The grand old mirror stood rigid and upright like an ornamental soldier, it's guilded gold edges glimmered and sparkled from the dull stream of dusty light that filtered onto it. It's spotless and shining surface reflected back that of a 15 year old boy, his tall and slim frame stood awkwardly in long black robes with the badge of Gryffindor house emblazoned on the breast pocket. The boys face would have usually been handsome but at the present time was scrunched up as he tugged back and forth trying to adjust the garment, his medium length jet black hair had fallen over his face as he bent down to rearrange the hem and as he stood up straight he brushed it aside to be met by the stark contrast of his piecing blue eyes, they almost looked foreign to his face but didn't shimmer coldly instead they looked calm and trusting as he grimaced at his other self in front of him, turning round full circle with his vision fixed firmly on the mirror.
"Yes sir, I must say you do look rather dashing. A good choice." beamed the mirror, it's voice that expected of an old shop keeper as it pruned and preened the boys appearance before it. "Seymour Turner if you don't buy these robes this instant it would be a crime against fashion itself." If the mirror had legs the boy was sure it would have hobbled over and shunted him towards the counter of the shop with his wallet in hand. Seymour merely frowned at his reflection trying to convince himself that he didn't in fact look like a complete pillock and wondered what part of this garment could possibly be a crime if it wasn't purchased.
"Er… cheers." the boy nodded and decided that he may just as well cave in to the mirror's demands being as it was only the simple matter of his new school robes anyway.
After spending four years previously attending Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry Seymour had sprouted another half a foot since his last and knew his old robes from his forth year would barely cover his knees let alone his shins. He heaved a sigh of contempt as his eyes wandered around the rest of Madam Malkin's shop. A further four students all of whom he had never met before were standing in front of similar grand scale mirrors all being wooed by the equally charming voices emanating from them. One boy in particular, a young lad who Seymour thought must have been a first year was so flabbergasted by the idea of a talking mirror that he had now taken to spitting out a never ending stream of questions towards it. "How long have you been a mirror?" - "Is it boring doing nothing but watching other people get changed?" - "Do you clean yourself?" - "What happens if you break?" the boy was engrossed but the mirror seemed far less eager to converse and simply continued to tell the boy how fantastic he looked in his new Hogwarts robes and was growing more restless with every second until after five full minutes of constant interrogation was now merely dribbling out half hearted praise such as, "Oh look, that's nice.", "Good robes aren't they?", "I think you're mother's calling you."
The shop itself was large in scale but cramped from the interior due to it being jammed packed with rail upon rail of robe after robe after robe, all different shapes, colours and sizes adorned the hangings from dress robes to school robes from Quidditch robes to business robes. Each section was marked out by a large gold banner which hung like a beacon above each rail. Towards the front of the shop the owner Madam Malkin was busy measuring a young girl who was to be fitted for her first set of school robes, she buzzed around her like a fly, her tape measure following in mid air springing to life every so often to run around the girls waist and shoulders, then her full length from head to toe. The back end of the shop was also occupied not by more robes but by five house elves who sat at five identical sewing machines, they chatted merrily as they set to work on stitching robe after robe working at incredible pace, the material whizzed through he machine in a blur before being hung on the ever increasingly full spare rail which would roll off by it's self once full through a large black door which lead to the store room.
"Sir… sir, I may have already mentioned this but those robes, my, my, they do look lovely." the mirror tilted forward slightly and bore down on the boy forcing him to look back at himself.
"Yeah you did… thanks again." Seymour gave a nod and then hopped off the tiny footstool, taking off his new robes and slinging his jacket back on. He gathered the new set of attire in his arms and carried it off to the counter to pay, as if a sixth sense provoked her Madam Malkin spun on the spot and rushed over to him leaving the first year girl she was measuring poised in mid air with her arms held out at her sides, a look of obscure bemusement on her face.
"Seymour Turner, so nice to see you again." the short woman smiled broadly at him as she took his robes from him hands and folded them neatly into a gold bag, all done by wand of course. "How is your father, I hope Lawrence is doing well?" she busied her self as she took his payment and ran it through the oversized till by the window.
