The heat wave that had taken up residence hovering in the skies over most of England that summer had been particularly nasty over the past week. Temperatures had topped out around thirty-five degrees, and not a drop of rain had fallen. According to the Muggle news programme that her dad had watched every evening for as long as she could remember, town and boroughs across the country had banned the use of hosepipes.
Sitting on the sofa and gazing out the large bay window overlooking her mum’s garden, Angelina idly wondered whether such limitations had any consequences for the witches and wizards tucked away from the notice of Muggles. Here, the ordinances on water had limited the spells and charms her mum was able to use, and though they had lasted a bit longer than their neighbours’ gardens had, her own neatly manicured hedges and flowers had finally succumbed. Somehow, the withered stalks and dried leaves on the other side of the glass made the oppressive heat within the house more bearable.
Glancing at the clock on the wall, Angelina sighed, nearly jumping at how loud it sounded in the stillness of the afternoon. It would be a few hours still until either her dad’s shift at the Food Market or her mum’s shift at St. Mungo’s ended, and it had been over a year since her last sister moved out on her own – Brianne was now living in France as an apprentice to some noted fashion designer. Elise had been living with her fiancé’s family in Ireland since she had completed her N.E.W.T.s nearly three years ago, and worked in their apothecary. Only her oldest sister, Valerie, was staying at the Johnson residence. She had been visiting from the United States with Andre and the new baby, Elliot, since his birth. Her husband, who was an area of continuing contention due to the fact that the family had never actually met him, was less than no support in matters concerning his children, and though she never said so outright, Valerie seemed to reluctant to leave behind the help her family was providing.
Angelina wiped the beads of sweat that had gathered on her brow with the back of her hand and racked her brain for something to entertain herself with until her nephew woke from his nap, or her sister returned. Grateful not to have to drag the four-year-old along, her sister had packed up Elliot for a day of showing him off to her old school friends and had left Andre under Angelina’s care.
At a loss for ideas, novel or otherwise, she stood up from the sofa, stretched, and made her way to the kitchen – biscuits were always a good companion to help pass the time, and she was almost certain that there was a brand new tin in the cabinet.
Once her nephew woke up, she was certain she’d be able to entertain herself for several hours, at least. Last night, during a particularly competitive game of hide-and-seek, Andre had found her broomstick and Quidditch robes in the hall closet – the ultimate hiding spot in the mind of any four-year old. Angelina remembered hiding there herself when she and Brianne used to play. He had been keen to learn about flying ever since, and she was equally keen to teach him. Her mum never got rid of anything, and her dad never meddled with magical things, so her childhood broom was likely to still be in the house somewhere. Perhaps she and Andre could search for it together.
Grasping the tin of biscuits from the top shelf – her mum seemed to think that storing them almost out of reach would deter her family from eating them too quickly – she plopped down at the kitchen table and opened it. Her stomach rumbled in response to the assorted collection of delicious baked treats – custard creams, jammy dodgers, bourbons and digestives – and she groaned. Choosing just one biscuit from the tin was simply impossible – comparable to a mother being asked to choose a favourite son or daughter – so it was best to just accept the enormous failure in her diet that was about to occur.
Resigned, Angelina plucked a bourbon and a jammy dodger from the tin and turned her attention to the copy of the Prophet that her mum had left on the table that morning.
The titles of various trivial articles swam across her vision as she thumbed through the pages it was opened to – Fudge Voted One of England’s Most Stylish; Overweight Workers Blame Overuse of Summoning Charm; Florean Fortescue Reveals New Ice Cream Flavour. Her mum was right: For every pertinent article, there were a dozen or more articles just filling space on the pages. Picking up a digestive and another bourbon, she flipped the paper over to the front page. A large black-and-white photograph of Harry and Cedric, taken prior to the first task of the Triwizard Tournament, accompanied the leading story. The headline, ‘Potter Plotter, Liar too?’ rippled across the page in a bold typeface.
