Isabelle was a leaf caught in a violent breeze as she floated through the train’s corridors, finding no one she knew. Everyone looked foreign to her. So she continued to float until she came across an empty compartment—a lucky find.
Isabelle settled herself in, busying herself so a passer-by wouldn’t think her some sort of pathetic loner without any friends. Even though it was becoming truer by the moment. Where the hell were Cameron and Riley, Bermuda?
And then she heard the door of her compartment slide open and she rounded about. But it wasn’t Cameron and Riley.
Quinn and Colby Wright, Tanya Baker, Olga Kozlov, Harriet Fieldson, and Rachael Moot stopped chatting abruptly when they saw that they hadn’t entered an empty compartment like they had thought. Quinn, Colby, Tanya, and Olga were in her year and House while Harriet and Rachael were Gryffindor sixth years. Lily Evans was the only member of their gang missing.
And they looked like a gang. Each ominously dangerous in their floral prints, sparkling pink headbands, and synchronized outfits. Isabelle shuddered. She didn’t quite fancy the idea of getting shanked on the scarlet steam engine by the Bitch Brigade.
Isabelle and Quinn shared a glare of mutual hatred while her twin said, “Oh, hi Isabelle,” rather coolly. The Wright twins were identical but Isabelle told them apart easily. Both shared sleek chestnut hair but Quinn’s was frizzy while Colby’s was prone to grease. Both had pink, pouty lips, but Colby was the only twin that ever made use of them. Both had hazel eyes but Quinn had long, thick lashes where Colby had sparse ones that needed to be doused in mascara. Both were bitches. It was the only trait that was indistinguishable.
Tanya was a Muggle born. She loved to talk. But when she wasn’t talking Tanya enjoyed over-indulging in chocolate, the history of magic, and knitting. Yet she was endearing, loveable, and quite pretty. She was the sort of person who was so nice it made your blood cold. Isabelle was alone in her opinion that it is easy to be nice while it takes courage to be mean. It was also Isabelle’s opinion that Tanya was in need of a good shag—but she would never put the chocolate down long enough to give a guy a shot.
Her fellow classmate, Olga, was a petite beauty. She had a sculpted oval face, a charming smile, and the longest pair of legs Isabelle had ever seen. She spoke with a faint Russian accent, but only when she wanted to.
“Mind if we ride here with you?” Colby hated Isabelle nearly as much as her sister did. A Quidditch team shares a fathomless, intricate bond and the amount of skill and talent on the Gryffindor team, especially amongst the three Chasers, had forged a thick friendship between them all—exempting Quinn and Isabelle. James, Isabelle, and Sirius worked seamlessly together on the pitch and last year they had moved their friendship off the Quidditch field and had become quite close. Then Colby started dating Sirius. They didn’t win a match after that. Isabelle not-so-secretly blamed Colby for the losses, especially a particularly humiliating one against Slytherin.
“Yes, I do.” Isabelle supplied bluntly. It gave her a slight thrill to know she was lighting a match on the situation by her behavior. Now she only had to wait for the explosion. She waved goodbye rudely, adding fuel to the fire she was hoping to create. The two younger girls, Harriet and Rachael, made as if to move, but neither Quinn nor Colby flinched.
“You’re not exactly using the space…”
It was all Colby’s fault. Her seduction of Sirius had hurt Quinn, no matter how hard the girl attempted to pretend she was okay with their relationship. Sirius dating one of the banes of Isabelle’s existence tore apart their friendship and they lost all sense of unity on the pitch.
“Oh, but I am,” Isabelle said softly, dangerously.
“She’s right, she needs it for her ego,” Quinn said to her sister. They erupted in sniggers.
The Hogwarts Express jerked to a start; Isabelle felt it gain momentum as it began its journey. Cameron and Riley were most definitely on the engine. Somewhere. Unless they had decided to drop out and open a bed and breakfast somewhere. An explosion of sunlight burst into the compartment as the Hogwarts Express carried them out into the open air. Isabelle did not see the English countryside begin to fly past her, a sight she normally enjoyed, for she was eying the gaggle of girls who were still standing awkwardly in the corridor.
