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Chapter 10 : The Unknown
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Chapter image by &themoon @ tda
“Shut up,” I say grouchily to Boot as he chases the last bat around the room, chuckling to himself. Smug little prat.
It turns out Ravenclaws have their uses, one of which being knowledge of many counter-jinxes and potions. I’ve finished the nasty concoction Boot whipped up for me and am happily no longer snorting bats out my rather small nostrils. Thanks for that one, Weasley.
“I didn’t say anything, Feisty,” Boot grins. “But you know, this really is some very advanced magic. This little fellow’s been avoiding me for almost half and hour, and he still shows no signs of stopping.”
You see, curses like the Bat-Bogey Hex can’t create a living being out of nothing. Weasley’s signature spell involves the transfiguration of – ahem – bogeys into bats, the slight enlargement of the nostrils as each bat escapes, and a continuity clause in the charm so that it will continue for as long as the caster wants, or at least until the bogeys run out. Happily, the bats will eventually disappear, or – ahem – turn back into bogeys, therefore effectively disappearing. It’s quite nasty, especially if the victim has a cold at the time, but at least Boot is having fun.
“Live a little!” He shouts at me, jumping up and down like a mad clown on a pogo stick to try and ensnare the last bat, which he has christened Aslan after the Muggle book he’s reading.
“I’m living, alright,” I say drily, rubbing my nose a bit. Aslan seems to whistle tauntingly from his spot on the ceiling. Boot relents and flops down beside me.
“Weasley sure can pack a spell, Corner’s lucky he didn’t act too shabbily towards her or else he could have been her practice dummy.”
I resist the urge to reach out and run my fingers through his hair. It just looks so smooth and soft.
Now that Boot’s up close, I can see that he’s not so perfect as I initially thought. His teeth are a little too crooked, his eyes a little too light, his ears a little too big, his arms a little too scrawny. He’s no ideal specimen of man, like Theo Nott, for example. But there’s still something irresistible about him: his boyish grin, his easy, devil-may-care attitude.
When we’re together, we talk about little, insignificant things. I’m grateful he hasn’t yet asked why I became the victim of the Bat Bogey Hex, because I don’t know what I’d say. That my friends were tormenting some kids from his House, and I had to join in or look suspicious? That it wasn’t the first time I’d been nasty to a Mudblood? Boot may be light-hearted, and I wish he shared my ideals, but something tells me its not as simple as that.
“What do you Slytherins do for fun?” He asks carelessly, and I bit back the answer “torture our subordinates on a daily basis.” That voice in my head warns me he might not take it lightly.
“Er, normal things,” I say.
“Well, Quidditch of course… reading… wizard’s chess…” I shrug, choosing not to tell him about secret meetings of ASS, writing letters-to-the-editor of the newspaper Noble Blood, or planning vicious pranks on fellow Hogwarts students. Boot seems very… staunch in his ways. Then again, maybe I am too.
“Sounds riveting,” he says, sitting up and gazing up at Aslan. “What do you like to read?”
What a Ravenclaw question. “Wizarding history, opinion books, I suppose. I read a really interesting biography of Gellert Grindelwald over the summer.”
Boot nods. “So no fiction? Romance? Science-fiction? Fantasy?”
“I don’t really understand what that means.”
“Well, fantasy… like fairy tales and stuff.”
“I read the Tales of Beedle the Bard as a kid, of course, and those stories, but they’re really for children. I like books that tell me something about the world.”
“Why, what kind of books do you read?”
Boot smiles at me. “Everything. History, non-fiction, fiction, fairy tales, dystopias, horror novels, parallel universes, murder mysteries…”
He shrugs. “You can learn a lot from reading. I always wanted to be a novelist when I grew up.”
“Wanted? What happened?”
“I grew up,” he smiles again, but a little sadly this time. “Right now, the world needs people to act, not to sit back and think. There will come a time for that, but now the poet has to put aside his pen and take up arms.” He closes his eyes and takes a concentrated breath.
