Actions

Work Header

Why Don't We Break The Rules, Already?

Chapter Text

Clarke Griffin knew she was going to go to Hogwarts since she was six years old, and her parents sat her down to explain that the reason she could do funny things sometimes, and the reason her mother and father could wash dishes without their hands or stir their tea without spoons or walk in and out of the fireplace was because they were magic.

“You’re a witch, sweetheart,” her father said.

“And when you’re eleven, you’ll go to a school for people just like you,” her mother added. Clarke hummed, considering.

“Will Wells be there?”

Her father smiled. “Yes, of course. He’s magic, too.”

“Will there be cats at Hogwarts?” Clarke asked. Cats were her favorite.

Her father laughed, even as her mother pressed her lips flat together, until her mouth looked like a line. “I’m not sure,” he admitted, “But if there are, I know you’ll find them.”

Clarke nodded, agreeing. She was the best at finding cats.

“Can I be a cat?” she wondered. “With magic?”

Her father choked a little on his answer. “Well, you can certainly try , I suppose. But I think we’d both rather if you were Clarke, for most of the time.”

Clarke thought it over. “Can I be a cat on the holidays?”

“If you’re very, very good,” her father said, as her mother sighed at the whole conversation.

“Alright,” Clarke decided. “I like Hogwarts.” And that was that.

Wells was the one to bring it up again, when they were seven. They were outside on the Griffin’s lawn, but they weren’t doing much because they were wearing their indoor clothes, and weren’t allowed to get them dirty.

“Which house do you think you’ll be sorted into?” he asked.

“Hmm?” Clarke hummed, only half paying attention. She was tipping her head back and studying the elm tree in front of her. She wasn’t climbing it, because she wasn’t allowed, but if she was to climb it, she’d start with her left foot there, by that knobby bit, and grab hold of that low-hanging branch just there...

“At Hogwarts,” Wells clarified, because he knew exactly what she was thinking. “Which house do you think you’ll be?”

“I dunno,” Clarke admitted. Truthfully, she hadn’t given much thought to her future school, since that talk with her parents nearly one year before. “What about you?”

“I reckon I’ll be in Hufflepuff,” Wells said, clearly haven considered it before. “That’s where all the best friends go.”

“Then you’ll definitely be in Hufflepuff,” Clarke agreed. “Which one was the lion one again?”

“You mean Gryffindor?” Wells asked, amused.

“I’ll take that one.”

“What, just because it’s got a lion for its mascot?”

“And I like the color red,” Clarke shrugged. “Plus, Gryffindor sounds like Griffin . It’s meant to be, Wells.” He did not look convinced. “Here, come give me a boost.”

Wells eyed the elm tree suspiciously, as if it might call out for her mother at any moment, and tell her just what they were about to do, planning to get sap all over their nice trousers. “We aren’t allowed.”

Clarke rolled her eyes. “So we won’t get caught, then. Come on, you don’t even have to climb with me. I just want to reach the top. I bet I could see across the mountains.”

“Can not,” Wells argued, and then of course he had to help her up, cupping his hands for her to step into, so they could figure out who was right.

Clarke made it just over halfway, slithering through the limbs like a spider, before her foot slipped and she fell, scraping her knees and muddying her clothes on the way down. She landed badly on her ankle, so hard she cried , even though Clarke never cried, and Wells was so worried that he ran inside to fetch her parents.

Her mother reached them first, lecturing them both all the while, before muttering one of her magic words that set Clarke’s ankle right again, without so much as a bruise. Mr. Jaha arrived through the fireplace, dusting the mist of ash from his shoulders and frowning sternly at his son. Once they were gone, Clarke’s mother sent her to bed with no supper, and said she was confined to inside the manor for a whole week.

“I won’t make it,” Clarke warned her. “I’ll die.”

Her mother made a face and tsked at her, like she sometimes did to the stray cats that wandered too close to their porch. “You’ll be fine,” she said. “And maybe next time you’ll remember that young ladies don’t climb trees.”

Clarke’s mother was always going on about what young ladies did and did not do. Clarke was beginning to hope she’d never be one; being a young lady sounded awfully dull. She’d much rather be a cat.

Her father found her staring out the bay window at her tree, the next evening. He put a finger up to his lips as he opened the door, stretching a hand out for her to hold.

She let him lead her out across the lawn, as the sky all around them turned her favorite dusty purple, and lightning bugs began to arrive.

“Why do you like this tree so much?” her father asked, watching as she climbed through the branches. She remembered what she’d done wrong, the last time, and her feet were surer now. “There are bigger ones over on the west end, you know.”

Clarke hummed. She did know, of course she knew. She and Wells spent their summers exploring every inch of these grounds, until dirt was caked permanently underneath her nails. “This one’s all on its own,” she explained. “It’s lonely.”

“Well, it has you,” her father pointed out, helping her down so that she didn’t get too sticky with sap. “Here,” he pulled out his wand, made of old, gnarled mahogany. Sometimes he’d let Clarke play with it, and pretend she could work spells.

Clarke watched as her father put the tip of his wand to the tree like a quill, and began to write with it, letters forming their jagged paths into the bark of the tree.

“Clarke’s friend,” she read aloud, once he was finished, and grinned. “It’s Wells’ friend too,” she said, prodding her father to add his name. “And yours.”

“And mine,” he agreed, putting his own name at the very bottom. He took her hand and they walked back towards the manor as the last of the day’s light began to fade.

 

When Clarke was nine, she was invited to a wedding.

“I don’t want to go,” she said for what must have been the fourth time, and stomped her foot a little for good measure. She winced as the house elf poked her with her sewing pin again , and glared down at it.

Her mother sighed deeply. “Clarke, we’ve been over this, you’re--”

“I don’t want to go ,” Clarke said, a little louder that time, and her father walked into the room.

“What’s all this then?”

“Your daughter is being impossible,” her mother told him, and stalked out of the room in a huff.

Clarke’s father crossed over to her, crouching down so he was a little closer to her height. “Why on earth don’t you want to go to the wedding? You seemed so excited about it last week.”

“I don’t want to be the only kid there,” Clarke said. She’d assumed Wells would be going too, but she pretty much always just assumed Wells would be wherever she was. And then the other day she got tricked into going to one of her father’s stuffy Ministry dinner parties, and Wells was nowhere to be found, so she had no one there to play with.

“Wells will be there,” her father assured her. “And some other children your age, as well. And maybe even a cat or two.”

Clarke brightened up immediately. “They have a cat?”

“Well, I’m not sure, but you always manage to find the strays wherever we go. I think they like you.”

Clarke nodded solemnly. Being liked by a cat was serious business, not like when you were liked by dogs. Dogs liked everyone, but cats were pickier. Being liked by a cat was an honor.

