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Chapter 3 : iii. the order of the raven [or] our reputation precedes us
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The name ‘Order of the Raven’ is on everyone’s lips as we arrive at Hogwarts and take our seats at the feast. Nobody seems to have made the connection between it and us, though everyone – and I mean everyone – appreciated the sight of Macho Manly Louis Weasley followed by tiny, fluffy round creatures for the better part of seven hours. With the help of old Hagrid and a very determined Puff owner by the name of Henrietta Mills, Louis finally managed to free himself from his curse and is now stalking through the Great Hall with the sleeves of his robes rolled up in case anyone forgot he has forearms.
It’s the best start of term feast I’ve had, until Professor Vector comes up to Scorpius and I at the end of Sprout’s speech. “A word,” she says stiffly.
Professor Vector reminds me of the stories Mum and Dad tell about their Head of House, Professor McGonagall. She’s a stern grey-haired woman who seldom smiles, tall and forbidding, and favours plain black or navy blue robes with the only embellishment being a small Ravenclaw pin – which does nothing to soften the effect but rather gives us all a very stern, very shiny reminder that we are not to disgrace the noble House of Rowena Ravenclaw in any way, shape or form.
I feel guilty just looking at her, and then I stop looking at her because I’m fairly sure she can see into my soul.
We follow her silently into her office, where she closes the door, takes a seat, and leans forward on the desk with her fingers steepled. “There was an incident on the Hogwarts Express today.”
“Is this something to do with the Pygmy Puffs following Louis around?” I ask. There’s no point pretending we didn’t see anything, the whole school had a Pygmy Puff train go past their compartment at some point this afternoon.
“Yes,” Vector says stiffly. “As you may be aware, the group claiming responsibility is calling themselves The Order of the Raven.”
“You think it’s someone in this house?”
“I do. That, or someone seeking to cast a taint on our House.”
“What do you want us to do?” Scorpius asks eventually.
“Find them. Stop them. You’re my Prefects. I’ll not have any members of this house embroiled in an escalating prank war.”
“You have our word,” Scorpius says, and bobs a little as we make our exit.
“Did you just bow to her?” I hiss once we’re out of earshot.
“She’s an intimidating woman,” Scorpius says defensively.
“She’s not a queen.”
“She might as well be. We’re committing treason, Rosie. High treason against Ravenclaw house.”
“For the love of God,” I mutter, and tow him upstairs to Ravenclaw Tower.
The chatter about the Order of the Raven is even more intense up here, with a bunch of fifth-years loudly discussing their theories about who was behind the prank. The primary suspect at the moment seems to be a sixth-year, Ellie Simmons, who I vaguely remember was dated, cheated on, and publicly dumped by my abominable cousin last year.
“Guys, I wish it were me, honestly,” Ellie’s saying as we come in. “But if I were to do anything to Louis Weasley, it wouldn’t be half as nice as getting a bunch of Pygmy Puffs to follow him around.”
Having realised the truth in that, the assembled masses return to the drawing board.
“Dramatic reveal?” I ask Scorpius.
I wave the others over. “Dramatic reveal?”
“Eternal glory,” Albus says longingly, and I take that for agreement.
“What’s the worst that can happen?” Lester asks.
“It was us!” I announce in a lull in the general conversation. “We are the Order of the Raven!”
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.
“Cool,” says a fifth-year. “Who’s for Gobstones?”
“Seriously?” I ask, turning to the others. “That’s it?”
“To be fair, we only did one prank,” Lester reasons. “Well, you did one prank. Maybe if we had built up an elaborate pranking empire, and waited till the end-of-year feast to reveal our identities…”
“Well, what’s done is done. What’s next?”
“We wait,” Scorpius says firmly. “For the retaliation.”
“I’d rather make another pre-emptive strike, to be honest,” Holly says. “Get them while they’re down. D’you think there’s a way of making Lucian Rosier think he’s Muggleborn?”
“This is bringing out the worst in you,” I tell her.
You wouldn’t know it looking at her now, lit up from the inside out at the prospect of mildly fucking with people, but Holly Holyoake is the sweetest person to ever walk the earth. She’s cute as a button, a seventeen-year-old genius who would come to class in her sheep onesie if she could, who has pulled all-nighters to help other people with their essays, and who has been just as chipper and patient after those all-nighters as she is on a proper night’s sleep. She lives and breathes her subjects, particularly Arithmancy, and has been known to bounce around the room with an ear-to-ear grin when she understands a tricky concept or reads about some obscure discovery. As far as I’m concerned, she’s nothing short of superhuman.
I’m also afraid we’ve corrupted her down to her very soul for five thousand Galleons.
The retaliation isn’t long in coming. Word has filtered down from Ravenclaw Tower into the dungeons that we were responsible for the Pygmy Puff prank – or, namely, I was responsible for the Pygmy Puff prank. Ever since it became known that Louis knows it was me, we’ve been on red alert.
“Let’s talk about your weaknesses,” Albus begins once we’re gathered for a Preparedness Meeting.
“This is a supportive and loving environment,” Holly tells me. “We need to arm you against whatever Louis and his cronies might be planning. You attacked Louis’ hypermasculinity, so you should expect something equally personal in retaliation.”
“They’re probably going to go for your voluptuous ego,” Lester says.
Holly gives him a strange look. “Did you just say voluptuous?”
“I couldn’t think of the right word,” Lester says defensively. “So I went for a synonym.”
