In the world of Mages, Simon Snow is such a celebrity that they make merchandise of him. I learn this when Fiona watches me unwrap my Christmas present, midway through my first year at Watford. She falls off the sofa laughing as she watches me reveal a Simon Snow plushie.
I tell her I'm going to burn it.
It manages to slip my mind until I find it again in third year, tucked into a pair of trousers at the back of my wardrobe. I curse Fiona- I had meant to leave the cursed thing behind at the manor to dispose of.
(There is precious little privacy when you share a room with someone else. The last thing I need is for Snow to find this abomination and read something into it.)
I shove it back into my wardrobe, making a mental note to rid myself of it as soon as I have the opportunity. As it often happens, I forget about it, and I don't think about it again until fifth year, when Snow’s been bothering me more than usual.
He’s been tailing me, following me around campus. I can’t get rid of him, he’s always around- rubbing his nose in my business and turning up where he doesn’t belong. It’s driving me mad.
After another row over violations of my privacy, I open my wardrobe on a whim while he’s out and take the doll, wringing it’s neck. It feels good to get out some of my aggression.
I feel the slightest bit better. Now if only I were able to do it to the real thing.
Then it comes to me.
I find it when I go looking for Baz's lube.
(I don't make it a habit, but occasionally after a rough week, I feel like I deserve it. Baz always buys the fanciest of everything- it's no wonder that his lube is the best that money can buy.)
It's stuffed between the side of his bed and the wall, and for a second I think it's a stocking of some sort.
It's weird, I know there's dolls and posters and stuff of me (I don't know who makes them. And I'm not entirely sure why, either) but the idea that Baz owns something of me is… weird.
I wonder what his plot is.
It's like a doll, but soft. It's worn down a little (how old is this thing exactly?) but it's still recognizable as me. The first year Watford uniform kind of gives it away, and so does the little sword of Mages sewn into the right hand.
It's… dirty, which is unlike anything else that Baz owns. It’s this fact more than anything that makes me wonder whether it isn't really his after all.
(It must be. I found it in his bed. That’s not something I can think about right now, but this definitely belongs to him.)
I squint at it and lift it to my face. It smells kind of weird too. Fresh, despite the way it looks. I turn it over and-
There’s a little knot of hair pinned to the back. A bronze curl.
I drop the doll and jump away from it. I kick it away from me and wince a little as a dull pain radiates in my shoulder, exactly where I kicked it.
I start to panic.
I leave the doll on the floor and run to find Penny.
I smell Simon coming before I see him. So does everyone else in the library- their heads turning and frowns appearing as Simon runs up to my table, magic leaking everywhere.
"Penny!" he hisses, before being shushed by a sixth year at the next table. "Baz is up to something. You need to come with me right now."
Despite this being a relatively common occurrence, I pack up and follow him anyway. One of these days he might actually be right, and I don’t want that to be the day I refused to back him up.
He opens the door to their room and points under his bed, where I see a little bundle of fabric.
No, not just a bundle of fabric. It's a Simon Snow plushie, one of the old ones that came out the year he started at Watford. I remember seeing it in one of the magickal toy stores when my mom had brought me to get my books for Watford. It's one of the reasons I was able to spot Simon immediately at the Welcome picnic, even before I thought to approach him.
I pick it up gingerly- this thing is practically a collector's item now, although this one doesn't look particularly well cared for.
There's a couple of ripped seams that have been resewn clumsily, and a smudge of something on the trainers. I gingerly sniff it- it smells like school issued soap.
It's slimy too, a little moist on the back and shoulders. I rub my fingers together slowly and then close my eyes to smell them.
It's aloe vera.
I turn it over and see a little lock of hair pinned to the back.
"This is a Voodoo doll," I say, impressed despite myself. Trust Basilton Pitch to never stop surprising, even after seven years. I wonder what else he's been hiding.
"Obviously it’s a Voodoo doll," Simon shouts, "I kicked it and now my shoulder hurts! I thought Voodoo was just something the Normals made up-"
"No, but most Mages don't bother. It's unreliable and often the magic isn't very strong. There's no sense in resorting to Voodoo when you can just spell someone instead."
"I told you he's trying to kill me," Simon says, sitting on his bed and running his hands over his face, "Fuck, I've been telling everyone. Do you believe me now?"
I want to. And I'll admit, it's proper creepy to find a Voodoo doll of you best friend in his enemy's possession.
But I don't think this doll is being used to way Simon thinks it is. That's the other thing about Voodoo- historically, it was used for it's healing properties.
"How's your sunburn?" I ask him instead. "From sitting by the lake. Are you using the cream I brought you?"
"What? Of course not Penny, I can't reach my own back. It's not that bad anyway, it got better on its own- anyway how is that a priority now that I've just proven to you that Baz is trying to kill me?"
The doll smells of aloe vera. School issued soap. I bring it close to my face and smell it some more.
Diclofenac gel. Sunscreen. Lavender.
For the first time, I'm embarrassed to be going through someone's things. Normally I wouldn't care, sure everyone has the right to privacy, but sometimes the greater good means finding out what they're using it for. But this, while toeing the line of indecency and being downright creepy- well.
This is very, very personal.
And that's how I learn something quite personal about Basil Pitch that I've never suspected and am positive he's never wanted anyone else to know.
“I’ll handle this,” I tell Simon, because he looks like he’s about to have a panic attack. “But you shouldn’t worry. The Anathema still holds. He can’t use this to hurt you.”
“He can’t use it to hurt me while I’m in the room-,”
“No,” I tell him firmly, “if it works, the doll is bound to you. He can’t use it harm you while either you or the doll are in the room. You should look up Voodoo. It’s a very specific kind of magic, with all sorts of rules and limitations. I don’t think this is worth worrying about, honestly.”
“How can you say that Penny? It’s a Voodoo doll. It’s got my hair on it. He’s up to no good.”
“I’ll handle it,” I tell him again, putting the doll in my bag carefully.
I'm out by the lake despite the sun. I'd debated bringing a hat, but I don't want to risk flattening my hair.
I'm extra glad for my decision when I notice Bunce heading my way from across the lawn.
