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I wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened. Well, I had just been interviewed by the Weasley twins to see if I was still allowed to associate with them, I knew that much. Why I hadn’t immediately slipped into Default Mode Pompous was beyond me, however. Or Default Mode Cynical. Okay, maybe there was a bit of that. I had been defensive, and although I certainly didn’t shrink from a good debate, especially when my character was the topic, normally I didn’t mind when people thought I was a goody-two-shoes. It meant I had the element of surprise when I duelled them or played their Quidditch team—at which point they realised that I was not, in fact, the pureblood world’s answer to Hermione Granger but more Ravenclaw’s answer to Harry Potter. Except, of course, redheaded, female and exceedingly arrogant.
At least I acknowledged my faults.
“You’re a prefect?” Mum asked when I came home.
“That I am.”
“Gee, Mum, don’t bowl me over with your enthusiasm.”
“We’ve known it practically since you were born,” Mum said matter-of-factly.
“That’s not what you said last year.”
“You cursed a professor!”
“He was a Death Eater.”
“Not the point. We didn’t know, Dumbledore didn’t know, and you certainly didn’t know.”
“Also not the point. Because at the end of the day I was at Hogwarts cursing Barty Crouch Jr. while you and the rest of the Auror Office were looking for him on the other side of the country.”
“I doubt I would call that cursing, Athena,” Mum said. “It was an uncontrolled fireball of magic.”
“Still did plenty of damage.”
“Heard you’re a prefect,” Artemis commented unenthusiastically, wandering into the lounge. “My sister the prefect, taking points from Hufflepuff all day long. Yay.”
“I need a new family,” I muttered.
“Get married,” Mum said unsympathetically, picking up the Daily Prophet.
“Oh yeah, might go shack up with the Muggle down the road.”
“Thena couldn’t get married,” Artemis commented. “She can’t even get a boyfriend.”
“Oh the irony, little sister, I don’t see you with one.”
“I’m twelve, I don’t need one.”
“Yeah, well I’m fifteen, don’t need one either.”
“That’s just sad.”
I shrugged. “My choice.”
“Oh really? So when was the last time you were asked out?”
“The last day of school,” I replied. I knew I would regret opening this line of conversation, but I wasn’t going to sit there and let my sister think I was some unwanted loner.
“That’s my business.”
“I bet he doesn’t exist.”
“Oh, he exists.” Unfortunately.
“Bet he doesn’t,” Artemis said childishly. Oh wait, she is a child. Never mind.
I rolled my eyes, deciding I had had enough of the conversation, and took myself off to my room to study Potions. Yes, it was the holidays. But when you were the daughter of Aurors, both of whom had been prefects, one of whom had been Quidditch captain and the other Head Girl of Hogwarts, you practically had to create a new standard of excellence, one that rose above those honours. And I’d be damned if I was going to stop at prefect.
“Athena, we’re off!” Mum called loudly from my doorway.
I rolled over. “It’s half past eight, no we’re not.”
“Yes we are. We’ve got a lot of shopping to do, all your and Artemis’ textbooks, she needs new robes—”
“She’s a second year, she’s barely had a chance to wear the ones she’s got now.”
“She’s growing. Unlike you.”
“Yeah, make fun of the short girl. Insulting me isn’t going to make me get out of bed.”
“No offence intended. Get up, please.”
“I don’t have to come, if you’re buying my textbooks off a list.”
“Your birthday is in three weeks.”
“Well observed, mother.”
“I was thinking we could have a look at some presents.”
“Because that’s not blatant bribery and corruption at all, is it?”
“You can’t talk to me about corruption, daughter dearest, you were threatening Artemis at dinner with house points.”
“With lack of house points,” I corrected, “And I’m sure Flitwick knew what he was doing when he made me prefect, we’ve lost the House Cup every year for as long as I can remember.”
“You don’t need to win by cheating.”
“Not cheating,” I countered. “Increased observation, especially when it comes to Slytherin and Hufflepuff. More Hufflepuff to start with, but definitely Slytherin when we start heading into Quidditch season.”
“Just get out of bed, Athena.”
I took myself off to Florean Fortescue’s while Artemis was having her robes fitted, scanning the shop for anyone I knew. There was Padma and Parvati Patil, and, what do you know it, Fred and George. I suddenly felt out of place for not having an identical twin.
“How’s the Ickle Prefect?” Fred called loudly, seeing me and grinning. Padma turned and glared at me. What had I done? Oh yes, gotten the Prefect badge she had wanted so badly.
“Fantastic, how’s the would-be dropout?” I countered, going up to the counter.
“I resent that,” he announced to my back.
