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Play the Devil by Lululuna
Chapter 12 : The Joust
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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Chapter Twelve
The Joust

 

Amazing CI by lyric at TDA.


Devonshire, 2023

In the land Rose Weasley had left, Scorpius Malfoy separated himself from the herd of Weasleys crowding around Lily Potter’s boyfriend Matt, who had just experienced the unfortunate event of having his nose broken by a Bludger destined for Scorpius. The Malfoy boy felt a little lost. He had always been slightly in awe of Rose’s family and how much effort they made to come together as a collective: the cousins and parents and aunts and uncles he had met while he and Rose were together were always so kind, so welcoming, even to an outsider like himself. He had met the famous Harry Potter and ruled that, despite snide remarks from his father that the man was a self-conceited, overly righteous do-gooder with poor wits, a slow mind and preposterous taste in friends, Draco Malfoy’s old nemesis was relatively kind and humble.

Scorpius had felt a little uncomfortable invading the family get-together, to say the least. Lucy had coaxed him into coming: she was cool, Lucy, one of his favorites of the Weasley cousins that he’d been exposed to. She came across as a little cold, but she was just shy, and really funny once he had taken time to get to know her. Scorpius wasn’t sure if Lucy knew about him and Rose or not: he usually saw Lucy when they were hanging out with the same group of Slytherins whom Rose avoided like the plague at school. As the night and worn on, however, Scorpius had felt more and more uncomfortable about being in the presence of his ex-girlfriend, who insisted on ignoring him; of her parents, who avoided his gaze; of her cousins who were in on the secret, and looked increasingly irritated with the tension. Albus especially seemed upset: he wasn’t a very confrontational or vengeful person, and sticking to Rose’s orders of ignoring Scorpius must have been tough on him.

He had been relieved when the game of Quidditch was suggested: a few of the family had played for their house teams, and Al’s mum had even gone pro for a few years. Scorpius’ mum was friendly with Mrs. Potter, or as friendly as two women could be whose husbands disliked each other, and Astoria’s son felt like he was on good enough terms with Ginny to merit some sympathy. He’d been pleased to be up in the air, away from the small-talk and inquisitions by Lucy’s aunts and uncles about what he was planning to do now that he’d left Hogwarts, and oh, Al and Rose were in your year, did you ever have classes together? The lies were beginning to wear at him, though he knew it was what Rose wanted.

What Scorpius had really wanted from the evening was the chance to talk to Rose and apologize, properly, and talk things out in a mature and respectable manner. He’d heard she’d forgiven the other party involved quickly enough; to be fair, it was mostly his own fault, what had happened. He’d been drunk, and feeling useless. He was never quite good enough for Rose: she had this huge, loving family, all this support, and all he had was a presumptuous father, a busy albeit loving mother, a handful of estranged and insane relatives including a handful of blood extremists and murderers. Scorpius just had so many better things to do than sit around being prejudiced, though he knew that hating and looking down on others as his inferiors was part of what kept his father sane. Rose was clever, vibrant, beautiful: next to her, Scorpius was plain and boring. Rose hadn’t even wanted to tell people about them, for Merlin’s sake. He wasn’t good enough for her, and she knew it, and so maybe that’s why his inebriated, vicious self had come forward that one night in the Hog’s Head and ruined everything. Maybe he’d wanted to ruin things himself, to hurt Rose before she had the opportunity to hurt him.

So after Rose ran away at the Burrow, Scorpius chased after her. Seeing her take off from the grass, he had hopped on his own borrowed broom – which had nothing on his Firebolt 900 back home, but beggars can’t be choosers – and flown after her. He’d seen her distant shape alight down in a field a little farther away from the Burrow hedge. He watched, helplessly from the sky, as she closed her eyes and took a large sip of something. Then she turned on the spot, mouthing something he was too far to make out, and dis-Apparated.

Scorpius landed a little clumsily in the field. Sometimes, if the wizard was quick enough, it was possible to trace the Apparating spell and figure out where the Apparating wizard had disappeared to. He told himself it was his duty to find Rose: her family would be worried that she’d just run off, after all: they were a paranoid, worrying lot, according to Rose’s many amused rants in the past. Scorpius pulled out his wand. But as he was about to cast the spell, something on the ground where Rose had just stood caught his eye. He bent down to find a little bottle, about a quarter full of a milk-white potion which was warm to the touch. It seemed to be bubbling a little: he wondered if this was what Rose had dropped. Whatever it was, it gave him the creeps, but he uncorked the top anyway, his curiosity getting the better of him, and took a large whiff. It smelled delicious.

