Not A Love Expert
Phoenix spent the remainder of what would have been her Charms and Transfiguration lessons in the Hospital Wing. She had managed to convince Madam Pomfrey that she had been sick in one of the girls' bathrooms during Defence Against the Dark Arts and was given a potion that made her stomach feel as though there was a whirlpool inside it.
"You're free to go now Miss Lancaster," said Madam Pomfrey when the time for dinner at approached. "I suggest that you get plenty of food and an early night."
"Thank you Madam Pomfrey," Phoenix replied as she exited the Hospital Wing. But instead of turning the corridor towards where the marble staircase were however, she took a shortcut through tapestry to the Gryffindor common room but almost immediately ran straight into–
"Fred, George," Phoenix murmured as George pulled her into bone crushing hug.
"We were just coming to look for you to go to dinner," said Fred frantically.
"I-I've already had food in the Hospital Wing," she lied as George pulled away, Fred looked at her suspiciously.
"What the hell happened in Defence Against the Dark Arts, you scared the shit out of us!" George grabbed her face between his hands and studied her face, as if checking for any signs of harm.
"Nothing?!" Fred and George both yelled and Phoenix jumped, looking up at them, wide eyed.
George looked almost angry as he bellowed, "You screamed and stared at the spider like somebody just died!"
Her eyes burned at this and she shook her head madly, covering her ears and squeezing her eyes tight shut, "Don't say that!" she whimpered, a lump in her throat, feeling the tears spilling from her closed eyes. "Don't say that George!"
"What?" George grabbed her wrists, but she struggled against him as she tried to stop the tears from falling. She didn't want to cry in front of them, she doubted that they knew how to deal with an emotional teenage girl.
"Leave me alone!" she cried, her voice breaking at the strain of trying not to cry.
"Phoenix, we're your best friends–"
"Just leave me alone," she sobbed as the tears finally cascaded down her cheeks. She stopped struggling against George, staring down at her shoes. She let out a painful sob that shook her entire body and she slid down the wall. Fred and George stared at her in alarm; they had never seen her cry before. They both sat down on either side of her, staring at her as she sobbed.
George took her hands carefully in his and caressed them with his thumbs as Fred put an arm around her shoulder. She leaned into him and these small comforts made her sob even more. The three of them stayed there as sounds of students running up and down the marble staircase had faded as Phoenix's sobs had subsided slightly.
"I-I think," Phoenix said in a shaky, "I saw my mum die."
"What?" Fred said quickly, looking at her with concern and complete shock on his face.
"When Moody cast the Killing Curse…" she said in a voice so small, that if the rest of the school had still been running up and down the distant corridors and passage ways, Fred and George would have struggled to hear her. "I… I saw the flash of green light but then… something just happened and I just saw this image of a body on the floor and I could screaming and crying and I felt… like I wanted to scream," she screwed up her eyes and shivered. "It was terrifying… " she stared at a spider that scuttling across the floor and was reminded her of the lesson. "I can still her screaming in my head…"
"You screamed…" said Fred in a soft voice that remained Phoenix greatly of Mrs. Weasley. "…It was horrible… you sounded like you were in pain or something… we thought–"
"We thought for a moment that the curse had hit you instead of the spider," said George. "It literally scared the living day lights out of us."
Phoenix smiled at George and used her thumb to stroke their enclosed hands, "Thanks for worrying George,"
"Are you coming to dinner then?" asked Fred.
She bit her lip, unsure that she wanted to face the rest of the school where the story of what had happened in class had spread no doubt. Maybe, she thought, she could simply change her appearance into something less recognisable or even do something that she never liked to do, blend in with everyone else.
"Yeah sure," she said, and she allowed Fred and George to help her to her feet and put their arms around her shoulders. "One second…" she squeezed her eyes tight shut and her hair turned her natural, mousy brown colour.
When they entered the Great Hall, Phoenix was glad that nobody turned to face her or look at her. It also seemed as though Lee, Angelina, and Alicia had made a decision not to bring up what happened and not to tell Katie what had happened either. Instead, they all talked about the Triwizard Tournament and about the other schools, Durmstrang Institute and Beauxbatons Academy of Magic.
"I've never really heard of any other schools apart from Hogwarts," said Lee.
"I have," said Phoenix, who was cheering up very quickly though she couldn't get the image out of her head of the body dead upon the floor. "They are in An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe; Hermione gave me a copy a few years ago,"
"Of course Pixy knows about it," said George, giving her a nudge, "She has read every book ever at least twice!"
"So tell us about Durmstrang and Beauxbatons then," said Fred, dumping some shepherds pie on his plate.
