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Chapter 8 : viii. the spanner in the works [or] keep your enemies closer
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The Dove Plan enjoys notoriety for the rest of the day, and we bask in our plan being lauded or condemned by the entire school. Scorpius is ready to claim responsibility for it during lunch, until Albus points out that one public declaration made standing on the Ravenclaw table per year is quite enough, and maybe a toilet paper dove prank isn’t on the same level of importance as their relationship. Scorpius reluctantly agrees.
I almost forget about my agreement – though there wasn’t a lot of agreeing going on – with Emily, and I’m worrying about how to get away from the group without giving anything away – but it turns out far easier than I expect. Holly has a Care of Magical Creatures lesson (they have one night-time class a week to work with nocturnal animals) and Lester has Quidditch practice.
“I forgot you play,” I tell Lester as he heads out of the common room with his broom.
“Aw yeah,” Albus says. “You’re on the team, that’s right.”
Lester huffs. “I’m the Captain.”
“What position is it you play?” Scorpius asks curiously.
Lester swats him over the head with the bristles of his broom. “Seeker, as you know perfectly well.”
“I thought you were a Chaser. Have you ever been a Chaser?”
“I’ve played Seeker for five years, Scorpius.”
“What’s your broom?” Albus asks, climbing over the back of the couch to inspect it.
“It’s a Firebolt 5.”
“See, I should have remembered all that. It’s Dad’s Quidditch career in a nutshell. Seeker, Captain, Firebolt.”
“It’s the extent of your Quidditch knowledge in a nutshell, is what it is. I’ll see you guys later.”
“You know, I think my dad was a Seeker too,” Scorpius muses.
“He was,” I tell him. “Mine bitches about him all the time.”
“I must remember to compliment your dad on the longevity of his grudges. Anyway, Albus…Tom’s on the team and Alfie takes Magical Creatures, which means the dorm is empty for the next hour.”
“Bye, Rose,” Albus says immediately, and the boys launch themselves off the couch and thunder up the stairs.
Thanking the gods above for this series of events, I hurry down to Professor Thomas’s classroom to meet Emily.
“You’re late,” she says by way of greeting, pushing the classroom door open.
“I had to wait for everyone to leave. You’re the one who insisted on secrecy.”
“Oh.” She seems surprised that I went to such an effort. “Yeah. Thanks, I guess.” She closes the door firmly behind us. “Do you mind demonstrating it again?”
“Uh, sure.” I take out my wand, pause. “Verbal or non-verbal?”
“Doesn’t bother me.”
I cast my Patronus, watching the little fox streak through the classroom and disappear through the far wall. “I’m afraid I can’t deconstruct it much for you – I’ve never been able to separate each component of a spell and still make it work.”
“I don’t even know what half of that means, so.” She takes out her wand. “Expecto patronum.”
This time the wisp of smoke is slightly thicker than before. “You’re doing well.”
She scowls. “I am not. I bet you got it on your first try.”
“It took me two days, actually.”
She stares at me, surprised. I shrug.
“I’m not powerful. I only get good grades for wandwork because I work my arse off for them, and I’m only good at Defence because my dad’s an Auror.”
She doesn’t say anything to that, just raises her wand again. “Expecto patronum.”
The same smoke comes out, and I have an idea about where she’s going wrong. “You need more force behind it. You know the difference you feel between a minor spell and a really powerful one? You need to make this one really powerful – same level as conjuring an animal, because you’re essentially bringing something to life – well, sort of life. It’s animate.”
Emily nods, tries the spell again. This time there’s much more smoke, which looks briefly like it’s going to take shape before it dissipates.
“Yeah, that’s it! Good work.”
She huffs exasperatedly. “This is exhausting.”
“I think that’s the point of the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests.”
“Yeah, shut up.” There seems to be a glimmer of a smile on her face, though, and when she tries the spell next there’s certainly a shape – an indistinct shape, yes, but a shape nevertheless – and a big one too. “What’s the deal with the animals?”
