The Sugar Quill
Author: Tapestry (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Eshu 2: The Invisible Wall  Chapter: Ch. 2 - The Secret Life of Flobberworms
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 Chapter 2 - Reflections

Chapter 2 – The Secret Life of Flobberworms

***

Acknowledgements: As always, thanks to the SQ Workhop. While our name may change our friendship won’t – you guys are the best inspiration any writer could ask for! Special thanks to Yolonda, for her help in the eleventh hour, I really appreciate it! To my readers, thanks for you patience and for reading.

***

When Kit stepped off the train, the heavy rain blanketing the platform soaked her robes in seconds. She had to strain to see past all the students rushing about and shrieking at the downpour. She hesitated uncertainly on the worn boards of the platform.

“Firs’ years this way!” boomed Hagrid from down at the other end.

But she wasn’t a first year anymore, so where was she supposed to go? Verity hopped down beside Kit, both hands over her head like a small, ineffectual umbrella.

“What are you standing around for?” Verity demanded. “Get in one of the school coaches before we’re washed away!”

Kit threw Verity a harassed look and glanced around again. Students everywhere but not a single coach. “Where?”

Verity shoved at Kit’s shoulders impatiently as Ellie and then Serena appeared beside them. Kit stumbled forward and was caught up in the huge mass of students shuffling across the platform toward a muddy dirt track. Predictably, Serena melted into the crowd and disappeared without a backward glance, but Ellie clung to the back of Kit’s robes and Verity was busy elbowing and shoving other students aside to keep up with the two of them. For the moment Verity seemed to have forgotten about her bandaged arm and she wielded as mercilessly as the other.

Soon Kit was on the track itself and listening to the thick “schuck, schuck” of her shoes pulling at the mud. It was like walking through cement. The crowd in front of her thinned and Kit could see a hundred old-fashioned stagecoaches. They were large and black, with smudged windows that looked like blank grey eyes in the evening light. Torches flickered at the front corner of each coach, defying the rain and casting a fitful orange light over the students scrambling inside.

Verity shot past Kit and threw herself into the nearest unoccupied coach. Kit stared at the empty traces. How was the coach supposed to go anywhere without a horse to draw it? She was answered a moment later as, with a loud squelch, the first coaches began lumbering away. Self-propelled coaches. Kit shook her head; she should have known. By now Ellie was in the coach as well and both she and Verity peered out at Kit incredulously.

“Are you trying to drown yourself? Get in here!” Verity yelled.

Kit stopped staring at the coach and waded her way through the students and mud. For a moment she thought she saw a skeletal horse with something black and bulky on its back between the traces. But when she turned her head there was nothing there. I must be more tired than I thought, Kit decided, climbing into the coach. It was dank and dim inside. Kit suddenly missed the Hogwarts Express with its plush seats and cheerful light. This was like traveling in a funeral party.

***

The coaches reached Hogwarts long before the boats crossing the lake had even reached midway. The entrance hall was slick from the many wet shoes tramping across it. Kit walked carefully, trying not to slip. Ellie wrung out her hair and grabbed Kit’s arm, dragging her into the great hall.

“Come on, I’m bloody well freezing. There should be a fire in here.” Ellie gave a dramatic shudder. “I could climb right inside it.”

Verity followed the two of them with reluctant steps and Kit sent a sympathetic grimace her way. Verity had to join her classmates at the Slytherin table in the great hall, and they weren’t exactly a friendly lot. In their first year, Verity had had a lot of trouble with her Slytherin classmates because she was friends with Kit and Ellie. Fraternizing with Muggle-borns wasn’t something the house encouraged. Kit thought again how grateful she was to be in Hufflepuff. The warm light of the hall splashed over the Hufflepuff table, seeming to linger and highlight each smiling face. There were few smiles at the Slytherin table and their laughter had a nasty, sharp edge to it.

Verity threw back her shoulders, lifted her chin and marched toward her house table. “Catch you two after the feast,” she called back.

