A/N: Welcome to my newest story! This idea has been running around in my mind for months now and has recently been extremely active due to some recent goings on in my fun filled life. I thought that a lot of you would be able to relate so here it is. Enjoy!
Chapter 1: Damsel: Distressed
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Isabelle Zene Preston was nodding. She never nodded, but this was a special circumstance. Her mindless nodding and the occasional “yes Mum,” were ditch efforts to drive her shawl-wearing, Tarot card-reading mother from her room. A person could only take so much talk of auras, constellations, and incense and Isabelle’s limit had been reached. But her efforts were not working. Isabelle’s head continued to bob up and down nonetheless; it was difficult to stop once she had all that momentum going.
“Oh good so you did pack your Almanac. Ooo, don’t forget your underwear—not that those stringy things you wear can be considered drawers—Isabelle I do wish you would wear more sensible undergarments. Those thongs of yours throw off your Chi. I can always tell when your Chi is off. And let me tell you, it has certainly been askew this summer—”
“Mum…” Isabelle groaned the word for a full ten seconds before her mother took notice and stopped babbling about Chi and the negative affects thongs had on it. Chi was one of her mother’s favorite subjects, right behind her quest of finding this so-called Glinda of Oz and telling her thing or two about the dangers of traveling around in bubbles.
Zili Preston, Isabelle’s mother, was an unorthodox witch. She rarely carried a wand and likely would not know what to do with one if, by some strange act of Fate, one happened to fall into her hands. Zili learned instead how to use Earth’s energy to create magic. She could make an explosion out of a patch of grass and a drop of dew, she could urge a chipmunk to go wild and attack an unfortunate victim, and, on one occasion, she even spoke with a flower. She was taught this form of witchcraft by her father, Dorian Moon and her mother, Zinnia Moon. On their request, Zili did not attend any of the magical schools she was accepted to and was taught by them instead. Zili excelled in creating obscure balms, potions, and advising witches in the ways of love and the future. She had an enormous fan base among the witches who frequented Diagon Alley and was quite famous. It never failed to embarrass Isabelle when she came to her mother’s shop to find Zili advising a crowd of her classmates on the proper candle color and scent to use when trying to seduce a possible lover. It was even more embarrassing when she walked in on one of her roommates shopping in her mother’s store. More embarrassing still was when she had been working at the store last summer and James Potter had come in, looking for Zili’s guidance, only to find that it was Isabelle behind the counter. James pretended he’d walked in by accident and Isabelle never mentioned it again, though she often laughed about it inwardly.
How Zili Moon fell in love with Derek Preston even they didn’t know. Derek, an aspiring Quidditch star threw out his shoulder after only three years with the Falmouth Falcons. In a desperate attempt to fix his injured limb he was taken to Moon’s Remedies where he met none other than the delightful, if not somewhat insane, Zili. Derek’s shoulder never healed, there was too much trauma done to it from years of Quaffle throwing and Bludger damage; Derek had always refused to see a Healer any time he was hurt, saying that doing so wasn’t “manly.” But he compensated for the loss of playing his beloved sport by improving Quidditch gear and teaching his daughter the secrets of being a Chaser, which she preferred greatly to being taught how to perfect reading Tarot cards. Derek’s specialty was Golden Snitches; his Snitches were used in the British and Irish leagues because their speed made the matches go longer and gave the fans a more entertaining show. The Preston’s house was infernally littered with the golden balls zooming about on their own accord. Isabelle had a nasty scar on her left eyebrow thanks to one of Derek’s high-speed Snitches that had gone wild.
“I worry about you darling.” Zili put an affectionate hand on her daughter’s cheek. “And I know you don’t like it, but I read your cards last night—” Isabelle groaned “— and the Three of Swords is favoring you. That’s sorrow.” In a slightly more nagging tone she added, “You would know that if you practiced more often.” Zili added a crystal ball to Isabelle’s trunk, which she had unearthed from somewhere beneath her shawl; in order to make enough room she’d removed Isabelle’s Quidditch gloves. Isabelle promptly replaced her gloves and removed the crystal ball. “I did the Mandala Spread, of course, and it worried me. The three, eight, and nine cards were very contradictory. Very. But it is not unlike your potential. You’re always second guessing yourself.”
“Mum,” Isabelle said more sternly and her mother was pulled from her trance. Isabelle knew that the Cards were against her when her mother began speaking in the tone she reserved for her customers.
“Are you okay, Isabelle? Great sadness, separation, quarrels, disappointment…they all mark the Three of Swords,” Zili said in a more mother-like manner. She truly loved her daughter even if she was sometimes too busy being mystical to show it.
“I’m fine.” Isabelle pulled her thick mahogany hair away from her face, deciding to hold her long locks with her hand instead of merely tucking it behind her miniscule ears (the dratted things were so small they weren’t up to the task of holding her wavy hair back), she forced a grotesque smile onto her creamy, oval face that displayed all thirty-two of her pearly white teeth in order to demonstrate her “fineness.” Isabelle had startlingly white teeth due to her, to some, over excessive oral hygiene routine. She loved brushing her teeth; it was soothing. She’d been brushing her teeth a lot lately.
