we invented the remix 5

a hogwarts christmas by pen: the background vocals pre-mix by beth

Britney smiled once at Kevin Richardson, then lowered her eyes, bit her bottom lip, and stared intently at her Charms notes, focusing fiercely, her lips moving slightly as she murmured an incantation. After a few seconds went by, she went in for more eye contact, this time fluttering her eyelashes and meeting Kevin's gaze directly, concentrating as hard as she could. For all intensive purposes, she looked like just another student in the great hall, flirting a little and working hard at the end of the term, but her real goal at this moment was to enchant Kevin--nothing major, nothing creepy; it wasn't like that for them--just enough to get the one thing she really, really wanted for herself right now: an invite to the portkey party tonight, the very last day of school before the holiday break.

Portkey parties were all the rage this year. For a fee, usually a high one, those in the know were sent a portkey at a post-office box in Hogsmeade. You opened your package, took out your portkey, and were transported . . . somewhere for a great party. The excitement was in not knowing where the portkey would take you; thus far this fall, Britney had heard of parties at the Malfoy estate (only a select few Slytherins had been invited to that one), at the Leaky Cauldron, and most exciting of all, one last month at a Muggle night club in London. Britney longed to be a part of this party circuit, to get on the exclusive list of names and go exciting places; if she could just secure this invite, it would mark the beginning of her bid to rise to the top of the Hogwarts popularity scale.

One more glance at Kevin and there it was--a slight glaze in the eyes, a slight reddening of the cheeks, and he was hers; he was coming over to her table, sitting down across from her, and saying, "So, Britney, what's up?"

"Kevin, hey!" she answered, triumphant, and began to work again.

It was afternoon in the Slytherin common room and Britney was studying again, only this time for real and this time with Justin. Their two heads were bent earnestly over their books, and two mugs of butterbeer stood between them on the ancient oak table. As he read, Justin curved his foot around the table leg, silently running the tender arch of his foot over the snakes carved on it. Enhancing Your Charisma the Slytherin Way, the book in which they'd found the enchantment charm Britney had used on Kevin, was not at all what he was supposed to be focusing on right now, but for better or worse, it was the only book that captured his attention.

After another half hour or so of silence had passed, Justin felt a gentle kick under the table and lifted his head and eyebrows at Britney. She was caught between two kinds of gold light: the firelight to her left was giving half of her face a warm, inviting look, while the glare of the green-shaded study lamp on their table to her right lit the other part her face in a starker and scarier way. That was Britney for you, all right.

"Only a few hours from now," she murmured, her voice full of suppressed excitement.

Justin gave her a brilliant fake smile.

Britney shifted in her seat, bouncing up and down a little. "I don't see how you can just sit there and be silent! I'm so excited, I can hardly think!"

That much was obvious. Justin nodded, and then bit his lower lip. Underneath the table, he began to bounce his heel on the ornate rug of the common room.

"Britney," he began, then fell silent.

Her eyes narrowed, and she gestured impatiently for him to continue.

"Look--I know these things are supposed to be a lot of fun and all, but maybe this isn't the best time. I mean, it's the end of the term, and we really don't want to do anything to jeopardize our grades. We worked too hard, you know?"

A wave of disgust passed over Britney's face. "God, Justin; sometimes I wonder whether you're even a Slytherin at all! You can just be so . . . weak!"

He'd started now; might as well go for broke. "Look--you got us on this list, but we don't know who else is on it, who's throwing this thing, or who's in charge of the key. We could end up anywhere, you know?"

"That's the entire point!" Britney exhaled all in a rush, close to yelling. "And Kevin will be there! He's in our house! He'll take care of us!"

As he looked at the anger in her eyes, Justin fervently wished, not for the first time or even the hundredth, that Britney weren't so single-minded and strong-willed. Still, she was his best friend in Slytherin, and he would be bereft without her friendship.

The sad truth of the matter was that neither Justin nor Britney were very popular in the Slytherin social hierarchy (though Justin always privately and Britney always publicly added a "yet" to that particular statement). The Timberlakes were a venerable wizarding family, but upon divorcing his father, Justin's mother had married a Muggle, which had immediately placed the entire family very low down on the wizarding social scale. Britney had no Muggles in her family, but the Spearses were considered trashy and nouveau, hardly a step above the half-bloods Slytherins so ardently disdained.

