Amazing chapter image by Lake @ TDA!
"What do you want for your birthday?" Terry asks from his position on the floor of the secret room, sitting cross-legged and peering at his Polyjuice potion. The first batch turned out a little thin, so he's on his second attempt. I plunk my books down and open my notebook, beginning to make a list of all the schoolwork I have to hand in before the afore-mentioned event.
Since my father left after our dinner with Daph, my days have been filled with revision, planning, and Terry Boot. Now, I spread my Ancient Runes and Charms notes around me on the floor of the secret room where we always meet, groaning a little.
I've never been a huge fan of my birthday. Unlike people like Pyxis and Amaris, who organize huge parties in their own honor and parade around all day with an enchanted birthday hat obnoxiously decorated with sprinkles and candles and shouting out "BIRTHDAY GIRL/BOY COMING THROUGH!!!" I prefer something a little more low-key. It helps that my birthday is on Halloween and at therefore everyone is too excited -and often intoxicated, in the case of Theo and his friends - to make much of a fuss.
"Get me something useful," I inform Terry. "My mother likes to say, ‘if you can't eat it don't buy it.’ So, I don’t necessarily want food, but something that won’t just gather dust in my room, you know?"
He grins. "I have an idea already." He scribbles something down in his notebook, turning away from my prying eyes. "Now don't you have a crystal ball to be charming?"
Grumbling, I pull out said crystal ball and point my wand at it, muttering complicated incantations under my breath. Nothing happens, and I'm skeptical that I'm even saying them right. The exercise is to charm the crystal ball into showing a miniature landscape inside, and whoever is the most creative wins twenty house points. My idea is to enchant a miniature Black Lake inside the globe, complete with more people, tiny exotic fish and the giant squid, but it’s proving harder than I thought. Curse you and your creativity, Flitwick!
"When's your birthday, anyway?" I ask Terry after several minutes, giving up on the assignment for now with a frustrating clunk.
"It's a secret."
"Er, who keeps their birthday a secret?"
"I do, now. I'm far too open with you: you know way too much about me. Aren't boys supposed to be hard to get and dark and mysterious to keep girls interested?" He winks at me.
"I suppose a bit of secrecy never hurt anyone," I laugh. "I'll figure it out someday, though. You can't keep silent forever!"
"You'll Slytherin it out of me," he agrees amiably. "Now more importantly, what Halloween costume are you wearing, and how are we going to hang out on the date?"
Amaris, Taurus and I are going as the Weird Sisters, which mostly involves huge hairy wild wigs, tatty clothing and fake tattoos of dragons, and a lot of facial makeup. I've chosen Orsino, the drummist, the actual gender of which has long been contested. I have a running bet about Orsino with Pyxis and Phin: Pyxis thinks the musician is a guy, Phin, a girl and I argue that we will never find out and that it doesn't matter, because Orsino’s awesomeness forgoes gender conformity. I have ten Galleons riding on this. Terry agrees that my theory is his favorite.
"What did you decide on?" I ask him after this long-winded explanation. Being, well, Muggleborn, Terry has a lot less experience with Weird Sister lore. I absently tear a piece of my last discarded draft of my Potions essay, crumple up a ball of parchment and throw it at him experimentally.
"Can I help you?" He laughs, rescuing the parchment from a boiling demise by Polyjuice potion. He throws it back at my head.
"Ouch! Didn't your mom teach you violence is never the answer?" I laugh, tossing it back at him fiercely. Terry makes me feel like a little kid sometimes, but in a way that makes me want to snog him against a wall. Whoops.
"Sorry," he says, not sounding very sorry, and begins hitting the ball of parchment against the ceiling and catching it repeatedly. "A few of us are dressing up as famous historic wizards: I scored Merlin, Anthony's going as Gilbert the Gallant, Padma as Florence Nightingale, Richard as Hecate, that should be interesting! Oh, and Leanne is being Rowena Ravenclaw." He adds this last a little too casually.
"Oh, cool," I say with equal feigned nonchalance. "That should be fun. Leanne, she's the tall, dark haired pretty one, right?"
"I guess so," Terry says a bit nervously, although it could be my imagination.
"I'm sure she'll make a wonderful Ravenclaw. Hey, didn't you guys used to date or something?"
Okay, not the smoothest.
