Chapter 11 : Eleven
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Toby gave him a withering look. “Would you stop calling it that, please?”
“I think this means he doesn’t want the festive condoms you ordered, Fred.” James said slyly.
“Not even the musical ones?” Fred raised his eyebrows, starting to hum the tune to Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.
Toby threw a chip at him.
James was laughing.
“Don’t worry Toby, we’ll be out of your hair by eight o’clock.”
Eli Procter was running a study session for the sixth years who were finding their NEWT classes far more challenging than expected, in the common room, and planned to remain there until at least midnight. James and Fred would be assisting for an hour or so at the beginning, partly because it looked good on their school record, and partly because it established an alibi should Rose or Maria ask where they were the rest of the night.
Kelly was going to help Tara sneak up to Gryffindor Tower, and then she James and Fred would sneak down to meet Lucy in the grounds by the Whomping Willow, where the four of them were sneaking out to Hogsmeade for a few drinks.
“We could have made a night of it, invited the rest of the family, brought Belby and Carter, they’re always a laugh.” James was saying as they crawled down the frozen tunnel in single file. “And… Lucy? Who do you hang out with when you’re not with us?”
Unoffended, Lucy replied. “My books and myself, the only company worth having.”
“That means you have a lover.”
“Jamie, please go back to your own love life, and leave the rest of ours alone. You’re much more bearable that way.”
“James, you will do well to remember I am crawling ahead of you, and I will kick you in the face if you say one more thing on the subject.”
“Understood.” James responded dutifully. “What are Carter and Belby doing tonight, Kel?”
“Rachel’s at a Quidditch meeting. And it’s Grace’s night for patrols.”
“So it would have been a small party anyway, James.” Fred piped up from the front. “Roxie and Louis are the only ones of age, and Roxie won’t leave Nick’s bedside between classes. And Louis is an expensive drunk anyways — he can drink a ridiculous amount of elf-made wine.”
“Aunt Fleur raised him to be a wine snob, that’s not his fault.” James defended.
“He could have rebelled.” Fred responded.
“I don’t think he wanted to. He’s got nothing to truly rebel against. Uncle Bill is the cool curse breaker who has a ponytail and a fang earring, and Aunt Fleur competed in the triwizard tournament, and has medals of bravery from Britain and France — the only way he could rebel would be to start behaving like my father.” Lucy scoffed.
“Oh, that would be brilliant.” James laughed.
“No, it wouldn’t. The world can only handle one Percy Weasley at a time.”
“You’re probably right, Luce. As usual… How much further Fred?”
“Like I told you ten minutes ago, I can’t hold the Map, my wand, and continue to crawl all at the same time. I don’t know.”
“We’re nearly there.” Kelly said, before Fred could convince Lucy to actually kick James in the face. “The air feels fresher.”
“We’re in an underground tunnel in November.” Fred huffed, “I’d expect the air to to be nothing but.”
“Fred,” James sighed. “there’s a fine line between polite and Lucy — and you’re getting very close to crossing it.”
“That’s it!” Lucy yelled.
There was a discernible crunch of combat boot against cartilage as Lucy kicked James’s nose in.
“Godric shit. Merlin's dick!”
In all the commotion, Fred dropped his wand and they were plunged into darkness. “Ah, bollocks.”
“Lucy!” Kelly snapped, “What the bloody hell was that about? If he’s got a concussion how exactly do you expect us to fix it in a three foot square tunnel?”
“Verbally?” Lucy replied, flippantly. “James? Do you have a concussion?”
“‘Ow the blooby ‘ell shoulb I know?”
“Results are inconclusive — we’ll ask you again in ten minutes.”
“Like you said, Kelly, we’re in a three foot square tunnel, how exactly do you expect us to do anything about it now?”
“For Merlin's sake…” Kelly muttered, crawling closer to where James was hunched over in pain. “James, can you breathe okay?”
“Not through my nose.” He replied.
“His sense of humour’s still intact, I see.”
“You see? What can you see? It’s pitch black in here.” Kelly snapped. “Fred, find your wand already.”
“I’m working on it.”
“In the mean time, Lucy, shine some light over here.”
“How do you suppose I do that?”
“Roll over. Sit up. You’re skinny, it’ll work.”
“I’ll kick you in the face in a minute…” Lucy did the recommended shuffle, “This is going to ruin my new jeans. Here we go… Hey, James, I think you actually look better.”
Kelly was kneeling over him, her hair already tied up in a sloppy ponytail. “Okay, this may hurt a little,” She eased him onto his back and assessed the damage. “Yeah, that’s definitely broken. Ready? Episkey.”
“Argh!” James’s nose reset itself quickly.
“Tergeo.” The blood coating his face and the front of his jacket was siphoned away. She checked his pupils and asked him to squeeze her hand and hard as he could. “Right, all fixed and I think you're fine.”
James smirked up at her, “How do I look?”
Kelly glanced away, her face growing warm.
“Hideous.” Lucy replied, heaving herself back into crawling position. “As per usual.”
Tucked away at a table in the back of the Three Broomsticks, three pints of Daisyroot Draught and two shots of firewhisky into the night, Kelly returned from the bathroom and dropped into her vacated seat. Or at least, it was someone wearing Kelly’s clothes, who looked distinctly different from their friend’s usual appearance. Her hair was bigger, darker, her face rounder, heavier, and her eyes were dark brown. She looked maybe twenty.
