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Chapter 4: April 1993
I yawned, twisting my neck to survey Delphine in the desk to my right. She was dependably asleep, her chin propped in one hand and her Charms textbook settled in front of her face as a barrier. Her efforts at discretion failed, however, since she was snoring softly and a bit of drool was dribbling from her twitching mouth. A fly looped twice around her head, landing on a yellow ribbon that tied one of her pigtails. I watched it trot across her hair, over her cheek…aiming right toward her open mouth.
“Huh? What?” Delphine bolted upright, bloodshot eyes snapping open. She blinked and rubbed them behind her glasses, and finally seemed to realize where she was. Her hands shielded a sheet of parchment that she had placed there on the pretense of taking notes; it was littered with elaborate hearts and the words Gilderoy Lockhart, as well as Harry James Potter a few times. I wondered how difficult the charm to animate her doodles would be. ‘You are invited to the wedding of Harry and Delphine Potter’ would look terrific on a little banner that disappeared and reappeared. “What?” she repeated blearily.
“You were asleep.”
She shifted her book just a centimeter to the side to block Professor Flitwick from view, and closed her eyes again. I turned my attentions back to the window where I had been gazing before, allowing Flitwick’s cheerful drone to pass over my head like the warm breeze outside.
It was nothing short of amazing that Delphine could fall asleep in the middle of class, what with her incessant worries that she would be the next victim from the attacks. There were rumors about a secret chamber in the school, and that one of the students was running around wearing a mask of the Muggle prime minister, cursing people into oblivion. After Justin Finch-Fletchley (someone Delphine had been prone to admiring in the common room every evening) was attacked, she became convinced (and more than a little paranoid) that the “masked lunatic” would come back for someone else from our House.
“It’s only a matter of time,” she had informed me wisely. “And if you want my opinion, it’s that friend of Harry’s with the big teeth. Everyone knows she’s clever enough to get away with it.”
I sighed again, wishing we could have a lesson outside in the sun like we had been nagging him about for ages. Flitwick always said, “Perhaps next lesson,” but it never materialized. I was beginning to suspect that we would never be able to convince him, as he always skirted around the topic with, “It’s a touch too hot out,” or, “It’s just a touch too cold. I think we’re better off in here.”
I could just imagine practicing Charms by the Black Lake, stretching out on the grass. It would be so comfortable and sunny, even if the weather was still slightly too cool…
I sprang to my senses, startled. Cho Chang was hanging halfway across the aisle, tapping my arm with her quill.
“There was a fly on your mouth,” she whispered loudly.
I smacked at my face with both hands, and she struggled not to laugh. “It’s already gone.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, burying my face in the cool surface of my desk. I could see tiny grooves of years and years of quills scribbling away over that desk, leaving indentations of words. In the top left-hand corner, I could clearly make out my own name – Hollis Wright – living proof that I had suffered through horrendous amounts of homework. Several inches down, there was the incantation for the Imperturbable Charm layered over decades of various other scratchings. My grandmother very well could have contributed to some of it, and her grandfather before her.
We Wrights were dwindling in our magical bloodline, as being born magical nearly always skipped a generation with us. It stung our pride a bit to not have one of those popular families blooming with witches and wizards, and it didn’t help that we always ended up in Hufflepuff. It made us seem weaker, like Wright magic was dying out. I’d been told before that it was our own fault for being such a mass of blood-traitors.
“I’m sure you can notice the effects,” Flitwick was saying. “Instead of burning to death, it would feel more like a balmy, windy sensation. Like a day at the beach.” He grinned broadly at his audience, looking like he would rather enjoy the effects of a Flame-Freezing Charm himself.
He was right, too. A bright orange fire had been conjured in thin air, levitating over a deep pewter cauldron. Flitwick trained his wand on the mass, even though it wasn’t going anywhere, and we all watched the flames ripple and lick the air. It wasn’t hot, really…it was nice. Almost as nice as dozing on the Great Lawn instead of being cooped up in a stuffy classroom.
The room wavered slightly, growing quiet. It was easy to imagine that I was curled up in an armchair in my cozy common room, watching one of the bright yellow lamps bobble and sway on the ceiling…
There was something cold on my skin.
It was the first thing I registered, before I even opened my eyes. I became aware of a warm hand resting on my arm, and something pointy running alongside it in circular motions, tickling me. I opened up one eye first, and then the other.