“The forward youth that would appear
Must now forsake his Muses dear
‘Tis time to leave the books in dust,
And oil th’unused armour’s rust.
He finishes, opens his eyes and laughs at my confused expression.
“Sorry, I have a really great memory for poetry, not to brag or anything. Sometimes I’ll recite it out loud when I think I’m alone, and people give me strange looks in the corridor.”
I giggle at him. “I would definitely be one of those people. And whatever you just said made no sense at all. What are the Muses? Do they have something to do with Godric Gryffindor and his seven sisters?”
Terry laughs and pats me a little patronizingly on the head. For some reason it doesn’t bother me, because I know he’s teasing.
“Little Tor, you think you’re so clever, but it really amazes me how wizards know nothing about Muggle lore or history, for that matter. Even when they intersect with wizard legend. Personally, I’m quite sure the Muses originated long before Gryffindor and his seven slaggy sisters, who were gifted in …other ways.”
“So what do the lines mean?”
“It’s a poem by Marvell – a Muggle poet from the 1600s - ” he adds at my puzzled expression. “The Muggles were having a major Revolution at the time. They took the King off the throne and had him executed for treason, and let me tell you, Muggles have much more creative ways for torture and killing than the Unforgivable Curses.” He shudders. “If you’re brave, have a chat with Anne from the portrait outside sometime. Anyway, what I think Marvell’s saying in this poem is that even the poet has to take up arms in times of war, that every person in the nation is affected and has to fight, even if he hasn’t yet chosen a side. Or she,” He adds as an after thought.
I nod. Its strange to think of Muggles having wars, having kings and leader and revolutions. I usually don’t think of them much.
“What kind of creative ways did the Muggles have?” I ask casually. Not that I’m a sadist, or anything – just curious.
“Well, they tortured the truth – or what they wanted to hear – out of prisoners by stretching them limb from limb.” He shuddered. “It sounds even worse than the Cruciatus curse, which at least doesn’t actually harm you physically. Then they had beheadings, people being burned at the stake, poisonous gasses, being drawn and quartered- and trust me, you don’t really want to know what that is if you’ve just eaten. One duke was apparently even executed by being drowned in a barrel of wine, although the reality of that is contestable.”
“The Muggles seem awfully barbaric.”
Boot appraises me thoughtfully.
“No need to be judgemental, Feisty, wizards have done pretty horrible things too.” He seems to think to himself. “You should really start reading some of the stories we’ve been assigned in Muggle Studies. I read the Narnia books when I was younger, but studying them from a critical perspective has been very stimulating for me.”
I pick up his copy of Prince Caspian and rifle through it lazily, humoring him.
“Sure, maybe. If I have time.”
He laughs. “You’re lucky you’re so cute, really. I wouldn’t put up with your sass otherwise.” I nudge him playfully, and he seems to have a surge of brilliance.
“Oi! You really need to come to a Muggle Studies class with me. Just to sit in – we’ll tell Burbage you’re considering taking an elective in fifth year, or something.”
I’m uneasy. “Er, I’m not sure that’s a great idea.” Just the thought of my fellow Slytherins finding out I went to a Muggle Studies class is terrifying.
“Nobody needs to find out,” Terry urges, and we both know he means, none of your lot need to find out. “Please, just give it a shot.”
He wags his eyebrows earnestly, and I can’t help but give in. What’s the worst that can happen? I get an even more disdainful opinion of the horrible and bloody Muggles? Maybe I can tell my friends, and we’ll have a good laugh.
Boot still refuses to tell me what the potion he’s brewing in the secret room truly is, but he does insist on lending me his copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by the Muggle author. I stuff it into my schoolbag between my copies of The Standard Book of Spells: Level Four and The Ministry of Magic: An Artful History, while Bathilda Bagshot scowls at me from the cover of the latter for being so rough with a book. I roll my eyes at her and bid goodbye to Boot, who winks at me again, and I resist the urge to fall onto his lap and kiss his sunburned cheek. Really, control yourself, Miss Greengrass-Yaxley.
