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Chapter 2 : 1.2: Amelia
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For most students, the first day of class was met with a mixture of mild curiosity (What are we learning this year? What’s the new DADA professor like? Can we find out from them what happened to the last one? Is that boy/girl in Charms finally going to notice me?) and a form of halfhearted dread (essays. early mornings. why.) but for Amelia Greenslade, it was a resounding thank fucking Merlin I’m back at Hogwarts. She had spent the last three summers working at Tomes and Scrolls in Hogsmeade, which did a surprisingly roaring trade over summer (apparently the threat of hordes of teenagers swamping the village on any given weekend kept the rest of the wizarding community at bay during term time, but come July the place was as busy as Diagon Alley) so unlike the rest of her classmates, she was not giving up a luxurious sleep-till-noon-mooch-around-in-pajamas summer lifestyle, but eight hour shifts in retail, starting at 7.30am, six days a week. School was a comparable haven.
Oliver had spent last night doing rounds with his fifth-year buddy, Draco Malfoy, and he flopped down beside her at the breakfast table and took a long gulp of her coffee. “I hate Slytherins,” he muttered.
Amelia peered round the top of her Daily Prophet and waited for the inevitable realisation. Oliver, the most Ravenclaw of Ravenclaws, had absentmindedly sat next to her (in fairness, she did sit with the ’Claws quite often, but it was the first day and as Head Girl, she had a duty to Represent Slytherin) and was now being glared at by two dozen of her esteemed housemates.
“Good start,” she said bracingly as he swore into her coffee, looked as sheepishly apologetic as he could, and removed himself to the Ravenclaw table. She was about to follow him (and more importantly, her coffee) when Professor Snape appeared at the head of the table with billowing robes and scowling face.
“Greenslade,” he said curtly, and she realised slightly too late that she was meant to have come down half an hour ago when he handed out everybody else’s timetables.
“Professor,” she responded, giving him a winning smile. “Sorry. Late start.”
“See you don’t make a habit of it,” he said curtly. “You’ll note you have Potions first thing three days a week and, as I’m sure you’re aware after six years, I will not tolerate tardiness. You may also note that you are entitled to drop one course if you find your duties as Head Prefect leave you with too little time for your studies.” The tone of his voice left no doubt as to what he thought of students who couldn’t handle their commitments, and Amelia silently gave up her hope of dropping History of Magic. She’d only taken it because of a bet with Oliver, and he would be insufferable if she dropped it.
She scanned her timetable quickly – Potions first, followed by Defence Against the Dark Arts, a break, Charms, another break, and finishing with double Transfiguration. It was the best Monday she’d ever had (barring judgement on the new Professor Umbridge, who had done nothing to endear herself to Amelia with her speech last night, but she was still holding onto hope that she’d prove a better teacher than speaker) and finishing with Transfiguration would give her ample time throughout the year to pester Professor McGonagall after class about career opportunities in the field.
“You drank my coffee,” she told Oliver peevishly as they slid into their usual seats in Potions.
“I needed it more than you,” he replied. “You weren’t walking the castle half the night with the Malfoy kid.”
“No,” she conceded, “I’ve just shared a common room with the little shit for the past four years. Suck it up, at least you don’t have to deal with his minions.”
“He has minions?” Oliver gave an involuntary shudder. “Still, you got paired with Athena Selwyn. Or more to the point, you paired yourself with Athena Selwyn.”
“My hat paired me with Athena Selwyn,” Amelia corrected. “I had nothing to do with it. I just might have tweaked the paradigms for myself a bit – no Gryffindors, no Slytherins, Michael was already paired off with you, and Susan’s my cousin and I can’t be accused of nepotism.”
“Still. She’s pretty,” Oliver pointed out shrewdly.
“She’s also straight, and fifteen, and resembles a porcelain doll too much for my liking.”
“She can’t be that much of a porcelain doll, she’s Chaser.”
“She plays Quidditch?” Amelia asked, frowning. “How do you know that? You care about Quidditch as much as I do.”
“She’s in my house.”
“That means nothing. I don’t even know who’s on our team – Terence is, he doesn’t shut up about being Captain – uh, Malfoy – I think?”
