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Chapter 7 : Troll in the Dungeons!
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TRISTAN woke up on the morning of Hallowe’en and made it halfway to the washroom before realizing that it was his birthday. If it hadn’t been for his mum’s owl perched atop his four-poster, he might not have remembered at all.
The details of his birth were nothing Tristan wanted to think about, and its official date didn’t hold much significance, after being well overshadowed by Saturday’s party. His resulting hangover was been so great that it had persisted, relentlessly, until just the night before. Too many fags, and an foolish admixture of Nettle Wine on top of Whiskey, had left him with a sore throat and painfully chapped lips. And he’d ended up sleeping in his contacts again by accident, causing one of them to rip when he tried to remove them.
He was glad, he guessed, that he was feeling better, now that it was birthday. It had been an epic party, he reflected, lathering shaving potion over his chin—if only it hadn’t ended so weird. Tristan and Laurel had realized, too late, that it was after curfew, and opted to remain behind the mirror until early the next morning. At least, he thought, he’d perfected Auguamenti. Dehydrated and trapped, mastery of the sixth-year spell had been a necessity.
The whole group hadn’t been all together since the party behind the mirror. Tristan had taken all of Sunday to recover, and they had different Astronomy night classes Monday through Wednesday. He looked forward to spending the time after the Hallowe’en feast together in Cadogan’s Corridor even if--or especially if--all they did was study.
After seeing how the guests at his party had interacted, Tristan had felt a surge of jealousy. He didn't like anyone in his own House. Tristan had always, out of probable sour grapes, considered sticking strictly to one’s own Sorting assignment to be uncreative. Isobel and Laurel were a fair exception in his mind, their having grown up together and all. But after seeing how Ravenclaws got on with Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs with Hufflepuffs, Tristan wished that he and his best mates had more than some distant stretch of corridor that they had to vacate every night before curfew.
If only he could come back to some private place designed for the sole use of a group of people he enjoyed—which, he supposed, was the theory behind Sorting in the first place.
So why hadn’t it worked for him? Why had he been cast down to the Slytherin Dungeons, rather than in with the Hufflepuffs or Ravenclaws? Or, and Tristan hated admitting it, even to himself—even when the Sorting Hat had been on his head, he’d eschewed this, most private, thought—Gryffindor. Gryffindor like Mary.
"I’m going to be in Slytherin, aren’t I?" was the first thing Tristan had thought, over four years ago, inside the dark Sorting Hat.
"You must agree that the Slytherin bits are obvious," the Hat had responded.
"Go ahead then, get it over with."
It wasn’t until after Tristan had first resigned to the Slytherin table that he let himself privately mourn that the Red and Gold were lost forever.
Laurel’s voice echoed in his head, ‘Fuck Gryffindor.’ Tristan remembered the present she’d given him and almost pinned it to his robes, but for various practical reasons, decided against it.
Finally, Tristan plucked up the courage to unwrap the package from his parents. There was a copy of NME, the first of a subscription paid for by his father, and a note from his mum saying that she would post each copy by owl after it had arrived. It was a painfully thoughtful present. Also included was a cheque from his “Nana” in Ireland for 100 quid. Tristan felt guilty--guilty that he had spent the last several days hungover, guilty that he wasn’t a better son. Mary and Eddie deserved more than Tristan, but now it was too late, and Tristan was all they had. Moody, aloof, incorrigible, and broken.
Why couldn’t they have just sent socks? he thought, overwhelmed by his own many faults.
* * *
Tristan was the last to arrive at breakfast. Emily, Isobel, and Laurel smiled and waved brightly, and Emily stood up to hug him when he approached the table.
“Alright Tristan,” called Cedric from beside Emily. “Happy birthday, mate.”
Tristan scooped scrambled eggs onto his plate and took a brief scan of the Great Hall. His popularity had increased significantly in the days after the party. At least one member of each of the Quidditch teams save Slytherin had been present, and the ripples of that fact had spread throughout the school.
Before his sixteenth birthday Tristan had occupied one of two roles: Hex Head, or Slytherin Hex Head. If he took into account what the Slytherins thought, which he didn’t, there would be a third category: Mudblood.
Emily straightened her back, and glanced shiftily down the table, a sure sign that she was about to do something sneaky. Under the table, she passed him a bag of hash.
“Happy birthday,” she whispered.
Tristan wished she hadn’t, she’d done enough already, and his feeling of undeserving threatened to overwhelm him. His guilt was made worse by her gift’s excellence: in an attempt to combat both his hangover and confused feelings, he’d kept himself consistently high since Sunday. As a result, he’d burnt through most of the stash he’d last bought from Lucas.
