Advisory Whatever: This is a non-serious fic that I threw together one day after a day of browsing made me die inside. It has: Crack-ish scenes, an almost obnoxiously laid-back atmosphere, beasts/being/creatures, passive-aggressive bashing of Snape and Draco Malfoy (but no one else, really), Crazy!Lily, Cheerful!Manipulative!Harry, a pinch of stalking, no concrete pairings, a sporadic update-rate, and oranges.
A/N: Wow, it's been a long time. It just really felt like I didn't have a free moment all of these months between work and running errands. I don't know how I even found the few hours I needed to finish this chapter that's been in the works for forever. I hope it's decent enough to excuse my hiatus, but I may not have ended it neatly. I'm out of practice...
By the way, this is something a little broad, but I was wondering about a certain type of review I keep seeing on fics I've been reading... they say something like, "Are you going to make so and so get such and such or do this like in canon!?" or, "This is okay, but that one thing you mentioned didn't happen in canon."
Um, aren't we on a fanfiction website? Of course it isn't canon, if we weren't changing anything, then we would just stick to rereading the books... these reviews baffle me a bit. I was wondering if anyone else was as bemused by them as myself.
CHAPTER 13 - Colliding Plots
Acacia was already seated in a compartment and staring intently out of the window exactly half an hour before the Hogwarts Express was due to pull out of the station. Her mother approved of her sense of punctuality, and Acacia didn't feel the need to tell her that she just wanted to save a spot for the group she was tentatively calling her friends. Maybe Harry really was, but he was strange and she didn't really understand him. Camellia was grouchy, so it was difficult to tell with her as well. Hermione was nice though. Just pushy, and so into books that Acacia couldn't really keep up, despite being reasonably well-read herself.
She caught a flash of snow white wings and leaned into the glass, peering hard into the crowd.
It was Hedwig, looking a little disgruntled about being in her cage. The handle at the top was held delicately in the fingers of a pretty young woman. Lily Potter, her memory supplied. The most recent picture of her was in a five year old Daily Prophet edition stored in the library. Acacia studied the woman, who looked just a little older and just a little thinner in the face than the black and white photo, though that could just be the distance between them.
She patted Harry once on the back and kissed Camellia on the forehead. Next to her, James Potter did the same. Acacia smiled at the sight and propped a cheek on a fist, settled in to watching her classmates. Her parents never showed public affection. They said it could be used against them. The Potters didn't seem to care. She shook her head and scolded herself for spying on people that she wanted to be friends with. So her eyes drifted to other people. Neville Longbottom was apparently receiving a long-winded lecture from his grandmother, whose every movement caused her hulking vulture hat to bob in a very life-like and terrifying way.
She looked away quickly; that thing scared her.
Draco Malfoy was on the station as well, with his nose turned in the air just the same as both of his parents. His menacing eagle owl was glaring at everyone from its cage. With a sigh, her attention drifted back to Harry and Camellia, only to find that their parents were gone and they were headed for the train. She threw open the window and waved her arms around.
"Over here!" she yelled.
Few people looked at her, for there were other students doing the same, and just as enthusiastically as she was. She leaned out and continued calling until the twins heard her over the roar of the crowd, and she wasn't sure, but she thought she saw Harry nod. Satisfied, she shut the glass and returned to the cushioned bench. Her face was hot with some measure of embarrassment (what would her mother say?), but she felt… giddy.
Her compartment door slid open to Harry's ever-smiling face and Camellia's ever-frowning one. Both had their trunks at hand and Hedwig was shuffling grumpily around her perch.
"Mind if we join you?" Harry asked lightly.
She beamed at them. "Please, come on in!"
Helping them move their stuff into the shelves above the window she had just been flailing out of felt so natural that Acacia decided, just then, that she would declare them both friends of hers no matter how sarcastic Camellia got or what kooky things Harry got into.
"Is Hermione coming?" she asked.
"Yeah," Camellia said immediately, as if it was a given.
She made sure the space she left was extra large for the trunk Hermione had no doubt filled with tomes. Camellia was looking at her queerly—she hoped it was in a good way—and Harry was just laughing silently like he always did. She couldn't wait to ask what everyone did over break… but it was probably best to wait for their wayward friend before they got into that. Thankfully, the brunette wasn't long in joining them, lugging a large trunk and a leather bag with her.
