Chapter 6

The Triden Star

Professor Elionwy Mayvero looked around the empty classroom, its students not due to arrive for another five minutes. It was the first day of Herbology, so she was, blessedly, early. The work tables sat in their proper places, and at the front of the room sat Elionwy’s own display table. Today it was bare of plants, graced only by a single piece of paper.

Elionwy looked much the same as she had for the last lesson, except now her hair had been pulled back into messy bun, with curls sticking out of it at odd angles. She paced towards the back of the greenhouse, smiling. The reason for this was her contemplation of how chaotic this lesson would be and the student’s shocked reactions.

The students finally entered, and Professor Mayvero took her place in front of them. She beamed around, bright eyes showing ill-concealed amusement.

“Hello. You have made it to your first lesson. Today we shall do something entertaining.” She picked up the paper, and held it up where the writing on it was easily visible.

“Our lesson today requires partners, which I am about to assign. When your name is called out please meet with your partner and sit down together.

Moments later the Professor finished reading out the partner pairs, her silky voice rich with pleasure. Group projects were always interesting. She glanced around to make sure that everyone had gotten with their appropriate partner and then continued.

“The plant we will work with today is known as the Triden Star. I will show you one in a minute. It’s properties are rather unique. Besides a lovely scent and blossoms, the Triden Star has the power of the strongest truth potion. Once one person has smelled its aroma, they will answer any question, any question at all. The effects wear off after exactly seven minutes.”

Stunned faces stared at her from around the class, as the students undoubtedly wondered what they would be doing with such a plant.

“The Triden Star is found in many countries around the world, but it is most common here in Britain. Now, for your lesson, you will bring back one of these plants to your table. One person out of the partner pair will go first, and breathe in the scent of this plant. The other will ask questions, and write down the questions and answers to them. You will turn this paper in to me. Then you will reverse roles, and repeat the process. Is that clear?”

She walked to the rack behind her desk, and picked up a small pot to show to the class. The Triden Stars were miniscule in size, their pale yellow, star-shaped flowers large for such small stems. Smiling wickedly, Elionwy said, “One person from each pair come up and get your plant. Then you may begin.”

Avery groaned upon hearing the assignment. Not only was it yet another group project, but he wasn’t paired with either Brian, a very close friend, or Aiko, a new friend he had met earlier. Instead, Brian and Aiko were paired together, and he was stuck with a first year Hufflepuff he had seen, but never talked too.

Avery looked over in Vivi’s direction, frowning ever so slightly.

Vivi quickly located Avery from the fray, pushing her way through to him.

She smiled slightly, and then asked, “Should I go get our plant? I don’t mind going first if ya want me ta.”

That was true. She also didn’t want to mess the lesson up and look like a fool in front of a second year. At least if she went first, then she’d have a good idea of how to do it once she was asking him questions.

“I don’t care. Sure, go get the plant then we’ll figure it out. I don’t know what questions I’m gonna ask yet,” Avery said. His ears reddened again, and the bright green on his mood ring faded.

Vivienne nodded. Normally bubbling and talkative, she had fallen silent at the idea of this plant, which could make you tell anything.

It’s like ten times worse that a muggle lie detector, she thought grimly.

Every embarrassing thing she’d ever done rose from its dark corner of shame in her mind, to haunt her with visions of Avery knowing.

Sighing, Vivi picked her way through students and desks, over to the shelf containing the plant. She selected one with many budding blossoms on it, and picked it up carefully. Holding it as she would a precious glass vase, she transversed the short distance back to Avery, and carefully sat it down.

“I guess we should start,” she stated, not overly eager to start, but wanting to get it over with.

She sat down in one of the seats, facing Avery, and plucked off a large yellow bud. Then, holding it between thumb and forefinger, she looked back up expectantly.

The ring Avery wore changed color yet again, this time to black. He dreaded a first year knowing his secrets, should she choose to ask a question most certain to reveal them.

The other students seemed just an anxious, feeling as if they would be violated when the questions were asked.

“I’d rather you ask me first… I haven’t any questions and I want to get the humiliation over with,” Avery muttered.

Not that I want to be humiliated.

His eyes flashed red for a moment, then dulled to a smoky grey. “Shoot.”

“All right.” Vivi held out the bud she’d plucked. “Here ya go.”

Desperately she tried to think of a question, any question. Something easy maybe, to start with. Then something a little more interesting. Defiantly not a who-do-you-like type question or anything of the sort. Those were so overdone. Besides, she doubted that guys thought about that in quite as much detail as girls.

Images of her muggle friends giggling over some football player almost made her roll her eyes, but she stopped, lest Avery think that gesture was aimed towards him. He didn’t seem to like her much, and she didn’t really want to be on his bad side—much less right before he quizzed her. A flush crept into her cheeks as she thought about some of the things she didn’t want him, or anyone, to know.

Avery reached his ringed hand across the table and grabbed the bud carefully.

Maybe I could crush all the buds on all the plants to smithereens! Then I couldn’t do this! So what if I fail the assignment.

Deciding against the idea, he brought the yellow flower to his nose and inhaled slowly.

“Okay…” he murmured, feeling his head clear of all thoughts, and then become foggy. He grabbed the end of the table with his hands, feeling as though he would tip over any second.

“Whoa. That feels odd. Okay, go.”

Vivi watched as Avery inhaled the aroma, waiting till he gave the signal for her to begin.

“Umm…favorite animal, favorite color, and biggest fear,” she rattled off. There went her three planned-out questions.

“Animal, panda. Favorite color…well, look at me!” He waved his hand over his body, ensuring that Vivi would notice his black shirt, black jeans, black robe, and white k-swiss shoes.

“Black. Biggest fear.” He shivered slightly. “Snakes.”