Kit gave a little wave and Ellie nodded. Still preoccupied with what had happened on the train, Kit paid little attention to the headmaster’s opening speech. But the seriousness of his tone finally caught her attention.

“-I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the prefects and our Head Boy and Girl, to make sure no student runs foul of the Dementors,” Dumbledore said. He moved on to announcing new staff appointments and Kit lost interest again. Their new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher was likely just as useless as last year. When Dumbledore had finished speaking the students clapped more enthusiastically than Kit thought an opening speech warranted. What had she missed? The students around her erupted into a flurry of whispers.

“Yes, but why,” Ellie said, “are the Dementors at Hogwarts?”

Annemette gave a sniff. “Looking for Sirius Black of course. Do you live in a box when you’re not at school?”

Ellie glared and Kit sent Annemette a dirty look. Maybe she’d set Puck loose on Annemette’s precious wardrobe – see how snotty she was when she was trying to find all the pieces to her fuzzy pink sweaters. Annemette had been friendly to them once. However, when all the trouble broke out last year over the Chamber of Secrets with Muggle-borns being attacked, suddenly Annemette was too good to mix with mudbloods.

Ellie ignored Annemette and turned to Merrilee, a round-faced girl with a perpetual smile on her face. “Who’s Sirius Black?”

“He broke out of Azkaban Prison,” Merrilee said, leaning forward.

“What was he in for?” Kit asked.

“Murdering 13 people. With a single curse.”

Kit blinked. “Must have been a good curse.”

“Guess so,” Merrilee said with a shrug, “blew up a street or something.”

“My mum says Sirius Black is a nutter,” Calliope interjected with a nod. Sallow-skinned with improbable yellow hair, Calliope was Merrilee’s best friend. The two were seldom apart. “I heard he can make himself invisible. He could be standing right behind you and you’d never know!”

Merrilee gave a small yelp and looked wildly around. Annemette almost fell off of her seat laughing. She recovered and gave Merrilee a haughty smile. “That’s such rubbish. He’s just a common criminal and they’ll have him back in Azkaban in no time. You wait and see.”

“I’ve got a new book of defensive spells. We can practice with it after the feast,” offered Jynx. There was a marked silence. No one, not one of them, was brave enough to practice magic with Jynx. She had a way of making even the easiest spell dangerous. They might be safer with the maniac, actually.

Ellie shook her head in disbelief. “Last year it’s monsters chasing students through the halls, and now we’ve got an escaped lunatic stalking the school. I can’t wait to see what we get to deal with next year. How does this place stay open?”

Kit shrugged. “Guess it’s normal for them. You never hear about stuff like this in regular schools, do you? Something about magic makes it all a bit weird.”

“Still,” Ellie said, loading her plate down with food, “I think this school must attract dangerous things. I hope they catch that man soon. I don’t like those Dementors – they’re awful.”

Kit nodded absently and played with the food on her plate. The Dementors were horrible, but there was something about them that made Kit almost want to sneak out of the school. Just to see what would happen. The feeling of power and energy she’d felt on the train had been exhilarating. Kit felt as if she could have dismantled a tank in those moments.

***

Classes were much the same as they had been in her first year. Professor McGonagall was as strict as ever, Professor Flitwick as squeaky, and Professor Snape just as bad tempered. Kit was really looking forward to her Care of Magical Creatures class on Tuesday but it ended up being canceled. Some idiot Slytherin had gotten flayed by a hippogriff, whatever that was. Trust a Slytherin to ruin it for everybody else. Kit had to wait until Thursday to finally attend the class. She left Ellie in the entrance hall looking sulky.

“I’m sorry Ellie, but you’ll be able to take it next year,” Kit said.

Ellie just frowned. “Yeah but you won’t be in it then either will you, cause you’ll still be a year ahead.”

“Look at it this way, I can warn you what’s coming up,” Kit said. “Why don’t you find Verity?”

“She’s studying, as usual. I can’t pry her out of her books. Guess I’ll just wander the halls,” Ellie said with a tragic look.

