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Breathless by Heather Page
Chapter 2 : An Introduction
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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 I fidgeted in front of the floor to ceiling mirror in my bathroom, pulling at the bodice of my taffeta cocktail dress. The soft lavender color was not something I would usually wear, but then again, this was a dinner I wouldn’t usually be attending. My hair had been simply combed back, with a matching lavender ribbon tied into it rather girlishly, and a simple silver chain was strung around my neck.

A rather annoyed clicking sound from the other side of the room brought me back to reality, and I rolled my eyes when I saw Iris looking at the window rather pointedly.

“Sorry, chickadee”, I sighed, walking over to her, “No can do. I’m going to need your services later.”

“Phiiiiiilliiiiiiiips!” Scorpius whined from my door, “Come on, we’re two minutes late, my father will kill me!”

“Scorpius, don’t get your knickers in a twist, I’m coming out.”

I swung the door open, and he stepped back for a second, a slightly dazed look on his face.

“Well, Phillips, I must say, you do clean up well.”

“Shiny like a new knut.” I smirked. “Now let’s get downstairs, please!”

“Certainly!” He extended his arm and gave me a cheesy smile. “Milady?”

I rolled my eyes and took his arm. Hastily we shuffled down the long hallway, both silent, both nervous. I could tell he was feeding off of my anxious energy, and I almost wanted to kick him for it. The last thing I needed was for my smooth talking friend to lose his touch as we were about to go into the belly of the beast.

As we descended the marble stairs, my breath caught in my throat. The Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, stood next to a rambling Mr. Malfoy, looking as though he’d rather be elsewhere. Ronald Weasley and his wife, Hermione Granger Weasley, were over by a large ice sculpture of a wood nymph, chatting excitedly with Clementine Mellows, the Head of the Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Mr. Weasley looked quite unpleased with his surroundings, and I made a mental note to keep away from him, as he was known for a slight temper. Several other Department Heads and aurors were scattered about the room, various cocktails and whatnot in their hands, sampling hors d’oeurves from a tray being carried by a small house elf. Scorpius’ grip tightened around my arm, and he steered me toward his father and the Minister. Minister Shacklebolt’s face broke into a broad smile when he saw Scorpius, and he let out a deep chuckle. Mr. Malfoy turned, and seeing his son, muttered something about needing to check on dinner before scuttling off.

“Scorpius!” Kinglsey laughed in a jolly way, “How is my favorite Malfoy doing on this fine evening?”

“Not so bad, sir, how about yourself?” Scorpius flashed him a winning grin, and nudged me ever so slightly, causing me to awkwardly follow suit.

“Well, now, who is this enchanting young lady?”

Scorpius nudged me again, and I nervously introduced myself.

“Hello, Minister. I’m Briony Phillips, from-”

“Ah, yes, I remember now…” his demeanor shifted, ever so slightly, “Your father is the Head of the Department of Magical Relations in the American Ministry. I understand that he made a very large effort to have you attend Hogwarts with our Scorpius here.” he put a hand on Scorpius’ shoulder. “You could learn a thing or two from him, he’s very popular at school, I hear. Gryffindor’s quidditch captain, and all that…”

“Co-captain, Kingsley…” Scorpius corrected him, turning a slight bit pinker than usual. “I, unfortunately, can’t unleash a tyrannous rule upon Gryffindor’s team… James won’t let me!”

“Ah, of course, how could I forget about our good friend, Mister Potter? I was so sad to hear that the Potters wouldn’t be able to join us this evening… but now then, they’ll be at the ball tomorrow. You and your friends can get up to your shenanigans then.” He winked at Scorpius, and let out a jolly laugh, grinning. Scorpius kind of smirked back at him, scanning the crowd simultaneously. Kingsley put his hand on Scorpius’ shoulder. “Now don’t you start hoping she’s here, you know she’s only coming tomorrow night.” Scorpius’ shoulders hunched just barely, and Kingsley chuckled again.

“Yeah,” Scorpius sighed, “I know. I was just thinking that maybe she was going to surprise me or something. You can never tell, with Rose. She’s sneaky that way.”

“Gets it from her parents, son.” Kingsley patted his shoulder, then looked over to the Weasleys. “I think I’m going to go save them from Madame Mellows, but I shall talk to you tomorrow evening.”

And with that, the minister left.

