Chapter 5 : Three Times Charmed
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ISOBEL was up much earlier than usual for a Saturday, but it was the last Saturday of September and the first trip to Hogsmeade of the term. She was in the dormitory bogs brushing out her thick, dark hair. Once detangled, she swept up the many strands that had fallen into the porcelain sink (wondering how she could lose all that everyday, and still have so much). She wet her hands under the tap and ran her fingers through the mane, tempting it to wave, before starting on her eyes.
Isobel liked to draw thick rings around them with pencil, making swooping ‘cat-eyes’ with liquid liner after. Finished off with mascara, it had a good effect emphasizing her dark, nearly black irises, and highlighting the exotic edge to her features.
Isobel laboured over her skin, and as a reward, she didn’t often get spots. This morning, though, a painful bump was threatening to rise on her left nostril. She went over it with a cover-up sporting a blemish reducing charm before dusting oil-reducing powder over her face. Lastly, she applied the crimson lipstick she’d worn every day, without fail, since her third year.
Isobel stepped back from the mirror to get another look at the overall effect. She was the only Hogwarts witch to wear makeup every single day of term, and other girls had taken to whispering about it behind her back, calling Isobel vain.
She wore the criticism like a badge of honour—no other student could arrive to every class expertly made up and still make top marks. That took discipline.
Satisfied with her makeup, Isobel lifted her pajama shirt, and turned to her side. She tried sucking in her stomach, before observing it again in its general state. She patted it once, and pinched the excess flesh around her navel. She must have overdone it at supper last night (probably because of the Cheering Charm she’d shared with Laurel), and promised herself to keep better track next time. Isobel hated that she barely had a waist—her breasts were so large, and her arse so wide, that she felt huge in her Hogwarts robes. She was generously proportioned in all arenas: thighs, hips, lips, and tits—and at 5' 2", Isobel was the shortest of her friends. Letting her shirt fall back down she adjusted her hair once more before returning to the dormitory.
“You done with the good mirror?” asked Laurel, who was sitting on her four-poster painting her toenails.
“All yours,” replied Isobel.
Laurel had been wearing makeup less and less recently, except when she was Cheering, when she tended to over-do it. She’d also developed the bad habit of forgetting (or not being bothered) to wash it off once she came down, and her complexion had paid the price. What’s more, her oversleeping had gotten out of hand, and she rarely had time to wash her hair in the mornings. As a result, her shoulder length mop was often stringy, and her signature bun had become a necessity. This morning, however, she came out of the bathroom with clean hair, expertly applied foundation, and looking lovelier than she had all term.
Emily almost never wore makeup, and it looked a bit funny when she did. Then again, Emily didn’t really need to. It was no wonder she’d seen so many boys last term, thought Isobel. Emily's skin didn’t seem to have pores, and her lashes were so light that mascara tended to ruin, rather than improve, their appearance.
Isobel chuckled to herself, remembering last Hallowe’en when Tristan had worn eyeliner for a costume, and for a wild moment, she wondered again if he might be gay. Probably not. He’d had a thing for a Gryffindor witch the previous year. They went to Hogsmeade together and even got snogged a bit behind the greenhouses—but she hadn’t had much interest in music, and he couldn’t be arsed about Quidditch, so it didn’t last. If the whole thing with Angelina Johnson died down, it was because they had nothing in common. Not, Isobel concluded, because Tristan was secretly gay. Besides, it was starting to look like something might happen between him and Emily soon. Isobel would have suspected that it had already, but Em was terrible at being sneaky.
For some reason, Emily’s interest in Tristan annoyed Isobel. Em had gotten something of a reputation the previous term, after bedding three of the four Quidditch team captains, as well as every male Ravenclaw then in year seven. Isobel had admired the way Emily’s many conquests clashed so starkly with her gentle, kind personality. It seemed ironic that such a Hufflepuffy Hufflepuff, who never wore makeup, would log more hours behind the greenhouses by the age of fifteen than the rest of their year combined.
And then, all of a sudden, Emily had just given up on boys, in order to wait patiently for Tristan to start paying attention to her.
Privately, Isobel had enjoyed being friends with a notorious slag.
Emily was, as usual, waiting at the Hufflepuff table when they arrived for breakfast, her hair still damp. Cedric Diggory made room for the two Ravenclaws to sit opposite Emily; he’d learned the score.
