Chapter 1 : In Which A Plan Is Introduced
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Oh flip. I’m late again. I knew it was a bad idea to go down to the kitchens with Anna! It wasn’t even me who was hungry this time, it was her. This mess I’m in is all her fault.
I run down the corridor as fast as I can, trying my best to ignore the disapproving tuts that come from the Fat Lady and her friend Viola, or The Gossips as I so fondly call them in my head. Really, the nice eagle knocker that lets me into my Common Room doesn’t spread rumours about me.
This does not bode well for my Head Girl duties. I check my watch for the eighth time as I near the end of the corridor. Splendid. Now I’m twelve minutes late. Professor Dumbledore will flay me alive! Well, maybe not. I’ve never actually seen the man angry before. Although on the other hand, the caretaker Filch was the one who called the meeting, and I’m pretty sure he’d be happy to do any flaying necessary.
The thought of an angry Filch trying to flay me is enough to force my protesting body even faster down the hallways. I really need to take up Quidditch or something, although how sitting on a broom helps you get into shape I have no clue. Of course, there are those rumours that our Quidditch captain, Micheal Chang, is a real tyrant when it comes to fitness, because he's obsessed with beating the Gryffindors, especially James Potter. Those two have some rivalry going on between them. Really, I've heard something about Chang making the team do twenty laps, fifty push-ups and fifty sit-ups. I shudder to think of his exercise regime. And he’s only in fifth year! You know what? I don’t think I’ll be joining the Quidditch team anytime soon.
I check my watch for the millionth time (I lost count after ten) as I skid to a stop before the gargoyle. “Coroclutta,” I manage to gasp out, my lungs burning.
“What?” The gargoyle looks at me haughtily. He’s never liked me, ever since I tripped over him (it?) in my first year. It’s not my fault I couldn’t stop staring at all the real, honest-to-goodness ghosts floating around me!
“Cockroach. Clusters,” I say, glaring at him/it, making sure to enunciate every syllable as clearly as I can with my tired mouth. He only sniffs as the door springs open. Pompous piece of stone.
Sprinting up the long winding staircase two at a time, my robes flap ungracefully around me, making me resemble a drunken bat desperately trying to fly. Hmm. I seem to put a lot of thought into my image.
I rap once on the heavy oaken door that leads into Professor Dumbledore’s office. Opening it, I tumble inside, trying (and probably failing) to retain any of the shreds of dignity I ever had. The Headmaster looks up from one of his puffing silver instruments and offers me a serene smile, which I gratefully return as I close the door softly. Argus Filch, as expected, is muttering something about flaying me and stringing me up by the wrists. I don’t even want to know. Toby Walker, the Head Boy and as such my (much more punctual and responsible) colleague, gives me a curt nod which I try to return without looking like a puppet with its head on a string, because honestly, that’s how tired my neck and the rest of my body feels right now.
“Jasmine,” he says shortly in greeting.
We’ve never been on particularly close terms, Walker and I, although now that we’ve been appointed Head Boy and Girl I suppose we’ll have to learn to work together. Still, it’s only been a month. I guess there’s time for our team spirit or whatnot to improve.
“Toby,” I reply, trying to come off as equally curt. I don’t think it worked, though.
“I’m so glad you could join us, Miss Harper,” Professor Dumbledore says. I can’t tell whether he’s being sarcastic or not, but as I meet his eyes guiltily, there’s a knowing twinkle in them, as if he knows that I’ve just been in the kitchens with Anna eating mountains of chocolate and caramel ice cream. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns out to be a mind reader or something.
“Sorry Professor,” I manage to gasp out, collapsing onto the remaining chair opposite his desk. It turns out to be quite a nice comfy armchair. “The trick stairways-”
“It’s quite alright, Miss Harper. Please catch your breath and we may proceed,” he interrupts, smiling at me peacefully. I nod, trying to gasp in as much air as possible without looking stupid. Eventually I give up the attempt-I probably look dumb anyway.
Once my breathing has quieted, Professor Dumbledore begins to talk. “Mr Filch has a proposition for the school, which, as Head Boy and Girl, I feel you have the right to have a say in,” he says. “If you approve of this plan, we will tell the prefects, although the general student population will not be told of this plan. I can think of several students who would want it to fail.”
Filch stands up and clears his throat several times. I immediately recognize the first warning sign of a long speech. I’m serious; every adult clears their throat before they start ranting on about something for ages.