“You mean what shape the Patronus takes? It’s like a…manifestation of your character, in a sense? There’s a lot of research done about the significance of Patroni.”
“They don’t change, then? Like, the better you get at the spell, the more impressive your animal?”
“You don’t start out with an insect, if that’s what you mean, and Scorpius’s has always been a lion. It can only change if you do – trauma, emotional upheaval, that sort of thing.”
“That’s actually pretty interesting,” Emily concedes, and attempts the spell again.
By nine o’clock I’m ready to call it a night, but Emily insists on giving the spell one last try and this time, it works. A great silver wolf appears in the classroom, and Emily looks nothing short of thrilled as she basks in its glow. “Wow. Thanks, Rose.”
“Any time.” I perch on the edge of the desk. “Can I ask what your memory was?”
“If you really want to know, it was the first time I transformed.”
“Transformed?” I repeat. “You’re an Animagus?”
“Yeah. I’m registered and everything, don’t worry,” she adds quickly. “I mastered it last summer.”
“You turn into a wolf?”
“Makes me sound like a werewolf, right?” she laughs. “I just like wolves. They’re a lot of things that I am and even more that I’m not.”
“Was it difficult?”
“It was nearly impossible. But that just made the victory even better. You’re an overachiever, you’d know.”
“I’m not sure if that was an insult or a compliment.”
“It wasn’t really meant to be either. You guys are going for the Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship, aren’t you? It’s okay,” she adds when she sees my face. “We already know you are, there’s no other reason you lot would instigate a prank war.”
“Louis and Lucy are. The rest of us – well, we go along with whatever they’re doing, if they need a group and if it sounds like it could be a laugh, but nah. We’re not in to win – and I had nothing to do with that stupid article in Draco Dormiens. We – Lucian and I – actually tried to talk them out of it – especially revealing that stuff about Scorpius’s father.”
“Common human decency? We Slytherins are capable of it too, you know. We know what it’s like to have to bury your heritage, and Lucy and Louis don’t. Maybe they got a wake-up call when Scorpius was so upset, but it’s far more likely they didn’t.”
“What heritage do you have to bury? The Huntington family wasn’t involved in the war at all.”
“Huntington’s my mother’s name.”
Feeling like I’m crossing into dangerous territory, I ask, “What’s your father’s name?”
“Yaxley. I’d rather you didn’t spread that around.”
“You think I would? After Scorpius?”
“I guess not. But you’re still a Weasley.”
“Why are you friends with them?” I blurt. “Lucy and Louis?”
“Why is anyone friends with anyone else? They’re not bad people. Thoughtless, sometimes, and inappropriate – but they’re my mates, and they’re working on improving. Louis hasn’t used gay as an insult since Albus came out.”
“A small victory.”
“It’s a start,” she says firmly. “But we’re just as close as you lot, you know. Obviously we don’t share a common room with the Gryffindors and we mostly weren’t in the same classes till sixth year, but – ” she shrugs. “It’s good. Means you’re never alone, and I’m sure we’ve both seen our share of people going through this school in isolation.”
We lapse into silence again, me wondering why I haven’t yet returned to Ravenclaw Tower now that Emily’s mastered the Patronus, when she asks me a completely unexpected question.
“You asexual, Rose?”
“Huh? No, that’s Holly.”
“I just thought you both were. You’ve never dated anyone, have you?”
“I did last year,” I say hesitantly. “But we kept it quiet.”
“Your group’s not big on public relationships, are they?”
“Our group’s not big on public anything. Why?”
She shrugs. “I’m curious, that’s all. We’ve been classmates for six years and this is the first time we’ve ever spoken. You’re a bit enigmatic, you know. You all are.”
“Enigmatic?” I repeat. “We’re not enigmatic. We’re dorks. You saw us laughing over dictionaries.”
“I saw you laughing over releasing misnumbered rabbits in the Gryffindor common room. It wasn’t that difficult to put two and two together,” she adds, seeing the look on my face. “But we all have our roles to play in this ridiculous game known as the Hogwarts student hierarchy. Who was it you went out with last year?”
