Not The Adventure You’re Looking For
It all started when Hobbes wouldn’t get out of bed.
“Come on, jungle-butt, breakfast already started!” said Calvin, tugging on his friend’s tale. “If I don’t get to eat because of you, I’m not bringing you back anything from the Halloween feast.”
“I’m not coming out until it’s as warm out there as it is in here,” replied Hobbes from beneath the covers. “Go away.”
“I really don’t want to get on Professor McGonagall’s bad side! Just get up!”
“I don’t want to get on any of her sides,” grumbled Hobbes, poking his head out. He furrowed his brow as he looked at Calvin. “Why are you wearing a billboard?”
Calvin grinned and pointed up at the billboard. “Scary, huh?” In large, scarlet letters, it read, ‘YOUR LIFE IS FINITE. EVERY SECOND THAT PASSES BRINGS YOU CLOSER TO THE END. YOU CAN NEVER GET THAT SECOND BACK. DEATH IS COMING FOR YOU. THERE IS NO ESCAPE.’
“You are one weird kid,” Hobbes commented. “Alright, I’ll come, but only to see cat-lady’s reaction to your Halloween billboard.” He stretched and slithered out from under the covers, dropping to the floor, then shook himself. “Brr.”
“Let’s go, let’s go! Get your rear in gear, puddy-tat.”
“Call me that again and you’ll never get to Professor McGonagall’s office,” responded Hobbes, licking himself.
“You can clean yourself after! No coughing up hairballs in the meeting!” Calvin was bouncing with impatience.
“Okay, I’m ready,” Hobbes yawned. He smacked his lips. They headed out. “Do you think she’ll have any tuna?” he asked as the walked through the halls.
“Who knows, maybe there’s a spell to make tuna appear. What’s wrong?” Calvin turned to Hobbes, who had stiffened at the bottom of the stairs, refusing to place a paw upon the first step.
“I am not climbing this thing,” the tiger stated.
“What!? Tiger’s are master climbers, right? You guys climb trees all the time. What’s the problem?”
“Trees don’t shift ten feet to the left every few seconds!”
Calvin sighed. “You have got to be kidding me. I’m totally going to miss breakfast now.”
“Better your stomach suffer than I lose one of my lives.”
“If you really believe you have nine lives, Hobbes, then you shouldn’t have any problem with this.”
The tiger gasped, then drew himself up to his full height. “I beg your pardon! A tiger’s nine lives are not to be thrown away so willy-nilly! We have standards! There are rules, or at least guidelines, of things that are worthy of our lives – climbing a moving staircase doesn’t even make the bottom of the list.”
“So, basically, you’re scared,” Calvin deadpanned.
“I am not scared, I’m just following the rules. You wouldn’t know anything about that,” said Hobbes, crossing his arms and looking away.
“Scaredy-cat, scaredy cat. The big bad tiger is scared of the staaaaaiiiiiiirs, oooo, so scaaaaaarrryyyyyy.” Calvin raised his arms and wiggled his fingers spookily.
“Watch it, buster, or the only scary thing here is going to be the amount of blood on the floor.”
“Ouch, someone’s prickly,” Calvin chuckled. “Da puddy-tat doesn’t wike being cawd a scaiwdy-cat, does he. Hey, no claws!” He exclaimed, jumping out of the way as Hobbes swiped at him. “Come on, this is not called for, I was just teasing!”
“That was just the cinderblock that broke the tiger’s back, pineapple head!” yelled Hobbes, chasing his best friend down the hall.
“Pineapples have green leaves, fuzz-brain!” Calvin sidestepped the leaping tiger and legged it down an adjacent corridor, almost colliding with a suit of armor holding a bronze feather duster. The billboard above his head rebounded off the wall, sending him into a spin.
“Get over here and let me cause you bodily harm!”
