Orlando MacFoozle was smiling as he pulled the dark hooded sweatshirt on and zipped it up. He wasn’t sure why, but he felt good about today even if it was just another day like every other day. And Nicolette had told him that is just what it should be several times. “A day the same as any other.” Still, the Hufflepuff, humming as he tucked his wand up his sleeve, couldn’t and wouldn’t wipe the smile off his face.
Of course, the Scot wasn’t terribly sure what she had meant by that or if she had even meant it at all. He thought he had an advantage on those matters, considering he could rather literally slip into her thoughts, but there had been no such luck there. Since they had gotten back to school, she had been much more guarded in that respect.
So he played it, as he did so many things: By ear.
“Nae cheating,” he said to himself, looking at the simple little wooden box on the coffee table.
In the corner Wordsworth made a reply in nonsensical rhyme that sounded straight from the other side of The Looking Glass.
“Sorry, Wirdswirth.” He picked the box up and slipped it into his pocket. “Ah will be back tae check oan ye efter. Chin up, pal.” And he ducked out through the cave’s opening.
The Hufflepuff’s stomach was grumbling before he got there, but when the smells wafted under the Great Hall’s large wooden doors, it was almost painful. He had already missed breakfast, and lunch was nearly down to the stragglers, such as himself.
At the Gryffindor table Céilidh looked up and seeing him walk in, waved him over. “Ye missit breakfast. Ah awmaist thocht ye wisnae e’en gaentae mak lunch.” His sister slid the platter of chips and sandwiches over in front of the open space beside her. “Howfur late did ye stey wirkin lest nicht?”
“Till nou.” He chuckled. “Ah sneaked a few winks in oan th’ couch efter ye left thou.”
She watched as Foozle forwent a plate of his own and just helped himself to the platter. “An?”
Lando looked over. His cheek puffed out like a chipmunk saving for winter. “An whit?,” he asked with a bit of a muffle.
Céilidh jabbed him in the arm with an elbow. “An did ye ye finish?”
The boy swallowed down his food and fished the wooden box out of his pocket. He set it on the table between them. “Aye.”
The redhead’s fingers twitched towards the box. “Kin A?” Foozle nodded. Céilidh carefully lifted the lid, not putting it past her brother to jinx the box just for grins. He hadn’t. Inside the silver pendant shone brightly as it caught the light streaming through the windows of the Great Hall.
The design was elegantly simple, a mischievous looking raccoon backed by a full, silver moon. “Och, Orlando, she’s gaun tae loue it.” She left the box open and slid it back to Orlando, then reached into her pocket and pulled out a small velvet pouch. She deposited it next to the box.
“Ah houp sae.” He was smiling again, this time with a little warmth of pride to it.
“Sae ye git it?” Foozle wiped his hands on his pants before picking up the little bag.
She nodded. “Ye wis wirried?” Her lip curled with that hint of playful ribbing.
The Hufflepuff laughed. He shook his head. “No a bit o it.”
Dipping in with two fingers, a chain was drawn from it. It was made of the finest silvery braiding which shimmered just a little as the light caught it. “Och. Tha’s priddy, tha is.” He let it pool in his palm, and fished out the clasp. “Ah owe ye yin,” he told her as he slipped the pendant onto the chain. “Ye n’ yuir maw. Somethin’ crankin for shuir.”
He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “Thanks.”
“Dinna fash yirsel aboot it.” She waved him off. “Ma said ’twas na trauchle at a’. She’s happy that ‘Collette’s daein’ weel, ‘n’ we’re baith juist happy tae see th’ twa o’ ye happy.”
Céilidh pushed herself away from the table. “C’moan, ah’ll donder ye tae yer lassie. A’d lik’ tae wish her a Canty Birthday, then ah’ll be aff.”
“Soonds guid.” Lando unsaddled himself from the seat, scooping up another half sandwich as he did. “Hiv ye keeked her the day?”
The Gryffindor shook her head. “Nae. A wis late fur breakfast thou.”
The pair of Scots strolled through the castle and up the stairs to Ravenclaw Tower where the eagle adorned door addressed them with a rapping of its knocker.
“If you break me I do not stop working, if you touch me I may be snared, if you lose me nothing will matter…”
Leaning against the spiral staircase rail, Céilidh was the first to reply. “Hert,” she answered the door with a sly smile in the direction of her brother.
The knob-less door crept back, opening the way to the Ravenclaw’s common room.
They stepped in to the round, airy room. Sun streamed through its high windows and across its dark blue carpet. On the far edge along a wall lined with enough books to make the school’s library a little jealous, Nicolette sat in an armchair with her feet curled under her and a book on her lap.
Orlando cleared his throat and began to sing in a loud voice. “Happy Birthday tae ye…”
Without looking up, the girl cut his song short. “Your singing voice would make a mermaid jealous,” she looked across the room at him, “above water.”
The boy smiled quite undeterred. “Thay say th’ hearing is the foremaist tae gae.” His head cocked to the side the way it did so often when a thought would strike him. “Or wis it memory?”
