|Title:||Slytherin Solidarity: Canto V - One for the Razorbacks (Part II)|
|Posted On:||2005-02-04 00:00:00|
Summary: The journal of Blaise Zabini falls open, revealing the story of the last Slytherins before the great battle begins. A house broken and torn from the inside, and the greatest of loves – lost to the ages.
Disclaimer: A non-profit adoration of J.K. Rowling’s characters. No money is being made by this endeavour and characters, places and curses remain the property of J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury Books, Warner Brothers and all those other profiteering bigwigs.
Canto V: One for the Razorbacks
(Part II of II)
“Don’t touch that!”
“What? Why not?” Blaise pouted, forcing his lower lip to quiver and widening his eyes at the petite Gryffindor Head Girl in a gesture that was supposed to illicit some sort of concession.
It was not working.
Granger pursed her lip and regarded him shrewdly over the small mountain of books they shared between them.
“Your research habits are appalling Zabini, that’s why,” she said haughtily.
Blaise huffed indignantly. “You’re a control freak.”
“I am well organized.”
“You are a domineering wench.”
“And you, Zabini, are insufferable.”
What an absolute debacle. Blaise glared at the girl, folding his arms and slumping backwards into his chair. The pair had relegated themselves to a secluded corner of the library where no one would spy them. For good measure, Granger had set up a moderately strong ward around their table to deter any of their housemates from stumbling upon them during their “meeting” – if you could call it that.
Blaise was beginning to wonder if she was ever capable of normal human interaction. Thus far, Granger had threatened to hex him twice, deducted fifteen house points and nearly slapped him once. All in one evening!
Contemplating what possessed him to initiate spending an inordinate amount of time with Granger of all people; he glared unpleasantly at the Gryffindor across the table. Their first session with “the book” had consisted of nearly three hours bickering, sniping and trading “pleasantries” – at which Blaise used a number of adjectives in both English and Italian to describe the Gryffindor’s impossible tendency towards bossiness.
Ironically, he’d managed to wipe their first encounter entirely from his mind - an unpleasant event which he was being strongly reminded of at that very moment.
Granger had become so irate at one point that she’d gone so far as to research a translation charm, which promptly spelled out each and every syllable that fell from Blaise’s lips, relaying the more colourful terms in fantastic detail when the Gryffindor demanded it.
He had since restrained himself to swearing as colourfully as he could in plain old English, while leaving out adjectives embellishing several crude and inappropriate acts that could be accomplished with the participation of certain farm animals.
This, however, was their second meeting, the day before the Halloween Feast, and things were positively spiffing.
“Fine, Granger. Let’s assess the situation then, shall we?” he groused, balling his hands into fists below his elbows. “I can’t touch that.” Blaise pointed roughly at a book marked Ancient Sigils: Random Scribbles or Marks in Time? “Nor that.” He jabbed at a tattered copy of The Meaning of Mesopotamian Magic. “Nor that,” he growled, becoming increasingly agitated as he flicked the cover of Antique Books: From Word to Writ. “So what exactly can I use Granger?”
She glared at him for a moment. Snapping the book in front of her shut she leaned over the table and murmured in a low tone of voice. “Let’s make a deal Zabini.”
Blaise snorted and leaned back on his chair, lacing his hands together behind his head he chuckled openly. “Gryffindors don’t make bargains,” he shot back.
“Oh no?” she said, a sly smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.
Blaise found himself staring at the little indentation in her cheek made by the expression, it was intriguing. Never had he seen the Head Girl with such a calculating air about her – scrutinizing, maybe, but never an expression so outwardly predatory.
“Go on then, you’ve probably rehearsed this little speech several times already. So out with it would you, I’d like to get back to my common room before the first snow fall,” he replied dryly.
Her smirk didn’t falter, however, and to Blaise’s disquiet, it seemed to deepen – causing the witch’s eyes to sparkle malevolently.
“I will explain to you what exactly I’ve discovered on the Principia, if you agree to an exchange of information,” she said slowly.
Blaise blinked, feigning innocence. “What information?”
Granger merely quirked an eyebrow and folded her hands neatly before her.
“What terms?” Blaise tried again. Distantly, a warning bell was sounding at the back of his head. Given the situation however, he knew exactly what she wanted and he really didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.
Granger stared complacently, the same bemused smirk dimpling her features.
“Fine!” he snapped. “Fine damnit. Avete fatto impazzire, donna alimentazione-affamato.”
