Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Phoenix Reborn, Part Four

Spike felt time slow and become viscous around her, the way it always did when something bad was about to happen.  She had time to notice that each student was from a different House, and each of them was wearing something purple.  Philandra had a lovely amethyst brooch right above the Gryffindor crest.  Hecuba Entwhistle of Slytherin was wearing purple fingerless gloves.  Belvino Pascoe from Ravenclaw had a lace scarf; Appoline Hopkins of Hufflepuff had a beret tipped rakishly to one side.  The House Unity color, and someone from every house. Come to think of it, there had been a positive rash of purple accessories around campus lately; Spike had chalked it up to just another passing fad.  Or perhaps a means of gathering bonus points in one class or another; History of Magic, perhaps.

She held up Philandra’s textbook, part shield, part explanation.  “I seem to have--”

Clodere!” hissed Belvina, and the door slammed shut behind Spike.  She stalked over to Spike.  Tall, gangling, and slim as hope, she resembled nothing more than a crane intent on a frog.  “What are you really doing here?  How did you find us?  Who sent you?”

“Easy, Belvina.”  Hecuba joined them, smirking.  Her eyes twinkled with amusement.  “She’s just a second year; she’s harmless.”

“Everyone was a second year once,” countered Belvina.  “Even Tom Riddle was a second year, and he hardly turned out harmless.”  She paused for a moment, thinking. “Wasn’t this the one who was given the boot from Durmstrang?”

“That wasn’t my fault--” Spike started, but a hard look from Hecuba shut her up.

“That hardly makes her a Death Eater, does it?  She was accepted at Hogwarts; she’s one of us now.”  She nodded at Spike.  “What really happened?  How did you find us here?”

Spike explained about the man and the house elf, about the collision in front of the bulletin board, holding up the textbook.  “So really, I just wanted to get my Potions homework back and go on to class.  I wasn’t going to . . . well, anything but that, really.”

“Just following orders?  A lot of that was heard during the last war, wasn’t it?”  Belvina didn’t seem willing to let it go.  Once she got an idea in her head, it was hard to make her change her mind.  The saying about confusing one with the facts could have been written just for her. 

“She doesn’t have any orders,” said Philandra with a half smile, handing Spike back her Potions textbook.  “She undertook this on her own initiative, in order to get what she wanted.  She showed great determination and resourcefulness in the face of some adversity.”  She winked at Spike, who blinked in confusion.  Why is she being playful like this, all of a sudden? She had the feeling something a little deeper than she could see was going on.  House unity colors, masked strangers on campus, students from different houses all meeting in secret.  This isn’t intramural Quidditch, I don’t think.

“No, she doesn’t have any orders – yet.” added Hecuba.  “But just as help will always be given to those who ask for it, orders can be  . . . mmmm, provided.  Provided you know where to look, eh, Spike?”  She stared pointedly at Spike’s Potions textbook.  “I’m pretty good in Potions, myself.  Perhaps we could meet in the Slytherin lab later tonight if you have any  . . . questions about today’s material, eh?”

“You really should be on your way,” added Appolina kindly.  “If the professors give you any trouble, just let them know you saw me in the hall, and I stopped you for a moment.  They’ll understand, I think.”

Spike knew an exit line when she heard one, and rushed off to class.  When she handed in her scroll on sweet clover and moonstone, she found another piece of parchment wedged in the pages. She opened the folds carefully.  All that was on the parchment was a large purple number one, edged with gold.

Frowning, she tucked it back in the book.  She was definitely going to corner Hecuba in the laboratory after dinner and ask about the ‘new material’ in the Potions textbook.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Phoenix Reborn, Part Three

Down the hall, up the moving staircase as it spun, jumping the last ten feet from case to case, hoping that she was on the right track.  Pushing her way through the throngs of students hurrying to their next class, a salmon swimming upstream.  The gong chimed, and she groaned.  I’m going to be late, on top of it all.  No homework, lame story to support why I don’t have it with me, lamer promise to have it in later . . . I should have joined in the exploding strip snap tournament last night.  At least I would have been able to show off my new green stockings.

The halls emptied around her.  She had no idea which classroom she’d find Philandra in; she hadn’t even finished the basic Transfiguration courses, much less sat for her OWL to move on to the advanced studies.  “Carp!!!”  It was one of the Forgiveable Curses, and a current favorite in the Dungeon.  “Carp, carp, carp!”  She stamped her foot.  “I need to find Philandra Duntisborn right now,” she announced to the air at large, pacing the hall.  You never know, there might be a house elf zooming around in a flowered chair who’d point the way; a flaming arrow might appear labeled “This way to Advanced Transfiguration; or maybe . . . A door appeared in the blank hallway where a door had most certainly not been before.  Spike stood and stared at it.

A plain and ordinary door.  Not bound in brass bands, not three times a person’s height, not carved with grinning demons’ faces.  Just a door, of good serviceable oak, gleaming with oil but hardly polished, with a plain brushed brass knob.  If you looked for a picture of an ordinary door, this would be right there in the top ten.  Spike was instantly suspicious of it. 

She approached softly, as if it were an ill-tempered griffin, warily reaching out to touch the knob.  No showers of sparks, no fanged mouth opening, no pit yawning beneath her feet.  Cool and round in her hand, turning easily and soundlessly.  Unlocked, even.  Now comes the trap, right?