"Yes thanks, he's still really busy with work and everything. The new school year is always a busy time." Seymour smiled at the woman as she returned his change.
"I'm not surprised, Gringotts likes to run a tight ship. Although I think those Goblins get a lighter share of the workload than the rest of the wizards who work for them." she replied looking disgruntled. Seymour knew what she meant. Gringotts run and owned by goblins, who considered security and secrecy their number one priority were none too keen to pass any of the important work onto it's wizard workers and often offloaded all the mountains of paper work onto them instead. His father had worked for the bank for well over ten years but had never once gained a promotion, in fact a kind word of encouragement wouldn't go a miss his father had once said, even a good morning from his goblin boss would have been a nice surprise.
"I remember when your father came in to my shop on his last year at Hogwarts, he was so excited about his plans after he left. He said he'd been offered to go on trial with the Devon Diggers that year. Shame about his dodgy knee… he loved Quidditch your father. It feels like only yesterday he was in here telling me and Lizzy how it was a sure…" her words trailed off and her smile faded upon mention of his mother, she cast her eyes away from his and froze.
Seymour's mother had been killed ten years previously due to an accident she'd had during a match. Like her husband Elizabeth Turner had been a keen Quidditch player but unlike Seymour's dad she had no dodgy knee, aching arm or niggling neck of any kind. She was a mighty fine beater and managed to secure a place with the Wiltshire Wallops, a second division Quidditch team on the way up. It was during their last game of the season that she had been caught on the back of the head by a particularly ferocious bludger which knocked her of her broom and sent her falling 200ft to the ground below. It wasn't certain whether the hit itself or the fall killed her. Her accident was one of many that prompted public outcry for stricter safety rules to be brought into the game.
His father was devastated but held it together well enough to bring up their only son, he often worked extra shifts to make ends meet and swapped his old job training a Sunday league Quidditch team to work at Gringotts. The improved pay was welcome but Seymour knew that his father would love nothing more than to be back out on the pitch again. He would spend countless hours of his free time helping Seymour train playing Quidditch with him in the fields by their house.
Seymour himself made a fairly decent chaser but only this year did he consider trying out for the house team due to the departure of Alicia Spinnet and Angelina Johnson last year's Quidditch team chasers and captain. Sensing the awkward silence that lingered between them Seymour braced a smile and nodded.
"Yeah, he used to take me to watch all of mum's games. I think my dad was obsessed with the sport." he scratched his nose and shoved the loose change back into his pocket.
Madam Malkin looked at him with a fond smile and agreed, "Yes, could have been one of the greats your father. Victor Krum… peh not even on the same level." she took the gold bag in her hands and sealed it, then took a piece of blank parchment and dipped her quill into a pot of ink. "I take it you'll want these delivered by owl?"
"Yes please." Seymour agreed as she instantly scribbled down his address onto the blank sheet and then used her wand to attach it to the bag, she then popped it into the small shoot behind her on the wall and it slid away out of site.
Seymour stepped out onto the cobbled pavement in front of "Madam Malkin's Robes for All Occasions" and took in the familiar sights, sounds and smells of Diagon Alley. The untidy street was full to the brim with young witches and wizards all bustling back and forth from shop to shop. It was getting dark and the full moon bathed the shoppers below in a glowing light. A small gaggle of students he recognised wandered past and waved to him, he waved back and then was required to hastily duck out of the way as a large old leather trunk came hurtling towards him narrowly missing his head and crashing with full force into the shop's solid brick wall. It bounced back like a tennis ball and then burst open spilling it's contents onto the busy street. An older boy came running after it thoroughly out of breath, his round face sweating heavily, his eyes ripe with worry.
"Sorry Seymour, G… George tried to use a levitating charm to have it follow me but it decided it didn't want to go home to my Grandmother and made a run for it." the boy doubled over with his hands resting on his knees.
Seymour laughed and quickly bent down to help the boy force his belongings back into the concussed trunk. "It's alright Neville, I've met your Grandmother remember? I'm surprise it had the will to bolt in the first place." Neville gave a grin at this and finished pushing a large Herbology book into the case before slamming it shut.