Feeling full of joie-de-vivre, I skip past the sad suit of armour, calling back “Perk up, old chap!” towards him. Anne, the woman in the portrait, smiles at me kindly as I pass her Norman castle.
“Everything alright? Are you getting on with Terry?” she asks. “You two are so sweet together…”
“Oh yes, we’re becoming great friends,” I interrupt her. “Just now, he helped me deal with the effects of the Bat Bogey Hex. Such a gentleman, yeah?”
Anne wrinkles up her perfect little nose. “Well, we certainly didn’t have spells such as that in my day. Really, the hexes you young people come up with are just astounding.”
I’m about to enquire about what exactly was her day, and maybe about those Muggle torture methods, but am cut short by the arrival of Taurus O’Halloran, looking frazzled and straightening his clothes as he rounds the corner at a slight jog. When he sees me, he turns a deep red and takes a deep breath. The smell of boy-cologne, smoke and something I can’t quite name washes over me.
“Alright, Tor,” he says, arranging a smile on his face. I survey him quizzically, waiting for the confession, rant or explosion that is sure to erupt. Instead, Taurus appears to calm himself, and drapes a steady arm around my shoulders.
“I’m glad to have found you,” he says, a bit more relaxed, and my already good mood expands to include him. The bats are gone, Terry Boot, its almost suppertime, Terry Boot, I have no schoolwork, I’m a witch and not a psychotic murdering Muggle, Taurus is the best friend ever.
“How is Quidditch training going, Taurus?”
He looks suspicious at my light-hearted tone, but in all honesty I couldn’t care less about Quidditch – or lack thereof in my own life – at the moment.
“Its going fine, I mean, Skin has us all freaking out about the match, but I’m sure we can take them. Gryffindor has a complete baby team,” he adds confidently.
“That’s nice to hear.”
“Yeah, its great. Listen, Tor, I’m glad you turned up from… wherever you were, because there’s something I’ve been wanting to talk about-”
But whatever it is will have to wait because of the appearance of Professor Severus Snape. He billows like a great bat out of nowhere, and Taurus hastily removes his arm from around my shoulders.
“O’Halloran. Greengrass.” Snape acknowledges. I know that since he knows my father’s last name, calling me Greengrass is like a private joke.
“Professor,” we chorus smoothly.
“Now, Greengrass, Professor Slughorn tells me you were involved in a… tussle earlier in the day?” Snape says slowly, enunciating each syllable. “I’m not sure your parents would be… thrilled to hear about this latest… escapade.”
As much as I appreciate Snape, his tone of voice is a little mocking. I straighten haughtily.
“I was only acting as any responsible Slytherin would, considering I ended up being attacked by that Gryffindor.”
For some reason using the word “wench” comes to mind when describing Ginny, but I shake my head clear of it. Boot and his old poetry must be getting to me.
Snape’s upper lip curls in amusement.
“Regardless of your feelings, Astoria, I’m afraid you’ve been scheduled for detention with yours truly for this Saturday. Commencing at nine in the morning, you will come to my office and help with re-preserving pickled potions ingredients.”
Beside me, Taurus makes a slight gagging sound. Stupid goody-two-shoes prat who never gets detention.
“I’ll be there, sir,” I say to Snape, who nods curtly. We’ve reached the entrance to the Dining Hall now, and the sweet smells of chicken roast and cooked vegetable pie are wafting out into my recently-bat occupied nose. Mmmmm.
Halfway down the Hall, Snape is leaning over the Slytherin table, deep in conversation with Malfoy. The pale twit’s face is even whiter than usual, and his fist clenched around his wand which is resting on the table. With a slight snort of anger, Snape straightens and in a flurry of black robes marches towards the teacher’s table. Malfoy watches him go, jaw set.
Impulsively, I grab Taurus’ wrist and drag him in the direction of where Malfoy is sitting, alone for once without the company of Pansy, Crabbe or Goyle (shudder).
“What were you talking to Snape about?” I demand, throwing myself down across from him. The git looks me over unpleasantly.