“Alright, well,” Zili tied her graying mahogany hair into a knot on top of her head. Isabelle never stopped thanking genetics for giving her Zili’s thick, wavy hair instead of Derek’s balding amber. Unfortunately, Isabelle also inherited a bump in the middle of her nose from the Moon’s, which was only accentuated by her breaking it when she was eleven. “I’ve packed some extra salve for you and a bundle of sandalwood because I know how stressed you get, darling.” Zili planted a kiss on her daughter’s cheek. “You’re sure you don’t want me to come to Diagon Alley with you. Mars is below the moon and the Pegasus and you know what that means.”
Isabelle stared at her mother blankly. “Er—no.”
“Oh, never you mind. You know how I dislike interfering with Fate.”
“Huh?” Isabelle said, suddenly worried about what in the name of the Big Dipper her mother was talking about.
“I don’t mind letting Omo take care of the shop for a few hours,” Zili said, changing the subject. Omo, Zili’s assistant at Moon’s Remedies was an outrageous little man with a pony-tail who was prone to causing explosions.
“No, Riley and Cameron said they’d call me once they got to London and we’d meet at the Leaky Cauldron around ten and then go shopping in Diagon Alley for school things.” Isabelle wondered at the truth of her words. Riley and Cameron had planned on meeting Isabelle in London but Isabelle already suspected that their plans would not follow through. Cameron and Riley were always late, and since Riley was staying with Cameron for the last week of the summer Isabelle was likely to have been forgotten. A knot formed in Isabelle’s stomach. They wouldn’t call her.
“I do wish you wouldn’t leave your shopping for the very last minute, Isabelle,” Zili said airily. “Page of Wands. Fly free.” Isabelle, used to her mother’s ramblings, continued to shove clothes into her giant trunk. Finding that the crystal ball had been snuck in by her mother again, Isabelle chuckled. “Well, feel free to Floo into the store. Or Apparate.” Zili gave her daughter another fleeting peck on the cheek and was gone from Isabelle’s room with the sweep of a shawl and the smell of Frankincense.
Isabelle fell on her carpeted floor once her mother was out of sight. Her bed was too crowded with her trunk, various bags, broomstick, and stuffed animals. On the floor she was able to stretch out and let her misery sink in. There were many stains and scorch marks on the once lush, once deep blue, carpet. The biggest burn mark of them all was now next to Isabelle’s head; it had been caused by the infamous Incense Disaster of 1970 when Isabelle had received her Hogwarts letter and had been so excited she’d knocked over a candle which inflamed her entire store of incense. Incense, to her relief, had been banned in her room by her father ever since.
The Three of Swords. Quarrels? Isabelle had those. In fact, she left Hogwarts after indulging in one of the worst of her life with her best friend Riley. Disappointment? Isabelle checked off another item on the card’s list. Separation? Yup. Great sadness? Check. These traits did not affect every aspect of Isabelle’s life, but they were certainly prominent in the friend category.
Isabelle reached blindly into one of the drawers on her bedside table. She rolled slightly to better angle her arm into the drawer. Finally, her fingers grasped around the sleek, long cards. In one movement, Isabelle had the cards sprawled out in front of her and was searching through them in a way that would have given her mother a coronary. Her large, dark brown eyes pierced the cards until she found the one she was seeking. There it was. The Three of Swords. It depicted three identical blades piercing into a heart at three separate parts; one down the middle and the remaining two flanking it. Not a pleasant card.
Isabelle rolled onto her back, flattening the deck of cards; she held the Three of Swords up above her with one hand and pulled the other through her thick mane of hair that was fanned out behind her. If she had been a superstitious person, Isabelle would have ripped the damned card in two and thrown it out of her window, but out of respect for her mother and for the Cards, she did not. Why give the Fates another reason to be pissy with her? She made an unpleasant face and turned the card over so that the picture was on the carpet and could only bother whatever dust bunnies had formed since the last time Isabelle had cleaned.
At the beginning of last year, Cameron Harr, a beautiful, bold, Slytherin with hair dyed a vivacious red and twinkling blue eyes befriended Isabelle’s best friend of five years, Riley Goodfellow. Before this, Cameron had been best friends with Esme Durand and Samantha Collins, but after three years of putting up with Cameron’s boyfriend-stealing, homework-copying, and attention-needing antics, they couldn’t take it anymore. Isabelle was finished after one. Cameron had a knack of leeching onto a pair of best friends and putting an irreparable rift between the two of them until she could slowly peel one away and have a best friend of her own. She’d done it with Samantha and Esme, and had succeeded until Esme caught Cameron in a secret passageway with her boyfriend. She’d done it with Lily Evans and Carol Habbino until Carol grew tired of Cameron constantly forcing all of the attention onto herself. She’d done it with many other best friends, and it was always the same, terrifically boring story where Cameron came into their lives, poisoned their relationship, took a friend for her own, and then screwed it up, but the damage was always done and the two former best friends never spoke again. She did it to Isabelle and Riley.
This was Cameron’s method: she would wedge herself between the friends and assess which one would be less threatening to her and then she would choose the less threatening one and slowly steal them away. It wasn’t difficult to fall prey to. Cameron was an impossibly fun person to be around. She commanded a room’s attention and, by being with her, it was almost like you shared a part of that power. She threw the best parties, she knew the most attractive boys, she wore the best clothes. But she was ruthless. She was mean. She struck others down to make herself appear smarter, cleverer, or wittier. And let’s not forget the friend-stealing bit. But it was easy to forget these things when Cameron wanted you to; she herself was responsible for tormenting Riley for the better part of first and second year, but Riley forgot all about that when Cameron set her sights on her.