"Thanks, I think I'll just stick to carrying it by hand for now." said Neville now using all his available strength to drag the thing over the uneven stones. Seymour couldn't just watch the poor boy struggle so he grabbed the other end of the trunk and lifted it between them. "Thanks." huffed Neville looking mighty appreciative of the help. They made a start down the winding path and were constantly stopping to let large groups of people pass by as between the three they nearly took up the whole narrow street.
"So how come you've had to buy a new trunk Neville… it is new isn't it?" asked Seymour glancing down at the worn leather and gashes that littered the surface.
"Yeah, it looked new when I bought it but now… I just wish I hadn't tried to make things easier for myself… that's what you get for being lazy I guess." Neville shifted his weight as he let yet another group of elderly wizards pass muttering apologizes to each one.
"Oh yeah, you'll come of age this year won't you? Might be nice to be able to do a bit of magic whenever you want to?"
"You'd think so but you have to be good at it first for it to be of any use." complained Neville as they past through an archway. "Have you heard Seymour? About the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher we're getting this year?" Neville turned to face him as they walked.
"No. I didn't think we'd be getting one to be honest, considering what happened to the rest. You'd have to be mental to take on that job." Seymour pointed out as he pondered on what type of person would be foolish enough to take the risk.
"Well… rumour has it it's someone really famous. I just hope we don't get another one like Lockhart, that man was unbearable." said Neville grimacing.
Seymour nodded in agreement and replied, "Yeah but whoever it is has got to be better than that old toad Umbridge, what a cow that one was." he instinctively glanced down towards his free hand half expecting the remnants of her unorthodox method of punishment to still be etched onto it. After a while they had managed to amble their way through the thick set crowd and came to a split in the path, Neville dropped his end of the trunk and gave his brow a wipe with his sleeve. "I'm off this way Seymour, my Gran's waiting for me." he pointed off down the path behind him.
Seymour gave a nod and smiled. "Alright then Neville, I'll see you at school in a few weeks then. Are you sure you're alright with that thing?" he gazed warily down towards the trunk at Neville's feet which was now giving the occasional stirring twitch.
"Yeah, thanks for the help. I should be ok from here. See you at school." Neville grabbed one end of his wayward baggage and lugged it off down the street waving with his free hand as he left, he struggled his way over to an elderly witch dressed in a set of pale blue robes, her face was as stern as Professor Snape's, her grey hair tied back into a viscous bun. Despite this she looked over at Seymour and gave a polite wave before admonishing her grandson over the state of his new trunk. Neville was just about to launch into a full explanation when the case once again sprung to life and steamed off down the path at full pelt with Neville running off after it.
Trying not to chuckle too hard Seymour turned in the direction he had just come from and filtered back into the struggling shoppers. He stuck close to the edge of the street so that he could walk at his own pace and gazed into the windows of each shop as he passed, he paid particular attention to the display now being erected by the owner of "Quality Quidditch Supplies". It seemed yet another brand of broomstick had just hit the market and a group of younger boys had their goggling faces pasted to the glass as they salivated over the new brooms specifications. He was about to pass "The Magical Menagerie" without so much as a glance when he was drawn towards a battered old cage that had been hung outside along with a collection of rather fine looking owls. Every so often a shrill cry would rattle the cage in question which sounded very much like a budgerigar being throttled and as Seymour stepped closer he was greeted by one of the ugliest creatures he'd ever laid his eyes upon. Inside the cage sat on it's perch was a tiny bird no larger than his fist, Seymour could only assume it was a bird judging by the fact it had wings and a beak but that was as close as it got for instead of bright fluffy feathers and black beady eyes it had no hair what so ever and it's eyes were pearl white with tiny little red dots for pupils which were permanently set looking inwards so that it was very much boss-eyed.
Its skin hung like a oversized cloak on its bony frame and was covered in patches of black like someone had spilled an ink well onto it. It hopped about for a while from end to end and then let out another squawk, its eyes darted around in all directions until they once again settled back to their wonky position. Seymour then noted it's rear which was made up of sharp little spikes where it's tail feathers should be, all which looked sharp enough to slice through raw meat. They would flare up and quiver with each cry before resetting themselves. Seymour couldn't hide the piteous look on his face as he stared at the pile of skin and bone and was only drawn from its offset gaze when he heard a soft voice speak up beside him.
