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Luna stared up at her necklace, which hung from the doorway leading to the Great Hall. A fleeting feeling of anger rushed through her head (she was a war hero she was a survivor she was amazing according to Harry so then why was she Loony Luna again today), but it was gone as fast as it came, and Luna kept staring at her necklace.

"Y'know, the longer you stare at it doesn't mean it'll come down sooner," someone behind her said.

"I know. I tried calling the wackspurts to retrieve it, but they're on a lunch break." She turned around. The boy behind her had two eyes, which she found boring, and one hand, which she found interesting. Not that she'd say so, of course; Daddy reminded her not to pry into other people's business. After all, she didn't want people asking her why she was still so thin.

"You could levitate it down."

"Yes." She looked from the boy to the necklace. "But it does look nice up there. I want to leave it hanging, but it was my mother's necklace, and she wouldn't have wanted me to leave it to gather dust and eventually be thrown into the doom room."

"Doom room?" he asked, walking forward to stand beside her. They were blocking the way to the Hall, she noticed, but it didn't matter, as everyone was already inside.

"The doom room," she said, nodding. From inside the Hall, people stared at them. Luna smiled to the pointers, because they were eating (barely able to eat enough her wrists were too too thin the wackspurts didn't help her when she wanted needed lacked food) while she was calling wackspurts to help her.

Luna shivered as someone opened the door behind her and entered from outside, the cold winter air making her wish for fire. The air must've woken the boy from his daydream—he'd been staring at the necklace, too, Luna thought with approval. It was enchanting.

"This is idiocy," the boy proclaimed. Lifting his wand, he said, "Wingardium leviosa!" And the necklace floated down. He held it out to her. "Here. I guess it's yours?" Suddenly, he sounded unsure, and Luna thought about asking how old he was, even though whatever age he would've given her, it was still too young to be missing a hand.

She wondered which hand was his wand hand. She wondered if he too, couldn't eat, and wanted to distract himself from going into the Great Hall. She wondered if his missing hand used to be freckled, too.

"It's yours," she decided, and finally entered the Great Hall. She heard him yelling something behind her, but she didn't turn around.

Her necklace didn't help her any longer (be strong sweetheart be brave be lovely be kind), but then, she didn't need it to remind herself her mother would always love her.

Maybe it would help the boy.

Chapter Text

Uncle Percy was everyone's least favorite uncle for a reason, Victoire thought miserably, knocking on the Den's front door. He was boring to talk to, hard to get along with, and gave the worst gifts ever. She couldn't believe Dad when he said Uncle Percy had actually mellowed out over the years.

She heard some voices behind the door (always in a soft, relaxed tone—how could Molly and Lucy stand it here?) and the door opened to reveal Uncle Percy and his branch of the Weasley family: Uncle Percy, Aunt Audrey, Molly, Lucy, and their weird muggle neighbor, Tom.

"Victoire! Look at you, beautiful as ever!" Aunt Audrey complimented, bringing Victoire into the house and into a hug. "We haven't seen you all summer!"

Victoire smiled painfully, trying in vain to keep Aunt Audrey's newest necklace from digging into her skin. When they were younger, she and Teddy had played the 'avoid Aunt Audrey's hugs or her clunky necklace will eat you' game, but today the red blotch on her neck, courtesy of the necklace, didn't seem as humorous.

"Hi Aunt, Uncle..." She looked around, but it seemed Molly, Lucy and Tom had vanished somewhere. "How are you?"

"Good, good," Uncle Percy replied. "Come on in. You'll be staying in the blue guest room. I trust you know where it is?"

"Yeah," she agreed, nodding awkwardly and pulling her bags in behind her. She trudged up the stairs to her room for the next week (why oh why hadn't she agreed to go on vacation with Mum, Dad, Dom and Lou?), set her bags down, and flopped on the bed. Of course, she had known Mum would send her to Uncle Percy's for the week (Mum's newest attempt at patching up Dad and Uncle Percy's relationship, doomed to fail), but it didn't really sink in for her until now.

Uncle Percy's house was like a shrine: too clean, too quiet, and with lingering smells of smoke from Aunt Audrey's current obsession of the week, alternative magics.

On the bright side, she had three hours to go until she left the Den for the rest of the day. On the shadowy side, she had only three hours left until her date. She headed downstairs to the kitchen to take her mind off her nerves.

Sitting down at the kitchen table, she noticed Uncle Percy was in the kitchen, making tea. Victoire coughed. Uncle Percy jumped.

"Victoire! I was just going to come get you," he announced, handing her a cup of tea and a sugar bowl, and sitting down next to her. She thanked him and they drank in silence for a while. Victoire let him keep the head start on the conversation Mum had likely put him up to.

Then Uncle Percy made an odd half coughing, half strangled noise and sat up straighter than Victoire would have thought possible. He looked a little lost, as though his thoughts were scattered, probably because he hadn't counted on giving this speech so early. But overall, he looked determined and resolute. Victoire prepared for the inevitable.

"Now, I heard you have a date tonight," Uncle Percy began. When Victoire only raised an eyebrow (she was listening to him out of politeness, but there was no way she'd participate in this uncomfortable conversation), Uncle Percy continued, becoming more collected until he no longer looked worried, "and as a concerned member of the Weasley family, I feel it is my duty to warn you about the dangers of young dating, in the manner of an adult to a, well, younger adult. Now, teenage dating can lead to unwelcome situations such as..."

By minute two, Victoire's eyes had glazed over.

By minute three, she considered using either deafening charm on herself or a silencing charm on Uncle Percy.

By minute four, she was wondering if Uncle Percy had ever dated. He and Aunt Audrey must have gone from friends or acquaintances straight to marriage if this speech was how he really thought of dating.

By minute five, Uncle Percy must have noticed Victoire's attention had been banished elsewhere because he stopped talking and returned to drinking his now cold tea.

Victoire gulped down the rest of her drink, practically threw it in the sink, and speed-walked to the kitchen's exit.

"Wait!"

She paused, cringing, and turned around.

Uncle Percy looked as awkward and uncomfortable as she felt. "I just... I know we're not very close because of the, ah, altercations between your father and me, but just... stay safe and have fun, okay? The floo's open twenty four hours and your Aunt Audrey and I are always here for you. Really, we're both off the next two weeks, so we're constantly here for you."

"Thanks, Uncle Percy," she muttered, leaving the kitchen.

On her way up to the blue guest room, she decided that maybe Uncle Percy could be promoted to her second to least favorite uncle. After all, Uncle Charlie had been absent last Christmas, and his dragon-scented birthday cards left a lot to be desired.

Chapter Text

Every year, Neville spends New Year's Eve with his parents. He pushes their beds together, close enough that their bodies almost touch, then links their fingers together. He thinks they would have wanted to spend New Year's Eve together, but he doesn't know for sure. Maybe he's just pushing his own opinions onto them. He doesn't know them at all, not really, but he loves them all the same. Maybe one day, he thinks, we'll all spend New Year's Eve together and conscious. But today, he sits next to their beds, stares at their linked hands, and imagines a perfect New Year's Eve.

x

Pansy didn't know what to expect when Neville asked her to spend New Year's Eve with him and his parents. Of course, she knew the uncomfortable truth about Neville's parents, but… To see them there, drugged and unresponsive, was practically unbearable.

"Neville," she whispered, reluctant to break the silence of the room. "It's 12:01. Let's go to Draco's party, shall we?"

She helped him up, kissed his cheek, and led him out of the room. She didn't intend to let him come back more often than once per month. It was too depressing, and Neville didn't need to fall into depression over his barely alive parents.

x

"Damn it, Astoria, they should be here by now," Draco grumbled, crossing his arms. "What're they doing that has them missing my party? Pansy promised she'd be on time."

Astoria stifled a laugh. "You're acting like a baby. Pansy's with Longbottom, right? Maybe they got lost in a closet somewhere."

"Eww," he groaned, glaring at his girlfriend. "I refuse to believe they're dating. Pansy's just going through some kind of belated Gryffindor phase. It'll pass."

Astoria raised an eyebrow. "They've been dating for a year, Draco. I think they're serious."

"We've been dating for a year," Draco said, caressing her cheek. "You think we're serious?"

Astoria smiled. "We're serious. In fact, we're so serious that we should seriously celebrate the start of the century alone…" Astoria pulled an unresisting Draco upstairs.

x

Lucius sighed, watching his son be pulled upstairs by his girlfriend. "Love," he said, turning to his wife, "when is Draco going to marry? If they're having sexual relations and get along well enough, they should marry already. Have you talked to Draco about the Malfoy engagement process?"

Narcissa curled closer into him on the loveseat. "You should be doing that, Lucius. What's been keeping you away from home so often? I've barely seen you the last week."

Lucius coughed, looking away. "Nothing, love."

"Have you been cheating on me?" Narcissa asked, smiling.

"Never," he promised. "I never have and never will. I love you too much for that. It's just a new… business agreement."

x

"Molly, I think George is doing something illegal," Arthur announced while helping Molly with the dishes. They had just finished their family dinner and he and Molly were finally alone.

Molly frowned. "What do you mean?"

"He's somehow arranged a business agreement with Lucius Malfoy. I don't know what they're doing, but with Malfoy involved, it can't be good. I only know because Rosgood at the Auror office alerted me of their deal."

Molly sighed. "I'll talk to him. He's been out of sorts for a long while, but he can't just break the law."

"But before that…" Arthur kissed her. "Happy New Year's, Mollywobbles."

x

"George! George Weasley!" Blaise called, coming to a sudden stop.

George felt for his wand in his pocket. "What are you doing here? Who are you? Why are you in my parents' backyard?"

"You smoke?" Blaise asked. "Uh, wait, never mind. I have some documents for you from Mr. Malfoy. And I'm Blaise Zabini. I was in your younger brother's year."

George nodded, accepting the documents, shrinking them, and sliding them in his pocket. "Anything else you wanted?" he asked when Blaise didn't leave.

"Er, yeah," Blaise muttered, then gathered his courage and pecked George on the lips. "That." He Apparated away.

x

"Oi, George! Was that Zabini? Kissing you? Bloody hell!" Ron yelled from behind one of the Weasley's large bushes.

Hermione groaned. "Ron, you're an idiot. A nosy idiot. You shouldn't have seen that at all, so what happened is none of your business. George is a big boy. He can kiss or be kissed by whomever he wants."

"But Zabini's a Slytherin! I have to go warn George about what a slimy bastard he is!"

"Ron." Hermione slid her hands over his hips. "You're a little busy," she whispered, kissing him.

"Mmmm, I'm a little busy," Ron happily agreed, kissing back.

x

"Ginny have you seen—" Mrs. Weasley paused, belatedly noticing her daughter caught up in kissing her fiancé on the couch. "Have you seen George?"

"No, Mum," Ginny answered.

"No, Mrs. Weasley," Harry agreed. "Maybe he's outside?"

Ginny let out a loud sigh when her mother left. "Awkward," she muttered, distancing herself from Harry. The mood was definitely ruined. "Want to go for a broom ride?" she offered instead.

Harry nodded. "Cool. Last one to the broom shed gets the Comet!"

Harry ended up riding the Comet while Ginny got his Firebolt, but he didn't mind. Especially not when the Comet broke mid-ride and he was forced to ride with Ginny.

x

"I can't believe you're doing paperwork on New Year's," Oliver said, entering Percy's old bedroom. "It's what, one in the morning? The only thing lamer would be falling asleep."

"Actually, I planned on going to bed now," Percy argued. "Getting enough sleep is vital to my career. I already conceded to staying up until twelve, any longer is useless. What's the difference between going to bed at 12:30 and whenever you go to bed on New Year's?"

"You're going to miss out on the champagne."

"I dislike champagne."

"You're going to miss out on the Quidditch game."

"I dislike Quidditch."

"You're going to miss out on my love confession to you."

"I dislike—what?"

Then Oliver kissed him and Percy forgot all about going to sleep.

x

"My parents will love you," Charlie assured his girlfriend.

Lavender scowled at him. "We're four hours late to the party and technically uninvited, since you turned down their invitation."

"I told them I might not be able to come, depending on how the international floo network is working. That's not the same thing as gate-crashing a party."

Charlie tried to pull her into the house, but Lavender wouldn't move. "Is that your brother, Percy, I think? With the international Quidditch star Oliver Wood? Merlin that's hot."

This time, she dragged him inside. "Come on! I want a closer view!"

Charlie laughed and followed after her.

x

"Katie?" Seamus called, looking for her in the crowded Weasley house. "Hey, have you seen Katie Bell?" he asked Lavender, who had a strangely excited expression on her face.

"No, sorry," she said, pulling some guy upstairs.

Seamus sighed. He'd come to Ron's party with Katie, but it looked like she'd left without him. He'd looked outside, inside, upstairs, downstairs, in the kitchen, in the living room, in the dining room—

He picked up a small piece of paper.

Seamus! Sorry I left, Ginny's supposed to give this to you. Anyway, my sister needs me for some kind of emergency. Owl me, we should go on a real date sometime! Katie

Seamus grinned and called Ron's owl over. He had a date to arrange.

Chapter Text

The first time he saw Human Rat in his beautiful Mistress' bed, he forgave and forgot the incident. After all, everyone makes mistakes, even his lovely Hermy. After Human Rat and Hermy had a human clawing match, Human Rat stormed out and Crookshanks snuggled up to his Hermy again.

Hermione picked him up and settled him in her lap. "Oh Crookshanks, don't worry, you'll always be my first love. Ron's in second place, okay? Far, far, in second place if he keeps talking to Lavender like that," she murmured into Crookshanks' fur.

x

Crookshanks had known from the day Hermy saved him from those pesky humans that she loved him. And why wouldn't she? Crookshanks was the perfect cat, if he said so himself. He was intelligent, fabulous, long-lived, and cute. He was also a very forgiving cat, but only to a point.

"Ow! Hermione your cat's clawed me again!" the Human Rat yelled.

Crookshaks hissed at him once more and snuggled into his spot on Hermy's bed. Foolish girl, didn't she know that humans weren't supposed to associate with rats?

x

The Human Rat was persistent, though. He kept coming over and getting clawed until Crookshanks couldn't remember which belongings in the house were Hermy's originally, and until it was unusual for the Human Rat not to have claw marks on his arms.

The Human Rat talked to Crookshanks only once.

"Hey, er, Crookshanks."

Crookshanks hissed, showing the idiot human his very sharp teeth.

"Hermione says we need to talk. So," he finally began picking up steam, "I don't really know what I'm doing, but... Hermione's parents aren't getting along well with Hermione and Dad'll kill me if I don't do this, so... Crookshanks Granger, I formally ask for the hand of Hermione Granger. In marriage. I'm in love with Hermione. And you don't really like me, that's okay, but I'm going to marry her, so leave me alone."

Crookshanks looked him over, flopping his large, bushy tail to the side, and bobbed his head. Then he pounced. A few minutes later, Ron went to St. Mungo's with a bad case of cat attack. When he got back, Crookshanks purred and rubbed against his legs, welcoming him into his house.

If the Human Rat was going to marry Crookshanks', then at least Crookshanks knew the perfect way to induce nightmares in sleeping, spot-stealing Human Rats.

Chapter Text

If she wanted to, Lavender might tell you she's the most amazing child in the world. She doesn't, of course—Mummy says it's bragging—but she could. She tells herself that when she can't sleep, or feels dumb, or wants to talk to Mummy and can't.

Tonight, she puts on her favorite nightrobe, light pink with silver thread, one that Mummy gave her two years ago, and heads for the kitchen. She passes Daddy's office, where a name plate reads Reid Brown. The door's locked, but she can hear him inside, so she knows she has to be very quiet. Daddy probably won't hear her (he's never caught her so far) but she knows that if he does catch her, she'll be in more trouble than Silver got into for failing Divination. (Lavender's already decided to pass Divination when she gets to Hogwarts, so that for once she can finally stick her tongue out at Silver and say she's smarter than him.)

She grabs the cookie jar from the kitchen counter, which she can just barely reach, then slowly opens the door just past the kitchen. It doesn't creak (she put soap on the hinges yesterday, but she'll have to do it again later) and she carefully tiptoes up the stairs, staying to the part where each stair meets the wall. There are ten steps, and she counts every one of them as she walks up. She skips the sixth one just because she's six years old.