Laurel, who’d been quiet but in good spirits, excused herself to the toilets.
“Has she Cheered this morning?” whispered Emily as she leaned in toward Isobel.
“No,” said Isobel, looking in the direction that Laurel had gone.
“She seems a lot,” Emily paused. “I dunno, better?”
“Yeah, I guess whatever it was,” Isobel considered for a moment. “I guess it’s gotten better. She’s been pretty cheerful—I don’t mean,” Isobel corrected herself. “Not, you know, cheerful. Just…”
“Happy,” finished Emily, nodding.
“Do you wanna…” Emily lifted her fingers to her lips, the universal sign for ‘spark a spliff.’
“No,” Tristan surprised even himself. “I have McGonagall first thing, and I think she could tell I was high on Tuesday.”
More pragmatically, he didn’t want to rush through this stash as quickly as he had the last.
“Lunch though,” he promised, getting up. “I only have Charms, History, and Herbo after, so definitely lunch.”
Tristan rushed back down to the dungeons to stash Emily’s present in his trunk before making his way back up to Transfiguration.
Tristan hadn’t been paying much attention in his lectures over the last few weeks, and the consequence of his apathy was most visible in Transfiguration. Professor McGonagall was quizzing the class on Gamp’s Law when Tristan miserably realized that he probably wouldn’t pass his Transfig O.W.L., before reminding himself that he didn’t actually care.
“Mr. Bryce,” McGonagall called, stirring him from his thoughts. “What do you think about water?”
“Water?” Tristan repeated, idiotically.
“Yes, water,” confirmed Professor McGonagall. “Is water an exception to Gamp’s Law?”
“Well it can’t be,” interrupted Terence, leaning his chair back on its hind legs “Professor,” he added quickly, before setting himself forward again. “We drink it, so it’s a food. And food can’t just be created.”
“It is,” countered Tristan, piecing the question together. “It’s an exception to—to the law. Auguamenti.” He summoned a jet of water to make his point, splashing a few unsuspecting students as he did.
“Very good, Mr. Bryce,” said McGonagall, a little stunned by his bold display
“Water does not fall under Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. Scourgify,” she nonchalantly flicked her wand, clearing away the puddle left by Tristan’s demonstration.
He dozed through the remainder of the lesson, and McGonagall didn’t call on him again. After class he slouched to the Entrance Hall and waited for Emily, who had to come all the way down from Divination, so they could walk to Care of Magical Creatures together.
“Ok, let’s smoke,” was the first thing he said when Emily joined him.
Magical Creatures might as well have been called ‘Free Time, and Also: Animals’--that’s really all it was. Professor Kettleburn was nearly blind, mostly deaf, and didn’t have many fingers left. But In the two years he'd taken his class, Tristan had to admit, Kettleburn's head had slowly returned to normal.
“These here are Kneazle-housecat hybrids,” the professor explained to the class. “Pure Kneazle’s classifed too dangerous by the Ministry, but this’ll give you an idea. Watch ‘em. Interact, with ‘em. See what they’re like,” were Kettleburn's only instructions.
The students filed into the paddock, and spent the remaining hour and a half playing with what amounted to very large, very smart, cats.
Tristan and Emily met up with their Ravenclaw friends at the front doors, and headed off to the lake together to smoke again before lunch. Isobel and Laurel were both frizzy haired and sweaty from their double potions with the Gryffindors. Laurel had maintained the calm good spirits that made her friends so happy.
After a rushed meal of chicken sandwich, Tristan made his way to Charms with Isobel and Laurel. The three of them were easily at the top of their class, owing, Tristan imagined, to the fact that they practiced recreationally. They’d already mastered nonverbal spellwork a year early—a necessity if they wanted to trade Cheers in public. It seemed, though, that the secret to their success was out.
Flitwick usually showered praise on any students showing progress, but ostentatiously ignored Tristan and his mates whenever they managed to affect a flawless charm. Tristan felt momentarily jealous of American wizards, most of whom attended wizarding school by day and went home at night. There, one’s free time could be kept private.
Ideally: to be a muggle. Only posh kids attended boarding school in the muggle world.
As he’d promised himself at the start of term, Tristan skived off Binns’ lecture and wandered along the rocky edge of the lake. November was fast approaching, so his time outdoors wasn’t nearly as pleasant as it would have been some weeks ago. After over an hour without any sign of the giant squid, Tristan trudged off to Herbology, where he arrived late.
“Mr. Bryce,” said Professor Sprout when he shrugged through the doors.