Dinner consisted of eight courses. Like a dance of sorts, but instead of 1, 2, 3 , 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, it went a little more like caviar, salad, lobster bisque, shrimp, filet mignon, lamb in raspberry sauce, roast asparagus, crème brulee.

Also, I’m sure a key difference between the meal and dancing is that you can’t get fat from dancing.

By course five, my head was reeling, and I felt like I was going to vomit. I politely nibbled at the rest of my dinner, listening to the different heads of departments talk about the ball tomorrow night. Apparently they were celebrating the addition of a new department, the Department for the Registration and Regulation of New Spells and Enchantments. Sebastian McDixie was the new department’s head, and therefore the man of the hour for the ball. Tonight, however, he was apparently not supposed to hear the planning of the ball in his honor.

“Sebastian”, Mr. Malfoy drawled, quite loudly, “is a very well respected wizard, who has made many strides forward in the realm of creating new spells and enchantments. Naturally, he has also realized the need for control over this expansion in magic, so he was the clear choice when the Ministry came to the decision that a new department was necessary. Let us not forget, though, the other assets of Sebastian McDixie that we are celebrating tomorrow evening. He is, without doubt, one of the most charitable people one would hope to meet. He has given much time, effort, and gold to both the Orphaned Squib Association, and the Spell Damage unit at St. Mungo’s.”

I had to use great restraint to keep from rolling my eyes. I knew Sebastian McDixie personally, for he was a very prominent wizard from New York, and a business partner with my father. While it was true that he did, indeed, give money to the aforementioned charities, it was also true that he was greedy, demanding, overbearing, and snobby. I had spent hours having to sit quietly outside of my father’s study, waiting impatiently for his meetings to be done. I could always hear McDixie’s voice over the rest, making demands, making accusations, and making enemies.

Burning bridges was kind of his thing. I could remember one day in particular, when he stormed out because Jolly, my dear Jolly, had asked whether he would like a strawberry on the rim of his pumpkin juice. He simply could not believe that she had had the gall to speak directly to him… but I guess he hadn’t shown his true colors overseas, just yet. No, I’m sure he was saving that for after he had obtained a position of power.

As Mr. Malfoy droned on about McDixie, Scorpius nudged me under the table, passing me a small note. I took it quietly, and unfolded it as softly as I could, glancing down briefly. It read:

Going to die of keeping laughter in. Look at Kingsley.

I crumpled up the note discretely, and chanced a glance down the table at the minister, seated at the other end. With Mr. Malfoy standing, giving a speech about McDixie, all eyes were at the other end, and no one seemed to notice Kingsley, the two Weasleys sitting on either side of him, hanging spoons off of their noses, faces quite serious. Hastily, turning red in the face from holding back a sea of giggles, I looked back at Mr. Malfoy, and noticed that he did, in fact, see the clowns at the other end of the table. His veins seemed to be bulging on his forehead more than usual, and I detected a trickle of sweat seeping from his temple. Clearly, though, he was not about to bring attention to the hilarious trio. I gazed back at Kingsley, who gave me a quick wink, then fixed his nonchalant stare on Scorpius’ father.

After the dinner was over, after Scorpius had mercifully answered every “Well who is this young lady?” question for me, and after every single guest had disapparated, I retired to my room. Iris was perched, once again, on the silver tree branches of the bedpost, and I smiled at her sleeping form. She was the only owl I knew that had the ability to sleep during either the night OR the day, at sheer will.

Hurriedly, I threw on a pair of sweats, a baggy T-shirt, and wrapped my hair in a quick bun, then left my room in search of the library Scorpius had mentioned before. I came across the familiar door (snakes, vines, and apples etched into the mahogany wood), and entered quietly. Immediately torches lit themselves upon my entrance, and the familiar, comforting aroma of old books enveloped me. I smiled to myself, and walked to a large desk by a window. It was laden with parchment, ink, quills, and a seemingly endless supply of sealing wax. I sat down and began to write.

 

Dear Jolly,

I hope things are going well at home! I’ve already been to a dinner party here at the Malfoys’, and tomorrow they’re having a ball for McDixie. Remember that prat? Yeah, well anyways, you’d think they would have mentioned that to me before they agreed to have me over, right? Apparently not.

