Chapter 1 : Clarity
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So to be here in the library, poring over her Arithmancy homework and not understanding a word, was an abrupt and unpleasant roadblock on her ride, which had until now been seamless.
She knew she would eventually hit this snag, but she thought it might be in Potions or Transfiguration or something a little more abstract – never in Arithmancy. Since childhood Mandy had been good at maths…numbers were good, numbers made sense. So why did these particular numbers look so foreign to her? She cast her eyes around the library to get a bit of a break from the parchment.
Mandy smiled as her Gryffindor friend Molly Weasley made her way over. “Hi, Molly,” she said. “How are you doing?”
“Dreadful,” Molly said dramatically, flopping down in the chair opposite Mandy. “I’ve got a bear of a History of Magic essay due tomorrow, and you know we’ve got rounds tonight so I won’t be able to work on it. Two and a half rolls of parchment, and I haven’t even started.”
“Remind me why you’re trying to get a N.E.W.T. in History of Magic if you hate it so much,” Mandy replied with a laugh.
“Law!” Molly said with mock enthusiasm. “If I want to work in magical law at all I need a N.E.W.T. in History of Magic. Got to understand the past to change the future, or some drivel like that. I tuned Dad out when he was giving that speech.”
Mandy laughed again. “He’d kill you if he knew.”
“Don’t I know it? But I don’t say a word because if I did I’d have to hear about my sister for an hour. All I ever hear is ‘Lucy listens to me’ and ‘Lucy would show me some respect’ and ‘I never thought your younger sister would have to be your role model’. I don’t have the heart to tell him that his perfect Lucy sneaks out after hours to nick food from the kitchens and has never read Hogwarts, a History. She’s just better at pretending she gives a hoot about what he says. I also think she gets away with things because she’s a Hufflepuff, and they’re supposed to be just and loyal and all that rot.”
Mandy raised an eyebrow. “You know you’re supposed to turn her in if she’s doing that, as you’re a prefect,” she said in mock seriousness, sticking out her tongue.
“I would, believe me. But I’ve never actually caught her red-handed, you see, Miss Bennett. That is, there’s never been a time that I caught her red-handed that she hasn’t bribed me properly.”
Mandy believed it – Molly and her sister were thick as thieves. Lucy was a fourth year, and the two of them were as different from their parents as children could probably get. Between their overzealous father and rather timid Muggle mother, Mandy really couldn’t see where Molly and Lucy got their personalities. She supposed it must have something to do with Weasley DNA – the girls’ cousins were forever talking about how much Molly was like her namesake grandmother. Mandy privately wondered what it would be like to meet the first Molly Weasley.
“So long story short, I’ll never finish that essay,” Molly said, bringing Mandy back to earth. “What are you working on, there?”
Mandy frowned at the parchment, on which she had made so many marks she could no longer tell what was her proper work and what had been scratched out. “Arithmancy,” she replied a little darkly, her brow furrowed.
Molly snorted. “And you think I’m mad for taking History of Magic. But honestly, you’re having trouble with Arithmancy? You?”
“This material is killing me.”
“Nina Saunders might be able to help. She’s a seventh-year N.E.W.T. Arithmancy student, so I’m sure she’s done this before,” Molly offered.
“How do you know Nina Saunders? She’s a Hufflepuff and a year older, I wouldn’t think you’d interact that much.”
“Oh, I haven’t told you. She’s Jamie’s new girlfriend,” she said with a sarcastic simper. “I swear she’s all I hear about anymore.”
Mandy’s eyes widened at the mention of James Potter, Molly’s cousin and best friend. “I didn’t know they were together.”
“Since last Friday, apparently. He won’t shut up about it. Freddie and I have decided to hex him the next time he mentions her.”
Mandy looked back down at her parchment. “I don’t really think I’ll need help from Nina Saunders, anyway.”
Molly raised her eyebrows and clucked her tongue at her friend. “Amanda Bennett!”
“What? And who calls me Amanda? What are you, my mum?”
“You still have a thing for Jamie, don’t you? I thought you let that go ages ago.”
Mandy could throw all the dark looks she wanted, but she knew her friend was right. She’d fancied James Potter for years. He’d been friendly on the Hogwarts Express first year, when she was nervous about going to Hogwarts and leaving her mum and dad. He smiled at her in the corridors when they passed each other, and she admired him, certainly. He was intelligent but not very serious, and she melted over the twinkle in his dark eyes when he made a joke…
“Mandy! Eurgh, honestly.”
“I can’t believe this. Give up on my idiot cousin, I’m serious. You can do so much better. I’m saying this as your friend.”
“I can’t help it, Molly. I really like him, and I have done for ages. You know I’m not going to act on it.”
“I’m not worried about you acting on it. I’m worried about you pining after him for forever and a day.”
“I do not pine over James.”
Molly looked unconvinced.
“Okay, maybe I do,” Mandy confessed irritably. “But I’m not sick over him.”
“Maybe it’s why you’re having so much trouble with Arithmancy.”
Mandy scoffed at that, laughing it off. But could it have been true? Mandy recalled having a chat with James in the corridor right before the lecture that concerned her homework. She swore internally – now that she thought about it, she remembered she’d been daydreaming.
Why couldn’t guys just be simple? Maths were simple. Black and white. Two and two is four, five by six is thirty. Which, at this rate, was the age that Mandy would have her first boyfriend. And that was if she managed to get her mind off of James Potter in the next fourteen years.
“I’m not obsessive, am I, Molly?” Mandy asked, seeking validation from her friend.
Mandy shook her head. “I don’t think you’re obsessive. You’re just ahead of the curve on knowing what you want. You’re the brightest one in the year; you’ve got all kinds of things going for you. It’s not like you’re sitting here wasting away, waiting for Jamie to come sweep you away on a white stallion. You’ve just got a more-or-less healthy, very long-standing crush. On my cousin. Inexplicably. I say again, he’s a prat and you really could do better.”
Mandy bit her lip. “And he likes Nina? He’s happy?”
“Happier than I can tolerate. I don’t think it’ll last, though. She’s fairly superficial. I’m not her biggest fan. But I’d never tell him so.”
“That wouldn’t be the best idea you’ve ever had.”
“Honestly, even though he’s a prat and you could absolutely do better, I think if you waited, and if you were yourself around him and just around him more in general, he could probably fall for you. For your sake I wish he wouldn’t, and for his sake I wish he would. Does that make any sense?”
Mandy laughed. “Perfect sense.” She turned back to her homework. “Now if I could just get this to make sense.”
“You’ll figure it out. You’re the smartest in the year.” Molly checked her watch. “I have to go or I’ll never finish this essay. See you at rounds?”
And who knew where a friendship could go?