Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Timely Celebration, Part Two

A few weeks later, the invitation caught fire. Not your normal orange and red flames, but green and silver, burning coolly. When Professor Wildsmythe opened the paper, she saw that the date, time and place had been neatly inked in. She folded it back up, making a not to have the house elves clean and press her dress robes. There was going to be a party.

The hotties carrying the sedan chair entered the Slytherin dungeon, and in one well-rehearsed, smoothly choreographed movement, set the chair on the floor. Dmitri offered Professor Wildsmythe his arm to balance on as she stepped to the floor. Spike’s hotties are trained as sideboys? Wildsmythe shook her head. Whatever will they think of next?

The floor of the dungeon was littered with butterbeer corks, streamers, and confetti. Silk hangings decorated the walls in orange, pink, and purple with gold lettering: “MMX -- MMXI” and Venus’s feminine cross overlaid onto Jupiter’s curlicued four. The ceiling of the dungeon reflected the stars— Wildsmythe squinted. Something was off … then she realized that the sky depicted the night of February 6, 2010.

The crowd fell silent, turning to look as one, and Spike stepped onto a small dais in the center of the room. The lights dimmed except for a single spotlight on her. She raised her arms, and music began to play. Wildsmythe recognized Holst’s The Planets Suite. Naturally, what else would it be?

Two hotties approached the stage, one male, one female, both masked. Wildsmythe started. That’s not regulation, she thought indignantly, then, just as she was about to call a stop to the party, she realized the performers were wearing flesh-colored leotards--just within school parameters of decency. The woman’s mask had bands of color, swirling slowly, and a large red spot around one eye. The man’s mask was pale and wisps of cloud trailed off from its edges, as if it were going to clear away at any moment and reveal the face underneath.

Spike smiled as the performers linked hands behind her and rose into the air. “Welcome to the Inaugural Celebration of the Festival of the 2010 Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. When love and power are conjoined, our highest potential can be realized.” As the couple soared towards the ceiling, Wildsmythe noticed that each of the performers wore one orange sock, the man on the right foot, the woman on the left foot.

The pair swirled, aerial dancing together as the music reached its crescendo. They hooked their socked legs together, and exploded in a burst of petals—rusty tiger lily petals and white rose petals showered down on the stage and audience, who all applauded the conjunction.

Dimitri picked up the socks from the floor, brushing the petals off, and presented them to Professor Wildsmythe on a silver tray for grading.

A note inside read, “Orange for Jupiter, hearts for Venus, cables to bind them both together. Wishing you love, power, and achievement in the year to come. –Spike”

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Timely Celebration, Part One

Spike had been looking forward to her Astrology class all term. Should be a doddle, she thought, watching as the professor scrawled the current assignment on the board in the classic overhead backhand. The conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. The pen and ink drawings of the Roman gods flicked to mind in a grainy display. Hey, doesn’t conjunction mean . . . She blushed, distracted.

In the front row, a Ravenclaw was waving her hand madly, nearly falling out of her seat as she leaned forward, striving for the professors’ attention. “Yes, Miss Pascoe?” The professor sounded irritated, and no wonder. Belvina Pascoe seemed to make it a point to pick holes in any argument, find any flaws in rhetoric. It was a common trait in Ravenclaw, but what made her irritating was that she refused to be dissuaded by the facts.

Belvina stood by her desk, throwing a smirk over her shoulder to the rest of the class. “Professors, you do realize that the Conjunction happened last year, and will happen again next year, but does not happen this year. There’s no way for us to observe the conjunction from the Astronomy Tower. Could we please have another assignment?”

Spike mentally subtracted ten points from Ravenclaw for unnecessary passive aggressive tendencies, rolling her eyes behind a carefully placed hand. As the professors huddled together to determine the new assignment, a thought slowly came to her. She quickly jotted some notes to herself in her book.

Do I have to demonstrate possession of a time-turner so I can make them for last year, and then present them now?

Or, uh, make them NOW so they count for points, then go BACK and present them during the Conjunction last year and then come BACK to now, just after I cast them off (otherwise they’ll unravel) and -- oh, bother.

Where’s my Chronometrical Grammar text now that I really need it?

This idea was too good to waste.

Latisha Wyldsmythe was in her office, busily grading homework, when she was interrupted by a knock at the door. At this hour?? Opening the door, she looked up -- and up -- and up past the brightly polished brass buttons and intricate embroidery of a high-collared, boiled wool jacket to see a bemused smile and cat-slit pupils beaming down at her. A moment’s thought, and she recalled the monster’s name.

“Dimitri!” One of Spike’s minions. She had had to inform the firstie that, no, she had to sharpen her own pencils, and to leave her assistants in the Dungeon during class. Transfer students! But what’s he--

He bowed, clicked his heels together, and presented Professor Wildsmythe with an engraved invitation to the Inaugural Festival of the 2010 Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. “Thank you -- but--” She held up the invitation to show him that the time, date, and location were all blank.

