“May I have your attention?” said Professor McGonagall loudly, tapping the side of her gold cup with her knife. The students quieted instantly. “I hate to interrupt your dinner, but we have a pressing matter to consider. Hogwarts School will be welcoming two new students this year from Durmstrang Academy.”
Immediately the peaceful atmosphere changed: Students started to whisper amongst themselves, obviously wondering why Durmstrang students would be coming to Hogwarts.
“You don’t think there’s going to be another Triwizard Tournament, do you?” said Ron Weasley. “Wicked! Remember in fourth year?”
“Oi, who’s that?” said Angel Granger.
Her brown eyes were fixed on a good-looking boy with dark brown hair the color of Chocolate Frogs; he was wearing ripped and torn black robes and holding the hand of the blonde-haired girl standing next to him; she too had beat-up robes and was carrying a small leather satchel.
“That’s probably his girlfriend,” said Ron. “Don’t get your hopes up, Angel.”
“Ron!” said Hermione Granger, Angel’s twin sister. “I expect she’s his sister, if you look closely they have the same face. He looks about our age, and she can’t be much younger. Maybe a year?”
“Why are you looking?” said Ron sharply, crossing his arms over his chest with a cough. “He’s no looker. Not compared to me, anyway,” he added.
“Oh shut up, Ron,” said Hermione, turning a faint pink color. “You’re nothing but talk and lousy Keeping skills.”
“Hey!” said Ron indignantly. “Need I remind you of my many laborious Quidditch hours over the summer?”
“You mean staring at that Gwen person that’s on the wall of your room and eating Chocolate Frogs?”
“It’s Gwenog Jones,” Ron informed Hermione, scowling. “She’s the Captain of the only all-girls’ Quidditch team, the Holyhead Harpies. But since you know absolutely nothing about Quidditch, I don’t expect you’d know that.”
“Well, I met her, didn’t I? At Slughorn’s party? Personally I thought she was a bit full of herself…”
“She’s got some of the best Quidditch moves I’ve ever seen, her team’s one of the top ten Quidditch teams in the world, they almost made it to the World Cup!”
“Oh, I don’t think it’s her Quidditch moves you like, Ron—it’s more of her entire appearance but mostly on her—” started Hermione waspishly, but was thankfully cut off by Professor McGonagall. Ron turned a dark crimson and made a rude hand gesture, which Hermione ignored.
“And now,” said Professor McGonagall, “meet Connor and Jessica Vanderbilt, from Durmstrang!”
Angel smiled as the tall brown-haired boy and the blonde-haired girl walked up to the professor nervously; she joined in the clapping. Just then, the boy turned around and caught Angel’s eyes; she blushed and turned around, her back stubbornly to him.
“He’s not bad-looking,” said Hermione thoughtfully.
Ron frowned. “Yes he is,” he said.
“And now,” said Professor McGonagall, raising her voice ever so slightly, “we are to begin the Sorting.”
“They’re going to be Sorted,” murmured Hermione. “I wonder to which Houses, though.”
“Hopefully Gryffindor,” said Lavender Brown sweetly. “Connie is so cute, and he’s going to be mine. No one will even dare to take him away from me.”
She said this last statement with a nasty look at Hermione: Last year Lavender dated Ron; when Ron had dumped Lavender, she had carried a grudge, even though Hermione and Ron weren’t together.
Not yet, anyway.
“You’re just jealous,” said Angel coldly, “and what kind of name is ‘Connie’? You make him sound like a girl!”
“Angel, ignore her,” said Parvati Patil uneasily.
She motioned towards Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter, who were sitting together—very close together, Angel noted with distaste—and whose arms were wrapped round each other.
Angel turned red. “I don’t really care anymore, Parvati.” Last year, Harry had dumped Angel—after three years of off-and-on dating.
“Do you miss being together?” asked Parvati softly, her tone changing immediately, as if she could tell that she had hit a soft spot.
“Yeah…we were together for a while…I still wish he hadn’t chosen Ginny—no offense, Ron,” she added quickly.
“Well, Ginny’s popular,” said Ron lightly. “I mean, she isn’t that bad-looking or anything…”
“Ginny seems like a good girlfriend, Angel,” said Lavender unperturbedly. “She’s loads better than you, as a matter of fact…”
“Angel,” said Hermione warningly, noticing her twin’s eyes narrow dangerously at Lavender’s jab, and her fingers tightened around her wand. “Don’t even think about it.”
“I have my eye on someone else anyway,” said Angel, her voice rather calm for someone who jinxed people whenever they annoyed her, like Lavender obviously had (her eyes were still narrowed).
