Chapter 8: Thumb Screws
Taylor had an unusual habit of waking up at exactly six in the morning. Resisting her normal routine, she pulled the fleece blanket protectively over her head. Get up. Classes are going to start and you'll need breakfast. She stretched, releasing the carbon dioxide from her lungs. Tip-toeing out of bed, she took careful measure not to wake any of her roommates. Each bed was decorated differently. Green and black scarves and Quidditch pennants were the most popular accessory. Maybe I will figure out something unique for myself tonight.
Her uniforms were clean and pressed for the first day of class. Once dressed, she quietly examined the new traces of green lining. For Taylor, green symbolized well being and balance. A safe color. She put her wand under her cloak and gripped her knapsack firmly. Taylor hiked up the dormitory stairs, emerging to the surface. The common room was brighter than the previous night, but not significantly. Several Slytherin boys were already lounging on the sofa seats practicing their magic.
"I've gotten rusty over the summer." A bronzy haired second year complained; his wand sparked, but fizzled apathetically. His hazel blue eyes locked on Taylor's entrance. "Oi! Look who it is Regulus." Regulus turned slowly and paused for a moment to look at his prey. This can't be good.
"Taylor. Did you sleep well?" She studied his sincerity, and took it with a grain of salt. It tasted better that way. He looked familiar, but she could not match his voice to his face. I really need to work on not attracting attention.
"Can I help you?" She asked calmly. Regulus twirled his wand between his fingers.
"This conversation isn't a matter of whether or not you can help me; so much as, you will help me when I'm done making an example of you." The hair on the back of her neck electrified with a deep pitted fear. She refused, however, to become as helpless as a deer caught in headlights. Resisting the urge to snap back at him, she merely shrugged.
"What can I do for you, Regulus?" She strained her voice.
"We aren't on a first name basis yet Taylor. Don't get brash with me."
Taylor did not want to pursue a verbal conflict with a student who clearly knew more magic than she did. Since she knew none, she was careful to hold her cards right. It's too early to argue anyway. Instead, she turned to leave the common room. Before she could reach the exit, a hand grabbed her shoulder tightly.
"I didn't dismiss you yet."
Now that Regulus was closer, Taylor could see his features more clearly. High cheek bones and an aquiline nose harkened a similarity to the ravens she saw at the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley. His black hair and grey eyes were hauntingly recognizable, but her tired mind was set more keenly on the breakfast menu. Taylor retaliated by pushing him away forcibly. She was not a ragdoll to be dragged around, Daniel Babio had been good practice for days like these. Again, she turned away from the group, when his shout startled everyone in the room.
Flying away from the exit, Taylor landed on the floor at Regulus's feet. The bronzy haired boy laughed sadistically. "You should have used Calvario. That would have stopped her in her tracks really fast—"
"Shut up, Mulciber." He was done playing games. There was no time to dwell on Taylor's hair. Regulus pointed his wand at her ominously. The group of boys chanted the boy on.
"Where is it?" He watched her intently for movement, she did not stir. Her wand shivered against her thigh and her heart raced. I've never flown through the air before.
"Where is wha—?'
"My Eastern Green Mamba. I know you took him, but I want him back." Taylor narrowed her eyes. So this is the blighter who kept that poor snake starving.
"I gave him to Dumbledore." She sounded defiant, but they both knew she was borderline terrified. Regulus considered his losses for a moment, and then looked at his friends. He stepped away, his wand to his side.
"That's a shame. He was rather expensive." He cracked a scary smile and held his hand out to help her up. "My name's Regulus." She did not take his hand or trust his bipolar demeanor. Letting his hand drop, he walked away from her. "You're dismissed now, Taylor."
She waited a few moments, before getting to her feet and exited the common room. Once in the entrance hall, she regained her composure. The hall was massive, with stone walls lit by flaming torches and a chasmal ceiling. A grand marble led mysteriously to the upper floors. Giant enchanted hourglasses kept track of house points, by means of rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and topaz. Taylor's footsteps echoed as she made her way to the doors of the Great Hall. Once inside, she glanced at the Gryffindor table and witnessed Remus looking over a slip of paper. His schedule, no doubt.
Sitting down, Taylor realized she was the only student at the Slytherin table. Enjoying the peace, she grabbed hash browns, eggs, and bacon. She mulled the Regulus situation over in her mind, thinking of wittier comments she could have said. Meals were going to be fairly silent and internal affairs. Taylor noticed Lily walk through the oak doors and sit down at the Gryffindor table. As if on cue, a flock of owls swooped down and began dropping letters and newspapers. A black owl landed next to her, eyeing her sausage. Generously, she gave the bird a piece, hoping not to attract a hungry swarm.
