The night’s wind whipping across the surface of the Black Lake had cleared it of snow, leaving only a thick sheet of ice to glisten in the cold morning sun. It was Saturday and with no classes to deal with, Orlando and Dan had decided to throw together a bit of recreation for their friends, and were heading down early to set up the equipment.
Using their wands to clear a path from the castle to the lake, the two young men also carried a large open-topped chest between them. Non-flying broomsticks stuck out of the box at different angles. “Whaur d’ye kin?”
The Hufflepuff looked around, then pointed to an small cove on the edge of the lake. “Thare. Plenty o’ room, ice looks guid an’ thick.”
Walking down to the frozen cove, they set the box down and began to work. Lando waved his wand over the ice, further smoothing it’s surface to a perfect polish, then coloring a series of concentric circles at one end, followed by a series of lines. Danny went to unpacking the equipment, the brooms and several large circular stones with handles mounted on them.
“Ah reinforced the hoose,” Orlando told his partner as he crouched down at the bank of the lake and dug through the snow to fish out several pebbles, “tae prevent ony… incidents.”
Setting down one of the stones, Danny looked up with a slightly confused expression. “Whit?” That confusion quickly fell to a laugh as he recalled the last time they had played, and a very close game ended when the house had mysteriously cracked apart when right after Céilidh had sent her stone a little wide. “Oh.”
“If ye’r implying that Ah cheated, ye’ll nae be gettin’ ony coffee.” Céilidh’s voice carried over the ice to the two boys. In one hand she carried a large thermos. In the other there were three coffee cups hooked on one finger.
“Nice o’ ye tae finally drop in,” Danny smiled, taking one of the mugs and the thermos and pouring himself a steaming cup. With a wry smile, he tapped the cup with his wand, transfiguring the black liquid into tea.
Céilidh stuck her tongue out at him. “Ah wis supervising.”
“Supervising whit?” Orlando asked, taking the thermos from Danny and a mug from Céilidh. “Th’ backs o’ yer eyelids?”
“Na, as a maiter o’ fact, Ah wasn’t. Ah teuk an earlie mornin’ flight. Thir’s a crakin’ thermal that reflects aff th’ loch.” She shrugged, “Tis nae mah fault ye twa ne’er bothered tae keek up.” The redhead filled her own mug and set the thermos on the ice.
“Nae body iver sain Ah wis observant.” Orlando chuckled and sipped from the steaming coffee. He smacked his lips and looked down into the cup with a smile. “Delicious. Daes drugging the competition wi enchanting coffee coont as cheating?”
Danny’s eyebrow shot up. “Guid thing Ah transfigured mine intae tea, then.”
“Och, Ah dinnae think addin a wee nip o’ cratur amounts to drugging,” she chided. “Forby A’m swallyin it tae.”
“As commanded,” Tom’s voice called out as he and the other trudged up the hill with Rose and Nicolette behind him, “I grabbed Rose and Nicolette. Now what the bloody heck are we…” Tom stopped dead in the snow as he saw what the Scots had planned. “Oh no. No way.”
The Hufflepuff looked up. Staring at the three figures perched at the peak of the burm a grin plastered across his face. “Tommy Llewelyn,” he said waving them down the gentle incline, “Guid tae see ye!”
“Don’t you ‘good to see me’ me.” He wagged his finger at Orlando. “I told you never again after the last time.
“Did ye?” Foozle’s face feigned recollection. “Tha’s no howfur Ah mynd it.” He looked to his co-conspirator, the Ravenclaw. “Ye?”
Danny shook his head. “Me naither.”
“Wait. What happened last time?” The blonde Ravenclaw pulled her striped woolen hat down over her ears.
As Danny started to laugh, Tom answered. “It’s the bloody Paisleys. They’re always making up new gibberish rules.”
“Hate tae tell ye, brither,” Danny said, a grin on his face, “Yuir hen is a bloody Paisley. Asides…”
“We’ve niver changed oor rules. Ye jes’ ferget them.” Orlando finished.
Rose laughed and shook her head. “Then I want one of the bloody Scots on my team.”
