The morning of the Hogsmeade visit dawned slushy, misty, and chilly. From the little circular windows of our dorm, I could see that the grounds were covered under a vast, soggy blanket of snow. The type of wintry weather I hate the most, when it’s cold enough to snow in the night but, come the morning, it’s warm enough to rain instead.
A light drizzle kicked in about ten as me and Scorpius said goodbye to Fauna in the Entrance Hall. She was off to visit some fancy Observatory in the South, Astronomy buff as she is. I totally see Fauna as becoming a complete Mystic Meg when she’s older; she loves Divination and Astronomy and follows her Horoscopes to the t. Sometimes I poke fun at her for it, telling her she’ll be a crazy cat lady with a crystal ball and anklets and stuff, but she’s pretty quick at poking fun at me in return. As she says –and I actually think she’s pretty accurate – I’m perfect crazy cat lady material. I’ll be alone with my cats and my biscuits forever. I bet even Scorpius will have more luck in life than me because, well, he’s better at pretending to be normal than I am.
After we’d said goodbye to her, there was only an hour left for me to get ready before I had to meet Albus and his mates in the courtyard. Scorpius rolled his eyes and tutted at me when I said I had to get changed before I left but, then again, he’d been a bit funny with me ever since I’d got back from the post-match party at Gryffindor tower.
He tried to laugh it off on the Sunday morning, because I’d woken up to a massive bruise on my thigh and couldn’t decide which of my two tumbles the previous evening had done it. He made all sorts of jokes about me being a closet drunk, how my fifty percent Scottish genes were making an appearance at last, how stupid I’d looked in the skirt. And I laughed along because, well, they were all fairly accurate observations, especially
the one about the skirt.
Somehow, though, I felt like I’d broken some code between the two of us. When he’d been fourteen and I was thirteen and the rest of the year was really getting into partying and snogging and Fauna had a boyfriend, we’d once spent something like six hours up in this little niche overlooking the grounds moaning about how unpopular and uncool we were, stopping every so often to have a sympathy biscuit apiece. We’d got over it, eventually, though, and spent the last two hours talking about how it was okay, how we didn’t have
to be popular or cool, how we were fine just being loser Scorpius and four-eyes Flora. We didn’t need parties or relationships, because we had biscuits and cats and each other. We would never go to parties or listen to Modernism records or wear trendy clothes. We’d put a lot of hard work into getting those nicknames and we weren’t about to give up when the going was so good.
So I guess I’d sort of gone back on everything I’d said then by befriending Albus, going to a silly party, drinking silly drinks, wearing a silly skirt and generally being a silly girl. I suppose Scorpius had expected me to shun it all. To defiantly continue slobbing around the school in my tragic jumpers with my Myron Wagtail collage held proudly over my head because I didn’t need
parties, I had midnight biscuit raids and library fests to occupy my time. He probably didn’t expect me to become so attached to Albus either.
But Albus was nice, and it was the first time someone worthwhile had taken a moment to notice me and say lovely things about me to my face. Sure, people like Scorpius, Fauna and my mum said lovely things to my face all the time, but they’d all been part of my life so long they were practically furniture. It was nice to be validated by a fresh pair of eyes. Especially a pair of eyes that weren’t hidden behind dorky specs.
I changed into the most socially acceptable outfit I could throw together, which happened to be jeans, a tragic jumper, anorak, and sad, exhausted trainers. I didn’t have a clue what to do with my face beyond my usual crappy eyeliner and lipgloss, so I just left it alone, doing much the same with my hair.
I didn’t look like I was going off to Hogsmeade with the son of the boy-who-lived. I looked like I was going to muck out some Hippogriffs or something.
I nipped back down to the common room, said goodbye to Scorpius – he gave me a friendly wave and a smile, which made me feel a bit better – and then went up through the Entrance Hall to the courtyard.
It was still drizzling, but the caretaker had thought to clear a path through the slush and, in a corner, Albus and his mates had already gathered. I felt a bit embarrassed to think I was the last to turn up and had kept them and, blushing, hurried over to meet them.
Albus welcomed me with a cheery ‘hello!’; his friends just stood and looked at me and I couldn’t tell in the slightest what they thought of me.
Albus actually had quite a big group of friends. Two girls and five boys. Eustace Finch, the girl who was in my Potions class, and a Ravenclaw girl called Enid Boot I was pretty sure was friends with Lucy’s cousin Rose. Then Ashley Allen – who had a reputation for being a bit of a cheat – Ryan Neal, Warren Holt, Arthur Cornfoot, and Mike Fitzgerald. I didn’t really know anything
of them, except that I’d once been Mike Fitzgerald’s partner in Charms when Scorpius had been off in the Hospital Wing after a particularly nasty asthma attack. But that had been second year.
