"Cedric was a person who exemplified many of the qualities which distinguish Hufflepuff house. He was a good and loyal friend, a hard worker, and he valued fair play. His death has affected you all, whether you knew him well or not.”
Dumbledore’s words from the end of term banquet rang in her mind as she stared out the lone window of her dormitory. It was far too late and too dark to discern anything besides vague outlines beyond the window pane, but having lived in the same dormitory and having looked out the same window for the past six years made seeing more or less irrelevant. The grounds were surely there, rolling out and around the walls of the castle. Ripples likely spread across the surface of the lake as the giant squid or some such creature glided beneath its surface, and the tiny silhouettes of owls stretching their wings almost certainly dotted the sky.
It seemed odd that everything was more or less the same as it had always been when so much had changed. Cedric was dead. He would not be returning to school with the rest of the seventh years next autumn. He wouldn’t play Quidditch, or study for N.E.W.Ts, or get the chance to be chosen as Head Boy. The finality of it all felt very surreal, and Angelina inhaled an unsteady breath in an attempt to shake the numbness that had settled over her. Never in her wildest dreams had she ever considered the possibility of losing a classmate and friend before he had gotten the chance to find a life outside of Hogwarts. Of course, they had all been told that the Triwizard Tournament was dangerous, and that if they chose to enter, they did so at their own risk, but those warnings had surely just been words passed along by adults obligated to worry over them. No one was actually supposed to die – and all the talk about murder, about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named – it was just too much.
Angelina scrunched her eyes shut tightly before opening them. Colorful flecks dotted her vision, but the window remained just as black as the sky. She jumped when a loud snore from the direction of Marjorie’s four poster cut through the silence of the dormitory. Clearly Witch Weekly’s snore-no-more solution that the girl swore by was working wonders.
Sighing, she turned away from the window.
The scarlet bed hangings were closed tightly around three of the five beds. In an uncharacteristic move, Erin and Marjorie had retired not long after the somber end-of-term feast had ended, and if Marjories’s snores and their lack of whispers were any evidence, they were now both fast asleep. Lora, who had been quiet on the trek up from the Great Hall, had also disappeared, though Angelina knew that her friend wasn’t yet sleeping. The sound of her quill scratching lightly against parchment, most likely writing to Michael the Muggle, betrayed her early retirement. Only the curtains around her own bed and Alicia’s bed remained open. The latter had disappeared shortly before the headmaster had given the feast’s closing remarks, leaving Angelina alone with her ruminating thoughts.
Angelina had a fairly good idea where Alicia had disappeared to, and had already convinced herself that the absent brunette was the reason she was still awake, perched on a window ledge – she was definitely only waiting for Alicia’s return. That’s just what friends did. She was certainly not avoiding closing her eyes out of fear of the empty numbness taking over. Merlin, she had put her name into the goblet last term, and had been a twinge jealous of the boy ever since. What if she had been in the maze, instead of Cedric? She shook herself, roughly swallowed the feeling of bile creeping up the back of her throat, and wished for Alicia’s return. She inhaled a slow and shaky breath, willing the dormitory door to swing open. When no such thing happened, her eyes panned over the unusually bare walls around her.
Five mostly-packed trunks sat in the center of the round room. Tucked away within them was all the clutter – the school supplies, clothing, pennants, posters and photographs – that typically made the dark stone walls feel like home. Rather than suggesting that a long, relaxing summer was right around the corner, the trunks left a cold, empty feeling in the pit of her stomach. She swallowed that back as well and chided herself. If only there was an off-switch for this line of thinking.
Pushing the heels of her hands into her eyes, she slumped back against the cool glass. Perhaps, despite feeling hollow and wholly unaffected by the prospect of summer, it was just what she needed. A summer away from the castle, away from all the grief and the whispered rumors of how and why and who would do everybody some good. According to the last letter her mum had written, her oldest sister, Valerie, was still in the country with Andre and her newest little nephew - Elliot, she said his name was. Angelina felt a small smile flicker at the corner of her mouth – meeting the newest Johnson was definitely something to look forward to.
The sound of the dormitory’s wooden door slowly swinging open cut through her thoughts.
