Chapter 1 : His Worst Mistake
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Author’s Note: This story was written for Wistful’s No Romance Challenge. It’s rather strange, I think, and as such, it isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Some of the psychological things that are mentioned are largely attributed to Sigmund Freud, without whom the world would be less… Freudian. If you would care to leave a review, that would be quite nice of you!
Sunlight danced along the banks of the Black Lake as students of Hogwarts lounged around, enjoying the mild spring weather. Girls giggled over makeup potions and hair extension charms. Boys dared each other to go for a swim with the giant squid. Neither group appeared to notice the other, as the fear of cooties outweighed the possibility of sweet, platonic camaraderie.
All was as normal on the grounds of Hogwarts.
But inside the castle, a storm was brewing. Deep in the bowels of the dungeons, in a moldy, abandoned classroom, two groups of students clustered around a table, staring intently at the school’s most dangerous game.
Lorcan Scamander, sitting in the hot seat, tugged at his blue-and-bronze tie nervously. It was this move that would make or break him, as his formidable adversary knew all too well. He furtively looked up; glancing at the red-and-gold crest on his enemy’s uniform, never daring to make eye contact. Death could be his final destination today.
“Make your move!” He heard his friends whisper, their voices trembling for fear that he would forfeit. “Just get it over with!”
Gulping, he reached across the table, lifting a Gobstone gingerly and setting it into place at his opponent’s end of the board. The small green orb began to shudder and gasp, and observers on both ends of the table flinched reflexively. Who would fall?
Faces froze in shock as the Gobstone spurted thick black ink all over a red-and-gold tie. Lorcan had done it. He had triumphed over Gryffindor house’s most fearsome Gobstones player. The Ravenclaws laughed in delight as the ink ceased to flow, but the Gryffindors glared in anger. The best player in the school had been stomped by a timid nobody.
The board was cleared; the adversaries rose. Lorcan, still not daring to make eye contact, reached for his Gobstones set. A well-manicured hand slammed onto the board before he could collect it.
“Scamander,” a voice growled. “I demand a rematch.”
Well, THIS was a breach of protocol! Though his insides trembled for fear of the repercussions, Lorcan kept his voice calm. “Why, Prestwich, what are you saying? I won this match, fair and square.”
“Look at me!” He was so shocked that his head jerked to attention. The lioness snarled at him, face still dripping with ink. “You will agree to this.”
His heart froze with pure, unadulterated fear. “Why should I?”
Transfixed by the horrifying gaze, he was powerless as she leaned across the table. “Because. I. Never. Lose.”
She could smell fear, he knew she could, and he was more afraid of her than he was of the monsters under his bed. Intestines twisting, heart pounding, he gulped. She smiled ferociously, like a tiger stalking an antelope. “A-alright. L-let’s have a re-rematch,” he stammered, cursing his cowardice.
The inky hand closed around his tie, pulling him over the table. He could almost taste her foul breath on his tongue. Nose to nose, they stared, ignorant of the titters of their uncomfortable classmates. Her eyes glimmered dangerously and her grin grew even more menacing. “Next week. Same time, same place. See to it that you’re not late.”
And then she released him. Motioning to her posse, she stalked away from the battleground, a wounded, malignant she-devil. Watching her exit made Lorcan feel light-headed, and it wasn’t due to some fictional latent attraction to the sway of her hips. He barely registered the encouraging slaps on the back that his mates bestowed upon him.
But as she reached the door, stupidity seized him. “I’d bring a towel next time, if I were you, Cassiopeia, Queen of the Sky,” he called to her retreating figure. “If you play then like you did just now, you’ll be a walking case of the Deepwater Horizon fiasco!”
Of all the mistakes he could have made, this was the worst. She whirled around at his ill-timed jest. Her face contorted into the leer of a satyr, fatal and vengeful. “Watch your step, Scamander. Your mum wouldn’t like it if you went… missing before the holiday, now would she?” And then… She winked. That one motion, a tiny twitch of the eyelid, was the last straw.
She turned again to leave, but Lorcan never saw her figure fade into the gloom of the dungeons. He had fainted dead away.
Lysander Scamander glanced at his twin worriedly. “Why were you playing Gobstones against that harpy? You know that she’s out to get everyone who stands in her way of winning.”
Lorcan groaned, massaging his temples. “She challenged me. And, like a fool, I took the challenge.”
The Hufflepuff’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Since when have you ever been brave enough to accept a challenge?”
“Since it involved intellectual endeavors! You wouldn’t understand, Lysander. She Owled me anonymously, asking me to compete in a friendly match! I never expected my opponent to be the scariest witch in all of Hogwarts!” Lorcan knew he was not brave. The faintest whiff of danger was enough to drive him into a swoon. He wasn’t the type to vanquish dragons and sweep damsels off their dainty feet—not that he’d want to, of course, since girls were creatures of madness and disorder.
“But you carried on with her challenge, even after you discovered her identity. Why is that?” Lysander pressed. As soon as he had been Sorted into the house of the loyal four years ago, he considered himself Lorcan’s personal therapist. However, his brand of therapy was more of a nuisance than a help.