Vivi’s mind had gone strangely blank, and a moment passed as she struggled to find a good question.

“Umm…Favorite person and least favorite person,” she said finally.

“Donal and Brian are my favorite people.” Avery’s head turned toward a certain second year Slytherin. “Agatha. I hate that girl.”

“Um, okay.” Vivi winced; having the strangest feeling she’d done something wrong. She decided to change the subject, or at least the type of question.

“All right, most annoying pet peeve?”

I hope that his most annoying pet peeve isn’t curious first years, she thought ironically.

“Pet peeve. I’ll say firsties who think they know everything, including advanced curses which are probably no more than little itching charms.” He shot a glance at Alex Stone, frowning.

“All right.” Vivi noticed the look at Alex, and almost sniggered. She’d seen him around, and well, “stuck-up” was the phrase to use. “Oh, um biggest dream, and darkest secret.”

She glanced around. The time was almost up, maybe about a minute left. What else could she ask? She shuddered. Soon it would be her turn.

“Biggest dream. I don’t really have one. Darkest secret.”

He paused.

No! He screamed in silently, Why?

He looked at his watch. 30 seconds left.

Stall…

“M-my darkest s-secret…. I’m…. I’m…..”

10…9…8…

I officially hate firsties….

“I’m…”

His watch beeped. The light-headed, dizzy feeling he once felt, left him almost instantly.

“Not telling. That’s personal.” He smiled smugly, holding out a flower for the second year. “Your turn.”

“Darn.” Vivi laughed, adding, “I should have asked that one first. Oh well.” She took the flower, holding it up at eye level.

“Here goes nothin’.” She breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet scent. It almost reminded her of cinnamon, but not quite. Suddenly her whole body relaxed, and her eyes drifted off behind Avery, unfocused.

Perhaps I got too big a dose. She twirled a piece of her black hair idly, Too late.

“Okay Avery, shoot.” She said her voice dreamy.

What a bad way to phrase that.

“Okay. Deepest, darkest secret—” ha! he thought arrogantly, “—favorite and least favorite person, favorite color, sport, and um, bird.”

Like all the other questions, these were random, but heck, that was all he could think about.

This should be fun.

Vivi grinned foolishly, happy despite the fact that she was about to spill all her secrets to Avery.

This plant should qualify as an illegal drug, she thought, only mildly concerned about it.

“My deepest and darkest secret is I think you’re cute,” she said dreamily, before realizing what had just happened, and blushing madly. “But I don’t like ya like that, honest!”

Avery blushed slightly at her comment. “I’m cute? That’s your deepest, darkest secret?” He asked, incredulous. The Hufflepuff was very innocent, it seemed.

Vivi blushed, wanting to explain herself, but there were more questions she had to answer. And another six minutes to go while still at Avery’s mercy. “Favorite person’s Aiko, she’s been nice. I think you’re cool too, and Lys. I like most o’ the people I’ve met.”

She took a breath, and then began again. “My least favorite person’s Megan Vining. Also, there was a kid back home I really hated. He locked me in a shed one night, nobody could find me till th’ next morning.” She grimaced at the thought, remembering.

“Everyone hates Megan. You should hate Agatha though!” Avery offered, listening as Vivi continued. He let her finish, all the while thinking up more questions.

“Favorite color is midnight blue, sport’s Quidditch, and bird, wren.”

She’d been staring at her tennis shoes, but risked a glance up at Avery when she finished.

“Okay, um. I can’t resist— who do you like?” Avery sniggered. This is fun!

”You’re evil, did ya know that?” Vivi was still blushing, and she had a feeling that she would be every time she saw Avery after this. “I don’t like anyone, actually. You’re the only person I think is cute. But I haven’t known any guys here long ‘nough ta have a crush on them. And I didn’t like anyone back home.” She finished hastily. Five more minutes!

“I know. When you have the opportunity to annoy someone, do it! Be ruthless!” Avery cackled, enjoying this to the full extent.

She thinks I’m cute…hmm.

“I’ll remember that next time I have th’ opportunity ta annoy ya.” Vivi said through gritted teeth. She wasn’t mad, not at all, just upset with the fact that she couldn’t control what she said. The dreamy feeling had evaporated, and now she was fully aware of what she was saying, and how she had no control over it.

“Um…Okay… What do you think of Brian and…er…” Avery scratched his head. “Do you like Hufflepuff?”

“Brian seems cool; I haven’t talked ta him. I’d like ta help him with some of his pranks.” Vivi raised a delicate eyebrow. “Not all Hufflepuffs are goody-goodies. And yeah, I like Hufflepuff. ‘Specially the Quidditch team. Our common room is boring though. Nobody ever does anything.”

“Oh! Oh!” Avery laughed, “Do you find any muggle actor extremely sexy?”

I’m enjoying this too much, he thought, amused.

“I think Josh Hartnett’s extremely, ta use your word, sexy. Heath Ledger too.” This time she managed to keep a straight face and her blush to a medium strawberry red.

“Too much information.” Avery said, before moving on to the next question.

”What have you always wanted to do and what do you wanna do right after Herbology?”

“I’ve always wanted ta fly. Right after Herbology I wanna to put a memory curse on you, but since I don’t know how ta do a memory curse, ya don’t have to worry,” she finished, looking at the clock again. Not too much longer!

Avery sighed. “I’m out of questions. So, where do you live?”

“I’m from Mississippi, in th’ states.”

Gracious! He’s out of questions. Thank goodness. He didn’t even ask my worst fear. Vivi thought, ecstatic.

“Oh!” Avery exclaimed. “What’s your worst fear?”

Great, I jinxed myself.