"Uh, I guess you could say that, but we're just friends now." He says. "I mean, it wasn't working out and we were both getting bored of each other. I'd already broken it off before I even met you." He smiles brightly at me, and I return it, telling the angry writhing snake of jealously inside my chest to calm itself.
I shrug at him, a little helplessly. Hey, everyone has a past, and his relationship with Leanne certainly isn't the biggest barrier to our relationship.
"Come here," he coaxes, patting his lap, and obediently I scoot off my perch and settle into his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck and tucking my head under his chin.
"You're warm," I inform him, voice muffled by his jumper, and as he laughs I feel his chest rise and fall, his heartbeat against my cheek. Suddenly, I feel very alive.
"Why do we like each other so much?" He asks me, kissing the top of my head and lingering. "Do you think it's the whole forbidden relationship thing? You know, you always want what you can't have and the lion and the lamb and all that cliché jazz?"
"If I wanted forbidden, I'd be crushing on Harry Potter," I inform him solemnly and he chuckles. "Tor, do you think we'll ever be able to be out in the open? To, you know, do this in public?"
I straighten and look into his pretty blue eyes, so honest and clear. We've been together less than three months, but already I can't imagine not having this safe refuge, this brilliant mind challenging mine, the warm, caring person that is Terry Boot.
"No," I say frankly, "no, we will never be able to do this in public. Together, we are doomed." And I believe it, but nothing could force me to tear myself away in this moment. I lift my lips up to his and brush them against him lightly. He inhales softly and reaches for me, hand gently holding my hair back off my face.
"I wouldn't want to do this in public anyway," I breathe as he groans a little laugh and pulls me closer, hands planted around my waist, bodies pressed together, kissing me warmly. I let myself dissolve into the wonder of it, into the mindless, bodiless feeling of being with him.
Then two things happen at once , both which change the mood very quickly.
First, as Terry pulls me down on the floor on top of him, kissing fiercely, my foot lashes out and knocks the cauldron of Polyjuice Potion, sending a searing, burning pain across my ankle.
As I'm about to cry out in pain, Terry clamps his hand over my mouth suddenly, pulling me back away from the cauldron and the spilled potion creeping across the stone floor. Because there are voices outside in the corridor.
"Now, I'm sure I wrote down all his passwords-" there is a sound of shuffling. "-somewhere in my pocket, surely. Oi, Boot, are you in there? I need to, er, borrow your little abode for an hour, or maybe longer-"
From outside the false wall, a girl giggles breathlessly. Terry looks at me, terrified.
"It's Mike," he whispers frantically, uttering a series of unpleasant Muggle swear words. "Oh, Tor, he does have the password, I gave it to him-"
He doesn't need to tell me the danger of bring found alone together. I know it already.
"Shh," I tell him, thinking quickly. Grabbing my wand, I Summon a flask from my bag, dumping the moth wings I'd be storing in there for potions. Moving quickly I scoop up some of Terry's Polyjuice Potion that hasn't been spilled on the floor. I seize his hair and yank out a few strands, adding them to the potion.
"Ahah! Serpentine!" Micheal Corner shouts from the corridor.
"Give me one minute!" I shout in my best imitation of a boy’s voice. Albeit, it is pretty terrible. I swallow the potion like taking a shot of firewhiskey, only this time I tell myself my survival depends on it.
"Give me your robes!" I hiss at Terry, and wrap them around myself my tell-tale girl clothes as my body changes, growing a couple inches, and I feel my shoulders broaden. My hair shoots back into my scalp. As Micheal Corner bursts into the room, hand clasped with a pretty blond girl, two Terry Boots look at him, one stunned, one about to puke all over the floor.
"Oh my god," Corner breathes, "you finally did it. Good job my man, but, er, which one are you?" Terry doesn't react so I step forward, plastering what I hope is a believable grin of triumph on my face.
"Wish old Sluggy could see my great potion erring work! I'd love to see the jealous look on Malfoy's face next class... Hahahaha..." I trail off weakly as Corner, his girl and the real Terry give me an odd look.
"Blimey, Boot, I'm impressed you found a willing guinea pig," Corner comments, circling round the real Terry and inspecting him critically. "Anthony, is that you?"
With an encouraging nod from me, the real Terry nods awkwardly. I swallow back my bile as the foul potion flares hotly against the back of my throat.
