A pitiless wind whipped through the grey-green mist hovering over the Quidditch pitch, pelting seven scarlet-clad figures with sheets of ice-cold moisture picked up from the surface of the Black Lake and blowing their broomsticks off course. Though the weather wasn’t severe enough to warrant calling off practice – years of training and playing under the intensity of Oliver Wood had taught her that – Angelina knew that nobody, herself included, was thrilled with the present conditions. To her exasperation, this weather seemed on par with the theme of Gryffindor’s season so far. The forces of nature seemed determined to keep them from winning the Cup.
Only yesterday, when the Slytherin team had booked the pitch, the sun had been shining and the sky clear. She swallowed back a sharp taste of bitterness. Never in her life had she seen more examples of sheer, dumb luck than when they were concerned.
Rolling her eyes, she lifted a delicate pair of Omnioculars, a gift from Valerie for making captain, and glanced around the sky.
Katie and Alicia weaved back and forth across the pitch, passing the Quaffle with admirable acuity, but their turns were too wide, too erratic. As if to emphasize the point, Fred swooped up from below them, nearly missing his block of a particularly deft Bludger – if he was only a fraction of a second slower, Alicia would have been sideswiped as she looped left around Katie. Realizing how close of a call it was, she pulled her broom to a stop to steady herself.
Angelina flinched at the near miss and wondered whether the formation’s flank was as exposed when flown with all three Chasers.
Several metres above them, Harry was tucked neatly against the handle of his Firebolt in pursuit of a Snitch. Typically the combination of the broomstick’s unrivalled speed and his athletic talent made for an impressive display, but not today. His cuts and dives were full seconds late and over-exaggerated. Circling a perimeter around him, George, assigned with the task of keeping the Seeker on his toes, lobbed a Bludger his way. Harry’s head jerked up as it grazed by his shoulder, and his broomstick spun off course. Focused on the parade of Quaffles bewitched to launch themselves at the three rings behind him, Ron was helpless to avoid Harry as he careened into him with a sickening crunch.
Frustration welling up behind her eyes, Angelina took a deep breath before dropping the Omnioculars and tapping her throat with her wand.
“Oi, everyone in, now.” Her voice echoed through the damp air.
Today was one of the first practices that the entire team had managed to be present for, and it showed. As it turned out, not only nature had a grudge against the Gryffindor House team. Thus far they had been plagued by a Keeper with zero self-confidence; a distracted Seeker with a penchant for landing in detention; Beaters who were preoccupied with teasing their younger brother and testing their joke products; Chasers who liked to take advantage of their friendship with the captain, and a captain, Angelina would be the first to admit, who had no idea how to refocus any of them.
“All right, Ang,” Alicia called, as her broomstick pulled up beside Angelina’s. “I don’t remember ever getting out of a practice early before, but I’m certainly not complaining.” Her hands played with the ponytail hanging at the back of her head. “Now I’ll have a chance to dry my hair before dinner . Duncan Inglebee – you know, that Ravenclaw with those stylish glasses – asked me to meet him in the Great Hall tonight, but I’m positive he’d regret it if I showed up like this. I swear –”
Whatever the brunette was about to swear, Angelina would never know; she was cut off by Fred’s voice as he slowed to a stop in between his younger brother and Harry.
“Please tell us we’re done for the day, this weather is bloody terrible,” he said, running a sleeve under his reddened nose. “I think even my snot is frozen.”
Angelina studied the group gathered around her. It had been anything but a good practice, but weather should not be an excuse – Merlin knew that they had never played a match without some inclement condition or another – but forcing them to continue playing when they were so clearly distracted would help no one.
“I’ll make a deal with you,” she said slowly. “We can be done today if – and only if – tomorrow, when we come out here, I see a better effort from all us. Today was uglier than Umbridge’s fuzzy cardigan – we were sloppy fliers, we weren’t paying attention to our surroundings, and we surely didn’t look like a team expected to play for the Cup this year.”
Around the circle, six heads nodded equally slowly as they each tipped their brooms downward and began their descent.