In Justin's opinion, the Slytherins were so obsessed with breeding and blood that they almost always lost sight of the really important things. He hadn't even wanted to be one of them--he had never been happier than when, on his first day at Hogwarts, the Sorting Hat had yelled "Gryffindor!" when it was placed on his head. He'd been so excited as he'd walked across the hall to the Gryffindor table, a giddiness that had continued unabated through the evening, when he'd sent his mom an owl telling her of his good fortune.

It had taken a mere eighteen hours for her to undo it all--to write to Dumbledore and tell him a mistake had been made; to pressure the school's board of directors with promises of a very generous monetary gift to the school if they supported her in her quest, and to call on her contacts in the Ministry to help her rearrange things. By the next evening, Justin, his newly formed memories of the Gryffindor common room and sleeping quarters already erased from his mind, was sitting quietly, dazed, in his new room in Slytherin house.

In many ways, it had been the right thing for his mother to do. It was foolish to deny that he was ambitious; he had always longed fiercely for power and renown. Slytherin house nurtured that ambition and gave him the tools to begin fulfilling it. He was starting to get a picture of what he wanted to do with his future; each day its contours appeared a bit sharper, and Justin knew that if he was patient enough, it would be revealed in whole to him by the time he left school.

It was important to him to reach that place--so important, in fact, that anything that didn't forward him in that quest seemed short-sighted, wasteful even, and going to crazy parties that could get you kicked out of school seemed utterly useless. What did he want with a Muggle nightclub?

Britney was a wonderful friend--steadfast and loyal--but at heart, she was probably even more a Slytherin than Justin was. Where he longed for abstract things that would happen in the future, her goals were concrete, pragmatic, and easily met--and she was downright inconsolable until she attained them. Justin was willing to do a lot of things to get what he wanted: Britney was willing to do anything. Justin loved Britney, but sometimes she was just plain reckless--and that, in Justin's opinion never got anyone anywhere.

But she really, really wanted this. Justin sighed and started to think it through. Getting to Hogsmeade shouldn't be a problem--there were any number of passages to be used, and since everyone was so engrossed in their studies, the staff wasn't patrolling the halls as stringently as they usually did. The thing he couldn't get over was that they had no idea where they were going--and since they couldn't yet apparate, it wasn't as if they could escape easily once they got there.

"Look--if we're going to try to do this, someone should know," he murmured. "Just in case something goes wrong, and --"

"I'm getting really sick of your negativity, Justin!" Britney stood up and batted his book away from his face, refusing to let Justin hide behind it. There was a crazy look in her eyes. "We've been working hard--so hard at this school--and dealing with all of these really horrible people, and there's never any fun; there's just no --we never do anything daring or interesting or worthwhile at all. And now, that we actually have the chance to get the hell out of Hogwarts, you go all chicken on me? Tell me, Justin--are you going to act your age and come with me or am I going to have to do this alone? Because I will do it alone, Justin; I will. I have had it with this place."

Justin sighed. It was still such a bad idea in all ways, but there was no way he could let Britney do this thing alone.

JC yawned and shifted on the couch in the Ravenclaw common room, opening his eyes just wide enough to check on the clock. Yes, it was time for dinner. Yes, he had just taken a four-hour nap during the last week of the term.

Ignoring the rolled eyes and disgusted looks his fellow Ravenclaws were sending his way, JC stretched and stood up. He wasn't even going to pretend that he was shocked at himself for having slept so long. He usually tried to be scandalized by his own bad behavior, because it was often enlightening, but as of late, however, this hadn't worked so well. And if the rest of his house didn't understand him, well that was their problem.

Ravenclaws divided themselves into two types: linears and circulars. Linears were good at potions, arithromancy and defense against the dark arts; circulars excelled at transfiguration and divination. JC was a chaotic. His intellect was utterly unclassifiable and his magic skills were unreliable. Sometimes he couldn't find the words to the simplest charms; other times, he, without thinking, blurted out spells so complex they even confounded teachers. The unfortunate thing about it all was, of course, that he had no idea whether or when he'd be brilliant; and to make things worse in the eyes of his fellow Ravenclaws, he didn't actually even care all that much. JC was devoted to the flow, to letting magic, life--everything in general--float by him in beautiful and often amusing patterns.

He didn't dare say this to his classmates or teachers, because it would have scandalized them absolutely, but JC appreciated beauty far more than intellect: beautiful people, beautiful spellwork, beautiful magic, beautiful feelings. He was motivated to participate in life insofar as it was liable to give back to him those things he found pleasing. If those things were not forthcoming, he was content to sit on the sideline and dream or sleep.

In their own way, Ravenclaws were every bit as ambitious as Slytherins, and this unique . . . perspective, as they called it, of JC's drove them crazy. It seemed that at one point in time, every person in the whole house had given JC the same look: eyebrows drawn together in dismay, mouth down at the corners in disapproval.