“Alicia?” She sat up from her slumped position on the window ledge and glanced along the sliver of light shining across the stone floor from the stairwell. “That you?”
“Yeah, it’s me.”
“It’s about time you showed up,” Angelina said, with all the playfulness she could muster. “I’ve been watching for you to come back since the feast ended.” Her eyes followed her friend as she crossed the room and pulled herself up onto the window ledge next to her.
“I know what you’re going to say, but don’t.” There was no playfulness in Alicia’s voice. Her normal teasing tone sounded weary and defensive. “I know you keep telling me that I shouldn’t continue spending time with guys after I break up with them, but I don’t know. Eddie had asked if we could take a walk and, well, I couldn’t tell him no – ”
“Alicia, I – ”
“And besides, all we did was walk down to the pitch. We barely even said anything – he was so quiet, we just sat there in the grass under the near-hoops. It was sort of weird, but I think it helped him some to get out of the castle. So I don’t care what you think about me sneaking out of the castle with him, I’m glad I did it, and I’d do it again. And you can just keep your big-sister-advice to yourself.”
Angelina watched as she scrunched her eyes shut and leaned back against the cool glass of the window. A heavy silence had settled between the two girls - even the scratching of Lora’s quill from behind her bed curtains has stilled - and she paused a minute before breaking it.
“Alicia, I wasn’t going to say anything, even before you gave your little monologue.”
The brunette opened her eyes, but made no attempt to pull herself up from her slouched position. “You weren’t?” she asked. A hint of incredulousness laced through her words. “I’m always doing the same thing, falling back into the same old patterns. You’d probably be right to say something.”
“Well, don’t worry about that. I wasn’t going to say anything. Cedric was Eddie’s best mate, and you’re a lovely person. He may be denser than troll hide, but he was smart enough to know he could count on you.”
“I swear nothing happened this time – I’m really done dating him.”
“I know, Alicia. I know.” She snaked her arm around her best friend’s shoulders. “I feel like the rules of social norms are allowed to be broken when bad things happen.”
“I can’t believe he’s really dead, Ang.”
“Oi, are you two awake?” Lora’s head peeped out from her bed.
“No, we’re both fast asleep,” Alicia called across the room.
“Well, I’m not either.” The sarcasm seemed to escape her, and Lora continued speaking from between her curtains. “I’ve tried, but I just can’t seem to fall asleep – I just keep thinking about his poor parents. And Cho, God. And how I’d feel if that’d have been Michael.”
Angelina slipped down from the window ledge and made her way to Lora’s four poster. The stone floor was cold against her feet, and her toes curled in protest. “Here,” she said pulling the curtain aside, “budge over, will you?”
“We haven’t had a sleepover in years.” Alicia called, shuffling over to the bed. “Bloody shame something like this has to happen to prompt one.”
Angelina scooted down so her shoulders were beneath to the covers. It had been several minutes since anyone had said anything, but she could tell by their pattern of breathing that Alicia and Lora were both still awake too. It really had been years since the three of them had hidden out in one of their beds, sharing secrets and jokes until late in the night, when sleep would finally take over. They had called it their fort – it had been the foundation their friendship was built upon. The years had slowly stripped away their time for late night frivolities and stolen the space behind the curtains so that the three girls were forced to lay shoulder to shoulder, but she still felt the same peace and comfort knowing her best friends were at her side.
“Lora? Alicia?” she whispered into the darkness. “I’m glad I have you.”
The gentle rumble of the Hogwarts Express as it careened southward toward London, and an entire, glorious summer away from the castle’s stone corridors and the shocked silence that had filled them during the past few days of the term, had lulled Angelina into a barely-conscious state. Sunshine shone through a thin wisp of clouds that lined the border between earth and sky. Leaning against the window next to her seat, she could feel its warmth seep into her skin. It was a beautiful day beyond the walls of the train car – the sort of day that Oliver Wood had always categorized as a ‘Quidditch Day.’ She hadn’t spent much time on a broomstick of late, but could imagine the feel of a broomstick in her hands and the rush of air around her body with very little effort.
At least there’d be Quidditch next term.