“And maybe if you’re very good tonight,” her father continued, “You might even get two chocolate frogs out of me.”

“Two?” Clarke grinned, exposing the space where one of her teeth had recently fallen out. Her father said that it was taken by the tooth goblin, when she woke up to find a galleon on her pillow. Now she was taking some of the tooth growing potion her mother gave to her, a little bit each day.

“Two,” her father said, and waited for the house elf to finish her dress.

The wedding was for two people whom Clarke had never met and had very little interest in, but the party itself was brilliant. She was worried it would be stuffy and boring, the way most Ministry parties were, but instead it was all outside, with tents among the trees and little orbs of light bobbing about through the air as night fell. They traveled through the fireplace, which the couple had opened up to make things easier for their guests. The manor was shiny with lacquered bookshelves and polished marble floors very similar to Clarke’s own manor, but she didn’t spend much time indoors.

Wells was there, as promised, and Clarke did manage to find a cat a few yards from the dining tent. It had thick, curly fur and was covered in gray and white stripes, like a tiger but without the orange.

“Are you out here because you don’t like weddings?” she asked it, and the cat meowed, rolling about in the grass. Clarke laid down so she could roll too. “Me neither,” she agreed.

“I like weddings,” Wells said, coming to lie down with them, but the cat hissed and jumped up to run away. Cats didn’t like Wells, which made Clarke feel awfully bad for him. “I can’t wait to have a wedding of my own. It’ll be even better than this one.”

“I’m never having a wedding,” Clarke declared, poking at one of the orbs of light that bobbed near her. She sent it soaring away through the air.

“What about when you get married?”

Clarke shrugged, which was actually fairly difficult to do while laying down. “I guess I’ll never do that either.”

Wells made a noise of disagreement but didn’t say anything. Over in one of the larger tents, someone turned on a record player, and everyone started to dance.

Clarke’s father was speaking with another man and a boy her age, when she and Wells got back to their table.

“Clarke, Wells,” he said, waving them over with a smile. “This is David Miller, an Auror for the Ministry. And this is his son, Nathan. He’ll be going to Hogwarts with you two.”

“Do you want to get married?” Clarke asked Nathan, and her father laughed.

“Clarke, dear, you’ve only just met the poor boy. Give him some time to get to know you first.”

Clarke made a face because as usual, grown-up’s just didn’t understand anything, and then took Nathan and Wells by the hand to lead them to the desserts table. There were tarts and biscuits and pudding, and the plates were all enchanted to fill up again once they were emptied.

That was where her cousin Roan, newly fourteen, found them.

“Enjoying the celebrations, cousin?” he asked, eyeing Clarke’s overflowing plate of pastries. Clarke scrunched her nose up at him.

“You seem to be,” she snapped, gesturing to the crowd of teenage girls that were very obviously waiting for Roan to get back to them. Apparently he was very popular at Hogwarts, which was unfortunate for Clarke in every way.

Roan ignored her irritation, like always. He liked to make a joke out of how much she hated him. “You’re off to Hogwarts soon,” he said. “Perhaps you’ll be a noble Slytherin, like me. A number of our family comes from that house, you know.”

“I’m going to be a Gryffindor,” Clarke declared, because while she didn’t know much about the houses themselves, she knew that she definitely didn’t want to be in the same one as Roan .

He clicked his tongue, turning to leave. “Such a shame. I’ll see you around.”

“Not if I see you first!” Clarke called after him, and huffed. “I hate him,” she said to the others. “I hate him, and I hate Slytherin.”

“That might be a good thing,” Nathan shrugged around a mouthful of tart. “My dad says most dark wizards come from Slytherin.”

Wells frowned the way he did whenever he felt like someone was being unjustly disliked. “Maybe that’s just because everyone hates them,” he argued. “If people thought I was going to become evil, just because of my house, then maybe I would.”

Clarke and Nathan shared a look , because Wells wouldn’t really get it. He was just too nice.

Someone changed the record at some point, to a fast song that Clarke could bounce along to, and she dragged the boys out on the floor with her. They swung their arms around in big, wide circles, and kicked their feet out in a one-two beat, and crouched down low only to spring back up like a rabbit, until they were all sweaty and laughing and out of breath.

She fell asleep in her dining chair before midnight, the warmth of summer and all that dancing making her drowsy. Clarke woke as her father was tucking her into bed.

“Your chocolate frogs are on the armoire,” he told her, once he noticed her eyes were open. Clarke kept her collection of chocolate frog cards in a row there. She had nearly two dozen by now. “Did you have fun tonight?”

Clarke nodded, brain still feeling a little fuzzy from sleep, thoughts running slippery like water in and out and over each other. “What if I’m sorted into Slytherin?”

“What if you are?”

She played with the hem of her duvet. “Will you and mom be upset?”

Her father took a breath and reached over for her hands, to settle their worrying. “Your mother and I will be proud of you, no matter what house you’re sorted into,” he promised. “Why would you think we’d be upset?”

“Because Slytherin’s where all the dark wizards are from,” she said, like it was obvious, and her father sat on the edge of her mattress with a sigh.

“That isn’t true at all,” he told her. “Dark wizards come from every house. Some never even went to Hogwarts at all. And I’ve known some wonderful Slytherins. So have you.”

“I have?”

He nodded. “Your grandfather, Cornwall, was a Slytherin. And your Aunt Nia, and Aunt Marjorie, on your mother’s side. Your cousin Roan. And Thelonius, Wells’ father. Both of your mother’s parents were Slytherin, and remember how they used to send you dragon kites?”

“Will you be upset if I’m not in Ravenclaw?” Clarke wondered. Both of her parents had been in Ravenclaw, she knew; that was how they’d met. But both of her parents loved books, and while Clarke liked books well enough, and liked the classes with her tutor for the most part, she didn’t love them. Not like her parents did.

“We’ll be proud no matter what,” her father promised, pressing a kiss to her hair. “Feel better?”

Clarke nodded. She always felt better after talking with her dad.

 

Clarke turned eleven three days after Christmas, and got her letter sometime after dawn. She woke at sunup that morning, eager and itching and anxiously waiting for the post. She wrapped up in one of her mother’s nice afghans from their trip to Slovenia last year, and curled up on the wicker loveseat out on the back porch, with a cup of pumpkin tea. She didn’t like just regular black tea like her parents, but she wanted something hot to warm up her hands.

The family owl, a pitch black thing with feathers like tar, so dark that the only way they could ever see it at night was by the lights of its eyes, came swooping down as the sky turned yellow-pink with sunlight.

“Thank you, Papsukkal,” Clarke said, gingerly taking the letter from its talons. She’d heard horrific stories about wizarding families who were rude to their owls, and had their eyes pecked out as they slept. Papsukkal clicked its beak at her and flew off to conduct some unknown owl business.

