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True Deceivers by Khp
Chapter 29 : We're All Stories - Part I
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 9


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We Are All Stories – Part I

Over My Shoulder – Mika

‘You never really understand a person until you consider things
from his point of view.'
Harper Lee









 

Valentine’s day was gone. Life had returned to normal. Normal in the sense that the Head Boy and Girl were pretending to merely tolerate each other in public, yet spent most nights curled up in front of a fire together. The Professors had started seriously threatening the seventh years about exams. Gryffindor and Hufflepuff had completed the third match of the season, and the Lions had soundly trumped the Badgers, putting them even more securely at the top of the board.

Tuesday the 28th of February was, on the surface, a day like any other. There were classes to attend, homework to be frantically finished at the breakfast table. A normal day.



Strange how even the most incredible and life changing of days can start out so…normal.
















 

Iago Trevellan was not a bright boy. The size of his head belied the tiny organ inside. It was as if somewhere along the line, while he was growing up, his body had sent all the nutrients intended for his brain straight to his arms instead. This made him an excellent soldier, always ready and willing to follow commands, but not such a wonderful thinker. So he didn’t. Think, that was. Iago was perfectly used to doing whatever Creetan told him. He found it was the easiest way to stay out of trouble with his commander.

So when Creetan sent him an order to keep an eye on her Grace over breakfast, Iago didn’t question, even though it had been months since Creetan had done something like that. He turned off all his other senses, deaf and blind to everything that happened around him at the table, and focused on the Gryffindors. And while he was watching, questions started to arise in his tiny mind.

Why was her Grace smiling at those other people at the table? They were beneath her – she should be ignoring them, shouldn’t she? Of course, she had always smiled at them, but today – and lately – did her smile seem somewhat bigger? And if it was bigger, why? What had happened recently to make her Grace’s smile widen? Was there something he had missed?

Iago was trying to process these questions and more, when the most peculiar thing happened. A girl sat down next to him. And not just any girl. This was Drucilla, the most beautiful Slytherin girl in seventh year. Drucilla and Creetan had been flirting back and forth for months. Even Iago, with his limited capabilities, was on the ball enough to see that.

Drucilla was also widely known as a conniving snake. So this couldn’t mean anything good. Iago cleared his throat nervously and started to stand up.

‘Oh, Iago. Fancy seeing you here,’ Drucilla said in an innocent tone. Her eyes glinted as she peeked up at him through dark eyelashes, and pink stained her cheeks.

Every thought of leaving miraculously exited Iago’s head, stage left. He sat back down, heavily. He didn’t speak – speech was utterly beyond him – but he blinked a few times, took a deep breath, and nodded to her with some semblance of sanity.

Drucilla said something else then, but Iago had no idea what it was. He couldn’t tear his eyes from her lips long enough to let his ears hear what they were saying. Her hair was shiny. It looked soft. He wanted to touch it and see if it really was. But he didn’t think she would like that. After all, she hadn’t invited him to do so.

‘So, what do you think about that? I’ll meet you back here at lunch?’

Senses madly scrambling to catch up with the last few minutes of conversation, Iago slowly realised that Drucilla was trying to set up a lunch date.

With him.

‘But…Creetan…’ he mumbled in confusion, tongue thick and heavy in his mouth. One part of his brain, the part that made him an obedient solider, was screaming against this betrayal of his commander. But another part – the part that controlled his eyesight and several other parts of his anatomy – was screaming equally as loud and telling the soldier-brain to shut the hell up.

Drucilla flicked a glance down towards the other end of the table. Creetan had been a dozen or so seats away on the other side, but he didn’t seem to be there anymore.

‘Creetan? Creetan’s…fine, I suppose…if you’re into boys. Some other girls might be.’

Returning her gaze to her neighbour, Drucilla slid along the bench until her thigh was pressed to his.

‘But I don’t like boys. I’m into…men.’

And, with that, his fate was sealed. Iago didn’t spare another thought for the assignment he had been given. In fact, he didn’t spare another thought for anything at all for the remainder of the morning. His first class of the morning was without either Drucilla or Creetan, and beyond that he wasn’t aware of anything else that was happening around him.

When lunchtime came, Iago was one of the first people sitting down at a table in the Hall. When Drucilla walked in, saw him, and started to make her way down the room to his side, Iago thought his tiny brain would burst. Surely it was too small to handle all the feels he was feeling and the thinks he was thinking. One person simply couldn’t feel that many things at once. They’d explode.

Lunchtime was a blissful experience for Iago. He didn’t really know what was going on, or what Drucilla was saying, or even why she was saying it to him in the first place. But he was happy. He knew that much.

Until, that is, Hans Montrose came and pulled him roughly aside.

‘Do you have a death wish, Trevellan?’ Hans muttered crossly.

Iago didn’t have to ask what the other boy meant. He wasn’t that dim-witted.

‘Creetan was mad enough this morning, when that thing with the juice happened. Now he walks in and sees this? You must really want to die.’

Iago pushed Hans’ hand off and stepped back.

‘Why would I care what Creetan thinks?’ he asked, loud enough for Drucilla to hear, although not loud enough to reach Creetan, sitting half a dozen people up the table.

Hans just shook his head and walked away, muttering to himself. Iago returned to his seat, only to find that Drucilla was now gone. Confused, he looked to his right…then to his left…then to his right again.

‘She’s long gone, you idiot,’ came a voice from across the table.

Iago looked up. Camsin Alecto was glaring at him, his eyes full of a deep anger that Iago thought was a bit unwarranted for the current situation.

‘She went off with Creetan while you were talking. What, you thought she liked you or something?’

Camsin gave a short, harsh laugh.

‘You’re a gorilla with a wand. What girl on this earth could possibly want to be with you?’

Watching Camsin’s departing back, Iago couldn’t help but feel that his words had been unnecessarily harsh. And untrue – Drucilla wouldn’t go anywhere with Creetan. After all, she didn’t want a boy, she wanted a man. She’d told him so herself.

She’d probably just gone off to class. They had History of Magic next – he’d probably see her there and they could pick up right where they’d left off. So when he’d finished eating, he took up his bag and went to find her.

But Iago didn’t make it to History of Magic that day. He was almost there when he ran into a fist that came out of nowhere. On the other end of that fist was a person with a dark, scowling face.

The face snarled a few choice expletives which effectively spelled out the message, ‘What do you think you’re about?’.

Iago squinted up at Flint, his Slytherin year mate, from his position on the floor, clutching a rapidly developing black eye in stupefaction. And then it all came crashing down on him like a tonne of bricks.

Flint Brovane.

Drucilla Brovane.

Possibly not a good idea to get involved with one of his fellow guard’s cousins.

So, almost resignedly, he settled in for one of the finest beatings of his life.

Iago Trevellan was not a bright boy.
