"Pretty isn't he?"
Seymour turned his head and was surprised to be greeted by a face he had never seen before. He was standing next to a girl of about his age who was staring into the cage with a look of far off wonder in her brilliant blue eyes that shimmered as she looked at him. Her straggly blonde hair framed a pretty face that seemed kind but mixed with a look as if she was staring right through you, she had stood looking at Seymour without blinking for a fair amount of time before he finally registered her remark and looked back at the odd looking bird.
"Err yeah." was all he could conjure on the spot as he couldn't disagree more. Seymour thought the only thing uglier than this bird had either died long ago or hadn't been discovered yet. He smiled awkwardly and then looked back at the girl who gave another listful smile directed at the squawking menace in front of them. With his attention now fully focused Seymour noticed that the girl was dressed in the oddest combination of clothes he could imagine as he eyed her bright yellow overcoat with emerald green buttons on top of a sky blue dress with pictures of floating clouds on them which was rounded off by a pair of blood red leggings. He shook his head slightly, awestruck by the bombardment of vivid colour before looking back into her "still" unblinked eyes which gazed back at him as if analysing every detail of his face.
Having at first been slightly taken by the girl, Seymour was now starting to edge away slowly as he got the distinct impression that she might be hauled off at any second to the mental ward of St. Mungos. She didn't seem to note his slight apprehension and stuck her finger inside the battered cage, giving the creature a light stroke under the chin. It's eyes once again darted about in all directions like a pinball machine which could either mean the bird was enjoying it or was instead preparing to attack.
"Snettlefud's can be quite useful you know? I hear the Ministry has well over 200 of them guarding important areas." she said this as much to herself as to Seymour as she continued to scratch the birds bald little head as it hopped closer to her on it's perch.
"Sittle-what?" asked Seymour chancing another look at the unfortunate creature.
"Snettlefuds." answered the girl in a rather serene tone moving her hand away from the cage and straightening up to look at him again. "They are very powerful birds, magically speaking. Able to hypnotise even the greatest wizard with a single glance and can spit highly toxic acid that doesn't rub off not to mention those sharp needles on its tail that can rip through metal two inches thick." she explained giving the bird a look one would give a sleeping infant.
Seymour frowned and looked back at the bag of bones, its eyes whirred around once again and it jumped off its perch, fluttering over to a bowl of red coloured seed which it began to devour.
"Are you sure about that? It doesn't look very dangerous apart from the things on its back." he asked looking puzzled.
"Quite sure." she replied taking out a tatty old magazine from the orange and pink pinstriped bag she had slung over her shoulder. She flicked through the pages and turned it to face him. "They're the most dangerous creatures in the world apart from Dragons and Giants, daddy said the Ministry is trying to keep their real talents hushed because in the wrong hands they could be disastrous."
Seymour looked down at the book and noted a small article with a picture of the bird in question at the top.
"The Snettlefud, a once nearly extinct magical creature known for its unprecedented ability in mind control. No one has ever been able to vouch for this of course due to the fact that anyone unluckyenough to be caught by the bird's unrelenting snare has not lived to tell the tale. An acid so strong that it can neither be handled nor contained can be spat from up to 50 metres and it's sharp razor like feathers have been used by many a magical thief as they provide a very easy alternative to safe cracking. None of these abilities have been proven of course because rumour has it that the Ministry wants the birds amazing "hidden" abilities to be kept hushed for fear of it falling into the hands of he-who-must-not-be-named to be used as part of his unrelenting army."
Seymour read the last line and then tried to imagine a dark and powerful wizard being flanked by a flock of these scrawny little birds and did his best to stifle a laugh. He closed the magazine and looked at its cover. "The Quibbler". He grinned knowingly at the word and handed it back with a smile to the clearly insane girl.
"Thanks, that was interesting. I never knew such things existed… makes you wonder what else is out there that we don't know about." To Seymour this had just been a throw away remark but as soon as uttered the words the blonde girl's eyes opened even wider (though it hardly seemed possible) and she looked delighted as she reached into her colourful bag once again and pulled out a crumpled leaflet and stuffed it into the bewildered boy's hand.
