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Chapter 6 : vi. the acceleration of chaos [or] holly & lester become inadvertent zookeepers
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When I return to the common room (the boys are still talking to their parents, but I figure my role as moral support has been fulfilled) Holly and Lester are waiting. Holly looks comfy – she’s still in her onesie and shrouded with an additional blanket, and is holding a steaming cup of tea.
“I love heating charms,” she says contentedly, leaning back on the arm of the couch. “I feel sorry for all those younger students who have to trek all the way to the Great Hall for a – oh, how’d it go with the boys?”
“I think it went okay,” I reply. “They’re still in Vector’s office, but there was hugging and handshaking going on when I left, so I think they’re fine.”
“It’s strange having them out,” Holly continues. “I mean, it’s good. It’s really good, I was beginning to think they’d take that to their graves, but it’s odd to think we’re not the sole keepers of their secret anymore.”
Holly has a point. Albus and Scorpius’s secret relationship was the first true test of our friendship, back in third year – it bound us together, the same way five accomplices to a murder are bound together forever. That was a terrible analogy, but the fact remains that there’s solidarity in secrecy and the five of us relished it back when we were overdramatic thirteen-year-olds. Of course, over the years we’ve found a lot more things to bind us together than clandestine romances, but Holly’s right. It is weird.
“We’ve been plotting,” Holly says, interrupting my reverie. “It’s all good for the boys to give that interview – it’s their prerogative, really, given that the last one was about them – but it’s not much of a prank. We need to go slapstick again. Visual humour. Louis followed by Pygymy Puffs was inspired, Rose. Them struggling to fly their brooms – I like to think that was a good one.”
“We’re going to put Transfiguring charms, controlled by a Protean Charm, on every roll of toilet paper in the castle,” Lester says proudly. “One minute you’re doing your business, next minute – doves.”
“Doves?” I repeat.
“Doves,” Holly confirms. “See?” She picks up a toilet paper roll from the floor, taps it with her wand, and turns it into three startled white doves.
“You guys are amazing, oh my God.”
“It’s going to be a bit tricky,” Holly says. “We’ll have to charm all the rolls well before we set them off – we’re thinking the gap between third and fourth period, everyone heads for the bathroom then – so we’d be doing it in third period – what day do we all have third free?”
“Wednesday’s our best bet,” I suggest. “That’s History of Magic, which takes out Albus and Scorpius – ”
“They don’t need to be involved in this one anyway,” Lester decides. “They’ve got their interview, though that won’t come out for a couple of weeks. But Wednesday works.”
“Wednesday,” Holly confirms, bouncing in her seat. “It’s exhilarating, isn’t it? I can feel the character development. We should write a novel.”
“Let’s not,” I counter. “Have you guys done the Transfiguration homework?”
“We’ve started,” Lester says, pulling out his wand and concentrating intently. A few seconds later three large rabbits burst forth and hop across the common room. “I can never get less than three,” he sighs. “What do you think I’m doing wrong?”
“I think you’re just doing it a bit too right, Raine.”
Lester scrutinises his wand briefly and tries again. This time, five rabbits join the other three in hopping around the room.
“Who wants some bunnies?” he asks the common room at large, and is greeted by a series of excited squeals from first and second years.
“I’ll have some bunnies, thanks,” Holly says.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Lester tells her, and conjures six bunnies onto her lap. Holly cooes delightedly at them.
“You can conjure yourself a bunny whenever you want,” I point out.
“Bunnies that other people have conjured are just better,” Holly replies. “It’s like stolen food. Besides, Raine’s the best of all of us at Transfiguration. Mine tend to have deformities.”
“The last two were hairless.”
“See, that’s what I like about you, Weasley. Always a positive spin on things. Bun?” She offers me a rabbit.
I take the rabbit, shuffling closer to her on the couch and helping myself to half her blanket. It may be only October but it’s already freezing, and there’s a fine dusting of snow on the window ledges outside. Holly rearranges blanket and rabbits until I’m smooshed against her. “You’re warm,” I say approvingly.
“You’re cold,” she counters, wriggling slightly and wrapping her arms around me.
Holly is, for want of a better term, very handsy. Maybe it’s because, for her, touch is just touch – innocent, affectionate, practical. It never means anything more, never has hidden meaning or significance. She’s a prolific hand-holder, cheek-kisser and couch-snuggler, and in times like these when the fire on the far side of the common room is doing precious little to ward off the chill (and when, I realise only now, I’m feeling drained from being the boys’ pillar of strength over the last few days) there’s nothing better than a Holly cuddle. Lester looks jealous, surrounded by rabbits on the opposite couch.