“Oh, he’s on the team,” Oliver said grimly, with the air of a man who had heard far too much about Malfoy’s Quidditch prowess the previous evening. “Can’t we do a swap with the rounds? Stick Malfoy with Higgs, they can talk Quidditch all night and leave me out of it.”
“But I like watching you suffer.”
“You’re the worst,” Oliver responded, but fell silent as Professor Snape swept into the classroom.
Amelia regretted giving Professor Umbridge the benefit of the doubt within five minutes of DADA starting. The textbook for the class was Wilbert Slinkhard’s Defensive Magical Theory – a book which her cousin Susan had confirmed was also being used for the fifth-year OWL classes, and most likely for the younger students as well – and the course objectives covered theory alone.
George Weasley immediately raised his hand – Amelia was surprised to see him so polite, but until they knew what sort of disciplinarian Umbridge would be it was better safe than sorry – and Umbridge called on him with a wide, false smile.
“Yes?” she prompted.
“Fred Weasley,” he said promptly, and Amelia suppressed the urge to roll her eyes – “And – well, Miss, we’re actually seventh-years – ”
“Last year at Hogwarts, you know,” the real Fred added.
“And you see, normally we follow a course of magic which is slightly more – ”
“Advanced than the younger students, you know, on account of them being younger and less experienced – ”
“And we have younger siblings, Miss – ”
“And they’re both using this textbook as well – ”
“So we were wondering – ”
“Why the curriculum seems to be the same for seven different year groups – ”
“Because we really should be at different levels.”
“Enough,” Umbridge said coldly, though the boys had already fallen silent. “I will not have you disrupting my classes and questioning the course of defensive magic prepared for you by the Ministry itself. Ten points from Gryffindor.”
Recalling one of the points on the endless Offical Hogwarts Code of Conduct which she and Oliver had studied together since receiving their badges, Amelia seized her opportunity and stood. “Excuse me, Professor.”
All eyes were suddenly on her, but it was only Umbridge’s threatening gaze which worried her. She plunged on regardless. “You’re new here, Professor, so it’s understandable if you’re not familiar with this rule, but according to the Hogwarts Code of Conduct for Students and Staff, the first half of the first lesson of the year for any given subject is reserved for the outlining of and discussion about the course aims and curriculum. Of course, staff are permitted to begin teaching if there are no questions regarding the curriculum, but Fred and George raised a valid point. Students going into NEWT exams, like us, should be expecting a more challenging course than that of OWL students or below. There’s no way, therefore, that they should be losing points for disruption.” She paused, heart pounding, and met Umbridge’s stare. “Ten points restored to Gryffindor.”
She sat down as a flurry of whispers broke out, trying to work out whether she had been phenomenally stupid or a complete badass before deciding the two weren’t mutually exclusive. Umbridge took a moment to compose herself, and when she spoke again the high, overly sweet voice was back. “Thank you, Miss…”
“Greenslade.” There was no way she didn’t know Amelia’s name, of course – she was Head Girl after all – but she could recognise manipulation when it was targeted at her, and gave her best it’s-okay-you-have-poor-attention-to-detail smile in response.
“Greenslade,” Umbridge repeated. “In that case, let me explain something to you all. The Ministry has seen fit to give everyone at Hogwarts the same basic, theoretical introduction to defensive magic. Your previous instruction has been disrupted and inconsistent, and often entirely unsuitable for teenagers such as yourselves. You will, I assure you, be moving ahead faster than those in younger year levels, and by the end of the year will be sufficiently prepared for the Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests.”
There was nothing more to say to that, and the class subsided into a sullen silence to read the introductory chapters of the textbook. It was desperately dull, and the excitement of standing up to Umbridge was gone by the end of the tedious hour. Umbridge gave them another three chapters to read for homework, and Amelia plodded down the corridor feeling thoroughly drained.
“Nice work in there, Greenslade!” Fred Weasley called as he raced past, raising his hand in a quick salute.
“Yeah, thanks for the points,” Angelina Johnson said, smiling.
“Never thought I’d see the day,” Terence mused, leaning a casual elbow on Amelia’s shoulder. “Inter-house unity. So it’s true what they say about seventh year.”