“Worst fear…” Vivi shivered, “Torture. I can’t stand th’ thought. It’s awful.” She closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them to grin slightly at Avery. “Snakes, on the other hand, don’t bother me.”

Avery glared. “So what if I hate snakes? Whatever,” he mumbled. “I’m out of questions. So. Um, yeah.”

Vivi tried hard to contain her happiness, knowing that those were the best words she’d heard all day. It didn’t matter really, she was grinning anyway, not that she could help it.

Avery smirked demonically, mindlessly fingering his ring from Transfiguration. “You’re lucky I can’t.”

“I am lucky. Very lucky. I would like ta remain lucky.” Vivi said gray eyes wide. “Please.”

“Two more questions— what do you think of Gryffindors and Slytherins. Well, that’s one. The other I’d like to ask your permission to ask. I’m not completely horrible.”

Before she could stop herself, Vivi began, “I like Gryffindors. You and Lys are cool, and it’s the house I thought I’d be in. ‘Course, I didn’t know anything about the houses then, jus’ a few comments I heard. Slytherin, well, I don’t have anything against the house. I’m sure some great people come from it. I jus’ don’t know any yet…” she shrugged.

“Permission granted,” Vivi said, wondering if she’d regret it later.

“Okay. Most embarrassing moment.” He said, sitting back to wait.

“It was last year. I had a really big crush on this guy. My cousins played a trick on me. When I was sleeping they covered me in whip cream, honey, and feathers. That wasn’t so bad, but they also stole all of my cloths. I only had on my nightgown. Well, when I woke up I went outside looking for mom, so she could make them give me my cloths back. Guess who my cousins had waiting? Yep, Kyle, the guy I liked. It was awful.”

She laughed; it wasn’t all that bad now, just an example of what her cousins— namely Brian and Drew— were like.

“But this conversation is pretty embarrassing too, if ya think about it,” she glanced over at Avery. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me your deepest darkest secret since I let you ask that?” She asked, half jokingly, half seriously.

“That’s harsh.” He said sympathetically, and then shook his head.

“I won’t tell.” Vivi said sincerely. “Witch’s honor.”

She looked up at Avery, wondering what could possibly be so horrible that he was that apprehensive about telling. Whatever it was, she was sure it wouldn’t bother her.

“Please?”

“Vivi, I can’t.”

“All right.” Vivi said, somewhat disappointed. “I’ll live I suppose. I just have a really curious nature, so this is going to bother me for a while.”

She looked at Avery for a second, still wondering. “I think the plant’s effects are wearing off.”

Avery nodded, looking around nervously for some reason, before settling back. He was happy she had not pressed it, because it was just one of those things he was not comfortable sharing. The conversation was over now though, and he had not been mortified, and now knew yet another Hufflepuff girl.

If Avery had known just how much Vivienne Moor would impact his life, he might have been more concerned. As it was, Avery Berke was brooding over other matters, and Vivi was curiously eyeing the Herbology Professor, wondering what to do, and what other surprises dear Professor Mayvero had in store for them.

But if either had known…

But they didn’t. And that was that.

It was past midnight when the portrait to the common room swung open, permitting enough room only to allow the small-framed girl to enter. A thin smile spread over her lips as she surveyed the common room, and found no late night wanderers. It was almost a pity. Had a student been present, perhaps on his way for a snack from the kitchens, she could have easily hexed him. It would have been quite the sight to watch as the Hufflepuffs went downstairs in the morning, only to find their classmate’s limbs hanging from the banisters.

She shook her head at her foolishness. There was no time for that. She had a mission to do and it could not be delayed by simple games. If she failed, she would be replaced and disposed of. Her master was not known for kind-hearted acts, or swift, merciful killings. Her death would be long and mind-numbing.

But she would not fail.

Her eyes flickered suspiciously to the stairway, watching for any tell-tale signs of a spy. Only the soft sound of her breath could be heard as she walked to the large fireplace, still glowing with embers. Carefully she searched the cracks in the hearth, her petite fingers prying for an opening. Candlesticks were removed from their places, proving only that there were no hidden switches beneath them. She fumed, her dark eyes sparking dangerously. She had been assured that her part would be simple, that the old broad who hid the keys to her master’s success was a fool, and that the new Headmistress was even more of one. But if that were the case, why was this so difficult?

A noise on the couch alerted her senses and she spun on her heel. While her dark features and clothes blended nicely with the background, it would be entirely too easy to spot her if a student arrived. But the noise was only a pet cat, let loose from the dorms above. Behind her, footsteps sounded, as a student, no doubt the cats owner, made his or her way down the stairs.

She hissed quietly, taking no pleasure in the cat’s violent response to her actions. Quickly, she grabbed a burning ember from the fire, ignoring the sharp pain it caused in her hands, and ground it into the painting hanging above the fire place. Sparks settled into the alcoholic paints, and flames leapt up the portrait, causing the young lady pictured to squeal in terror as the painting was consumed in fire.

She smiled at her handiwork and fled the common room. There would be time enough for search later.

In the dorm room upstairs, Vivi rubbed sleep from her eyes and cursed that stupid cat.

“I was having a good dream,” She muttered incoherently, searching the darkness for the glowing eyes that would give away the animal’s presence. Why cats had to pick the middle of the night to roam around was something that had always puzzled her.

The cat’s eyes disappeared, and Vivi, slipping on warm fuzzy slippers to protect against the night chill, followed. She hugged her night gown to her; it was cold but she felt drawn by the cat’s persistence. A piercing sound exploded from below, and she hastened her steps. Finally she rounded the corner of the stair case and gasped.

“Oh. Oh no.”