"How was break?" Harry asked flippantly.
"Brilliant!" Hermione hurried to say. "I got a few books, good ones, and we ended up not going to France, but we did go to see some plays."
Acacia noticed that Hermione was gnawing on her lips like she wanted to say more, but the Gryffindor turned to her instead. It made her feel warm inside to be included so readily.
"My parents and I had dinner at the Fauna Flora in Eturn Alley," she told them cheerfully. "We watched the fairy light shows and spoke with family friends."
Camellia grimaced at the mention of Eturn and Acacia felt bad for speaking of the place.
"What about you?" she hastened to deflect attention from her activities in an area known to be traumatic for the Girl-Who-Lived.
"We made a snow army," Harry relished.
His sister rolled her eyes. "You were buried in an avalanche by bowtruckles."
"Who was there with me?" he retorted.
Hermione looked worried. "Were you both alright?"
"Harry melted his way out," Camellia grumbled.
"Anyway," Harry butted in, "we opened gifts after Christmas dinner and fought over dessert with our family."
"That sounds like fun," Acacia said. "And thank you very much for the sweets you sent, Harry. They were good."
"And thank you for the book," Hermione added happily.
Camellia said nothing, but her hands were toying with a set of hair clips that looked new. They were shaped like oranges. Acacia admired them and wondered who they were from. Hermione? The other girl was looking at the pins with a pleased expression. The mood in the cabin was a good one.
"I wonder how Blaise is doing…" Harry mused.
Acacia felt her smile freeze and slowly die away from her face as Harry's brow creased in concern. Blaise Zabini—the terrifying son-of-a-killer with the eeriest pair of eyes she had ever seen. She shuddered violently at the mere memory of him. It was like the pleasant ambiance that she had felt only a second ago had been shattered cruelly. She clasped her hands and hoped to forget about him quickly. That Harry would not speak of his somehow-friend any more.
"His stepfather was very ill and he was cooped up in the castle with Quirrell and the Weasley twins all of break," he went on. "I'm honestly a little worried."
Ah, how easily her hopes were crushed.
The floating candles glowed warmly around the Great Hall, casting everything in an amber radiance that reflected fluidly off of the golden platters and polished golden chalices. Friends who didn't meet on the train gathered together happily and exchanged their holiday stories. They would be grumbling about classes soon enough, but for now, the feast stole away most negative thoughts. Most of them. Harry filled his plate with mashed potatoes and a generous helping of roast before deciding to comment on the glower Blaise was directing at his food.
"Did something happen?" he asked.
Blaise lifted his head to regard him. "I met your… friends."
Scattered laughter in the lively Great Hall rose around them. Harry ignored it, for once scrambling for some sort of response to that statement.
"The… Weasley twins?" he asked uncertainly.
"Yes," Blaise confirmed.
"I'm sorry?" Harry offered.
Blaise's frown was replaced with a look of confusion. He turned to face Harry completely.
"Er… didn't they do something? You don't look happy, exactly," Harry said, toying with his fork.
Blaise shook his head slowly. "Quirrell was insufferable."
They both glanced over their shoulders at the turbaned man who was, at that moment, meekly conversing with a politely nodding Sprout. It was hard to tell all the way from the Slytherin table, but her smile looked a bit strained. With the way his hands were erratically jerking around so close to the pitcher of pumpkin juice (was it actually pumpkin juice?), combined with his never-ending stutter, Harry couldn't blame her.
"Isn't he always?" Harry asked flippantly.
"I had few distractions," Blaise explained.
Harry smirked briefly at what sounded like a veiled admission that his company had been missed, but said nothing of it.
"So what do Fred and George have to do with anything?" Harry questioned.
"They offered their friendship," was the response.
The odd way that his friend said the word 'offered' made Harry think that the conversation was not entirely voluntary and maybe even slightly embarrassing, knowing the twins. They were, at the moment, goading their younger brother into doing something. What, Harry couldn't begin to guess at. His eyes kept drifting back to the scene.
"Did you accept?" Harry asked almost absently.
Was that a rubber chicken or a sock puppet? He couldn't tell because of the angle they were standing at.
"After negotiations," Blaise answered vaguely.
"That ought to be interesting," Harry said.