He grinned wider, showing teeth like an anglerfish’s. He stepped back, gesturing to display a sedan chair borne by four hotties, stripped to the waists, oiled skin gleaming. “We gets you dere … when is time.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Best Friends Forever

The school had been buzzing for weeks about the upcoming field trip to Hogsmeade. Spike had made certain that her permission slip was signed weeks in advance, biting her nails as she watched Gwenhwyvar take to the air on silent wings. Waiting for the owl to come back, and unrolling the parchment with icy hands, half-certain that Atyets would have refused permission after hearing about the mishap with her advanced Astronomy studies.

Blessedly, he hadn't. His florid signature, an enormous swirl of loops and spikes decorated nearly a quarter of the page, centered vaguely about the signature line and obscuring it. She had slept with it under her pillow to be certain she knew where it was, packing it into her rucksack the next morning, even though her History of Magic class, where they would be taking an official school chaperoned trip into Hogsmeade, wasn't until later that week.

But they were meeting at Honeydukes! Writing a paper on History would be much less dull when there were sweets to consider. She had heard all term about Honeydukes from the upperclassmen, who could tour the village at their whim. The shelves that reached from below the floor to the top of the twenty-foot ceiling, lined with apothecary jars glimmering with sweets of every kind—honeycomb with cinnamon bees, Fizzing Whizbees, Acid Pops, saltwater taffy, Moondrops! Rolling ladders attached to the shelves so students could more closely examine the exotica placed high above eye level. Candied heads! Licorice allsorts! And now she was going to be able to go.

When she arrived it was everything she had dreamed of, and more, if possible. A riot of chocolate and color and scent. She wanted one of everything—maybe even all of everything! But she only had spending money for the term, and had to ration it carefully. But which one was the best?

She investigated carefully, prowling the shelves, rummaging through the bins, when she heard a noise. A tiny piping sort of noise, like a chick calling for its mother. *peep, peep*

She looked under the stack of yams, but nothing there. *peep, peep*

She moved a box of truffles made with real truffles. I could take some of these back as a bribe – I mean, gift for the Herbology professors. But her thought was interrupted by the tiny sound again.

Finally, she looked behind the dusty jars of whipped turnips. There were two tiny pastel beasties looking up at her with beady, lonely eyes. *peep peep* Soft and puffy.

“Awwww,” Spike breathed, picking them up to look at them more closely. They reminded her of her pet half-pony half-monkey riding beast, Frankie. They were clearly the last two of their kind left on the shelf, and just as clearly, they were lonely.

She thought for a moment, then pulled out her wand. “Engorgio!” They grew bigger, obedient to the laws of magic, from tiny mouthfuls to the size of her hand. “Certamen!” she hissed, and the two were welded together, eternal companions.

Neither one would ever be alone again. Spike nodded, pleased with herself for finding a simple solution to another’s problem. Who said her House was full of heartless people? She started to put them back on the shelf, and then a heavy hand fell on her shoulder. The proprietor, a round man with a face wreathed in smile lines, was not smiling now. In fact, he looked awfully stern.

Spike paid for the animals quickly, and was escorted from Honeyduke’s. She took the little animalcules back to the dorm with her, and made a home on her bookshelf for them, bunny and duck together.

Eventually, they stopped screaming.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

A Flight Diverted

The day seemed to take forever. Spike was eagerly looking forward to the time she had booked at the top of the Astronomy Tower. Everything she could do from her careful research and notes had been done; and it was time to go back up and take readings from the actual stars themselves.

The stairs seemed to multiply under her feet. Surely it hadn’t taken this long to get to the top of the Tower that first night, when the constellations had danced before her eyes and it seemed she had her finger on the pulse of the cosmos itself. She finally reached the top, pausing to breathe deeply of the cold crisp air.

She focused the eyepiece, scanning for the section of sky she had found before, reading her chart carefully, comparing what she saw to what was in the sky . . . frowned. Tried again. And again. All night long in a fruitless search for what she had seen.

She looked at her chart again. All those long hours; all that hard work. It couldn’t be for nothing! Then she turned it around . . . and it all became clear.

The new constellation, the Pavo Pavonis, was actually the well-known Tree of Lights, the Arbor Lucent. All those long hours. All that hard work. It wasn’t that she was going to fail the OWL, exactly. But she was going to have to re-create the entire chart, and she only had half the term to do it in.

Half the term! She looked at her watch in the glimmerings of the predawn light. Yes, she had just enough time to contact her OWL Examiner and explain that the chart she had created was incorrect and she was going to start over again. Spike ran down the stairs, back to the Great Hall with her news . . . as Sascha chuckled at the efficacy of his little joke.