(Snow has been neglecting his studies, as usual, despite the proximity to exam season. Instead he's been frolicking in the lake with his group of adoring fans and friends for the past few days, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. I'd hoped when I came out here with my book he'd soon join them, and I could… watch him. Goad him into a fight, perhaps. I hadn't decided yet. Now that Bunce is on her way, I'm almost certain he's close by, meaning my planning and yearning will have been worth it.)
I ignore her while she takes a seat on the blanket in front of me. She's practically radiating energy, and I know she's waiting for me to acknowledge her.
I finish my page before looking up at her. "Bunce."
I have no idea what she could possibly want from me, unless Snow has been waiting for me to leave before he goes for his swim. Maybe he's finally resorted to asking Bunce to scare me off for him.
(It won't work. There's very little that could tear me away from the promise of seeing Snow in his bather. It's a size too small and clings inappropriately to every part of him. It's been torture, knowing this and being unable to witness it first hand- I do have things to do other than perv on Snow. Now I've finally managed to reorganize my schedule to take full advantage, and I plan to enjoy every moment of it.)
She drops a bundle of cloth on the blanket between us. It takes me longer than it should to recognize it.
"Ah." It's probably too much to hope that Snow has remained unaware of its existence. In fact, it’s likely he's the one who found it.
I guess I only have myself to blame.
I pick it up and dust it off before rooting through my bag for my jumper and wrapping it up gently, tucking it away. When I turn back to Bunce, she looks at me as though I'd snogged the bloody thing.
(For the record, I haven't. I keep it tucked into the space between my mattress and the wall, but not for nefarious purposes. Rather, Snow's nightmares often abate after a shoulder rub or scalp massage. It just makes sense to keep it close for this reason. Because when he’s thrashing about, I can hardly be expected to sleep soundly less than four feet away from him.)
(On second thought, it might be less embarrassing to just admit to snogging the blasted thing after all.)
"Baz, what is this?" Bunce sounds curious, but less angry than she might’ve. She must think she’s figured something out.
I consider my options. The truth couldn't hurt. "A gag gift from my aunt. I must have forgotten I'd had it."
"Don't be flippant. Even Simon would find it hard to justify massaging sunscreen onto a Voodoo doll of his sworn nemesis."
Ah. Of course Bunce would investigate the thing properly and figure that out. "Don't bother trying to read anything into it. It would just be a pity for him to die to the elements before I could get to him. Think of it as an insurance policy of sorts." I try to sound bored.
She doesn't look convinced. "Baz, I'm pretty sure you sleep with this in your bed."
"How dare you," I tell her seriously. I sigh when it becomes obvious that she's not going to leave. Seven hells.
Of course Snow couldn't have made friends with someone equally as stupid as he is- he just had to befriend the only smart person in our entire school. (Other than me, of course.)
"What do you want, Bunce?" I spread my hands out in a sign of surrender.
"I think you should tell him."
"I'd rather not. I imagine it's a lot easier for me to manage his hatred rather than his indifference. Or disgust." I admit.
"I doubt Simon could ever be indifferent to you," she says surprisingly kindly. "And I doubt it would disgust him. I think he's just creeped out by the whole thing- probably because he's convinced this is proof that you're trying to kill him."
"I am trying to kill him," I tell her.
She laughs. "You sleep in the same room as him. If you really wanted him dead, he'd be dead already- Anathema or not. Just because Simon can't put it all together doesn't mean you've been particularly good at hiding how you feel."
I frown at her as she gets up and dusts herself off, before wandering away. I'm so worked up that Snow manages to slip by me, and it isn't until I hear his obnoxious laugh that I realize I hadn't gotten a good look at him before he'd jumped into the lake.
A complete fucking waste of the afternoon.
It's only later that night, as I rub the doll's feet, that I finally admit to myself that Bunce is probably right.
(I had stayed outside after my awkward and frankly humiliating conversation with Bunce, despite desperately wanting to go and hide somewhere. I was frustrated- that conversation with Bunce put me in a sour mood despite my prime ogling set up. I hadn't been able to properly enjoy it, conflicted as I was. What a waste of time and effort.)
Snow is snoring softly on his side of the room. He'd ended the afternoon without worsening the burn on his back and shoulders, but then he'd started shouting at me when he realized I was nearby and tripped over a rock in his haste to come pick a fight about the doll.
I waited until he was asleep, tossing and turning, before rubbing a topical anaesthetic onto the doll's ankle. Then I got distracted thinking about my conversation with Bunce and have been massaging the doll's feet idly for the better part of an hour.
At least he's sleeping more soundly now.
And I’m just as pathetic as ever.
I'm once again sitting in my favourite spot by the lake when Bunce strolls over, dropping a stack of books onto the blanket in front of me.
"Bunce." I watch as she sits down and starts arranging her things. I kind of want to get up and leave, but I can't while she and all her things are on my blanket. "What can I do for you?"
"You looked lonely," she says, opening a book and taking out a notepad. "I thought you might enjoy some company."
"I don't need company." I tell her pointedly, but she just hums and ignores me.
I think about getting up and just leaving, but it hardly seems fair. I was here first, and I like this spot.
So instead I do my best to ignore her as we read in silence. Tomorrow, if she dares come back, I’ll tell her exactly where to go. But for now, I have it in me to perform this small act of charity for her- something tells me this situation has nothing to do with me at all.
Micah hasn't written to me in over a week now. Usually he sends letters every day. I know he's alright, because I used my contraband phone to snap him, and he opened it. So there's that.
I don't want to ask him to send more letters. He's probably busy. But I also don't just like waiting for them to start up again either.
It can get lonely, having only two and a half friends. Especially when one and a half of them are dating each other and the last one is busy somewhere across the Atlantic.
Surprisingly, there aren't many candidates for friends at Watford. Not ones I can stand, anyway.
Under normal circumstances I'd never even consider spending time with Baz. He's conceited, insufferable, and I'm already forced to talk about him more than I could ever want to because of Simon.
But since I confronted him about the doll, I've felt something new. Pity, maybe. But there's a loneliness there too. Something that we now share.
So far, it's been tolerable. Good even. We sit outside near the lake in the shade, and read our books in silence. Baz is exceptionally good at being silent when he wants to. Half the time I forget he's even there. But when I get too lonely, I know that if I look up from my book he'll still be there, stubbornly ignoring me but exactly where I left him.