"If you find that sort of stuff interesting then you'll love the club I've decided to start this year."
Seymour unravelled the tattered piece of parchment and read it to himself.
"Dear Miss Luna Lovegood,
We are happy to inform you that your request to start the "Wild and Weird side of Wizardry" club has been successfully passed. You are hereby permitted to select a chair person and vice chair person and submit a full member list to your head of house by no later than the 1st of November.
We wouldlike to remind you that if by then you do not have enough members to fill both the aforementioned two positions then the club will have to be disbanded due to lack of interest and to make way for other clubs.
We have attached a list to inform you of the rules and regulations that all clubs at Hogwarts must follow and we must impress upon you how important it is that these rules are followed.
Looking forward to seeing you in the new year.
Mrs. Rolanda Hooch"
Seymour stared up from the letter and looked at the girl staring avidly back at him. "Mrs. Hooch? I thought she taught the first years flying lesson and refereed the Quidditch?"
Luna nodded slowly and spoke, "Yes she does but she's also the person in charge of deciding which clubs and groups get the go ahead each term. I had planned on starting it last year but that Umbridge woman put a stop to it instantly, she said she didn't feel that their was anything to be gained from filling the students minds with "Poppycock and Gibberish".
I tried to explain to her of course that I neither knew how to speak Poppycock or Gibberish as they are both ancient languages long forgotten. I offered to show her the page in the Quibbler that mentions the long forgotten race of Wembleworms that were the last known speakers of Poppycock but she just waved me aside and deducted 10 points from Ravenclaw instead." Luna bit her lower lip deep in thought, "It was almost as if she thought learning about Wembleworms and Gornkalsnaps was a waste of time. I can't imagine why?"
Seymour wasn't really listening as he had only just reread the top line of the letter, the dim light of recognition igniting somewhere towards the back of his mind. "Miss Luna Lovegood." He was sure he'd heard that name before but couldn't put his finger on it. He peered at the page and then back at Luna before giving a weak half smile and handing her back the letter.
"So?" began Luna looking more animated than he had seen her during the entire conversation. "How about it? Fancy becoming vice chairman of the "Wild and Weird side of Wizardry club"? I'm sure I'll get plenty of members in no time but being as you're the first person I've asked it would be just that I offered you the position." she looked at him like this was some great honour she had bestowed upon him but he neither felt honoured nor very keen to answer her as there was a slight glimmer of desperation in her deep blue eyes that made him uneasy.
"Are you sure I'm the first person you've asked?" he questioned quietly expecting her to look hurt or outraged at such a question but she didn't ,she merely gave a look as if she wasn't so sure herself before answering.
"Well no, now you come to mention it you're not the first person but nobody else has said yes so the offer still holds firm." she smiled once again and crossed her arms.
"How many other people have you asked then?"
"Well if you count Neville this morning then I'd say about 20... Maybe 30. They all seemed pretty interested in it but told me they either couldn't join because of other clubs or that they'd be swamped by their O.W.L.S this year."
Seymour suspected that half the excuses she'd been given weren't entirely true but the look on her face told him she was either very gullible and believed everyone of them or she herself wasn't that surprised by the outcome. He realised that he also had O.W.L.S coming up this year and along with him trying out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team he didn't really feel he had the time to join this girls club of oddballs.
"Er… thanks Luna but I'll have to say no to that. I'm going to be really busy this year what with exams and everything." Even though he said it himself he wasn't entirely sure what "everything" referred to. "Thanks though."
He had no intention of joining in the first place but couldn't erase the slight twinge of guilt he felt as he registered the flicker of disappointment that flashed across the girls face before she smiled and nodded.
"Ok. Fair enough." it became clear to him that she had already heard this excuse many times before.
"Sorry though." he blurted out giving her an apologetic look.
"What for?" she asked looking genuinely puzzled.
"Oh nothing." he then went back to staring at the caged creature at the front of the shop before he heard someone calling his name from the nearby window of "Gambol and Japes" down the street. He whipped his head around to spot Robin Swink, Alice Filby and Loyd Harper all friends of his house in Gryffindor waving at him.
"Seymour." Robin called out giving shifted glances at Luna who had also decided to wave as well as Seymour.
