Two - Latte
never quite recover from the realisation that the world is not a happy place
full of fluffy bunnies and Gryffindors and Slytherins frolicking together in
the meadows, but it is in fact a cruel place where the Gryffindors and
Slytherins grow up into nasty Aurors and nastier Death Eaters and the fluffy
bunnies are baked in pies. Interestingly, the greater majority of these people
do not grow up to become cruel themselves. Instead, they become cynics.
I remember quite
clearly the moment when I was set on the path to cynicism. In fact, it’s my
earliest memory - I was only two years old at the time. It was November 2,
1981, and my parents, Sabina and I were having breakfast (read: my parents were
sensibly eating marmalade on toast while Sabina and I threw pureed pears at
each other). The Daily Prophet owl soared through the window and dropped
the paper. My mother picked it up, unfolded it, glanced at the headline, and
immediately burst into tears. It was the day the world found out about the
death of the Potters and the miraculous survival of their little boy Harry -
though I didn’t understand that at the time. All I knew was that my mummy was
crying - and I hadn’t thought there was anything in the world that could make
my mummy cry.
I found out much
later that Lily Potter had been several years beneath my mother at school, and
my mother had helped her out with her Arithmancy assignments. She hadn’t been
the only one of my mother’s school friends that had died in the war, but my
mother’s reaction to her death stuck in my two-year-old mind and stayed there.
It was then I realised that the world wasn’t perfect - and I started down the
not-so-rose-strewn path to cynicism.
that my sister - my own twin sister, my genetic identical - could do something
as loathsome as be unfaithful to the eternally loyal Archie Stebbins was
another moment like that. I’ve never been much of a brooder - it’s not really a
very Hufflepuff trait - but I practically gained a degree in it in the few days
after the incident in the hallway. These three days of broody moping only
taught me one thing - brooding is bloody useless. Have you ever noticed that
your real thoughts - what you really believe - is the one thing you can never figure out? You
think you know, but you never really do.
By the time I
emerged from my black broody mood, it was February 17. Three days had already
passed since I gave Sabina my ultimatum, but nothing had really changed. Archie
was still Captain Cheerful, so Sabina obviously hadn’t done anything; and I
still felt like a cross between a soapie character and Joan of Arc. Obviously,
problems don’t go away if you hide your head under the pillow. Or, in my case,
under my dictionaries.
something wrong?” Edmund asked me that afternoon, catching up to me after my
last class of the day. “I haven’t seen you since V-Day.”
I shook my head
slightly. “I’m all right. Just… bogged down, you know? OWLs and all that.
Professor Vector gave us a pile of Arithmancy homework as tall as Everest.”
Edmund raised an
eyebrow. “Is that so?”
didn’t believe me.
New Rule #1
Regarding Miss S. Fawcett (Hufflepuff) and Dating: Never, ever date someone who
knows you better than you know yourself.
“The thing is,”
Edmund went on, “today happens to be Tuesday - and I know you don’t have
Arithmancy till Wednesday.”
New Rule #2
Regarding Miss S. Fawcett (Hufflepuff) and Dating: Never, ever date someone who
knows your timetable
better than you do yourself.
“And the other
thing is,” he continued mercilessly, “your sister just happens to be moping
round Ravenclaw Turret looking as if she dived into an ocean full of angst.”
New Rule #3
Regarding Miss S. Fawcett (Hufflepuff) and Dating: Never, ever date someone
who, apart from understanding the twin thing, spends much time in close
proximity to Miss S. Fawcett (Ravenclaw).
Edmund finished, “is there something you want to tell me?”
loyalty is more than a double-edged sword. It’s a morningstar with a heavy
chain and lots of spikes. You can hold a double-edged sword by the hilt, but no
matter where you hold a morningstar, you get spiked. There are only so many
people at a time one can be loyal to. How was I supposed to be loyal to a)
Sabina, twin sister, b) Archie, fellow Hufflepuff and c) Edmund, boyfriend?
I sighed and
settled for the coward’s way out. There is definitely a reason I’m not a
it’s bloody complicated, all right? Do you mind if I… well, if I wait for a bit
before spilling my guts? Like… a week or so? I need to figure this out for
Edmund gave me
this Look. At the risk of sounding even more like Maribelle Susannah from Black
Magic, it gave me
shivers. “Of course it’s all right, Sylvia,” he said gently. He touched my
hair. “Just come to me when you’re ready, okay?”
Bierce may say
that kindness is merely a preface to ten volumes of exaction, but it definitely
has advantages. Usually, kindness and cynics like me don’t even belong in the
same universe - but today it was just what I needed.
New Rule #4
Regarding Miss S. Fawcett (Hufflepuff) and Dating: Scrap all previous rules and
keep, at all costs, nice understanding sensitive boyfriend.
I felt a lot
better after my conversation with Edmund, though I felt a little guilty about
it. Using girlfriendly tactics as an excuse to keep Edmund from learning that
his brother’s girlfriend was cheating on him was rather low of me. But it’s not
as if there was much I could do about the situation without breaking my promise
common room was rather quiet that night. There were only a few people in there
- me, a group of fourth years studying in the corner, and Cedric Diggory, who
was practicing some sort of charm, probably for the Triwizard Tournament.
picked up my quill. I had a pile of Care of Magical Creatures homework on my
lap that wasn’t going to get done on its own. Hagrid’s homework was never
particularly hard… but still, it was homework, and that was the principle of
the thing. He’d given us a list of ten magical creatures and asked us to
describe them - without the aid of any textbook. “An’ don’ think about breakin’
tha’ rule,” he had said solemnly. “I got Perfessor McGonagall to put a jinx on
those bits o’ parchment ye’ve got, so I’ll know if ye so much as touch a book.”