 

There were only two people in the world of whom Hans Montrose was afraid. One was His Grace. The other was his own father. Hans didn’t particularly want to be a member of the Guard. It was hard work, and if there was anything in life he hated, it was hard work. But his father had told him to make more of an effort in order to keep up the family name, and anything his father ordered, Hans would do.

That being said, he had no real interest in keeping watch over her Grace or any of her mudblood or traitor friends. He certainly wasn’t going to go out of his way to keep an eye on her, not like Creetan and some of his more fanatical flunkies.

But it just so happened that, one morning, he happened to be looking over to the Gryffindor table at a certain moment, and a certain sight caught his attention.

Her Grace was smiling at one of the Gryffindors. A male Gryffindor. One that looked suspiciously like the Head Boy. One who was smiling back at her. And then raising his eyebrows in a way that had Hans raising his own. Suspiciously.

This was all beyond Hans’ comprehension, and he was man enough to know that. So he appealed to a higher source of knowledge.

‘Celeste!’

His half-sister was sitting a few places down the table, polishing off a piece of toast. She looked up reluctantly at his call and, in response to his beckoning, rolled her eyes and came to join him.

‘What? I’m not awake yet, Hans – I haven’t had my coffee and I’m not in the mood to talk to you.’

‘Are they flirting?’ he inquired with no preamble.

Celeste rolled her eyes again and turned in the direction he had pointed.

‘Are who flirting, Hans? And why do you care?’

‘Her Grace and that Gryffindor boy. Are they flirting?’

Celeste yawned hugely and took a large mug of coffee from the table.

‘Of course not. Don’t be an idiot.’

She drained half the mug while Hans processed her response.

‘They were smiling at each other,’ he protested at last, ‘surely that means something.’

‘Hans,’ Celeste interrupted in a bored tone, ‘just because someone smiles doesn’t mean they’re flirting.’

She directed his attention back down their own table.

That is flirting.’

She indicated Creetan and a girl who was sitting next to him. Hans had to admit, they were behaving very differently to her Grace and the Gryffindor boy. The girl was smiling and blushing and giggling, and Creetan’s chest was puffed out so far it almost obscured his face.

‘Oh,’ he said finally.

Celeste shot him another disgusted look, finished the rest of her coffee and looked at her watch.

‘You should probably get moving. You’re going to be late for class.’

Hans automatically stood up from the table and picked up his bag. As he began to walk away, Camsin Alecto sat in his recently vacated spot. Hans saw the way the younger boy was talking to Celeste and nodded to himself, satisfied with his new knowledge.

So that was flirting.

Celeste’s watch must have been fast, because Hans found himself outside the Transfiguration classroom before anyone else. He couldn’t remember ever being early to a lesson before. It was almost fifteen minutes before anyone else arrived, and even then it was a pair of Gryffindors that he couldn’t have spoken with even had he wanted to.

By the time the rest of his Slytherin friends arrived and the class started, Hans was beyond bored. He had no idea what went on in Transfiguration anyway, and now he just wanted it all to be over. Eventually he put his head down on the desk and tried to go to sleep. Professor Shinto glared at him briefly, but she didn’t try to stop him. Reuben Path, one of his year mates, tried to ask him something halfway through, but Hans just shrugged it off and closed his eyes again.

Finally the bell went for lunch. Hans trudged down to the Hall as he considered another long, interminable day filled with classes. Not that his prospects once he finished school were anything to look forward to – training to join the Guard and then doing that for the rest of his life. Not exactly a thrilling prospect.

‘Do you think the runts will have the guts to show up at lunch?’ Reuben asked interestedly as they made their way slowly through the packed corridor.

Die Zwillinge? Why wouldn’t they come for lunch?’

‘Didn’t you see what happened this morning? One of them tripped or something and spilled juice all over Creetan. Of course, he doesn’t know which one it was, and they’re not likely to give each other up, so he’ll probably just be furious at both of them.’

Great. Creetan mad. That was the last thing they needed. And mad at members of the Guard. This was just getting better and better. Hopefully nothing else went wrong today and their fearless leader could just…sleep it off. Wishful thinking.

‘How did you miss it?’

Hans started to explain about Celeste’s watch being fast, but stopped as an interesting sight presented itself.

Iago Trevellan was sitting at the Slytherin table next to the girl that Creetan had been flirting with that morning. Hans and Reuben exchanged glances, Hans’ incredulous and Reuben’s amused. Without a word, Reuben took a seat and began to fill his plate.

There was no love lost between Hans and Iago either, but if there was one thing that Hans did love, it was when everything in their little world was running smoothly. That was when he was left alone to sleep and eat and generally do as he pleased. The moment there was some kind of chaos or disorder, his uneventful existence was shattered and he was drafted in to do work, of all things.

So it was only for the sake of keeping the peace that Hans made his way over to Iago and the girl. Grabbing the boys’ shoulder, Hans pulled Iago off to the side a little way.

‘Do you have a death wish, Trevellan?’ he muttered crossly.

Iago’s expression transmuted from blissful to guilty in a fraction of a second.

‘Creetan was mad enough this morning, when that thing with the juice happened. Now he walks in and sees this? You must really want to die.’

The guilty face had become sulky, almost petulant, and Hans groaned inwardly. So that was that. He wasn’t going to change his mind.

‘Why would I care what Creetan thinks?’ Iago demanded, pushing Hans’ hand from his shoulder and stepping away. Hans did notice that Iago didn’t speak loudly enough for other people to hear.

Shaking his head at the other boy’s stupidity, Hans went to join Reuben, muttering under his breath as he went. Just when everything was going along so evenly, just when he thought he might be able to sleep his way through to the end of the year…no. Iago just had to go and ruin it all.

Reuben scoffed at his downcast expression as he sat down.

‘You were never going to change his mind. It’s Drucilla. He stopped thinking with his brain at breakfast.’

Hans paused. The name sounded vaguely familiar.

‘Drucilla?’

‘Yeah, Drucilla Brovane. Flint’s cousin.’

Of course. He’d heard Flint mention her once or twice. It all started to come back to him. Very touchy about her, Flint was. Overprotective in the worst way. Once threatened to dismember a second year for looking at her the wrong way. That kind of thing.

The foundation of a plan started to take shape in Hans’ mind. Iago thought he’d disrupt Hans’ quiet little world, did he? Well. Two could play at that game.

After lunch, Hans headed along to his next class, intending to discuss matters with Flint once he got there. Instead he met the other Slytherin tearing along the corridor, and only just managed to slow him down in time to converse. Apparently, someone else had already had words of a similar nature with Flint, although he was too angry to say whom.

Whoever they were, they’d also given Flint quite the wrong end of the stick, which Hans was more than happy to rectify.

‘Creetan? Who told you that? It wasn’t Creetan, it was Iago – I saw it with my own eyes. All over her, he was. Disgusting, really. All I could think was, what if that was my sister? I tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen to reason. He should be along here soon. If I were you, I’d wait for him and then…well, I’m sure you don’t need any ideas when it comes to dealing with him…’

No one, reflected Hans as he made his way past an apoplectic Flint and towards his next class, not even his father could fault his handling of that situation.
















