They had though they would have a few minutes at least while Snape and the Carrows sorted out what had happened at Hagrid's hut, but the door of the Room of Requirement had barely opened into the Ravenclaw common room when they heard it: the unmistakable sounds of Amycus arguing furiously with the knocker. Michael turned, seeing the pallor he had felt fall over his own face reflected on Terry's, and he was caught in a moment's blind horror as he realized how they were both still dressed.
Thankfully, Terry had always been the one o them who remained calm under pressure, and there was barely an instant's panic in the dark blue eyes before his jaw set, his wand flashing in a blur of rapid spells that vanished glasses and inked scars, re-colored robes, and smoothed hair as he pointed sternly at Li and Padma. "He's already at the door! Run!"
Padma still looked dazed, but Li was frozen in place with her arm around her friend, her black hair whipping in her face as she shook her head desperately. "We don't have time to –"
"We'll give you time!" Michael had recovered himself now, falling back almost unconsciously on the steady, unflinching patter of Terry's muttered spellwork soothingly rhythmic beneath his own speeding thoughts, and he took Li by the arm, propelling her none too gently towards the girl's dormitory. "GO!"
"But –" Padma began to protest, but Michael cut her off harshly.
"GO! We'll stall him!" He spun, feeling the last fading tingles of magic settling his appearance back to normal as he and Terry began to rush from one cluster of shocked students to the other, slamming books shut, pushing quills into hands, and bodily shoving them towards the high, arched doors that circled the tower room. He wasn't even sure what was coming out of his own mouth, what was Terry's, or what was thought alone, but it didn't matter, because the message was clear enough. Everybody out of the common room, NOW! Drop it, don't – you can get that later –I said GO!
At last, what seemed like years later, the common room was clear, and Michael blew open the door of their own dorm, barely muffling the crash in time before he thrust his wand towards the opening. "Accio homework!"
Books and quills and ink bottles came flying towards them, but for all that he had been teased that playing Quidditch made him a brainless troll, he was grateful now for every moment spent on the pitch as he leapt up to snatch the objects cleanly from mid-air, tossing half to Terry in a single fluid motion. They had long ago charmed the texts to fall open automatically to the last page where they had left off, and he didn't even need to look as he threw his text down onto the nearest table, dropping into the chair while Terry did the same, another flick of the willow wand popping the lids off the bottles and sending the quills to leap into them in a light scatter of black droplets.
Michael vanished the ink, but they were both flushed and breathing hard, their hearts thundering, and he didn't even need to point that out before the spell was already cast. "Ensedo!"
The door to the common room burst open barely a second later, Amycus barreling through, wand clutched tight in his stubby fingers, beady eyes seeking hungrily for any sign of something culpably out of place. But there was nothing suspicious to be found. The room was as empty as one could expect with curfew scant minutes away, and the only students were the two young men sitting calmly at a far table, books outspread, chins casually propped on hands as they looked up in surprise.
Terry blinked mildly, and Michael had to bite his lip to stifle a giggle at the expression of perfect innocence on his friend's face. "Professor Carrow?"
Amycus scowled, stalking over to them to loom between the chairs as much as someone who was a full head shorter than either of them could manage to loom at all. His face was almost purple, and whether the rage was directed at what they had done at the gamekeeper's or at the difficulty he always had getting into Ravenclaw, it didn't matter. His fingers twitched on the wand's thick handle, and it was obvious that he was eager to hex someone. The nature of someone rather obviously being Michael and Terry. "What're you two doin' up?"
"Studying," Terry replied blandly, still with the same look of angelic inscrutability. He gestured at the open potions books and accompanying sheaves of notes, giving his wand a little flick to stop the quill that had risen from the inkwell to resume copying out the rules of PH variance in bi-basal tinctures. "Professor Slughorn said there might be a surprise quiz tomorrow on tinctures and unguents."
The scornful sneer on the Death Eater's face had very little to do with the plausibility of Terry's explanation, but more to do with the number of times he knew that he and his fellows had been outwitted by the perpetually 'innocent' students they had spent the year trying in vain to suppress. His uselessly accurate suspicions made Michael smile despite himself, and Amycus' eyes narrowed further, now almost completely invisible beneath the puffy folds of surrounding flesh. "I'm supposed ta believe that?"
He exchanged an instant's look with Terry, and the smile widened as the decision passed silently between them.
Although most of the time, Michael's opinion of his own physical appearance bordered between indifferent and annoyed, he had been less than a year old before he had perfected some of the more prominent advantages to fitting so well into assorted seraphic metaphor, and he employed those long-practiced techniques now to look up at the Death Eater in ignorant insouciance. His eyes widened, his lips parting ever so slightly, and he ran his fingers through his hair in a motion that knocked just the right bit of impish fringe over his forehead. "Well, seeing as how the overall decorative theme in this portion of the castle is blue and bronze, that would indicate Ravenclaw, which would by coincidence be the house with which we are affiliated, and likewise the house most prominently reputed for that particular activity…"
He trailed off, but Terry was there at once to finish the sentence, matching him with their reliable combination of feigned stereotypes: the shallow pin-up and the socially ignorant scholar. "Really, I don't get why you wouldn't believe it. It's not like we're up here drawing lightning bolts on our forehead and coming up with nasty things to say about the Headmaster, we're merely assembling formulae."
