Chapter 13 : About Time
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After the three of us had been sitting at a table in the Three Broomsticks for a while, Luke Wilcox walked by our table. He glanced at us briefly, and paused for half a second, but didn’t stop to talk to me. Out of the corner of my eyes I saw him at the counter talking to the barmaid Madam Rosmerta, and then he walked past our table again with a butterbeer. When he was out of sight I turned back and pretended I’d been paying attention to what Charlotte was saying about Narcissa Black and Lucius Malfoy’s wedding plans. But then I saw Luke wander by a third time. I glanced up. He was walking up to Madam Rosmerta again.
Was he taking several trips to get butterbeer and food, just to walk past our table?
No, that would be ridiculous.
But then what was he doing? I decided to take matters into my own hands.
“I’m going to get another butterbeer,” I said suddenly to Mandy and Charlotte.
“Of course you are,” said Mandy, rolling her eyes. “We can see who’s over there, you know.”
I walked up to the counter and stopped a few feet away from Luke. Madam Rosmerta handed Luke a pastry, and I ordered a butterbeer. I noticed that Luke lingered around the counter after getting his food, so I turned to face him as I waited for Madam Rosmerta to get my butterbeer. “Hi, Luke.”
“Oh, hi Melanie…” He looked slightly uncomfortable.
I felt the same; I didn’t really have anything to say to him other than hello. Nothing had really happened since the last time we had talked, except the beginning of Apparition lessons, which would not be an ideal conversation topic if he hated Apparition as much as I did. And we never really talked about much other than classes. “Er… so are you having a good time?” I asked.
“Yeah, how about you?”
There were another few seconds of silence in which I felt awkward and considered that maybe I shouldn’t have come up here, and then Madam Rosmerta returned with a butterbeer. I set some coins on the counter, thanked her, and stepped back from the counter a bit. Luke followed. “I never told you - great job in the Quidditch match last month, by the way,” he said.
“Thanks… I’m so surprised how it turned out actually, considering our Captain was in the hospital wing and I’ve never really practiced much with the team.”
“Well I think you did great. I’m so glad Slytherin won.”
“Yeah,” he said, and I raised my eyebrows. Luke laughed, and continued, “It means Ravenclaw has a better shot at the Cup. But I’m happy for you too.”
“I knew there was a reason you were glad,” I said, smiling. “You have a good team. I guess we’ll see how it turns out in your other games… If Slytherin doesn’t win, it’d be nice if Ravenclaw won the Cup this year.”
“I’d love that. Gryffindor has had it for too many years.”
“Too true.” I laughed.
“So what are your plans for the rest of the afternoon in Hogsmeade?” I asked in what I hoped was an offhand tone.
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “My friend who I came with sort of wanted to go back to Hogwarts, he hasn’t finished his Arithmancy work for Monday and it’ll probably take him ten hours.”
“Arithmancy sounds tough.”
“It is. It’s difficult, but I actually like it a lot… Anyway, what about you, what are you doing after this?”
“I don’t know either.” I glanced back at the table where I had been sitting; Mandy and Charlotte immediately looked out the window. They had clearly been watching us.
“Well, do you want to walk around town for a little while before heading back?”
“Yes, I’d love to!” I said, grinning.
“Great!” he said. “I’m going to go get my stuff from my table over there, I’ll meet you by the door in a few minutes?”
“Sounds good,” I answered. We both walked back to our tables.
Charlotte and Mandy were watching me with interest as I approached. I picked up my cloak from where it was draped over the back of the wooden chair. “Hey, Luke and I are going to go, if that’s okay…?”
They smiled. “That’s fine,” said Mandy. “Have fun!”
“I’m sorry to ditch you… I’ll see you when we get back to the castle!”
I put on my cloak and headed for the door. Luke was still at his table, talking to his friend, who looked like he was getting ready to leave as well. Nearly all the tables in the room were full; the Three Broomsticks was one of the most popular places in Hogsmeade, especially on cold days such as today. Standing by the counter were Sirius and James, with half-full tankards of butterbeer, entertaining Madam Rosmerta with a joke.
Luke showed up then, and we walked together out into the snow and down the street. “How about here,” suggested Luke, pointing at a small teashop. “I’ve heard it’s nice, have you ever been to Madam Puddifoot’s?”
