Disclaimer: I am but a beggar to J.K. Rowling—from
whom I have borrowed boys and dialogue.
Long may she live and write!
Dedication: To the Quill and all its mighty Quillers. Long may
we rule the fandom!
Additional Dedication: To Zsenya
for putting up with me sending in ‘the right file, this time’. You’re wonderful.
The Major Thank-You Award/Dedication goes to: Chelle, for the swift and excellent beta and the
title. You are wise and good and I’m
glad you were willing to share my brain with me.
Unnoticed, Overlooked, Underestimated
“Troll!” A hushed
call from behind me; Dean, trying like mad to catch me up and still be
quiet. Faint sound of shoes on flagged
stone floors, a movement in the dark is all that separates us from shadows as
we rabbit down the hall; we’re just about invisible.
We skitter round the corner and crash near to silently,
thud-thud, into the wall, rebound off of it and we’re racing tickety-boo down the middle of the second floor corridor
A snort of laughter, from beside me now, as we pelt down the
marble stairs a very careful two-at-a-time, “Snape
knows we’re alive, we’re Gryffindors; that’s a stake
to his undead heart.” But, “It’s valid,
I reckon. If Snape’s
not after Neville he’s on Harry.”
Hermione. Or Ron.” Slide to a halt in the Great Hall; as empty
as a nun’s bedchamber. My watch, twisted
to show the face to Dean, says it’s half one.
Perfect; it’ll be empty for another three minutes and we can rest.
Let out a gasp, doubling over to catch my breath; you’d
think it’d get easier with practice. Glance
at Dean; he’s got his hands braced on his knees, head down, panting. We’d probably manage this sneaking out of bed
and racing through the castle in the middle of the night thing better if we
didn’t insist on whistling in the dark as we ran. Dean catches my glance, grins. “All right, have Snape--he
never bothers us as long as Harry’s doing very well or very badly. But if we can have teachers, then I say
Lockhart. Remember,” he puts on a smarmy
voice, imitating, “nice loud howl, Harry—higher than that—gooooood.”
I stay doubled with laughter. “Shut up, you git. We’re going to get caught,” wipe tears from
my eyes as I say it, catching Dean’s glance again and laughing more. “You’re right. We owe him more than this for saving us from that. Lockhart was the scariest thing ever to
invade this castle…including Quirrell and his
turban-friend.” Old Lockhart never took
his eyes off of Harry’s slouching shoulders and disappearing head when he
needed a volunteer. We might as well
have been wallpaper to him.
“Certainly so, good sirs,” a voice says from somewhere close
by. Silent as a cat’s footsteps we melt
into the heavy darkness under a table.
Whoever decided on black for the Hogwarts
robes should be awarded the Order of Merlin.
“But I’m quite certain I heard something coming down from second
floor.” A trio of ghosts floats by…one
is Nearly Headless Nick. Deep breath,
quickly exhaled. He might look in on
Harry, but he’d neglect checking our beds.
Harry’s the one that everybody is worried about; long as he’s safe,
nobody thinks to look in on the rest of us.
Quick check of the time; damn it, we’ve lost our window
while hiding. “Wait,” just a breath of
sound and a slight twitch of the lips to give it shape; Filch will be walking
through the entrance hall within seconds, even if we can’t hear him, on his way
to the fourth floor to meet Mrs. Norris as she comes down from her patrol of
the upper floors. He won’t look in
here. He’s too busy hunting Peeves. The possibility of students out of bed isn’t
nearly so alluring. In the shadows, we
are soundless. A soft pattering noise
reaches us and we know he’s been and gone. Shoes on the marble staircase are a
familiar sound; we recognize it even in the dark.
“Go,” Dean’s voice in my ear is just this side of
soundless. We’re up and out from the
table, stealing though the hall, slipping quietly down the stairs towards the
dungeons; to the Potions room and Snape’s
office. We’re out of supplies. It’s a
dangerous time to be low. Something always happens on Halloween. At least, it does to Harry. Everybody and his best mate has noticed the trend by now.
Heart racing, we’re still shadows at the door. “Mediocre homework for Divination barely
glanced at in favor of Harry’s tragic life,” I hiss as we draw out our
wands. The number of detentions we’d
earn if we’re caught dances before my eyes
“Top Defense Against the Dark Arts
grades,” come the swift answer.