**



Fotheringhay Castle, 1468

Ellyn woke me early in the morning to head down the chapel. I dressed quickly with her help, hoping I wouldn’t see anyone from the night before, though secretly wishing that Richard would be there and we could talk as we had the day before. The truth was that I felt awful.

My head was spinning and my vision a little cloudy. The bright sunlight was a curse from heaven rained down upon my virgin eyes. My stomach made funny noises as the leftover wine seemed to gurgle and groan its way through my digestive tract, and some of the pork and vegetables from the night before had come out the way they came in throughout the night, providing a use for the chamber pot after all.

“I am so, so sorry you have to deal with that,” I told the maid who came in to clean up my room. She jumped and skittered away from me, carrying the dreadful thing without flinching. I wished that I’d had the foresight to Vanish its contents before the morning, but honestly I had been too busy curled into a ball and feeling sorry for myself.

Something I was distinctly feeling a lack of was the presence of water. Back home, water was everywhere: fountains, sinks, bathtubs, bottled. My previous hangover remedies had been to eat greasy, smuggled snacks before bed, drink at least a litre of water, and to sip water constantly throughout the night as I woke up. Here at Fotheringhay castle, the drinking water came from a well in the courtyard, which was a considerable distance from the door of my chamber. The people usually drank wine and other alcoholic beverages at meals: it was considered healthier as fresh water was easily infected with disease. Ellyn had warned me the first time I asked for water that it was suspected that something had died down in the well, as the water was tasting poorly and a few servants had been stricken ill down in the kitchens, so that was an even less desirable choice.

The other option was of course to cast a water producing charm and drink that, though Mum had warned me several times that Aguamenti water was not properly sterilized and not meant to be consumed without risking contamination, and I was better to stop being lazy and get water from the sink. A lot of good that will do me now, Mum, I thought to myself angrily that bright summer morning.

My limbs felt a little shaky and my foot twisted out from under me once as I walked back from the mercifully empty chapel: Ellyn helped me from walking too crookedly, asking politely if I was feeling off that morning. I passed a couple of the men from the night before who bowed a little dis-interestingly towards me, and thought bitterly at how healthy and chipper they seemed. Everyone was getting excited for the damned joust: at the moment, listening to loud yells and cheers as great plates of metal clanged together and watching people gallop about on horseback seemed like my own personal kind of hell.

Outside my chamber, I found Annie walking down the corridor, accompanied by two female servants. She cried out when she saw me and kissed my cheek again; I was yet to discover why she found it so important to immediately adore me. Although having some sort of friend here was clearly in my best interests – apparently Richard didn’t count, considering my apparent invisibility in front of him – I threw on a ghastly smile and did my best to simper down at Annie. Her hair was plaited into two long braids which were pinned up loosely to the back of her head, and she wore a pretty blue gown which fit her tidy frame very neatly, pale hands poking from the flared sleeves.

“Goodness, Rose dear, you look ghastly,” Annie whispered, putting a cool little hand to my forehead. “Are you quite well?”

I had no idea how many details were proper to divulge in this sort of situation. My instinct longed to pour out all the disgusting details of my hangover and whine about them while Annie sympathized with me like I would with a familiar acquaintance back home, but reason prompted that a lady such as this would not take well to that sort of behavior. I told her I was very tired, and she patted my arm and told me to get some rest before the jousting started, she would cover for me with the men.

I thought about her carefully as she walked away, bossily reprimanding her maids on something they had done wrong in her wardrobe. Had Ellyn been right, and had Anne Lovell chased after Richard after the tense confrontation with Sir Nicholas? The idea felt uncomfortable to me: of course, she was married to one of his closest friends, although clearly infidelity seemed to follow me around this year like a stray dog.

The thought of something going on between Annie and Richard put an unpleasant feeling into my stomach, though I knew I had no real right to think such thoughts. Just because he kissed me once in his own future did not mean that it would ever become a habitual event. Perhaps he was drunk, that one day on the hunt, or under some sort of spell! Perhaps Agnes, with her hedgewitchery and insistence that Richard and I meet, had concocted some sort of love potion and cast it into his drink!