“Ooh—who?” said Hermione eagerly, smiling.
“Yes you can,” said a voice; a pale-haired, wide-eyed girl had joined them.
“Oh, hello, Luna,” said Angel with a smile. “How was the trip?” They hadn’t seen Luna since the year before, and had had a different compartment, so they didn’t see her on the train.
Luna Lovegood shrugged, her pale blonde eyebrows raised. “It was all right, but I had to listen to Neville talking about how his grandmother got him a new pet—an owl.
“You didn’t answer me,” she added.
Angel flushed. “I’m not going to!”
“Anything new about the—the Crumple-Horned Snorknack and Gulping Plimplies?” said Hermione; Ron sniggered.
“Dad and I had trouble finding the Snorknack when we went to Sweden; he must’ve gotten the address wrong. And those Rotfang spies kept on following us everywhere!” said Luna angrily, fingering her butterbeer-cork necklace and tugging at her bright orange radish earrings. Her pale eyes searched Hermione’s reproachfully. “They don’t like Daddy’s newspaper at all, now that You-Know-Who’s on the rampage again he’s been telling the truth, not that foolishness the Daily Prophet prints. I’m worried about him,” she added quietly, sounding normal for the first time ever. “The Death Eaters might come and get him.”
“How’s the Quibbler?” Ron asked quickly. “Is it still in business?”
Luna held up the battered magazine she had been holding; a cartoon of a lion-like man was on the cover. “This is from last year, but it’s my favorite issue. I have a newer one here.” She rummaged through her bright purple bag emblazoned with the words Luna Lovegood in surprisingly neat script, emerging with a recent copy of The Quibbler, which Ron grabbed and started rifling through it.
“Your dad’s done a good job—no more rubbish!” he said happily. “It’s all about Harry and You-Know-Who!”
“Isn’t that Rufus Scrimgeour?” interrupted Angel casually, taking the older version of The Quibbler out of Luna’s hand and looking at the title on the front:
Scrimgeour Is A Vampire!
“Yes, that is, because I do the drawing!” said Luna, tugging back the magazine. “This one came right after Fudge was sacked! The Wizarding World had the right to know the truth about our new ‘Minister of Magic,’” she said scornfully.
“But Scrimgeour wasn’t a vampire!” said Hermione coldly.
Luna stared at Hermione for a moment, her forehead creased.
“The Minister, not a vampire?” she said finally. “He was really a spy for You-Know-Who, did you know that? And a member of the Rotfang Conspiracy too! We didn’t need—or want—a man like that for our Ministry decisions, Hermione!
“Of course, You-Know-Who does want vampires on his side,” she continued vaguely, “because they’ll be able to contaminate more people that way…Daddy says that’s obvious of course, you narrow-minded, always-certain-of-the-truth Gryffindor…”
Hermione chose to ignore this jab; she pulled a thick book out of her bag and began to read, although Angel could tell she wasn’t reading (the book was upside down).
“More than Fenrir Greyback,” said Angel thoughtfully, ignoring Hermione’s poisonous look from behind the upside-down book, “but the Minister, a vampire? I have to admit I like the idea about the whole Minister-working-for-You-Know-Who thing. And please stop wincing, Ron,” she added, sighing, for Ron had indeed jumped when she mentioned the Dark wizard’s name. “Oh, wait…wasn’t he killed by You-Know-Who?”
“Yes, I expect You-Know-Who thought the Minister knew more than he should have, and he didn’t want the Rotfang Conspiracy to spill his secrets. That Pius Thicknesse—he’s a leader of the conspiracy to overthrow the Ministry.”
Angel snorted, but managed to cover it as a cough. Luna could be a bit wacky, but she wasn’t all that bad.
“This edition’s excellent, really excellent,” Ron said to Luna, still thumbing through his copy of The Quibbler, which carried pictures of all the Death Eaters on the cover.
Luna beamed. “I’m glad you think so, Ronald.” Her pale eyes were bright.
“GRYFFINDOR!” shouted the Hat; the four of them all turned around to see Connor Vanderbilt walking towards the table where the Gryffindors were sitting.
“Yes!” Lavender Brown squealed, clapping harder than any other girl.
“Welcome to Gryffindor!” shouted Dean Thomas.
“I’ve heard the name Vanderbilt before, now that I think of it,” Hermione said softly to Angel. “I read an article last year about a Jon and Rochelle Vanderbilt…”
“What’d it say, then?” said Angel.
