“So, are you going to tell me what that was all about?”
I’m sitting across from Pyxis on his bed, carefully bandaging his right hand. None of us, it seems, are particularly adept at Healing Spells.
In the last half hour, Pyxis and I have switched positions. Now I’m the condescending big sister, and Pyxis the one who owes me an explanation.
“You’re lucky Zabini couldn’t find his wand, because he would have hexed you through the wall. Honestly, Muggle brawling. What were you thinking? Daphne's already plotting your murder, I could see it in her eyes. She's just waiting until Zabini isn't watching.”
Pyxis, who has remained resentfully silent until now, seems to give up. He strokes Guinevere the black cat slowly and she purrs happily in his lap.
“Do you have a crush on Daph or something? Because no offense, mate, but maybe wait a few years and to grow a few inches before acting on it.”
“It’s not that,” he spits at me.
“Er, you have a crush on Zabini? Then shouldn’t you have been punching Daphne?”
“Its not that either. There’s something wrong with Zabini, and once I tell you then you’ll be trying to keep them apart too.”
“Well I already know he’s an arrogant prat, but honestly so is Daph sometimes-”
“Worse than that. Tor, he’s a Narcissist.”
For a moment, I have no clue what he’s on about.
“Most Slytherins tend to be, if you really think about it.” I laugh at my own joke.
“Not narcissistic, you twat. He’s a Narcissist.”
A very confusing Defense Against the Dark Arts lecture floats into my memory.
“A distant cousin of the Veela and the Siren,” a gruff voice spat, “is the fearsome and deadly Narcissist. This is a dangerous creature because they have been inbred with wizards for generations, therefore concealing their true natures from their victims…”
The voice memory trails off because at that very moment in time, Pyxis had thrown a crumpled up note at my head.
“Five points from Slytherin, Mr. Nott,” The voice snarled, and we started as the professor was facing away from us. Of course, it was not really Mad-Eye Moody, the dangerous Auror, but Barty Crouch Jr., a heroic Death Eater impersonating him and working to bring back the Dark Lord, but none of us knew that at the time.
“Anyway, unless Nott has something he’d like to add? The Narcissist is dangerous as it dooms those who fall in love with it.”
“Like someone who choose to date Griz,” I had whispered to Amaris. “Doomed to a life of troll speak and animal torture.”
“Silence please, Ms. Greengrass. The Narcissist itself cannot prevent the death of its lover, even if it so wishes it. The timing and nature of the loved one’s demise is variable and often sudden. In modern Muggle lore, Narcissists have been referred to as ‘gold diggers’-”
“Like a Niffler?” Some daft Hufflepuff had asked. Moody/Crouch ignored him.
“Narcissists descend through the female line, but may also be the male spawn of the female. This is partly due to the fact that the mate of a male Narcissist will not live long enough to bear him a child.”
“I had a Niffler pup once. His name was Darrel,” another Hufflepuff added. Without a glance, Moody hurled a small, cruel-looking Sneakoscope in his direction. The Hufflepuff’s friend Levitated it quickly to avoid disaster.
“…furthermore, the Narcissist can be identified by its spectacular, inhuman beauty, a particular liking for blood oranges, and of course the bloody trail of seduction it leaves in its wake.”
I abandon the memory and roll my eyes at Pyxis.
“You can’t be serious. There’s no way Blaise Zabini is a Narcissist. They’re probably just a myth to warn people against teen marriage or something.”
“Don’t you remember? Moody said they’re inbred with humans. Technically, it could be anyone.”
I smirk at him. “Are you saying that Zabini is, what was it? Spectacularly, inhumanly beautiful?”
Pyxis blushes to the roots of his dark hair. “Well, er, I dunno, not that I fancy him or anything, but you have to admit he’s got… something.”
I ponder the long, proud face in my mind. Zabini’s cat-eyes, his high cheekbones, the exotic curve of his chin flash through my mind.
“Just because he’s a pretty boy doesn’t mean he’s a Narcissist. It’s essentially a myth, Pyxis! Those ones in the past were probably purposefully killing off their spouses, because they were crazy.”
Pyxis looks at me solemnly. “Zabini’s mother has had four husbands, Tor, four. And she’s quite young still. Each one of them – all four – have died under suspicious circumstances, dropping dead in their sleep, with no evidence of injury, disease, poisoning or anything.”
I shrug. “So, someone got them with the Killing Curse. Although if Daphne’s new boyfriend has an Avada Kedavra happy mother, maybe there is cause for concern.”
“It wasn’t the Killing Curse. Merlin, for someone so clever, you’re acting rather dense and close-minded.”
“For someone so clever, you’re being awfully superstitious.”
We glare at each other. If we were still children, one of us would launch our bodies at the other and we would settle it by who could get the other into the fastest headlock. But we’re too old for that.
A copy of The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 4 collides with my head.
“Ouch! What in the name of Merlin’s oversized-"
“Shut up!” The culprit, Taurus, mutters from the darkness of his bed. “Some of us actually have something real to rest up for, like, let’s say, Quidditch practice under Dictator Skin at dawn…”
“Taurus!” I say sharply. “Please, share your thoughts in this ridiculous argument. Narcissists aren’t a real thing, and Blaise Zabini certainly isn’t one, correct?”
