The old wooden stairs leading down to the Gryffindor common room creaked as Zazzalil stepped down them, trying her best to not make a sound. She supposed she’d regret this later, but not at the moment. Too much adrenaline. It was nearing eleven pm, and having stayed up late the previous night as well, Zazzalil was filled with the sort of buzz that one only gets from a lack of sleep. Resting was the last thing on her mind, however. Not when she was this close. Just a little more work and she’d have perfected her latest potion. Which would explain why she found herself sneaking out of her dorm past curfew. Up until this point, she had been able to create her concoctions using her own supply of ingredients. But, after a recent… mishap… she found her stock a bit more sparse than usual. So, Zazzalil decided, she’d make a trip down to Snape’s personal storeroom in his classroom and “borrow” some. It’s not like he’d notice, right? After all, the old geezer probably had too many bottles of creepy eyeballs or whatever to even keep track of them.
It had, of course, occurred to Zazzalil that she could just head on down to Hogsmeade and restock her supply herself, but after last weekend’s splurge at Honeydukes with Keeri, she reckoned it’d be best not to go throwing around her galleons like that. The candy that she had spent a majority of her allowance on hadn’t even lasted her more than a day. At least the sugar from the Jelly Slugs and Chocolate Cauldrons had gotten her through, yet another, all-nighter. She was honestly shocked she hadn’t yet collapsed from exhaustion. Keeri was always chastising her for the lack of sleep, but she was able to snag a couple hours in during certain boring classes. History of Magic, especially. Even with a full night of sleep under her belt, Zazzalil had trouble staying awake in that class. Professor Binns had yet to notice her napping in every single one of his classes. Or maybe he did, but decided not to call her out on it. Judging by the subject being taught, Zazzalil knew she wasn’t the only one nodding off.
And so, here she was, traveling the halls, headed for Snape’s classroom. Holding her wand light tightly in front of her, Zazzalil made sure to tread carefully, not wanting to trip over any cracks in the floor. You’d think that having magic, the school’s administrators would have taken more heed to the state of the castle. Yet, their floors remained a health hazard, and their bathrooms were still as nasty as ever. One of the few things that Hogwarts and muggle schools had in common.
Turning a corner, Zazzalil spotted the entrance to Snape’s classroom. She grinned in triumph, and quickened her pace. As she crossed the hallway, she spotted a faint light in the corner of her eye and cursed under her breath. So close.
“Nox,” she mumbled hurriedly, extinguishing the illuminating spell from her wand.
Ducking behind a pillar, Zazzalil stood as quietly as she could, hearing footsteps drawing nearer and nearer. But, much to her dismay, it was too late. The person had spotted her light just in time, and was headed towards her. Zazzalil briefly considered making a run for it, but she figured she would only get in even more trouble if she did. A head appeared from the other side of the stone pillar, and Zazzalil was able to see who it was: Jemilla Paxton, one of the Hufflepuff prefects.
“Armstrong! What are you doing out of bed?” Jemilla demanded. Zazzalil racked her brain for a good excuse, but came up blank. Damn. “Seeing as it’s past curfew, I have no other choice than to turn you in.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” Zazzalil’s eyes widened at the Hufflepuff’s words. “Can’t you just make an exception this one time?”
“Sorry, Armstrong, you know the rules.” Raising her wand again, Jemilla started off down the corridor, pausing only to see if Zazzalil was following. Letting out a sigh, she reluctantly trailed after her.
Jemilla knocked on the wooden door softly, but loud enough that anyone on the other side would hear. Within a few moments, the door swung open and a short, graying witch appeared. A fond look crossed Professor Sprout’s face as she spotted Jemilla, but quickly grew sour as she saw Zazzalil standing tentatively behind her. In her second year, Zazzalil may or may not have caused a ruckus in one of her Herbology classes, consisting of a bucket full of Leaping Toadstools and the curiosity of a young teenager. Long story short, it’s safe to say that she is not on Sprout’s list of favorite students.
“Ah, Ms. Paxton! What have we here? Not a troublemaker, I hope.” Sprout stepped back, allowing them to enter her office, and shot a look at Zazzalil who just shrugged sheepishly.
“I caught her sneaking around the dungeon near Professor Snape’s classroom while on my patrol,” Jemilla informed her.
“Oh dear,” the squat woman said, shuffling back to her wooden desk which was littered with various pieces of parchment and herbology books. Behind it, a plush, comfortable-looking arm chair in the colors of Hufflepuff house. Shifting whatever she had been previously working on aside, Sprout sat at the desk and looked back up at the two fifth years. “Whatever for were you out past curfew?”
“Uhh...I needed air?” Zazzalil stuttered out. Just as she didn’t have a reason five minutes ago, she didn’t have one now. Hopefully that half-assed excuse was enough to convince her.
“Ah, well, I still have to give you some sort of punishment. Rules are rules, you know? Now, I understand that you play Chaser for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, correct?” Zazzalil nodded, not liking where this situation was headed. “I see it fit that you sit out on tomorrow's match.”
“B-but this is the first game of the year for Gryffindor! We’re going against Slytherin! For the Quidditch Cup!” Zazzalil began to protest. Sprout held up her hand, dismissing her objections.
“I’m sure the Gryffindor team will get on just fine without you there. Your substitute can replace you for this one match. You’ve still got the rest of the school year to participate,” Disgruntled, Zazzalil remained quiet but silently agreed. “Very well then. I will inform Professor McGonagall of the circumstances. Remember this the next time you decide to take a stroll after hours, Ms. Armstrong. You may return to your dorm room now. Jemilla will escort you, to make sure you don’t make any detours.”
The walk back to the Gryffindor common room was a silent one. Too angered to make conversation, Zazzalil walked silently alongside Jemilla. Sure, it was awkward, but fuck that. Jemilla was the one who ratted her out in the first place. Now, she not only was short of potion ingredients, but also couldn’t compete in the Quidditch game. As if she’d want to make small talk with her. As they neared the portrait of the Fat Lady, Jemilla paused, grabbing Zazzalil to slow her.
“I’m sorry, Armstrong… Zazzalil, I-” Jemilla started.
“Save it, Paxton. I don’t want your pity. You can piss off,” Zazzalil interrupted, pulling her arm out of Jemilla’s grasp. Turning sharply, the Gryffindor stomped into the common room, the painting swinging shut behind her, leaving Jemilla standing alone in the dark hallway.