The idea seemed preposterous, but the man clearly had no present interest in me. And I was not looking my best today, and the potion which had transported me back here was bound to run out soon, considering how quickly it had pulled me back to Maude’s Barnard Castle the first time. Time was running out, and I was no pretty sight. If Richard was going to suddenly develop an attraction to me, it would surely not be today, I thought rather bitterly. If Annie turned out to be his type, then it seemed rather unlikely he’d go for me.

Besides, did I even want Richard to like me? Granted, the duke thing was well prime. He had lain down in the grass with me to watch the clouds; perhaps he had been simply acting polite, but now that I had seen him among his peers it was difficult to imagine him descending to lie defenselessly on the ground with any of them. And that kiss back in the forest in Barnard Castle was marked on my memory. Yet he was so cold, so stern, so unforgiving. I curled into the bed, lying on my back to settle my stomach, and pondered this after I sent Ellyn to find me a glass of water, possible contaminations aside. Scorpius had never had a problem with communication: he filled up any empty room with space and words. The other boys I had been interested in were always very blatantly into me, marking us as equals on the playing field. But Richard had this coldness to him, an impenetrable shell. He might look like a boy, but he was a man, with responsibilities no boy my age back home could bear. He was quite unreachable: we were, if anything, opposites. But there was something there: the kindness when he invited me to confide in him; his careful walk when he waited for me to finish at “prayer,” and then sending his manservant to see about my dress for the feast.

Ellyn returned and set a glass of wine in my hand. She explained that the cooks had flat out refused to lend her access to the well; they refused to be the ones who would “poison the pretty baron’s daughter under the duke’s protection.”

“Really,” she whispered, “they were just frightened of what would happen to them if they were accused of poisoning a lady.”

I thanked her, and brainstormed spells for turning wine into water. Transfiguration class had mostly concentrated on the much more complicated reverse spell. I vowed to myself in my miserable state that if I ever made it back to the twenty-first century I would learn some spells which would be actually useful in a crisis. Asking that Ellyn wake me a little while before the joust was scheduled to start, I curled up around a scratchy pillow and fell back asleep.

**



When I woke up a few hours later to Ellyn shaking me gently by the shoulders, my head felt a good deal clearer and my body a little sturdier. Ellyn helped tie one of the dresses I had been allotted from the back, and I was again grateful for her help. The fact that Ellyn and I were the same age yet she was supposed to be serving me was making me a little uncomfortable. At Hogwarts, all the students no matter their parents’ wealth demographic had of course been equal: for one to serve another would have been ridiculous and odd, though Dad had told me some amusing stories about Scorpius’ Dad’s friends Crabbe and Goyle in their school days and the things they’d had to do for their friendship with Malfoy. I was careful to thank Ellyn warmly, though my alleged superiority to her was something I was unsure about how to treat.

The jousting area had been set up in a large area behind the stables, which looked like it hadn’t been properly used in a few years. The stand, set up with several benches and two large wooden chairs in the center, was made of wood that had seen better days though the benches had been hastily covered with mis-matched cushions. The long barrier which split the field in two was a little worse for wear, with part of the large plank appearing to be rotting and another bit with chunks taken out of it as if it had been gnawed by large termites.

I settled myself onto the bench in between Annie and Sir William, the other man from the card game the previous night who wasn’t to compete until late in the afternoon. He was a stocky, serious-looking man in the daytime, with a fine brown beard and ears which were very small yet seemed to stick out at a ninety-degree angle from his skull. He wore puffed sleeves and a hat cocked at a jaunty angle, perhaps to hide the early baldness which had infected his rather round head. He was a kind bloke though, and explained the rules of the joust when I inquired, thinking a lack of knowledge could be passed off as feminine foolishness (how Victoire would have raged to have seen me! Mum too, for that matter). But apparently this was the right thing to do, for when Annie heard our conversation she turned back to us and, resting her little head on my shoulder, batted her lashes girlishly at Sir William and asked him some ridiculous questions which even I could have figured out the answers to.