Scorpius is just as nice as ever, for which I am very thankful. I couldn’t have survived tonight without him, Jolly. He’s turning out to be my life support over here. I really hope we end up in the same house at Hogwarts. That’s how they do things over here, by the way, they separate students into “houses”, and it’s supposed to say something about your character or whatever. I don’t really know, because I haven’t cared enough to read up on the situation until now. Maybe I’ll pick up a book about it. Anyhow, I know I’ve only been gone a little while, but I miss you tons. But I’ll be home for Christmas, hopefully! And then we can have hot chocolate by the fire, the way we always do. And don’t start worrying about me before then, I’ll keep you up to date, and I already promised I wouldn’t get into much trouble.

Just kidding, I won’t get into any trouble. As best I can. Just can’t avoid some things, you know?

I’m going to go find that book about Hogwarts, now. Keep your chin up, and don’t be sad, I’ll see you soon! Count the days, Jolly.

Love from across the pond,

Briony

 

I folded the parchment neatly, then melted some sealing wax over the opening and rolled my wand across it to leave my imprint. Sticking the letter into the pocket on my sweatpants, I let my eyes wander around the small library.

The collection was mostly academic, and clearly made for Scorpius’ benefit, but I could safely judge, by the thick layer of dust that had settled on the tomes, that he had not made much use of it at all in the past few years. I ran my fingers across a fair number of spines, before coming to one that looked vaguely interesting:

Hogwarts, A History.

I dusted the volume off, and let the full weight rest in my hands. I know it sounds silly, but it’s always been my belief that a good way to judge a book is by its weight. Not how heavy it is, per say, but whether or not that weight registers to you as something of great quality or importance. This book seemed to be weighed down with both a warmth, and a significant story to tell. I hugged it close, and left the library silently, tip-toeing back to my room.

Jolly!” I whispered at the door, which swung open at my request.

Immediately, Iris swooped down from her perch, and I had to quickly stretch my arm out for her to land on. I tried not to grimace as she clung to me arm a little too tightly with her talons, but she felt my muscles tense, and softened her grip on her own. I walked to the bed, and pulled my bag out from under it. I grabbed some twine I had tucked away, and Iris hopped onto the bed, holding out her foot. Carefully, so as not to bend the letter in an odd or deformed way, I tied a neat bow to her leg and attached the letter.

“This one goes to Jolly.” I told her carefully. “This is a letter for Jolly the house elf. Ok?”

Iris just looked at me, and then to the window, as if to say “Can we get this show on the road?!”

I shrugged, and opened the window for her.

Her wigs stretched wide, and I watched her take graceful flight.

As I watched Iris’ shape fade away in the moonlight, I pulled out ‘Hogwarts, A History’, and began to read.

 


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The morning brought with it a sense of eerie calm that I hadn’t felt in a long while, and it unnerved me. I had fallen asleep on the plush bed while reading, and had to peel the book from the left side of my face. The page I had been reading (“Helga Hufflepuff’s Favorite Hobbies”) had left a bit of an imprint on my cheek, I could feel. I sat up in the soft bed and stretched my arms up toward the canopy, savoring the feeling of my joints crackling in a satisfying way.

I glimpsed at the clock on the wall, and groaned as I saw that it was only six o’clock in the morning. I had maybe accomplished a full three hours of sleep, and was sure it would show later on that night. I slipped myself off of the bed, and walked over to the window.

The rose garden and fountain outside were barely recognizable. Everything was cloaked in a heavy, silvery fog. The land was painted in shades of grays, blues, and muted greens. The moors and mountains in the background were almost undetectable, more like a mere majestic shadow, or the memory of a long forgotten painting. I shivered at the sight, and turned back towards my room. A small knock came at the door, and I shuffled toward it softly, my left foot still half asleep.

Opening the door, I saw the tiny house elf that had been carrying the tray of hors devours, only this time she held a tray laden with a heavy breakfast balanced on top of her head. She was much smaller than Jolly, probably by an entire three inches, and wore what looked like a canvas sack that was too big for her. Her nose was quite beakish, and her eyes were large and globular like Jolly’s, except that they were a deep and pleasant mahogany color. I smiled at her, and she gave a tiny curtsy.

“Good morning, madam. I is Honey, young madam. I is coming to bring you breakfast.” Her little voice was a soft, silvery soprano.

“Well, Honey, it’s certainly nice to meet you. I am Briony. Please, come in!”