There was someone sitting next to me at my desk, their chair shoved right up beside mine. The shivering tip of a quill looped up and down my arm, and with a feeling of deep dread I connected the quill to the hand of a familiar redhead.
Fred Weasley was drawing on me.
He looked like he was pretty into it, too. His eyes were narrowed in concentration, his nose scrunched up slightly. It would have been a fascinating character study, like watching a renowned artist dabble in paints, if it hadn’t been for the fact that his canvas was my skin. “Oh, hell,” I groaned, lifting my head up to inspect the damage. A wiry old man with a long beard was dancing along my arm, brandishing his wand and smiling toothily.
Fred paused to look up at me through his eyelashes, flashing a smile. “Have a nice little nap?”
“It was lovely,” I answered with a yawn, stretching out my arms. There was a crick in my neck, and my back was stiff from hunching over. I suspected that someone had put something in my mouth, because my tongue tasted like pepper. “How many classes did I sleep through?”
“Just this one, and you’re only about thirty minutes late. I hope you aren’t supposed to be in Transfiguration, or McGonagall’s going to hand you over to the centaurs to use as target practice.”
“I’m missing my free period, actually,” I grumbled. He looked a bit crestfallen at this, as though he’d hoped to see Professor McGonagall storm into Flitwick’s classroom at any moment, threatening to expel me.
I glanced up at the minuscule wizard, who was poking his head over the top of a desk in the back of the room and assisting two students with practicing Cheering Charms. “Ooh, really? Cheering Charms?” I perked up, interested. “Fourth years get all the good ones.” I rubbed at a welt on my cheek from where I’d fallen asleep on top of my wand. “I can’t believe Delphine didn’t wake me up. That troll. Tomorrow she’s getting a mouthful of flies and I’m not saying anything. And Flitwick, too!” I lifted a hand to my mussed-up hair. “Thirty minutes! Blimey.”
“Flitwick didn’t wake you up because of what day it is. No one woke you up because of what day it is.”
“What day is it?”
“My birthday, now that you mention it. What did you get me?” I tried to scoff, but my throat was on the hoarse side and it sounded more like a pig snorting. “But besides that, it’s April first. We decided to let you kip for a while right here as a joke. And of course, I wasn’t going to wake you up, even though you were sitting in my seat. At my desk. Where I normally am productive and do much waving-of-the-wand.”
“Ahh, Miss Wright!” Flitwick chirped. “Glad to see that you enjoyed Charms enough to stick around for a lesson with fourth years.” He turned back to the students he was mentoring and Fred let out a snigger.
I mustered up a decent glare. “My free period! I could have been checking on Imogen. I’ll bet she needs taken for a walk, the poor thing…” I looked all around. A few Gryffindors and even a couple Slytherins were watching my reaction on tenterhooks. “Bah.”
“Not so smug now, are we?” Fred relaxed in his chair, one of the corners of his mouth lifting in a self-satisfied grin. “That’ll teach you to nick my wand.”
“Nick your wand? What’re you on about?”
I stared at him.
He stared back.
A particular memory clicked into place and I burst into laughter. “Are you kidding?” I rasped. “You can’t be serious. That was – Merlin, that was last year! You’re still wound up about that? Upon my word, Weasley, you are a petty little man.”
“I never forget when I have been wronged.” Fred smiled, eyes flashing. He looked more devious than usual, what with the sunlight pouring through a cracked window from behind him enveloping his hair and making it gleam like actual fire. “Payback. Now don’t rub your arm on anything before that dries or it will mess it all up.”
I lifted up my arm and examined the ink art again. “That’s not too bad, actually.”
“I think it’s my best work. Hold still for a second.” I froze so that he could apply the finishing touches on Dumbledore’s hat, and we both leaned back to admire it.
“It needs a caption,” he mused. He held up one hand to blindfold my eyes, and with his other, he dipped his quill into a peculiar little bottle of ink I hadn’t noticed before and began to scrawl. His hand was warm and I could smell something like cedar lingering there. It gave me visions of the Weasley twins untangling their way through the Forbidden Forest – which they were clearly not allowed in but obviously went to, anyway – and I found myself smiling. I, too, snuck out to the Forbidden Forest at least twice a week. Granted, I was usually with Hagrid, but still…
“All right,” Fred told me merrily. “Now you’re free to enjoy what’s left of your free period.” His hand fell away from my eyes and his face was close to mine, alight with mischief.
My left arm said ‘FRED IS LOVELY’ underneath a moving doodle of Albus Dumbledore flexing his biceps for an entire month.
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