A sigh of vexation escaped her lips, and for a moment she was grateful she was alone as the bite of biscuit in her mouth threatened to jump ship. If it wasn’t Harry’s face decorating the front page, it had been Professor Dumbledore’s. Angelina had followed the series of articles attempting to discredit them, and had slowly been able to sort her thoughts. Even though she wasn’t entirely sure how to process the return of You-Know-Who or how to feel about the way with which her headmaster was handling the Ministry, she decided that she trusted Harry Potter. She had shared the Gryffindor common room and locker room with him for four years, and while he was without a doubt a peculiar individual, he had never been a liar.
Dissatisfied with it, she tossed the paper into the middle of the table and took a fifth and sixth biscuit from the tin.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a small figure still rubbing the sleep from his eye. Despite it being hotter than a dragon’s lair in the house, Andre had insisted on napping beneath a thick quilt, and his cheeks were flushed and sweaty.
When the boy finally looked up, his eyes widened. “Angelina,” he shouted and scampered across the tile floor. “Mommy said I get to spend the day with you, and it’s true.” With a look of determination on his face, he crawled up onto her knees, none too gracefully. “I really don’t have to share you with Mommy’s new baby?”
“Nope.” Angelina ruffled his hair. “Your mum took Elliot with her to visit some friends. It’s just you and me until they come home. What do you think we should do?” When Andre didn’t answer, she leaned around him to look at his face. His brow was furrowed and the tip of his tongue stuck out from the corner of his mouth in the most serious of manners. A look of concentration radiated from eyes, which stared straight ahead at the opened tin. Her words had clearly been lost on the boy, understandably, in favour of biscuits. “So, Mr Serious,” she said, bouncing him on her knee, “what’re you looking at that’s more important than our itinerary?”
“I’m not looking at anything,” Andre piped up; his voice hitched in self-defence. “Mommy says I’m not allowed to eat cookies before dinner. Says all they do is ruin my appetite ‘cause of the fat.”
Angelina pursed her lips, trying not to laugh at the boy’s American accent, and wondered for a moment what his father sounded like. “Well, how about we keep this as our little secret, then?” She handed him a custard cream from the tin. “How about some water to drink with that?”
He eyed it hesitantly for a moment before grabbing it with eager fingers and nodding. “So,” he said slowly, pausing to lick the cream from the centre of the biscuit, “what’s an itery?”
“An itinerary?” She drew her wand from her pocket and, summoning a glass of water, handed it to him. It was so convenient to be of age. “Well, it’s a plan, like, erm, a list of things to do.”
“Lists are boring.” Angelina watched as the boy slid down to the floor and ran towards the doorway, the cup of water forgotten. “Bet you can’t do this.” He jumped up, and spun around with all the coordination and grace his four-year-old limbs could handle. “You try.”
She laughed. “No, I’m certain I can’t do that, but –” She leant down and bent her finger, beckoning him to her. “Can I tell you a secret?”
Intrigued, Andre nodded and scampered back over to her side.
“I don’t like lists either, but I don’t think we’ll need one – that is if you chose to accept this super-secret mission we were assigned.” She waited to see if he took the bait she had laid out.
Valerie had mentioned once how much Andre loved watching their father’s old Muggle secret agent films. It had been a while since Angelina had seen one, and she could only hope she had referenced the genre correctly. Her own childhood had been a fairly equal balance the Muggle world and the magical one, but now that she was of age and could use magic at will, she found herself needing to use things like the microwave oven or public transportation less and less. She slowly felt herself drawing away from her father’s world of electricity, appliances, films, and automobiles. Perhaps after he returned from work and settled in for the evening, she would watch some television with him – they had always enjoyed the evening comedy programs.
“A secret mission?”
Andre’s voice pulled her from her thoughts – he had taken her bait.
“Oh, yes,” Angelina said in her most serious voice. “I received word that somewhere in this house, there is a broomstick that is exactly –” she poked him in the chest “– your size. And if we find it, I may be able to teach you how to fly. So, what do you think? Should we accept this secret mission?”
He paused for a several seconds before nodding very seriously. “Let’s do this.”
Settling back onto the sofa by the window, she smiled – she had absolutely no idea where her mum had stashed her childhood broom, but Andre didn’t need to know that. Looking around the room, her eyes landed on the first item of her impromptu scavenger hunt. The remote control for the television peeked out from a basket of other odds and ends. This game would surely keep him busy for a while.