She shrugged him off. “Don’t ruin it on the Quidditch pitch, yeah? Friendly rivalry only.”
“I’m always friendly,” Terence protested. “Hey, though – wanted to talk to you about this buddy system for rounds you’ve got going on. You’ve paired me with Granger.”
“Inter-house unity,” she reminded him. “Or have you forgotten already?”
“That rule only applies for seventh-years. She’s fifteen, and she’s a pain.”
“She’s an exemplary student.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Terence said, switching tack. “You really want me showing her the ropes?”
“On second thought, probably not. I suppose you and Oliver could swap – he can’t stand Malfoy though, I was hoping to make him suffer – ”
“I can take Malfoy,” Terence said eagerly. “He’s got a good mind for strategy, that kid, I can bounce some ideas off him, see whether we can win the Cup with tactics – ”
“I’ll do the swap if you never try to talk Quidditch with me again.”
“How’s the new teacher?” Oliver asked as she caught him on his way back from the greenhouses.
She grunted. “Terrible. How was digging in the dirt?”
“I bet it was.” She grinned as he wiped a despairing hand over his face, leaving a long streak of mud across his brows.
“Aw, shit,” he complained. “You’re awful, I hope you know that. With your puns and your – ” He flailed to indicate his face.
“Hey, that wasn’t my fault. And I don’t make a habit of inappropriate puns. You walked straight into that one.”
He made a disgruntled noise in response. “Don’t suppose you have a cloth on you?”
She conjured him one, a fine cream-coloured, bordered facecloth monogrammed with his initials.
“Show off,” he muttered.
“You’re just realising this now? I expect you to keep that one, by the way. It has your name on it.”
“This is why people think we’re together.”
“No,” she corrected, “People think we’re together because Hogwarts is an incredibly heteronormative society and if a girl and a guy spend any time together there must be a romantic attachment, because apparently there’s no such thing as sexual diversity…”
“Heteronormative society or not, I still can’t get a date because they all think you’re my girlfriend.”
“Boo hoo, straight boy.”
“You can’t be the only gay girl at Hogwarts…”
“Well, no,” she said. “But everyone else is in the closet, and even if they venture out briefly to date you, they end up retreating back into said closet and denying that anything ever happened because look at this boy they’re dating.”
“She still with Terence then?” Oliver asked tentatively.
“Still with Terence,” Amelia confirmed. “Fuck her. I’m not dating again till I find a girl who’s out and proud.”
“You’re not even out and proud.”
“Or at least, someone who doesn’t suffer from internalised homophobia and crippling cowardice," she conceded. "Maybe a Gryffindor – oh, speaking of Gryffindor, I’ve swapped you with Terence for rounds.”
“Thank Merlin,” he said immediately, then narrowed his eyes. “Wait. Who did Terence have?”
“Oh, I like her. She’s – ”
“Nerdier than you, if that’s even possible.”
He didn’t even bother debating the point. “We have Charms next, right?”
“We have a free period, then Charms. I love seventh year.”
“We should make a start on that essay for Snape,” he suggested. “It’s due Wednesday, and you know McGonagall’s going to drown us in homework this afternoon too.”
“I guess,” she said reluctantly, with a last longing glance at the bright sunshine outside.
By Wednesday, Amelia was thoroughly resentful of having to do rounds. She’d finished the essay for Snape and she was well ahead in elemental Transfiguration practice, but Binns had given them their first big research essay, she was two and a half chapters behind in her readings for DADA and, thanks to double Astronomy the night before, she had sacrificed her Charms practice time to finish Snape’s essay and earned herself a very disappointed look from Flitwick. She wondered if she could convince Athena that actually, ‘rounds’ consisted of holing up in an empty classroom and studying, with the occasional venture out into the corridors to investigate any noise that sounded particularly like teenage shenanigans.
She met Athena in the Entrance Hall and ran through the basics of doing rounds – common rules for students to break, typical punishments for said rule breaking, how to deal with difficult students – this one she went into thorough detail with, because Athena was small and slight and generally delicate-looking, and she couldn’t really picture her standing up to confrontational seventh-years – and, once that topic was exhausted, eventually lapsed into a slightly uncomfortable silence.
