Crazy trudged up the stairs to the Towers. Merula was clearly terrified of expulsion, and had already tried lying her way out of trouble, blaming Crazy entirely. Crazy politely reminded her that if she wanted to successfully lie then she needed to dispose of all witnesses.
He had no fear of her now, especially since Snape was probably going to deliver them to Filch, and Filch looked like the sort of man who’d have no problems with castrating him.
As soon as they found some privacy, Snape suddenly stopped walking, and the two students nearly walked straight into him. He turned slowly. Probably for maximum terror effect, thought Crazy.
It was working.
“Miss Snyde and Mister Numnums. Where to begin. Snyde, you started a duel for no reason at all, according to many students. Numnums, you have done nothing but mess up everything you touch and get involved in fights constantly. Expulsion would be the most logical option.”
Crazy’s heart stopped.
“Especially after the damage that your brother did to the school.”
The blood in Crazy’s veins was replaced by fire.
“Give me one reason that you shouldn’t receive the harshest punishment for your actions.”
Where to start? That Merula has bullied me ever since I’ve been here, that people are constantly whispering about me in the hallways, that I’ve helped my friends in every way I could. That you seem to have a vendetta against me for no reason. Yes, you, Snape, can suck—
“I’m sorry for what I did, Sir. It won’t happen again.”
“Hmmm, yes, somehow, I don’t believe you,” Snape sneered, but Crazy was in agreement this time. “'I’m sorry' won’t cut it for something this severe. Twenty points from Ravenclaw.”
Crazy honestly wasn’t sure how he kept his temper in check.
“Twenty points from Slytherin, too, Miss Snyde.”
Surprisingly, that didn’t help his mood, but before Crazy could explode, Filch came running towards them. “Professor!”
“Yes, Mr. Filch?”
“You must come with me. Straight away. It’s about the vau—”
“Yes, alright. Shut up, there are students present. You two, return to your dormitories.” Snape and Filch walked briskly away.
Crazy and Merula looked at each other. They each raised their eyebrows.
Rivalries didn’t matter in this case.
“The vau—The Cursed Vaults!”
Crazy glared at her. “Could you say it any louder? I don’t think the kids at Beauxbatons heard you. And why do you care anyway?”
“Look, I’m following them. Are you coming with me or not?” It seemed that in the importance of the moment, Merula had forgotten to be unnecessarily aggressive towards Crazy.
“Fine.” Something wasn’t sitting right with Crazy. After all, she spent half her time ridiculing his brother for his antics during his time at Hogwarts, for his search for the Cursed Vaults. What, it turned out that she wanted to find them too, all this time?
Snape and Filch were stood outside a large wooden door. “Are they talking about the wooden vaults?”
“I can’t tell because of your big mouth. Shhh.”
“Who else knows about this?” Snape asked Filch.
“Just us three. I was on me way to report to the headmaster.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ll report it to him. This may have something to do with the Numnums situation.”
“What, the daft boy who lost his mind looking for the gold and riches inside the vaults? Do the treasures actually exist?”
“Does it matter?” Filch actually bowed his head a little in shame; he didn’t want to be seen as some money-grabber. “Look, just make sure nobody else enters the vault.”
Snape turned back down the hall, and the two students were forced to run quickly around a corner.
As soon as they were sure that Snape wouldn’t find them, Crazy stopped. “What were they talking about? The ‘Numnums situation’?”
“Oh, who cares about that.”
“I do. I very firmly care about that.”
“Look, it’s another clue to the Cursed Vaults. That’s what matters.”
“You’re trying to find the Cursed Vaults why, exactly?” Crazy was still stuck on this point. “I mean, you’ve called my brother insane for doing literally the exact same thing.”
“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that, Numnums. You just don’t understand some things.”
Merula flounced away from Crazy, and he clenched his fist in fury. All of these things happening… no one would tell him what the hell was going on. They treated him like… well, like he was a child, which he was. But that was no excuse for the patronising manner of everyone in the place, treating him either like he was made of porcelain or he was some weird attraction at a museum.
He stomped his way through the halls, back to his common room, and as he rounded a corner, he came face-to-face with Penny Haywood. Wonderful. Just the person he wanted to see.
“Numnums! I wanted to—”
“Look, please save it. I don’t need more people laughing at me, so leave it alone.”
“Ugh. No! I’m just trying to talk about Merula.”
“Fuck, can we leave that whole topic alone!” Penny took a step back at the expletive. “She’s done nothing but torment me the entire time I’ve been here. All I want is to have a day where I can be with my friends and not have to give any shits! And you’re not any better! Constantly whispering about me in hallways, as if I don’t notice that you stop when I come into view. Am I just that fascinating to you? Well, I’m here now. Take a big fat look at the latest sideshow attraction, and as soon as you’re done, go die in a hole.”
Penny blinked for a moment. “Wow. Just… wow. You know what? You’re right, you self-centred bastard. I’m firmly in Merula’s court, your brother was mental. And you’re worse. If you accidentally remove that stick from your arse, give it to me. I’ll be happy to stab it back in for you.”
Crazy was done. He was out. He stalked back to the Common Room, walked up the stairs to the dormitory, checked that nobody was there, and promptly jumped face down on the bed, almost attempting to smother himself.
Hours passed. Crazy sat on his bed, not wanting to move a muscle. He sensed someone enter the room, but only looked up when he heard Rowan’s voice. “Crazy? You coming down for dinner?”
“I don’t know. I enjoy being melodramatic.”
“Why are you being melodramatic?”
“Snape took twenty points from Ravenclaw, Merula is her regular snooty self, and as I was coming back here, I bumped into Penny Haywood. She wanted to talk about Merula, and I just blew up at her.”