When Riley introduced Cameron and Isabelle, the three of them knew that they would be the greatest of friends. They were the perfect combination. Cameron was confident, bold, and never showed weakness, Riley was sensitive and emotional, and Isabelle was athletic, sweet, and mysterious. The Magic Three, they called themselves jokingly. But then Cameron and Riley slowly began spending more time with each other and were always leaving Isabelle out on her own. They blamed it on Quidditch practices, but that was not the reason. It started out as Cameron not inviting Isabelle to her house for the holidays or making Hogsmeade plans with Riley and never informing her about them. Then it became obvious as Riley and Cameron would sit with each other at meals at either the Slytherin or Ravenclaw table, leaving Isabelle alone at the Gryffindor one. At the end of sixth year—last year—Isabelle confronted Riley and told her that she felt like Cameron was stealing her away. Riley told her she was crazy. But after not hearing from Riley in over two months, Isabelle was feeling like she wasn’t insane after all.
Isabelle groaned and, for the first time, she wished that her mother were around to light a scented candle and rub her shoulders, hitting the pressure points there that relieved stress.
Hogwarts. She was going back to Hogwarts. Isabelle still hadn’t decided if that was a good or bad thing, even after reliving the past year on her bedroom floor. On one hand, Isabelle could possibly salvage what was left of her friendship with Riley and Cameron, but on the other hand her friendship could be beyond remedy and Isabelle was about to start her final year at Hogwarts without any close friends. Not that she was unpopular, Isabelle simply preferred to keep the company of her close friends rather than have a huge crowd of friends who would gossip the moment she was out of the room. Isabelle flashed her disarming smile at these people and said ‘hello’ to them in the corridors, but she didn’t like them. The only other souls Isabelle spent a great amount of time with were the Gryffindor Quidditch team; she was a Chaser like her father. Though she wasn’t the only girl on the team, Isabelle wasn’t sure she’d be comfortable spilling her secrets and gossiping to a bunch of immature wizards who still laughed at words describing female anatomy and Quinn Wright, one of the most infuriating girls Isabelle had ever met. It had been so long since Isabelle had made a new friend she wasn’t sure if she still possessed the talent to do so and who would she be friends with?
So what then, was Isabelle to simply ignore the fact that Cameron and Riley treated her like she was an annoying first year simply tagging along with them? Or was Isabelle to confront her two best friends and express how she felt? Well, since Isabelle was uncomfortable with both confrontation and expression, Plan A seemed like the better course. But she had been doing that! Since Cameron had become Isabelle’s and Riley’s counterpart, Isabelle had been at odds with them and, after rowing with Riley for nearly two hours, she wasn’t sure she would be welcomed back into their lives with a chorus of Hallelujah. Isabelle wasn’t even sure if she liked them anymore. But they were the best of friends; they made each other whole. Cameron with her dyed red vivacious hair and sparkling blue eyes, Riley with her thin blonde locks and tall and narrow frame, and Isabelle with her super long mane, large eyes and disarming smile, they all played their part in the friendship. They were the Magic Three. But now, Isabelle was simply out of the loop. And she was determined to get back in…even though she didn’t really want to.
It took Isabelle a shorter time than usual to make herself presentable to the outside world; Isabelle quickly changed into jeans and a sweater, applied a bit Muggle makeup (Isabelle never trusted her skills in magic enough to wave her wand at her face and she was too suspicious of her mother’s beauty concoctions to use them) and pulled her hair up into a pony tail. It took Isabelle an even shorter time to make her way to London and into the Leaky Cauldron—she did not even take the time to smile alluringly at the several attractive guys she saw on the street. And then there was the pub, right in front of her. Isabelle could have Flooed into her mother’s shop or Apparated to the pub, but the brisk walk and underground ride had cooled Isabelle off slightly and she felt less apt to scream at Riley and Cameron at the sight of them. She looked at her sparkling pink wrist watch that was the subject of ridicule at Hogwarts. 10:46.
Isabelle walked into the pub.
And there they were: laughing in almost slow motion and taking comically large gulps from whatever was in their glasses at the bar.
The walk, apparently, hadn’t done Isabelle any good. She was as angry as her mother had been when she caught Derek trying to transform her crystal ball into a Snitch.
Riley and Cameron took no notice of Isabelle as she walked into the pub; they were too immersed in their conversation. Nearly the entire pub was turned slightly to watch the two girls. It was hard for Isabelle to watch, especially since Riley looked so different. Her hair was a different shade of blonde, dyed by Cameron, obviously, and her hair was grown out, as if in an attempt to catch up to Isabelle, but what was more noticeable was the sense of—to put it in Isabelle’s words—bitchiness that surrounded her supposed best friend.
Isabelle strode to their place at the bar, doing her best to storm over and appear imposing. Riley saw her first; she turned, a huge smile plastered on her pale face. Cameron similarly turned, but her expression was much less excited upon the sight of Isabelle. She was growing out her hair.