This brought a grin to Foozle’s face. “Why,” his elbow swung into the small of Danny’s back, sending a bit of tea over the rim of his mug as he stumbled forward on the ice, “ye kin hae Danny.”
Danny looked over at the girl and blushed. “Ah kin, uh, Ah mean, Ah’ll teach her th’ game.”
“Acoorse ye will.” the Hufflepuff again gave him a nudge toward the shoreline with his hand against his back. His brow waggled playfully, and he looked to Nicolette. “Ah’ll the game tae ye, Hen.”
Nic raised a brow at the Hufflepuff. “At least with you Scots split up there will be less blatant cheating.” She looked at Rose and Tommy. “I still feel set up.”
The tiny blonde shrugged. “Well you’re stuck now.” She moved to Danny’s side and linked her arm through his. “Because there’s no way I’m splitting up the winning team here…”
Tom sighed and rubbed his eyes. “Cheating teams more like it.” He said under his breath. “Fine, so how are we going to do this?”
“Well, well…” Came an approaching and familair voice, “What goes on here?” Laun smiled brightly.
“Hey, Laun.” Danny said, waving to his Slytherin friend. “We’re juist getting duin tae speil a round o’ Curling. Tis an auld Scots muggle gam. Yi’ll waant in?”
“Athletics? I’m sorry my body rejects that… I’ll happily watch though.” Laun laughed.
“Trust me you can take my place, they cheat.” Tom waived his arms at Dan and Orlando.
“Them? Why I’m hardpressed to believe that they have a dishonest bone in their bodies.” Laun winked.
“You wanna referee at least, and keep an eye on them?” Tom winked.
“I’ve never even heard of this game before and you want me to ref? Talk about opportunities to cheat.” Laun laughed again shoving Tom playfully.
Danny laughed. “Tis easy. Th’ teams tak’ turns sliding stane o’er th’ curling sheet tae th’ hoose.
Nodding, Orlando continued. “Efter th’ hammer is thrown, th’ team wi’ th’ stane closest tae th’ button gets ane point fur ilk o’ tis ain stanes lying closer tae th’ button than th’ ither team’s closest stane.
“O’ coorse,” Céilidh chimed in. “Ye kin alter th’ direction o` yer stane by sweeping th’ ice. Provided ye dinnae burn th’ stane.”
Laun just stared at the three of them in silence for a few minutes
“Exactly.” Tom nodded.
Before he knew it Céilidh’s hand sliced through the air hitting him on the shoulder. “Wid ye gie it a rest.”
“All right, all right.” Tom rubbed his shoulder.
“Danny?” Rose pulled on her housemate’s arm to bring his ear a little closer to her mouth. “Are we supposed to know what the hammer and button are?” she whispered.
The young man chuckled. “Th’ hammer is th’ lest stane thrown, ‘n’ th’ button is th’ center o’ th’ hoose,” Danny pointed at the ice, “Whilk is that big circular target.”
She hugged his arm in thanks. “I’m sorry, Danny. I’m so not going to be very good at this.”
“So it’s going to be,” Tom ticked off with his fingers, “Danny and Rose, vs Orlando and Nicolette, vs. Céilidh and myself? How is that gonna work?”
“Same rules as normal juist three teams instead o’ twa.” Orlando shrugged. “Pairsies.”
“That makes sense.” Tom nodded. “But if we’re going to do this we need to make it a bit more comfortable.” Tom pulled his wand and gave it several flicks. Blue flames sprouted to life on top of the snow in a circle near the large tree at the lake’s edge.
“There,” Tom nodded, “that ought to keep the chill away.”
Céilidh kissed Tommy on the cheek. “Always thinkin’ this one.”
“I try.” Tommy laughed.
Danny looked over at Tom with a smirk. “We may need tae hiv a practice run for some o’ oor Welsh mates,” he said. “After aw, they’ve got certain disadvantages an’ need th’ practice.”
“Oh please,” Tommy rolled his eyes, “if I remember right I’m pretty darn good at sliding the stone.”
“Tis a guid thing ye’r braw,” Céilidh took Tommy’s face in her hands, “fur yer memory sucks.” She said with a kiss.
“You’re funny, Ginger.” He kissed her back.