Flames were sprouting from a portrait of a young lady stitching a sampler beside a window. The lady’s gown was quickly catching, the full skirts of pink lace exploding with fire. Shrieks filled the room, and over the din the cat still meowed, his plaintive cry mixing with the painting’s agonized screams. Above her Vivi could hear people stumbling out of their beds, awakened by the noise.

Running down the stairs, rather than up, Vivi grabbed a vase containing carnations. She threw the flowers away, and splashed the remaining water on the portrait. Steam hissed up, but it wasn’t enough. The fire continued to spread.

“Help! Someone, help!”

Cathy heard someone yell for help from her dormitory bed. She raced downstairs and nearly fell at the sight of the fire.

Cathy sprang right into action. She grabbed her wand out of her jacket and aimed it on the fire.

“Move!” She yelled at Vivi. “Aqua!” Large amounts of water came out of her wand, drenching the portrait.

Cathy put her wand down and looked at the picture. The women was crying softly, but she looked as though she could be repaired. The worst damage was done to her arm, which had been clad in a frilly sleeve before the fire.

Cathy stepped back and looked at the girl, who she guessed was a first year.

“Are you okay? Who started this?” She asked.

“I dun know who started it.” Vivi said, looking up at Cathy. “I followed the cat.” She glanced around. The cat had disappeared.

“And he led me here ta the fire,” she finished, hesitantly, wondering where the creature had gone.

She gazed at the sobbing portrait, grey eyes wide and curious. Frowning a little, she whispered, “Who would want to burn down the common room?”

The sudden thought of being charred to a crisp while still asleep and dreaming of Quidditch made her wince.

I’ll never mistrust a cat again.

Cathy stared down at the first year and sighed. “Has anyone been acting really strange lately?” Cathy asked, putting her wand in her bag and wrapping her bathrobe closer to her. She was started to get really nervous; it seemed as though something really bad was going to happen very soon.

“Naw.” Vivi whispered. “I haven’t seen anyone acting weird.”

Vivi tugged her gown closer around her, as though warding off an unseen chill. She took a few baby steps toward the stairs, mumbling, “I’m gonna go back ta bed. I don’t think the person will try again tonight.”

Cathy nodded her head at the girl and said softly, “‘Night.”

She waved as Vivi disappeared up the stairs. It was odd, but there seemed to be cold wind filling the common room.

The next afternoon found Vivi reclining on a couch, reading a book, her face hidden by a veil of hair. What she was really doing was watching. She’d come to a conclusion; someone from each house had to be behind these attacks. All of the clues seemed to lead to that, and everything fell into place. Who could it be from Hufflepuff?

Gazing around the common room, she noted those that were there, and those that were not. Who were her house mates? Well, she only knew Aiko and Cathy. And then there was Vivi herself.

What if I’m the one and I just don’t remember? she wondered, playing with the yellow piece of ribbon that served her as a bookmark.

Lots of clues, not much concrete evidence. Would the thief, the arsonist, the evil person ever be caught? Yes. They would be. It was only a matter of time. Valuable time, time in which someone could get hurt.

With fresh resolve, Vivi slammed the book shut, dropping it in the chair. Standing, she looked around. What now?

Aiko smiled happily as she spread herself out before the common room fire. She loved fire and would have been content to lay there and watch it the rest of the evening if it hadn’t been for the attacks.

As a first year Aiko didn’t think she would be much of a target. No one really knew her, so there wouldn’t be much of an upset in the school’s balance if she was injured. There was no reason to go after her. But she was awful with her wand, which she had locked securely in the chest at the foot of her bed to prevent the bad magic from escaping. If the attacker was bored and looking for a good time, it wouldn’t be hard to pick her out of the crowd.

The thought made her shiver and she curled up in the fetal position. The whole idea was frightening. A yawn behind her made her hands spring up to her mouth and she gasped. It was right out of her nightmare. It was the attacker. It was…

Vivi.

She sighed with relief. Aiko knew Vivi from Defense Against the Dark Arts class, and the other girl didn’t seem like much of a violent person. It was almost the opposite. Vivi seemed to be upbeat and cheerful, a bit scary in that sense, but relatively harmless.

“You all right?” Aiko asked hesitantly from her position on the rug. “You seem kind of down.”

Emma, an older year, spotted Aiko and Vivi sitting by the fire. She walked over to them, tucking a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear. She snuggled up in a chair by the first years, wrapping her arms around her legs and curling into a ball. She could not believe that someone in this common room, that a Hufflepuff was the attacker.

How could it be? Everyone seemed to be so nice, so friendly, and still— there was a nervous chill over the common room. Nowadays everyone was so tentative about who they talked to, who they were seen with, and who was seen alone.

Emma shivered again, and glanced over at Aiko and Vivi. “Hey,” she said in a soft voice, which was unusual for Emma. “Are you guys okay?”

“That depends,” Vivi replied to Aiko and Emma, serious and joking in the same breath. “I’m worried but not hurt. Yet. Just thinkin’”

There wasn’t much else to say. Everyone knew about the attacks, no sense talking about them unless you had a plan in mind. And Vivi didn’t, not momentarily. She was working on it, but everything ran into dead ends. Frankly, no one in Hufflepuff seemed capable of such massive destruction.

Hopefully the staff would get it under control. After all, this was Hogwarts. It was supposed to be safe, very safe. Maybe the students were not in any danger at all, and it was all just pretense, someone playing a vile joke. In her heart, Vivi did not believe that. Yet she decided, firmly, to put it out of her mind.

Besides, there were other things to think about. The Headmistress had announced an upcoming Halloween Ball. Even better, students from Wrightwards Academy, an all boys, private school in Canada would be attending. Hogwarts was abuzz with interest over the boys and the ball, making it hard to keep gloomy thoughts in mind. It was a distraction from the unrest, but a pleasant one.

