One by one the students at Madame Fonce’s School for Wicked Girls fell into the exhausted sleep the usually followed the full day of work involved with being “rehabilitated”. All of them save for one. Nicolette Ainscough stared up at the ceiling from her top bunk, hands folded under her head. Her summer exile was half over and it was taking its time getting to that end. Je déteste cet endroit.
The anticipation of seeing him, of seeing someone other than the angry unhappy girls that populated this boarding school, kept her awake longer than she would like every night. She shut her eyes tightly, clenching them together to seal out the little light of the night watch. Sommeil. Sommeil sommeil. After a few moments of repeating this mantra over and over she felt that slipping away that would lead her back to the room where he waited for her every night.
The room was nice and cool, a welcome comparison to the long hot days of summer. And this summer had felt particularly hot for some reason. Or perhaps it was just uncomfortable. There had been so much to be uncomfortable about. The events of the end of the term had been a spark that left everybody feeling a bit off. Foozle thought the weather just knew and did its best to exacerbate things.
And yet, a broad smile was on the boy’s face as he sat on the long dark couch. He slid a hand across the soft cottony back. These moments always made him feel a bit antsy. Despite all that he managed to keep himself busy with during the day, which had been considerable lately, this was what he looked forward to most… These precious couple hours. They made the long, hot days worthwhile.
They say “practice makes perfect”. Every night Orlando and Nicolette had certainly done their best put that phrase to task. Neither of them would call it perfect, after all it was still a dream. But those blurred edges smoothed away bit by bit. That rough touch softened. Though there were still flashes of the strangeness between them, they had managed to make things very nearly real. And so if it wasn’t perfect, it was still perfectly lovely.
In fact, crafty boy that he was, Foozle had managed a few tricks of his own. Looking across to the far wall, a small grin formed on his face. His eyes narrowed, focusing their attention on the bricks. They rustled a little bit, dust falling about as they began to fold themselves away, one over the next. It was almost like watching the entrance to Diagon Alley appear on smaller scale, but when this was done a small window sat above the other couch. Lavender curtains fell to frame the edges and outside it a bright ivory moon hung high in the sky behind a whomping willow. The scene could have been anything, but after all, for them, Hogwarts was home…
“Homesick?” Her voice drifted over his shoulder as she faded into the room behind him, he was often there before her, waiting for her. A few quiet steps brought her the armrest at the edge of the couch, her hands resting on either side of where he leaned.
The edges of Orlando’s lips curled at just the sound of her voice. “Ah thocht it wis a nice titch.” He leaned back, eyes lifting up to catch sight of those silvery eyes that stared down at him. “An’ Ah ken ye coud uise a friendly view.”
The smiling Ravenclaw leaned down and pressed her lips solidly to his, their faces inverted. It felt so good to be able to sweep away the fog that had tried to cover their dreams. Every night became a little more and more clear. Her mouth rose, hovering just above his. “You’re so thoughtful.”
“Dinnae tell naebody.” A hand reached up and ran a knuckle across her cheek. It was soft and smooth. It was warm. “A hae a reputation still. The big ill Hufflepuff. It’s a wee bit haundy…”
Her face changed into a mock of anger, her brows pulling, eyes narrowing, and lips thinning exaggeratedly. “You had better not be getting handy with anyone.” She reached down and pinched him playfully a few times.
He wriggled a bit, playing along as she tickled him. His fingers wrapped around her wrist, catching her hands. “Wi the proper motivation Ahm shuir we kin come tae some arrangement…” One of those green and gold eyes winked back at her.
“Well, I have been trying to motivate you for months…” Her hands didn’t fight him, instead relaxing in his grip. “Hasn’t worked yet.”
“Ah dinnaken,” the boy grinned as his fingers threaded into hers. She squeaked as he pulled on her. He laughed, rolling her over him onto the couch. He pulled her in hugging her into a tighter embrace. “Ah reck ye dae a richt guid job o motivating.” He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.
