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An Inauspicious Start
“Do you think seventh years can petition to switch houses?” I asked aloud, looking down at my schedule in dismay. The rest of the world blurred, until all I could see was three words written in emerald ink, spelling out my doom. All around me, I could hear similar complaints as students bemoaned the new school year.
Rose lifted up her head from the list of her own classes, grinning slightly. “Do you have double potions with Noble?”
I nodded dismally. “Yes, and if I kill myself this year then that’s why.”
“It won’t be that bad, Laura,” Rose promised, neatly folding up the parchment and slipping it into her bag. Knowing her, she’d already memorized the schedule.
“That’s because you’re good at potions,” I moaned. “At least when Slughorn was teaching, he would ignore some of my ineptitude, but he had to go and retire.” The old man’s need for bribery might have been hard to tolerate, but I would have given him a house of crystallized pineapple if he could help me pass the potions NEWT.
Rose snorted and took a piece of toast off her plate. It was heaped with jam and butter that looked in danger of falling off the bread. “He was over a hundred. Even if he was genius at potions, his vision was going. No one mixes up unicorn horn and lacewings unless they’re blind.”
“But Noble?” I whinged at the choice of replacement. “It would be bad enough if we didn’t have her class with the Gryffindors.”
“I don’t mind them,” Rose said, absently eating her toast. I watched with fascination, because somehow, she wasn’t covered in jam yet. “It’s just Albus I can’t stand.”
I had to agree. Al Potter was without a doubt the most infuriating boy in seventh year. It didn’t matter that his father was famous, or that he was Rose’s cousin, that just made it worse because all the professors tolerated his madness. He also happened to be intelligent, so we had too many classes together.
“Why did Noble have to transfer?” I asked bleakly. “Why couldn’t she have stuck with Transfiguration? At least I’m good at that. At least she didn’t have that many reasons to humiliate me then...” I trailed off, not willing to continue as I contemplated how unbearable potions would be. Professor Viviane Noble was the most multitalented women I’d ever met. Not only was she qualified to teach four subjects at Hogwarts and had the highest percentage students passing the NEWTs since McGonagall but she had her own line of robes at Madame Malkins. And she hated me. She took every chance possible to humiliate me and remind me of my own ineptitude compared to her academic and social perfection.
“Enough,” Rose stood up, having finally finished the precarious piece of toast. “Switching houses won’t keep you out of Noble’s class. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself and come to class. I want to get there early so I can talk to Professor Callisto about the summer assignment. I read one of Mum’s old books and it seems to contradict what Newton says about prime numbers.”
It was at times like these when I wished that I wasn’t best friends with Hermione Weasley’s daughter. I may have been a Ravenclaw, but I had to cringe at Rose’s level of devotion to school. If I didn’t know that her family had vacationed in France with the Potters over the summer, I would have guessed that she had spent the summer reading all this year’s textbooks.
But, since I was her friend, and I had a fair amount of insanity of my own, I picked up my bag, heavy with books, and hurried after her, following her bushy red hair through the sea of students.
Arithmancy with Callisto was decent. Despite our early arrival to class, it seemed like the shortest one of the day. I was fond of the small, unassuming Professor, who never talked down to our tiny NEWT class. She, thankfully, spared us the lecture of how important this year was to our future, but she did assign a twenty inch essay without so much as a bat of an eye.
After Arithmancy, things only got worse. In Charms, the lecture we received about the difficulty of the class made me think twice about signing up for it. I had done decently on the OWL, but it was obvious that NEWT Charms was much more difficult. To get a high mark would require an obscene amount of studying and practicing. Joy.
Though I had expected it, Potions was by far the worst. Professor Noble didn’t let us sit at first, keeping us standing along the damp stone walls as she called role and assigned partners to the pewter cauldrons arranged around the room.
Even in the Dungeons, the Slytherin Head of House looked pretty. While the greenish light made me look seasick, it somehow flattered her blonde hair and tanned skin. That was another thing I hated about Noble: the boys all drooled after her. I had seen Lorcan Scamander turn his brother Lysander, instead of the intended pincushion, into a hedgehog once because he was so busy staring at Noble. It was disgusting.
“Burke, Laura,” the professor called in her high voice—no doubt perfectly pitched for singing—and gave me a cruel smile.
“Here,” I said quietly. I had meant to speak louder but the word caught in my throat, which had grown dry from the harsh smell of bile that came from some flasks in the corner.
Noble glanced around in mock confusion. “Did Miss Burke decide to drop potions?” she asked innocently, despite having smiled at me a moment before.
“I’m here!” I shouted, this time too loud. My voice echoed off the cavernous walls, and sounded harsh in my ears. Compared to Noble’s angelic voice, I sounded like a shrieking Banshee with a head cold.
“Well then Miss Burke, why don’t you take that seat near the front. Then you won’t feel compelled to yell everything across the room when you wish to talk to me.” Giggles ran through the class and I felt myself blushing in fury. Already any fleeting hopes that she was going to take this year as a fresh start between us vanished.
I was, however, determined not to show her how furious I was, so I gritted my teeth to prevent a retort and stalked to the seat. Not only was it farthest from the storerooms, but it was also near enough to Noble that she could taunt my every mistake without even leaving her desk.
Noble continued down the list of students, pausing to humiliate a few others as well. I had thought that my presence would spare the others of her wrath but the Slytherin professor had a particular dislike for Gryffindors. In fact, she seemed to be trying to make the whole class as miserable as possible, placing friends far apart and enemies close together. I wondered if she was trying to instigate some sort of rebellion when she placed two of Dominique Weasley’s ex-boyfriends together.
As the number of students standing against the cold, stone walls decreased, I felt dread in the pit of my stomach. I was sure that I would be paired with Al Potter. He might have been Rose’s cousin, but all he shared with her were a few manic tendencies. He wasn’t quite attractive, but his heritage and his charisma made up for that. He and his mates fancied themselves the next generation of Marauders; the New Marauders, they called themselves. Such a creative name. And they had set out to become the most conspicuous set of troublemakers at Hogwarts since Fred and George Weasley. The thing was it was really only attention they sought. Their few pranks had been childish and simple to plan. I rather thought that the only reason they bothered with such nonsense was so that they had a reputation.
“Rao, Neel,” Noble called, and I jumped in my seat, banging my knee painfully against the desk. That was it, Potter was next alphabetically and with only a few others left, most of them his relatives or friends, I would be the obvious choice for a partner.
But then the professor did something unexpected. “Go sit with Miss Burke,” she directed to Neel Rao.
I blinked in confusion, my eyes still smarting from the pain of hitting the desk. I wasn’t partners with Al? Had Noble gone soft? I didn’t know much about Rao, other than that he was a Gryffindor and not a New Marauder. He was probably the worst student, knowing Noble, but he looked somewhat intelligent, so I had hope. He was, after all, in NEWT level potions. Unless Rao’s parents were seriously famous, Slughorn wouldn’t have promoted an idiot to the NEWT levels.
“Hello,” Rao said as he took a seat beside me.
I nodded, and moved my bag off the table so it wouldn’t be in his way. It also gave me a chance to examine him. He was Indian, with short dark hair, dark eyes, and the scruffy sort of beard that boys tended to grow, just to show that they could. Surprisingly, he didn’t have the arrogant set to his eyes that most Gryffindor boys did. In fact, he had an alarmingly friendly grin on his lips. I gave a little half smile that didn’t show my teeth. I wasn’t about to give him any ideas that we were going to be friends before I knew what he was like.
As Noble called the last of the names, I looked away from my partner quickly to watch. “Weasley, Rose,” was last and with horror, I saw that she was paired with Albus. Noble undoubtedly knew of the dislike between the cousins. Poor Rosie! She would be miserable, and now I would have to listen to all of her complaining.
“Now that we’ve sorted that out, turn to page one and prepare a Restorative Draught,” Noble ordered, before sitting down at her desk.
I glanced at Rose, across the room, trying to catch her eye, but she was already staring into her book, apparently trying to get a head start. With Al as her partner, she would need all the help she could get.
“Poor thing,” I muttered sympathetically, as a dug around in my bag for the book.
“Who?” Rao asked me.
I gestured over to where Rose sat. “My friend has to work with her cousin,” I explained. “She can’t stand him.” Rose’s dislike of Albus wasn’t news, so, I figured that I could be spared an “Al-Potter-is-God-how-dare-you-insult-him” lecture from this Gryffindor.
“I wouldn’t mind working with my cousin,” my partner said, surprisingly not even questioning Rose’s situation and sounding a bit bitter. Wonderful. I was stuck with someone who resented me about as much as I him.
He pointed to a tiny, birdlike girl in the corner who was paired with Lorcan Scamander. I knew her, of course, but had had no idea she was related to Rao. “Shreya,” he said.
Shreya didn’t look much like her cousin; she had long curly hair and paler skin and was much shorter, but I supposed I could see the resemblance. Al hardly looked like the red-headed Rose, after all, with his nearly black hair.
Looking around, I noticed that most of the other groups had their cauldrons bubbling and started to read the recipe in the book with horror. The first one in a book was normally the easiest and this was a monster! “It says we need an hour to simmer!” I glanced at the clock. “We have maybe ten minutes to get the ingredients.”
“Not started yet, Mr. Rao, Miss Burke?” Noble appeared with her typically awful timing, and shook her head over us with mock sadness. “There isn’t time to waste chatting.” I wanted to slap that smirk off her face.
“We were hardly,” I began, before stopping myself.
“Of course you’re right, Professor,” Rao said, in a placating voice. “We’ll get working right away.”
As soon as she was gone, I groaned. “Don’t tell me you’re the type that thinks Viviane Noble is Merlin’s gift to Hogwarts males, Mr. Rao.”
“Neel,” he corrected, smiling a little. “And no.”
“Good,” I said. “Because I would have hit you had you said yes.”