Having found the remote control, a potato from the bin in the pantry, and a roll of scotch tape from the desk in the upstairs hallway, Andre was running back and forth through the house attempting to locate a Quaffle. A look of pride and determination was pasted to his face.
“Angelina, Angelina.” His voice echoed into the sitting room from the back of the house. “I didn’t find the Quaffle, but I found a huge owl on the counter. I think you should come here – it keeps staring at me.”
Though he had tried to sound brave, Angelina could hear the panic in his voice and hurried to the kitchen. There, sitting on the counter, was one of the school’s large barn owls. A slim roll of parchment sealed with an elaborate wax seal was tied to its left leg.
Hogwarts letters had finally arrived.
“So, Quidditch captain then, Ang?” Alicia smirked at her over the bowl of butter toffee ice cream that sat between them on the table. “You know this means you should share the password to the prefects’ bathroom with me, right?”
The awning outside of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour was doing very little to shade the patio from the heat of the late summer sun. Angelina wiped the back of her hand across her forehead, regretting her decision to wait here for Lora instead of inside one of the shops. After their booklists had arrived, the girls had decided that should all meet up to do their shopping. Looking around the bustling alley, it seemed as though everyone else in the school had had a similar idea – the queues in the shops were going to be heinous. Despite the oppressive heat and the sure-to-be-long-lines, this was the first time they had made a trip to the narrow, winding street without their parents in tow, and it felt glorious to stretch their newly acquired Apparition rights.
“Oh, absolutely.” She smiled and rolled her eyes at Alicia. “Truthfully, the first thing I thought when I saw the letter was, ‘Now I can risk my badge and share the password to the prefects’ bathroom with Alicia.’ It’s like you can read my mind or something.”
“A-ha. It was just a thought.” Pouting, the brunette scooped an exceptionally large bite of ice cream onto her spoon. “Are you going to eat any more of this?”
Angelina shook her head and pushed the bowl across the table.
“You know, I am happy for you,” Alicia mumbled through a mouthful of ice cream. “Now you can make sure that nobody annoying makes the team.”
“I’m not going to be partial at the try-outs – we’re not Slytherin House. And besides, if we want to win the cup, we’ll have to field the best team,” she said, shooting her best friend a disproving look. “Not the coolest one.”
“And this, Angelina, is precisely why you’re the Gryffindor team captain.”
“Oh my Merlin, Ang, congratulations,” a familiar voice practically shouted from behind their table. “That’s brilliant.”
Angelina spun around to see the bright face of Lora Paisley rounding the corner of the ice cream parlour, with a stocky, sandy-haired figure following closely behind her. As they approached the table, it became evident that he was incredibly nervous – his eyes were the size of dinner plates and he held himself more stiffly than the suits of armour in the castle did. Lora had kept a motionless Muggle photograph of her beau on her bedside table in their dormitory, but Angelina had never seen the boy in person. Glancing at Alicia and smiling, she knew that they were both thinking the same thing – they were finally going to get to meet the legendary Michael the Muggle.
“Thanks, Lora.” She smiled at the blonde girl. “So –”
“Who is this dashing friend of yours?” Alicia interrupted, blinking at Lora innocently. Michael the Muggle’s title had been a product of her own teasing, and it behoved her to be the one to lead his introduction. “Anyone we should know?”
Lora’s shot her a stern look before turning to grab Michael’s arm. “Michael, this lovely individual with the really attractive smudge of ice cream on her chin is Alicia Spinnet –”
Her eyes widened, her mouth dropped open, and a deep blush seeped across her face. Her fingers fumbled hurrying to grab a paper napkin from the dispenser on the table.
“– and this is Angelina Johnson. Alicia and Angelina, this is my boyfriend, Michael Carmichael.”
“Erm, it’s nice to finally meet you two.” Michael stuck out his hand to shake theirs and chuckled nervously. “Lora talks about you both so much, I feel like I already know you. Sorry about the sweaty palms – all this is a bit overwhelming.” He gestured around the alley. “I’ve gotten used to Lora being magical and all, but this much magic, it’s sort of surreal.”