Chicken or sock, it ended up in Mell's mashed potatoes, and she wasn't happy about it. Harry watched her snarl at the redheads for a moment before refocusing on Blaise.
"So what was the offer for anyway?"
He was given a bland look. Harry suddenly felt a little sheepish for letting his attention wander.
"The evisceration of Quirrell," Blaise said tonelessly.
Now was that sarcasm? Or was Blaise going to take after his mother? Harry was hit by a strong wave of amusement at the idea of Blaise marrying and assassinating their unfortunate professor, and then revulsion at the turn of his own thoughts. He was careful to force his expression into something he hoped was innocent, lest Blaise realize what he had been thinking and try to kill him.
"I hope it all works out well for you…" Harry trailed off, privately thinking that the idea sounded great.
But Quirrell wasn't as weak as he seemed and the act, whether they were seriously considering it or not (there was an equal chance either way), wouldn't be as easy as his friends believed. Harry's eyes narrowed pensively at his plate. He spent the rest of dinner lost in churning thoughts about their suspicious professor. Perhaps… he should see about doing his own digging.
The first week back passed quickly, Camellia realized. She was sitting in the Potions classroom with the Slytherins and reading Snape's spidery scrawl from the blackboard, feeling a bit disconnected from the world. Hadn't it just been the feast? The train ride on the way to it? She blinked and squinted at the ingredients, willing herself to memorize them. Wartcap powder, aloe vera, witch hazel extract, persimmon juice… were they making a burn-healing paste?
"Potter!" Snape snarled.
She jerked to attention and bit out a startled, "Yes?" in unison with Harry's much more controlled response.
There were a few quiet titters around the classroom. Snape didn't appreciate the multiple replies, it seemed, for he took a moment to glower at them both. What was his problem? He should be more specific if he only wanted the attention of one twin.
He eventually spat out, "Our celebrity Potter."
Camellia didn't want to respond to that. She refused to respond to that, consequences be damned, and was on the verge of resigning herself to cauldron scrubbing for disrespecting a professor when her brother spoke up.
"Yes, sir?" Harry asked faux-seriously.
She jerked around in her seat and saw that, behind him, Moon's face had paled in horror. Malfoy looked maniacally gleeful, along with all of his sycophants. Zabini, naturally, remained expressionless. Through the snickering of her fellow Gryffindors, Camellia heard Hermione groan softly next to her. However, her brother looked as impish as ever.
"Very amusing, Potter," Snape said darkly. "I'm sure you will still be laughing as you scrub the seventh years' cauldrons this evening. Their botched wound cleaning potions left a mess that needs some… vigorous washing."
"But those potions are abrasive!" Hermione objected.
"Ten points from Gryffindor for questioning a professor!" he snapped.
Harry looked unbothered by Snape's outburst. He almost looked pleased. They locked eyes for a second, but there was no way for her to know what he was thinking of.
"Now if Miss Potter could take it upon herself to respond," Snape continued.
"Yes, Professor," she answered stiffly.
"What is the missing ingredient on the board? Answer incorrectly and you can brew without it!"
Camellia narrowed her eyes at the blackboard, feeling a little more focused than she had been earlier. She scanned the list over, confident that this was the burn-healing paste—a very basic and common potion that could, of course, go horribly wrong at any moment—and searched her memory.
"The chilled mucus of a flesh-eating slug," she offered after a few awkward seconds had passed.
Snape jabbed his wand at the board and it was added. He looked murderous.
"Now is it correct, or not?" he asked the class. "You can find out during the lesson."
Hermione opened her mouth to object once more, but snapped it shut with a click. She should have learned by now that questioning Snape's methods was useless. But she knew as well as Camellia that the answer was right. Anyone else should be able to tell just by how angry Snape was when she spoke. She stood to get her ingredients and ended up elbow to elbow with Zabini, who took a larger jar of the mucus than necessary. Harry was also in line at the cabinets. In the bustle of the crowd, she watched her brother's friend slip the liter bottle into his robes. Zabini glanced at her and walked away with a bowl of witch hazel and a couple empty vials. Harry passed her with a smile, holding on to a tray with the rest of the needed ingredients, as well as the appropriate amount of flesh-eating slug mucus.
Were they planning to sabotage someone with that giant jar?
Camellia pursed her lips and hoped to Merlin that her brother and his friend weren't that crazy.