“Not a chaAAAAOOOH NO.” Calvin stopped short and Hobbes hit him harm from behind, throwing them both down to the end of the corridor, where they rolled and slammed up against a small window. Calvin’s costume wedged itself between the walls.
“Mh fs ‘s prsd ‘p ‘gnst d’ wndw. Gt ‘ff ‘f mh.”
Hobbes clambered to his feet, allowing Calvin to pull his face away from where it had been pressed against the glass.
“Nice view,” the tiger noted. “A little strange, though – I can’t pick out just what it is, but there’s something not right…” The tiger trailed off, staring thoughtfully out the window.
“The whole world’s upside down, you idiot,” said Calvin, trying to get to stand up without scraping his costumer.
“Ah, that’s what it is! Knew there was something about it.”
“Not again,” Calvin groaned. “Come on, help me look for a part of the stone that’s just holographic. It could be the wall or the floor – maybe the ceiling too, though I’ve never found it there. Or there might be a trick stone you have to push, or something you have to say – I’m not sure if that was coincidental or not.”
“You’ve been here before?” asked Hobbes, still admiring the upside-down view of Hogwarts’ outside.
“Yeah, like four, five times. I end up here whenever I’m not paying attention to where I’m going.” He narrowed his eyes at Hobbes. “Which is your fault this time, bub.”
“Let us out!” the tiger shouted at the hallway.
“Good one. Help me look for the exit.”
“Show us the path to victory!”
“Stop with the phrases that probably don’t do anything and help me look!” Calvin said crossly, feeling along the walls.
“Open caraway! Wait, that doesn’t sound right.”
“Yeah, like that’s gonna work. You’re useless.”
“It’s more like, open, what was it…open sesame?”
“Hobbes, just get- w-w-w-w-o-o-o-o-a-a-a-a-a-h-h-h-h-h!” the corridor had started shaking and rumbling, the stones grinding against each other. Dust rained down from above, and the ground trembled. “W-w-w-w-h-h-a-a-a-t-t h-h-a-a-a-v-v-e-e y-y-y-o-o-o-u-u d-d-o-o-n-n-e-e!?” screamed Calvin, falling onto his back. The entire corridor was shifting and tilting now, causing them to slip away from the window, toward the blank wall at the other end.
“T-t-h-h-h-i-i-s-s-s-s i-i-s-s-s t-t-h-h-e-e-e e-e-e-n-n-n-d-d-!” stuttered Hobbes, trying to claw his way back up with little success.
They slid down the incline, picking up speed as it steepened, approaching the dead end.
Dean looked around the Great Hall. “Where’s Calvin? Shouldn’t he have been back from Professor McGonagall’s office by now?”
“Who knows,” Ron answered around a piece of toast. “He’s probably pasting things to walls or something.”
The unyielding wall of stone loomed.
Calvin opened his mouth in terror, then shut his eyes and cried, “B-b-b-b-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-y-y-a-a-a-a-a-h-h-h-h-h-!-!-!-!-!”
The wall split suddenly, and they were dumped into a nondescript classroom filled with pillows.
“Huh. At least the Misunderstood Hallway of Sometimes Inopportune Yet Completely Unintentional Visits and the Shifty Exit had the good sense not to let us splatter across the floor when we dropped out.”
Hobbes propped himself up. “Why is there a room where the floor is covered by pillows?”
“This is Hogwarts,” Calvin replied with a dry laugh. “There’s probably a room where the floor is covered by tropical beach sand, or geckos, or anything else you can think of.”
The classroom opened up into, peculiarly enough, another classroom. The only unusual thing here was the plethora of offensive words scribbled across the board at the front of the room, and that the chairs and desks seemed to be painted a light purple.
“I wonder what they teach here,” Hobbes mused, walking to the door.
Calvin glanced at the board. “Eh, I know it all already.”
Opening the door revealed a spiral stairway that rose to the left, and, by the looks of it, should definitely have broken through the wall into the classroom they were standing in.