 

If asked, Flint Brovane would have been forced to admit that he didn’t particularly like his cousin Drucilla. He knew exactly what kind of a person she was, predatory, scheming, and perfectly happy to use her own body to further her plans. In any other girl, there was a possibility that he may even have respected such blatant wielding of power. But not from his own cousin. Not when every little scheme that she put into motion risked the family honour.

Drucilla’s mother, the younger sister of his own father, was hopelessly unable to deal with her wayward and manipulative daughter. Punishment, admonishment, and rules had absolutely no effect on her behaviour. So it fell to Flint, unwilling as he was, to police his younger cousin’s behaviour while at school. In fact, that had been a contributing factor behind his family’s willingness to go along with His Grace’s plan for some of the members of the informal Guard to repeat seventh year.

Although the family hadn’t seen fit to fill His Grace in on that little detail.

So here he was again, preparing to do damage control and clean up any casualties of his cousin’s machinations. Not that he planned to go about it without causing casualties of his own. Anyone that messed with his cousin knew what they were getting themselves into. They had it coming.

When Celeste Montrose had approached him just after lunch, he hadn’t known what to think. Flint prided himself on having some degree of honour when it came to the other families that made up their small circle at school, so he had never really regarded her before. But when she was there in front of him…he was forced to admit that she was a very attractive young lady. Far more attractive indeed than his cousin, whom he knew owed a great deal of her allure to artifice and a school uniform that was several sizes too small.

But what Celeste had to say drove all those kinds of thoughts completely out of his head.

‘I’m…I’m not really sure how to tell you this,’ she began shyly, ducking her head and avoiding his eye, ‘I probably shouldn’t be…but I thought you really ought to know.’

She proceeded to explain, slowly, haltingly, that his cousin had been flirting with Creetan all morning, most indecorously, and had continued that behaviour right through lunch. Flint had been late up to breakfast, and had sat down the very end of the Slytherin table at lunch, discussing Quidditch with Alasdair McGowen and Gerard Farling, so he hadn’t seen any of it for himself.

‘I feel terrible for saying anything, I mean, at first I thought they might just be…talking, as friends. But then…as it went on…and I know she has those betrothal negotiations in progress at the moment… I would hate for anything to cast a…shadow over that. But I do feel terrible, doubting them both in this way. I hope that I’m wrong, I really do.’

She went on to detail how Drucilla had agreed, in her hearing, to meet Creetan on the fifth floor during the next class.

‘I can’t imagine why – if they wanted to talk I’m sure they could do that at dinner tonight. Unless its something that’s too urgent to wait. Oh, dear, I hope I haven’t made a dreadful mistake! Maybe it is something important!’

Innocent as she was, she didn’t seem to have any idea of what could possibly be going on up on the fifth floor. But Flint was no innocent, and his mind presented a myriad of possibilities all too readily.

With a curt nod to the girl, Flint marched off towards the stairs. It mattered little that Creetan was technically his superior. Family honour was something completely separate to the workings of the Guard, and Creetan had stepped over a line.

Flint was striding down a Second Floor corridor when he just about ran into Celeste’s half-brother, Hans. Instead of apologising or letting him go, the other boy grabbed at Flint’s robe and held him back.

‘Wait! Where are you going?’

Tersely, Flint outlined the information, by now so worked up that he didn’t even mention his source. Instead of shock or outrage, Hans’ face reflected exasperation.

‘Creetan? Who told you that? It wasn’t Creetan, it was Iago – I saw it with my own eyes. All over her, he was. Disgusting, really. All I could think was, what if that was my sister? I tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen to reason. He should be along here soon. If I were you, I’d wait for him and then…well, I’m sure you don’t need any ideas when it comes to dealing with him…’

No indeed. Flint didn’t know how Celeste had mixed up her information so significantly, but he was almost glad that she had. Maybe she hadn’t and he’d just heard wrong. That was probably it. At any rate, it meant that he didn’t actually have to go and face up to the head of the Guard, which was in itself a small blessing. And it wasn’t like Iago was going to put up any kind of a fight. Flint had never met anyone quite like him before. One of those people who didn’t quite have all their Nargles on the one leash.

So he waited, silent and secretive, in the corridor, and all the while his fury continued to rise. Because, well, Creetan he could almost understand, but Iago? What on earth did Drucilla think she was doing?

When the boy in question eventually made his way down the passage, it was almost too easy. All Flint had to do was stick out a fist, connect said fist with a face, snarl a few epitaphs down at the boy now on the ground, and lay in to giving him a good old-fashioned beating.

And all thanks to his dear cousin Drucilla. Which proved, once and for all, that you can not, absolutely can not choose your family.
















 

There was something about ‘morning people’ that Celeste Montrose instinctively distrusted. Anyone who was fool enough to leave their warm bed early in order to exercise, or study, or do heavens knows what was clearly not to be trusted. Likewise anyone who started the day without a hot caffeinated beverage of some description, even if that beverage was only tea. She herself was a firm and committed coffee drinker, which in a British school was a cause for some small alarm, but was eventually accepted as being a European conceit.

On this particular morning, she was feeling rather more hungry than usual, so she had picked up a piece of toast and started work on that the moment she had taken a seat at the Slytherin table. With bread in hand, she perused the table in search of the coffee pot.

‘Celeste!’

That was quite unmistakably her half-brother Hans’ voice. Reluctantly, she looked up to see him sitting a few places up the table, beckoning to her. Rolling her eyes and heaving a sigh, she stood and went to join him, but only because she spied a silver pot and several large, steaming mugs near to where he was seated.

‘What? I’m not awake yet, Hans – I haven’t had my coffee and I’m not in the mood to talk to you.’

Hans wasn’t so bad as far as her half-brothers went. Their older brother, Fritz, was a real piece of work. Especially now that he was married to Manon, Creetan and Trelain’s older sister. But Hans wasn’t all that bad. They were only a few years apart, after all. His mother had died when he was merely than a year old, and their father hadn’t waited more than two months before marrying again. In some ways, Celeste’s mother was the only mother that Hans had ever known. Not that he was around her a great deal, boys and girls being having strictly separate upbringings in the severe Court environment. But maybe, just maybe, he had spent enough time with her to give him just a little bit of civility and normalcy. Maybe.

‘Are they flirting?’

So much for civility.

Celeste rolled her eyes hugely, over the conversation already, and looked to where he pointed.

And froze.

Don’t react, don’t react, don’t react.

Hans was pointing towards the Gryffindor table. Towards one specific spot at the Gryffindor table.

‘Are who flirting, Hans?’

She hoped against hope that he hadn’t caught the tremor in her voice.

‘And why do you care?’

