Chapter 5 : Owling
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"Absolutely certain, Professor."
Louis and I had decided that the best thing we could do was go to the Headmaster's office and explain the situation to him.
"Well," the tiny man rubbed the bridge of his nose, perplexed. "I'm not quite sure how to deal with this situation. The best thing I can do is send you back to your dormitories, and if anything similar occurs, come and report it to me. In the meantime, I'm going to contact experts in wandlore and see if they know anything about this."
As we exited the office and walked back to the Ravenclaw tower, a sudden thought struck me.
"What type of wand do you have?"
"Oak, fifteen inches, Veela hair, why?"
"It could have been because we have twin cores, but that's not the case. My wand is elm, fourteen and a half inches, dragon heartstring."
"Definitely not twin cores then. Isn't that your sister?" Louis had paused by a window and was now staring out the window at the lake, which was illuminated by the beams of light of a few wands. I looked over in the direction he was indicating, and, sure enough, Summer was outside, with a group of Hufflepuffs I vaguely recognised – swimming late at night in the Black Lake in the middle of February.
"What did I do to deserve this?" I asked, rolling my eyes. "She probably lost a dare again. Do you mind if I go find out?"
"I'll come with you."
As we stepped outside through a door I had never noticed before, the cold hit my skin fully, and I wondered even more, through two shivers, how mad Summer could possibly be.
"Here," Louis draped his jacket over my shoulders, "you need this more than I do."
"Thanks," I gladly pulled it more tightly around me. It was a little too large, but warm and comfortable, the smell of Louis' fancy French aftershave lingering on the collar.
As we got closer to the lake, Summer waved at us, before turning to her friends. "Twenty-seven minutes, I win! Galleons this way please."
I arched an eyebrow. "What was the bet on?"
"I said it'd take you less than half an hour to find me if I did something stupid."
Despite a little irritation at the fact that Summer reduced me to the controlling sister, I burst out laughing at the sight of her head bobbing out of the water, and held out a hand to help her out.
She immediately collected the Galleons she was due, and handed them to me. "My share of Mum's present, that you had to pay for me."
We'd sent the money off two weeks ago, and since the Quidditch match hadn't taken place yet, I'd had to pay entirely for Summer, who had promised to pay me back as soon as possible.
I grinned at her. "Come on, let's get you inside before you turn into an ice-cube."
It was only once we got inside that I got a proper view of her.
"Why is your hair blue?" I questioned sharply.
She turned slightly pink, clashing dreadfully with her capillary experiment. "Matthew and Henry felt like trying a spell they found in a Witch Weekly in the common room."
I shook my head, laughing to myself. "I'm not doing anything about that, just so you know."
"Fine," she huffed in mock irritation, before looking at Louis (who was a couple of feet away from us) out of the corner of her eye, grinning slyly. "What's happening between you and pretty boy?"
I laughed quietly, following her gaze. "Nothing's happening."
"So you wouldn't mind me going after him?" One look at her told me she was testing my reaction, and I decided to go against her game.
She gave me a condescending pat on the shoulder. "I know you better than you know yourself, Ton. This guy is all you've been waiting for."
"Sod off, Trelawney Junior! We're only friends."
She pulled a face that clearly said I know better, but didn't add anything and instead punched me lightly on the shoulder before running down the corridor after the Hufflepuffs that had just left. I made my way up the stairs, where Louis was waiting for me.
"Sorry to have dragged you along through this," I told him quietly, handing him back his jacket.
"It's always your sisters first, right?"
"Yes, I suppose," I said apologetically.
"Do you ever think of yourself?"
"Sometimes. I think."
He laughed. "They're very lucky to have you."
"If I agreed with that, I'd be terribly arrogant. I think I'm lucky to have them."
We walked in silence, shoulder against shoulder, until we reached the bronze doorknob that Louis rattled.
"Just when I liked the song they were playing!" it complained. "Which came first, the phoenix or the flame?"
"Neither, a circle has no beginning," Louis replied after a very brief moment of hesitation.
"You should listen less carefully to your Uncle Harry's stories," the eagle chuckled. "I'd feel younger. Now, in you go, before you get caught!"
The door swung open and we stumbled directly into a slow song. I paused, looking for a familiar face in the middle of the crowd, but to no avail.
"Can I have this dance?" Louis looked at me with amusement.
"I will murder your feet, but sure."
I put my hand on his shoulders, and he put his on my bare lower back.
"Your hands are freezing," I mumbled.
"It's either my hands on your bare back or my hands on your covered bum. Take your pick."
"I think I'll survive the cold."