"What's wrong?" Hermione hissed.
Camellia's eyes had flickered over to Harry at least four times in as many minutes. Her brow was creased in agitation and her preparation of the ingredients was distracted. Hermione had looked over as well, out of curiosity, but saw nothing amiss. Just Harry smiling candidly at Blaise Zabini and skillfully stirring his potion. Camellia shook her head and added the witch hazel. There were just a few steps left until it was time to add the persimmon juice and let it boil. She reminded her friend of this, and was taken aback when Camellia scowled.
"Sorry," she backtracked. "You just look tired…"
"It's not you," Camellia grumbled.
Hermione turned the heat up once the ladle was removed and threw in the wartcap powder. They watched the fluid slowly fade from a murky brownish-black into burnt sienna. The addition of persimmon would turn it florescent orange and give it a bit of a glow.
"We can add it now, right?" Hermione asked.
Hermione poured it in and sat down to watch it work. Camellia was looking at Harry again. Her fists were clenched. She still didn't see what was wrong. Harry was just picking up his bottle of juice to add. She looked back to the cauldron she was sharing with Camellia, pleased to see the luminescent color. The bubbling potion reminded her of Halloween. She admired it as it cooled, clutching the ladle in one hand and a jar in the other. Camellia busied herself with cleaning their workstation.
"Turn in your jars of paste," Snape told them.
The class hastened to obey, filling his desk in short order with lines of jars of various shades of orange. Hermione winced when she saw Neville's burnt pumpkin hued sludge, though she optimistically noted that it hadn't exploded this time. The bell for the end of the period rang through the classroom. No one wasted any time in escaping.
"What was wrong during class?" Hermione asked her friend once they were several hallways away.
Camellia shook her head. "Nothing, really. It was stupid."
"Harry's detention?" Hermione prodded.
"He looked happy to have gotten it," Camellia grumbled. "He's probably planning something ridiculous again, so I don't feel sorry for him at all."
There was an adamant look on Camellia's face as she stalked down the hall. Hermione had to jog to keep up with her fast pace, and was feeling a little winded after the first staircase. Exercise had taken a backseat to studying lately, and the time spent enjoying the company of her parents meant that she hadn't gotten anything done over break. In contrast, Camellia didn't look phased in the slightest. She hadn't even broken a sweat.
"I thought I was fit," Hermione huffed.
Camellia blinked, looking bewildered.
Hermione weathered the queer stare until her friend dismissed the out of the blue complaint and they continued on their way outside to the greenhouses, squinting against the harsh afternoon sun. After two hours in the windowless dungeon, the glare was painful. Their Gryffindor peers were similarly affected, though the Hufflepuffs now joining them had no such adjustments to make.
"Well, time to go," Camellia sighed.
She spared one last glance toward the castle, which made Hermione think that she wasn't as unconcerned about Harry as she claimed, before taking off for Herbology with a pace even faster than before. She resolved to get more exercise in, one way or another, as she was forced to jog yet again.
The smell of the potent cleaning solution burned Harry's nose and the taste of it settled in his throat. Combining this discomfort with the raw burning of his hands and the heavy weight of Snape's glare, it was no stretch to say that he wasn't in the best position. However, he smiled blandly and methodically scrubbed the crusted cauldrons. More abrasive than the potions was the special cauldron cleaning mixture and Harry was not allowed to wear gloves in this detention. It was worth it, he figured, to calm some of his raging curiosity, even if he was not the one doing the investigating.
It was as easy as he thought it would be to get a detention from the sallow professor, and he got to deflect the man's attention away from his sister for a little while. Snape had been too busy watching him all of class to bother her again. Too busy watching him to notice that Blaise had stolen a large jar of mucus from the cabinet for his own use, even.
It was only eight. Harry glanced over to the stack of cauldrons to his left as he rinsed out the one in his hands. It was the third one cleaned. There were still nine more. Knowing that the advanced classes were smaller, Harry had been worried about the length of time it would take to finish, but it seemed like he would be able to make the detention last long enough for his friends to get somewhere. His mind turned to Hermione and Mell. Not for the first time that night, he wondered if he should have included them in his plotting. Not for the first time that night, he told himself that it was better not to, for now. The less people involved, the less likely it was that they would be caught.
