The air was crisp. An autumn breeze tousled my hair and ruffled my scarf. The books in my arms felt light as I strolled through the Hogwarts grounds after my Potions midterm. It had gone well, to say the least. And I was satisfied with the exam. After all, I was positive that I had gotten an "Outstanding".
Oliver had left the exam with a smile, too. All through the test, he had chewed through three quills and managed to spill his ink (luckily for him, it spilt over the side of the desk and onto the floor rather than onto his essay) before finishing. He had read and reread his essay at least four times, his nose almost touching the parchment.
I felt a sense of pride, watching Oliver successfully finish on time and smile at the end of the exam. There was no time to ask him how he had done, because he was rushing off towards his Defense Against the Dark Arts exam, next.
The lake was beautiful. It was framed perfectly by the weeping willow's drooping branches, absolutely picturesque with the stormy clouds hanging in the otherwise blue sky. I sat at the base of the tree, leaning against it as I stretched out my arms. It felt nice just to sit and relax. Every so often, I would look up. Drew was supposed to be meeting me.
"You look pretty, sitting there." Drew's voice cut through my thoughts and I turned to see him smiling at me.
I felt my heart do a couple flops before I stumbled to my feet.
"No, no. I'll join you." He plopped down on the ground, and inhaled deeply. "I'm glad that the International Magic exam is over." Drew's head rested pleasantly on my shoulder, but it felt strangely heavy to me. "Fotherby's nice and all, but I swear that she provided us no way to study for it. I nearly went mad trying to get in all the important information."
"I'm sorry." My fingers drifted to his blond hairs. They flitted through them, and I was surprised at this bold move. What had processed me to make such an intimate move?
Drew was surprised too, but in a pleasant sort of way. Gently, his own hand lifted up and touched my face. His hands were cold, I suppose because of the chilly air. The Ravenclaw scarf around his throat almost blew into my face.
It was a moment. Literally. A moment. I was almost going to die, I swear. How much more wonderful could this day get?
A lot more, apparently, because hesitantly, tentatively, Drew leaned in and his lips brushed mine. Casually. This caused my heart to beat so rapidly and so quickly that when I opened my eyes (when had I closed them?), I was so sure it hadn't happened. That the kiss (was it a kiss?) was unreal, a part of my imagination.
And then it happened again. My eyelids fluttered shut, his lips pressed gently against mine, my mouth molding against his – when did I learn to do this? My body seemed to take over. He clutched onto me tighter, and I laced my fingers further into his hair.
When we pulled apart, there was a slight flush on his pale cheeks. His glasses were askew and my lips felt swollen. My face was as red as a tomato, and his fingers found mine.
I didn't know what to say. Neither did he, because we just stared at each other like idiots, smiling. He grinned and I supposed that my smile was gentler, because his free hand traced my cheek for reassurance.
"Hungry?" he finally broke the silence with a chuckle after my stomach growled loudly.
"Starved." I chirped, as he helped me up, levitated my books and held my hand all the way back to the Great Hall.
Details were not spared to my friends. Alex's eyes seemed to bulge out of her skull, threatening to pop out while Piper leaned in, eagerly.
"I don't even remember closing my eyes." I found myself saying, my arms flailing about – quite unlike me, I have to say. "And it was just…wonderful." I breathed the last part, the word floating out of my mouth as though on its own cloud.
"Finally." Alex exhaled. "It's about time someone kissed you!" she waggled her eyebrows. "You were in dire need of a good snog."
"It wasn't even a snog." I rolled my eyes. "You crazy woman. It was just a kiss. A gentle, innocent kiss."
"Kisses are far from innocent." Piper giggled. "And you guys held hands!" She cooed and preened and awed and I felt awkward but pleased. "Do you love him, girl?"
What sort of question was this? Love? Ridiculous.
"He's a nice boy." I replied, my lips smiling but my eyes casted downwards. "But that's a huuuuuuge word that I'm not even willing to touch at the moment."
"Good." Piper nodded. "Girls are usually such idiots when it comes to first boyfriends. I'm glad you've got your head on still."
"Ridiculous, love." I told her, shrugging my shoulders easily. "In such a short amount of time?"
But, it was true that my heart ached when I thought of him. Butterflies erupted in my stomach as I gleefully replayed that afternoon over and over in my head. I wasn't stupid. I wasn't in love with this boy, even I recognized that.