"I thought so."
I couldn't help but notice how tall he was compared to me, which was definitely an achievement – my nose reached up to his shoulder, approximately. This was the first time, I realised, that we had this type of contact: most of the time, we stuck to quick hugs or shoving each other around. I knew some girls were jealous of my relationship with Louis: apparently, I was one of the few single, non-Weasley females to be allowed near him. For me, it seemed entirely natural, as we'd known each other for so long. I couldn't have counted the memories of him even if I'd wanted to, though a few stood out more than the others.
I was thirteen, it was the summer of the year of Bill and Fleur's divorce. They had sent their children to the Burrow, and Dom had asked to bring me along. Louis tossed me into the garden pond fully dressed, then proceeded to pelt me with apples. One of them fell out of his hands unnoticed, and as he moved forwards to get a better aim, his foot rolled onto the apple. He crashed head first into the swampy waters next to me.
I must have smiled at the memory, because Louis looked at me curiously. "Knut for your thoughts?"
"I was thinking about the time when you fell into the pond at your grandparents' house."
He grinned. "Wasn't that the year when you, Dom and Roxanne convinced the other girls to put makeup on all the boys during the night?"
I laughed, remembering the adults' faces when their sons had turned up in the morning, mascara, eye shadow and lipstick smeared all over their faces. "Green was a wonderful shade on you, it complimented your eyes beautifully."
He batted his eyelashes exaggeratedly. "Why, how kind of you… I looked better in yellow and black though."
A couple of months ago, to celebrate the end of our O.W.L. examinations, Roxanne, Dom, Sophie, Summer and I had managed to turn everyone's face the colours of another house over breakfast. Summer had stolen the ingredients, Sophie and I brewed the potion, and Dom and Roxanne smuggled it into the various drinks.
We'd never been discovered explicitly, but Louis had found us out – without ever spilling the beans.
"I never told you, but that was a brilliant prank."
"I have no idea what you're on about," I shrugged innocently. The song ended, and I smiled, suddenly feeling extremely awkward – I couldn't shake the thought of Summer's comments away. "Okay, well… I'll see you around, I guess."
He let go of me only once he'd kissed my cheek. "Goodnight, Autumn."
I couldn't stop smiling as I went up the stairs to my dorm, changed into my pyjamas, and slid into bed, enjoying the rare silence, free of all evening chatter. The picture of Louis' smile continued to dance against my closed eyelids.
"Good morning sunshine," Dom whispered loudly next to me.
"What time is it?" I mumbled, still half-asleep.
"Half-past ten. You never sleep this late – what did my brother do to you last night?"
My eyes sprung open as I caught my pillow and hit Dom repeatedly across the head with it. She dodged it easily, throwing herself to the floor to avoid my blows, but I rolled out of bed, squashing her with all my might.
"Nothing happened!" I whacked her again. "Nothing!"
"I get it, I get it," she shrieked defensively, wheezing both with laughter and because I was sitting on her abdomen. "Please, release me!"
Sophie came out of the bathroom just then, and sat down on Dom just as I stood up. She then proceeded to tickle her wildly, letting Dom thrash about for a minute, screaming bloody murder and spitting her hair out of her mouth.
When Dom started to go purple, Sophie decided it was time to release her, and dusted off her clothes nonchalantly.
"Come on," she chirped brightly, "get dressed, Ton, and we'll go get some breakfast; then we can do that bloody potions essay and then we've got the entire weekend to do nothing."
The best part about weekends in Hogwarts, in my opinion, is the possibility to dress however we want, and leave our uniforms behind. Of course, those are okay: girls are allowed to wear pants (big improvement compared to when my mother was at school, apparently), and we are allowed to modify our uniforms a little, the shape of sweater necklines, or the length of skirts, for instance (hooray).
Nothing's worth a pair of jeans and a hoodie though, and that's exactly what I pulled on, hastily tugging my hair into a ponytail and sliding my feet into a pair of battered All Stars.
"Finished?" Dom banged her fist on the door.
"Almost," I applied some mascara to my lashes. I erased a tiny black smudge from the corner of my eye, then soared out of the bathroom and ran after Dom and Sophie's retreating voices.
For someone who usually had breakfast between seven and eight on weekends, the noise in the Great Hall was near deafening. I piled my plate high with bacon, eggs and toast, and drowsily poked around my plate for a moment, until I realised that my fork kept hitting the china and not the food.
I blinked, regaining focus, and stuffed a first forkful of breakfast in, almost elbowing Sophie in the ribs.
