Monday, May 28, 2012

A Jinx Deflected, Part Two

The next morning, Spike was ready. She’d practiced a couple of new spells on her minions last night (who thought magic was funny when you were prepared for the effects). She waited as the table cleared and the students left for class. Hecuba hung back, clearly hoping that the Coveted Coven would invite her to walk with them to Potions. Spike pretended to relace her boot, wand tucked in her hair, where it would be handy to grab. As Narcissa tossed her hair in preparation for the exit, she grabbed her wand. Wait for it, wait for it . . . now!Podes lentesco!” she hissed, and Hecuba’s feet stuck fast to the floor.

Spike hurried from the hall, the last person to leave save for Hecuba, who clearly couldn’t. The warning bell chimed.

“You can’t--! Wait!”

At the door, she stopped and turned. “You’re right. I can’t wait. Snape is pretty strict about attendance. Even if he’s not the actual teacher anymore, he still looks over the list of chronic tardies. I believe your name is right up there, isn’t it?”

“You can’t leave me like this!” Shock and outrage were vying for dominance.

Spike pretended to think it over. “Right again. I can’t do that. Someone might hear and come free you before dinner. Langlock!” Hecuba’s eyes widened as her mouth vanished. “Much better.”

Spike smiled even as she was assigned Detention washing glassware for being tardy. It was worth it. Hecuba would be shoveling out the stables for a month once all the teachers whose classes she missed were done with her.

The next day, Hecuba tried casting the new spell. “Podes lentesco!” she cried gleefully, and Munificent stopped dead, dropping her pumpkin juice and spattering the draggled hem of her third-best robes. She tried to join in the laughter, but it was a pallid thing. Spike shook her head. There’s only so much you can do; at some point, they all have to live their own lives.

Podes lentesco!” Hecuba’s wand was pointed at Spike, to no effect. “Podes lentesco!” Spike kept walking, not even slowed by the spell. Hecuba leaped in front of her, pointed directly at her feet and tried a third time. “Podes lentesco!”

Spike twitched the hem of her robe aside to display her new socks.

“For every curse, there’s a countercurse. Pays to learn them. Langlock!” Hecuba was once again silenced. Without wandless magic, there was no way she’d get out of that unless she went to the Infirmary again.

Spike strolled away, heading up the stairs to the Forest, humming the old Latin song Gausis Podes. “Happy Feet,” to the Muggle world.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Jinx Deflected, Part One

Narcissa had learned a new jinx in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and was practicing it on her classmates. Or at least, that would be her story when the Head of House caught her at it. Likely, Spike mused from her customary green leather armchair, the Head would buy the tale that “We must be prepared at all times; no Knight of Walpurgis is going to say ‘Heads up!’ before he tosses off a curse, now is he?” She watched, peering from behind her tome as Sissy waited for her next victim.

And here she came, Munificent Balstrode. Poor puny Muni might grow up to be a shining example for Slytherin, based on the amount of bullying she took at the clique’s hands. The sheer lust for vengeance that had built up would be astounding when released. Either that, or she’ll end up Sorted to Hufflepuff. She wants to be friends with everyone, and won’t believe anyone would wish her ill. Forgive and forget, that was Muni.

Hallux engorgio!” whispered Sissy, snickering. Her little knot of sycophants chuckled along as Munificent’s toenails all grew long and clawlike, twisting as they dug through her boots and scraped along the stones. Munificent screamed and ran from the room, stumbling into the walls as her balance was thrown off by the horn-like growths. Magically enhanced toenails were impervious to breakage, and snapped toenail clippers. The hoof trimmers and rasps used to keep the thestrals’ hooves under control helped a little, but the whole nail had to cycle before the enchantment wore off. Munificent would be spending weeks filing and clipping away the excess nails.

“That was a good one,” smirked Drusilla Wormwood.

“Do it again,” urged Hecuba Entwhistle, a third-year hanger on, delighted to have a space with the upperclassmen. Next year, she would be back on the outside, looking in wistfully as her former friends used her as an example, wondering what she did to provoke that. Spike could have told her. It was just the law of the jungle, more pronounced here than the rest of the school.

She decided she’d had enough. And the worst of it is that this place is a teddy bears’ picnic compared to Durmstrang. She quietly closed her book, and started downstairs to the dormitory. The worst Sissy can think of is an inconvenience. What would they have made of the hazing that routinely took place in the Vkontakte, in front of the Heads and Headmaster? Instigated, sometimes, by these same people?