Isabelle threw her hands up and tried to transform her face into one that would pass as mock-anger. “So you guys don’t call anymore?” Isabelle willed a smile onto her face, but both Cameron and Riley understood the smile for the lie it was.
“Shit Iz, we coooooompletely forgot,” Cameron laughed, not moving to make a spot for Isabelle at the bar. Her loud laughter attracted even more attention. Isabelle understood from the way that Cameron and Riley were slyly exchanging bemused expressions that Riley had told Cameron all about their argument.
Riley laughed also, as if the two were sharing in some secret joke that Isabelle was not privy to.
It was then that Isabelle saw the bags piled at their feet.
“You went shopping without me?” The hurt in her voice was ill disguised.
Again, their giggles infected the pub. “Don’t be mad, Iz.” Cameron put her hand on Isabelle’s forearm; she resisted the urge to tug it away. “There were these guys and they basically made us go with them. Then we made them pay for us to get the biggest dish of ice cream. We ended up throwing most of it away. We only just got rid of them. You’re so lucky that you didn’t have to put up with them.” Her entire story was littered with the giggles that made Isabelle want to strangle her.
Isabelle didn’t know what to do. Was she to forgive them for ditching her for two blokes? Was she to be angry? What? She simply couldn’t take it any more. Here they were, completely oblivious to the way they were making her feel. She didn’t want them to think she was a bitch and she didn’t want them to think she was being needy and stupid, but she was indignant that they would so easily forget about her. It was Cameron’s doing. All of it. At the moment, Isabelle hated her.
“Are you coming to Cam’s later?” Riley said.
“For?” Isabelle did not miss the superior glances Riley and Cameron were sharing with each other as if they knew something Isabelle didn’t.
“For the end of the summer party!” Cameron said. She and Riley hit their glasses together. Cameron’s end of the summer party was a yearly tradition that Isabelle had attended even before she considered Cameron her sort-of friend.
“I can’t. James is forcing all of us over to his place for dinner. Some sort of team bonding thing, I don’t know.” Isabelle couldn’t help but roll her eyes as Riley and Cameron both made “Mmmm”ing sounds as if James’ name was appetizing. They hardly sounded disappointed that Isabelle couldn’t attend the party for the first time since third year.
“Right, well, I have a lot of shopping to do.” Isabelle said. They acted like they hardly cared as she left the pub. As soon as she was gone they continued their laughing.
Isabelle couldn’t help but feel like they were laughing at her.
Her anger rolled off her in waves; it was palpable. Tom, the barman, recoiled at the sight of her, not even offering her a “G’day, miss.” She was sure that her face was glowing and she wouldn’t blame a passerby for mistaking her for someone with lockjaw. Isabelle was never an angry person, she believed in taking the things life threw at her in stride, and tried to look at the bright side of things. But there was no bright side here. What was more infuriating, Isabelle didn’t even want to be friends with Cameron and Riley anymore, but she felt lost without knowing that the two of them would be there for her.
She didn’t know what to do.
So she shopped.
Diagon Alley was at its busiest. What with Hogwarts’ term starting the next day, the street was alive with last minute shoppers like Isabelle running to and fro from shop to shop in order to collect everything they needed. The streets were mad; a cauldron was left, abandoned, near a trash receptacle, mother’s pulled their children along at a frantic pace, causing rolls of parchment, quills, ink bottles, and potion ingredients to fly out behind them, and Isabelle heard four Ministry of Magic wizards complaining about a rogue owl that escaped from the emporium an hour before and had caused even more madness on the street before they cornered it and baited it out with celery.
With the business of the street came arguments: From “What do you mean you haven’t got any copies of Why I Didn’t Die When the Augurey Cried?” To “I’ll give you a Galleon more if you’ll sell me that mortar and pestle set—” “—a Galleon more? I’ll give you four!” To “I’ll give someone ten Galleons to get my books for me!” A pause. “Anyone?” Another pause. “No takers? Damn.”
Isabelle herself would have paid twenty Galleons to have someone buy her books for her. Flourish and Blotts was easily the most chaotic out of all of the stores. Though not the only bookstore in Diagon Alley, it was easily the best stocked, least expensive, and friendliest out of the lot. In the midst of the madness, however, the shelves had been swept clean, the owner had put up a sign that read, “You Break it You Buy It!” and the selfsame owner was now fighting off two twelve year olds with a very heavy volume. In just the time Isabelle had been standing on the street, a group of energetic ten year olds, who had likely never been to Diagon Alley before, toppled over one of the bookcases in excitement, causing a free-for-all as the impatient crowd tore through the heap of books to see if they were lucky enough to find the volume they were looking for.
The owner dropped the heavy tome and burst into tears.
Isabelle decided to save her books for last.
She had money so she was able to skip the bedlam that was Gringotts (the second busiest store on the street) and head straight for Scribbulus Everchanging Inks to stock up on parchment, ink, and buy several new quills. From there she purchased her potion ingredients (Potions was now so hard Isabelle wondered why she was still taking it), and, once finished there, she braved the crowd on the street again in order to buy a new set of scales, a replacement lens for her telescope, and, simply to put off buying her books, she ogled at a pair of robes in Quality Quidditch Supplies (her presence there alone would have made her father extremely angry because Quality Quidditch Supplies was, as he called it, “the competition”). Then, her procrastination reached near epic heights as she passed Flourish and Blotts completely and strayed instead into Madame Primpernelle’s Beautifying Potions and spent far too much money on a serum that would, in theory, keep her arched eyebrows stray hair free if she applied it every night and an eyelash curler that was bewitched to not only curl but to darken and volumize her lashes.
