Chapter Three: Landmines and Landslides
Well, laying in bed wasn't going to do anything, I decided upon waking up, and promptly rolled out of bed. Literally (or as I used to say until about a year ago, 'literately'). I hit the floor with a completely ungraceful 'thunk', and I blessed whoever had put nice, thick, fluffy rugs on the floor. Because, as I had just remembered, this was a castle! Made of stone! Including stone floors! And walls! Which I would run into with increasing commonality as the year progressed!
I waited a moment, and then I pulled myself to my feet when it became apparent that, no, no one else had woken up and/or was in the least concerned that I had just fallen out of bed. These new roommates of mine, all heart they were. Or really deep sleepers. Or already awake and not in the room. But those didn't sound near as dramatic. And, as anybody who knows me will tell you, I'm all about the drama. (As of now, I'm too hungry to decide whether that was sarcasm or not; decide amongst yourselves.)
Somewhere in the night, it looked like I had woken up and changed into a nightgown I didn't even realized I possessed. I bet Da put it in my bag. Normally I just wear a T-shirt and a pair of boxers – Da doesn't think that's proper behavior for a young lady, and refuses to listen to me when I inform him that I'm not a lady of any kind.
Blinking down at the nightgown – oi, were those unicorns frolicking around the bottom? Da and I were going to have words – I shrugged and then got dressed, maybe a bit haphazardly. Well, okay, totally haphazardly – I was pretty sure my shirt was on inside-out, my pant legs hadn't gone down all the way to my ankles, my tie was simply knotted around my neck (okay, come on, what eleven year old girl knows how to tie a tie? Besides the weird ones?), and one of my shoes was untied. I shrugged.
I managed, barely, to find my way back to the common room. Yesterday I had thought living in a castle would be completely awesome, but now that it was morning and I was grumpy, my opinion changed a little. I mean, did they even have indoor plumbing in castles?
This would be why the first words I ever said to anyone on my first full day at Hogwarts were, “Do we have to use an outhouse?”
Patricia Biera, for her part, stared at me for a long moment before answering. “Uh, no. The girl's room is down those stairs, second door on the right.” She gestured vaguely.
I thanked her enthusiastically and started to take off for the bathroom – only to be yanked back by someone grabbing the back of my robes. Coming to a stop with an 'umph', I whirled around and glared at Patricia, who raised a cool eyebrow at me. “Please, pretend that you're actually dressed before making a public appearance,” she said dryly, giving a pointed look to my uniform. Psh. Uniforms. She then let go of the end of my robe and sauntered out of the common room, looking as cool as anything ever.
Of course, I'm eleven. It's impossible for eleven year olds to have any sense of gravitas – it's nearly impossible for any of them to even know the word gravitas. So I just stuck my tongue out at her back, and went down to the bathroom to do my usual morning ritual. (It was a totally weird bathroom, by the way – and you gotta wonder whether the plumbing's magic, taken from the Romans, or if it's a recent addition. Or, well, you gotta wonder that if you're the child of a history teacher, I guess.)
After I finished my ablutions – which is a hilarious word that I'm not fully sure of the meaning of, but it sounds good – I carefully examined my reflection in the mirror. Hm... My hair was a little tangled, but not enough that my hands would get caught if I ran my fingers through my hair in a fit of frustration/boredom/whatever, so it was good. Well, not good for, like, Patricia Biera, I guess, but good enough for me.
Back to the common room I went, falling into step behind a girl who'd come into the bathroom and done her own gig while I was doing mine. She went straight out the entrance (or exit, in this case, I guess; words are tricky).I would have followed her, in the hopes that as someone who wasn't a first year, she'd actually know how to get to breakfast, but I was interrupted by a clear, “A-hem,” directed solely at me.
The source was none-other than my dear old roommate, Aggie. She was sitting primly on one of the couches, a nervous hair-chewing Hilly on one side of her and Valentine Dunn on the other, carefully posed and checking himself out in a mirror.