JC didn't care. He was happy to be Ravenclaw's whipping boy. The stupid hat had put him in here fair and square, and he was going to ride it out as long as he could.

Which actually might not be all that long With the holidays had come a series of conferences with various professors, the upshot of which had been that despite occasional flashes of brilliance in each class, JC was in the main roundly underperforming this term.

This was completely unsurprising. JC had had these conferences at the holiday break every year since he'd been at Hogwarts, and yet he'd always still moved ahead with the rest of his class every spring. What was surprising was that this year, it seemed, things were somewhat more urgent. This year, JC was actually in danger of failing a few courses.

No one in Ravenclaw had ever failed a course. This was not a fact that JC had committed to memory, but he had been reminded of it by at least three separate teachers and too many fellow classmates to count. A significant part of JC thought they should be forced to suffer the humiliation of it all; if this was the worst thing that ever happened to them, after all, their lives would be pretty damn good. But he really didn't want to give distress to people, particularly people he was supposed to be aligned with. And he did want to do well at Hogwarts, if only to show his housemates that you didn't have to be the typical Ravenclaw to succeed.

But what to do? There really wasn't anyone at school who could tutor JC--Ravenclaws were past sympathizing with him and he was too proud to reveal his predicament to anyone outside the house. This morning, he'd contacted his uncle Richard. Richard had practically raised JC; they'd lived together for years in a small but cozy apartment in Diagon Alley, right above the gift shop Richard ran. It was there that JC had learned his appreciation for beauty; he had grown up surrounded by artwork--magical statues, tapestries, paintings, textiles, and so forth.

But while Richard could have helped him with business classes or taught him how to negotiate with dealers and customers, and while he certainly could have told JC how to identify fake works of art, he wasn't so keen on arithromancy or history of magic.

"I'm sorry, kid, but you're just going to have to study," he'd said, his face glowing in the fireplace where he'd flooed in for the conversation. "There's no reason you can't pass these classes, JC, and you have to demonstrate basic magical competency before you can make your way in the world."

JC had frowned. "Isn't there at least a potion of some sort, something--"

"Nope, sorry. You're going to have to get yourself out of this one yourself. It's all part of growing up."

JC absolutely hated statements like that--hated them--and so at that point, he'd "accidentally" spilled water on the fire, his mouth twisting in amusement as he watched the shock on Richard's face before he'd faded out. Then, the tiredness had hit.

Now, he was awake and miserable, with an entire afternoon to fill before dinner. He had plans for tonight, but right now, life seemed a bit bleak. JC looked longingly back at the couch he'd been dozing on, then scowled at the two or three other Ravenclaws who'd purposely taken his place and were pointedly spreading out books and parchment on the cushions.

Not even bothering to try to fight them, JC picked up his book bag and strode out of the common room. Maybe he could find a comfortable chair in the library.

Clasping hands and trembling a little (well, Justin was), he and Britney looked straight ahead as they walked through the tunnel to Hogsmeade. It was mostly dark except for the gleam of light from Justin's wand. Justin was in a pair of jeans and a sweater his mother had bought for him. Britney had dressed in some sort of outfit she claimed would be very popular with the Muggles:. it revealed a vast expanse of her smooth skin, which she'd made golden and glowing with some trick of her wand. Justin hadn't even bothered to mention that if the portkey took them to the Arctic circle or someplace equally unpleasant, she would be very ill equipped for survival. He was very grateful it was winter and that the weather had required her to cover herself with a coat. If they'd been stopped by Hogwarts staff, there'd have been no way to explain themselves.

When they finally reached Hogsmeade, it was dark outside, the sky fathomless except for the sliver of a crescent moon and the vague glimmer of stars. For a moment, Justin and Britney stood speechless, their breath taking cloudy form in the frigid air, their fingers linked tight. Finally, Britney moved, digging in her coat for her wand and leading Justin to the part of the post office that was always open, where the post-office boxes were. Slytherin had a roomy communal box to be used by house members when they needed it. Britney tapped the box with her wand and murmured the password; it sprang open easily, revealing a stack of packages. Britney searched through them until she found the one addressed to her, then handed the box to Justin and followed him back out into the night. Hogsmeade was largely deserted save for groups of two or three moving in and out of Three Broomsticks.

Britney murmured another charm and the box unwrapped itself, revealing the portkey, which was a book.

"Well, then," Britney said in satisfaction. "Are you ready?"