By the end of the day, as I trudged up to the Common Room, Rose at my side, I was wondering if I really wanted to become a Healer after all. If I had only chosen an easier prospective profession, I wouldn’t be forced to take potions or many of my other classes for that matter. Despite our best efforts, Neel and I hadn’t been able to finish the Restorative Draught on time, leaving me with what was bound to be my first failing grade of many. To add insult to poor marks, Noble had paraded our cauldron of sickly purple bile around as the example of what not to do, causing the few successful students to laugh and the fellow failures to cringe.
When I told Rose about my doubts about my potential career, she only scoffed. “I know how much you want to be a Healer, Laura. Don’t let Potions get to you. And if it helps, remember that you could have to work with Al Potter.”
She had a point at that.
After only a few hours of studying, we headed up to our dormitory, which we shared with three other seventh years. It was at the top of the tower, but by now, I was used to the stairs. I smiled nostalgically as I walked inside. It was my last first night at school ever. The dormitory had been home for six years, and now its features were as familiar as those in my own room at home. There were high ceilings and huge breezy curtains around the windows. The wall hangings were cheerfully blue and hung tastefully from bronze frames. The massive four poster beds were as inviting as always and surrounded by white curtains that matched those on the windows. The whole effect was beautiful and offered a calming respite from the stresses of schoolwork.
It was early to be going to sleep, but Rose and I had wanted to come up before any of the others girls arrived. Ever since second year, we had traditionally discussed, planned and foretold any romances in the coming year on the first night back. It had started out as a salacious joke but now, as we were older, was more serious. We had never accurately predicted a romance, but they seemed more possible than when we were third years gaping at seventh year blokes.
“So,” I began, sitting cross-legged across from Rose on her bed. “Who do you fancy?”
She laughed at my bluntness. “No one, isn’t that the purpose of this all? To find us some lads?”
“True,” I said, grabbing a brush from the table and beginning to work the knots out of my brown hair. “So, any suggestions for me then? Who should I fancy this year?”
Rose thought for a moment, twirling a reddish curl around a finger. “What about one of the Scamander twins?”
I made a face, thinking of the two Hufflepuffs. “Which one?”
“Do you think that I should really date a boy who wears hot pink fingerless gloves around Hogwarts?” Lysander was the stranger of the twins. He was nearly always silent, but had a rather flamboyant way of dressing.
“Lorcan, then,” Rose giggled.
“Only slightly better.”
Rose pondered some more. “What do you think of younger men?”
I made a face at that. “How young are we talking about, because anyone less than a sixth year is too young.”
“Louis’s a fifth year,” Rose said indignantly. “And he’s my favourite cousin.”
“And part Veela,” I couldn’t help but add. “I’m glad you think I could date your favourite cousin, but no.”
A grin crept onto Rose’s lips. “There’s always Jeffrey.”
I shook my head vehemently. “Not my cousin!”
“Second cousin,” Rose said dismissively. “And besides, not only does he play Quidditch, but he’s also fit.”
“You want him, go ahead,” I told her. I wasn't particularly fond of him, but could see why most girls found him attractive. “But Gran would have my head if she found out I was talking about Jeff like this.”
Rose flopped down on the bed. “You make this so difficult, Laura,” she said. “He’s too crazy, you say. Too gay, too straight, too young, too related. Why don’t you relax a little bit and indulge me. It’s not every day you let me play match maker.”
“You’ve had your time,” I told her. “Why don’t you let me know who you fancy, or despise, so we can get you a boyfriend.”
To my surprise, Rose blushed suddenly, her cheeks growing splotchy and red. Though she had answered the same question breezily before, I had caught her off guard this time.
“Who?” I asked eagerly, unable to imagine that Rose had kept this secret from me at all.
I rolled my eyes. Rose was too smart a girl to pretend to be dense. “You know perfectly well who. Who’s the lucky bloke you fancy?”
Rose turned her head into a pillow and muttered something that sounded like, “Shmupus.”
She pulled the pillow away and I could see that she was blushing more now. “Scorpius.”
My jaw dropped open.“Malfoy? Scorpius Malfoy? The blond one? The one your father despises?” I paused to catch my breath. “We are talking about the same boy, right?” I had been expecting someone tame, like maybe one of the Scamanders or that Finnegan boy, but him?
Rose nodded slowly. “I mean, he doesn’t know I exist, probably. And Dad would be furious if he found out, but yeah.”
“Oh Rosie!” I cried. “Your first real romantic drama. You’re growing up so fast!”
She shot me a look full of daggers. “You had better not tell a soul.”
“Oh I don’t know,” I began, grinning evilly. “I think I could find a few people who might be very interested to know such a thing. Hugo, Albus, Molly...”
Rose had her wand pointed at me so fast that I nearly fell off the bed trying to scramble away. “Laura Burke,” she began in a low, dangerous voice. “If you even so much as hint to any of my relatives about what I just told you, I will hex your face—”
“Stop,” I said, giggling. “I wouldn’t tell, you know that!”
“I do now.” Sometimes Rosie had no sense of humour.
I wanted to keep pestering Rose, but I figured that with her wand still pointed at me, I was in no place to tease. Rose’s temper was that of her father’s, hot and quick. “So, I’m sorry you’re potions partners with Al,” I said, lamely changing the subject.
Rose cursed loudly. “Did you have to remind me?”
I shrugged, it was better than her threatening to hex me. “I was so sure that Noble was going to pair me with him.”
“Who’d you end up with again?”
“Neel Rao,” I said, watching Rose’s expression to see if she reacted at all. “What do you know about him?” If there were gossip to be known about this Gryffindor, Rose would know. Practically her whole family was in Gryffindor.
She nodded slowly. “Right, he’s Pavarti Patil’s son. And he has that annoying little mouse of a cousin, Shreya Ayala. She’s Padma’s girl.”
“Who are the Patils?” I asked, curious.
“They were twins, the same age as my mum and dad. I think that Dad and Uncle Harry took them to the Yule Ball.” She made a face at that prospect.
That was interesting to know. So these two women would have fought in the Battle of Hogwarts. Compared, to Rose, I knew who nobody’s parents were. My gran and granddad were too old to know any of them. And it wasn’t like my mother would be sharing much of anything with me either. And even then, she was a few years younger than Rose’s parents.
The name “Patil” sounded vaguely familiar, the more I thought of it, but I supposed that it was because there were some other students named that as well. Perhaps the twin girls had had a brother or something. My mind drifted off, trying to picture who the Patil might be, but I couldn’t place them. Maybe it was just a common wizarding name.
“This is boring,” I claimed at last, after we had been silent for a few minutes. “Will you at least tell me how long you’ve fancied Malfoy? And why I haven’t heard about this before?” What were best friends for if not for talking about boys?
Rose was blushing again. “Over the summer,” she whispered. “We were staying in the same village in France. Of course, Dad was furious about it. But I saw him around a lot. And he was so nice.”
I was gaping again. “Nice? He’s a Slytherin. They’re supposed to be cunning and manipulative and all that.”
“But he wasn’t,” Rose protested. “Laura, you wouldn’t believe it. He even came to Mum and apologized for how his father was antagonizing Dad.”
I found that hard to believe. The Scorpius I knew was an arrogant blond bloke. He wasn’t as bad as Al Potter, per say, but he was the old kind of rich that were privileged and knew it. I thought that he was the worst possible choice for someone as sweet and smart as Rose, but I knew better than to say so. “Did he? How sweet!” I said in a saccharine voice. “And then did he kiss your hand when he greeted you?”
“Stop!” Rose insisted, her skin darkening to an unattractive shade of red. “I said we didn’t talk. Stop being such a pig, Laura!”
I bit my lip to keep from snorting. “Someone’s got it bad,” I teased.
At that moment, another girl waltzed in through the doors, throwing her bag down on the bed. “Who is it, Rose?” Ella Tseng asked.
Ella was tall and athletic, a member of the Quidditch team. She was smart for Hogwarts as a whole but not smart for a Ravenclaw. To the shock of the Head of House, she was taking fewer NEWTs than most of us, instead hoping to get recruited to be a Chaser in some professional Quidditch league.
“No one,” Rose said, sending me another killing look. “Laura’s just fabricating things.”
I would have retorted, but I knew that Rose had gossip about me as well that I did not want anyone to know. “Hi, Ella. Hope you had a good summer.” I said instead, hoping she wouldn’t press Rose as I had. “You’re lucky you’re not taking potions this year. I think it’ll be the death of me.” School was always a guaranteed conversation starter with Ravenclaws. For all that we were clever and were supposed to adore school, we liked nothing better than complaining about classes.
“That bad?” Ella laughed, lounging on the bed. With her long legs stretched out in front of her, she took up most of the length of the bed.
I nodded. “I think I’m going to fail.” Especially since the first day had been anything but a success.
Ella scoffed. “You? Fail a class?”
I began to retell what had happened in potions, beginning with Noble’s cruel partnering and ending with my failed potion and horrible mark. “Like, I said, it’s a disaster already.”
“You could get a tutor, you know,” Ella suggested after a moment’s thought. “That’s how my Gryffindor brother got through Charms. And now he works for the Ministry.”
I looked at Rose, aghast. Her horrified expression matched my own. “Ella,” I said, shuddering at the very idea, “Ravenclaws do not get tutors.”
If you've read this far, thank you! I appreciate you reading some of the insanity that is Failure. Things will only get crazier (and hopefully better) from here on out.
image by hayley jade @ TDA
Less Than Admirable
I had come to the library to try to get a bit of studying done away from the insanity of the Ravenclaw common room. According to the stereotype perpetuated by the Sorting Hat, we were all supposed to be quiet, studious and timid. But saying that was like saying that Hufflepuffs were always happy and full of sunshine and I had seen Lysander Scamander after his favourite pair of gloves was stolen in fifth year: it was neither a happy nor sunshine-y sight. Thus, I had left the boisterous common room for the more subdued library.
