The almost unidentifiable ‘food’ in Nicolette’s plate seemed to be mocking her. They had given her extra today just to spite her and, as usual, she sat at her table long after the other girls had been sent off in an effort to force her to eat. She had already gained so much weight over the summer months from the forced feedings she had endured almost every day. It made her sick to her stomach to even consider eating what they intended for her. A small smile tried to hide from her lips. At least she knew her mother was going to regret sending her here.
It really wasn’t all that bad. The lunch room was quiet and mostly empty unlike the dorm full of girls she would rather not associate with, girls her mother and father would love for her to make friends with. The fork clinked on the side of the gray plastic dish as she pushed the stuff around. She was going to be here awhile, there was no way she was eating this pig slop.
Dropping the fork back to the plate, she rested her chin in her propped hand. Just a few more weeks and she would be out of this little hell and back at school. Butterflies crowded her stomach at the thought. Back with Orlando, hiding their feelings. Back to Rose, to try and salvage the friendship that meant the world to her. Back to Danny, Tommy and…. She sighed. And back to the face the rest of them. There was no way she could go on listening to the likes of Mariella and Casey. Not now, not with the way her heart had fallen. That was fine, she owed Mariella anyways. It was that foul girl’s fault she was trapped here in the first place.
Fingers tipped in short broken nails drummed against her chin as she let her mind wander. Sleep was so far away. It was hours yet until bedtime but there was nothing she wanted more at that moment than to escape to that room, to see the boy she missed despite seeing him every night. She hated the thought of waiting… she didn’t want to wait anymore…
It was a hot summer day on Shuna Island and surprisingly sunny for Scotland in general. Orlando MacFoozle lay out in the grass behind the house. Mom was off at work. Céilidh was visiting Tom. Granda was in London on business. He practically had the whole island to himself. Still, now and then a little peace and quiet wasn’t so bad… It let him get some things done.
He looked back down at the book laid out in front of him. He had read the pages six or seven times, but it still hadn’t done him any good. There were all those squiggly lines mucking it up. That was the thing about Ancient Runes. There was only so much one could get from the context around them. In his experience they were could be too vague or precise. He sighed, pushing the book back away. Bottom line, if you didn’t know it, you didn’t know it. He was getting no where.
His mouth contorted a bit in thought. Amidst that frustration, he felt a somewhat familiar pull. It was faint, like a little itching in the back of his mind. It was a prickling little feeling. That expression of irritation started to crack. She always knew just the right time… Not that there was a wrong one. The smile broke wide across his face, wondering if she was trying to reach him. Sometimes it just happened, which had already proven… awkward.
He let himself drift back into that feeling, pulling it out into the open. It was still a strange sensation, the new feelings that washed over him as. As always, when her thoughts came there was that tinge of loneliness. Neither of them could help that. Not with her where she was. But this still seemed to make it better.
“Colette?” he said aloud, making sure she could hear him clearly. It always seemed to help.
“Orlando!” Her face brightened just a little as she felt that connection strike home. She didn’t have to wait after all. “I missed you…” Even through the distortion she sounded a little sheepish.
Foozle laughed. “Acoorse!” The cheer in his thoughts cut through like that bright smile on his face. Feeling her even mild dejection, he always strove to push that aside, to keep her spirits bright. “Wha ense ye gat lurkin aboot in yuir heid?”
“They’re making me stay in the lunch room again.” He got the distinct feeling of disgust. “I can’t even tell what this was supposed to be..” She knew he was trying to make her feel better as if he didn’t know that even his slight presence in her thoughts was enough.
“Ah ken whit ye mean.” Orlando looked back through the trees to the south to where the coast of the southern tip was. The water was bright and blue and beautiful. Beyond that was France. “Whan Ah leuked at tha menu at Mon Plaisir Ah wisna shuir half o tha wis ee’en fairn!”
He could almost hear her laugh in his head. “Well, it’s no haggis, but I like it… Maybe that’s what this is.” She eyed the mess suspiciously.
