A.N. Only one chapter left guys! I hope you enjoy this one before the big ending :) Oh and the CI is by Meghan, as usual :)
Well, I didn’t sleep. It’s now almost six o’clock and I’m still sitting in the Ravenclaw common room with my head in my hands. My anger toward James subsided around midnight, leaving all the space for anxiety to roam freely inside my head. Then by three o’clock, after I threw up two times, the anxiety had all the space necessary to torture my whole body.
The thing is, I think I really understand why James did what he did. I’ve grown quite found of Killian Earhart over this past week and I think he’s a perfect match for Molly so I really want him to win this competition. Just not like this. I would have preferred for him to win fair and square, not because one or some of us gave him a free pass to the next round. Then again, judging by what I saw yesterday, if I had been the one to play chess against Killian, I don’t want to sound pretentious but I would have had to cheat in order for him to win. I don’t think I could have done that; chess are too sacred for me. And I think James knew that and that’s why he took this challenge off my hands.
It could also be my tired mind trying to find excuses for this cousin I’ve always loved and admired. I don’t know anymore. The only thing I know for sure is that James likes to tease but he isn’t the kind of guy to hurt anyone on purpose, not like he did yesterday anyway.
To say that I don’t feel like going to my classes this morning is an understatement. Actually, I’d rather disappear from Hogwarts all together if that was possible. I’ve got nothing. I won’t even be able to face my cousins anymore because I will fail at the simplest task: finding a challenge.
Sure they all failed their challenges but at least they confronted Killian with something. So far, the only thing I’ve come up with is to stand there and say “Sorry but I’ll save you the trouble of fighting the lamest Weasley to ever walk the earth. You win. Congrats.”
It’s hopeless. Chess was my thing. The only thing I am good at and now I can’t do it. Anything else will be a laughing matter in comparison. I don’t want to face this day; I’d rather face a…
Wait a minute.
I could face one for real. And so could Killian. I’ve got to go see Hagrid!
Without thinking one more second about it. I dash out of the common room and run out of the school like a crazy person. The view that meets me when I open the front doors of the school should have stopped me but it didn’t. See, it’s barely dawn. The sun is only just coming up and there is a light fog over the grounds and no light comes out of Hagrid’s hut.
Doesn’t matter. I run there and knock. The loud crashing noise that comes from inside the hut does bring me back to reality a bit and I suddenly realise that Hagrid must have been sleeping still.
“Who’s there?” I hear him growl in a hoarse voice. I want to run away and hide; why didn’t I think before coming here?
“Er, it’s Hugo?” I say in a small, questioning voice, as if hoping that he will not murder me. “I’ll come back later, I didn’t realise.”
“You’ve got me up now,” he says as he opens the door, his pink umbrella in hand. “Come in boy.”
“Are you sure? I’m really sorry, I didn’t think of the time.”
“Come in Hugo, I was about to get up anyway, got to feed the animals,” he invites me in.
“O, ok,” I stutter uncomfortable. He is after all wearing some very disturbing – and huge - purple pyjamas with an equally purple nightcap on top. I never thought Hagrid wore pyjamas; for some reason, I imagined him sleeping in his day clothes.
“So, what’s going on? Ye look like ye slept on the clothesline.”
“I didn’t sleep at all actually. Couldn’t stop thinking about what happened yesterday with James.”
“That was quite a game,” Hagrid nods as he takes out two cups and puts a kettle on the stove.
“No it wasn’t,” I say but decide to drop it. “The real thing is that chess was supposed to be my challenge tonight but now that James did it, I couldn’t think of anything else to challenge Killian with.”
“Ye’re such a smart boy Hugo, surely there are loads of other things ye could choose from.”
“Not really; there isn’t much else that I could do to win against a boy that’s five years older than me and has five more years of magical training.”
“Are ye sure about that?” Hagrid pours the cups of tea and sits in front of me. His eyes are still crusty because of me. Yet he smiles hopefully.
“That’s what I thought until about 15 minutes ago when I decided to come here without even checking the time.”
“Ah, so it was a revelation that brought ye here so early in the morning.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” I chuckle with him. “I thought that maybe, I could borrow something from you for tonight. You know, the creatures that you take out once every five years and that Killian hasn’t seen yet in class?”
“I see,” Hagrid nods, his black crusty eyes glinting. “How many would you need?”
“I think two would do it; a male and a female,” I say. “Would it be possible to use their pen?”
“Ye mean remove the others from the pen so you can use the space with the two ye need?”
“Just for a little time,” I shrug, “Although it would need to be done before Killian arrives because I don’t want him to see how you do it, if you know what I mean.”
“Oh I see what ye mean alright,” Hagrid chuckles. “Alright Hugo, I’ll do this at the end of classes, before dinnertime so you have all night to do your thing. But, ye’ll need to help me put them back in.”
“No problem!” I sighs happily, relieved that I’ll have something to face Killian with. “I think I’ll ask Connor to help us, he’d like that.”
