Producing his wand, Nearly Headless Bill had thundered, "Invocatus Adlai." The Idealism Spell! Looking around, Hillary saw that she was the only person whose heart hadn't immediately appeared on the sleeve of her robes. What if the rumors were true, and the Golden Water Elixir she'd drunk in her youth made her and Liddy Malfoy sisters under the skin?

She'd have to ask Eleanor. As the second bell rang, Hillary pushed her soup aside. Leaving the cafeteria, she passed the Window of Opportunity, where the newt expelled from Hogwarts years ago was hammering to be let back in. On her way to the elevators, she ran into her two closest allies, who couldn't contain their excitement.

"Hillary, is it true what we hear?" George Weaslopoulos blurted.

Clockwise from top: Hillary Dursley Potter, Liddy Malfoy (holding a pot of ashcroft), Dumbledole (holding his pet phoenix, Viagra), Nearly Headless Bill, and Eleanor
illustration: John Hendrix
Clockwise from top: Hillary Dursley Potter, Liddy Malfoy (holding a pot of ashcroft), Dumbledole (holding his pet phoenix, Viagra), Nearly Headless Bill, and Eleanor

"Are you thinking of running for the Defense Against the Dark Arts job?" Hermione Feingold-Mikulski asked, at more or less the same moment.

"How many times do I have to tell everyone?" Hillary complained. "Eleanor says it's too soon. I'm not ready yet."

"But the Death Eaters aren't waiting, Hillary. And they've put a Gibberish Charm on all the other candidates. What if you're the only one who can stop—" as he glanced furtively around, George Weaslopoulos's voice dropped to a whisper—"He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Re-Elected?"

Exasperated, Hillary rolled her eyes. "Stop being childish, George. I've never understood why people are so frightened of saying Voldevote's name."

Instantly, her old headband indentation scorched her forehead. As if replying to her words, a sinister slithering had just grown audible through the wall. They all knew it could only be the elusive giant serpent who lived in the Hogwarts drainage pipes—which no one had ever seen, much less been able to catch. Its voice sounded like an iceberg in a sewer.

"Ssss$$$Hillary Potter$$$sss," the serpent hissed, disclosing its location. "Sss$$$ Fear us$$$sss."

"Sss$$And you me$$sss," Hillary hissed back. The wall quivered as the serpent lumbered on.

"Gosh, Hillary," George Weaslopoulos said, still looking terrified but sounding impressed. "You're a Cheneymouth! I never knew you spoke Money."

"Of course you do, silly," Hermione said, rounding on him furiously. "Don't you remember how we all found out?" **

They had reached the "Senators Only" elevator, and George hung back. Unlike Hillary and Hermione, he wasn't a Senator himself. In fact, no one really knew what he did at Hogwarts. He seemed to think he was useful there, but the best that could be said for him was that he'd have been no more useless elsewhere.

Once the doors had closed, Hermione sighed. "I hate to sound disloyal, since I know he's a Believer," she said. "But I wish Nearly Headless Bill had never given George that Hubris Incantation."

"What could Bill do?" Hillary said. "He knew the Death Eaters were going to do the same to O'Reilly. George wouldn't have been able to protect himself at all."

Like all the "Senators Only" elevators, this one could travel not only up and down but backward, forward, and sideways. Hillary drew her wand: "Equivocatum!" she said. Obediently, the elevator moved first left, then right.

As she and Hermione exited, Hillary felt her usual momentary panic. No matter how many times she'd stepped into the anteroom, its sights were always terrifying: Rove the Poltergeist zipping around, cackling hideously; Santorum Snape showing Liddy Malfoy an ashcroft plant he'd filched from the Forbidden Forest, whose flora and fauna were supposed to be kept strictly separate from Hogwarts; the norquists shrieking in the rafters, and the three-headed Hyper Bully that an all too trusting Hagridlock had raised and christened Rummy now straining at its leash as Mitch McGonnagle fed it raw stones. Bracing herself to pass among them, her headband indentation searingly hot, Hillary stepped up to the portrait that guarded the Senate Chamber of Secrets.

Like all the portraits at Hogwarts, this one was in motion, and its subject also changed for each Senator. At Hillary's approach, a buck-toothed, elderly woman in an antiquated fur-collar coat bustled into the frame, surrounded by candles she kept relighting.

"Hello, Eleanor," Hillary said, grateful for a friendly face.

"Hello, dear! It's always lovely to see you," Eleanor cooed. "How are things going with the Believers?"

"Not too well," Hillary admitted. "All our candidates for the Defense Against the Dark Arts job have been turned into unaddressed Howlers. And if Voldevote wins again—"

"Oh, good," Eleanor said. "It's nice to know my Gibberish Charm still works."

"Your Gibberish Charm?" Hillary gasped.

"Of course, dear! What Franklin never knew"—she beamed—"is that I was always a woman first. Idealism Spells are all well and good in their place, but in the war between wizards and witches, I always knew which side I'd be on. I wouldn't care a fig if you were Liddy Malfoy, so long as I thought you could win."

"You tried with her," Hillary said wonderingly. "You made her run, too."

"I did," Eleanor admitted, with a cheerily unrepentant smile. "Death Eaters, Shmeth Eaters—I want a woman teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. And what she doesn't know is that it was Dumbledole, not me, who jinxed her with the Arrogance Spell. Just watch out Nearly Headless Bill doesn't do the same to you. Now there's the third bell ringing, so tell me the magic number on your broom. You know I can't let you in without a Magic Number!"

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