There's another door at the very top, and Lavender doesn't need to try to be quiet anymore, so she opens it quickly and hops inside. The attic is full of forgotten treasures (and some not forgotten, just forsaken), but there's dust everywhere, so she has to be careful to not let her robes touch the floor or the furniture.

At the very back of the attic, behind a big cabinet, there's a chair that she dragged to the attic a few weeks ago. Daddy hasn't noticed yet; Daddy doesn't notice much anymore. She made a straw doll with Mrs. Atkins, and Daddy couldn't tell the difference last night at dinner. She tries not to feel sad, because Mummy says it's normal and Daddy's still adjusting, but she cried in her room after that, just a little. Silver would call her a crybaby.

Lavender plops down on the chair and waves at Mum. "What's better than the most amazing?" she asks. She's been wondering all day, and she can't ask Daddy or Silver.

Mummy smiles down at her, and Lavender thinks that her mother is so beautiful, she must have been even better than the most amazing child in the world when she was younger, as young as Lavender was now. Lavender tells her that, of course.

"Nothing, of course." Mummy's eyes are a little watery, or maybe it's a trick of the light, a reflection of the last rays of sunlight hitting the waxy paint. It's getting dark, and Lavender can barely see Mummy with the waning light from the small window.

"How was your day, sweetheart?" Mummy asks.

Lavender talks for ages, it feels like, about her day. How she likes Mrs. Atkins—but not as much as she likes Mummy, of course—and how she and Mrs. Atkins made dolls, and how Daddy works too much, and how Scarlett is still in France. She doesn't tell Mummy that Scarlett says she won't some back, because Mummy will be sad. Instead, she tells her how it's been raining too much this summer and how she wants a bow like Margaret's. Mummy listens while she talks, but soon Lavender can't think of what else she can tell Mummy. She goes off topic and tells Mummy she has a beautiful name. It's written in cursive on the plate, Amber Brown, with funny numbers after it that Lavender doesn't want to make sense of. By the end, she's finished eating all the cookies in the jar.

Soon, Mummy tells her to go to bed, and Lavender gets up reluctantly.

"It's not night yet," Lavender argues, and Mummy gives her the look, the one that tells her she knows Lavender's lying and she'll be angry if Lavender doesn't stop. Lavender's missed the look.

"You have your nightclothes on, and it's dark," Mummy says. "Get to bed, sweetheart."

Lavender pouts, but she says her goodbyes and goodnights. She can always come see Mummy again tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Bill and Fleur's summer cottage stood alone on a cliff overlooking the sea, its walls embedded with shells and whitewashed. It was a lonely and beautiful place, their summer cottage. Fleur was glad they didn't live by the seaside permanently, even though she loved the smell and sound of the sea. Too many memories of the second war rested inside the cottage, like a dark cloud that never vanished, like a Dark Mark in the air. Even as Fleur sat on the edge of the cliff, bathing in the sounds of the constant ebb and flow of the sea, she saw the dead and the scarred when she closed her eyes. Beautiful as it was, Fleur would sell the cottage in a heartbeat.

"I would zell zis cottage in a 'eartbeat, Bill, if your mozzer were not so pigheaded!" she said to her husband, hearing his footsteps on the rocks.

Bill sat down next to her left, wrapping an arm around Fleur's shoulders. Fleur settled into Bill, and realized she hadn't noticed the cold before she had Bill's warm side to compare it to. "Fleur, Mum's a bit...sentimental about this house. It belonged to her sister, who died in the war, and she would take us kids here when we were children." Then quieter and with a bit of sarcasm, he muttered, "Besides, we can't sell off a wedding gift."

"Zis wedding gift was worth less zan ze cost of repairs for eet," Fleur grumbled, but smiled at Bill to show she wasn't truly angry. "You came 'ere as a child?"

Bill shrugged and started sifting through the sand near his hand, a gesture Fleur noted as nervousness. "Not exactly," Bill began, his voice a little scratchy, and Fleur rubbed his throat with her free hand. "I was eleven when a kid named Harry Potter vanquished You-Know-Who. My childhood was filled with a lot of hiding from Death Eaters, since they knew Mum and Dad were in the Order. It was a time of fear, especially for a child. I didn't even go to Diagon Alley until I was eleven; it wasn't safe."

"Zis cottage?" Fleur asked.

"I only visited it after the war, after Mum's sister died. They didn't get along—Aunt Maple was neutral in the war, staunchly so. Wouldn't get near Order members if it killed her. Even the children of Order members."

Fleur nodded, taking his hand in hers in what she hoped was a comforting gesture. She couldn't emphasize with her husband; Fleur couldn't remember the first war, and even if she did, she wouldn't have bad memories. The war never reached France. And when the war started again, she joined by choice, not by circumstance.

"Zis place makes us, what eez ze word, melancholy? Let's go 'ome, Bill." Fleur slipped out of Bills embrace and stood up. She made a show of trying to pull Bill up by his hand, though she couldn't bring him up without the aid of a featherlight charm or Bill's help, and pecked him on the lips when he gave in.

Hand in hand, they walked back to Shell Cottage for their belongings.

"I should think our child won't visit zis place," Fleur decided, nose a little higher in the air, lips twitching in amusement, waiting for Bill to catch on.

"Probably n—child?" he exclaimed, smiling widely and staring down at her stomach. "You're serious?"

Fleur laughed, tugging him into the cottage for the last time. She hadn't planned to tell Bill the news at this dreary place, but the time was as good as any time. "Let's celebrate at 'ome, Bill. Perhaps your mozzer will be zo happy about grandchildren, she won't notice us selling ze cottage!"

Chapter Text

It was three in the morning and Percy Weasley planned to stay awake forever. Who needed sleep? Lazy people, that's who. He had downed four vials of Pepper Up potion, eight Sleep Not doses, two Sleep-Be-Gone tablets, and one Tiredness Repellent capsule in order to get his work done on time, and it was working well for him. He saw no reason to ever go back to sleep; between paperwork and organizing and new spell legalization and law revision and orphanage donations, he had too much to do to ever fall asleep.

On the other hand, he felt so tired and his bed was so inviting... Although, a sneaky part of his mind piped in, if he got one look at Fleur Delacour—Weasley, Fleur Weasley, and not your Weasley, the other voice argued—he'd be reenergized immediately.

Percy stopped writing. "No," he sternly told himself, then looked upstairs to check if anyone heard him. They would probably think he was going mad, talking to himself. Percy rather thought he'd gone mad a long time ago, when he'd fallen in love with Fleur. He hadn't been able to help himself, really. He'd gone to the school on business for Barty Crouch and left with a missing heart. She was the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen, even if the only thing she said to him was, "Do you want somezing?" without looking up from her DADA book. Percy had just stood dumbly in front of her, squeaked out a, "No!" and ran away. Fitting, that she hadn't spared him a first glance, let alone a second one, and fallen for his brother instead.

Percy cast a diagnostic spell over his head. He must be incredibly tired to allow himself to think about Fleur.

"Mental functions have slowed two-point-three percent since you have last cast this spell," a monotone male voice reported. Percy wondered why the voice was male. Was magic male, then? Was the spell creator sexist?

Percy stood up, knocking over his chair in the process. It made a lot of noise. Percy couldn't remember why he wasn't supposed to make a lot of noise, but that didn't concern him very much. All he needed was a strong cup of tea and some of those sugar candies and he would be good to go. He'd be able to forget about Fleur once and for all. He only thought about her when he couldn't control his thoughts, anyway. He might even be able to finish editing Shaklebolt's speech by five o'clock.

"Percy, dear? Are you still awake?"

Percy turned towards the staircase with an inward groan. Of course, that's why he wasn't supposed to make any noise. "Sorry, Mum. Did I wake you?"

"No, no. I just couldn't sleep." She motioned to the counter. "Do you want some tea?"

"Sure Mum." He fiddled awkwardly with his papers while her back was turned. It felt uncomfortable to sit here, not thinking about Fred at all, while his mother's eyes were obviously puffy and red. She'd been crying over him, and Percy, like the horrible brother he was, had completely forgotten. He felt like an utter git.

She handed him a cup of tea and sat down next to him. "Two sugars, just how you like it." An uncomfortable pause. "You do still like it that way?"

"Of course," not, "Mum. Haven't changed a bit. See, I'm still the overachieving, stuck up, family-loving prat I always was. Just took a while for me to remember the last part."

She smiled, her eyes watery again. Percy looked away. He didn't know how to comfort her. Sticking his head in the mud worked for him (as everyone had reminded him) but his Mum needed to brood and cry some more. Shamefully, Percy hoped she wouldn't do it on his shoulder.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" Molly asked, sniffing and looking hopefully at Percy. Percy wished he could tell her a happy dating story to cheer her up, but he'd be lying. He'd be lying...

"Yes, Mum," he said. For once in his life, Percy would lie. His mother didn't need to hear about his one-sided love affair with Fleur Weasley. "Her name's Audrey and she works in the legal department with Hermione and Leanne. She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I asked her out one day a few days ago and she said yes..."

And as he told his mother the story, he decided it was a nice story. A nice, sweet story he could one day tell his children.

The next day, Percy asked out Audrey. She said yes, and Percy realized that even though he couldn't get over Fleur, Fleur wasn't the only woman in the world. He didn't know how to quit loving her, but maybe a little more time was all he needed. Audrey was nice and pretty and actually interested in him. He could still fall in love with Audrey, and one day, his heart would be only hers. She'd just have to wait a little longer.

Chapter Text

Late in bed one evening, Molly turned to Arthur and said, "Arthur, I think our boys are up to something."

Arthur hummed and turned the page in his automobile manual. It wasn't exactly the one he needed for his Ford Angelina, but he thought it might do. He needed to tweak the engine just a little bit—

A jab to his side helped him remember his priorities.

Arthur pried his eyes away from the manual and looked at his wife in apology. "Which ones?"

"The twins. Arthur, this is important."

"Yes, Mollywobbles, tell me about it."

And so she did. The next day, Arthur knocked on the twins' door two hours after dinner and walked inside without a care for the lock. "Spot check!" he announced cheerfully. The boys, who were sitting on the floor between their two beds, glared at him. Arthur noticed they were covered in ink and surrounded by papers. He sat down onto one of the beds and glanced at the quills surrounding the two. "Well?"

His children shared a look, then nodded, then smiled at him. "It's a voice to paper quill!" one said, and the other said, "We modeled it on broomsticks." They went on about their new device, and Arthur nodded proudly even though a similar thing had already been invented. He also tried to feel angry, because they had no doubt used his or Molly's wand, but it was no use.

The way they stared at him, like they made perfect sense when Arthur wouldn't have even realized such a simple charm could go that far, filled Arthur's heart with joy. He hadn't realized it, but he'd passed on a bit of his inventor's mind to his children. Only they weren't interested in muggle devices—pity, that, but it couldn't be helped—but prank devices. He knew the twins would drive him and Molly up walls and into gardens with their little quill, but he also knew that hopeful, pleading look in their faces. He once looked at his own father in the same way, but his ideas had been turned away. He started inventing, tinkering, again after his marriage, but it wasn't the same. His decision, an equipoise between logic and feelings, might change his children's future.

He could do as his father did, crush their little hopes and ideas, better them as upstanding members of society. They might even use their ideas for more wholesome things.

Or perhaps he was thinking too highly of himself. Besides, the choice had already been made in his heart. Arthur sat down on the floor with them and asked, "How does it work?" They talked late into the night.

Four years later, with a clutter of prank items that made it impossible to tidy the twins' room, and with an extra toilet seat, courtesy of some Hogwarts bathroom, Arthur didn't regret his decision one bit.

Chapter Text

Molly had just finished washing the dishes after lunch when she noticed George lying on the ground in the middle of the garden, one leg over the other, hands behind his head. He was slacking off on his chores once again. This time, he wasn't weeding the garden like he should be. With an annoyed huff, Molly exited the kitchen and walked outside into the garden.

"Avoiding work, are we?" she asked, hitting him on the head with a towel. The surprised look on his face almost made her laugh, but seeing him on the ground just made her annoyed again.

"But Mum!" he yelled, covering his face. "It's summer! Can't I take a break?"

Molly put her hands on her hips in the renowned Weasley matriarch pose. "Would you like to talk about your horrible OWL scores instead?"

The younger redhead scowled, but nodded reluctantly. Molly sat on the ground after accio'ing herself a mat. "What do you expect to do after Hogwarts with two OWLs to your name? Do you think any employer would hire you? Honestly, you'll end up jobless and living on your father's money."

He flipped over on his stomach. "But Fred and I want to start a joke shop! Come on, Mum, didn't you have dreams when you were younger?"

Molly smiled and thought of herself at fifteen or sixteen years old. "I wanted to marry your father." Fred and George didn't even have marriage prospects, let alone future careers. Where had she and Arthur gone wrong in their parenting? Had it been something they'd done? But Fred and George had been raised as Bill, Charlie, and Percy had, and those three had stable careers.

"But other than that?"

"I suppose I wanted to be a singer. But that was very long ago. A pipe dream, you could call it." She had grown up with Celestia Warbeck on the wizarding radio, and even now, she could imagine her voice and band of instruments behind it, the loud music filling her head. Molly had wanted to be the number one singing sensation at one point in her life, to be even better than Celestia Warbeck.

She sighed and shook her head. She was happy with her life, much happier than she would have been had she become a singer. Why couldn't the twins understand that there was no chance their joke shop would prosper? Sometimes, when she thought about her two layabout children, she grew paralyzed thinking of their chances in the world outside the Burrow. They were so young and stupid and amazing (like all her children), and she wanted to see them lead happy, successful lives. Except, it seemed that Fred and George just couldn't be happy and successful at the same time.

She shook her head. "Up and with your chores, George."

After a token protest, George complied, but Molly stayed outside and thought about children and joke shops and happiness. What did she know? Perhaps Fred and George might still achieve both happiness and success.

Chapter Text

He's a cat and he's lounging and drinking flutes champagne
He's a rat and he'll betray at every game
He's a mat for Miss Malfoy, while gayer
He's a drat of a poker player
He's got his hands on Dotty
He's rich and he's snotty
He's much too naughty
And he's just—
Not fat.
Unfortunately.

Chapter Text

Peter wasn't supposed to take Muggle Studies. He didn't tell anyone that, of course, because then he would have had to tell them about why he's still taking it if he didn't choose it. He doesn't want to do that. It's a dumb reason, really.

McGonagall made an error on his schedule—she signed him up for Muggle Studies instead of Care of Magical Creatures. Peter's grandmother almost stormed Hogwarts to demand a schedule change, so Peter had told her that he'd take care of it himself to save face. He didn't. He was so scared of telling McGonagall; she was scary and strict and she'd look at him under her nose and ask him why didn't you speak up sooner? It's been two months, Mr. Pettigrew.

And he likes Muggle Studies. He didn't at first. Didn't expect to, either. He didn't know the first thing about muggles, other than that they all smelled and couldn't use magic. Professor Ortor had disproved Peter's first notion by handing out a packet titled Common Pureblood Falsehoods About Muggles, and the second by introducing him to muggle technology, which was like magic except not, as far as Peter could understand.

Professor Ortor was a quiet man, thin, old, looked like a breeze might blow him to the ground, and he had an easygoing way about him. He made Peter feel both dumb for believing the falsehoods and proud of realizing his mistake. He gave praise equally and often, too.

The class had only five students: Peter, Marlene, Helena, and two other boys (from Slytherin, so he refused to learn their names in principle). The other boys kept to themselves and didn't talk much. To be honest, neither did Peter. He couldn't talk to girls or Slytherins, so he sat in a corner desk and learned to use bizarre muggle devices. The ballpoint pen, for one. It was a bit lonely, but Peter didn't mind, because it was also quiet, and nice, and charming (with big open windows and a no magic policy), and he liked the peace he got in Muggle Studies. Stupid, because he enjoyed hanging out with his friends—but that wasn't peaceful. It was better than Charms and Potions, having friends, that is, but Peter didn't have any peace with them. But here, in the little classroom with muggle oddities, Peter found the peace and quiet he needed to stay sane at Hogwarts.

