Dan dumps his bag next to the table. ‘So, what’re we doing?’
Tina jumps, evidently not having noticed him approach, and yanks the half-chewed lock of purple hair out of her mouth. ‘Homework.’
Dan leans over the table, intrigued. Tina’s homework is covered with symbols and scratch-outs, little arrows trailing from one note to another and emphatic question marks. Looks way more interesting than algebra.
Even more interesting is what Chip is doing. The tiny lizard stands on its hind legs to dip a claw in Tina’s inkwell, then scampers back to its own much smaller square of paper on three legs, careful not to step on its inky claw. It examines its work carefully before daintily adding another few scratches of ink to the completely illegible mess.
Dan peers closer. Frowns. ‘And…what are you doing?’
Chip glances up. ‘Also homework.’
Chip’s homework looks…well, a bit like a kid’s drawing of a pile of sticks, though it’s adding more and more lines with upmost care and precision. Tina watches it fondly. ‘Between you ‘n’ me,’ she says, ‘lizards don’t have a written alphabet, so I’m fairly sure it’s writing nonsense. But it seems to have fun doing homework with me, and this beats having claw prints all over my essay on Marvello’s theory of magical drainage.’
‘That’s an essay?’ If the thing she’s working on now is an essay, Dan has definitely forgotten how to read in the last hour.
Tina nudges him, smirking. ‘This is a rough draft for a personalised transfiguration spell.’ She stretches, cracking her back. ‘Ahhh. Very rough, mind you. Chip, how long have we been at it?’
‘Forever.’ Chip dabs a dot onto its paper thoughtfully. ‘Maybe forever and a half.’
Dan looks at her.
‘Well, you heard,’ she shrugs. ‘Forever and a half.’
Dan frowns. ‘Your hearing okay?’
‘Yeah, it’s nice and quiet out here, and you speak clearly. Congrats on not being a mumbler.’
Dan glances around. There’s only a few small groups scattered around the Quad lawn, huddled over spellbooks or stretched out and dozing in the bright sunshine.
He turns back to her. ‘So, uh…is a personalised transfiguration spell one to transfigure you, personally, or…?’
‘No, it’s just one for me to use, myself.’ She beams, taps the glass flask beside her spellbook. ‘I’m trying to turn vodka into water.’
Dan blinks, nonplussed. ‘And that’s useful…how, exactly?’
Her eyes twinkle. ‘Always useful when you’re picked as chaperone on nights out. Especially after the Rowanoak-Durslang quarter-final last week.’ She grimaces. ‘Total carnage.’
Dan winces in sympathy. ‘That bad, was it?’
Tina rolls her eyes. ‘Had to take three Fifth-Years up to the infirmary for alcohol poisoning. Not fun.’
Dan pats her shoulder, grinning. ‘Perks of being House Prefect, am I right?’
Tina digs him in the ribs. ‘Shush.’ She turns back to the spellbook. ‘Anyway, you’ve prepped for Caterpole’s charms test on Friday?’
She gives him a stern look. ‘C’mon, I’m not letting you copy my answers again, that’ll be the third time this term.’
Dan raises his palms in surrender. ‘Hey, old Catty’s pushing seventy, she’ll never know. Besides, I’m only using your vastly superior memory. Y’know you’re the best charms witch in our year, right?’
Tina blushes, then rakes a hand through her hair. ‘Thanks. All the theory makes sense, I just suck at making it happen in real life.’
‘Don’t suck,’ Chip comments, punctuating this by slapping its claw on the paper. Ink peppers its homework in spattered droplets, and it looks pleased with the result. Then it climbs onto Tina’s shoulder, leaving black smudges on her sleeve, and glares at Dan. ‘If you even think of copying her answers, I’ll make it my personal mission to leave two dozen dead flies on your bedside table.’
‘For a whole week.’
‘Okay, okay!’ Dan grumbles. ‘Jeez, the hassle I get from a mini lizard-‘
They all jump. Chip skitters onto Dan’s arm, scales flared. A gaggle of students are skipping off towards the library, darting their wands at each other. The distant crackle of jinxes, a shower of green and gold sparks, the occasional whooping yelp.
Freshers. Typical. Chip perches on Dan’s fist to glare after them, and even through he’s only four inches tall Dan can feel the disapproval radiating off him like a roaring bonfire. ‘Wankers,’ Chip hisses.
‘Language, Chip,’ Tina soothes. ‘Now, quiet everyone. Suzy Wallace recommended this book, and she aced her finals last year! Okay…’ She clears her throat, taps the flask. ‘Vocatis mutatum…aguamenti!’
The flask explodes, showering the table in a glittering spray of icy droplets. Dan coughs and splutters, soaked to the skin. He squints blearily at Tina, similarly drenched.
She rifles through to the index, peers closer, then groans. ‘A bloody typo! Mutatis, not mutatum! It froze the alcohol, didn’t vaporise it! Just wait ’til I get my hands on Suzy…’
She looks down at Chip, who’s busy rolling itself dry in the grass, and carefully tucks her wand away in her sodden robes. ‘Actually, first things first.’
Chip understands just a moment too late. As it launches itself to freedom, Tina’s hands clamp around it.
‘No wash! No wash!’ the lizard shrieks from within her grip.
‘C’mon, Dan,’ she smiles sweetly, marching towards Wolfrum House and the Prefects’ Bathroom within. ‘Bath time, you two!’