on the boat, but now, Rose realised that she was just like her - timid and confused and wondering what the heck they were going to do.
Hesitating just for the briefest second - she still remembered the way the same blue eyes had peered into her compartment on the train - Rose said, “Erm, it’s okay, I s’pose. Excuse me.” Squishing into the little space between Nathalie and the door, Rose popped up on the other side blinking rapidly. She had made a fool out of herself that night by yelling at everyone on the boat with her, and she regretted it, but it was too late to take the words back.
“Rose!” Turning in surprise, Rose couldn’t help but smile at the sight of Hattie and Nydia skirting through the crowd of fellow first years to catch up with her quick stride. “Wait up!” Pausing to give both girls time to walk in step with her, Rose patiently waited for Hattie to keep speaking. “Want to sit with us at lunch today? Nydia isn’t too keen on the idea, but I am!”
While Nydia gave Rose a narrow-eyed glance and vice-versa, Rose still willingly linked arms with Hattie as they continued on to the next lesson. Maybe she wasn’t as alone in this whole thing as she had first thought.
“So, what do you reckon it’s going to take for us to get a few points?” Claire could talk up a storm, Albus and Jem mentally decided, shooting a few glances at each other as Claire nattered on later that lunch. “I mean, we’re definitely not as smart as the Ravenclaws, but I think Professor Everest likes us, don’t you? Jem? Al? You’re listening to me, right?”
From the look on his face, Jem regretted his snort of laughter the moment it left him.
“Jem!” Claire protested, cheeks burning once she realised the cause of the boys’ amusement. Albus pretended he didn’t know the two of them as they continued their conversation, bickering and flicking peas at each other. Albus had never really liked peas, anyway, so there were no complaints from him.
While Jem and Claire poked fun at each other, Albus took the time to survey any of his fellow first years that he could see. Rose was sitting with two girls who seemed to be her friends - a blonde-haired one, and the Miss Leighton Professor Bridge had awarded points to earlier. Although he had Claire and Jem to keep him company, Albus couldn’t help but resent the two girls slightly. They had promised to stick together - Rose had said so, and she never broke promises.
Moodily stabbing his food at the fact that they hadn’t both ended up in Gryffindor, either, Albus looked for some other first year, instead, and he spotted a familiar head of blonde hair by the Slytherin table, and guilt pooled in his stomach. Rose hadn’t meant to yell at Scorpius, either - she had obviously just panicked and hated the fact that she had to be rescued from drowning in the Lake. When you grew up with Rose Weasley, you learned at least one thing - she hated feeling helpless, and she certainly had, from the way she had reacted when Albus had pulled her out of the Lake.
“Albus! Look at that!” a hiss and a poke on the arm from Claire abruptly pulled Albus out of his thoughts, and he craned his neck to see what Jem and Claire were suddenly whispering about. The only thing out of the ordinary that he could see was a young girl around his own age in Hufflepuff robes, looking disgruntled with grey dust scattered across her brown pigtails. Albus watched her as she made her way to the Hufflepuff table. The girl from the boat - Nathalie, he remembered - had a concerned look on her face as she asked who was probably her friend why she was late to lunch.
“What’s the big deal?” Albus and Jem sighed simultaneously, exchanging grins and looking back at Claire, who rolled her eyes as if to say ‘ugh, boys’.
“The deal is that something made her late,” Claire said patiently, her tone not matching the exasperated look on her face. “Obviously, next to no one is late for lunch, unless they’re sick or something, and she doesn’t look sick at all, does she?” Albus had to agree with Claire, there. “And we’re going to investigate before anyone else does. C’mon. Done your lunch, yet?” Jem was the first to stand, muttering something about losing his appetite, but Albus paused to grab a sandwich and munched on it as they left the Great Hall.
“Just make it quick,” he told Claire between bites of his sandwich. “We only have around ten minutes before lunch ends and we have to go to History of Magic.” Claire ignored him, determinedly marching on. They were alone so far - they had met no one as they passed through the Entrance Hall. The trio walked in a subdued silence through the ground floor, only Claire keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. Albus was too busy eating and Jem didn’t quite care as much as their female companion did.