Honey looked at me a little funnily, and slipped inside the room, walking over to a nightstand beside the bed. She set the tray down, and began to place things in a nicer order. I walked over to the bed and plopped down. When she seemed to be satisfied with her job, she turned to me and straightened up.

“Is there anything else Honey can get for the young madam?”

“You can call me Briony, Honey. And I was wondering, would you like to perhaps help me eat some of this food? It’s quite a lot, and I’d hate for any of it to go to waste.” I made my voice a little higher than usual, trying to wheedle her into staying. Wheedling, I had learned early on with Jolly, was one of my more useful talents. I had the ability to make people melt, my aunt Imogen had always said. Honey, however, just gave me a quizzical look.

“Young madam Briony wishes for Honey to stay here with her?”

“Yes, Honey, I would very much like that, please.”

“Oh,” she looked towards the door anxiously, “well Honey could do that. But she must be getting down to the kitchens soon, yes she must. There is a very big ball tonight. She must help the others in the kitchen.”

I nodded, understanding her dilemma.

“Honey, I’m sure Mr. Malfoy will understand, and the others will be just fine in the kitchen. I, however, will need help getting ready for today, and you seem like you’d been the kind of elf to help out. Would you help me?”

Honey still looked a little torn, and I shrugged.

“Ok, how about if you come back at five to help me get ready? I’m sure you’ll have helped in the kitchen plenty by that point.”

The elf smiled a little, and curtsied toward me again, this time much lower.

“Honey will be here at five to help young madam Briony.”

And with that, she scuttled from the room, eager to get back to her cooking and cleaning. I wondered to myself how many elves the Malfoys had, exactly.

The breakfast was delicious, and I felt guilty pleasure as I indulged in toast points, thick and steaming porridge, fresh fruit, and delicious hot chocolate. I finished nibbling on a berry around eight, and laid back onto the bed, almost immediately falling asleep and getting sucked into a dream.


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I’m back in Salem, back in my dorm room with my roommate, Sarah. It’s a hotter night than usual, and it matches the mood enveloping our room. Our tempers have flared at one another, once again. Not that it’s unusual, we are constantly arguing about one thing or another. I can’t remember why we are upset, just that I am filled with so much anger at her, at our teachers, at everyone. It’s probably because she told on me again. I play pranks, silly jokes on teachers, and Sarah always gives it away. She’s got to keep with her morals, she says every time. Angry at Sarah, so angry at Sarah.

Snitch. Nark. Traitor.

Sarah shifts in her bed and I give a sharp exasperated huff. She keeps moving, and I keep letting out pointed breaths, getting more and more agitated. Finally, I sit up.

“Will you just stop it already?!” I whisper at her harshly. She doesn’t answer me, just moves again. The wind picks up outside, and the shutters outside our window bang excitedly against the stone walls.

“Look, Sarah… just stop with all the noise, I get it, ok? I’m sorry that I’ve been so crabby with you lately, I’m just… it’s just that I… I don’t even know anymore, can we just stop this stupid thing? It’s been like this for two weeks….”

 


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I was quite suddenly brought to consciousness by the sound of smart rapping on the door, and my heart raced against my ribcage. I fell over myself to get to the door quickly, still a little alarmed from my dream’s subject matter, and peeked around the corner as I opened it tentatively. Honey stood there with a tray of junk food, and a sheepish expression on her face.

“Hello, madam Briony. I is sorry for being late. I brought you snacks.”

I opened the door wider for her, and she scurried in, setting the tray on the bed this time. I walked over to it and picked up a large, soft cookie. It was delicious, studded with chocolate chips and candied almonds, and I smiled at her, my cheeks bulging out.

“Honey, this is delicious! Did you make these?”

She grinned bashfully and nodded.

“Yes ma’am, Honey is making those cookies.”

I smiled at her again, and then turned to the bathroom.

“Hey, Honey? I’m going to go ahead and take a bath. But would you stay in here and pick out a few gowns for me to choose from? My elf, Jolly, packed at least six of them. She likes being prepared.”

“A prepared elf is a happy elf!” Honey squeaked, and I giggled. I grabbed another cookie, and slipped into the bathroom.