“What are you going to do with that information?”
“Satisfy my own curiousity. Nothing more, I promise.”
“Lorcan?” Emily repeats. “She’s still going by Lorcan?”
“Most people don’t seem to know that it’s a masculine name, I mean, hardly anyone’s ever heard of it. She said she’s probably going to change it when she finishes Hogwarts, but she doesn’t know what to. Knowing her she’ll go off tramping in the wilderness for a year and come back with her true name having been whispered to her on the breeze or something.”
“Let me guess,” Emily says. “You guys didn’t work out because you were too different.”
“What gave it away?”
She just smiles. “You’re all right, Rose. For an eagle.”
“You’re all right for a snake.”
“I have a proposal for you.”
“What sort of proposal?” I ask, suddenly wary.
“An alliance?” I repeat. “Why would you – ”
“Because you guys deserve that scholarship,” she says. “I’m not saying you’re all…noble, or good people – hell, you’re the most arrogant bunch I’ve ever met – but the contenders are you lot, or your cousins. And d’you know what Louis and Lucy are planning on doing with their two and a half grand each? Nothing. They’ll get an internship, maybe, or enrol in some course to fulfil the requirements – Louis’s all set up to go straight into Gringotts thanks to his parents, but they’re just going to piss around for a year. Or three, or five, or however long it takes them to work out what the hell they want to do with their lives. And I’m okay with their parents bankrolling them for that, if they’re dumb enough to, but when it’s a scholarship actually intended to help school leavers get into careers?” Emily shrugs. “Part of this was a test, you know. I know you want to be a teacher.”
“You didn’t fake – ”
“Of course I didn’t fake it,” Emily says, cutting me off. “But there’s no way I would have asked you for help outside class hours unless I had some kind of other motive. And I’m not going to be caught dead saying this twice – but you’ll make a damn good teacher, and so will Holly.”
“Well, thank you – and I’m really not looking to start an argument here – but why do you care?”
“Ah,” Emily says. “Llodewick and Vector are – well, they’re brilliant, but they’re impatient. Harsh sometimes. Too quick to criticise and too slow to praise – and you wouldn’t know it, Rose, you’ve been on Llodewick’s good side – ”
“Not all the time,” I say, thinking of the cauldron incident.
“My baby sister’s going to be here in five years,” Emily continues. “She’s a brilliant kid, she’ll definitely take Arithmancy as an option – but she’s – you know. Doesn’t have tough skin. Gets bullied a bit. If I had a choice, I’d rather have you teaching her Potions than Llodewick, and I’d definitely rather have Holly teaching her Arithmancy. Because, you know. You care. So there you go, that’s my ulterior motive.”
I’m feeling far too touched by this speech to argue. “Yeah. Right. Brilliant. An alliance, then.”
“You did what?” Albus asks when I return to the common room that evening.
“I may or may not have agreed to an alliance with Emily Huntington.”
“She’s the enemy,” Albus hisses. “You’re fraternising with the enemy.”
“She wants me to be a teacher!” I protest. “Albus, she said she wants me teaching her little sister Potions!”
“She knows your weakness,” Scorpius says.
“Teaching is not my weakness – ”
“Not your singular weakness,” Albus concedes. “You have many. Including being too trusting of untrustworthy Slytherins.”
“She’s nice,” I say feebly. “She said nice things.”
“Did she tell you anything about the nature of this alliance?” Scorpius asks.
“She’s going to tell us what the Enemy are planning and when, so we can retaliate.”
“That could be useful,” Scorpius points out to the others. “We could have her on probation. If she tips us off and it turns out to be legit, we can trust her. To the extent one can trust a Slytherin.”
“You keep talking about untrustworthy Slytherins,” Lester says. “But how many of us nearly got Sorted into Slytherin? Oh that’s right, all of us.”
“Holly’s not here. The point is, just because she’s a Slytherin doesn’t mean she’s inherently bad – ”
“Oh no, Raine,” Scorpius says.
“You didn’t,” Albus says.
“Did I miss something here?” I ask, thoroughly confused.