Her hand passed her own face, reaching back to run the tips of her fingers across his cheek. “I am glad to see it working.” He felt so solid beneath her soft pads, almost as if he really was there.
“Och, indeed.” His eyes closed. He could feel her fingers upon his skin, her warm tender touch. His cheek rolled against her fingers as his head rested into the cushion of the couch.
His memory lingered back to earlier in the day when he’d been working on his summer project, on the map. He’d made a major breakthrough in breaking down some of the magics in the Marauder’s Map. He was thrilled. Ecstatic. And yet, he couldn’t shake that distressed feeling that sank into him. He squeezed her fingers. “Mair than ye ken..”
Shifting her weight to one side Nicolette turned, rolling over to face him. Her arms pinned between them held her suspended above him a bit as she looked down at him and spoke. “Half way there… School is just a month and a half away…” He could feel impatience in the way her body was just a little tensed.
He leaned in and kissed her cheek. “Aye.” He snuggled her into him, drawing her legs across him to cradle her in his arms. “Tha’s like… naeithing.” Of course he didn’t believe that. And if she still managed to linger around his thoughts she knew better. He hugged her tight. It didn’t do them any good to let them dwell on the negativity. The months were long, but their time was brief.
She nodded knowing just as well as he did, though she would never let it show. If he knew how distressing it was being exiled from home he would never let her wake. His arms around her while she slept was one of the few things that managed to get her through the isolation. No owls, no friends, no English, it all weighed heavily on her waking moments. “Yeah… nothing.” She curled up into those comforting arms and sighed.
His mouth nuzzled into those pinned up curls. He trapped one of those long wooden pins in his teeth and tugged it free. “Ye ken,” he said, his words a bit muffled as he talked through his teeth. Her long black locks fell down along her shoulders. He twisted the stick to the corner of his mouth. “Ye didnae speak French whin ye cam in, hen.” She felt his smile curling against her ear as he took a breath of her locks. “Ahm impressit.”
“I’m not that asleep.” Shaking her head with a smile, Nicolette let her hair tumble into midnight tangles. “Mais je peux, si vous préférez.”
Foozle laughed a bit. “Ah dinnaken…” Most nights she came speaking French. She’d just gotten so accustomed to it during the day. Over the weeks he’d even managed to pick up some of it. His lip curled into a grin, slipping into her thoughts certainly helped. But that took considerable focus… Mostly he picked out a few words and filled in the gaps. “It’s guid tae unnerstaund ye, but…” He tucked one of those long black locks behind her ivory ear. His finger lingered down that soft ridge. “Ye ken hou Ah feel aboot ye an the French talkin’….”
“Vous êtes un garçon drôle.” Her eyes closed slowly at the feel of his finger. “Pourquoi ai-je comme vous le nouveau?” She murmured in a soft quiet voice. She was grateful to feel him again, to feel him almost just as he was supposed to feel.
“Mmmm…” He purred softly under her special spell. “Cara mia…” His knuckle crossed her cheek. He’d managed to pick out that he was some sort of boy… “Ah dinnaken whit sairt o lad Ah am, but I’m ane that’s verra gled tae hae ye here…” Back and forth he caressed her snowy white skin.
“Hou wis the day?” Foozle knew it would be bad, but he always felt it was better for her to vent. It helped to have somebody there for her. He was grateful to be that person.
The small smile that had been sitting on her lips faded. “Merveilleux.” Her chin fell to his chest and she rolled her eyes. “Apparently they frown on bringing animals endoors…” As she frowned, her accent slipped in a little more, the effort of fighting it off now too much.
He couldn’t help the smile that came with that accent. “Tha’s no ricth. They lat yuir instructors indoors…” His brow rose as he thought a moment. “They wisna cows, waur they?”