Thinking, I’m sure, about what’ll happen to the bottles under our beds
if we don’t manage this business
Now our hands, not holding wands, have parchment in them;
carefully copied ingredients from Storage
Solutions for Persnickety Potions and Problem
Potions, a Guide to Portable Self-Protection, divided between us by ‘student
cupboard’ and ‘Snape’s private stash’. Short lists; the spells we’re using we can’t
hold for long and that means that we need to be quick. “Ready.”
“Anguli.” Wand pointed at the door, Dean flings it
open at the same time he says the words.
The rusty hinges don’t make a sound; neither does our breathing as we
rush through the class room. The lock on
the door to the storage cupboards is easy; any first year could get
inside. Not waking Snape
with the creaking and rattling is another matter; his rooms are just beyond the
far wall and his door stands ajar, always.
Dean can only hold the room silent for fifty-odd seconds.
It scares me, every time, that I can’t hear my spell; what
We have exactly thirty-one seconds before the spell makes me
weak enough to stumble as I run; thirty-four before I collapse and forty before
I can’t hold it any longer. Dean blows
through Snape’s set of locks quickly; raiding the
student’s cupboard is quicker—it’s not locked and I know it well; we’ll be out
of here with time to spare. I grab my
inventory, shoving bottles, beakers, and vials into a bag, cushioned by charms
ages ago on our first night at this.
“Nearly there,” whispered though neither of us can hear it. Several more items, not on my list, drop into
my bag. We can’t have him figure out what we’re brewing under my bed by taking
only what we need; anyway, the extra comes in handy. We could get what we want during the day, but we’re not keen to draw Snape’s eye when it willingly passes over us. He blames these raids on Harry, we’ve
“Going!” I shout it, not
recklessly; Dean’s holding his spell just as I’m holding mine. Shoot out of Snape’s
office, barely clearing the door as the breeze that Dean stirs up whips past
me. The door slams and I sag, dropping
the Invisible Walker charm like a stone.
Stumble into the doorjamb with bruising force as we yank the classroom
door closed behind us. Blinding luck
tonight; tomorrow is the hard work, brewing up an infusion of Sticky-Feet. It looks more difficult than making bottled
Eye-in-the-Sandstorms, and that’s saying something. If Snape ever
quits, Dean and I can take his place.
“Crap!” Jerked into a corner’s gloom as a house-elf wanders
into the hall, putting out torches; he says nothing to us. Maybe all the work preparing the Halloween
feast is preoccupying the elves, making them willing to let things slide or
maybe we’re overlooked because we’re not asking for anything or making a mess. Even better luck, maybe he just doesn’t see
us. We wait until the elf’s turned the bend before we push off to Gryffindor, to add to the mini-arsenal under our beds.
“I’m fine,” said automatically as I trip on the final stair
into the entrance hall. Dean nods. The spells tire him, too, we haven’t slept
yet, and we’re running, unheard, up the stairs again. We fly down the hall, ignoring the open
classroom doors; Filch will have warded them by now. Even if they weren’t
blocked, we can’t stop to work out the stitches in our sides. We don’t have much time until Filch makes his
way up to the Fat Lady, unintentionally locking us out as he wards Harry in.
Fat Lady is sleeping, barely cracking an eye as we give the
password while glancing over our shoulders.
She won’t remember we were here.
Up the stairs, slowly, and quietly slip through the door. We store our ill-gotten wares with the others
that go unheeded under our beds; careful not to jar the flash-bulbs that
Neville is growing in his wardrobe.
Change into pajamas, events of this latest run catching up, “One more,
“Parvati and Lavender think we’re
great,” said softly, already near sleep as we both collapse into our warmed,
turned-down beds. He’s right. That’s an excellent reason for the risk…Harry
was such a lousy date that we looked spectacular in comparison.
“Good night,” I yawn into the warmth of my sheets and it’s
unnoticed by my sleeping friends. That’s
okay. Being unnoticed is all right. It
means we’re underestimated. And if
anybody comes here, to go after the ones who are noticed, that’ll be their mistake. We’ll be ready when they overlook us. “Happy Halloween.”