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.

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