Haggis… A definite snicker filled the static thoughts he sent her way. That treasured Scottish dish that Orlando couldn’t touch with a ten foot wand. “Gif thay’re feedin ye Haggis than thay’ve muived ontae a speicial kynda tortur, hen. Batarts…”
“I wouldn’t put it past them.” She rubbed her sore arm where it seemed she would have permanent finger indentations from being grabbed and drug around. “What is going on where you are?” A change in subject from her current misery seemed in order. She didn’t want to bring him down and hated that flash of anger she felt from him when it was too much to hide.
“Och, ye ken…” He looked over the books he had splayed out on the grass in front of him. “Studying…”As he glanced over the open pages with their cruel and confusing black ink she got a thin rush of that irritation he had sunk into before she arrived.
While she was inclined to disbelieve him, that irritation lent merit to his claim. “…studying? Orlando,what are you studying?” He could feel that prickle of her deepen as if she were trying to peek over his shoulder.
“Um…” Nicolette’s curiosity tickled at his thoughts. He made no bones about the sorts of things he did. Approval wasn’t exactly the word either of them might have used to describe her feelings for those non-academic pursuits. Begrudging amusement was probably more accurate. Though if there was one person around that could help him with his predicament… “Ah wis crackin thru the Griffin Principle o Light Dynamics, whit maks Acerbus Aduro visible an invisible at the same time…”
He could hear her snort in his head. “I am guessing you are more interested with the latter hmn?” It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the boy was sniffing at mischief.
A static laugh reached Nicolette from her boyfriend’s thoughts. “Colette…” She felt that warmth from him. “Tha’s whit the Griffin Principle is.”
“I know that.” The girl rolled her eyes. “I remember my dad talking about it when working on protective regulations for the tebo.” Irritation seeped into them again as thoughts of her father mingled with her exile.
“Ach!” She felt that rush of excitement. “The tebo!” He pushed one of the books aside, grabbing a notebook. He fell onto his chest, scratching his quill across one of the less cluttered pages. “Wha didnae Ah think o tha…”
“Because noone thinks of the tebo… at least not until it has been missing for hours and you find your favorite slippers urinated on.” Disgust filtered through as she took a bite, having to make it look at least like she was making progress on her dinner to preserve the time alone.
“Wha wad keep an invisible tuithy pig as a pet?” He felt his stomach lurch a little, like indigestion. “Ah mean, thay’re cute, but…” He flipped through the notebook, looking back through the notes. He looked over to the open tome and its ancient runes. “Thay’re no trainable…”
Nicolette drank the tepid water from the cup beside her plate to wash away some of the foul taste. “More animals have come and gone from my home than you will ever see in a lifetime.” She fought to keep her face blank, slightly annoyed, as the warden that also occupied the room glanced her way.
“Ah reck yuir richt…” Orlando couldn’t help but feel that quite a few of those were of the bipedal, wand bearing sort. He did his best to bury those thoughts away. “Tha’d be priddy awesome tae growe up aboot.” His thoughts flickered with images it constructed of Nicolette playing with a veritable menagerie of magical beasties.
“Sometimes…” Those images morphed into ones of her being chased by nogtails, hiding on top of a fence from an angry graphorn, and a variety of other unpleasant situations. Nic couldn’t ignore the moments of enjoyment, but she wanted him to be realistic. “and I was still living with my parents..”
“Ah ken,” nodded the boy.
He pulled a few blades of grass from the ground. He knew how different their lives had been growing up. Orlando had been an only child, his father had died while he was still so young. But he grew up in such a warm environment. His family stretched beyond the walls of his home, beyond his last name. He’d practically been raised by others as much as he had his own parents. How had his Grandmother put it? “It takes a village to manage Orlando.”
Nicolette hadn’t been that lucky. She’d only started to get that by coming to Hogwarts. He felt that a testament to the girl she was. The girl he’d discovered and fallen in love with. She could have become like her cousin Mariella, like Peter Porsblat. She hadn’t. She wasn’t that girl. That sense of pride tickled back at her thoughts from him.