I shook my head, and we turned to go into the teashop. We took three steps into Madam Puddifoot’s, but when we saw the sickeningly cute Valentine’s Day decorations of confetti and cherubs, we looked at each other uncomfortably and immediately turned back around and left.
“Never mind,” he said, brushing a heart-shaped piece of confetti from his shoulder. “I knew they decorated a lot for Christmas, but I had no idea they were so fond of Valentine’s Day too…”
I laughed. “It’s all right though, there are plenty of other places we can go.”
“How about Honeydukes or Zonko’s… or Dervish and Banges, they sometimes have fun stuff there.”
We browsed through Zonko’s first and I was about to buy a large bag of Dungbombs, but Luke looked most unimpressed. “Those aren’t allowed…”
“Are you going to confiscate them from me?” I asked, grinning.
“It doesn’t look good for me as a prefect to see you buy Dungbombs and not do anything about it.”
“Then close your eyes and you won’t see.”
He took the bag out of my hands and set it back on the shelf. “How about we go to Honeydukes and I buy you some Fizzing Whizbees instead.”
I recalled vaguely that my Hogsmeade trip with Remus had been more fun; even though he was a prefect as well, he had had no problem with me buying Whizzing Worms and Nose-Biting Teacups and other things Filch had specifically banned. But I pushed this thought out of my mind – after all, I’d wanted to go with Luke for ages. We headed to Honeydukes and the rest of the afternoon passed wonderfully. Although we did not discuss the Yule Ball, I felt that the awkwardness that had arisen between us surrounding the dance was now dissipated.
As we were wandering through Dervish and Banges, observing all the weird magical instruments and discussing our favorite places to travel during the summers, Luke pointed out that the sun was getting low and we should probably head back.
We started back up the High Street, through the thin layer of slush. As we walked our hands brushed, and the second time it happened I lightly took hold of his hand. He turned to look at me, a slight smile on his face. “My hand was cold,” I explained with an air of nonchalance.
He laughed. “Mine too.”
We got back to the castle at the end of the wonderful afternoon and lingered in the doorway talking; we were in no hurry to end the afternoon. Eventually we decided we should probably get going, off to our separate common rooms, and my heart thumped wildly as Luke leaned in to kiss me – but then we heard a loud shriek of delight and we jumped apart immediately. Peeves the Poltergeist had just drifted in out of nowhere, and began to throw bits of chalk at us while making smacking noises with his lips.
“Cut it out!” cried Luke, picking up one of the pieces of chalk and throwing it back at him. Peeves did a somersault in midair and zoomed away, cackling obnoxiously. Although he was gone, he had definitely ruined the moment; Luke and I hesitated a bit longer in the doorway, and then simply said goodbye and parted.
When I got back to the Slytherin common room, the encounter with Peeves had done nothing to diminish my feeling of elation from the afternoon in Hogsmeade with Luke (although I was frustrated that Peeves had interrupted us, I knew we’d have another chance). Mandy and Charlotte were sitting on a sofa in the common room and the moment I walked in they eagerly bombarded me with questions, which I dutifully answered until we went up to dinner.
At dinner, the excited buzz of discussion from all the students talking about their day in Hogsmeade was hushed momentarily when Serena Templeton stood up from the Gryffindor table and dashed out of the Great Hall, clutching a crumpled piece of parchment. Several other girls ran after her. I didn’t think much of it until Charlotte caught up with me as we walked back to our common room after dinner. “I heard what happened,” she said, her face dark. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
“Serena Templeton’s parents are Muggles. They were killed by Death Eaters today; she just got a letter.”
“That’s… horrible,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say. I’d never spoken to Serena, but I wished I could reach out to her. This sort of thing was happening entirely too often nowadays. And then an awful thought came to me – I pictured Nathan among the Death Eaters, killing Muggles for fun, and hoped against hope that I was wrong, that I’d only been getting overly paranoid and misreading his letters. Had Nathan killed Serena’s parents? The possibility was miniscule, but the fact that it existed at all scared me. The war was splitting up families left and right, and caused decades of trust to crumble. I looked sadly at Charlotte, whose expression was unreadable as always.
After dinner we set to work by the fire in the common room. I was halfway through studying my Potions notes when I saw Calvin Mulciber get up across the room and walk away from the table where he had been sitting. Left there was Mark and his usual group of first-year friends. I set my Potions notes and Advanced Potion-Making down on the sofa next to me, stood up and walked over to Mark’s group. The dark-haired girl who had indicated she disliked me last time greeted me with a scowl, but Mark said hello. The others didn’t look up.
