Madam Pomfrey had been none too happy to see me come in with a bloodied hand at eleven at night, and even less happy when I explained what happened and asked whether she thought it was the result of Class C Dark magic.
“I know what you’re trying to do, Miss Selwyn,” she had told me, “But you would be foolish to challenge Dolores Umbridge. She is the Ministry.”
Despite that, she had agreed with Blood Quills being Class C Dark magic and had sent me off to Ravenclaw Tower after a Strengthening Solution and a cleaning of the wound. The whole thing had only taken ten minutes, and Fred had insisted on staying and accompanying me back to Ravenclaw Tower, though he had explained that half the reason was because Filch wouldn’t go after him for being in the corridors after curfew if he was with me, and “Filch and I are not on the best of terms, you see.”
I rolled over impatiently, unable to sleep. The throbbing in my hand reminded me of the more pressing matter that had arisen during the evening, but my mind wasn’t on Umbridge or the complaint I was making against her.
My mind was on Fred; how I’d enjoyed sitting next to him on a cold, shit-covered Owlery floor a bit too much; how I was a bit too self-conscious when he put his arm around me and helped me to the hospital wing; how I stared at said shit-covered floor of Owlery when he looked at me with something too close to shyness, how even now I was analysing his reasons for staying with me a bit too much.
Which led me to, at four in the morning, very reluctantly, concede that I was attracted to him, and that I was not going to sleep tonight.
I had liked guys before. I had, like half the girls in Ravenclaw at some point, found Roger attractive in my third year, though thankfully that hadn’t lasted long, nor had anyone found out about it. I also hadn’t been opposed to getting a good look at Gilderoy Lockhart in second year, along with every single girl at Hogwarts. And, perhaps most shamefully, I did have my eye on Draco Malfoy last year until he was transfigured into a ferret—that was a bit off-putting.
So, contrary to popular belief, I was not asexual. Or lesbian, for that matter. No, I just had a severe adversion to the idea of relationships, for a great many reasons.
It wasn’t even relationships that scared me, though I was determined never to compromise the independence I prized so much. No, it was the concept of love, and that was entirely more frightening. It made people lose control. It controlled them. Even looking at my best friend I could see how being in love with Katya affected him, and he couldn’t control it. No, I wanted nothing to do with a force that could take over my mind so much.
There was a reason why I had spent hours with Mum last Christmas holidays learning to throw off an Imperius Curse. There was a reason why I had asked Mum to teach me Occlumency over summer, and a reason why I didn’t rest until I had mastered it. Because it wasn’t stupidity, bad luck, weakness or the power of Dark wizards which had nearly gotten my father and I killed in the First Wizarding War when I was a toddler; it was Mum being Imperiused to break the Fidelius Charm on our house.
It was a lack of control.
“You’re still on the team,” Roger informed me the next morning. “But be warned, if you miss any practices due to detentions, you’re off, and we’ll get the keeper to play your position. He won’t be too hard to replace, any schmuck capable of riding a broomstick can play keeper.”
“Perhaps if you scheduled more than one practice before each game, it would be less catastrophic if people couldn’t make it.”
“I’m too busy to schedule a thousand practices,” Roger said impatiently. “I’m Head Boy, do you think I have that sort of time?”
“You do fuck all.”
“Don’t swear at me, Athena.”
I rolled my eyes. “Let me know when you schedule our annual practice, then. I’ll try and not let it conflict with disciplinary action.”
Merlin’s pants, I wished I was in a house that took Quidditch seriously. Gryffindor and Slytherin battled it out for the Cup every single year, with McGonagall and Snape seeming to compete to book the pitch every night for practice once the season started. And even Hufflepuff gave the Cup their best shot, because at the end of the day, they were remarkably average in everything else and to win the Cup would bring glory to their house that they never had. Ravenclaw, apparently, was happy with having a ridiculous overrepresentation in Head Prefects and top OWL and NEWT marks. Don’t worry about the Quidditch Cup or anything, we hadn’t won it since 1945, why disrupt history?
It rained on Saturday, which meant I had three options to choose from: conversation in the common room, homework in the common room, or extra-curricular nerding in the library. After attempting to write a Potions essay with a bunch of first-years playing Exploding Snap in the background and a group of seventh-years discussing the intricacies of Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration at the table beside mine, I gave up and took myself off to the library; it may have been as full of nerds as the Ravenclaw common room but at least I would find Hermione there.