"Well, er, now that we know I'm brilliant, we should get back to the common room and let that potion wear off, eh, Anthony?" I say jovially, grabbing my book bag and heaping my crystal ball and books inside. "See you later, Mike, er, and you!" The girl smiles, puzzled, and gives me a little awkward half-wave. I grab Terry by the collar and practically drag him out into the corridor and down the hallway.
I hear the girl's voice behind me: "Has Terry always had such feminine taste in book bags?"
Groaning, I run down the thankfully deserted hallway and throw myself into the closest girls’ toilet. Running to a stall, I proceed to puke my guts out, drowning out Terry's cries asking if I'm alright.
Finally, the Polyjuice potion seems to have evicted itself from my system. I flush the toilet and stare at my reflection in the clean water rushing in, not quite feeling up to standing.
"That was some nasty potion you brewed, Boot-AAAGHHH!!!!"
A face is peering up at me from the toilet bowl, a pearly white face painted with a nasty suspicious look and mean little eyes. As I back away, the face drags itself out of the toilet and examines me, floating in the air.
"Who are you, to disturb my toilet," the ghost snarls in a sing-songy, girly voice, sticking her head close to mine. I back away, out of the stall and back to where Terry is uneasily standing by the sink.
"Go away, Myrtle," I snap, although I really wish I'd picked an occupied bathroom now. Really, I should know better.
"Polyjuice potion, is it?" She sighs, sniffing at the air. "Always Polyjuice Potion, isn't it?"
"Really, that potion wasn't ready to be consumed, Tor," Terry says to me reproachfully.
"What was I supposed to do?" I growl at him. "You certainly weren't being very helpful- I had to distract them somehow!"
"Yes, it was a brilliant cover-up," he concedes. "But still, drinking a potion at that stage will most likely have bad consequences, such as rashes and perhaps spontaneous bouts of transfiguration over the next few days-"
Myrtle is staring at Terry, enthralled.
"Boy in the girls bathroom," she mutters to herself, "been so long since he's been here... Such a clever, handsome boy, too. Myrtle hasn't had a visitor in ages..."She swoops closer and I instinctively stand in between her and Terry. She reaches through me to grab at a piece of his hair.
"Honestly, Myrtle!" I snap, "Stop being so pathetic and desperate. Please, just go back to your u-bend and contemplate your lack of success in throwing yourself at every boy who walks by your toilet. Bugger off and find some self-respect!"
Myrtle gives a dramatic cry and, in a great arc of spraying toilet water, plunges back into her toilet. She surfaces to give me one last reproachful look then vanishes with the sound of bubbling.
"She'll probably flood the whole floor now," I sigh to Terry, and bend down to rinse out my mouth in the sink. When I straighten, he wraps his arms around me.
"I’m sorry. That was brilliant, you know," he tells me, wiping a little rogue regurgitated potion out of my hair with the professional hands of a Potioneer. "Honestly, I was completely frozen. I didn't know what to do..."
"Thanks for your appreciation," I say ruefully. "Just make sure to Confund Anthony or something if Michael mentions the incident."
"You think of everything," Terry says admiringly. "Though I must say, seeing the girl I'm with turn into me was a bit unnerving. Was it strange that I was still attracted to you? I just may have become a Narcissist, and not the Zabini kind."
"Merlin help us all. And I'm sorry about spilling your potion," I add.
He shrugs. "It's alright, I actually have another batch nearly ready. That was more of a test." He looks thoughtful, and I can practically see the wheels turning in his head.
"I should probably get back to my dorm and clean up, and you should get out of the girls lavatory," I tell him, gently pushing him away as he bends down to kiss me. "Hey, Polyjuice breath."
Instead, he wraps his arms around me and pulls me tight against his chest, I feel his heartbeat against his thin ribs, the muscles and bones and blood that keep him alive. What a perfect thing, that Terry Boot is alive.
"Please stay out of trouble on the way home, okay?" I murmur up to him.
He laughs. "Got it, Feisty. I'll meet you tomorrow, same place, after your Defense class, yeah?"
"Yeah," I echo, smiling at him as he sticks his head into the hallway, sees that the coast is clear, and scampers away in the direction of the Ravenclaw common room.
Feeling overwhelmed with relief and suppressed fear of what would have happened had we been caught, I head off towards my own common room. Another day, another danger. While Terry’s best friend Michael finding out about us probably isn’t the worst intrusion imaginable, I’m relieved to think that we are safe for one more night, at least.