Over the holiday, Isabelle had met a Muggle boy named Parker who had taken her to see a Western movie at the theatre. In one especially memorable scene, two gun-slinging cowboys had faced each other with malice in their eyes. Then, in a fast but exaggerated movement, they had both reached for their guns and spun them around their hands. Then they shot each other. It was magnificent, this Muggle dueling. When Parker had taken Isabelle home, she’d tried doing the same movements with her wand; pulling it out of an imaginary holster, spinning it around and casting a spell. She’d gotten quite good at it. So as she and Quinn stood in what the cowboys of the West would have called a “showdown,” she half-hoped Quinn would give her attitude so she could whip out her wand, blast the girl’s nose off her and say some cutting remark that would have made the cowboys proud. It would also give her the excuse to say, “Howdy, partner!” which she had been dying to do since seeing the film.
But she didn’t. Because at that moment, Riley, Cameron, Blake Olsten, Walt Noll, and Lawrence Greene pushed past the Gryffindor girls with exclamations of “IZZZZ!” and “PRES!” Blake was in Isabelle’s class and House. Walt was a seventh year Slytherin like Cameron, and Lawrence was a seventh year Ravenclaw like Riley. Together, they broke all the rules. Gryffindors were not supposed to speak to Slytherins unless it was to insult them. Ravenclaws were not supposed to speak to anyone but professors and each other. And Slytherins were too good to speak to anyone—including housemates. But, though not close friends, they worked well together. Isabelle did not trust anyone in the group except for Riley—and even she was questionable—but they all loved life, adventure, and alcohol. Besides, they always had an excellent time with each other, Houses be damned.
“Now your big ass definitely won’t fit, Quinn.” Isabelle’s remark drew surprised yet unrestrained snickers from those in the compartment with her. She smirked when Quinn and the rest of the Gryffindor girls huffed away. If she had been a cowboy, Isabelle would have blown the smoke off her wand, smiling victoriously. But she wasn’t, so she didn’t.
“Is-a-belle, you’s a bitch!” Blake’s voice went up an octave on his last word, resulting in another chorus of laughter.
Isabelle shrugged and smiled. The Gryffindors were, well, she didn’t quite know what they were, to be honest. She simply knew that she didn’t belong with them. None of the Houses’ qualities described her. She had her fair share of cunning, she had wits, was loyal, and could be brave, but she felt too much emphasis was put on a person’s House. If only there had been a long-lost Founder that simply loved magic with no strings attached. She would love that House.
Not that she vehemently hated the Gryffindors, quite the contrary. She loved her Quidditch team. Not to mention that crimson and gold both looked great on her. She simply did not get on well with the girls with whom she lived. During the first year of Hogwarts the six of them had been inseparable. They experienced their first year in the magical world of Hogwarts together, becoming the best of friends. But come second year, Isabelle needed to branch out. She felt suffocated in the world of the Gryffindor girls. But then she made the Gryffindror Quidditch team and her life became consumed by the sport. She met older Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs, and Slytherins. They nodded in acknowledgement of her in the corridors. They said “good game” to her, eliciting jealousy from her dorm mates—Quinn and Colby especially. Come third year, James made the team with Isabelle and she was introduced into the world of James Potter and the Gryffindor boys. She was never quite accepted by them as a member of the group, but they paid her more attention than the other Gryffindor girls. By fourth year, Isabelle had drifted away from the rest of her dorm mates entirely; she couldn’t entirely escape them, however, since Quinn had made the Quidditch team that year as well. Already an established member, Isabelle had seniority over Quinn, which put them on even odder terms. She’d met Riley Goodfellow two years previous through her elder brother who was on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team and became annoyingly exclusive friends. Fifth year passed by easily, with Isabelle continuing to grow in Quidditch skill and popularity. She would go to Hogsmeade with seventh years on other Houses’ Quidditch teams and she loved the attention she received. Sixth year brought Cameron into her life in a whirlwind of excitement. And now it was seventh year and Isabelle should have felt like the Queen of Hogwarts. Instead, she felt like the jester.