I was just finished with a Transfiguration essay and was opening my Arithmancy book, hoping to get a few hundred pages read, when a group of boys walked in. At first, I tried to ignore them, hoping that if I did, they would be quiet and go away. If I didn’t see them, they didn’t exist, I told myself.
But apparently, my skill at wistful thinking was not as strong as I’d hoped, for they sat at the table next to me.
“I can’t stand that old bore,” a boy drawled, his voice dripping arrogance. “Isn’t it time someone told Binns to go ahead and die already?” He obviously found himself very witty by the way he ended his question in a laugh that was soon joined by others.
I thought that ghostly Professor Binns was certainly not the most intriguing man, but not one to be insulted either. After all, no one had to take his class after fifth year. I was going to look up and say something to them, but remembered that I was pretending not to notice or be bothered by them.
For a few minutes, I was able to lose myself in the complex pattern of numbers in the Arithmancy book, but a familiar voice, one pitched loud enough for the whole library to hear, brought me back.
“Just don’t call me Albenezer Scrooge!” Al Potter said at nearly a shout from across the cavernous room.
I wasn’t sure whether to roll my eyes, snort, or be disgusted. I compromised by doing a bit of each. “And it’s not even Christmas,” I muttered under my breath. I had taken Muggle Studies at the order of my gran for several years and we had read some Dickens. I didn’t remember much, but I did remember Ebenezer Scrooge and his miserly ways. While a Muggle literary reference was certainly a non sequitur coming from Potter, his trademark ego was written all over it. For God knows what reasons, he had managed to turn something as classic as Dickens into a probably idiotic joke.
“Potter!” one of the boys at the table next to me yelled. “Oi!”
I frowned deeply, trying to bury myself farther into the book. He would come over here. It would be just my luck. I come to study and find even more trouble.
I could practically hear Albus saunter over, though I tried not to. “My good man,” he greeted the other boy, who I realized now was a fellow seventh year, Finnegan. Potter was a pretentious git. No one said that anymore.
I finally glanced up when I heard chairs scrape next to me. From over the cover of my book, I saw Al sit down, mussing up his hair as he did. He leaned forward, conspiratorially. “Now, don’t call me Sirius Black,” he said in an egregiously loud voice, “but I finally got her to agree to go out with me.” Call him Sirius Black? What was wrong with his own name? Wasn’t it famous enough? And besides, did getting a date really make him as much as a lady’s man as Black? I think not.
“Done already with the essay?” Al was asked by Finnegan who seemed un-phased by Al’s boasts. “I thought that Lily was going to keep you locked in the tower till you did.”
I caught Al’s furious glare. “As if Lily could make me do anything!”
“Hey mate!” Finnegan said, holding up his hands. “She’s a prefect. And she seemed pretty serious about that Bat Bogey Hex.”
“Well, ’course I finished it then,” Albus said. “And you’ll never guess, I worked in a whole bit about the New Marauders when I had to start going on about the importance of regeneration, or whatever Chapter 15 was on. The rest of my essay may have been a piece of shite, but that paragraph is a thing of beauty.”
Finnegan gave a nod of approval.
I hoped that that was the end of their exchange and that I could continue studying in peace. Finnegan, for one, looked as taciturn as ever, and started making his quill fly around the room, dropping dots of ink on squealing first years. It was a nice bit of magic, if stupid.
“HUGO!” Al bellowed suddenly. “All right then?”
What was he blathering about now? And to Rose’s brother too. Hugo might have been in Gryffindor, but he wasn’t part of Al’s little squadron.
I could see Hugo wince a little bit from where he stood, several rows away. He looked around, as if hoping for a place to hide, but when he saw nothing, he advanced towards his cousin. “Al,” he said slowly, sounding exasperated already. “What do you want?”
From where I sat, I could barely hear Albus muttering something that sounded like, “No respect.” It was laced with a few curses, though they were almost inaudible.
“Nothing,” Al said louder, waving Hugo away. “Never mind. Just forget it then. Just forget it.”
All this fake bravado was making my head hurt. Al could puff up in false indignation faster than the peacocks at Malfoy Manner. I moved to put my book back into my bag, so that I could return to the common room to study—thankfully, Potter couldn’t follow me there—but Hugo saw me and waved. “Hi Laura.”
I wanted to hit him then. Hugo had about as much subtly as his father, which was to say none. His ability to pick up on social cues was sorely lacking, much to the chagrin of his mother and sister alike. “How are things then?” he continued. “I haven’t seen much of you or Rose since the Express.”
“Fine,” I said as tersely as possible.
Before I could make any excuse and leave, Al swivelled around in his chair to face me. “Hullo Laurie,” he said with mock seriousness. “How’s the schoolwork coming? If you’re anything like Rosie, you already have a time table for exam studying.”
“Everything’s going just brilliant, Al,” I said in as saccharine a voice I could and mimicked his habit of repeating himself: “Just brill.”
“Good, good,” he said earnestly, looking a bit demented in his false cheeriness. I was wondering if he had some sort of psychosis when he spoke again. “Now if you don’t mind.” He turned back to his table with a wink. “Tell Rosie hello.”
I bit back a retort and glared at Hugo instead, who shrugged. For someone with such a smart mother and sister, he was really quite thick. “Shame on you,” I whispered at him, nodding my head towards Al.
Hugo stared blankly as I gathered my things. I meant to stalk out of the library in a very dignified but annoyed way, but my bag was so heavy with all my books and papers that I staggered instead. I looked liked an injured gnome, limping along, half stunned.
In all honestly, other than that I was short, I didn't much resemble a gnome. I had wavy light brown hair where most gnomes were bald. And my eyes were actually a nice hazel. Still, I could think of no better comparison, so a gnome I was. At least figuratively.
I yawned as I took a sip of tea which was a mistake. As I inhaled the liquid, some of it caught in my throat, causing me to cough violently and earning me some bleary looks from the others near me. “Sorry,” I choked out, feeling a blush on my cheeks.
“Shut up,” Rose muttered, stirring her own tea so violently it splashed over the edges of the cup, onto the saucer.
I didn’t bother to ask her what was wrong because I knew. Normally, Rose was cheerful and alert in the morning, ready for class, but this morning, she had walked past Scorpius snogging some other Slytherin girl and was in a foul mood. In fact, I saw, as I glanced over my shoulder, they were still at it now. The girl was practically on his lap and it seemed that they were having difficulty staying upright.
“Yech.” Ella shuddered as she flung herself onto a seat next to me. “Someone needs to tell those two to get a room. That reminds me of last year when Lucy Weasley and that Thomas bloke were always in the hall together. They didn’t quite understand the concept of privacy either, always standing in the middle of the halls between class, or on the stairs.”
Rose looked up only for a moment to give Ella a scorching look.
I took a more cautious sip of my tea and cast a worried look at Rose. If she was going to be this moody for the year, things would be rough. I hadn’t seen her this upset since she was passed over for Ravenclaw prefect fifth year. Though Rose was nearly perfect by most accounts, she didn’t necessarily have the ability to control other students. So instead, the honour was given to Seren Rees, a Welsh Muggle-born girl.
“So, Ella,” I began. “Who’s the captain of the team this year?” Quidditch would always distract Ella from anything.
True to character, her face lit up. “Andrew Corner. He’s the best Chaser we’ve had since Roger Davies played twenty years ago and he went on to be captain of the Wasps!”
I frowned, biting my lip at Ella’s last words.
“Oh!” She looked apologetic. “I’m sorry, I forgot that...” She trailed off, still looking at me like I’d was about to break into tears. “You know, that he’s your father.” Her voice was a mere whisper now.
I nodded curtly. “Don’t worry.” My father wasn’t someone I talked about much. It wasn’t so much that he was a secret, plenty of students knew, but most of them soon forgot it. Since he had never married my mum, who had had me right out of Hogwarts, I didn’t have his name. And I had been raised by my mum’s mum and dad.
I only ever saw Roger on holidays anyways, mainly just on Christmas. He always felt obliged to invite me over for a few days, and my gran made sure I accepted. If I had any say in it, I would have avoided him all together. It wasn’t him that I mined so much as his family. My father had gotten married when I was seven or so to a glamorous witch named Felicity. He and Fee, as they called her, had two small and increasingly bothersome children.
“Laura?” Ella was saying, and she tapped my shoulder. “Are you alright? I’m really sorry!”
“Perfect,” I said as brightly as I could. “I just stayed up late writing a Charms essay, that’s all.” I added in a fake yawn for effect.
“Well,” Ella glanced around at the students who were starting to get up and go to class. “I need to leave. Bye Rose, bye Laura.”
“Goodbye,” I said for myself and for Rose, since she was still staring dismally into her porridge.
“Are they still, you know?” Rose asked softly. She sounded more vulnerable now, almost near tears. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her, if only for a moment.
I glanced behind me. The girl had disentangled herself from Scorpius, but only so that she could gather up her things.
“Nope,” I said quickly, yanking Rose up by the arm. “Come on, class time.” She stood slowly and with deliberate sloppiness, knocked her cup of tea into the porridge.
I rolled my eyes. “Enough,” I said, exasperated. “I see that you’ve only gotten more mature now that you’re a seventh year. Now, come on.” When she didn’t move, I let go of her arm. “I will not drag you to class,” I said. “Feel free to not come.”
Knowing that she would follow, I marched away. We were one of the few ones left in the Great Hall and we would have to hurry to make it to class. At the door, I looked back and saw Rose finally running to catch up. I also unfortunately saw Scorpius and the girl had resumed snogging, this time managing to walk along at the same time. Disgusting.
Rose remained in a foul mood for the rest of the day. I couldn’t abide her sulking and was thankful that I had Herbology alone, so that I was away from her.
Professor Longbottom was one of the younger professors and very good natured. I liked his fairness and tolerance in class. He was not the kind to give long lectures about the pending NEWTs because he preferred working with his beloved plants.