The sound of her name crashed through her lazy thoughts like an unanticipated Bludger. Recognizing Alicia’s voice, she shook the sleepy feeling from her head and turned away from the green Scottish hillside rolling past the window. The interior of their compartment was dim in contrast to the sunlight beyond the window, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust. The seat next to Lora had been vacated. Alicia stood in the doorway of the compartment, and her hands grasped the door frame to keep herself from losing her balance if the train happened to give a particularly large lurch. She was staring at Angelina, most likely waiting for the answer to whatever question she had preceded her name.
“Do you want anything off the trolley?” Alicia asked, apparently repeating her question. “It’s over at the next train car, and I don’t know about you, but I need a Chocolate Frog or ten. And Lora wants a Pumpkin Pasty. ”
Lora sat with a colourfully bound book open on her knees, but it didn’t look as though she had made any process with it since they had boarded the train – the top corner of the page was still turned down where she had last marked her place. Her head was tilted and Angelina wondered whether her blue eyes had been watching her while she had been lost outside the window.
“What’re you thinking about, Ang?” Lora asked. Her eyes gazed out the window as though she were looking for a clue. “It’s a beautiful day out there.”
“Yes, it really is.” Angelina pushed several of her braids back from her face. “Just thinking about Quidditch next term, and – ”
How strange it would to take the field against Hufflepuff without Cedric.
Her brain completed the thought where her words had dropped off. She was surprised – she actually hadn’t been thinking anything of the sort before answering Lora. The warm, soaring feeling she had felt imagining herself up in the air was promptly staunched. If they weren’t before, Lora’s eyes were now certainly watching her.
“ – and N.E.W.Ts and such.” Angelina quickly finished her sentence, fighting the hollow sensation creeping up her throat.
“N.E.W.Ts? God, Ang. I’m not even thinking about N.E.W.Ts yet.” Lora shut her book, as though she was finally admitting a defeat in making any progress with it. “I hope the weather is this nice in London.”
“Right, Chocolate Frogs it is, then.”
Angelina’s and Lora’s heads both snapped towards the doorway, where Alicia was still leaning. Her arms were crossed over her chest, and one of her eyebrows was cocked up beneath the edge of her fringe.
“Holy hippogriff, Alicia, I’m sorry. I completely forgot I hadn’t answered you. Here, I’ll go get sweets for all of us.” Angelina jumped up from her seat, hoping to leave the increasingly familiar hollow feeling behind her, and bounded towards the door, pushing away the coins in Alicia’s hand. “No, no. My treat.”
The length of the corridor outside their compartment buzzed as students made their way to and from the trolley in the neighbouring car. A pair of now-second year boys scampered towards her, their pockets loaded with so many lollies and pasties and frogs that Angelina could only hope there were at least three or four more of them in their compartment. She recognized one of the as the little Gryffindor that had fallen in the lake on the very first night in the castle – Dennis Creevey, his name was. He nodded, smiling as he brushed past her. She watched as he and his friend disappeared into their compartment. The boy was always smiling – there was something to be said for that ability, and she felt the whisper of a smile play at her own lips.
“And for you, dears – what can I get for you?” The sound of the trolley witch’s voice rang down the corridor.
The handful of Sickles she had stashed in her robe pocket before they had left Hogwarts weighed against her leg. She had to get Chocolate Frogs for Alicia soon – the whinging that would surely happen if she didn’t was nearly as frightening as the thought of next term’s potions course. Now that she thought about it, perhaps she’d buy a Frog or two for herself. Some chocolate was beginning to sound nothing short of necessary.
Angelina hastened along the corridor and squeezed through the door to the next train car, the idea of introducing her nephew to Famous Witches and Wizards Cards bouncing around in the back of her head. She heard the trolley before she saw it. Bits of conversation – summer plans, gossip about who was seen snogging whom, rumours about Cedric and what had happened in the maze – floated in the air with increasing volume as she approached it. A handful of students milled around the red-and-white-striped cart. A cheery, round-faced witch stood behind it, exchanging Knuts and Sickles for smiles and sweets.
“And what can I get for you today, my dear?” The witch, whose name tag identified her as a Violet, asked in a wobbly voice.
