“What,” Laurie said, “d’you suppose Barnes is about?”
It didn’t do to ask about the twirps, even if it was acceptable that he know their names, this now being part of his duties as prefect, and the look Carter trained on him said as much. But he was as good at a show of bland ignorance as any of them, and Carter wouldn’t bring out any of his usual array of hints, not before Harris. Carter’s father had been a student, he’d have gone home to a severe interrogation.
“Taking up tea or blacking boots, I shouldn’t be surprised,” Harris drawled. Trust him to miss the undercurrents.
“Who for, then?” He’d passed Barnes, day before, and the twirp, usually so ready with a frightened little smile, had kept his eyes down.
“Hazell,” Carter said, something very like pleading in his eyes, and, deeper, “Spuddy, come now.”
He was standing, and couldn’t remember how. “You mean to say,” he heard—he must be saying it, the others weren’t—“that someone let bloody Hazell have access to…” He couldn’t think of a way to describe Barnes that didn’t demean the boy. Long eyelashes, indeed.
“You don’t blame him, surely?” Harris said, genuinely surprised. He’d believed that despicable story, then. How many had?
Laurie found himself looking over his weapons, and discarding them as too subtle. He turned at the door—this couldn’t be conducted via the window, after all—and said, low and distinct, “You can’t think Lanyon had to force him?”
He was conscious, leaving the room, of Harris drawing his punctured stolidity around him—he’d have to apologise to Carter, no help for that—and went to root out Barnes feeling joyously vicious.
Deep in him, buried with the Phaedrus and that stolen moment with Lanyon, someone sang a paean.