Tristan scowled, and thought about what a useless thing it was to say. Yeah, that’s me, and? He resented the look she gave him, at once strict and entreating. He neither needed, nor wanted, her guidance
Oliver beckoned for Tristan to work with him and his mates. Tristan wished he could just sit alone, but didn’t want to act an arse. He pulled on his dragon-hide gloves and traded ‘alright’s’ with the three Gryffindors.
They were re-potting their fanged geraniums, so it was good, really, that Oliver had invited Tristan to join his group. Tristan had killed his own geranium back in September.
“You lot coming to the match then?” asked Oliver. “A week from Saturday. You can support us when we smash Slytherin,” he finished, clapping Tristan on the back.
“Yeah, could do,” Tristan agreed, absentmindedly, trying to avoid exposing his forearms to the geranium’s hooked fangs.
“Brilliant,” gloated Wood, looking across the greenhouse at Marcus Flint, Slytherin team captain.
The sun was nearly down when Herbology ended. In order to avoid walking back to the castle with Oliver, Tristan took extra time washing his gloves and tidying the greenhouse. He was almost through the door when Sprout spoke up again.
“Good work today,” she said without raising her eyes from her parchment. Her knowing tone infuriated Tristan. “Five points for Slytherin,” she said gently.
“Fuck off your points,” Tristan mumbled, loud enough for her to hear.
Laurel was pulling on a fag, waiting for him outside the greenhouses.
* * *
Of course Tristan’s birthday fell on Hallowe’en, a feast night, when he couldn’t sit with his own friends over supper. As usual, Tristan took a seat beside the Bloody Baron, so he would have his space from the other Slytherins.
He didn’t like Laurel’s new mix. It made him feel queasy.
He hadn’t noticed so much behind the mirror on his birthday, but he’d already been pissed then. Laurel seemed to like it though; she’d been on it since the party. Maybe even before. Tristan couldn’t see the point, though, in a Charm blend that canceled itself out, but still left you feeling Hexed out of your mind. To him, adding Tranquilus to Hilaris pretty much defeated the purpose.
Tristan picked at his food, nauseated by the decadent spread on the table. He caught a glimpse of a particularly unpleasant first year—either Crabbe or Goyle—eating, and pushed away his plate. Tristan crossed his arms on the table and laid his head down, but shot back up. Hexed as he was, the motion made his head spin. But he didn’t want Emily to see him nodding off in case she looked over. He was just considering heading down to the dungeons alone and skipping the Corridor after supper when Squirrel ran into the Great Hall, screaming about trolls.
All at once, Tristan’s Charms were lifted. And even as he experienced the painful crash, he was glad for it. He looked instinctively at Isobel, who was looking at Laurel. Clearly, Isobel didn’t trust her friend’s newfound contentment. But why Finite Incantatem, Tristan wondered, why not just Finite? Why had she gone through the extra effort of broadening her spell to the whole room, instead of just focusing it on Laurel, which would have been easier? Was she doing anyone who might have Charmed in the hall a favor?
Of course, Tristan realized, she’d seen him walk in with Laurel, and she didn’t trust him either. They’d been too Hexed to realize how obvious it looked.
“Bryce, move,” barked Reece Pritchard, who was ushering his house toward their common room.
“Not back to your common room,” hissed McGonagall. “Stupid boy, the troll is in the Dungeons.”
“Professor, where—” started Pritchard.
“Just,” McGonagall waved her arms flustered. “Wait here until a faculty member provides further instruction.”
Tristan slumped back down. There couldn’t actually be a troll in the dungeons?
* * *
The first Quidditch match of the season was scheduled just over a week after the Hallowe’en feast. Apparently, there had been a troll. Only not in the dungeons. And Harry Potter, all of eleven years old, had somehow managed to kill it. But he'd also lost about a million House Points from Gryffindor in the process.
Tristan wasn’t really that clear on the situation.
With the exception of the wild Harry Potter rumors, the last week had passed very much the same as the one before. Tristan sleepwalked between classes, jerking unexpectedly from apathetic to hostile. He felt awkward around his friends because of the thing with Laurel, and awkward around Laurel because of the thing with Laurel. What he needed was a Hogsmeade trip, but the next one wasn’t until December. In the meantime, he still liked Cheering better than Laurel’s new thing, but he sort of understood. He felt dumb Cheering alone, and the Tranquilus/Hilaris hybrid left you more even around normal people. He fully recognized that the routine they’d establish was veering dangerously into full-blown Hex Head territory. Then again, he’d been pegged as a Hex Head since his third year, and he wasn’t sure he cared.