The huge bath tub, carved from beautiful blue marble, was so deep that the water easily reached the bottom of my ribs when I stood. It was gilded in silver accents, and had three faucets on either end, each shaped like a conch shell. A mermaid was carved into the bottom of the tub, and I could have sworn that I saw her move. I started the water up, and then began to play with the faucets as I nibbled on the other cookie. Three on one end seemed to emit different scented waters, and the opposite three made different scented bubbles. I settled on water that smelled like honeysuckle, a thick layer of foam that smelled like rose petals, and a smaller layer of delicate bubbles whose scent could only be described as the aroma that hangs in the air after a rain storm.

The water was luxuriously soft, and I let myself slip into it, under the surface, indulging in the warmth that seeped throughout my body. I kept going under like that, every two minutes or so, only coming up for a breath. I washed the panic of my dream from my body, as well as a layer of sleep, and whatever last bits of home remained on my skin. As the bath went on, my hair became silkier, my skin glowed with a vibrancy that could only be explained by magic, and my muscles unknotted themselves. I was in there probably thirty minutes, and would have stayed in longer, just to see if my fingers would ever get pruny, but I didn’t want to leave Honey by herself too long. She reminded me of Jolly, and I was worried she might share Jolly’s anxiety disorders. I dried myself off with a fluffy towel, and threw on a silk robe, then entered the bedroom.

Honey was perched on the bed, straightening up pillows, three gowns laid out next to her. Immediately I gravitated toward a deep midnight blue one, and ran my fingers across it.

Honey squeaked a little, and I looked over at her.

“That will look good on madam Briony!” she pipped.

I smiled, and picked the gown up.

Other than being awfully heavy, it was really perfect for the occasion. The figure was fitted, then flared out at the knees, and the luxurious satin material had a concentration of small, glittering silver crystals starting at the right hip and fanning their way out, making the dress look like a galaxy.

“Well, I guess I don’t have to spend long picking out accessories…” I noted the matching shoes and glittering necklace Honey had set out next to thee dress. She beamed, clearly more than pleased with herself.

I stroked the necklace thoughtfully. It had been my mother’s, a sapphire encrusted collar styled piece of jewelry, probably worth more than my life. I never wore it, as the moment had never presented itself to do so… but now seemed fitting.

 

Two hours later I sat poised in front of the window, trying desperately not to move, lest I put a single hair out of place. It had taken one hour and six different hair smoothing charms that I had learned from The Seer, before I was satisfied. Simple, yet elegant, I had my curls reduced to a glossy and uniform wave, and twisted that to the side, pinning it in place over one shoulder. My dress fit me perfectly (Jolly had her work cut out for her on this creation), and I had to keep myself from picking nervously at my mother’s necklace. I was scanning over the pages of Hogwarts, A History quickly, while Honey ambled about the room, cleaning here and there.

The sound of Scorpius knocking at the door sent me flying from my seat and into the hallway. He stood there in a very posh way, leaning against the wall lazily.

“You look good, Phillips. Now let’s go? I have a girlfriend I need to get to.”

I rolled my eyes and let Honey slip out before shutting my door.

 

The grand foyer of the manor had been turned into an opulent ball room for the festive occasion. Soft, shimmering, golden orbs were suspended above everything, casting a romantic glow upon the entire space. Witches and wizards of every age, young to seemingly ancient, filled the vast room, clad in all kinds of grandeur. A soft, symphonic melody rang over the gathering, prompting several couples to dance in a way that made them look as graceful as magic, itself.  Scorpius led me over to a group of people about our age, whom I could easily recognize from countless newspapers and magazines.

“Briony Phillips, I’d like for you to meet Rose and Hugo Weasley, Molly and Lucy Weasley, and James Potter. Guys, this is my friend, Briony. She’s the new relocated American everyone’s been talking about.”

Everyone’s been talking about? What was he saying??

Rose, a short and sweet looking redhead stepped up and smiled happily at me.

“Nice to meet you, Breeny!”

Her brother, Hugo, shook his sandy hair out of his face and rolled his eyes.

“Not Breeny, Rose. Bry-oh-nee. Rhymes with mum’s name.”

Rose flushed a fiery scarlet, and her clear blue eyes grew huge.

“Oh! I’m sorry, I’ve just always read it that way in The Prophet!”

I shrugged.

“It’s alright, it happens all the time. Nice to meet you, too.”

Rose fiddled with the sash on her silver dress, and Scorpius took her hand to calm her. Molly eagerly stepped forward and grinned at me.