Rose had been watching the Gryffindor couple with a peculiar look on her face. Shaking off any fleeting sense of longing, she turned to Danny. “A practice run is a really good idea actually. I have no problem admitting when I need a little bit of help.”
Danny nodded. He picked up a stone. “Ye haud th’ stane lik’ this,” he showed her the stone in his hand, then took the position at the hack. “Then ye push aff tae th’ line ‘n’ release.”
“That doesn’t sound so hard.” The little blonde didn’t sound entirely convinced.
Danny laughed. “Ye giv it a gae.”
The Ravenclaw man nodded. “Weel nae later,” he said with a chuckle.
Orlando stepped up beside Nicolette. His arm slipped behind her back, scooting her into his side. “Shoud Ah be hurt tha ye’d assume Ah’d cheat?” His lip curled into his cheek, and he looked at her sideways. The Hufflepuff shot her a flash of a wink.
“I know you’d cheat.” She reached up and lightly tapped him in the middle of his forehead
The boy scowled playfully. “Nou wha’s cheating?”
He looked at the others that stood around the Black Lake’s edge. Danny was showing Rose how to hold one of the stones and pointing down the polished ice to the colored circles. Tom was standing beside Céilidh who was digging into the trunk and checking the stones for the best set.
“Ah jalouse ye ken whit strategy Ah haen in mynd than.”
She looked at the other players and back to those hazel eyes. “Yeah, I agree.”
“This is gauntae be fun…” Foozle flicked his wrist and his wand dropped into his palm seemingly from nowhere. He summoned one of the brooms from in front of Tom. “Hae ye iver seen Ginger lose?” He chuckled a little.
“Really?” Tom’s head cocked to the side. “This,” Tom threw his arm around Céilidh, “is Céilidh MacAllister. She never loses.”
“Laying it oan a bawherr thick aren’t ye?” Céilidh kissed him on the cheek.
“It’s called intimidation.” Tom whispered.
As the others were talking, Danny was gingerly trying to help Rose with her form, and had wrapped his arm around her while blushing slightly. As he guided her forward one of them, it was hard to say who slipped and fell into the other. They crumpled onto the ice in a heap.
Quickly they scrambled to their feet, both of their faces a bright red that had nothing to do with the cold wind blowing across the lake.
There was laughing from the four on the other side of the lake. “I thought you were good at this Danny.”
Rose’s frowned. “He is good!” she said, indignantly. Then realizing her outburst, she went even redder. “I mean, we just sort of fell over while he was trying to help me.”
“Uh huh.” Tom and Céilidh both laughed.
Looping his arm under Nicolette’s, Foozle made their way down to the frozen lake and the trunk. “He’s doun richt amazing, oor boy Danny.”
Rose wasn’t listening. Her green eyes met Danny’s perfect hazel ones and she blushed a little brighter. “Okay, one foot at a time. We can’t spend the whole afternoon on the ground.” She pushed the hair away from her face with one mittened hand and extended the other to him. “We have to win this game… thingy. Or at least not come in last.”
Danny chuckled. “It disnae matter, whitever Céilidh says. Ah’m just oot here tae hiv fun wi’ my friends.”
“So we all ready?” Tommy stretched as he looked at the rest of the group.
“Aye,” Orlando dug at the snow with his boot, clearing down to some yellowed grass. Taking his hand out of his pocket he crouched down to pick several dead blades. His mouth twisted a bit as he looked at him then his eyes rose to find Laun. “Ower here, mate,” he said with a jog of the head.
Laun strode over and the Hufflepuff stuck the bunch in his palm. “Since yer juidge an aw, an Ah clearly cannae be truistit ye kin hauld the straw.”
The prefect come referee laughed. “I think I can handle that much.”
“Aye.” Foozle gave him a sly wink. “We’ll gae in order o length. Shortest fuirst. Brosia?”
Chewing on a lock of hair just a bit brighter than the jagged tips that stuck out of Laun’s fist she stared at the options a moment then cautiously tugged one out. It was quite small.
Her partner grinned, “Guid pick.”
“Aye,” nodded Lando. “Alricht than, Ginger.”