“Erm,” Angelina stalled as she fished money her pockets. She swore they were only deep while she was trying to find something in them; any other time, they almost too shallow to secure a quill. “All right,” she finally said as her hands closed around the coins and she handed them to Violet, “I’ll take two Pumpkin Pasties and a dozen or so Chocolate Frogs, please.”
“A dozen or so Chocolate Frogs? Bloody hell, Johnson, do you have a date with a Dementor that I don’t know about?” Lee had appeared at her side – a smirk, which shouted just how clever he thought he was, was pasted on his face. He tossed his dreads back from his face and swung his arm around her shoulders. “Between you and me, I’d choose a Dementor over a certain ginger any day. I’m sure the hooded soul-sucker wouldn’t drag its feet about things quite as much – since they float and all.”
Angelina narrowed her eyes at him as he grinned, waiting for her to say something. Their friendship, she had determined, revolved around this continued interplay of action and reaction – she swore he lived for her response. It had been a while since they had danced a round of their game, and she figured she may as well play it up for him. Slipping out from his arm, she shook her head and made sure he saw her exaggerated eye roll.
“Now, now Johnson – no need to get hostile.”
“I’m just going to ignore the last part of what you said, since it is completely ridiculous,” she said, unable to keep from smiling, “and unless the Dementor’s name is Alicia, the first bit is ridiculous too. She’s a firm believer in chocolate therapy as a solution for all problems.”
“I see.” A serious look crept up his face. “I saw her leave the Great Hall with Eddie last night. Is she doing all right?” Lee asked.
“Well, she ordered up a Chocolate Frog or ten, if that’s any indication – I just think we all need some time.”
Lee nodded knowingly. “If it makes her feel any better, I ended up in the Astronomy Tower with Libby last night.” He chuckled at his own predicament.
“Libby McNulty?” Angelina felt her brow dart up her forehead. “You spent all of January trying to avoid her after the Yule Ball debacle, and now you decide to, four months later, take her up to the Astronomy Tower?” She winced at the incredulous tone her voice had adopted, wondering if she should have tried to sound more sincere.
“I’m not even sure how I ended up there. Relapse, I suppose. Something about grief and loss and the stars smiling on her and I – I’m not proud, but like I said, if Alicia needs a little pick-me-up – ”
“Do I hear my Lee?” a voice called down the corridor.
Angelina watched in amusement as Lee’s eyes dilated in panic. It was a fight not to laugh as Libby came strutting down the corridor towards him. It really was a shame that a girl as pretty as she was, was such a toad.
“Thank Merlin I ran into you,” Libby cooed, sidling up against his chest. “I was so afraid you wouldn’t get to see me before we got to London, and, well, I know how horrible that would have been for you. You’ve said so yourself – I work emotional magic.”
Lee stood perfectly still while she talked, as though there were a chance she’d forget he was there – which, given the size of her ego, was entirely likely.
“Oh, Angie,” she said, likely only then realizing Angelina was also standing near the trolley, “Fred, or George - no – maybe Fred - oh, as if it matters, right? One of the twins asked if I’d seen you when I popped into their compartment to look for my Lee. People clearly recognize what a social presence I am in this school. But, yes. I think he may want to see you – third compartment down from here.”
“Thanks, Libby.” Angelina shot Lee a sympathetic look and scooped her bag of sweets off the side of the trolley where Violet had set them – if nothing else, the witch’s hours behind the trolley were undoubtedly amusing.
George wanted to see her.
She made a conscious effort not to walk the distance to the third compartment from the sweets trolley too quickly, cursing herself for the hike in her pulse and the flutter in her stomach. After all, they were, for all intents and purposes, only friends. Of course, they had spent a lot of time together this past term, but his body language was so consistently platonic, save for some hand-holding that was all too easy to explain away. No, Angelina completely blamed Alicia’s perpetual game of Salazar’s advocate – all of her observations, what-ifs, and hypotheses – for her continued courtship of this irrational optimism.
Taking a deep breath to try and regain her composure, she slid the door of the compartment open.