And although he would never admit it aloud, he liked not having to really try or struggle in a class for once. He liked the lack of pressure. Professor Ortor only tested them orally about once a month, and didn't even have a final exam. More importantly, he didn't give homework. With a class like this, Peter even found a few things he liked about muggles, though he'd never tell his grandmother that.

Muggle Studies wasn't interesting. It wasn't fascinating like Charms or dangerous like Potions, and Peter quite honestly didn't care about a race of people he'd never met before and probably never would. Besides, even if they didn't smell, there must be something else wrong with them, otherwise his grandmother wouldn't hate them so much.

So anyone asked him, he'd say Potions was his favorite subject.

But if he were to admit the truth, it was really Muggle Studies.

Chapter Text

On a beautiful spring morning sometime long ago, Xenophilius Lovegood had only one person on his mind: Irene Macmillan, soon to be (with a little luck) Irene Lovegood.

"Beautiful Irene!" Xeno called across the Great Hall with outstretched arms, almost falling out of his seat at the Ravenclaw table. The students nearby glared at him; it was seven o'clock on a Saturday morning and coffee was banned from Hogwarts for health-related reasons. Xeno paid them no mind. "Your knight in knople-cleaned armor is free to go to Hogsmeade with you, my lady!"

Irene, in all her feminine beauty and grace, yelled, "Bugger off, Lovegood!"

Xeno puffed his cheeks and attempted a cute pout. He heard it did wonders on the ladies. "Are you sure? We can go to Madam—"

He was cut off by something hard slamming down on his head. "Ouch," he muttered, turning to his best mate. "What was that for?"

Patrick put the book away, piled up sausage and eggs on his plate, then casually said, "That's not how you win a girl over."

"Like you've had more luck than I," Xeno muttered, staring at his unknowing, uninterested one true love.

Patrick grinned and proudly took a note out of his pocket. "I have, actually. Cynthia's agreed to go out with me."

"What did you do?"

"I wrote her a love letter..."

That evening, after finishing his homework and extracurricular research, Xeno sat down at one of the desks in his Ravenclaw dormitory with a blank sheet of parchment in front of him.

"Right," he cried, raising his quill in the air. "I can do this. For true love!"

Three hours later, Xeno was the last student awake in his dormitory and probably all of the Ravenclaw dormitories, and covered from fingertip to elbow in purple ink. Who knew writing love letters was so hard?

Dear Mrs. Lovegood seemed a bit formal, and Irene might mistake it for presumptuousness.

Dear Irene seemed a bit casual.

Dear Irene Macmillan seemed like he barely knew her at all, and only knew her by face.

Dear Miss Macmillan only reminded him that she wasn't his wife yet.

Dear My One True Love was a bit fanatic, according to Patrick. Xeno thought it described his affections perfectly, but perhaps Patrick was right.

Choosing her first name, he then tried,

Dear Irene,

I love you so much…

But Irene had scorned him when he said the same thing in person, so he decided not to reiterate it in a letter.

I love you like the knople loves the nargle…

Except Irene wouldn't understand, yet.

You're the most beautiful girl I've ever met.

But that sounded like he loved her only for her beauty.

"Oh, love," Xeno said with a sigh. "Why must you elude me so?"

He worked on his letter deep into the night, until his candle finally gave out and he fell asleep in the early morning.

He was awoken by Patrick's yell of, "Oi, loverboy!" and regular morning shuffling of the boys.

"What?" Xeno asked, yawning and stretching. He slipped the letter into his robes and checked the time. "Oh no, I'm late!"

"Hey, aren't you going to—" Patrick's voice faded as Xeno ran excitedly to the Great Hall.

On the way, he was greeted with a beautiful sight: Irene, stunning as always, was walking to the Great Hall without her friends. Xeno decided it was his lucky day. "Irene!" he called, rushing up to her and taking the letter out. "I have this for you."

"Oh, not again…" She looked up from her book and looked him over. "Are you okay? You looked more frazzled than usual." She took the letter from his outstretched hand.

"No, I just worked on this all night. It's perfect."

She sighed and opened it, quickly reading over it. Then, she looked up from the letter and glared. Xeno knew it from careful study as a very weak glare. "Your hands are covered in ink, along with your robes, your hair, and this letter. I can barely make out the words," she huffed. "You look more pitiful than usual, Lovegood."

There went his chance, Xeno thought. Would he ever get the girl of his dreams?

"But I might as well go out with you—"

"Really?"

"Once. Because you made all this effort and, well... I'm not promising more dates, or forever, of Merlin forbid, marriage."

"Yes!" Xeno cried.

"Are you listening to me?"

"You'll fall to the power of true love," he said with an assured nod, kissed her hand, and ran into the Great Hall to tell Patrick he was his willing slave for life.

Chapter Text

With magic, anything is possible. Victoire can have doll-like curls one day, waves the next, straight the following. Victoire can lose her hair one day, and have shin-length hair the next. So she does.

She cuts her hair when Dominique is old enough to realize what fun pulling hair is. It's short and she hates it and Fred makes fun of her.

She adds waves in her hair when she visits Shell Cottage in the summer, and she won't let the salt leave her hair for weeks after she leaves.

Her hair is shoulder-length after she overhears Teddy saying he doesn't like girls with long her.

She cuts it in a short bob cut when she hears stories of Alice Longbottom, most amazing female Auror in history.

She makes it long, butt-length when her mother tells her she's too pretty to be an Auror, and Teddy off-handedly agrees.

She dies it red when she visits her grandmother's house sometimes, because Molly always compliments it. She wonders if Molly knows she's a natural blonde. Molly hasn't been right in a long while.

Red hair looks good on her, so she keeps it her seventh year at Hogwarts. Teddy doesn't say anything. She realizes she likes him when he's quiet, and wonders what that says about her. She dates him anyway.

She dies her hair blue after Hogwarts, to show the world her appearance won't be restricted by Hogwarts' silly rules anymore, and reverts to blonde the very next day. She wonders when she grew up, when she realized rebelling is boring, when she got back together with Teddy again.

Her hair is shorter when Teddy proposes, and she grows it long the natural way the months before their wedding. They want a spring wedding.

She wakes up in the spring and realizes she hasn't changed her hair in months. When did she stop? She adds highlights—blue, like the waters at Shell Cottage—and breaks off her engagement. When did she fall out of love?

She dies it red when she goes home, and ignores her sister's hopeful look. Dominique can have him, if she wants.

Victoire's pretty with red hair, she realizes. But she's pretty with everything, and Molly isn't there to compliment her anymore.

She sits in front of the mirror and makes herself ugly. First, the pretty blue highlights go. She makes herself a brunette. She looks like Roxanne. She turns it blonde, white-blonde, and makes it short, shorter than it's ever been. She looks like Louis. She dies it brown again, and hates the way she looks. It's perfect.

Teddy visits her just once, and sees her new hair. "You love your hair. Why do you love it and not me?"

She cries on Louis's shoulder that night.

"I'm incapable of love," she tells him, like it's a truth, like it's a lie.

"Then why are you crying?" he asks, and she cries even more. She doesn't know. She doesn't know anything, it seems.

She lengthens her hair for a week, ten centimeters a day, after she finds out Teddy is dating Dominique. Then she comes to Louis's flat, kicks out his boyfriend for the night—he's blond and she wonders if Louis looks for mirrors, too—and sleeps in Louis's bed, like they did when they were little. Louis's arm is strong and comforting when it rests around her waist.

She wakes up with blonde hair. It's the first time it's ever changed without her permission. She looks like Louis's twin. She keeps it. She keeps Louis, too, creating another bedroom in his flat. It's lopsided, and the bed keeps shifting like it knows it's on uneven flooring, but Victoire doesn't care.

She fills out her Auror application at the Ministry, and sees a wall of pictures. Are they there to dissuade the weak, this row of dead Aurors? On a whim, she finds Alice Longbottom.

She doesn't look like her, Victoire silently admits. Her childhood fancy has evaporated by now. But that's okay, because one day, Victoire will be on that wall, and Alice Longbottom will be the second best Auror to ever live.

Chapter Text

After the final battle, there was time for anything and everything, it felt. The wizarding world was finally free of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Neville had the whole world at his fingertips. He even had fangirls—and what a grand thought that was. Girls being interested in him was still a novelty, and the looks in their eyes made him blush. He even had to go to the Black Lake to escape them. But sometimes, he wondered if they would be interested in him without his hero status. He doubted it.

"I'm a hero now," Neville mumbled, kicking a rock into the Black Lake. "It's a good thing. Gran is so happy. Her son, the hero. Her grandson, the hero. She's actually proud of me now."

"You were always a hero," Luna replied, her eyes far away. Neville wished he weren't pleased; people said that when they didn't want to tell the truth, or to pad his low self-esteem. Luna said it like a fact, like it was the simple truth, like she completely and utterly believed it.

She sat next to him, so close that Neville could hold her hand if he wanted to. He really wanted to.

"You were," Luna repeated.

Neville blushed and closed his eyes, savoring the moment. Luna thought he was worthy, even a hero. She could lean over and kiss him if she wanted to. He wanted her to. They would kiss and he would tell her how much he loved her, how much he'd missed her and worried about her during his hellish seventh year. He would tell her how beautiful she was. Luna would blush and smile at him, the smile she sometimes gave to the sky on a clear day. The smile that said all was good in the world. They would date and do those things couple did: hold hands, have romantic picnics, visit Madam Paddifoot's Tea Shop. They would share their first kiss in the midst of the beautiful Venomous Vernacutors in Herbology Greenhouse Five and spend hours searching for nargles in the Forbidden Forest. Neville would brave the forest, face his fears, just for Luna. He would do anything for her. Then he would propose at his grandmother's house after they finished Hogwarts, and they would marry in the summer, when Luna said nargels were the most active. They would name their children after their parents and grandparents: Frank, after Neville's father, and Lorcan, after Luna's grandfather. They would grow old together for the next century and never part. It was a beautiful dream.

"I'm not enough of a hero for you, though," he said quietly, breaking out of his fantasy of a life with Luna. She didn't want him—not the hero he was now, nor the boy he had been when they first met.

"I don't need a hero. I'm sorry Neville," she said. Her voice was light, airy. She didn't sound sorry at all. It was Loony's voice, that tone she used in situations too uncomfortable for her to be herself. He hated himself for putting her in this situation. She hadn't been this uncomfortable with him in a long while, maybe since the first few weeks of their friendship. He hated her for putting him in this situation—for being so lovely, so wonderful, that he had no choice but to fall in love with her.

Draco Malfoy sat down on the other side of the lake with a book and they stared at him, unable to look at each other. Neville wondered if she would have a wonderful life—his wonderful life—with Draco or Justin or Harry. He wondered what he was missing. Was there something crucial that he missed, something no one would tell him, something off-putting about him that everyone noticed but no one voiced?

He wished she weren't honest, but that was like wishing the professors would cancel final exams. Luna never lied. He wished she did. He would have taken anything. Of course, she probably knew that, too.

Chapter Text

Oh Merlin, you think, and you almost yell, "Come back!" to Harry, but you know he can't and won't. He needs to save your sister and you need to stay with Lockhart and dig a tunnel through the rocks for Harry and (a living, please let her be living, you're twelve and she's eleven, neither of you are allowed to die) Ginny. You start on the smaller rocks, digging your fingers into the wall until you feel the stings of sharp rock cuts, and you tell yourself you can't stop. You have to be brave. Brave, like Harry, like Dumbledore, like Rael, the Chudley Cannons' Keeper. Your hands aren't shaking and they aren't bleeding and you aren't going to run away. (You can't, anyway, and you won't lower yourself to screaming for help.) (You're afraid no one will hear you.) Then you turn around to recruit Lockhart in your digging (he must be able to do something, even with that head of his) and see he's on the ground, motionless, blood in his hair.

You're still not panicking. You're as strong as Harry.

"Lockhart!" you yell, grabbing his left side and pushing him up against the wall. "Wake up!"

He doesn't wake up. You pull at his floppy not-golden-anymore hair (Hermione, what would you think of him now? what would you think of me?) until you feel the wound. The bloodied rock next to Lockhart must have caused it, but that doesn't tell you what to do. You've never wanted your mother next to you more, but you're a big boy, you tell yourself, and you can do this. After all, you're still not panicking. You're calm.

You strip off your robes and your shirt, then wrap your shirt around Lockhart's head. It should help stop the blood, and your Mum would understand why you ruined one of your few shirts. Lockhart's stirring now, so you shake him again and he finally opens his eyes. He looks around wildly.

"Why aren't you working?" you ask, just a bit too loudly, and he jolts. You want to apologize and let him rest, but you can't, because you're so terrified he won't wake up again and you'll have to sit here waiting for Harry and Ginny with a corpse.

"What—" he begins, but you cut him off by pulling him up as gently as you can. He's not a small man, but you're tall for your age, and you help him stay on his feet until he can support himself. "I'm not sure—"

"You're a tunnel digger, and you're behind on your work. If you don't dig, bad things will happen," you say. He looks like he wants to argue, but then he goes to the wall of rocks and starts pulling out a big one. You sigh with relief; you hate lying, but you need him to work, for his sake and yours. You need to see him alive and have hope that if an idiot like Lockhart can live, then so can Ginny.

When Harry comes back, you and Lockhart are still digging, even though the hole is a sizable gap, because you both need something to do to keep yourselves from falling over, and you let loose a strangled laugh of relief when you see her stupid face. It's the best moment of your life, and you and Lockhart share a grin (Lockhart doesn't exactly understand, but that's fine, it's all fine). The world feels bright again, even in this damp, dark, dungeon-like place. And to be honest, you're proud of yourself. Harry might have saved your sister—and oh Merlin, you're so happy you could hug them both—but you also saved a person, too. And maybe he didn't need to be saved, didn't want to be saved, didn't deserve to be saved, but you're bloody proud of it.

Chapter Text

Albus had always thought Gellert had a face meant for pouting. As a child, he'd pout whenever he didn't get his way-which, to be honest, was quite often. Gellert had a knack for asking his parents for things they couldn't give him: a real broomstick at age three, a castle when he was seven, permanent red hair when he was nine. Albus loved it. He loved the way his top lip would pinch in at the same time as Gellert's bottom lip turned down, and the vertical crease under his nose would become so very noticeable. When he'd become a teenager, he'd wanted to lick that crease, and perhaps lick other places as well.

His serious face was half-pout. His angry face was half-pout, too. Gellert went from a pouty little kid to a sullen teenager to an angry adult.

Albus just loved him all the more.

Chapter Text

Two men stood outside the Burrow. They were dressed in black, with their hands on their wands, and with grim, resigned expressions.

"Ready?" one asked the other.

"Only if you are," he replied.

Slowly, the first man pulled his wand arm out of his robes pocket and stuck it out into the air between the two men. The second man, who stood to the first's right, reluctantly dropped his wand back into his pocket, and grasped the first man's hand. He held the man's hand for a long moment, rubbing his thumb against the first man's knuckles, then let go. Their hands dropped once again and Harry Potter knocked on the Burrow's door.

x

"Harry! Lovely to see you!" Mrs. Weasley announced, opening the door and pulling Harry into a long hug. "We don't see you at all these days." After a long moment, she turned to Harry's companion. "Hello Mr. Wood."

"Please." Oliver coughed. "Call me Oliver. Everyone does." Even though the last time they had met, when he introduced himself as the manager for the team Harry flew on, Mr. Wood had been entirely appropriate.

"Yes, I suppose they do," Mrs. Weasley agreed, giving him a certain look that Oliver hadn't gotten from a mother figure since the age of three. He was over six foot tall, but he could almost feel the baby talk coming back. "Well, come in, both of you."

She led them to an offshoot corner of the kitchen, a place Percy might have called a dining room, where Mr. Weasley, Luna Lovegood, and Ginny Weasley already sat. Harry tried not to feel slighted when he noticed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had already started eating, even though he and Oliver were only five minutes late. They had spent too long packing up Quidditch equipment at the Diagon Alley official Quidditch pitch, mostly because Harry was dawdling and Oliver was reluctant to go. He didn't want Harry's feelings to be hurt once again. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had taken their new relationship badly enough the first time.

Luna and Ginny's plates were empty, but with the way they were trading glances from opposite corners of the table, Harry felt that their plates were empty for a reason other than compassion.