With considerably less hesitation, the fiery MacAllister stepped up and tugged out another blade. She held it up and looked at it, as did all the others. It wasn’t long, but it also wasn’t as short as Rose’s. “Alricht than…”
Nicolette’s boyfriend winked at her and nodded. She bit her lip and then pulled on one of the remaining blades of grass. This one was several inches long, longer than the others without needing to measure.
“Weel,” Lando said with a bit of a smirk, “tha wis a spat o luck.”
“Well it appears to be your honor my dear Ravenclaws.” Tommy waved his hand toward Rose and Danny. “After you.”
Danny slid the first stone to the line and smiled at Rose. “Ye kin gae first.”
Rubbing her hands together, the blonde took a step toward her stone then turned to flash her housemate an apprehensive look. “Oh… lucky me.”
“Yuir gauntae be fine.” Dan said reassuringly.
“Maybe. But I’d be a lot happier if I wasn’t first.” She let out her breath, watching the steam drift toward Danny before squaring her shoulders. “Okay, so I just have to push it, right?”
Smiling, Danny nodded and waved her on. The blonde grabbed the stone and slid it down the sheet. As the stone skidded along, Danny was waving his wand, controlling a pair of brooms that directed the stone toward the house. The round rock slid to a stop into the left side of the house’s blue outer ring.
Rose looked over at her teammate. “Was that good?” she asked, a slight look of worry on her face.
“Ye did great, lass.” he said, his face beaming. “Ye hit th’ target, better ‘n’ Tommy did oan his first try.”
Nicolette looked to her Scot with arms crossed and one brow raised. “If they are using magic, don’t you think for one second I am doing it the muggle way.”
Her boyfriend was grinning broadly. “Ye cannae uise magic tae throw the rock, hen.”
“I can, though I may not.” She pointed to the whisking brooms. “And I was referring to the difficult looking part.”
“Weel,” with a little slight of hand, Foozle’s wand appeared in his hand. “Tha’s my pairt. At least this roond.” He gave her a little wink. “Ye git tae throw the rock.”
“You wanna go first, Ginger?” Tom asked.
“Ainlie if ye’r tae scared.” Céildh’s lips curled into a smile as she walked over to the stones and picked one up. “Urr ye sure ye kin handle th’ broms.” Céilidh gave him a wink.
“She’s funny.” Tom smirked. “Yes darling, I can handle the bloody brooms.”
Orlando tucked his arm behind Nicolette’s waist and. With a peaked brow he looked at Team Gryffindor. “Ye twa dae ken tha yuir oan the same team, yeah?”
“Of course.” They said in unison as Céildh slid the stone down the ice.
Tom stood behind her and waived his right hand. The brooms began sweeping a path for stone as it curled out wide and then back into the house opposite of Rose’s shot.
“Well played Red.” Tommy gave the Scottish girl a hug from behind as she stood up.
“Nae tae ill yersel'” Céilidh said with a kiss.
“Aye, he’s a regular Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Keep a yak oan thay twa, Laun.” Taking his wand, Foozle gave a light swish and flick. One of the stones rose up and floated its way into Nicolette’s gloved hands.
“Alricht…” He was looking at the colored circles down the ice and two stones sitting on the ice. Foozle then looked to his girlfriend who was gingerly stepping across the ice and gripping the curling stone by its handle. “Juist gie it a wee bit o heft an lat the ice dae the rest.” He smiled, adding with that ethereal voice that rang in the back of her mind, “Aim juist inside o ginger’s thrae.”
She looked at the boy with a flat expression that served as a reminder that she had never held one of these in her life, and and the idea that she could slide it anywhere with any sort of accuracy was beyond ludicrous.
He whisked his larch wand, and the brooms stood to attention, ready to buff the way to the house. “Guid pynt.” Foozle chuckled and stepped behind her. One of his hands upon her hip. The other fell along her arm. “Ye hauld it lik sae.” He helped her adjust her hold on the grip. Their arms swung together in a slow unison, letting her get a feel for its weight. It grazed the ice. “An ye juist lat it gae.” Their paired frames moved in that almost stretched fluid form. Their arms stretched out and she loosed the stone onto the ice.