Sir William explained that as there were ten competitors, each would ride one round against the other. The four men with the most points would ride in the next round, and finally the two winners of each set would ride against one another and be declared the victor, and be crowned with a wreath of laurels as well as receive a handsome purse. Sir William sounded quite wistful when he said this – perhaps he had lost significantly in prior card games and could use the purse. He explained that each round consisted of eight passes in which the riders would charge down the lists at one another. Touching the opponent with the lance merited one point; a shattered lance meant five points, and unseating the enemy meant ten points. There were also several possibilities to receive negative points- apparently Sir Francis was notorious for hitting his opponent’s horse with his lance, which was strictly against the rules and merited a loss of five points. I personally thought the horse probably would have preferred a stronger penalty. Annie asked what happened if the man was unseated and couldn’t get up; I tuned out the answer to this.

Some of the local gentry and even some of the more well-to-do villagers (merchants, mostly, Annie explained in a whisper) were permitted to watch the little tournament, though they sat on much harder and lower benches than we nobles (or, the actual nobles plus imposters like myself). A herald with a horn came forward and announced that the first set would be ridden by Sir Francis and a man whose name escaped me but who had a shield of three red crosses on a white background, and the second set by Sir Nicholas and Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The first four men rode forward, bowing their heads to the two empty thrones which sat high above us all- I realized a little late that the chairs were a stand-in customary honor for the absent king and queen. The first two, Sir Francis and Crosses, took off their helmets. They were garbed in full silver plates of armour, which reminded me quite strongly of the suits of armor which decorated Hogwarts and were prone to going for unexpected strolls. Each man sat upon a large horse, and the great beasts pranced with excitement as the small crowd admired them.

Crosses rode forward to where we ladies were sitting, and extended his lance to one of the broad-faced girls whose name, I was quite sure, was Lady Mary, and she was either his wife or his betrothed and the daughter of a rather well-endowed earl. Mary simpered a little and stood up to tie the sash from her dress around the end of the lance, kissing her fingers and touching them to the weapon’s tip. Red crosses, who despite having what looked to me like a twice-broken nose that had never been properly healed, smiled up at her and looked quite dashing. He pulled back the lance carefully and slid the sash into his breastplate.

Sir Francis looked especially boyish: his fair hair gleamed richly in the sunlight like Rumplestiltskin’s straw and his face was pink and cheerful.

“Will you give me your favor to protect me in the lists, little wife?” he called, moving his horse forward. I heard a few delighted gasps from the commoner crowd below us as they caught sight of Annie and her pale beauty. She blushed and giggled prettily.

“And what if I prefer to give my favor to another, husband? Will you still call me your little wife then?”

There was a peal of laughter. Annie moved forward so she was close to the rails that separated the mounted knight from the stands. She deftly removed the cuff of lace on her wrist from the fabric of her gown – she had clearly prepared for this very moment – and, leaning forward daintily, tied it in a sharp and even bow around Sir Francis’ upper forearm, which was covered by a large plate of armor. She did so slowly, her cheek very close to Sir Francis’ earnest face, but I noticed she kept her gaze pointed in another direction: to the right, where a knight sat on a great black horse with a shield of a boar.

“Lovell, I think your wife is trying to make the target practice far easier for me,” Francis’ opponent called out. There was laughter and jeering as the two knights donned their helmets, allowing Richard and Nicholas to ride forward for the granting of their own favors.

The moment Sir Nicholas removed his helmet and smiled up at me I was sure he was going to ask for the promised token from me. Foolish as I had been, I had not thought or prepared for this custom.

“Mistress Rose,” Nicholas called out, his round face merry and kind. “I would be honored if you were to bless me with a token of your friendship and belief, as I ride out against this most vicious and cunning foe.” Richard looked on impassively: he had removed his helmet, his dark curls tumbling in the country breeze, and I thought I saw his eyes shift in my direction, though it could have just been a trick of the sunlight shining off his armor. I thought to myself how hot it must be to wear such things.

“Go ahead, Rose,” Annie whispered, nudging me. “Unless there is another you would prefer to bless with your favor?” It might have been my imagination, but I thought I caught a suspicious tone in her voice.

“Nobody else,” I said, looking at Richard again. He was stroking Apollo’s neck with a heavy glove. He seemed bored by the whole flirtatious exchange. I was seriously contemplating ripping a strip of fabric off my sleeve when an idea came to me. As Annie had done, I moved forward to the front of the stands, so I was standing next to Sir Nicholas’ proffered lance. With a smooth motion I reached up to my hair and untied the ribbon that had been so carefully threaded through the braid by Ellyn earlier that morning and swept it out, feeling my hair tumble about my shoulders. There were a few murmurs from the crowd. I smiled sweetly, miming Annie’s earnest expression, and tied the white ribbon around Nicholas’ lance, bobbing a little curtsey in his direction. I could not resist but glancing at Richard as I did so: he was looking anywhere but at me.