"I'm not going to touch 'love' with a hundred-meter pole." I replied, shrugging.
We lapsed into silence, wrapped in our own thoughts. I couldn't help but have a small smile on my face.
Claudia then walked in, her brows furrowed and her usually perfect hair a frenzy on her head. In her hand, she clutched a white piece of parchment.
Her mother must have written to her, because she looked flustered and annoyed.
She pushed past Piper towards her bed, ignoring all of us and pulled out a box from underneath the four-poster. The letter fluttered into it menacingly and she shoved the box back under the bed.
For someone who loathed letters from her mother, it was definitely sort of weird that Claudia kept all of them.
Piper took it as her cue to leave. She flashed us an apologetic smile before exiting the room. They had not made up, but Piper was slowly getting over it. She knew that eventually, her friendship with Claudia would be repaired. All that it needed was time.
The door closed and Claudia addressed us.
"Mother wants me to ask you girls about the holidays." Her voice was flat.
"Er, what about them?" Alex inquired, her arms-crossed – a movement now greatly recorded in my brain, labeled as "self-defense."
"She was wondering if you wanted to spend them with my family." A small smile tugged at Claudia's lips. "And for once, I sort of agree. Of course, for wholly different reasons. It'd be nice to spend the holidays with people I actually enjoy speaking to." Her sarcastic tone of voice shifted to a softer, more genuine one.
And at that moment, I swore I saw a sparkle in her eye. A brief and fleeting glint that meant somewhere inside Claudia, there really was a soul. Really was a person underneath the icy exterior.
"Can't." Alex rejected the proposal quickly. Her shoulders shrugged. "I'm Muggle-born, so it's really important that I go home this year."
It was a terrible excuse. Everyone, even Claudia, knew that Alex constantly stayed at Hogwarts during the holidays.
Claudia shrugged nonchalantly. She was expecting it, I supposed, but her eyes still focused on me. "And you, Charlotte?"
"Um," I swallowed. "I dunno, yet. I'll have to ask my mum."
"That's fine." She smiled genuinely, and turned back to her bed. "Make sure to let me know by the end of the week, though. Mother wants to know ahead of time to make the proper arrangements."
Alex was glaring at me.
I gave her a smile. That's all I could do in that situation, anyway. Besides, it didn't matter how annoyed Alex was at the moment. I was still floating on a cloud from earlier.
Drew had kissed me. He had kissed me. Me!
"I think I did extremely well on the Potions midterm." Oliver was lounging in the library, watching me through lidded eyes. "All thanks to you, of course."
"Uh huh." I replied, scratching my nose absent-mindedly with the point of my quill.
"Uh oh," Oliver leaned forward. "You've got a bit of ink on your nose."
Ever so gently, he leaned close to my face and gently grazed my nose with the end of his forefinger. My face flamed a little as our eyes locked.
"Got it." He breathed, and then looked away, leaning back again and pretending to look nonchalant about the entire thing.
"Thanks." I replied shakily, my focus on Herbology gone.
"So…" Oliver coughed.
"Yes?" I said a little too quickly and maybe a tad bit too alarmed.
"What are your plans for the holidays?" Innocent enough question. Alright, I will attempt to answer it.
"Maybe going home to see my parents," I told him, "but probably not. Claudia's invited me to spend Christmas with her and her family."
"Oh," Oliver nodded thoughtfully. "I live ten minutes from her."
"Interesting…" I replied. "Maybe we'll bump into each other."
He shrugged. "Maybe! Her family doesn't live in town, though. She lives more on the outskirts, in the hills."
"I don't think I've ever heard anyone else talk about where Claudia lives. Do you know what her family is like?"
"Dunno." Oliver crossed his arms and furrowed his brows. "My mum said that they're odd people. She says that her father's never around, and that he's weird to begin with. But, she says that especially Missus Gray is a bit off. Says that Missus Gray has the strangest air about her, sort of conceited I suppose. I've never met them, me-self, but…"
"Yeah," I cut in. "It'll be refreshing, spending the holidays somewhere new. I suppose my mum will be pressuring me to go. She's always telling me to go out there and network…"
"Networking seems essential for the future, eh?" He nodded in agreement. "Going to Diagon Alley to network, too. I don't know when, but I'm definitely going to the Quidditch shop when the Arrows are there."