Just look at Fred Weasley, you like looking at Fred Weasley, so just look at him. There he is, and, oh! Isn’t he just lovely, and yes, that’s good, keep looking at him, distract yourself, that’s right!

‘Her Grace and that Gryffindor boy. Are they flirting?’

Her Grace and the Potter boy. She was going to kill them. Both of them. Slowly. And at length. Right now she couldn’t even look at them, too afraid that she was going to see something so obvious that even her half-brother wouldn’t be talked out of remembering. Not that she objected to them having their little lovey-dovey-couple-sexy-time. Just not in public. And not when she hadn’t had time to prepare a defence. And, above all, not before she’d had her coffee!

Speaking of which, she had an idea. Yawning as far as her jaw would let her, she reached out and snagged a mug of coffee from the tray in front of her.

‘Of course not. Don’t be an idiot.’

While she drank, she couldn’t answer questions. Result. But she could quickly scan the table for an escape route and/or a change of subject.

Hans was mulling over her last reply.

‘They were smiling at each other. Surely that means something.’

Celeste had a momentary, and rather out of character, feeling of pity for her half-brother. No wonder he’d never had a girlfriend. The poor thing was going to end up an old cat-man if he wasn’t careful. He was utterly clueless. But she quashed the feeling down and put on her most bored and blasé expression.

‘Hans, just because someone smiles doesn’t mean they’re flirting.’

Luckily for all of them, someone at their own table had been kind enough to lend an appropriate example.

That is flirting.’

She pointed out Creetan and Drucilla Brovane, sitting a few people down on the opposite side of the table. The way they were carrying on was, quite frankly, ridiculous. Drucilla was giggling and simpering like an inane little twit and Creetan was lapping it up. Honestly, what with him and her half-brothers, it was almost enough to destroy one’s faith in the male species altogether.

‘Oh,’ said Hans faintly after a long moment of silence.

Celeste looked up to see him regarding Drucilla with the same glazed expression that she seemed to bring out in most males. Faintly disgusted, and somewhat disappointed, she drained the rest of her mug and looked pointedly at her watch.

‘You should probably get moving. You’re going to be late to class.’

Hans had never owned a watch in his life, so he wasn’t in a position to challenge her statement. Obediently he stood to his feet, picked up his bag and left. Celeste felt almost guilty for manipulating him in that way.

She felt even worse when his empty seat was filled a moment later by Camsin Alecto.

Why her? What did she ever do to deserve this?

Sighing, Celeste reasoned that the situation probably called for another cup of coffee.

Camsin had long laboured under the misapprehension that he was the gods’ gift to womankind, and sometime ago had set his sights on Celeste as his next conquest. At first, she had humoured him, mostly for their families’ sakes, but also because she, like Scorpius, was one of the few people who remembered the innocent child he used to be. Now, however, he was just annoying.

And persistent! She’d never known anyone so persistent! No matter that she never gave him the slightest hint of encouragement.

‘Sorry?’ she asked, suddenly aware that his last statement had ended with a rising inflection.

Camsin smiled at her indulgently, something she found particularly grating.

‘I asked how your studies are going, but I can see that they’re causing you some anxiety.’

He leaned closer, eyes narrowing in what he probably thought was a seductive manner.

‘You know, I’m always happy to offer my services as a tutor, if you should ever…desire them.’

If Celeste had been at liberty to do so, there would have been three things should would have liked to have said in response.

Firstly, how dare he presume to know what went on in her mind? Half the time she didn’t even know what went on in there!

Secondly, why on earth would she ever want to put herself in a situation where they would be alone together? It was bad enough when she was with him in public. She had no desire to see what kind of creepy things he could come up with if they were on their own.

Which led to thirdly. Thirdly, if he ever, ever used the word desire with her in that tone of voice again, she was going to punch him or slap him or kick him where he’d feel it most or something, and she didn’t care who was watching. It was just…wrong…and disgusting…and now she felt like she needed a shower.

Looking away, searching for something to take her mind off Camsin, she saw the two young Farlow twins making their way down the aisle towards Creetan. They must have felt her eyes on them, because they looked up as they neared him. Celeste smiled, genuinely. She liked the twins, even if they did lack a spine between them at times.

Eyes flying wide, the young boys returned her smile somewhat hesitantly. But as they did, Stewart, the younger twin, tripped over something or someone. Roger, his brother, tried to catch him, but it was too late – he was already falling.

Before Celeste’s horrified eyes, Stewart’s outstretched, flailing hand caught the edge of a goblet sitting on the table and sent it tumbling towards Creetan. The older boy was too surprised to back away, and within seconds pumpkin juice covered his entire front.

Roger was picking his brother up from the floor, both of them utterly shamefaced. They tried to explain something to Creetan, but he was too livid to hear them. From the way he was glancing at the girl sitting next to him, Celeste would warrant that a large percentage of his anger was due to embarrassment.

Creetan sent the twins off with an imperious gesture, and they looked none too pleased as they trudged away.

‘Disgraceful, isn’t it?’

Camsin was watching the ensuing chaos as Creetan tried to deal with the aftermath of the accident.

‘They’ve been carrying on that way for weeks, now. He’s turned all of this, all of us into a huge joke. I don’t know how he’s still in charge. He wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for his father and if Malfoy hadn’t stood up for him back at Court. As it is I don’t know how he expects to get a place in the formal Guard once he graduates.’

As Creetan stood to leave, Camsin turned to Celeste with a smile that put one in mind of a shark.

‘Wouldn’t you agree? This whole thing is a farce. All of those children panting after girls like dogs, instead of attending to their duties.’

An idea sprang, as brilliant ideas often do, fully formed and beautiful into Celeste’s receptive mind. With her most winning smile, she left Camsin alone at the table.

‘Will you excuse me? There’s something I’ve just realised that I have to do.’

Taking the long way around, she skirted the Slytherin table until she fetched up next to Drucilla and joined her on the bench. The older girl eyed her warily. Celeste may be younger, but she held a much higher rank within the Court and as such was afforded an unwilling respect. Add to that her potential as a romantic rival, and overall Drucilla wasn’t quite sure what to make of her.

‘Look, let’s not beat around the bush, shall we?’ Celeste began briskly, ‘All this is little more than a game for you, isn’t it?’

Drucilla didn’t answer, but her silence was admission enough. Up close, she was quite a different person then from far away, if you knew what you were looking for. The blush that appeared natural and effortless from a few seats off was, in truth, artificial and heavy-handed. Her eyelashes were clumped together with so much mascara that they resembled nothing so much as two hairy spiders protruding from her eye sockets. Gracious, could the girl even see?

‘So, essentially, the person who wins is the one who gets the other person more emotionally invested, is that so?’ Celeste continued, beyond caring whether or not she was coherent. Drucilla still understood what was going on, if her nod was anything to go by.

‘Well, I hate to break it to you, my dear, but you are losing, and you are losing badly.’

This was enough to startle a response out of the other girl.

‘What? What are you talking about?’