"Well Durmstrang is a very old school, it has existed since at least 1294 and like Hogwarts it is Unplottable, so nobody knows their exact location but they wear thick fur coats and hats so it must be somewhere really cold. And Durmstrang also puts a lot of emphasis on the Dark Arts and their current headmaster, from what Will has told me, does not allow admission of Muggle-born students …"
"He sounds like a jolly chap," said George bitterly.
"What about Beauxbatons?" Lee asked.
"There wasn't much about Beauxbatons but it is mentioned that it is in France but students come from Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands,"
"You are like walking Encyclopaedia," said George in admiration, twirling a piece of her hair, which made her cheeks turn a bright red and her hair turn a flush pink.
Fred, Angelina, Alicia and Lee all laughed silently into their dinner, but didn't say anything.
"I just know a lot of things," said Phoenix smiling, her face still burning red, "But thanks anyway,"
The day of the arrival of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang came very cold and windy. When Phoenix, Fred and George arrived in the Great Hall for breakfast, they were surprised to find that it had been decorated overnight. Silk banners hung from the walls, representing each of the Hogwarts Houses: red with a gold lion for Gryffindor, green with a sliver serpent for Slytherin, blue with a bronze eagle for Ravenclaw, and yellow with a black badger for Hufflepuff. To finish off the very grand effect, behind the staff table was the largest of all the banners, where it bore the Hogwarts coat of arms.
"Impressive," said Fred appreciatively.
"You can tell that they are trying to impress Beauxbatons and Durmstrang," said George.
"Magic schools always try to impress other schools," said Phoenix as they sat down away from everybody else at the Gryffindor table.
"Is that also in An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe?" asked George, staring up at the sea of owls that had just flown in through the windows.
"Yes it is in fact," said Phoenix, also looking up, "Are you expecting an owl?"
Phoenix too was expecting an owl, although she was not going to tell Fred and George this. She had been waiting rather impatiently for Tonks' reply. She was beginning to grow anxious. Had Tonks gone straight to her father and Cecilia? Or had she, like the rest of her family, thought that she was too young to know the truth and has chosen to blatantly ignore her letter. If that was the case, then Phoenix would have to somehow do some digging by herself.
"Yes from Bagman," said George, "We're still waiting for his reply."
"If he hasn't replied by now then that is suspicious, he is definitely avoiding you." said Phoenix. "But why would he do that?"
"Probably some great big old con man," said George darkly. "Imagine if Dad made a bigger bet like Bagman wanted him to, he'd probably rid him off all the money our Dad has and we'll be even poorer."
"If he had done that then I would have cursed him," said Phoenix.
"I always love it when Phoenix sticks up for us," said Fred grinning.
"Yeah," said George. "Because people underestimate her strength–"
"And then when they least expect it–"
"Phoenix makes them grow an extra head."
She blushed at this, remembering the incident with Marcus Flint, the old Slytherin captain, when he had been calling the Weasley's several names that made her blood boil and Fred and George had begun to run over to Flint to hit him, Phoenix had gotten their first and sent a Mutatio Skullus hex at him undetected and he had ended up growing an extra, ugly head.
"Back to Ludo–" she said, changing the subject. "What are you going to do if he doesn't reply?"
"Simple," said George. "We'll tell him we have a little Pixy who can perform a perfect Mutatio Skullus hex…"
Phoenix shot him a look and both Fred and George laughed.
"No," said Fred. "We are going to write to him and demand that he meets us in Hogsmeade and say that we really need the money."
"Bagman really is a nasty old crook." Phoenix said spitefully.
"It's a bummer, all right," said George sulkily "But if he won't talk to us in person, we'll have to send him the letter after all. Or we'll stuff it into his hand. He can't avoid us forever."
"Who's avoiding you?" came Ron's voice. He sat down beside Fred, Harry and Hermione following close behind him.
"Wish you would," said Fred, irritated and Phoenix kicked him from under the table and said: 'FRED!'
Ignoring Fred, Ron turned to George and asked, "What's a bummer?"
"Having a nosy git like you for a brother," George replied and Phoenix hit his chest, sending Ron an apologetic look.
"You two got any ideas on the Triwizard Tournament yet Thought any more about trying to enter?" Harry asked as Phoenix and Hermione shared a roll of their eyes and both grabbed some toast.
"I asked McGonagall how the champions are chosen but she wasn't telling," George said in a bitter tone, stabbing his bacon. "She just told me to shut up and get on with transfiguring my raccoon."
"Which was terrible by the way," Phoenix said and George raised his eyebrows at her, "You gave it an extra pair of eyes!" Harry and Ron roared with laughter and even the corners of Hermione's mouth twitched.
"I thought it was very artistic," George shrugged. "I was going to give it to you as a Christmas present, and call it Bibbles." Phoenix laughed, remembering the Skrewts.