“How’s History of Magic?” I asked them.
“It’s okay,” answered Mark. “My goblin rebellion paper was rubbish, but at least it’s done.” He glanced shrewdly at Mulciber’s back across the room, then asked me, “Are you here to tell me not to listen to Mulciber again?”
I was caught off-guard at his astuteness, but forced a laugh. “Er, no, I was just saying hi. I’m letting you make up your own mind about Mulciber, although since you mention him, I did witness him putting the Imperius Curse on a Hufflepuff girl last week…”
“Really? That’s awful,” Mark whispered, and turned to look at where Mulciber had gone, then back at his friends.
The dark-haired girl said, “He was just here helping us with our Defense Against the Dark Arts work. How do we know you’re not lying?”
“Why would I lie to you? I’m telling you, I saw it. I know he may be smart and is able to help you with your work and everything, but you want to watch out for him. He likes the Dark Arts. You know – the type the Death Eaters use.” Now I pictured a grown-up Mulciber in the Death Eaters. If the Imperius Curse was all fun and games at Hogwarts, he’d certainly be looking for something more deadly when he left school. I shook my head to clear the image away.
The girl rolled her eyes. One of the other kids in the group looked up from his parchment and said to the others, “I told you I didn’t like him.”
While Mark and his friends discussed whether or not they believed Mulciber had actually used the Imperius Curse, I was consoled by the fact that at least it seemed they disapproved of using that curse – which meant, hopefully, that they were less likely to become like Mulciber.
The rest of February passed by with a lot of rain and dismal weather, but it was a very happy month for me. Luke and I were dating – not that it meant a lot to be dating at Hogwarts, since there were very few Hogsmeade weekends – it really just meant that we worked together during Herbology and ate lunch together sometimes. Regardless, I was delighted.
I was on my way to Charms one day during the first week of March, alone for once because Charlotte had had to go back to get her homework and Mandy had stopped by the loo. I turned a corner and exclaimed as I received an unwelcome shock – it felt like I had stuck my head into a bucket of ice water. I had inadvertently walked right through a ghost, who was wearing a doublet, a plumed hat, and a ruff. He was the Gryffindor House ghost, whom I was fairly sure was called Nearly Headless Nick (although he did not look headless, or even nearly headless, to me).
I didn’t know if ghosts were sensitive about people accidentally walking through them; I had never really talked with a ghost before. There were quite a few ghosts around Hogwarts, but the only ghosts I knew were Professor Binns, who taught the dreadful History of Magic class, and Moaning Myrtle, who haunted a second-floor girls’ toilet and cried if you talked to her. Then of course there was the resident Slytherin House ghost, the Bloody Baron, whom practically everyone avoided, students and ghosts alike; I had never spoken to him in my life. So I had no idea how Nearly Headless Nick would react. “Er, hello… I’m really sorry about that,” I said awkwardly.
“It’s all right,” he said, “one of the things you have to get used to if you’re a ghost.”
“Does that happen a lot?” I asked.
“Oh, every once in a while. However, I died four hundred and eighty-four years ago, so those few times every so often do add up over the years…”
“How did you die, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I was beheaded, most carelessly and incompetently.” He sighed wistfully. “They didn’t do it properly, and my head is still attached.” He pulled on his left ear, and his head fell onto his shoulder, connected by a little bit of his neck. I gasped.
He pushed his head back onto his neck, smiling wryly, and I got the feeling that he rather enjoyed doing this to see people’s reactions.
“I’m sorry, that’s awful,” I said. I wasn’t really sure what else to say; I’d never had a conversation quite like this before.
“Yes, isn’t it? I’ve always wished they had just finished the job.”
“Of course…” I said absentmindedly. “It was, er, nice to meet you, but I’ve got to go to class.”
“Certainly. You aren’t a Gryffindor, are you?” he asked conversationally. “I don’t think I’ve seen you much before. What house are you in?”
“No, I’m not a Gryffindor. I have to go! Bye!” I ran down the rest of the hallway leaving him rather confused, slowed down, realized I was late for class, and continued running. When I got to class Mandy and Charlotte were both just arriving.