Narcissa and Drusilla fell quiet as Spike passed. They’d had an altercation or three, and the two older girls had learned better than to stir that cauldron. Hecuba, on the other hand, was determined to cement her place with the clever witches circle, the Coveted Coven.

“Where you go-oing, Ickle Firstie?” she cooed in a mocking sing-song. “We play too rough for you-ou? Going to go dry Puny Muni’s eyes for her? Wipe her ittle nosie? Maybe you could keep her company.” It was clear what she meant, for Spike to spend hours trimming away her own excess nails, banished to the dungeon for being out of uniform. Boots wouldn’t fit over the tangled exuberant growth of nail, and students couldn’t attend class barefoot. One had to rely on the kindness (or enlightened self-interest) of one’s Housemates to obtain the assignments missed. Making up hands-on work such as Potions or Care of Magical Creatures was difficult at best. Lowered grades and reduced points for the House were par for the course. She raised her wand, and Drusilla grabbed her arm. Hecuba’s watery blue eyes bulged in disbelief.

Drusilla shook her head, once. Spike gave her one quarter of a smile, and turned to leave. Later. She had a couple of curses up her sleeve for an opportune moment, and she had an inkling of one that would be entirely suitable, perfectly apt.

She passed the first dorm room on the left, paused and held her breath to hear better. Yes. That was Muni’s room, and she could hear soft sniffling behind the door, like someone who was trying hard not to cry and not to be heard crying at the same time.

She clapped softly. Pounding on the wood is disrespectful to the tree that grew it. Growing up bordered by wood and water, having spent time on the ground among the briars and pines, she had a great deal of respect for the wild woods. There had been nights where she was grateful that this respect seemed to be returned; nights when the path twisted under her feet and led her home in less time and fewer steps than setting out had taken. Muni stopped and in a watery voice called out “Who’s there?”

“Just me.”

She could hear scratching and scraping like a bear sharpening its claws as Muni made her way to the door. She managed to get it open past her toenails, carefully shuffling her feet. In her hands she held the sad tattered rags of a pair of . . . Spike winced. Socks. But not just any socks, Muni’s first successful socks that actually fit her feet and not her head.

Muni had pasted a smile on, but the glue was still wet from tears. The smile kept slipping sideways. Spike gently touched the ripped and raveling yarn. “You could try a sockulum reparao, you know.”

“I did. And now . . .” Munificent shrugged ruefully. “There’s nothing left to do but say ‘darn it, darn it, darn it.’ “ The yarn twitched in her hands, tendrils waving like insect legs, then fell limp again. “They’re gone, Spike.”

“Witch.” It wasn’t the compliment it usually was, nor even the bald statement of fact.

“She does mean stupid things sometimes . . .”

More like all the time. More like any time she thinks she can get away with it; when the person she’s playing with won’t inform on her, or won’t fight back. Munificent took a slow step backwards, and at first Spike thought the other girl was casting a wordless legilimens, then realized that her hair was twisting and floating as it often did when her grip on her temper was slipping. She tied her bun back in place, shoving her wand into it to keep it there. Gently. Think of a mouse. You wouldn’t hurt a mouse for being small and fearful.

It wasn’t hard to think of a mouse when facing Munificent. “I’m sorry for your loss,” she said, folding the other girl’s hands over the tangled mass of holes.

“Thank you,” sniffled Munificent, as Spike turned to go, and the door closed in her wake.

Spike made it to her room and the safety of her minions before her grip on her temper broke. Totenberg was able to help her focus it into a ball and cast it into the lake, which bubbled and steamed at the surface. “Nothing, nothing they teach here is good enough for Narcissa! Impediments and awkwardness, boils and bindings!”

“T’reefold Laws say hyu don’ vanna do dot, sveethott.” Totenberg answered, leaning against the wall now that the eruption was past. If she has words again, it’s safe. That had been his guideline for the past eight years, and he was still in one piece, so it must be true.

“There has to be a way to swing that around, like the story of the man who met a djinn,” Spike growled.

“De vun vhere his vorst hennemy get double vatever he veesh for? Hy love dot vun!” exclaimed Sascha.

“Yah, so he finally esk the djinn to beat him halfvay dead!” Dmitri smiled.