Because Longbottom was a war hero, as well as a member of Dumbledore’s Army, his classes were always popular. I wondered if our NEWT class was so large in part because most students wanted to hear more of his stories. Either way, I didn’t mind. Herbology was neither my strongest nor my weakest subject, so I wasn’t bothered by the constant requests for stories that the professor received. And he did have good stories. I wondered if I was so interested because I was deprived of any such tales. Neither of my parents had fought in the Battle of Hogwarts, nor had either of them raised me. Instead, I was left with my wonderful, yet boring, grandparents who had also not participated in the battle and thus had no stories to share.
When class was over, and after I carefully removed my bubotuber-pus encrusted gloves and dumped them into a bin, I made my way up to the castle, cursing the pouring rain that turned the slope of the steep hill into a mud slick. I would have cast a drying spell, but it would be useless until I was back somewhere dry. With each step, more mud splashed up my legs and onto my stockings.
Finally, with a burst of energy, I forced myself to run the last hundred yards to an overhang. Mud and water flew everywhere, but I didn’t care. As soon as my head was covered, I cast a quick spell and my clothes went from dirty and cold to steaming clean. I smiled at that, at walked, more slowly towards the dreaded dungeons and potions class.
I turned the corner and the tiny covered path I was on widened into a central outdoor courtyard, surrounded by more covered walkways. There were more students around, though most were on the outskirts, under cover from the rain, which was now falling with more force than ever.
I had to make my way to the opposite end of the plaza before I could go inside. While it would have been easiest to simply walk straight across, I was not willing to risk the rain, not now that I was warm again. I would have enough time to walk the perimeter anyways.
By now, most other classes had been let out and the path I was on had become crowded with others trying to avoid the downpour. It was nearly impossible to move through the crush, and I had to push past several first years, stopped dead in the centre of the flow of traffic. I was about to tell them off for blocking the way when I saw what they had been ogling about. Another couple was blocking the way as well. It was Malfoy again and his paramour, passionately kissing again.
I raised my eyebrows. Thank God Rose wasn’t with me. She would have probably attacked the girl.
As I walked past them, someone came along side me. “Hello,” Neel said, giving me his usual open smile.
I nodded a greeting back. Even though we had been partners in potions for nearly three weeks, I still didn’t feel comfortable talking to him. I had never seen him be cruel to anyone, and he lacked Al Potter’s obnoxious humour, but he still felt like only an acquaintance. “Hi,” I said back, hoping he would change directions, but then I remembered that he was headed to where I was: potions.
“Did you see them?” Neel asked conversationally as we tried to make our way inside.
I nodded. “Yeah.” How could anyone miss them?
“You know, I don’t have anything against public affection. I just want it done in private.”
I smirked at the contradiction. “What does that mean?”
He nodded his head back in the direction of Scorpius. “They can snog, just not in the middle of the hall.”
I had to agree with that. “Yeah.” I said again. Ella’s previous sentiment was appropriate: get a room, or at least a broom closet.
“Well,” I began awkwardly, after we had been silent for a moment. I looked to see how close the door was. Just one more side to go. And I was ostensibly stuck with Neel unless I wanted to run out into the rain.
He smiled again. “How’s everything this year?” He spoke as if we were friends.
“Fine,” I said, ducking my head. While it was nice of him to ask, I didn’t feel much like sharing. “The usual. It’s just school.”
“That seems rather impassive from a Ravenclaw,” Neel said with laugh. “‘It’s just school.’ Shouldn’t that get you a detention or something?”
I pressed my lips together, to keep from giggling. “There’s no rule like that.” I used as serious a voice as I could manage.
That was all we said because we had finally reached the door and now had to force our way inside against the tide trying to leave. Some of them stopped halfway out to curse the rain. ‘Damn that rain,” they said. Well, damn them. I was just trying to get inside. Some students had no concept of traffic flow.
To my immense relief, I no longer had to talk to Neel as we descended to the Dungeons. His cousin, Shreya, had caught up with us just as he had begun to start another conversation. She was about my height, I noticed as I walked next to her, but she seemed much shorter. Her dark hair was long like a little girl’s and she wore it in a curly braid. Her face also seemed strangely breakable. Her eyes were too large, her skin light, but with a gray pallor. I wondered if she were ill. Neel certainly treated her like she was delicate.
“Did you get a letter from your mum, today?” she was saying. Her voice did not match her fragile appearance; it had much more strength.
Neel looked puzzled and the perpetual smile left his face. “You were there at breakfast, you saw the owl come.”
Shreya shook her head, sending a furtive glance over at me. “I know that. But did she tell you about what happened with...” She paused, looking at me again, then stood on her toes to whisper a word in Neel’s ear.
From all the secrecy that Shreya was using, I would have thought that Neel would have paled, or something dramatic, but he only laughed. “You’re worried about that?” he asked, teasingly. “Don’t. It’s not like you run the business already.”
From the sound Shreya made it sounded like she was annoyed that Neel had said anything in front of me.
I awkwardly bit my lip. “Don’t worry,” I promised. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. And I’ll just go ahead anyways.”
Shreya looked pleased, but Neel shook his head. “We’re coming.”
So we all trudged down to the dungeons, Shreya still appearing unsettled. She had moved so that she was as far away from me as possible, as if I was the cause of all of her problems.
When the stairs levelled out, the air had taken on the dank quality of the Dungeons. I saw with dismay that the door was already closed, signalling the start of the lesson. “Oh no,” I breathed. We were late. Professor Noble normally needed no reason to antagonize me, and now she had a perfectly good one.
Beside me, Shreya said something in another language that sounded like, “Dios nos ampare.”
I looked at Neel in confusion, hoping for a translation, but he had already moved forward to open the door.
“Hey!” I snapped. If Noble was going to attack me for my tardiness, I needed to come up with a plan to detract some of the blame. The last thing I needed in my file was a detention.
Neel, however, seemed not to hear me and opened the door even as I lunged for his shirt to hold him back. And then it was too late and I was falling forward into Neel and into the classroom. “Shit,” I muttered, as I finally backed up and stood up.
Noble was advancing on us, looking livid. Her robes were edged in pink today, which seemed very out of place for her normally professional self. When she stopped, it was several feet away. The whole class had turned around to face us, but they all sat mute with anticipation.
“Pass the tardy sauce,” Albus said in a loud whisper.
My gaze snapped over to where he sat, next to Rose. She looked as if she were about to hit him, as he sat there with a smug smile on his face.
Neel shifted beside me, drawing my attention back to Noble, who was still staring at us, probably best deciding how to humiliate us. When she finally spoke, her voice was all sugary sweetness. “Miss Burke, Mr. Rao, Miss Ayala. You are all late. Do you have an explanation?”
I looked at Neel. “The weather, ma’am,” he said.
Shreya said the same thing in that other language again, but this time it was barely a whisper.
“Sit,” Noble snapped after a long pause. “And get started working. Today you will brew a Stinging Salve by yourself.”
I practically ran to my place at the front of the room. I knew from reading a bit ahead in the book that the potion we were to prepare was immensely complicated. I flipped open to the page, cutting myself on the paper by accident. “Shit,” I hissed as blood began to fall. I rubbed the blood off on my sweater and kept reading.
Quickly I gathered the needed ingredients and began to stew the lacewings with a drop of bubotuber pus. Beside me, Neel was carefully arranging his wormwood bark to be minced. I quickly chopped up the florescent bark as well, letting three scoops fall into the green mixture. According to the book, I needed to stir it three times counter clockwise, then wait ten minutes. I did so.
With a sigh, I sat back and looked at Neel, who also had to wait. I chewed my lip, hesitating to speak. “Whatever you said, about the weather. Thank you.” He had kept me from a detention with Noble and I was deeply grateful.
He looked surprised to see me. “Sure. I had no idea that would actually work though.”
I smiled. “Still, thanks.”
With that done, I turned back to watching the clock, wanting to be sure that I waited exactly ten minutes. I thought back to what had happened, wondering if Noble had something worse in store because she had been so lenient. I remembered Shreya saying something in another language before we had entered and again when her cousin spoke.
“Neel?” I asked, seeing him look up in surprise at my voice.
“What did Shreya say outside the door?”
He looked thoughtful, then laughed. “I have no idea.”
That was surprising, I thought she had been talking to Neel. “I thought you spoke another language,” I said, carefully.
“Oh I do,” he said. “But Shreya’s dad is from España. She was speaking Spanish.”
As I processed the information, I saw Neel looking at me carefully. “Did you know your finger is bleeding?” he asked.
I looked down, and saw that it was. “Oh.” I said in surprise. I hadn’t wanted to bother, but since there was now a fair amount of gory blood down my finger, I fished out my wand and cleaned it up.
After the ten minutes had passed, I finished making the potion. But by the time I was adding in the final drop of bubotuber pus, I knew something had gone wrong. Instead of being a bright orange, like the book illustrated, it was a limpid sort of gray.
“Time to bottle your salves,” Noble instructed handing out flasks.
With a heavy heart, I ladled some into the glass vial and stood in line to turn it in. I looked at my fellow students, seeming that most had a potion that was at least close to orange. Neel’s was surprisingly perfect, the shade so bright it was hard to look at. Noble gave a grudging nod of approval as he handed it in.
Her face turned almost gleeful as I extended out my hand, with the flask filled with failure. “Oh Miss Burke,” Noble said, shaking her head in mock sorrow. “I’m afraid that’s all wrong. Why don’t you wait to talk to me after class?”
I gritted my teeth and stood next to her desk, waiting for the rest of the class to turn in their potions. When it was Rose’s turn, she mouthed, “I’m sorry.” I could only shrug in return.
Noble came over to me and sat primly behind her desk. “Have a seat, Miss Burke,” she offered.
I did so, stiffly, and sat awaiting my punishment.