An alarming look of triumph abruptly lit Amycus' doughy visage, and he ignored Terry's rebuttal entirely, his hand shooting past them to grab a sheet of parchment that had been left by the previous occupants of the table. "Ha!" He crowed, tilting it to the candlelight with a disdainful sneer at them. "Some kinda code, is it? Wonder how long it'll take the lads at the Ministry break this little –"
Terry peered curiously over the sloped shoulder, but his snort of barely-caught laughter was genuine as he let Michael see the patently harmless contents of the parchment through his eyes. "Send it to the Ministry," he warned amusedly, "and you're going to be in for a surprise."
"Oh, am I?" Amycus challenged.
"Fairly humiliating one." Terry nodded, then shrugged, resuming his seat and setting the quill back to its copying. "That's not even ours, anyway. It's Oisin's. He and Icarus were working on some very basic Gaelic spellwork. Not something I think your code breakers would find even remotely interesting."
"And why would Oisin and Icarus be wantin' to do with unauthorized spells?" Amycus wasn't about to let it drop so easily, even though a flicker of doubt had come into his voice as he stared anew at the neat lines of block lettering, perhaps recognizing enough of the complex vowel clusters and h-modificant consonants to at least make the explanation plausible enough for his obviously unappreciative eye.
"My best guess? Cultural awareness, primarily, given their mutual heritage." Terry suggested. "But overall, I would think you lot would want to promote the fostering of secondary –"
"—or tertiary –" Michael cut in.
"—or in our cases quatiary and pentiary –"
"—languages." He pushed back the carefully errant hair now, all vacancy gone from his eyes and dreaminess from his tone, rattling on now rapidly with his own naturally buoyant confidence. The change was always disconcerting, and he was rewarded with exactly the right look of whiplash from his hated teacher. "Enormously beneficial to be able to converse freely if you want to spread your ideals abroad, assuming You-Know-Who isn't going to remain content with Britain. Now, this may seem like spucatum tari, but flocci non facio, and Latin is still useful for creating spells of one's own."
"And you yourself have praised the Dark Arts as ever evolving –"
"—wholly fluid, so even though stercorem pro cerebro habes, I would think that our fluency there might even be worth some extra credit in your class."
However disconcerting it was to see a poster suddenly sprout an intellect, it was nothing compared to seeing the two young wizards flow in and out of one another's words without the slightest glance, pause, or interruption. The key, of course, was now to keep him that off-balance. "And our nearest neighbor – and therefore most likely front of future expansion – " Michael went on effortlessly, "is France, so despite vous etes une pomme de terre avec le cervau d'un sandwich au fromage, you might wish to consider taking it up."
"Sandwich?" Amycus shook his head dully at the one out-of-place bit of familiarity among the rapid barrage. "Yer –"
"Merely stating that if you wanted to take over the country, you probably needed to know how to order a sandwich first."
"Exactly! Va te faire enculer et bouffe ma queue calisse!"
The stubby wand thrust towards Terry's face, trembling barely an inch from his nose. "One more word of that Frog nonsense, and I'll Cruciate both yeh!"
"All right! All right!" Terry raised his hands in a fearful gesture of surrender that almost came off as genuine, but his eyes were glittering as he glanced now at Michael. "Sorry, Mike, looks like his appreciation for the beauty of the French language is not what it could be."
"Perhaps German would be more his taste? I admit my fluency is far from perfect yet, but I could offer the drecksau –" The wand swung to him now, not near his face, but actually jabbed against his cheek, and he yanked back with a rather girlish yelp of fright that made Terry roll his eyes from behind Carrow's shoulder, getting a mental wink in return. "S-s-sorry! Good griffins! I was just trying to be helpful!"
"Where were you tonight?" Amycus demanded, furiously aware that he was somehow being made fool of, and the inability to determine how was not improving his mood. "And no funny business! I want it in Queen's English, and I want it NOW!"
"In chairs," Michael answered immediately. Skittish act dropped as quick as it had been assumed, back to just being himself. Keep him off-balance. Keep him guessing. Nothing but variables.
"In WHAT chairs? Where?" Oh, but he sounded on the edge of hysteria now, even with all the bluster. It was a beautiful thing.
"Now see, that's where it gets more difficult to answer." Michael leaned back, kicking his heels up onto the table edge as he spun his wand lightly between his fingers. "Generally speaking, the Father of Modern Magic is considered to be Pereclides, but he was a student himself of Plato, to whom I believe he owes a great debt regarding the Principle of Incantational Intent, because both trace directly to Plato's chair."
