Chapter 7 : Of Order and Lies
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To Morgan’s simultaneous relief and disappointment, Theodore Nott was out of the Hospital Wing and attending classes a mere two days after what Hogwarts had taken to calling the “Troll Night”. He got away with merely a bandage over his left eyebrow.
“They say he met up with the troll in the girl’s lavatory and got infected by its spit,” Fred informed a sulking Morgan at lunch. “I’m not sure how such a pattern of events can occur - sounds rather impressive!”
“Troll spit is not to be underestimated,” George agreed while chewing on a particularly large lettuce leaf with appetite.
Morgan watched some Caesar dressing run down his chin. “They think it was the troll?”
“Oh there are other theories! Want to hear?” Fred lit up.
“No, actually, I – ”
“The population of Hogwarts is torn! If it wasn’t the troll, did poor troubled Theo scratch his own face bloody in his sleep? Or, maybe, just maybe he was attacked in the dark by a raging Gryffindor girl who-”
“Stop it!” Morgan hissed, tightening her grip on her fork and pointing it straight at Fred’s nose. “If you want to rat me out, go ahead. No one will believe you over me.”
George’s eyes widened. “Take you to The Authority? What a raging thought! Are you feeling quite alright?”
“No, we were just trying to point out,” Fred explained, leaning in closer, “That you should have come to the experts if you were planning to get back at a Slytherin.” He gestured towards himself while George nodded next to him. “We would have come up with something more grand and impressive and less, uhm, sticky.”
“Yeah, it really wasn’t the best plan…”George added thoughtfully. “Not very creative. It was lacking in - how should I put this? - Showmanship, grandeur, embarrassment for the enemy, even.” He spread his arms to illustrate the significance of his point.
“Now, now, little bro,” Fred inserted. “No need to offend the lady, stalking people in the dark and avenging oneself quietly and painlessly is a style like any other.”
“Yeah,” George scoffed, “The psychotic st-”
“I need to ask you something,” Morgan interrupted before the conversation could go any further.
Fred and George leaned in, both holding their forks absentmindedly somewhere on neck-level, midway from their plates to their mouths.
“Remember the time I told you to use paint for a… potion?” Morgan began, trying to bring up the recent events as if they were ancient, grudge-less history.
George’s face darkened, but Fred nodded. Morgan was not blind to the difference in opinion the twins experienced when it came to her. She suspected that this might have been the main reason they sought her out, again and again, only to pull her into seemingly meaningless conversations. While the twins were hardly the judgmental type, they did like to figure out how things worked, and so Morgan found herself subjected, with an increasingly frequency, to various tests of character. The results clearly came up inconclusive and so they boys persisted, dropping questions about House-allegiance at breakfast, offhandedly mentioning the Restricted Section during a quick exchange in the hallway between classes. Once, they got completely carried away and lets slip that they may- or may not, who knows? – have knowledge of secret passageways to Hogsmead.
Maybe it’s human nature, or maybe it was just Morgan’s inborn competitive spirit, but as the testing continued she found herself determined to pass with flying colors. Her growing admiration for the twin’s disregard for authority and peer-pressure - the two evils in Morgan’s life – merged with her desire to prove herself on as many levels as possible. She needed to be near-genius at magic, to be brave and relentless, highly creative and, thanks to on-setting puberty, also alluring and feminine. It may seem odd that, among all the people in Britain, the Weasley twins were the ones to push Morgan towards becoming an over-achiever. And yet, no one else could have been better equipped for the task. Fred’s blatant advances coupled with George’s sulking doubt never let Morgan catch a moment of peace and assured her that the twins' flattering attention and offer of friendship could disappear in an instant.
Going back to Hermione was not an option and facing the harsh realities of Hogwarts without back-up was a nightmarish thought. All Morgan needed to do was imagine Theodore Nott, with a faceless gang of Slytherins trailing several steps behind him, and she would fall into state of crippling distress. Sometimes, she would try to prepare arguments about why being Russian did not make her a second-class citizen. Sadly, Morgan knew all about the mechanics of power, and so, even as she smugly looked up lists of powerful spells invented by Russians or a tried to come up with the most famous Russian wizards and witches, she knew that nothing could help her. What Morgan had thought to be a reliable concrete floor of privilege turned out to be a slippery mudslide instead.