“As you know, your work in this class has been less than admirable,” she said in her too sweet voice. “In fact, some might call it unacceptable. I have yet to see you make a potion on your own that was viable. Only your work with Mr. Rao is passable, and in that I suspect his influence.” She paused for effect. “I don’t know how you managed to get into a NEWT level potion class, but it’s clear you don’t belong here. While it is not common, it is possible for students to drop classes at Hogwarts, Miss Burke. If your grades do not improve drastically, soon, this is what I suggest you do to avoid a failing grade on that otherwise spotless report of yours.”
I felt like she had slapped me. Drop potions? That was impossible! I had to take potions to become a healer. It was true that I was not doing the best job in the class, but professors were supposed to help students, not get rid of them!
“That will be all,” Professor Noble said, standing up. “If you choose to drop potions, I will give you my full support in the matter.”
I sat frozen, unable to move. That meant that she would also to her best to make sure I had to drop the class. What was I going to do?
Noble narrowed her eyes, “That will be all.”
Finally, I forced myself to stand and nearly stumbled out of the classroom, feeling like I couldn’t breathe.
Later that night, I retold Rose all that had happened. My distress was enough to keep her from moping about Scorpius, for she seemed kind as she tried to cheer me up.
When I mentioned Shreya’s strange exclusivity, she laughed. “Don’t worry about her. I heard that her parents don’t even let her date! She’s bound to be odd.”
After hearing about Noble’s ultimatum, Rose shook her head. “That bitch.”
“What am I going to do?” I said, wiping a few stray tears away with the back of my hand. “If I can’t take potions, no healing school will accept me!”
Rose looked thoughtful. “You could get help,” she suggested. “Maybe if someone was willing to just show you where you were going wrong, you’d be able to fix whatever’s going wrong.”
“Who would do that?” I asked. “You?”
“Well,” Rose began. “Laura, you know I’d always help you right? But I’m probably not the best person to ask. I do decently in Potions, but I’m horrible at explaining.”
My heart sank. “Who then? No one’s better at Potions than you.”
“That’s debatable, actually,” Rose said, and I could see that it pained her to admit it.
I sat up straighter. “Who?” I repeated earnestly.
Rose only shrugged. “I’m just not the best,” was all she said. Even if she could say that, she could never say who. Maybe she didn’t even know. Either way, I had no idea who she was thinking of, and if they would even bother to help me.
As I lay in bed that night, I thought back to my conversation with Noble. “Only your work with Mr. Rao is passable,” she had said. Honestly, she was right. Whenever I worked alone, my grades dropped significantly.
As I was just about to fall asleep, my mind drifted, remembering my partner’s perfectly orange potion. I knew someone good at potions, I thought hazily. Really good. Probably better than Rose: Neel.
Thanks again for reading so far.
Here’s a translation for when Shreya speaks Spanish (Dios nos ampare). What she says is “God help us.”
chapter image by hayley jade @ TDA
Success and Failure
The next morning, I sat watching the entrance to the Great Hall, looking for any signs of Neel. I meant to talk to him during breakfast, before classes could start for the day, but I also wanted to keep our meeting private and away from the judgmental eyes of our classmates. Though I had arrived early to breakfast, I had begun to think that I had missed Neel when I saw him walking into the hall with his cousin.
“Neel,” I said, after jumping out of my seat and running over to stop him. “Can I have a word with you?”
He looked at Shreya for approval, who had been speaking intently to him. “I’ll be right there,” he promised her, nodding his head towards the Great Hall.
Shreya sent me a dirty look, and headed towards breakfast. I had to wonder what I had done to garner her obvious disapproval. It wasn’t as if I had ever been cruel to her. I only wanted to talk to her cousin. I wasn’t asking him to help me commit a crime!
“So?” Neel asked after a moment, his brow furrowing in puzzlement. I could understand why he might be confused; I never really spoke to him outside of class and when we did talk, I never approached him.
After glancing around to make sure no one I knew was watching, I stepped aside into a corner of the passageway, which was hopefully secluded enough that no one could overhear me. “Look,” I began awkwardly, twisting my hands into knots. “You know I’m awful at potions. And you see that Noble hates me.”
Neel nodded, still looking confused. “Yeah.” He didn’t look very awake yet. His robes were rumpled, and his hair was sticking up in odd clumps in the back.
I decided not to be offended that he had agreed that I was awful. I had baited him after all. “Well, you’re not bad at potions: you’re brilliant. And, um, Noble wants to fail me, but that can’t happen because I want to be a healer. So I was wondering if, maybe, you might be able to help me.” My voice lowered at the end of the speech as I realized how ridiculous I sounded. Why should I even think he would help me?
I was barely able to watch as Neel seemed to process this confession. I could feel my cheeks burning with embarrassment at having to admit to needing help and hoped he would speak soon, before I lost my courage and ran away.
“What do you mean?” Neel asked finally. When I glanced up at his face, he looked about as intelligent as a troll beaten over the head with a club.
Of all the times for him to be dense! He was going to make me say it, full out. “I want you to tutor me in potions,” I spat, suddenly, inexplicably close to anger.
Neel’s eyes widened, either at my proposition or my temper, I wasn’t sure. “But,” he began. “You’re in Ravenclaw—”
I wanted to hit him and instead clasped my hands firmly around the strap of my bag. “Yes, I know that. And I don’t know why, but you Gryffindors always seem to assume that we’re so bloody perfect! I’m sorry I asked you!”
I turned to storm off, ready to go tell Rose that she was going to have to tutor me, like it or not, when Neel grabbed my arm. “Wait,” he said quickly. “Laura, I didn’t mean it like that. What I meant was, why me?”
I bit my lip. That was the one question I had hoped he wouldn’t ask me. In truth, I didn’t really know why, other than that Rose had refused me. There were other Ravenclaws who could help, that was true. I couldn’t bear to ask them though. I knew that it would get out, and then I would that girl who was failing potions. That Ravenclaw girl. “I don’t want people to know,” I said at last.
Neel brushed a hand through his hair, looking a bit nervous. After a moment, he nodded decisively and gave me a warm smile. “Alright,” he said decidedly. “I don’t see why not. Where were you thinking of meeting?”
My mouth dropped open a little bit. That was it? He just agreed? I had been expecting him to argue, or to refuse. In fact, I hadn’t really considered how things might proceed if he said yes. This was just supposed to be one of my numerous impulsive plans that failed. It wasn’t supposed to happen this easily. “The library?” I posed weakly, mentioning the first place that came to mind.
“You can’t very well brew potions in a library,” Neel pointed out, smiling again.
I blushed. “Well, there are some classrooms, then. We could meet there after classes are done.” Most teachers weren’t averse to their rooms being used for practice, so long as they were kept clean. I could think of a few professors who might even give us permission.
Neel looked thoughtful. “I can’t today,” he told me. “But what about tomorrow? We can meet at the library and head to a classroom from there.”
“Alright,” I said, finally feeling a sense of relief. This was going to work! I wasn’t going to fail. Noble wasn’t going to be able to humiliate me anymore.
“See you in potions,” Neel said, walking off towards the great hall.
I watched him, finally saying, “Thanks,” though I doubted he could hear me.
Rose and I had taken to eating lunch in the common room. This departure from custom had occurred because Rose refused to be in the same room as Scorpius and his paramour, who had continued to be disgustingly public in their affections.
“You know,” I told Rose conversationally as I set a sandwich in front of her, “this has got to stop. You’re going to have to go into the Great Hall some time.” Rose had gone so far as to make me bring her food, because seeing Scorpius ruined her appetite. Only after realizing that she was honestly not going to eat if I didn’t bring her food, I had agreed to her request.
Rose pointedly ignored me and took a large bite of her ham and cheese.
“You can always look the other way,” I said.
Without a look at me, Rose pulled out a book, and started reading.
I narrowed my eyes. Rose could be rather stubborn about some things. “Besides, Malfoy and Gemma will probably get married soon anyways. Then they’ll leave Hogwarts to go on a wonderfully fluffy honeymoon where they’ll be even more in love than they already are, but at least you won’t have to see them anymore.”
Rose, finally annoyed by my commentary, looked up from her book, sending me an evil glare. “You’re horrible,” she declared.
I felt only a little bad. “Cheer up!” I pleaded, eyeing my own sandwich. Rose was allowed to be disappointed, but this moping was getting tiresome. It wasn’t as if she had ever even had a relationship with Scorpius. It was only a crush.
After a few minutes, when it looked like Rose was again trying to drown her sorrows in a NEWT level textbook, I clapped my hands together. “You’ll never guess what!” I said in as cheerful a voice as I could manage.
Rose raised an eyebrow. “Lysander Scamander decided to lend you his favourite pair of fingerless gloves?”
I snorted, glad that Rose still had a bit of humour in her. “Sadly, no. My news may not be as momentous as that, but it’s good enough: I’m not going to fail potions anymore.”
“Is Noble sacked then?” Rose asked, looking a bit excited.
I rolled my eyes, as if I could ever be that lucky. “Again, no. Our dear professor is still in possession of a job. I, however, have found myself a tutor, like you suggested.”
Rose stopped eating and stared at me. “Laura!” she cried. With a quick glance around, she leaned in closer to whisper, “I wasn’t serious about that. I would have helped you. I just said no the other night because I was so upset about…” She trailed off, unwilling to say Malfoy’s name.
“Well, you might have told me that earlier,” I said, feeling deflated. “Before I asked Neel would have been preferable.”
“What?” Rose exclaimed. “You asked who?”
This was not going as I had planned. “Neel Rao.”
“He said yes?” Rose was incredulous.
I nodded. “Yes. We’re meeting tomorrow.”
Rose started to chew on a piece of her hair. “I never would have thought,” she said almost to herself. “I rather thought you hated Gryffindors.”
“I don’t hate all of them!” I said indignantly. “Just your charming cousin.”
“Which one?” Rose joked, though we both knew I was talking about Al.