“What took you so long?” asked Charlotte as she pushed the classroom door open. “I thought you’d have been here ages ago, I had to go all the way back to the room to get my essay because I left it on the—”
“Class has started, girls,” said Professor Flitwick. He looked for a moment as if he were considering taking points from Slytherin for our tardiness, but decided against it. I supposed this was because we hadn’t actually interrupted anything – the classroom was as noisy as ever, as the class was very much about practical application of charms. “We’re practicing the Hover Charm.”
Mandy and I attempted making each other hover nonverbally, and I couldn’t see why we had to use this charm rather than the easier Levitation Charm we’d learned in first year. I was also still not very good at nonverbal magic, which we were supposed to be using, and so I resorted to whispering the incantations. Other people, such as the Hufflepuffs at the table to our left, succeeded with nonverbal incantations but ended up dropping their partners.
Over at the Gryffindors’ table, Remus grabbed onto the desk to keep from falling over after Peter’s hover charm. James and Sirius laughed. I was startled out of watching them when I lifted off the ground. I looked at Mandy in surprise but she was writing something down.
“Oh – sorry!” said Charlotte, looking over at me from across the table, and I landed back on the ground.
Elsie Ritter, the Hufflepuff girl Charlotte was working with, congratulated her. “You got the charm nonverbally!”
“Yeah, but on the wrong person, that was supposed to be you.”
Peter looked over and grinned at us. “I just did that to James too, about five minutes ago. This charm is hard.”
I laughed. “Yeah, it is.” I turned back to face Mandy and practice the charm on her. But I didn’t make much progress; Charms class was usually somewhat chaotic with objects flying all over the classroom or noises everywhere, and today was no exception. Hector Branstone sailed across the room, shouting at his partner Andrew Derrick, his fellow Chaser on the Slytherin Quidditch team. “Wrong charm, you idiot!” he laughed.
Derrick looked at his wand, puzzled. “I’m using the right charm, I guess I have the wand motion wrong.” He looked down at a paper of notes, and then exclaimed when his eyebrows suddenly grew six inches, extending to his chin, and obscured his view.
I heard some laughter and turned around, and sure enough, James was pointing his wand at Hector, and Sirius was pointing his wand at Derrick.
“Potter! Black!” squeaked Flitwick from the front of the room. Upon hearing who had caused his eyebrow growth, Derrick brushed his long eyebrows out of the way, and muttered something while pointing his wand back at Sirius, and Sirius sprouted horns.
“Derrick!” cried Flitwick. “This is a classroom, not a zoo! You three will all be back here Saturday night for detention.”
“Professor,” said Sirius between fits of laughter, “I already have plans that night… Detention with McGonagall.”
“You’ll come on Sunday then.”
I watched in amusement as Derrick cut off the long curtain of thick eyebrow hair, but Sirius was unable to remove his horns.
“That’s a good look, Pads,” said James, looking at Sirius’s horns. “You should keep them, I’m sure it will attract the ladies.”
“Oh definitely,” he laughed. He turned to Remus. “What do you think?” He struck a ridiculous pose.
“Stunning. You’ve never looked better.”
“Madam Pomfrey could probably fix it in half a second, she’s seen much worse,” said Peter.
“Well I know that,” said Sirius, “but I’m guessing Flitwick’s not going to let me leave right now, class is only half over.”
Snape, across the classroom, muttered something and a dark shape shot from the end of his wand towards James, who wasn’t looking. Sensing that this could be nothing good coming from Snape, who tended to prefer using more painful jinxes than Derrick, I whispered “Lepidopterus” under my breath, and both Snape and Evan Rosier sitting next to him, were engulfed in a cloud of large butterflies. Nor was I the only one to have done anything; James had very quick reflexes and the instant he’d seen Snape, had made steam come out of Snape’s ears and nostrils.
Flitwick was distressed that his classroom kept getting out of control, and gave Snape and Rosier detentions too. I grinned; he hadn’t noticed me, and Rosier had gotten detention although he hadn’t even done anything. Now that class had quieted down a bit, Mandy and I went back to practicing the nonverbal Hover Charm, and by the end of class I could easily do the charm if I whispered the incantation, but still struggled to do it nonverbally. Mandy and I had accidentally dropped each other several times, so we were somewhat sore from falling, but we left the class in good spirits.
The Gryffindors left just before Mandy, Charlotte and me. As they turned the corner out the door I could hear Peter saying, “That was bold jinxing them during class, Prongs. You were just asking for detention.”