After she finished eating, the owl resumed its routine and disappeared beyond the castle windows. A short stout man in black and green satin approached Taylor. The jolly smile on his face was refreshing to see, as he handing out class schedules to the incoming Slytherin students. He maintained a thick shiny yellow colored patch of hair, which resembled a thatched roof of straw. Although his hair was thick, the professor was beginning to bald on the crown of his head. He handed Taylor a section of parchment with her classes on it. The man paused to survey the young student.
"Why, you look like a very respectable young Slytherin!" His measurement of her was flattering. "Have you transferred to Hogwarts? You surely cannot be a first year."
"No sir, I am a firs—" Before she could finish her sentence, he threw his hands in the air in revelation.
"Forgive me! You look so mature. Certainly your intellect matches your sophistication." His words were caramel dipped and laced with sugar.
Unfamiliar with flattery, Taylor wrung her hands. "Why thank you sir—"
"No, no! Don't thank me for your own achievements. Here, I would like to invite you to a party next Saturday. To celebrate the new academic year." He handed her an invitation with gold leafing. His name shimmered on the paper: Professor Horace Slughorn. "I hope to see you there. Similarly, I look forward to having you in Potions class today."
Taylor thumbed the gold lettering, and before she could say goodbye to the professor, he was gone. Taking into consideration the time, she looked down at her new schedule.
-Transfiguration with Hufflepuff (MWF)-
-Charms with Ravenclaw (TR)-
-Defense Against the Dark Arts with Gryffindor (MW)-
-History of Magic with Ravenclaw (TR)-
-Herbology with Gryffindor (MWF)-
-Potions with Hufflepuff (MWF)-
-Flying Lessons with Gryffindor (F)-
-Astronomy with Hufflepuff (T at midnight)-
A spark of excitement surged through her. The subjects sounded fantastical, and the hours blended well. She also had three classes with Lily, six times a week. Apprehension hindered her momentary joy. Will Lily still be my friend? Would she rather spend time with her newly formed Gryffindor friends?
"Astronomy, Mondays at midnight? With Ravenclaws?" James shrieked enraged. "What about sleep? These teachers are mental." Sirius used a quill to scratch out his useless classes.
-Transfiguration with Ravenclaw (MWF)-
-Charms with Hufflepuff (TR)-
-Defense Against the Dark Arts with Slytherin (MW)-
-History of Magic with Hufflepuff (TR)-
-Herbology with Slytherin (MWF)-
-Potions with Ravenclaw (MWF)-
-Flying Lessons with Slytherin (F)-
-Astronomy with Ravenclaw (M at midnight)-
"And flying lessons aren't until Friday?!" James's voice cracked. In a mellow rage, he grabbed a handful of bacon. Comparatively, Remus was ecstatic to begin his wizardly training. Before he could voice his own opinion, a boy with mousy brown hair sat down next to Sirius. Intimidated by new faces, Remus chose to fumble in his pack, rather than converse with the stranger.
The boy's pale blue eyes fixated on a pile of breakfast potatoes. As he scooped a heaping onto his plate he turned to Sirius. "The schedule is a bloody mess, right?"
"Yeah, mate. Everything is as rancid as a dungbomb." The boy scratched his head looking for ways to nurture the social setting.
"Did you hear about Professor Damien Greer? Defense Against the Dark Arts. He's a nasty piece of work. I've been told he still tortures students with thumb screws." James's interest awakened like a relentless Kraken.
"Thumb screws, eh?" He questioned.
"Aye." The boy chugged some warm spiced cider and smiled. "And the Spanish Boot."
Sirius cracked his back on the chair and stood towering over their guest. "What's your name, again?" The tone in Sirius's voice sounded suddenly demanding. The boy cringed and stammered.
"And are you absolutely sure about these medieval torture devices?" Sirius's intense interrogation made James smile under a napkin.
"Yes. I mean, that's what I heard. I- They could be- I—"
"Very well then Pettigrew, your information should be put to use." Sirius looked at James. "What say we skip our first few classes, and go knick ourselves some instruments?" While James appeared to be utterly impressed by the suggestion, Remus shook his head in disbelief.