A flutter of wings made me raise my head, just as Polka skidded to a halt, sending my bowl of hot chocolate flying. He held out his leg for me, on which a heavy envelope was attached.
It contained a long roll of parchment, divided into three sections of different handwritings.
Thank you so much for the present! I'm sorry not to have written earlier, you know how work goes… I hope school has been treating you well since you've come back, that you're staying out of trouble (Summer, I'm talking to you), and that teachers aren't burying you in homework.
It's my turn to have a present for you: I finally got the promotion I was hoping for, and with that, I was able to find another apartment, bigger than the one we have now, which means you'll have a room for two instead of four. Hopefully, we should move in over the Easter holidays!
Noah is pushing me off the chair now (Emily invited us all, but I'll let Newton explain why later), I'll let him add a note before he breaks my bones.
(Autumn, it's your job to make sure your sisters read this).
Hello my favourite four,
Your mother is reading over my shoulder to make sure I'm not too vulgar when writing to you, the silly cow – there was an ink blot here – see, this is her fault, she tried to steal the quill from me. Anyway. Anything happen at Hogwarts that I deserve to know about? Boys? Pranks? Dead teachers? Roger says hi, and we both hope all your houses kick Gryffindor's ass in Quidditch (go Ravenclaw in all other cases though).
We came back two weeks ago and we wanted the rest of the family to meet her before we started sending off pictures. (You know how jealous Noah gets).
This last part was scratched out and Noah's loopy handwriting was scrawled next to it: That's bullshit!
I giggled, and continued reading.
Ahem. So, tonight was Yuna's first meeting with her Mamie, her aunt and her crazy uncles. She smiles a lot, babbles away in her sleep, and has discovered a passion for painting, though she prefers the walls to paper. I've added a picture of her here. She's seen some of your four already, and can't wait to meet you all! Hopefully we can arrange something for your next Hogsmeade outing…
Newton & Emily
A tiny handprint in paint was added at the bottom, with the letters YUNA traced next to it. From the bottom of the envelope, I pulled out a snapshot of a small girl with ebony hair and wide eyes, a goofy grin on her face. I recognised Newton and Emily's living room in the background, with their ochre walls (reminder of their wedding trip in Senegal) and bright paintings. Sophie peered over my shoulder and smiled.
"My cousin," I replied, an inexplicable warmth rising in my stomach. "Newton and Emily adopted her. I need to find my sisters to give them this."
I tied the letter back to Polka's leg, interrupting him as he nibbled a piece of toast off my plate, and scratched his head.
"Bring this to Ivy, Fern or Summer, okay?"
He hooted his approval, and was off again.
"I'm bored," Roxanne stated for the umpteenth time, staring blankly out the window. Two weeks had taken place since the party, steering us well into March and its constant drizzling. We had grouped in our dorm, Charlotte and Isabel away in the library.
"So are we," Sophie lay on the floor, holding a book over her head. "Except we shut up about it."
Roxanne stuck out her tongue at her, and flopped back onto my bed with a sigh. "Can't we do something, even something stupid? Exploding Snap? Chess? Monopoly? Hide and seek?"
"I'm fine with doing nothing," Dom replied cheerfully, sprawled on top of her bed with her eyes closed. "It's the first time in ages that we don't have any homework."
Sophie's book clattered to the floor at Dom's words, the corner of it hitting her in the face. "I do, I completely forgot! I have Runes to translate for tomorrow first thing in the morning." She hastily stood up, yanked her bag off the floor, and turned to us apologetically. "I'm going to the library, see you in a bit!"
As soon as the door slammed shut behind her, Dom sat up and pulled a notebook out from underneath her pillow, before propelling herself onto my bed next to us.
"Okay. Sophie's birthday is in a week, what do we do about it? She's turning seventeen, it's a big thing."
"We need to do something we've never done before," Roxanne immediately offered. "Plus Sophie doesn't have any siblings in Hogwarts like Ton or we had for our seventeenth birthday, so we have to fill up for that."
"I think we should throw her a surprise party."
"Surprise party it is then," Dom scribbled a few words down. "Okay. What do we do?"
We sat in silence for a moment, contemplating this vast question. A small smile appeared on Roxanne's face.
"We kidnap her."
"Excuse me?" Dom sputtered.
"We slip her some sleeping solution over dinner and kidnap her during the night, carry her to the boathouse, pig out on junk food, and creep back into the castle in the dead of the night."
"That could actually be fun," I said slowly, thinking it over. "Sophie would love it."