“We have a problem.” She whispered. “Charleston’s here.”
“Where?” Fred murmured, sipping his drink.
“He’s at the bar. He’s waiting for someone.”
“Another teacher? Do they know we’re here?”
Kelly shook her head, “No, he seems… nervous. Like he’s here for a date or something.”
“That is something I have got to see.” Fred grinned, peering slightly around the beam blocking their view.
Lucy yanked him back into place. “Great idea, then we all get caught.”
“So what’s the plan?” James prodded her.
“Disguise and run?” She raised her brows. “Or walk… quickly?”
“All at once? Or one at a time?” Fred asked.
“You three go. I’ll stay and pay the tab — because that’s going to get us caught tomorrow if we do get off scot-free tonight.” When James started to protest she reminded him, “He won’t recognise me. He barely remembers my name in class, he won’t have a clue who I am tonight.”
“She’s right.” Lucy concurred. “The tab’s four galleons, six sickles. Tell her to keep the change.”
She passed her contribution into the centre of the table, as did the boys, then pulled out a compact mirror and did some simple transfiguration charms. Her hair was made straight and auburn-brown, and her glasses became round and frameless, her nose wider and half her freckles disappeared. Then she turned to Fred, whilst Kelly fixed James into someone you would never give a second glance.
They staggered their exit, the only way to go was past the bar, past Charleston. James got out the door without a hitch, but Lucy’s disguise was a little too effective, and whilst she wasn’t recognised as herself, she was misidentified as someone else.
“Malinda?” Charleston touched her elbow in passing.
Lucy froze, turning on the soles of her boots. “I’m sorry. I think you have the wrong person.”
“You look very familiar. Are you sure we haven’t met before?”
At the other end of the bar, Fred and Kelly exchanged an alarmed look: he was flirting with her. Admittedly, Lucy did look twenty-five minimum, but it was still creepy to watch.
“What’s your name?”
Lucy blinked. “Daisy.”
Fred appeared at her side, draping an arm around her shoulders. “Ready to go, hun?”
“Yep.” Lucy nodded, looping her arm around Fred’s waist.
And then they swept out of the room. Kelly breathed a sigh of relief and paid her tab. She glanced over at Professor Charleston’s chair, once more, but it was empty. He gaze shot to the door, which was just swinging shut again.
Kelly couldn’t find Charleston right away, but she had hoped to run into one of the others, somewhere. She desperately wished that Fred and Lucy had had the brains to split up as soon as possible. She hoped they’d taken different passageways back into the school grounds. Or taken refuge in Weasley Wizard Wheezes for a while. But Kelly kept walking, in and out of the alleyways, with and against the light foot traffic, sometimes stopping to look in the illuminated shop windows, unhurried, nowhere to be, completely invisible. Tell me they didn’t try to run.
Then she turned a corner to the little square with the commemorative statue for all those who died fighting in the Battle of Hogwarts, and saw a whole different kind of disaster. The three of them were sitting on one of the benches, looking like themselves again, and Charleston was standing over them, shouting.
“You’re going to have to be more specific.” Lucy said, examining the glittery purple polish she had given herself a manicure with earlier that evening.
“Miss Weasley.” Professor Charleston snapped. “I want to know what you are doing here!?”
Lucy blinked at him slowly, totally bored, before going back to her nails.
Professor Charleston swiftly moved on to Fred, somewhat unnerved by Lucy’s dead-eyed gaze. “Mr Weasley, you are going to tell me how you and your friends-”
“Family.” Fred corrected mildly. “James and Lucy are family.”
“How you and your family evaded the security of the school grounds,” Professor Charleston snarled. “And Mr Potter, you are going to explain to me why the three of you felt the need to do so.”
Kelly studied how the three cousins were seated on the bench. How, despite the chill October had left in its wake, and even with an angry teacher bearing down on them, they didn’t shrink, they didn’t shiver. No, they lounged.
Fred sat back, one elbow on the backrest, ankle on knee, chin tilted up to the stars — vaguely curious as to what tomorrow’s horoscope might be. Lucy crossed one long leg over the other, arms folded across her chest, pretty oval nails curved around her upper arms, shoulders rolled back, bored. James was slouched low, his legs stretched out, ankles crossed, hands stuffed deep into his pockets, looking like he might fall asleep at any second.
It had to be genetic, Kelly thought. That kind of confidence wasn’t the sort one could buy (no matter how much gold lay in the family vaults of those three particular teenagers), and it definitely couldn’t be stolen (no matter how competent a Curse Breaker she was becoming).
The two boys shared a look, then James rolled his eyes back to Professor Charleston, “I fancied a firewhisky.”
“Students are not permitted alcoholic beverages.”
“Well, on school grounds, we’re not.” Lucy shrugged against her teacher’s glare.
“Which is why we came down to Hogsmeade.” Fred continued.
“Another violation of school rules, right there. It’s past curfew, on a school night!”
“So why are you in Hogsmeade, Professor?” James asked, smirking. “After all, it is a school night.”
It might have been because of the chilly gust of wind that just whipped past, but Kelly could have sworn she saw her Transfiguration teacher blush. “Get up.” He told the three teenagers tersely. “We’ll finish this discussion back at school.”
Kelly leaned deeper into the shadows, the natural chameleon, her hair shifted to match the shade of the shop’s stonework; and as the four of them passed by, not one of them looked her way. Sometimes being invisible had its benefits.
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