“Hey there. You’ll be seventh year, then? That’s me as well. James, too.” She tilted her head in her cousin’s direction to illustrate her point, and went on. “Lucy’s only a third year, and Rose, Scorp and Albus are sixth years. Hugo and Lily are in fifth year.”

“Speaking of my siblings,” James cut in, looking around thoughtfully “I wonder where the little buggers ran off to?”

Lucy snorted from behind him.

“Well, ran off with our dear French cousins, didn’t they? I thought I heard Al begging Louis for dating pointers…”

James shook his head.

“Oh, Al… getting his game from a thirteen year old? Shameful, that is.”

“Hey!” Lucy turned red, “I’m thirteen! Watch what you’re saying, bub.”

“Hush, you two.” Molly furrowed her brow at them. “Scorp, do you mind if I steal Briony away for a moment? I want to introduce her to someone.”

But Scorpius was staring too deeply into Rose’s eyes to hear anything Molly said. I shrugged and allowed her to lead me away from the group, hearing James and Hugo debating with Lucy about the lack of romantic experience a thirteen year old had.

 

“Dominique, our cousin, is in our year as well. She’ll be just over here; she has a thing for talking to Goblins…”

Sure enough, as we inched around a rather exotically robed group of African wizards, we spotted a beautiful girl talking animatedly to a rather crabby looking Goblin.

“Don’t you agree with me, Kutrod? I think that if we combined forces, wizard power with Goblin metalwork and intelligence, we could push Gringott’s to its limit!! Wizards, I know, have had very little to do with security so far, but think of the possibilities, the boundaries we could push!”

“Boundaries,” the Goblin grumbled patiently, “That were implemented for a reason, young witch. Your father would remind you of that, I am sure, if you discussed it with him.”

Dominique opened her mouth to give a retort, but Molly grabbed her shoulder, startling her.

“Oh! Merlin’s pants, Molly, you gave me a fright!” She clutched at her heart. I noticed that Kutrod took this opportunity to slip away and out of sight, into the crowd.

“Dom, this is Briony. She’s coming to Hogwarts this year.”

Dom smiled at me, flashing a set of pearlescent and perfect teeth. Her hair was red, like most of her cousins, but it was a much brighter and more saturated shade, not unlike the color of the sun as it sets. She looked like a supermodel and a princess and a rock star, all at once. I was impressed.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Now, why are you coming to Hogwarts, then?”

“I was taken out of Salem Institute.” I answered robotically. My father had drilled this answer into my head. It was neat, tidy, and if said correctly left no room for misinterpretations. Unfortunately I had a problem with saying things the right way.

“Why were you taken out?” Dominique asked, quite oblivious to the look Molly was shooting her.

“Dom… you shouldn’t be nosing in other people’s business.” She widened her eyes at her cousin worriedly, and Dom just rolled her own eyes.

“Really, Molly. Don’t be so stuck up. If she doesn’t want to answer, she doesn’t have to.” She shot a look at me. “You… er… you do know that you don’t have to, right?”

I shrugged nonchalantly.

“I mean, it’s no big deal, I answer to whomever I choose anyway.”

Dom smiled mischievously.

“Nice. I enjoy that philosophy.”

Molly furrowed her brow at me.

“You mean that you don’t even answer to Draco Malfoy? But he’s so… so…” she trailed off, clearly uncomfortable.

I blanched.

“Yeah, well, I kind of have a deal with someone. I have to mind my P’s and Q’s while I’m here.”

“Yeah?” Dom looked curious. “What do you get out of it?”

I answered without really thinking.

“I get to live another day.”

A second of silence passed, and then the two girls started laughing.

“You know what, Briony? You’re pretty funny.” Dom put her arm around my shoulders. “I think we needed another joker around here.”

“Ha, yeah.” I laughed feebly, nervous as to my slip of tongue. “I’m a real hoot.”

 

We rejoined the group, and I was introduced to Lily, Albus, and Louis. Lily was a sweet redhead with dazzling green eyes, and Albus had shaggy black hair, just like his father in all of the newspaper pictures. Louis looked like a male Dom, but with silvery blonde hair that seemed to glow a bit, and deep blue eyes.

After a few minutes of slightly dull conversation about school books, class schedules, and OWL exams, Dom interjected.

“This is boring. Why don’t we do something fun?”