“Raine’s snogged a Slytherin, haven’t you?”
“I don’t want to discuss this,” Lester says stiffly.
“Do we know her?”
“Does anyone else not care who she is so much as why he hasn’t said anything?” I ask. “Raine. When did this happen?”
“Sunday,” Lester mumbles.
“I care about who she is,” Scorpius contributes. “Purely because I’m curious. It’s not Emily, is it?”
“No, no. She’s not our year.”
“What year is she?” Albus asks suspiciously.
Lester mumbles something that sounds like ‘fight.’
“Five,” Scorpius translates. “Fifth year. Slytherin. Hasn’t told us about it. Albus, I believe we’ve reached the same conclusion.”
“You snogged my little sister?” Albus roars.
“Snog is a terrible word,” Lester says delicately. “I’m sure there are better ones…”
“Raine, have I ever told you how appropriate your middle name is?” Albus asks.
“What, Dante? Why – ?”
“Because you’re about to be dragged through the nine circles of hell.”
“Do I at least get a Latin poet as my guide – ”
Albus grabs Lester by the tie, jerking him forward so their noses are almost touching. “I am your Virgil,” he growls.
“This may be really inappropriate and a complete overshare,” Scorpius whispers to me, eyes glued to the scene, “But I am so turned on right now.”
I shove him away.
Albus releases Lester and the latter is cowering behind me in two short strides. “Mediate,” he says in a small voice. “For the love of God, mediate.”
“Okay, okay, guys.” I hold out my hands for silence. “Albus, stop threatening Lester with the Underworld. Lester, it’s considered good manners to talk to your friends about snogging their sisters, preferably not in passing three days later. Scorpius, that was an overshare.”
“He kissed my sister! I can threaten him with the Inferno if I want.”
“That was a bit sinister, all things considered,” Scorpius points out.
“I’ll show you sinister.”
“Boys,” I snap. “Keep it in your pants.”
“Only if Raine does around my sister!”
“I never – it was a kiss.” Lester looks thoroughly affronted. “I’m not hiding behind tapestries with her – ”
“You better not be,” Albus growls.
“Albus for God’s sake look at your parents,” I interrupt.
He looks startled. “What about them?”
“It’s the exact same situation, isn’t it? Our dads were best mates, your dad started dating my dad’s sister – ”
“How is that meant to make me feel better? They had children.”
I roll my eyes heavenward. “Lily’s sixteen. Let her kiss who she wants. Let Raine kiss who he wants. Now you two are going to sit down and sort this out, like men – ”
“Where’re you taking me?” Scorpius demands, because I’m marching him out the common room door with me.
“You’re a distraction.”
We run into Holly on our way to the library. “Good class?” I ask conversationally.
“Excellent class. Where are you taking Scorpius?”
“No idea. Away. Albus and Lester have things to sort out.”
“Ooh, what sort of things?”
“Lester kissed Lily the other day.”
“No way,” Holly breathes, eyes widening. “Lily Potter?”
“The very same.”
“Ooh.” She glances in the vague direction of Ravenclaw Tower, as if expecting to see Albus dangling Lester off a stairwell by the ankles. “It’s about time this group had a bit of scandal.”
“Speaking of scandal,” Scorpius says, “Rose here has decided to make an alliance with Emily Huntington.”
“I leave you guys for two hours – ”
“No, no, it makes sense,” I say hurriedly. “She doesn’t want Lucy and Louis getting the scholarship – they’re the only ones in that group going for it – so she’s helping us to win it. Holly, she said she wants us teaching her little sister.”
“Did she really?” Holly looks touched, as I knew she would, and smiles. “That’s so sweet. We can trial an alliance with her.”
“That’s what I suggested,” Scorpius says.
“Good. Were you guys heading to the library for any reason? Because I could really go for a trip to the kitchens.”
A/N: The concept of the nine circles of hell originally comes from Dante Alighieri's poem Inferno, in which the poet is escorted through hell by Virgil. I take no responsibility for what my characters find witty.
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