Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling and other assorted businesses; I am not profiting off this little venture, and nor am I intending to infringe a copyright. Please don't sue me.
How was it a normal morning breakfast in the Great Hall? Let us count the ways:
Harry was snuggling absently into Ginny's neck while ignoring the sausage that sat coolly on his plate.
Ron was industriously working his way through a platter of muffins and eggs.
Hermione was holding Hogwarts, A History in one hand and The Importance of Being Earnest in the other; she was busy trying to find oblique comparisons between the two—comparisons that probably didn't exist.
Draco Malfoy was opening his usual package of sweets and presents from home while all the dieting Gryffindor girls looked at his slim, muscled body in envy and wondered how someone so bratty and spoiled was blessed with a good body and all the foods they had forbidden themselves to eat.
Luna was idly crumbling up the crust of a peach cobbler so she could sprinkle it in her pumpkin juice.
Neville was practicing nervously for the practical Transfiguration test they had that morning, and of course he was failing miserably—he still couldn't transfigure his thumb into a pomegranate.
Yes, it was a normal crazy morning at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But someone at the staff table—someone with a long, white beard and half-moon spectacles—was about to turn everything on its head.
Dumbledore stood up and tapped his goblet with his fork. The glass broke. He hastily shoved the remnants into Hagrid's lap and stole the half-giant's goblet, pretending as if nothing had happened. Everyone pretended along with him.
"I have an announcement to make," he said. How could anyone sound so solemn yet have such a mischievous glint in his eye? "Hogwarts is putting on a play."
A murmur of interest rose from around the hall, and the students watched Dumbledore with rapt attention.
"It has been a tradition in the past to put on a play about our Hogwarts Founders every other year. Sadly, this tradition has fallen out of practice, so I decided that it was high time to take another go at it. Auditions will be held here at 4:00 after classes on Friday. I hope to see you all there."
He smiled that mischievous smile. His eyes glinted that dangerous glint. It was truly a scary look. What in the world was Dumbledore up to this time?
"Friday?" Hermione said excitedly on their way to Transfigurations. "Today's Wednesday. Oh, I can't wait! You know, I've read about the Founders Play in Hogwarts, A History. It was written by Charles Durdge in 1641, and it details the four Founders and their path to creating Hogwarts. It's written in—"
"I'm gonna go for Godric Gryffindor," Ron interrupted his friend. "He's the most macho guy ever. And we're seventh-years, so we should get the lead roles."
"—in blank verse, though Durdge also experimented with passages of free verse, too. Gryffindor is portrayed as a battle hero and an honorable man, which most historians believe he was, while Slytherin—"
"Actually, I'd like to play Gryffindor," Harry said. "Though I heard someone mention an evil sorcerer—he'd be cool too."
"—while Slytherin is shown to have a darker edge to him. The scenes with the evil sorcerer Xaxis reportedly made the women in early audiences faint—"
"Maybe Hermione could try out for Rowena Ravenclaw," Ron suggested. "Merlin knows she's smart enough."
"—Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw didn't get nearly as many lines in Durdge's first draft. Alumni from those two houses complained that it was historically inaccurate to skip them, so he made a second draft in 1643. I've read the play two times already, so I really, really want—"
"They're not listening to you, Hermione," Neville inserted helpfully. Hermione decided that she was put out by this remark, so she waved her wand casually and Transfigured his right hand into a dumbbell. "Augh! What was that for?"
"Practicing for the test," Hermione replied innocently, though with a touch of acid in her voice. "If you're able to turn it back, I'm sure you'll pass."
Neville wasn't able to do it. And of course he failed miserably.
Draco strode purposefully down the hall towards the Charms room, flanked dutifully by Crabbe, Goyle, and Pansy. Actually, Goyle hung back a little; his nose was stuck in a book.
"This play's in the bag," Draco said haughtily. "I'm a Slytherin through and through. There's no way I can't get the part."
"Of course you'll get it," Pansy cooed. She ran her hands gently over Draco's shoulders then down his chest. Her glaringly red fingernails hovered an inch below his heart. "You are the smartest, sexiest boy alive."
