Sprinkle with Laughter
Willow walked through the hall, wondering why everyone seemed to be whispering. Clearly, it was something interesting… or maybe there were dozens of things the students were whispering over. Discussion of the recent Quidditch games, the Hogsmeade weekends… anything. Except that she was certain that she was being watched.
She got her first clue when Madame Pomfrey looked at her and winked. Professor Flitwick seemed to be hopelessly giggling every time he looked at her or at Professor Snape. Professor McGonagall was just frowning, pointedly not looking away from her students. Willow remembered the clattering noise that had intruded in her discussion with Severus a few days ago. She had the feeling that rumors were flying.
As she was leaving the hall, Severus ended up beside her. “It appears that there is… colorful speculation. Concerning you and… me.”
“I’ve noticed.” She glanced over, noticing the muscle at the corner of his jaw twitching. “Perhaps we’ll just have to have that demonstration after all. To clear up the confusion.”
“Do you expect that to work?” He was scowling again, apparently his natural expression.
“Well…” Willow considered his question. She knew about the persistence of rumor. “It should at least clear things up with the faculty.”
“That probably is the best that we can hope for. Yet again, I am being blamed for something that I’m not doing.” He shook his head, a brooding expression settling firmly into place.
“Hey! I think that sounds just a bit... well, a bit insulting. I mean, we aren’t, but I’d hope it wouldn’t be a stomach turning nausea inspiring thought. And… never mind. Let’s just gather everything to call up Gakky and we can cut some of those rumors.” Willow frowned, feeling a bit hurt. Bad enough that her luck with men had been dreadful, but he didn’t have to sound quite so put out that people thought they were involved.
“I… that isn’t what I meant, you exasperating woman! It’s simply that I do not care for baseless accusations.” Robes swirling, he stalked away towards the dungeons, slamming doors behind him.
Willow just watched him go, wondering exactly why he was so cranky. “Someone certainly has a temper.”
The whispers continued as Willow tried to make everything ready for the ritual. She was copying the correct diagram onto a parchment when she felt someone standing disapprovingly near her in the classroom which was supposed to be blissfully empty. Glancing up, she discovered a frowning Minerva McGonagall.
“May I help you?” She tried to figure out what had the Gryffindor Headmistress so unhappy.
“What is the meaning of… whatever it is between you and Professor Snape?” The woman looked almost mad enough to spit fire.
“Actually, we were having an entirely professional conversation, and somebody overheard something that was clearly taken the wrong way… Let me guess, we’re supposedly involved in a heated affair?” Willow smiled brightly, determined not to give the impression that there was anything to hide.
“What sort of misinterpreted remark could possibly start such rumors?” She looked slightly less angry, or maybe the curiosity just had a mellowing effect. McGonnagall was rather like a cat in that regard…
“I said it was only four inches tall, and he said ‘four inches? Is that it?’ and then there was this clatter, so somebody heard four inches, and I’m pretty sure that they assumed… well, I think we all know what they were assuming. But it wasn’t.” Willow shook her head, trying to be amused over the whole mess.
“So… what was four inches?” Questions danced in Professor McGonagall’s eyes.
In response, Willow turned the book around so that the older professor could see the engraving of Gaknar, and the diagram beside it. “He is. The words underneath are Hungarian, and they translate to ‘shown actual size’. He’s about four inches tall, which really isn’t that scary. And there’s this really squeaky little voice… I was explaining to Severus how some frat boys summoned him by accident at their Halloween party one year back in Sunnydale.”
McGonagall was trying not to snicker. “That’s the actual size? Yes, that would make him considerably… less frightening. How was he banished?”
“One of my friends stomped on him, and the result was one squished demon. But he’s not the sort that would be permanently gone from that, so I could summon him again. It’ll be a good demonstration.” Willow smiled, hoping that the other Professor would understand how that conversation had ended up fueling such colorful rumors.
“And possibly it will help defuse the rumors. There are many things that I do not wish to over hear further speculation about. Including Severus’ wand.” With those parting words, she left the room.
For a moment, Willow just blinked, wondering why anyone would need to speculate about Severus and his wand, hadn’t they seen it in use for some of his classes? Then, she turned crimson as it occurred to her that the rumor didn’t mean that sort of ‘wand’. Clearly, it was wizardly slang for a certain very male part of the anatomy. Oh dear, no wonder he was cranky.
Severus seemed very cranky when he helped her set up the diagram. Perhaps it was the rumors, perhaps it was something else, like the fact that the Slytherin Quiddith team had lost to Ravenclaw? Or maybe the house elves had starched his underwear? Assuming that he wore any… eeep! Not going there… not going there…
Everyone gathered in the great hall, puzzlement clear on many faces. Soft murmurs began. She stood by the now glowing diagram that had been marked on the specially made raised platform of wood, no more than three inches from the floor, and rather thin, smiling gently. Severus was seated at the head table, watching everything with an impassive face. She could feel the power reaching out, feel the fears beginning to manifest. The whispers took on a slightly higher, more frantic tone.
Willow murmured a soft incantation to ensure that her voice would carry to everyone. It wouldn’t sound too loud, but everyone in the room would hear her voice as clearly as if they were standing next to her. “Now, I’m sure that you can all feel that now. Can anyone tell me what sort of diagram this is? Have you been paying attention in your classes?”
One student, a thin girl with almost unfocused pale eyes stepped a bit closer. “It’s a summoning diagram. But what are you conjuring?”
“Yes, wonderful. Ten points to your house, Luna. Miss Lovegood is correct, this is a summoning diagram. Pay close attention, especially everyone who’s been trying to find out precisely what I spoke of being four inches.” She smirked just a bit as several faces turned bright red. Then, she turned and stomped her foot through the carefully painted diagram, the platform shattering just as she’d planned.
“Please note that breaking the diagram does NOT abort the conjuration of Gaknar, or most other conjured demons. You are now about to witness the manifestation of Gaknar, a Fear Demon. I suggest those of you in front duck a bit so that everybody can see.”
A concerned buzz began at the head table, and Willow could see many of the older students clutching their wands in white knuckled hands. The room almost seemed to shake, and smoke began to rise from the lines.
Then, the voice rang out, her spell ensuring that the whole room heard the voice that cried out: “I am Gaknar! Fear me!”
Students blinked in puzzlement, and someone broke out in nervous laughter.
Again, the tiny voice rang out “Fear me!”
“That’s a fear demon?”
“It’s only four inches tall!”
“Wasn’t Gaknar supposed to be scary?”
“Crookshanks! Come back here!”
Suddenly, a large orange striped cat leapt into view, headed towards the still squeaking demon intently, ears back and tail lashing.
“Fear me! Ahhh!” The tiny figure of Gaknar tried to run away.
With a pounce and a tiny crunch, the orange cat took out the manifest form of Gaknar. Wit his bent tail high in the air, he carried the limp form towards the crowd, dropping it at the feet of his owner, Hermione Granger, who was blinking in amazement.
“That was Gaknar. Demonstration over, have a good day.” Smiling, Willow turned and swept out of the hall, hoping to be gone before she started laughing. It had been amusing when Buffy had squished the tiny demon, but to have him killed by a cat? She was laughing so hard the tears streamed over her cheeks by the time she got back to her rooms.
End Sprinkle with Laughter.