“Fantastic!” she beamed. “You can start by explaining what you meant this afternoon with that comment about mollycoddling you when I found you out of your dorm, out of bounds, and sleepwalking – of all things – at the beginning of September.”
Unable to restrain himself, Blaise felt his carefully trained features wilt – his jaw dropping and his shoulders sagging.
It was as if Granger had jabbed a self-righteous finger in the air and shouted “Ah-ha!” Such was the effect when her face lit up, like she’d struck the vein of gold on her first shot.
“What of it?” he muttered sullenly, slouching back into his chair and sliding down to rest on his tailbone, his legs splayed wide beneath the oak table.
“Tell me about Theodore,” she stated bluntly, her eyes alight.
Unwittingly, Blaise cringed. “Don’t call him that. He never liked it.”
“I apologize,” she said primly, and waited for him to continue. “Please do elaborate.”
Seeing there was no possible way out of it, and with a sideways glance at the ancient text placed deliberately near her right elbow – its low hymn saturating the air weakly, Blaise began.
“Ted and I were friends since a very young age – since I first moved to England actually. We didn’t live too far from each other so it was mostly out of convenience at first that we could play together as boys. When we got a bit older, however, we realized we both had a lot in common. The usual thing with wizarding children, you know – dungbombs dropped at our parents’ dinner receptions, tormenting the house staff, disappearing into the Nott hedge maze for hours at a time when we wanted to explore, or what have you.”
“You were brats,” she said flatly.
Blaise glared, “We were children.”
“And spoiled to high heaven no doubt,” she said acidly.
“Right,” Blaise pursed his lips. “In any case, we were best friends – through thick and thin. When we were nine Ted got this crazy idea.” Blaise snorted. “Thought it was all a joke really, make-believe, you know? His parents were having some sort of get-together in the middle of July and we were told specifically to ‘keep out of the way unless we knew what was good for us’. Turned out it was some sort of former Death Eater tea party.”
Across the table, Granger stiffened noticeably.
“My parents never gave a damn about the whole pureblood manifesto – still don’t, to this day. But Ted’s father, well,” Blaise lowered his voice, “he was right in there with the Dark Lord - expected Ted to follow in his footsteps. And when he didn’t –”
Involuntarily, a silence stretched as he began to mentally replay the events of early September. It took a moment for Blaise to realize his chest was contracting and breathing was becoming difficult.
“He was murdered?” Granger’s eyes were saucer-like, the deep brown worried by the mingling looks of shock, disbelief and disgust that raced over her features.
“Not at all,” he breathed, feeling the tightness in his chest loosen somewhat and puffing absently at a stray black curl dangling into his eye. “You’ve been listening to Weasley prattle on with his fallacious theories for far too long.” Blaise said quietly. “He took his own life to save us – to save his friends.”
“I don’t understand.”
Blaise sighed, realizing at that moment this was going to be much more difficult than he anticipated.
“He was threatened, coerced, blackmailed – the usual digs for the likes of us. He received his summons over the summer, a call to war if you will. It’s like muggle conscription, except for most of the purebloods that still stand in the Dark Lord’s favour; the names of their children have been on his waiting list since they were infants.
“Anyway, Ted wasn’t saying much since his birthday. You’ve got to understand, Granger – he was like a brother to me, everyday we at least spoke to each other. Every single fucking day he was there – and then suddenly he wasn’t.”
Blaise shrugged with a frown.
“He stopped talking, stop sending post. It was like he didn’t give a shite anymore about anything. I didn’t know it then, but he was trying to distance himself from me – and everyone,” he added after a pause.
“Voldemort used his friends as leverage?” Granger asked with a stricken frown.
Blaise merely nodded.
“How do you know this for certain?” she pressed softly.
“He told me,” Blaise said simply, matching her gaze and keeping his expression blank. There was no need to expound on how he knew about it. It would be an unnecessary detail to attempt a rational argument for a conversation with his recently deceased confidante.
Granger continued to appraise him silently.
“Your turn Granger, this is a barter of information. So start bargaining,” he replied wearily as he refolded his arms across his chest and assumed his best disdainful glare.
She shook her head slightly as if to clear it, though not after she pursed her lips and gave Blaise a withering look.
“Well, I did some research into the origins of the seal on the cover,” she replied, mustering the same technical and precise air Blaise had heard nearly every day for the past seven years. It was the same tenor the Gryffindor used in class when acting particularly overbearing while discussing some obscure piece of information. Ignoring how much the grate in the lilt of her superior tone irritated him, Blaise listened with rapt attention.