I giggled and was about to speak when several first years tumbled down the stairs from the dormitories and raced out into the corridor. “It can’t be time for class already!” I moaned, glancing at the large clock on the wall. Now that Rose was acting less depressed, I wanted to talk to her.
Rose made a face and gathered up her things. As we walked to Transfiguration, I finished eating my lunch.
I sat on my bed later that night, after finishing my homework, trying to write a letter to my gran. She liked me to write at least once a week, though as a seventh year, I often had problems finding time. I wished I knew what to tell her. Normally, I simply wrote about my week, with little filtering, however this time, I felt as though I had to censure some parts. I didn’t need to worry Gran about my problems with potions.
Finally, realizing that I would never get to sleep if I didn’t write the letter, I picked up the quill and began to compose the note:
I read your letter, and I’m sorry I didn’t have the time to reply earlier. It seems that the NEWT level courses I’m taking are as difficult as people said. I have more homework, and need to spend more time studying than I did last year.
I can’t believe that Roger stopped by to talk to you the other day! I’m sure that Granddad almost had a heart attack. You didn’t mention what he wanted in your letter. I don’t think I believe that he was just stopping by to say hello and have a cup of tea. As he told me last summer, he’s quite a busy man who doesn’t have much spare time, never mind that I’m his eldest daughter.
Most everything is doing well at school. There isn’t much gossip, except for the usual ridiculous romances and Quidditch drama. You know that I’ve never paid much attention to all of that. Rose told me to thank you for the book on antidote theory. She says that she enjoyed it, though she had a few questions. I’ve told her to write to you with those questions, because I can’t possibly understand what she’s talking about.
Did you know that Slughorn has retired? I’m sure you must have heard it somewhere, but I’m confirming it. While I don’t mind so much about him, I despise his replacement. It’s Viviane Noble, the former Transfiguration professor, the one who hates me. Honestly, Potions has become almost unbearable. I think that Professor Noble lives to make my life miserable.
Other than that, the rest of my classes are decent. It’s hard to believe that this is my last year. It’s even harder to imagine applying to healing schools in a few months. I don’t feel old enough to be done with Hogwarts.
I’ve got to get some sleep now. Give Granddad my love. And don’t worry if I take a bit longer to reply to your letters than normal. Don’t panic—I’m busy, not injured. Also, the next time you see Claudia, tell her hello.
I folded up the letter after reading it over once, watching the scrawl of my words curve and bend with the parchment. I should have gone to find my owl, but it was late. I would wait till morning to send the missive. Gran was nothing if not reasonable; she would understand the delay. For all her complaints about my lack of communication, I knew that she was thrilled that I still wrote to her as much as I did.
While I felt slightly bad that I hadn’t mentioned my problems with potions, I didn’t want my gran to worry too much. Her favourite subject at Hogwarts had been potions, so I felt embarrassed that I was such a failure in that respect. I would have gotten more sympathy from my grandfather—he was terrible at potions—but we didn’t write each other often. He was not the most talkative man, and was happy to read the messages I sent to Gran. Besides, I could never tell him anything that I didn’t want my gran to know. They kept no secrets from each other.
With a yawn, I set the folded letter onto my bedside table. I heard Ella snoring softly across the room. She had gone to sleep early because of the impending Quidditch match. After putting away my quill and ink, I turned out the light and closed my eyes. The morning was already too close.
My last class of the day was potions. I made a point of being indisputably early to class, not wanting to repeat the previous day’s fiasco. Professor Noble, I learned, did not leave her office until minutes before Potions was to begin, so I was safe from her judgmental gaze.
Unfortunately, today Albus had decided to arrive early and entertain some of his mates, the New Marauders. While they had named themselves after the legendary tricksters, Al and his posse were surprisingly well behaved. There was the occasional prank, but nothing on the scale of their namesakes. For Albus, it was more about the show than the results. He would do just enough to get noticed, and not exceed that threshold.
“I’m thinking we could recruit Peeves,” Al was saying in a too loud voice. “If we could get him to distract while we set everything up, it would be perfect.”
Two of his mates sat around him. While not all the New Marauders were seventh years, a majority were. Finnegan and Smith were watching Albus with barely concealed anticipation. “Yeah,” Smith said, in a decidedly quieter, though equally excited tone. “I reckon that if we can pretend to the Baron again, we can blackmail him into helping us.”
I lost the rest of their plans when Albus stood up and waved to a newcomer. “Rao! My good man! Come here mate!”
I almost smirked when I saw Neel’s expression, but realized that since he had agreed to help me, I should feel grateful. Instead, I adopted a suitably solemn expression.
Slowly, Neel made his way over to where Albus stood. Behind him, I saw a sour looking Shreya make her way to her seat. For some reason, Neel was always talking to his cousin. It seemed a little odd to me. Rose, I knew, had a sibling and numerous cousins around Hogwarts and she rarely spoke to any of them, except in passing. Shreya didn’t even seem like a pleasant person to be around. She never seemed to smile and looked furious most of the time. Whenever I heard her talking, it was to complain.
Neel’s stilted conversation with Albus was interrupted when Rose walked in. Her eyes narrowed when she saw the crowd of boys around her seat. I watched as she made her way to where Al sat. “Excuse me,” she said in a cutting tone.
Al ignored her, and made some joke to Finnegan that I couldn’t hear. Smith watched Rose, smirking and put his legs up on her chair.
With a snarl, Rose yanked her chair out, nearly knocking Smith over. “Albus!” she screeched.
Deliberately slow, Al turned to face his cousin. “Rosie!” he cried loudly. “My favourite cousin!”
She narrowed her eyes at him, sitting down in her seat. She said something quietly that I couldn’t hear, though from Smith’s laughs, it must have been rather insulting.
Anyone who was watching and didn’t know Rose and Albus would think that Rose was the unreasonable one, but I knew their history. Al was annoying on his best days, but that wasn’t enough to cause Rose’s hatred. She had tolerated him until he had humiliated her in fifth year by reading one of her diary entries about a certain Mr. Finnegan aloud during breakfast. Rose had been teased about the incident ever since by Albus, who still quoted lines of the poem she had written whenever he was feeling particularly cruel. It didn’t help that Finnegan was a New Marauder and constantly around Albus. Though she no longer fancied him, she had to watch as he mocked her childish poetry.
While she had not said as much, I guessed that Rose was terrified that Al might find out about her infatuation with Scorpius, which was one of the reasons she refused to be around him and the girl, Gemma. Al was surprising keen when noticing details that could be used to torment at later times. While Rose had only had a small crush on Finnegan, I knew she considered Scorpius a viable romantic figure in her life, and thus would be mortified if Al ever announced her love in public. If such a thing ever occurred, I wondered if Albus would survive till the next morning. Rose was an exceptional witch who would not hesitate to retaliate against her cousin, consequences be damned.
Professor Noble’s entrance to the class was none too soon. Her appearance, and none other, was enough to defuse the tension between Rose and Albus by sending the others scrambling to their seats.
Neel made his way to the chair on my right quickly, sitting down with a thud. As he pulled out his books and a quill, I saw that he looked unnerved, though I wasn’t quite sure why.
Any analysis of the situation was, however, postponed when Noble announced the day’s task. We were to be given a bit of a poison and were to construct an antidote for it. Noble hinted that if we didn’t try hard enough, we would be testing the antidotes on ourselves. Though I suspected that was illegal, Professor Noble was the type of woman who asked for forgiveness, rather than permission.
Because I wouldn’t have put it past her to actually attempt such a thing, I worked furiously to try create a cure for the emerald liquid I received. Unfortunately, I had to rely on my own meagre skills with potions for it was a dreaded solo assignment.
Despite my best intentions, I was at a loss for how to even begin. I stared at the offending liquid, which looked to be bubbling of its own accord and was afraid to even open the vial for fear it might jump out and attack me.
After a few minutes, Neel took pity on me and flipped my textbook open to the correct page with some general instructions for how to proceed. I muttered my thanks, and began to read, cursing the vagueness of the book. It seemed that there was no sure way to create an antidote. As the author stated, even the most experienced potioneers could go wrong. Some potions, he said, would adapt to antidotes as they aged. He cited ways begin the process but they depended on knowing the type of poison and I was at a loss.
I was ready to put my head down on the table when Neel leaned over once more. “It’s Acontium,” he told me, pointing at the vial. “There’re more instructions farther on.”
Again, I thanked him, and flipped ahead in the book. Indeed, the antidote for Acontium had slightly more detailed instructions. While it looked rather tricky, as it involved precise quantities of magnesium vapours, at least I could try.
After gathering all necessary components of the antidote, I began to mix it. I read ahead and saw that I was supposed to crush the newt eyes, and did so first. The timing for adding the ingredients had to be exact, so it was better to crush, mince, and slice all the components beforehand.
There were only a few minutes left in the class as I began to brew my antidote. I began with a glass of wine for the base, adding in three hairs from a newborn wolf. After stirring it three or four times (the instructions were unclear at this juncture) I put in three drops of dew. The newt eyes were added next, ten seconds after a cloud of steam rose off the liquid. The diced broomslang was added in, a gram at a time, until the liquid was thick. Finally, I began to pour in a flask of pickling juice. It was a large flask, as dictated by the instructions and halfway through, black smoke began to rise off the potion.
Neel’s hand caught my wrist, stopping me from pouring anymore liquid into the antidote and sloshing some into the fire in the process. “Enough,” he whispered. “Any more and it’s going to explode!”
I frowned, glancing at the text. “But it says a whole flask!”
Neel just shook his head. I would have argued further but Professor Noble chose that moment to instruct us on how to turn in our antidotes.
It took me a minute to scoop out some of the syrupy liquid and when I looked up again, Neel had gathered his things and left.
Thankfully, Noble let me leave her classroom without commenting on my failure.