The letter was just as she’d always imagined it would be, complete with a list of supplies she would need for the coming school year, and she ran inside to show her father. He was in his study--he was usually in his study--surrounded by books, books on shelves and books piled high on the desk and the chairs and books stacked in columns on the floor. Whenever Clarke pictured her father, he was surrounded by books. He’d probably live in a house made of books, if he could. The walls would be all of his favorites.

Her mother was busy planning the party for that evening. She’d tried to consult Clarke earlier about it, but once Clarke gave her guest list--Wells, her parents, and ten cats--she’d given up. All Clarke knew was that it was going to start sometime after supper, and she was supposed to wear her nicest dress and behave herself or else .

“Do you think if I pretend to be ill, she might cancel it?” she asked. She was cradled in her tree, and had made sure to put on her oldest pair of trousers so that her mother wouldn’t be upset. Wells was sitting at the base, trying to make a sprig of rosebuds sprout out of the earth. He’d read somewhere about wandless spells, and had taken to practicing whenever he could.

“Depends,” he mused. “Has she already sent out the invitations?”

Clarke sighed deeply. “Last week.”
“Then I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t cancel it unless the apocalypse happened.”

“Do you think we could make it?” Clarke wondered, and Wells laughed. “I just want to go to Diagon Alley, and get my cat. I don’t want to spend two hours suffering through my parents’ old, stuffy coworkers.”

“At least you’ll get a lot of presents,” Wells said, because Wells liked to look at the bright side of everything. He could be dying of old age, and Clarke was sure the last thing he’d ever say would be “At least I lived for a while!”

As it was, he was looking a little pale and exhausted, but that made sense. The day before had been one of his sick days. Wells had the shoddiest immune system of anyone, and spent at least one weekend a month bedridden. Clarke didn’t remember when it started, except that they were very small, and it was just after his mother died. She figured maybe it was one of those blood curses that ran in very old, very rich families. She’d asked her mom about it, since she was a doctor and they were a very old, very rich family, but she’d just said that Clarke shouldn’t ask questions like that, since they were invasive , whatever that meant. Mostly, she just figured she’d wait for Wells to explain it to her. She and Wells told each other everything, after all.

Her mother came to fetch them just before the party was set to start, so Clarke could change into her nicest dress, and have her hair washed by the house elves, so it wouldn’t smell like dirt anymore.

“It’s going to be so lovely,” her mother promised, as she tied the ribbon round the back of her dress. “I’ve even hired a band!”

Clarke perked up at that. “Really? Which one?”

Her mother seemed to stilt a little. “Well, apparently your cousin Roan started a band with some of his schoolmates--”

Clarke made a face at the mention of her cousin before she could help herself. Her mother frowned.

“Clarke Griffin, may I remind you that Roan is your cousin. He’s family, and you are to behave yourself tonight.”

Alright ,” Clarke sighed, but she couldn’t quite stop the scowl completely. Roan’s father, her mother’s older brother, had been a fairly well-known wizard due to his work, trying to perfect the art of disappearing--which was different from just turning invisible, you see. Unfortunately, he perfected it too much, and never actually reappeared . No one knew what happened to him, but Clarke has a theory that he just wanted to escape from his horrid wife. Either that, or his horrid wife killed him. It all happened before Clarke was even born.

The party itself was rather enjoyable, as parties go. Roan’s band was, somewhat to Clarke’s annoyance, bearable, and made up of himself and three other Slytherins from his year. He was fifteen now, and clearly very proud of it. Apparently they’d appointed him a prefect, and Clarke had no doubts that he was going to abuse his power.

“Are you ever going to actually tell me what this weird blood feud you two have is about?” Wells asked, standing with Clarke in the corner as she glared across the floor at where Roan was flirting with some soon-to-be groupies.

Nathan went to go get the three of them some more punch nearly ten minutes earlier, and Clarke feared he was lost forever to the mass of old, suited Ministry officials. They kept stopping by to offer her their congratulations, on her entrance into Hogwarts, and envelopes filled with Gringott’s bank bonds, each amount higher than the last, like they were all trying to out-bribe each other.

“I wasn’t aware I needed a specific reason to dislike my pigheaded cousin,” Clarke said haughtily. He’d stopped by her earlier too, only to tell her how much he liked her dress and matching tiara, in a way which was definitely not a compliment. “Isn’t his general pigheadedness enough?” She was trying to decide how to get back at him. Maybe she’d tell all of his fans that he had an extra toe on each foot. Or maybe she’d take that ponytail he was so proud of and turn it green like mold; she had a potion for that.

“Clarke,” her mother said, interrupting her plotting. She was standing with Marcus Kane--whom Clarke recognized from some of the fundraisers held by St. Mungo’s, where her mother worked--and a boy she’d never seen before. He looked a year or two older than her, and incredibly uncomfortable in his dark suit and gelled-back hair. He had freckles. Clarke had always wanted freckles.

“You remember Marcus, of course,” her mother continued. “And this is his ward, Bellamy Blake. He’ll be in the year above you at school.”

Clarke curtsied dutifully, like she’d been taught. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Happy birthday,” Bellamy Blake said, sounding as uncomfortable as he looked. He tugged at his tie a little, like he couldn’t help it.

“Clarke, why don’t you show Bellamy around?” her mother suggested. Clarke looked to see that Wells too had been lost to the grown up's, so she shrugged, and led Bellamy out of the ballroom and towards the front hall.

Griffin Manor was rather modest, compared to the Jaha home, but it was still very large and filled with expensive things. Clarke was used to the place, of course, but most people were impressed when they first saw the grand staircase, or the room filled with nothing but gilded mirrors on each wall, with reflections that moved on their own.

But Bellamy Blake didn’t seem to care about any of it. In fact, he seemed almost bored .

Clarke showed him the corridor lined with moving portraits of old family members that were dead long before she came around. She showed him the stained glass with mermaids combing their hair and flipping their tails at them. She showed him the grandfather clock that housed a ghost named Maximus Murdoch, who had accidentally transfigured himself and then died and now refused to let anyone see him.

“How do you know he even is a ghost?” Bellamy asked, when she told him.

“How do--because he says he’s a ghost,” Clarke said, bewildered.

Bellamy crossed his arms, like he was readying himself for a fight. “But how do you know he’s not lying? Maybe the clock is bewitched, so it can speak.”

Clarke scowled. “Why would a clock lie and say it’s a ghost?”

“I dunno,” he shrugged. “It’s your clock.”

Oh ,” Clarke huffed, whirling around on her heel and tugging him along by the sleeve, so he nearly tripped. She still had one trick left, sure to blow him away. She refused to let some boy with too much hair gel disrespect her house like that.

“What’s that?” Bellamy asked when he saw it, sounding a bit awed in spite of himself, just like she knew he would.