Holding hands again, they crouched down and gripped the book tightly together. There was a familiar wrenching sensation, the world whirling around them, and then they were sprawled together on a hardwood floor.

For a moment, they just blinked in confusion.

Instead of landing in a hip Muggle nightclub, they had wound up in the Room of Requirement, which was at present very well lighted and full of embarrassed and angry looking Hogwarts students. Some were sitting in a circle of chairs, their arms folded across their chests, while others slouched along the edges of the room. All were glaring daggers. There was music, but it was neither live nor Muggle; merely the tired sounds of the Weird Sisters from a wizard wireless.

In shock, Justin glanced down at the book that had served as their portkey. The title read Ten Common Wizarding Hoaxes and How to Avoid Them.

"The first of the Slytherin contingent, if I'm not mistaken. Welcome!"

Justin looked up to see Chris Kirkpatrick, a Gryffindor a few years ahead of them who was known schoolwide for practical jokes.

"This is a mistake! We want to go to the real party," Britney said immediately, standing up and glaring at Chris.

"I'm afraid this is the real party," Chris said, and gestured to the other people in the room. His eyes were glinting in amusement. "What I don't get is why everyone's so damn upset about it."

"We paid a lot of money for this portkey, and all you could do is bring us back to the school?" Britney shook her head. "That's not good enough, and I'm not going to accept it. Give us both a refund right now."

"Oh my," Chris said in mock distress, smiling down at Justin. "Looks like yet another partygoer neglected to read the terms of agreement."

"Now!" Britney added, her voice taking on an edge of menace.

"Sorry, darling, but that's not going to be possible." Chris looked a little less amused now. "Look--if I were you, I'd shut up right now and start enjoying the party like all your fellow students--unless, that is, you want me to hand over the portkey list to the headmaster."

"Now, there's no need for that," Justin cut in immediately, struggling to his feet and grabbing Britney by the arm.

"Please, have some refreshment," Chris said, gesturing magnanimously to a small table that held a few half-empty bottles of butterbeer. "And thanks ever so much for dropping by!"

"Absolutely," Justin said without much feeling, and then drew Britney to the side of the room, where they had a brief, intense conversation that, to his great relief, resulted in Britney putting away her wand and promising not to, at any point during the evening, cover Chris Kirkpatrick in boils.

The rule set down by Chris was that no one was to leave the party before midnight (this so those who were already there could not call in a teacher or warn others who had not already arrived). Given that they were all basically trapped in the room, people eventually began striking up conversations with each other, and the majority of the sullenness and bad feeling dissipated. Periodically, of course, things were disrupted by the angry shouting of new arrivals to the party, but after a while, this became less sensational and people stopped paying as much attention to it.

Everyone here had definitely been expecting something far grander than the Hogwarts Room of Requirement, and Justin was caught squarely between amazement and helpless laughter as he checked out the fashion choices of his fellow students. The only person in the room who was dressed like a wizard was Chris Kirkpatrick, who Justin was beginning to feel some admiration for, despite his very real annoyance at the way all of this had turned out. It was a clever little scheme, and judging from the number of people already in the room, an extremely lucrative one. But how had Kirkpatrick done it? Creating portkeys was a rather fancy bit of magic: none of the students Justin knew could have pulled it off.

JC sat quietly in his chair at the party, careful not to address Chris directly or act as if he knew him in any way. Chris had been surprised when JC had told him he wanted no public association with this trick, but now that he saw the fury on the faces of his fellow Hogwarts students as they looked at Chris, JC knew he had done the right thing. At the beginning of the evening, JC had been terrified that the portkeys wouldn't work, or worse still, that they might splinch someone, but his anxiety had now almost entirely gone away. Once the rest of the Slytherins arrived, in fact, this entire charade would soon be over. With the payday he had coming, he could definitely afford to hire a tutor to help him through the second term, or maybe even figure out another, easier way to pass his classes. Never mind--he had time to figure it out.

Just as JC started to smile to himself, there was a particularly loud bang at the top of the room, and he and the others in the room looked over in surprise to see a very angry Kevin Richardson staggering around clumsily in the grip of what appeared to be a magnificent jellylegs jinx. Chris, his eyebrows burned off by whatever Kevin had shot at him, was now laughing (with the rest of the room) so hard at his handiwork that he had neglected to notice that Richardson's companion, AJ McLean, was also brandishing a wand, and that it was pointing right at him.

AJ was a fellow Ravenclaw and could therefore both expect and lay claim to loyalty from JC. This was indisputable. AJ, however, was not now in possession of a rather large sum of money he had promised to share with JC, and furthermore, AJ, unlike Chris, had never shown any interest in or respect for JC's magical skills, such as the making of portkeys.

