Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Divine Dream

Narcissa was holding forth about that day's Divination lessons in the Dungeon. Spike was attempting to find absorption in an Arithmancy text, but the material was so familiar that her attention tended to wander. She'd get three or four phrases in, then hear an interesting tidbit, and lose her train of thought in the briar patch. Divination. Waste of time. Suitable for little fluff-heads like Sissy, who's only here because hopefully someone will keep her out of too much trouble until she gets old enough to marry off. She re-read the same page for the third time, and sighed. I should just go upstairs to the library, assuming I can find an empty seat. Finals are a few weeks out; House Ravenclaw would probably save a bunch of time by just moving their beds there.

She yawned, ears popping like firecrackers. Or maybe I should just go to bed. Closing the book, she heard Narcissa giggle.

"Here's a good one," she said, pointing at a page in the Divination book. "It's a subset of scarpomancy--using shoes to predict the future. Instead, you use socks. You wrap one around your neck before you go to bed, and then you'll dream of future spouses!" They fell to mad giggling, and some speculation as to which of the Seventh Year boys each would dream about, if she wore a pair of socks that way.

"Are you going to try it?" The words were out before she could stop herself. Creeping Snail of Eternal Hope, I must be tired if I didn't see that one coming. Usually she thought things through several times before saying anything, turning the words and the possible reactions over and over in her head before putting them forth. This earned her a reputation among the others, evenly split between stuck up and brilliant, depending on the audience.

Narcissa simpered back. "I'm sure I wouldn't catch a wink of beauty sleep for all the dreams I'd have of my future beaux. You on the other hand, Spike, you should sleep the dreamless sleep of the angels."

Spike smiled coolly from the cheekbones down. "I wouldn't know about that, sweetheart." The last word was very nearly sveethott; her accent thickening. "I don't need to dream about a beau, or catch one on my own. Didn't your parents provide for you? Or has your reputation spread like a doxy's legs on Saturday night, so no one would think of taking you to wife?"

Spots of color like an inexpertly cast beautification spell appeared on Narcissa's face. "Tell you what, Spike. Since you're too good to take Divination like the rest of us, why don't you and me try it tonight? You're so smart, you won't have any trouble using nothing but your 'natural talents.' I'm sure you'll have a very interesting bit of parchment to write tomorrow -- not that you'd need any extra credit in divination, right?"

It was Spike's turn to color, now. She did well with Professor Wildsmythe in Astronomy, but she was hopeless with the same teacher in Divination. Wildsmythe would shake her head sadly watching her pull a daisy to pieces for anthromancy, or rooting helplessly in a frog's belly hunting for the liver. "Perhaps when we get to Astrology, dear. The stars are really your guide." A few extra points might turn an Acceptable to Exceeds Expectations (or more likely, prevent an Acceptable from falling into a Poor).

"Challenge accepted." The smile reached her eyes without warming her expression, and, making a gesture reminiscent of a duelling salute, Spike turned and went to bed.

But before retiring, in among the more mundane chores of brushing her teeth and hair, Spike pulled out a clean pair of socks from her steamer trunk, tied the cuffs together, and slung them around her neck like a peculiar scarf.

The socks were warm and comforting against the Dungeon's ever-present chill and damp. They quelled the persistent tickle. Maybe I should consider a sleeping cowl . . . in cashmere and silk, perhaps? Or would that be silly, like a slinky nightgown with feet? Pondering that, she drifted off to sleep . . .

And woke at a party, on the arm of a man she didn't know. None of her bodyguards were in sight--but somehow, it was all right. He was dressed like the sun, if the sun were a vision in white and cream with lashings of gold and silver. He had long dark hair bound behind him in a queue, and a coronet in cunningly woven metal sat on his high brow as if he were born to wear it. He turned to her smiling.

His eyes were dark in his pale skin, like a certain Potions Master's, but instead of being black and forbidding, they sparkled with a sense of play. An otter, not a bat. He smiled at her, and she looked in the same direction he was, to see Totenberg accepting a flute of sparkling wine from a footman carrying a silver tray. We're at a party -- and he's drinking? He's not on duty then . . . Totenberg caught her eye and saluted her with the wineglass, mouthed the word "Congratulations." On what?

They walked through a lush garden, brushed by soft breezes in the warm air. Olive trees threw patterns of lace on the velvety grass, and Spike realized she was wearing a gown in soft greys that shimmered with lilac and blues in the shadows. The train dragged behind her, whispering on the grass as the crowd made way for the couple to ascend to a wooden platform in the middle of the garden.

He led her to the foot of the stairs, then picked her up in his arms and carried her up to the floor. She laughed and swung her feet. The hem of her gown fell back, and she noticed she was wearing socks with fine and dainty slippers. Those are beautiful--I've never seen anything like them! The colors pooled and dipped like stained glass, wandering in all directions like light on an oil spill, graceful and organic.

The otter man set her gently on her feet on the polished oak boards. "Ready?" He had a lovely baritone that made her feel warm all over. Ready? For what? Then the harpist struck a chord, the flutes joined in, weaving a melody that spoke to the heart of long joyful days, cool easy nights, and all troubles overcome.

He offered his hand, Spike stepped into his arms, and they began to dance, to the scattered applause of the crowd. Sometimes, as she whirled, she caught glimpses of her bodyguards in the crowd, now laughing, now somber.

Spike woke up and lunged for her dream journal. Finally, something I didn't have to make up! She sketched the lines of the man's face, although in the dream the bones had been vague beneath the skin. But I got the eyes right. And the socks. I wonder what it means to dream of socks? "Probably that I should knit more," she sighed, taking the sock scarf off and going down to breakfast.

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