Hermione frowned and said, “I can’t remember—”
“Silence!” said Professor McGonagall sternly; the tables quieted down. “Finally…Vanderbilt, Jessica?” The blonde-haired girl nodded and sat down on the stool where the Sorting Hat had been; the professor placed it on her head.
“Ah…Another Durmstrang, eh? You’re not a candidate for Slytherin, let me say that…Perhaps Hufflepuff would suit you…No, you’re too clever…Better be…RAVENCLAW!” said the hat loudly, causing the Ravenclaw table to burst into applause.
“He mentioned Slytherin...he never said it when I was underneath him, she’s got to have a quality for it…” said Hermione. “There’s something a bit odd about the boy, though, isn’t there?”
“You’re paranoid,” said Angel, yawning, “look at Brandi, she’s only in Slytherin ’cause of Malfoy!”
Brandi Rose Malfoy was one of Angel’s best friends; she had arrived at Hogwarts due to the fact that her parents had died in a hippogriff accident. She also had the misfortune of being Draco Malfoy’s cousin, though only by looks and blood you could tell; she was the friendliest person Angel had ever met, compared to the sullen, arrogant Draco.
“Is she here?” asked Ron, searching the crowd.
“I dunno,” said Angel. “Could she have missed the train?”
“D’you honestly think I would have? It’s our last year here, and I had to get out of the house; You-Know-Who’s decided to take it over. And frankly, I’m surprised my goddamn uncle agreed.” The voice was naturally loud and taunting, and very familiar.
Angel whirled around to see Brandi standing behind her. “Brandi!” she cried. “Don’t scare me like that.”
“Wotcher to you too,” said Brandi, her dark silver eyes twinkling. “How’re you? Nice having some more foreign students, isn’t it?”
“Yeah…and a boy too,” said Angel, grinning. “Heard from Weasley and Weasley recently?”
Brandi smiled. George Weasley, one of Ron’s brothers, was Brandi’s boyfriend.
“Actually, I spent the summer at Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, helping Fred and George with business,” she said, looking at Ron for his reaction: Fred and George never let him do business or work with them; they still remained convinced he wasn’t their brother.
“That’s not fair, they wouldn’t let me help!” said Ron indignantly.
Brandi shrugged. “So? I’m George’s girlfriend, I deserve to help. And it got me out of Malfoy Manor…that’s excellent!” she said with a grin.
Angel stifled a laugh.
“Where is Malfoy?” said Ron curiously, searching the crowd of students. “I know he vanished. D’you have any idea where he is?”
“At Malfoy Manor with his mummy, of course,” said Brandi unconcernedly, taking a bite of chicken. “Good thing too, I hated them—preferred their positively spiffing son to me and blamed me for everything that puffed-up, pompous idiot did. I’m living with my aunt Andromeda until I graduate.”
Angel giggled. “You really can't stand the others.”
“I don’t hate them,” said Brandi, rolling her eyes. “But God, I’m glad all three of ’em are gone—a right pain in the—”
“Brandi!” Hermione looked scandalized.
“Hermione, give it a rest, will you?” said Angel exasperatedly, sipping her butterbeer without tasting it. “Cursing isn’t that bad.”
“Excuse me,” said a voice; both Angel and Brandi looked up to see the new boy, Connor, staring at them. “Can one of you pass me the ketchup?”
“Sure,” said Angel; she handed the small red bottle to him and smiled slightly when she saw Lavender sit up straight, elbow Parvati in the ribs, and gaze at Connor with the expression of a bloodhound.
“Thank you,” said Connor, with a small smile. “And you are?”
“I’m Angel Granger, this is Brandi Malfoy, Ron Weasley, my twin Hermione…” said Angel, trying not to crack up at the lovestruck, slavish look on Lavender’s face.
“Malfoy?” Connor’s face darkened. “Any relation to Lucius and Narcissa?”
Brandi nodded. “I’m their unfortunate niece,” she said jokingly.
“Oh…nice to meet you, Brandi.”
“You too,” said Brandi, frowning slightly as Connor walked away. “Blimey, he’s a serious lot.”
“No wonder the name ‘Vanderbilt’ sounds familiar!” said Hermione suddenly, leaning forward.
“What’s that got to do with being serious?” said Brandi.
“Nothing, nothing. Brandi, is everything a joke with you…?” said Hermione. “But the name’s so familiar, now that I think of it.”
“How?” said Angel, putting her sandwich down.
“His parents were murdered, a nasty one too,” said Hermione quietly. “It’s almost Harry’s story, really—Connor’s parents were betrayed. Lucius Malfoy was the last to see them alive—aside from Connor and Jessica, of course. It was Christmas.”