The carriage trip down to Hogsmeade was excruciatingly awkward.
I know I’m an awkward person and I know I spread awkward like it was a contagious disease, but, somehow, this was a new level of awkward. This was like getting to the summit of awkward mountain only to discover that your eyes were playing tricks on you all along and there’s actually another thousand feet to climb. And then climbing that. And possibly tripping over at the top.
I didn’t know Albus’ friends and they didn’t know me; he was the only connection between us. There was literally nothing we could talk about. They were still full of stories about last week’s match, which, of course, I hadn’t gone to. Not counting the fact that they were all perfectly groomed and well-dressed and were probably totally normal, compared to weirdo me and her tragic wardrobe of knitted things
. But somehow I’d ended up sat in the middle of a row between Enid and Mike, so they all had to talk over me whilst I stayed perfectly silent.
When the carriages dropped us in Hogsmeade, Enid decided to make a rough sort of itinerary for the afternoon so we’d all get to go to the places we wanted. The Three Broomsticks was the first suggestion, but she said we should leave that to the end of the trip. Apart from that, Albus’ friends wanted to go to Zonko’s, Dervish & Banges, Gladrags. I stayed quiet and hoped vainly that they were telepathic and could hear my silent pleas to visit Magic Sounds and Honeydukes.
Once Enid had compiled a sort of plan, there was a short silence.
‘What about Honeydukes?’ Albus said. ‘We can’t not
‘It’ll be mobbed,’ Eustace rolled her eyes. ‘You can barely get in the door.’
‘Full of first years,’ Mike added.
‘Yeah, well,’ Albus said. ‘I promised Teddy I’d send him some of their chocolate. He misses it.’
‘How about you go when we’re in Gladrags?’ Enid suggested. ‘You’re not into robes and stuff, I know.’
‘Cool,’ Albus said. And then, when his friends had turned away to walk up the High Street, he turned around and actually winked at me.
I drew up alongside him. ‘Can I nip into Honeydukes with you?’
‘Of course,’ he murmured. ‘That’s the point.’
When we got to Gladrags, Albus’ friends parted and left the two of us to carry onto Honeydukes.
‘We should only be ten minutes,’ Enid said. ‘We’ll just wait for you outside Honeydukes, okay?’
Like Eustace had said, Honeydukes was
mobbed, as ever, and we must have ended up in there for over fifteen minutes. Even though I knew exactly what I was looking for (sugar quills), the queue for the tills snaked all the way round to the back of the shop and me and Albus were waiting for ages. On the plus side, we had a good natter the whole time we were waiting, talking about everything from Honeydukes’ new caramel candles to the History of Magic homework we’d been set (to what extent do you agree with the view that top-level Ministry of Magic officials failed to prevent the start of the second war?
) Just as I’d paid and was slipping the sugar quills into my bag, Albus proposed we pop into Magic Sounds later in the afternoon on the off-chance he’d find that final Weird Sisters record. To which, of course, I said yes, knowing that this was probably the last chance I could go to the shops before Scorpius’ birthday and could have done with getting him a present.
So it was probably pushing twenty minutes by the time we actually shoved our way through the sugar-obsessed first years and out into the snowy High Street. Albus’ friends were nowhere to be seen.
‘How very kind of them,’ he said, but laughed, saying they’d probably turn up if we waited another five minutes. So we waited five minutes, then seven, and eventually we both sort of realised that his friends actually weren’t going to turn up.
‘It’s okay,’ he said. ‘They abandon me like this a lot.’
I told him that was mean of them, but he just laughed me off, saying that he didn’t mind: at least he had some company and, besides, he didn’t care much for Zonko’s or Dervish & Banges. Then he suggested we walk round to Magic Sounds by way of the Shrieking Shack which was, apparently, a shortcut.
‘The scenic route, huh?’ I said, as we ambled down the rest of the High Street.
‘You could say that,’ he said.
The route round by the Shrieking Shack wasn’t really a shortcut at all. In fact, it would have been about the same distance if we’d gone round the other way, and it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d gone back up towards the village or down towards the Shrieking Shack, which was pretty much the last bit of Hogsmeade before the countryside kicked in. But I guess I was glad we’d taken the scenic’ route instead. It was quieter and there were far less people to stare at me and make me prone to tripping myself up.