Then it was time. The scene in Flourish and Blotts was now beginning to die down (this was mostly because nearly all of the books were now off the shelves), but a pair of seemingly barking mad parents still looked like they were seconds away from assaulting the owner and his employees.
Though the scene had ‘died down,’ that was in comparison to the mayhem that it had been in before; it was still very busy in the bookshop and Isabelle was about to go to the more expensive WhizzHard Books when a soft hand touched her elbow and she turned around to find herself facing Samuel Bindson—no that wasn’t right—Binson? Bison? She couldn’t remember. Samuel B. as we’ll call him, finished Hogwarts last year, was apparently undertaking a summer job, and was, just as Isabelle remembered, very handsome with close cut brown hair, a soft face, and an easy smile.
“Hi,” Isabelle said energetically (it was nice to see a friendly face) and, trying to be polite, she added, “How long have you been working here?”
“Just for the summer to save some money. I personally think—” he raised his voice considerably and looked pointedly at the already abused owner “—I should get a raise since a bookcase nearly crushed me!” he looked back to Isabelle. “But that’s just me.” Isabelle wondered if he ever stopped smiling. It was getting a little nerve-wracking, all this smiling. Samuel saved Isabelle from carrying on the conversation when he saw all of her bags. “Shopping for school, yeah? Seventh year, it sucks, but it’s better than—” again his voice rose and he glared at the owner, “having a bookcase pushed onto you!” He smiled at Isabelle and they laughed together for a moment. “You waited until the last minute to get your books, Iz, I don’t know if we’ll even have what you’re looking for.”
Isabelle really did not want to brave the tide out in the street yet again and go all the way to WhizzHard Books. “I saw that bookcase fall over, but I didn’t think anyone was underneath it.” She laughed. “You must have some muscles under those robes.” She pressed her hand to his bicep, testing his strength. Samuel shrugged modestly but Isabelle could see that she’d won him over, even without flashing her notorious smile. “Do you think that you could just check in the back to see if you have any of these?” She gave him her booklist and looked up at him through her long lashes.
“Sure. Sure. Of course I’ll look.” And then Samuel was gone and, several minutes later, he returned with all of Isabelle’s books piled up in his arms.
“You’re the best,” Isabelle said.
“Yeah, I am,” Samuel agreed. Then his demeanor changed dramatically and he was suddenly less quirky and smiley and more suave and mature. “So, do you maybe want to go get a drink? I have a break coming up and I could convince Tom to get us some rum.”
Isabelle hoped it wouldn’t come to this; she really wasn’t keen on getting drunk with Samuel B in an alley at 11:00 in the morning. Obviously he had never done this sort of thing before, for he was now looking very embarrassed. Isabelle promptly made her way to the counter and paid for her books, all the while appearing like she was pondering Samuel’s offer. “I have a lot more shopping to do, Samuel and I have so much packing to do before school starts.” Isabelle talking about Hogwarts did the trick. Samuel was immediately back to his smiley self. Though he was only a year older than her, everyone knows that relationships where one person is in school and the other is out in the world never work out well.
“Well, I’ll see ya!” He sure was eager to get her out of the store now that she turned him down. He gave her a swift hug to give him time to hide his disappointment. But did he honestly think she was going to take him up on his not-so-charming offer?
“Bye!” Isabelle called after her. There, she was finished. A morning of battling with the vicious crowd of witches and wizards had done wonders to make Isabelle forget all about Cameron and Riley. She’d done it all on her own and she hadn’t even missed them for a millisecond—a millisecond of a millisecond. What did she need them for anyway? If they had been with her, Cameron would have seen the interest Samuel had in Isabelle and she would have stopped at nothing to get the attention back on her. Though she felt better off without them it continued to feel extremely weird not to have Cameron and Riley chatting beside her.
“I don’t believe it. I have been coming here every day for a week trying to find The Standard Book of Spells: Grade 7. Every time it’s been, ‘Sorry. Out of stock.’ But then you skip in there all ‘Hi, I’m Isabelle, which one of you strapping book boys wants to gawk at my tits?’ and voila!”
“Nice to see you too, Sirius.”
Isabelle hadn’t even noticed that Sirius was in Flourish and Blotts as well until they were out on the street and he was mocking her from behind. She recognized his voice as soon as he began to talk. Though never great friends, Sirius and Isabelle began to spend increasing amounts of time with each other at the beginning of last year due to Quidditch, but that soon ended when Sirius began dating Colby Wright, who was just as (in Isabelle’s opinion) irritating as her twin sister. How perfect then, that Isabelle was forced to share the girls Gryffindor Sixth—now Gryffindor seventh—dormitory with both of the Wrights, Lily Evans, Tanya Baker, and Olga Moot-Kozlov, none of whom she particularly liked.