“We all know that Peeves is a menace to the school, the safety of the students and …” I zone out easily, catching little snippets of speech. He mainly goes on about how awful Peeves is, blah blah, we get it; you hate Peeves. I also catch something about cutlasses, a bell jar and Australia. Filch was always an odd guy.
He finishes by clapping his hands very loudly, scaring me into jumping halfway off my chair. A couple of the portraits give me odd looks as I try to settle inconspicuously back down into my seat, but one friendly-looking witch with silver ringlets of hair winks at me conspiratorially. I slant sideways looks at Professor Dumbledore and Walker and realize that they’ve actually been listening to Filch rant on for ages, although the Professor is playing with his beard. It’s all white and seriously long, reaches down to his stomach. It must be awfully hard to maintain. I imagine Professor Dumbledore in front of a mirror, with tweezers and nail clippers in hand, keeping his beard in perfect condition, and barely snuff a laugh.
“So basically,” Toby’s voice cuts through my thoughts, making me jump a little again and look round guiltily to see if anyone or anything had seen my slip-up. “The plan is to bait a trap and lure Peeves into it? How do you know Peeves will take the bait? How will you conceal the trap? This plan doesn’t seem well thought out enough for my taste.”
Well, seeing as Walker is obsessively organized, every plan is ‘isn’t well thought out enough’ for him. It’s a wonder he hasn’t started to write a list about what could go wrong. He did that to a plan of mine three weeks ago. It was an embarrassing time. Let’s not talk about it.
And wait-where do cutlasses, bell jars and Australia come into this scheme? I’m already lost.
“Well, of course Peeves will want weapons, he lives to cause chaos-the bait is certain to work. And I have already asked the Headmaster to assist us with the practical part of the plan,” Filch replied. Holy smoke, his eye was starting to twitch. Now that was scary. I leant away from him slightly in my (nice, comfy) armchair. Even Walker looked a bit cowed, although he addressed Professor Dumbledore as confidently as ever. “Would a simple Concealment Charm hide the jar from Peeves, or as a magical being, would he see through it?”
“I believe that a simple Concealment Charm should do the trick nicely. But we haven’t considered all the points of view yet. Miss Harper, what do you think of this plan?” Oh flip.
“I’ve always liked Peeves,” I blurt out. I want to take the words back as soon as I say them, because Walker and Filch are both glaring fiercely at me now. I gulp nervously. Walker hasn’t been friendly with Peeves ever since Peeves started throwing water ballons at him for unknown reasons, and one particularly well-timed balloon ruined his first kiss. Both he and the girl were complaining about it for weeks afterwards. Ha. I wish I’d been there to see it. Although I don’t know why they were complaining, that particular kiss reputedly took place outside Walker’s Common Room-in the dungeons. Who would want their first kiss to be in a dungeon?
“No doubt he adds a certain zest to school life. So may we assume you are against the plan, and hence, it will not be carried out?” Professor Dumbledore asked me perfectly seriously. Who even uses the word hence in normal conversation? I ask you.
I think he likes Peeves as much as I do, and I want to stand up for myself, but the murderous looks Walker and Filch are sending me change my mind. I don’t want to be strangled in my sleep, either, and self-preservation is more important to me than a mischievous, though likeable, poltergeist. “Um… No, it’s fine, you can carry out the plan, I’ll just sit here then shall I, yeah-” I start to babble, but Filch’s voice cuts across mine quite quickly. How rude.
“Could we settle all the details then?” he asks. He and Walker begin to quibble over the tiny details of the final plan, with Professor Dumbledore throwing in the occasional comment here and there.
I shrink down in my seat, listening to the plan. I wonder if he came up with it all on his own, because it is a rather clever plan. My active imagination immediately conjures up an image of Filch consulting his murderous cat for ideas and I hold in a giggle.
I don’t want to ban Peeves from Hogwarts, but I really don’t want to get killed in my bed by Walker either. After all, we share the Head’s dormitory. Gah, I need to talk to Anna right now. She’d know what to do in this mess.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter, and I wouldn't mind if you fed the litte grey box either! Your thoughts and CC would mean a lot to me.
On a different note, thank you so, so much to my wonderful beta, Sian (nott theodore on the forums and archives). She not only helped me infinitely with this chapter, she nailed the title as well. Sian, you're the best!