Anxious to primp herself before her dinner date with Duncan, Alicia excused herself almost before her feet hit the ground. Katie, Ron, and Harry, in what was likely an attempt to make up for a less-than-stellar practice, offered to corral all of the Quaffles and Bludgers and return them to the team locker room. Angelina watched as they disappeared over the hill with a large wooden chest floating between them. Her feet sinking into thick mud, she suddenly realized just how cold and wet the wind was, and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Where’s Spinnet off to in such a hurry?” Fred slung his broomstick up over his shoulder.
“Ah, our dear Alicia is off to woo her newest unsuspecting love interest.” Angelina glanced over her shoulder, to where George was brushing drops of water that had collected in his hair away with his hand. “So, do you two have dinner plans? Alicia is off with Duncan, and Lora and Peregrine think it’s nice for the Head Girl and Boy to have dinner with all of the prefects once a week – builds community or something.”
“I don’t know, Ang,” Fred said, a teasing lilt in his voice. “George and I are meeting up with Lee, maybe Geoffrey.” He glanced at his twin.
“We can’t very well let her eat alone, Fred.” George straightened his posture and puffed out his chest. “We’d love for you to eat with us.” He smiled at her, and her heart fluttered against her ribs. “If you can stomach watching Lee eat, that is – I swear, it’s mildly traumatizing.”
“Mildly traumatizing?” She fell into step, Fred and George on either side of her. “After today’s practice, I think I can handle anything.”
“Aw, Angelina,” George said, throwing his arm around her shoulders. “It’s really not your fault that we’ve been such prats.” He squeezed her to him for a moment before dropping his arm. “You’ve been a bloody brilliant captain so far.”
Angelina chided herself for the Flutterby bush that seemed to have shot up in her stomach at the feel of his hand. It had been nearly a year since Fred had asked her to the Yule Ball and the delusional plot that maybe, just maybe, George fancied her was born, and still absolutely no evidence to the theory had surfaced. Friendly chats, teasing grins, and sweet gestures did not a romance make – yet she couldn’t prevent the back corner of her mind from clinging to the theory like a petulant child.
“Yes,” Fred piped up, pulling her from her thoughts. “George and I – er – we’ve always had a bit of a problem with authority figures.”
“You two?” She did nothing to hide the incredulous tone in her voice. “Problems with authority? I’d have never guessed.”
“Speak for yourself, Fred, I’m an upstanding individual. Never even step a toe out of line.”
“Oh, fair point, mate.” This time it was Fred who jovially draped his arm around her shoulders. “You see, Ang, when George and I step out of line, it tends to be all in. If you’re going to be reprimanded, you may as well have your entire body well over the line – with extravagant magenta and chartreuse flourishes, or something equally unforgettable.”
The honest truth of the statement pushed all of her Quidditch frustrations and self-reproach about her unsubstantiated crush far from her mind. She tipped her head back and laughed, the condensation of her breath curling in the frigid air.
As they passed out of the wind into the sanctuary provided by the great castle’s walls, Angelina noticed Lee and Geoffrey leaning against the railing at the bottom of the grand staircase. They both wore the sort of matching grins that left no room to doubt that some wily plot was afoot. Cautiously, she glanced around the entrance hall, in case anything seemed out of place.
Argus Filch stood near the doorway, armed with a ragged mop, muttering something about mud and shackles. Several groups of students dotted the hall as well, likely waiting to meet up with friends from other Houses for dinner. In one corner, a group of Ravenclaws she didn’t recognize stood near the staircase, giggling and gossiping at an admirable rate. Two of the girls clutched a large banner that read ‘Happy Birthday, Sarah!!’ in large, indigo-coloured letters. Rough drawings of rainbows and cupcakes lined its border, and several well-placed sequins gave it a bit of sparkle. A third girl stood with a tiny grey and white kitten in one hand and a tin of biscuits in the other.