“I cannot believe you didn’t come to my house, Iz. But, you’ll never guess who did come,” Cameron reclined easily on the uncomfortable seat. She did not want to dwell to long on Isabelle’s display against Quinn. Cameron ran one hand through her vivacious hair, her twinkling voice commanding the attention of the compartment. She didn’t wait for Isabelle to ask ‘Who?’ before she screamed, “RICHARD TALCOTT!”
Even the surly Isabelle could not refrain from laughing, shocked. “What?” She cried. “What! No.” Richard Talcott was notoriously sheltered by his mum. He wore thick glasses, constantly had a sinus infection of some variety, and he wheezed. Not exactly the sort that frequented Cameron’s gatherings.
“Yeah, Aaron got him to come. It was so hysterical!”
Isabelle listened quietly while they regaled her with stories of Cameron’s party, asking the occasional question or adding in the odd comment here and there. Lawrence had kissed Regina Cedea. Blake wished that Isabelle had been there to see him jinx off Walt’s pants. Walt wished Isabelle had been there so that Blake could have jinxed the pants off her. Olga had taught Richard her own drunken rendition of a Russian ballet. It had been an amazing night.
Isabelle’s absence at Cameron’s house had the opposite effect that Cameron had planned. When Isabelle had told Cameron she would not be able to make it, Cameron was secretly elated. Isabelle would not be there to steal the attention away from her, like she always did. Everyone would forget about Isabelle, at least for one night. But by not being there, Isabelle had more of an effect than if she had come. All night she was plagued with questions of ‘Where’s Iz?’ ‘Why isn’t Iz here?’ It made her sick. And now, term hadn’t even started yet and already Blake, Walt, and Lawrence were fawning over Isabelle, trying to impress her. Well she wouldn’t stand for it.
“Yup, but you just had to go to James Potter’s house. I can’t believe you’d rather hang out with those six than with us, Iz.” Cameron’s comment elicited the proper response.
“You were at Potter’s house?” Blake interjected, suddenly interested. Blake was known for being less-than-fond of his House and classmates. James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus were practically brothers—and were exclusive at that. Blake had been inclined to favor Chase—until he joined the Quidditch team. Blake, like Isabelle, felt no strong connection to his dormmates. It was natural for them to gravitate towards one another. Outcasts by their own doing. “Tossers,” Blake added sourly. Though not endowed with enough mischief to be part of James’ crew or enough athleticism to be on the Quidditch team, Blake was endowed with classic good looks (dark hair, ocean-blue eyes, strong nose, wide lips) and a suave personality.
Isabelle did not feel like starting the age old debate about her involvement in Quidditch and not enough involvement in them. She knew Cameron was trying to start trouble, just like Isabelle had been doing moments before with Quinn. “He asked me first,” here, Isabelle looked pointedly at Cameron, “and would get pissy at me if I ditched. Sorry.” That was enough to placate Walt, Blake and Laurence. Riley was staring off through the window, purposely trying not to catch Isabelle’s eye.
“Yeah, but you didn’t hang out with us all summer,” Cameron fake-complained. Her eyes challenged Isabelle, whose fingers itched to wrap themselves around her throat. Isabelle was beginning to lose count of the number of times she felt inclined to strangulate someone lately.
Isabelle hated confrontation. She let issues slip away easily, keeping them bottled up and storing them deep inside her heart. It was a terrible habit, and only forced her to dwell on her problems longer than necessary. So her next remark was unexpected and out of character. “I don’t remember getting any invitations, Cam.”
The mood in the compartment changed instantaneously. One moment it was the Land of Happiness in which rainbows shine without any rain, clouds are made out of candy, and puppies and unicorns prance about; and the next moment even a Dementor would have been making an awkward excuse to make its escape from the two venomous girls.
“Please don’t play the victim, Isabelle. You know that if you had wanted to be with us you could have called.” Cameron’s argument was logical yet it was nonsensical to Isabelle.