"Now, Oliver, why don't you sit down in that empty space next to Luna?" Mrs. Weasley said, pushing Oliver towards the other side of the table. "Harry, you can—" Harry sat down in the empty chair that was set just a little too closely to Ginny's, "—oh good, you've already sat down."

Ginny turned to him, blushing and angry. "I'm so sorry. I didn't realize they were going to be like this. I thought— When they finally invited us to dinner, that maybe they'd—"

Harry patted her shoulder. "It's okay," he said, even though they both knew it wasn't. "How are you? The Harpies?"

Ginny smiled widely, but even then it was strained. "We're playing better than ever; you'll have to watch your back, Mr. Puddlemere United. We might just win regionals while you and Oliver are distracted," she teased, throwing Oliver a wink.

x

"Luna," Oliver said with resignation, nodding at Harry's friend.

"Oliver. There's a nargle pooping on your head, did you know?"

Mrs. Weasley smiled encouragingly in his and Luna's interaction.

Oliver inwardly groaned and resigned himself to an evening of putting up with Loony Lovegood. The things he did for his boyfriend...

x

Soon, dinner was almost over, and Harry prepared himself for the attack. He noticed Ginny steeling herself too, and squeezed her hand in encouragement. Mrs. Weasley, who sat to Ginny's right, crowed in delight.

"There you two, don't you remember what a wonderful couple you were?"

Mr. Weasley nodded in agreement. "Harry, Ginny, I understand you've had relationship problems—"

"My relationship with Oliver is going swell, sir—"

"—but I beg you to remember the feelings you still have for one another. Ever since you dropped out of the Auror program and started playing Quidditch, and since you followed him in, Ginny, you two have been acting unlike yourselves."

"Mum, I'm dating Luna. Harry's dating Oliver. We broke up ages ago."

"Please believe me, I have no feelings towards for your daughter."

"It's all the fault of Quidditch! Ever since you've started playing that game, you've gone— You've gone—" Molly paused, unable to say the word.

"Gay?" Ginny supplied.

"Not to mention, your relationship with Oliver, Harry, is unethical. He's your boss for Merlin's sake."

"I can't believe you!" Ginny cried. "Why can't you just accept our feelings?"

"Ginny," Mrs. Weasley said consolingly, "your feelings are wrong. You're confused because of all this Quidditch business."

Ginny looked down, trying to fight off her tears. "If that's the way you feel, I'm leaving."

"Where are you going to go?" Molly asked.

"Ginny, just stay so we can work this out," Arthur pleaded.

"I'm going to stay with Luna for a while."

"You can't—"

"Yes, I can. Let's go, Luna." The two left the Burrow while the Weasley parents turned to Harry and Oliver.

"I think we should go," Harry murmured, pulling Oliver with him. "Thank you for dinner."

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley watched them go, wishing they knew when their children had become strangers.

Chapter Text

"You haven't changed at all since the war," Granger said just a few minutes earlier, barely looking at him. Not out of shyness, but out of indifference and spite. He hates that—hates that she can ignore him like he's still a schoolboy, like the war hasn't changed him as much as it changed her.

Draco had answered cuttingly and walked away, but later he can't help think, what if he hasn't? What if he hasn't changed at all, hasn't grown stronger from experience? What if he's still the same young kid, who'll make the same bad decisions?

He wants to get along with Granger for once. They've apprenticed under the same senior lawyer and even though they're going to go into different fields (criminal law for him and magical creature law for her) later on, they're stuck with each other eight hours a day.

But more than proving Granger wrong, he wants to prove to himself that he's changed. He thinks he has, but what if he's been deluding himself all along? He's good at self-delusion, at pretending everything's fine when it's really not.

It takes him a minute to realize what he could do and three hours to work up his courage to do it. The first time he used an Unforgivable haunts his nightmares sometimes, and he's never been able to make reparations for it. But eventually, he Apparates to Hogsmeade, right outside the joke shop. He almost Disapparates once he sees the sign for the Three Broomsticks, but he forces himself to go inside.

When he finally enters, it's three o'clock in the afternoon and the pub's almost empty. He'd thought the lack of people might help his courage, but apparently that isn't to be. He's nervous. Less than he'd been the last time he was here, but nervous all the same. This time, the nervousness is overwhelmed by guilt and he slowly walks to the counter. Once again he reminds himself that he's doing the right thing.

He should've done this ages ago. That doesn't make it any easier.

"One moment!" Madam Rosmerta sings. She's turned away, wiping a glass. Draco doesn't speak until she puts it down, lest she drops and breaks it. He doesn't want to do even more damage to her. Finally, she turns around and sees him. Her expression changes abruptly; gone is the kind smile and flirty attitude.

"I'm not here for a drink," Draco says. "I—"

"Then you should get out." Her tone is cold, not welcoming like the one to all the other Hogwarts graduates. Of course, none of the others used an Unforgivable Curse on her. Draco's still grateful that the Wizengamot declared his acts during the war as under duress.

"I want to apologize," he says.

"Accepted. Now get out."

Draco wants to leave so much. Instead, he takes a deep breath and clenches his fists. "I was wrong. I was so wrong to harm you. It was despicable and cruel of me." Breathe, he tells himself. "I've made many mistakes over my short life—as you have no Dark Mark, we can assume I've been more of an idiot that you—" maybe it's his imagination, but maybe her shoulders really do ease "but I made them. I've made so many of them, and now I'm trying to make amends. I can't do much for you—you're popular, successful, attractive—you wouldn't want me or my money here anyway, but I... I'm sorry. I really am."

She turns around, finally. There's still no smile, but maybe the beginning of one in the tiniest curl of her lips.

"A butterbeer," she says, handing him one. "You'll pay for it. And you'll come here whenever you're in Hogsmeade. I won't give customers to the Hog's Head just because they were stupid teenagers. I'd be out of customers if that were the case." She winks at him, and looks almost surprised at her good humor. But it's been a few years now, and they can both let go of the past.

"I'll get a butterbeer for your girlfriend, too," Madam Rosmerta tells him a moment later.

When Draco turns around and sees Granger sitting down beside him, an approving half-smile on her lips, he doesn't bother correcting Madam Rosmerta. For the first time in his life, he thinks he wouldn't mind dating Granger if she ever gives him a sign. He wouldn't mind at all, because she makes him want to be a better person.

Chapter Text

Tom is eleven when he first enters the wizarding world, and he is eleven when he realizes he hates it. He hates the air, hates the words, hates the customs and schools and people. It doesn't take him long to start hating the entire world, not just the muggle world. He has a lot of practice, after all. He hates so many things, places, people—and he hates no-one and nothing more than he hates his parents. By definition, he hates himself as well.

But the wizarding world, with all its silly hatreds, provides him an untraceable outlet to rid his life of hatred. How remarkable, that they give such powerful items to children. Tom is a child when it suits him, and he will play the part until he can show the world just how much he hates it.

This world needs something new, a cleansing force. Tom plans to be the cleaning charm for the world, and the world will be his playground in time. But for now, he sits and learns and plots.

Chapter Text

Of all the things Ron Weasley stringently told people he wasn't afraid of, his girlfriend's cat didn't make the list. Mostly because he wasn't, of course, afraid of Crookshanks. That would be ridiculous. He was an Auror trainee. At most, he was scared of politicians (that odd species of human that liked word games and paperwork, good Merlin) and dark wizards, not cats about a seventh of his size and even less of his weight.

He and Hermione were settled on Hermione's couch, watching a middle-aged man run around chasing aliens—whatever those were—on a Muggle vellytision. Ron thought Muggles had strange ideas of fun, but he put up with the tradition since Hermione lamented about missing Doctor Who while at Hogwarts. Ron didn't see the appeal. Ron also felt he was going to have nightmares of being chased by big human-like clothes models, directed by a talking Crookshanks.

Crookshanks, who sat right there, staring straight at him like he was a grilled mouse on a fork, as he and Hermione watched were attempting to cuddle in peace.

Hermione curled closer into Ron's side, completely unaware of the tension in the room.

"I think your cat wants to eat me," Ron told her.

She patted his arm in a routine attempt at comfort. "Of course he doesn't want to eat you. He loves you."

Ron glanced back at Crookshanks, whose teeth were now visible. Was that a crimson color flashing in his eyes? He could — no, he couldn't. Hermione would never let him take her cat in to check for possession. Not under the reason of 'your cat freaks me out'.

Which it didn't, of course. It just unnerved him that slightest bit.

"Hermione, how long do half-Kneazles live?" Ron asked instead, uneasily watching Crookshanks prowl closer. Crookshanks' tail kept weaving in the air, reminding him of a snake ready to bite. The purple ribbon tied around its tail only made the cat's façade of innocence creepier.

"Mmmm, about fifty years. Hopefully sixty," she said, holding out her hand for Crookshanks to rub himself against. Crookshanks complied, purring deeply and settling on the carpet under her hand. At Hermione's nudge, Ron did the same, awkwardly patting the cat's head. She smiled at him. "My two favorite men." She kissed his cheek, and Ron thought he might just put up with the cat if it made Hermione happy.

When Hermione's head turned back to the screen, Crookshanks languidly rolled his head over to Ron's hand, sniffed it, and bit his sharp teeth into Ron's skin.

Stifling his swears, Ron stopped the bleeding before Hermione saw, since her attention completely on the Autos, and shared a glare with Crookshanks.

"I think he wants to go for a walk," he said. Hermione hummed in vague agreement. Ron double-checked that her attention was completely on the screen before levitating Crookshanks out the nearest window and dropping him on the soft grass below. With somewhat vindictive grin, he settled back on the couch, wrapping his arms around her and feeling content with the world.

Chapter Text

He'd like to tell you he's not gay
Not a pouf
A dandy
Or a queen

He doesn't lift shirts
He doesn't bite pillows
And his arsehole has one purpose
The one it was made for, thank you

(Love
is
blind)

He'd like to tell you he likes women
Exclusively
Totally
The pretty birds they are

He likes their hair
Their hands
The way they kiss and laugh

(Love
is
kind)

He loves women
But
He doesn't hate men

Men are cigarettes and Dark magic
Men are Durmstrang boys and Quidditch guys
Men fight and brood and drink
They aren't meant to be coddled
Or hugged, kissed softly
By other men

(Love
is
strong)

And he knows women aren't glass
But there's something fragile, beautiful
In each of them
Something sweet
Something pure
Something that makes him yearn

(Love
is
beautiful)

Men don't make him yearn
Because he's not gay

Boys don't make him yearn
Because he likes beauty
But not innocence

Not wide eyes
Or shy smiles
Or quick glances
From a boy with red hair

(Love
is
pure)

He sees Hermione in Hugo
Her brown eyes and quick wit
He's attracted to her through him
Or so he tells himself

(Love
knows)

But the boy has no excuse
To lean into him
To touch Viktor's wrist
To smile sweetly
To hope

(Love
is
faithful)

Viktor's not gay
And he doesn't want

Hope
Attraction
Pure idiocy

From a child
Who's just barely an adult

(Love
is
blind)

Who kisses him
Once
Blushing
Burning with embarrassment
The both of them

(Love
is
sweet)

Viktor is not gay
But
Maybe
British men don't count.

Chapter Text

Daphne Greengrass did not own a mansion, a sad fact Draco Malfoy was only too aware of. The poor (both meanings of the word) dear, lacking a mansion like the one Lucius and Narcissa had given Draco for his 21st birthday, was forced to spend her days in a flat (two bedroom, of all things!) in Diagon Alley.

And for Draco Malfoy, May 2nd passed quickly each year, for a very simple reason: he spent the entire day drunk.

"And Crabbe was my best friend in my whole world," Draco said, taking another gulp of firewhiskey. "He was shu-per and nice and big—"

"Woa, too much info, Draco. I don't want to know about your bedmates."

"Shut up, Greengrass. I was talking about his body." His face furrowed, trying to remember why that statement was off, too. "His whole body," he corrected with a nod. "Not his dick. But maybe it was. Donno. Don't care. Crabbe's dead."

Daphne patted Draco's arm. "He's been dead for four years."

"He died today."

"Technically. So since you say you're not gay, I think what you really need is a girlfriend. A nice one."

"...Crabbe never had a girlfriend," Draco replied, his voice aiming for steady and falling short.

"Ho boy," Daphne said, and they flopped onto the floor together. "I'll regret this sometime, but what do you say about dating my sister?"

She regretted it approximately ten hours later, when Draco asked, "So what about the hot sister you have? I just think that if I had a date, I could get through the day of Crabbe's death better. I know he'd want it for me."

It was so easy to feel sorry for him when he was drunk out of his mind, but he was a jackass when he was sober. "He'd want you to go on a date instead of weeping over his grave?" she asked, feeling doubtful but nevertheless manipulated. At least she could catch his manipulations, she consoled herself, unlike the many women Draco had charmed over the years. He had learned from the best—Narcissa Malfoy, nee Black—and her lessons rarely failed him. Would she be the exception to his rule?

She sighed. Daphne Greengrass had made some difficult decisions in her life: transferring to Beauxbatons, forgiving her mother, accepting a Transfigurations apprenticeship over a Healing one, and allowing Draco Malfoy to date her sister. She said no for a few hours, while Draco continued to ask, looking at her with sweet and guileless gray eyes.

Eventually, she gave set them up for a date. How was she supposed to know they'd actually click?

Chapter Text

(aberrant) adj. abnormal

Socially-conscious busybodies that they were, Vernon and Petunia Dursley frequently listened to the news. It wouldn't do to seem unaware of what was going on in the world, Petunia would tut, smirking at the neighbors who barely knew what a Prime Minister even did. When news of genocide and terrorism reached British suburbia, they covered ickle Dudleykins' ears while Harry listened freely. There was a special place in hell for those people, Uncle Vernon would say. Along with wizards, of course, and those sodomite freaks.

Knowing that there were child soldiers in the world, and child smuggling rings, and homeless children, made Harry somewhat grateful the Dursleys took him in instead of giving him to the milkman. Then they would tell him to clean the bathroom again and Harry wondered if homelessness was really all that bad. He rarely acknowledged the small part of his mind that told him there was something wrong with the way the Dursleys were raising him. That the programs on the telly showed caring aunts and uncles looking after their nieces and nephews, not forcing them to cook and clean like servants.

They didn't lock their nephews in cupboards, either, that small part of him said. Harry refused to consider it. The Dursleys had to have a reason for treating him badly. There was a reason for everything, even if Harry couldn't find it yet. He would know when he was an adult. For now, he had to repent for being freakish and abnormal.

Then Hagrid turned his world upside down, telling him that he was a wizard, that the things he did—changing his teacher's hair color, appearing on the school roof—was perfectly normal. That Harry wasn't going to hell with the terrorists, a nightmare that plagued his sleep constantly after seeing violence on the news. A little part of Harry broke that night, one that might have been his naivety for all he knew. If the Dursleys were wrong for hating him, then there must be evil in the world. Not just crazy people and ruthless killers, but the everyday evil that no one noticed, not even the people being abused. Maybe not even the abusers.

"I'm a normal wizard?" Harry asked, needing to know that he was normal in at least one way. That he would fit in at Hogwarts, that for once he would be treated like a normal boy. That he wouldn't be forgotten or bullied.

"Eh, to tell ye the truth, 'Arry, not exactly," Hagrid replied. He went on to tell Harry about Voldemort and the evil that still plagued the Wizarding world, the rampant racism and class issues. The only thing that Harry realized was that he would never be normal, not while he was the Boy-Who-Lived. But he would aim for a little bit of normalcy anyway, because if the Dursleys' treatment of him was wrong, then he needed to prove he could be normal, that he wasn't completely hopeless and weird.

Chapter Text

(brackish) adj. distasteful

Hogwarts sometimes reminded Harry of Aunt Petunia's Victorian era dramas, where students at boarding schools were brought up to be exactly the same. They walked (eins, zwei, drei! eins, zwei, drei!) in rhythm like robots, faceless and uniform. Hogwarts was a wonderful place, his home away from hell, but Harry didn't think that people noticed he was a real person, not a robot or a hero. People were surprised when he was nervous, because why would he be nervous about anything after defeating You-Know-Who? Flitwick was disappointed that he wasn't better at Charms like his mother, and McGonagall had clearly hoped he might have some of James' talent at Transfiguration. Quirrell could barely talk to him, but praised him (only him, always only him) for his accomplishments during lessons.