“There’s no harm in a bit of friendly jinxing,” said James. “I even saw Branstone laughing too, it was all good fun. And did you see Hastings do that butterfly one at Snivellus? I’m sure it was her, though Flitwick didn’t catch her.”
“Really?” asked Sirius. “I would say it was nice of her, but now it means we have detention with Snivellus.”
Peter laughed. “Rosier got a detention too, when he didn’t do anything.”
“Yeah, but I’ll bet he was thinking about it,” said James.
“And I was being nice, actually,” said Sirius. “I considered the Nose-Hair Lengthening Jinx for Derrick, but decided on the eyebrow one instead.”
“How thoughtful,” said Remus. James looked like he had something to add but at that moment Vivian Bell walked in from around a corner and sidled up to James, whose face broke into a grin upon seeing her. He wrapped his arms around her, and they began a conversation with their faces two inches apart.
Lily Evans spared them a curious glance as she continued walking down the corridor, and Sirius made a gagging noise and then turned to Remus and Peter. “I’ll catch up with you later, I’m going to stop by the hospital wing.”
“Oh, you decided not to keep the horns then?” I asked loudly as Sirius walked by. “Shame… I was really into it.”
He turned around with a sort of amused smirk on his face. “Well, you know it was all for you.”
I snorted and rolled my eyes. As silly as that interaction had been, it seemed the inexplicable barrier that had arisen in our friendship was finally gone, now that that we were teasing one another again. Sirius turned back around and continued walking, and I wolf-whistled after him. When I looked back at Mandy, she was regarding me with a suspicious, calculating expression.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked her.
“Well it was great to see you all again,” said James, who was now disentangled from Vivian but still holding her hand. “I would say I’d see you later today, but the Gryffindor Quidditch team has practise after dinner so we can win the Quidditch Cup again this year.” He looked at Vivian again, and she smiled.
“Better practise hard, because your team didn’t do so well against Slytherin…” I said with a grin.
“True, but neither of our Beaters fall off their brooms…”
They laughed. “We’ll see you around,” said Remus, and he and Peter continued down the hall, followed by James and Vivian.
“Have a good Quidditch practise, James and Vivian!” called Mandy.
“Traitor,” I said to Mandy under my breath.
“I’m just being friendly,” she responded. “You know I don’t actually want Gryffindor to do well.”
As part of his prefect duties Luke and the other Ravenclaw prefect had to patrol the corridors. Luke and I had been in the library together, and were standing in the hallway talking before he left for patrol. With less than a minute until curfew, Luke finally said, “I guess I have to go… You should probably head back to your common room so no one else catches you out after curfew.”
“I’m going to be late, Luke,” I said with a show of mock concern. “Does that mean you’re going to take points from Slytherin?”
“Hmm… let me think about it.”
I kissed him and we temporarily forgot about the curfew for several more minutes. Finally he pulled away and said, “No, I don’t think I’m going to take points from Slytherin.” He grinned. “But I have to go, I’ll see you tomorrow!”
I giggled and went off down the hall towards the Slytherin common room. James and Sirius were walking towards me, headed the other direction.
“Oooo, Melanie has a boyfriend,” said Sirius in an obnoxious voice as they passed by.
“Is that a problem?” I raised an eyebrow.
“Not at all,” said Sirius, grinning. “I just didn’t see you as someone who went for the boring prefect type with a weird nose, that’s all.”
“He is not boring, and he doesn’t have a weird nose. How can you even say prefects are boring, when one of your best friends is a prefect?”
“I didn’t say all prefects were boring.”
“Ohh… okay.” I rolled my eyes. “And what are you two doing out after curfew?”
“Putting Dungbombs outside the Slytherin common room,” said James matter-of-factly. “You might not want to go down that hallway!” He and Sirius laughed.
“I have to, we’re supposed to be back in our common rooms now!” I cried indignantly. This just made them laugh more.
“Run along before your prefect boyfriend finds out you’ve been breaking the rules!”
“Good night!” said James cheerfully.
“Ugh,” I growled, and went on my way. They could be so irritating. But they did keep life interesting; I rather enjoyed the rivalry. Of course, I felt a bit less fond of them when I got to the hallway where the common room was, and nearly gagged because it smelled so foul. I didn’t count, but there must have been sixty Dungbombs down there. I thought that was bad enough, but the moment I walked through the door to the common room, a bucket of water poured over my head. Those Gryffindors were impossible.
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