"And I can ask dad for some of Wheezes' Diamond Drip – you know, that really bright, sparkly powder that glows in the dark? It's part of the kids' face paint set, but if we smother our faces with it we can freak Sophie out properly while we carry her down to the lake."
"You're a monster," Dom shook her head, laughing, "but it's a good idea. We are not, however, putting Sophie to sleep: if you want her to be scared, she needs to be awake during the entire trip."
"So we wake her up, dressed entirely in black and with eerie faces, petrify her and kidnap her to the boathouse?"
"That sounds about right," Roxanne beamed at me. "I'll go owl dad about getting us the things we need."
"Wait!" Dom, ever the pragmatic, shouted before her cousin's figure disappeared away. "What about presents?"
That took an even longer time to think about.
"I do have an idea, but it's not an actual, physical gift," I eventually said.
"Well, my grandma's sister has a small apartment in the French Alps, at the foot of the Mont Blanc, so maybe we could go there for a few days…" A wide, identical smile spread on Dom and Roxanne's faces. "And she's been wanting a cat for ages now, so maybe we can find a kitten in the coming week?"
"That's not a problem," Roxanne immediately said. "We can easily get into Hogsmeade, with James' help."
Dom nodded. "That much is settled then. We won't even need to owl George then, because we can get the food and face paint ourselves when we go buy the cat."
"When do we go?" Roxanne asked. "And when do we organise Sophie's kidnapping?"
"Next Saturday," I decided after a moment's thought. "It'll be easier for me to keep Sophie from asking questions about your location over the weekend."
"I have another suggestion," Roxanne added hesitantly, "but it's a bit of a nasty thing to do. We could act as if we'd forgotten it was Sophie's birthday, to make the surprise bigger."
"No," I immediately said. "That's one of the worst feelings in the world, we can't do that."
"Fine, but then she'll know we've planned something, because we traditionally wake her up with a chorus of 'happy birthday' the day of the party."
I grumbled at Dom's irrefutable logic. "Oh, alright! It'll be your fault if she's furious though."
"She won't be, trust me."
I had yet to be sure of that.
I rolled my wand across the palm of my hand carelessly, watching as it emitted blue sparks. The events of the previous weeks kept coming back to me, generally at night – more than once, I'd dreamt of simultaneous streams of water and of a silvery wolf. Nothing strange had happened since then, and I continued to produce magic normally in classes. Having only glimpsed Louis at mealtimes, I hadn't been able to talk to him about it, and though it didn't haunt my thoughts constantly (schoolwork made that impossible), it still kept coming back to nag me at times where I had nothing else to do… such as now, sitting in the Great Hall with my sisters.
"Autumn, are you listening?" Fern waved her hand in front of my eyes, automatically attracting them to her teal-painted nails.
"Yes," I snapped out of my reverie. They stared at me with questioning eyes, to which I smiled in defeat. "No. What were you saying?"
"We wanted to write back to Newton and Emily to congratulate them, are we sending off one letter per person or one for everyone?"
"As a group is better, I think, but that's not excuse for me to write the entire thing and you just add your names at the end," I warned.
Ivy had already rummaged in her bag for a quill and a piece of parchment. Once everything was ready, she paused, looking at us expectantly.
"Dear Newton, Emily and Yuna," Summer and Fern instructed at the same time, exchanging a smile.
Dear Newton, Emily and Yuna,
Congratulations! We're not quite sure what sort of sentence is expected in this type of situation, the usual 'it's a girl, hope the mum is alright' doesn't seem too adapted. So we'll just act stupider and more stereotyped than we already are, and let you know that we're really excited for you guys, and can't wait to meet our baby cousin – before Noah has a chance to corrupt her and give her a lecture on how sad it is to be a female in today's society.
Knowing the Seasons way of functioning, however, we're sure you've got a day set up during the holidays already, and that you'll probably be at King's Cross to pick us up anyway, so we won't make this any longer!
Ivy, Fern, Summer and Autumn.
The knocker's riddle is directly inspired from chapter 29 of Deathly Hallows. It's entirely JK's, and I have no claim to it.
A/N: Okay, so... Due to a wonderful review from the even more wonderful Sarah, this chapter has gone through some fairly important edits. The birthday scene will therefore be in chapter six, Hirrandipopping, with a few added moments that weren't there before! It's going to be an eventful chapter, so please stay seated and keep your seatbelts attached.
As always, thanks goes to Sarah, for her constant support -- you should be using her as an example, you know. Also, thanks to Claire for kicking me here :)
Are there any scenes you'd like to see in future chapters? Thoughts on this one? Let me know... One-liners are very much appreciated! ♥
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