"Sirius! You can't skip class on the first day!" His friend shot him a look which implied, Can't I? Remus recoiled a bit. "What would you do with Medieval torture devices anyway?"
"Nothing. But who wouldn't want to own a pair of thumb screws or Spanish Boots?" He chuckled. The battle was lost. "Want to come?"
"No thanks, mate." Remus packed up his books and hurried off to class, as Sirius turned his attention to the baffled Peter Pettigrew.
Sirius ruffled his hair playfully. "Want to come, Pettigrew?"
Taylor found the classroom almost instantly, though she was nearly the last one to take a seat. Professor McGonagall, who was wearing a lighter shade of green, motioned for the students to find their places. With a desk near the front of the room, Taylor felt at a slight advantage. On each tabletop, a small stack of needles glistening mysteriously. After a series of complex note taking, Professor McGonagall instructed the students to focus on a single needle.
"Like all great witches and wizards, you will all have to begin working on small tasks. Your first assignment is to turn a needle into a match."
This seemed very pointless to Taylor, but it did seem like good practice. Although Professor McGonagall was portrayed as austere and heartless, Taylor was amazed by her control and poise. The professor even cracked a small smile when Taylor and a Hufflepuff boy successfully turned their needles into metallic matches. Close, but not quite. This is a lot harder than it looks. At the end of class, the professor assigned several pages of homework from A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration and personal practice.
Her Defense Against the Dark Arts class was equally as stimulating, if not for other reasons. After a long trek across the castle, she entered the classroom and instantly saw Lily. Her friend was already sitting and transcribing notes written on a blackboard.
"Mucus ad Nauseam. Sounds intriguing." Taylor joked, reading over her shoulder. Lily beamed at her friend's appearance. "Can a Slytherin, sit here?"
"Of course. It would be an honor to have the very Slytherin who was brave enough to strike Mr. Black in the face sitting next to me." Taylor grabbed the seat and too began writing down notes on The Curse of the Bogies.
As Taylor dotted her last period, a portentous man threw open the classroom door, and dropped an exhausted briefcase near the professor's podium. His pitch black hair and almond brown eyes gleamed ferociously. At her angle, Taylor was positive she saw his eyes flash a shade of shadowy crimson. He stared down each student before writing his name down on the board, Professor Damien Greer.
"I am going to make this very clear. I do not take requests. I do not take commands, and I most assuredly do not take bribes. Isn't that right, Peter?" Peter Pettigrew, who grew flustered at the attention, looked down at his desk. "Today, some items very precious to me went missing. So understandably, I am in a rancid mood. That being said," He walked up to the board and erased all of his notes. "We are going to work on a subject far more interesting than The Curse of the Bogies. Defense Theory and Conflict Avoidance." The whole class groaned in unison, disillusioned by the drab philosophies of defense.
Taylor did not mind the change in subject too much. Mucus doesn't sound too appealing anyway. She leaned back in her chair to stretch her coccyx. She bit her tongue, when she heard a decipherable whisper.
"Having fun in Slytherin?" Sirius Black lounged behind Taylor, with James next to him, directly behind Lily. James put his feet on Lily's chair and annoyingly kicked the back. Sirius followed the example, just as Professor Greer, shifted his lecture to the results of defensive magic on society and generalized explanations of how the nature of defense works. Taylor clenched her jawline and turned to look at Sirius. She whispered a singular warning. Assuming the role of a good friend, he gave her a thumbs up signal and ceased jolting her seat. Before long though, he configured himself into an uncomfortable position, in order to prop his feet atop her chair, near her head.
In her anger, Taylor quickly slid her chair into the table as close as she could. Like a fragile deck of cards, Sirius lost his footing and fell to the classroom floor. Comic relief commenced as the students roared with laughter. The hilarity of the situation crumbled under Professor Greer's gaze.
"Fifteen points from Gryffindor for interrupting my class, Mr. Black. And another ten points from Gryffindor for performing unsafe actions, such as leaning so far back in your chair you could fall and break your neck." Sirius sat on the floor and gawked at him.
"25 points! Are you mental?"
"I'm a raving lunatic, sir. Now get your rear in that seat before I bind you too it. Two days detention for insulting me." Sirius crawled into his chair and was about to protest farther, but James nudged him in the ribs. "Next time, think twice before interrupting my lesson."
Sirius folded his arms, and remained embarrassed even when James whispered, "At least he won't be able to use thumb screws on you. Lucky break." The rest of the lesson proceeded smoothly.