‘He’s not interested in you, not really. What’s worse, it’s obvious. He’s just playing around.’

‘No, he’s not,’ Drucilla was quick to disagree, ‘he’s supposed to meet me later, up on the fifth floor, during morning classes.’

‘And he probably won’t even go,’ Celeste continued complacently, ‘and how are you going to feel then, when you’re waiting up there alone for some boy that never comes? You, of all people?’

Ignoring the other girl’s indignant exclamation, she went on.

‘But if you were to give him some sort of, I don’t know, prod…’

She was met with a blank look.

‘What kind of a prod?’

Dear lord, what was wrong with this girl? She was supposed to be the biggest man-eater in their House. Surely she didn’t need instructions?

‘An incentive?’

Another blank look.

‘I thought I already was offering an incentive…’

Good grief!

‘Not that! That’s already on the menu, for better or for worse. No, I mean something else, something to get inside his head and make him do whatever you want. Like…flirting with someone else! That would do it!’ Celeste pronounced triumphantly, like the thought had only just occurred to her.

Drucilla considered for a moment, then realisation began to dawn.

‘So…you mean I should make him jealous?’

‘Exactly!’

Finally.

‘And as for the who…I think Iago Trevellan would make an excellent choice, don’t you? You could set it all up now and then really go in for the kill at lunchtime, and then Creetan will be completely yours! You’ll have won!’

Drucilla’s face suddenly became wary once again.

‘Why are–’

‘Why am I helping you? Because I wouldn’t mind either of those two fools being brought down a peg or two, if I’m honest. And as for the rest…call it a social experiment.’

Drucilla seemed to accept that, and she stood without another word and made her way over to Iago. Celeste watched their exchange interestedly. For all her previous denseness, Drucilla certainly didn’t need any pointers when it came to practical applications.

There were two other people that Celeste felt she should inform of her little plan, and she found the first before she’d even left the Great Hall. Scorpius was studiously checking through his bag to make sure he had everything he needed when Celeste sat down beside him.

‘Nast and Potter–’

‘I have a plan, one I can’t tell you too much about at the moment, but just trust me that it’s a good one. It should distract Creetan and the rest from anything else going on around here for a while.’

Scorpius gave her a look that was one part resignation to two parts exasperation.

‘You should have been in Gryffindor, do you know that? This is obviously very much the wrong house for you.’

‘You’re just jealous that I won’t tell you the details of my magnificent plan.’

‘Oh, so now it’s magnificent? A moment ago it was only good.’

Celeste resisted the urge to poke her tongue out at him. As she did, she felt a faint and familiar pang. This was the kind of relationship she wished she had with her real brothers, the teasing, bantering, supportive form of close friendship. But it couldn’t be helped.

The second person she ran into on her way to class. Anastacia was walking the opposite way down the corridor with two of her Gryffindor friends. Celeste took her sleeve as they passed and pulled her gently to the side of the passageway.

‘I’ll be brief, but so that you know, there were some problems at our table this morning, with Creetan. And Camsin is getting more and more unhappy with being under his leadership. But I’m working on something at the moment that I hope will help.’

She hadn’t spoken in English, and Anastacia gave no reply so as not to draw attention to her multilingualism, but the look she gave the younger girl in return spoke volumes. Celeste grinned and left to go to her own class.

At lunch, everything continued to go exactly to plan. Drucilla and Iago sat making sheep’s eyes at each other and the rest of the Guard were too focused on the little drama unfolding before them to pay any mind to goings on at the Gryffindor table. Next to Celeste, Scorpius was not so convinced.

‘I’m not so sure about all of this…’

‘Oh, hush, just admit that my idea is working and move along, Scorpius!’

Celeste watched Creetan carefully from the moment he entered, searching for the right time to approach him. When his shoulders started to sag and he looked down at the table in defeat, she pounced.

‘Creetan, what on earth is the matter with you? You look like a Dementor asked you on a date.’

‘I’m not in the mood to talk,’ he responded darkly, glaring at where Iago and Drucilla were sitting.

Celeste obviously followed his gaze and then made a great show of understanding.

‘Oh, no! That’s too bad! And the two of you worked so well together! What happened?’

‘How should I know? She was supposed to meet me on the fifth floor during class, but I waited and she never came. And then when I came in for lunch, they were sitting there together. I don’t know what’s going on!’

Celeste fixed a concerned smile on her face and patted his hand.

‘Creetan, have you ever considered she might be…well…playing you?’

He looked at her incredulously.

‘What are you talking about?’

‘Take it from me,’ Celeste explained gently, ‘if there’s one thing we girls don’t care for, its being taken for granted. If we feel that we are, there’s no limit to what we’ll do to feel appreciated.’

‘…taken for granted?’

‘Have you ever told her how you feel? Have you hinted at it? Did you ask her to Hogsmeade or say that you think she’s pretty?’

All her questions were met with a shake of his head, and Celeste, still radiating concern, sighed.

‘Well, I’d say that’s it, then. She’s decided that you don’t really care for her and she’s trying to rectify the situation.’

‘By being with Iago?’

‘By making you jealous! And it’s working, isn’t it? Don’t try to deny it.’

He didn’t. But he did look at her expectantly, with dawning hope.

‘So…what do I do?’

Looking down demurely, Celeste baited her trap.

‘Well, if I were you, and this is only in my very humble opinion, but if I were you I would make some grand play for her now. Show her that you got the message and that you really do care. Take her up to the fifth floor, like you were going to, tell her how you feel and sweep her off her feet!’

Creetan didn’t need a great deal of convincing. He was all too ready to take Drucilla’s arm while Iago was arguing with Hans, who for once presented himself at a useful moment, and propel her ahead of him out of the Hall.

All that was left to do was to find the final person involved in the theatricals.

It was almost too easy for Celeste to manipulate Flint Brovane into falling in with her plan. All it took was a shy glance up at him through her lashes and a halting, little-girl voice and he was as good as hers.

‘And then he asked her to meet him on the fifth floor. I thought she was going to refuse, I know I would have, but…she said…yes.’

Celeste shrugged in a confused sort of way.

‘I can’t imagine why – if they wanted to talk I’m sure they could do that at dinner tonight. Unless its something that’s too urgent to wait. Oh, dear, I hope I haven’t made a dreadful mistake! Maybe it is something important!’

She didn’t need to spell it out for him. Flint had his own reputation with the opposite sex, and Celeste knew the visions now spinning through his head would trump anything she, with her limited experience, could come up with.

Without a word, Flint headed for the stairs to the upper floors.

And, just like that, her trap was sprung.

Celeste drew alongside Scorpius as he made his way to class. She was bubbling over with her triumph and couldn’t resist filling him in on the final stage of her drama. Scorpius, of course, was less than impressed.

‘Celeste! This is just going to cause trouble! What were you thinking?’

He started to turn around and head in the opposite direction.

