Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the joys of the asterix!
Okay, here’s the deal; this is an asterix chapter, which means that a section of it is written to be read along with the song given at the beginning of the chapter. If you have the song, start it playing when you see the asterix and keep reading. Then, hopefully, you’ll see the inspiration for the storyline at that particular part.
Stunning image by Ande @ TDA
Way To Go – Rogue Traders
‘Parents always think it’s the kids’ fault. If they’re naughty, it’s the kids’ fault. Not true! Children generally are not naughty for no reason.’
- Emma Thompson
Turning down the corner of her page in the book she was reading, Anastacia glanced at her watch for what seemed like the hundredth time. It probably was. She sighed and laid the book down on the bed beside her. She hadn’t been taking any of it in anyway. There was really no point in her reading any more, not when she had so many other things on her mind. Starting with what she was meant to be doing that night.
Getting up slowly from her reclining position on the bed, she stretched, working the kinks out of her back and neck. Then she begun on a course of action that would seem very strange to the uninitiated observer; she took off all her jewellery, even her small earrings, and laid them on her vanity table.
Next she braided her long hair, slowly and carefully, and pinned it up so that it lay flat along her head. She pointed her wand at the tightly wound tresses and muttered a spell which would ensure that they did not come undone.
After this, she pulled on an old grey t-shirt, loose trousers, and soft-soled shoes. Giving herself a quick glance in the mirror, she nodded approvingly and scooped up an armful of something silky and fluid-looking from her bed. Armed with this and her wand, she walked with light steps towards the door.
As she stepped over the threshold, murmuring the spell to douse the lights within, she looked the corridor up and down, checking for signs of life.
Nothing. It was gone midnight, long past curfew for students and prefects alike. There was no sound from Marcus’ room, but Anastacia was sure that if she were able to put her ear to the door, she would hear faint snores.
Not that she knew whether Marcus snored or not. She had always just seen him as the kind of person who would; wet, snuffly little snores in keeping with his priggish, snuffly little personality.
She walked calmly and quietly down the corridor, breathing deeply. She hadn’t gone three steps, however, before she felt someone’s gaze on her back. Sighing to herself, she turned to face the way she had come.
‘Stop hiding,’ she called to the empty corridor in general, ‘I know you’re there.’
She was unsurprised when, a few moments later, one of the darker shadows by the wall detached itself from its fellow shadows and strode leisurely towards her.
‘Yes?’ she asked imperiously as James drew closer, ‘what are you doing here?’
‘I’m hungry,’ he offered by way of explanation, hands in his pockets, eyes seemingly innocent.
‘Hungry?’ Anastacia asked disbelievingly.
‘Okay; to be perfectly truthful, Sam was the one who was hungry. I was going to do a kitchen run for him. Only, imagine my surprise when I went to get my cloak and it wasn’t there.’
He was pointedly not looking at said cloak, currently draped over Anastacia’s arm. She didn’t say a word, waiting for him to finish.
‘So I went down to the common room and Rose was there. I asked her if she’d seen anyone go up the stairs into the boy’s dormitories but not come back down and she said no. Then I asked her if she’d seen you at any point during the evening and she said no. So I asked her if she gave you my invisibility cloak or helped you to get it and she looked at me like she wanted to turn me into a slug.’
‘And?’ Anastacia prompted.
‘And I deduced that you had taken the cloak and were preparing to go haring off on some wild adventure without inviting me. And I was hurt. So I decided to come and chat to you. Only I couldn’t very well knock on your door. So I waited for you to come out.’
She nodded, feeling simultaneous surprise and understanding. Surprise because Rose could lie for England and bollock her way out of just about anything. Understanding because if there was one person who’d be able to see through a prevaricating Rose, it would be James. Secrets and disguises were his tools of the trade, after all, or at least such was the general opinion.
She met his eyes and immediately wished she hadn’t. Despite his light tone, the look in his eyes was anything but. Anastacia sighed again and prepared herself for a row.
‘Look, James, the reason I didn’t tell you about this was because it involves Slytherins and–’
‘Slytherins!’ he hissed, predictably, ‘Who was it? What did they do to you?’
‘Never mind!’ she told him impatiently, ‘The point is, you’re not invited to this particular little outing. Ta for the cloak and all, but I can handle this one on my own.’
She expected him to explode and tell her that she was to return to her room this instant or he’d summon Professor Vem. That sort of a reaction she could deal with, she was prepared for. What she wasn’t prepared for was what he actually did.
James pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes closed and brow furrowed.