“That book’s mine, Preston.” Isabelle and Sirius had been playing for the Gryffindor Quidditch team since third year; they both, along with James Potter, played the Chaser position. In the four years of playing together, Isabelle came to recognize a particular look of determination that would cross Sirius’ features when he was playing the game. So when Sirius’ mouth opened slightly, his brows furrowed gently, and his eyes began to blaze, Isabelle guessed that Sirius was going to tackle her and steal the book for his own.
She was right.
In a movement reminiscent of a charging Peruvian Vipertooth, Sirius closed the gap that separated their bodies. He jumped an abandoned box and sidestepped a bouquet of flowers that was half-trampled and then he was suddenly grabbling Isabelle by the waist, reaching around her body for the bag of books.
Isabelle screamed playfully after recovering from the shock of being attacked by Sirius, who normally avoided human contact at all cost. She’d never seen him touch a girl until he started dating Colby last year and he rarely ever even touched her—in public (Isabelle had three awkward encounters of walking in on Colby and Sirius engaged in certain inappropriate activities).
The weight of Isabelle’s bags encumbered her and made it difficult to fight Sirius off. His free hand grabbed at her Madame Primpernelle’s bag, mistaking it for her Flourish and Blotts one. Isabelle tried to shrug Sirius off again, laughing. Isabelle was strong and athletic, making the attack challenging for Sirius. She was also a wiggler.
And then Sirius was letting go, saying “Oof.” A sharp whistling pierced the air. Sirius threw his arms around his head defensively. “Oi. Ow! Shit!”
Isabelle rounded about and let out a sound that was half a scoff, half a laugh.
A woman that couldn’t have been younger than two hundred years old was pummeling Sirius with a thick wand that was likely carved by a caveman—all magic forgotten. Her white hair was wound in a braid that wrapped around her head but as she attacked the braid loosened and began to come undone. Her fragile-looking arms were deceptive—they delivered a heavy strike. A Muggle whistle—the cause of the shrilling— protruded from her mouth, which she held in place with the hand that wasn’t busy pummeling Sirius. The old woman delivered a particularly hard whack on Sirius’ head and, with him subdued for a moment, called, “Come to Tilly, m’dear. I’ll protec’cha.”
Isabelle closed her mouth that had fallen open sometime during Tilly the Brave’s rescue. Where had Tilly been when Isabelle had needed rescuing from Riley and Cameron? Dumbstruck, Isabelle simply stood where she was.
The doubled over Sirius threw his arms over his head, trying to protect as much of his body as possible from Tilly’s powerful hits. He flinched and swore when the wand connected with one of his knuckles.
“I’ll have no foul language from you, Sonny!” Tilly hit another knuckle. “Take that!”
Isabelle wondered dully how this tiny, humpbacked woman had become so strong. Probably keeps a brick in that purse, Isabelle thought, she packs way too much gusto for such a frail-looking thing.
“Pres, help!” Sirius bellowed.
Isabelle did not help, though. She wasn’t about to stand between the crazed Tilly and her quarry. But she was saved the responsibility to save Sirius when none other than Samuel B appeared. The white knight.
“Whaa—?” Samuel began, taking in the scene. Tilly was poking, prodding, and pounding Sirius. Sirius was curled up in an almost vertical ball; he was alternately screaming at Isabelle to help and trying to explain to this lunatic that he hadn’t actually been attacking Isabelle. Isabelle stood off to the side, her bags had fallen at her feet and she seemed torn between wanting to help Sirius and thinking he deserved the beating. He caught the latter’s large eyes and gestured at Sirius and Tilly. Just as he made the motion, Sirius yelled, “I swear to God, woman, I am not above hitting a grandma!”
Tilly did not appreciate his comment. “Fetch the irons! A night in the gallows ought to cool this scalawag off!”
Irons? Gallows? Scalawag? Tilly was ancient.
The whole of Diagon Alley seemed to have congregated to watch the scene. They formed a massive circle around Sirius, Tilly, Isabelle, and Samuel. But now that Tilly had stopped hitting Sirius, the scene was losing its entertainment factor.
“Listen you batty old hag—” Sirius’ words were lost as a commotion down the street drew everyone’s attention away.
The owner of Quality Quidditch Supplies threw himself out the door of his shop screaming, “Stop that thief!” and pointing down the opposite end of the street at a black-clothed figure running at full tilt.
It was now Tilly who looked torn. She waggled a figure at Sirius, poking him in the chest, “I’ll be back for you, Sonny!” She threatened and then waddled off at an extraordinary pace, after the thief. Tilly to the rescue.
By now Isabelle was too astounded to laugh. It was the most bizarre thing that had ever happened to her and, by the looks of it, Sirius was just as shocked.
“What. The. Fuck.” Sirius said, breaking the silence. Isabelle could only shake her head before she burst into laughter. As if a catalyst, Sirius’ eyes darkened at the sound of her mirth but Isabelle felt the cruel urge to exploit Sirius’ humiliation.
“That Tilly really did a number on you.” Isabelle’s tone was one of pure mocking. Sirius hated being mocked—even though mocking others was one of his favorite pastimes.
Sirius said something incomprehensible in response and his mood darkened. He began to nurse his blackening eye. Isabelle had to bite her two lips together to keep from smiling. When her mouth resisted and began to pull itself into a grin despite her efforts, Isabelle covered it with one hand in order to hide it from Sirius.
