Chapter 1 : Begin with a Bang
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This fic is a little bit of everything I love. It's a coming-of-age story, with a dollop of adventure, comedy, romance, and baked goods. I wanted to write a story that captured the spirit of Hogwarts as JKR does, which can be rare in Next Gen humor. It's written episodically and has an ensemble cast. The major players are Beatrice Chang, Scorpius Malfoy, Fred Weasley, Anjali Patil-Davies, and Albus Potter. The PoVs rotate; don't get dizzy.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it ♥
Love to Margravine for adoring this since August, GubraithianFire for the spazzing, Inti for the title, Ellerina for the casting, & foundriapenguin for the general fangirling, and everyone else for putting up with the crazy.
ACT I: THE IDEA
1. BEGIN WITH A BANG
Bea didn't have occupational hazards. She was the occupational hazard.
It wasn't supposed to explode.
Bea had measured the lionroot essence twice to make sure she didn't put in too much. Fred measured it a third time, going on and on about how Filch nearly caught them the last time they borrowed an empty classroom for brewing. It really said something about wizarding vitality when they had to mind a hundred-who-knows-year-old breathing corpse hobbling at top speed toward suspicious smoke.
It was fine, Bea insisted. Potions with unicorn hair were tricky, but she had worked with them before. The worst it could do was fizzle, maybe cause a few sparks. After adding in two spoonfuls of lionroot, as directed by the recipe, the potion turned to the target blue color. She then gave her 'I-told-you-so-you-owe-me-a-butterbeer' smirk to Fred, who replied with his 'You-got-lucky-buy-it-yourself' eye roll.
Except they both probably should have been paying attention to the gurgling sound and Fred's eye roll only got to 'You-got-lucky-buy' before a classroom-shattering boom threw them backwards.
It happened in slow-motion, complete with bodies arcing gracefully, hair fanning back, and potion droplets settling like dew on their skin. It would have been very pretty if it weren't equally painful. Bea had plenty of time to consider exactly what went wrong in that interval between being blinded by the black smoke and feeling the cruel slap of the floor underneath her cheek.
...was it lionroot essence or lionroot powder?
The two lay on the floor, coughing up a fit as the dust settled. Fred tugged her up, one hand on her collar, the other pushing up on the edge of the nearest desk. "What the bloody—"
Bea leapt to the cauldron, her sooty finger circling the air. "Powder!" she cried. "Two spoonfuls of powder!"
"Oh, for Fawkes sake."
The saddest bit was that Fred didn't appear the least bit surprised. After two years worth of their escapades, he knew how often head-shakingly simple mistakes blew up in their face. It was the third time he singed his eyebrows that month. The woes of innovators.
Bea scooped a spoonful into the vial—Fred winced at her slapdash measuring—and dumped it into their reserve batch. Fred immediately ducked under the table.
"I'm not going to mess up twice," she said, stirring the mixture until it glowed blue like the previous attempt.
"You said the same thing when we were trying to replicate my dad's Portable Swamp."
"That was just that one time." His head turned and she could feel him glaring through the table. Bea scowled. "Fine, one-point-five. Ahem, you're being ridiculous. Come look; it's safe."
"Tell that to my eyebrows."
Bea thrust a sample vial under the table, shaking it for good measure. "There. One completely inert sensory enhancer concentrate. Happy now?"
He swabbed the rim with a finger and dabbed it on the side of his nose. "Ugh." Every musty, molding stink from underneath the table filled his nostrils. "Well, it works."
And so they began mopping up the mess and returning the supplies to the proper cupboards. The explosion seemed to have gone unnoticed by the rest of the castle—Fred's famously strong Silencing Charms had held—but there was no need to stick around longer than necessary. Stealing from the ingredients' cupboard wasn't about to give points to Ravenclaw, especially if Filch knew they were being raided for making the newest Weasley's Wizard Wheezes product: an ointment that would made the user's lips tingle if they touched any food laced with love potion.
After the previous year's drugged chocolates trend, when over a dozen blokes fell victim to lovesick girls (and one house elf), Fred realized the potential market for a preventive measure. Star Keeper Deric Kingsworth didn't let a forkful of food near his mouth for a week after Valentine's Day.
Bea was attempting to levitate all twenty vials back into the cupboard at once, until Fred glared at her and she grudgingly levitated them one at a time. "When are we going to work on my transistor?"