"Uh, yeah," Crabbe said dumbly. "And, uh. . ." he looked at Pansy for help. She mouthed the words for him, and he repeated them aloud: "Yeah, and Slytherin was also. . . (what, Pansy?. . .oh) also sexy and smart."
Draco soaked up the praise and then waited expectantly for Goyle to join in. But there was silence. The blond Slytherin came to a dead stop, and Crabbe ran into him. Pansy looked at her boyfriend questioningly.
"Where's Goyle?" Draco said imperiously. They turned around and saw that the meaty, bristle-headed boy had fallen nearly thirty feet behind them. "Hey, Goyle, get back here!"
"Call me Malfoy, got it?" Draco snapped. "Only Pansy's allowed to called me Draco. And what the hell are you doing back there?"
Goyle looked up from his book. "Oh. . . sorry, I didn't realize how far I had fallen behind."
"Yeah, well. Get back here, then! And what in Merlin's bloody name are you reading now?"
"The Wastelands," Goyle said softly, holding up the slim volume. "It was written by T.S. Elliot in 1922."
"What the—?" This came from both Draco and Pansy.
"T.S. Elliot is an American author; he was part of the Lost Generation of writers," Goyle explained calmly. "He was a major influence on Ezra Pound, but I have to admit that I like Elliot's writing a bit more. It's more challenging to read and thus a great deal more enjoyable."
Draco sneered. "Listen, Goyle, you and Crabbe are supposed to be my dumb flunkies! Dumb flunkies don't go around reading stuff about 'wasting land.' "
"The Wastelands," Goyle corrected him. "It's one word—two, if you count 'the.' But anyhow—"
"Shut up," Draco snapped. "Close the book, keep two-and-a-half feet behind me, and be my stupid sycophant! Crabbe's doing an excellent job—why can't you?"
"Uh… because I'm not really a stupid sycophant at heart?" Goyle said so meekly that it came out as a half-question.
"Shut up and do as you're told!" Draco huffed and started walking again, this time at a much brisker pace. The others had to follow at a run to keep up. Crabbe puffed and sweated like a hippogriff. Pansy hung onto Draco's shoulder and tried to calm him by whispering soft words in his ear, and of course it didn't work.
Goyle sighed sadly and stowed the book in his bag.
As the Seventh Year Gryffindors took their test in Transfiguration, the NEWT Divination class was taking a test of their own. It was a really small class, composed of Luna Lovegood, Colin Creevey, Ernie Macmillan, Lavender Brown, Parvati Patil, and one shrimpy Sixth Year Hufflepuff who was a real loser. The Sixth and Seventh Year classes were so small they had to be combined, which showed just how unpopular the subject had become.
"Broaden your minds!" Trelawney sang out her airy mantras. "Look past the mundane and read what is in the tea leaves!"
"I see a. . . a book. . ." Ernie said as he squinted his eye half-shut and turned his cup sideways. "A book, a book, a book. . . hmm, what was that again?" He looked longingly at his bag, which held A Comprehensive Guide to Advanced Divination. "Oh yeah! It stands for intelligence. And there's an acorn next to it, which is. . . a windfall. So that means I'm going to. . . uh, pass some sort of test."
Luna peered into his cup. "I see Professor McGonagall in there, too," she crowed pleasantly.
"Yes!" Ernie said and started hyperventilating in joy. "I'm going to pass the Transfiguration test today! Merlin, I'm so happy!"
"I've heard it's a bitch," Lavender remarked lazily. "I'm glad I'm not doing NEWTs in that class."
"But I'm actually going to pass that test!"
"Really, MacMillan!" Trelawney cut into the conversation. "You're disturbing the clairvoyance in the atmosphere! Any more of it and there's one test you certainlywon't pass."
Ernie, horrified at the idea of failing a Divination test (even though the course itself was practically worthless), immediately adopted an expression of contrition. "So sorry, professor," he whispered.