“What?” Sirius said, sharply.
“That’s it.” Even Sirius’ warning tone did nothing to make Isabelle’s fit of laughter cease. “That’s it,” he said again and he went for Isabelle again.
He nearly had her in a headlock (she still hadn’t stopped laughing) when a shrill whistle sounded and they heard the distinct sound of a humpbacked, bad-legged, old woman waddling after them. He released her.
“Tilly!” They whispered in unison. And then: “Run!”
By the time they got to the Leaky Cauldron they were both out of breath.
“That was possibly the most terrifying experience I’ve ever had in Diagon Alley.” Sirius’ stony demeanor had broken, for which Isabelle was glad.
Isabelle scanned the pub. The seats that were occupied by Riley and Cameron were vacant. What did she expect? Of course they wouldn’t have waited for her. She’d been in the alley for hours. It was foolish to think they’d sit around and wait.
“What’s wrong, Preston. You look like you’ve just seen Tilly.”
“What? Nothing. I’m fine. You’re the one that should be worried, Black, I bet they’ve got wanted signs up for you already.”
“What were you doing walking around Diagon Alley by yourself anyway? Where’s the rest of little group?”
Since when was Sirius Black so intuitive?
“I am allowed to do my shopping by myself.” That came out harsher than Isabelle intended, but she got the point across. Sirius mouthed ‘Ooo-kay’ and didn’t bring up Riley or Cameron again.
“So I’ll see you at James’ then.”
“Yeah. See you there.”
And then they were gone, walking in their opposite directions, Isabelle just as angry as she had been in the morning, and Sirius far more confused than he’d been in quite a while.
* * * *
“Whad’ju get that gnarly bruise from, Sirius?” Chase O’Connor, a seventh year and the team’s Beater, said upon Sirius’ entrance to the Potter’s.
“Yeah Sirius, did you get attacked or something?” Isabelle called knowingly from the kitchen, poking her head out to see who had arrived.
Sirius turned his body so only Isabelle could see him draw his thumb across his throat horizontally, warning Isabelle to shut her mouth. He turned back and made up some excuse about chasing down a thief that mugged an innocent girl on the street. She laughed once and returned to the kitchen where she was helping Mrs. Potter. The jokes about a woman’s place being in the kitchen had already been made by David Shepherd, a fifth year and the team’s other Beater, but Isabelle ended them when she landed a well-placed punch on David’s upper arm. Isabelle stayed in the kitchen only so James’ mother could keep her busy. If she was busy she wouldn’t think about the party she was missing at Cam’s.
“Oi, Iz. Isn’t there a big party at Cameron Harr’s tonight?” Kale Dirdrikson, hollered from the living room.
So much for not thinking about Cameron and Riley.
Isabelle wiped her hands off and left Mrs. Potter in the kitchen alone. She joined her teammates in the other room.
James, Sirius, and Chase were sitting around a coffee table seemingly having a three way staring contest. Quinn Wright was having a heated argument David Shepherd about giraffes (“They’re necks are so long because Taylor the Tall needed a proper animal to carry him around.” “So then why didn’t he just fetch himself an elephant?” “Everyone knows elephants aren’t as speedy as magically altered horses.”) while Kale listened in, half interested.
Isabelle felt a strong pang of guilt as she wished she were at Cameron’s. She didn’t mind James, Sirius, and Chase, but wasn’t exactly fond of David’s immature sense of humor and slightly grotesque nature. Kale was a bit more tolerable than David but he carried a not-so-secret crush on Isabelle around with him, even though she politely turned him down numerous times. And then there was Quinn. Isabelle’s father loved Quinn and didn’t see why Isabelle wasn’t great friends with her; Quinn was a great Seeker (even Isabelle admitted so); she was an intense player who hated defeat, but outside the Quidditch pitch she was a rude little gremlin who liked nothing more than to ridicule Isabelle and her two best friends. Her sister was Colby Wright, Isabelle’s roommate and Sirius’ girlfriend of nearly one year. She wished she was with Cameron and Riley, sipping on a drink and flirting with Blake Olston or Walt Noll. But she was at James Potter’s, being challenged to a staring contest and being watching almost creepily by Kale.
“Supper!” Mrs. Potter called, causing a sudden uproar as James, Sirius, David, Chase, and Kale leapt from where they were sitting and scrambled to be first to the supper table, leaving destruction in their wake as they tossed over chairs, vaulted over cushions, and elbowed each other. Isabelle and Quinn were a bit less hasty to eat.
“So why aren’t you at Cameron’s?” Quinn pretended to be uninterested in the reason for Isabelle’s absence at Cameron’s, but her hazel eyes revealed her curiosity. It was a curiosity Isabelle wouldn’t feed.
She ignored her.
“Trouble with the Magic Three?” Quinn’s tone besmirched the name that had been so dear to Isabelle, Cameron, and Riley.
“Why are you talking to me?” Isabelle asked, sounding more like the snobbish Cameron than herself. “We are not friends. We do not speak words.”
“Whatever,” Quinn said, adding “bitch” under her breath. The portrait above Quinn featured James, and Mr. and Mrs. Potter. The portrait Mrs. Potter gasped while the portrait James shook his fist at Quinn. Portrait Mr. Potter chose not to involve himself.