Angelina smiled at their enthusiasm before turning back towards Lee and Geoffrey. “So, should I be suspicious of the enormous grins on your faces? Because I am half-expecting something Lora would not approve of to happen when we get into the Great Hall.”
“Why, Johnson,” Lee exclaimed pressing his hand to his heart in mock horror, “I’m hurt you’d even suggest –”
“You walk in with Fred and George in tow,” Geoffrey said sceptically, eyeing the twins, who were in the midst of exchanging several brightly-wrapped sweets for a handful of Sickles with a small Hufflepuff boy, “and you’re concerned that Lee and I are up to no good? I don’t know whether to feel honoured or insulted.”
Turning towards the giant wooden doors leading into the Great Hall, Angelina glanced over her shoulder to where George and Fred were wrapping up their business deal and shook her head in amusement. They certainly were trying to make the most of their last year at Hogwarts. She hadn’t completed her first full step when she felt a jolt as her body collided with a short, broad form.
Angelina winced at the high pitched voice, and, stepping back, looked down to see the fuzzy pink cardigan and round, painted face of Professor Umbridge. “Sorry, Professor,” she quickly mumbled under her breath, making to skirt around her before she was forced to have a conversation with the old toad.
“And just where do you think you’re going?” she said her syrupy voice.
Angelina’s stomach growled just then, and she absently wished she had some toast.
“Filthy, traipsing mud all through the castle, out of school uniform – in Gryffindor Quidditch robes, no less, bold as brass.” Her volume had steadily elevated as she spoke, and was now nearly painful to listen to. “I’ll bet your Head of House doesn’t see it fit to enforce a bit of discipline amongst her precious Quidditch stars.”
Angelina felt something brush her left shoulder, and turned to see that George, Fred, Lee, and Geoffrey had all stepped up around her, and were nodding their heads in mock sincerity.
“Oi, we’re just trying to go to dinner, ma’am,” George piped up, “and wouldn’t be standing in the corridor if you hadn’t stopped to have this lovely chat with us.”
“I don’t like your tone, Weasley, and it may benefit you to learn to hold your insolent tongue,” she said in a low voice. “Now, ten points apiece from Gryffindor. I wouldn’t want to keep you from your dinners. A well-fed mind is a sharp mind.”
“I suppose now’s as good as time as any to tell you,” Geoffrey said, breaking the silence as they entered the Great Hall, “but before you lot came in from the grounds, when we were grinning suspiciously, I had just dared Lee to set a Niffler loose in that pink old bat’s office before the end of the year –”
“ – and, of course, I accepted.” Lee grinned, slinging his arm around Geoffrey and Fred’s shoulders. “I cannot wait to see the look on her face.”
The next morning had dawned bright and clear, with no sign, except for the occasional muddy Wellington discarded in dormitory stairwells, of yesterday’s inclement conditions.
Stuck at a desk in the Charms classroom, Angelina idly watched a trail of dust flecks suspended in a particularly wide patch of sunlight. It was the first lesson of the day, and sleep still clung to the corners of her eyes. She had woken up with plenty of time for breakfast, but wished she would have grabbed a second cup of tea – Flitwick was one of the few professors who didn’t mind if students brought food or drinks with them into the classroom.
The tiny professor stood on a large stack of books in the front of a rather impressive-looking podium. He shuffled through several long sheets of parchment, “hmm”ing and “aha”ing to himself for several seconds before looking up at the classroom.
“Good morning, class,” he said, flicking his wand at one of the many cabinets lining the room. Several stacks of handheld mirrors floated out and neatly landed one per desk. “This morning we will be tackling a particularly tricky bit of magic that will most certainly appear on your N.E.W.T examination in a few short months.” With a second flick of his wand, each of their textbooks flipped open to page 241. “Disillusionment Charms,” he practically squeaked. “But before we begin, I feel should warn you: We will undoubtedly have a guest in our midst this morning, and so I expect you will all make her feel welcome. Now, if you’ll refer to your texts, you’ll see that the half-jab before the slow swish is crucial. If you give a full jab –”
“If you give a full jab,” Flitwick continued, smiling, “there's a very good chance you'll turn into a crab."