She shook her head. “It was just a tiny little ‘orklump that I’d found while they ‘ad me weeding the jardens.” Her frown turned into a full blown pout. “They ‘ave streelers roaming the grounds, and I couldn’t bear to see the little thing eeten…”
There it was. That adorable softness that Nicolette mostly kept hidden from the world. Even though Horklumps were far from endangered, quite the opposite really, she had such a tender concern for their well being. “Aye,” he said with a curl of his lips in her raven hair. The scent of vanilla filled his senses. He could picture her scooping up the little pink creature, stroking back it’s thicket of black bristle hairs as she tried to find some place to hide it. “Coud ye hide it unner yuir bed? Mebbies in a box wi some grofpher moss? Keep it home-like.” He stroked her hair back affectionately. “Twa-three wirms a week an it shoud be alricht.”
Nodding a bit, the girl sighed. “They took et away the first few times I found et. The third time got me en trouble… but they don’t know I have et again. I will ‘ave to find a way to ‘ide et.” She groaned a little.”My wand is back en London so et is pretty ‘ard to keep things a secret..”
“Tha’s mah lass…” Orlando grinned. She was determined, resilient to the end. Even a school for wicked girls could not break Nicolette, not her spirit. Not who she really was. It’s one of the things he loved her for. “Ye dinna need a wand tae be craftie. Juist makes ye mair cliver.” He laughed, “Juist like Yorick The Snaiky. Colette the Craftie…”
“A wand sure makes things easier though… and the teachers ‘ave wands… Oh, and they are ‘orrible ‘orrible people. I wasn’t kidding when I said I got en trouble for bringing the ‘orklump inside… The called et a pest.” She chewed on the inside of her lower lip thoughtfully.
The boy’s smile faded a bit. He could feel it, that distress and pain as she remembered it. It had such a familiarity to it. He cursed them softly in his Scot’s tongue, the words getting lost in the midnight locks. “Whit dae they ken?” He kissed her ear. “They think iverything is pestie.”
A short derisive laugh shook her. “Oui… They certainelie do. I would probably get worse punishment if they knew about you.” Her laugh was cut short as she thought about it. “There would probably be more than lines and lashes.”
Lashes… Foozle’s eyes narrowed. His molars ground together as he choked back the bile that rose up in the back of his throat. Even in the dream its acrid taste was as real as his seething anger. “Weel, tha’s hou it is whan Ahm aboot. Punishment and mair punishment.” He ran his fingers through those black silky locks. He needed to raise her spirits. “Guid thing Ahm wirth it…”
“You ‘ad better be.” The undeniable flow of anger she felt from him kept her from going into more detail, worried that if he knew enough he might storm the school to retrieve her.
He nodded, leaning back a bit. He could feel her trying to lock him out of it, but that stress lingered. With his arm draped across her back and tucked against her waist, he hugged her to him, her folded body cradled across his lap. Even her body remained tense. A cheek rested against her soft scalp
Orlando stretched his arm in front of her, concentrating. He focused on her, on her thoughts. He digging in past that sadness. Fixing the room had become almost second nature, they both felt it. They both needed it and soon, there it was. Everything else was much more… complicated.
He felt for that glimmer, drawing it out into his hand. Slowly a small green pea appeared and sat in his palm. It was kind of squarish but not for long. It sprouted a bud. Then it sprouted a tail. Foozle bit his lip, picturing the image in her mind. The light green stem grew long and slender. The bud flowered into a series of soft delicate purple little boxes. With their fuzzy haze the buds seemed almost furry. Still, if faint, the smell of lilac was there.
Reaching out, Nicolette’s middle finger touched one of the delicate “flowers” and she smiled. “Orlando… you’ve been pract-” A shock of light blinded her and she felt pain all along her side paired with a burning in her chest that left her breathless. Her eyes clenched shut and she gasped, wishing the pain and confusion would pass. “M…mon dieu…”
“Ach!” Orlando’s brow knit tight as searing pain pulled between his temples. His chest tightened. It was like his insides were trying to get out. “C…Colette?” His voice was a guttural rasp as his teeth ground together, fighting the strange and sudden pain. He squeezed her but felt that old fuzzy haze fill his hands.