A pink blush crept into her cheeks and the images fell away. Not that she was used to it at home but pride was not something that was fostered at the school. She had grown a little numb to the constant humiliation and misery. With such walls built up around the unpleasant things, she was vunerable to the positive things that flooded her from a distance.
Nic looked down at the table top, dragging her plate back to her over the surface of the table. “But It was fun too… It’s probably why I am so fond of animals…”
“Aye,” Foozle watched a little tove scurry across the grass with a wild kneazle in hot persuit. “It certainly helps.”
Orlando looked back down at his work. “An hou’s the schuil pairt?” He pulled the one that had been giving him such problems forward. “Keeping tha Colette brain sharp?”
“I don’t know… there is a lot of dull to rub off on me around here.” She spared a glance to the woman cleaning under her nails with a dinner knife. “A lot of Caseys down here…”
“Ugh…” Foozle groaned, thinking about the Slytherin girl. “Stoopid by osmosis, eh?” Though thousands of miles apart, there was a shared shudder down the pairs spine. “Ah red gif ye mak a hat oot o tin it keeps the dumm oot.”
“I think I have enough to spare. I am not wearing a tin hat.” Nicolette coughed to cover for the laughter that shook her.
A smirk fell across the Scot’s face. As she choked it back, her laughter turned into a warm sound of static. “Ah dinnaken. Ah reck ye’d leuk priddy nice in a tin hat.”
“Uh huh.. whatever…” Quickly, to defeat the anticipation, she took another bite and swallowed, trying to down it before she could taste what she had done. Her watcher smirked triumphantly. “We’ve already discussed how you would like anything I wore.”
“Richt…” This time he laughed and didn’t hold back a bit. It infected her, her skin warming to its open presence.
“Mebbe’s we shoud see gif ye needs a tin hat,” Foozle replied. He ran his finger over some of the strange black marks like reading braille. “Ye take Ancient Runes, dinna ye, hen?”
She raised a brow questioningly. “Yes.” They didn’t often speak of classwork and she became slightly suspicious.
“An yuir priddy guid, then?” It was a leading question. Nicolette was one of Hogwarts brightest students.
Her suspicion deepened. “Yes…”
“Ah dinna. Ah’v pickit up a bit ower the years, but…” The book sat on his lap, those inky marks staring back up at him from the pages, taunting him. “Ahm stuck, hen. This is wey beyond me.”
“What is way beyond you?” She had come to trust that Orlando knew what he was doing when he was planning something. He had made it this far in one piece… mostly. Even still, knowing didn’t stop that little needling worry that burrowed into her when she didn’t know what he was up to.
“Hrmmm…” Orlando looked down at the book. She couldn’t see what he could see. It didn’t really work that way. Not yet. They’d only gotten flashes that one time. It had been far from pleasant, and both of them were too gunshy to try and push the envelope. They were happy enough to have managed what they had. He stared at the inky black markings. He burned them into his brain. He closed his eyes, trying to block out everything else, trying to imagine nothing but the lines of the runes.
Dark brows knitted together. “What the..?” Her head tilted to the side a bit, as if it would clarify what she was looking at. “What in the world are you trying to translate?” The images flashing in her head were crude and fuzzy, as if a child had tried to copy runes from a text onto construction paper.
He looked back at the book, turning it over to look at the cover. “It’s a pairt o The Empie Shadie by Kemp.” He chewed on the inside of his lip. “It’s gat something tae dae wi the magical uses o allouing licht tae pass thru chairmed objects.” He sighed a little, frustration settling back into him. “It’s jaloused tae be mair trusty than bending git aroond the charimed object… but… haurder…”
She sounded unsure. “Maybe… try again?” The images just didn’t make sense. Perhaps if the angles were sharpened… if the extensions were longer…
The Hufflepuff looked back at the page. One more time, he concentrated on the lines that he couldn’t understand. He focused on every curve and sweep. He closed his eyes and tried drawing it in his mind. He’d open and close his eyes to make sure the two images were the same. When he knew he had it right, he locked in on that thought and pushed it out. He focused on her, on her seeing it just as he did.