Halfway through the dungeon corridor, I stop cold. Because the parchment that Terry was tossing about in the secret room, the parchment with my name and half a potion essay drafted on it, is still lying on the floor of the secret room that Corner is now occupying.
"Infantile," I say to the stone wall that guards the Slytherin common room, gritting my teeth. All I want to do is brush my teeth, change my clothes and curl up with The Horse and His Boy, but the bloody wall won't let me through.
"Infantile! Merlin, I was here this morning and the password worked. Why would it have suddenly changed?" Frustrated, I give the wall a good kick. It emits something like a stony groan and shoots a brick straight at me, which I narrowly avoid.
"Oi! What is up with Hogwarts hating me today!" I give the wall another glare, but decide for the diplomacy of my upcoming three and a half years of being a Slytherin that I'd better make peace.
"Look, I'm sure it's difficult being a guardian of the common room. I'm sorry, okay? You must have it tough with all these Slytherin brats... Merlin knows I can't stand them half the time..."
I sink to the floor and wrap my arms around my knees, hoping that the wall has forgiven me and won't be shooting any more bricks my way. "As walls in the dungeon go, you're really quite a lovely one..."
I trail off in my ode to the wall when Draco Malfoy rounds the corner. Immediately I notice that he doesn't look so great: large dark circles mar his white face, making him look older than his sixteen years. Hs normally perfectly coiffed hair is messy, as if he'd been running his dirty hands through his blond head over and over again. Malfoy gives me a cool look then turns to the wall, clearly choosing to ignore my presence and assert his obvious superiority.
"Infantile." I smile to myself at his enraged expression and the wall's stony impassiveness. "Infantile! Argh!" He beats his fist against the wall angrily. "Open up, you dirty, inconvenient, stubborn piece of inadequate stonework-"
Wounded for the second time in five minutes, the wall shoots another brick out at Malfoy. It lands with a decisive clunk right beside me.
"Oi, do you mind, Malfoy? Some of us have cuticles to inspect." I’m too tired to bother participating in the passive-aggressive Slytherin games of word-play, and opt for obvious sarcasm instead.
"When did the password change?" He snarls.
"Would I be sitting out here if I knew? Besides, I thought you were supposed to be the prefect."
"Did you ever stop to consider, Yaxley, that I may have more important things on my mind than prefect duties?" Malfoy inquires. Giving up for the time being, he sits down: not exactly beside me, but kind of with me. Oh, lovely.
“What kind of duties?” I ask hesitantly. Malfoy just looks irritated.
“Like I could trust you,” he comments. “You’re just a child.”
I stew a little at this, and am about to spit out that not only am I dating a boy his own age, but also have mastered magic that he hasn’t (not to mention the Imperius Curse!), when I remember that both pieces of information could put me at significant scrutiny and risk.
“I’m only two years younger than you,” I reply a little weakly.
Malfoy shrugs. “I was a stupid child at fourteen. If I’d known then all of the things I know now, instead of wasting my time with Quidditch and the fools at this school, then I’d be much greater than I am now.”
I command myself not to goad him.
“Clearly your powers as a match-maker could use some work, since Goyle’s been pestering me for weeks now and I will never, ever, go out with him.”
“What if he was the last man on earth?” Malfoy comments, flicking a speck of dust from his robes.
“I’d plant lettuce in my brain and let ravenous Flobberworms race up my nostrils, rather than go out with Goyle.”
Malfoy’s mouth twitches in a half-smile, and he lets out an almost-chuckle. It sounds rusty, as if those particular vocal cords haven’t been operated in months. He starts to say something, but is interrupted by Pansy Parkinson flouncing around the corner.
“Drakey!” She shrieks, storming up to her boyfriend. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” Malfoy stands up and brushes the seat of his trousers off hastily as Pansy flings herself into his arms. He pats her on the back a little awkwardly, face pinched.
“I checked in the library, in Snape’s office, in the Owlery, and I was just at the Room of Re-”
“I left there about twenty minutes ago,” Malfoy cuts in hastily. “The bloody password changed so I’ve been stuck waiting here with Yax- uh, Greengrass.” He jerks his thumb in my direction without looking at me.