“If I’m lucky, it will be my memory of your singing.” She slid the ribbon placeholder in the book and closed it. “I assume you have something planned?” Despite her subtle attempts at prying, Orlando had kept a tight lid on his thoughts surrounding her birthday.
The boy looked to Céilidh a moment as the pair of them crossed the room. “Ye sain ye didnae want tae dae onythin,” he replied to Nic. “Sae Ah didnae plan onythin.”
The redheaded Gryffindor shook her head with a little roll of her eyes. She gave the birthday girl a smile. “Canty birthday, Colette.”
Nic turned her attention to the girl she had warmed to considerably. “How often does he do what anyone tells him?” She smiled “And thank you.”
Céilidh regarded her brother. “Tis rare.”
“Och,” grumbled the Hufflepuff, “ye wound me. Ma twa closest lasses sullyin’ ma guid name as a gentleman.”
The Ravenclaw pulled herself out of the comfort of the chair and took her place beside her boyfriend. “Thank you for coming.” She slid her arm in under his.
Lando chuckled. “It is yuir birthday.” He planted a kiss on her cheek. He swung her about by the link of their arms. “An Ahm yuir boyfriend.” He said the word a little extra loudly, as if announcing the fact to the few housemates that sat about the open common room. “An while Ah didnae plan onything, Ahm exceptionally guid at improvising.”
She thumbed towards the stairs that led back to her dorm room. “Well, if you don’t have anything planned, I could always go back upstairs…” Nicolette grinned playfully.
“Nope.” He tugged her along, back out the door he and Céilidh had come with the Gryffindor close behind. “Ahm improvising nou. Wha kens whaur we’ll end up. Could be the dungeons. Could be Madam Puddifuits. We dinnaken.”
Nicolette let him pull her with no resistance, her fingers giving his arm a light squeeze of affection. “That sounds promising.” It was no exaggeration that her life had become far more unpredictable since it had become filled with the boy at her side. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
The three of them trotted down the spiral stairs. “Whit are ye up tae than, ginger?”
She laughed a little. “Ah thocht A micht wirk oan tha wee little hitch Ah wis running intae the ither nicht.”
“Ah think we juist micht follae ye oot.” The boy smiled.
“Och, ah dinnae wantae be a third wheel oan ‘Colette’s birthday,” Céilidh protested as they took to the stairs leading down from Ravenclaw tower.
“Tha’s alricht,” replied the Hufflepuff. “Ah wis juist thinking. Ah ken a wee little spat oot o the wey whaur Ah micht tak ma hen fur a nice little picnic.”
“In January.” She sounded amused.
It was a sentiment Nicolette seemed to share as she chuckled softly. “Orlando has a fondness for snowy picnics, I think.” She squeezed his arm affectionately. “You pulled the same thing last winter, remember?”
“Acoorse Ah remember.” Fooze pushed open the heavy wooden door that lead out. He held it for the ladies like a gentleman. ” Tha wis oor fuirst date.”
His girlfriend scolded playfully. “That was not a date.”
Foozle laughed. “Says ye.”
“It was closer to blackmai-” Nicolette jerked into a stumble as the scarf around her neck tightened, her eyes widening in alarm. Quickly, the tightness stopped as the woven material gave and flew into the hand belonging to the girl that cast the unheard spell.
“Behold the mark of the blood traitor.” Mariella, Nicolette’s one time friend, crossed her arms and smiled in a cruel satisfaction. “Too bad your mother couldn’t finish the job and save your family from this disgusting display of disgrace.”
Orlando had caught his girlfriend by the elbow as she had begun to fall, but the sound of the Slytherin’s voice pulled attention immediately. Flanked by a small cadre of her purist friends, she stood just yards away on the stone path.
“Gang bile yuir heid, Mariella, ye fud.” The yellow in the boy’s eyes burned hot as the words dripped off his lips seething with anger.
The Ravenclaw held onto her boyfriend’s arm, feeling the tension beneath. The blue and purple that wrapped around her neck made her feel exposed under the scrutiny their argument was getting from passers by. “Just ignore her. She’s upset her mother doesn’t even care enough about her to choke her.”
“I’d be willing to bet your parents would offer a hefty reward to have this shame wiped from their bloodline.” The girl wrapped Nicolette’s scarf around her fists and pulled it tight. “Trim the dead branches from the tree.”
“Blood ower friendship, that’s whit ah ca’ shameful.” Céilidh stepped between Nicollette and Orlando, and Mariella. She gave the taller girl and her cadre a lingering once-over. “Though tis nae th’ ainlie thing.”
She held out her hand, “Th’ scarf. Noo.”
“This scarf belongs to an Ainscough.” The dark haired girl looked around, everywhere but at the scarf’s owner. “I don’t see an Ainscough around here anywhere.”
Setting her jaw, Nic stared at her very former friend. “Keep it, you maudite vache. You need it to try and hold your wildly flapping lips to your goblin face more than I need it to hide a little bruise.”
“Whit she means tae say,” the Scot said with a hint of a growl in his voice, “is tha gif ye keep usin’ yuir gob lik tha ye’ll need it tae set yer jaw.” His flicked his wrist and his wand dropped deftly into his fingers from the sleeve of his coat.