“So how was your summer?” she asked eventually, and immediately regretted it – the question would inevitably turn to her, and she couldn’t say much without revealing her family’s less-than-ideal financial situation (nobody worked retail in Hogsmeade over summer if their parents had two Galleons to rub together, and the Selwyns were made of money) or her nocturnal activities (which had involved a number of London’s choicest gay bars, a fake Muggle ID and a vodka-loving old primary school friend.)
“Intense,” Athena replied. “It’s almost a relief coming back to Hogwarts, if that makes sense at all.”
“God yeah, I’m exactly the same. What were you doing?”
“My parents believe that You Know Who is back. And they’re Aurors, so…I invite you to imagine what that was like.”
“I assume you’re really good at defensive magic now?”
“I was always really good,” she said blithely. “But I’m fairly sure I went through the first two years of Auror training over summer. Do you ever get the feeling your parents want you to go to war?”
Amelia blinked. “No. No, I really don’t.”
“What was your summer like?” Athena asked, and Amelia thought fuck it, it’s all or nothing.
“Mostly an alcoholic haze,” she said matter-of-factly. “Interspersed with working ridiculous hours and making out with strangers.”
“Muggles or witches?”
“How do you know about that?” Amelia asked suspiciously.
“I’m friends with Lisa Turpin. It…came up in conversation.”
Amelia was momentarily sidetracked by how her sexuality had come up in conversation amongst a group of fifth-year Ravenclaws, before she remembered the salient point.
Isla’s sister. Of course.
“Hey,” she said suddenly. “The Chocolate Frog incident. That was aimed at Isla, wasn’t it?”
“It was Lisa’s idea,” Athena said hastily.
“Believe me, I’m not mad.”
“What did Isla do to you?”
“It’s complicated,” Amelia hedged, feeling rather disconcerted. Was she being that obvious, or was Athena just excessively perceptive?
“I thought she was straight,” Athena commented, and Amelia gave up.
“How the hell do you know all this stuff?” she demanded.
“I didn’t know it. But your reactions give it away. Not that you’re being obvious,” she added, giving Amelia the unsettled feeling that the girl could read her mind, “But I tend to notice such things. So what happened with Isla? You’re under no obligation to tell me – ”
“You’re fucking right I’m under no obligation.”
“But it’s going to be a long night,” Athena shrugged. “And we could either spend it exchanging shallow pleasantries and awkward silences, or in meaningful conversation. It’s up to you.”
Amelia sighed. “Fine, whatever. You don’t seem the gossipy type, so – ”
“Not a difficult leap to make.”
She ignored that. “Long story short, Isla and I were dating in secret last year, lingering glances at the Yule Ball et cetera, but around the time I wanted to come out to at least a handful of our classmates she decided that it was actually just a phase and she wasn’t interested in me in that way – which, while sparing your young impressionable mind the details, was a load of shit – so she broke it off and started dating a guy in our house.”
“Do you speak Latin?”
Amelia stared. “Seriously, the only thing you took from that whole spiel is that I pronounced et cetera with a hard C?”
“No, I took plenty from it. But the Latin was really the only thing I thought appropriate to comment on.”
“Right. Then yes, I speak Latin. Do you?”
“I prefer Greek.”
“By prefer Greek, you mean you liked Greek more so that’s what you learnt, or you know both but play favourites?”
“The first. There’s not much point in Latin – for me, anyway,” she added quickly. “A lot of the older books in our family’s library are written in Greek – there are a couple in Latin, but they’re Transfiguration ones and I really don’t have much of an interest – why are you staring at me?”
“Transfiguration,” Amelia repeated. “In Latin? You have Transfiguration books in Latin in your family library? Can your parents adopt me?”
“You can probably have them, in all honesty. They’re just old textbooks, they’re not actually discoveries by the Blackmore family, so they won’t be missed.”
“I owe you my firstborn.”
“You can keep your firstborn,” Athena said graciously. “I’ll owl Mum tomorrow for them. The books, not the firstborns.”
“Picking your name out of the hat for rounds was the best thing I’ve ever done.”
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