Angelina offered the nervous Muggle the warmest smile she could muster. “Well, I can promise I won’t turn you into a toad or anything –”
“– and don’t mind Alicia either, her pride is easily bruised.”
“Aw. Well, hopefully nobody turns me into a toad today.” Michael the Muggle smiled – he was beginning to look less nervous as their conversation continued. “So, Quidditch captain?” he asked turning towards Angelina. “That’s brilliant. I can’t even imagine watching a game while sitting on a broomstick.”
A laugh snuck up on her, and she quickly disguised it as a cough.
Not seeming to notice, he continued talking – he certainly was a chatty character. “I’m sure Lora told you she was asked to be Head Girl.”
“No, she did not,” Angelina gasped as she turned towards the blonde. “Lora, when were you going to tell us? Congratulations.”
Lora’s face flushed as a smile crept up from her mouth to her eyes.
“Well,” Alicia huffed, “I suppose you won’t be sharing the password to the prefect bathroom with me, either.”
A silence fell over the table as they each turned and smirked at the cranky brunette. One by one, Angelina, Michael the Muggle, Lora, and finally even Alicia herself burst into laughter.
It was so refreshing to be back with her friends after the long summer holiday, and Angelina never ceased to be amazed by how easy it was for them to simply pick up where they had last left off, almost as if no time had passed. Of course, worries about the upcoming year – passing N.E.W.T.s and finding a job – flitted into her mind as they made their way down the alley, but she didn’t mention them. If the same worries plagued Lora and Alicia, she couldn’t tell. Instead, their afternoon exploring the shops and purchasing the items on their Hogwarts lists passed to the soundtrack of laughter, playful teasing, and stories from their summer holidays.
The line at Flourish and Blotts had been so long that it had wrapped around the shop and out the double front door, and waiting outside in the high temperatures had left Angelina’s forehead coated in a thin sheen of sweat. Despite the thick layer of dust coating it, the dim interior of the apothecary was a reprieve from the sunlit street. Though she hated the smell of apothecaries, it was preferable to the unusually warm weather.
Feeling the heat radiate off of her skin into the cool air, she wiped her hand across her face and made her way to the advanced potions supply section.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Michael the Muggle and Lora standing at a bin of black beetles. The look on his face – confusion with a hint of disgust masquerading as a smile – nearly caused Angelina to choke on her chewing gum as she tried to stifle her laugh. Shaking her head, she dug her hands into a bin of dragon claws. She only needed a few grams for her potions kit, and as overpriced as whole claws were, she hoped to find a small one.
“Come on, Dung, you didn’t think that we–”
“– wouldn’t follow up on our business investments.” The voices of George and Fred Weasley carried in the dusty air from around a row of bookshelves.
Angelina’s head snapped up in curiosity – she hadn’t expected to see them here today. She hadn’t heard from George since a few days after term ended, when a large, reddish-coloured owl had appeared at her window. She knew that it was difficult to stay in touch with people over summer holidays, but rationale didn’t prevent her from wondering whether or not he even wanted to stay in touch with her. Tucking her braids behind her ears, she peered around the corner of the shelves. She couldn’t see either of the twins, but she could see the man they were talking to.
“And does yer mother know you two’re here? I’m sure Molly’d have a fit if I told her you’re out and about,” the wizard said in a whistling voice. He was short and stocky, and wore a robe so wrinkled that she wouldn’t be surprised if he had slept in it. Leave it to Fred and George to consort with the likes of him.
“Does our mother know we’re here? Why, Georgie –”
“I’m almost ashamed of our dear friend, Freddie, trying to blackmail us like that.”
“Especially when we know he’s got a pocket full of Doxy eggs –”
“ – that the Office of Magical Law Enforcement would be all too happy to take off his hands –”
The unkempt man dropped the volume of his voice and began muttering something that Angelina couldn’t discern. She leaned forward, hoping to catch at least some of it. His head swivelled in her direction as he continued murmuring under his breath, and realizing how ridiculous she looked spying on their conversation, she stepped further back behind the shelf.
“Ah,” she exclaimed as she collided with a firm body.