"Are you going to the dance Friday?" Bunce asks, as she drops her bag next to mine. I sigh.
"What's the point?" I say, as I resignedly clear a space for her at my table. I hadn't minded sharing a blanket outside while we'd read idly (and in silence), but encroaching on my library and work time is going to grate on my nerves.
She'd better not make this a habit.
"Don't you like to dance?" she asks, as she takes the seat right next to mine.
"I do," I admit, gesturing weakly at the empty seat across from me.
(Who raised this girl? Why hasn't she got any manners?)
"Great. Pick me up at seven and you'll have someone to dance with." she says matter-of-factly, like that will somehow convince me.
I decide to indulge her, but only because I can't stand to look at this essay for a moment longer. "Aren't you going with Snow?"
"He's going with Agatha, and I don't fancy the idea of being the third wheel all night long."
"What's changed?" I ask her, and she looks away, face scrunching up a little. It’s horrifying. "What colour is your dress?" I sigh, and she smiles at me gratefully, eyes a little watery. I grimace back at her.
It's the unfortunate truth that I do actually happen to enjoy dancing.
"I was thinking purple."
I shake my head before she even finishes speaking. "I think yellow would look lovely on you."
"I asked for you to go to the dance with me, not dress me for it." It's curt, but she's smiling. I'm horrified to realize I'm smiling back at her. "I guess I can find a yellow dress before Friday." she concedes.
"Good," I sniff. "I could hardly be bothered to go to a school dance, let alone with someone wearing purple."
"Merlin forbid," she says, before pulling a stack of papers out of her bag and filching a highlighter from my side of the table.
I should have thought of this years ago, I think to myself when I see Snow's eyes practically bulge out of his head when he and Wellbelove finally show up and see Bunce and I dancing together.
"Hands to yourself," he hisses at me, shoving right between us before turning to Bunce. "Penny, you don't need to dance with him."
(Hands to myself indeed, I think, looking at him in his blue suit. Wellbelove must have taken him somewhere to have it tailored, and while it's not perfect, the fit is adequate- especially around those broad shoulders I love. Altogether, he makes for a pleasing sight.)
"Simon, it's fine. I'm having a good time." Bunces assures him.
I smirk, raising an eyebrow in that way I know gets under his skin. Of course she is. I'm an excellent dancer, more than enough to make up for her own lack of skill. Besides, even if the dancing was mediocre, the conversation has been anything but, even by my own standards.
Either way, this evening is undoubtedly superior to her usual experience at school dances, which involves hanging off to the side as Snow ignores her and attempts to woo Wellbelove with his awful dancing.
(He has no sense of rhythm. Or direction. He would, of course, never agree to dance with me, but if by some chance I had the opportunity- well I'm not even sure my own skill would be enough to lead him properly. Although, disgustingly, that fact does little to damper my enthusiasm at the thought.)
Wellbelove glances between us, and slides her hand into Snow's, causing me to grimace. "Come on, Simon," she coaxes. "You promised me you wouldn't do anything embarrassing."
I stifle a laugh. As if Snow is capable of anything but embarrassing himself.
"Punch, Bunce?" I ask, and duck away without waiting for her reply. Although Snow's inability to be anything less than an embarrassment is always good entertainment, watching him hold hands with his girlfriend as she pleads and bats her eyes at him is anything but.
I am honestly and disgustingly pleased when Snow catches up with me at the refreshments table.
"Forgot your date?" I ask, managing not to sound petulant.
"Why are you here? You never come to school dances," he says, shoving himself between me and the refreshments. I'll admit, it's the first time I've seen him this close to food without giving it his full attention.
"Bunce asked me," I say, because I'm sure it'll piss him off. "And I didn't have any other plans." There's a vein on his forehead that pulses when he's angry. I'm exceedingly familiar with it, and I take pleasure in its sudden prominence as Snow processes our conversation.
"She wouldn't," he says confidently. "Penny doesn't think she needs any more friends."
"I'm not interested in being Bunce's friend," I taunt him, raising a brow. He makes it too easy.
It's hard to regret it, and the memory makes me smile even while Snow glares at me from across the infirmary not even an hour later, nursing his broken hand.
I've just finished dropping my things off after class when a little bird drops by the room with a message. I assume it's for Snow, so I ignore it. I'm proper confused when it's for me instead- from Bunce.
I sigh and grumble the entire way to our spot by the lake.
She's already there, blanket spread out and book abandoned on the grass.
"What's so important that-" I stop just in time, clearing my throat as I smell the tang of salt. I can hear her sniffling too- although she makes the effort to stifle it, for which I am appreciative. It's one thing to comfort my younger siblings when they cry, but I have very little experience comforting a friend.
I gingerly take a seat next to her, staring at the lake. "Spill, Bunce."
She digs in her bag and shoves a crumpled piece of paper at me. It's wet, which is disgusting, so I turn away from her and whisper a quick dry as a bone before I shake it open and read it.
Penny, I know that you've noticed that things have changed between us-
I don't need to read any more. I stuff the letter back in her bag and lean back on my elbows. His loss, I want to say, but I doubt Bunce would appreciate that flippant response while she's obviously in distress.
(Although I am sympathetic, I can't say I understand why she's so distraught. As far as I'm concerned, Micah has absolutely no personality or anything to recommend him beyond his surprisingly symmetrical features and ambivalence at living in his own girlfriend's shadow. I imagine if Bunce could pull herself together long enough to see reason, she could replace him with any number of ordinary teenage boys. Better looking ones even, who live on the right side of the Atlantic.)
"His loss," I say, because it's better than sitting in silence.
"No- I'm a fool. I thought that things would stay the same. I shouldn't have gotten complacent." she sniffs again, and I reach over and squeeze her hand.
"Your feverish dedication to everything is one of the most charming things about you. I doubt you've ever been complacent a moment in your life, Bunce."
“I just- I thought that was it. That we’d figured it all out. That dating was something I’d done and succeeded at, checked off my list. What am I going to do?”
“I imagine you’ll do whatever the rest of us are supposed to be doing,” I tell her.