Still, he remembered his mother's rants about the dangers of withholding information, and silently promised that he would tell the girls about Quirrell as soon as he finished his investigations.
Blaise put his lips to Harry's flute and played a simple tune. True to his friend's assurances, Fluffy began to nod off. The canine was fast asleep within minutes, leaving the trap door vulnerable. The twins moved swiftly, casting a series of lock-picking spells until it clicked open. They lifted the heavy wooden entrance with little difficulty and lit their wands, peering into the passageway below. Blaise inched over and looked down into a seemingly bottomless pit, never pausing from his song.
The twins silently unrolled a ladder from one of their satchels and fastened it securely to the stone floor with sticking charms and conjured weights. Blaise took it upon himself to sit on the pile, just for good measure. His repetitive children's tune continued, though he was sorely tempted to follow the redheads down into that darkness. Harry couldn't come at all, after all, having decided to act as the distraction. The Weasley twins were excellent at breaking and entering, so even though they could get a detention with just as much ease, they were ultimately more useful in getting into the secret room beneath the trap door.
Harry was certain, based partly on his experience and based partly on a hunch, that Quirrell wanted something from his room.
And if Quirrell wanted it, then Blaise didn't want him to have it.
A note came out sharp from his lapse in attention and he hastened to start the song again when he heard the hellhound snort. He struggled against the bubbling impatience in his chest for another long minute before on of the redheads surfaced again. With his wand, he drew a flaming sentence in the air.
There's devil's snare down there. If we go through, someone will know.
The other twin climbed out as soon as the first cleared the ladder, and once everything they brought was cleared, they locked the trapdoor behind them. Though disappointed by the decision to retreat, Blaise was curious as to what Harry might take out of their minimal investigation. Was there even anything to take from it? Or was it a waste of time?
He had the feeling that Harry would find something to pick out.
Harry set a fast pace to the Slytherin dorms, intent on getting to bed as soon as possible. It was rare for him to be so tired, but the long hours in Snape's presence, inhaling powerful fumes, exhausted his mind and body. It was worth it, though. The twins were skeptical of what little they were able to find out from their baby steps into the dark enclosure behind the door, but Harry had a gut feeling that there was something, no matter how small, that could be gleaned from their efforts. No effort was a wasted one, in his mind. However, his mind was not in the right state to be considering anything. The harsh chemicals had taken their toll. He had thought that he could handle whatever Snape threw at him with ease after years of helping his mother, but found this to be untrue. Harry blinked, hard, in a vain attempt to work his eyes and stumbled over nothing. Blaise grabbed his shoulder to steady him. Neither of them spoke in order to preserve the secrecy of the invisibility cloak. After a brief pause, they continued on.
"Effervescence," Blaise murmured.
They passed through the stone wall in the falsely dead end passageway and came into the Slytherin common room. Blaise slipped out by his door and entered, nodding in a silent bid good night. Harry continued to his own bed, too tired to climb into the hammock suspended from the ceiling. He could consider what the twins told him about the room behind the trapdoor when he had his energy back. With a long, hard yawn, Harry fell onto his blankets and curled up in his prized family heirloom. He fell into sleep not long after.
Quirrell stepped out of a shadow, eyes flat and empty. The voice that came from his mouth was not his own. It was high and inhuman, somewhat raspy, even.
Quirrell's jaw unhinged like a snake before its meal, allowing a large green cobra to exit his abnormally expanded maw. The serpent was long, so long that it seemed to never end. It flared its hood and bared its fangs, ready with venom. Shining red eyes glared at him with palpable malice, killer intent.
Harry flinched awake and struggled momentarily before remembering where he was. His body flopped back down onto his mattress and he stared at the ceiling of his bedroom through the filter of his silver cloak. He was a little annoyed to feel the cold sweat on his skin and the way that his heart was beating rapidly.
"What was that?" he asked no one.
He untangled himself slowly, mind racing to keep the dream fresh as it slipped from his memory like water through a sieve. It was an ominous nightmare about Quirrell, that much he knew, but everything else had faded fast. To think that the professor's machinations would disturb him so much that he would carry into his sleep. Harry sighed in frustration, ran a hand through his hair, and got up to get ready for breakfast.
The adventure was going to get a little more dangerous, he felt, and the girls needed to know that Quirrell wasn't what he seemed to be.