‘I have to go and stop it before it gets any worse. Reuben’s already on the lookout for Creetan as it is.’

‘Scor-pi-us!’ Celeste wheedled crossly, ‘Don’t you dare go and mess up all my planning! This took me all day!’

Scorpius was resolutely ignoring her, so she caught hold of his robe to hold him back.

‘You have Potions now,’ she reminded him, going for the only bit of leverage she could think of.

It worked. Scorpius froze mid-stride.

‘That’s right. Potions. An entire lesson with the Gryffindors. You could go off and get yourself in the middle of something that, let’s be honest, is going to get ugly rather quickly. Or you could spend a whole lesson with Rose. Which would you rather?’

Scorpius fought a short internal battle with himself, one that his pragmatic side quickly lost. Without a word, but shooting a dark look in her direction, he turned around and continued on his way to the dungeons. Celeste, face set in a smug expression, just about skipped along beside him until she reached her own classroom.

Not a bad breakfast plan for a non-morning person.

 
















 

Creetan Zarlow was used to being the good soldier – following orders, doing what he had to even when he didn’t necessarily feel that way inclined, always keeping his personal wishes and feelings out of the equation. It came naturally. Not only had he been trained that way, he’d been raised that way. His family had served as the leaders of the Court Guard for centuries. There had never been a time when a Zarlow had not stood as Captain of the Guard, and, if his father had his way, there never would be.

Now, more than ever, Creetan felt the pressure to be all that his father expected of him. After his elder brother’s recent disgrace, scrutiny had been placed on their family like never before. His Grace was favouring other, newer families, giving them positions and privileges that should have, by rights, gone to the senior members of the Court. They all knew why he was doing it – it kept everyone on their toes, everyone guessing about his next move.

But it meant that the Zarlows couldn’t afford for any more mistakes. And certainly not from their sons.

Creetan, well aware of all this already, was kindly reminded by periodic letters from his father. These usually arrived early in the morning or late at night, contained the strongest language possible and left Creetan in no doubt to his father’s state of mind. If anything happened between now and the end of the year, even if it had no connection to him whatsoever, on his head be it.

That being said, it had been some time since His Grace had asked them for an update on Anastacia’s conduct…and they weren’t really supposed to be watching her every move anymore. It had been some time since they’d actually conducted a real, full patrol to look in on her as well. However, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t aware of her comings and goings. Creetan prided himself on his subtlety and knew that Her Grace had no idea she was still being watched, or how regularly.

He did occasionally, very, very occasionally, mind, feel the slightest little hint of guilt at the way he treated Anastacia. He had some experience with having every facet of his life scrutinised and prescribed, after all. But the guilt was usually replaced with stronger feelings of annoyance and exasperation. Sometimes he thought that Her Grace’s sole purpose and pleasure in life was to make his own life difficult. In fact, scratch difficult – to make his life a living nightmare. She was the most contrary person on the face of the planet, and often the least trustworthy. So no matter his stated orders at that time, for him, she was never really off the hook.

Bearing all that in mind, Creetan made a point of checking in and having a good look at Her Grace that morning at breakfast. He sat down next to Scorpius Malfoy on the side of the Slytherin table facing away from the Gryffindors and, oh so casually, glanced over his shoulder in Her Grace’s direction.

And what he saw troubled him.

Her Grace and the Potter boy were sitting four or five people apart, separated by other Gryffindors. As Creetan watched, they looked up, caught each other’s eye, and…smiled.

That was not good. Not good at all.

‘Did you see that?’ Creetan demanded, pulling roughly at Scorpius’ shoulder, ‘Did you see what they did?’

‘Who, Creetan?’ Scorpius asked confusedly, swinging around to face the same direction.

‘Her Grace and that idiot, did you see it? There, they did it again!’

Scorpius considered the pair.

‘Oh, I see it. She smiled at him. And again. That’s odd.’

Creetan was now past annoyed and rapidly approaching a full on seethe.

‘What the hell is she playing at? She isn’t supposed to be consorting with him outside of her duties!’

‘Look up there.’

Scorpius was pointing to the Professors’ table. The Headmaster was looking intently in the direction of the Head Boy and Girl. As they watched, he then turned and commented to Professor Vem sitting next to him.

‘So what?’

‘Now look at them.’

Back at the Gryffindor table, Her Grace and the boy were now glaring at each other. Creetan, familiar with Her Grace’s displeasure, saw the set of her jaw and knew the anger to be real. It went a little way to calming his own anger.

‘They must be trying to keep up appearances, you know, get the Headmaster to think that they’re on good terms. I thought it was strange, her smiling at him. I have it on good authority that she utterly loathes him. If it wasn’t for the position, she wouldn’t have anything to do with him at all.’

It all sounded entirely plausible. Her Grace did set a ridiculous amount by what other people here thought, and it seemed like something she would do. Still, better safe then sorry. He’d learned that lesson from Trelain’s unfortunate handling of the Marcus incident. She needed to be watched. They both did.

However, as the head of the Guard here at school, he could be excused from constantly watching Her Grace himself. That was what delegating was for. So, pulling out a piece of parchment, he quickly scrawled a note and sent it winging down to Iago Trevallen, sitting a few seats away on the opposite side of the table. Iago read the note, nodded once at his commander, and settled down to watch.

Creetan helped himself to some breakfast, aware of Scorpius’ scrutiny.

‘You’re just going to leave it at that?’

‘Do you want to be the one to deal with her if we put her under formal surveillance again? Because I don’t.’

The other boy still didn’t look convinced. Creetan’s conscience twinged at the expression, and he knew he wasn’t really handling things appropriately, but he put all those uncomfortable thoughts out of his mind.

Just once, just for one day, it would be nice not to have to worry about that silly twit of a girl and all the things his father wanted him to do and be.

Besides, there were other, far more attractive in every sense of the word, things on his mind that particular morning.

As if on cue, someone took a seat on the bench to his right. Creetan turned and found himself looking down into a pair of dark brown eyes.

‘Well,’ Drucilla Brovane breathed, long eyelashes batting against her cheek, ‘good morning.’

‘…morning…’ Creetan managed, heat suddenly shooting to his face.

On his other side, he thought he heard a faint sigh, but a quick glance back at Scorpius showed the other boy applying himself to bacon and eggs, seemingly oblivious to what was going on.

‘Did you sleep well?’ Drucilla asked, taking up a cup of tea and sipping delicately.

‘Pretty well, thank you. You?’

‘Oh, not well at all,’ her voiced dropped and became fearful, ‘I had a nightmare, you see. It was terrible. I was so scared. I woke all the girls in my room with my crying. And then, when it was over, I just couldn’t go back to sleep. I wish someone had been there to hold me. I would have slept so much easier if I hadn’t been…alone…’

It was funny how sometimes, when the mind was concerned with other things, certain parts of the body just forgot how to function. Take, for example, the lungs. Creetan’s had completely forgotten that they were supposed to draw air into the body, and his brain was far too busy to remind them.