“Angie, Angie, Angie,” Fred said as he spun her around to face him, “I’m almost envious of your eavesdropping prowess, but alas, almost doesn’t quite count.” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and walked her away from the shelving and the sound of George’s voice. “I could see a bit of your face peering between the bins of newts and crow beaks the whole time.” He winked.
“I, erm, I was –”
“It’s okay. I know you couldn’t possibly be interested in our little chat with Dung.” He turned towards her with a smirk on his face. “Which leaves only one possibility – you just wanted an opportunity to stare at my brother’s handsome mug.”
She felt heat rise up to her cheeks and inhaled before attempting to speak again. “You caught me – that’s exactly what I was trying to do. Merlin knows it’s loads more handsome than yours.”
“You wound my pride, but I’m just going to let that one go.” He grinned at her before continuing. “I want you to hear me out for a moment. George is the best sort of bloke and anyone would be lucky to have him, but he’s a bit daft when it comes to, well, when it comes to–”
“When it comes to what, exactly, Fred?”
George had appeared next to them – his conversation with Dung apparently over. He gave Fred a look that Angelina couldn’t quite translate before grinning at her. All her worries about him not writing her over the summer vanished as she felt her lips mirroring his smile.
“Oi, is that the Michael the Muggle over with Lora?” Fred said, conveniently ignoring his twin’s question. “If you two will excuse me, I need to go and meet this legend.”
“So, erm,” Angelina said slowly, watching Fred conveniently disappear behind the corner after the couple. She wished he would have finished whatever it was he was going to tell her before he walked away. “Did you have a good summer? I hadn’t heard back from you since you wrote last.”
“Oh, sorry about that. It’s been an interesting summer, to say the least. Sending post hasn’t exactly been easy.” He shrugged his shoulders and his face twisted in frustration. “I am sorry.”
“An interesting summer?”
“Eh, don’t worry about it. We’re staying with some family friends. Muggle London – Mum was worried about Oddie coming and going. You know how that goes.”
His words were smooth, but Angelina couldn’t help but wonder if they were totally honest. “So, how’re things going for your shop?” she said quickly, hoping he hadn’t noticed her eyes lingering on his face for a moment too long to be accidental. “I can't wait to see what you and Fred come up with."
“Ah, we’re just trying to get some supplies and things together, but some of our sources are” - George’s eyes slipped over to where he had just been talking to Dung - “a little less than reliable. With all things considered, we’re planning on running product trials this term. So, how w –”
“– would you like to go to dinner with him, is what he was about to ask you.”
Angelina surprised, turned to see Fred smiling at her side, heat rising in her cheeks.
“Fred, I, er. Angelina –” His ears a shocking shade of red, George stumbled over his words.
“Turns out that Lora was chosen as Head Girl, and Angelina here has been asked to captain the finest House Quidditch team in the school.” His grin had risen up into his eyes.
“Really?” George exclaimed, turning towards her. “Angelina, that’s great, let me see the badge, oh captain, my captain.”
“And so you want to ask her to dinner –” Fred’s voice coached.
Angelina ignored Fred and reached forward to hand George the badge from its place in her robe pocket. “I’d love to go to dinner, George.”
“Well, this is just brilliant.” Fred clapped both of them on the back. “Lora, Michael the Muggle, Alicia, Lee, and I were just about to meet at the Leaky Cauldron – talk about coincidences.”
“Yes, coincidences. Trelawney would be so proud of you,” George said, rolling his eyes. He offered Angelina a smile that she could only describe as apologetic and, as he took the badge, squeezed her hand quickly before turning towards the shop door.
She wasn’t sure if it was his smile, her anticipation to begin captaining the Gryffindor Quidditch team, or the feel of his broad hands around hers, but a light tingle buzzed in her head as she fell into step with him.
Author's Note: The references to the heat wave and to the Prophet headlines were inspired by Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book and film. "Oh Captain, my captain" is the title of a Walt Whitman poem. I'd like to thank everyone who's supported this story thus far!! This being chapter ten, we have reached the halfway point of the novel, crazy, I know. I know that this chapter is mostly filler, but it was necessary to move Angelina's timeline along. So, thank you for reading and for the any reviews you leave. Lastly, let me thank Rachel for being a superb beta and friend.
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