“Careful with that,” Peter Porsblatt sneered, stepping up to flank Mariella, “we’re all well aware that things tend to blow up in your presence, MacFoozle.”
Céilidh had yet to take her eyes off Mariella. It was quickly becoming clear – at least in the redhead’s mind – that this situation was going to end with some form of violence. Given the numbers stacked against them, that suited Céilidh just fine. “We’re nae set tae duel fur twa weeks, Porsblatt. Ye sure yi’ll waant an earlie lesson in butt th’ hell oot?”
“I’ve nothing to learn from, nor am afraid of, a motley collection of half-bloods and blood-traitors.” Porsblatt’s lip curled, “Especially from a pair of… Scots.”
“Better a pair of scots than a pair of salopes. Me faut retourner à la pute qui m’a accouchée!” Nicolette often dissolved into french when her language devolved to profanity. “Watch yourself, or I’ll turn all the skills I learned from all the years on your side against you.”
Mariella threw her head back, laughing. “Please…”
Foozle’s eyes narrowed sharply, and he gripped his wand tighter. He caught the motion of Peter’s wand raising toward the pair of girls beside the Hufflepuff. The Scot stepped in on the Slytherin faster than Seamus Morgan reaching for a free pint at the bar. His left hand swung hard, catching the older boy across the jaw.
Peter’s head snapped around with that loud smack. “Urk..” A small arc of blood shot from his lips across the ground. He stumbled to his knees, gripping his mouth, and in those seconds the other black and green robed young wizards flourished their wands.
The bigmouthed Mariella found a length of ash jabbed into the soft flesh under her chin. “Do not, for one moment, forget those years at my side, Ella. You watched what I did with this wand to countless other witches and wizards. Choose what you tell your dogs very carefully.” Her words hissed out from between clenched teeth. She was done letting the scum in her life terrorize her. “Wands down or I will carry out my boyfriend’s earlier threat.” She pressed the tip further into the other girl’s flesh to emphasize her point.
“Och, ‘n’ ‘ere ah wis thinking this wis gaun tae caw intae a proper row,” Céilidh tsked as the Slytherins lowered their wands. The redhead made to turn away from Mariella but spun back around, her fist connecting with the Slytherin girl’s upturned chin. Mariella’s eyes glazed as she fell into a heap on top of Porsblatt.
“Cheers fur teeing her up, dear.” Céilidh said to Nicolette as she bent down to retrieve the scarf from the Slytherin’s limp grip. “Ah think this is yers.”
Staring down at the prone girl, her wand still pointed at their still standing opponents, she took the scarf from Céilidh and draped it behind her neck. “Next time, wait until I move my wand before you take out the trash. You made me nervous.” She rolled the wood in her fingers a bit before resetting it in her boot. “I’d hate for you to have to hold back.”
Orlando stood upright. He looked over the nervous faces in front of them. At their feet he could hear Peter Porsblatt struggling with the weight of the unconscious girl atop him. “See this a lessin in keeping yuir gob shuit whin ye ken better,” he said. He jabbed a toe into the shoulder of Peter. “Ah reck ye a’ shuid pik up yuir mukkers ‘n mynd tae dae the same neist time yer feeling th’ urge tae gang sew tha hate filled crap.” He jerked his head back toward the castle. “Git.”
They moved a bit hesitantly at first, but quickly managed to hoist Mariella up onto a pair of their shoulders. Peter too was helped to his feet, still holding his jaw. Despite the angry glare the teen held his tongue as well and lead their way back to the castle.
They watched the group depart, and when they were far enough all Foozle took a deep breath and let it go in a satisfied sigh. “Weel,” he turned to the pair of girls with a bit of a smile on his face, “Ah think tha wint raither weel, actually.”
Nicolette flicked the scarf off her neck and onto the ground. “It stinks of salope now.” She kicked it away and brushed her slightly mussed hair out of her face. “I don’t want it near my face.
“Ah bet ye kin knit an e’en better yin onywey.” Her boyfriend leaned over and kissed her cheek. “In fact, didnae Santa git ye some needles fur Yule?”
Her face softened and she smiled a little. “Yeah. They are taking some getting used to though.” She laughed, thinking about her most recent attempt. “They definitely require practice.”
“Seeing as A’ve delivered ye safely frae th’ castle,” the Gryffindor hugged each of her friends in turn, “ah will tak’ mah lea ‘n’ let th’ twa o’ ye huv th’ rest o’ th’ day tae yourselves.”
“Ye ken,” Foozle glanced to his girlfriend at his side, “Ah reck efter tha we coud aw uise a belt.”
“That’s your answer to everything.” She laughed and slipped her arm into his.
The boy nodded as the pair fell into stride beside Céilidh. “Tha’s acause it’s a guid answer!”
“Och! Ah dinnae wantae be a third wheel.” Céilidh appealed to Nicolette, knowing full well that Orlando would be dismissive of her, Céilidh’s, desire not to be intrusive on their birthday plans.
“Don’t look at me. He’s the one in charge this time.” She shrugged helplessly. “I’m just along for the ride.”
Orlando looped his other arm through his sister’s, “Than it’s settled.”