“The apple,” she said, drawing the Principia Discordia forwards, “inscribed with the Greek word ‘Kallisti’, is a common symbol associated with a particular Goddess in two different cultures.”
“Roman and Greek,” Blaise murmured.
“Precisely,” Granger cocked her head in surprise. “How did you know that?”
Blaise shrugged. “My Grandmother used to tell me about the old ways when I was a kid.”
The Head Girl eyed him warily before continuing. “The inscription means ‘To the fairest,’ which is taken directly from Greek myth. Before the battle of Troy supposedly took place, a banquet was held in the halls of Mount Olympus to celebrate a marriage between Peleus and Thetis – who were to be the mother and father of Achilles,”
“The warrior; half god, half man,” Blaise waved impatiently. “I’ve read plenty of Homer and Virgil for that matter, to know the story.”
Granger’s jaw dropped, flabbergasted. “He was a muggle!”
Blaise snorted outright and shook his head. “First of all, Granger – I thought I’d already made it perfectly clear that; a – I don’t give a damn about the wizarding bloodlines, and b – He was a heathen. A heathen, Granger! Ancient Europe was so heavily steeped in magic it’s not even remotely funny. I could give you reams of Philosophers, Theologians, Artists and Poets from the old world who were wizards.”
Thankfully, she at least had the decency to splutter.
“Go on Granger, let’s not make this any more painful than it already is,” he said shortly.
“In any case,” she frowned at his brusqueness, “the myth follows in such a way that all the gods were invited to the wedding banquet – all except one.”
She rifled through her book bag for a moment, before extracting a slim, red book with heavily worn corners and a cloth cover. Bending the spine back, she flicked through the yellowed pages before flipping the book around and pointing out a picture.
“Eris, Goddess of Strife,” she said firmly.
Gingerly, Blaise reached out and plucked the volume from her gripping fingers – dutifully ignoring the hitch in her breath as he touched the book.
On the page she’d pointed out was a crude, hand-drawn image of a highly stylized woman in the classical style. She stood with her back straight, her hair hanging in a wild tangle about her shoulders in robes of deep crimson and cinched around the waist with a gold cord. Around her bare feet, a series of disproportionate and highly contorted figures were howling in pain; their mouths agape and writhing around her, though the Goddess herself paid them no heed.
Rather, the most disquieting thing about the illustration itself was the stillness of the character, where all around her the figures were twisting and clawing at each other – she stood stalk still and gazing back at Blaise vindictively. Her eyes were ink black and wide, and she wore a particularly cruel grin. Gazing at the face of the Goddess amidst the mountain of bodies strewn across a battlefield, she began to move – reaching into her scarlet robes slowly, and extracting with her slim arm, a small golden apple – which she held out in an open palm. Without question, she was frightening – but already Blaise could sense a dangerous appeal to her.
He let out a whistle, attempting to break the hypnotic thrall of the portrait.
“She was a looker wasn’t she?”
“She caused mayhem wherever she went,” Granger continued, ignoring his lecherous leer. “Naturally, the Gods didn’t want her spoiling their celebration. When Eris got wind of it, however –”
She reached over the table and turned to the next page, barely grazing Blaise’s thumb where he held the spine. He threw her a glance, but the Head Girl was looking at the tome eagerly, anticipating his reaction.
Blaise lowered his eyes, laying the book flat on the table and leaning over it – Granger was half out of her seat already.
Before them, two pages of a picture were spread. The small, rough drawing of the Goddess of Strife sauntered into what appeared to be a great feast and stood before a long table where a variety of richly clad divine beings were carousing and laughing. Some of them, upon noticing the Goddess’ presence, recoiled in horror – jabbing at their closet companions fretfully.
With a large smile, the drawn figure of Eris knelt, and rolled the tiny golden apple into the midst of the gathering.
“What’s she doing?” Blaise murmured.
Granger practically leapt round his side of the table and flumped into the chair beside him. Scooting closer, she began babbling at top speed.
“It’s classical, really. Eris was notorious for causing discord and disharmony, the inscription on the apple made certain that she’d cause an uproar – look what’s happening!” she dragged the book closer between them.
On the page, Eris was slinking out of view, while three other Goddesses had leapt up and were quarrelling over the apple. It appeared that each of the women was attempting to claim the fruit for herself.
“Hera, Queen of the Gods and wife to Zeus,” Hermione pointed to a rather burly Goddess with brown hair. “Aphrodite, Goddess of Love.”