"The Arrows?" I was confused.
"The Quidditch team…?" Oliver exclaimed, somewhat surprised.
Oliver never got to elaborate on what he meant, because at that moment, I saw Claudia scurry into the library suspiciously.
And when I mean suspiciously, I mean really, suspiciously. She had her cloak pulled over her head and almost sprinted into the library, causing Madam Pince to stick her head out of her office and holler: "No running in the library!"
I saw her go directly towards the back, near the Restricted section. She stopped short of the Restricted section's locked door and scan the titles near the end. I knew, from my own lurking, that that particular section held records of former Hogwarts students. Not complete records, mind you, but records about particular clubs and teams and the like.
She pulled out a thick and dusty volume, blew on the dust (how stereotypical, I thought) and lurked over to one of the more hidden corner desks.
"Charlotte?" Oliver waved in my face. "Did you hear what I said?"
"Uh huh." I replied, standing up, blatantly ignoring my Herbology studying and my friend and walked over to loom over Claudia's desk.
"What are you doing?" I inquired.
Claudia had been flipping through a few pages, but slammed the volume shut when she heard my voice.
"Reading." She said, nonchalantly and without feeling. Her face remained impassive.
"That much is clear," I replied dryly. "But what are you reading?"
Her face changed only slightly. There was a sudden flash in her eye; something along the lines of defiance lined itself on her features.
"Old records?" I had tilted my face sideways, trying to read the slanted and faded writing on the spine of the volume.
Claudia moved it out of my line of sight. "Yes." The only give-away to anything was the slight pinking of her cheeks. "I was curious…"
"Curious about what?"
"I've said too much already." She said coldly, shrugging her shoulders.
Too much about what? I raised a brow in silent query.
"It's not something you need to worry about." She gave me a smile that did not go to her eyes, stood up and placed the volume back on one of the shelves. "Just a slight bit of innocent curiosity of the past is all."
"Okay." I said, suspicious but letting it go.
"I'll see you in the room. I've got to get back to studying."
She sauntered out of the library, her shining brown curls bouncing and her arms swinging.
Returning to the desk I shared with Oliver, I sat back down in my seat, confused. No, it didn't make any sense why Claudia would have any reason to be going through the records of former students.
"What was that about?" Oliver asked, tapping his fingers against the desk, his eyes wide with curiosity and his lips pulled into a smile.
"Wait." I was stupid for going back to the desk. What was she looking at? Getting up again, I went over to where Claudia had placed the book back on the shelf. "What the Nimueh was she looking at?"
Oliver's eyes scanned the book and I opened it gingerly. "It smells old."
"That's because it is old, Captain Obvious." My sarcasm was not lost on Oliver, who merely shrugged and continued watching as I flipped through it. "I don't understand why she'd be curious of this old volume."
"Look, names." Oliver touched a page with his pointer finger, trailing it down until we saw a familiar surname. "Perez? Isabella's last name is Perez."
"Is it her father? It must be…"
"No," Oliver's lips pursed in concentration. "It's a…Anita Perez."
"Female?" I was confused.
"Could be no relation to Isabella whatsoever." Oliver countered. "Perez is an awfully common name, isn't it?"
"Well, it's not English…" I said absent-mindedly. "It's plainly Spanish, and the name Anita is also Spanish…" I found myself tracing my finger down the page, too.
"Are you sure there isn't anyone else with the surname Perez?"
"Nope." I said finally. "Right under 'Perez' is 'Prancer' and under that is 'Quinn.'"
"Where?" Oliver's eyes followed my finger until that particular list ended at 'Scarlett Quinn.'
"Did Isabella's mother go here?" I asked him.
"I think she did," Oliver replied. "I remember once in Charms, when Flitwick was charmed to meet the daughter of one of his former Charms Club students."
Hearing about Charms Club, I flipped through the panel again until I found the page for Charms Club. "Well," I looked at Oliver. "President of Charms Club, Class of '68, Miss Anita Perez, Seventh Year."
Curiouser and curiouser.
My eyes flicked to the names at the bottom of the large club picture. Besides the grinning girl in the front, the apparent Anita Perez, was a small, impish looking child with a sulky look on her face. Caroline Jenkins, First Year.
My mum had been in Charms Club. It was hard to fathom that at some point in her life, my mother had been young, short, impish looking with slightly pointed ears and a perpetual frown on her face.