“Come join us,” Holly says, tapping the couch with her wand to expand it. “You look cold and you always smell nice.”
“Uh, thanks?” Lester shrugs, loosening his tie (yes, he wears a tie in the weekends – that says pretty much all you ever need to know about him) and awkwardly lowering himself onto the couch on Holly’s other side.
“C’mere,” she says, draping the edge of a blanket over him. “Mmm, you do smell good. New aftershave?”
“Old one, actually. Lost it halfway through sixth year.”
“Yeah,” Holly says thoughtfully. “There it is. Smells like Apparition lessons.”
“Destination, determination, deliberation,” I recite. “Holly, did you ever pass your test?”
“I tried again over the holidays, if you must know.”
“And I splinched myself in three different places,” she concludes. “I’m going to stick to the Floo Network, I think.”
“How do you splinch yourself in three places?” Lester asks. “I’m not even laughing, I’m genuinely impressed.”
“I left my foot behind – ”
“Easy to do,” Lester concedes.
“And the tip of my nose – ”
“That takes skill.”
“And my left boob.”
“Your what?” Lester asks, looking stunned.
“It’s bigger than the other one!” Holly says defensively.
I’m incapable of responding at this point, I’m laughing so hard. Holly’s offended face only makes it worse, until eventually she starts giggling too. “It sounds so much worse when I say it out loud.”
“How can it sound any better in your head?” I manage, and dissolve into laughter again.
“Somehow it does!”
We’re still in a hysterical, bunny-covered pile when Albus and Scorpius return to the common room.
“Well, that could have gone a lot worse than – what the fuck happened here?”
“Holly left her boob behind in her Apparition test!” I hoot.
“Holly did what?” Scorpius leans over and scoops a couple of rabbits off us. “Are you guys drunk?”
“I wish,” Lester says, wiping a tear from his eye. “We’d have some excuse for all…this.”
“Okay, okay, context,” I say, heaving myself into a sitting position. “Holly tried for her Apparition licence in the holidays, right – ”
“It’s better without context,” Holly decides.
“It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it’s still the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” Lester says.
“I Splinched myself last time I went out for my licence,” Holly summarises. “In the boob. On the boob? I was minus one boob.”
“You were reunited with it though, I see.”
“Moving on from the topic of Holly’s boobs,” Albus says smoothly, “We’re on our way back out anyway. Our parents are taking us out to the Three Broomsticks tonight.”
“Things really did go well, then?” Lester asks.
“Surprisingly,” Scorpius says. “I never thought I’d see the day – but Dad and Mr Potter are talking.”
“Swapping Hogwarts stories, no less,” Albus adds. “Mainly ripping into the few teachers they had a mutual hatred for, but it’s a start.”
“While our mums are trying to work out the exact timeline of our relationship,” Scorpius says, rolling his eyes. “Instead of, you know, asking us.”
“To be fair, you did keep it from them for three years,” Holly says reasonably.
“Shush. They’ve moved on. We’ve moved on. It’s okay. See you guys later.”
“Have fun,” Holly calls after them.
“Well,” Lester says, raising his eyebrows. “They’ve certainly got plenty of evidence against Louis and Lucy’s travesty of an interview.”
Holly frowns suddenly. “Raine, how long have these rabbits been sitting on me?”
“About four hours.”
“Well, sitting on all of us.”
“Still four hours.”
“One of them’s a guinea pig.”
“You conjured a fucking guinea pig along with five rabbits.”
“You took four hours to realise one of them was a guinea pig,” Lester counters.
“I took four hours. You two wouldn’t have noticed at all.”
Lester peers at the animal in concern. “Huh. He is a guinea pig. How did I do that?”
“D’you think you could turn him into a Pygmy Puff?” Holly asks. “I’ve always wanted one.”
“Holly, you are a Pygmy Puff,” I tell her.
“N’aww, thanks.” Holly burrows into my shoulder.
“No, I’m serious. You should become an Animagus. I swear to God you will actually turn into a Pygmy Puff.”
“Or a puppy,” Lester suggests. “What would I be?”
“A cat?” Holly says thoughtfully. “Cats are prissy, and you’re prissy – and clean.”
“My Patronus is a cat,” Lester admits. “Though I like to think there’s more to that than personal hygiene.”
“You can cast a Patronus?” Holly asks. “Of course you can.”
“Wandwork’s not my strong point, you know that. Rose, can you?”
“Cast a Patronus? Yeah. Mine’s a fox. And if you make a single joke about foxy – ”
“Aw, foiled again,” Holly says, disappointed. “What’s the time, anyway?”