Those lines she needed sharpened and clarified. “You’re right… these are hard.” She concentrated on the lines, trying to determine the radicals. One of them glowed brighter than the others. “This one means ‘light’…” It faded back to the rest and the one beside it highlited. “and this means… um… ‘pierce’?” She tapped her lower lip with a finger. “It seems they want you to make the light sharper, I think, so it will pierce the… um… whatever that is…” A rune near the end blinked subtly.
“Tha soonds,” Sharp light piercing through… something. The boy winced a little, “uncomfortable.” Even if it was light, under the wrong kind of magic light could become just as dangerous as hot pokers. A little defeat settled into him with a groan. “Mebbes Ah shoud juist stick tae feeguring oot a regular disillusionment charm…”
She sounded a little hesitant. “You aren’t trying anything too dangerous… are you?” She thought she worried under normal circumstances but at this distance… “I… I don’t want you getting hurt again…”
He tried to reassure her. “Ahm fine, hen.” He folded the book and pushed it back across the grass. “It’s juist a bit o research. Ahmno trying onything…” He bit his lip… yet… He tried to stifle that last thought from her.
“Well, that’s better than I expect…” She picked at her nails as the warden nodded off to a sitting slumber. She pushed the plate away again, finished for as long as the woman slept. “Please don’t get yourself killed.” She didn’t think invisibility was fatally dangerous but if there was a way it could be Orlando would find it.
“Wha?” She might not have been able to see it, but she could very nearly feel the smile that pulled across her boyfriend’s face. “Me? Ah’d niver. Why, Ah reck Ahm the saufest, maist cautious wizard Ah ken.”
“Liar.” His smile infected her and she hid her lips behind her hand. “Proof of it is right on your face.” Her fingers slid across the tabletop, almost feeling the scar on his brow beneath them. “I don’t know any spells to bring the dead back to life…”
“Tha’s alricht,” Orlando shook his head, pulling up a fist full of grass. “Ah dinna think Ah’d leuk guid as an infiri.”
Keeping her eyes on the dozing madame, Nicolette let herself smile. “I don’t know… that gray pallor may suit you.” She continued stroking that imaginary scar. “We may have the opportunity if you end up stabbing yourself with light..”
Foozle held a blade of grass up in the sun. “Shairp licht.” He corrected, his finger bending that pointed end of green tip back and forth.
“Yes, stabbing yourself with sharp light.” She crinkled her nose just as she would have to his face.”Though I may die from the food here before you get the chance.”
“Ye’ll be back tae Hogwarts afore ye ken it, Collette.” He let the grass fall back to the ground. “Sittin in the Great Haw wi aw its deelicous farin…” His head craned up, closing his eyes as the sun shone down on him. The corner of his lip curled in that way it did. “An no eatin it aither.”
She smiled in response to the one she couldn’t see. “Ah, that sounds wonderful…” She folded her arms on the table and rested her head in them. “No more breakfast, lunch, or dinner.”
The Hufflepuff shook his head. “Ah dinnae unnerstaund ye thare, hen…” He fell back and spread out in the grass. He didn’t stifle the yawn that rose to the surface. “Feud is tastey. It’s guid fer ye.”
Another wave of disgust rippled between them and Nicolette crammed a forkful of the food in her mouth as one hateful brown eye peeked open to glare at her. “Tell me again how tasty food is…” She shuddered as she struggled to swallow. “It sure doesn’t seem so from where I’m sitting.”
“Whan ye come back Ah’ll dae better than telt ye, Colette.” He shuddered a little as his stomach mysteriously clenched a little bit. He had his suspicious. “Ah’ll show ye.”
Her answer was simple and hopeful “Promise?”
Orlando nodded. “Ah promise.”