‘Stac,’ he told her gently, ‘we’re in this together, pure and simple. You know that. You want to go running around at all hours playing Robin Hood, that’s fine by me, as long as you take me with you. What am I supposed to do now, go back to bed and try not to think about you sneaking into that snake den alone?’
‘It’s not a snake den,’ she replied indignantly, ‘and what’s ‘Robin Hood’?’
‘Never mind,’ he sighed, tugging the cloak from her grasp and swinging it over the two of them, ‘I’ll explain it one day. Are you at least going to tell me who it is we’re pranking?’
Anastacia found herself being escorted towards the dungeons and the Slytherin dormitories by the one person she had assumed would do everything in his power to keep her away. This left her somewhat confused and for a few precious minutes she simply allowed herself to be led, not quite sure what to say.
When she finally came to her senses, they were only a few passages and a flight of stairs from their destination. Anastacia yanked hard on James’ arm and hissed,
He did so, immediately, bringing her to a halt beside him.
‘You can’t go in there! You can’t even go near it; you know what Longbottom said!’
James quirked an eyebrow at her.
‘You’re the one who’s planning to do Merlin-knows-what to Merlin-knows-who just because they did Merlin-knows-what to you Merlin-knows-when, and you’re telling me off? Just for possibly intending to bend some silly punishment involving proximity?’
She was looking at him a trifle puzzledly, trying to sort through all the ‘Merlin’s in her head. When she got to the last few, she scowled at him darkly.
‘For your information, they did not ‘just’ do anything to me at all and this is not ‘just’ some person I’m intending to get back at.’
He looked at her as if to say, ‘oh yeah?’ and she ploughed on, disregarding completely the fact that she hadn’t meant to tell him and the suspicion that this was a very bad idea.
‘It was Creeten Zarlow, and he insulted my honour.’
Any other boy would have stared back at her incredulously, quite possibly with a slack jaw and the hint of dribble forming at the corner of their mouths. In short, they wouldn’t have understood a word she’d said and very likely wouldn’t have paid that much attention even if they had.
With any other girl outside his immediate family, there was a strong possibility that James would have reacted the same as those other boys.
But Stac wasn’t just ‘any other girl’.
So instead of staring, he suppressed the urge to growl menacingly and tear the stone separating them from the sleeping Slytherins apart in search of the bastard who’d done such a thing.
But Anastacia was patting his arm and assuring him that she had it all under control, privately thinking that it had been a terribly stupid thing to tell him in the first place.
‘He was rude to me this morning, very rude, that’s all, and I’m just going in to pay him back. Like I said; I’ve got this one.’
James put his arm around her shoulders and started walking again, half-carrying her along beside him.
‘There is no way you’ve got this,’ he shot back, his voice rumbling low in his chest, ‘I’m going in with you.’
Which may have seemed like an overreaction on his part, but James knew what it took for Anastacia to get really riled. Riled to the point where she would go for revenge on her own and not tell him, like now.
It meant that whatever Creeten had said to her had hurt her badly.
Just outside the entrance to the Slytherin common room, Anastacia tried again.
‘Look, you can stand lookout, okay?’ she told him, ‘That way you’re still helping, but you’re not breaking your word to Longbottom.’
‘Neville didn’t mean it, not really,’ James scoffed, ‘so stop trying to weasel out. I’m coming in with you, okay? Pure and simple.’
He tapped the wall with his wand, Sam and himself having discovered in their second year that the entrance to Slytherin was just like most of its members, i.e. not very bright. A good tap would open it the same as the password.
The stones slid gratingly apart and James strode through. Anastacia followed, shaking her head in dismay and resignation.
‘Fine,’ she hissed once they were inside, ‘but you do everything I say. If I tell you to leave, you leave, agreed?’
‘Agreed,’ James replied, his eyes lighting up in anticipation.
She frowned at his eagerness but didn’t tell him off, knowing it would do no good. Instead, she turned towards the two doors at the end of the room that led to the dormitories.
‘Follow me,’ she sighed. She was no longer under the invisibility cloak, and as she walked she cast a disillusionment charm over herself. Her form blurred in James’ eyes, and it was his turn to frown as she became indistinguishable from the dark stone walls behind her, dull in the murky green light.
James pulled the cloak tight around himself and hurried after her, or at least, he hurried in the direction he thought she was going. His suspicions were confirmed when the door to the boys’ dormitories swung open noiselessly and stayed that way, waiting for him to pass through.
He did so and pulled it closed behind him. As he followed the faint blur down the corridor, a familiar feeling began to spread over him, warmth that started at his head and trickled slowly down to his toes.
He was sneaking again. Of course, most people thought this was how he spent the majority of his time, but that wasn’t quite true. If Stac was ever sneaking around, he was usually keeping a look out or tearing up the castle trying to find her and stop her getting killed. He hadn’t had a proper sneak in ages!