“Angelina,” George said. He sat alone in the compartment; a roll of parchment was unrolled in his hands, and a bright red quill was tucked behind his ear. His face wore a wide smile that continued all the way up into his eyes.
“Libby ran into Lee and me by the trolley and said you were looking for me?” She slipped down into the seat next to him. “Though she didn’t seem able to tell if you were you or Fred.”
“Ah, Libby. Lee’s a lucky man.” He turned towards Angelina, settling back into his seat. “He’ll have to let me know how he found such a great catch. The pride of Ravenclaw house, that one”
His eyes made contact with hers, and she had to force herself not to read into it. A summer away from Alicia’s romantic conspiracies was definitely in order. Breaking eye contact, she stared into the compartment and cleared her throat. “So, where’s Fred at? I didn’t expect to find you alone in here.”
“Eh, he went off to find Hollis – something about wishing her a happy holiday.” He began to roll the parchment. “Plus, I assume he wanted to share the news with her.” Tapping the parchment with his wand, it vanished. He looked back up at her with wide eyes, and fidgeted in his seat. His whole body seemed to encourage her to ask him what the news was.
“And what news is that?” Angelina didn’t have to pretend to play along; a tingle of curiosity danced under her skin.
“It’s actually going to happen – the joke shop,” George practically shouted. “Harry, that bloody wonderful scrawny git, he gave Fred and me all his winnings. All one thousand Galleons of it. Ang – ” he grabbed her shoulder, practically shaking her “ – the research, the materials, the actual premise, we can afford all of it. Merlin, just think how many Canary Creams that is.”
Without thinking, Angelina threw her arms around him. The dream of owning a joke shop was something George had talked to her about so often that she struggled to find the words adequate enough to congratulate him now that the dream could be a reality. One hand on the back of his head, his hair rough against her palm and the other in the middle of his back, she became acutely aware that his own hands had wrapped behind her waist, pulling her towards him. The feel of his breath against her neck sent trails of cauldron fizz flooding through her body.
She dropped her hands, not knowing exactly what to do. Her mind was racing, and she didn’t trust her own assessment of the situation. He followed suit and pulled away from her. Settling back in her seat, she chanced a look back up at him.
His eyes watched her for a moment before he, too, sat back in his seat. “Harry, erm,” he said, struggling to find his voice, “he didn’t want the money, especially considering how he had won it. He told us to get inventing – that the world could do with a few laughs.”
“That’s brilliant, George.” She had finally found her voice. “Harry – he’s a good one. Do you really think that, everything he said – everything Dumbledore said. Do you think that You-Know-Who’s really back?” The question surprised her – she hadn’t realized she was wondering it, and felt slightly traitorous asking. After all, she knew how close the Weasley family was with Harry. She fiddled with the bag of sweets that she had left sitting on the seat, cursing herself for the umpteenth time that day.
She had single-handedly derailed the celebration over George and Fred’s news.
“I should get back to my compartment.” She rose from her seat not waiting for his answer. “I was supposed to be bringing Chocolate Frogs back to Alicia, and I’ve been gone forever. She’ll be crankier than one of Hagrid’s Skrewts.”
“Hey, Angelina,” George called as she turned towards the compartment door. “Be careful this summer, eh? I, erm, I don’t think I’d know what to do if something happened to you.”
They were only two words, but as Angelina left the compartment and made her way back to Alicia and Lora, she felt as though some sort of mutual understanding had settled between them.
Author’s Note: Let me first give credit where credit is due. The quote, "Cedric was a person…him well or not” was taken from pp. 421-422 of the American Hardback Edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The bit about how many Canary creams and the world needing more laughs was inspired from the exchange between Harry and the Weasley twins on p. 433 also of the American Hardback Edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The name Hollis is a reference to ToujourPadfoot’s character from her Fred/OC story, So, Listen… (my Fred Weasley head canon). Now, let me thank you, the reader for being here despite the amount of time that has passed since my last update. This story means a lot to me, and I’m very grateful for all of your support thus far. I’d love to hear what you thought, and appreciate any reviews you leave. Lastly, let me thank Rachel for being a stupendous beta and Ariellem for her quick help locating my quotes.
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