Later that evening, I headed to the library to meet up with Neel. I saw him, standing by the east entrance, looking through a book on charms. “Hi,” I said awkwardly when I approached him.
He marked his place in the book and looked up, with a grin on his face. “Hey,” he said. “Did you find a classroom we can use?”
I nodded, and led the way to one that Professor Longbottom had given me permission to use. He had even left a cauldron for me, bless him.
“So,” Neel said, giving me another wide smile. “How about you start by telling me where you went wrong today.”
Author’s Note: Thanks for all the kind things said about this story. And also, thanks for all the help reviewers have given me. I appreciate it!
lovely chapter image by hayley jade @ TDA
Of Revelations and Oddities
“Where did I go wrong today?” I repeated Neel’s question slowly, staring blankly at the cauldron in front of me. “I don’t know. Once you helped me start the antidote, I was only following instructions.”
Neel tilted his head to the side, “Okay.” He looked a bit like an owl, with his wide open eyes and abnormal neck movement. “Then, let’s start this way. Make a Forgetfulness potion.”
“But that’s First Year stuff!” What did he mean by that? I think making it had been the practical for my exam as an eleven year old. It was hardly something I would struggle with making.
Instead of responding at first, Neel dug through his bag, and pulled out Magical Drafts and Potions, the standard pre-O.W.L. text. With a muttered incantation, the tome opened to a page with an illustration of a witch walking in a dazed circle. “If you don’t know why you can’t brew potions, you need to find out why,” Neel said, pushing the book across the desk towards me.
I didn’t think his idea was going to work, but I wasn’t the tutor, so I scanned the instructions, though I couldn’t help but scoff at how easy they were. I might be bad at potions, but I could brew this in my sleep.
“Go on,” Neel encouraged.
His words sounded challenging, and I bristled. If he thought I would fail at this task, he was wrong! With careful concentration, I made piles of all the necessary ingredients and started the fire beneath the cauldron.
On the wooden chopping board, I watched as the green from the leaves of an oak sapling mixed with the grey porridge coloured flobberworm mucus. My silver dagger was dulled by the juice of an elderberry.
The potion was simple: there were no precise stirring patterns needed, nor did the ingredient amounts need to be precise. I was glad for that, because the flobberworm mucus proved slippery and nearly landed on the floor as I added two heaping spoonfuls to the brew.
By now, the liquid bubbling in the cauldron was an inexplicably pale blue, with waves of diaphanous fog skimming its surface. I never quite understood how colour in potions worked, for none of the elements in the cauldron could be described as blue in tone.
While waiting five minutes for the mucus and oak to stew before adding the elderberry juice, I snuck a glance at Neel. He was lounging a chair, looking rather bored. His lanky limps were stretched at an angle above the floor, and he looked close to falling asleep.
“Sorry,” I apologized to him for the wait, then realized that my task was by his assignment.
He jumped, sitting up quickly and shrugged after a moment. “No matter,” he said with a yawn. “I’m fine here.”
“Were you sleeping?” I demanded angrily, hands on my hips. Some tutor he was! I wasn’t just brewing some first year potion for my own enjoyment!
“No,” Neel said, rolling his eyes. “Of course not.” He stood then, and moved over to peer into the cauldron. “Looks alright so far,” he said, smiling slightly.
“Yes,” I said tersely, turning my attention back to the elderberry juice, which I re-measured for the third time, just to have something to do.
Neel seemed unperturbed by my abruptness. “When I first made a Forgetfullness Potion,” Neel began, sitting back down on his chair, “it was a disaster. I misread elderberry as elfinberry. So, I ended up with a chunk of glass in my cauldron.”
I put down the glass of juice and smirked. “I’ll bet that traumatized you forever.”
“We all have our potions mistake stories,” Neel said. “But honestly, it just made me want to do better the next time.”
“Why aren’t you in Ravenclaw?” I demanded, throwing up my hands, forgetting about the spoon that suddenly flung through the air as I did so. Neel’s comment was something I would expect out of the mouth of a sententious third year of my house, not a Gryffindor.
Neel summoned my spoon back with his wand, and floated it back into my hand before responding. “I’m too lazy. The Sorting Hat knew when it chose.”
“Lazy?” I asked in confusion, added the elderberry juice to the potion at last. Neel was brilliant at potions.
He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t do most of my homework,” he admitted. “I’d rather read about things that I’m interested in.”
“Like what?” I demanded, then stopped, suddenly aware I was conducting some sort of interrogation.
“Magical Law, and Potions.”
I made an anti clockwise stir of the blue liquid, which had now darkened into a Persian hue. “Of course,” I said bitterly. Neel was one of those people who was good at something without even trying.
He shrugged, looking unashamed. Normally, students who didn’t study annoyed me to no end. I hated to hear them complain about their low marks, when they could have done better if they had put down their Gobstones and actually done the work. However, with Neel, who was so blatant about his laziness, and instead used his time to study what he was interested, it seemed less repulsive. I could see the attraction to preparing for my future, rather than learning something I would never use again. But despite the appeal of forgoing work, I could never face a professor if I didn’t do my assignments.
After a few more stirs, I flicked my wand to extinguish the fire. I siphoned some of the now navy liquid into a flask, and presented it to Neel. “Did I pass?” I asked with a smirk.
Neel glanced at it for about a second before nodding. “Yes.”
I frowned at his lack of scrutiny. “How is this helping?” I wanted to know. “I thought we would work on NEWT level potions, not primary school stuff.”
Despite my cutting tone, Neel remained calm. “Laura,” he said with a smile. “You asked me to tutor, and I’ll help you, but don’t tell me how to do it.”
I felt guilty at that, and gave a little shrug. “Sorry,” I muttered, because I did want his help, and didn’t want to seem ungrateful. “I was just hoping for quicker results,” I muttered to myself.
Neel didn’t seem to hear, or if he did, he didn’t answer. Instead, he glanced at the large clock in the room. “I think I need to run,” he said, picking up his bag. “Do you want help clearing this up?”
I was surprised to see that more than two hours had passed: it had felt like only a few minutes, due to my intense concentration. “No,” I shook my head. “Go on.”
I vanished the Forgetfulness potion, and sorted the rest of the supplies carefully, leaving the classroom as it had been before. As I heard the door open, I turned and saw Neel leaving. “Goodbye!” I called. Then after a moment, I added, “Thank you!”
Determined to improve my Potions grade, I spent the rest of the night studying. While I was willing to trust Neel for the time being about the effectiveness of his tutoring, I also needed more immediate results. Besides, it could never hurt to supplement his practical help with a little bit of theory.
The only problem was that potions wasn’t really something that could be taught from a book. I might be able to memorize ingredients or steps, but that was not the same as actually brewing potions. I could follow each step perfectly, and still fail miserably, somewhere along the way. I hated that more than anything.
I slept poorly that night and when I awoke, was in an awful mood. I had Potions again that day and it still wasn’t the weekend. Rose seemed to share my unhappiness. Though she finally consented to going to breakfast, she practically inhaled her food before running off to class.
About five minutes after we entered the Great Hall, Rose finished the last of her eggs and stood up. “Are you coming?” she demanded.
I glanced over her shoulder and saw Scorpius sitting, shockingly, alone over at the Slytherin table. “You know,” I said as casually as I could, “Malfoy isn’t eating with Gemma today. You could stay a bit longer.”
Rose blushed furiously red. “Laura!” she hissed, looking around to see if anyone could hear. Then, almost as if against her own will, she quickly turned her head, to confirm what I had said. With a shake of her head, she hefted her bag onto her shoulder. “Anyways, that’s not why I’m leaving. I need to go study.” Her voice turned haughty at that, mimicking the tones of some more pretentious Ravenclaws. I almost wondered if she were joking, but her face was set into a mask of composure, so I couldn’t tell.
Finally, I shrugged, knowing how much Rose was willing to delude herself on the matter. She could tell herself she wasn’t bothered, but it was obvious to everyone that she was.
Consigned to eating on my own, I considered pulling out my potions textbook, but decided that if my hours of studying hadn’t helped last night, more studying today would not be effective.
I was nearly finished with my toast when someone slid into the seats on either side of mine. With surprise, I saw the Scamander twins looking at me with expectation. “Hello, Laura,” Lorcan said with half smile. The expression would have been odd on anyone else, but it fit him. He was a bit abstracted boy, with white blond hair and nearly colourless eyes that gave him an insubstantial aura.
On my other side, Lysander nodded his greeting in time with his twin’s. He was the stranger of the brothers, and today was wearing a necklace of bright violet crystals on a golden chain around his neck. “Morning,” I responded, looking between the two.
“We were wondering,” Lorcan continued, “If you had seen Seren.”
Oh. That was so much less strange than I was expecting. Lorcan was mostly normal, but whenever he was with Lysander, I had begun to expect them to discuss some sort of nonsense. Once, they had begun talking about Crumple Horned Nargles, or some such invented tale. “No idea,” I said truthfully. Seren, the Ravenclaw prefect of my year, was often socializing with her friends from other houses during breakfast.
“Really?” Lorcan’s face fell. As if he didn’t believe me, he looked up and down the table for her.
“Truly,” I confirmed with some annoyance.
“Shit,” Lysander muttered from my right and I jumped. The boy would go days without speaking in class, and then, he would say the most unexpected things.
I spun back around to face Lorcan. “Did he just curse?” I asked incredulously. It was such a normal thing to do that I thought I had misheard him—Lysander was anything but normal.
“We were just hoping to ask her something,” Lorcan clarified. “He’s just disappointed.”
On my other side, Lysander inclined his head in silent agreement. The two twins had such a strange dynamic between them. Lorcan tended to speak for his brother and himself. He could have been rather popular, if he wanted, but he limited his social interactions to spend time with Lysander, who was ignored by most students.
“Alright,” I drawled, looking for a way to excuse myself. While I didn’t really mind talking with them, it was getting to be time for class.
“We’re off to class now,” Lorcan said with a smile and a wave.