She pushed the door open, and was immediately facing not only Philandra but three other students, along with their wands, drawn and ready.  Pointed directly at her.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Phoenix Reborn, Part Two

"Accio Philandra's parchment!"  The scattered scrolls rolled up and flew at Spike, who made a special twisting flick to make them stop politely and hover in the air, rather than pelting her like spitballs.  Philandra retrieved the textbooks and set about sorting them out.

"I'm really sorry; I didn't see you there."

The other shrugged. "I should have been more careful; it's easy to get engrossed in . . ."  She stopped, realizing that the board was almost completely empty.  " . . . your thoughts."   They heard the squeaking voice of a house elf, and a low rumble in response, and turned to look.  That's not one of ours, thought Spike.  Even the proud old guard of house elves wears sparkling white teatowel togas, with a bright embroidered crest.  That raggedy thing looks like . . . well, like it's been used to mop up tea, and then left to dry stained.  Tea, and less pleasant substances.

The man accompanying it carried a walking stick, though he hardly needed something to lean on.  A half-mask cowl covered his face from the bridge of his nose to his shoulders, and while it moved like cloth when he turned his head, there was something metallic in its nature, as if it flowed soft when needed, but could harden in a second.  His hair was cornsilk fine, silver blond pale, and pin straight.  One of the Malfoy clan, then.  He wore it cropped close about his right ear, which was slightly pointed, with a shingle swinging on that side, and then long and flowing down the left.  A pair of silver beads above and below his right eyebrow caught the light and shimmered.

The house elf stopped at a cross-corridor, just beyond earshot.  They watched as it bowed and scraped, cringing a little, then the man swatted it out of the way with his walking stick.  Spike and Philandra stared at each other in shock.  No one would dare treat a house elf like that at Hogwarts.

"That's the way to the Headmistress's office," murmured Philandra.  "Do you think -- maybe we should --"

Spike frowned.  "She's hardly a house elf, though."  Serena Wroxton had a temper that belied her given name.  While she seldom lost control, she could reduce a student to a whimpering pile of jelly with a display of how hard she was working to keep her cool.  "I hardly believe she'd thank us for putting ourselves in jeopardy for no good purpose."

"But what if . . ." Philandra broke off.  "I have to run, or I'll be late.  Advanced Transfiguration studies."  And she was off down the corridor, heading for the staircases against the flow of traffic. 

Potions next, thought Spike, looking down at her textbooks.  She had spent hours preparing eighteen inches on the uses of moonstone and sweet clover in combination, and wanted to be certain it hadn't gotten wrinkled in the collision.  The title of the text in her arms read "Transfiguration and Transmogrification:  Case Studies for the Advanced Practitioner."

"Oh, no!  Philandra!   Philandra!!"  And Spike was running down the hall after the other student, waving her free arm and calling her name.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Phoenix Reborn, Part One

Spike stopped and looked over her shoulder for a moment at the adult who had just hurried by.  Head down and hood up, on his?  Her? She couldn't tell, not under the heavy cloak and half-mask -- way to the Headmistress's office, swift scissoring strides making it clear that the was not a social call, and was not likely to be a pleasant visit, either.  Glad I'm not their kid, she thought, with a little shiver. 

Come to think of it though . . .  Hadn't she been seeing more and more strangers around campus lately?  Adults with hard eyes and carefully blank faces.  Some in masks of metal, some wearing masks of flesh.  They all seemed to know their way around, not a map or House elf among them to provide guidance.  Surely I would have heard about alumni festivities--  Spike turned around and headed for the walls just outside the Great Hall, where the announcements were posted.  She hated to miss a party.

Nothing, just the term's Quidditch schedule, and the usual warnings to the Muggle-born First Years not to purchase passes for the elevators or the shuttle bus to Hogsmeade.  Spike stared at the board as if she could will the information into appearing. Something's going on.  Something isn't right here, I can feel it.  She shook her head.  If I'm going to start setting store by glimmerings and fantods, I should chuck everything and declare a Divination major right now.  She stepped back to turn away from the board and slammed into Philandra Duntisbourne, an upperclass Gryffindor.  Rolls of parchment and schoolbooks went flying.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

A Fascinating Hat

Spike looked over her parchment.  Short and sweet, she thought, fingering the Highest of Merit badge she had earned in History of Magic with her study of a wizarding fashion icon, and the fetching hat she had produced for the practical part of the homework.  But not too shabby, for all that.

Slytherin House
Inspired by a Wizarding Style Icon

Ulric the Oddball’s jellyfish was deemed passe by the Mannerists, especially those influenced by the Durmstrang school of Wizardry (the Ill Mannerists, as they were styled). One of them, a Zen monk as well as an artist, Rinpoche Kumi Himo, was said to have found enlightenment while swimming in the ocean and encountering a violent, orange cephalopod.

He was able to reason with the beast, and ever after they were found in communion, with the octopus riding the monk. I have created this fascinating hat in Rinpoche Himo’s memory.

In the immortal words of the master, “I have an octopus on my head. Your argument is irrelevant.”

She folded the parchment and pictures of herself into a small package to send home for Matya and Atyets.  They'll be so proud of me. The award would hang on the wall of her dormitory, and go home with her later, at break.