He turned back to Luna who was now busy sticking her hand into a box full of young blast ended scwreets which he didn't think was a bright idea in the slightest. "I'd be careful if I were you Luna." he warned her, tempted to wrench the girls hand out himself. She didn't appear to have taken heed of his words and asked instead, "Is that your name then, Seymour?" she continued to poke the ugly slug like creatures around the box as if playing with them.
"Yeah." it had only occurred to him that he hadn't told her his name.
"That's a nice name." she said glancing up from the shop window.
"Er… is it? Thanks." he never really pondered on his name before but couldn't see what was so nice about it.
"Yes it is." she replied matter of factly. "To have the sound of the sea with you where ever you go."
He wasn't sure if she meant this as a joke for she showed no sigh of it having been one but he laughed anyway. "Yeah… never thought about it like that." he scratched his head for some reason very aware how messy his hair must look before adding. "Well… I'd better be going Luna, I've got a few more places I need to go before I head home, so…"
"Ok. See you at school." she didn't even break her stare from the face of a particularly nasty looking scwreet which was now rearing its ugly head in her direction. She lifted her hand to the cage and waved her finger as if giving the thing a telling off.
"Ok bye." Seymour backed away from the peculiar student all the while watching the staring contest she appeared to be holding with the creature until he was across the other side of the street, then he turned around and headed over towards his group of friends.
Robin a short blonde haired boy with mischievous green eyes was nearly doubled over laughing at him as he approached, Seymour gave him a scornful look but it did little to stop his friend from giggling all the more.
"What were you doing with Loony Seymour? We've been watching you since she started trying to wrangle you into that mad club of hers."
"Loony?" Seymour asked trying to understand who he meant.
"You must have heard of Loony Lovegood, she tried persuading Alice only a few hours ago, almost cornered the poor girl in Flourish and Blots. I had to rescue her before she agreed out of pity." Robin chuckled looking like he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
Seymour had only realised now why he'd recognised the name, he had heard the name Loony Lovegood before, it was a popular turn of phrase whenever anyone was acting stupid or weird. "You're turning into Loony Lovegood you are." was often the type of thing that could be heard at a time of ridicule but Seymour himself had never met the girl in question before until just now.
Alice who had long straight mousey brown hair tied in a ponytail and a pair warm brown eyes looked at Robin in annoyance. "You shouldn't call her that Robin, yeah she's a bit mad but how would you like to be called something like that?" Seymour could sense she was angrier with the fact that Robin was laughing at her than at Luna but nodded in agreement towards his now bursting friend.
"What like Ridiculous Robin or something… yeah that sounds pretty good doesn't it." he chuckled wiping his eyes on his sleeve.
The other boy Lloyd a tall brown haired quiet boy who had remained silent up until this point focused his small chestnut eyes on Seymour and admitted, "She asked me in "Slug and Jiggers", she caught me looking at a bottle of Nuzzletwerp blood and started to tell me all about them, something to do with being related to Nurgles or Nargles or something like that… she was a bit scary to be honest. I just said I'd think about it and get back to her." he looked slightly guilty for Seymour knew that Lloyd had no intention what so ever of "getting back" to her.
They all glanced back over towards "The Magical Menagerie" to watch Luna talking avidly to a tatty old silver owl which to anyone else's eyes looked to be fast asleep.
"Seriously though Sey, I wouldn't hang around with her for too long mate or rumour will start to fly about that you are as nutty as she is." piped up Robin with a smirk.
"Oh come on Rob, she was a bit… er… unique but she seems harmless." Seymour had to agree that she did indeed fit the description of someone who'd match the moniker "loony" but he liked the way she didn't seem to care what other people thought of her and he himself despite all reasons not to had quiet enjoyed the short chat he'd held with her.
"Yeah shut up Robin, you don't want to turn out like that Malfoy creep do you?" chimed in Alice looking at him sternly.
"Ok, ok." uttered Robin through muffled laughter. "I didn't know you'd planned on marrying her Seymour, if I'd known I would have never said anything."
"Oh shut up." bellowed Seymour but he couldn't help letting a small laugh out himself as he turned and walked off down towards the "Leaky Cauldron".