The Scot quickly lifted his wand to work the brooms as the curling stone approached. They polished the ice in its path, and it was on a true course right for the Gryffindor rock. Unfortunately good aim was not enough. It kept close to the inside but ran out of steam a few feet shy of its target.
Orlando smiled anyway, as if they had knocked the rock clear across the ice. “Juist lillie.” He planted a kiss on her.
Danny stepped up to the line and took his turn while Orlando coached her on the wandwork needed for the sweeping. Tom and Orlando followed suit, as stone after stone slid down the ice and toward the house, brooms whisking furiously the whole way.
The seven students were enjoying their time on the ice, laughing and ribbing each other’s skills. After the boys’ took their second turns curling, Gerti appeared with a round of hot chocolate, coffee and tea for them all. After they’d warmed up with their drinks, aided here and there by a dollop of The Gentlemen’s whiskey, courtesy of Orlando’s watch-fob, they resumed their curling.
Finishing their third end, the Scots tallied up the scores. Danny and Rose trailed by one point.
As the ladies took their turns, Rose and Danny took the advantage, followed by the Gryffindors, then the team of Lando and Nicolette seemed to be in the best shape. Finally it was Danny’s turn again.
He stepped to the line with a wink to Rose. Sliding the stone toward the house, he stepped back to watch Ambrosia waving her wand and sending the brooms through their paces. She did a masterful job of directing the stone, and it skidded just to the left of the vacant button, leaving the pair of Ravenclaws with the two closest stones.
Foozle’s arms folded across his peacoat, surveying the stones down around the rings. “Guid show.” He leaned back to look at Céilidh from behind Nicolette. “Close gam, dou.”
Tom stood with his arms folded across his chest, his right hand rubbing his chin. “What do you think love?”
“Gies a sec…” Céilidh stood on tip-toes to try and get a better look a the lay of the land. The stones were situated in such a way, that if played right, they could nudge both Foozle’s and Danny’s stones out of play and leave theirs very nearly dead center atop the button. After a brief huddle, Tommy moved to the hack with a less than sure look on his face.
“You’re sure about this?”
“Aye. Ye gie it a shove, A’ll handle th’ rest.”
Tommy nodded, not wanting to ruin an otherwise perfect day with an argument. He pushed off, letting the stone go free just as they had discussed. Céilidh flicked her wand and the brooms came to life, brushing out ahead of the block of granite.
It seemed as though everyone was holding their breath as the stone and brooms traversed the sheet. The silence was broken only when Tom coughed.
“Uh… Red? Don’t you think we’re coming in a little hot?”
Céilidh cast a glance in Tom’s direction. “Ye juist staund thare ‘n’ luik bonnie. A’ve gat this,” the redhead said, her voice full of confidence. When she turned back, however, her eyes went wide. The stone was, indeed, moving much too quickly than she’d intended.
“Shite.” She said, letting her wand-arm fall. The damage was done. “Shite. Shite. Shite.”
With a crack that echoed over the frozen lake, the Gryffindor stone caromed off Orlando’s stone, sending it streaking into the other Gryffindor stone, which in turn sent that stone off into the nearby snow bank.
Tommy’s stone continued toward Danny’s, striking it at such and angle to send it skittering to a stop right over the button, while Tom’s stone continued on, finally settling outside the blue ring.
Tom blinked hoping that maybe if he blinked hard enough, it would change. He stood up still not wanting to turn and look at Céilidh. “Well,” Tom said thickly, “that’s not good.”
“Shite. Shite. Shite.”
“A bonnie takoot,” said Foozle pleasantly. “No shuir gif that wis whit ye meant tae dae, but it wis impressive.”
Rose looked hopefully to Danny. “That’s good for us, right?” she asked, her face, pink from the cold, showing the beginnings of a smile.
“Aye,” Danny said with a smile. “Gif Lando doesnae knock us oot o’ play.”
“Gif?” The Hufflepuff Scot turned his head a little, the hammer hanging at the end of his arm. “Ye mean whin, brither.” He and Nicolette stepped onto the ice. “Aw it taks is ane sweet kiss o this stane tae pit ye oot.”