That’s the Zephyrus 3000,” Clarke said, smug. “My dad designed it. It’s the only broom that can take its rider above the atmosphere. He wanted to be the first wizard to fly in space.”

Bellamy put his hand up on the glass case, like he might try to stroke the broom. “Why wasn’t he?”

Clarke shrugged. “My mom had me, and he decided it was too dangerous, and he didn’t really have a lot of support. Wizards are already shifty about science and technology as it is.”

Bellamy nodded, agreeing, and for the first time that night Clarke thought she might not have to hate him.

“So you’re already at Hogwarts?” she asked. Her dad was great and all, but she figured she might as well ask about the school from someone who currently went there, and Roan didn’t count.

“Yeah.”

“What house are you in?” Clarke started to wander back down the hall, towards the ballroom, with Bellamy just on her heels.

“Gryffindor.” He said it with quite a bit of pride, even as he tugged at the tie around his neck, by now loosened to the point of despair.

“Oh,” Clarke hummed, and Bellamy frowned at her.

“Oh?” he echoed, but it didn’t sound the same. It sounded like an accusation. “ Oh what?”

Clarke blinked at him, surprised. “I didn’t--”

“Didn’t what?” Bellamy cut her off, and she didn’t understand why he was so angry, but it was making her angry in turn. “Didn’t think a mudblood could make it in? And I’ll bet anything you’re rooting for the snake’s den.”

“Didn’t think a what ?” Clarke asked, as confused as she was annoyed. “What’s the snake’s den? What are you   talking about?”

“Oh, nothing,” Bellamy huffed, and flicked at the silver tiara on her head, so it sat crooked. “ Princess ,” he sneered and stormed off into the crowd, with Clarke left gaping after him.

She found Nathan and Wells at one of the little round tables in the corner, and sat down beside them with a huff. “I hate Bellamy Blake,” she declared.

“Okay,” Nathan said, as Wells asked “Who’s Bellamy Blake.”

“An insufferable Gryffindor,” Clarke told them, because that was all she really knew. “Who wears too much hair gel.”

“Is that why you hate him?” Wells asked, looking scandalized. “Merlin’s beard, that hardly seems fair.”

“How many people is it that you hate, now?” Nathan wondered, playing with one of the snapdragons that he’d recently bought from Gambol and Japes.

Clarke thought about it. “Seven,” she decided. “No, eight. I forgot that Marcy Grayworm said she hates cats, the other day.” She threw an arm each around Wells’ and Nathan’s shoulders. “Come dance with me,” she pouted. “It’s my birthday. You both owe me a birthday dance.”

Nathan groaned the whole way to the dance floor, but Wells had been taking private lessons recently, and was excited to show off. He spun them both around a lot, and dipped Clarke back like a princess, and then dipped Nathan too when he teased him for it, and then Clarke and Nathan both dipped Wells together, nearly dropping him in the process because he was so tall.

Her father found her alone as the celebrations died down, and led her down towards the second study that they’d converted into a sort of studio for her artwork. There, sitting on her easel, was a pretty blue box wrapped in ribbon.

“Open it,” he grinned, nudging her forward, and Clarke ripped open the paper.

It was a box of pastels, charmed so they’d never run down, and they’d never smudge. Clarke ran her fingers over the oily colors, in awe.

“I love them,” she said, and carried them all the way up to bed with her, making her father laugh.

By the time the party was over and her parents were seeing out their guests--either by the front door, or the fireplace--Clarke had forgotten all about rotten Bellamy Blake.

They couldn’t go shopping for school supplies until the summer, just before the school year began, which meant Clarke had to wait a whole eight more months before she could pick out her cat.

Clarke Griffin was no stranger to Diagon Alley, had visited many times before, but never as a Hogwarts student. The shops were all filled to the brim with last minute sales and cauldrons, wands, potions, books, cloaks--everything a budding first year would need--but Clarke only had eyes for the Menagerie. She found her cat instantly of course--a tiny thing with long tufts of black fur with white specks all over, like freckles, or stars. She gave soft little mewls when Clarke picked her up and cradled her to her chest, so she could feel her purring.

Her day was wasted after that, because all she wanted to do was play with her new kitten, but she still had dozens of shops to visit, and there was ice cream and candied hazelnuts to eat.

“What are you going to name her?” Wells asked. They were in the west end conservatory, which her mother had screened in to keep out the flies. Clarke was brushing her kitten’s nose with a lily petal. She kept giving cute sneezes and batting at the thing with her tiny paws.

“Asteria,” Clarke said, and Wells snorted. “What? It fits her.”

“You would name it something Greek,” he said, shaking his head. He bought himself a barn owl, because that was the most sensible option, and he didn’t want to have to keep using his father’s.

“Why?” Clarke asked, feeling defensive. “What are you naming your owl?”

“Thoth,” Wells said, and Clarke laughed into her shoulder.

“You hypocrite!” But it was hard to be mad when he waggled his eyebrows at her.

“We are friends for a reason,” he pointed out, and she hummed.

“Yeah,” she brushed Asteria’s furry belly with the petal, and then let the kitten claim it for her kill. “I guess we are.”

Clarke managed to feel nothing but excitement and thrill at the idea of going to Hogwarts--up until her very last night at home, when all of the anxiety that she’d been avoiding finally found her and she felt sure she was going to drown.

Her father was tucking her in, just like always, and when he went to leave, she clutched at his wrist, desperately. “What if I don’t make any friends?” she asked. It was a fear that has been burrowing under her skin for ages now, because even with Wells and Nathan, Clarke had never been very good with kids her own age. Especially girls. Not because she didn’t like girls; they just never seemed to like her.

Her father gave the soft, warm smile that Clarke liked to burrow and find comfort in. “You know, I didn’t have any friends before I went to Hogwarts,” he said, and Clarke felt her eyes widen. Her father had more friends than anyone else she knew.

“Really?”

He chuckled. “Really. I grew up in this house, an only child with no friends, save the house elves. And then I went to Hogwarts, and during my first year there I met your mother, and Thelonius, and our friends Marcus and Callie.”

“You met all of them in your first year?” Clarke asked.
He nodded. “I met the best friends of my life at Hogwarts,” he told her. “And so will you.”

“Do you think I’ll like my teachers?” Clarke asked. She’d met a few already--Sinclair, who taught astronomy, and Charles, who taught herbology--but the others were still a mystery to her.

“Professors,” her father corrected. “And, honestly, it depends on the professor. How many tutors have you gone through here at home?” Clarke made a face and he laughed. “I wouldn’t fret about it too much,” he said, smoothing down her duvet. “You’re bright, and funny, and talented. You’ll make friends in no time, I’m sure.” He pressed a kiss to her hair, gave Asteria a scratch behind the ear, and left.