Isobel committed to skip breakfast, to make up for her indulgence the night before, and perhaps go for a jog round the lake after supper.
“Morning Sunshine,” chimed Laurel.
Isobel suspected that Laurel’s good spirits this morning were something of an act, and that Laurel was only putting it on because she knew they’d all be Cheering later.
Isobel poured herself coffee, and revisited the miserable idea that Laurel’s Charming was starting to become a real problem. Just then, a Great Sooty Owl swooped through the window, and down toward the Hufflepuff table.
“Is that Siouxsie?” asked Isobel.
“Ooh, yes, it’s for me,” replied Emily as the owl landed. “Tristan let me borrow her.”
“What’d you get?” asked Laurel, leaning in to see Emily unwrap the package. Emily, shook her head, almost indiscernibly.
“Potion supplies,” she said lowering her voice. “From my brother,” she added, quieter still.
Tristan arrived at the table as Emily was offering Siouxsie some toast to nibble on.
“From Lucas?” he confirmed, sitting down. “Brilliant, we’re nearly out after the stuff I gave the Weasleys for their dad.” Tristan helped himself to scrambled eggs, and Emily slipped the parcel into her pocket—glancing around rather obviously as she did.
Just terrible at being sneaky, thought Isobel, as she blew on her coffee.
At Tristan’s insistence, they started off for Hogsmeade as early as they were allowed.
“Well you’re out early,” Filch remarked, ever suspicious, while he checked to see they were on the list of collected permission slips. “What’s the rush?”
To Tristan’s grave annoyance, Filch spent a quarter hour examining the contents of Tristan’s bag. The muggle instruments he had brought for listening to music were unfamiliar to Filch, who seemed to think they might contain dark magic.
“Cassette tapes,” hollered Tristan, enunciating like he was speaking to a foreigner. “For listening to music. Muggle technology, I can’t use them in the castle.”
Filch turned over the plastic rectangle.
“No!” barked Tristan, reaching out to stop Filch’s probing fingers. “Don’t touch that ribbon. That’s where—it’s where the music is… written. The plastic is to protect it, see?” Tristan held the cassette up to the light so Filch could see how the tape was wound.
Finally satisfied that Tristan’s stereo and music collection couldn’t be used as a weapon, Filch let them get on their way. Tristan railed against Filch for a good portion of the walk, until Laurel mentioned that her mum reckoned Filch was some sort of squib.
Tristan reversed his position with head-spinning rapidity, pointing out that Filch probably had a hard time dealing with so many students, and that he likely saw Slytherins trying to smuggle dark magic all the time. (It was something of a private joke amongst the girls of the group: Tristan Bryce, Slytherin Champion of Muggles.) Honestly, Isobel sometimes found Tristan’s rants about ‘ingrained prejudice’ and ‘unmerited superiority’ tiresome. Worst of all was when he accused her or Laurel of being 'willfully ignorant about the non-magic community.' Emily was a full-fledged muggle-born, and she didn’t make a fuss of it.
They arrived in Hogsmeade out of breath from their trek. Rather than turn right into the village, they turned left, crossing the train tracks, and set off past the shrieking shack into the open country. Once they reached the point, recognizable only because of deep familiarity, they sat down and took out their various supplies. Tristan set up his stereo, pulling out tapes and bickering over them with Emily, while Isobel took over spliff-rolling duty with Laurel.
“Shall we then?” asked Laurel, trying not to appear too eager.
“I’m ok without it,” replied Tristan.
“Yeah, I don’t need one,” agreed Emily. “Maybe later.”
“Just you and me, then?” Laurel nudged Isobel, struggling to keep the anxiety out of her voice. Isobel conceded (not because of, but despite, Laurel’s desperation).
After sharing a spliff together, Isobel and Laurel head out to the village, leaving Emily and Tristan to listen to music. Laurel linked arms with Isobel, and the two saw the little houses grow bigger before them. They didn’t say much, but the charm made them giddy and delighted nonetheless.
Their first stop was Zonko’s, where they tried out joke wands and trick quills, before deteriorating into hysterics and being asked to leave. Laurel had the inspired idea to take tea at Madam Puddifoot’s, but fell apart just as soon as they encountered an egregious collection of doilies. They stumbled, cackling, back out of the fussy little tea shop as quickly as they’d come in, letting the door swing shut on the affronted proprietress.