With so many new revelations coming her way every day, Morgan’s first few months at Hogwarts left her mostly confused and desperate. Luckily, the twins came along just in time to give her life meaning again. And, as Morgan disclosed her plans to invent a potion for invisibility, she finally passed their test.
“What makes you think it was the paint that did it?” George frowned. Fred’s face took on an identical form and both stared thoughtfully at either their plate or something past Morgan’s ear. Seeing the twins deep in thought was the oddest experience.
Just as Morgan opened her mouth to explain, they snapped out of it, first George, then Fred.
“Because pre-16th century paint was-“
“…can change visual parameters!”
Morgan grinned. “Exactly. It’s worth a shot…Problem is, no one knows exactly how paint was made back then, before we started using spells…”
With the general mood elated and the workings of a plan already set in motion, Morgan could easily get the information she needed and was on her way to find the painting before lunch ended.
* * *
The seventh floor of the East Bell Tower was sparkling clean and tidy, but absolutely abandoned. The halls were amply lined with representative statues and sometimes even small tables with crystal jugs of water on silver trays. The windows at the end of each short hallway accommodated comfortable armchairs, inviting you to sit down and contemplate the view of the greenhouses and, further away, the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
This was the guest floor of the castle, a sleek yet life-less place that was designed to impress but not to overwhelm. Morgan understood why the twins decided to procure their ingredients here. Considering how often Hogwarts trustingly accommodated visitors in the castle, the likelihood of being disturbed was basically zero.
Hardly any sounds carried from outside - not a single muffled cry or laugh from the castle grounds below. There was no shuffling behind the doors, no mumbling on the walls. If one listened very carefully, a sigh or two would escape the old portraits, maybe even some rustling of robes. But nothing more.
After several rounds up and down the corridors, Morgan paused and threw a disappointed glance at the statue next to her. The short knight stared ahead blankly, proudly holding his helmet in his left arm, its sharp, beak-like protrusion digging into his stone side.
Morgan recalled that she had been instructed to search for a bird-headed statue and twisted around to check if this was indeed the place. And, sure enough, behind her was the hooded skeleton, one bony finger placed on the page of a smooth, text-less book of stone. Morgan inched closer and peeked under the hood. A skeletal jaw protruded from below it, but the rest of the face was molded into a smooth mass of stone.
Morgan couldn’t help but feel disappointed by the banality of her surroundings. The entire place lacked the life and the magic that defined the rest of the castle. Here, everything remained mostly static, the stories the walls had to tell not so much forgotten as simply non-existent. Even the sculptor hadn’t bothered to wonder what the skeleton was reading. He hadn’t even gone through the effort of completing the statue’s face.
Between the two statues was a dark painting and Morgan directed her attention to it without any further ado. It appeared to be suffering from the same general disinterest as the rest of the hall. The colours had faded to such an extent, that they merged into one blackened surface. The canvass opaquely reflected the low rays of daylight, causing the cracks in the paint to be more visible than the contours it once traced.
Upon closer examination, Morgan could make out a large blotch of red, above which a much smaller oval of beige was perched.
Morgan stepped closer, allowing the bird-headed knight to block the sunlight.
With a gasp, she jumped back.
The oval blotch had blinked.
Its eyes were now open, revealing two meticulously detailed orbs, one a striking green, the other a cool, intense blue. They stared at Morgan like two clean spots on a muddy window, the only signs of life below the grimy surface.
“Hello,” Morgan whispered awkwardly.
The woman nodded, the beige of her face parting reluctantly with the blue surrounding it. For a split second, it seemed as if the paint might stick and refuse to let her go.
“Who are you?” Morgan tried again.
The woman blinked.
“Can’t you speak?” Morgan pressed. “All paintings can speak…”
The blotch began to rearrange itself. A darker shade bled into a line across its lower half. The woman was smiling.