“Athena,” Hermione called, waving me over as soon as she saw me walk through the door. I knew it.
“Hermione,” I returned, crossing the room and dropping my armload of parchment, textbooks and quill on the table. “Too much pandemonium in your common room then?”
“Let’s see,” she began thoughtfully. “Harry and Ron were discussing Quidditch tactics with Angelina, Alicia and Katie. Fred and George decided it would be fun to bewitch the words in my textbooks—” here she showed me her copy of Intermediate Transgenderation—“Dean and Seamus were arguing over the merits of Puddlemere United over the Ballycastle Bats, and Lavender and Parvati were asking me about my relationship with Viktor. Oh, and there was a fight involving cushions, quills, balls of parchment and socks amongst the third and fourth years.”
“Now that sounds like fun,” I said enviously. “Last time there was a fight in our common room, it was a debate amongst the seventh-years about the fairness of the signing of the Statute of Secrecy. I think we heard the entire syllabus of NEWT level History of Magic.”
Hermione looked almost wistful at the thought. “Your seventh-years engage in political debate? Ours had first-years vomiting into buckets for market research.”
“Swap for a week?” I suggested. “I would kill for that kind of chaos sometimes.”
“I would if I could,” she said wryly. “Though you would have to write Harry and Ron’s essays for them.”
“Are you serious?”
She nodded solemnly. “They sleep in History of Magic.”
“Most of the Hufflepuffs in my class do as well. Actually, to be honest, I’ve dozed off a couple of times.”
“Athena!” she exclaimed, looking shocked. “You’re meant to be the friend who cares about school!”
“I do,” I replied. I just don’t try as hard.
“On the topic of school,” she continued briskly, “We simply can’t hope to pass our OWLs for Defence Against the Dark Arts if we haven’t had proper instruction.”
“Pass?” I repeated. “You, Hermione Granger, are looking to pass? I will physically die if I get less than Outstanding for Defence.”
“I was talking about everyone in general. Of course I’m aiming for Outstanding. But I was thinking…we’re not being taught by Umbridge. Maybe if we took matters into our own hands…”
I nodded. “Get Flitwick on board—no, even better, Snape. Snape kicks absolute arse in Defence Against the Dark Arts, he’d get us through our OWLs, and give us some tools for fighting the Dark Lord—”
“Dumbledore doesn’t trust Snape teaching Defence,” Hermione said swiftly. “And to be perfectly honest, he’s a horrible teacher and half of Gryffindor hate him. I was meaning we really take matters into our own hands.”
“Seventh years?” she repeated.
“Makes sense, doesn’t it, they had Lupin for their OWL year.”
“No, not seventh years. I was thinking maybe Harry…and you, if you’re keen…”
“Me?” I repeated. (Insert inflation of ego here.)
“Yes,” Hermione confirmed. “You’re top of the school in Defence—”
“Was, till Umbridge decided to have a personal vendetta against me,” I corrected.
“And Harry’s faced You Know Who,” Hermione continued.
“So what are you planning?”
“I’m not sure yet. I have to get Harry on board first…and figure out exactly how it’ll work…but I was thinking, if Harry agrees, that we have a meeting for anyone interested next Hogsmeade weekend.”
“I’ll be there.”
“Did Hermione tell you about her idea?” Harry asked me in a low voice when I walked into Charms.
“She did. Your opinion?”
“I don’t know. I’m no teacher, I’m not even that good—”
“Oh, grow an ego,” I interrupted impatiently. “You’re the freaking Boy Who Lived.”
“What about you?” he asked, ignoring this comment.
“What about me?”
“Well, do you want to teach Defence?”
“Yes, but I’d rather if you got behind it as well.”
“You’re probably better qualified than I am.”
“It may have escaped your notice, but as a matter of fact, I have never fought the Dark Lord. Or his Death Eaters.”
“That doesn’t mean I’m any good. It mostly comes down to luck…”
I rolled my eyes. “You’re still one of the top students for Defence, at least, you are when we have a decent teacher. I could get a copy of the examination requirements for the practical, I’m pretty sure you and I have all of them covered between us, and we can work on combat and duelling as well.”
“You’ve been thinking about this.”
“I bet you have as well.”
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