All four of the friends bounded into the pub creating quite a ruckus as they entered. The pubs three current occupants had all looked up from their beverages to give them annoyed looks of displeasure before sinking back to their quiet thoughts. Robin looked around the dust filled room with a cringed nose and asked, "What have you led us in here for Sey?" he eyed over at his friend with a look of indignation on his face.
"Well I'm going home mate, I didn't think you were going to follow me in here did I?" Seymour answered with a shrug. He had in fact just wanted to avoid anymore taunts involving him and Luna Lovegood but now he was in the pub he realised he didn't really feel like heading off home just yet. "Fancy a drink? My treat." he started to make his way over to the bar.
"In here?" whispered Alice following him with a look of worry in her eyes. "Can't we go to Florean's instead?" she asked hopefully shifting her gaze to a large old wizard covered in a thick black cloak drinking what looked like fizzing red acid.
"Nah, that's all the way down the other end… anyway it's much cheaper in here." replied Seymour looking for a way to get the Bartenders attention who was at the present time in deep conversation with a rather precarious looking man at the other end of the bar. The man in question looked to be in his late thirties early forties with long greying unwashed hair that hung slack down to his shoulders. His face that once may have been rather handsome was now gaunt and tired but his silvery grey eyes still shone bright which belied his age and gave him a youthful tone. He was unshaven and had a large scar that arched above one side of his eye and ran down to his cheek. He was dressed in disheveled brown robes with gold buttons and a pair of sharp looking dragon skin boots. By his side on the floor lay an overly large trunk which looked out of place as it was larger than the man himself and if stood on it's end it would have no doubt dwarfed him. Instead it was laid flat-out on the floor behind his stool. It looked far worse than Neville's had and was covered in a dark red leather, wrapped in padlocks and chains as thick as his arms. Bewitched to do so it hovered slightly above the ground as the man spoke to the bartender, they appeared to be sharing a joke about something as the barkeep roared with laughter and banged his fist down on the surface of the bar.
Robin who had now rather taken to the idea of staying for a drink marched up to the bar next to Seymour and raised his voice.
"My good man, four glasses of your finest fire whisky please!" he ordered in a jovial voice giving a wink to his friend.
The bartender looked up annoyed at having been disturbed and fixed the two boys with an icy glare, he then limped over to them all the while still cleaning a filthy tankard with an equally filthy cloth.
"What'll be then sir." he asked in a gruff and unforgiving tone.
"Er… four Firewhisky's please." repeated Robin the confidence in his voice this time however had completely escaped him and he pretended to look non plused as if he did this sort of thing every day.
"Butterbeer it is then." grumbled the man turning to reach for the shelf of dusty bottles behind him.
"No… sorry… that was four fire…. whisky's." stuttered Robin who was being prodded nervously in the back by a very shaken Alice. The old man turned around, his eyes showing no emotion and lurched towards them again bringing his heavy hands down on the table and coming face to face with a nervous looking Robin.
"Butterbeers?" the man repeated in a voice that could have curdled milk, his eyes didn't blink once as he glared at the two underage students stood at his bar.
"Err… yes… thanks." replied a rather crestfallen Robin as he tried his best to smile politely at the man. Seymour on the other hand was busy trying not to burst out laughing at his friends failed attempt to order a stronger drink. "Well it was worth a try wasn't it?" he consoled looking over at Robin.
"Exactly." he declared defiantly, "Maybe I could try using an aging potion next time." he added thoughtfully, grinning at the idea.
"No you will not." ordered Alice now overcoming her fear and whacking Robin around the head. "Promise me." she demanded ignoring the roiled look on his face.
"Ok, ok. I promise to never try and buy fire whiskey again." he held his hand over his heart and bowed his head. Alice looked happy enough with this and turned to face the rest of the pub, Robin rubbed his head and turned back to look at Seymour before grinning and mouthing the words, "If she's with us."
Having received their rather mucky bottles of Butterbeer they all huddled together at one end of the bar sitting in silence looking aghast at the room they found themselves in. Robin had decided to try flicking every flavour beans into at empty glass until one misaimed flick sent one flying over hitting the bartender on the back of the head which prompted the man to snatch the empty glass off the bar and put it away.