Kit laughed. “After last year, you should be glad that’s an option.”

Ellie waved a hand at her. “Better get going or you’ll be late and the creatures will have already eaten all the students.”

Kit laughed and waved at |Ellie as she sprinted through the front doors and down across the lawn. Care of Magical Creatures was being taught in front of the grounds keeper’s hut. There were already a lot of students there when Kit arrived and she smiled at a few of the older Hufflepuffs she recognized. Hanah Abbott was attending the class and there was Ernie McMillan and Justin Finch-fletchly. The three of them always seemed to be together, as if they shared a brain or something. Still, Hanah had always been nice to Kit. She didn’t feel like joining them though, especially with Hanah giving her odd looks. Kit could almost see the questions quivering on Hanah’s tongue.

She didn’t know any of the other Hufflepuffs, she’d only seen them around the common room. It was actually rather shocking how the various years kept to themselves and didn’t mix with one another.

“I’m telling you Enid, the quality of this lettuce is just terrible. I mean we’re important creatures, the least they could do is feed us something edible. But no, it’s all cheap imported lettuce, mealy and bland. I won’t stand for it. I just won’t.”

Kit looked wide-eyed at the giant box sitting in front of the grounds keeper’s hut. Hagrid, the Hogwarts grounds keeper, appeared a moment later from the side of the hut. He looked red-eyed and somber. His shaggy black hair was unkept and matted.

“Come closer, move in, move in now. Firs’ off I wan’ y’all ter take out yer books. Some of me other classes had trouble opening ‘em. Any of you lot manage?” Hagrid asked.

The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws shuffled forward, dragging their books out of school packs and satchels. Every book had been tightly fastened with tape or rope, a couple were bound shut with belts or ties. Kit pulled her own book out of her bag with a guilty look at Hagrid. Her book was the only one not strapped down. It whimpered as she pulled it out and tried to scuttle back into her bag. The cover was ripped in several places, one entire corner was missing from the lower edge, and a couple pages threatened to fall out at any moment.

Hagrid looked at the tightly bound books and sighed. When he saw Kit’s book, however, his mouth fell open. “What in the blazes happened ter yer book?”

Kit’s cheeks burned as every eye turned to her. “Um … he didn’t mean to, really. It’s just that the book growled at him and well … Puck likes to do all the growling you know.”

“Puck?” Hagrid asked.

Kit put down the Monster Book and dug Puck out of his pouch. The Monster Book huddled behind her shoe and shuddered. Puck glared down at the book and snapped playfully. The Monster Book let out a howl and scrambled away, diving into Kit’s bag.

“Puck!” Kit scolded. She glanced up at Hagrid. “Sorry, sir.” Puck snuggled happily in her hands and looked around at her classmates, baring his teeth at a few. His dislike of other people seemed to be getting worse.

Hagrid shambled over and bent to take a closer look at Puck. Puck stared up at him haughtily.

“Its jus’ a knarl,” Hagrid said, looking disappointed.

“Just? Just?” Puck tried to launch himself at Hagrid, tiny claws scrabbling. Kit tightened her grip and Puck snarled. “I’ll show him just.”

Hagrid was smiling as he reached out to tap Puck under his chin. Puck tried to take his finger off. “He’s a cute little fella.”

Puck subsided into Kit’s hands with a glower. “More like it.”

“Right,” Hagrid said, turning back to the rest of the class. “The way ya open yer books is to stroke the spines.” He took one of the books and ripped a double coil of rope off it. As soon as he ran his finger down the spine the book flopped open with a little cooing noise. It was almost cute. “We’ll be starting at the beginning with,” He paused and sent a doleful look at the box in front of his hut, “Flobberworms.”

Kit grimaced. Whatever Flobberworms were, they sounded disgusting.

There was a groan from one or two of the other students. “Flobberworms?” said a dark-haired Ravenclaw boy, “but they’re the most boring things on earth.”