The little pathway out of the village passes through a copse of trees before it forks off to the right again, and it’s when you get to that fork in the path that you have a full, uninterrupted view of the ruined house that everyone still thinks is haunted, even though it’s been silent for decades. Beyond the empty house’s overgrown garden, the land shears off suddenly and there’s a steep drop down to the loch and the mountains that rise on the other side. On a clear day you can see all the way to Hogwarts perched above the lake on the far left, but when I was there with Albus, mist had hidden the castle and the mountains almost completely from view.
I always thought – and I still think so now – that, theoretically, the Shrieking Shack shouldn’t be a nice place, but it’s somehow kind of beautiful. The way branches and weeds have grown a new, skeletal roof where the old one caved in, the way the windows are all sad and smashed and the beams stick out like ribs. It’s even nicer when it’s covered in snow, but, then again, I’m one of those weird people who likes winter weather more than summer weather and I think everything
looks nice when it’s snowy. Even though it’d been drizzling earlier, virtually nobody had been down by the end of the village and the snow was still perfect underfoot, like the Shack had its own little microclimate. I guess Albus thought it was a pretty breathtaking view as well, because we both stopped at the fork in the path to look at it.
‘Are you afraid of ghosts?’ Albus said.
‘Me?’ I said. ‘Not likely. The Fat Friar’s really cool.’
Albus laughed. ‘Yeah, Nearly-headless Nick’s a hoot. I just thought…well, must have been weird coming from the muggle world, seeing ghosts and all that.’
‘Yeah, a little bit. I-’
But I didn’t get to finish my sentence, because then there was a little flurry of movement a little way off to my left. I looked up and saw, with some embarrassment, a boy and girl from the year below hurrying off hand-in-hand into the woods.
Albus raised his eyebrows. ‘Looks like we interrupted something.’
I felt my face go red. ‘Yeah…’
‘Well, let’s hope there aren’t any more.’
‘I hear this is a popular spot for, well, couples.’
‘Oh. I, er, wouldn’t know.’
I thought this was a fairly innocuous statement, but it obviously surprised him. ‘What, have you never had a boyfriend?’
I felt myself going redder. ‘Um…no?’
‘Really?’ he said. ‘I thought…well, for a bit I thought you and Scorpius Malfoy might have-’
‘No!’ I blurted out. ‘Just, like, really good friends. Mega good friends. He’s my best friend. But, er, actually, a bit of a stick in the mud. So no. Well, no, never
‘Oh,’ he said. ‘Right.’
,’ I garbled on. ‘Um, actually…you were the first person who actually, um, kissed me.’
It suddenly went very quiet indeed and I realised I’d taken things a smidge too far.
Albus’ eyes widened. ‘Oh, god, I’m so sorry-’
‘No, really, if I’d known that I wouldn’t have done it!’
‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘It does! Your, er, first kiss is…is supposed to be nice and…not some spur-of-the-moment diversionary tactic to get rid of some Slytherin bullies!’
He could obviously tell how awkward I was getting, so he dropped it at once and turned back to look at the Shrieking Shack.
‘So, yeah,’ he said casually. ‘This is a good shortcut and all…’
I didn’t know whether he was deluded or lying because, by now, it was more of a longcut than anything. But I decided to play along with it for sake of keeping the awkwardness at a safe level.
‘Actually, I just like this way more,’ he admitted. ‘I think it’s really pretty. Everyone thinks it’s weird and avoids it but, well…I think it’s really interesting. Mega!’ he added, grinning at me. ‘It’s mega mega cool!’
‘Do you come here a lot?’ I said.
‘Sometimes. My friends hate it, though. So sometimes I have to sneak off like a loser and they think I’m really weird.’
‘My friends think I’m weird too,’ I smiled. ‘But me and Fauna usually come up here to make snow angels in the winter. Well, not this year, I guess, but…’
‘Snow angels!’ he said. ‘That’s a great idea!’
And pretty much the next thing I knew the two of us had bounded over to the fresh snow and gone whumpf
down in it.
Making a snow angel isn’t exactly tiring – it’s basically just doing star jumps on the floor – but when I was done I felt like I didn’t want to get back up again. All I could see was the snow around me, and, above me, the giant slab of dirty, white concrete that was the sky. But in a nice way. It should have been claustrophobic, but the leaden sky and the snowy ground were somehow comforting.
‘You know,’ Albus said, from somewhere to my right. ‘I could lie here for ages if my trousers weren’t getting soggy.’
So we got back to our feet and stood up right by the fence that cordoned off the Shrieking Shack from the rest of the village, the closest I’d ever been to it. My anorak had survived the snow angels, but my snow still clung to my jeans and in my hair, freezing and damp, and it was making me shiver a bit in the clammy, chilling mist.