Morgan frowned and tried to make out the rest of the painting. It was darker towards the edges, but some green was visible in the lower corners. Morgan imagined these must be plants of some sort.
While she was leaning in, a faint whisper reached Morgan’s ears.
“What?” Morgan inquired, all but pressing her ear to the canvass. “Did you say something?”
“The child of civilization is silence, my dear,” the painting whispered right into Morgan’s ear.
“Oh, you are not actually going to give me a lecture on how to be a lady!” Morgan exclaimed. She pulled away from the painting and examined it with distaste.
As if in protest, the paint began to shift violently. Transfixed, Morgan stared at the bright eyes in front of her. They began to grow; they were coming closer. The woman was leaning forward in her armchair, fighting the heavy restrains of the blue paint. The strands of curls connected to her head stretched as she pulled free, but remained fixed to the back of the armchair in obscene tiara of gooey lines.
A deep sigh slid off the canvas. It echoed loudly and appeared to vibrate in the air around Morgan. She froze and stared at the canvass helplessly as a dark spot below the eyes tore open and began to move. With some delay, it emitted a hoarse whisper. The words crackled and pulsated off the walls of the tower: “Order is erected on LIES!”
Morgan stumbled back and, during the several seconds where her eyes were off the portrait, the woman had shrunk back into her original position. Her eyes were once again shut and she looked as dusty and neglected as ever. Only a soft heaving of the red of her dress indicated that she was breathing.
“Alright then, Ms., uhm…” Morgan mumbled, trying to regain a sense of normality. She glanced to the bottom of the painting, where a name and a date were barely discernible, “Morgana Lefay?”
Carefully, while keeping a careful eye on the presumed Morgana Lefay, Morgan reached forward and scraped some flakes of paint from the left bottom corner. Then she rushed down the hallway to the stairs, the back of her neck tingling with unease.
* * *
On her way to the Common Room, Morgan had the fortune of running into the twins again. The boys had a way of keeping their eyes on their surroundings even while walking fast and engrossed in conversation. As usual, somewhere between whispering secretively and laughing that open, inviting laugh of theirs, they had spotted Morgan at the other end of the hall. Fred nudged George with an elbow and they both shuffled to a halt.
“Judging by that look of determination, you seem to have acquired the object we discussed earlier?” George called to her, crossing his arms. Several portraits stirred and Morgan imagined that a set of footsteps paused briefly somewhere around the corner behind her.
She quickened her pace.
“How odd. You know, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference! She’s been scurrying all over Hogwarts with that glum, angry look on her face. It’s almost as if she’s always up to something,” Fred mused. “Possibly, even up to no good, hm?”
“No way!” George hissed in violent protest, bowing his head and dropping the volume of his voice dramatically. “Have you completely lost it? We can’t…”
“Can you keep it down?” Morgan whispered angrily once she was close enough for them to hear.
“What, there’s no one here?” Fred pointed out, looking around at the empty hallway. Voices carried from far away and, just as the three paused to take in their surroundings, stomping feet echoed ahead.
“There is always someone here!” Morgan pressed, her recent encounter with a painting still fresh in her mind. She could hear the shuffling of robes, the occasional sighing and even muffled conversation coming from the walls on each side. It made her painfully aware that she was being watched. Somewhere in the back of her mind, a half-formed thought insisted that none other than the terrifying glob of Morgana le Fay was going to come after Morgan to retrieve what the girl had so blatantly stolen.
Then, a loud crack from above made the three conspirators jump.
Morgan threw her head up and discovered Peeves, the castle poltergeist, frozen in the air with his arms above his head, clutching a cauldron almost as big as himself. His half-transparent face was stuck in a transitional state between a wide grin and a mask of surprise.
“Peevers, you little rascal, is that for us?” George called out with an affected sigh.
The ghost hiccupped and let go of the cauldron. Morgan jumped backwards just on time to save her head from encountering thick metal weighed down by several dozen liters. She watched in numb disbelief as the container speedily followed an arrow- straight trajectory to the ground while a column of liquid trailed from its top. It bounced slightly as the delayed waves hit the floor with the undeniable woosh of gravity.