“Does the term ‘intellectual pursuit’ mean anything to you?” At his twin’s very blank stare, Lorcan continued his rant. “Well, it should! SHE challenged ME to a game that I’ve played since we were in diapers! I could beat anyone with both hands tied behind my back! She MAY be the president of the Gobstones Club, but that does NOT make her Princess of Gobstones! That’s MY title!”
And he couldn’t understand why his less-intelligent twin was suddenly overcome with the giggles. While he waited for the giggle-fit to end (which could take HOURS), Lorcan thought about getting up from where he was slumped on the dank, mossy dungeon floor. Floors are unsanitary, as every self-respecting person knows, and to be left lying on a floor, limbs akimbo, was the worst form of torture that anyone could be subjected to, besides playing a rematch with Cassiopeia Prestwich, that is. She was a Gryffindor of epic proportions; she belonged on the Quidditch pitch, beating innocent Chasers with a bat, rather than terrifying weak-kneed Ravenclaws in Gobstones matches. Towering over everyone, she stalked the corridors, pummeling any bystander who looked at her sideways. It was said that she was the illegitimate child of Grawp and Madame Maxime, raised by giants to cover Maxime’s shame. It was said that she ate the mice that inhabited the dungeons—raw—for breakfast. It was said that she got into Gryffindor by threatening to turn the Sorting Hat into a Sorting Mat… Lorcan wasn’t too sure which rumours were true and which were not.
He stood up quickly, brushing off his pristine robes with the palms of his hands. Shaking Lysander by the shoulders, he exclaimed, “Why are you laughing at me when you know I’m in such emotional turmoil?”
The giggling continued as the twins began to climb the dungeon stairs. “Because… You… Said… That you were PrinCESS of Gobstones!” The unfortunate Hufflepuff gasped. “Best Freudian slip I’ve heard in a long time!”
“Shut up! That’s not what I meant!”
“Well, that’s what you said! At any rate, why did she ask YOU to play Gobstones? Do you think—?”
“DON’T say what I think you’re going to say!”
“—That she likes you?”
Lysander, with all of his outdated Freudian notions, was a huge proponent of Hogwarts students harboring “repressed feelings” and being in “constant states of denial.” In the midst of a massive war on cooties and affection, he promoted such nonsense as “talking about childhood experiences” and “telling people how you REALLY feel.” Of course, he was widely ignored by the romance-hating, obdurate students of Hogwarts. Lorcan was the only person constantly forced to endure the nonsensical psychobabble, and it set his teeth on edge.
“WHY would you even suggest that? Of COURSE not! I doubt that Prestwich is even capable of human emotions! I highly doubt that she’s even human!”
“Oh, that’s just reaction formation!” Lysander crowed. “You haven’t told her how you REALLY feel. Come on, Lorc, it isn’t a crime to fall in love!”
“Seriously, Lysander, STOP. You are perfectly aware that I can’t stand to be around that monster. There’s a very good chance that she’ll eat me if I’m not careful.”
“Someone’s got a fixation! Someone’s got a fixation!” Lysander sang gleefully under his breath. Lorcan whirled around to face the ditzy blonde pseudo-psychoanalyst.
“Get lost, Lysander. Go talk about Oedipus complexes to someone else.”
Lysander’s mirth was not diminished by his brother’s rude remarks. Grinning mischievously, he skipped off down the corridor, singing to himself. Lorcan shook his head in disgust, wondering how he could even be related to such a clown.
It was now almost dinnertime at Hogwarts, and students began to pour into the Great Hall. Rose Weasley rushed by, her blazing eyes locked on Scorpius Malfoy. Her ferocity made Lorcan shiver, for it was not out of love that she stared. The blonde weasel had cheated her out of some Chocolate Frogs that afternoon, and she was determined to teach him a lesson. No thoughts of snogging his pale, pimple-ridden face even crossed her mind.
Watching his classmates’ animated chatter only made Lorcan feel worse about himself. Feeling more queasy than hungry, he set his mind on his warm bed in the Ravenclaw dormitory, where hopefully, he could find some peace and quiet. Climbing the stairs proved to be difficult, though, as he still felt a bit woozy, and he had to stop on the seventh floor for a rest.
“Well, well, well, what have we here?” It was that voice again. Hands snaked onto Lorcan’s frail shoulders, and he turned to see his worst nightmare staring him right in the eyes.
“Wh-what do y-you want?” he stammered, feeling his chest constrict. Cassiopeia chuckled and stooped to make their heights more level. Having never been so close to a girl before, Lorcan was dumbfounded as his blue eyes met her green ones. She smiled, whether sinisterly or coyly, he couldn’t tell, and came in close. Too close for comfort. Beads of sweat dotted his forehead and his hands began to shake.
“I want you,” she whispered, her lips almost brushing against his. “To lose the match.”
And then, she pushed him down the stairs.