There was a few moments of silence. The incense burning above the fireplace clogged the air with its heady aroma. It was no wonder Trelawney always acted a bit high. Everyone silently agreed that it was a good thing that the October rains had cooled down the castle, because otherwise this tower would have been unbearably hot.
"I have a script book in my cup," Lavender piped up. "I must be seeing the outcome of the Founders Play auditions! If I get the part of Xaxis's wife, I'll die happy."
"Are evil sorcerers even allowedto have wives?" Parvati asked.
"Ssshh, guys, the clairvoyant vibrations," Ernie reminded them. The girls quieted down and returned to their cups.
"I have a two-headed axe with a dull blade here," Luna offered happily. "It stands for a violent death, most likely by decapitation or sustained brutal face-pulping. The two heads stand for increased adversity, so obviously there will be many men (or women, as the case may be) against me. The dullness of the blade is inefficiency, which most likely means that my death will be long and slow and therefore filled with a cornucopia of pain. And the leaves stand up quite sharply in the cup, so it means that this death will happen sometime in the near future."
Trelawney swooped down on Luna like a bat on a mouse, her eyes wide and her face grinning hugely. "Oh, a long, slow death! I'm so happy for you, my dear! The Sight must be strong with you today!"
"And I even see the Thestrals in here, too," Luna put in serenely. "And you're riding on them. So you're going to witness my drawn-out, unbearably painful death."
"Oh, oh, Luna, yes, how wonderful!" Trelawney was practically in the middle of an orgasm at this point. "Yes, I see it, I see it! You are going to die, my dear! Oh yes, and it'll be the worst hell ever—see how dull that axe blade is! Oh my dear, oh my dear!"
"But isn't that bad?" Colin put in hesitantly.
Trelawney immediately stopped her orgasmic attitude and whirled around to face the unlucky Gryffindor. "Whatever do you mean?" she demanded.
Colin shrunk back into his armchair, and the cushions swallowed half his scrawny body. "I just meant that death. . . I mean, I thought—"
"Well, don't," the professor snapped. "Such comments block the Inner Eye from achieving its true potential."
Her mood was ruined. She slumped back into her armchair by the fire and waited as her students turned their cups about and let the firelight fall at different angles on the dregs.
The sixth-year Hufflepuff suddenly started laughing. It was a crazed laugh of shock and relief. It was also the laughter of losers. It was a strange, unearthly noise—normally the class would have burst into giggles at its sound, but here in the North Tower it seemed oddly in place. The five students turned to stare at him, not knowing what to say, mostly because they hadn't quite figured out his name—everybody just called him Loser. And, with his stringy blond hair, gigantic glasses, nasal whine, string bean build, and supremely dorky attitude, the name was highly appropriate.
"What is it, my dear?" Okay, soalmost everybody called him Loser. Professor Trelawney swooped across the room and alit on the arm of his chair.
"A scepter!" Loser said happily. "I'm going to rule someday!"
Everyone in the class hastily turned their guffaws into coughs. Someone like Loser couldn't even find a friend, much less a follower. They made a mad rush to get a look at his cup, but Luna got there first.
"That's not a scepter," Luna told him easily. "It's a stiletto heel. You're going to get laid tonight."
"Even better!!" Loser was in danger of a heart attack by now.
Trelawney frowned and stared into the cup. "Idiot boy," she sighed, her tone curt. "It's a thumbscrew. You're going to get tortured to death."
Loser's lip trembled as the smile slid off his face. His laughter ceased as quickly as it had come. "I-I-is the thumbscrew dull or sh-sh-sh-sh-sharp?" he whimpered.
"Very, very dull!" came the answer.
Loser's face puckered up into a truly pathetic grimace, and he began to cry.
It came as no surprise when Luna ended up as the only person who got an O on the test.
That afternoon in the staff room the teachers were taking a break. Snape was drinking a very stiff whiskey while McGonagall nursed a strong cup of tea. At the head of the staff table Dumbledore reviewed the script for the play.
"The Founders Play, is it?" McGonagall said happily. She actually managed to smile after her hell of a day teaching. "Well, I'm certainly looking forward to it! I remember the play fondly from my own years."