“The cheek.” Squawked a thick, phlegmy voice from the box.

“Each o’ ye grab a worm out’a the box. We’ll jus’ be feeding ‘em today,” Hagrid said.

Kit lined up with the other students. “Ew,” she couldn’t help muttering when she reached the box. The flobberworms were thick brown worms about the length of her hand, with flat heads, tiny eyes and gaping mouths. Yellowish slime clung to them and oozed from their fleshy skin.

“You can say that again,” said a girl beside her. She was shorter than Kit with a face round as a pumpkin and long blond hair in a pigtail. She filled every inch of her Hogwarts robes, seeming about to burst from them at any minute. With a smile the girl reached past Kit and grabbed up one of the worms. “Ughhhh! Disgusting.” She smiled at Kit. “I’m Persephone. You’re a second year aren’t you?”

Kit nodded. “Yeah. I’m Kit.”

“So who’d you put a charm on to get in here? I thought only third years are allowed to start new classes.”

Kit grabbed one of the flobberworms and followed Persephone over to a low table where a selection of lettuce had been laid out.

“Dumbledore offered to let me attend. I think he’s trying to keep me out of trouble or something. I got lost in the forest last year chasing after Puck.” She grabbed a small bit of lettuce and shoved it down the flobberworm’s throat as Hagrid was demonstrating.

“You went into the forest?” Persephone said with a gasp. “That was brave.”

“I uhhh wasn’t thinking about it at the time.” Kit said. “I just wanted to get Puck back.”

“Still you’re really lucky, I hear there are werewolves in there and nundus and other mad creatures.”

“It’s not all bad,” Kit said, thinking of the young centaur she’d met the previous year, Bearach.

“Yeah, well I don’t plan on finding out,” Persephone said with a shudder.

Kit just nodded at her. She was finding it very hard to carry on a conversation with all the flobberworms talking back and forth around her. Every now and then a sentence would be cut off midway as lettuce was shoved down the speaker’s throat. The wet, gulping noises the worms made was a sort of language.

By the end of the lesson Kit had to agree that Flobberworms really were the most boring creatures. And they never, ever shut up.

“You know Ruth’s not making as much mucus as she use to. But will the old girl admit it? No, insists she’s young as a grub.” Kit shoved a wad of lettuce down the worm’s throat and it choked, falling momentarily quite. But then … “Definitely not a good quality lettuce. Enid, is your feeder as clumsy as this one? I swear she’s bruised my throat.” Kit glared down at the worm.

“Tha’s enough. Put yer worm’s back in the box and read over the chapter on ‘em fer next time,” Hagrid called.

Kit gratefully flung her worm back in the box and ran up to the castle to scour her hands. Slime had crusted under her nails and in the folds of her skin. It was certainly a memorable first lesson, but not one she wanted to repeat.

****

On Friday Kit attended Defense Against the Dark Arts and got her first good look at the new professor. She wasn’t impressed. He looked as if he could do with a year’s worth of sleep. His robes were patched and worn, the dull grey color of elephant hide. His face was lined and weary looking.

Ellie gave a sniff. “Bit of a change.”

Kit nodded. “Yeah, hope he’s a better teacher than Lockhart, I don’t care if he looks pretty.”

Ellie shook her head, “Professor Lockhart was a great teacher. And he dressed better too.”

“The man had a different color robe for every day of the week. He belonged in a magazine, not a classroom. Besides, he was an idiot.”

Ellie had just opened her mouth to retort when the new professor stood up. “Good morning. Welcome to Defense Against The Dark Arts, I’m Professor Lupin.”

There were a few muttered hellos, but for the most part the class just stared back at him, waiting. What had Dumbledore given them this time?

“This term we’ll be studying Dark devices and ways of detecting them. Please take out your wands.”

A murmur of interest rustled through the room. Professor Lupin pulled out his own wand along with a tiny porcelain teacup. Ellie giggled.

“Are we going to have a tea party?” she whispered to Kit.