‘I’d sleep– I mean, I’d help you get back to…you could have…I could have…woken up.’

Drucilla blushed and giggled a little.

‘Oh, but the Captain of the Guard needs his sleep. You’re so much more important than me. I couldn’t let you…waste away your nights for my sake.’

Captain of the Guard. Merlin, that sounded good coming from her mouth. Not that he’d ever claimed that title before, but…Captain

‘If you ever…have one again, you know you can always come to me…for help. For anything. I’m there– here. To help, I mean, I’m here to help. You. If you need it. In the future. I’m here.’

Smiling shyly, Drucilla snuggled, yes, snuggled, into his side. Creetan’s insides went all weird and he felt a little light headed as all the blood rushed away from his brain.

‘You can’t know how much better that makes me feel. To know I can come…to you…whenever I need you.’

Most of their time at breakfast was passed in a similar manner. Creetan had never felt in finer form. Everything he said was hilarious, Drucilla hung on his every word. He was invincible. He could do anything. And when he asked her to come with him to the fifth floor after breakfast, she accepted.

The one dark cloud came when the young Farlow twins started to make their way over to him through the crowded aisle. When only a few feet away, one of the idiot boys tripped over his own feet and started to fall, arms waving wildly as he fought to gain his balance again.

One of his hands clipped a full goblet on the table nearby, and, before he could do anything to stop it, Creetan suddenly found himself wearing a copious amount of pumpkin juice, all down the front of his jersey.

Painfully aware of Drucilla sitting just next to him, Creetan fervently wished with everything in him that the floor would split underneath his seat and swallow him up.

The floor, however, was unco-operative.

The boy that had fallen was being picked up by his brother, both of them red-faced and terrified. Creetan glared at them with unmitigated disgust, and they shrank back slightly. But they didn’t leave.

And then one of them, not the one that had fallen, the other one, had the gall, the gall, to try and talk to him.

‘Please, sir, its just that, we saw something, si–’

‘Get out.’

The boy flushed even darker, but kept going.

‘We’re sorry, Creetan, but we–’

‘Fu–’

Drucilla was still there. Drucilla was still watching. Keep it together. Don’t let her see you upset. At least, not too upset.

‘Stew…Rich…whichever one you are, did you not hear me? I said. Get. Out.’

To illustrate his point, he flicked his hand imperiously in the direction of the doors and glared at them until they turned to leave.

Returning to his companion, he found her looking up at him from under her lashes.

‘I suppose after all that, you won’t want to waste time with me this morning. They’ll need punishment, after all.’

Drawing his robe around him to hide his dripping clothes, Creetan tried for suavity.

‘Their punishment can wait. Give me ten minutes to get rid of…these, and I’ll meet you up there?’

Drucilla bit her lower lip, looked up, and smiled.

‘I’ll be waiting.’

Creetan fairly flew back to his dormitory. Grabbing some clothes, not really seeing what they were, he threw off his robes and yanked the soiled jersey and shirt over his head. As quick as he could, he changed and made his way up to the agreed place.

Evidently he had been faster than he’d thought. Drucilla was nowhere to be seen, probably still making her way up from the Hall. Creetan took the chance to settle his clothes and brush his hair out of his face. Then he leant against a wall and waited for her to appear.

And waited. And waited.

She was probably trying to get away from some of her friends. She was so popular.

Maybe she was dodging some of the Professors on her way up.

The bell for the first class of the morning reverberated through the castle walls.

He waited.

Some guy had probably held her up and she was trying to make him leave her alone.

She’d be along soon.

Eventually, one thing became abundantly clear.

She wasn’t coming.

Creetan couldn’t understand it. She had said she would. And she was interested in him, he knew that much. Unless she’d been put off by the incident at breakfast? But she’d still agreed to come after that. This made no sense. When someone agreed to something, they did it. So where was she?

There was nothing else for it but to trudge down to his first class of the morning. Transfiguration. Of course it was that. Professor Shinto let him into class without a word, but her dark eyes were flinty. She obviously didn’t believe his tale about getting held up by Peeves. Her expression made it clear that he would pay for this at a later date.

Creetan didn’t even care. He sat down next to Scorpius, who was peering at him with faint concern.

Professor Shinto set them an exercise and then let them practice as she walked around the room correcting tone and motion. Scorpius was in the seventh year class as part of his advancement program, so of course he mastered the exercise on the first try. His goblet, transfigured before the lesson by Professor Shinto, was once again a matchbox when he turned to Creetan.

‘What’s wrong with you? Why were you late?’

Creetan shrugged and grunted, not willing to get into anything.

‘It didn’t take you that long to go and change, surely.’

The Professor was coming their way. Begrudgingly, Creetan took out his wand and gave a half-hearted wave at the goblet in front of him. Nothing happened.

‘Maybe it would work better if you filled it with pumpkin juice.’

The snide remark came from a Ravenclaw somewhere behind him. It had to have been a Ravenclaw, because no Slytherin would have dared to say such a thing. Creetan reddened slightly but ignored it and tried again.

HOmorphus.

Still a goblet.

‘If you had bothered to pay any attention at all, Mr Zarlow, you would know that the incantation is pronounced HoMORphus, not HOmorphus. Five points from Slytherin.’

What a wonderful day.

‘So…do you want to tell me what’s going on?’ Scorpius enquired again after the Professor had moved on.

Creetan scowled at his goblet, sitting there on the desk, mocking him.

‘Some people,’ he replied at length, ‘some people you just can’t trust. You can’t trust anything that people tell you in this world. You can’t ever take things that people say at face value.’

 

Lunch was even more of a trial. He managed to pull himself together just before he entered the Hall, with full intentions of going and sitting next to Drucilla and trying to figure out what had happened that morning.

But he was presented with a very unexpected sight upon his entrance to the Hall. Firstly, he saw Iago, turned away from the Gryffindor table and clearly talking to someone. Clearly in defiance of his stated orders. But it was the person that Iago was talking to that really threw him.

Drucilla.

There she was, clear as day. Talking to Iago. Smiling at Iago. Laughing with Iago. All those things that she’d done earlier, at breakfast, but with Iago.

Creetan suddenly felt very small inside.

He sat down at the table, but he had no appetite. Reuben Path approached him at one point and tried to tell him something, but Creetan waved him off and made it clear he wasn’t interested. It became harder and harder to just sit there. He was sure that everyone else at the table was aware of just how pitiful he was. For the second time that day, he wished the ground would just swallow him.

What was Drucilla doing? He could have sworn she was really interested in him this morning. And he thought he’d made it pretty clear that he was interested in her. Could he have done something to turn her off? Was it something he’d said? What was going on?

‘Creetan, what on earth is the matter with you? You look like a Dementor asked you on a date.’