Taurus groans and his bed creaks as he rolls over. “I don’t care,” he says, voice muffled into the pillow.
Pyxis and I mutter “prat” in unison, then remember we’re in a fight and continue to glaring at each other.
“Admit it,” I hiss at him, albeit slightly quieter. “You looooove Daphne and can’t stand to see some other guy get his hands all over her.”
“Admit it,” he replies, eyes flashing. “You don’t want to admit that someone else has the right answer for once.”
We stare at each other, stalemate.
Over the next few days, Pyxis and I refuse to speak to each other one-on-one. Instead, he maturely leaves Dangerous Beasts Who Walk Among Us bookmarked using several obituaries about the deaths of Blaise Zabini’s former step-fathers, with his obnoxious red quill circling cause unknown. Pyxis also appears to have ripped out a page from a book in the Restricted Section, relating the nastier aspects of the Narcissist including what I believe is a euphemism for its snogging techniques, and leaves it on my desk in Transfiguration. He even Levitates his own precious copy of Nature’s Nobility: A Wizarding Genealogy propped open to Zabini’s maternal family tree so that it gracefully falls into my lap when studying in the Common Room.
However, the final straw is when a picture of Zabini eating a blood orange appears in my steak and vegetable pie. I make sure Pyxis is watching as I steadily and deliberately tear the picture into little pieces as Zabini’s little face looks angrily up at me-until I rip him down his nose.
“I think your friend Pyxis might be going over the deep end,” Terry Boot assures me as we sit outside the Owlery watching the sun set that evening. “The idea of the Narcissist is completely illogical. We never learned anything about them in my Defence classes.”
“Yeah, and Barty Crouch was mental, anyway,” I add, glad that my father and his friends aren’t here to listen.
“Exactly, he had us practice the Unforgivable Curses in my year,” Boot shudders. “Besides, after you told me about all this I went to the library and did some research. Seems to me like Narcissists were only invented to give spouse-killers an excuse. You know, that they couldn’t help it, it wasn’t their fault, blah blah.”
I nod approvingly and sidle closer to him. From here, we can see the roof tops of Hogsmeade, and the bend in the path where I saw the Gryffindor Chaser be possessed by the opal necklace. Boot mistakes my shudder for a shiver as he pulls me closer, and I snuggle into his jumper.
Having a secret relationship isn’t as hard as it sounds. My friends seem reassured when I tell them I’m off to revise for chunks of hours long into the night. Hogwarts has plenty of places to meet, to exchange silly notes for the other to read in class, to share a quick kiss before supper. Its peaceful, being with Boot away from the prying, gossiping eyes of Hogwarts, and the judgemental stares of the other Slytherins.
Boot still doesn’t know that my father is a Death Eater, but he’s plenty curious about being raised as a Muggle-hating pureblood. Only with him do those words seem less meaningful, blurred into the insignificance of simply being. Sometimes with him I forget who I’m supposed to be.
Lying awake at night and listening to the peaceful breathing of my fellow pureblood dorm mates, I chastise myself over and over again, asking what the hell I’m playing at, thinking of the consequences of being caught. Although my missing father is foremost in my mind, Boot’s face takes a secondary role, sweeping in and out of my musings and dreams both as lover and as destroyer. What danger am I putting myself in? What would they do to Boot?
Mrs. Astoria Boot, AGY+THB, Tor and Terry.
These daydreams line my notebooks but I quickly vanish them whenever a fellow Slytherin appears.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” I mutter to Terry as I drop my books on the floor of the secret room and curl into his lap. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I give him a little kiss on the cheek, inhaling the sweet smell of his skin and hair.
“Are you smelling me again?” He laughs, tickling me a little. I squirm and protest until he kisses me instead. “Weirdo.”
“You don’t even smell that nice,” I say with faked resignation, and squeal in a most unladylike way as he tickles me again. “How was brewing the Dragon Pox potion?”
“It was… spotty,” he sighs. “Potter got top marks, of course. The Slytherins tried to jinx my cauldron from behind but Padma was facing him and was able to warn me.” He looks a little angry suddenly. “Can’t you have, I don’t know, a word with your friends or something?”
“They’re not my friends,” I say a little stiffly. “Well, Theo is, but he probably wasn’t the one jinxing you, he doesn’t like picking fights. Malfoy hates me, at any rate, and if I spoke up for you he’d probably just double his efforts. Zabini is just moody, not one for drawing attention to himself. You should be safe from Zabini unless you fall in love with him, or so Pyxis would have us believe. ’”
The corner of Boot’s mouth twitches.
“Can’t say I particularly fancy him, but...”
I sigh. “Look, I’m sorry that my House Mates are idiots and that you had the bad luck to be born in the same year as charmers like my sister and Malfoy.”
“I know,” he says, “and its not your fault. Don’t worry, I don’t need my girl to protect me.” He looks unsettled, and I know we’re both thinking about the Unspeakable Future: the fact that we come from different worlds that are supposed to loath each other.