“You’re going to have to take off the billboard,” Hobbes pointed out, eyeing the narrow opening.
“Phooey. I shouldn’t have to sacrifice my costume just to get out of here.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were still on the staircase.
“This,” panted Calvin, “is ridiculous. I hate, stairs, so much, where, is it, taking us.”
Hobbes leaned against the curved wall and laid a hand against his heaving chest. “How long, do you think, it would take, to fall down, this staircase.”
“The better question, is how many, lives would it take.” Calvin coughed a few times, then sat down on the stairs. “Magical, transforming castles. The perfect place to house a school for children,” he said wryly.
“Do we keep climbing, or head back down?”
“Keep climbing. I didn’t see any other ways out of that classroom.”
“Don’t tell me Calvin’s started skipping Charms too,” Hermione said, glancing at her watch.
“I wonder where he’s gotten to now,” Ron said, heading to his seat at the back of the classroom. “He was only at McGonagall’s office, he can’t be too far away.”
“IT NEVER ENDS.” Calvin collapsed onto the stairs, breathing heavily.
“Keep, going, I think, I see, a light,” gasped Hobbes, reaching slowly for the next step.
“Why, is the light, blue.”
“Who, even cares, anymore.”
“He’s going to miss both morning classes if he doesn’t show up soon.”
“I bet you he decided to ‘go on an adventure’ like last week,” muttered Ron. “Probably having loads of fun while we’re stuck in class.”
“Water, water,” Calvin croaked, crawling forward.
“Tuna, tuna,” breathed Hobbes almost inaudibly, pulling himself across the floor.
“I’ve never known him to miss lunch,” said Harry. “Must be some adventure.”
“He could’ve invited us,” Ron replied grumpily, stuffing a large piece of meatloaf into his mouth. “Rather rude of him, I think.”
“I think we have to jump,” Calvin said, gulping. The hole before them reached down into darkness. The door behind them didn’t have a handle.
“I’m not jumping down there!”
“Fine, stay here. WEEEEEEeeeeeee…”
“I think we should go look for him.”
“He’ll be fine, Hermione. What’s the worst that could happen?”
“He could be bleeding out in a hallway somewhere and we wouldn’t know!”
Ron sighed. “This is a school, he’s not going to die wandering the halls. Go back to complaining about my handwriting, that was more productive.”
“Do you think we’ve missed lunch?” asked Calvin, studying the seven-way intersection.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ve missed next month.”
“Okay, heads we go back, tails we do eeny-meeny on the hallways in front of us. Call it in the air.”
“Man, where’s Calvin with an incomprehensible insult when you need him,” Harry said angrily, watching Malfoy walk away with his ever-present group of Slytherin admirers.
“He could be dying, maybe,” inserted Hermione. “Injured and unable to move.”
“He’s fine, Hermione! The teachers would know, Dumbledore would know if someone was dying! I’m not going to miss the feast looking for him just because you’re a chronic worrier.”
“I am not a chronic worrier, Ron!”
“Are we even in Hogwarts anymore?” said Hobbes, brushing aside a curtain of hanging vines.
“Safari Al stomps through the jungle, searching for signs of civilization!” said Calvin, kicking undergrowth out of his way. “If only he’d brought some supplies, the future wouldn’t look so dim.”
“The future’s not the only thing that’s dim. I can barely see anything.”
“He spies a trapdoor hidden beneath a carpet of moss! Is this what he’s been looking for? Is this…the way out?”
They climbed down the ladder under the trapdoor, and found themselves in a damp, musty hallway, the stones almost black.
“This is hardly any better,” Hobbes commented.
“At least it’s more familiar than that freaky jungle.”
“Yeah, who knew toucans were so cruel to their prey.”
“I think this hallway slopes up at the end there.”
“What?” said Hobbes wryly. “No moving staircase? No tunnel of fear? No zip line across lava or monkey bars over a pit of spikes?”