“Er—we’re gonna go”—Walt pointed with his thumb in several directions—“heard the trolly witch was around here somewhere. Hungry. Cart.” Walt, Laurence, and Blake tripped over themselves as they sprinted from the compartment. They weren’t keen on seeing any of their girls spontaneously combust and even though they were clueless as to why Cameron and Isabelle were glaring at each other, they knew they did not want to stick around to see who would be the victor of Girl Gladiator.
“It didn’t feel like you guys wanted to see me anyway.”
“Well what do you expect, huh? You were always off playing Quidditch, playing friends with all those blokes from your team and going off on dates with ones from other teams, leaving me and Riley in the dust. Then, when the time’s right for you, you come waltzing back into our lives, expecting us to’ve waited around for you.” Now Cameron fought Riley’s battles too.
Isabelle was slowly losing her confidence. Cameron’s logic was impermeable; from her twisted point of view, Isabelle was in the wrong.
“You’re all pally to us before the season starts, but the second Potter tells you to saddle up onto your broom, you don’t care who you blow off. I can see why all those Gryffindor girls say what they do about you Iz. They were all right, but I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
Isabelle wanted to scream at Cameron to stop. Stop speaking. Stop interfering. Stop playing her demented game.
“And I did, for Riley’s sake. But then I saw you forget about her so many times that I just couldn’t take it anymore. How much time did you spend with her during weeks before the Hufflepuff match? Huh? But you made all the time in the world for Black and his lot.”
Stop. Stop. Stop.
“You’re a terrible friend, Isabelle.”
“I can’t believe Riley put up with your shit for so many years. Because I know I wasn’t able to put up with it even for one.”
“Riley,” Isabelle called, defeated. “You really think I just blew you off? You really think that I was the one who was the bad friend?”
Riley finally turned away from the window, looked Isabelle directly in the eye, and with all of the compassion of an executioner, nodded.
“I think you should leave now.” Cameron said. Cameron the Saint. Cameron the Protector of the Weak. She painted a picture of herself that couldn’t be true. That Cameron was the one who had rescued Riley from a damaging friendship, that Isabelle was the villain that needed to be punished. No, it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be true.
The compartment froze over with the ice in Cameron’s voice and the coldness radiating from Riley. Isabelle had been ganged up on, put on the spot, interrogated, reprimanded. And it hurt. It hurt like someone had thrown her lungs and heart into a bag and shaken them violently. It hurt like a pair of pliers was clamping her temples together. It hurt like six elephants were sitting on her chest. It hurt like salt was being sprinkled into her eyes.
“Come back when you’re ready to be a bit more decent to the two of us.”
Isabelle found it difficult to hear Cameron’s words. Her sobs were blocking out the noise of the outside world.
* * * * *
She rode to the castle in a carriage. Alone. The horseless cart rattled while it pulled her up the sloping ground towards Hogwarts. The early evening sky gently caressed her skin through the open window, the wind whipping her face as if Mother Nature herself was telling Isabelle to man up and stop blubbing.
What was she really losing in Riley and Cameron? Nothing good, really. They—well Cameron, at least—had obviously planned the confrontation, knowing Isabelle would be too shocked to stand up for herself. It was easy for Isabelle to be bratty, rude, obnoxious, and purely bitchy to Quinn and Colby, but it became impossible when it came time for her to do the same to Cameron and Riley. Not that she cared what they would have thought about her if she had, Isabelle simply did not want to trouble herself by bringing up something so seemingly insignificant as Cameron putting her down or Riley choosing Cameron as a partner over her. As for the validity of their—Cameron’s—statements, Isabelle was unsure. It added enough unease to Isabelle to make her self-conscious. Did the rest of the Gryffindors really say terrible things about her? About how she treated people?
I am not a terrible person, Isabelle said to herself, mantra-like.
The carriage went over a particularly large pothole, bouncing Isabelle off the seat and a good foot into the air. Jostling her so badly that she forgot what she was even thinking about, replacing them with thoughts on how potholes are rough on the bum.