“My uncle,” said Brandi, cocking her head. “But what does that have to do with me?”
“Hello?” said Hermione. “You’re a Malfoy too, in case you forgot.”
“You know I’m not proud of being a Malfoy,” said Brandi quickly. “If I’d had a choice, I would’ve been something less…unwelcome.”
“Uh, back to the Vanderbilt history?” said Ron, nudging Angel.
“Lucius was the Vanderbilts’ Secret-Keeper,” said Hermione, “and then he betrayed them. Connor knows more about the Order and You-Know-Who than Harry does.”
“Cool!” said Ron, grinning.
“Not if you found out your parents had been murdered by their best friend!”
“Oh…erm, right…still, it’d be cool if you knew a lot about You-Know-Who…Poor bloke,” Ron added sympathetically.
“You are dismissed!” said Professor McGonagall loudly. “Go back to your common rooms! Prefects!”
“Finally,” said Angel, “I have to finish Slughorn’s essay, he said he’d put me in detention if it’s incomplete again…what’s the point? You don’t need Potions to be a Transfiguration professor, or a writer…”
“Yes, you do,” said Hermione sharply, “McGonagall said that to you in fifth year, remember?”
“I hate Potions,” Angel grumbled.
“It doesn’t help that you’re completely lazy and too focused on stupid Quidditch,” said Hermione sharply.
“Quidditch is not stupid,” said Angel, “and I just don’t get Potions!”
“I could tutor you,” said a voice; Angel turned around to see Connor Vanderbilt behind her. Behind him, Angel could see Lavender glaring.
“Oh sure, if you don’t mind…are you sure?” she said.
“I’d advise that you didn’t,” said Hermione quickly, “my twin’s hard to work with.”
“Kiss arse, ’Mione.”
“Isn’t she adorable?” beamed Hermione. “Your risk.”
Connor shrugged. “I’m good at it—I’ll help you out if you want. I’ve dealt with difficult people before.” He grinned, showing that he was teasing her.
Angel’s pulse began to race just a bit—was he flirting with her?
“All right then, how about the library?” she said, rubbing the back of her neck and ducking down, presumably to find a fork that she had dropped but mainly to conceal her red face. Brandi elbowed her, and she sat back up.
“Okay—tomorrow?” said Connor. When she nodded, he added, “What’s your schedule? Maybe we can work out extra lessons…”
Angel rummaged through her bag, found the schedule, and handed it to him. Connor studied it, raising his eyebrows slightly.
“Let’s see—we have Potions together, Defense together, Herbology and Transfiguration, not to mention Charms. All of our classes except for Divination are the same; we have it different periods.”
“I think I’m going to skive out on that, though, because Trelawney’s a fraud—I can just ask Shealin Trelawney,” said Angel.
“So, what about the lessons?” Connor changed the subject casually. “When can I tutor you? I have a feeling Quidditch would get in the way.”
“Um…Maybe in the common room?”
“I’ll see you in the common room…tomorrow at five p.m.?”
“I have practice,” said Angel. “How about eight, when everyone’s in? Sorry, Harry’s not very lenient when it comes to Quidditch.” At Harry’s name, she noticed Connor shift slightly.
“Fine with me. See you then. Oh—nice meeting you all,” said Connor to Hermione, Ron, and Brandi, to whom he said, “Sorry I was so rude to you—I’m not really in favor of the Malfoys. You seem all right to me, not like your cousin.”
“You know him?”
“Our fathers were…friends,” said Connor quietly. “Well, g’night.”
“G’night,” said Angel and Brandi together.
“Whoa, he’s connected,” said Brandi, giving a low whistle. “I can’t believe he knows about all the chaos. It’s mad, it is. How does he know all of this?”
“I know—it’s unusual…’Mione, can you help us out here?” Angel turned to her sister, who was looking thoughtful.
“He was in the Order,” said Hermione uncertainly. “He could’ve heard stuff—but he shouldn’t have been at the meetings…we weren’t allowed…oh, I hope he isn’t a spy for the Death Eaters! He did go to Durmstrang.”
“He doesn’t seem the type,” said Brandi.
“Looks can be deceiving, remember Quirrell?” Ron said glumly.
“My parents were in the Order,” Brandi said quietly. “I think…yeah, they’d come home and talk about the meetings—and they mentioned a Jon, Rochelle, and Connor Vanderbilt who popped in plenty of times.”
“What!” said Angel. “How can that be?”