Chapter Six: The Triden Star

Professor Elionwy Mayvero looked around the empty classroom, its students not due to arrive for another five minutes. It was the first day of Herbology, so she was, blessedly, early. The work tables sat in their proper places, and at the front of the room sat Elionwy’s own display table. Today it was bare of plants, graced only by a single piece of paper.

Elionwy looked much the same as she had for the last lesson, except now her hair had been pulled back into messy bun, with curls sticking out of it at odd angles. She paced towards the back of the greenhouse, smiling. The reason for this was her contemplation of how chaotic this lesson would be and the student’s shocked reactions.

The students finally entered, and Professor Mayvero took her place in front of them. She beamed around, bright eyes showing ill-concealed amusement.

“Hello. You have made it to your first lesson. Today we shall do something entertaining.” She picked up the paper, and held it up where the writing on it was easily visible.

“Our lesson today requires partners, which I am about to assign. When your name is called out please meet with your partner and sit down together.

Moments later the Professor finished reading out the partner pairs, her silky voice rich with pleasure. Group projects were always interesting. She glanced around to make sure that everyone had gotten with their appropriate partner and then continued.

“The plant we will work with today is known as the Triden Star. I will show you one in a minute. It’s properties are rather unique. Besides a lovely scent and blossoms, the Triden Star has the power of the strongest truth potion. Once one person has smelled its aroma, they will answer any question, any question at all. The effects wear off after exactly seven minutes.”

Stunned faces stared at her from around the class, as the students undoubtedly wondered what they would be doing with such a plant.

“The Triden Star is found in many countries around the world, but it is most common here in Britain. Now, for your lesson, you will bring back one of these plants to your table. One person out of the partner pair will go first, and breathe in the scent of this plant. The other will ask questions, and write down the questions and answers to them. You will turn this paper in to me. Then you will reverse roles, and repeat the process. Is that clear?”

She walked to the rack behind her desk, and picked up a small pot to show to the class. The Triden Stars were miniscule in size, their pale yellow, star-shaped flowers large for such small stems. Smiling wickedly, Elionwy said, “One person from each pair come up and get your plant. Then you may begin.”

Avery groaned upon hearing the assignment. Not only was it yet another group project, but he wasn’t paired with either Brian, a very close friend, or Aiko, a new friend he had met earlier. Instead, Brian and Aiko were paired together, and he was stuck with a first year Hufflepuff he had seen, but never talked too.

Avery looked over in Vivi’s direction, frowning ever so slightly.

Vivi quickly located Avery from the fray, pushing her way through to him.

She smiled slightly, and then asked, “Should I go get our plant? I don’t mind going first if ya want me ta.”

That was true. She also didn’t want to mess the lesson up and look like a fool in front of a second year. At least if she went first, then she’d have a good idea of how to do it once she was asking him questions.

“I don’t care. Sure, go get the plant then we’ll figure it out. I don’t know what questions I’m gonna ask yet,” Avery said. His ears reddened again, and the bright green on his mood ring faded.

Vivienne nodded. Normally bubbling and talkative, she had fallen silent at the idea of this plant, which could make you tell anything.

It’s like ten times worse that a muggle lie detector, she thought grimly.

Every embarrassing thing she’d ever done rose from its dark corner of shame in her mind, to haunt her with visions of Avery knowing.

Sighing, Vivi picked her way through students and desks, over to the shelf containing the plant. She selected one with many budding blossoms on it, and picked it up carefully. Holding it as she would a precious glass vase, she transversed the short distance back to Avery, and carefully sat it down.

“I guess we should start,” she stated, not overly eager to start, but wanting to get it over with.

She sat down in one of the seats, facing Avery, and plucked off a large yellow bud. Then, holding it between thumb and forefinger, she looked back up expectantly.

The ring Avery wore changed color yet again, this time to black. He dreaded a first year knowing his secrets, should she choose to ask a question most certain to reveal them.

The other students seemed just an anxious, feeling as if they would be violated when the questions were asked.

“I’d rather you ask me first… I haven’t any questions and I want to get the humiliation over with,” Avery muttered.

Not that I want to be humiliated.

His eyes flashed red for a moment, then dulled to a smoky grey. “Shoot.”

“All right.” Vivi held out the bud she’d plucked. “Here ya go.”

Desperately she tried to think of a question, any question. Something easy maybe, to start with. Then something a little more interesting. Defiantly not a who-do-you-like type question or anything of the sort. Those were so overdone. Besides, she doubted that guys thought about that in quite as much detail as girls.

Images of her muggle friends giggling over some football player almost made her roll her eyes, but she stopped, lest Avery think that gesture was aimed towards him. He didn’t seem to like her much, and she didn’t really want to be on his bad side—much less right before he quizzed her. A flush crept into her cheeks as she thought about some of the things she didn’t want him, or anyone, to know.

Avery reached his ringed hand across the table and grabbed the bud carefully.

Maybe I could crush all the buds on all the plants to smithereens! Then I couldn’t do this! So what if I fail the assignment.

Deciding against the idea, he brought the yellow flower to his nose and inhaled slowly.

“Okay…” he murmured, feeling his head clear of all thoughts, and then become foggy. He grabbed the end of the table with his hands, feeling as though he would tip over any second.

“Whoa. That feels odd. Okay, go.”

Vivi watched as Avery inhaled the aroma, waiting till he gave the signal for her to begin.

“Umm…favorite animal, favorite color, and biggest fear,” she rattled off. There went her three planned-out questions.

“Animal, panda. Favorite color…well, look at me!” He waved his hand over his body, ensuring that Vivi would notice his black shirt, black jeans, black robe, and white k-swiss shoes.

“Black. Biggest fear.” He shivered slightly. “Snakes.”