“Pity,” Pansy breathes. Her obsession with Malfoy has gotten much creepier since the last time I’ve been blessed with observing their interactions. Perhaps it’s the whole I’m dating a Death Eater thing that gets the pheromones racing. “The new password is Robert Frost.”
The wall opens up obligingly, revealing the common room behind it.
“Good fences make good neighbours,” I say to the wall, recognizing the name from one of the books of poetry I borrowed from Terry. It must be Dumbledore or the other teachers who make the passwords: I can't imagine the Slytherin prefects using a Muggle poet's name as the password. “Cleverly done, wall, clever indeed.” Parkinson and Malfoy look at me as if I’m mad. After a night like this, perhaps I am.
The prank on Griz Goyle, which has taken a fair bit of cooperation and a great deal of manipulating, is Pyxis and Phin's brainchild. It begins the night after the Michael Corner incident.
Amaris makes short work of the mirrors in our dormitory, tucking her wand into her pocket with satisfaction.
I rub the back of my head without really realizing it: though the bruise has faded beneath my hair and it no longer aches, the memory of the Bludger hitting me still makes me cringe. Griz needs to get what’s coming to her.
"I'll fetch Pyxis," I tell Amaris, and scurry down the steps to the common room, where my best friend is waiting with a cheeky grin on his face.
"Do you have the equipment?" I ask, peering at the mysterious little basket tucked under his arm.
"All set and ready to go, captain," he salutes me. Since my father's visit, our silly fight about Blaise Zabini being a Narcissist has been put to the side. I still think he's crazy, and he still thinks I'm stubborn, but there are common enemies and more exciting things to worry about at the moment, such as scaring the pants off Griz.
Pyxis makes a spinning movement with his hand and obediently I turn around and catch him as he hops up onto my back. It’s the only foolproof way we've figured out to allow the smooth carpeted stairs to the girls' dorms to let boys up: if a boy actually sets foot on the stairs, they turn into a fearsome slide depositing the offending male onto their arse on the common room floor. This seems a bit unfair, considering that I use the boys' dorm as my own, and even keep some spare quills, a set of clean robes and a toothbrush there, not to mention my cat, but Hogwarts is a little old-fashioned.
"You...lay off... too much… cake..." I am panting by the time we reach the landing that opens onto my dorm. Pyxis is scrawny, and his bones hollow like a bird’s, but I'm clearly out of shape as even climbing the stairs without a burden often puts me out of breath. I let go of his legs and let him slide off.
"Thanks for the ride, babes," he grins.
"No. How many times do I have to tell you, no girl wants you to call her 'babes,' its very awkward-"
He ignores me, as he so often does.
Amaris looks up from the last mirror she's working on: the tiny compact that Griz keeps beside her bed.
"Hey Pyx. Is Taurus stationed on the alert?"
An integral part of the plan is that Griz doesn't come storming in during the middle of our preparations. Taurus has been sent to distract her if she comes into the common room by any means possible, although he says he draws the line at anything involving physical contact. But I'm sure that Griz, who may or may not be still dating the rather brutish Vincent Crabbe, will be thrilled to get attention from the tall, handsome Quidditch playing specimen of charm that is Taurus. What girl wouldn't, really?
"Taurus even did his hair for the occasion," Pyxis informs Amaris. "He takes his role as a distraction very seriously, does our Taurus. I told him he should be an actor in his future life."
"He'd make the perfect Thiero," I speculate. "There's an amateur wizarding theatre company in Godric's Hollow that puts on Wicked every year, perhaps we should sign him up? It was always my dream as a child to paint myself green and play Elphaba."
a popular wizarding performance, has according to Terry been adapted by Muggle actors, although I bet those Muggles can't truly make someone fly.
Amaris snaps her fingers rather rudely at us. "Hello, while you two are busy slobbering over Taurus, we have a prank to be preparing, remember?"
Pyxis snaps into action. "Right, now, which outfit is she likely to put on tomorrow? Oh and do you mind if I smoke in here?"
Armed with a case of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, his wand, and what looks suspiciously like a sewing kit, Pyxis springs to work on a pair of Griz’s robes. His fragrant Muggle drug is Levitated in the air beside him, and he takes frequent inhales as he works. In the meantime, I take out my list.