A hint of dismay crinkled his eyes. "Don't tell me you're still on that thing. I'm telling you: it's a lost cause."
"You have a severe lack of faith. Would I work on it for so long if it were going nowhere?"
Bea opened her mouth before shutting it up with a pout. She heaved a sigh. "Fine..."
Fred shook his head. "Can you at least focus on this project until we're done?" He might not have inherited the inventor's genes from his dad, but he kept the progress steady from blueprint to store shelf. If the chaos better known as Beatrice Chang went unpruned, the Ravenclaw common room would be swimming in prototypes, all half-finished.
"It's called multitasking." She shut the cupboard after the last of the supplies floated in. "What about names? 'Beloved Begone Balm'? 'Deception Detector Dab'? 'Save-Me-from-the-Stalkers Salve'?"
"We've alliterated better." From his robe's hidden pocket, Fred drew out the Marauder's Map, bequeathed by James after he finished seventh year, and tapped it with his wand. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Ink spread across the page, outlining the rooms and hallways of the basement.
Bea stuck her head on top of Fred's shoulder. "The kitchens aren't too far a detour. Catch a late dinner? Biscuit run like the old days?" She ended on a hopeful lilt.
"Nah, essay for Herbology due tomorrow."
Her smile drooped. A lazy finger reached up and prodded his cheek. "Freddie, you used to be more fun than this."
He smacked her head with the map. "We don't have James' charisma to help us out this year if we get caught. Come on. I'll give you half my treacle tart when we get back."
With the potion tucked safely in Bea's book bag, the two scampered toward the closest stairwell. They made haste; there was still a prefect patrolling the dungeons.
Fred had one hand on the banister, looking upwards to the ground floor, when a thought struck him. "Did you stop the vial of lionroot essence after you were done with it?"
"Er... maybe?" said Bea. The answer was actually no, now that she remembered, but she wasn't about to go all the way back just to settle Fred's neat-freak twitch. "There weren't enough corks to go around."
He sighed, his feet already walking back. "Essence isn't like powder. It travels through air if you leave it long enough. By morning it'll all leak out and—"
Their eyes met with the same dread.
"Oh no," Bea breathed.
"Tell me you didn't put it in the same cupboard as the unicorn—"
The second boom of the night shuddered through the, castle and they turned around in time to see the classroom door blast off from its hinges.
"Blowing up my classroom... Merlin's beard, never in my days..." Professor Ringleward shuffled back and forth in his slippers, shaking his head at the ground. "I can only imagine how you two are going to explain yourselves..."
Fred dragged a hand down his face. He could only imagine as well. He was never too good at explaining—that was James' forte. Fred preferred simply not getting caught. Prevention before cure.
Bea stood stock-still next to him, goldfish-mouthing ever since the professor caught them skidding past his office. "It... wasn't us?"
Professor Ringleward stopped pacing and squinted at her. It might have been intimidating, but he was still in his pajamas and the fluffy end of a sleeping cap was swinging in front of his nose. His gaze dropped to Bea's bag. She gulped, and her grip tightened over the potion hidden inside.
"It wasn't us," Fred repeated urgently, diverting the professor's attention. He adjusted his collar, trying to remember what James always did to win over everyone he met. "We... saw some second years run out, and we wanted to check what they were up to.”
"And before we knew it"—Bea clutched at the air and broke apart her hands—"brrrrfffooom!"
"What she said."
Professor Ringleward lowered his glasses, each wrinkle on his brow adding another increment of skepticism. "And what were you two doing up after curfew in the first place?"
Fred and Bea glanced at each other.
"Forgot my quill at the library—"
"—got lost coming back from the loo."
They glanced at each other again.
"Then we found my quill in the loo—"
"—ended up at the library."
Fred sucked in a sigh and prayed for James to swoop out of the shadows and save them. James could talk his way into getting praised for blowing up a classroom.
Suddenly, came a voice: "They were snogging."
If that was James, he sounded awfully like a girl.
A tall brunette stepped between Fred and Bea. Her approach was so quiet that neither had noticed her presence until then, but now her fingers rested atop Fred's shoulder.
"They're too embarrassed to admit that I caught them snogging in the hallway earlier," she said.
Bea coughed violently, choking on her eruption of giggles, while Fred let himself die a little inside. Surely people thought he had better taste than that. He glanced up at the girl's face, framed in candlelight. Anjali Patil-Davies, Slytherin Prefect. She was one year below Fred—the same as Bea—and she'd always struck him as one of those girls, the kind who didn't give a rat's arse about anyone but herself. Why was she intervening?