But then she heard a group of friends laughing behind her, or a voice telling a story carried back to her on the wind and it all came back to her. Then the carriage launched her in the air again and she was then too preoccupied with trying to keep herself earth-bound to worry about her to ex-friends. She was planning on writing a strongly worded letter to Professor Dumbledore, requesting straps or harnesses of some sort in the carriages. That, or they could at least have the decency to pave the walkway before the start of term.
The carriage lurched to an abrupt stop, throwing Isabelle forward horizontally instead of vertically and causing her to bonk her head on the opposite wall. Hadn’t she had enough abuse today? First verbal and emotional abuse from her “friends” now downright physical abuse from the world. Had she done something to put Karma in a strop? Was Mother Nature that sick of her whining already? Well Karma is a bitch and so is Mother Nature. As if the earth itself had heard Isabelle’s last thought, the last step of the carriage broke off when Isabelle stepped onto it and she suffered from a nasty fall.
“What a bloody fucking brilliant way to start the goddamn first half of my last fucking year,” Isabelle muttered darkly, not caring that her littering of foul language made her sound—as her mother said—“coarse and vulgar.”
She tried to gather what dignity she had and enter the Great Hall with poise, but what little pride she had managed to scrape together fast disappeared when she began to hear mutters of, “God. Isabelle looks like shit.” –“What the fuck happened to her?” –“she looks like she’s just been mugged.” –“She looks terrible.”
Isabelle showed her middle finger in all of its glory to the fourth year that had made this last comment and made a point to remember her face, adding her mentally to The List she intended to create. She kept it up for a second too long. Professor McGonagall, on her way to greet the first years, appeared in her towering sternness behind the girl, right in the line of Isabelle’s middle finger’s fire.
“Isabelle Preston, put that finger down at once! There will be eleven year olds roaming these halls in several hours. Is that the impression you want to send them? You already look enough like a hoodlum without making those vulgar hand gestures.” The fourth year, who was now behind Professor McGonagall said, “See, even she thinks she looks like shit.” But McGonagall did not hear. She continued to tell Isabelle the evils of the middle finger.
“Professor, I was just showing her my banjo-playing nail.” Isabelle’s grandfather on Derek’s side of the family played the banjo and kept a freakishly long middle finger nail to play it with.
McGonagall’s two thin eyebrows knitted together, deciding whether or not to punish Isabelle. But when a loud cry erupted from the room down the corridor and an eleven year old voice distinctly shouted, “Blimey, a ghost!” Professor McGonagall’s decision was made for her. She kept her eagle eye on Isabelle a second longer before floating off gracefully for a woman who likely had two false hips.
“Finally,” Isabelle breathed, “someone cuts me a bloody break.”
Just then, Peeves the Poltergeist glided by, dumping a bucket of lake water—complete with dead fish, scum, and seaweed—on Isabelle’s head. Brilliant. Just fucking brilliant.
Now she didn’t need the sniggers and whispers to alert her to the fact that she looked terrible. Isabelle’s thick hair was matted to her head, which was decorated with a egg-shaped bump; her robes were torn from where she had fallen—her knees and elbows especially scraped—and her eyes were swollen and red. She looked like she’d been dueling with the Giant Squid—and had lost the battle. She smelled like fish. She had seaweed in her hair. She was bleeding. And she didn’t have anyone to tell her story to.
But she wouldn’t lose the war.
Smiling widely and confidently, Isabelle strutted towards the Gryffindor table, leaving a trail of water in her wake. She waved at a sixth year from Ravenclaw. She made eyes with some Slytherin seventh that she didn’t know. Even though she looked like she was some sort of mad mermaid turned human, Isabelle carried herself proudly. Any attention is good attention.
And it was driving Cameron Harr insane.
She works all year to destroy Isabelle Preston, finally does, and four seconds later and the witch is back to being the center of attention. Even the professors were nudging each other and nodding in Isabelle’s direction while she paraded herself about like a trollop. A wet trollop. Knowing Isabelle, half the bloody underclass girls would show up to classes the next morning with dead fish accessories to epitomize their idol. She could go to class wearing nothing but a sheet and she would be hailed as a fashion icon. Bitch.