“And sex,” Blaise interjected with a half-grin. Granger pursed her lips and added the last name dryly.
“And Athena, Goddess of Wisdom.”
The last deity was round faced and owl-eyed, much shorter and more rounded than the others. She stood poised between the pouting caricature of Aphrodite who was stomping her feet and waving her arms, and a glowering Hera who appeared to be threatening the Goddess of Love. It was when Athena spied the apple for herself and began to reach for it that an imposing man stood up near the head of the banquet table and strode over to pluck the gilded fruit from the Goddess’ grasp.
“…So the task was put to Zeus to decide which of the three were the fairest.” Granger had been rambling for quite sometime apparently, but Blaise had heard none of it. A glance at the girl confirmed that she was thoroughly enthralled sharing her reams of information, regardless of whether he was paying attention or not.
“But Zeus decided it wouldn’t be prudent, so he shunted the task on to someone else –”
“Granger I hate to interrupt your captivating monologue but what’s your point?”
She blinked at him owlishly for a moment, as if realizing he was there for the first time. Her lips narrowed into a thin line, reminiscent of Professor McGonagall when she realized Neville Longbottom had been admitted to her Advanced Transfiguration class in sixth year.
The Professor was heard muttering for a week about “never being able to restore her favourite tea cup”.
“The point, Zabini, is that the choice was passed to a mortal named Paris who chose Aphrodite only after she bribed him with the fairest woman in all of the Aegean. Incidentally, it was Helen of Sparta that Paris chose, and stole her away from her husband – thus starting the Trojan War.”
Blaise merely stared blankly. Granger huffed and slammed the book closed.
“Eris, Zabini! She’s the Goddess of Strife! Don’t you see?”
“She causes war,” he replied flatly.
“No!” Granger pounded the table with her small fist, causing an ink well to teeter precariously nearby. “She creates chaos! Mayhem! Destruction!” She waved her arms exuberantly for emphasis.
“Pandemonium, bedlam and discord,” Blaise continued in a monotone. “There’s no use getting so worked up over it, Granger. It’s only a myth after all – there are no legitimized foundations for the existence of Gods among men.”
“You don’t know that for certain! What if this is her work? If there are parts in the Principia transcribed by Priestesses of Eris – can you think of the possibilities?”
At that moment, with Granger’s hair in an electric tangle about her face, her quill stuffed behind her ear and her face flushed with excitement – Blaise realized she did have something of an appeal to her. He cocked his head to the side and regarded her silently; there was something oddly sensual about her frazzled demeanour. In her state of excitement one could possibly parallel her tousled locks and flushed cheeks to something of a sexually deviant nature.
“Why are you looking at me like that, Zabini?” she said guardedly.
He’d been staring.
Turning away, the Italian mentally slapped himself. The Gryffindor witch was beginning to rub off on him with her constant analysis. With an odd twinge, Blaise realized that over the last couple of weeks she’d been doing it less - particularly since the incident in the library when he spied her through the library stacks.
“Nothing Granger, a little tired is all.” He yawned dramatically. “Long day, you know. What with Mil attacking Higgs and all – puts a bloke in a right state of exhaustion trying to sort it all out.” He cast a glance in her direction, not wanting to make direct eye contact lest a similar strain of unholy and demoralizing thoughts began to crop up again. “How was Millicent doing when you last left her?” questioned Blaise, attempting to divert the Head Girl’s curiosity.
“Well she isn’t expelled if that’s what you mean. The Headmaster’s put her on probationary licence, and as long as she doesn’t act up again she’ll graduate after next term – that is, assuming her marks are adequate,” she added as an afterthought.
Blaise realized he was fidgeting; his fingers had developed a conscience of their own and were presently tugging at the loose strings on the Ancient Sigils book in front of him. Her quip about Millicent’s grades didn’t faze him in the slightest, surprisingly. Rather, attempting to regain some semblance of self-control, he forced his hands to slacken, pressing his palms onto the table top firmly.
“Why did she do that, Zabini?” Granger questioned softly. Automatically, Blaise reached for the worn endings of the book and began pulling again.
Granger snatched the book away from him with a huff. Studiously, he began studying his cuticles.
“Not a clue,” he attempted in a flippant manner.
“Does it have something to do with what happened at breakfast?” she pressed.
With a sigh, Blaise turned to face her. The Gryffindor’s eyebrows were furrowed, her lips forming a small heart as they pressed together delicately. Blaise levelled his gaze and steeled himself.
“No,” he lied firmly.