“I dunno…could it be that he went to the meetings along with his parents? Dammit, I wasn’t allowed to go, and he’s the same age as we are!” Brandi’s eyes flashed angrily as she scowled.
“Hang on…in fifth year, there was a lot of talk about the Vanderbilt family. The kids were being sent to Durmstrang to spy for the Order,” said Ron. “Remember that?”
“Oh yeah,” said Angel, suddenly recalling that time.
“And then there were those horrific murders that were covered up by the Ministry—all those boys died,” said Hermione, shuddering.
“What about Jessica Vanderbilt?” Angel wondered. “Was she at the meetings too?”
“She’s younger than Connor is, so I’d reckon the answer’s no,” said Ron. “Hermione, stay away from him otherwise he’ll turn into a Krum.”
Angel snorted, knowing that Ron was still jealous about the fact that Viktor Krum, a student from Durmstrang, had shown an interest in Hermione. Ron’s ears turned red, and Hermione blushed.
“He is awfully cute,” she said.
“Bloody hell,” Ron muttered angrily, kicking a blond-haired first-year in the back of the legs. “Move it, midget,” he snarled, “you don’t have all night to chatter. Hey, you lot, get in your common rooms now or I’ll hex you!”
“Ron!” Hermione looked scandalized. “Dasser, are you all right?”
“He kicked me! It hu-u-u-urts!” whined Dasser. “Send him to the principal’s office!”
“He apparently went to Muggle school,” Angel murmured into Brandi’s ear. “Little brat.”
Brandi hid a smile. “Muggle kids this bad, eh?”
“Worse,” said Hermione. “But Angel, you ought to stay away from Connor. We don’t know if he’s evil or not.”
“Easy for you to say, twin,” said Angel, “you’re not his student as of right now.”
That night in the common room, Angel watched Connor, who was reading a book by the fire.
“Stay away from him,” said Lavender from next to Angel. “Connor Vanderbilt is mine—why don’t you flirt with Dean, or Ron, or Seamus even?”
Angel jumped; she hadn’t realized she was this close.
“Excuse me?” she said coldly. “Ron fancies Hermione, and Dean is dating Kalisha Johnson.”
“I’m just saying, stay away from Connie, he’s mine,” said Lavender, glaring at Angel. “You’re just jealous because he likes me…”
“He doesn’t even know you—not even your name!” Angel hissed, lowering her quill but thinking of other ways to use it besides writing.
“We’ll see about that.” Lavender got up and walked over to Connor. “Hi, Connor…” she cooed, sitting on a chair near him.
“Oh, uh, hi…” he said to her without raising his head from his book. Angel smirked as Lavender shot him a dirty look and went back to sit next to Parvati.
“Hey, Angel, this may help you in Potions,” said Connor, lifting his head and beckoning her to come closer. Angel got up from her spot on the floor near the portrait entrance and kneeled next to Connor, lying on the floor in front of the fire.
“What are you reading?” she said, noticing the book. “I’ve never seen it before…”
“Moste Potente Potions,” said Connor, holding the book out to Angel. “It’s one of the books my dad left me.”
“How’ll this help me, exactly?”
“Here, look at this chapter.” Connor moved over to give Angel some room as she got on her stomach. “It’s about all of the complex potions—Polyjuice, Truth, stuff like that—but with tips on how to perfect them. I’ve learned a lot from this.”
Connor spread the book out so both of them could read it and Angel was vaguely aware of Lavender watching them.
“Okay, where am I looking?”
“Right here.” Connor pointed to a spot on the page.
Angel looked at the page and began to read. The book was handwritten in untidy script. Occasionally the writing varied to a delicate cursive; it was clearly written by a female.
“Who wrote this?” she asked.
“My mum and dad—Mum wrote in the cursive, but Dad’s handwriting wasn’t the best. He didn’t get much of an education, working as a groom for the…It’s no matter,” he changed the topic.
“How can you read it?” said Angel, straining to understand the scrawl.
Connor grinned. “Practice,” he said, propping his chin in his hand. “Does that help at all?”
Angel had finished reading the chapter. “A bit—it has a lot of notes and stuff to improve all of the potions we’re brewing these days,” she said thoughtfully. “Now I know what I’m doing wrong.”
“Since we have Potions together and you need help, d’you think Horace Slughorn would mind if I became your assistant?” said Connor.
“You know Slughorn?” said Angel curiously.
“My father did.” That was all he said, but Angel sensed there was something he was hiding.
She felt slightly uncomfortable lying next to him; she jumped to her feet.
“I think I’ll go to bed, Connor, see you in Potions…”
“Good night, then.”
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