Next they headed back down the High Street to stop in Honeydukes, where they tried to surreptitiously grab samples out of bins when no one was looking. No one told them off, so they deemed the venture a success.
After calming down enough, they went to Gladrags and tried on hats (an operation that veered dangerously close to offending another shop owner), and left with a few pairs of lurid socks. Laurel had opted for a pair of hold-ups decorated dragon pox pattern and topped with lace (“Why? Just… Why?” was all she could say, before sneaking them into her robes pocket.) Isobel went for a pair of stockings sporting Haitian vodou symbols, and a pair of socks knit with a pattern of muggle artifacts like 'plugs' and 'telephones.' Tristan’s birthday was a month away, and they were too perfect.
The weather hadn’t gotten cold yet, but they decided to stop in the Three Broomsticks for Butterbeers anyway. The pub was overflowing with Hogwarts students. Isobel and Laurel waved to the Weasley twins, who were off in a corner with their friend Lee Jordan and some members of their Quidditch team. Angelina Johnson smiled warmly at them, and offered a little wave. Isobel and Laurel had stayed friendly with her even after her thing with Tristan had ended. They also spied Cedric Diggory, sitting at a small table near the back with Emma Ackerley, and giving very much the appearance of being on a date. After a few minutes, a pair of Gryffindor fourth years vacated a table near the door, and Isobel and Laurel were able to sit down. Because it was so crowded, Laurel offered to order at the bar, but it still took quite a while to get their drinks. Madame Rosmerta, the friendly-but-tarty barmaid, frantically served Butterbeers and shot down students attempting to order firewhiskey (the Weasley twins being a member of that group).
“You know,” said Laurel, handing Isobel an overflowing glass mug as she sat down. “The Hog’s Head is probably empty, and I bet they would serve us there.”
Isobel thought about it, giggling slightly and trying not to spill her Butterbeer.
“I’d much prefer a vodka soda to this,” she agreed.
“If they have vodka soda," snorted Laurel. "From what I hear they make their ales in a bathtub.”
They left the Three Broomsticks some fifteen minutes later, surrendering their seats to Penelope Clearwater and Percy Weasley, and trying to avoid being roped into a conversation. Penelope had very unnecessarily introduced Percy, which Isobel took as some desperate hint that the two were on a date.
“Yeah, we’ve met,” said Isobel, shaking Percy’s hand. “We have potions together. And Runes.”
“Right you are,” said Percy. “How’s your translation chart coming, then?”
“Oh, it’s… coming,” responded Isobel, beginning to lose her composure.
Laurel, who’d been giggling steadily throughout the encounter, let slip a brief squawk of uncontainable amusement. Isobel hastened to leave.
“Well, have a good… time, then,” she said.
“See you back in the dorms,” replied Penelope, waving to them brightly as they pushed out of the doors.
Once outside they collapsed against the wall, rent with malicious glee.
“Blimey she’s nice when she’s trying to impress a bloke,” gasped Laurel.
“Oh god they’ll have the most terrible babies,” squealed Isobel, doubled over, clutching cramps from laughing too hard.
Laurel started rolling a cigarette, and Isobel recovered herself somewhat. Laurel passed the roll-up to Isobel, and began on a second.
“Hog’s Head, then?” she asked around the filter perched between her lips, sprinkling tobacco on the paper.
“Yeah,” said Isobel, still giggling little aftershocks.
Laurel finished rolling and lit both of their fags with the tip of her wand. The Hog’s Head was down an alley at the other end of the High Street, so they retraced their steps for the third time. Their series of activities had been anything but efficiently planned.
They reached the corner where they would turn right, but stopped at the intersection to finish smoking before heading down the narrow lane (steeling themselves for the adventure).
After much ado, they marched purposefully toward the pub.
Laurel shoved open the doors.
And then Laurel turned back.
“No. No. No. No,” she said, seizing Isobel’s arm and steering her back up toward the shops, beginning to break into a giggle.
“What?” asked Isobel, who hadn’t seen inside.
“Just trust me,” said Laurel, starting to laugh again, quickening her pace. Isobel started laughing as well and they broke into a run. "There were maybe ten teeth between all the wizards in there, and we'd be the only girls."
Isobel was disappointed that she wouldn't be getting her vodka and soda afterall, but supposed it was unwise for two pretty young witches—high as they already were on mind-altering charms—to drink in such a seedy establishment.