"Wonder what the tasks are going to be?" said Ron, looking at Harry. "You know, I bet we could do them, Harry. We've done dangerous stuff before…"
"Not in front of a panel of judges, you haven't," said Phoenix and both Fred and George nodded. "Professor McGonagall told us that the champions are awarded points for how well they complete the tasks by the judges."
"Who are the judges?" Harry asked curiously.
"Well, the Heads of the participating schools are always on the panel," said Hermione informality and Phoenix nodded, "because all three of them were injured during the Tournament of 1792, when a cockatrice the champions were supposed to be catching went on the rampage."
"A cockatrice?" Fred said in disbelief. "Where the bloody hell would anyone get a cockatrice from?"
"Well I wouldn't be surprised if Hagrid managed to get one from his next trip to Hogsmeade," said Phoenix and Harry laughed.
Hermione looked impatient as always, as usual nobody, apart from Phoenix, had read all the books that she had. Ron was looking at her, confusing and she let out a loud sigh. "It's all in Hogwarts, A History. Though, of course, that book's not entirely reliable. A Revised History of Hogwarts would be a more accurate title. Or A Highly Biased and Selective History of Hogwarts, Which Glosses Over the Nastier Aspects of the School."
"What are you on about?" said Ron, looking thoroughly bewildered.
"House-elves!" said Hermione impatiently. "Not once, in over a thousand pages, does Hogwarts, A History mention that we are all colluding in the oppression of a hundred slaves!"
Phoenix suspected that this had something to do with S.P.E.W, Phoenix was one of the people, along with Neville, Ginny and Luna Lovegood, who had paid for a badge so that Hermione would stop sending them glowering looks. She did see Hermione's point, but she realised that most House Elves didn't want to be set free. Others, like Fred and George, took S.P.E.W. as a joke and refused point blank to buy a badge.
Fred stared determinedly at his bacon, Harry became interested in looking over at the Ravenclaw table and Ron's eyes looked towards the ceiling and Phoenix began to drink her pumpkin juice, George however, leaned towards Hermione. "Listen, have you ever been down in the kitchens, Hermione?"
"No, of course not," said Hermione discourteously, "I hardly think students are supposed to–"
"Well, we have," said George gesturing to himself, Fred and Phoenix, "loads of times, to nick food. And we've met them, and they're happy. They think they've got the best job in the world–"
"That's because they're uneducated and brainwashed!" Hermione began fiercely, but they were all saved from her outburst by the arrival of Hedwig, Harry's owl. Harry, Ron and Hermione were all immediately distracted and Fred, George and Phoenix continued to discuss the Ludo Bagman situation.
Phoenix's first lesson was Potions, in which Lee had managed to get a break detention from Snape after trying to sneak some a file Amortentia (the most powerful love potion in existence) into his bag.
"It wouldn't have worked anyway Lee," Phoenix told him as they sat down for lunch after Ancient Runes.
"Why wouldn't it have worked?" he asked, "I would have thought that the ladies would be all over me,"
"Yeah," said Angelina, very unconvinced, "I see no flaws in your plan,"
"Apart from the fact that Amortentia, or any love potion for that matter, can't cause actual love–"
"Then why the bloody hell is it called a love potion?" Lee cut across, frowning. "Don't that defeat the entire objective of what a love potion should do?"
"Because it creates what people think is love," Phoenix explained, "but it really just creates infatuation or obsession for someone because no spell or potion can create real love."
"What do you mean by infatuation or obsession?" Lee asked, intrigued and Angelina rolled her eyes at him.
"It means that if Phoenix drank any love potion that you gave her," said Angelina, "she wouldn't really love you, she would just follow you around everywhere wearing a 'I love Lee Jordan' shirt."
"Which would be a dream come true," said Lee as he put an arm around Phoenix's shoulder. She shrugged him off and returned to her sandwich, laughing.
"And why Phoenix would be wearing a Lee Jordan shirt?" came Fred's voice.
"I find that highly unlikely," said George's voice.
Phoenix turned to see the pair of them grinning identically as they approached the Gryffindor table.
"Lee tried to smuggle some love potion from Snape's lesson," Angelina informed them.
"I was going to save some for George," said Lee, winking at George who glared at him.
"Why?" Phoenix asked, turning to George. "Do you like someone then George?"
"No," he replied, grinning. "Lee is just being considerate."
Angelina looked as though George had suddenly jumped upon the Gryffindor table and began hula dancing. "This is Lee Jordan you're talking about right?"
"Your non-existence faith in my consideration flatters me Johnson," Lee replied coolly.
"Please," Angelina scoffed. "Lee Jordan and consideration do not belong together within the same sentence."
