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Chapter 7 : vii. the peace offering [or] we should've given them olive branches
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The Dove Plan, as we’ve imaginatively started calling it, is quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen or done.
Holly, Lester and I split up during third period on Wednesday, having divided up the castle between us, to charm all the toilet rolls. I’ve never appreciated quite how many bathrooms Hogwarts has, or how much toilet paper is stockpiled in each (we decide not to hit the storerooms, because while the actual moment of metamorphosis in the bathrooms is going to be hilarious, a complete schoolwide lack of toilet paper is likely to go very quickly from funny, to inconvenient, and finally to catastrophic, and we operate under a doctrine of thoughtful thoughtlessness.)
We run into a few problems that constitute the Hogwarts bathrooms during classtime – couples who have decided there’s no spot more romantic than the fourth-floor toilets, senior students with free periods looking for a private place to discuss the latest scandals, even the odd enterprising student conducting shady deals over Firewhiskey and restricted potions. By the time I’ve finished charming the toilet rolls, I’ve also taken sixty points from Hufflepuff, forty from Gryffindor, thirty from Ravenclaw and a staggering one hundred and eighty from Slytherin – they form the lion’s share of the black market in restricted substances, and I have to dock points far more heavily for that sort of thing than for sneaking out of class for a bit of a snog in the cubicles. My badge gives me a handy pretext for being in the bathrooms in the first place – not to mention most students tend to flee pretty quickly once they see me. Many a time I’ve heard the warning yell of “Prefect!” from further up a corridor, and seconds later a clump of students disperse, trying to look as innocent as possible.
I meet the others in the Entrance Hall. “All done?”
“And to an excellent standard, if I do say so myself,” Holly confirms. “Where’s our best vantage point, d’you think?”
“Foot of the main stairwell,” Lester says immediately. “Plenty of bathrooms around there on the ground floor, and a good view of first. Though we’re going to need a reason to be there.”
“Well, I’m on my way to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Don’t know about you guys.”
“We’re…meeting the boys outside History of Magic,” Holly decides. “Yeah, that’ll do. It’s ten to now, so everyone’s just getting out…okay. Let us dawdle.”
We set off at a relaxed pace for the main stairwell, watching as hoardes of students pack into the bathrooms. “Now.”
Holly turns gracefully, hand buried in the pocket of her robes, and ducks briefly behind a statue. Three miniaturised doves come flitting out of her pocket, from the miniaturised toilet roll that acts as the master key for our Protean Charm. Then pandemonium strikes.
The doors to the bathrooms fly open, discharging flocks of doves and shrieking students. From all directions they come, yelling and swearing and careering around the castle while the doves soar gracefully overhead, every now and then pooping on the extremely unlucky. Lester casts a Shield Charm for us to hide under and, deciding we’ve gawked long enough, they walk me to Defence Against the Dark Arts.
“We’re gonna go spectate some more,” Holly says as they depart. “And then disappear. See you at lunch.”
Everyone’s talking wildly about the doves in the bathrooms once I get to class, and I hear some amazing stories – “D’you hear about some Gryffindor who was wiping his arse when it turned into a dove?” I hope fervently that it was Sean Finnigan.
Scorpius looks utterly bewildered when he plops into the seat beside me. “Have you seen – doves?”
“I’ve seen the doves, yes.”
“They’re saying someone turned the toilet paper into them – I mean, fuck. That’s – That’ll win the scholarship for sure, do you think we have more competition? Nobody in the Enemy could have come up with such complex magic…you don’t think maybe the Scamanders – ?”
“Scorpius,” I whisper. “It was us. It was Holly and Lester’s idea.”
“No,” Scorpius whispers back, breaking into a grin. “No way.”
“Yeah. We totally did.”
“Do we have a way of proving it?” Scorpius continues. “I imagine anyone going for the scholarship will try and claim it.”
“Holly has the master key. We used a Protean Charm.”
“Wow,” he says approvingly. “That’s phenomenal, guys.”
“You’re damn right it’s phenomenal.” I’m beyond modesty at this point. “The thing is, I don’t know how we’re going to top this. We’ve set the bar a bit high for ourselves.”
“Leave the next one to me and Albus,” Scorpius assures me. “We’ll set the bar even higher.”
“We’re going to have to blow up the castle by the time we leave at this rate.”
“One thousand one hundred years of magical history gone in the blink of an eye would be a hell of a prank,” Scorpius says. “No, I can’t even joke about that. That’s worse than the Library of Alexandria.”
“Don’t mention the Library of Alexandria,” I say automatically.
“Nothing’s worse than the Library of Alexandria!” Lara Talbot, another seventh-year Ravenclaw (it’s okay, I forget there are others too) twists in her seat to give Scorpius a reproachful stare.