I gave them all a blank look.
Agatha sniffed at me – it probably woulda been a sneer, but that wasn't proper young lady behavior, right? Right. “Prewett,” she said, in a voice that was, like, engineered to be perfectly level and non-insulting, which totally made me feel insulted. “Come, sit.”
I squinted at her suspiciously. “...why?”
She huffed a little. “We shall present a united front before the school by arriving as a single group for breakfast,” she explained, as if it were obvious.
That was really, really lame. I mean, who was even going to be awake enough to care? Although she did remind me of Pluto – I probably shouldn't just saunter down to the Great Hall (wherever it might be) while leaving the crazy boy to his own devices.
I completely ignored the trio sitting on the couch and probably a few rules regarding gender separation by running up the set of stairs that I hadn't yet been on – process of elimination made it the way to the boys' rooms.
There were a few incredibly girly shrieks as I opened some doors (guys can be real babies; I mean, I had been old enough to help change TJ when he was little, they didn't have anything I hadn't seen already, and it wasn't like they were all running around naked anyway), but I soon found the right door.
“Pluto! Up and at 'em!” I cried happily, kicking the end of his bed. I knew it was his, because his head was actually sticking out from the end of it, and he was drooling a little. His eyes were also open, but totally vacant.
Caleb, in the next bed over, peeked out of his bed curtains and, upon seeing who it was, gasped and hid back behind the curtain. “What are you doing in here! Girls aren't allowed in here!” he squeaked.
I snorted. “Quit being such a baby. I'm just collecting Pluto so that I can go to breakfast.” I kicked his bed again. “Pluto! Get up!”
“Up, up, and away!” he cried, launching himself from the bed (I hadn't even noticed he'd woken up, so there was an element of extra surprise). Unfortunately, he launched himself directly at me. We went down in a tangle of limbs, because Pluto's about as tall and scrawny as me (and a lot more unbalanced, it seemed, and I'm not talking just mentally).
There was a long moment in which I attempted to escape, and Pluto just lay there. Finally, exasperated, I elbowed him in a squishy place of the torso. “Pluto! I like you, but I'm not in like with you! Not get off me!”
“Oh.” He appeared to consider this for a moment (well, what little I could see of his face from the heap we were in). “'Kay!”
With him also trying to untangle us, the process actually worked, and we managed to separate before Caleb actually managed to kill himself with laughter.
Now standing with something that I pretended was dignity, I pointed rather... pointedly, at Pluto. “You, get dressed for class.” He began to strip, and I turned to Caleb. “And you're coming too.”
Caleb blinked. “Don't you want to, I don't know, leave the room? So that we can get dressed?”
I gave him an even, blank look. “It's not like I'm actually looking or anything. And it's not like there's anything to see yet, either,” I said, adding a little disdain (as learned from my dear uncle) to that last bit. “Anyway, Pluto doesn't seem to have a problem with it.”
“Which, also, brings up the question: why did you come up here to get Pluto?” Caleb asked suspiciously, although he did finally push back the curtains around his bed (he was actually already dressed for class, so I don't know what he was whining about; boys are babies).
I rolled my eyes at him as he attempted to locate his shoes. “The seventh years put me in charge of him, I thought that I should, I dunno, take charge of him?” I said sarcastically, kicking a stray shoe over at him.
He thanked me with a glower and put it on. “And you don't think that he can at least get himself down to the common room on his own?”
Right then, Pluto cried out, “Ready!” and both Caleb and I turned to look at him.
“...forget what I said,” Caleb muttered, taking in the monstrosity known as 'Pluto Thurston dressing himself': somehow, in the short moments that Caleb and I had been chatting and not paying attention to him, Pluto had turn his hair neon purple, got it to stand on end, had put his shirt on over his robes, had his shoes on his hands, and wasn't wearing trousers – just boxers.