“It’s eighth year. This is it. Everyone’s already paired up- how am I going to meet anyone while at a Normal university? You know what they say- if you don’t meet your future spouse at Watford…”
“Don’t remind me, Bunce. Envisioning the rest of my life all by my lonesome wasn’t exactly my plan for a relaxing evening.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just- oh Baz, what if that was it? What if that was my shot and I blew it?”
“That wasn’t your shot.” I tell her confidently. “You’re Penelope Bunce, fate isn’t half as fearsome as you are.”
"Baz," she says, squeezing my hand. The she narrows her eyes at me.
I have no idea what is happening.
She squints at me so long I wonder whether I should ask her what in Seven hells she’s up to. Then- she leans in.
(It’s an awful idea, although I must admit that it has some merits. It would make our lives a lot easier, for one. My father would be exceptionally pleased- although I doubt her parents would feel the same considering our contradictory family politics. At the very least, I’d have someone to discuss Middle English poetry and spells with, a welcome distraction from the plague of my eternal love for Simon Snow.)
I make my decision- all things considered, there’s no harm. If nothing else, this could turn out to be exceptionally convenient for both of us.
The experience is… underwhelming. Fine, I suppose. (Although admittedly, not good. Definitely not something I’d repeat.) It’s soft, a little wet (because she's still teary.) I wonder whether enough time has passed for me to pull away without being rude.
We stop, and I let go of her hand. It’s clammy. I wipe my hand on my trousers discreetly. I hope she won’t start crying again.
Instead she laughs. I can’t decide if that’s better. "Baz, that was awful.” she chides.
I’m mildly offended, although I completely agree. "It was your idea," I tell her peevishly.
She leans back on the blanket and scowls at me. "Too bad. It probably would have saved us both a lot of trouble."
"Exactly my thoughts," I agree. "But no more, Bunce. I'm saving myself for Chris Hemsworth."
"I think Liam is more attractive," she says, looking out at the sunset.
"Because you have base and unsophisticated taste in men," I tell her.
"Look who's talking."
We're quiet as we look out over the grounds.
It's nice. Peaceful.
Until I smell the fiery disaster that is Snow. A look over my shoulder confirms it, he's running across the lawn, waving the Sword of Mages and looking fierce.
The waning sunlight makes his hair glow coppery and bright. I indulge myself for a moment and sigh at the sight. I hope Bunce doesn't notice the momentary weakness.
He runs up to us, panting.
"Stop it!" he whines. He may look fierce, but his tone is anything but. He sounds petulant, like a spoiled child. It shouldn't be attractive, but I'm disturbed.
"Stop what exactly, Snow? Enjoying the pleasant weather?" I goad him.
"I saw you," he hisses, pointing up at our tower. Bunce rolls her eyes and ignores him. I should probably do the same.
"We aren't doing anything." I say, leaning back on my elbows as he grips the sword tighter.
"First my girlfriend, and now my best friend. Just- stop. Stop trying to get people to like you!"
"Sorry, I didn't realize it was a crime to make friends." I tell him flippantly. The smell of his magic intensifies, and it makes me light-headed. I hold back a giggle.
Penny comes to my defense. "Simon, I asked Baz to meet me out here."
"That doesn't mean anything, not when he can…" He looks at me, narrowing his eyes as he makes a hand gesture. I don't bother giving him the satisfaction of engaging.
"Micah broke up with me," she tells him. "He wrote me a letter."
"He said- he said we wanted different things." She makes a little choking sound and I reach over and rub her back.
"Stop that," Snow hisses, pushing me out of the way and taking my place. He pats Penny on the shoulder, glaring at me the whole time.
The air is still heavy with his magic. I should go before Snow gives himself an aneurysm over the whole situation, but instead I stay where I am, lying back on the blanket while the three of us watch the sunset in silence.
"They need to be stopped," I tell Agatha the next morning over breakfast. She rolls her eyes at me.
This morning had been a disaster from the moment I woke up- late. I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep, because I was up half the night trying to get Baz to tell me what his plan was.
(Obviously it's an evil one. Maybe to use Penny to somehow get to me- but so far, he won't admit to anything.)
By the time I got down to the dining hall he was already sitting in my spot, across the table from Penny.
I made a couple of plates and stomped over to where Agatha was having breakfast. We don't normally eat together (she says it's because I always talk with my mouth full) but I'm not going to give Baz the satisfaction of knowing he's already gotten under my skin before nine in the morning.
"I don't want to talk about it, Simon. Leave them alone." She sounds more frustrated with me than usual.
(I should probably be planning some big gesture to win her over again. It's been awhile. I used to kind of look forward to that stuff, but I'm too busy trying to figure out this Baz and Penny situation to waste my time with that. I'm sure Agatha would understand if I just told her I saw them kissing yesterday, and she would agree that's not on. But I know Agatha has feelings of some sort for Baz- which is beyond my understanding but is somehow true- and I don't want to upset her with what I know. Besides I'm already upset enough about it for both of us.)
Agatha puts up with even less talk about Baz than Penny used to. Which doesn't make a lot of sense to me, because don't girls usually enjoy talking about the guys they like?
I sit in my classes all day without taking notes (I decide to just steal Baz's later) stare at the back of his head. I've got to separate him and Penny. For her sake. First the Voodoo doll, now this. He’s out of control. Dangerous.
Baz is a vampire. An evil vampire. Penny says she enjoys his company, but there's no way for me guarantee that he's not using his thrall on her or something equally nefarious. Or even worse- the possibility that Baz has no plan at all. That he just wants to spend time with Penny because he likes her.
I need to convince Baz to leave her alone. Penny is my best friend, I can’t have her spending time alone with a vampire. But this makes me think- he’s been more tolerable than usual recently, mostly because he’s been preoccupied with Penny. It probably means it’s a good idea for Baz to have someone to distract him from being evil (and maybe he’d be less of an arse in general if he was getting laid). I doubt Baz would have the time to plot my downfall if he had someone special. He might even forget to be mean to me. Maybe it would improve our living situation.
I like this idea.
I try to work it out. Ideally, Baz would fall helplessly in love with someone good. Someone who could influence him not to be evil. Someone he couldn’t hurt. I wish there was a way I could make that happen, solve all these problems once and for all- but love spells are finicky. And forbidden.