Without much left to do in the village, the two Ravenclaws wandered back out past the train station where they’d left Emily and Tristan.
The Hufflepuff and the Slytherin were laying sprawled on the grass. Clearly, they’d been through quite a lot of the hash Em’s brother had sent that morning. The song in the stereo sounded grating and antagonistic to Isobel, but Emily and Tristan were immersed, barely registering Isobel and Laurel when they sat down.
“Eugh,” came a sudden, gutteral sound from Emily. It took Isobel a confused moment to realize that she was singing along to the song. “Said the lady to the man she adored...” Emily took a deep drag from her spliff, humming, and passed it to Tristan. Isobel listened to the song lyrics, whose perversion clashed with her own magically affected mood:
And Mary ain't you tired of this, huh
Is the sound that the mother makes when the baby breaks...
Laurel giggled, almost inaudibly—it would have been louder, if not for that dark and frenetic song.
Tristan passed the spliff to Isobel, and the four of them listened to the rest of the track without speaking.
“That song,” Tristan said, when the last haunting note had died down. “Was everything.”
Tristan was blasted.
The group was silent for the space of a breath before Isobel and Laurel surrendered to the hysterical laughter that had followed them all day.
A slow song came on, and Emily started picking out a new tape. “You liked Blondie, right?” she asked Isobel.
“Uhh, yeah” replied Isobel, not remembering whether she did or not.
“Eat to the Beat,” said Tristan. “Side B.” Isobel gathered that these were instructions of some kind. Muggles, she thought, almost fondly.
“So that was the Doxies?” asked Tristan.
“The Pixies,” corrected Emily, play-punching him. “Hey, are either of you fit to Cheer me?” asked Emily.
“I could do another,” said Laurel, predictably.
“I can cast it,” offered Tristan, sitting up with some difficulty. “I’ll take one when we head back.”
Isobel was glad that he offered, since Laurel was liable to cast it too strong in her state. Tristan charmed Emily and Laurel, and Isobel rolled some tobacco.
Tristan and Emily let Laurel and Isobel have some influence over the music choices for the next few hours, but the two Ravenclaws had a difficult time recalling band names.
“It’s the one like, ‘doodoodoodoo… I’ll run away with you,’” Laurel explained.
“Ohhhhhh,” responded Emily. “‘Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick.’”
“Yeah! That’s the one!” clapped Laurel.
“The Cure, good choice,” Tristan said pedantically, rummaging for the correct tape.
The muggle technology was awkward; Tristan had to screech through bits, and finding the exact start of a song seemed difficult for him. He pulled out a few additional cassettes from the same group for Laurel to look through. Isobel reached out for one.
“Huh,” she said, turning it over. “They don’t look like muggles.” Emily and Tristan found this hilarious.
“They’re goth,” explained Tristan. “Or, they used to be, anyway.”
“It’s a fashion where muggles dress up like wizards,” Emily explained.
“Basically,” agreed Tristan. He could be remarkably doctrinaire when it came to music.
They headed back to the castle around sunset. Isobel, who hadn’t Cheered since that morning, charmed Tristan (she was glad he asked because he’d grow sullen otherwise), but not until after he’d given Laurel another (bringing her up to three that day). Isobel opted out of a second. She’d only had sweets and Butterbeer all day, and was afraid that she’d lose track of her portions at supper again.
“Oh, by the way,” Emily said, when they were nearly to the gates, “do you guys want to give me money for tobacco and things? I’m writing my brother tonight.”
The other three started digging in their pockets, measuring out gold, and specifying quantities and brands.
“Is it ok if we pay you in normal money?” asked Laurel.
“I’ve got muggle money in my room to exchange it with,” Emily replied.
Isobel was glad that Tristan had Cheered. Otherwise, the phrase 'normal money' would have set him off on another you-are-'othering'-the-non-magic-population-by-treating-wizardkind-like-the-norm rant.
October arrived, and with it came a dramatic increase to their workload. As it was their O.W.L. year, the professors seemed to think that their students wouldn’t be prepared unless they were pushed to the brink of nervous breakdowns. As a result, the balance on how Isobel and her mates spent their time in Cadogan’s Corridor shifted spectacularly in favor of actually studying. More than once, Isobel and her friends cursed at Sir Cadogan for interrupting them, and Emily had broken all of her rules regarding tobacco (she was now chain-smoking with abandon).