Calvin shrugged. “Just looks like a slope to me. Though it doesn’t seem to be getting any closer…”
Professor Quirrel galloped into the Great Hall, arms straight out behind him. His body looked like it was practically being ripped in half. He only a got a few steps past the beginnings of the house tables before his left leg planted itself firmly in place – his right leg continued forward, almost throwing him to the ground.
He opened his mouth and gargled loudly for a second, then started walking backwards out of the Great Hall. “Troll!” he yelled, spasming. “In the dungeons!” Then he whirled around with haste and knocked himself out on the doorpost. As he crumpled to the floor, the Great Hall filled with noise and movement.
BANG! BANG! Purple fireworks exploded from the end of Dumbledore’s wand, and everyone fell silent.
The bearded headmaster was standing straighter than Harry had ever seen. “Everyone, please follow your House Prefects to your dormitories. Stay together!”
“Man, Quirrel looked like he was about to have a seizure,” Ron said, following as Gryffindor gathered around Percy, who was calling out to the first-years.
“You would too, if you ran into a troll in the dungeons,” Harry replied.
“Calvin,” said Hermione, eyes widening.
Calvin hit the ground amidst a sea of rubble. “NOW THIS IS JUST GETTING RIDICULOUS, HOGWARTS!” He coughed as particles of crushed stone invaded his windpipe.
A large, shapeless silhouette appeared in the cloud of dust that spanned the corridor. “RAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWGGGGGRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!” The bone-crushing roar was one of utter madness, deep anger and unbridled fury, and it shook Calvin like a paper airplane in a hurricane.
“Holyjalapenosthatthingisgoingtokillmeeeeeeeeee!” Calvin struggled to his feet, hard as it was to keep his footing when the floor was covered with pieces of the wall. “Hobbes, RUN!” He couldn’t see his friend, but Hobbes’ tiger instincts should have had him out of there as soon at the whatever-it-was had burst into the hallway.
The dust was starting to settle, and even though he still couldn’t make out what the creature was, Calvin could tell that it was shuffling steadily closer. A sound like the air conditioning of his house switching on and off repeatedly caused the dust to stir.
It’s sniffing for me! Did I take a shower recently? I wonder what I smell like. Calvin stepped carefully around a block of stone the size of Hagrid’s head, making his way back down the hallway, where he and Hobbes had been coming from. The mountainous creature was coming into sight as the air cleared, and Calvin froze as he finally saw it clearly.
At least fifteen feet tall, its skin looked like the side of a volcano, rough and gray. It was thicker than even the largest tree Calvin had ever seen, and its head was squat and round, squashed in between its shoulders without the need for a neck. Its freakishly long arms almost brushed the floor, and one of the hands held a massive piece of wood, like a supersized beaters club. It grunted and kicked out with flat, horned feet, scattering a pile of stone. Any pieces still beneath it as its foot met the floor were ground into powder.
Calvin broke into a run, but this only served to catch the monster’s attention. He felt its footfall through the stones under his sneakers as he rounded the corner, searching for the ladder back to the trapdoor in the jungle. I’ll take carnivorous toucans over getting smashed to bits by a…what is it, a giant? A troll?
The behemoth bellowed again, and Calvin’s heart almost stopped. Wait, giants speak actual words, don’t they. So definitely a troll. Where’s the ladder!?
The hallway was empty of any and all ladders, so Calvin dashed through the nearest door. The troll crashed through it as he reached the furthest wall of the room he’d entered, which thankfully led out into another hallway.
This is crazy, why does Hogwarts have trolls in the corridors! AHH, no fair, he has a weapon! That was close, I need to get more distance between us – it’s not you, Mr. Troll, it’s- okay, yeah, it’s you, and your apparent need to squish me like an ant. Stairs, good, the troll should have a harder time with thoOOOOOOOOOOOse wow, he is a lot faster than he looks. Left or right? Oh, another staircase down there, perfect. How is he still follo- “AHHHHHHHHH!”