Peeves was giggling, high-pitched and mirthless. The sound became distorted at regular intervals as his translucent body wheezed through the air in perfect circles.
Morgan slowly stomped her soaked feet and stared at the puddles leaking from her shoes. Her hand had already automatically slid into her wand-pocket. But the squishy coldness around her toes and the unpleasant heaviness of her robes distracted her from wholeheartedly pursuing the intent to blow that translucent body into little crumpled bits of ectoplasmic garbage. She lowered her bag and put her wand to the more practical mission of drying herself as her distracted mind pointed out that harming a ghost was magically impossible - and a well-known fact.
Then her body stiffened as she looked down.
The envelope into which she had earlier scraped the paint had topped out of her overfilled bag and onto the floor. Panicking, she snatched it just in time before the running puddle at her feet could get to it.
Clutching the envelope like the hilt of a sword, she felt the belated anger spill into her mind. Her temples began to pound. The stink that had engulfed the entire hallway only helped fuel the murderous irritation.
The twins – whom she had completely forgotten about – were already firing spells at the ever elusive Peeves.
“Hey!” she bawled. “Hey, you sick, loser trash!”
The action stopped. In the surprised silence that followed, Morgan stomped into the mildly bubbling, expanding puddle between her and the twins and glared at the poltergeist.
“You almost got my stuff whet!” she roared, shaking the fist that was holding the envelope and pointing her wand up towards the ghost. “Do not mess with me! You hear? I will find a way to obliterate you! I will dedicate my life to breaking you into pieces and then, I promise you, I will glue you to Myrtle for eternity, so you can sit in the shit-filled gutters with her forever!”
Somewhere in the back of her mind – in that rational bit that never failed to whisper unheeded advice – Morgan knew that she was being ridiculous and that her threats could only be met with laughter. But, to her surprise, Peeves did not come up with a retort. He wasn’t making fun of her and no sharp objects were being tossed her way.
Something strange was going on. Peeves’s face had gone completely black. His thin, squinting eyes had widened and were staring at something ahead while his mouth hung half-open.
While his mind appeared to be at a stand-still, his body was convulsing and jerking back and forth. Similar to the bubbles in the puddle on the floor, parts of his body would swell and balloon - and then pop with a ripping noise.
As his form wobbled helplessly in mid-air, dark burn marks tore through the half-transparent surface of his body. The largest one appeared on his rather small yet round belly. It spread with an undeniable, merciless speed, engulfing the bulge of his belly and eating its way up his chest and towards his neck. Morgan expected the ghost to start screaming or to yell, maybe laugh - do something to show that he was still Peeves. But the ghost remained dead silent as smaller uneven holes popped up all over his body. They expanded until their outlines met, leaving nothing but a web of lines roughly tracing a three-dimensional silhouette of what could, with some imagination, still be recognized as Peeves the mischievous Hogwarts ghost.
As Morgan and the twins gaped at the spectacle, the lines became thinner until Peeves disappeared entirely. Morgan caught herself searching for him in the puddle below her feet, but the liquid reflected nothing but a normal Hogwarts ceiling and a pale, dark haired face of an eleven year old girl. Following its natural course, the water drizzled in five thin rivers along down the hallway, bending to avoid the stones in their way.
“I think you just killed Peeves,” Fred mumbled, clearly in awe.
Morgan looked up at him in surprise. “It wasn’t me.”
She let her wand-arm fall to her side and inspected the envelope she was sill clenching in the other. “I didn’t cast any spells. I didn’t do anything at all, actually…”
I know that was the longest wait ever! I wan't sure if I wanted to continue this story becaue it just had way too many subplots. I thought it would be too much work to keep track. But I just couldn't stop anyways - Morgan has become my favourite OC to write :3
What do you guys think of this chapter? Let me know! Reviews make me incredibly happy! How was the narrator this time? Fred&Goerge befriending Morgan believable or not? Too much magical weirdness for one chapter?
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