But the thing about fears is that they don’t always listen. Sometimes when you tell them to leave, they stay, and sometimes when you tell them they’re wrong, they make you think they’re right. Sometimes even when you know they’re silly, they don’t feel silly at all.

Clarke’s fear was one of those kind, the stubborn kind, and it leaked into her dreams like spilled ink, staining everything around it. She dreamed of trees that sprouted out of the earth with branches like tentacles, hissing like snakes in her ears.

You’re a monster , she told one, and could see the jagged heart carved in its trunk, like a splinter.

You said we were friends , it hissed, and Dream-Clarke shrunk away towards the edge of her mind, so it couldn’t touch her.

We’re not, she said, over and over. We’re not friends, we’re not.

You lied , it told her, and she curled away. I’m as much a monster as you are.

Dream-Clarke covered her ears, but it was no use; the voice was in her head, already.

I’m your friend , it told her. Remember? Why do you hate me?

Don’t touch me , she said, but it was a fear, and it didn’t listen.

Why do you hate your friend? I’m you, it hissed quietly. Why do you hate yourself?

Clarke woke before the sun came up, and elected to not go back to sleep. She could take a nap on the train, later.

Her mother was surprised to walk in and find her in the kitchen, nursing a cup of hot cider.

“Up already?” she asked, starting up the espresso machine with a flick of her wrist. Her mother preferred coffee to tea. Clarke asked her why once, but she just said it was an American thing. “Ready for your big day?”

Clarke thought about her nightmare tree, green and silver just like Slytherin’s crest, and swallowed the rest of her cider in one gulp. “I will be,” she said seriously, and her mom refilled her mug with a nod.

She found Nathan and Wells on the platform, and they managed to nab an empty compartment before anyone else got there. Clarke stretched her feet out to rest on the seat beside Wells, and leaned her head on Nathan’s shoulder. He didn’t even try to bat her away.

“Late night?” Wells asked, even though he looked even more tired than she did. He must have just had a sick day.

“Bad dream,” Clarke yawned, because there was no real point in denying it. They were her best friends, after all. And so what if she didn’t make any new ones, at Hogwarts? Did she really need to, if she already had the best friends of her life? She fell asleep before she could come up with an answer.

Nathan shook her awake as the train was approaching Hogwarts, and Clarke woke to find she’d drooled all over his shirt.

“You owe me a new one,” he told her. “You’re rich, so I know you can afford it.”

“I’ll get you the nicest shirt the world has to offer,” she promised, patting him on the leg.

Clarke had visited Hogwarts before, a handful of times. When Headmaster Wallace, an old friend of her mother’s, invited them around for tea. Or when her parents wanted to visit Sinclair, or Mary. She’d seen the Great Hall, the moving staircase, the portraits and front gates.

But Clarke had never seen it like this, before, floating along the lake in boats, being led up the staircase to wait for her name to be called so she could be sorted.

She recognized a few of the other first years vaguely, from events she’d gone to with her parents. She tried to imagine which houses they might end up in.

“Which one do you think you’ll get?” she whispered to Nathan, as they filed up the stairs.

“Probably Hufflepuff, like my dad,” he whispered back. “What about you?”

Clarke thought about her nightmare tree, just for a second, and then shoved it out of her brain. “I’m not sure.” Nathan shrugged, and they stopped at the very top step.

Some older students were there, along with a professor that Clarke didn’t know. Roan was there, with his prefect’s badge and ponytail, and he winked at her. She stuck her tongue out at him and turned away.

They were told to all line up alphabetically, so they could be sorted by the hat, which sat on a stool near the front of the Great Hall.

The Great Hall looked different tonight too--there were hundreds of candles, lit and flickering and floating up above their heads. Some of the other kids were worried about the wax dripping on them, but Clarke knew better of course. There were the four long tables she recognized, one for each house, but she’d never seen the room so full before, with hundreds of faces all staring out at them as they filed past in rows of two.

There were only two students separating Clarke from Wells, and considerably more separating Wells from Nathan. The hat sang some sort of song, either about its creation or maybe the whole school’s creation, it was hard to tell, and then Clarke had to wait nearly another ten whole minutes before the name Griffin was called.

She sat perched up on the stool, legs dangling, as Professor Kaplan sat the hat on top of her head.

Hmm ,” the hat said, and Clarke wasn’t sure if anyone else could hear it. She hadn’t heard the hat speak to any of the other students, except to call out their houses. “ Griffin, eh? I don’t suppose that’s any relation to Gryffindor .” It laughed at its own joke. “ Yes, there’s a bit of lioness in you, isn’t there? But perhaps not as much as you might like. You would do anything to protect the ones you love, wouldn’t you?

Like a lioness, Clarke thought, and the hat must have heard her.

Like a snake ,” it argued.

Snakes don’t protect anyone , Clarke thought. She thought about the tree from her nightmare, writhing and hissing. They’re monsters.

A female rock python guards its young by day and coils around them by night ,” the hat said. “ Everyone’s a monster to someone. ” Out loud, to the world, it said “SLYTHERIN.”

Clarke wasn’t sure how she managed to focus in on the one person she never wanted to see again, right as she walked by his table, but as it happened, she had to pass the Gryffindors on her way to her house on the far left of the room, and as she went, there was Bellamy Blake. He looked different from how he did at her party--for one, his hair was all wild curls rather than a gelled back helmet, and for another he hadn’t even bothered to wear a tie--but it was definitely him, freckles and all.

“Figures,” he called out, loud enough for her to hear, and she caught his eye as he smirked. He was mocking her. “Told you,” he said. “Princess of the snake den.”

Clarke was used to being quick on her feet with snide remarks, after eleven years spent suffering Roan. “I’d rather be a snake than a toerag,” she sneered, and tipped her nose up before strutting the rest of the way to her table.

She didn’t recognize many of the faces from Slytherin, besides Roan, but she sat down across from Echo, the bassist from his band. The girl to her left had been sorted just before her, a pretty brunette in a headscarf.

“I’m Emori,” she said, and Clarke shook her hand.

“Clarke Griffin.” From down the table, Roan lifted his cup of pumpkin juice towards her.

“Good to have you, cousin,” he grinned. Clarke scowled back at him.

The hat was barely even on Wells’ head before it announced HUFFLEPUFF. Nathan’s turn took a bit longer, but eventually the hat made its decision for him too--GRYFFINDOR.

There were a few more Slytherins sorted before the end, and Clarke took note of each one. Will she be my roommate? Will he sit by me in Potions? Finally the last of the first years were sorted, and the platters on the table began to magically fill up with food.

For some of the students, Hogwarts was clearly their first real experience with magic, and it was fun to watch them try and figure out where the food and punch were coming from, or how the ceiling above them looked like the real night sky, comets and all. Clarke knew there were muggle-born witches and wizards of course, but it was different actually meeting them. All the witches and wizards she knew were from old magical families. Muggles and the muggle world were a mystery to her.