The last door in the dim corridor swung open, and James tiptoed through, his nostrils flaring the moment he crossed the threshold.
The air within the room was dank and thick with indescribable smells. It was like no one had ever opened a window, which was probably true, the dormitories being underwater and all. Still, it was enough to make even another boy with occasionally questionable hygiene pause and let out a muffled gasp.
‘Shh!’ Stac warned him, suddenly appearing by his side. Why she’d taken off the charm while they were actually in the room, he didn’t know, but he felt better being able to see her. She pointed her wand towards the beds.
‘What are you planning to do?’ he whispered back, pulling the cloak from his shoulders.
Stac shot him an evil grin, and he almost felt sorry for Creeten. Almost, but not really.
‘I’m going to curse him,’ she whispered happily.
James’ eyebrows started inspecting his hairline.
‘Not really,’ she qualified quickly, ‘I’m just going to make him feel like he’s been cursed.’
He thought about it for a moment, then an answering grin spread across his face.
‘How can I help?’
‘Go to his wardrobe and put this charm on everything’ she told him, handing him a scrap of parchment. She then crossed the room to stand by one of the beds. James could only assume it was Creeten’s. The snoring forms all looked the same, huge under their covers.
He looked at the parchment. On it, in neat, curling script was written ‘septem serpens tantum non animadverto’. James rolled the words around on his tongue and went to find Creeten’s clothes.
The Slytherin’s wardrobe was surprisingly neat for a teenage boy. James poked some items of clothing with his wand, not game to touch them in case being a Slytherin was contagious. Next to a pair of school robes (hung! On a coat hanger!) were a larger pair of the robes James had seen on the train platform the first day he’d seen Stac. He went in for a closer look.
The robes were dark and had some sort of crest displayed on them over and over. The crest consisted of the Slytherin snake and some sort of initials…he couldn’t quite make them out…
‘Are you done yet?’ Anastacia called in a soft voice, and James was recalled to the task at hand. He quickly whipped out his wand and charmed the first thing he saw – the strange robes.
The moment he whispered the unfamiliar words, the robes disappeared, seemingly replaced by a matching set of female underwear in bright red lace.
Stac grinned from across the room.
‘I took the liberty of creating a new spell for this auspicious occasion,’ she explained proudly, ‘it’s to do with perception. See, if anyone other than a Slytherin 7th year looks at Creeten’s clothes, they’ll see what we do. But the Creeten and his friends will just see normal clothes.’
‘Stac…’ James breathed in awe, ‘that’s brilliant. Besides being a really good piece of transfiguration.’ He paused.
‘Remind me never to get on your bad side.’
She chuckled and returned to whatever it was she was doing.
‘See what happens when you charm his shoes.’
James immediately looked around for a pair. He spotted some (polished!) poking out of the bottom of the wardrobe. He muttered the spell and almost choked on his held-in laughter as the black shoes were transformed into red velvet heels.
‘Try them on;’ Anastacia urged from the other side of the room, ‘they won’t feel like heels.’
James couldn’t help taking a furtive glance around to make sure no one was watching before he slipped the new and improved shoes on. He could get a lot of strife for wearing these…but they didn’t feel any different than normal shoes. He took a few halting steps. It was if they hadn’t changed at all.
He carefully replaced the shoes and put his own back on, then proceeded to charm everything in sight.
‘Stac,’ he called over his shoulder, quietly, just in case, ‘can we do the rest of them, too? The clothes, I mean? Why waste the opportunity?’
He heard her give a sound that was half-laugh, half-sigh, and took it for consent. Twirling his wand happily, he went to work on the contents of the other wardrobes.
They didn’t speak again for a few minutes, the only sounds being muttered spells and long-drawn snores. Finally, James called, ‘Finished!’ and turned to face the other side of the room, his mouth open to continue speaking.
He never got the words out. His brain was having too much trouble processing what he saw to worry about mere words. It was all he could do to blink and stare at the scene before him.
Everything was pink. Meaning everything was pink; the bed sheets, the blankets, the drapes, the trunks at the feet of the beds. Even the hair on Creeten’s head bore a striking resemblance to the pygmy puffs sold by James’ Uncle George in his joke shop.
‘I’m assuming he won’t notice that, either?’ James croaked when he’d found his voice again.
Anastacia shook her head.
‘Nope. At least, he won’t until I take the enchantment off tomorrow. Then he’ll see what everyone else is seeing.’
She gave another evil grin.
‘But I’m going to let him stew for a while.’