Anyway, it didn’t make him feel nauseous anymore.
Tristan joined the others at the Hufflepuff table, and poured himself a coffee. They’d somehow been roped into watching the Quidditch match for real. Each one of them half-heartedly agreeing to someone had added up, and now people expected that they’d be there. Tristan wondered how anyone would know the difference whether they came or not. He then reminded himself that those were the sorts of thoughts that made him an arse, and picked at his toast instead.
“Shall we have a Cheer before the game?” asked Isobel brightly when it was clear they’d all finished their breakfast.
The whole concept had lost a lot of its novelty. Like most drugs, most of the fun lay in the anticipation, and process of actually doing them. Cheering was fun once you were on one, but the excitement around them had subsided. Emily was the only one who seemed very enthusiastic, and Isobel seemed sated by Laurel’s lack of desperation.
Under the table Laurel’s wand pointed at Tristan, Tristan’s at Emily, Emily’s at Isobel, and Isobel’s at Laurel. Isobel counted off, and at the same time, they cast their spells in silence.
They climbed out of their seats and headed out the Entrance Hall, when Laurel gestured for Tristan to hang back.
“Let’s do another,” she murmured, moving her lips as little as possible.
At the constant level of Cheer and Tranquil she stayed on these days, Isobel’s gentle spell must have had little effect.
“Come on, before they can tell I’m faking,” she pleaded. Tristan agreed, and they each cast a second charm.
The piercing autumn air was exhilarating as they huddled together, stumbling around the lake. Hair still damp, Emily was the chilliest of the group. Her teeth chattered violently.
“Are you very cold?” asked Tristan.
“No,” she said, and her jaw went still. “I just like the noise,” she explained, and her teeth began chattering again. “See!” she yelled, running toward the edge of the lake.
She stripped off her boots and stocking and stomped her feet in the water.
“Oh please, Emily, don’t,” yelled Isobel.
“I grew up in Scotland!” Emily shouted back, thumping her chest with her fist.
Tristan ran to retrieve her, and almost giddily agreed to join her in her splashing, before convincing her to wade back out.
“I’ll put on my tights, but not my shoes,” she negotiated, like a child being babysat.
Tristan and Isobel each put an arm around her and continued around the lake. Laurel carried Emily’s boots, and occasionally span in circles, her head thrown all the way back so she could face the sky.
“I feel,” Laurel said in a mild voice. “What do I feel…”
“I feel,” countered Emily, contrary and stomping.
The rest of them laughed so hard they had to stop walking.
“Wait, look,” Isobel pointed. “People! We’re people!” Isobel explained, indicating to the swarm descending on the Quidditch pitch.
“Let’s go be people!” yelled Laurel, and she took off sprinting in the direction of the game.
The other three followed suit, and Emily leaped barefoot like a gazelle, giggling wildly.
Soon, they were absorbed into the queue for the stadium, crammed onto the rickety wooden stairs leading to the bleachers. Emily had to scramble to a corner to relace her boots. None of them knew what they were doing or where they were going, and they kept finding themselves in people’s way. Tristan got told off by a bossy first year, and to her frustration, Tristan found her hilarious. Her friend, the youngest Weasley, had to drag the offended little witch away.
"Only brush your hair when it's wet!" Isobel called after the hysterical Gryffindor. She meant it to be kind, but was too hexed to realize the criticism might be rude. "Once it's dry, the curls will break up and go all frizzy like that!"
As the four friends represented different houses, none of which they were supporting, they ended up sitting with the Hufflepuffs. Cedric Diggory waved them up, and they jostled into the remaining space.
Tristan didn’t understand what was happening in the game, but enjoyed it immensely. He had a hard time following points or positions, but Lee was being very funny as he announced, and Tristan settled into watching the colorful blurs zoom around the pitch, seemingly at random. When the Hufflepuff box roared and clapped around him, Tristan got swept up in the excitement, whether or not he actually knew what they were celebrating.
At one point, Gryffindor’s celebrity seeker, who everyone agreed was a magnificent flier, began jerking about like his broom was a mechanical bull. Tristan failed to comprehend the purpose of this move. Later, Harry Potter caught the little gold ball in his mouth, which apparently constituted a win.
Quidditch was, Tristan concluded, a very strange sport.
End Note 1: Oh, yes, I DID create class timetables for each of them! Special thanks to HP Lexicon and HP Wiki, without whom, I never would have been able to write this.
End Note 2: NME is a popular british music magazine. In the 80s/90s, they covered a lot of the music Tristan was interested in.
A/N: and special thanks to marauderfan for catching a few typos!
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