The floor in front of Calvin opened up like a great stone whale surfacing to try and devour him. He leapt to the side of the hall, where some floor still remained, his lungs expanding and collapsing at an alarming rate. Need, breathe, air, breathe, aaaaah! The troll’s club shot through the hole, hitting the ceiling with a thunderous crash before falling back through the opening in the floor. The ceiling began to crumble, raining small pieces of stone.
Calvin couldn’t get to the next staircase now, as the gap in the floor extended to the walls not ten feet from him. He stumbled to the right, down the part of the hall that was still intact. The troll swung and Calvin was forced to throw himself back to avoid becoming paste, as the giant club destroyed the hallway floor in that direction as well.
Can’t go left. Can’t go right. Wish me happy landin’, Hogwarts, all that’s left to do is “JUUUUUUUUMP!” yelled Calvin, jumping into the hole the troll had made. His breath was driven right out of his body as his stomach collided with the troll’s shoulder and he bounced down the creature’s arm to the thickly torn, yet still cushy, carpet. He scrambled out of the way while wheezing, as the troll lumbered forward, apparently not having felt the miniscule human land on it. It roared in frustration and thrashed the wall with its club.
Sprinting down the hall away from the violent creature, Calvin wasn’t paying much heed to what was in front of him. The crash of the suit of armor he tripped over broke him out of his daze. It also alerted the troll, which turned surprisingly quickly for something so large, catching sight of Calvin as he tripped around the corner. It roared and gave chase.
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME. THIS ISN’T EVEN FUNNY ANY MORE. HOGWARTS, STOP. JUST STOP IT.
“Did you guys hear that?” asked Harry, slowing down.
“I think I felt that,” said Ron.
“It was from right below us!” Hermione started running, heading for the nearest staircase down.
“Not the dungeons,” Ron complained, following.
At the bottom, they were greeted by the sight of a hallway almost completely blocked up by debris.
“What happened here, the apocalypse?”
Harry whistled. “Looks like the troll went on a rampage.”
The followed the destruction down a string of similarly ruined hallways, sometimes having to spend a few minutes climbing over piles of broken stone.
A high-pitched scream echoed around them.
“That was definitely Calvin,” Ron said, glancing around.
“I couldn’t tell where it was coming from, could you?” asked Hermione, pulling out her wand. Harry and Ron shook their heads. “Get out your wands. We should have had them out in the first place, I can’t believe how stupid I am.”
“I wouldn’t believe it if you told me,” replied the redhead. “So, which way?”
The ceiling rumbled, and loose dust settled on their robes. Above them, they heard the enraged shout of a troll.
“STOP FOLLOWING ME!” screamed Calvin, frantically diving out of the way of the mammoth club.
“GRAAAAAWWWWWWW,” said the troll.
“GRAW YOURSELF, YOU BIG BULLY!”
The troll stomped forward, and Calvin breathlessly rounded the next corner, coming out into a wide open cavern of moving stairs, where he could see down and up to the other floors. He slid on the smooth flagstones, and got his feet under him just in time to avoid being flattened by another swing of the troll’s club.
He sprinted towards a set of stairs to the lower floors. As he approached, three familiar faces appeared, climbing hurriedly up to the top.
“INITIATE EVASIVE MANEUVERS!” a crazed Calvin yelled at the top of his lungs, launching himself over their heads. He tumbled down the staircase and slammed into the railing at the bottom. His vision went fuzzy for what seemed like only a moment, but when he got to his feet he could see Harry, Ron, and Hermione were almost at the bottom as well.
“Whatdowedowhatdowedo!?” cried Ron, reaching the landing and following Calvin down the connecting hallway.
“I didn’t plan any further than finding him!” screamed Hermione.
“Hi Harry!” Calvin called over his shoulder before coughing loudly.
The stairs collapsed behind them as the troll landed in the middle, before making another leap into the hallway.