The male portion of the team did not notice the showdown that was about to occur in the living room. Their chicken was far more interesting.
Isabelle reddened. Ideally, Isabelle would have launched herself across the coffee table and attached her hands to Quinn’s neck, but she wasn’t feeling especially spritely this evening. So she glared. “That’s the best you can do, Quinny?” Quinn hated being called Quinny almost as much as Isabelle hated being called Belle. Which was a lot. “I’ve been called a bitch before. It’s not exactly a new insult.”
It was an invitation for the verbal hair-pulling to begin.
“You’re right Belle, manipulative slut is probably more accurate.”
“Tell me Quinn, how does it feel hearing about Sirius and your sister? Everyone knows you’ve liked him since first year—even her. But you can’t blame him—I mean he did choose the pretty twin.” If Isabelle couldn’t expel her rage on Cameron and Riley she would use Quinn as an outlet. And it was working. It felt invigorating to exchange volleys of hateful words.
The rest of the team still hadn’t noticed their prolonged absence. The mashed potatoes had been served.
“It couldn’t feel worse than knowing I’m only on the team because of my daddy.” Again, it was a comment Isabelle was used to. Her dad loved using the Gryffindor team as his guinea pigs, trying out new inventions on them. Some claimed Isabelle bought her way into her place. Those people had never seen Isabelle play.
“Better buying my way onto the team than following a guy onto it.” Quinn had been a member of the Gobstones Club when she had first seen Sirius. Fortunately for her, she had an almost unnatural amount of Quidditch potential and was able to make the team. Sirius was, of course, oblivious to the schoolgirl crush Quinn had on him.
“I’m not into him anymore. You’re just bitter because my sister beat you to him last year when you two were busy playing best friends.”
Isabelle let out a fake laugh. “If I had wanted Sirius I would have had him.” Isabelle knew her statement was false. She would have been able to “have” Sirius about as easily as she would have been able to “have” Professor Dumbledore. It had bruised Isabelle’s growing ego when Sirius hadn’t taken a quick liking to her and hurt it even more when he hadn’t developed feelings for her, until she realized that Sirius didn’t develop feelings for anyone. Nor did he care much about anyone besides his three best friends—until Colby came flaunting herself into their lives.
Sirius likely would have found this conversation intriguing but since he was working his way through the steamed carrots on his plate, he didn’t hear.
“Right, you’re Isabelle Preston. You can have any guy you want. But at least I have friends who don’t ditch me.”
“What did you just say?” Isabelle tried to appear imposing, but she wasn’t exactly tall and by no means did she tower over Quinn.
“You may think that no one saw you last year sitting all by yourself at the Gryffindor table while Riley and Cameron were off at Hogsmeade, but I did. So, what I said was, ‘at least I have friends.”
“Well I feel really fucking sorry for them,” Isabelle said as she pushed past Quinn. She slammed the door as hard as she could, forgetting that it is generally frowned upon to slam a door that does not belong to you.
“Where’d Preston go?” James said between mouthfuls of chicken as Quinn sat down at the table, as smug as ever.
Quinn shrugged. “Just said something about having something better to do. Probably went to Cameron’s. I dunno.” Quinn put a piece of chicken in her mouth, pretending not to notice the rest of the team sharing looks that ranged from absolute disbelief to outright anger. They didn’t believe in walking out, especially not at the annual team dinner.
“Mmm, this is delicious!” Quinn said, popping another piece of chicken into her mouth.
Revenge always is.
* * * *
Zili Preston shook her head. She didn’t often use head motions instead of words, but her daughter’s reasoning was beyond words.
“Your parents taught you, Mum. I don’t see why I have to go to Hogwarts when I’ve got a perfectly good educator right in front of me. C’mon, I mean who’s gonna take over the shop if I don’t know how to work your magic. Who needs charms and spells when they’ve got Mother Nature and Fate?”
Zili’s head continued to shake from side to side. “Darling, I wish you would tell me what is troubling you. You love school.”
Isabelle did not answer from where she laid in her bed, surrounded by her many bags. Zili had come to wake her daughter up when Isabelle declared that she would not be going to school and they had been debating since.
“Come on, love, get out of bed, do your hair, have some breakfast, I’ll light some incense, and you will feel much better.”
Isabelle groaned something that sounded like, “Nooooooaaaaaghagagadontwannagointoworld.” and covered her face with her favorite blanket.
“Isabelle Zene Prseton you will get out of that bed this instant or I will get the Cards, the Ball, and the Almanac and we’ll start you teachings right now.” It was one of the first time’s Isabelle had heard Zili use such a commanding parent-like tone.
“Fine. I’m up.”
Zili was wrong. Even after brushing and flossing her teeth, getting dressed, doing her hair and makeup, eating breakfast, and pack her last minute necessities, she still did not feel better. She thought she was going to be sick in the car ride to Kings Cross. The dread in her stomach was swelling and was near to bursting. Isabelle closed her large eyes, shutting out the world.
They made it to the station with time to spare. Derek pushed her trolley and Zili squeezed her hand. They went through the barrier. They said goodbye (but not before Derek gave Isabelle a large bag containing new prototypes that she had to try out on the team).