This time, the distinct voice sounded louder and more insistent. Angelina followed Professor Flitwick’s eyes to the back of the room, where Professor Umbridge stood in the doorway, rocking on the heels of her polished black shoes.
“What in the name of Merlin is she doing here?” Alicia hissed.
Angelina shrugged at the brunette and turned towards Lora. As Head Girl, it was assumed and expected that she should know everything happening within Hogwarts.
“I heard she’s been sitting in on lessons, seeing if our professors are up to Ministry standards,” Lora whispered darkly. “Apparently her own lessons are exempt from this process.”
“Welcome, welcome, Professor Umbridge – please make yourself at home.” Flitwick gestured towards a plush pink chair that had seemingly just appeared in the corner. “I have tea and biscuits in my office, if you’d care for either – as I always say, productivity cannot happen with an empty stomach or cup.”
“This is a classroom, Professor – ” She glanced down at the form in her hands --“Flitwick, not a kitchen or a lounge. I’ll be sure to note your confusion -- mildly delusional, lack of appropriate spacial proprioception." Her quill scratched across the form as she muttered under her breath. "Now, please continue with your… teaching, or rhyming, or whatever it is you were doing with these students’ precious time. Just pretend I’m not even here.”
“Would that it were true, Professor,” he said sweetly, the covert insult lost on her. “Right then, class, wands out – half-jab, long swish. Very good, Mr Inglebee – and again.”
With that, the classroom set to work in a flourish of wands and set faces.
Angelina had swished and jabbed more times than she could count, with not so much as a flicker of her skin. Complete Disillusionment was going to be a difficult task. Next to her, Alicia was staring at a single invisible hand with astonishment. Lora was leaned over her textbook, tongue protruding from the corner of her lips – she was a proponent of the notion that a spell could not be learned before understanding the theory behind it. Sometimes they joked that she was secretly supposed to be a Ravenclaw.
Across the room, Professor Umbridge was circling a section of desks where several actual Ravenclaws sat, like a pink, overstuffed vulture. The sound of her clearing her throat rang through the air with the regularity of a metronome and grated on Angelina’s nerves.
“Oi,” a familiar voice said over her shoulder. She jumped and spun around, searching for its source before colliding with a hard chest.
“Ooof,” George winced, flickering back into visibility. “Easy there, Angelina – just thought that you, Alicia and Lora may want to watch the show that’s about to happen on stage left. I’ve always been fond of Flitwick, but I never truly appreciated his genius until today – planning a lesson where we get to be invisible while that cow is observing – that should go down in the history of excellent teaching decisions.”
Smirking, he winked before disappearing into the backdrop of the classroom.
“Please tell me they’re pulling a prank on her.” Lora’s head poked up from the pages of her textbook.
Alicia, amused scepticism painted on every inch of her face, stepped towards the blonde girl. “Lora, can I get that officiated in writing? You, our beloved Head Girl, hoping that Fred and George are pulling a prank on a professor?”
“As if she qualifies as a professor,” Lora spat, barely keeping her volume in check. “Her lessons are rubbish, her ideas are rubbish, and so help me, if I don’t pass my N.E.W.T –” Her voice trailed off as she eyed Professor Umbridge, who was currently flipping through a copy of their textbook with an intense look of disapproval.
Angelina stifled her giggle with the back of her hand. Of course she agreed with everything Lora had said – the timing of Umbridge’s appearance from the Ministry – with her strange, propaganda-laced teachings, so soon after Cedric’s murder, after what Harry had seen – seemed a bit too coincidental; but hearing such heated words from her typically diplomatic friend was amusing. There was little doubt in her mind that George and Fred were up to something devious. The combination of their invisibility and an unsuspecting Professor Umbridge was too good for them to pass up.
Just then, a sharp whistle split through the white noise of the classroom. Around the room, heads snapped towards the sound as several sharp cracks followed it. A large plume of foul-smelling turquoise smoke began pouring out of Umbridge’s cardigan pocket. She screamed, jumping around and slapping at her pocket. However, the more she fussed, the thicker the smoke became.