Sometimes, Harry wished he were more like James Potter: brave, smart, kind. According to his teachers, his father was always confident. He would have been able to deal with the attention of being the Boy Who Lived. Harry didn't see himself as anyone special. He didn't deserve to be put on a pedestal for something he didn't remember doing.

Other times, he wished he were a real Muggle-born, no matter the stigma about them, so that no one would know his name. People had all these ideas about him, misconceptions and preconceptions, Snape with the worst (he hated yer father, 'Arry) and Neville with the best (Gran told me bedtime stories, his face bright red). They pulled him in different directions, piled rocks on him and made him walk, and the stress that he shouldn't feel, that he was too young to feel, made him weak. Hogwarts was beautiful and majestic, and a million times better than Stonewall High. Harry just wished Hogwarts would love him the way he loved it.

And then he discovered Quidditch.

He would thank Malfoy if he were a little less of an arse for showing him how amazing flying was. There were no rules, no safety nets, no one to look at him with hidden disappointment.

There was just wind in his hair (between your ears, Hermione told him with a smile) and freedom and blue skies overhead. He could almost touch the clouds. His heart pumped and his mind cleared. There was nothing in the world that could beat flying.

And then there was McGonagall and fear of expulsion and preferential treatment, but he didn't care because it allowed him to fly more. To fly on a team of people who loved flying as much as he did, who wouldn't expect him to be amazing because of who his parents were or his defeat of Voldemort.

His first love might have been Hogwarts, but it was Quidditch that stole it and kept him sane. And with Quidditch came Gryffindor Captain Oliver Wood, self-admitted fanatic and amazing captain.

Chapter Text

"Messers Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs offer their compliments to Professor Snape and..."

"Go on," Snape ordered.

Harry gulped as the words changed in script: and request that he not use his sensual voice when I can't jump his bones.

Kill me now, he thought.

"...and request that he keep his abnormally large nose out of other people's business," Harry said instead because there were some things one could not just say to their Potions professor.

Later, when he found out who exactly Messers. Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs were, he was even more determined to never ever find out which of them had dated Snape in school.

Chapter Text

(badinage) n. light, playful talk.

Harry had never had a proper friend, and when Ron Weasley (not that he knew his name at the time, of course) entered his cabin and asked to sit down, Harry almost froze with anxiety. This was his chance to make a friend, a real one, away from everyone who knew Dudley. Dudley wasn't here, breathing down Harry's shoulder and scaring away all his potential friends. So Harry tried to be friendly and nice, and to his surprise, it worked.

He made his first friend. Hagrid was a friend, too, but he didn't count. He was an adult and already liked him because of Harry's awesome parents, but Ron liked him because he liked Harry, not James and Lily. Not even because he was the Boy-Who-Lived, though Harry had a few worries about that in the beginning. Ron talked to him without looking down on him or making fun of him, and Harry realized there was little he wouldn't do to stay friends with Ron. He liked this odd thing called friendship.

He liked talking to Ron in the common room, sprawled out on the Gryffindor red couches and complaining absently about homework. He liked playing chess with him, even if he always lost. He liked the way Ron got angry on his behalf. No one had ever done that for him before. He was a thief and a troublemaker at home. No one cared about a junior delinquent.

He liked waking up in the mornings and having someone to say hello to, and going to bed and saying goodnight. He liked half-asleep conversations during breakfast that revolved around the perfect way to butter toast. Ron buttered it on both sides and got his fingers sticky and made them both laugh. With Ron came his bustling family who accepted Harry with such unconditional easiness that he couldn't help wishing he had grown up with the Weasleys instead of the Dursleys.

Then Hermione the know-it-all became Hermione the other-best-friend and Harry surrounded himself with another person who cared about him. Hermione was brilliant – not just book smart, but kind and helpful and always there for him and Ron whenever they needed her. She was a girl, but she wasn't gossipy like Lavender or snobbish like Fay, and Harry couldn't help but wonder if his mother had been anything like Hermione.

Here at Hogwarts, with Ron and Hermione on both sides, encouraging teachers in the background, and his parents' pasts all around him, he could almost forget about the Dursleys. He could forget that he ever needed to go back. He could imagine his future in this beautiful castle, forever happy and warm, and never, ever lonely.

Chapter Text

"I hate life," James moaned as he pressed his cheek against the cold bathroom floor tiles. "We are never, ever eating there again."

Sirius would've laughed, but the food poisoning made it hard to feel anything other than a vague sense of queasiness. He still raised an eyebrow at James, who'd given up trying to stay upright twenty minutes into their restroom stay.

"I don't know about you, but I feel fine," he said to James.

"Liar," James muttered. "Crap, I wish we could go to Madam Pomfrey. But then she'll ask and give me that look and I won't be able to lie about sneaking out of the castle."

Sirius huffed. "You're secretly a Hufflepuff, aren't you?"

"And you're a Slytherin deep inside," James retorted, then scrunched up his face. "Oh, Merlin, I feel sick."

Sirius gently grasped him by the shoulders and helped him to the toilet once again. It was his job every time he and James went out for a night of fun, as James' stomach was a cruel, deceptive thing. He'd lost count of the many times James had had food poisoning over the years, though most of the time they'd been able to go to the hospital wing for help.

Slowly, James recovered, and leaned against the bathroom wall.

Sirius was glad that he didn't look like death had sunk its claws in him. In an hour or so, James would even regain all his color and look as handsome as ever.

"So glad Lily can't see me now," James muttered.

Sirius gave him his patented glare.

James scowled. "Look, I know you have something against her and all, and are sick of me talking about her all the time, but she's my girlfriend. I can't just not remember her when I'm with you."

James looked so stupidly determined that Sirius reached over, pinched his cheek, and said, "Awww, poor Jamie can't live without his twu wuv."

That brought James back into the arms of the porcelain god, while Sirius leaned back and wondered if James had ever even considered that there were other fish in the Black Lake. Very good looking girls, good looking guys, hell—anyone other than Lily Evans.

It wasn't that Sirius was in love with his mate's girl.

And no matter at what Remus always hinted at, trying to get Sirius to talk, it wasn't that Sirius was in love with James, either. (Or at least that was what he was determined to believe. Because being in love with James would be terrible, and Sirius wasn't interested in a future full of moping around.

But. Lily took up so much of James' time that Sirius thought about trying to steal James away almost daily. Thought about trying to seduce him, trying to prove to him that really, he was so much better than Lily Evans.

"I think I'm better now," James said, breaking through Sirius' futile thoughts. (Since really, Sirius would always go with what James wished. Even if that was Lily.)

But as he helped James into bed, Sirius couldn't help but wonder.

Chapter Text

(complement) n. something that fills up or completes.

Few people could find a way to describe Oliver Wood without including Quidditch in that description. Oliver Wood was Quidditch. He lived, breathed, inhaled Quidditch. He'd watched every game recorded and read essays on those that hadn't been. He dreamed of Quidditch maneuvers and wrote down his dreams afterwards, trying to remember every detail.

Harry could never understand that kind of devotion, not in his four years under Oliver's captainship. He loved the game, loved the air, loved his broomstick – but it wasn't the love of his life. There had been a moment in fourth year, when he found out Quidditch was canceled for the year (They canceled Quidditch? Harry knew he was channeling a bit of Oliver, but he couldn't help it. How was he supposed to practice Quidditch if he couldn't officially play? How was Oliver supposed to come see one of his matches?), but he was happy enough without it.

But when he couldn't appreciate Quidditch, he appreciated Oliver. Oliver didn't base his expectations on Harry's fame or his heritage; he fully expected Harry to be amazing on his own merits. (Harry was very fine with that in theory, but not after four hour, back-breaking training sessions.) Even though Oliver had been a young captain when Harry first got on his team, and had a lot to prove because of it, he'd been a brilliant coach. He gave the best advice, both for Quidditch and for life, and Harry couldn't help falling in love with him a bit.

When Hogwarts just got to be too much – when Draco Malfoy wouldn't stop being an arse or Harry was so swamped with homework that he could barely breathe under the strain – Oliver was there with an pat on the back and a, "Come on, stay a bit. We'll do some one on one."

Not many people understood it like Harry did, but Oliver wasn't just the game. He was so much more.

Chapter Text

You're on the tall side for a first year, your dad tells you. "Just like me," he says. Well, duh. You've got a couple inches on Rose already, and she's two years older than you. You're at a height with Albus (though you guys aren't friends. You're too young, he's too old (according to him); it's all very stupid), and you're half a foot from the wonder twins, Lucy and Molls.

"You're going to be the tallest boy in your year!" he says proudly, but you don't feel very proud of that. You may be a friendly giant, but that doesn't mean people will like you much.

Really, that's what you're terrified of – that no one will like you. Because you're friends with your cousins, but they're family. They're obligated to like you. You're scared that everyone else will just see your stupid hair and your inability to stop talking when you get nervous and think, yeah, no.

Someone will say, "Merlin, you're boring," in the worst, most hateful tone of voice, like that shopkeeper who didn't approve of his father.

("You may be famous for the things you did during the war, but you're just a Weasley," she'd told Dad. She was a stranger – someone none of you knew, someone you never met again – but for some reason she cared about your lives.

Dad hadn't replied. He'd just turned Rose and you around and left, telling you that some people just never grew out of their stupidity stage.

Rose replied with, "Like Hugo's never going to grow out of his asking stupid questions stage?"

Rose is kind of mean, sometimes, and you pushed her that time, almost causing her to fall.

Dad wasn't happy with either of you, but he took you to George's and bought you both a sweet anyway.
If Rose is mean, and you are stupid, and Mum is smart, then Dad's the kindest person in the world. That's the order of your world.)

Or maybe you will make a friend, but that friend is going to see Rose, and instantly like her more than you.

What if, what if, what if.

"Ready to go?" Dad asks.

"No," you say. "Can't I stay home for a year?"

Dad shakes his head, smiling a little. "When I was your age, I couldn't wait to go to Hogwarts."

"No one's going to like me. I'm not as cool as Rose."

"Don't be so modest; though I guess modesty isn't quite your problem. You're a great kid. Smart as your mum, bullheaded as me – you're going to have so much fun this year."

"Like you did?"

"Yes. Your mum, Uncle Harry, and I had the best first year."

"And it wasn't bad? Not even a bit?"

"The bad bits were always, always overshadowed by the good. You'll see."

Dad pats you on the back. The train whistles.

"I'll write," you say, reluctantly pulling back.

"Your mum and I will, too."

Slowly, you turn and face your first adventure.

Chapter Text

Cho has never been a reckless person. It makes her a bad – well, not quite bad, but definitely not outstanding – Quidditch player at Hogwarts. It makes her girlfriends shake their heads and call her neurotic, just because she liked having a plan for everything. It makes her a good, if nervous, Healer. She likes lists, and fact-checking, and reading Mediwizard Weekly for all their tips and tricks and knowledge, for just in case she had a patient with a rare disease.

She's not happy when she's assigned an apprentice, even though she's spent the better part of a decade avoiding that particular duty of a Master Healer. She doesn't like teaching, doesn't like waiting for someone to make a mistake. But her apprentice blasts through St. Mungo's like a hippogriff in a wand shop, except as those wands go flying, they fall into the hands of their rightful owners. There is an aura of chaos around Dominique Weasley, something that doesn't belong in St. Mungo's – but at the same time, something that is a perfect contrast to Cho's own nature.

Cho has never been a reckless person. But for Dominique, she thinks she can try. Try to see beauty in chaos, see pleasure in letting go, find perfection in the endless stream of things going wrong.

As she accepts Dominique's hand, just waiting for her to accept, she finds that she's utterly eager to try.

Chapter Text

"Ron, come over here for a second," Harry said as he stared at the Marauder's map.

His best mate came over, still holding the Divination homework he'd been busy doing. "Yeah?"

"I was looking at the Marauder's Map, and look!" Harry pointed to one spot with his left pointer finger and at another with his right. "There are two Mad-Eye-Moodys!"

Ron gaped at the map. "Are you sure it's not some kind of mistake?"

Harry shook his head. "No, the map's always been right." He grimaced. "You know what this means, right?"

They stared at each other in horror and shuddered.

"Moody kept his torn off leg!"

Chapter Text

He never touched her when Luna was home.

It was the only rule, the only hesitation, the only thing that kept her from thinking: This time, it will work out.

But Luna, sweet, wonderful Luna, was gone too often for Ginny to fret. Too often to notice anything wrong in her marriage, too long to notice the glances exchanged between her husband and best friend.

She couldn't talk to Luna anymore these days. Luna, who took her in and gave her a home when Harry told her to leave. Luna, who didn't judge like Hermione did when Harry told everyone why their marriage broke apart. Luna, who held her as she cried over Harry and Dean and every man she fell in love with. Luna, who was practically an angel. Luna, who had the perfect life.

And the perfect husband. She'd thought him silly and strange before she came to live the Nargle Nest (Rolf's nickname for their home, much to Luna's dislike), too different from anyone else she knew. Too much like Luna, not enough like Ginny. But she'd come to know his kindness and sweetness, soaking in it until it was both too much and never enough. And even though Ginny knew she was just a replacement, just platinum to Luna's gold, just there to pass the time until Luna came back from one of her business trips, her heart wouldn't listen.

So she met Rolf's eyes and he smiled his big, wide smile, and Ginny kissed him because otherwise she might just fall apart.

Chapter Text

"You know, he's not really all that bad," Ginny said as she awkwardly sat down next to Padma, taking care not to crease her dress robes. She had been about to hunt down Neville and force him onto the dance floor just one time, so she could have one good memory of the Yule Ball, but seeing her brother's date sitting unhappily by the wall made her turn. It wasn't her fault Ron was a jealous prat and an idiot to boot, but she still felt guilty to see that he ditched his date. "I think he's just…" Ginny shrugged, unable to find redeeming words.

The crowd parted a little, uncovering the view of a sulking Ron in the far corner of the Great Hall.

Padma smiled sadly. "I know. I knew it when I agreed to go with him, but I thought he might change his mind. What's so wrong with dancing? It's hardly emasculating if even Viktor Krum does it. I guess it's because I look nothing like Hermione."

Padma did look nothing like Hermione, Ginny could agree. But she was lovely in her own right. Ginny wasn't so caught up in Harry that she didn't notice Padma's quiet beauty. And if Ron wouldn't dance with her, Ginny would in his place.

Ginny stood and held out her hand to Padma, who looked at it with hesitance.

"Come on," Ginny prodded. "There's a good song playing."

And if Ginny got more enjoyment dancing with Padma than proper for a girl helping out a friend, only Padma would have to know.

Chapter Text

"What about Theodore Nott?" one of the Patil twins asked, giggling and nodding at a boy sitting against a nearby bookshelf. His face was shadowed as he intently read his book, and Daphne knew he probably couldn't hear the conversation nearby. She wished she were far enough that the group of girls nearby wasn't audible to her, but alas the only free table had been near a trio of chatty Gryffindors. This was why she needed to master the muffling charm, she told herself, and tried to concentrate on her Charms textbook. What was that theory of sound, again?

Lavender Brown's loud voice pierced the quiet again. "Maybe a six?"

"Out of ten, really? But he's so… I don't know. But I guess when the standard of male blond beauty is Draco Malfoy, it's hard to measure up," Patil said with a dreamy sigh. "Can't stand the bastard, of course, but my, isn't he perfect?"

"Looks-wise, at least," Brown replied. "But his personality is a whole different story."

Daphne couldn't help but privately agree. Despite the consensus that Draco Malfoy was the most influential and attractive boy in fourth year, Daphne had never been able to find the patience to deal with him. He was a brat, no way around it.

Theo, on the other hand… She held in a slight smile as she thought about her childhood friend. While Theo was similar to Draco at least in the coloring of their hair, their personalities were completely different, in the best possible way. Not to mention, despite what a couple of misguided Gryffindors thought, he was very attractive, at least to her.

Shaking her head at her inability to focus, Daphne decided that studying was a lost cause.