“Let's go!” he cried happily, and headed for the door. In a moment of solidarity, Caleb and I dragged him back into the room and helped him get properly dressed. Turns out, you have to give him specific instructions for each piece, and supervise the dressing, otherwise he'd get distracted. This was going to be a fun daily ritual. Um, not. Also, we couldn't get his hair back to normal.
Finally, though, I got my charge and minion (oh, he didn't know it yet, but Caleb was to be my minion) ready, and we headed downstairs. The curtains on the last bed in the room, that of Mr. Creepy McCreepsalot, still hadn't so much as twitched, and when we got to the common room it became apparent that Lothar Gelt hadn't shown up yet either (if she was even gonna). I swept out of the common room, not even pausing at the little group on the couch, dragging Pluto after me. Caleb followed, although there was a moment of 'wait, what, huh?' See, just more proof that he's meant to be my minion!
As a Gryffindor, Harry Potter had naturally despised everything about the House of Slytherin – they were cruel, prejudiced, cheated whenever they could, and had no problems walking all over anyone who got in their way. Now, as a teacher, he had learned a whole new reason to dislike Slytherins: they were a pain in the arse. Most of them were smart as the Ravenclaws, but without the trust and respect of authority. These days, if he was going to give a multiple-choice exam, he made sure to go over it with Flint first, so the Slytherin students couldn't argue that his questions were phrased so that there were two equally correct answers among the choices. Flint thought it was hilarious.
Now, of course, he had an even bigger problem. Normally, first through fifth years had all of their classes with either their house alone, or with one other house. This year's first years, however, were an abnormally small class – there were only 25 of them, total. So Harry, when asked by Minerva McGonagall, had agreed to teach only one class of first years (it made scheduling easier).
Not completely without mercy, the Arithmancy professor (Arithmancy was notorious a the least popular elective; only a minuscule number of students enrolled each year), Vector, had lent him her teacher's aide for the first year class. Of course, said aide was Dennis Creevey, so maybe Vector was actually more vicious than he had thought...
The main problem wasn't the size of the class, though; the main problem was that he personally knew two of the students (hell, he was the godfather of one of them!) and knew the parents of another two. (He also vaguely remembered the Slytherin girl who should've been a second year – she wasn't going to be easy to handle.) Sure, he'd been a teacher for years, but he hadn't yet taught the kids of any of his friends.
So of course – of course – he had them first. Harry stared moodily into his porridge and wondered if he could drown himself in it before anybody noticed. He glanced at his fellow teachers. Nah, probably not. The last time he had tried that (after Kevin Dowling managed to completely demolish the entire North Tower in his fourth year while practicing, of all things, Expelliarmus), Hermione had charmed all of the dishes around him to not let anything other than an utensil in. Sure, it had been fun to tilt the bowl upside-down and watch the contents just hang there, but most of the school thought he was insane, and he'd gotten enough of that during his own fifth year.
Speaking of fifth year, Zacharias Smith had entered the hall, already looking frazzled – probably by his small, curly-haired shadow, who bounced past his dad to reach the head table first. Where he proceeded to sit right next to Harry.
“Er, hello,” Harry said cautiously, watching (bemusedly) as Zacharias collapsed into a chair on the other side of the seven year old.
“This,” TJ announced in an important and slightly pompous way that reminded Harry of Percy, “is Cyclops.” He showed Harry a Muggle action figure with an expression that informed him that this was a great honor, not to be taken lightly under any circumstances.
“Oh?” Harry said weakly, trying to sound interested in the blob of plastic. “What does he do?”
TJ looked partially horrified. “He's an X-Man, of course!” he cried. And then paused. “'Cept in some alternate universes.”
“Yeah. Sometimes, he's evil. But that's only sometimes. Mostly, he's an X-Man.” Suddenly, the child's eyes glowed with an unholy glee. “...want me to explain the Summers family tree?”
Harry was about to reply with a weak, “Sure”, but he was interrupted by Zacharias, who suddenly seemed to come out of the zombie-like state he'd been in. “TJ, why don't you go say hi to Ellory?”