But Isabelle wasn’t as confident as she appeared. The Gryffindor table was long and there were many open seats, but Isabelle couldn’t necessarily plop herself down in all of her glorious lake-ness next to Quinn Wright and say, “pass the turkey, please.” No one would want to sit next to the Gryffindor Bitch—especially the Gryffindor Bitch who looked like she’d just been drowned in the lake and saved by the dead fish clinging to the back of her robes. She was still making her way down the runway-like aisle when James Potter gestured her over to a seat on his left.
“What have you gotten yourself into this time, Pres?” James whispered as Professor Dumbledore stood up, asking them to welcome the incoming group of first years.
“Oh, you know, nothing like taking a dip in the lake before term starts,” Isabelle replied sarcastically, raising her voice to be heard over the applause.
The first years filtered in nervously, their eyes taking in the majestic ceiling (a cool velvet purple this evening), the floating candles, the five tables, the students and professors at the tables, and, of course, the Stool.
“I’ve got a Galleon that says the ginger pisses himself before it’s all over,” Peter Pettigrew announced, pointing at a fidgety red headed boy. Isabelle had never had much to do with Peter Pettigrew. She knew he was one of James’ best friends along with Remus Lupin (who was sitting to the right of Peter) and Sirius Black (who was sitting to the right of James). Peter had blonde hair that was clipped short, watery blue eyes that were calculating and observant; he was short yet had lost much of the weight he had been packing since first year. This seemed to have given him newfound confidence. Remus Lupin, another one of the group whom Isabelle had never spoken to much was as handsome as James and Sirius with his shy demeanor, sly smiles, and wolfish good looks.
“Skinny dipping?” James whispered again, speaking to Isabelle though eyeing Professor McGonagall. She had just asked Waclaw the caretaker to bring her the Sorting Hat. Isabelle elbowed James, leaving a wet spot on his robes.
“When I call your name, step up to the stool and place the Sorting Hat on your head.” She opened up the scroll in her hand and called out, “Aaltje, Abigail!” But before Abigail Aaltje had the chance to do any such thing, a rip appeared in the worn hat and it burst into song.
James took this opportunity to inquire further into Isabelle’s aquatic adventures.
“Shut up, will you, I’m trying to listen to the hat.” Isabelle could feel herself glowing red with James’ pressing questions. She was never going to admit that she had been assaulted by the carriage, fallen on her face, been reprimanded by McGonagall, and soaked by Peeves all in less than an hour. But his attention was at least lifting her spirits.
“Seriously, shut it, James.” Sirius’ sudden backup startled Isabelle. She hadn’t realized he had been listening. “Besides, whatever happened to that talk you were going to give her, eh?” James made a sudden “Shh”ing sound and even though Isabelle could not see him, she felt James warn Sirius with his eyes.
“What talk, James?” Isabelle asked sweetly, leaning around James for a slightly better view of Sirius.
James said something about Sirius contracting a disease that made him babble incomprehensibly when Sirius interjected, “You know, that one about Isabelle—what was it that you said? Oh, I remember. Isabelle ditching us so that she could go get drunk with her skanky friend Cameron.”
Isabelle’s spirits came crashing down. “What is your problem, Sirius?” Her defensive walls shot up, and she couldn’t help snapping.
But Sirius returned to watching the sorting with a distant interest, ignoring Isabelle. He wasn’t exactly sure why he had felt the need to interject into James’ and Isabelle’s conversation. It may have been that James had spent the majority of the train ride complaining about Isabelle leaving his house so early, it may have been that he’d caught Colby sneaking onto a carriage with Ian Gale, it may have been that he realized he was actually a terrible boyfriend and that Colby’s indiscretion was likely a result of this. Any of these factors was entirely plausible in causing Sirius’ reaction to Isabelle’s presence at their part of the table. There was nothing like making others feel bad to make yourself feel better.