“Left, go left!” Hermione told them, gasping. They went left.
“We’re back in the dungeons!” complained Ron. “I hate the dungeons!”
“Shut up and run for your life!” Harry shouted at him.
“Did, you guys, save me, any, food!” wheezed Calvin, ducking so as to not be decapitated by a flying piece of wall. The troll was making great use of his club.
“No, just your life!” answered Hermione shrilly, leading them around a tight bend and behind a washed-out tapestry. “Quiet.”
They held their breaths as the troll stampeded past the turn-off, continuing along the larger hallway.
“I think we lost him,” Ron said.
They waited for another minute or so until Hermione deemed it was safe to talk.
“Troll’s have an excellent sense of hearing,” she explained as they ducked out from behind the tapestry. “Are you all right?” she asked everyone.
“I think I’m in shock, but otherwise, yeah.” Ron wiggled his fingers. “I’m good.”
“Same here,” breathed Harry.
“I need, to take, a breather, for, the next, ten, years,” Calvin said hoarsely, hand around his throat. “But I’m not, dead, as far, as I, can tell.” He coughed painfully, doubling over. “I haven’t, ran this much, since ever, in ever, for ever. Ever.” He coughed again, and didn’t stop for almost twenty seconds. “Ugh, pieces, of my lungs, are stuck, in my windpipe.”
“Lovely,” said Hermione. “We need to get you to the Hospital Wing.”
They’d gone perhaps thirty feet when the wall in front of them disappeared, replaced by flying debris and a raging troll. They screamed in unison and turned, hastily changing direction. Hermione, however, had tripped over her robes and was sprawled on the floor, staring up in pure fear. The troll roared in defiance and raised its club.
“WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA!” cried three first-year wizards simultaneously. If synchronized swish-and-flick-ing were an Olympic sport, gold would have been theirs. If they were performing the spell in said Olympics.
The troll’s gigantic hand smashed the floor a club’s-length from Hermione. It raised its empty hand to eye-level and grunted in surprised confusion.
“Drop the club on its head!” suggested Ron. They quickly Hovered the club over the brute’s head as Hermione scrambled to their side, and Ron counted out loud: “One, two, three!” The club dropped with a hollow thunk onto the troll’s skull. The troll screamed in outrage. The Gryffindors ran.
“Why did we give it back the club!”
“It’s okay, I think it was too angry to pick it up again before charging us!”
“Gee, that’s the best bloody news I’ve heard all day!”
“You know, Albus,” Professor McGonagall said conversationally. “We should really look into having some sort of magical map of Hogwarts made. So that we can find intruders easily. Or even students.”
“It could identify each individual with their name below a set of footprints showing where they’re heading!” squeaked Professor Flitwick. “That would be helpful in uncovering imposters, as well.”
“Oh no, definitely not,” said the Headmaster, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorcerer, Chief Warlock, and Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards. “Why, just think of the trouble it could cause if it fell into the hands of a pair of students!”
“Why a pair of students?” asked Professor McGonagall curiously.
“Oh, I’m feeling a disturbance in the dungeons – we’d better go check that out immediately!”
“This is the staircase we were at before!” moaned Ron, looking over the edge of the landing at the steep drop below them. “The one the troll broke!”
“Wait, where is the troll?” asked Harry. “Did we lose him again?”
“No,” Hermione gulped, staring down the way they’d come. “He just went back for his club.”
This can’t be happening, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING! WE’RE IN A SCHOOL, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. Calvin’s thoughts were racing as the troll trudged towards them, building up momentum. It was holding the club above its head, and was wearing an ugly expression of pure hatred on its already ugly face. It was like a whole party of ugly.
“Joint Hovering Charm!” Harry yelled. They raised their wands. Calvin’s thoughts chased each other in a mobius strip of panic.
This won’t help, we’re still trapped and the troll’s still a troll without his club!