“So,” Nicolette bit her lip and surveyed the house and all th* stones around it. “What do we do?”
He pointed at the last stone Danny had thrown. “Gif we smook richt in ower oan the inside o tha ane pan thw button the game is oors. Gif we dinnae…” His eyes focused with exaggerated seriousness, “we’rre sunk.”
“All or nothing then?” The Ravenclaw had become quite handy sweeping the brooms and had even gotten the hang of slowing it, speeding it, and curling it. She smiled at the boy, knowing just what he had in mind. It would be tough, that was for certain. “I’ll do my best.”
Her boyfriend winked and took his stance.
Foozle grinned, rolling his eyes.
His arm swung back, and with a graceful arc the rock hit the ice. All that could be heard was the granite grinding along the polished ice and the swiftly swishing of the broom’s bristles guiding the way. Their quick work tactfully faded as the hammer got closer to the thick blue circle. She gave the ice just the littlest polish more,and then Nicolette pulled the brooms.
Rose clutched Danny’s arm like a vice.
Lando leaned close to Nicolette and whispered. “Tha’s it, hen.”
The hammer crawled up on he button painfully slowly. And then it stopped. With the angle it was hard to tell, but not hard enough. They were inches from the colored circle. They were short.
“Bloody hell.” Tom sighed.
“Shite. Shite. Shite.” Céilidh’s refrain continued.
Rose and Danny looked at each other. “Did we..? the girl asked in an excited tone.
Danny nodded slowly. “Ah reck we did.”
“Shite. Shite. Shite.” Céilidh kept muttering.
“It’s okay,” Tommy said as he shoved his hands in his pockets, “I still love you.”
The redhead leaned against her boyfriend. “Shite.” She heaved a heavy sigh, “Guid gam, aw.”
Meanwhile Rose had thrown her arms around Danny and was hopping up and down in excitement. “We did it Danny!” she said cheerfully.
Dan’s face reddened at Rose’s attentions. “Aye, Ah reck we did.” he said, returning her hug.
“Well played sir.” Tom turned around and extended a hand to Danny.
Breaking the hug somewhat reluctantly, Danny shook the Gryffindor’s hand. “Thanks, brither. Ye an’ Céilidh put up a guid fight.”
Orlando slipped his arm across Nicolette’s slender shoulders. “Weel, we tried.”
“Yes.” She snuggled into his side. “But it was fun.”
They smiled at the winning team. “Weel playit, ye twa. Guid win.” Foozle put his hand on Tom’s shoulder. “An ye… Mebbes next time.”
It took a moment for Céilidh to tear her eyes away from the stones down the lane, but when she did, she gave Orlando a wink. “Ye’r oan.”
“Not right now,” Tom said quickly not wanting to be outside freezing all night, “I don’t know about the rest of you but I still have a three feet of parchment on practical theory versus Dementors for Professor Qasim before term starts on Monday.”
“Finished it awready,” Danny said with a grin, shifting out of his customary Scottish brogue. “Mebbes that the difference between the Eagles o’ Ravenclaws an’ the kittens o’ Gryffindor… Time management.”
“He’s funny.” Tommy laughed.
“It’s ane o the reasons we luve him sae. C’mon,” Foozle jerked his head back toward the large dark castle that loomed behind them above the snowy berm, “Ah ken a great place in the dungeons whaur we kin git a wee bit o coco an marshmallae. My treat.”
“I think that sounds like a brilliant plan.” Tommy squeezed Céilidh’s hand. “And Danny if you wanna let me have a look at that essay you’ve written, you know for educational purposes only.”
Danny glanced at Rose, then turned to look at Tommy. “Hou aboot Ah correct yuirs after ye’re done?” he asked.
Tom rolled his eyes. “Fine.”
Linking her arm through Danny’s, for purely weather related purposes, Rose grinned at her friend. “As much as I hate keeping you from your homework, I think we need to warm up together first.” She hugged her housemate’s arm. “All we need is a nice, relatively private fireplace and some hot chocolate. So we can toast good sportsmanship and things like that.”
“Well then,” the Ravenclaw man said as he looked around at his friends, “Lead on, MacFoozle. Ye’re buyin’.”