At dinner that night, Spike carefully maneuvered to get a spot in line near Hecuba, but she needn’t have bothered. Hecuba saved a spot next to her on the bench, beaming at Spike as if they were bosom companions joining up after a long separation. Spike took the offered seat, toying with her Yorkshire pudding and wondering where to start.
“It was a very interesting and . . . challenging class in Potions this afternoon,” she started.
“Really?” Hecuba seemed a little too interested and chipper, but it was probably nothing noticeable.
“Yes. We covered a lot of new material; some things that were very obscure. Things I’d never heard of before. I’m not really sure where to start; some of the directions are . . .” she shrugged, looking at Hecuba sidelong from under lowered eyelashes. “Confusing. Indirect, even.”
“I just sat my Potions OWL last term. Very successfully, I might add. Perhaps we could meet in the Dungeon lab later, and you could bring your textbook. We could sit and do some, ah, practical work, yes?”
“Oh, would you?” Spike chirped. “I would really appreciate that.”
“Oh, anything for Slytherin.” Hecuba waved one purple-gloved hand, and nothing more was said about Potions at dinner.
Down in the laboratory, it was a different matter entirely. Hecuba started with the presence of the strangers on campus, all searching through the school. “You’ve seen them, right? Philandra told us some more after you left this afternoon. The Knights of Walpurgis, they’re calling themselves. Dedicated to the purifying of the remaining wizarding houses, weeding out the Muggle-born, plotting to come out of the shadow world we inhabit and taking control from the Muggles.”
“Starting where the Death Eaters left off, then.”
“Then following through to the logical conclusion.” Hecuba nodded, slowly. “Can you imagine a world with them in charge, though?”
Spike could. It was a cold and frightening vision, with no room for deviation from a tightly drawn norm.
“So . . . we’re fighting them. We’re little folk, we students, but ask the Romans what the little folk can do, eh?”
“So what are you doing to be ‘the rot at the root, the thorn in the foot, the worm in the wood, the taint in the blood’?”
Hecuba looked at Spike, long and hard. Considering her next words carefully. “Horcruxes.” Flatly. Casually, almost as if it were nothing more than a matter of sneaking off to Hogsmeade.
“Murder?” Spike asked, horrified. Draconian in the extreme, no matter who was doing the dying. At least the creation of the Hounds served a larger purpose.
“Not exactly . . . if nothing else, people would certainly notice. We’re making false Horcruxes, to distract and divide their forces.”
“Won’t they be able to tell the fake ones, though?”
“Not with a casual examination. If they feel right, then they’ll take them – better safe than sorry – and since the only way to find out for sure if they’re fake or real is to try and destroy them . . .” Hecuba grinned, a hard reptilian light in her eyes.
“They’re hardly likely to agree on that.” Spike nodded. “Schism in the offing. Got it. But how do we make them, ah, taste like the real thing?”
“With a little death. A drop or two of human blood –use your own if you’re squicky about hurting someone. Just a quick poke with a needle in your finger, nothing we don’t do nearly every day, right? And then a rat, or a lizard. Wham boom, horcrux. Or at least close enough for the casual observer. You in?”
What an unprecedented opportunity for mischief. Spike grinned back at Hecuba, a rattlesnake grin, full of fangs. “Oh, my, yes. I am so in.”
Hecuba took off one of her fingerless gloves. “Duplicis geminio!” and then handed Spike one original and one copy, keeping the other pair for herself. “Welcome to the Order of the Phoenix Reborn.”