JC frowned. It was unfortunate, but he knew what he had to do.

Justin wasn't entirely certain in all the chaos, but he was pretty sure that the killer curse that had put AJ's head backward on his body had come from the cute, skinny guy (Ravenclaw, Justin thought) sitting alone in the circle of chairs (everyone else had fled when the fireworks began). The guy must have hidden his wand almost immediately after he'd done the deed, because he now appeared to be just as shocked by the curse as everyone else. When Justin caught his eye, however (sea-slate blue; gorgeous), the mixture of triumph and mischief he saw there convinced him that he was definitely looking at the culprit. Interesting, that. He'd have to seek the guy out later, after all this was done, to see how he'd pulled it off.

There wasn't more than a second or two for Justin to be thinking all of the above, however, because throughout it all, Kevin had continued to try to hit Chris with curses despite the fact that his jellified legs had compromised his aim most severely and the air in the room was practically electric with magic.

Britney, never one to suffer fools, was getting annoyed with it all.

"Kevin," Justin heard her say in what he personally thought of as her "danger" voice, "C'mon now, stop it. You're going to hurt someone."

Curses continued to fly, however, and Justin and Britney were forced to duck behind one of the chairs for protection.

"I mean it, Kevin, you have to stop!" Britney said a little louder, but again, Kevin did nothing. Justin was almost starting to feel sorry for Kevin now, but it wasn't as if he hadn't been warned or anything.

"Oh, for god's sake, Kevin, grow up!" Britney finally shouted, which was immediately followed by "Expelliarmus!"

"Hey, Brit, good work," Justin said weakly as Kevin's wand flew across the room and fell at her feet.

"C'mon, Justin. We're outta here," was all she said back, kicking the wand out of her way and leading them both to the door.

"My hero!" Chris Kirkpatrick said loudly, but when Britney turned on her heel and gave him a good, long glare, he snapped his mouth shut and simply waved goodbye, his eyes dancing with manic glee.

"I'll be right back," Justin said and left the common room. Britney, engrossed in Ten Common Wizarding Hoaxes and How to Avoid Them, didn't even acknowledge him. Really, it was a most fascinating book; she was surprised their Defense against the Dark Arts teacher had never brought it to their attention.

Stretching a little in her seat, Britney sighed happily. She, Justin, and Lance Bass were the only Slytherins left at Hogwarts; everyone else had headed home for the holidays. It was going to be so great to have the place all to themselves, to kick back, relax, and really have a good time. That weirdo who had created the portkeys for Chris Kirkpatrick was staying for the holidays as well, Justin had told her. Maybe the two of them could convince him to make a special portkey; maybe she would get to a Muggle night club after all! Britney had been studying Muggles lately--they were a very interesting and malleable group of people. It could be most gratifying to interact with them.

Assuming that Justin had returned, Britney did not look up when she heard footsteps on the floor, so it was something of a shock when Kevin Richardson said, "Um, Britney, hey--do you have a minute?"

"I thought everyone was gone."

"Not quite yet," Kevin said, smiling. Really, he wasn't at all unattractive. It was too bad about the ugliness at the party.

"Listen, I just wanted to tell you that I feel really bad about what happened at the party the other night."

Britney looked suspiciously into Kevin's eyes, but he was the picture of contrition.

"I lost my head and things got out of hand," he continued. "And really, seriously, I wanted to thank you for taking my wand from me. If you hadn't done it, I'd hate to think what might have happened in there."

Britney smiled at him. "You're a really good wizard, Kevin. I was afraid someone might get hurt."

"Exactly. I'm just--I'm really glad you saw that, you know?"

Britney beamed at him. "Why, thank you. What a gentleman you're being about all of this."

Kevin smiled back at her. For just a second, Britney thought it looked almost like a grimace, something insincere and malign, but then it was okay; everything was okay.

"Well, then," he said, fumbling under his robes for something. "I've got to go now, but I wanted, uh, I took the liberty of pulling together a small gift for you."

"You didn't have to do that!" Britney knew that her voice was too loud and too high-pitched, but Kevin was brandishing a dish of candy, beautiful candy in pretty white wrappers. Her mouth watered.

"I wanted to, really," Kevin said sheepishly, and then ducked his head and added, "Happy holidays, Britney. I'll see you next term."

"Next term," she called after him, and then sat looking at her candy and smiling to herself. The very instant Justin came back, she'd make them both have a piece.

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