‘Are you cold?’ Albus said, and in my shivery, teeth-chattering state I was about to go you don’t say
! before I remembered I was supposed to be convincing him that I was a nice person, so instead I nodded and gave him a trembling, chattering smile.
‘I’m kind of warm,’ he said. ‘C’mere-’
And then he drew me into this lovely little hug so I ended up with my head resting on his shoulder and my face turned inwards away from the Shrieking Shack, and all I could think was that the house elves that did the laundry must have used some wicked fabric softener because he smelled really nice. It should have been an awkward moment because I am the very personification of awkward, but it actually felt all nice and normal and I was surprisingly calm. Feeling a bit warmer was just a bonus.
It was like that lovely feeling when you get into bed on a cold night and the duvet warms you up, and then you can wrap it around yourself and wiggle your toes about and get so comfy that you never have to move again. Not that Albus is like a duvet because he really isn’t, it was just a really good hug.
Except for one thing; I was sort of conscious of the meanings of a hug, having shared a dormitory with five hormonal teenage girls for nearly six years. Hugs weren’t just hugs, but movements that crossed all those invisible boundaries and ravines that separated different levels of friendship. Okay, it sounds weird to say it like that, and I was probably reading into it too much, but when we were standing there in the snow, it was weird to think that we hadn’t even known each other until a few months before. And there wasn’t really any going back.
After a while, I felt like I had to do something
, so I pulled away a bit so I could look up at him and said ‘much warmer now, thanks.’ Then there was a weird moment when I thought he was going to speak but he didn’t, and when I opened my mouth to say something my mind went totally blank. So I looked down at his collar instead because I didn’t know what else to do.
‘Hey,’ Albus murmured, and then – it’s hard to describe the next few minutes without sounding like a total dork – he blew air on my face, really gently, so that my fringe fluttered about, just like he was blowing clocks off a dandelion to tell the time. So I looked up again, and there was that odd feeling of being on the verge of saying something without anything to say. Except I didn’t have to, because then he kissed me.
‘It’s hard to tell who you’ll end up liking,’ he’d said, just before we’d got back to the castle. ‘But they’re usually under your nose all along.’
I didn’t get back to the Hufflepuff common room until half past six, by which time most of the school had gone down to tea and the corridors were pretty much deserted. I hadn’t wanted to leave Hogsmeade, to be honest, but it had gone dark already and the last carriages back up to school left at six.
It was weird in a good way, and not just a good way but a mega
good way: I’d trundled off to Hogsmeade as four-eyes Flora and strutted back as Flora, who was apparently Albus Potter’s girlfriend and a lot less of a loser than she was when she left the school. Okay, enormous bombshell of news and whatnot, but it somehow felt totally cool and normal, and I wasn’t even mad at him when he admitted that the diversionary snog wasn’t even a diversion at all but a pretty mega example of taking advantage of the situation because he’d liked me since the end of fifth year.
And it was weird in a good way to be actually properly kissing someone and holding their hand and stuff, although I guess there’s a first time for everything and, well, never any time like the present. So when he dropped me off outside my common room and we said goodbye, I felt weird, weird, weird, but pretty mega at the same time, and it was hard to look where I was going when I couldn’t stop grinning like a fool.
What he’d said about me was kind of how I’d realised I felt about him, in the sense that I hadn’t really realised I felt anything about him at all until I realised I cared about what he thought of me, and how much I’d liked our little detour that afternoon even though, ordinarily, a situation like that would have left me clammy and speechless with the sheer force of my social awkwardness. And now I felt like I was somebody instead of nobody, like there was actually a point to me being at Hogwarts beyond scraping through lessons and hanging out with Scorpius and Fauna.
The common room, like the corridors, was almost deserted. I was still in my wintry clothes, and the cosy warmth of the place hit me like a brick wall. I pulled off my anorak and scarf and folded them over my arm, nearly skipping over to our usual corner of the room. To my surprise, Scorpius was already there, slumped in one of the armchairs and engrossed in a paperback.
‘Not hungry?’ I said, as a blundered happily into my own chair. ‘Tea started half an hour ago.’
He flinched with surprise, probably surfacing from the book for the first time since he’d started it. ‘What? Is it that late already? I’m not hungry anyway.’
‘No, neither am I.’
He raised an eyebrow at me, knowing full well how much of a fan I was of eating and also how my heroic metabolism required three square meals a day, but decided not to question it. I was still grinning like a fool and couldn’t sit still, perched right on the edge of my chair with my anorak bundled up in my arms and my hair frizzy from making snow angels.