Celeste Montrose had come over to sit next to him. Creetan couldn’t help looking towards Drucilla and Iago. They were still laughing, and Drucilla was looking at Iago with wide eyes. Like she’d looked at him at breakfast.

Creetan felt sick.

‘I’m not in the mood to talk.’

Celeste looked in the same direction, confused. Understanding dawned on her face when she caught sight of the other two and then quickly changed to concern.

‘Oh, no! That’s too bad! And the two of you worked so well together!’

Yeah, they did work well together, didn’t they? They looked like the kind of people who were supposed to be together, not like Iago. He didn’t fit with Drucilla at all. He was like a great big weed next to a delicate flower.

‘What happened?’

‘How should I know? She was supposed to meet me on the fifth floor during class, but I waited and she never came. And then when I came in for lunch, they were sitting there together. I don’t know what’s going on!’

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She was supposed to be with him right now, hanging off his every word, not Iago’s. And this was just supposed to be a bit of fun. Not something that got him all worried and horrid feeling. Just a bit of fun to pass the time and take his mind off all the things that were going on at Court.

Celeste was still looking at him concernedly. They’d had their run-ins in the past, but she really seemed to be worried about him. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the one that he wanted to be paying him attention right now.

‘Creetan, have you ever considered she might be…well…playing you?’

Celeste patted his hand as she asked, as if to try and lessen the sting of her words. It didn’t really help. He was still gobsmacked by the very idea.

‘What are you talking about?’

‘Take it from me,’ she explained in a gentle voice, ‘if there’s one thing we girls don’t care for, it’s being taken for granted. If we feel that we are, there’s no limit to what we’ll do to feel appreciated.’

‘…taken for granted?’

What on earth was she talking about?

‘Have you ever told her how you feel? Have you hinted at it? Did you ask her to Hogsmeade or say that you think she’s pretty?’

Hell, before last week he’d only ever spoken to her in passing. Where in there had he had time to say that she was pretty? Not that it was something he’d ever say. As far as he was concerned, it reeked of desperation.

He shook his head in answer, and Celeste sighed.

‘Well, I’d say that’s it, then. She’s decided that you don’t really care for her and she’s trying to rectify the situation.’

In the space of one day? Not even, in the space between breakfast and morning classes? Who made up their mind that quickly?

‘By being with Iago?’

‘By making you jealous! And it’s working, isn’t it? Don’t try to deny it.’

He couldn’t. She was right. He was jealous, badly so. Which was very strange. If Drucilla had sat down with Iago a month ago, or even last week, he probably wouldn’t have cared. He might have wondered at her taste, but he wouldn’t have cared. And if she’d not come to their meeting that morning, but he’d seen her at lunch, he would have just carried on as if everything were normal. Instead…

But then along came Celeste. Suddenly, he felt a surge of gratitude. She was a girl! She would know how to fix this!

‘So…what do I do?’

Celeste’s plan was presented with a great show of diffidence and respect, neither of which fooled him for a moment. However, the idea itself was sound, so he overlooked the irregularities in her manner and decided to do as she said. And quickly, too – the bell had just rung for the end of lunch, and people were starting to make their way to their afternoon classes.

And it seemed that fate was on his side. As he made his way over to Drucilla, he saw Hans Montrose laying into Iago for some unspecified reason. It was only too easy to take Drucilla’s arm and lead her, firmly and compellingly, from the Hall. The fact that she made no demur, but meekly allowed him to propel her along, was a further boost to his poor bruised ego.

However, when they reached a secluded corridor on the fifth floor, he discovered that her submissiveness was less than real.

‘What do you think you’re doing, dragging me off like this? Do you think just because your family’s important at Court that I’ll obey your every whim, do you? Think I’ll come running whenever you want me? Is that what your girls usually do? Well, you needn’t think I’m like that!’

Her pert little nose was in the air, arms crossed under her ample breasts, and she looked, if anything, more attractive then she had that morning.

‘I don’t want you going with Iago,’ Creetan shot at her.

He immediately regretted it. This wasn’t how he’d wanted to start proceedings.

Drucilla glared at him.

‘Why? And why should you have any say in who I go about with?’

‘Because he’s an idiot!’

‘He’s in your Guard! You chose him yourself! So what does that make you?’

‘Well, he’s fine as a guard, isn’t he? Just not as…anything else.’

‘Anything else? Anything else? What is that supposed to mean?’

‘He’s not the kind of person that you should be going with, that’s all.’

‘Oh, and you are? You, Creetan Zarlow, who made such a rubbish job of Her Grace’s Guard that your own brother had to come in and bail you out. You couldn’t even stop Her Grace from being attacked. Are you saying you’re the kind of person that I should be going with?’

Creetan shrugged, almost sulky.

‘I might be…’

‘Might be?’

‘Alright, I am. I am exactly the kind of person you should be going about with.’

‘Really?’

‘Yeah. And what’s more, I’m the kind of person you should go to Hogsmeade with?’

Drucilla stared at him incredulously for a second.

‘Are you asking me to Hogsmeade?’

‘Maybe I am,’ Creetan tried in an offhand way, conveniently forgetting for the moment that he had never openly taken a girl to Hogsmeade before and that this could raise some eyebrows.

‘I decline.’

What?

‘I said, no.’

‘I heard you,’ he growled back, and swore quietly, ‘why?’

‘Give me one good reason I should go to Hogsme–’

BecauseIthinkyou’repretty!

They both paused.

‘I…beg your pardon?’ Drucilla asked softly.

Creetan took a deep and steadying breath.

‘Because…I think you’re pretty. Really pretty,’ he expanded, ‘actually, I think you’re one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen.’

And when Drucilla flung herself into his arms, and her lips were crushing against his own, he had a split second thought about the sheer, proven power of Celeste’s advice. And that thought, momentary as it was, terrified him. Because if she knew how to make this situation play out with just a couple of words, what else could she arrange?

Then he didn’t think about anything else for a rather prolonged period of time.

 

 














 

So. I’m back. Ta-da?

I’m so sorry that the break was so huge, everyone. The reviews I got in that time made me feel like a horrible person and a terrible writer. But I just didn’t have a chance to do anything, I really didn’t. There is a stage where life gets so mental and there are so many things that are important, vital, must-be-attended-to-as-a-priority things that something has to give. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the something.

But I am back now! I’m back, I’m back! And to reward you all, here’s an obscenely long chapter to make amends! Actually, this is only half of the original chapter (see what I mean by obscenely long?) but I have decided to split it up to make it a bit easier for everyone. And so that you don’t have to wait until I finish Part II to read it. Hopefully, that will be finished in the next week or so and you won’t have to wait too long!

So thanks a bunch to everyone who has stuck with me this far. I actually never envisioned even reaching this point, let alone having the finish line well and truly within my sights. You’re all gems, you’re all amazing, and you’ll be even more amazing if you review!! Please let me know what you think, what you hate, etc, etc.

Ta!

 

 


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True Deceivers: We're All Stories - Part I

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