This is one thing that sets Ravenclaw apart from other houses – our points of comparison. Ever since Alfie Harrison, the Muggleborn son of an ancient history lecturer, taught us about the destruction of the Library of Alexandria in second year, it’s been our go-to for determining how bad something is. Lara’s right, nothing is as bad as the Library of Alexandria.
“We’re talking about if someone blew up Hogwarts,” Scorpius explains.
Lara frowns. “Magically? We’re talking complete obliteration?”
“Maybe the students.”
Lara waves a dismissive hand. “Students don’t matter. Records, books, artifacts – ?”
“Hmm.” Lara lapses into thoughtful silence. “Maybe on a par with Carthage?”
“Carthago delenda est,” Scorpius says. “Yeah, good call.”
“I think the Carthiginians would disagree,” I point out.
“The Carthiginians are dead.”
“Troy?” Lara suggests.
“No way,” Scorpius says. “You know what happened at Troy, right? Have you read Aeneid II?”
“Not in Latin,” Lara replies.
“You should,” Scorpius tells her. “You lose so much of the pathos in translation.”
“We’re not comparing the human cost, though,” Lara argues. “So the pathos of Aeneid II doesn’t really come into it. We’re comparing cultural loss – and if we make the argument that the fall of Troy was a historical event, then it contributed to a wealth of Western literature. It wasn’t a cultural loss at all, it was a cultural gain.”
“So it’s not really comparable to Hogwarts at all,” I say. “You’ve just proved your own point wrong, because Hogwarts would be a massive cultural loss – ”
I slowly become aware that the classroom has fallen silent, and everyone’s staring at us.
“Don’t let me interrupt you,” Professor Thomas says. “No, really. This is fascinating stuff.” He crosses his arms, and I exchange awkward glances with Lara and Scorpius.
“Sorry, Professor,” Lara says. “We were just…discussing.”
“I could see that,” Professor Thomas says. “In future, please keep your discussions outside class time…or on topic.”
“It was on topic,” I say earnestly. “We were just discussing the war, and how close the castle came to being destroyed – ”
“Yes,” Professor Thomas says, and something shifts in his face. “It did. And while it may be easy enough for you to discuss such a possibility academically, I would ask that out of respect for those who nearly did see the castle fall, that you don’t.”
“That backfired,” Scorpius whispers. Out loud he adds, “No disrespect meant, Professor.”
“I know, Scorpius.” Professor Thomas turns back to the rest of the class. “Right. We’ve got a particularly difficult lesson today, so I hope you’ve all cleared your minds of any dove-related incidents. Can anyone tell me what a Patronus Charm is?”
I raise my hand with almost uncharacteristic eagerness, and apparently Professor Thomas agrees. “Yes, Hermi – Rose,” he corrects himself hastily. “Sorry, Rose, go on.”
“It’s a charm used to repel Dementors and Lethifolds. In their corporeal forms they take the shape of animals unique to the caster.”
“Five points to Ravenclaw, couldn’t have put it better myself. Now, I know the Patronus Charm does appear in the Standard Book of Spells, Grade 7 – though it has been moved from the Charms curriculum to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Bearing this in mind, how many of you have already attempted the Patronus Charm?”
I raise my hand, as does Lucy, Scorpius, Sophie Macmillan and Lorcan Scamander. Professor Thomas smiles a little, and I can tell he’s thinking that at least Sophie, Lorcan and I all learned the spell from our Dumbledore’s Army parents. We did.
“Well then,” Professor Thomas says. “Which one of you would like to give us a demonstration?”
Scorpius raises his hand, shuffling past me to the front of the room, and I lean back in my seat to watch.
Scorpius, far more than the rest of us, has a certain grace when it comes to magic, and seeing him give practical demonstrations is nothing short of a privilege – he uses his wand like an extension of his hand, which makes him formidable in duelling, and once he has mastery of a spell it becomes nothing short of instinct. He casts the spell even as he’s walking, flicking his wand in a manner that would seem absent-minded if it was anyone but Scorpius, and an immense silvery lion bursts forth from his wand. He allows a small smile to tug at his lips as our classmates gasp in awe, and I can’t help but grin. I always forget how impressive Scorpius’s Patronus is (impressive to the point that Albus and I were extremely jealous of him when we all mastered the spell in the summer before sixth year.)
“It’s a shame Albus doesn’t take this class,” Scorpius whispers as he sits back down. “He likes watching me do magic.”
“I feel like that was borderline too much information, Scorp.”
“Borderline,” he repeats. “I’ll have to do better next time.”