When Clarke had eaten until she felt she might burst--you never knew, with some recipes--Headmaster Wallace stood to make his welcoming speech. It was a little off-putting, but for the most part easy to follow; they couldn’t explore in certain areas of the castle, and the Forbidden Forest was, obviously, forbidden. He introduced all of the professors, although Clarke’s mind sort of wandered off at that part, and returned when he started to go over the year’s holiday schedule. At the end, he did a little trick with all the candles, putting them out wordlessly and then lighting them all up again so that everyone cheered. Then the Head Boy and Girl of their houses led them to the common rooms.

The Slytherin common room was in the dungeon, and although the walk there was a little cold and dreary, the room itself was actually rather nice. Sleek and polished, with crushed velvet chaise lounges a deep emerald green, and a great big marble fireplace with serpentine sterling silver figurines lining the mantle. Everything looked like it was exactly where it was supposed to be, like if anyone moved just one book end, the whole room would be uneven.

They slept five girls to a room, and apparently they weren’t actually grouped together by year. There was a sixth-year named Anya, a prefect who had sharp eyes and hair like a lion’s mane, and Emori, who liked to tell stories she made up about a pirate witch, and Fox, who had a collection of horses carved out of stone that could gallop across the nightstand, and Denae, a fifth-year with braids coiled around her head like dark snakes. Clarke spent the night racing Fox’s stone horses with Denae and Emori, until Anya barked for them to turn out the lights.

The next few days were harried, with Clarke mostly rushing to and from her classes and trying not to get lost on the moving staircases. She spent most of her time in the library, or the Great Hall, since she wasn’t allowed in the Hufflepuff or Gryffindor common rooms, and Nathan and Wells weren’t allowed down in hers.

“You’d think we’d be able to,” she huffed, irritated. “To promote, I dunno, inter-house community, or something.”

“Yeah,” Nathan shrugged. “But then they’d have to admit that not all snakes are bad.”

That was something else that Clarke was having to come to terms with--apparently she wasn’t the only one who was wary about the Slytherin house. Everyone seemed to treat them a little differently. Like they were the shards of glass on the floor, that the other students had to avoid.

She collected up her books, trying not to feel bitter when the students they pass wave to Nathan but not her. Clarke wasn’t having an easy time, with making new friends. She’d hardly spoken to any of her classmates, besides Wells and Nathan, but that was fine, really. Some things took time, and anyway at least she got on with her roommates. She and Denae had taken to penning down Emori’s stories, with Denae doing the writing while Clarke added little doodles and illustrations with her pastels for each chapter. They might make them into a children’s book, they thought.

She and Nathan were supposed to meet Wells for Herbology, the only class that the three of them shared, and they were crossing the grounds towards the greenhouse, when they came upon the crowd.

It was a pack of Gryffindors, two of them, along with Murphy and Dax whom Clarke knew from Slytherin--and in the middle of it all, Wells. He was upside down and four feet above the ground as everyone laughed at him struggling. But the one laughing the loudest, the one who had his wand out, controlling Wells’ movements, was Bellamy Blake.

Clarke marched right up to him before Nathan could stop her, and shoved him in the chest, hard . “Bellamy Blake,” she ordered, voice going shrill with anger, “You let him down this instant!”

Bellamy smirked down at her, and she hated him. “As you wish, your highness,” he said, and Wells fell to the ground in a heap.

Clarke and Nathan rushed over to help him up, collecting up his books and the stuffings that fell from his pockets, as Wells turned red all over and avoided everyone’s eye. Clarke hated that they’d made him look that way--embarrassed, and hurt. She was going to kill them.

“Maybe you could poison his morning pumpkin juice,” Emori suggested, when Clarke told them about it that night.

“Or just, y’know, talk to him,” Fox suggested.

“There’s no just talking to boys,” Emori said. “Their skulls are just too thick to understand us. It’s science.”

“I don’t know about how thick their skulls are, but when it comes to Bellamy Blake, words are definitely not going to cut it,” Clarke declared. “I need to send a message, but a very specific kind of message. One that says you messed with my best friend, and you’re a toerag and a bully and I hope all your fingernails fall off.

“That is very specific,” Denae agreed. “Have you considered polyjuice? We’re learning about it in Potions this year.”

Anya chose that moment to return to their dorm room, and eyed the group, collected up on Clarke’s four poster bed, suspiciously. “ What is going on here?”

“We’re plotting out how to ruin a Gryffindor boy’s life,” Emori explained, and Anya nodded.

“Excellent. We can use the prefect’s bathroom on the sixth floor.”

The girls managed to brew the potion before supper, so Clarke could slip it to Nathan that evening.

“You’re sure you can get him to drink it?” she asked him, but Nathan didn’t seem too concerned.

“Definitely. The guy’ll do anything for a dare.”

Clarke was expecting to show up to breakfast the next morning, and find the Gryffindor table missing a head. She’d spent all night laughing with the others over what they thought Bellamy might do, when he woke up and looked in the mirror.

But instead she walked in to find everyone crowded around the Gryffindor table, and of course she knew why. She should have known, really. It made sense, that Bellamy Blake would use this too, to remain the center of attention.

Then the mass of students parted, and Clarke actually saw him. She gasped.

“Ah, there you are, princess,” Bellamy called, from where he stood on the bench, to be seen better. Clarke stared, wide eyed and open mouthed, unable to help herself. She just hadn’t thought he’d look so.... furry .

“What’s wrong?” he waggled his whiskered eyebrows, which made her shudder. He really did look uncannily like Asteria. She reckoned it was the spots; they resembled his freckles. “Cat got your tongue?”

“Good morning, Blake,” Clarke said, once she’d found her voice from where it’d gone missing. “I can honestly say you’ve never looked better. Trying out a different shampoo? Change in diet?”

Bellamy grinned, showing off the points of his teeth. “Oh, it’s on, Griffin.”

Clarke grinned back, just as feral. “Looking forward to it.”

Their classmates looked back and forth between the two, like they were at a Quidditch match. Finally, Bellamy turned back to the crowd and crowed “Who wants to see me jump from the astronomy tower, to see if I land on my feet?”

Everyone cheered, and ran off after him towards the staircase, as Clarke’s insides started to twist up with nerves. “Blake, don’t be an idiot!” she shouted, but couldn’t be heard over the chanting of jump! jump! jump! jump! jump! jump! She followed the rest of them, up to the top of the tower, where Bellamy stood balanced on the granite ledge looking out over the grounds, hundreds of feet below them. Clarke was going to be sick.

“Bellamy! Don’t !” she nearly screamed, but Bellamy just winked one enormous cat eye at her, and dropped through the air.