“Your hair is so beautiful,” Annie told me as I returned to my seat next to her. Her tone was light, but she did not look happy. I shrugged and smiled, curling it around my fingers to create little temporary curls. It felt good to have it set free again, and the thought occurred to me that besides the idea of fitting in, I had no real reason to conform to these people’s standards of fashion. After all, I was just a visitor here, an observer who could be whisked away at any moment, which would most likely happen at a very inconvenient time and be difficult to explain to everyone watching. Why should I not be myself and act as I pleased? The stands were shaded, and I longed to feel the sunlight on my hair, but I was quickly distracted by the excitement of the joust.

Jousting, as it turned out, was an extremely simple yet engrossing sport. I was primarily amazed by the tenacity of these men to participate in such a dangerous activity when there were no hospitals in driving distance nor obvious physicians in the area. Sir Francis was unhorsed in the third pass: it took several minutes for him to regain his breath and concentration, a time which the other knight’s lady used to gloat to the rest of us about how glorious her champion was, just like a knight out of a romance, claims which I thought a little premature considering how the tournament had just started.

I was always a Quidditch girl at heart, but I became a fan of jousting very quickly indeed. Even the portly knight became slightly attractive to me after he won the first round and galloped around the area with his lance in the air. The knights lowered their helmets, positioned their lances sideways across the horses’ necks and charged down on either side of the wooden barrier separating them, urging the horses into a foaming gallop. They would aim the lance for the metal patch on the opponent’s shoulder with the goal of neatly flipping them off their mount. If the lance shattered they were quickly handed a new one by a squire at the other end of the lists.

Sir William was telling Annie and I an amusing story about a knight who could not get his horse to move faster than a trot and became the laughing stock of the court when Sir Francis was unhorsed again in the eighth pass. Annie frowned, pouting a little.

Lady Mary turned to her. “Well, looks like your champion won’t be receiving the wreath of laurels today, Mistress Lovell,” she said snidely. Annie stared back at her for a moment, then turned away, muttering something under her breath. I thought I heard the word troll, but was distracted as I watched Sir Francis being dragged from the sand by two very red-faced and out of breath squires. The armor looked extremely heavy; I remembered once at Hogwarts my cousin Fred had tried to steal a suit of armor using his bare hands, and hadn’t even been able to lift it. I glanced at Annie to see if she was concerned from her husband, but she was focused ahead, gripping her hands together tightly.

The next two challengers rode forward. I caught a glimpse of Richard’s concentrated face beneath his helmet as he pushed down his visor. He looked so comfortable on Apollo, and the great horse’s ears seemed to flick back as if Richard was talking to him. Sir Nicholas’ horse was dancing about nervously as the attendant tried to hand him up a wooden lance. I wondered at how many lances would shatter today, and whether that was quite expensive.

A flag was dropped, and the two men galloped forward. Sir Nicholas perched slightly forward in the saddle, kicking his horse’s flanks with his great metal boots. The small crowd assembled cheered. In a moment it was over: both lances had shattered and both men earned five points.

It was clear while watching them that these two were far more experienced than Sir Francis and Crosses. I thought Richard was a marvelous rider, from what I knew of horses: he sat strong and deep in the saddle, did not flinch in the face of his larger opponent, aimed carefully and with force. Nicholas was a little more daring; he took risks, Sir William explained to me. Sir Nicholas was renowned for his recklessness which more often than not turned out in his favor, but the duke of Gloucester had been trained under the greatest military commander alive in England, and he was a force to be reckoned with.

“Francis was trained under Warwick as well, and look where it has gotten him,” Annie said crossly.

“Aye, but Richard has the blood of kings behind him,” Sir William said softly. This did not seem to perk Annie up, and neither did the appearance of a cheerful Sir Francis, who, limping a little, dropped himself down next to Sir William. The two men began to fervently discuss the sport and Francis’ horse, recently bought from the Burundian ambassador, when near-disaster struck in the form of Richard being nearly unseated from Apollo.

Apollo, sensing his rider’s instability, slowed to a gentle walk. Nimble as a monkey, Richard tugged on his horse’s neck and pulled himself back up. His lance had shattered on impact and he dropped the shards of it. We all cheered, myself included, and Sir William and Francis were very impressed. I looked at Apollo and remembered sliding off of him at Barnard Castle, and how very far away the ground had felt, and shuddered at the thought of being thrown from him.