If only I had another way.
I stop and sit up straight. All of a sudden, I know what I have to do.
Miss Possibelf sighs and calls out to me as I grab my bag and run out of her class, but I'm already out the door, apologizing as it slams behind me.
The next night I'm lying in bed, fully dressed, pretending to be asleep and waiting for Baz to leave to hunt. The moment he's out the door I jump out of bed, ready to get to work.
I freeze when he doubles back into the room. We make eye contact as he grabs his jacket, frowning, before he leaves again.
This time I wait until I'm sure he's gone before I throw myself at his hamper.
Usually, living with an unnaturally neat roommate is a good thing, but tonight it’s a bust- the hamper is empty. He's already spelled all his clothing clean.
I head into the ensuite, locking the door behind me. I empty the trash can, but there's nothing useful in there. (There's an empty bottle of lube though, which freaks me out. It's his usual brand, but I noticed he opened this particular bottle less than two months ago- he shouldn't have used it all up yet. This is officially suspicious behaviour, and I won't let it slide. I'll get to the bottom of it.)
I throw open the medicine cabinet, throwing all his fancy hair products aside as I look for his razor. I find it with my ring finger and swear- sucking up the blood from the cut as I inspect it. It's unnaturally clean, not a single errant hair stuck in the blade.
I glance at the shower drain and make a face.
I don't want to do it, but he's got long hair for a bloke. Surely there's gross old hair down the drain I could use.
I take deep breaths and try to convince myself that I'm doing this for the greater good. To protect the only person I love- Penny- from becoming a living capri sun. I wouldn't do this for anyone else.
I sit on the floor of the shower, grimacing as I try to work up the courage to touch the drain. (I hope to Merlin Baz doesn’t pee in the shower, I think, then immediately wish I hadn't. Why would I think that? Why am I like this?)
My hand is halfway down the drain when I see it. Baz's towel- neatly hung on the back of the door.
There's a wavy black hair caught in the material, stark against the white terrycloth.
I spell my hand clean four times before I go and grab the hair.
I bring the rest of my supplies into the washroom and lock the door again.
I'd skipped classes today and taken the train into London, using some of my Leprechaun gold to buy a Voodoo doll at a shop that sold healing crystals and hemp underwear. I use a pair of scissors to rip open some of the seams and then I shove the hair inside, along with a tissue I've soaked in some of Baz's shampoo. I poke myself with the needle and thread I'd asked Penny to conjure me as I sew it back up, and some of my blood smears on the doll.
It makes it more realistic, I decide, as I take a sharpie and draw a fanged mouth and scowl on the doll.
Lastly, just to be safe, I stick my head out into the room to make sure it's still empty before I go and rub the doll all over Baz's bed.
I pull out the secondhand book I bought from a street vendor (Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul), and slip the book jacket off of it and onto the book about Voodoo I'd found in the Mage's office. (Part of his private collection. I felt bad about sneaking in and taking it, but I'll bring it back once this is all done.) Then I burn the book about cats in the sink to destroy the evidence.
I open my bag and bring out everything I need for the rituals. A bundle of dried lavender, a couple of pushpins, a box of smoked oysters, a pomegranate, half a mint aero bar, and an edible soy candle. (I had gone to the shop Baz normally buys his lube from to ask the cashier whether Baz had been in recently. The cashier hadn't been willing to cooperate, telling me he had no idea what I was talking about even though I had brought a copy of the school paper with a very recent and flattering picture of Baz, and a couple of crumpled receipts I'd found in the bottom of his bookbag with the shops name clearly printed. Before the manager had asked me to leave, I picked up the candle, not realizing it was a specialty item. I didn't bother returning it, since I'd been asked never to return to the premises, and because it would probably still work for my purposes despite that.)
Now all I need is an hour of peace with the doll.
Everything works perfectly. I complete the ritual without Baz's interference, and then slip the book on Voodoo between a couple pairs of trackies in my wardrobe. In all, I count the evening a complete and total success.
When Baz returns to the room, late and smelling of decay, I'm tucked into bed for real. I watch him move around the room, getting ready for bed and smile.
For once, I'm the one plotting. And Baz hasn't got a clue.
Living with a slovenly roommate is always objectively awful.
I came back from hunting and found the charred remains of a book in our sink. The shower's drain cover is inexplicably missing, and all my hair products are scattered across the counter in the ensuite.
I lean over the sink, sighing. The room reeks of blood. Whatever Snow was doing in here, he didn't survive completely unscathed.
He looks pleased with himself the next morning, up earlier than normal and practically beaming as he lingers over his uniform.
I drag my pillow over my head and groan into my mattress.
Its obvious Snow has big plans for the day- and that usually means bad news for me.
I notice a fishy smell in the ensuite while I'm styling my hair, and following it leads me to an empty boxed of smoked oysters in the trash. The empty bottle of lube I'd tossed the day before is standing upright next to the trash can.
(Which means that whatever Snow's been up to has had him rooting through my trash, again.)
When I go down to breakfast, he's sitting next to Bunce, leaving his usual spot across from her empty. I catch his eye, and he looks away quickly, pulling a section of Bunce's newspaper from her hands. I catch him looking over the top of it at me while I'm making myself a plate- his paper is upside down.
I head towards my normal spot with Dev and Niall, and the smell of Snow's magic starts wafting through the dining hall. People start fanning the air around them, complaining, but the scent doesn't dissipate until I head over with the intention of spelling him to rights- the closer I get to him the more control he has over his magic, until I'm standing in front of him, his magic gone from the air.
He glares at me, then at the open seat in front of Bunce and I sigh, sitting down.
He smiles to himself, digging into his kippers and eggs with unrivalled enthusiasm.
The look Bunce gives me lets me know that he's up to something, not that I needed her confirmation.
"Good morning Baz," he says, like it's completely normal for us to be sitting across from each other, making pleasant small talk over breakfast.
I sneer at him.
"Penny you look nice today," he says with his mouth full, before looking at me with intent. "Doesn't Penny look nice today, Baz?" he asks, gesturing aggressively with his fork. A piece of egg falls off and lands in my tea.
I'm too tired for whatever he's got planned.