“He’ll be overjoyed,” Hagrid laughs, “never seen a boy that loves animal quite that much! I have to get on with the job now. Oh and I prepared the cage for ye behind the house.”
“Oh right, I almost forgot about that; I’ll come back for it between the first and second class this morning,” I nod before drinking my last drop of tea. “Thanks again Hagrid, once again you managed to make me feel a whole lot better.”
“I didn’t do much,” he chuckles, “next time though, please wait until 6 thirty before making yer morning call.”
“Sorry again,” I blush, “see you later Hagrid.”
“Have a good day Hugo.”
A good day indeed, especially compared to the night I had. It’s almost 7 o’clock when I enter the common room. The sleepy students look at me strangely when they see me come in, already dressed and looking like I’ve been up forever. I ignore them and go up to my dormitory to take a shower and change into fresh uniforms before going back down to the Great Hall for breakfast.
Today isn’t much different than yesterday only now, people know for sure that it’s my turn to challenge Killian and they only encourage me to do my best. No one seems to doubt that he will beat me. That’s comforting.
I sit next to Eliana and notice that Lily is already sitting at our table. Does she ever sit at her own House table anymore?
“Hey Hugo,” they say in a tone that would be perfect for someone on their deathbed.
“Hey guys,” I answer, pouring milk into a bowl of cereals.
“Did you sleep at all?” Eliana asks me in a worried voice.
“No,” I sigh, “but it was worth it.”
“Did you come up with a plan to murder James?” Lily asks spitefully.
“No, I don’t really care about that anymore.”
“Well I do and, just so you know, he got yelled at something terrible by everyone yesterday night. Except for Molly who thanked him but the rest of us didn’t eat our words,” she continues. “I can’t believe he did that; and he’s not even good at chess!”
“It’s alright Lily, I’ll live,” I says although I’m secretly glad that my relatives didn’t stand by James and what he did.
“So what are you going to do then?” Eliana asks me.
“Nice try,” I smile at her, “I did come up with something else but I’m not going to tell you what it is.”
“Good,” Lily nods, “at least you found something else. Not playing into James’ plan.”
First class of the morning goes by like a blur. I am too tired to care about what Binns is saying and I can’t think of nothing else but the cage I need to get to. When the bell rings, I grab my stuff and run out of the castle to Hagrid’s hut. A huge cage filled with 30 Diricawls awaits me.
“Hello,” I say to them although I’m a bit out of breath. They all turn to me and answer happily. They all flap their useless wings making their fluffy grey feathers shine in the sun’s light.
“I have a task for you guys,” I tell them. The smart birds lean forward to listen to me and I explain what I’m expecting of them. Hagrid has trained them so well; I know I can trust them to do what I ask. “When I open the cage, I’d like you to wait a couple minutes before you go inside the school and find all the classroom where there are students and shout this a couple times, alright?”
“Yes, yes,” they all answer happily.
“After you’re done, get back to your cage, alright? There will be a nice treat awaiting you left by Hagrid.”
“Good luck and thanks,” I nod before opening the cage. I run back to school and barely have time to sit down for my transfiguration class that the bell rings. Everybody looks at me, wondering where I was but I only smile, waiting excitedly for my Diricawl friends to make their appearance.
I don’t have to wait long. Just as professor Giles begins his lesson, a cloud of feathers appears next to him, leaving behind a plum Diricawl.
“On the grounds at six thirty is when you’ll face your next adversary. Be ready Killian Earhart, you’ll face the best and the worst next to Hagrid’s hut,” the bird shouts happily three times in a row before disappearing like it came.
“Nice!” Eliana laughs next to me. “Of course you’d use an animal to make your announcement.”
“Thanks,” I whisper, happy that my plan worked.
That is until a second cloud of feathers appears and a second Diricawl makes his appearance. And then a third one. And a fourth one. I think I made a slight mistake.
Fifteen Diricawl interruptions later, the Headmistress shows up to the door and asks me to stop this madness. Apparently, all classes are being disrupted by the endless apparitions of Diricawls. I wait for the next bird to appear and get up to it.
“Hi, thanks so much for this but I think it’s enough. Could you get your friends rounded up and back to your cage? Your treat is waiting,” I tell the bird a bit awkwardly while my classmates laugh behind me.
“Yes, yes,” The bird nods before disappearing. And just like that, it’s the last bird we see.
As I make my way to the Great Hall for dinner, people stop me every step I take. They seem to have enjoyed my announcement a lot and most students thank me for taking up over half of class time. Louis, Fred and Rose also come by during lunch to congratulate me on my nice Weasley-styled announcement; they were expecting something a lot less obnoxious.
The rest of the afternoon and dinnertime are pretty much the same except I’m starting to feel more nervous by the second about what’s going to happen. At six o’clock, Hagrid enters the Great Hall and gives me the thumbs up to let me know that the pen is ready for the challenge. I decide to go down and get ready although there isn’t much left for me to do.