Maybe catching up with an old friend would keep her interest better. And maybe, just maybe, if the Yule Ball were to get brought up…

Theo was the only person she wouldn't mind going with. It was practically her Slytherin duty to give him a nudge.

Chapter Text

When Parvati came into the room, she wasn't surprised to see Padma and Su sitting close together. They must be practicing the sticking charm, she thought, and said hello to her dear sister.

"You're such a bookworm," Parvati said, sliding up to her twin sister. "And hey, Su! What's up?"

Padma sighed deeply, and Parvati tried to hide her glee. Her younger self had lived to put that aggravated trying-not-to-frown expression on Padma's face.

"I've missed you," Parvati added, just to watch Padma twitch. Really, as goody-two-shoes as her sister always tried to be, she was just so easily pissed off.

"You saw me yesterday. When we hung out after dinner."

"Did you need something?" Su broke in, her voice as soft and kind as usual. "And Pad, stop being mean to your sister."

"Nah. I just…" Crap, she did have a reason for tracking down her sister. Now, what was it? "Y'know, in the area."

Padma stared blankly. "We're in an abandoned classroom. The door was closed." Looking a bit worried, she added, "Are you feeling okay?"

"Yeah. I'll just continue on my way to the Great Hall. Don't forget it's dinnertime soon!"

I'm such an idiot, Parvati thought as she left the room. She couldn't believe she'd spent so long tracking her sister down, only to forget what she needed to tell her! Then, thankfully before she was too far away, she remembered that Padma had left her Charms book in the library the other day. Parvati quickly shuffled over to the room.

The door was slightly open, and Parvati decide she might as well be considerate. It wouldn't do to mess up her twin's spell, after all. The looked in, but the only charms the two girls were practicing were lip-locking ones.

She hadn't realized there was something going on between them. But then, Padma was always pretty secretive.

Get it, girl, Parvati thought, grinning widely. And then she left, thinking about all the new ways she could tease her sister now.

Chapter Text

For a very long time, Ginny convinced herself that she was jealous of Cho's fashion sense. It made sense in a way that nothing else did, because she could never think of a reason why her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend continued to catch her attention. Even when her boyfriend became her ex, and Cho continued to appear on the outskirts of Ginny's life, Ginny's attention never wavered. Her attention only increased when an injury forced her out of professional Quidditch and into the Daily Prophet sports section, only a couple columns and rooms away from Cho's fashion section.

Cho wore the most interesting clothes – pleated robes with the most amazing lines, multicolored robes that would've made Ginny look like a parrot but Cho like a queen, two-piece robes with polka dots the color of her eyes. It should've made her look like Dumbledore, but instead it made her look even prettier than she had been in school. Ginny had never been able to understand fashion, whether because it was her nature or she had grown up too poor to learn, but she knew enough to know Cho was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.

It didn't help that Cho frequently stopped by her office and bring her out of her admiring thoughts.

"Are you sighing over the heartbreaking lack of readership your column has?" Cho teased, coming into Ginny's office. She sat down in a chair across from Ginny's desk, her light blue robes pooling like water onto the seat. Ginny couldn't help but shiver at how they complimented her form. There was so much to be said for magical cloth of the twenty-first century, she thought once again.

"I'm sighing over how heartbroken you'll be to find out that we got almost a thousand letters last week after the Cannon's winning match," Ginny said, smirking. "We beat out every other column, including the letters over a member of the Wizengamot's resignation."

"I'm sure they were so distracted by the sacrilege that is the Cannons winning that they utterly forgot to review our amazing skin care column," Cho said, smiling.

Ginny shook her head, both at the fact that she could have such an easy relationship with someone she had a messy history with, and the fact their sections' rivalry made her this happy.

"We don't need the Cannons to know how great our reporting is," Ginny replied with an amazingly snooty tone, if she said so herself. Knowing Draco Malfoy did wonders for her ability to mock people, though it hadn't rubbed off on Malfoy's new boyfriend quite as much.

"I'm sure," Cho replied, going for sarcastic but ending up amused. "I'm here on a different matter, though. There's a new restaurant that's opened up a few blocks away. I'd hoped you might join me for dinner there."

"Of course," Ginny said.

"As a date?"

The words made Ginny pause as they sunk into her mind. As a date. She hadn't dated in a long time, not since Harry had left her for a his childhood rival, saying it's not you it's me like that would make things better. Ginny bit her lip and glanced at Cho, then looked away. She thought Cho was lovely, but did that mean she was really attracted to another woman? There was only one way to find out, she supposed. She'd let her last break-up rule her love life for much too long.

"I'd like that," she replied, smiling.

Later, she would meet with Harry to talk about just how adept they both were at denial.

Even later, after a brilliant date, she would draw Cho in for another sweet kiss, and think that there was no other place she'd rather be.

Chapter Text

Sybill Trelawney knows there is a war outside her stone tower, led by a monster who kills innocents as play. A great and terrible war, one worse than the one she lived through as a teenager. She can feel it coming, can see purple and red streaks of light from the Carrows' curses, can hear screams and yells and sobs. She's shut herself away, but the world will never let her be.

She doesn't want to fight like Minerva asks her to. Minerva, who scorns her craft but wants her to divine the present and the future. With determination but without hope, Minerva asks Sybill to find Voldemort in her crystal ball, to spy on his movements and meetings. She wants Sybill to contribute to the war effort, but doesn't believe she can, barely even wants her to. Sybill knows.

Minerva is angry, scornful, lonely, so Sybill doesn't tell her that one can't just wave a wand and see just anyone in the glass. One can only see their most precious people, the ones one loves most of all in the world, through the glass ball. Minerva doesn't care, doesn't know, and Sybill doesn't tell her.

Sybill pretends not to miss Albus, who was the only one who gladly put up with her eccentricities and her drinking and her sadness. She never had to change for him; he never asked. He never disliked her and her craft, and he never unknowingly asked for miracles. He asked for nothing but her time. Minerva expects her to fail, so Sybill takes out her favorite crystal ball and tells her she sees nothing.

Minerva scoffs and threatens to fire her, and Sybill just watches a beautiful blonde woman curl around her husband in her sleep. Sybill is weak in spirit and belief, because she would let the war go on if Narcissa is on the other side.

Chapter Text

"What's the worst thing you're every done?" Astoria asked as they walked along the sandy beach, their robes rolled up and shoes behind them. It was the end of their first date, and Draco had thought that maybe, just maybe, he could get through one evening without the past coming up. His past, in particular.

But Astoria's eyes didn't shy away from him, and her hesitance from earlier had vanished. And he'd seen that look of curiosity often enough on Daphne's face that he knew he couldn't just let the question go unanswered.

Draco could tell her. He could so easily ruin her crush on him, that spark of feeling he saw in her eyes, the one that could someday evolve into love. He half wanted to, just because he wasn't sure he wanted to be looked at in that way. He was so used to things not turning out well for him—always second best, in Quidditch and school and friendship—that he didn't want to try and fail in another thing. Because Astoria was a girl he could, should, try harder with, actually date, maybe even marry, if he liked her well enough in the future. Not to mention Daphne would murder him if he hurt her sister.

He could say, "I've AK'ed some Muggles, tortured some Death Eaters, got a buddy killed, tortured a girl, bullied underclassmen, especially Hufflepuffs, Imperio'd a bartender, almost got a schoolgirl killed made plans to kill the Headmaster and was disappointed I failed..."

She would look green and pretend it was fine, that it was all in his past. And then say she was busy when he asked about second date. He wasn't sure he wanted a second date—but he knew he was drifting from woman to woman, and maybe he'd be happier if he had a steady girlfriend.

Astoria was two years younger than Draco. She hadn't been there during his terrifying second year, when monsters lurked in the corners of Draco's imagination, when fear spread through the entire Slytherin house, a common thought of, "What if I'm next? What if it's not just Mud-bloods this time?" She had been too young to care about the Triwizard Tournament except for a bit of sneering at the number two champion. She had transferred to Beauxbatons with Daphne when Voldemort came back, and knew little of the war from her safe haven. Daphne, at least, personally knew the people in their year who'd died or were scarred, but Astoria had transferred as a second year, and didn't keep in touch with the fickle friendships she'd made at Hogwarts. She didn't dream of Crabbe's screams, nor did a pale, snake-like face attack her parents in her nightmares.

She was a blank slate, and that shouldn't have appealed to Draco as much as it did.

And who was he kidding? She was gorgeous. Draco could admit he wanted her, and wanted her to stay.

So he grinned and said, "I tried to Crucio Potter," and she gasped and pretended she didn't know, that it hadn't been a juicy piece of gossip a few years ago. "How about you?"

Astoria rattled on about breaking the hearts of a few Durmstrang boys (Draco didn't mention that he thought feelings were trained out of those guys), all truthful and guileless, and he thought that maybe he needed that. Needed someone who stared at him with hearts in her eyes and knew nothing of the horrors of the war.

Chapter Text

1

Harry can't quite remember when Draco's faults became objects of beauty to him. When had every weakness of his turned from a fault to something unique? When he last looked at Draco and saw a pointy git instead of a handsome man? When had his cheekbones and chin softened to Harry's eyes?

It had probably happened sometime between the first and five-hundredth time Harry had kissed him, but he wasn't sure.

2

By age sixteen, Harry loved a lot of people: Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid. Maybe not all to the same extent, or showed his love to all of them, but he'd amassed a number of ties to people since leaving his lonely cupboard. And yet, for all that he was familiar with the emotion, he was still gobsmacked to realize he didn't hate Malfoy anymore.

3

Dudley had a dragon once, a green one that erupted into a loud roar when one pressed the button on its belly. Harry had wanted it with all the wanting of an orphan. His own toys were broken and ripped, but Dudley's dragon was a mid-summer present from Vernon and Petunia. He dreamed of flying the dragon, and playing in the garden with it, and maybe—though he'd never, ever tell his relatives, he dreamed of flying on it. Many years later, he had his own Slytherin dragon, and he never wanted so badly for anything again.

"You're a Gryffindor. You're supposed to have epic romances of legend—"

"Isn't that what this is?"

"—with other idiot Gryffindors that can actually appreciate those epic romances. I want security and warm love."

"And you'll have it," Harry said, never meaning anything more than he did this.

Chapter Text

"I can't keep doing this," Lily said, pulling away from Cho's kiss. It had been a wonderful date; the muggle restaurant's food was superb.

"You only told me you loved me last month," Cho replied, her tone a tad cold.

"I still love you," Lily said. "But I can't keep dating you and keeping it a secret from my parents. I want the whole world to know how much I care for you."

"Your parents' approval isn't the most important thing in the world."

Lily couldn't help but sigh. "It is in mine. And I don't think I can be with someone who won't let me be honest with them." She'd never been so happy with someone, but the person who made her deliriously happy also made her cry so often. It was time for a change, despite the fact that she knew both Cho and herself loved each other.

Lily turned and started walking away, hoping against hope that Cho would call her back. She smiled, wide and brilliant, when she felt a familiar hand touch her shoulder.

Chapter Text

There's a small sparrow that visits Luna's open window each morning. It comes and sings and eats from Luna's hand if she's able to sit completely still. This time, her hand shakes when she lifts it up, moving without her permission. A few months ago, Luna had control of every part of her. A few months ago, before she was kept captive in the dungeons below the Malfoy manor.

The door opens and someone enters.

"Longbottom is downstairs, asking for you," the only other person in the room says. Before the war, Cho Chang would have never deigned to talk to her.

For a moment, all Luna can think of is the terrible days and nights and hours spent in the dungeons.

But Neville is her friend. And Neville would understand either way.

She sighs, sits up, and leaves to visit her prince. And maybe one day, her life will snap back into focus, become a fairytale again.

Chapter Text

It was nearing towards the end of the school year when Harry Potter, first year Ravenclaw, came up with a solution for one of his problems. He had many problems, of course, the Dursleys and Voldemort being the major ones, but the problem that was his first priority for the summer was his lack of proper nutrition at the Dursleys. (His priorities would have to be restructured if the Dark Lord Voldemort attacks his relatives' house over the summer in revenge for Harry burning his vessel. But if that occurred, Harry's thoughts probably wouldn't be lingering on the nutritional value of an old apple for dinner, anyway.)

"Do you know where food is made at Hogwarts?" he asked a pair of his house's prefects. "I mean, it can't just appear, right?"

"'Course not, mate. It's made in the kitchens by the house elves."

"By who? Actually, never mind." He didn't want the entire known history of these house elves. "Where do I find the kitchens?"

The students shared a look, then motioned for him to come closer. The taller girl leaned down (Harry cursed his lack of height) and spoke, "We're not supposed to tell anyone this, but I think you probably have a good, intellectual cause, little eaglet. It's behind a painting of a fruit bowl on the ground floor. Just tickle the pear and you'll get in."

Harry nodded and left them to gossip about why anyone would go to the kitchens when the great hall had a booth permanently set up with foods during non-mealtimes. Harry didn't go back to answer their questions.

He walked a little faster than usual to the kitchens, avoiding both the Potter-gawkers and the prowling teachers, ready to jump at kids when curfew began in half an hour. Snape in particular got a predatory look on his face when he saw Harry speed walking through the halls.

Harry got the painting with no obstacles, tickled the pair, and quietly slid in. Inside, he found what looked like about one hundred odd little creatures (were these the house elves?) busily cooking. "Excuse me?" he called out into the air to no one in particular.

"Yes? What's can weez do for you?" an elderly house elf asked.

"I was wondering, hypothetically, if I asked for enough food for an entire summer, would you be able to provide it for me without alerting anyone?"

"Why would weez alert anyone?"

"Ah, no reason. So you could do it?"

"Yes Mr. Student. Yous foods be ready in one week. Us will make its."

"Awesome, thanks!" he quickly left and ran up to the Ravenclaw Hallway to get there before curfew. Now, all he needed to do was find a way to keep the food fresh and a place to store it.

The next day in potions, Harry asked a question to Professor Snape. "Sir? How long are stasis charms able to last?"

"You should know that already. Ten points from Ravenclaw."

"But I looked, and all the books gave different times, and one book even said they lasted forever!"

Snape looked like he wasn't sure if he wanted to wring his neck or feel somewhat happy that a student actually wanted to know something about the curriculum.

"They can last as long as the caster wishes them to, but most stasis charms last for a maximum of one week."

"But can you make them last longer?"

"No. Now stop asking questions and start doing your work."

Harry pondered his newest problem, then went to a trusty source of information.

"Can you do a summer-long stasis charm on all this?" he asked the mass of house-elves when they presented him with his food. They even fit it into his expanding trunk.

"Of course, little wizard," the head house elf said smartly.

Harry grinned. One problem down, only a couple more to go! He was sure he could deal with the whole Voldemort thing by the end of next year, at the very least.

Chapter Text

Harry James Potter, the Boy Who Lived to Give Lord Voldemort a Headache, sat cross-legged on his bed, back against the wall, staring at his digital alarm clock. He had exactly five minutes until his sixteenth birthday, so he began his birthday ritual.

Harry systematically took off his ratty, holed socks and his oversized pants and sat down on the bed. He threw off his sweatshirt and lay on the sheets completely naked, waiting for midnight. According to Ron, a wizard's sixteenth birthday was extremely special. On this day, they would get a spike in their magic and their magical cores would completely settle, allowing them to safely begin trying different, specialized areas of magic, like wandless and mind magics.

Although he was excited, Harry was also very worried. What if this was the day he'd receive the 'Power the Dark Lord knows not'? He didn't want to be even more different than everyone else.

Lost in his thoughts, Harry almost missed the last countdown until July 31. Four, three, two, .... one!

At first, Harry felt nothing. He could be one of the few, low-level wizards to get no power boost or creature inheritance, he supposed, feeling somewhat put out. With everyone telling him mastering the Patronus spell and animagus transformations so early in life, he'd assumed he was a high powered wizard. But then, Peter Pettigrew had mastered the animagus transformation even before Harry. He'd been the first of the marauders to do so, Sirius had regretfully told Harry.

Then, Harry screamed in pain. Out of nowhere had come a wave of pain, starting in his toes and ending in the very tips of his hair. Harry had tried not to yell out, but he could barely hold them in. Instead, he whimpered loudly and hoped his aunt and uncle wouldn't hear him. He'd never felt such a harsh, biting pain before, not even while under the cruciatus curse in fourth year. What was wrong with him? It wasn't supposed to be like this.