Professor Flitwick scuttled towards her and calmly flicked his wand towards her pocket. “Now, now, I tried to pretend you weren’t here, but with you leaping around and shouting with Bubotuber Pus burning in your pocket, it was rather difficult.” The smoke quickly thinned before vanishing altogether. “Class, let’s use this as a lesson – never leave anything as volatile as Bubotuber Pus outside of a vial in your pockets unless you’re trying to attract a flock of Jabberwockies – they’re terribly fond of the smoke colour.”
No longer literally smoking, Umbridge stood with figurative smoke pouring out from both of her ears. Angelina wasn’t sure if she was imagining it or not, but she thought she caught a hint of a smile on Flitwick’s face before he turned back to help Libby and Indira.
“Ugh,” Alicia groaned, dipping the tip of her quill into her inkwell with particular reluctance. “I swear to all the Muggle gods that I’m never going to live to take my N.E.W.T exams. These assignments are going to kill me.”
It was late, but Angelina noticed that there were still a surprising number of Gryffindors milling about the common room. She sat with Alicia and Lora and a half-dozen or so rolls of parchment at a small table near the fireplace. On the other side of the fireplace, Lee appeared to be sleeping in a plush red chair, a quill tucked behind his ear. The Sarah whose friends had been waiting in the entrance hall to celebrate her birthday yesterday was lying on the rug, dangling a bit of string for her tiny new kitten to play with. Harry, Ron, and Hermione, likely drowning in their O.W.L. coursework, sat bickering on the large sofa. How they managed to remain friends, fighting as often as they did, Angelina wasn’t sure. Near the bulletin board, a small group of second years stood in a tight huddle around George and Fred, raptly listening to whatever they were telling them about the bright orange sweets clutched in their hands. George’s hair stood up at odd angles, as though he had pushed his fringe out of his eyes a few too many times, and he wore a wide, lopsided grin on his face.
“Right, Ang?” Lora looked imploringly at her.
“Ah, what? I’m sorry – I zoned out.” Angelina brushed her braids back from her face.
“I was telling Alicia that she’s being overdramatic – nobody has died preparing for the N.E.W.Ts in over three –”
Alicia clearly did not care how many centuries had passed since the last seventh year had dropped dead in a pile of essays in need of writing, chapters in need of reading, and spell work in need of mastering, and so cut off the blonde. “You’re staring at him, Ang – and smiling. This has been going on for far too long – come on and spill it. We want all the details.” She pulled her legs beneath her and smiled expectantly across the table. The overall effect looked rather like a bird preparing to take flight.
Next to her, Lora grinned apologetically before earnestly leaning forward.
“I, erm, I –” Angelina could feel a heat rising up in her cheeks. What was there to tell? She had managed to talk herself into full-fledged crush on one of her better friends based off of an almost-surely incorrect assumption. “I don’t know what you mean,” she said, backpedaling.
“We know you like him, Angelina.”
To her surprise, it was Lora who let this Kneazle out of the bag.
“You wouldn’t have spent the last few months overanalysing everything he says and does if you didn’t,” the blonde said, elaborating the evidence to her claim. “And you wouldn’t look like a Hinkypunk caught in a torch-light.”
At a loss for words, Angelina sat and blinked across the table at her friends.
“You should probably tell him – maybe the two of you could double with Duncan and me?” Alicia said brightly. “George would love Duncan. He’s so witty and bookish – he can recite verses of poetry from his memory.”
“Oh, that’s, erm… nice.” She finally found her voice. “I’m sure he and George would get along swell.”
“Aha,” the brunette exclaimed, practically knocking her chair back as she jumped up to her feet. “You do like him. Now you must tell him, bloody Merlin, Ang. Do you have any idea how exciting this is? And there’s a Hogsmeade trip this weekend – could this be more perfect?” she practically sang.
“You really ought to let him know, Angelina,” Lora said in an even voice.