Hugo and Albus looked excited at the thought of dropping the subject of school.

Rose and Molly didn’t look so happy.

“Dom” Rose said gently, “That might not be the best idea, given… you know… well, I doubt we want a repeat of Christmas holidays.”

Dom rolled her eyes.

“Oh, Rosie, we’ll be fine! And besides, they got Victoire’s head turned round the right way in the end; it wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Rose didn’t look convinced, but I was now achingly curious as to how exactly they managed to turn her sister’s head around in the first place.

“Right,” said James, taking the lead. “Scorp, where’s the best place to do this?”

Scorpius sighed, then pointed toward the door that led to the kitchen hallway.

“If we go down that way, we can get to the back courtyard without being noticed too much.”

“You heard the man!” James nudged the group forward. Some of the cousins went with a giddy bounce in their step, others with a nervous saunter. I merely watched with amusement, and walked at my own normal pace, unsure of what lay ahead. James offered his arm to me.

“Being as it’s your first night with the clan, I figure I might as well be as gentlemanly as possible.” The corner of his mouth twitched into a crooked smile. I lifted an eyebrow and pursed my lips coyly.

“As impressive as that is,” I accepted his arm and we started after the group, “I hope you know I don’t plan on being bamboozled into doing something that will get me into trouble, Mister Potter.”

“Oh, I would never ask you to, Miss Phillips.”

He grinned, and I chuckled as we entered the kitchens.

I gasped as I saw about fifteen house elves slaving away rather hurriedly, smiling into their work. I knew they enjoyed the labor, but it hurt me to see my own Honey, who reminded me so of Jolly, stirring a large cauldron over a fire, sweating onto her canvas sack. She glanced up, saw me and waved, then went back to dutifully stirring. James tugged on my arm, ushering me out the door, and I followed reluctantly.

In the back courtyard, the group stood gathered in a circle. I could see my bedroom window from here, and noted that I should probably draw the blinds before dressing, next time. Scorpius had plucked eleven roses from a nearby bush, and levitated the bunch in midair.

“Right, you lot.” He said to everyone. “On the count of three, summon a rose. Those with the shortest and longest stems will be the ones to duel. You know the rules: No injuries, no conjuration of animals, and no stunning the younger ones. Clean fight, with no evidence, first one to hit the ground loses. Right? Right. Let’s begin. One… Two… Three!

I lifted my wand and said “Accio rose!” like everyone else, and grabbed the stem that came flying at my face. I pulled it back, and was disappointed to see that it was quite long, and also that I had not accounted for thorns when I grabbed. The little pricks that the stem had left in my hand were bulging with little ruby droplets of blood.

Episkey” James muttered, pointing his wand at my hand discretely.

“Thanks…” I mumbled as the miniature wounds healed themselves with a quick burst of warmth. He winked, and Scorpius began to speak again.

“Alright, show your stems.” He said seriously. Lucy and Lily snickered behind him, and he rolled his eyes. Everyone stepped forward to hold out their flowers, and I was completely discouraged to find that mine was the longest. Lily’s was the shortest.

“Well,” she said after a second’s silence, “Let’s get this done with, then.”

I gulped.

“Erm… wait! We’re not supposed to do magic outside of school! We’ll be in terrible trouble, won’t we?”

Scorpius snorted.

“Too many wizards here to tell who’s been casting, so we’re safe. But I mean, if you’re too chicken…”

I flushed scarlet and raised my wand.

“Let’s do this.”

Lily grinned mischievously as the rest of the group backed up to give us room. We bowed to each other and I sighed internally, deciding I’d go easy on the fifteen year old.

Rule number one in wizard dueling: Never underestimate your opponent.

Titillando!” Lily yelped, pointing her wand at me, and a pair of purple, ribbon-like arms erupted out of the end of her wand, surrounding me and tickling mercilessly.

Immediately the laughing started, and I began to try to writhe out of the arms’ reach, but it was no use; they were following me wherever I squirmed off to. Without thinking, I pointed my wand at the redhead.

“M-m-m…m-m-…” I snorted loudly, before being able to pronounce the jinx I was thinking of, “Melofors!!
            Lily’s head was suddenly encased in a bright orange jack-o-lantern, and her siblings roared with laughter.