"Okay, so we've done the mirrors and the clothes, the spellbooks and the notepads, and everything monogrammed. Phin is taking care of the class role call: how, I don't even want to know. We have already removed one desk, and the first years, the third years and the secret weapon are all rehearsed. I took the hair from her hairbrush." I check each thing off as I read. "Is there anything we haven't thought of?"
"Keeping her away from McGonagall," Pyxis points out, speaking carefully around the sewing needle he's holding onto in his teeth. The Muggle drug nudges his lips jealously. "McGonagall will smell a rat in a second."
"If we can keep the prank going just until noon, I'll consider it a great success," Amaris says decidedly.
I look at my two best friends, so intent and serious on their work, and feel a rush of emotion.
"Thank you guys," I tell them, "for doing this for me. For, er, avenging my skull and the potential Quidditch team position. Thank you, for risking detention-"
"Yeah, yeah, we get it, no need to get emotional," Amaris says mildly, but she grins at me with excitement. “And, we’re not only risking detention, we’re essentially assuring a one-way ticket to detention.”
"Love you, Ames."
"Love you more."
"As for me," Pyxis adds, "I should be thanking you for giving us an excuse to execute this incredible prank. Ladies-" he pauses for dramatic effect, inhaling then exhaling deeply, his thin, boyish stomach expanding with the effort. "If we pull this off, we'll be legends."
The prank is of such magnitude that even Demetria Avery, who tends to do her best to sabotage any plans concocted by Amaris and I, is eager to take part. It's a plan to hurt even the strongest of heart, a scheme born from the darkest of mind games. It's a prank inspired by what people like us fear the most.
The next morning, when Griz Goyle wakes up, the dormitory appears completely empty. Wondering dully if she's accidentally slept in, Griz drags herself out of bed and towards the bathroom, picking up the pair of robes she's laid out for herself to get changed in the bathroom, as she does every morning.
As she heads towards the small toilet, Amaris, one of her irritating year mates, opens the door and edges out, shower steam following in her wake. She does not look at Griz, does not even glance up to acknowledge her presence. She is completely indifferent, but this isn't necessarily out of character, as the fourth year Slytherin girls have never been particularly chummy.
Griz grins as she pulls on her robes, remembering Astoria’s rage when she was cut from the Quidditch trials. That was a very well aimed Bludger, she congratulates herself, remembering, flexing her strong, new Beater muscles in the bathroom mirror.
But something is wrong: there is no mirror. Well, there's a mirror, but it's not reflecting Griz's reflection. She stares, puzzled, then taps at it, frustrated. No change. Strange.
Griz is the kind of person who thrives from the weakness of others. She takes her lead from the more powerful, so that she may cling onto the coat tails of greatness.
Her toothbrush seems to have disappeared as well, so in a fit of annoyance she seizes Astoria's and lobs a generous amount of mermaid-mint toothpaste onto it. Hygiene has never been Griz's main concern, but she does love the taste of fresh toothpaste.
When she's finished with Astoria's toothbrush, she sticks it back in its place. Sharing germs may not bother Griz, but it's a small revenge on Astoria for, well, something. Being a stuck up prat.
Grinning toothily to herself, Griz steps out into the common room. Something seems a bit off, but she pays it no mind as she scrambles around for her wand. It was here somewhere, perhaps just under her bed...
But Griz realizes the strange thing. Her bed, and all her possessions, have disappeared. She looks around anxiously: is this some sort of joke? But no, Amaris has vanished and the other girls are nowhere to be seen. Bloody witches, they think they're so clever...
Griz cracks her knuckles menacingly, fantasizing wrathfully about what she will do to them for this most annoying prank of stealing all her things. Such pettiness.
In the common room, Griz spots a group of first years sitting alone, supposedly revising for something. They giggle amongst themselves, stupid little children. Griz sets her shoulders and smirks to herself.
"This couch is reserved for older students," she growls menacingly at the first years. But, to her great annoyance, not a one looks up from their chatter, instead bending down a little more excitedly over their schoolbooks. Griz feels a great anger emanating from the back of her throat.
"I said, MOVE, small fry!" she cries throatily, but once again not one firstie bats an eyelash in her direction. Frustrated, she waves her broad palm in front of a small blond boy's face.