“Five forty-five,” Lester replies.
“We should go down for dinner,” she says reluctantly. “What are we going to do with five rabbits and a guinea pig?”
“Something stupid,” Lester says. “Be right back, I’m gonna steal Albus’s Invisibility Cloak.”
Something stupid turned out to be the rather tame move of numbering the rabbits and guinea pig from one to seven, skipping number three, and releasing them into the Gryffindor common room. Given we had five minutes to come up with and execute the plan, it’s not a bad effort – and Holly spends dinner chatting happily (and vaguely) about how much our skills and ability to think on our feet have improved since the beginning of the year. We take a detour past the library on our way back to the common room – we have research essays to write for Ancient Runes, and we issue the four copies of Linton & Smart belonging to the school before our classmates can lay their hands on them. Linton & Smart is a comprehensive dictionary first published in 1898, and includes every word and every notable or differing usage in surviving literature – it is to Runes what the Liddell & Scott is to Greek or the Lewis & Short is to Latin. (We only know that because Scorpius has his own copies of all three – man is a nutter when it comes to ancient languages, and absolutely swimming in his parents’ Galleons.) As we’re walking out the library doors with the Holy Grail of Runes piled in our arms, we overhear a couple of anxious-sounding Gryffindor Prefects.
“We can’t find number three anywhere – God knows what kind of damage a rabbit could do in the common room…”
“Well, we can’t quit till we find him. How far could a rabbit get anyway – ?”
We walk a bit faster, hurrying out of earshot to explode in laughter, and run into a suspicious-looking Emily Huntington on the south-west stairwell.
“What are you lot laughing at?” she asks with a frown.
Emily has never held our sense of humour in particularly high esteem. Bearing this in mind, I let out a particularly evil-sounding cackle and gesture to the books in our hands. “We took the last of these from the library. Our classmates are gonna be screwed for their translations!”
She raises one unimpressed eyebrow. “Wow. You guys are sad.”
“You’re sad,” Lester says.
Deciding we’ve done enough damage to our reputation for now, I heft the dictionary into the crook of one elbow and use my free arm to steer Lester up the stairs and away from Emily. Holly follows suit, a pep in her step that absolutely should not be there given the relative sizes of girl and dictionary.
“Inspired,” Lester says once we’re out of earshot.
“Is that sarcasm I hear, Raine?”
“Potentially.” He hesitates, thinks about that for a moment. “Actually, no. It was inspired. As far as deflecting suspicion goes, spot on.”
“I don’t know why I didn’t turn these talents to a life of minor rule-breaking earlier.”
“Same here,” Holly enthuses. “We make an unstoppable team, Rosie. The masterminding, the execution, the aftermath – ”
“The aftermath could use some work,” I concede. “We need to come up with a better way of reacting to retaliatory pranks that doesn’t involve using Scorpius as a point-taking deus ex machina.”
“We can work on that, though,” Holly says determinedly. “If only we could have our time at Hogwarts over – ” She cuts herself off suddenly, a look of horror dawning on her face as she gropes wildly at my arm. “Rose,” she whispers. “We’re going to be teachers.”
I catch on immediately. “Oh no.”
“We can’t be teachers,” Holly continues. “We’re – we’re terrible role models, Rosie!”
“It’s just for one year. One year, then we’ll be back to our model citizen ways.”
“It’s in my soul!” she wails.
“Lord, give me strength,” Lester mutters.
We make it back to the common room in time for Holly and I to have a hushed, frenzied meltdown about whether we’ve corrupted our characters too much to make good teachers and whether we can ever pull ourselves out of this tailspin of degrading morality, until Lester rolls his eyes heavenward, takes a deep breath, and stands.
“Ladies!” he roars. Holly and I freeze mid-sentence, comically clutching each other’s elbows, and stare wide-eyed as he clears his throat, glances around the silent common room apologetically, and continues in a much calmer tone. “You’ll both make fine teachers. In fact, you’ll probably be even better now that you’ve had some…firsthand experience with misbehaviour.”
“Hey, you’re right,” Holly whispers in wonder. “Rose. This year is an investment. Not only for the scholarship, but for the future quality of our teaching. We can do this. We need to do this.”
“Are all these motivational speeches really necessary?” Lester asks after a brief pause. “I mean – personally, you all had me at five thousand Galleons.”
“Shut up, Raine, we’re having a moment.” Holly turns to me, grips my hand firmly. “For our future students.”
“For our future students,” I echo, and we shake on it.
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