“Lester’s bad choice of words aside,” Scorpius says, firmly steering us back to the topic at hand, “He’s right. Or at least, I think he’s right, I can’t be too sure what was meant by voluptuous ego – but at any rate, they’re going to attack your pride. They’re going to attack all of our pride. That’s why we’re the number one targets, right? Because we’re arrogant little shits.”
“Bring it. My ego is not one to be dented by a bunch of Slytherindors.”
By third period the next day I’ve dropped my guard a bit – nothing terrible has happened so far, and third period is Potions – my time to shine. We all have our fields of expertise – Scorpius loves Ancient Runes; Holly is an Arithmancy queen; Albus is a social scientist at heart and favours Muggle Studies and History of Magic; Lester’s interested in the nuts and bolts of magic and particularly the wandwork of Transfiguration and Charms. My area is Potions, and this classroom is my kingdom.
Our potion to start off seventh year with a bang is Felix Felicis, and Professor Llodewick spends the first twenty minutes warning us about how volatile the ingredients are and how difficult the potion is to make, and the next twenty minutes telling us how Felix Felicis is a Class A Restricted Substance and therefore we all have to surrender our final result at the end of class. This elicits a groan from us all, but I have a personal apothecary hidden away in my trunk and once I’ve got the theory down in class I’ll be able to brew it up whenever I want. The actual use of Felix Felicis is only banned in certain circumstances such as Quidditch matches, and since I haven’t set my butt on a broom since I was eight years old I think I’m pretty safe.
I’m off my game today, though. I start out freestyling it – making innovations where I see fit, because I know most of these ingredients and how they react with each other – only following the instructions when it comes to unfamiliar ingredients – but I must have lost my touch over the summer holidays because ingredients are congealing which I know shouldn’t be congealing, and others are boiling when they shouldn’t be. I turn down the heat, scrap it, start again following the recipe to the letter, but it’s still not working. I check the ingredients again – none are expired or in any way damaged – and peer over Lester’s shoulder to see how he’s going. Arrogant as this may sound, he’s the only one in our group who comes close to me in Potions ability – we’re both scientifically minded, and Potions is as scientific a subject as they come. His potion looks nothing short of perfect.
“Everything okay?” he asks, frowning into my cauldron. “God, Rose – that smells awful. Are you brewing at the right temperature?”
“Yes,” I snap. “I know what I’m doing, we’re not third years.”
He holds his hands up in surrender and backs away. People are beginning to stare at me, and I feel my face redden. The cauldron is billowing green smoke now, and I Vanish the blackening gloop at the bottom of the cauldron and start again, knowing we’ve got less than fifteen minutes before the end of class.
Professor Llodewick comes round with five minutes to spare, when attempt number three has already turned a strange colour. He peers into my cauldron, Vanishes the offending substance, and turns to me. “Rose. If you’re going to use a dual-bottom cauldron, I expect you to use it properly. You need to be adjusting your temperatures accordingly. I didn’t think I’d have to tell you that.”
“It’s not a dual-bottom cauldron,” I say weakly. “It’s cast iron.”
“Really?” he asks. He takes my cauldron from the fire and tilts it so I can see the bottom. Sure enough, there’s a thin shiny layer of pewter underneath a scraping of black that looks concievably like burnt potion, but I know to be the remains of a false bottom.
“Brushing up on your theory wouldn’t go amiss,” Llodewick continues, oblivious to the fact that everyone is listening to him tell me off. “Temperature control aside, a dual-bottom cauldron is a poor choice for such a complex potion.”
He moves on to Lester’s before I can say anything, and Louis is smirking at me from across the room. “Lost your touch, have you?” he calls.
I didn’t realise how close I am to breaking point until he says that. “Fuck you!” I shout, my voice cracking. “I know it was you – you arsehole!”
“Rose,” Holly hisses.
“Can’t handle a bad potion, Weasley?”
“You realise you’ve just said your own name in that disparaging tone as well?” Lester asks. “Come on, dude. Get your head in the game.”
“Five points from Ravenclaw,” Scorpius says in a small voice.
Holly steers me out of the classroom and into a deserted corridor. “Right,” she says, gently grasping my shoulders. “Breathe.”
I try, sucking in air with each great hiccuping sob. “Everyone was staring – ”
“Shhh,” Holly says soothingly.
“They’re all laughing – ”
“Shhh,” Holly repeats. “Just breathe. That’s it.”
“I can’t even take a joke – ”
“Shh. None of us can. We’re working on it.”
When I finally get myself under control, Holly lets me talk in full sentences. “Everyone’s back there laughing at me.”
“No, they’re not. They’re back there laughing at Louis, because we left him alone with Albus and Lester and their acerbic wit.”
“Oh.” That realisation makes me feel infinitely better. When the mood takes them, Albus and Lester can be ruthless. They’re pretty much the only reason we survived our angsty early teen years – five reclusive, nerdy Ravenclaws are theoretically sitting ducks for bullying, but anyone who tried realised they got far more than they bargained for with Albus and Lester. A few well-timed and perfectly thought-out comments later and the tables had turned in our favour, and nobody really bothered us again.
“Would you feel better if you went to Professor Llodewick and explained what happened?”
“No, he’ll just tell me I should have realised something was wrong with the cauldron. And he’s right, I’ve used dual-bottom cauldrons before, I should have recognised it.”
“If you’re sure. We’re still in this, right?”
“We’re still in this,” I confirm.
“Good,” Holly says. “Because I just had an idea.”
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