“Hey there little Phyllis! Who’s a good little Phyllis? You are! Yes you are!”
“Who’s a weird little goth girl? You are! Yes you are!”
I glared at Fred, who was sat with George wrapping up toffees in bright purple wrappers, then turned to Ari.
“Why are they even here?”
“Because the rest of the train was full,” she sighed “and because they said they’d help look after the snail-”
“-but someone is a being as obvious as humanly possible about said snail-”
“Phyllis.” I corrected.
“Said Phyllis, when it’s supposed to be a secret.”
“Incorrect.” George dropped another toffee onto the pile. “She could be more obvious by hiring a brass band to play a specially written piece called ‘Look! It’s a Poisonous Snail!’-”
“-and painting a giant sign with huge red arrows pointing to it.”
“Then, when everyone comes to see what all the fuss is about, she could let off streamers and shout ‘Welcome to my Secret Snail Party!’” Fred added.
I snorted contemptuously.
“That’s stupid. Who has Snail Parties?” I scooped Phyllis up and slid him back into his jar. I’d managed to create a nice pocket in my bag for him among my socks.
Fred and George looked at each other, nodded, then chucked one of their sweets at my head.
“Try one of those. Toffees; made ‘em ourselves.” I ducked, caught the sweet, then sent it sailing back across the carriage.
“No ta. I heard all about you and Potter’s cousin.”
Fred opened his mouth to ask just how I knew about that when Ari interrupted.
“Don’t ask. She knows way too much for her own good.”
“I have my sources.” I slipped into a seat next to Ari and pulled a heavy book out of bag. Flipping to the page I’d marked, I curled my feet up underneath me and leant against the wall to get comfy. Ari nudged me until I showed her the cover. She pulled a face and shuffled away from me.
“What is it?” George leant forwards and stole the book from my hands, making me lose my place. “The Monk, by Matthew Gregory Lewis.” He looked at Fred, who shrugged.
“Means nothing to me.”
Ari cringed. “Put it down! It’s disgusting!”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Nothing!” I sighed, snatching it back. “It’s a respected work of Gothic literature!”
“It’s filth; that’s what it is!” She grimaced when I opened it again.
“What’s it about?” Fred asked. Ari protested, but I grinned and leant forwards.
“Right. There’s this monk, Ambrosio, and he finds out that one of his pupil monks is actually a woman, Matilda. She seduces him, and then uses magic to help him seduce this other girl, Antonia. He steals into her chamber and-”
“Enough!” Ari grabbed the book and stuffed it back into my bag. “I don’t want to hear about this!”
“Prude.” I pouted. “Now I have nothing to read.”
“Well then. You’ll just have to be sociable and talk to us.”
“No way.” I curled up against the wall and glared at the twins. “I don’t do sociable.” I had been the kind of kid who would build forts out of cushions and wouldn’t come out for days. I would have to be coaxed out by promises of profiteroles. But my roommates at Hogwarts weren’t particularly impressed by my extremely intricate fort designs, especially when I stole their pillows to build the walls.
“I’ve noticed.” Fred went back to wrapping toffees, George stared at the book, debating on whether to try and steal it or not, and Ari sat there and stared at me, trying to force me to say something.
An awkward silence fell upon the compartment with a heavy thud. Then it had awkward babies. These awkward babies perched upon each of our heads, reminding us that this entire situation was extremely awkward and that if no-one did anything about it then it would just get even more awkward and that eventually the build-up of awkwardness would cause us to explode one by one, in a very awkward manner.
I knew that it would fall to me to do something about the awkwardness, but I really couldn’t be bothered. So I decided to leave and let the others sort it out. Maybe by the time I got back the awkward babies would have grown up and left home to get degrees and find jobs, and then maybe we could invite them all back for Christmas and have a nice party with paper hats and cake.
“Well.” I said, standing up and smiling at them. “Not that this isn’t fun, which it isn’t, but this is all extremely awkward turtles, so I’m going to the loo.” I skipped to the door and slid it open.
“But there are no loos on the train.” George frowned.
“Oh, I know.”
The luggage compartment was grey. That was all you could say about it. It was one giant compartment of greyness. I had considered snooping through some peoples’ bags, but then I realised that I might find some things that would mentally scar me for life. There may be some good blackmail material, but I really don’t want to find out what Draco Malfoy’s underpants look like.