I hastily picked up my things. “Me too. I’ve got Herbology.”
“You’ve got Care of Magical Creatures, don’t you Ly?” Lorcan nodded towards his brother.
The other blond boy again tilted his head in acknowledgement.
“Brilliant,” I said with a forced smile, hoping that was enough to end my conversation. I really wasn’t trying to be rude: I just didn’t want to be late.
I had hoped to have some time to think while walking down to the greenhouses, but Lysander seemed to think that because I had been talking to his brother, he was obliged to walk with me as well. Without a word, he strode along beside me, keeping pace despite the fact that I kept walking faster.
As we exited the castle, a tall red headed girl ran past us, moving so fast that she knocked Lysander over to the floor. I stopped to help him up, shaking my head. “That bitch,” I declared. It had been Gemma, Scorpius’s paramour.
“She’s the one snogging Scorpius Malfoy,” I said to Lysander once we had resumed walking, this time at a slower pace because of his fall. “Rose hates her because of that.”
Though he made no response, I kept speaking. It was easier to talk than to walk in silence now that I was committed. “Rose thinks she and Malfoy have a chance, though I don’t know why. He wants girls like Gemma: she has no hope.”
“She has red hair,” Lysander said suddenly.
I was surprised that he was even listening, but annoyed by how simple his comment was. “I know Gemma does. She’s also about six feet tall, and dresses like a whore. So what?”
“I meant Rose,” the Scamander boy clarified. “Her hair is red.”
“Oh.” He was right, of course. Both of them were redheads. But I hardly saw how that mattered. Gemma was the sort of girl who could snog any boy she wanted to. Rose wasn’t ugly, but neither of us were as talked about as Gemma.
Lysander suddenly reached for his necklace and pulled off one of the violet crystals. “Nargle,” he said, and threw the stone over his right shoulder.
“Sorry?” I asked, completely confused.
“Did you know that Gemma cheated on her Charms O.W.L.?” he said out of nowhere.
I stopped walking. “What?” Gemma had cheated on an O.W.L.? That was supposed to be impossible. I knew of plenty of students who would have tried anything to pass their O.W.L.s, but I had never heard of anyone who hadn’t gotten caught.
Lysander had kept moving, and now was several paces ahead of me. He looked as if he were about to take the stairs down to his Care of Magical Creatures class—it would have been where our paths parted. I practically ran to catch him and grabbed his arm. “How? Are you sure?”
He nodded, not seeming bothered at all that I was practically shaking him. “Her father works in the Department of Magical Education. He sent her some of the questions in advance.”
“Shit,” I whispered. This was big. This was scandal big. I remembered when I was a second year, a couple of fifth years had been caught trying to break into the teacher’s lounge to see the exam papers beforehand. They had almost been expelled. Gemma’s crime was certainly worth expulsion since she had succeeded in her cheating. That her father had helped made it even worse. “Are you sure?” I repeated again, staring intently at Lysander’s face, hoping to tell if he was lying.
He gave a half smile. “People say all sorts of things around me. They tend to forget that I’m there at all. I heard her telling another girl.”
Even more than his certainty, his reason for why scared me. It was totally, utterly accurate. I had just been confessing Rose’s feelings for Scorpius to him, just because it was something to talk about. I hadn’t considered that he might hear, remember and possibly spread the knowledge.
“Listen,” I said, suddenly feeling a blush spread up my cheeks. “You remember what I was saying earlier about Rose and Malfoy? Can you just forget about all that?” Rose would never forgive me if Lysander chose to spread the gossip around.
Lysander gave one of his signature shrugs, apparently done talking. He began to move again towards his next class, but I grabbed his bag this time.
“Promise you won’t tell,” I begged. “I’m sorry for ever saying anything bad about you. And I’m sorry that I told you all that. I didn’t mean to act like you weren’t there.”
This time, he nodded. “Sure. I won’t.”
I exhaled in relief, and felt more embarrassment at my apologies. I had been rather cold towards him, and now I was begging him to stay silent. For a moment, I just stood there, feeling awkward and then, mercifully, Lysander tried to go to class for the third time. This time I let him go, watching him descend the stairs for a few minutes.
With the crisis averted, I could think more clearly about what he had told me about Gemma. If she had truly cheated on her O.W.L. what could I do with that knowledge? I should tell the Headmaster, any good Ravenclaw would. But I also doubted that Scorpius knew. Perhaps, I could use it to convince him to break up with Gemma. That would certainly stop Rose’s misery and give her a fair chance with him.
After a few minutes of thinking, I heard the clock in the castle ringing the hour and cursed. Class was beginning, and I was still a five-minute’s walk from Herbology. Forgetting about the situation, I turned and ran as fast as I could, hoping that Professor Longbottom would excuse my lateness.
That night, we had a girl’s night in at the dorm. The tradition was started by Seren, of course, and now occurred on the third Friday of each month. We had cleared the beds to the side of the room and instead were sitting on pillows in a circle. There were copious amounts of chocolate and makeup in the center.
At first, the tradition had been forced due to various fights over both grades and boys that occurred in our fourth year, but now it was something to look forward to—especially after this week from Hell.
I reached for a bottle of nail varnish from the stack in the center. Reading the label, I snorted: “This is called ‘Pygmypuff-Pick-Me-Up.’” I shook my head in mild disgust, examining the blindingly pink sparkling liquid.
Rose grabbed for the bottle. “I don’t believe you,” she cried, only to collapse in laughter after confirming the name of the colour.
“Who would ever wear that colour?” Ella demanded, setting down her Quidditch Today magazine with an eye roll. “It sounds like something a third year would come up with.”
“Hey!” Trini protested. “I think I got it for free.” Most of the cosmetics at our little parties were provided by Trini. She had a sister who worked to design new Wonder Witch products for Weasley’s Wheezes, and constantly got new samples.
“Just because it’s free, doesn’t mean you have to take it,” commented Ella, though she was only joking. We all knew that we were spoiled by Trini’s connections to the makeup industry; without them, we would have spent galleons more on various new products, only to find out that they weren’t worth the money.
Seren laughed and caught the jar of biscuits that Trini threw at her. She took one out, and then passed them to me. Without thinking, I took five or six, stacking them in front of me. “These are delicious,” I muttered as I stuffed two of the sweets in my mouth.
Beside me, Seren nibbled at her own biscuit, and reached for some pale pink nail varnish. I had to admit I was slightly jealous of how put together she was. She stayed in shape, despite trying to take seven N.E.W.T. classes and always looked put together. She kept her curly blonde hair styled perfectly, and managed to look awake after getting two hours of sleep. Her Prefect status made me envy her even more.
“So Laura,” Ella commented, “I saw you with Neel Rao the other day at the library.”
I froze, setting my biscuit down slowly. “Yeah?”
“Oooh! Is Neel the fit Gryffindor idiot?” Trini asked, bouncing up and down on her pillows
Rose smirked at that. “He certainly is fit.”
At the same time, I said, “He’s not an idiot.”
All eyes turned to me. Rose looked amused, Ella incredulous, Trini gleeful and Seren intrigued. “Oh!” I exclaimed, taking in their faces. “No! No, no, not what you’re thinking. God. I just meant that he’s not the same kind of blathering idiot as Potter.”
“Albus isn’t that bad,” Seren said with a shrug, causing all the attention to be deflected onto her.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rose spluttered, looking horrorstruck.
“Oh, calm down,” Ella said, waving her hand. “Rose, we all know you and your cousin have some strange family feud going on, but really, this is too much. Seren didn’t say she wanted to snog him senseless, or anything like that. She just said he’s not an idiot.”
“Do you want to snog him? If so, why haven’t I heard?” Trini asked. More than the rest of us, she was friends with Seren. If she didn’t know about Seren’s supposed affections, they probably didn’t exist.
Seren covered her face with her already manicured fingers. “Stop,” she insisted, shaking her head. “It’s just as Ella said. I was merely saying that he’s not a git.”
“Thank Merlin,” Rose muttered sourly.
Ella tossed some chocolate in Rose’s direction. “Eat this,” she instructed. “You look depressed.”
“Healer Ella, saving her first patient,” I said with a grin.
“We all know you’re the real Healer here,” Ella said, though she was smiling as well. “But seriously, Rose, why so pessimistic?”
I knew the real reason, and fell silent. I had been Rose’s friend for years, and knew well enough that she wouldn’t tell the others about Scorpius, but I had to wonder how she would explain her obvious strangeness.
“School,” Rose said dismally.
She had known the exact thing to say to change the topic. Despite that some stereotypes weren’t true about Ravenclaws, this one was: we were always willing to talk (or at least complain) about school.
Trini was off, cursing her Advanced Astronomy class that met at midnight three times a week. “Professor Sinistra said that we might even have to meet on Saturdays.”
We chatted for at least half an hour before the subject of the Scamander twins came up. “I forgot!” I cried, remembering my conversation with Lorcan in the morning. For once, my encounter with Lysander had cast a shadow of my memory of the other twin. “Seren, Lorcan was looking for you this morning.”
To my surprise, Seren blushed. “Yes, he found me,” she said in a whisper.
Trini was giggling off to the side. Exuberant as always, she was unable to wait for Seren to speak. “It’s not what you think,” she promised with a teasing grin. “There will be no Rees-Scamander wedding soon. Some mystery admirer sent a note to Seren through Lorcan, and he wants her reply.”
“Who?” I demanded, now even more curious. Seren had a secret beau? That sort of intrigue didn’t seem to fit with her personality.
“I’m not sure,” Seren said, speaking quietly again. “But maybe, I think it could be Scorpius Malfoy.”
Rose, sitting next to me, looked like she had been slapped.
Hello :D Hopefully you enjoyed reading this chapter. If you did, or if you didn't, I'd love to get some feedback from you, dear reader.
Sorry for the wait on this chapter, but hopefully it's worth it.