Abruptly, the pain stopped, and Harry finally felt he could breathe.

He knew what he was. He'd received his inheritance. He could see the Power the Dark Lord Knew Not, right there, right inside him.

He was…

A house elf. The most powerful house elf of them all.

The house elf who lived!

Chapter Text

He knew what he'd done as soon as the door closed. There was no mistaking it, no excuse, no possibility of it being an accident. There were only Ginny Weasley's hands running through his hair, her mouth on his, her body pressed against him.

"Want to," she began, then stopped, as if imagining all they could still do.

Draco imagined all they could do, and shuddered at the images. The Weaslette's red hair was wrapped around him like iron in each image, her lipstick across his skin like blood.

His mind cleared, and he realized, "Fuck, Weasley…"

"Did you forget something?" she asked unconcernedly.

Draco stared at her. He wanted to say, "I didn't mean this."

He wanted to say, "I flirted with you to make Potter angry."

He wanted to say, "I shouldn't have closed the door to my office."

It was so damn dirty, bringing a woman here, just for this. A Weasley woman, a blood-traitor, a professional Quidditch player for Merlin's sake. His mother would have been appalled to see her son consorting with a woman like the Weaslette.

An married woman.

"Never mind," he told her and watched her leave. She smiled at him on her way out.

Draco closed his eyes, let his head hit the wooden door behind him.

Weeks ago, when all this started, he hadn't meant anything by it. He'd had a little too much to drink at a ministry function, so he'd went out to the balcony and collapsed on a couch, hoping to clear his head. Drinking away the boredom and the gloominess the break-up with Astoria had left him in, his head hadn't been straight. So when he heard the door open, he dipped his head back over the side of the couch and told the entering woman the first thing that came into his mind.

"You're beautiful," he'd told the woman in red. And she was: lovely red hair, red robes, red lipstick. She looked like the sun.

"Why thank you, Malfoy," she'd replied, and he'd recognized her voice. But it had been years since the war, and he was an Auror, so he couldn't bring himself to care that he'd complimented a blood traitor.

Instead, he'd raised his glass to her, and that had been it. One short conversation later, Draco was having sex with his boss' wife.

He just hadn't planned on falling in love. But Ginny wasn't the Potter-Weasley he'd fallen in love with, and this catch 22 wasn't keen to let him go.

Chapter Text

"Right," Penelope said, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, then opening them again. They rested on a lavender case that was infinitely bigger on the inside. It rested next to the armchair she was standing beside. "Suitcase. Check." Her umbrella leaned against it. "Umbrella. Check." The portkey that would lead her to the International Medi-Magic Convention's hotel lobby lay on the coffee table, resting a tad too close to a pair of bare feet. "Check."

Penelope nudged the portkey away from Cho, who was resting, loose-limbed, half on the couch and half on the table. Various essays were laid about her, all with too many red marks and long critiques in the margins. "You're going to get back problems," she told her girlfriend absent-mindedly, too caught up in getting ready to leave to really care.

"As a mediwitch, you would know," Cho replied around the quill in her mouth. It was stuck just in the corner of her full, pink lips, and Penelope was flooded with an urge to replace the quill with her own lips. Cho smiled knowingly and flicked the quill with her tongue.

"No. No, no, no," Penelope told her with a glare. (She had a feeling she wasn't quite pulling off the glare—Cho had gotten her to try a new, more fashionable pair of glasses, and Penelope was quite put out by how much they emphasized her looks instead of making her look sterner.) "I know how this goes. I lean down to kiss you, we forget ourselves, your students' papers get wrinkled, and I accidentally touch the portkey and we get transported into a crowded room mid-kiss."

"We probably gave those stuffy old codgers at the Post-Hogwarts Educational Convention fantasy material for decades—well, years, really—to come," Cho said glibly, breaking out in an absolutely adorable leer. (Penelope was obviously biased.) "I was the most popular woman in the room that weekend."

"You're the most popular person in this room all the time," Penelope couldn't help saying with a fond smile. "You and your big ego, that is." She ducked to escape the quill flying at her. "Now…" She looked around. "Oh, Merlin, where's the guidebook? I'm sure it was right here somewhere…"

Not good. Not, not good. She couldn't have lost it again, could she? Just as she was about to search the house for it, Cho leaned over and pushed aside a couple of her papers. "This it?"

"You know it is," Penelope said, picking up the book and placing it with the rest of her belongings. And, just because she could, she leaned over and pecked Cho on the lips before her girlfriend could return to her usual spot.

"That's it?" Cho asked. "I feel like a nun."

"Well, you did throw a quill at me…"

A moment later, they exchanged a terribly un-nun-like kiss, because Penelope was still easily defeated by Cho's puppy-dog eyes, even after a couple years of dating.

"Take care of things here for me," she told Cho. "Remember the plants. And Tubby. And my brother."

"Yes, m'am," Cho murmured cheekily, and let Penelope pull herself away.

And with a wave, Penelope was gone for the weekend.

Chapter Text

"Excuse me, can I have a jar of newt's eyes?"

Perenelle nodded and started scooping them out of her bucket. "Sure thing, kiddo. That's twelve galleons. Making wizard's film?"

The kid gaped. "How'd you know?"

"Lucky guess," Perenelle said with a smile. Had she been so cute when she was little? She doubted it. "Here you go! Good luck with her pictures."

"Thanks, m'am." The camera around his neck swung sideways as he took the newt's eyes from her. "I'm hoping to find really famous people to shoot. And since I'm going to Hogwarts in two years, I'll get to shoot the Harry Potter, can you believe it? I need so much practice 'till then!"

She laughed and waved him off. A moment later, her husband's arms wrapped around her.

"That was interesting."

"Mmmm," she agreed. "No one would look for the famous Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel in a potions supply store, would they? I think this is our best idea yet. I hate reporters."

Chapter Text

The first time Harry left Lily's arms, she passed him onto James, who looked down at his son with the most love-stricken expression Remus had ever seen (and he'd seen a lot of them on James throughout the years). James then passed him to Sirius, his best man, his closest friend (though they usually tried not to play favorites in their group. Sirius' hands shook a little, then steadied, and he smiled when Harry made a quiet sound in his sleep. He then passed him to Remus, maybe because he loved him best, or maybe because Peter looked like he was about to hyperventilate.

"The first Marauder baby," Remus murmured, hugging baby Harry closer to make sure he wouldn't fall. "He's going to be a heartbreaker."

"And not the last," James said with a grin, utterly deserving of Lily's subsequent hex.

"It's their turn," she said, pointing at the rest of the gatherer group. "I expect all of you to have at least one playmate for Harry."

Sirius grinned. "Remus and I'll just get right on that."

Despite glaring at his lover, Remus couldn't think of a better thing than another child joining their little group, one as perfect as the little child in his arms. And yet, there was a war outside their peaceful hospital room, and despite this happy moment, he feared that there might just never be another Marauder baby.

Chapter Text

"Excuse me, have you seen my father?"

Molly turned toward the speaker, a young blond boy about the same age as Ron. His facial features looked familiar—she probably knew one of his parents—but the child himself didn't jog her memory. She shook her head. "I'm sorry, I haven't."

The boy huffed and kicked the wall next to his foot. "Ow. Stupid father."

Molly considered telling him to respect his elders, but decided it wasn't any of her business. "Are you lost?" she asked instead. The boy had been wandering around Madam Malkin's shop for the entire ten minutes she had been there, waiting for Arthur and Charlie.

His cheeks puffed adorably and Molly felt the urge to coo.

"No. He went to Gringotts for business and I have to amuse myself here. But I already got new robes and it's been a really, really long time and I want to go home!" By the end, he was red faced in anger and his hands had closed in fists.

Molly noticed Arthur and Charlie waving to her from down the street, near Florean's. She rummaged through her bag and took out a somewhat squashed bag of biscuits. "Here," she said, handing it to him.

The boy took the bag and immediately started eating them.

Molly huffed (a thank-you would have been nice!) and considered staying a little longer, just to make sure the boy got home safely, but the child went back inside Madam Malkin's shop wait. He should be fine there, she decided, and hurried off to her husband and son, forgetting about her encounter with the young Draco Malfoy entirely.

Chapter Text

It hurts, that Hermione can't get along with the girls in her dorm. There's nothing to physically stop her from reaching out, from asking "What did you think of that assignment?" or complimenting Lavender's new eye shadow. She can tell Fay that she is a brilliant flyer, that she has no idea how Parvati manages to keep up with her favorite muggle TV show so well. And she tries, in the very beginning. But she's not good at making friends with other girls, and once Harry and Ron welcome her into their friendship, she lets her efforts fade. After all, she has two friends now, two people to talk to and laugh with and spend her time around. She doesn't need her roommates.

So when she finds herself spending more and more time with Ginny, she thinks the happiness in her chest is because she's finally found a female friend. One she can talk to about things Harry and Ron aren't interested in, like the way boys are so unimaginably stupid, and the way Hermione's hair won't stop frizzing. Ginny finds the perfect product to make it stop, and once Hermione tries it, she exits the bathroom with elation. She wants to hug Ginny, and she does, thanking her repeatedly. And she wants to kiss her, because Ginny is flushed and beautiful and so terribly easy to be around.

She doesn't, because Ginny has told her about her feelings for Harry. But in her imagination, she does.

Chapter Text

"Pansy?" Draco said as he finished the last of his forms.

"Yes, dear?" she replied, looking up from her nail file. In the time that Draco finished his paperwork, she had already polished, dried, and filed her nails. Really, Draco was a bit of a slowpoke. They filled out and signed similar forms for the divorce, but Draco had to go through each and every one of them very carefully. These pedantries of Draco's were attractive in the bedroom, but not in the rest their relationship. It was a good thing they realized only a year into their marriage that things weren't working out, before children complicated the picture.

"Let's never get remarried. I couldn't handle all this—" he waved his hand at the large stacks of paperwork "—again."

"We didn't really have to do all this, but you insisted on separating every part of our lives. We could have just co-owned the villa and the Manor and Snuggles," she replied as she stood up and stretched her back. "I don't think I'll ever be able to write again."

"Next time I marry, I'm just going to have to kill her if things don't work out. I swear Pansy, I never want to go through this torture again."

Pansy smirked. "Don't worry Draco, I'll help you with your future wife just like you'll help me with the next rich fool who marries me."

"Ouch, my dear."

"Don't pout. You know I love you."

"And I you. I just wish things had worked out."

"You'll find the one. I heard Astoria Greengrass holds an interest in being the next Mrs. Malfoy. She even told me off yesterday at Madame Malkins. Dreadful woman. But blonde and pretty and shallow."

"Everything you aren't, my dear," Draco said smoothly, and dodged a hex from Pansy in return. "Any man would be privileged to have you and you know it."

"Flatterer."

"Yes. Now . . . what are your thoughts on divorce sex?"

"It has to be done at most three hours after signing the paperwork, otherwise it counts as regular sex between single people."

"We better get started, love."

Chapter Text

"Be good," Daphne said sternly as she patted down Draco's robes, looking for stray flecks of dust. There weren't any, as the robes were fairly new, but she wouldn't have found them if there were any as the robes were a dark gray color. They made Draco's eyes look more blue, the robes salesperson had told him.

"Yes, Daphne," Draco replied. Then, in a high-pitched imitation of her voice, he continued, "If you screw up your date with my baby sister I will have you hung up by your underwear from the gaudy statue of Potter in the middle of the ministry. On a Monday during rush hour."

Daphne smacked his arm. "Now, do you remember what she likes?"

"Me, apparently," Draco drawled, earning a scowl from his friend. "Relax, it's just a date. She asked me to dinner after I told her I wasn't busy this week. It wasn't like I could just tell her no."

He didn't want to, if he were honest. Daphne's sister was beautiful, and he would have asked her out himself if she weren't off limits.

"I guess there's nothing I can do," Daphne said with a sigh. She gave him a bouquet of flowers and pushed him to the fireplace.

"You say that like I'm some sort of barbarian."

"You're too honest for her, and she's too smitten with you to brush things off," Daphne replied.

She watched sadly as Draco disappeared into green flames. Her sister really was too good for him, but there wasn't anything Daphne could do.

Chapter Text

They're Auror partners, Draco and Ginny, and they have been coworkers and partners and friends for much too long for Ginny to delude herself that Draco doesn't know. That he doesn't know the way she can't look away from his wife sometimes, that her relationship with Harry didn't fail just for nothing, that she pretended to be the perfect daughter for so long that when she cracked, her entire life fell apart. He got an inkling of the wrongness in her life when Ginny first showed up in his flat to work on a case, and didn't leave for a week. Harry hadn't called, hadn't written, hadn't done anything except moved out of their shared house. Thank Merlin they hadn't been married yet, or else it would've been so much worse.

"We just couldn't get along," she'd told Astoria, Draco's then-girlfriend, a bottle of firewhiskey in her hands, her lipstick smudged onto the glass rim. Draco had bailed on her an hour in, the coward, after it became all too clear that Ginny wasn't there to talk about the Goyle case.

Astoria had shot a glare at his back and said, "He isn't good with feelings," her voice slightly raised by the end, causing Draco's shoulders to hitch before he disappeared out the door. Once outside, he yelled out something about going to the pub, his heavy footsteps disappearing soon.

Ginny had wondered if any relationship around her (other than her parents', of course) would ever be good.

"I should probably go," she said, not moving from Draco's too-comfortable couch. As prickly as he was, it seemed like he'd decided to do right by his guests and give them a great place to sit. It was better by far when compared to the Malfoy manor, where Lucius and Narcissa, bugger them, still lived.

"Stay," Astoria replied. "I promise to listen."

"Well, Harry is an arse, you should know," Ginny began. It was the most biased diatribe she'd ever voiced, and Astoria listened and nodded and let her talk.

"You want to tell me the truth now?" Astoria asked.

"I want to get drunk."

Astoria levitated another glass of firewhiskey into Ginny's open hand and Ginny drowned the words she wanted to say in its sharp burn. He's got a dick and I got tired of pretending to like it, she could've said. He's a martyr and I'm human. And it just won't ever work out like it did in my childish dreams.

But she didn't, because she hadn't ever breathed a word about it all to anyone. Not Harry, not Hermione, not Luna. She wasn't about to start now.

Instead, she handed the bottle to Astoria, who'd been a stranger a couple hours ago but was now possibly, maybe, one day a friend. When they were both too drunk to care, Ginny laid her head on Astoria's shoulder and embraced the pleasure of Astoria's fingers running through her hair.

"I think I know now," Astoria said, but she didn't elaborate, and Ginny wouldn't speak.

She didn't speak of it when Astoria officially moved in with Draco, when the two of them married and couldn't decide whose side of the wedding Ginny would stand on, when she stood as Astoria's maid of honor as her sister Daphne glared, when Astoria came back from the honeymoon and said she wished the rose-tinted phase had lasted longer, when Draco started staying longer at the office, when Draco started coming over to Ginny's comfortable couch on the nights that Astoria wasn't there, when Astoria's glances became filled with something more and Draco's with something less.

And when she sat at her desk one morning and thought about her two amazing friends, she didn't let herself think about the way her heart broke whenever she wished them luck or tried to fix their marriage.

A couple minutes later, Draco entered the office, his eyes brighter than they had been in years. He placed a sheet of paper on Ginny's desk and dropped his suitcase on his own.

"We filed our divorce papers yesterday," Draco said as Ginny confirmed it with her own eyes, lingering on Astoria's elegant signature. Ginny's heart caught in her throat. Her future had seemed to be going along a straight path, unchanging, unrequited love--because Ginny was so good at unrequited love, so good that she knew she didn't try hard enough to escape its trap--for on and on and stupidly on. And now. And now. And now there was a possibility that Ginny almost couldn't bear to think of.

"Why?" she whispered.

"We just can't get along," Draco said. He rubbed his hand along the wrinkle on his forehead. "I should hate you, really."

He went over to the door and walked out as another person walked in, another blonde and beautiful person, one Ginny had loved for much too long.

"Congratulations?" Ginny said, the word a question and a plea.