And speak of the ferret…
“Krum and that Mudblood Granger last year…simply outrageous. I thought that at Durmstrung they were taught the importance of blood purity, but I suppose there’s always one who ends up a blood traitor, like Potter or the Weasel.”
His voice was right outside the door. I cursed silently, trying to harness my mystical powers of telepathy, willing him to leave. I hated people in general, but there was something about Ferret Boy that really, really irked me.
We were often forced into close proximity at my mother’s ridiculous gatherings, so I tried to avoid him like cholera at school to make up for lost non-Draco time. Our parents seemed to think that we would make a very good match, what with our families’ obsessions with keeping our bloodline ‘Pure’. I, however, had other ideas, which generally included turning him into a small rodent and feeding him to a large snake. Mad-Eye Moody (or whichever crazy he turned out to be) turning him into a ferret last year just provided me with more material for my fantasies.
“I didn’t think it would be Krum though; he was Karkaroff’s pet. You would think he would know better.”
A number of hexes ran through my mind, but none of them were good enough for Blondie.
“And with the chipmunk too!” shrieked the unmistakable voice of Pansy Parkinson. If it were physically possible for anyone to annoy me more than Malfoy himself, it was her. There was just something about her voice…it made me want to strangle something. Preferably her.
“Quite. Miss Know-It-All Granger. Still, now the Dark Lord’s back, I don’t suppose we’ll have to put up with Muggle-born filth like her for much longer.”
So the Ferret believed that You-Know-Who (possibly the most ridiculous and least threatening name for a dark wizard ever. It sounded like a bad knock knock joke. Knock knock. Who’s there? You Know. You-Know-Who? Exactly. Avada Kedavra!) was back. That didn’t surprise me. What did was that he had managed to go an entire conversation without uttering the words ‘My father’.
“My father says that Hogwarts will be the first place to be rid of Mudbloods and Blood Traitors.”
I spoke too soon. I thought, smiling to myself. Cracking the door open slightly, I saw that Malfoy was leaning against door of the compartment closest to me. I checked my watch; we would be arriving at Hogsmede station shortly, and my robes were on the other side of the train. I supposed I’d just have to grin and bear it. I yanked the door open and strode out past the Slytherin compartment.
“Look who it is.” The sneering voice rang out behind me and I stopped dead, clenching my fists. “McKee, what a surprise to see you being peculiar as usual. I’m not even going to ask why you were in there; I’m sure your reason will be too complex for us mere sane people to comprehend.”
“It’s nice to see that you haven’t changed at all Malfoy. I missed your stupid snarky responses; they make me feel so even smarter.”
If I could make it out of this alive, I could start planning Blondie's demise with Ari as soon as I got back to our compartment. Maybe Gred and Feorge could make themselves useful too…
“I was trying to be polite, but I suppose I shan’t bother now. It’s good manners though. Maybe you should try it some time.”
“I have perfectly adequate manners, I just don’t see the point in wasting them on a ferret.” A vein pulsed in Malfoy’s forehead. I smirked and shot out my next remark. “Moody turned out to be a Death Eater, didn’t he? How does it feel knowing even ‘your people’ hate you? How d’you think Voldy’s going to like you, eh?”
“Don’t you dare talk about the Dark Lord like that.” Malfoy stepped forwards, his jaw twitching slightly. “When he cleanses our world, you Blood Traitors will die along with the rest of them.”
“You sound like you swallowed the Death Eater Bible. I’m sure I’ll have great fun being ‘cleansed’, but that will have to wait for another day. Now, this has been an utterly side-splittingly joyful experience, but I hope you get shot, fall off a bridge into a river, get raped by a shark and then eaten by it.”
I stalked off down the train. As soon as Draco was out of sight, I relaxed, only to be attacked from behind by an ecstatic Ari.
“I heard everything! You have got to-”
“I know what you’re thinking. And no.” I growled.
“No?” she blinked innocently.
“No?” she wheedled.
“Can we stop saying no now?”
“No.” Ari grinned.
“No?” I sighed. Now she was started, she would go on forever.
She seemed to get the message, because she shut up. Temporarily, at least. Just as we reached the door of our compartment, she blinked at me with those large, profiterole stealing eyes, and smiled sweetly.
“You really ought to go out with him, you know. You’d make a great couple.” And then she ran.