The near accident seemed to ignite a fresh determination in Richard for he rode back the next pass and, shoving and tipping his lance into Sir Nicholas’ shoulder, tossed the larger man right off his horse. To my horror, Nicholas slipped off, twisted, and landed on his stomach. There were thrilled gasps from the crowd as a squire ran to seize his prancing horse and three others to turn the man over and ensure he was conscious. They carefully eased off his helmet and there were a few gasps; Sir Nicholas’ nose was swollen to a very large size and bleeding profusely. His eyes were twitching and he looked quite delirious.

A stretcher was called for and, with some difficulty, Sir Nicholas was lifted onto it and carried towards the stables. One of the squires came running back out, and whispered something to a servant: the servant walked up through the stands.

“Mistress Rose, the fallen knight has requested that ye join ‘im to offer comfort in ‘is time of pain,” the servant told me, looking at the floor.

“Oh, of course,” I said, scrambling to my feet.

I heard Annie say, “well, how unfortunate, poor girl will miss the next round!” as I moved through the stands. The squire, a thin boy with crossed eyes, beckoned to me and led me through the rather pungent stables to a little room where Sir Nicholas had been set upon a large wooden table. His armor was in the process of being carefully removed.

“Ah, Rose,” he murmured as I approached. I was unsure of what to do, so I put my hand on his.

“Are you alright, Sir Nicholas? What hurts?” I squeezed his hand gently.

“Rose,” he whispered, “can you send them away?” his face was very red and bright, with dried blood caking the area around his broken nose. I found myself wishing Mum was here: she had a knack for curing minor injuries with magic, and brewing quick potions to ease the pain. “Please, pray tell? I merely want to talk with yourself.”

I turned to the attendants, resigned. “The gentleman wants you all to leave,” I told them primly, in my poshest voice. “Now, if you please!”

They look startled, but obeyed, closing the door to the little room behind them. I turned back to Sir Nicholas, a little frustrated. “Alright, what do you want from me? Because kissing it better will probably not help with the enormous lump of your nose, I’m telling you.”

He shook his head a little, and a small smile cracked across his face. With his free hand he reached carefully into his breastplate and handed me something small which he had been keeping there. I released his hand to look at it: he had given me the playing cards from the night before, the set that Richard had not freaked out about, the set with the illustrations of swords, crowns, cups and snakes instead. I remembered thinking they were a little odd the previous night.

“What exactly am I supposed to do with these?” I asked a little petulantly. They were tightly tied in a ribbon, and a little damp from being pressed against his sweaty undershirt.

Sir Nicholas closed his eyes. “Bring out the king of swords,” he said quietly. “The queen of crowns, the queen of cups, and the knave… the knave of spades.”

“Fine,” I said a little crossly. “But after this you have to let someone treat you.” I flicked through the deck, pulling out the four cards he wanted and laying them out on his broad stomach, since his body was taking up most of the table space. “Now what?”

“Look at the cards: look closely,” Sir Nicholas said. I wondered why he was being so careful about keeping his voice down. “Tell me what you see. When duke Richard looked at my other set, he saw his family being mocked. But if I’m right about you, Mistress Rose Weasley, you’ll see something different here.”

I picked up the king of swords. He was a fine fellow, very finely painted. He wore a long, rich gown of red and carried a large sword with a richly jeweled hilt which seemed to sparkle and glow even in the little illustration. His golden hair seemed to be ruffled by an invisible breeze. There was a creature coiled about his feet: I looked a little closer and recognized a great lion, caught mid-yawn, his great paws stretching. I then picked up the knave of snakes- a strange choice, indeed. He was dark and sallow, and expression of cunning and cold dark eyes peering out of the playing card. A large snake was wrapped around his shoulders like a living scarf. Both snake and master were drawn in shades of dark green.

I looked at Sir Nicholas, then looked back at the cards. And that’s when I realized that the king’s hair was moving in the breeze. The lion had yawned, and now it was settling back down on its large forepaws. The knave was stroking the head of his great snake, and a long stick of wood protruded from his fingers.

Sir Nicholas was watching me intently.

“These aren’t Muggle cards,” I said quietly. And a broad grin broke across Sir Nicolas’ bloody face.


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