“None of your business, Greengrass. Don’t you have Nott to be slobbering over?” He asks, snickering. But behind his sarcasm there is fear. I can see it in his eyes, on his temples, where a bead of sweat is traveling along his white hairline.
I slop a heap of vegetable pie onto Taurus and my plates angrily, not taking my eyes off Malfoy.
“I can feed myself,” Taurus protests weakly, but I ignore him. Slowly, I retreat into my mind, then set it free, inching towards Malfoy’s thick skull. Tentatively, my Legilimency steps over the doorstep of a great house which resembles Malfoy Manor, wipes its feet on the snake-shaped doormat, and slowly pushes open the fine mahogany door.
I take in a few images: a thin faced man skulking in the corner, clutching at his left wrist. A brand-new broom sitting lonely against a wall, forgotten. A great wooden cabinet blending so simply into the wall that I nearly overlook it. Blood, splashed up on the walls, brown and old. But I’ve barely had a chance to see these things until there is a great pushing sensation, and my Legilimency is being pushed forcefully from the great doorway, over the snake doormat, and back into my own head.
I look at Malfoy fervently, expecting him to whip out his wand and start cursing me for invading his privacy. Instead, he is staring up at the teachers’ table, at Professor Snape, and his expression is one of fear and hatred.
Back in the girls dormitories, I receive a visit from our family owl, Arrow, who seems upset that I have no snacks on hand for him. It’s a letter from Mum, and I tear it open with my teeth.
I just wanted you to know that your father has been missing now for over a day. He has been acting on the order of who you know and made it out to be quite dangerous and important work. Interaction with the people of the moon is suspected. I hope there is no cause for worry, but I wanted you to know. Just in case.
With love, your mother
Cold and numb and scared. Obviously, this is part of Father’s work. Of course, he must do the Dark Lord’s orders, and sometimes this involves putting himself in danger. But if mother has written to us, then she must be worried.
Shaking a little and ignoring Amaris’ concerned face, I blindly search for Daphne. She’s not in her dormitory, though Pansy Parkinson gives me a dirty look as she pulls on a tight dress when I peek my head in. She’s not in the common room, and Theo was just in the library, and he tells me she wasn’t there either.
Daphne, where are you?
In the end, I return to her dormitory and sit on my sister’s bed. Parkinson has left by this point and the room is empty. I settle down to wait for her, staring at the framed picture on her bedside from which our family waves and smiles at the camera. I am six years old, perched on Father’s shoulders and wearing his reading classes which threaten to fall off the end of my nose. Daphne is eight, and laughs freely like I haven’t see her do in years. Mother’s face is unlined, carefree: she smoothes her eldest daughter’s hair down with a loving hand.
Daphne, come back. I curl up in my sister’s blankets, breathing in the smells of her strawberry shampoo and the familiar smell of cinnamon and the herb garden and fresh air. I wonder absently if this is how I would smell to her: of our home, of our family, even when we are so far away.
I fall asleep in my sister’s bed, holding a vigil with Mother’s letter on the sheets beside me. I don’t notice when Pansy Parkinson storms in, her dress still tightly zipped. I don’t notice when Millicent Bulstrode throws a pillow at my head, or when someone has a sneezing fit. I just sleep and dream of family.
A/N: I do not own Narnia, C.S. Lewis does. I also do not own the Muses. I have even less claim to Andrew Marvell’s wonderful and confusing poem ‘An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’, which Boot quotes in this chapter. The fate of George of Clarence being drowned in wine is also not my idea.
What is going to happen between Tor and Terry? Will she go to the Muggle Studies class, and will anybody find out? What did Taurus want to talk to her about? Why do all these names start with ‘T’? Who is Anne the portrait, and what does she have to do with anything? Will Boot start quoting poetry in every chapter? What is Malfoy’s problem with Snape? Where is Daphne? Will Yaxley be alright? Why does Tor have so many mood swings and feelings? If you know any answers, please tell me, because I’d love to know!!! Oh, and please review <3
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