Everyone held their breath for a moment, before rushing to look. Clarke almost didn’t, but she had to know, in the end. She had to know if she’d just caused Bellamy Blake to leap to his doom.

Bellamy waved back up at them all, from where he sat perched on his broom just three feet below the window. “I guess I have nine lives, after all,” he grinned.

Clarke took off her shoe and threw it at him.

After that, their feud raged on like wildfire. Bellamy hexed her hair to knot itself in her sleep, and Clarke made his shoelaces tie themselves together so he was tripping wherever he went. Bellamy spelled her parchment to repulse ink so that she couldn’t write, and Clarke jinxed his teeth so he could only eat pudding for three days. Their hijinks ran from silly (when he turned her skin a pale shade of green that wouldn’t fade for a week) to dangerous (when she caught the back of his cloak on fire during supper), until the whole castle knew about the feud. Clarke knew that Murphy was taking bets, on which of them would win.

“I thought you were friends with Blake,” she said, when she found out about it, but Murphy only shrugged, tallying up his galleons.

“Bellamy’s good for a laugh,” he said, and shook a wad of bills at her. “But my real loyalty lies with money.”

In the end, it was Roan’s fault that they got caught, because of course it was.

“I hate him,” Clarke snarled, still stewing from the night before, when Papsukkal had arrived with the letter. It was from her mother, and while it wasn’t a howler, the cold stiff anger evident from her words were enough to fill Clarke with embarrassment and rage. Roan had tattled on her! Honestly, it was mortifying.

“Which him?” Wells asked, not bothering to even look up from his textbook. As far as Clarke was aware, his teasing had stopped once her feud had started, and honestly that alone made it all worth it. “The fact that I have to ask you to clarify that is a little disturbing, you know.”

“My baboon of a cousin,” Clarke said. “I can’t believe he told on me! Like we’re five!”

“Yeah, what an ass,” Nathan agreed. He’d taken to swearing, recently, because he thought it made him seem older and more mature. Clarke knew Bellamy was one of his roommates, and she was pretty sure he was a bad influence on him.

It was a Saturday, and they were in the courtyard. They were supposed to be studying--well, Wells was studying--but Clarke was mostly plotting her next attack, while Nathan fiddled with some spell that was supposed to make him roar like a lion. He wanted to use it for that week’s Quidditch match.

“This one has to be my biggest and best, yet,” she decided. “So I can go out with a bang.”

“I still don’t get why you guys hate each other,” Nathan said, and Clarke gaped at him. “You two are pretty similar, you know.”

“Am not,” she snapped, outraged. “How can you even say that? He hurt Wells !”

“Yeah, I’m really fine though,” Wells said, looking amused. “It wasn’t that big of a deal, to be honest.”

Clarke huffed. “That doesn’t matter! It’s the principle .”

Nathan shrugged. “I don’t care either way, but I’m just saying. You’re more alike than you think.”

“You take that back, Nathan Miller,” Clarke held her wand up threateningly, and started to make it snow over his head.

Nathan just rolled his eyes and batted the storm cloud away before tugging on her hair a little. “No p e,” he said, popping the p for emphasis. “Can’t run from the truth, Griffin.”

There was no helping it, Clarke realized; he was a traitor.

She started to collect up the books she hadn’t been reading, as Nathan started to protest, waving a quill through the air. But it was too late; he’d done his damage. “If you want to be on his side,” she said hotly, and Nathan sighed.

“I’m not on anyone’s side.”

Oh ,” she huffed. “So you’re not on my side, your best friend --!”

“I thought Wells was my best friend,” Nathan mused, and Clarke hit him with a roll of parchment.

We’re all best friends,” she snapped. Wells began to fidget like he always did whenever he witnessed an argument--especially between his friends. He never quite knew what to do with himself, then. “Or at least, I thought we were!”

“Ah, come on. Griffin!” Nathan called as she stalked away, but she refused to turn back. “Clarke, come back!” She pretended not to hear him.

Clarke stormed into her dorm room, tossing her books aside and flopping onto her mattress sprawled out like a starfish. Across the room, Fox and Emori were painting their toenails with some polish that Anya let them borrow. She said it had dragon blood in it, and was poisonous to drink.

“What happened?” Fox asked, wiggling her toes to make them dry faster.

“Boys are idiots,” Clarke scowled, and Emori made a sound of agreement, just like she knew she would. Emori understood.

“Their brains are wasp nests filled with turnip seeds,” Emori said, crossing over on the heels of her feet, so she could paint Clarke’s toes to match. It was difficult, since she could only use her left hand for these sorts of things. She never brought it up, or seemed willing to talk about it, but her right hand was left scarred and useless, and she tried to keep it covered up with her collection of scarves, whenever she could. Until she’d met Emori, Clarke hadn’t known that there were ailments that magic couldn’t fix, even with having St. Mungo’s head healer as her mother.

The next morning, Clarke hexed Bellamy so his hands kept dripping blue ink everywhere, smearing it on everything that he touched, like a leaky pen. She’d nearly forgotten about it by the afternoon, but then suddenly someone was grabbing hold of her feet, and Clarke glanced down, shocked, to find Bellamy smearing his leaky blue hands all over her nice white sneakers.

“What are you doing?” she asked, unable to look away as he ruined her shoes. They hadn’t actually touched each other since that first day, when she’d shoved him. She couldn’t believe he was resorting to-- Muggle tactics!

“Just practicing some art,” he grinned cheerily up at her, and then strode away as if nothing had just happened. He was whistling .

It took her another hour to realize that he’d charmed her shoes to be glued to her feet, so she had to wear them to the shower, and even to bed. The spell had worn off by the morning, but the blue was still there, dried in a pattern that sort of resembled ivy vines one way and bird feathers the next. Clarke decided she liked the way they looked, and would keep them.

Hallowe’en, at Hogwarts, was a remarkable affair, and Clarke worked on her costume for weeks leading up to the night.

“You know you could just transfigure your robes or something,” Denae pointed out, watching as Clarke snipped rows of black fabric with a pair of very long and very thin scissors she borrowed from Professor Cole.

“I know,” Clarke agreed, and began to twist her wand the way she might move a threaded needle, spelling the whole thing together. “But I prefer to use my hands.”

She did transfigure the ears, though, out of her old birthday tiara, and then placed them firmly on her head. She wasn’t sure how many of the other students were going to arrive in costume, but she’d never gone to a Hallowe’en party before, so Clarke figured she might as well dress the part.

“What are you supposed to be,” Anya said, because it didn’t actually sound like a question. She was wearing her bathrobe already, which Clarke took to mean she wouldn’t be attending.

“She’s obviously a black cat,” Emori said, grinning at Clarke’s tail. She, of course, was a pirate. She’d transfigured a metal hook out of something, to sit over her wrapped up hand.