‘Lovely. Wonderful. Really wonderful,’ James complimented her. The whole scheme resonated with him as a fine wine did with a connoisseur.
‘I can’t wait till tomorrow. So, when are you planning on hitting the ceiling with the sh–’
‘I’m done,’ she announced quickly, giving him a quelling look, ‘so let’s get out of here, d’accord?’
And before he could get another word out, she’d picked the invisibility cloak up off the floor, swung it over them both, and was towing him towards the door and to safety.
They didn’t encounter anyone on the way back to their rooms. Not that it would have mattered much if they had; they were both far too accomplished at sneaking around by now to be caught out. No more mistakes like the first time they’d gone out at night together.
As they turned up the corridor, Anastacia stepped out from under the cloak. James dropped it from around his shoulders and draped it over one arm.
‘I’ll see you for breakfast?’ he smiled with anticipation, ‘Only I’m assuming that’s when you’re planning to remove the enchantment? When they come down to the hall?’
‘They’re always the last ones there, so at least they’ll make an entrance. Hopefully they won’t figure anything out beforehand – I’d hate to do all that planning and then miss the fun.’
James snuffed a disdainful laugh.
‘They’re not that intelligent. Don’t worry; you’ll get your laugh. Just don’t–’
‘Get caught, yes maman.’
She grinned at him and stepped in for a hug. As always, James never felt so right hugging anyone as he did her. She was the perfect height, her head fitting just under his chin, and he held her tight for a moment before letting go and giving her a slight push towards the door.
‘Go straight to bed, now, okay? Don’t make me come in there.’
Anastacia opened the door and rolled her eyes as she passed through.
Then the door closed and she was gone.
James stretched out a hand and tried vainly to reach for the handle. It was pointless; his hand felt as if there was an invisible barrier in the way, impossible to penetrate.
He sighed and withdrew his hand. He did wish; wished that there was some way to get around the enchantment. Not because he particularly wanted to get inside the head girl’s room, but…well, because it was the one thing in the castle he couldn’t get past.
The head boy and girl’s rooms and their shared common room were a fairly new addition to Hogwarts’ architecture. They had been a ‘gift’ from McGonagall when she retired, although why exactly she had chosen such a gift to give was unclear. James had once heard Neville complaining about it to Aunt Hermione, Uncle Ron and his parents soon after they’d been built. Neville had been convinced that McGonagall had done it just to make his time as headmaster harder. He’d foreseen all sorts of trouble, not the least of which would be keeping students of the opposite sex out of the respective rooms.
But it seemed McGonagall had also foreseen this; she had laid some of the strongest magic James had ever seen on those rooms.
All three rooms came off the one corridor, the two bedrooms to either side of the shared common room. The spells laid down made it impossible for a boy to get within three feet of the door to the head girl’s room, and vice versa. Moreover, the common room did not allow more than one boy and one girl to enter after curfew, and would forcibly remove (read: spontaneously disapparate) all occupants if more than the allowed number was present after that time.
So far there had been no problems with the separate living arrangements. At least, none that James had heard of. He and Sam had tried dozens of times to outwit the spells, but they’d met with no success. The closest he had ever come to getting past them was being able to knock on Stac’s window from outside when he came to pick her up for one of the famous Wotter birthday parties. This was achieved by hovering outside the window on a broomstick. Once he tried to put even a finger through the window, however, he found the same barrier as encased the area around the door.
So as much as he would have liked to rap on Stac’s door and tell her once again just how brilliant he thought her plan was, he was at least intelligent enough to know that such an attempt was futile.
Instead, he put the cloak back on and headed off for Gryffindor Tower and bed.
The next morning saw an unusually eager James up, showered and dressed before most of his year mates had even woken up.
‘Do you know something we don’t?’ Sam asked him curiously as James sat on the edge of his bed to lace his shoes.
James winked and threw him his tie.
‘Let’s just say that if I were you, I’d hurry down to breakfast and get a good seat. You’re not going to want to miss this. Trust me.’
This was good enough for Sam, who was also ready in record time and soon following James down to the Hall.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as they entered. Indeed, things looked so normal it was almost suspicious. James, who knew what was going to happen, could barely keep it to himself. Sam, who could only guess at what was going on, was nearly wild with anticipation.
The slid onto the bench next to Anastacia, who looked up at James with a fresh face and bright eyes, as if she’d spent the whole night sleeping peacefully instead of sneaking around until all hours.
‘I give them another ten minutes or so,’ she murmured casually, reaching for a jug of pumpkin juice, ‘nearly everyone else is here now.’
James nearly groaned, but remembered he too was supposed to be casual and held it in. But ten minutes? Honestly. Sometimes life just wasn’t fair.