The Weasley twins weren’t stopping by as much; the Quidditch season had begun, and they were now practicing three times a week.
It was the third Tuesday of the month. Tristan had his evening Astronomy class with the Slytherins, so it was only the girls in the corridor that night. Isobel was hunched over Laurel’s rune translation, simultaneously copying and correcting. They’d established an eloquent system of cheating together: since they had identical timetables, they could divide the work between the two of them and trade (Isobel figured they were still both learning that way, but it cut the time to complete assignments nearly in half).
“What’s your topic for Squirrel’s essay?” asked Laurel, who was rephrasing Isobel’s paper for Snape.
“Defensive Magical Theory,” replied Isobel. It bothered her when people called the new Defense professor ‘Squirrel,’ no matter how appropriate. Professor Quirrel had taken a liking to Isobel after her first essay (when she had suggested that non-Western magic was often needlessly classified as ‘dark').
“What are you gonna say?” asked Laurel.
“I have no idea,” admitted Isobel, crossing out Laurel’s mis-definition of Ehwaz. “I honestly can’t see a situation where you couldn’t just use Expelliarmus or Protego.”
“Huh,” said Laurel. “Good point… Yeah, once you disarm them it’s through, isn’t it.”
“I think I’ll focus on resisting Imperio and shite like that,” replied Isobel. “By the way, Ehwaz means ‘partnership.’ And also ‘horse,’ apparently. Eihwaz means defense.”
“I bloody hate runes,” sighed Laurel.
Emily turned the corner, cautiously levitating three mugs of coffee. She knew some secret about how to procure coffee and tea between meals, one she refused to share ('ancient Hufflepuff wisdom,' was all she would say, tapping her nose sagely).
“Milk and sugar,” she announced.
“Thanks,” replied Laurel, taking the mug.
“Skim milk,” she continued.
“You’re the best,” said Isobel, accepting the coffee from mid air.
“And a double latte with clover honey,” finished Emily, pleased, as she sat down cross-legged.
“How’d you swing a latte?” demanded Isobel, nearly choking on her coffee. Emily replied by tutting and shaking her head with a smile. Because it was Emily, this wasn’t annoying.
“Can you do food too?” asked Laurel.
“Oh yes,” nodded Emily. “That’s how it all started.”
“Leave it to the stoner house to figure it out,” laughed Isobel. “You know,” she continued. “If you told us how you do it, then you wouldn’t have to make the trip every time.”
“You’ve got a kitchen in your common room, don’t you?” cried Laurel, certain that she’d cracked it.
“No, I wish,” sighed Emily, sipping her latte and sifting through parchment. “Do either of you have your season charts for Herbo? I can’t find mine.”
“What are you looking up?” asked Laurel.
“The planting season for Screechsnap,” said Emily, checking under her textbook.
“Libra through Sagittarius, at dusk. I was just making my list if you want it,” Laurel offered.
Emily scribbled the information down, but passed on copying Laurel’s homework—the Hufflepuff still had some reservations about the Ravenclaws' system of labor distribution. Isobel guessed that as the O.W.L.s loomed closer and the workload increased, Emily’s qualms over cheating would (like her rules about tobacco) become compromised.
1. I took the name Emma Ackerley from Stewart Ackerley, who appeared in GoF, when he was Sorted into Ravenclaw in the 1994 school year—the two are related.
a) The “dark and frenetic” song Emily sings along to is “Hey” by The Pixies, from the 1989 album, Doolittle.
b) Eat to the Beat, released 1979, is an album by Blondie. One of the more popular songs, “Atomic,” is on the B side.
c) The song Laurel tries to remember is “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure, from their 1987 album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. (The CI text is a lyric from this song).
d) The tape Isobel looks at when she mentions that The Cure "don’t look like muggles" is Pornography, released in 1982.
3) Hermione also misidentified Ehwaz in OotP. (Plus, Harry pretty much only ever used Expelliarmus and Protego, proving Isobel's theory correct!)
4) Isobel’s wand is Olive Wood with Sphynx hair, 10.25 inches, and rigid. From Wikipedia: ‘Olive wood is very hard and is prized for its durability, colour, high combustion temperature and interesting grain patterns... Olive wood and its products are relatively expensive.’
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