"Of course you do," Dumbledore said calmly. "You were always the prude, Minnie."
"What?" McGonagall cried indignantly. Her tea sloshed over the side of the cup and burned her finger. "Ow! What the hell do you mean?"
Snape smirked at her from over his vodka glass. He loved how McGonagall always swore when she got mad (though never around the students!).
"What else could you be if you actually like the Founders Play?" Dumbledore asked curiously. "When I was in school, only the pussies and the pricks got the leading roles."
"Hey, I got the leading role in my Sixth Year!" McGonagall cried indignantly.
"Apologies," Dumbledore said insincerely without looking up from the script.
The Transfiguration professor sputtered indignantly. "But. . . but. . . you mean you don't like the Founders Play?" By the sound of it, she found this an incredible shortcoming of character. "How in Merlin's name could you possibly want to put on the Founders Play if you don't like it?"
Snape laughed quietly into his glass. He agreed with Dumbledore—only the prudes and pseudo-intellectuals actually tried to enjoy the Founders Play. He himself hated it with a passion, and he'd been wondering why Dumbledore would ever revive it, especially when it had been the old coot that had put an end to it thirty years back.
"You don't think I'd ever put on Charles Durdge's version again, do you?" Dumbledore said, raising his eyebrows. "You know I hate the man."
McGonagall seemed at a loss for words. "But. . . but his play's a classic. He was one of the first wizard playwrights to use free verse in any great quantity."
"Yes, and his poetry is hideous," Dumbledore said.
"It's classic!!" McGonagall argued, as if her reasoning had any basis in logic or truth.
"My dear Minnie, you cannot judge a play by its age," Dumbledore explained patiently. "If you want a good play from the 1600s, read Shakespeare. I read Romeo and Juliet for the 54th time this past year. But you've never seen me rereading Durdge's awful dreck."
"Dreck?" McGonagall paled at the slander. "Albus, how could you—?"
"What's this new play, then?" Snape interrupted her, still grinning from behind his goblet. McGonagall didn't finish her sentence, for which Snape was glad; her offended attitude was getting really annoying.
"It's called The Quadrangle," Dumbledore said. "The name refers to the town square in which the Founders originally came up with the idea for Hogwarts, but it also refers to the complex and often confusing relationship that the four of them shared."
"Complex and confusing?" McGonagall said, clearly confused herself. "It wasn't like that at all! Helga Hufflepuff was loyal and hardworking. Rowena Ravenclaw was intelligent. Salazar Slytherin was ambitious and cunning. And Godric Gryffindor was brave!" She spoke the last name with extreme reverence. Snape snorted into his cup.
"Are you okay, Severus?" Dumbledore said lightly. "Anyway, Durdge's account on the Founding in the most historically inaccurate version I have ever had the misfortune to experience. He didn't know Lumos from Nox, and he certainly didn't know anything about the Founders."McGonagall gasped as if Dumbledore had insulted her personally. Her lips thinned and her eyes narrowed, and Snape sensed an oncoming diatribe that he really didn't want to suffer. So he cut in quickly with, "So who wrote this new play?"
"I did," Dumbledore said proudly. "I'm also taking on the casting, the directing, the producing, the scenery, and the lighting."
Snape was no longer smiling. McGonagall looked horrified. And Dumbledore stood there, his eyes twinkling insanely behind his spectacles. This was beyond mischief—the old man looked positively feral. And Snape realized—
This play was not good news!
A/N: A big hello to whoever's reading this! I'm back with another novel-length fic. If you haven't already bothered to look at the rating, this fic is for Mature Audiences only. If frequent sexual dialogue/situations, strong language, or irredeemably irreverent humor upset you, then this story will most likely end up upsetting you at one point or another. :p
I don't think it's necessary to disclaim mere allusions, but I don't own The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde) or The Wastelands (T.S. Elliot), either. No money being made, etc.
A big thanks to Lisa725 for agreeing to beta this story. Can you believe it's my first beta? Thanks a million!
Oh, and don't forget to review.