"Thank you," Astoria said. She walked closer until her robes almost touched the desk where Ginny sat. "But it's only something I'll be able to celebrate if the woman I fell in love with loves me back."

Ginny leaned in and kissed her, saying, "Yes, yes, yes," against her lips. For the first time, she let herself think of what was possible.

Anything.

Chapter Text

When Hermione walked into the first floor girls' bathroom and saw Cho Chang standing at a sink, looking like she was on the verge of crying, she almost walked right out. Despite how rude it would've been—Cho's teary and red-rimmed eyes had met Hermione's instantly—she almost did because she really didn't like Cho.

It wasn't a strong dislike or hate or anything like that, just a nagging feeling that Cho should get out of her life. Sometimes, Hermione told herself that it was because Cho was so much prettier than her, but usually she knew it was because she didn't like another girl being in her boys' lives. It was such a silly jealousy, since even as infatuated with Cho as Harry was, he still always made time for her, but it was persistent and strong.

But Hermione was a prefect, a Gryffindor, and someone who tried to be a good person, so she sucked it up and asked, "Are you okay?"

Cho nodded frantically.

"Do you need anything?" Hermione asked.

Cho shook her head.

"Right," Hermione murmured. Well, it wasn't like they were friends or anything. If Cho didn't want to talk about it, Hermione wouldn't force herself to try.

She was just about to leave when Cho choked out, "Harry didn't say anything?" Cho sounded terrible.

"I haven't seen him since the meeting," Hermione said, shuffling closer to the sinks.

Cho sighed. "I hoped… Merlin, I'm so stupid. I kissed him, and I thought I wanted to, but all I could think about was Cedric. "Harry must think I'm a horrible kisser now," she said, running her hand through her hair. "I was half-crying during it." Despite her bleak tone, Cho looked a lot better than she had when Hermione first came in. More composed, less frantic.

"I'm sure he doesn't think that," Hermione said awkwardly. She didn't really want to think about Harry like that; it was just wrong. She didn't want to think about anyone in that sense, mostly because she was still in denial about how cute Ron was—and how ridiculously pretty Cho was.

"I barely even put any effort in. It was probably like kissing a dead fish," Cho added.

"Er." Hermione glanced up at the ceiling. Lovely pipework, it was. When she glanced back down, Cho was looking at her with amusement.

"You're not even jealous. I guess all those rumors about you and him and Krum were wrong."

"Absolutely," Hermione replied. "I've never kissed nor want to kiss Harry."

Cho smirked, a gleam coming into her now tearless eyes, and leaned down and pressed her lips against Hermione's. They were warm, as was the hand Hermione took in hers, and she closed her eyes and turned her head to press closer. Moments later, Cho stepped back.

"Now you have. By virtue of a third party." Cho winked and headed out, calling, "See you around!"

She left Hermione blushing, confused, and strangely—or not so strangely—happy.

Chapter Text

"This," Elga Martin announced, holding up a strange metal device, "Is a whisk. Can anyone tell me what it does?"

Andromeda sighed. Did anyone care what it did? She'd only taken the class to better understand her crush and his Muggle family, and of all the class (phrased to her parents about how it is easier to subjugate a people when you understand their culture), her intentions for signing up for Muggle studies were probably the purest. She knew without a doubt (though she'd never bet on it, being a proper Slytherin) that everyone else had taken it as an easy OWL and NEWT. Even Lily, Andromeda's surprising (and mostly secret) friend, had confessed that she'd needed at least one class that she didn't have to worry about getting high marks in.

"Anyone?"

Andromeda looked toward Lily, who usually took pity on the professor at this point, but Lily was doodling in the corner of a notebook with one hand and idly taking notes with the other. She must still be annoyed at getting only an A on that last assignment, Andromeda realized.

Sighing, she raised her hand.

"Yes, Miss Black?" Professor Martin asked, sounding relieved.

"It's a torture device. I think it may be inserted--"

"No, that's really not it," the professor quickly cut in. "Good try."

Andromeda shrugged. She knew that if Bellatrix had one of those things, it would be used for torture, meant for it or no. Despite the school's light arts policy, Bellatrix had a lot of unwanted lovesick schoolboys that she practiced on. Andromeda wasn't as creative, and couldn't think of a use for the strange object.

"Anyone?" The professor even looked at Lily, who was pointedly staring at her notes, and sighed. "Alright. That's your assignment for the night. Find out what it's used for and write up a half page paper on it. Off you go." And with that, the Martin gathered her papers and left the room before any of her students could get up, muttering under her breath about how she really wasn't paid enough for this.

Andromeda turned to Lily. "So. Lovely Lily, my fair friend. What would I do with a whisk?"

"Use it as a sex toy torture device, apparently," Lily replied, eyebrow raised.

"I wouldn't need a toy," Andromeda replied.

Lily rolled her eyes. Lily, Andromeda thought with a sigh, was terribly straight. What good did being straight ever give anyone? There was so much the world offered, sex wise, that Andromeda hadn't considered sticking to one gender even for a moment. Until she settled down one day, of course. (Lily, on the other hand, came to Hogwarts settled down. From what she'd said, she'd met James Potter on the train and it was infatuated irritation at first sight.)

"Dinner?" Andromeda asked. She really didn't feel like dealing with the rest of her house quite so soon.

"I'll meet you in the kitchens in twenty," Lily replied.

"I'll bring the whisk."

Chapter Text

"Lovegood? You want to date Lovegood?" Draco said as he sat down across from Blaise. He'd been in a great mood today - his stocks were doing well, he was wearing his favorite suit, and he'd finally received an important package - right up until Pansy had told him what Blaise planned to do. She'd said it in such an offhand way, like it didn't matter.

"Yeah, what of it?" Blaise asked, sipping his imported firewhiskey and raising one perfectly plucked eyebrow. Draco couldn't think of one similarity Blaise and Luna shared. They'd make a terrible match.

Draco snorted. "Better hope her insanity isn't contagious." It was more difficult than he'd thought, to speak of her that way. Maybe that meant he'd actually changed since the war.

Blaise looked away, and Draco paused.

"Or hereditary," he said, after coming to a realization. "My Merlin. You're serious about her." He's never seen that intent expression on Blaise's face, that happiness in his eyes. Was he actually in love with Lovegood? That would never, ever do. She would drive him insane, and he would stifle her. They'd bring out the worst in each other. (And he wasn't just saying that out of something so silly as jealousy.) Even if he'd changed since the war, he was still an underhanded bastard, so he added, "I doubt your mother will approve, anyway."

"I don't care," Blaise said. "I've put off marriage for too long. Practically everyone I know is either married or a relative. And... I've worked with Luna. I liked her."

The toddler inside Draco, the one who'd destroyed half the manor in a tantrum ages ago, wanted to wring Blaise's neck and never have to worry about any of this again. The rest of him, years older and slightly more sensible, had a different plan. It was haphazard and depended too much on factors other than himself, but it was the only thing he could think of. He disapparated from Blaise's restaurant booth, barely noticing the chair he'd knocked down in his haste, and appeared on a flower-covered hill.

He was an hour early, but it wasn't like Luna would mind. Not after this very hill united them after the war; he'd splinched himself here, and Luna had helped him find his scattered parts, and healed his wounds. He'd told her she was an angel, and he still believed that to this day. Her heart was as big as the ocean when his was only a pond - big enough to include himself, his parents, and her - and her forgiveness of her time in his dungeons helped as much as it hurt. And afterwards, they'd kept on meeting, just the two of them for an hour a day. It was his hope that in that time, she'd come to love him as much as he'd fallen head over heels for her.

"A flitterbug said you needed to see me," a familiar voice said.

Draco spun around and there she was. He was selfish and she was lovely and he couldn't think of a match worse than theirs. He still said, "I'm here to ask you to not date Blaise."

"Why?"

"Because..." He stared into her unwavering, unblinking eyes, which acted like Veritaserum against his weak will. "I'd like to marry you one day, and I need more time to convince you to love me."

Luna didn't say a word.

He kept talking, listing reasons, trying to reason with something that couldn't be reasoned with: love. He finished with, "Besides, Luna Malfoy sounds better that Luna Zabini." She wasn't vain, but she did like sounds and rhythms, and maybe theirs could be the best song of all.

"Really? I think it sounds terrible." Luna's voice wasn't cold, nor was it angry. She sounded as sweet and kind and airy as she usually did. Somehow, that just made it worse.

Draco swallowed. She was not his prisoner, not held captive in his dungeon any longer. She was her own person, as beautiful and awful as it was, he couldn't make her change her mind. Maybe she'd gotten sick of him, maybe she'd never truly forgive him for the war, maybe she wasn't attracted to him, maybe he wasn't worth her love. It had been much easier to love her when he hadn't known rejection from her. He started to turn around, but his pace was broken with her words.

"I wouldn't mind Luna Lovegood Malfoy though," Luna said, her lips curling into a soft smile as Draco beamed.

Chapter Text

"Don't leave," Sirius wants to say. "Please. Don't leave." The words claw at his throat, trying to reach their way out despite the knowledge that this is something he can never tell his best friend. James values freedom most of all; he doesn't need his best friend to tell him what to do. James is independent and confident and a good man, and Sirius is just a footnote in the book of James' mind.

Lily Evans covers the entirety of that book, her name on every page, the I in her name dotted with a heart by James.

"Wish me luck," James says, tugging on his bowtie until it's perfectly aligned. There's a bouquet of Lily's favorite flowers in his hands and a parchment with a speech detailing his love in his pocket. Sirius had read it last night, intending to make fun of it, but then feeling overcome with an urge to burn it. It's perfect and eloquent and full of genuine feeling. Sirius can imagine Lily falling head over heels just from the introduction alone. "Sirius?"

Sirius gathers his attention. He only needs it for a few more moments. "Try not to trip. Or stutter. Or talk about her boobs."

James laughs, wrapping his arms around Sirius in a spontaneous hug. "I couldn't have done this without you."

He leaves, off to Lily, and Sirius' heart has never hurt more.

Chapter Text

"—and that'll be eighteen inches on the effects of gillyweed when digested by humans. Dismissed."  

Harry, for what felt like the first time, grinned widely during Potions. "I love life," he announced.

"Are you mental? Eighteen inches?"

Harry leaned in and whispered, just in case Snape would hear and realize his mistake. "Remember the second task last year?"

"Yeah...the lake. What does that have to do with anything?" Ron threw his last piece of parchment into his bag and they hurried off to lunch.

Hermione sided to them as they continued to the Great Hall. "What are you talking about?"

"What does last year's tournament have to do with our essay?" Ron asked, running his hand through his hair. "Nothing! All you did in the second task was...." He smacked his head. "Grow gills! With gillyweed! I knew I'd heard of it before. You're set, mate! No research at all! Where can I get some of that stuff?"

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Didn't you see the huge lock that's appeared on Snape's personal storeroom? Add in some spells plus Snape's usual paranoia, and you probably wouldn't be able to get within a foot of the door, let alone actually open it."

Harry glanced at Hermione. "I bet I can get my essay done before you can."

She raised her eyebrow and considered it. Harry had the experience, but Hermione knew he couldn't write an essay with his experience alone, and she was the better researcher. "We'll just see," she said, and vowed to get to the library as fast as she could.

"I'm the only sane person in this group," Ron said with a groan. "You're both excited about doing homework."

His words went unheard, as both Harry and Hermione had already run off. Ron shrugged, and headed off to the Great Hall. His friends didn't know what they were missing—today was shepherd's pie day.

Chapter Text

"I'm forgetting something, aren't I?" Hermione asked as she pulled out her chair and sat across from Rita. It had been days since Rita had arranged their meeting at a fancy restaurant, and Hermione had been trying to think of what they were celebrating for the entire time.

Rita just smiled in that way that meant yes. It didn't happen, Hermione forgetting something. She was good with dates and events; a pity that the only class that needed them had been History of Magic, and she could've passed it blindfolded. Now, eighteen years since she'd last sat in a classroom, dates and events were very much her life. As the head of Hogwarts board of governors, she was going to bring British education into the the twenty first century, one terrible statistic of how they compared to the rest of the world at a time.

Giving in to Rita's challenge, Hermione thought back. Rita had invited her to the Candid Crow, and it was much too fancy for anything less than a big event or anniversary. Nothing had changed in their lives recently, so it had to be an anniversary. But of what, was the question Hermione couldn't seem to solve.

"Take your time," Rita said, still smiling impishly. She took a sip of her wine.

The whiff of food that reached her nose was almost enough to distract Hermione, but she'd always liked a challenge. That was why she was here, after all, sitting across from Rita Skeeter instead of another.

The anniversary of their marriage was in May; Hermione had taken her dancing, and they'd gotten fabulously drunk. Rita had even left her quills behind. The anniversary of their first date was on the same day; Hermione had been the one to suggest it, saying she liked the practicality of it. Rita had just called her a romantic, and Hermione hadn't been able to disagree. They'd first met... well, that had been after the second task... Hadn't it been?

Oh, Hermione thought, and laughed. "We're celebrating blackmail. Rita, really?"

"Twenty years to the day," Rita replied. "Such a terrible thing." She shook her head in a faux reprimand.

"I'm a monster, yes," Hermione said with a smile. It had been six years since the mandatory registration of animagi law had been repealed, so not even Rita could still hold a grudge, much as she enjoyed them.

"It's good that I'm very fond of you--and blackmail," Rita said, and Hermione couldn't help but lean in for a kiss.

Chapter Text

They're 11 years old, and he doesn't ask her out.

(Of course, why would he? He barely knows she exists; she's just that girl who floated in the boat next to his, sitting tightly between her two best friends and her future rival. But she sees him, George Weasley, though of course she doesn't know his name yet, and he's grinning widely and throwing a frog in someone's hair and Katie is so utterly charmed.)

They're 13 years old, and he doesn't ask her out.

(By this point, George knows who she is; she's the second best chaser on their team, and she's got a competitive streak a mile wide. She isn't going to back down, not even for a boy who makes her want to blush and giggle and just be the girly girl her mother wishes she was. Well, maybe just half the time. The other half, she's splashing ice cold water on his head for sleeping in instead of going to Quidditch practice, hiding her essay with her hand and glaring when he tries to sneak a peek, and sneaking her own peak when one day he accidentally comes down to the Great Hall half naked.)

They're 16 years old, and he doesn't ask her out.

("Do you have a date for the Yule Ball?" she asks, sitting on the stone floors with her head against the wall. She's drawing circles in the air with her wand, but they're not coming out quite as evenly as she'd like them to. Well, of course they're not; she's much too nervous for that. She glances at George, who's leaning against the wall across from her. The Hogwarts hallways are narrow enough that if she stretches just a little, their feet would touch. It's a nice thought.

George huffs. "No. I'm going stag."

She raises an eyebrow, and can't help saying, "Couldn't get a date?" despite the plan. She's not supposed to make fun of him, as much fun as it is; she's supposed to ask him out. But it's so easy, and she's a bit annoyed at him for getting them kicked out of class.

"Of course not. I have far greater skills than that," George replies. He looks so properly indignant. "In fact, I'll prove it to you."

Katie swallows. "Oh, will you?" And she's half trying to get George to just ask her, half trying to remember how to say the words to ask him herself. She's stuck, but in milliseconds her chance is over.

George scrambles up, grabbing his things. "You'll see how awesome my skills are," he says with a grin.

Katie just stares after him, trying not to hope and failing. But in less than an hour, Alicia comes back giggling and talking about how she finally has a date.)

They're 19 years old, and he doesn't ask her out.

(Her mother is dead, dying half way through the war to the wand of a sympathizer who'd been their neighbor and friend.

His brother is dead.)

They're 21 years old, and he doesn't ask her out.

(Instead, he says, "I need a favor." He's got his charming grin stretched across his face, and Katie doesn't trust it for a second.

"I deserve a huge reward for this," she groans, glaring at George, hours later as she finally closes the doors of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Trust George to ask her to mind the shop for a half hour, then disappear for a whole two. He left her to suffer screaming children, anxious parents, and a multitude of questions she couldn't answer. Really, the things she does for her friends.

But by now, he's right beside her. "Your wish is my command, your awesomeness," George replies.

"Well," she says. And what the hell. "I wouldn't mind a date.")

They're 23 years old, and he doesn't ask her out, but only because she got around to doing it first.