"Look!" Oliver was excitedly jabbing his finger at the page. "That's me dad!"
Indeed, on the other side of my mother, was a tall, lanky boy with what appeared to be scraggly long hair and a charming smile. The caption proclaimed his name to be Calum Wood, Fourth Year.
He looked proud, and although his hair was mussed, he still looked handsome in the photo.
"I had no idea he was in Charms Club." Oliver told me, his voice in awe. "Appears that he's a fourth year." He grinned so wide that I thought his lips were going to split. "I had no idea that he was in an academic club," Oliver continued. "Mum always gave me the impression that he was sort of dim-witted. Just an athlete. This is wild!"
"I didn't know that Hogwarts kept such records of their clubs." I told him. "What else is in here?"
Oliver flipped to the index. "Some other clubs. Whoa, I didn't know that we used to have a Quidditch Club?!"
Of course. I wasn't surprised that out of all the new discoveries, this was the most prominent one for Oliver.
"This doesn't help us realize why Claudia was looking through it." I replied, turning it all the way to the index again. "What's her last name again? Gray?" I traced my fingers through E, F, and G. I did not find the surname Gray anywhere.
"Odd." Oliver said.
"Extremely." I agreed.
"Is it her mother's name?"
"It's not in there at all."
"And you're positive that her parents both went here?" Oliver's brows were furrowed. "And that you looked at all of the names?"
"I'm not stupid!" I retorted. "I know my alphabet, and Gray is definitely not."
Oliver pulled the book away from me and flipped through it himself. It peeved me slightly to have him doubting me.
"There!" He exclaimed, shoving his finger into the book and then waving it around in my face. "Right there! Right there! Right there!"
"Where?" I hated doubting myself, but I did. "Where?"
"There!" Oliver pointed again.
Indeed, there was a small, scrawled name that read Noah Gray.
Bollocks! Bollocks! Bollocks! How could I have missed that?
"Wait," I took the book from his hands, my eyes scanning over the names. "This is not the student section…"
We stared at it in awe for a second.
Noah Gray, and then under it, Charms Club Supervisor, Professor of Astronomy 1965-.
"Claudia's father was a Hogwarts Professor?!"
My mind was swirling. I mean, yes, I had been in the library for perhaps too long, but that's not why my head hurt. I was trying to comprehend the fact that Claudia's father used to be a Professor of Astronomy at Hogwarts. And the fact that I hadn't known this.
Well, I wasn't amazingly great friends with the girl, but I thought I knew a fair amount about her. Apparently, Alex and Piper didn't know either, because when I shared that bit of information with them, their eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
"That's strange," Piper said quietly. "She had always told me that her father was in the export/import business."
"Why is it such a big deal, though?" I asked. "I mean, I was surprised, too. It's not a huge deal that a parent of a student was a former professor, right? It happens loads of times."
"I think that the fact that her father was a professor isn't the main cause of our astonishment," Alex said smartly. "I think it's the fact that she hasn't told anyone."
"I don't know why she'd lie." I told them. "The import/export business? How is that even remotely close to an Astronomy Professor?"
Piper, ever the dramatic one, raised up her arms. "Maybe there was a scandal?"
"Always jumping to the fantastic," I replied. "I doubt there has ever been a true scandal at Hogwarts."
"True, true." Piper sighed.
I remembered what Oliver's mum had said about Claudia's family. That her father was hardly around, and that his wife was odd.
It did seem a bit odd, the lot of them.
"I don't want to get dramatic," I cut in, "but at this point in our thinking, I'm considering that there might have been a scandal."
"How exhilarating!" Piper said. "A real scandal at Hogwarts? That'd be rather cool, don't you think?"
"Even though it happened oh-so many years ago?" Alex rolled her eyes.
A scandal's a scandal, though, isn't it?
Author's Note: I have no Finals! Which is why this chapter is finally posted. Good news, though. I'm on Spring Break and I'm ready to post the rest of this story!
How long do you think this story's going to be? At the pace it's moving now, I think it's safe to say that the entire chronicle of Charlotte's 7th Year is to span a good 25-30 chapters. Is that too much? I don't know.
Thanks for sticking with me! And for being patient. I'm pretty sure that I don't deserve any of you guys. If you could take the time and leave a review, too. That'd make me the happiest girl on this earth!
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