“That’s a new one!” I heard Dom exclaim appreciatively from the tiny crowd as I wriggled my way free of the purple, tickling ribbons. “Yeah, never seen that one before!” Albus agreed happily, when Lily dismantled the pumpkin using her own wand.

Ventus!” She sent an angry gust of wind at me, and I dodged it, then sent another gust back at her. She dodged as well, and my jinx rebounded off of the silver fountain to her right, hitting me square in the stomach.

“OOF!”

I grunted as I was thrown back about five feet, landing square on my backside. Lily, Scorpius, and Molly rushed over to help me up as the others did a poor job of masking their laughter. Molly shot them a dirty look.

“This is not funny.” She assured her family, glaring at them. I wiped a bit of gravel from my dress and tried not to roll my eyes.

“It’s cool, guys, I’m fine. Really! I just wish I hadn’t taken myself out is all.”

Dom snorted and threw her arm around me.

“You’ll definitely do well with us, kid, you can hold your own.”

I beamed, and then Rose spoke up.

“Erm… guys? We should really be getting back now. They’ll be starting the toasts soon, and I don’t want dad getting upset tonight.

The herd shuffled inside, through the kitchens and out to the atrium, arriving just in time to see Sebastian McDixie standing next to Draco Malfoy. McDixie had a leering smirk on his face as he held up a crystal champagne glass, and it made the skin on my neck and arms erupt into goosebumps. When his gaze turned toward our direction, I quietly took a step behind Scorpius and James’ tall figures, then peeked over their shoulders.

“As you all know,” boomed Draco Malfoy’s voice, echoing in the hallways, “Sebastian McDixie is not only a prominent member of Wizarding society in several countries, but is also a generous citizen. He has munificently given much time and effort to various charitable organizations, as well as making great strides forward in the field of creating and regulating new magic of all forms. He realized the immense need for a department dedicated to this cause within the ministry, and approached the Minister with his idea. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Department for the Registration and Regulation of New Spells and Enchantments was born!”

Mr. Malfoy flourished his hands majestically, and the audience took that cue to applaud wildly, enthusiastically nodding about how wonderful McDixie must be. I felt like my eyes were going to literally roll out of my head when I saw Scorpius dutifully, yet mechanically, clapping along. Mr. Malfoy made a small gesture for the crowd to hush, and they complied. He went on.

“Immediately the Ministry was abuzz about whom the Minister would choose as this new Department Head, but I’m sure we were all aware of how clear the choice was. Yes, this man who practically invented the Department itself, should definitely be in charge. So tonight,” He raised his crystal goblet imperiously, and the rest of the room followed suit, “We celebrate the hard work and success of our own Sebastian McDixie!”

“To McDixie.” the room murmured in unison, then a collective swallow of Elven Champagne was had, and McDixie stepped forward to say a few words.

“Thank you, Draco, for those kind words. And thank you, you fine people,” He gestured to the crowd, and I shivered, “For the warm reception! I believe that this world of ours will be brought to a more peaceful place when all of its inhabitants are working toward making it a safer environment. By regulating new kinds of magic, we will be able to prevent mishaps and heartbreak all over our community. I, myself, able in the creation of new spells, and therefore know where the dangers lie! It is only natural for things to be controlled, to avoid disaster that may occur otherwise. I am very proud, and very grateful to be given the privilege of being this Department’s Head. Thank you, all!”

He bowed slightly, and I bit back a gag. I could practically see, in his beady black eyes, how many hours he spent practicing that ridiculous speech in the mirror. The audience applauded a bit more, and dispersed back into their former party groups.

 

For the remainder of the evening I tagged along behind Molly and Dominique, talking about many different things and laughing at the boys’ jokes. When I went to bed, after all the guests had left, I closed my curtains and collapsed on the bed. Honey had set out some hot chocolate for me, on my bedside table, and I drank it happily as I read the remainder of Hogwarts, A History. The evening had come to a perfect close, what with meeting and enjoying the company of my new schoolmates, and as I drifted off to sleep I felt a little bit of the weight, that had been on my shoulders since Salem, float away into the night. 

...........................................................................................................................................................

I'm terribly sorry that this chapter took so long, but I've been terribly busy, as of late! Also, I'm working on chapter images at the moment, but until then, I leave you with this: Imagine Briony played by Alxandria Daddario, Scorpius by Alex Pettyfer, and Dominique by Hayley Williams. Cheers!


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