“Ellory's here?” TJ said, perking up and forgetting all about his preferred torture method. “Where?” he started whipping his head side-to-side in an attempt to find her.
“There, next to the purple-haired boy.” Harry raised an eyebrow, but sure enough, there was Percy's daughter (dressed like a posh homeless person), followed by a normal-looking boy and a purple haired one. That was... interesting.
Oh, God, he had to teach these people. In less than an hour. He groaned and dropped his head to the table.
By the time we made it to our first class, I had already managed to lose twenty points from Slytherin, which meant that everyone except Pluto was giving me icy cold shoulders. But, c'mon, how was I supposed to know that Ravenclaw Prefect was standing right behind me when I reenacted that one scene from Fight Club? I mean, yeah, Caleb was making “Shut up!” gestures at me, but he'd been doing that every time I opened my mouth, which was getting real annoying, real fast.
I kicked at the floor, pouting, as I walked into the Defense Against the Dark Arts room, Pluto by my side and all other Slytherin first years far, far away. Pluto, however, seemed to take this gesture as me defending myself against the evil attacks of the floor, since he threw himself down and started to punch the floor. “Evil fiend! What hast thou done?!” he cried at it (I wondered, briefly, when he had decided to speak like Shakespeare, before reminding myself who I was thinking about).
I would have left him there, in hopes that he'd wear himself out even a little bit, but the professor was giving us a weird look from his desk, and Pluto was reaching for his wand, and I really didn't want to see what would happen with that, so I yanked him up. “Pluto, the floor didn't do anything to me,” I attempted to explain.
He tilted his head at me. “So... it was a preemptive strike?”
“Oh, sure, why not,” I said, dragging him to a desk. Double-desk? Table? I dunno. It was like a desk, except it was two desks attached. British people are weird, we just used simple tables or single desks back in America. (Plus, no point system, just demerits, so that if you got in trouble it was all on you instead of making you a social pariah.) I glowered at the joint desks.
In addition to my losing-points problem, and my watching-the-crazy-boy problem, I had also managed to attract a feline follower. I had been hoping that it was just following Pluto, but it had followed me into the bathroom after breakfast, so that wasn't the case. Maybe my brother or TJ had put catnip on my robes again (they said it was an accident, but none of us have cats, and therefore have no reason to carry catnip!).
I sat down next to Pluto, and the cat jumped on top of our desk... desks? Whatever. It jumped up there, and immediately made itself comfy on the table-top, oblivious to my glares.
The professor was still looking at us – probably because we were at least ten minutes early, and the only people in the room besides him. Or because of the entrance we had made. All of the above? Right now, he was looking at the cat with a perturbed expression, and I cut off his question when he opened his mouth. “It's not mine, Da doesn't let us have pets,” Well, other than sea monkeys, under the (completely correct) assumption that a week after getting the pet, he would be the one taking care of it. “And I don't know why it's following me.” And, because I was just annoyed enough not to care what I was saying, I added, “Unless my idiot brother put catnip on my robes again.”
“Catnip sounds like cantrip,” Pluto remarked calmly from where he was having a staring contest with the cat – which, now that I thought about it, I'm pretty sure this was Pluto's “snakey” friend from the night before. Greeeeeeat. It had probably decided we were its comrades.
I pushed Snakey (well, the thing had to have a name, right?) over to Pluto's desk/half of our desk, and thumped my head onto my desk/half of our desk, to await the end of the universe. And/or the beginning of class. Whichever happened first. I didn't have to wait too long, because we were only early by ten minutes, and since this was the first class ever, everybody wanted to be there early.
I had sort of figured this already, but Slytherin had the most students for my year. Four boys, four girls. Gryffindor had one boy, four girls (including my cousin Lisette); Ravenclaw had five boys, two girls; and Hufflepuff had three boys and two girls (including Anna and Siri, who wasn't really a cousin but in the same way that Anna isn't really my sister – so, close enough). Also predictably, everybody was sitting with their own house as much as possible. (I actually heard two of the Gryffindors thanking God that us Slytherins had an equal number, so that none of them would be stuck with us. Jerks.)