Vivi’s mind had gone strangely blank, and a moment passed as she struggled to find a good question.

“Umm…Favorite person and least favorite person,” she said finally.

“Donal and Brian are my favorite people.” Avery’s head turned toward a certain second year Slytherin. “Agatha. I hate that girl.”

“Um, okay.” Vivi winced; having the strangest feeling she’d done something wrong. She decided to change the subject, or at least the type of question.

“All right, most annoying pet peeve?”

I hope that his most annoying pet peeve isn’t curious first years, she thought ironically.

“Pet peeve. I’ll say firsties who think they know everything, including advanced curses which are probably no more than little itching charms.” He shot a glance at Alex Stone, frowning.

“All right.” Vivi noticed the look at Alex, and almost sniggered. She’d seen him around, and well, “stuck-up” was the phrase to use. “Oh, um biggest dream, and darkest secret.”

She glanced around. The time was almost up, maybe about a minute left. What else could she ask? She shuddered. Soon it would be her turn.

“Biggest dream. I don’t really have one. Darkest secret.”

He paused.

No! He screamed in silently, Why?

He looked at his watch. 30 seconds left.

Stall…

“M-my darkest s-secret…. I’m…. I’m…..”

10…9…8…

I officially hate firsties….

“I’m…”

His watch beeped. The light-headed, dizzy feeling he once felt, left him almost instantly.

“Not telling. That’s personal.” He smiled smugly, holding out a flower for the second year. “Your turn.”

“Darn.” Vivi laughed, adding, “I should have asked that one first. Oh well.” She took the flower, holding it up at eye level.

“Here goes nothin’.” She breathed deeply, inhaling the sweet scent. It almost reminded her of cinnamon, but not quite. Suddenly her whole body relaxed, and her eyes drifted off behind Avery, unfocused.

Perhaps I got too big a dose. She twirled a piece of her black hair idly, Too late.

“Okay Avery, shoot.” She said her voice dreamy.

What a bad way to phrase that.

“Okay. Deepest, darkest secret—” ha! he thought arrogantly, “—favorite and least favorite person, favorite color, sport, and um, bird.”

Like all the other questions, these were random, but heck, that was all he could think about.

This should be fun.

Vivi grinned foolishly, happy despite the fact that she was about to spill all her secrets to Avery.

This plant should qualify as an illegal drug, she thought, only mildly concerned about it.

“My deepest and darkest secret is I think you’re cute,” she said dreamily, before realizing what had just happened, and blushing madly. “But I don’t like ya like that, honest!”

Avery blushed slightly at her comment. “I’m cute? That’s your deepest, darkest secret?” He asked, incredulous. The Hufflepuff was very innocent, it seemed.

Vivi blushed, wanting to explain herself, but there were more questions she had to answer. And another six minutes to go while still at Avery’s mercy. “Favorite person’s Aiko, she’s been nice. I think you’re cool too, and Lys. I like most o’ the people I’ve met.”

She took a breath, and then began again. “My least favorite person’s Megan Vining. Also, there was a kid back home I really hated. He locked me in a shed one night, nobody could find me till th’ next morning.” She grimaced at the thought, remembering.

“Everyone hates Megan. You should hate Agatha though!” Avery offered, listening as Vivi continued. He let her finish, all the while thinking up more questions.

“Favorite color is midnight blue, sport’s Quidditch, and bird, wren.”

She’d been staring at her tennis shoes, but risked a glance up at Avery when she finished.

“Okay, um. I can’t resist— who do you like?” Avery sniggered. This is fun!

”You’re evil, did ya know that?” Vivi was still blushing, and she had a feeling that she would be every time she saw Avery after this. “I don’t like anyone, actually. You’re the only person I think is cute. But I haven’t known any guys here long ‘nough ta have a crush on them. And I didn’t like anyone back home.” She finished hastily. Five more minutes!

“I know. When you have the opportunity to annoy someone, do it! Be ruthless!” Avery cackled, enjoying this to the full extent.

She thinks I’m cute…hmm.

“I’ll remember that next time I have th’ opportunity ta annoy ya.” Vivi said through gritted teeth. She wasn’t mad, not at all, just upset with the fact that she couldn’t control what she said. The dreamy feeling had evaporated, and now she was fully aware of what she was saying, and how she had no control over it.

“Um…Okay… What do you think of Brian and…er…” Avery scratched his head. “Do you like Hufflepuff?”

“Brian seems cool; I haven’t talked ta him. I’d like ta help him with some of his pranks.” Vivi raised a delicate eyebrow. “Not all Hufflepuffs are goody-goodies. And yeah, I like Hufflepuff. ‘Specially the Quidditch team. Our common room is boring though. Nobody ever does anything.”

“Oh! Oh!” Avery laughed, “Do you find any muggle actor extremely sexy?”

I’m enjoying this too much, he thought, amused.

“I think Josh Hartnett’s extremely, ta use your word, sexy. Heath Ledger too.” This time she managed to keep a straight face and her blush to a medium strawberry red.

“Too much information.” Avery said, before moving on to the next question.

”What have you always wanted to do and what do you wanna do right after Herbology?”

“I’ve always wanted ta fly. Right after Herbology I wanna to put a memory curse on you, but since I don’t know how ta do a memory curse, ya don’t have to worry,” she finished, looking at the clock again. Not too much longer!

Avery sighed. “I’m out of questions. So, where do you live?”

“I’m from Mississippi, in th’ states.”

Gracious! He’s out of questions. Thank goodness. He didn’t even ask my worst fear. Vivi thought, ecstatic.

“Oh!” Avery exclaimed. “What’s your worst fear?”

Great, I jinxed myself.

