Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sending a Message

Spike was sitting in the back row, listening with half an ear to the teaching staff explain the homework for this month. *Divination! Bah! Even the teaching staff can’t stay awake for this subject.* She smirked, watching Professor Randall's head loll slowly, sinking onto her chest as Professor Gore droned on. *I can find out all I need to know with a black cockerel and a sharp … what’s that?*

“A great force came into the House, marking three walls alike and the fourth…”

*Crumbled into dust beneath its weight*, Spike thought, finishing the line automatically. *But how does Professor Handbasket know that?* She sat up straight in her chair, riveted to the proceedings.
“Just as the great Force manifested, a flock of birds swooped by overhead, wheeling and turning and forming a shape in the sky of…”

*Crosses that dissolved to noughts. She’s reciting the Book of Fuligin Oncethmus … in her sleep, no less-- but the sole surviving copy is in Grandpere’s library. Locked to the shelf, and gagged. How and where could Professor Randall have seen or heard its words?*

Later that night, Spike waited until well past midnight for the rest of the House to settle down, then slipped yarn and hook out of the basket by her bed. Quickly she worked up a square incorporating the colors of bleached and crumbled limestone and the shapes of crosses and noughts.

The next morning, she tied the square to one of the school's owls with a hastily scribbled note about how she was doing so well in her favorite class, Divination!  Requesting that they set this sample of excellence in the practical applications of prophecy aside for her hope chest, to be added to her other work completed during her studies.  *"Hope chest" was certainly appropriate here*, she hoped that anyone intercepting the bird would take it for nothing more than what the cover note indicated, and send it on its way.  *Can't let the absence of a communique from a filial student to her doting family raise alarurms and cause excursions, right?*

*Dark times indeed,* thought Spike, watching the owl take to the air with the textile clutched in its talons.  Just the fact that she was writing to Grandpere Murklins should be enough to raise the guard.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Papercuts and Sentiments

Mallory Chambers, Trevor Pike, and Spike were doing homework around the table. All three were giving in to a case of the mid-term homesick blues.

Mallory had just finished explaining the joys of a Muggle sweet, shortbread. “You just can’t get it here the way they make it back home,” he said. “It’s too sweet, or too dry, and sometimes its actively greasy.” He shivered. “I think it’s the butter.”

“I miss the ceviche--they never get it hot enough here. It’s supposed to be spicy,” grumbled Trevor. “All the nice fresh fish, the lovely shellfish--what a shame. And I don’t understand why they think it has to be cooked within an inch of its life.”

“I miss the papercuts of Schadelthron,” said Spike, thinking of the hanging on her bedroom wall at home. It had cheered her ever since she was a small girl, keeping her company in the dark hours of the night with its bright and cheerful grin.

“What were they like?” asked Mallory.

Spike picked up a piece of parchment and scissors from the table.

”I’m not very good at this, but basically, you fold the paper like so …”

The other Slytherin leaned in closer.

” … then you cut away everything you don’t want, being sure to leave support structures to hold it all together.”

Drusilla Wormwood came in. “Whatcha doin’?” Spike unfolded the parchment and displayed her work.

Drusilla  blanched. “Spike, I don’t know how to tell you this, but … that was a letter Hecuba Entwhistle  was writing to Philandra Duntisbourne  to convince her to pledge Slytherin next term. She’s been working on that all week.”

They all looked at the tattered illegible remains of the letter in Spike’s hands. “Uhm …” Thinking quickly, she tapped the parchment with her wand. ”Repairo! Pingo!”

Drusilla held up the square. “At least it’s pretty …”

Sunday, May 12, 2013

An Assistant Created

Spike had spent the last few weeks poring over every History of Magic text she could lay hands on, chasing the wild footnotes, seeking in ever more obscure corners of the library.  Some of the references she really needed had been destroyed or permanently mislaid, and she had become very good at explaining to the Room of Requirement what she needed in order to continue her research.  "Could I possibly have the 1843 edition, please, the one that wasn't bowdlerized in the Subsequent Unpleasantness?"  and the text would swim and flow before her eyes.  So long as she left the books in place, the Room seemed to have no problems providing the required texts.

The one time she had tried to take a book with her (it was getting late, and she was going to barely make bed check) the Room had sealed the door, simply absorbing it into its walls.  No matter what Spike tried, until she set the book down in the middle of the room and walked to where the door should have been did the castle let her go.