Lorcan spent two days in the Hospital Wing, recovering from his various injuries. His fall, he was told, left him with only a few bruises, two broken pinkies, and a very minor concussion—much less than any Quidditch player had ever suffered. He was given leave to go to class after a night of careful observation, but he begged the nurse, Madame Coughlan, to let him stay. She, being of the mild and sweet-tempered sort, observed his pale, haggard face and too-large eyes, and assumed that he was suffering from a nervous breakdown. She agreed to let him stay and pushed Pepper-Up Potions to get him back to a normal state of being.
But if Lorcan were to be very honest with himself (and he wasn’t often honest, as it usually led to weakness of the knees and shortness of breath), the only injury he was still suffering from was (and Lysander would be proud of him for admitting it) a purely psychological complaint. Taught to play Gobstones by his father when he was very young, he developed an unusual amount of skill for manipulating the pieces around the board. It was the only skill he seemed to possess, and it gave him a small amount of satisfaction to always leave his opponent’s face covered in ink.
Until the fateful match with Cassiopeia Prestwich. Lorcan had never known anyone to react so badly to a loss, and it unnerved him greatly. He had always tried to stay out of the way of the tall Gryffindor girl, avoiding the Gobstones Club because she dominated it and never looking her in the eye if their paths crossed in the corridors. Winning the match, he knew, had been the worst mistake he had ever made. Defeat set the girl on a warpath, and she was determined to take her revenge.
When she pushed him, she had bruised much more than his tailbone. She had bruised his fragile pride, and he was left with nothing but fear. Gobstones no longer thrilled him; the shiny pieces laid out neatly on a checkered board gave him no pleasure, but instead brought back the memory of her snaking hands, her shiny lips, her rancid breath. He broke out in a cold sweat whenever he thought about taking the stairs or going back to the dungeons, even for Potions class.
He was broken, and no amount of therapy would fix him.
Lysander disagreed. On the afternoon of the second day, while Lorcan was resting, an ice pack draped across his forehead, his twin danced through the Hospital Wing doors. “Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty! It’s high time that you took on the day like a man! Up and at ‘em! My inner Freud is calling, and he’s got your number!”
Lorcan groaned and rolled over. Why did Lysander have to show up now, when he was perfectly happy to become a permanent invalid?
The excitable young Freudian poked his brother enthusiastically. “Get up, my good sir! Daylight is waning, and we haven’t got much time. We’re going to talk about your strategy for the rematch!”
This comment made Lorcan shoot upright, his eyes rolling with fear. “Rematch?! Can’t I just forfeit?!”
Lysander laughed. “Of course not, silly! We’ve got to face your gynophobia head on!”
“Fear of women. I’ve determined that it must be because of some desire that you had while we were in the phallic stage—“
“Please stop talking.”
“And now, you’re taking it out on Cassiopeia, whom you actually love madly—“
“Do be quiet.”
“But you’re afraid to show it, because she’s so dominant and you’re so… scrawny—“
“SHUT UP.” Lorcan’s outburst seemed to have the desired effect on his twin, who paused midsentence. “I have no desire for love, and if I did, the object of my affections would NOT be Cassiopeia Prestwich,” Lorcan growled. “Also, you are just as scrawny as me. We’re twins, you dolt, and we’ve never been athletic.”
Lysander did not seem bothered in the slightest by his twin’s insulting words. Plopping down on the bed, he pulled a leather briefcase onto his lap. He grinned widely—a grin that Lorcan found to be ominous in the extreme—as he flipped open the brassy latches, exposing a plethora of papers and pens scattered wildly inside.
“Lorcan,” he smirked, pushing a pair of tortoiseshell glasses onto his nose. “To overcome your fear of Cassiopeia, you’re going to have to win a different kind of game.”
“There is no way that I’m going to be able to do this!” Lorcan yelled, grabbing at his disheveled blonde hair in anguish. Lysander had just finished explaining his rather Freudian plan, and it was enough to drive anyone insane. Indeed, Lorcan had been pacing up and down the rows of neat, white beds all afternoon. All the words that had passed from the papers in the briefcase through Lysander’s excited tones haunted him, pinwheeling about in his brain, tantalizing him with their harsh consonants and forbidding vowels.
Lysander looked up from his masterpiece, glasses askew. He had failed to notice his twin’s madness in the half-hour that it had taken to explain his rather remarkable plan. “Lorcan, calm down,” he chided. “It will work. You just need some practice.”
“Practice?! How can you expect me to PRACTICE something like this?!”
“Well, if you really want to improvise, that’s fine with me, but—“
Lysander was cut off by the jolt of his brother’s hand clenched around his yellow and black tie. Lorcan truly looked mad with his hair fanning about his face and his eyes bloodshot. “Listen to me,” he growled. “How is it at all possible for me to… to seduce… any girl at Hogwarts—let alone Cassiopeia Prestwich—when the whole school is clearly in a state of asexual oblivion? I am not a sex god; I know nothing of girls, and they care nothing for me. What makes you think that I would even have a fighting chance?”
Lorcan let go of Lysander’s tie when, by his wheezing, it was apparent that he was being choked. Catching his breath, the Hufflepuff grabbed the Ravenclaw’s elbow. “Because,” he whispered. “We’ve got psychology on our side.”