Still being all pissy about the lost twenty points – jeez, how long were they gonna keep this up? - the other Slytherins pointedly sat far, far away from me and Pluto. Which meant they were sitting in the way back, so their freakin' loss, right?
“Okay, guys. I'm Professor Potter, and I'm going to be your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher for the next seven years.” Here, he gave one of those inside-joke smiles. “Well, hopefully.”
A Ravenclaw boy – had to be Muggleborn, because really – spoke up with, “What makes you qualified to teach us?”
The class erupted in giggles, and quite a few of the other Ravenclaws were looking anywhere but in the direction of their housemate. The boy turned red, but looked determined.
The professor, though, was very nice about it. He smiled, all polite-like. “I helped to defeat the last Dark Lord, Voldemort,” he informed the boy (I sneered as a few people actually winced at the name – dude, he'd been dead since we were babies!).
“But what have you done for us lately?”
That question came from Pluto. Potter blinked at him in surprise, and there were a few nervous giggles from the class. I quickly elbowed him in the side. “Ignore him,” I advised the professor. He probably decided that was a good idea (especially since Pluto had seemingly forgotten about his question and was drawing a phoenix on his hand with color-changing ink).
“...um, right. Anyway! I know that you'll probably be sitting around most of today, so I thought we could start off with some actual practice. What can you tell me about the Disarming Spell?”
I refused to acknowledge the sarcastic voice in the back of my mind that went, 'You're the teacher, aren't you supposed to tell us stuff?', and instead let another Ravenclaw answer with a straight-from-the-textbook definition. Loooooooser. Lisette decided that she didn't want her house to be shown up, so she added on a few real world examples, too. They both got five points for their houses, which just increased the glares at me.
Which I woulda been mad about, except my brain was too busy thinking about stuff. “What happens if you put a permanent sticking charm on your wand, to keep it in your hand, and then you get hit with the disarming? I mean, do you actually get dis-armed?” I asked, because my da was a teacher and had encouraged me from childhood to ask any question that came to mind, as that was the way you learned.
Potter stared at me (and probably the rest of the class, too). “I, uh, don't think anyone's ever tried that.” (A thought ran through my head, something about extrapolating from known data and composing a sound theoretical answer, but I quickly pretended that had never been a thought in my head, because it was waaaay too much like my brother for comfort.)
Obviously deciding that my recommendation for Pluto applied to me as well, Potter moved on as if nothing had happened. “I want you all to pair up and practice on each other. Remember, the word is 'Expeliarmus',” he said, and then demonstrated the wand movement. “Dennis and I will walk around the classroom to help you.” He then clapped his hands, which I guess was the signal to partner up. Or something. I grabbed Pluto and hauled him to one of the corners.
“Look, Pluto, do you know what we're supposed to do?”
He tilted his head to the side and appeared to be really thinking about it. “...attack each other?”
“No! No, we're just trying to disarm each other,” I said quickly, not wanting him to start punching me like he had the ground.
“But, I mean, taking arms off is like an attack, right?”
I didn't have time to correct him, because Professor Potter (ah, alliteration, always awesome) spoke up then, with a loud, “No, no, I want everyone to pair up with someone from a different house!” he called, flapping his arms a little before babbling about inter-house cooperation or something.
This could be bad. I glanced around the room quickly, seeking out my new prey. I found her, standing near one of the windows with my fake-cousin, Siri. “Anna!” I cried, dragging Pluto along behind me as I moved over to her as fast as I could. “Partner up with Pluto, here,” I half-asked, half-demanded.
“...why?” she asked suspiciously, as if I would purposefully partner her up with someone dangerous. Which, well, was possibly the event currently happening... But not for the reason it looked like she suspected!