When I arrive next to his hut fifteen minutes later, there are already a great number of students waiting there and looking around expectedly. They haven’t found the pen yet, or maybe they have but didn’t want to get too close to it.
By six thirty, I think the entire school is waiting for me to make a move and, bracing myself, I go for it.
“Killian Earhart,” I call loudly in a slightly shaky voice. He walks through the crowd and stops in front of me, a glint of excitement in the eye. “So far, you’ve faced five of my relatives and you beat them all. Congratulations. One thing you may not know about Weasleys is that we have a talent for getting into troubles.”
“Oh I know,” he answers with a laugh that is echoed though the crowd as well. Apparently, our reputation precedes us.
“I ask you then, can you get out of a messy situation like a Weasley or are you going to flea in front of danger? Tonight Killian Earhart, I challenge you to a game of ‘Catch the Blast ended skrewt’.”
“You’re crazy, you’ll both get killed,” I hear a voice in the crowd call and I notice Killian’s smile falter a bit. Apparently he already knew about the existence of the Blast ended skrewt.
“Do you accept the challenge?” I ask him.
“Yeah, I do,” he answers a bit reluctantly and we both walk a bit south where a male and a female skrewt wait for us in the pen.
“The rule is simple,” I tell him and the crowd; “the first one of us that manages to catch one of the skrewt and immobilise it for 5 seconds is the winner. Easy enough, right?”
“Right,” Killian nods before taking off his cloak to give himself more freedom of movement.
We both step into the pen on different sides and, as if sensing danger, the female skrewt blast herself from one end of the pen to the other, sending a long line of fire behind her. The crowd gasps; most of them have never seen a skrewt before. Hagrid brings them out every five years so that all the students will get to see them in class once and only once. Therefore, all the students below fifth year weren’t around to see them the last time and the actual sixth and seventh year didn’t see them in class either considering they didn’t have a Care of Magical Creatures at the time.
Personally, I’ve watched Hagrid care for them in the past month but I have not been close to them. They scare me. So I know the ‘right way’ to catch the skrewts, I just never tried it before. And I’m a lot smaller and weaker than Hagrid so his technique probably won’t work for me.
For several minutes, Killian and I walk around the pen, searching for a way to get closer to the skrewts. Every time one of us tries, they explode loudly and dangerously. Killian suddenly goes for the male, trying to get his arms around the spike on its back but the creature explodes and burns off his eyebrows.
I try myself with the female, trying to get her from the front but once again, she senses danger and runs toward me, trampling me without any remorse. Although it hurts a bit, I’m glad she didn’t stop to suck me with the sucker she hides under her belly.
The crowd encourages us from a distance. They either fear being at the receiving end of a fire blast or can’t stand the fishy smell the skrewts emit. After about twenty minutes, both Killian and I are dirty with mud and have been burned a couple times.
“You’ve got crazy ideas little man,” Killian tells me, shaking his ash-covered head.
“I told you we’d have to face danger to get out of a mess.”
“And you were right,” he laughs. “I’ve never been stuck into a situation quite like this one.”
“Welcome to our lives,” I smile before dashing forward to catch the tired looking male. I almost get it immobilised but the female decides to save her mate and hits me from behind so I let go.
“Nice try,” Killian tells me as I slowly get back to my feet.
“Thanks,” I breathe with difficulty as I take off my muddy cloak.
“Oh I just got a brilliant idea,” Killian suddenly says before running back to the place where he entered the pen. I’m still trying to catch my breath when I see him pick his cloak from the ground and I understand his plan instantly.
He smiles at me before taking his cloak in both hands and slowly makes his way to the female skrewt. In one quick motion, Killian wraps his cloak around the skrewt’s head before jumping on her back, immobilising her to the ground in a winning move.
The crowd erupts into cheers when the five seconds are up and Killian lets the Blast ended skrewt go. Before announcing his win, I decide to leave the pen which he seems to think is a good idea and he follows me out.
“Killian Earhart, you once again win the challenge,” I say in a strong voice and the crowd cheers once more.
“That was quite a challenge, thanks. Am I finally free to keep on dating Molly now?” Killian asks, shaking my hand.
“We’ll see about that,” I vaguely answer.
“Wait, there are no other male Weasleys nor sisters-in-law left,” Molly joins in the conversation.
“If you say so,” I shrug in the same vague way.
“Well, that was a nice competition anyway,” Killian shrugs, turning to me. “Say, I know you’re supposed to be the Weasley to beat at chess. Would you like to play me sometime? Not as a challenge though, just for fun.”
“I’d really like that!” I smile widely, “tell me when, I’ll be there.”
“Good, I’ll let you know then,” he smiles at my happiness. “I’ll go take a shower now, I don’t remember ever being so dirty in my life.”
“Yeah, I wish I could say the same,” I answer, thinking back on all those times where I managed to make my mum scream in horror at just how messy I can get when I put my mind to it.