“Claire, this is boring,” Jem groaned as they found themselves right where they had started - the Entrance Hall, facing the doors that led outside. “We’re not going to find anything here! Can we just go to class already?” Claire gasped, and Albus wasn’t entirely sure if it was mocking or not.
“Class? Jem Blackwell, how could you? We can’t be early to class -” Here, Claire paused to give herself time to shudder. “- and anyway, it’s just History of Magic. The Professor’s a ghost, it’s not like he’d notice.” Claire looked smug with herself as she continued. “My sister told me.” Albus frowned at this.
“What year is your sister in?”
Claire gave him an odd look, but she still said, “Lucia left Hogwarts the year before this one, in June. Why?” To Albus, however, that explained it all.
“They got a new Professor for History of Magic,” Albus explained, “my brother told me about him - he’s only in his second year. He’s called Professor Pearce, and he’s an actual human this time.” Claire pulled a face, and Jem tried not to laugh at it. “Sorry, Claire, but I think we’re actually going to have to be early this once.”
“Whatever, let’s go to class already,” Claire muttered to the both of them, obviously disgruntled. Then, in a lower voice, “Stupid Lucia, leaving Hogwarts so early - could’ve warned me about new Professors.” Albus and Jem ignored her, and walked on, leaving Claire to trail behind them.
The three of them could have made it to History of Magic in peace, if not for Jem’s shoe getting lodged in a loose stone, that is.
“Albus! Claire! Wait!” he called desperately after his friends - the both of them hadn’t noticed, too into their own thoughts, but immediately doubled back at his call.
“What’s the matter?” Albus asked in concern, eyebrows furrowed. Claire, meanwhile, stayed silent and bent down, examining Jem’s shoe.
“Can’t you just pull your leg out?” she said, looking up at Jem, who shook his head, grabbing onto Albus’ arm for support as he tried to shake his leg out.
“It’s no use,” he sighed, before his eyes lit up, and Jem stared at Albus and Claire in excitement. “I’ve got an idea, though! I think I can use the wall for leverage for pulling myself - and before you say it, no, Al, I will not leave my shoe behind just to get myself out of this hole.” Albus clamped his mouth shut with an offended glance at Jem. “Claire, this is the one and only time I will ever give you permission to shove me, and Al, grab my arm and tug.”
Claire assumed her position behind Jem, eyes glinting wickedly at the prospect of being able to shove Jem and not getting yelled for it, and Albus obliged by grabbing Jem’s arm. It wasn’t the best plan Jem could come up with, but they were only just learning spells and it was the best they could actually manage, so it would do.
“On the count of three -” Here, Jem paused to give Claire time to crack her knuckles, making him wince. “One. Two. Three!”
Maybe Claire had shoved Jem too hard, or maybe Albus had pulled on Jem’s arm too hard, or maybe it was Jem’s own fault for putting too much strength into catapulting himself out using the wall, but when the three first years found themselves sprawled on the ground, staring dizzily up at the ceiling and shakily stood up again, two stones where Jem’s foot had previously been were gone.
“Holy hell,” Claire breathed, squatting down slightly to peer down into the hole where the stones fell onto the floor below them. “We really are strong!” Both Albus and Jem shot her a look.
“Did it actually fall down onto the first floor?” Albus asked nobody in particular, completely and utterly bemused. “Even an explosion from Claire’s wand isn’t that strong.” Claire punched Albus lightly in the shoulder, sticking her tongue out at him at the mention of the various explosions that often came from her wand even if they had only been in Hogwarts for a few days, but Jem was more focused on the corner behind them. Both Albus and Claire stood up straight at the sound of incoming footsteps. Student or Professor, it didn’t really matter.
Jem took the time to inhale deeply before he said, “We’re in big trouble now.”
Oh! A cliffie! Well, would you look at that? ;) Two very major devolopments for me - a cliffie so early in the story, as well as a plot starting to unfold only in the second chapter! I really am exploring new stuff by writing River Sea, and I do hope that you’ll keep on for the whole ride! :D This is for the three people who reviewed the last chapter - Jenny, Jami, and ValWitch21 - who all left lovely reviews which definitely encouraged me with this chapter. Definitely a little shorter than the last, but at least you got to see more of Albus and Rose? Promise there’ll be more Scorpius and Nathalie - for now, reviews are definitely appreciated!
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