Alice was busy writing her name on the dust covered surface of the bar trying her best not to look around and Lloyd was doing the exact opposite, nervously darting his eyes about the room and taking occasional sips from his manky Butterbeer before grimacing and looking round some more.
"Good in here ain't it?" declared Robin resting his chin on his hand and looking thoroughly bored.
"I didn't force you to come did I?" complained Seymour paying close attention to the two men at the bar.
"Well it was either this or spending more time watching you with your girlfriend Sey."
"Oh don't start that again." moaned Alice lifting her gaze and frowning. "She's always been perfectly nice to me whenever I've spoken to her."
"Yeah but can you honestly tell me you don't think the girl is completely out of her tree?" shot back Robin flicking another bean at her.
"That's not the point Rob, just because you think you're the coolest thing since the Weird Sisters doesn't mean you have to look down on everyone who shows the slightest sign of... individuality."
"Me look down upon people? I didn't see you rush to join her club Alice. Actually you looked terrified of the girl."
They continued squabbling like this for a while but Seymour wasn't listening, he was busy trying to earwig the conversation the two older wizards were having across the bar from him.
"Well he was having so much trouble finding a replacement that the Ministry felt they had to step in." said the wizard with the scar taking a long sip from his glass.
"There's very good reason for that though, I've heard it hasn't been the safest of appointments since that Potter lad started attending. Some say it's cursed." said the other man looking apprehensive. "I reckon whoever it is has to be completely out of his mind to take it willingly."
"I agree." nodded the long haired man looking into the bottom of his murky drink.
Seymour would have continued to listen in but was distracted by the sound of quiet scratching coming from somewhere in the room, he couldn't pin-point exactly where it was coming from but it was growing steadily faster as if something was boring its way through a tunnel. "Can you hear that?" asked Seymour glancing over at his wearisome friends.
"Hear what?" asked Lloyd looking rather more nervous than he had done, getting up and looking around him for sign of an attacker.
"Sit down. It's a sort of scratching noise… can you not hear it?" the sound itself was growing steadily louder but still they all looked at him in confusion.
"Well… I can hear something." remarked Robin pricking up his ears, "But it could just be the sound of the crowd outside."
"No, it's a clear scratching sound, how can you not hear it?" he looked around the pub at all the weatherworn faces but none of them stirred from their tonic and just ignored them altogether, all apart from the two men sat at the bar. The barkeep himself gave Seymour a warty look and walked over.
"Scratching you say?" he asked looking above his head.
"Yeah but I can't tell where it's coming from." explained Seymour looking at the old man who now frowned and banged his fist on the bar as hard as he could.
"Bloody termites again, fifth time this year. I swear if they keep this up I'll have no pub left!" he turned on his heels and disappeared up stairs.
Seymour spun in his seat and listened again but the sound had disappeared.
"Termites!" exclaimed Alice looking horrified, "Why on earth did you drag us in here Seymour!" she had now stood up and was brushing her arms and legs furiously. Seymour would have replied but he was being drowned out by the riotous laughter of Robin who found the weird little war dance that Alice appeared to be doing rather amusing. "It's not funny Robin, you know what I'm like with little crawly things!" her voice was growing high and squeaky as she ran her hands through her hair raking it with her fingers.
"I know, I know. Hahaha." Robin took another sip of his Butterbeer and flicked more sweets at her which she misinterpreted to be bugs crawling on her which forced her to panic even more. They all stopped however when the bartender came rushing down the stairs brandishing a rather crude looking yellow spray can with the words "magical bug-buster" written on it.
"I don't think that's going to help mate." said Robin trying to speak over the mans angry grunts but it was too late. The old man smashed the whole tin on top of the counter like a hammer and it erupted into massive blue sparks like a mini firework, it then exploded again and a thick layer of pink dust floated all around the room. Coughing and spluttering the four friends quickly rushed past the now empty bar and out of the pub door into the fresh air of Diagon Alley.
They all stood bent over with their hands on their knees coughing furiously. "Cheers for the distraction Seymour." spluttered Robin with a devilish grin on his face to which he then produced from under his coat a bottle of Leaky Cauldrons finest fire whisky.