“I’m not telling him anything.” She quickly looked around the room for anything to save her from this conversation. “It’s just a crush – and a completely unfounded one at that. You may not mind making an arse of yourself,” she said, looking at Alicia, “but I do.”
Hermione had risen from the sofa and was ushering the group of second years, almost entirely covered in multi-coloured feathers, away from the proud faces of Fred and George. She said something to them, her posture suggesting she was in the midst of a lecture on responsibility and common sense. Before walking away from them, she slipped a small sheet of parchment into Fred’s hand.
“How do you know it’s unfounded if you never talk about it?” Leave it to Lora to diffuse any potential bickering. “Sure, he’s never specifically made a move, but neither have you, and you know that you like –”
“Who do you like?” Fred asked, far too casually.
Clearly he and George’s conversation with the bushy-haired prefect was finished. They both stood next to the girls’ table with boxes of their products clutched in their hands. A roll of parchment with notes on each item balanced precariously on top of Fred’s box.
“The author of this Potions text,” Angelina muttered quickly, picking up the first book her hands came in contact with and desperately hoping that the book was on Potions. “He’s just a brilliant brewer.”
“Yes,” Alicia agreed with a mischievous glint in her eyes. “I’d even go out on a limb to say he’s perfect for Angelina.”
“I see,” Fred said slowly. “Well, George and I are off to our dorm before Hermione confiscates any more of our products – I swear we’re going to send her a bill before this year’s over. Good night, ladies.”
Angelina saw a look of understanding flash across Fred’s face and swore loudly inside her head as the twins turned towards the boys’ stairwell. They had already started up the stairs when George spun around and trotted back to the table.
“Here,” he said in a low voice, “take this and read it. Just be sure to burn it once you do.”
After he had caught back up with his brother, Angelina glanced down at the small piece of parchment in her hand – the same piece of parchment Hermione had slipped to Fred. Slowly she unfolded it and read it twice before tapping it with her wand. Her blue flames quickly engulfed it and burnt out, leaving behind no evidence besides Alicia’s and Lora’s looks of confusion and curiosity.
“And what, may I ask, was that?”
“That, my friends, was the start of something quite intriguing.” Angelina smiled as bits of Hermione’s precise handwriting flashed in front of her eyes.
Standing outside the entrance to the Hog’s Head, Alicia paused. A look of trepidation flashed across her face as she glanced up at the peeling paint of the wooden sign. “Are we sure we want to do this, Angelina? I mean, maybe Lora was right.”
Angelina pulled her cloak around her shoulders. The pub looked about as inviting as the entrance to Knockturn Alley, and it had the same eerie sort of feel to it as if the air around the property held secrets never told. Surely nothing good – or legal, for that matter – had happened inside its walls for quite some time, if ever, but it was what Hermione’s message had said. Everyone interested in learning real, practical defensive magic from Harry was to meet inside the Hog’s Head at noon.
“I’m sure Lora would be here if she could be, but she is the Head Girl. It wouldn’t look good on her part if she was found usurping the Ministry’s Defence against the Dark Arts curriculum.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Alicia said slowly, taking a step towards the door. “I’ve always wanted to be part of a rebellion.”
Laughing at her friend’s flair for all things dramatic, Angelina followed her into the dank interior of the pub. Though this small rebellion wasn’t on the scale of the historic uprisings that Binns droned on about for their first five years of school, it was enough to make her feel like she was one-upping Umbridge, that she was a part of something special.
Author's Note: And so there is chapter 12!! I hope that you enjoyed it and would love to hear what you thought of it. The Jabberwocky mentioned by Filius Flitwick refers to the creature in Lewis Carroll's poem of the same title. Everything else you recognise is intellectual property of J.K. Rowling. A huge thank you to Rachel for her continuously stupendous work as my beta. And finally, to my friend, Happy Belated Birthday!! I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. I know you love all things OotP, so I wanted this first OotP era chapter to fall on your birthday.
Write a Review With All Things: Angelina, October 1995