"You look nice today, Bunce," I tell her, with the least amount of enthusiasm I can muster.
Snow beams at this exchange and goes back to his breakfast, humming to himself.
I thought the Voodoo rituals might be difficult to complete. Especially since I was trying to achieve two things.
- I needed Baz to fall out of love with Penny.
- I needed Baz to fall in love with me.
By the end of our morning classes, it's obvious that I was successful with the first part. Baz looks miserable all morning despite being paired with Penny for our practical work at my insistence.
I decide I don't have to worry about him thralling and drinking her now- he can't get away from us fast enough at lunchtime. Unfortunately, Penny looked just as miserable as Baz all morning, and I hope that she won't take it too badly when she realizes what I've done to their relationship. I'd never have interfered if her life wasn't at stake.
I skip lunch to go perform the second half of the ritual back up in our room. Luck is once again on my side, and Baz is still none the wiser.
I get to afternoon classes early and apologize to Penny, before convincing Niall to switch seats with me. He doesn't want to, but the despair I feel at my plan unravelling makes my magic start leaking and he complains that if the choice is suffocating to death on my magic or sitting elsewhere, he'll sit as far away from me as he can get.
Baz does not look pleased when he sees me right next to his normal spot. I'm surprised, but maybe the Voodoo takes awhile to work. Maybe it had taken all last night for Baz to fall out of love with Penny, which means by this time tomorrow morning my plan should be mostly complete.
I sit next to him in all our afternoon classes and wait to see if anything changes.
I’m disappointed when nothing does.
I decide to do what Penny would do, and I go to the library to troubleshoot.
I spell the door locked as soon as Snow leaves, grabbing his book bag with an excuse about our political science essay. The essay isn’t due until Monday, and today is Thursday. It’s too early for him to have started it yet.
He’s been rifling around our room doing who knows what over the past couple of days. Bunce and I have been texting about his strange behaviour all day. I’m tempted to tell her to come over and help me search, but Snow has been surprisingly aggressive when he’s noticed us talking today. The less we talked to each other the happier he became, practically beaming as we’d ignored each other, texting under our desks furiously.
It doesn’t take me long to find the book. Snow owns hardly anything, and seeing the corner of a book in his wardrobe is suspicious for many reasons, mostly because to my knowledge he’s never properly owned one.
I peel the dust cover off the book and stare.
It’s a Normal book on Voodoo. I flip through it- it’s complete and utter rubbish.
Is this what Snow has been up to?
There’s a sock (dirty, I imagine) shoved between the pages. I spell it clean before gingerly picking it up with the tips of my fingers and moving it aside.
The page Snow has marked is a love ritual.
This surprises me. I take a photo with my mobile for future reference.
I’m about to put everything back when I smell the same fishy scent from this morning. The oysters. I flip through the book until I find where the scent is strongest, oily fingerprints marking the corner of the page.
It’s a ritual to spell someone out of love.
I decide to ask Bunce to meet me at our spot by the lake after all.
She’s late. I’m just about to give up and head down to the catacombs when I finally see her coming across the lawn, taking her time like I haven’t been waiting for the better part of an hour.
“Sorry, Simon caught me in the library, and he insisted on walking me back to the Cloisters.” she says. “The good news is, I know what he’s up to.”
“He’s trying to cast Voodoo rituals, apparently.” I tell her, showing her the pictures on my mobile.
“Yeah, but there’s more to it than that. He thinks there’s a chance you’re in love with me and he’s trying to get you not to be. He says you’re too dangerous. Says he’s sorry for ruining our relationship though.”
I laugh and admit to myself that he’s managed to surprise me. “I guess that’s what the anti-love ritual was all about, then. I hope you told him he wasn’t ruining anything.”
“I did. I’m not sure if he believed me. But that’s not just it. He also thinks that it’s important for you to find someone. He thinks it’ll distract you from your plotting, or that they’ll be a good influence on you.”
I sigh. “I’m a threat when in love, I’m a threat when I’m not. He needs to make up his mind.”
“Well, he has. He’s been up in the library trying to figure out why his ritual to make you fall in love didn’t work.”
I scoff. “Well, as his friend, you should consider telling him to stop wasting his time.”
“Oh, he’s not.” Bunce looks pleased with herself. “Since he’s decided that the person you should fall in love with is him.”
I wasted my whole evening in the library.
It turns out all I needed was to give the ritual some time. When I got back to the room that night it was clear that it had worked.
Baz had come back to the room, and while he hadn’t done anything to make it obvious that the ritual had worked, he also didn’t do anything that convinced me it didn’t. He finished his homework, did his hour-long skincare regimen, and got ready for bed all without saying anything rude.
It’s progress at least, right?
I waited until he was asleep and pulled the doll out from under my pillow. I propped it up between my bed and the wall, and lit the soy candle, repeating the ritual’s affirmations to myself just in case.
I wish I could have written my final paper on this. It’s worked so well I can hardly believe it. The next morning, Baz wakes up early and waits for me to finish getting ready before we go down to breakfast together. When I’m halfway done my breakfast, he slides his untouched plate across the table to me.
I should have done this a long time ago.
If Penny’s upset about the change she doesn’t let on, and she seems happy to be able to talk to Baz about the political science essay I’ve still got to start. I hope that she’s accepted that this is for the best.
I stay close to Baz all day, because the spell is still new and I don’t want to give him the opportunity to fall out of love (or worse- back in love with Penny or something.)
Penny sighs when I tell her to pair up with Agatha in class, but Baz just looks smug. He’s surprisingly helpful when he’s not being a dick, and he helps me with my spellwork without complaining once.
(It’s got to be love, right? I was kind of expecting something… more obvious. I had already come up with ways to try and avoid any emotional- or physical- declarations on Baz’s part. But over the next few days he seems happy enough to just spend time together, helping me with my schoolwork, or kicking around a football now that his final season is over. We spend hours siting together on the lawn, while Baz makes snarky comments about our classmates and reads. He’s a lot funnier when his sharp comments are being directed at people other than me.)
I even convinced him to get into the lake on a particularly hot day, and he didn’t even try and drown me once. Instead he’d stood up to his waist with me in the water, and let me teach him how to skip stones.
It’s been nice.
It’s been really, really nice.