“Worst fear…” Vivi shivered, “Torture. I can’t stand th’ thought. It’s awful.” She closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them to grin slightly at Avery. “Snakes, on the other hand, don’t bother me.”

Avery glared. “So what if I hate snakes? Whatever,” he mumbled. “I’m out of questions. So. Um, yeah.”

Vivi tried hard to contain her happiness, knowing that those were the best words she’d heard all day. It didn’t matter really, she was grinning anyway, not that she could help it.

Avery smirked demonically, mindlessly fingering his ring from Transfiguration. “You’re lucky I can’t.”

“I am lucky. Very lucky. I would like ta remain lucky.” Vivi said gray eyes wide. “Please.”

“Two more questions— what do you think of Gryffindors and Slytherins. Well, that’s one. The other I’d like to ask your permission to ask. I’m not completely horrible.”

Before she could stop herself, Vivi began, “I like Gryffindors. You and Lys are cool, and it’s the house I thought I’d be in. ‘Course, I didn’t know anything about the houses then, jus’ a few comments I heard. Slytherin, well, I don’t have anything against the house. I’m sure some great people come from it. I jus’ don’t know any yet…” she shrugged.

“Permission granted,” Vivi said, wondering if she’d regret it later.

“Okay. Most embarrassing moment.” He said, sitting back to wait.

“It was last year. I had a really big crush on this guy. My cousins played a trick on me. When I was sleeping they covered me in whip cream, honey, and feathers. That wasn’t so bad, but they also stole all of my cloths. I only had on my nightgown. Well, when I woke up I went outside looking for mom, so she could make them give me my cloths back. Guess who my cousins had waiting? Yep, Kyle, the guy I liked. It was awful.”

She laughed; it wasn’t all that bad now, just an example of what her cousins— namely Brian and Drew— were like.

“But this conversation is pretty embarrassing too, if ya think about it,” she glanced over at Avery. “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me your deepest darkest secret since I let you ask that?” She asked, half jokingly, half seriously.

“That’s harsh.” He said sympathetically, and then shook his head.

“I won’t tell.” Vivi said sincerely. “Witch’s honor.”

She looked up at Avery, wondering what could possibly be so horrible that he was that apprehensive about telling. Whatever it was, she was sure it wouldn’t bother her.

“Please?”

“Vivi, I can’t.”

“All right.” Vivi said, somewhat disappointed. “I’ll live I suppose. I just have a really curious nature, so this is going to bother me for a while.”

She looked at Avery for a second, still wondering. “I think the plant’s effects are wearing off.”

Avery nodded, looking around nervously for some reason, before settling back. He was happy she had not pressed it, because it was just one of those things he was not comfortable sharing. The conversation was over now though, and he had not been mortified, and now knew yet another Hufflepuff girl.

If Avery had known just how much Vivienne Moor would impact his life, he might have been more concerned. As it was, Avery Berke was brooding over other matters, and Vivi was curiously eyeing the Herbology Professor, wondering what to do, and what other surprises dear Professor Mayvero had in store for them.

But if either had known…

But they didn’t. And that was that.


It was past midnight when the portrait to the common room swung open, permitting enough room only to allow the small-framed girl to enter. A thin smile spread over her lips as she surveyed the common room, and found no late night wanderers. It was almost a pity. Had a student been present, perhaps on his way for a snack from the kitchens, she could have easily hexed him. It would have been quite the sight to watch as the Hufflepuffs went downstairs in the morning, only to find their classmate’s limbs hanging from the banisters.

She shook her head at her foolishness. There was no time for that. She had a mission to do and it could not be delayed by simple games. If she failed, she would be replaced and disposed of. Her master was not known for kind-hearted acts, or swift, merciful killings. Her death would be long and mind-numbing.

But she would not fail.

Her eyes flickered suspiciously to the stairway, watching for any tell-tale signs of a spy. Only the soft sound of her breath could be heard as she walked to the large fireplace, still glowing with embers. Carefully she searched the cracks in the hearth, her petite fingers prying for an opening. Candlesticks were removed from their places, proving only that there were no hidden switches beneath them. She fumed, her dark eyes sparking dangerously. She had been assured that her part would be simple, that the old broad who hid the keys to her master’s success was a fool, and that the new Headmistress was even more of one. But if that were the case, why was this so difficult?

A noise on the couch alerted her senses and she spun on her heel. While her dark features and clothes blended nicely with the background, it would be entirely too easy to spot her if a student arrived. But the noise was only a pet cat, let loose from the dorms above. Behind her, footsteps sounded, as a student, no doubt the cats owner, made his or her way down the stairs.

She hissed quietly, taking no pleasure in the cat’s violent response to her actions. Quickly, she grabbed a burning ember from the fire, ignoring the sharp pain it caused in her hands, and ground it into the painting hanging above the fire place. Sparks settled into the alcoholic paints, and flames leapt up the portrait, causing the young lady pictured to squeal in terror as the painting was consumed in fire.

She smiled at her handiwork and fled the common room. There would be time enough for search later.

In the dorm room upstairs, Vivi rubbed sleep from her eyes and cursed that stupid cat.

“I was having a good dream,” She muttered incoherently, searching the darkness for the glowing eyes that would give away the animal’s presence. Why cats had to pick the middle of the night to roam around was something that had always puzzled her.

The cat’s eyes disappeared, and Vivi, slipping on warm fuzzy slippers to protect against the night chill, followed. She hugged her night gown to her; it was cold but she felt drawn by the cat’s persistence. A piercing sound exploded from below, and she hastened her steps. Finally she rounded the corner of the stair case and gasped.

“Oh. Oh no.”