“Can you imagine what would have happened if wizards and Muggles never separated?” Terry asks, twirling a piece of my hair around and around in his fingers. “If they found a way to live in peace, and there was no secrecy or Mudbloods or prejudice. If each wizard was simply a wizard and each Muggle a friend.”
“And joy and roses and Crup puppies,” I remark skeptically. “That will never happen. You must have paid attention in History of Magic at least once: Muggles hate wizards. They’ve been trying to burn them, to weed us out, to fear magic since the dawn of humanity. Besides, they far outnumber us, like hoards of rats…”
I shudder, but I feel Terry tensing next to me. He sighs.
“Yes, Muggles have done horrible things to wizards, but wizards are equally awful to Muggles. I mean, don’t your lot go out Muggle-baiting, pranking and harming Muggles just for the fun of it, just because their memories will be wiped out and their consciousnesses won’t remember a thing? What fun. It’s power tripping. Just because we have magic, we feel entitled to abuse it.” I find myself reaching up to him, as if I can sweep away the bitterness like the venom from a sting. Boot isn’t wrong. But neither am I.
“What do you have against Muggles, anyway?” He asks. “Have you ever even met a Muggle?”
“Er, well I know Muggleborns,” I say.
“Obviously. I mean, have you ever interacted with, tried to form a friendship with a real Muggle, one who doesn’t understand about magic.”
I wrack my brain, but come up short. The clerk at the shop down the road when we were short on eggs once? A train conductor at King’s Cross? Sensing weakness, Boot barrels on.
“What do you even know about Muggles, other than the fact that they’re not magical? How can you instantly have a gut hatred for a whole race of billions of people whom you know nothing, absolutely nothing about? There are horrible Muggles, and good-natured Muggles, and Muggles who are neither here nor there. There’s no angels or demons, only people.”
It's all I can do to shrug helplessly. I don’t have the answers to Boot’s questions, and I’m not the mouthpiece for those people he should be asking, the ones who actually make these decisions.
“You know what I thing, Tor?” He says forcefully. “I think people like You-Know-Who just need to create an enemy to bring themselves more power. In order to mobilize his followers, You-Know-Who and Salazar Slytherin and all those other pureblood fanatics over history picked a target at random and formed an identity based around hating those ‘others’. It gave them a common cause for followers to rally around. It disgusts me,” he says in a low voice. “It makes me sick.”
After his outburst, Terry storms out of the secret room, leaving me bewildered and head swimming with questions that I don’t want to consider. Its exhausting, this relationship, being opened to new opinions. Things were so much simpler before.
Eventually, with nothing better to do and unable to concentrate on studying, I gather my things and begin to walk aimlessly about the castle. Naturally, as always happens at the lowest of moments, I run smack into Ginny Weasley immerging from behind a tapestry.
“Er, hello, Lady Slytherin,” she says politely, but not without a friendly twinkle in her eye. Smoothing her hands over her skirt, she links her arm in mine. I look down at it dully, then decide to let my inhibitions go. Ginny Weasley does as Ginny Weasley pleases and besides, it’s a Sunday morning, there’s no way anybody else is even awake, much less wandering the fifth floor.
“How are you?” I ask.
“Oh, I’m quite well, was just with Dean” – she motions to the corridor we’ve just vacated – “but I really need a little break. Honestly, all the boy wants to do is snog, and of course we can’t snog in his dormitory, so have to get a little more creative.”
“Why can’t you snog in his dormitory?”
“Well, because my, er, brother sleeps there too of course, I wouldn’t want to scar poor Ron for life.”
“Ah. I walked in on my sister snogging Blaise Zabini the other day. It was quite disturbing.”
Ginny shudders. “He’s creepy. He’s in the Slug Club too, and spends most of the meetings staring people over appraisingly.”
“Sounds like Zabini.”
“Yeah, Sluggy mentioned you at his last little dinner party, in fact. Said he’s invited you, was a great fan of your father, but you never showed up. Too busy with a certain illicit Ravenclaw, are we?” She grinned evilly as I felt the embarrassing tell-tale blush spread across my face.
“Listen, I hope you’re keeping that a secret,” I say through my teeth, releasing her grip on me to corner her against the wall. “Its really important that you do, Weasley. I hate that you know my business but you must not tell a soul.”
She rolls her eyes and shoves me away from her. “Relax, Greengrass, I don’t care about your petty little gossip. I have enough problems going on in my own life, believe it or not.”
“We’re not friends,” I add, just to be clear.
“Why would I want to be friends with a brainwashed little bigot like you?” Ginny spits back at me, then whirls around and scampers off. Clearly, people don’t like me very much today.
A/N: Greetings from Italy!!! A bit of a filler chapter, but there you have it! Please review, I’d like to know what you think of Daphne and Zabini together, as well as Pyxis’ hair-brained theory :P
And just so you know, the first chapter of my short story collection, "Resistance," functions as a sort of preview of the future of GfS, so... you should check that out. ;) Ciao!!