“Hey, that was a perfectly innocuous statement when you think about it,” Scorpius says. “You like watching me do magic. Everyone likes watching me do magic, let’s face it. I’m fucking majestic.”
I’m spared further debate by Professor Thomas telling us to split into pairs and practice the charm, but Scorpius doesn’t move.
“Why are you wanting to practice?” he asks me. “We nailed this spell over a year ago.”
Having conjured our Patroni to keep Professor Thomas at bay, we watch as our classmates struggle through the spell. There are plenty of fraying tempers and resentful glares in our direction as we lounge in the corner, hands clasped behind our heads, until Professor Thomas eventually comes our way.
“We mastered this spell a while ago, Professor,” Scorpius explains.
“I can see that. Rose, Professor Vector tells me you want to be a teacher.”
“That’s the plan.”
“Perhaps you’d like to put those aspirations to the test,” he suggests, gesturing to the room full of struggling peers. “It seems a better use of your time than sitting on the sidelines watching. Scorpius, you don’t have any educational tendencies?”
“I’m going to be a Healer,” Scorpius replies, getting to his feet, “But I’ll help this lot cast a Patronus if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“Good man,” Professor Thomas says approvingly, and wades back into the fray.
Scorpius and I split up, each finding a student to help with the spell. Somehow I end up paired with Emily Huntington, and Scorpius with Lucian Rosier.
“I don’t need your help, Malfoy,” Lucian says after Scorpius tells him to give the spell a go. “Look, no offence, but I’m straight, and – ”
“And I’m in a committed, monogamous relationship and have subzero interest in you anyway,” Scorpius says coolly, “But if you want to be a prick, I’m really okay with you failing your NEWT.”
“Yeah, fuck up, Rosier,” Emily calls. “If you can’t get a girl to look at you, you’re not gonna get hit on by the world’s most taken dude.”
I give her a surprised look, which she returns. “What? Rosier’s a dick. I can call him out on it. Are you going to help me with this spell or not?”
“Uh, right, yeah. The wand movement’s like this – ” I demonstrate, then repeat it again more slowly. “And the incantation is expecto patronum. Ex-pec-to pat-ro-num. When you cast it, you need to focus on something happy. The Patronus is a manifestation of happy thoughts.”
“That’s the most grossly sentimental thing I’ve ever heard,” Emily says, wrinkling her nose.
“It’s to give Dementors something else to feed on besides your mortal soul.”
“Slightly better,” she concedes. “So what sort of…happy thoughts?”
“Memories are usually the best ones. Think of your best memory and focus on that. Ready?”
“Expecto patronum,” Emily says firmly. Nothing comes from her wand – not even the faintest wisp of silvery smoke.
“What memory did you use?” I ask.
“None of your business,” she snaps. “It’s not the memory. What else am I doing wrong?”
“Do you have much trouble with wandwork normally?”
“Not really. I mean, I take a while to master a spell like anyone else.”
“The main thing that separates the Patronus Charm from any other charm or spell is the emotion behind it,” I explain. “So if there’s something that usually trips you up with your spellwork, that might explain it. But as far as I can see, your wand movement and incantation is fine.”
“I was using my best memory.”
“How well do you remember it?” I ask. “If it’s from when you were a child, unless you’ve attached a lot of sentimental value to it, it won’t work as well. You need to have that happiness in mind, as it were. Not just the thing that made you happy.”
“Ugh,” Emily mutters.
“It doesn’t have to be happy, per se. It just has to be an overwhelmingly positive feeling or emotion. Most people just tend to go with happy because it’s conceptually easier – ”
“So…accomplishment would work as well? Success?”
“Definitely.” I want to ask what accomplishment or success Emily would use – being made Prefect? She’s not the top of any of our classes – but decide that would be pushing our newfound civility a bit far.
She tries the spell again, and this time a faint bit of silvery smoke drifts from the tip of her wand. Before I can work out what she’s doing wrong, however, the bell rings for lunch and the class empties almost immediately. Lucian’s in such a rush to get away from Scorpius that he doesn’t even wait for Emily, and she scowls briefly at his departing back before grabbing my arm.
“Listen,” she says quietly. “I have zero intention of failing this class because of a Patronus Charm. I need your help, and I need you to not breathe a word of it to anyone. Not to my group and certainly not yours.”
“I can try – ”
“Seven o’clock, tonight. Here. Good thing we’re both Prefects.” She releases my arm and I’m about to join Scorpius, who’s lingering in the doorway, when she steps closer, staring me in the eye. “Not. A. Word.”
She strides away, leaving me to wonder what just happened – and how.
A/N: Carthago delenda est - Carthage is to be destroyed - was a common sentiment in Republican Roman rhetoric during the Punic Wars against Carthage.
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