Flames were sprouting from a portrait of a young lady stitching a sampler beside a window. The lady’s gown was quickly catching, the full skirts of pink lace exploding with fire. Shrieks filled the room, and over the din the cat still meowed, his plaintive cry mixing with the painting’s agonized screams. Above her Vivi could hear people stumbling out of their beds, awakened by the noise.

Running down the stairs, rather than up, Vivi grabbed a vase containing carnations. She threw the flowers away, and splashed the remaining water on the portrait. Steam hissed up, but it wasn’t enough. The fire continued to spread.

“Help! Someone, help!”

Cathy heard someone yell for help from her dormitory bed. She raced downstairs and nearly fell at the sight of the fire.

Cathy sprang right into action. She grabbed her wand out of her jacket and aimed it on the fire.

“Move!” She yelled at Vivi. “Aqua!” Large amounts of water came out of her wand, drenching the portrait.

Cathy put her wand down and looked at the picture. The women was crying softly, but she looked as though she could be repaired. The worst damage was done to her arm, which had been clad in a frilly sleeve before the fire.

Cathy stepped back and looked at the girl, who she guessed was a first year.

“Are you okay? Who started this?” She asked.

“I dun know who started it.” Vivi said, looking up at Cathy. “I followed the cat.” She glanced around. The cat had disappeared.

“And he led me here ta the fire,” she finished, hesitantly, wondering where the creature had gone.

She gazed at the sobbing portrait, grey eyes wide and curious. Frowning a little, she whispered, “Who would want to burn down the common room?”

The sudden thought of being charred to a crisp while still asleep and dreaming of Quidditch made her wince.

I’ll never mistrust a cat again.

Cathy stared down at the first year and sighed. “Has anyone been acting really strange lately?” Cathy asked, putting her wand in her bag and wrapping her bathrobe closer to her. She was started to get really nervous; it seemed as though something really bad was going to happen very soon.

“Naw.” Vivi whispered. “I haven’t seen anyone acting weird.”

Vivi tugged her gown closer around her, as though warding off an unseen chill. She took a few baby steps toward the stairs, mumbling, “I’m gonna go back ta bed. I don’t think the person will try again tonight.”

Cathy nodded her head at the girl and said softly, “‘Night.”

She waved as Vivi disappeared up the stairs. It was odd, but there seemed to be cold wind filling the common room.


The next afternoon found Vivi reclining on a couch, reading a book, her face hidden by a veil of hair. What she was really doing was watching. She’d come to a conclusion; someone from each house had to be behind these attacks. All of the clues seemed to lead to that, and everything fell into place. Who could it be from Hufflepuff?

Gazing around the common room, she noted those that were there, and those that were not. Who were her house mates? Well, she only knew Aiko and Cathy. And then there was Vivi herself.

What if I’m the one and I just don’t remember? she wondered, playing with the yellow piece of ribbon that served her as a bookmark.

Lots of clues, not much concrete evidence. Would the thief, the arsonist, the evil person ever be caught? Yes. They would be. It was only a matter of time. Valuable time, time in which someone could get hurt.

With fresh resolve, Vivi slammed the book shut, dropping it in the chair. Standing, she looked around. What now?

Aiko smiled happily as she spread herself out before the common room fire. She loved fire and would have been content to lay there and watch it the rest of the evening if it hadn’t been for the attacks.

As a first year Aiko didn’t think she would be much of a target. No one really knew her, so there wouldn’t be much of an upset in the school’s balance if she was injured. There was no reason to go after her. But she was awful with her wand, which she had locked securely in the chest at the foot of her bed to prevent the bad magic from escaping. If the attacker was bored and looking for a good time, it wouldn’t be hard to pick her out of the crowd.

The thought made her shiver and she curled up in the fetal position. The whole idea was frightening. A yawn behind her made her hands spring up to her mouth and she gasped. It was right out of her nightmare. It was the attacker. It was…

Vivi.

She sighed with relief. Aiko knew Vivi from Defense Against the Dark Arts class, and the other girl didn’t seem like much of a violent person. It was almost the opposite. Vivi seemed to be upbeat and cheerful, a bit scary in that sense, but relatively harmless.

“You all right?” Aiko asked hesitantly from her position on the rug. “You seem kind of down.”

Emma, an older year, spotted Aiko and Vivi sitting by the fire. She walked over to them, tucking a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear. She snuggled up in a chair by the first years, wrapping her arms around her legs and curling into a ball. She could not believe that someone in this common room, that a Hufflepuff was the attacker.

How could it be? Everyone seemed to be so nice, so friendly, and still— there was a nervous chill over the common room. Nowadays everyone was so tentative about who they talked to, who they were seen with, and who was seen alone.

Emma shivered again, and glanced over at Aiko and Vivi. “Hey,” she said in a soft voice, which was unusual for Emma. “Are you guys okay?”

“That depends,” Vivi replied to Aiko and Emma, serious and joking in the same breath. “I’m worried but not hurt. Yet. Just thinkin’”

There wasn’t much else to say. Everyone knew about the attacks, no sense talking about them unless you had a plan in mind. And Vivi didn’t, not momentarily. She was working on it, but everything ran into dead ends. Frankly, no one in Hufflepuff seemed capable of such massive destruction.

Hopefully the staff would get it under control. After all, this was Hogwarts. It was supposed to be safe, very safe. Maybe the students were not in any danger at all, and it was all just pretense, someone playing a vile joke. In her heart, Vivi did not believe that. Yet she decided, firmly, to put it out of her mind.

Besides, there were other things to think about. The Headmistress had announced an upcoming Halloween Ball. Even better, students from Wrightwards Academy, an all boys, private school in Canada would be attending. Hogwarts was abuzz with interest over the boys and the ball, making it hard to keep gloomy thoughts in mind. It was a distraction from the unrest, but a pleasant one.


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