“Because he's not all there,” I said, exasperated, tapping the side of my head. She still looked highly skeptical, so I turned to Pluto. “Pluto, soup.”
He blinked at me, confused. Okay, I knew he was gonna do something weird at some word, so I just had to find the right one. “Pudding.”Another blank look. “Moose.”
Yeah, that got a reaction. “Moose, moose, I like a moose!” he half-hollered, in a tone vaguely like a drinking song, “I've never had anything quite like a moose! I've had many women, my life has been loose, but I've never had anything quite like a moose!”
Around this point, I half-tackled him so he'd stop singing. Not that he was bad at it, but, er, I was pretty sure he was referring to doing... things... with an animal. But it had accomplished its purpose: Anna sighed and led Pluto away a few feet, instructing him on what to do.
I turned to Sirius Lupin. “You wanna go first, or me?”
Siri looked terrified out of his skull. “...uh.”
“Right, I'll go first. You stand there and don't put a permanent sticking charm on your wand,” I said decisively, backing up a bit. You know, I like to pretend that I know what I'm doing, but I really really don't. I mean, back home in America, you weren't even allowed to own a wand until you were fourteen and had gotten your permit for it, so all the wizarding education to that point was about theory and history. Which was nice, but I was actually worse off than Muggleborns at this point.
What followed was a completely embarrassing lesson in why I shouldn't be allowed to try magic in public. I mean, sure his parents were war heroes and all that, but it's still way lame to get your ass handed to you by Siri Lupin. He's, like, a soft and squishy dinner roll! And no, I don't have any idea what that's supposed to mean!
Professor Potter tried to help me out, but the breaks in explanation he had to take to snicker kinda didn't help at all. But hey, only about half of the others had managed to cast the spell, so it wasn't like I was a complete loser! Just, y'know, most of one.
“All right, class is almost over. For homework, I want you all to practice this spell, and read the first chapter of your book if you haven't yet. I'll see you all on Wednesday.” With that, the always alliterative Professor Potter daintily dismissed us.
I actually managed to Pluto and me (Siri and Anna had Herbology, while we were headed to Potions) halfway to our next class before we were way-laid. “Well if it isn't the professor's kid who can't even pretend to cast spells,” a sharp voice rang out, and a smirking boy clad in Gryffindor colors stepped in front of me. Which meant a couple of things: one, that I was royally screwed; and two, that the boy had to have an older sibling or two in Hogwarts who'd told him all about shortcuts, because we had totally left the classroom at the same time.
Pluto decided to chip in on the classic Gryffindor-Slytherin standoff with his own helpful little comment. “Bilbo taking the cup from Smaug's hoard is highly resemblant of the situation which starts off the third and last section of the epic poem Beowulf,” he said, dead seriously. And then flapped his arms and twirled in a circle.
I sighed at him, and then turned and sighed at the now slightly confused Gryffindor. “Look, there's this other Slytherin girl, about yea high, looks like she stepped out of the Victorian ages? Go after her and the guy with the mirror permanently attached. They'll be much more fun to annoy.”
“Right, like I'm going to believe anything a Slytherin says,” the boy said, now with added sneers!
“Fine, then annoy me. But can you wait until some time when I'm not ready to go all fisticuffs on your ass?” I asked sweetly.
Only to be caught out by a, “Ten points from Slytherin for swearing, Miss Prewett,” from my head of house as he passed by. “Now, I think all of you are supposed to be headed to Potions?” he added, so pointedly that the only way it coulda been less subtle was if he had gone all Monty Python and been all, “Wink wink, nudge nudge, if you know what I mean.”
I mean, it was even subtle enough that the Gryffindor got it! And it looked like our head of house was intimidating, because he scampered off like he'd never scampered before!
“Thanks, sir,” I said to Flint.
Flint just smirked at me. “Don't thank me yet, you did lose ten more points. I wouldn't want to be you when your friends find out.” With those comforting words, he continued with his stride down the hall, and I dragged Pluto to class.