So nice, in fact, that it takes me a couple of days before I realize that I’ve still got a girlfriend and I should probably sort that out before Baz thinks to get jealous.
Agatha seems relieved more than anything when I tell her we should break up. She’d looked pretty unhappy when she got my note and came to meet me in one of the abandoned classrooms before curfew, but she leaves looking happy.
I don’t have too much time to think about it though, because Baz told me he’d show me and Penny how to sneak into the old armoury if we met him in the courtyard at curfew.
I end up running.
I don’t want to miss him.
Term is finally coming to a close, and exams are getting close.
Baz and I are sitting on the lawn exchanging Elocution notes and revising when Simon makes his way over. I know he prefers to revise alone with Baz these days, so I’m surprised to see him. Usually he leaves us alone and shows up after dinner to hang out. This is a much appreciated development- since for the first week after he put his idiotic scheme into play he’d been tetchy every time he had seen Baz and I within five feet of each other.
Baz rolls away from me, making room for Simon on the blanket between us. He looks smug as he continues looking over his notes.
Simon sits down, shooting a furtive look at Baz before looking away again. He pulls out a bunch of notes (the handwriting on them looks a lot like Baz’s) and tugs at his hair while he reads them. Every now and then he shoots guilty looks at Baz.
Obviously something is bothering him.
“I’ve got to head to violin,” Baz says eventually, packing up his stuff, “See you after?”
“Yeah,” Simon agrees quickly.
Baz smiles. “See you two later.”
Simon watches him go until he’s disappeared into the main building. Then he turns to me.
“I have a problem.” he admits.
“You have a lot of problems,” I tell him, jabbing at his leg with my pen. “What is it now?”
“Well- I know I told you about my plan the other week, and I know you said you didn’t want to talk about it…”
“I still don’t,” I agree.
“Yeah, well, it’s obviously worked. And I just- I don’t really know what to do about it.” he says, tugging at his hair again.
I slap his hands away before he starts tugging it out. “What do you mean?”
“I mean… Baz has obviously fallen in love with me. He hasn’t said a single rude thing since the ritual. We spend all our time together now. He even leaves me scones on the bedside table and spells them to stay warm!”
“He does that?” I ask, surprised. Basil Pitch is disgusting. I decide to take the piss out of him for that later.
“Yeah. It’s been really nice,” Simon mumbles, rubbing the back of his neck. His ears have gone red.
“So, what’s the problem?”
He hesitates. “Well- it doesn’t mean anything, does it?”
I blink. “I mean, he’s in love with you. So it probably means that.”
“But he isn’t really.” Simon argues. “It’s because of the ritual. The Voodoo.”
“No,” I try and sound patient. “I’m pretty sure he’s just in love with you.” But Simon still doesn’t look like he believes me. I sigh. “Fine, maybe talk to him about it? Just ask him if it will make you feel better. And I have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing now- this was your great idea, I told you to leave me out of it.”
“I should probably- just keep this going until the end of the year, right?” Simon says after awhile. “Make sure everyone else is safe until then.”
“If you think that’s what you need to do-,”
“Plus, it’s not hurting him, right? He likes being around me. It’s not bad to… to spend time together.”
I sigh. “He’s in love with you Simon. I doubt he’ll complain if you want to spend the last couple of weeks of school together.”
“Right,” Simon says doubtfully. “Right. Great, thanks Penny.”
I’m surprised at Penny. I was prepared for her to complain about the whole plan being immoral from the very start, but she hasn’t brought that up once.
I guess she’s right though. There’s nothing wrong with just… spending time together.
(It’s not like I’m doing it for me. It all comes back to the plan. Spending time with Baz- well it’s been good for him. He’s been noticeably nicer- mostly to me- but he also seems… happier. Less likely to do something evil or to harm the other students. Which was the whole point of this. Giving up now… well it wouldn’t make much sense. So it doesn’t matter that I don’t want this to ever stop. Because what I want doesn’t mean anything.)
We sit together in silence as I think about Baz, and Penny reads over her notes. The sun starts to set, everything around us lit gold. I wish, not for the first time since he left, that Baz was out here with us- he’d look so good lit up by the setting sun. I hear someone coming up behind us and I turn around expectantly- but it’s only Agatha.
“Oh,” she says, looking around. “I thought Baz would be out here with you both.”
“He’ll be back in a bit,” I tell her, picking at our blanket. “He went to his violin lesson. What did you want?”
Agatha looks at me quickly before looking away. “I wanted to talk to him about the Leaver’s Ball.”
“You can’t go to the Leaver’s Ball with Baz,” I say before I realize I’ve opened my mouth. It’s the truth though. She can’t.
She frowns. “Of course I can.”
“No,” I say quickly. “I’m going to the Leaver’s Ball with him.”
The surprised look on Penny’s face tells me this is news to her. It’s news to me too, but I knew as soon as I said it that it’s part of my plan.
“You’re going to the Leaver’s Ball with Baz?” Agatha asks, looking doubtful.
“Yes.” I say. She still looks like she doesn’t believe me. “We’ve been uh- we’ve been kind of dating.” I add, because the truth is weird and complicated, and I don’t want Agatha to think that there’s even the slightest chance she’ll be going to the ball with Baz.
“You are not dating Baz.” Agatha says, looking angry. “And I can go to the Leaver’s Ball with whomever I want, Simon- you don’t need to lie to me to try and get me to go with someone else.”
“I’m not lying,” I mumble. I don’t meet her eyes.
Then I see Baz picking his way across the lawn towards us, like he doesn’t realize he has the worst timing in the world. I’ve never been less happy to see him.
(I was right though. He looks so good bathed in the gold of the setting sun. It highlights all his best features, making him look warm and soft, the small smile on his face just this side of familiar.)
Something warm twists in my gut as I watch him- and that’s how I know I’m more than just a little fucked.
“Oh, good,” Agatha says when she turns around and sees him coming. “Basil, do you have a mo’? I wanted to talk to you about the Leaver’s Ball?”
“I’m already going with Simon,” he answers, dropping to the ground and making himself comfortable on the blanket between Penny and me.
(He always knows just what to say, I don’t know how he does it. Before, it was just the right things to hurt or make me angry- but now, now he always knows what to say to calm me down or make me laugh. Or in this case- how to support me in a lie he didn’t even know about.)