Kit shrugged, watching as Professor Lupin balanced the fragile cup on his palm. It was white with little painted flowers all along the rim and the handle had a sort of molded curlicue. It was pretty in a fussy sort of way.

“This cup looks quite ordinary,” Professor Lupin said. “Something many of your mother’s might have round the house. But not everything is as it appears.” He tapped the cup on the rim with his wand and said, “Revelus.” The cup glowed bright blue like the heart of a flame. “The Revealing Charm, is one of the most basic defense charms wizards have. And one of the most useful. It will reveal, by the blue glow you see here, if an item is dangerous or touched by dark magic.”

Professor Lupin put the cup down and after a few moments the glow faded.

“On an ordinary item, your textbooks for instance,” he continued, “the spell will have no effect.” Tapping a book on his desk, the professor said the incantation again. The book remained steadfastly brown, not even a hint of blue creeping into the cover.

The professor looked up at them. “A Revealing Charm can be fooled by powerful Dark magic, as can most spells, however it should always be your starting point if you suspect a Dark device.” He picked up the teacup again. “This charming cup turns any liquid into poison. Something it’s rather helpful to know before you go drinking out of it,” he added with a smile. “I’d like you all to practice the charm on items at your desks please. Work on saying the incantation and getting just the barest tap from your wand. Then you can each have a turn casting the spell on this cup.”

Kit tapped her desk with her wand and said, “Revelus.” Not surprisingly, nothing happened.

Ellie did the same. “That was exciting for about two seconds.”

Puck shifted in his pouch and mewled to get out. “Stuffy,” he muttered, shifting again. Kit gave in and took him out, setting him on the desk.

“Keep your teeth to yourself. I don’t want to lose another schoolbook. And please behave,” she begged him.

Puck glared. “Always behave,” he growled.

“You’d almost think he’s talking to you,” Ellie said, “the way he growls and squeaks.”

Puck turned his glower on Ellie. “Don’t squeak!”

Ellie laughed. “See,” she reached out to tickle his chin and Puck snarled. “Ohhh you are in a bad mood, aren’t you? Wonder if there’s a spell that could make him more cheerful?”

“I’d like to see you try,” Kit said, “he’d take apart your wand before you could cast it.”

“Poor wittle knarl,” Ellie crooned, “does the big nasty wand scare you.”

Puck growled louder and Kit sent an anxious look at the professor, but he was busy helping Jynx restore her book. It looked as if she’d blasted all the pages right out of it.

“Don’t care if she is your friend. Gonna bite her,” Puck threatened.

“Puck, no!” Kit said, turning quickly back to him. “Don’t you dare.”

“What?” Ellie said looking confused. “Put a spell on him? I wouldn’t hurt him. Here, see.” She lifted her wand and swooped in to tap Puck lightly on his head. “Revelus.”

A bright blue glow surrounded the knarl and Kit dropped her wand she was so surprised. Ellie’s mouth fell open.

“Uh, maybe you should stop teasing him,” Kit said, scooping Puck into her hands. The blue glow spread and covered her fingers, wrapping around her wrists. “Weird.”

Kit shoved Puck into his pouch before the professor could see him. She shook her hands until the blue faded and finally vanished altogether.

“That was fab!” Ellie said, “It really worked. Did you see? It really worked.”

“Yeah, I saw. Professor Lupin should have warned us that glow spreads so easy. Good thing it faded though, I don’t fancy walking around like a firecracker all day.”

“Bring him out again, I want to give it another go,” Ellie pleaded.

“Not a chance,” Kit said, “You’ll have to settle for the tea cup.”

At that moment Professor Lupin asked them to line up to begin testing their spells on the tea cup and Ellie was distracted. Good thing too, Kit had the feeling Ellie wanted to try casting the spell on everything she could reach. Puck’s patience was never a sure thing, and Kit was certain another spell cast on him would have had him rampaging through the classroom.

***

End Notes: You can learn more about Flobberworms in JKR’s schoolbook, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

//
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