He distantly heard Isabelle say, “You don’t really think that’s why I left your house, do you?”
“It doesn’t matter, Pres, I’m over it.”
“But that’s not why I— ”
“—Pres, it’s okay. Really.”
Isabelle glared down the table at Sirius, but her eyes quickly shot to where Quinn and her vile twin sister were engaged in some sort of tale that Lily Evans was weaving. She needed only to watch the evil girl to know that it was Quinn who had instilled this impression upon her team. James followed Isabelle’s stare and, upon seeing Lily Evans, his demeanor grew as cold as Isabelle.
James Potter hated two things: rejection and humiliation. The day of his Defense against the Dark Arts O.W.L., he had experienced both—at Lily Evans’ hand. Before that day, he had harbored what some might call a crush on the fiery red head. He thought only about how to make her laugh while she was around him; when she wasn’t around him he conjured up excuses that would bring them together. Help with his homework, a partner in class. But she had one drawback—she was friends with Severus Snape, the greasiest Slytherin of the bunch. In James’ mind, hanging Snape upside down in the air was hysterical. He would have laughed if someone had done it to Sirius. But Lily hadn’t even giggled while Snape was airborne. Quite the opposite. She had hollered at him. Called him names. Turned him down. James lost his affection for Lily that day—well, most of it. He continued to harbor a sliver of the affection he had once felt, but the bruise Lily had left on James’ ego was irreparable. So he told his friends that she was cold hearted bitch he felt nothing towards. And it was mostly true.
“It’s going to be fun working in close quarters with Evans all year, huh?” Isabelle asked sarcastically. Even though James was elated at becoming Head Boy, he wasn’t looking forward to having to coordinate the running of Hogwarts with control-freak Evans.
“Peachy.” James was glad to change the subject; he just wished it could be changed to something a bit less sensitive. Like bananas. Or kittens.
Isabelle took the hint in James’ blunt response and did not push the matter further. Tacitly, the two agreed that their conversation quota had been met. James turned and began paying more attention to Sirius, Remus, and Peter than to Isabelle, leaving her to avoid eye contact with the pudgy fourth years surrounding her on her left. She wasn’t sure if they were salivating over the feast or over her. She hoped it was the former, not that latter. But if one of them made a move she could always use the tuna on her back to fend them off.
Then she was rescued when she felt a familiar hand on her shoulder. “Iz, can I talk to you?” Blake asked in her ear.
Her four dining companions glowered up at Blake, the exile of their dormitory. He was known for fraternizing with Slytherins and he didn’t like Quidditch. That was reason enough to dislike him. Blake, instead of greeting them kindly, returned their frosty glares with double the intensity. “C’mon, Iz.” Blake whisked her silently out of the Great Hall with so much stealth none besides James, Sirius, Peter, and Remus had seen them go. He lead her down into a deserted corridor and opened up a tapestry that was well known for having a hidden nook behind it that was always occupied by one couple or another. It was a spot Isabelle and Blake had found themselves in many times.
“You okay?” Even in the dark, Isabelle’s appearance was noticeably terrible.
“Just a rough night.”
“—terrible, I know.”
“No,” Blake moved a dried lock of hair away from Isabelle’s eyes. His deep blue eyes bored into her own. “You look sad.” He left his soft hand on Isabelle’s cheek. “And also you smell a bit like fish.”
She knew what he wanted and she was okay with it. The fact that Blake and Cameron had become close at the end of last year and over the summer would only make this sweeter. “I am,” Isabelle whispered, looking at Blake through her dark lashes.
“Is there anything I can do about it?” Blake was close to Isabelle now, barely an inch away. Isabelle was no stranger to the powers of Blake’s touch.
Isabelle nodded slowly, one hand reaching out. She pulled Blake into her, their lips meeting passionately. Isabelle forgot that Cameron liked Blake. She forgot that Riley hated her. She forgot that she was an outcast. All she concentrated on were Blake’s hands and arms, which were holding her close to his body. It was all she really wanted.