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Life on the Farm

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“You shoulda seen the look on their faces when you walked out! Priceless.” Sal materialized from the shadows beside the door as soon as she exited, the torchlight pooling strangely on the angles of his face.

Rowena barely managed not to shriek.

“Oðinn auga, will you stop doing that? How do you even know what was going on in there?”

“There was a mouse in the wall...I may or may not have looked through its eyes.”

Rowena paused to consider the implications of that and sighed heavily.

“At least it wasn’t an earwig or some such.”

He cleared his throat.

“What?”

“Yeah, I tried a spider first. Didn’t work for some reason though...”

“Ugh!”

He burst out laughing at the look on her face.

“They’re just animals, same as any other! I can’t believe you’ll hew a man down in battle but you’re afraid of the littlest bitela.”

“I’m not afraid, don’t be ridiculous. They’re just repulsive.” she returned haughtily.

She turned on the spot and apparated, not seeing the mischievous look on his face...nor the eight-legged little creature that had suddenly found itself on the collar of her traveling cloak.

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Hengist had thought he would have a quiet night guarding the gap in the hawthorn hedge that formed the gate to the school.

Now, watching the Lady Hraefnclawu scream, flail, and set fire to her own fine wool cloak, he wondered again if coming here to this school was worth all the crazy things that happened at it.

He looked sideways to the man on his left, who was laughing hard enough to make himself sick.

“Am I alone in this? Cause I don’t know what’s going on.”

Sal finally managed to get himself under control and straightened up, still chuckling.

“This went exactly as planned, and by that, I mean completely downhill.”

Hengist rolled his eyes.

“She’s going to kill you, you know that – right?”

“Yeah, but damn it’ll have been worth it.”

Rowena, seemingly satisfied that the spider was gone, turned and advanced toward the two of them with murder in her eyes. The still-flaming cloak back-lit her ominously as she approached.

Sal’s eyes widened.

“I need to make my escape and if I don’t do it now, I never will. Cover me, will you?”

Hengist stepped back toward the gate, shrugging.

“I’m uh, on guard duty. Can’t help you.”

“Oh, come on!”

“No way, man, I like being alive. Nice knowing you though.”

To Sal’s credit, he actually stood his ground while Rowena stomped up to him like a mountain troll.

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t turn you into a spider right now.” she gritted out.

“Uh...I’ll never do it again?”

“You speak only in lies. What makes this time different?” She scowled at him with a face like thunder.

To Hengist’s utter disbelief, another spider was making its way up the collar of the Lady’s kirtle, waving its little legs.

Sal had clearly spotted it as well, because all the color drained out of his face.

“This time is different...because...because I didn’t put the spider there this time!”

The instant he said this, he took off running faster than Hengist had ever seen him go.

For a minute, Hengist actually thought he was going make it – he got to maybe ten steps away from the door to the Hufflepuff dormitory, where Helga was just stepping out.

But Lady Hraefnclawu hadn’t learned her spell-casting on the battlefield for nothing.

A flash of lightning blue enveloped him, and a spider fell neatly into Helga Hufflepuff’s outstretched hand.

She immediately began to berate the two of them alternately, holding the spider protectively to her bosom, while the Lady threw her arms up.

Hengist couldn’t see the spider, but he imagined it was pretty pleased with itself.

He wondered if anyone would care if he drank on the job, and then he realized that they were all engaged in the shenanigans further up the meadow, where Lord Gryffindor’s booming voice had also joined the hubbub.

Maybe if he drank enough mead he wouldn’t have to listen to their craziness anymore...