“I resent Ickle Prefect. I don’t want the same title as Ron, thanks.”
“That I can understand,” George said reasonably. “What can we call her, Fred?”
“You could call me Athena, how ‘bout that?” I suggested, taking my ice cream from Fortescue.
“Sit,” George said, gesturing to a seat at their table.
“We need to name you,” Fred agreed.
“I think I’m good,” I said, though I was strangely tempted to join them, a) to avoid Artemis’ robe fitting and b) because they were likely to come up with interesting topics of conversation.
“I’m thinking something to do with fire,” George said, nodding at my hair.
“Bit rich, coming from you.”
“I asked young Harry the details of you cursing a professor,” Fred continued, ignoring this comment. “I hear it was a fireball. How do you do that?”
“Get on my bad side and I’ll show you.”
“Feisty, aren’t you?” George asked, grinning.
Feisty? That was a new one. I’d had stubborn, argumentative, cynical, cold, secretive, mistrusting, arrogant and proud thrown at me over the years, but I must say feisty wasn’t an adjective I’d heard to describe me before.
“I’d call you the Ice Queen if it weren’t for the fact your hair would melt Antarctica,” Fred said thoughtfully.
“Have you two ever made the acquaintance of a mirror?”
“We’re not Ravenclaws,” George said immediately.
I rolled my eyes. “Perhaps not, but surely it hasn’t escaped your notice that your hair and that of the rest of your family is more orange than mine?”
“Oh no, we realise that,” George said.
“But yours is more red than orange, so I figure we can get away with it,” Fred explained.
“So, gonna get your name on the Ravenclaw honours board this year then?” George asked.
I snorted. “That would involve passing Astronomy.”
“Ah, Astronomy,” Fred said, leaning back on his chair and smiling fondly. “Load of bullshit, Astronomy.”
“Oh, I know.”
“We’re in the middle of product development, actually,” Fred continued thoughtfully. “Skiving Snackboxes, heard of them?”
“I’m not sure if I want to.”
“Just little sweets, about this big,” he said, holding his thumb and forefinger a few centimetres apart. “One end makes you sick—puking, fainting, fevers, nosebleeds, range of symptoms—and the other end makes you right as rain the moment you’ve left class for the hospital wing…”
“Free to pursue your own leisures for the rest of the lesson,” George finished. It sounded like they had rehearsed this little spiel.
“Let me know when they’re finished, then, I’m keen.”
“Supplying to a prefect!” Fred said gleefully. “Wonders never cease!”
I finished my ice cream, sending it across the room into the rubbish. “I think you’ll find I’m not a normal prefect.”
Not a normal anything, in fact.
Apparently, brains are not a prerequisite for being a prefect.
“What are you doing here?” Pansy Parkinson asked in a whiny voice, giving me the up and down look.
I glanced up at the sign saying Prefects’ Carriage, waiting until she had followed my gaze and seen it too. Then I glanced pointedly down at the badge on my robes.
“Figured it out yet?” I asked patiently.
“But I’m the fifth-year prefect!”
“We’re in different houses, Pansy.”
She looked confused for a moment, as if she was about to protest this fact.
“Oh,” she said at length. “You’re a Ravenclaw.”
“I should think so too,” I said stiffly; I didn’t appreciate being mistaken for a Slytherin.
“I thought you were normal,” Pansy continued.
“No, I’m not normal.”
“I can tell you are too.”
“Not really,” Pansy said seriously, and I saw Draco Malfoy hovering behind her, smirking. “You always do better than me at school.”
That’s really not hard. “Yes, that’s because I am, as you say, smart.”
“What are you laughing at, Draco?” Pansy asked, turning to face him.
“Nothing,” Draco said immediately. “Oh wow, two Weasley prefects? A pity vote from Dumbledore, I suppose.”
You know, Draco Malfoy would be all right, if he wasn’t such a douchebag.
“Interesting,” Nathaniel noted, “Considering I beat you in every class last year. You’d think the pity vote would be for you, but I suppose you’re the smartest in your house, which isn’t saying much.”
“I’d get off my high horse if I were you, Weasley,” Draco muttered. “Being a nerd isn’t everything.”
“Breaking out the massive insults, I see,” Nathaniel said calmly.
“How’d you get to be prefect?” Draco asked, abandoning the argument with Nathaniel and turning to Ron instead.
Ron just stuttered, and I sat down to enjoy the entertainment. Draco was a douchebag, but he could be a cynical douchebag when he wanted to be, whereas Ron was just sulky and moody.
“I thought so,” Draco said, looking satisfied. “Shame you didn’t have an answer though, Weasley. I was curious.”
“Shut up, Malfoy.”