She closed the heavy cover of the book, gave it a reluctant pat goodbye.  That's it, then.  I now know as much about making Horcruxes as any wizard ever has, maybe as much -- maybe more than! -- Riddle himself.  Nothing to it but to do it.

Down to the labs in the Snake Pit, where she had carefully laid by ingredients.  I'll start with an animate Horcrux, I think.  Something upon which I can lean and draw energy from, something I can use as an extra pair of eyes and ears.  She was reluctant to use a snake; something from the same phylum just seemed too awfully close to using another sentient being.  She could see that chain of reasoning from a snake to a rat to a monkey to a child.  Something like what the good Doctor Wolfgang would come up with.  Something like the Knights of Walpurgis would decide -- Muggles aren't wizards, animals are not wizards, Muggles are animals and thus it is right and proper to use them as you would . . . an animal.

But an invertebrate should be safe enough.  No brain to speak of, just handful of connected ganglia.  She had found a Flesh-Eating Slug in the garden, fed it on bits of steak and kidney swiped from dinner's pies to tame it, and had worked on training it to do simple commands.  Having something small and squishy that can fit into nearly any space should be a useful being to have as an assistant.

Using the magnetized chalk in its silver holder, she drew the diagram on the floor, laid the pinch of powdered unicorn horn to the north, the manticore venom to the south, the polished moonstone for the east, and the volcanic ash to the west.  Earth, air, fire, water.  She picked up the cage with the slug, stepped into the center.  And spirit.  She drew the final symbol to close the diagram and watched as it flared electric blue and faded, leaving only the dazzling purple after-image dancing before her eyes.

She sat carefully so as not to smear her work.  At best, she would have to start all over again . . . at worst -- she pushed the thought out of her mind.  Intent is everything.  Don't bring an intention of failure with you.

She set the cage across from her, pulling a candle out of one pocket, lighting it wordlessly and setting it between them.  The slug's eyestalks retracted, and it hissed its displeasure at the bright light.  A moment passed, and it extended them once more.  At the same time, Spike pricked her finger with a sharp needle, let a drop of blood fall on the slug, then pithed it expertly as she muttered the closing charm.

One heartbeat, two, three, a dozen.  Her heart sank.  It hadn't worked.  All of this for nothing . . . Then the slug's eyes opened again and it blinked up at her.  Silver streaks raced down its flanks and its mouth gaped open as it smelled the blood on her finger.

Spike let it lick the pinprick; its saliva numbed the sting.  "I did it.  I made a  . . . well, not a real one, but well, close enough.  Close enough to do what I need it to do."  In that moment, she understood Dr. Wolfgang, understood him very well indeed.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Sparkly and Fireproof

The class was assembled on the beach, sand between their toes. Slytherin House was crowded under a green silk shade, blinking in the tropical sunlight and marinating in sunblock.

“It’s nice to be out of the dungeon,” said Hecuba Entwhistle, gesturing with her empty pina colada glass. “Although the scenery isn’t that much different.” She grinned wickedly in the general direction of a group of young Muggle men in swim trunks.

“These are pretty, though,” cooed Munificent Bulstrode, looking at the firecrab where it sat, huddled in its shell. “Not all that exciting, though. All it’s done is sit there and glitter. I don’t know how I’m going to get eighteen inches on ‘Sat on the beach. Drank pina coladas. Watched firecrab sparkle.’ ”

“Write really big?” Mallory Chambers, who had been pressed into service as the cabana boy, topped off glasses as Hecuba made her suggestion.

Spike looked around at the beach. Promimently posted were a number of signs, red on white, warning sternly “Do not taunt the Firecrab.” How exactly would one taunt a firecrab?  Munificent was right, this was going to be a very short and fairly dull essay.

Spike picked up the square she’d been working with for her practical and flipped it idly in her hands.

“Hey!” Munificent shouted. “Look at this!”

The firecrab had poked its head out of the shell, and was staring raptly at Spike, head bobbing and weaving.

“Something has its attention. Finally.” Hecuba crept closer as the crab extended its legs and began to trundle over the sands. Spike held the square to one side, giggling as the firecrab turned to follow it … and kept turning … until its back was turned to the trio …

“Hey! Look out!” The firecrab blasted the center of the square with a jet of flame, and Spike performed a quick veronica to get out of the way. The crab surveyed the glowing red center with distinct satisfaction, then folded back into its smoking shell.

Spike examined the glowing red-hot center of the square.

“Good thing I used the flame-retardant yarn,” she said.