The troll skidded to a stop as his club was yanked out of his grip. He narrowed his dull black eyes and snorted. Calvin’s thoughts collectively flicked a switch, and a mental light bulb blinked into existence.
“Guys, get ready to jump out of the way! Hermione, you know the Summoning Charm too, right?” he asked the trembling witch.
“Calvin, that’s a fourth-year spell!” she responded. Her hand was shaking, and her eyes were glued to the troll, who had decided to forget about his club and was stomping slowly yet determinately towards them. The hallway was an unusually long one, but he’d get to them eventually, and they had nowhere to run.
“Do you know it or not!?”
“Yes I know it!” Hermione screeched. “But not very well!”
“When I say ‘now,’ cast the Summoning Charm on the troll’s club!” He looked at her. “Get it?”
She nodded shakily. “Got it.”
“Good. Wait until it’s almost on top of us.” Calvin adjusted his grip on his wand and took a deep breath, trying to calm himself.
“Whatever your plan is, do it now!” screamed Ron.
“Ron, shut up.”
“Why would you wait, don’t wait, do it before-”
“Ron if you don’t shut up I am going to haunt you every night for the rest of the year and whisper insane anecdotes about my childhood to you as you try to fall asleep.”
Ron snapped his mouth shut so hard they heard his teeth click together.
“Alright, Hermione, get ready,” Calvin said, wishing his heart would stop flopping desperately around in his chest like a fish out of water. “When we cast the spell, get out of the way as fast as you can!” he told them.
The troll started to sort of shuffle-jog, leaning forward ever so slightly. It grunted continuously as it made its way ever closer to the four first-years.
“I know,” answered Hermione somewhat angrily. Calvin didn’t hear her. All he could hear was the blood pounding in his ears.
“We’re gonna die,” whispered Ron mutely.
“Not yet!” Calvin said again.
It wasn’t far now, maybe thirty feet.
“I said I was ready!”
They leapt to the side, and the troll skidded to a stop mere feet from the edge of the landing, turning his head. That was when the grizzly-bear-sized club collided with its spine at high speeds. Calvin couldn’t be sure, but he thought he heard a distinct crunch before the troll was flung over the edge, roaring piteously.
It took ten long seconds before the sound of the creature’s final impact reached them. None of them leaned over to get a better look. None of them moved. None of them wished each other a job well done. They just sat there, pressed against the wall, breathing heavily. Some of them might have been crying.
It was in this exact position that the teachers found them minutes, hours, or days later. Calvin’s sense of time had died with the troll. And so, apparently, had their voices. They were silently – on their part, at least – led away to the Hospital wing, where a concerned Madam Pomfrey efficiently checked them over before ordering the hovering teachers ‘out of her workspace.’
That night, not one of them had an easy time falling asleep. The whispered to each other every so often, but for the most part they just rested, and thought, and experienced the wonderful sensation of not being dead.
“So,” Harry asked Calvin softly at around two in the morning. They were all still very much awake. “How was your meeting with Professor McGonagall?”
Calvin started laughing. It was a sad laugh, a desperate laugh, and it brought tears to his eyes. It was a contagious laugh as well, because before long they were all laughing, all crying, all wheezing hysterically.
When they’d run out of breath and laughter and tears – when they’d run out of emotion – the Hospital Wing lay quiet once again. Soon after, the night claimed their thoughts, and they were asleep.
Calvin woke and fell back asleep many times before dawn touched the horizon, though he wasn’t aware enough to be certain that it was the first dawn. He lay awake in the white bed, staring at the ceiling. He sat up a bit and looked around. He looked around at the three people sleeping in the three other white beds. He looked at each of them in turn, assuring himself that they were there, that they were okay. Then he lay back down, and felt sleep call to him once more.
His thoughts were fuzzy, but a nice, safe kind of fuzzy. The kind of fuzzy that made him feel warm. The thoughts floated to the top of his consciousness, and he heard them speak inside his head.
So this is what it’s like to have friends.
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