Spike stopped in the middle of her rant, swaying slightly as the thought hit her. “Halfway dead . . .” she mumbled. “Oh, now there’s an idea. And it’s only a couple of jinxes.” She smiled, slowly, her eyes lighting up and tendrils of her hair creeping out of the tight bun despite her anchoring wand.

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Book Transfigured

Dearest Matya and Atyets:

School is going well. I am taking a Transfiguration class this term. I would like to respectfully comment that Hogwarts is nothing like Durmstrang; there seems to be some silly rule about not Transfiguring students. We are practicing on inanimate objects instead. This poses much less challenge, as they are unable to run away. I do not know if you would approve--what good is magic if you have to stop and think about it?

Well. We are Transfiguring books from the library (and yes, of course we Transfigure them back before re-shelving them. No one wants a library like Uncle Enoch's, with books that sigh and moan in the middle of the night. Except maybe Uncle Enoch. Hmm. Must devote more thought to that, but later. Later.)

Enclosed for your review (and dare I hope, delight) is my report on Transfiguring a Muggle book, The Lord of the Rings and the character who inspired my hand.

Hoping the snows are not too deep for Atyets to go riding. His bear tends to get grouchy when stabled too long--I remember the winter we simply could not keep a stable boy!

All my regard--
Nikolevnischka "Spike" von Schaedelthron

First-Year Student
House Slytherin

When I head Philandry Duntisbourne’s and Begonia Hoddington’s reports on The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, I must admit I was intrigued by the mention of elves. What a clean and lovely place they must live in, with legions upon legions of elves doing the washing, ironing, dusting …

Well. “Rude shock” describes what I found in the books’ pages. Mr. Tolkien obviously lives in a world of complete fantasy, unlike the sane and sensible place we inhabit. He insists these elves are lithe and graceful, rather than modeled on the useful but ungainly potato. He also imbues them with a goblin’s sensibilities for creation, rather than the well-meant, but less than esthetic creations our dear little helpers so often wreak.

Nevertheless, I decided I would knit a pair of socks (we all know how fond of socks elves are) for one of the characters, a Mr. Elrond.

They are made of good, serviceable wool (which should afford him hours of pleasure in both the wearing and in the hand-washing) and have a pleasing pattern worked into the sock (assuming he would appreciate the same).

Thanking you very much for your time and consideration—
Very truly yours,

Monday, May 07, 2012

A Fun Fungus

The Herbology Teaching Team was a set of professors, each one from a different House. Spike had read in the assigned history books about the changes the school had undergone since the days of the Second Wizarding War. No more single professors handling one subject, the classes were handled by an inter-House team, to help eliminate the prejudices against one House or another. It was very different, and made it harder on the students by giving them multiple targets to please. It may be fairer but how was a girl supposed to plot when she didn't know what was most likely to lead to a high score?

Interestingly enough, this set seemed to match not only the Houses they were in, but the subject under discussion -- the mushroom kingdom. The Ravenclaw professor, Oona Wigworthy, was tall, lean and dark of hair and complexion. A morel. The Hufflepuff professor, Angua Dingle, was short and round, with bright orange hennaed hair in a halo. A candycap. Gryffindor's professor wore a red cap (fly agaric), while Slytherin was very tall and thin, with a ruffle around her neck and pale silver hair. A destroying angel.

The class prompt appeared on the board. A horrific pun--the students were to create something based on a mushroom, or something to turn them into a "fun guy." Well. What to do now?

The bell rang, and everyone filed into the Great Hall for lunch. Spike toyed with her stroganoff, picking out the braised mushrooms and shoving them to the side of her plate. She didn't want to think about the darn things any longer; her mind was full of fungus.

She was seated on the Hufflepuff side of Slytherin's table, and noticed some of the 'Puffs discussing the herbology class. What do they do for fun? They don't have hotties, so . . . She dropped an Extensible Ear, and listened in.

“Cupcakes!” one girl with brown hair in odango comet buns chirped. “We’ll have lots of cupcakes! Cupcakes make everything more fun!” The boy next to her nodded as he stood up … and then stepped on her Ear. She grimaced at the brief squeal of feedback, and reeled it back in, pondering.

Cupcakes? Well, why not cupcakes? And why not cupcakes that contained something interesting and fun themselves?

She'd have to arrange for an upperclassman to pick up some supplies at Honeydukes for her before Saturday night, but that was no hardship at all.