creature on the list was a hippogriff. A creature that is half
horse, half griffin, I
wrote dutifully. The griffin itself is a compound creature,
being half eagle, half lion. This makes the hippogriff half horse, one quarter
lion and one quarter eagle.
about eagles in Arithmancy when we did our wizarding economics unit. As well as
being a bird, they were an outdated form of currency worth about sixteen
crossing out ’one quarter eagle’ and writing ’about four galleons’ instead.
hippogriffs. He’d been livid for days when he found out that Hagrid had had
some and he’d never seen them. Edmund had told me once that Archie had had a
stuffed Hippogriff as a child called Mr. Potamus. He still had it, apparently,
tucked away in a dark cupboard. Mrs. Stebbins had tried to throw it out
numerous times, but Archie wouldn’t let her.
I threw down my
quill. I was obviously going to get no work done with Sabina’s dirty secret
hanging over my head.
I looked up.
Cedric Diggory was standing beside my chair - and he had… two
said, “what on earth happened to you?”
easily and flung himself down into the chair beside me. “I’m trying to teach
myself the Bubble-Head Charm,” he answered from the head on the left side. “For
the Triwizard Tournament. Unfortunately, it’s not going that well - I screwed
up somewhere and managed to put the Double-Head Charm on myself instead.”
“Well, you should be able to figure out the Bubble-Head Charm, now, surely -
you’ve got two brains to do the thinking with.”
“Ah, but it
means I’ve got two heads to cover with the charm instead of one,” Cedric
replied. “I suppose you don’t know how to reverse it?”
“Pity. I’ll just
have to wait for it to wear off. Anyway, back to my original question. Is
something the matter? I never picked you as the teen angst type, you know, but
every time I come into the common room you seem to be deep in angsty thought.”
I raised an
eyebrow. “Well, well, if it isn’t Mr. Observant.”
He laid a hand
over his heart. “I am, as Cho continues to tell me, a sensitive New Age guy,
though I don’t pretend to know what that means. So come on, spill your guts.
You can tell Uncle Cedric.”
I don’t know
what it was. Maybe the stress of keeping the secret had built up in me like a
poison. Maybe the strangeness of sitting next to a two-headed man was driving
me slightly bonkers. Maybe someone had put Veritaserum in my tea - it’s an
unsolved mystery. But the words exploded out of me like badly made potion out
of a cauldron in Snape’s dungeon.
“And now I don’t
know what to do, because whatever I do I’ll hurt someone. I promised Sabina, but I don’t really have the right to keep it from Archie, and Edmund will murder me when he finds out I knew and I didn’t
looking at me with absolutely no expression all. I’ve never seen someone with a
face (or two faces, in this case) that could be so effortlessly neutral.
“Sounds like you’re in a bit of a difficult situation,” he commented.
it mildly,” I grumbled.
He leaned back.
“I am suddenly very glad I’m an only child.”
I sat up
straighter. “Listen, you can’t tell Archie, all right? I know he’s in your dorm
and all, but I promised Sabina, and it’ll absolutely kill him -”
Cedric held up
his hands. “Your secret is safe with me, Sylvia,” he said. “My lips are sealed
- both sets of them. I shall be as silent as the grave. Cross my heart and hope
“Thanks,” I said
gratefully. “I’m - it’s just so confusing, you know? I don’t know what the
right thing to do is - and no matter what I do, someone is going to think I did
the wrong thing.”
“It is said,”
Cedric said seriously, taking his reading glasses out of his pocket and
perching them on the end of his left-hand nose, “that righteousness is a sturdy
virtue that was once found among the Pantidoodles inhabiting the lower part of
the peninsula of Oque. Some feeble attempts were made by returned missionaries
to introduce it into several European countries, but it appears to have been
I stared. “You
know The Devil‘s Dictionary?”
“But of course.”
“You’ve read it?” I squeaked.
“You know who Ambrose Bierce is?”
“I want to shake
Cedric held out
his hand. I took it in both of mine and shook it firmly. “All these years we’ve
lived in the same cellar, Cedric,” I said, “and I never knew.”
“Well, we all have our little secrets. I don’t own a copy, but I wish I did.”
“I have it,” I
answered. “Edmund gave it to me for Christmas. I have The
Cynic’s Dictionary as
well. Have you read that one?”
“No. I’ll have
to borrow it from you one day - after all this Triwizard stuff is over.”
Cedric, if I wasn’t taken, I would be seriously tempted by your cynical reading
easily. “Better not let old Stebbo - your Stebbo, that is - hear you say that.
Or Cho, for that matter.”
really was wasted on Cho Chang, I reflected after he (and his spare head) had
left. He was snarky yet sensitive, she was shallow and superficial. Everything
about her was… small. She had a small body, a small personality and a small
mind. Giggle, giggle, flip hair, giggle, giggle, giggle with friends, giggle,
giggle, moon at Cedric, giggle, giggle, rearrange schedule to allow for more
In my earlier
years at Hogwarts I’d often wondered how it came about that she, of supreme
superficiality and no great mind, came to be in Ravenclaw - and it took me some
years to figure out that there was actually nowhere else she could go. She was
neither brave nor reckless, which ruled out Gryffindor; she was about as
ambitious as I was giggly, which ruled out Slytherin; and her habit of picking
a new boyfriend every two weeks definitely ruled out loyal Hufflepuff.
You know, it’s a
bloody pity that shallowness (especially when combined with a pretty face) is
the root cause of chronic good health, high school popularity, appearance on
Prophet bestseller lists
and gainful employment on the WWN. The world is going downhill as fast as