At least he had food in front of him, and if there was one thing that could distract him from a problem at hand, it was food. He piled his plate with bacon and eggs and began to dig in heartily, aware of Sam watching him from the corner of his eye.
‘Oh, Merlin, here they come!’ whispered Stac breathlessly a few minutes later.
James’ head spun around to stare fixedly at the great double doors at the end of the Hall.
Sure enough, a second later, they opened and in walked a small group of boys, all wearing the same crimson lace underwear and red velvet shoes.
There was a split second of silence before the entire Hall went absolutely mental. The Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws were laughing fit to bust. James saw his cousin Hugo gasping for air and wheezing with laughter a few places down the table.
Sam was shaking on the seat beside him, his large frame making the entire bench vibrate.
Meanwhile, the Slytherins were in total shock. Some of their faces were completely devoid of expression, others seemed to think that they’d gone stark raving mad and were imagining things. James actually saw one boy rubbing his eyes and peering at the group by the door, as if he expected them to be dust spots or something of the like.
Creeten and his friends seemed unsure of what to do. They certainly didn’t have the faintest idea of what was going on, that much was painfully obvious. Creeten tried to swagger down the row between tables as usual, but this combined with red lace and heels just had the effect of making him look like a genetic experiment on a catwalk model gone horribly, horribly wrong. The rest of the boys followed him, to loud shouts and jeers from the rest of the houses.
Sam was now laughing so hard he was having trouble holding himself upright. Eventually he gave in to the weakness and half-collapsed on the table, banging it repeatedly with his fist as he proceeded to laugh himself senseless.
Albus was being thumped on the back by one of his friends; he’d started to laugh with a mouth full of breakfast and had choked. Fred had gone one better – he’d started to laugh with a mouthful of pumpkin juice. He’d managed to hold some of it in, but a great deal had come out his nose. Dominique, Molly and Lily were in fits of giggles, and even Rose was holding her sides, groaning with laughter. James caught her eye, and she pointed at something before collapsing weakly onto Daisy, who was sitting next to her.
James looked for what she’d been pointing at and nearly died. He hadn’t noticed last night, presumably because he’d been so in awe of Anastacia’s spell casting skills, but all the boys were wearing thongs.
Red. Lace. Thongs.
With matching brassieres.
And red velvet heels.
Suffice to say, the overall effect was rather stunning. It was improved no end by the stunning clash of Creeten’s clothes with his bright pink hair, hair that would have made Teddy proud.
Something poked James in the side, and he tore his eyes away from the questionable wonders of Creeten’s pearly white butt-cheeks to look at the tiny girl beside him. Margie was nearly on the floor on her other side, hanging onto the edge of the table with one hand and her stomach with the other as she lost it completely.
Stac was smiling her evil smile and wiping tears of laughter from her eyes.
‘Do you think we’ve let them stew enough?’ she gasped to James.
But he couldn’t answer. He couldn’t even stop laughing long enough to draw breath, let alone form a coherent sentence. So he nodded briefly and shot his gaze back to the Slytherin table.
He heard Anastacia mutter something under her breath, her giggles forcing her to have a few tries before she got it right.
He knew the moment she did get it right, because it was the moment that Creeten Zarlow looked down in horror and clapped his arms around his semi-naked form. Around him, his friends did the same, their expressions showing a mixture of disbelief and pure terror. Creeten roared something at those around him, got no response, and clearly decided he’d had quite enough – he turned and sprinted for the doors. The other boys followed right behind him, going as fast as they could.
Or at least, they would have been. Heels are, after all, not the easiest things to run in, especially when one has had no practice. What was intended as a sprint swiftly descended into an ungainly wobble and totter, as the boys struggled to keep their feet. One of them went over, the top part of his underwear slipping down as he fell.
The other tables positively howled.
Somehow, the boys escaped. As the Hall gradually returned to normal, James leaned down to Stac and whispered cheekily in her ear,
‘I must say, you do have a way with underwear, don’t you?’
She opened her mouth to retort, but Sam chose that moment to turn to James with eyes full of tears.
‘That was bloody brilliant!’ he gasped painfully.
James grinned, but his face quickly fell when a quiet voice spoke up from behind him.
‘Yes, I thought so too. My office, James. Now, please.’
James groaned and rose from the bench. Turning, he followed Neville from the hall and began the familiar walk up to the Headmaster’s study.
So, here we are again at the end of another chapter! Wow, this thing is really moving along. Ta to everyone who left a review, and to the wonderful verityemmelineblack for giving such lovely feedback! Hope you enjoy, and I shall try to update again soon!
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