Nicolette doubled over, her hands closing over his arms trying to hold on. “Ça fait mal!” She coughed her words out. Dizziness swept across her, lurching that pained stomach. “Je… je…” She couldn’t tell if she was going to throw up or pass out. “Qu’est-ce qui se passe?” The side that was now throbbing a little in pain felt cold and that chill spread across her whole body as it became more and more transparent.
The room was spinning. Distortion and hard angles took hold of that room they’d spent so much time and energy making smooth and clear. All of it was gone in the gut wrenching twist of a second. He felt his fingers slipping through her. “Nae!” His breath was thin. “Wh-whit’s…” Behind her the soft brick wall flashed into a flat gray plaster. The lights in the room went dark, the other couch replaced with a bed. The lights flashed back with the brick and the couch reappearing. His chest clenched, and he thought he would would throw up. “Nghh…”
Gray eyes rolled back into her head. Faint. Her body had chosen to faint. She went slack in his arms as a loud voice bellowed out from above somewhere. “Sors du lit, vous petite fille malheureuse!” She felt herself falling through his grasp. “Vous devez nettoyer le sol avant le soleil se lève!”
The disembodied voice was faint. Orlando couldn’t understand any of it, not a word of the French. He clung to her, fighting that stabbing pain in his skull. She was slipping through his fingers. He realized what was happening. She was slipping awake. That French voice barked louder. No, not slipping. She was being taken.
“NOOOON!” Her scream transitioned from being next to him in their breaking dream room to that hollow distant place the other voice was from. His arms collapsed in on her as she disappeared from him, leaving them wrapped around himself.
Nicolette’s scream filtered into white noise and static. “NAE!” She was gone, leaving just the echo ringing about the room. Orlando’s fingers closed over themselves. “Nae…” His own voice faltered and fell. Anger shivered up and down his back. He looked around the room. The window was gone but the room was normal once more. Except he was alone.
He shook his head, trying to shake the cobwebs of that sudden migraine as he sat up. “Colette,” he whispered. His fists clenched as his jaw set tight. “Come ane…” He focused on the bricks between his feet. “Come back tae me…” He tried to feel that spark. He tried to see that lilac… “Come…”
There was the soft sound of static and a strange voice ringing in his ears. The bricks turned hazy and black like rippled burlap sheets. The static got louder, the voices at first thick and indecipherable quickly come through with stark clarity.
Nicolette picked herself up off the cold stone floor confused and aching, as if half of her had been burned away. “W-what.” She had barely become accustomed to being back in her room when a rough hand wrapped around her slender forearm and jerked her to her feet.
“I told you there was punishment to be had for your inability to follow orders.” A bucket full of water was shoved into her chest. “Perhaps making sure the floor is clean enough to eat off of before anyone else wakes will remind you why you are here.”
Her voice was tired and more than a little annoyed. “I have seen some of these girl’s eating habits, I am sure they wouldn’t noticed if I tracked mud across-” Her retort was cut off by a swift slap across her cheek that jarred her enough to soak the front of her black shirt with soapy water.
The heavy-set severe woman sneered down at the girl. “You will make sure the floors are clean because you will be eating off of them for the remainder of the day.”
The room swam, his senses returning to his own with a jarring crash. Orlando tumbled forward onto the stone floor. His stomach heaved repeatedly as if he were trying to be sick, but nothing came with it. “Ach…” His chest rose and fell with heavy panting as he tried to catch his breath. Fists balled up on the cool ground. “Gaddammit…”
He felt dizzy, tired. He tried to focus. He tried to get back to her but quickly realized he couldn’t. His thoughts wouldn’t hold together. He knew he shouldn’t be surprised; that had never happened before. Ever. That didn’t make it easier. A fist pounded against the ground with anger and frustration. “Colette…” He sighed, collapsing back against the couch, his eyes rising to the ceiling.