"I'm going to make you wish you'd-"
Someone more perceptive might have noticed that the small boy's face paled a shade, and the whole plan could have gone to rubbish if it weren't for the sweeping entry of Professor Snape, seeking out Vincent Crabbe who had skived off his second Defense Against the Arts remedial lesson in a row. Snape swoops like a great bat, ignoring the first years-and Griz- in his rampage to the boys' dormitories, and Griz, deciding to let it lie for now, realizes with a slight feeling of confusion and panic that she's already missed the first few minutes of History of Magic. If anyone comes in late and Binns happens to notice, he starts asking them questions on the spot.
Sweating a little beneath her unnaturally heavy robes, Griz thunders out of the common room, thoughts of the insolent first years forgotten. She doesn't turn around as she leaps through the wall guarding the common room, and so doesn't notice the first years grinning largely and triumphantly, Galleons clinking together in their pockets.
She reaches History of Magic, panting a little, teeth grinding together. Calming herself down, she slides open the door and sidles in, hoping that Binns is facing the blackboard because she has no idea what era they're studying at the moment and has no desire to be questioned.
Binns, at the blackboard droning about troll rights during the Restoration of the Monarchy (many suspected that Oliver Cromwell himself has been part-troll due to his leniency in their state benefits), does not even look around as the door closes decidedly behind Griz. None of the Slytherins or Ravenclaws appear to hear her. Griz begins to sidle to her usual place, on the end table beside Demetria Avery, but stops. There is no place for her. In fact, the entire class is full. There is simply no place left for Griz Goyle.
"Um, hello?" Griz demands, storming angrily over towards Demetria. "What's going on, where did my seat go?" But her friend does not answer, does not even acknowledge her outburst. Griz is fuming. She reaches forward as if to seize Demetria by the shoulders, but her hands reach through the girl's body like smoke. Demetria, impassive, continues doodling pictures of Inferi on her notepad.
Griz screams in frustration. Nobody reacts. Binns drones and they obediently take notes. Feeling the panic begin to settle in, Griz runs from the room frantically. (Inside the classroom, Astoria and Pyxis are exchanging gleeful looks).
Griz storms up in the hallway to the first people she sees: two third year Slytherins talking quietly as they stroll along the hallway. She remarks that they are both wearing black, and gaudy flowers are clutched in their hands.
"Can you see me?" She shouts at them, and when they ignore her she feels as if the world is collapsing in around her, as if there is nothing to believe anymore. "Somebody help me!"
"-real shame about that Goyle girl," one of the third years is telling the other. "She was only a year older than us. Such an unexpected tragedy."
"I'd glad we're off to pay our respects," his friend comments, cradling the flowers to her chest.
Griz's ears perk up and she follows the third years as they meander down the hall, secretly grinning to themselves at how smoothly their timing is. Griz follows them as they open the door to a small chamber off the entrance hall, and then screams.
For her own body, still and silent, is lying in the center of the room on a raised platform, while others are kneeling close. Zelda is crying softly, a performance worthy of an Oscar. Somebody is strumming at a harp. Griz loathes harps.
"What the hell is going on?" she shouts, running at Zelda. She passes through the weeping girl as if she were air. Griz stares at her own limp body. She tries to shake it awake. She cannot touch it. The outfit she's wearing is horrible, all ruffles and skirts.
Sobbing, she runs towards the doorway, into the empty hallway, screaming and pounding her large fists against the walls.
"Why can't they see me?" She shouts. "What is happening to me?"
"I can see you," a quiet, masculine voice says from behind her. It makes her skin crawl, and she turns around to face the speaker.
"I can see you," the Bloody Baron repeats, a little sadly.
This makes Griz sob all the harder.
"Ms. Greengrass, Mr. Nott, Ms. Harris, Mr. Flix, and Mr. O’Halloran," Professor Snape looks stern and irritated: but then again, he nearly always does. The five of us are seated in a row in his office, hands clasped chastely in our laps. I fleetingly recall the last time I was in this office, to eavesdrop on my father and Snape, but vanquish the errant memory in case Snape is employing his own Legilimency.
"Are you aware that this particular... prank... thoroughly convinced Ms. Goyle that she had, in fact, died and come back as a ghost?"
"Oh, is that what happened?" Pyxis says curiously.
Snape looks down at his notes, as if asking them to give him patience.
"Let me...illuminate the situation. You charmed the mirrors in your dormitory so that Ms. Goyle's reflection would not appear-"
"I did that," Amaris volunteers.