Rowan tilted his head. “And you’re concerned about this why?”
“I feel bad. Yeah, I know. I’m feeling bad for her. And she definitely hit me back, so I’m not entirely in the wrong. But I still feel like I’m just… not a nice person.”
“You’re right. Not about the not nice thing. But you are being melodramatic. Come eat actual food and stop wallowing in self-pity.”
“Do I have to?”
“Yeah, I figured. It’s alright. I need to talk to you about something else, as well.”
“Let’s walk and talk.”
So, as they made their way to the Great Hall, Crazy recounted everything that he and Merula had overheard, not to mention his arguments with Merula and Penny later. Crazy allowed Rowan time to think as they sat down at the table.
“Okay, first thing’s first. Apologise to Penny, you were a bit of a dick. But you know that already. Onto the juicy stuff. Are you sure they were talking about your brother and not about you?”
“No, Filch definitely mentioned my brother. And I don’t know why they’d be talking about me anyway; I haven’t done anything too terrible. Yet.”
An older boy came up to Crazy, wearing Hufflepuff robes. “Good job on your duel, there’s a lot of people who’ve been waiting for Merula to be put in her place.”
Crazy opened and closed his mouth, looking rather like a goldfish, and the boy gave him a look before walking away. He was a little shocked that somebody wanted to compliment him rather than attack him.
“See, Crazy? I told you that you’d get some people on your side.”
“Yeah, but I never believed you. Anyway, what were you going to say?”
“This seems awfully reminiscent of your vision when we were looking for the duelling book. Ice? Vaults? Curses?”
“That’s what I was terrified of.” Crazy shuddered a little. The prospect of being cursed was not one he was too pleased with. “Could I be cursed, in some way? Maybe it’s my entire family. Especially considering they didn’t specify a particular sibling when they mentioned the situation.” He breathed in a little. He had a feeling that Rowan wasn’t going to like what he had to say. “We need to go investigate.”
Rowan blew a stream of air out of his mouth. “And if we get caught?”
“We won’t. We’ll prepare. And if we get caught… I’ll take the blame.”
“Are you sure, Crazy? Look, you can’t afford to get into too much trouble. Not now. And what about the Cursed Vaults? Emphasis on ‘Cursed’. We could get seriously hurt. I’m on board, but…”
“We can break the curse. I think that’s what my brother was doing, or at least was trying to do, before he… before he went wherever he went. After classes today, we’ll investigate the corridor.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Today, class, is where you learn to mount your broom.” It’s also the lesson where Ben looks like he will drop into a stress-induced coma. “But first, to your broom care stations. No complaints, please, Mr. Egwu. Proper maintenance is essential to properly understand how to ride it.”
Rowan and Crazy snickered quietly.
However, that snickering died down when they got to their stations. Situated across from them were Merula Snyde and Penny Haywood. Crazy looked up at them; they both returned death glares. He felt a nudge to his side. Rowan looked at him, then pointedly glanced at Penny. “Apologise.”
“Not until I’m sure she won’t jinx me.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it later.” The real reason he didn’t want to was because Merula was also there, and she definitely would have said something about whatever apology Crazy attempted to conjure. He thought it best to just leave it.
“Alright, that should be enough.” Madam Hooch called to the class, and Crazy heard a shout from the boy she had called out to earlier. Andre was his name, Crazy was pretty sure. “Once you have correctly summoned your broom, you may mount it. Grip it tight, lean back slightly to hover in the air, and lean forwards to touch back to the ground.”
Crazy and Rowan snickered again.
And, despite being kind of boring, this whole hovering idea really made Crazy happy. The thought that, in a few months, he would be flying around in the sky… it opened a world of possibilities. Rowan wasn’t as enthused about it, sure, but that was okay, he was allowed to be.
He would just have to deal with Crazy raving about it for a while. “Jeez, Crazy, should we start signing you up for Quidditch now?”
“Yes… no. Sorry, just got caught up in the moment.” Crazy laughed a little at his idiocy, before catching sight of Ben, hovering a few feet away. “Ben, you can just come over and talk to us, you know.”
“How did flying go? It was our first time. Did you actually get off the ground?”
“Yeah, I did. It was terrifying. But less terrifying than I expected. Maybe I’ll be a little better. I only stayed in the air for like a second and then I got down and dry-heaved into the grass.”
“There might be a little bit to work on there, but at least you hovered for a second.”
“Here we are.”
“It looks pretty innocuous.”
“Well, this is where they were talking. I assumed they were standing in front of the vault.” Crazy and Rowan were stood in front of the wall that he saw the teachers talking. “Look, we have to do this quickly, so—”
“Should we be doing this at all? Because Filch is bloody terrifying and he’ll be back pretty soon.”
Crazy looked at Rowan for a moment, allowing the silence and contemplation to fill the space. “Look, real talk time; I’m fucking terrified at the moment. I really am. But I don’t see another option. I need to look in there; I need to find my brother.”
“Well, unfortunately, Crazy, I don’t see a way in here, if there is even a way in. We can look, but…”
And look they did. Unfortunately, whatever they were looking for was hidden tight, because Crazy could see no reasonable way that the wall they were standing in front of could be concealing some sort of vault. “Crazy? I don’t think we’re going to find anything.”
“Uh, we need to get out of here anyway. It’s Mrs Norris.”
“Oh shit, Filch’ll be here soon.”
Crazy and Rowan departed with haste, Crazy sparing one last look behind him at the wall. And he saw a flicker of something. Something lining one of the cracks along the wall. Something small, but shiny enough to catch Crazy’s eye.