‘How was book club?’ I asked.
‘Oh, you know,’ he said, closing the book and setting it aside. ‘Booky and clubby. How was Hogsmeade?’
‘Same as ever,’ I said. ‘Hoggy and meady. No, seriously, how was it?’
‘Eh, alright,’ he said. ‘Mostly second years this week. And your afternoon?’
‘Mega,’ I grinned, and then the words tumbled out before I could stop them. ‘Mega, mega, mega, Albus asked me out.’
I felt my face burn radioactive red and waited for his reaction, which, in a way, I didn’t really want to hear. But, surprisingly, he just laughed.
‘And you said yes, right?’
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘It was mega cool, cool times infinity.’
He laughed at me again. ‘You!’ he said. ‘Going out with that prat!’
‘Hey, don’t be mean,’ I frowned. ‘He’s really nice, and he actually said he hopes you two can be friends-’
‘Sorry,’ Scorpius shook his head, still laughing. ‘Sorry, good for you, I just…yeah, ignore me. But, cool! You’re moving up in the world, Flora.’
‘And you’ve got a chip on your shoulder the size of Mars!’
‘It’s hereditary,’ he grinned. ‘Sorry, ignore me. Being an idiot. Fauna’s going to flip, you know.’
‘You know how she approves of him. She’ll probably be a bit jealous too.’
Because he was still laughing about the fact that I was going out with Albus and I was still grinning like a twerp for the same reason, the two of us ended up giggling uncontrollably like little primary school kids, unable to talk for a few minutes. And, at that moment, I sincerely believed that everything could just continue as normal and we’d still be the loser and the four-eyes.
Fauna turned up about ten minutes after I did, her nose and cheeks rosy from the cold and a poster rolled under her arm. ‘What are you laughing about?’ she smiled, seeing the state me and Scorpius were in.
It took us another minute to calm down, before Scorpius said in a childish, sing-song sort of voice, ‘Flora’s got a boyfriend, Flora’s got a boyfriend!’
It was enough to set off the giggling again; even Fauna joined in, evidently noticing how I was looking a bit crazier and more flustered than usual. I wasn’t even wearing any lipgloss.
‘Really?’ she said. ‘And who’s the lucky boy?’
I felt myself go red again. ‘Albus asked me out.’
There was a high-pitched squealing noise before Fauna everything she was carrying and swooped down to hug me, which was when I realised that the high-pitched noise had been her
and she was actually really, genuinely happy for me, which was kind of sweet.
‘That’s fab!’ she said, once she’d released me and cosied into her own armchair. ‘When you were in Hogsmeade?’
I nodded, and, even though I was pretty delighted, I felt a bit too embarrassed to talk about it much more, so I asked her about her Astronomy trip.
‘Ooh, mega,’ she said. ‘They did this amazing show about the constellations…I got you some stuff from the gift shop, here…’
She rummaged in her bag for a bit before emerging with three keyrings looped around her index finger, all matching, one for each of us: a little stone star on a chain, faintly iridescent.
‘They glow in the dark,’ she said, handing one each to me and Scorpius. ‘I thought they were really nifty.’
‘Thanks, Fauna,’ I said, closing the keyring in the palms of my hands and peering in at it between two fingers. I had plastic glow-in-the-dark stars at home on my bedroom ceiling that gave out a faint glow, but this one was magical, and it glowed bright as a candle would.
‘It’s kind of cheesy,’ she said, as I slipped the keyring into my pocket and Scorpius set about attaching his to the zip of his backpack. ‘It’s like, you know…a best friends kind of thing. Like a friendship bracelet. Kind of twee.’
‘It’s not twee,’ Scorpius said. ‘It’s nice.’
And I got that feeling again, that sincere, honest feeling that things could stay like this forever, that we’d be the losers and the misfits for eternity and nothing could break us up.
: I finally got around to updating! er, hope you all don't mind, but I changed who I use in the story graphics to portray Flora (there's only so long you can pretend LDR is a convincing sixteen-year-old hufflepuff). I also remade all of the chapter images, hopefully for the final time, because the 3d effect I was using on the old ones was getting really tedious to do and looked pretty ugly most of the time. finally (this is a really long author's note, sorry) thanks and noot noots to Helena (tallesttower) and Erica (ericajen) for coming up with some truly brill ship names: florp (for flora/scorpius) and floral (for flora/albus). and if anyone on this planet ships scorpius and fauna, their ship could totally be called sauna. and...I believe that is all! thank you to everyone who's reviewed and favourited this fic so far, and I hope you enjoyed this chapter ♥