Professor Ringleward had softened. "Miss Davies! Did you see what happened?"
"A couple boys ran out of the room—short, second or third years, I would say. These two were just at the wrong place at the wrong time." There was an air about her. Authoritative. Intimidating. Maybe it was the legs that went on forever or the sharp line of her jaw. It made Fred’s stomach do circus tricks. He didn't like it.
Ringleward shook a finger first at Bea and then to Fred. "Well, then. You two are very lucky Miss Davies can back you up. Let this be a lesson to keep this late-night canoodling out of Hogwarts. The portraits see all! Don't disgrace the eyes of our dear departed with your shameless baby-making!"
“Sorry I couldn’t find you the real culprits,“ Anjali began, before Professor Ringleward waved a wrinkled hand.
"There's no need to apologize, my girl. You can't control the little... heathens running around the grounds these days with distracting Muggle whim-whams up the wazoo. Rubbish parenting... it's pandemic!"
"I couldn't agree more." She smiled, all pearly-white teeth and dimpled cheeks. Her fingers rested on Fred and Bea’s shoulders, rings winking in the light. “At least let me escort these two back to their common room for you."
"Thank you kindly, my dear." Professor Ringleward fumbled with the glasses on his nose and squinted at Bea and Fred, who forced out a smile as they followed Anjali's signal to start walking.
Her humility may have been fooling Ringleward, but not Fred. Anjali had the glint of a plan shining in those teeth, the same glint Bea wore when she was hankering for custard creams and the kitchen was within smelling distance.
As soon as the professor shuffled back into his office, Bea turned to their savior with a wide grin. "That was brilliant!"
"Child's play." Anjali's eyes flicked to Fred's. "Couldn't do it yourself, Weasley? I expected more from Potter's old wingman. I'm disappointed."
The words cut into him, unexpectedly sharp and sudden. She hardly knew him! But Fred was a man of pride and he put his pride in his position. Indeed, he had been the famed James Potter's wingman until James left school and had gotten into stickier situations before—may he never remember the horror of slipping in the owlery. Fred should have known how to handle a mundane hallway interrogation.
He sniffed at Anjali, pulling at the knot of his tie. "Please, you hardly know me."
Bea punched him on the shoulder. "Don't be a snippy bippy. You weren't the one who got us out of there." She cleared her throat and turned to Anjali. "He means thanks, Anj."
The glare Anjali sent turned the hallway arctic. "Don't call me that."
Deflated, Bea retreated into herself and hugged her book bag, sending sulky glowers to the both of them. "Two snippy bippies. I don't even know why we're taking the long way back."
Fred's next step froze in mid-air. He had been so engrossed with his winnowing self-esteem that he completely missed the fact that they were, at this point, walking away from the Ravenclaw tower. He pulled Bea's robe to hold her in place, lest she follow the Slytherin girl to who-knew-where. "She's not taking us back at all."
"Your powers of observation astound me." Anjali spun on her heel, lips curving into a smirk. "Consider it a detour." Charmingly infuriating. Just like James.
She continued walking down the hallway and Bea tore out of his grasp to follow.
"Bea!" Fred shouted after. "We should at least think about—"
Bea stopped only to grab his sleeve. "Don't tell me you aren't curious."
It was times like these that Fred wondered if he was too old to be running around school with the most explosion-prone girl of Hogwarts. Though he had grown fond of Bea's world of blueprints and prototypes and spontaneous custard creams, it was life in the present. As a responsible seventh year, he needed to think about life in the future, which shouldn't involve excessive sugar intake and definitely no following suspicious leggy Slytherins into torchlit darkness.
Unfortunately, he was curious. Curiosity killed the Kneazle and while it had eight other lives to spare, he didn't. But he was smarter than some silly feline, right? Though he never could figure out how the old Kneazle Mr. Welly always outfoxed him to the treat tin.
Counter-argument aside, Bea was already pulling him forward, and he knew that she was going to go, with or without him. He sighed, fixed his tie, and started walking.
2/27 edit: spliced together ch 1 & 2.
A/N Since I get asked this a lot, I'll clarify: Bea is Cho Chang's daughter, and there's a reason why her last name is Chang and not her father's name.
Coming up: Smarmy!Scorpius, endless biscuits, and the biggest upset since Snape vs. Dumbledore
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