Snape's lip curls. "You enchanted her robes so that not only would they appear invisible, like a crude form of an Invisibility cloak, but would cause the wearer to pass through items it touched."
"Pyxis' handiwork," I offer, while Pyxis blushes and straightens proudly.
Snape raises an eyebrow expertly. "Very advanced magic, Mr. Nott."
"Cheers, Professor. I always thought I had a gift for-" He is silenced when Taurus kicks him under the table.
"You removed a desk from History of Magic, suspecting Professor Binns would not notice. You paid first years in the common room - who were skipping their Potions lesson, in fact-to distract Ms. Goyle so that she would be late. You convinced, and I don't even want to know how-the Ravenclaws in your class to ignore Grizelda’s presence, which was aided by the magic sewn into her robes. You also paid two third year students to walk by talking about her death."
"Their timing was impeccable," Phin says before he can help himself.
Snape looks furious and incredulous at the same time. "Finally, you fed someone -and my guess is Theodore Nott, but I sadly have no proof - Polyjuice Potion and a weak draft of the Draught of Living Death to transform him into Ms. Goyle and give him the semblance of death, and entrusted students to appear as mourners at her own funeral."
"Their input was completely consensual," I inform Snape, "I can't say the same for-"
"Enough!" Snape snaps. "For the love of Merlin, do not get yourself in even more trouble than you already are!" We all sit back, slightly alarmed at his outburst. Taurus and I exchange nervous glances.
"The final straw that broke poor Ms. Goyle's back," Snape steams, "was the Bloody Baron, the ghost of Slytherin House, participating in your ridiculous scheme and having her believe that only he, a fellow ghost, could see her-"
"Actually, none of us really know whether he was in on the plan or not," Amaris pipes up. "Nobody will admit to enlisting him-"
Snape cuts her off by rising to his feet, his black robes billowing out around him.
"Do you realize the psychological damage you could have caused on Ms. Goyle with this preposterous joke?"
"But Griz was fine once she realized it was all a scam," Phin argues. "Although I hear she's out for blood. So really it's Amaris and Tor you should be worrying about, since they have to share a dorm with her and she's a lot bigger than they are."
"She deserved it!" Amaris cries. "After what she did-hitting Tor on purpose with that Bludger!"
Snape sits down again, wearily massaging his temples. "If you five put your magical talents and resourcefulness towards your academics, I would have five of Hogwarts' highest students sitting in front of me."
Amaris beams, looking around as if to check if we’ve heard the compliment.
"However, as it stands, I cannot possibly punish each and every single student who participated, since it was nearly the entire house. While I have…overlooked… some of your past exploits, this is on such a magnitude that a lesson must be taught." We students brace ourselves. "There will be one hundred and fifty points removed from Slytherin, as well as a month's worth of detentions and a House-wide disciplinary assembly."
"But Professor," Pyxis begins in a reasonable tone, "won't that hurt Griz as well, taking points away from her house? Hasn't dear Griz suffered enough without losing points from her house?"
"Do not test me, Mr. Nott," Snape warns. "Now, please, get out of my office. You are giving me a headache." We scamper, relieved to have gotten off so easily. I imagine that back in his office, Snape is repeatedly banging his head on his desk.
"I hope he doesn't write to our parents," Amaris frets, while Pyxis just shrugs. His father is in Azkaban and hardly in a place to administer parental justice. As for my father, he'd probably be impressed with our creativity.
"Our parents have bigger things to worry about," I tell her, and it's the truth. "Now, can we congratulate ourselves on a successful prank? Thanks for helping me, you guys. I couldn't have done it without you. But seriously, who did enlist the Bloody Baron?"
"Maybe he thought it was funny," Taurus suggests. "Ghosts love that kind of death humor. I hear they even celebrate their death days."
We laugh at the thought, and it feels so right to laugh so freely, echoing through Hogwarts, warming our bones.
A/N: Another rather long chapter! What did you guys think of Tor’s quick thinking in fooling Michael Corner? And what did you think of the prank? I’d LOVE to know in a lovely little review! ;) Coming up: Tor’s birthday!
Disclaimer: Do not own The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis. Or the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost. Or the musical Wicked, by, er, Winnie Holzman (book/screenplay), Stephen Schwartz (soundtrack), or Gregory Maguire (original novel) . Or Harry Potter by JK Rowling.