"You know," Lee said thoughtfully. "You're adorable when you're mad at me."
"That's all the time then?" she replied coolly.
Lee grinned. "Come off it Angie," Angelina scowled at her heartedly disliked nickname. "You know you love me."
Angelina smiled widely at Lee and ruffled his hair. "Yeah I love you almost as much as Snape loves shampoo."
"So now you must fancy accompanying me on a date–"
"You mean twenty minutes in a broom cupboard," murmured Phoenix, and George almost chocked on his pumpkin juice. She picked up her bag from the floor. "I'm going for a walk."
Fred and George both shot to their feet, Angelina was notorious for her fiery temper and if Lee's 'flattering' comments and constant jibs at dates from everybody and anybody were anything to go by, he was soon about to be jinxed.
"We'll go for a walk too," said George and the three of them leave the Great Hall, leaving Alicia to sit with Katie and some of her fifth year friends.
"Lee is certainly persistent," said George as they walked up the marble staircase.
"Persistent is an understatement," said Phoenix. "He was asking me all throughout potions if I would go on a date with him and I think that was why he was trying to steal some love potion."
"And what did you say?" Fred asked.
"Well," said Phoenix hesitantly, she wasn't about to tell them that she had already an engagement with Tonks, whether it was going to go ahead was yet unknown. "I told him that I may be meeting Tonks in Hogsmeade because you know – I don't really get to see her much."
"But you aren't going on a date with Lee?" George asked looking at her as they walked across the courtyard.
"No," Phoenix laughed. "We met at the Three Broomsticks anyway. You three go to Zonko's Joke Shop and me, Angelina, and Alicia go to Fabyan's Witchwear and then we go to the Three Broomsticks and Honeydukes. It's like a tradition."
"We wouldn't mind if you and Lee skipped off to Madam Puddifoot's for a cup of tea and a quick snog," said Fred and Phoenix scowled at him.
"Thanks but no thanks," Phoenix said definitely. "I would rather die than go into Madam Puddifoot's."
"It can't be that bad," said George as they all sat down on a bench.
Phoenix scoffed loudly and shook her head. "You clearly have never been in there. It's like every single table people are glued together by their lips. There should really be a health warning for that tea shop. I shudder to think what it's like on Valentine's Day."
"A snog and a cup of tea," said Fred dreamily. "Sounds like my kind of hangout."
"Unfortunately Angelina says that she would rather die than step into Madam Puddifoot's," Phoenix grinned as Fred Weasley's eyebrows rose. "How was your quick snog the other night by the way?"
George and Phoenix grinned at one another as Fred looked at anywhere but them. "It was nice."
"Have you two talked about it?" Phoenix quizzed.
Fred shrugged his shoulders. "I don't think that she remembers it, she was completely inebriated."
Phoenix wanted to tell him that in fact, Angelina did remember it. In fact she remembered it in so much detail that Phoenix now knew the exact texture of Fred's lips – softer than a whisper and smoother than a frictionless surface. But being Angelina's best friend meant that Phoenix was obliged to keep her secrets.
"Well you haven't asked her!" said George. "You're both as stubborn as each other. Either you're such a bad kisser that she is mortified to even admit that she kissed you–"
"–or she completely enjoyed it – which I highly doubt because I am clearly the better looking twin – and is just too nervous to have the evitable talk about your feelings for each other."
"I agree with the latter," said Phoenix and Fred look disgruntled.
"She snogged me–"
"And you snogged her back," Phoenix added. "You didn't exactly stop her. Since when were you one to avoid going snogged by a girl that you clearly like and enjoyed snogged so enthusiastically on your bed."
Fred looked as though he was chewing on his next words. "It's because, unlike all the other girls I have snogged," Phoenix and George both rolled their eyes – the only other girl Fred had snogged was Morgan Cadwallader and that was only because she had meant to kiss him on the cheek but Fred had turned his head too quickly. "I actually like her and I know that I am not a terribly romantic person so I have no idea what to do," Fred said looking desperately at Phoenix.
"Why are you looking at me?" she asked him.
"Because you're a girl!" Fred said in exasperation. "You should know this stuff like the back of your hand! Like feelings and stuff! So… what's your verdict?"
"Well…" Phoenix said uncertainly, she wasn't exactly what Alicia liked to call a 'love guru'. "…I think that you should just talk to her–"
"And say what?"
"I don't know. Say something along the lines of, 'hey Angelina I enjoyed snogging you, fancy going to Madam Puddifoot's for another?' But say it with more wit because girls like that." Fred looked unconvinced and Phoenix let out a frustrated groan. "Look that's the only piece of advice you're going to get from me about 'feelings', either you take it or you leave it."
And that was the end of that conversation.