"And what bloody business did you have being in Plato's effing chair when there's a curfew as you both damn well know?!" Screaming now. Always an excellent sign when they resorted to screaming. Not that louder and slower worked with someone who was running mental circles around you any more than it did with a deaf person, but no one who recognized that would ever be in either position.
"Any chair can be Plato's chair," Terry elaborated. "It's all about the concept of chairness itself, whether there IS such a thing as chair, objectively speaking, or—"
"--whether chair is merely an idea that due to consensus is extended –"
"CRUCIO!" No time to brace, even when they had known this would be the only possible eventual outcome of their deliberate impertinence, and the pain washed down in livid spirals, blazing every nerve ending blister-hot and searing cold, crashing him mercilessly to the floor from his casual sprawl.
He'd had it done to him before, of course, they all had by now, but it was ever a fresh hell, and they'd never been hit together. The curse had never been meant for use on minds linked actively at the instant of impact, and that was so much better and worse all at once, the waves of pain swirling in, out, between, through, an unknown shoulder striking stone to bruise whose flesh deep over the point of whose bone that almost cracked sending a spasm of white-sharp through their throbbing pulse of scarlet as histheirhis teeth came down hard on someone's lip and both mouths tasted blood that bloomed in one.
Torture, torture, hell and anguish and he heard themself scream, but it didn't last very long, and once it had lifted, it hadn't really been so bad. Sweet Merlin, how wrong was it that they could say that? Those things weren't supposed to be comparable, but if they had learned nothing else, it was that Dante had been right in principle. Hell itself could be divided into levels, and that hadn't been more than…
Not hardly. That's when they bring in the sixth years. Third, I'd say.
Pathetic. Carrow's usually good for a five at least. Must have really –
Almost feel –
Never quite can, though. He's too much of a –
"You idiots! Are you all right?!" Warm hands, soft and yet strong, were beneath his shoulders, pulling him onto a lap that was too firm and long-limbed to be any of the witches, and he almost winced further through the soreness that still throbbed through every tissue even now that the curse itself had lifted – and if the others were there, that meant Carrow had left, too, because he hadn't quite lost consciousness, and it was still the darkly enchanted ceiling that shadowed through the thin gap between his lashes. The voice had been Padma's, why couldn't the hands be hers, too?
He took a deep breath, carefully, slowly testing where he was in himself. Lip swollen, salt-sweet and metallic. His then, but not seriously, and he raised one shaking hand to wipe it away as he forced his eyes open properly, glancing where the voice had come from until his seeking look found Padma's exotic beauty and he twisted his own face into the best look of grievously wounded pride he could manage. "Idiots!"
Michael wiped his mouth again, glad to find the pain already receding to the two-day aftermath of a brutal workout as he twisted reluctantly towards his friend, rolling his eyes towards the illusionary stars in martyrdom. "She wounds me, Terry…I thought that was a lovely bit of flummery, didn't you?"
"Accomplished the – ah!" Oh, there was the injured shoulder. " – objective, certainly."
Anthony made a face at both of them from where he had gathered Terry off the floor the same way Michael realized it was Stephen who now held him. "What, can't quite manage to nod off without a good Cruciatus these days, Boot?"
"Wasn't a good one. He was too confused." Terry paused, probing gingerly at his shoulder, but Michael knew it wasn't actually broken, and they both knew that the tower held enough knowledge of healing spells to put any such minor damage right within less than an hour anyway. "As for your question, I still prefer Binns for sheer soporific effect, but I meant that he left without pushing too much at our –"
"-- non-existent – " Michael admitted.
" – alibi."
There was a long pause, then Anthony sighed, shaking his head as he steadied Terry enough to slip out from beneath, turning now to offer a hand to help him rise. "Never let it be said that Gryffindor has the monopoly."
Michael couldn't see his face as he accepted Stephen's assistance to get to his own feet, but he knew their bemused frowns matched. "On blatant disregard for self-preservation?"
"No, on blatant disregard for self-preservation…" Anthony chuckled, and Michael's own smile returned brightly even through the split lip as he turned unsteadily and saw their roommate's affectionate and genuinely respectful grin. "…with style."
The laugh was raw and still laced with pain that would leave its shadow for at least twenty-four hours even with the best of care, but Michael couldn't have cared less as he reached out to squeeze his friend's uninjured shoulder, hoping that physical touch and the shining catch of eyes could convey what no mere thought ever could. "Yeah," he agreed, "I'd say we've got that –"
"— en spathe."
(Title is in both Latin and French, before you make Babelfish explode, and translates roughly, albeit in mixed idiom, to "Spectacular Bullshit." As for what they said to Amycus...about the nicest part was telling him he had the brains of a cheese sandwich. The last is in Greek and means "in spades.")