“So it’s true then?” Agatha chokes out, looking surprised.
“I told you,” I say, moving closer to Baz and hoping Agatha leaves quickly, before she asks any more questions.
But she’s still standing there, looking confused. “I’m sorry. I just can’t believe that the you two are dating.”
“Oh, it’s more than that,” Baz says, strange expression on his face. “We’re in love.”
The second Snow leaves, mumbling about needing the loo, Bunce reaches over and smacks me on the back of the head.
It doesn’t do anything to lessen my good mood.
“You bastard, I told you when I became your friend that I was specifically in the market for friends who weren’t involved with each other. And could you have been any more smug about all of that?”
“Relax Bunce,” I wave her off. “Snow can’t keep up the charade forever. He’ll decide any day now that I’m no threat to you or anyone else, and perform a little ritual to undo his bogus Voodoo attempts. Then you and I can continue our mutually satisfying friendship as normal while Snow goes back to romancing Wellbelove.”
Bunce is a good friend. Although I know this is her ideal version of events, she has the decency to look unhappy about it with respect to my feelings.
“He’s worried his Voodoo attempts are immoral.” she tells me, “You should probably tell him that you already know about it.”
I laugh. “It is immoral. I’m still surprised he went through with it.”
“I don’t know what he’s thinking,” she admits, shaking her head.
“Snow never thinks.” I say, and she sighs.
(She doesn’t bother arguing with me though. Bunce has never been one to defend a lost cause.)
After I bid goodnight to Bunce and feed, I climb the staircase to our room and find Snow already waiting for me, fidgeting on his bed.
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
“Need something, Snow?” I ask him, undoing my laces and tucking my shoes into my wardrobe.
He growls, which is entirely unexpected, and then tackles me onto my bed.
Waking up in Simon Snow’s arms is an experience.
Being kissed awake in Simon Snow’s arms is even better.
I have no idea what is happening. I thought last night when I came back to the room Snow was going to go back on everything and run off after Wellbelove.
Instead he’d tackled me onto my bed and kissed me until my lips were bruised.
(And so far, odds are looking good that he intends on a repeat performance this morning.)
Aleister fucking Crowley, I’m living a charmed life.
I briefly wonder whether there’s a way for me to modify my own Voodoo rituals so I can wake up like this every day for the rest of my life. But then Simon bites down on my bottom lip and I groan into his mouth, everything but the press of our lips and bodies forgotten.
“Wait- Baz.” He pulls back from me, out of breath.
“Mhm?” I don’t want him to go, not yet. I kiss the soft spot under his jaw, and the noise he makes gives me the courage to slip my hands up the back of his shirt.
His skin feels divine under my hands.
“Wait, Baz, we shouldn’t. We can’t.” he says, wriggling out of my grasp.
We certainly can. And should. I take my hands off him and try not to look like I’m pouting. “What’s wrong, Simon?”
He looks distressed. “I need to tell you something.”
I sigh. “About the Voodoo?”
“Yes. Wait, how did you know?”
“You’re exceedingly thick, and not at all as inconspicuous as you think you are.”
He blinks at me. Then he frowns. “Penny told you.”
“Yes, Bunce told me.” I concede.
“You’re not mad?”
“No, I’m not mad.”
“Oh, excellent.” He looks pleased, so I kiss him again.
He makes it hard to do the right thing. I push him away, but I really don’t want to.
“We probably shouldn’t do this while you’re still under the spell, though.” I admit.
He laughs. “There is no spell. The book you got is for Normals, it’s all rubbish.”
“No, it’s not. Otherwise you wouldn’t have fallen in love with me. You’d still be in love with Penny.”
He frowns at me. “I’m gay, I was not and never will be interested in Bunce.”
This confuses me. “But I saw the two of you kissing-,”
He sighs. “We kissed once. It was a bad idea, and we both knew it. But we’re stubborn, and Bunce was having a bad day and it seemed rude to point that out on top of everything else.”
“Oh.” I’ve got to admit, I’m happy to hear that. Penny told me that there wasn’t anything between them when I admitted to her that I performed the rituals, but I wasn’t entirely sure she wasn’t just trying to make me feel better about the whole thing. “So… you’re certain there’s no spell?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Snow.” He rolls off me so quickly I startle. He rips the pillow off my bed and picks up the Voodoo doll I made of him. Before I can say anything, he turns around, sneering, and sets the thing on fire.
Then he comes back to bed like nothing happened, the pile of ashes on the floor the only evidence the thing had ever existed.
“You’re lucky you were right,” I tell him, threading my fingers in his hair. “I can’t imagine that would have worked out well for you otherwise.”
“I’m always right, Snow.” he says against the corner of my mouth. I sigh and pull him closer.
“While we’re on the topic, can we do that with the one you’ve got?”
“Absolutely not,” Baz says immediately. “It’s bound to you properly, for one. Besides, I need some way to continue tormenting you-,”
I drag my finger back and forth across the seam of his lips. “I can think of another way for you to do that just fine.” I admit, as he takes the tip of my finger in his mouth and sucks. I make an embarrassing noise when he pulls off with a wet pop.
“I’m afraid I am terribly dense.” He says breathily. “You’ll need to show me. In great detail.”
I pretend to consider it. “I suppose it’s the least I could do.”
“And at great length, of course.” he adds.
“As long as it takes.” I say honestly. “Any other requests?”
“Well, if you’re feeling generous…”
I suppose I am.
I pull his body against mine, and kiss him deeply. We’ve already missed breakfast, and I’m sure we’re on track to missing lunch as well.
I had hoped to be a good influence on Baz after all of this- but as the rest of the day slides away into the evening and we stay wrapped up in each other, I’m forced to admit that he’s once again better at plotting than I’ll ever be.
It’s only much, much later- still tangled up in his sheets, hands pressing into skin, and lips swollen- I realize that that’s not right at all. My plan worked, and I’ve been right all along-
As I had predicted, Baz is much less of an arse when he’s getting laid. And if the current situation is anything to go by, I’ve got to admit that our living situation has improved dramatically.
All things considered, I guess being in love has been a good influence on Baz after all.