Anya just ignored them both, pulling the curtains around her mattress closed. The party was in the Gryffindor common room, although every student was invited to attend, and they’d promised to leave the Fat Lady open for them.

Most of the Slytherins weren’t going, Clarke knew, but she wasn’t about to miss out on her first ever real Hallowe’en night, just because of a bunch of nonsensical house rivalry. Apparently Irradiated Irwin was going to be giving a moonlit soliloquy about how he died, in Gryffindor Tower in 1942, and Clarke wanted to hear it.

Denae was already there, chatting with the drowned ghost that liked to spend her time in the girls’ bathroom on the second floor, because it had the nicest view of the lake. She was starting to soak through the sofa where she sat, but no one seemed to mind it.

The Gryffindor common room wasn’t as sleek or well-kept as the Slytherin’s was. It was messy, and there were jumpers lying forgotten on the tops of chairs, and school books left out on the coffee tables, and mugs of old tea gone cold and stale and possibly moldy, set on the book shelves wherever they’d found room. But it was also warm, with three enormous fireplaces roaring, and cauldrons filled with sweet hazelnuts roasting over them, and fire whiskey and cider in rows of cups out for the guests. It was warm and welcoming and it felt shockingly like home in a way Clarke wasn’t used to.

Wells wouldn’t be coming; it was a sick day, and he was still holed up in the hospital wing, with Mister Nyko, the school healer.

Nathan was there though, Clarke noticed. They hadn’t spoken since their fight, nearly a week before. It was the longest she’d gone without speaking to him, and she was itching to get back to how they were, to just be done with it all, but. She couldn’t, could she? She didn’t even remember why she was upset, not really, but she knew she was right and he was wrong, and that meant something.

“Trouble in paradise?” Bellamy asked, leaning up against the wall beside her, and Clarke scowled at him as he sipped from his cup. She couldn’t tell if it was whiskey or cider that he was drinking; she hoped it was cider. He was only a second-year, after all.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Bellamy tipped his head over to where Nathan was chatting with a Hufflepuff boy named Bryan. Clarke recognized him from her astronomy class. He said something that made Nathan laugh. “Miller’s been a mess for days, over whatever happened between you two. He keeps snapping at everybody. Hogging the bathroom. Pissing everyone off.”

Nathan is the cleanest boy I’ve ever known,” Clarke snapped. “Except for maybe Wells. He’s the perfect roommate.”

Bellamy shrugged, taking another sip. It was definitely cider. She’d be able to smell the whiskey, wouldn’t she? Alcohol had that ghastly, stinging smell that made her eyes water. “Yeah, he’s great. I know that. You know that. So why are you refusing to talk to him?”

Clarke gaped at him, even though he wasn’t looking at her, and didn’t even seem to find this exchange at all weird . Which it definitely, definitely was. She and Bellamy were not friends. They didn’t talk about their problems together. They didn’t ask each other what was wrong--unless they were being sarcastic. Clarke couldn’t remember the last time they’d spoken a word that wasn’t hostile. It must have been her birthday, wasn’t it? Before he’d gone sour on her.

“None of your business,” she said, but it sounded uncertain. She was uncertain. Bellamy Blake was being nice to her, and it was freaking her out.

“Fair enough,” he said. “But whatever it is, figure it out. When one guy’s miserable, the whole dorm is miserable. He’s your best friend, right?”

“Him and Wells,” Clarke said, automatic, because it was true. She’d meant it, when she’d told Nathan that they were all best friends.

“So it should be easy,” Bellamy finished. “Nothing’s worth losing your best friend over.”

Clarke squinted up at him, tipping her head back because he was a few inches taller. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

Bellamy pretended to shrug again, but even in the yellow firelight, Clarke could tell his ears were going pink. He was embarrassed. “Miller said you didn’t know what Mudblood meant.”

She shook her head, bewildered. He’d said that the night of her birthday, too. He’d snarled it at her. “I don’t.”

He looked ready to let it go, but Clarke wasn’t.

“What does it mean?”

Bellamy ran a hand through his already messy curls and sighed, like he wasn’t sure how to explain it. “It’s a--it’s an insult. For people like me. People with Muggle parents.”

“Muggle-born’s?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “It means we have dirty blood. Muddy blood.”

Clarke frowned, feeling herself growing angry. “People say that to you? Just because your parents were Muggles?”

Bellamy eyed her, looking amused. “You can’t just go out and fight every bully in the world, you know.”

“I can try,” Clarke said, without thinking. Bellamy looked at her like he was going over every thought he’d ever had, and rewriting them.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he started, “These past few weeks have been loads of fun, but, eh, I’m kind of tired of expecting to wake up to find my eyelids stuck shut, or my toes grown together.” He stuck his hand out, for her to shake. “Truce?”

Clarke looked at his hand, thinking it over, just for a moment. She wondered if this might count as a victory for her. “Truce,” she decided, and they shook on it.

 

The summer before Clarke’s second year, her mother invited Marcus Kane round for tea, and he brought Bellamy with him.

It had been a lazy, sun-filled summer so far, with bursts of warm rain that Clarke would lay out on the grass in, wearing her swimsuit. She’d pretend she was in a waterfall somewhere. An enchanted waterfall, because everything was always better when it was enchanted. Sometimes Wells and Nathan stopped by to spend the day at the Manor, and sometimes, if her mother allowed it, she could go through the floo network to visit them.

But today, neither of her boys were around, and so Clarke was alone in her tree when her mother sent one of the house elves out to fetch her.

Clarke hadn’t spoken with Bellamy much, since Hallowe’en night. They’d been friendly enough in the corridor, offering a wave every now and again, and he did seem to be friends with Nathan which meant sometimes he’d sit with them in the courtyard or the library, but mostly he kept with the other second-years. Everyone had some sort of theory as to why their feud had ended so suddenly, but neither of them would tell.

His hair was somehow even longer and messier than it usually was, and he was wearing a rumpled shirt and a pair of rough-looking trousers the color of the sky, with a hole in one knee. He’d also suddenly grown a good half foot taller.

“Griffin,” he grinned and reached out towards her hair, gently pulling a twig from the curls. “Getting in touch with nature, I see.” His voice was deeper, too. Clarke wondered if this was what happened to boys, over the summer. Mostly she just got burned a lot.

“Blake,” she grinned back. “Still look like you’ve just rolled out of bed, I see.”

“Oi, it takes a lot of effort to look this rough.”

Clarke rolled her eyes and tugged him along by the elbow, down the corridor towards the second-study-turned-studio. It used to be her playroom, when she was younger, but then she grew up and got interested in art rather that toys--although she’d kept the collection of little dragon-shaped kites that flew when she blew on them, dangling on shimmery colorful threads from the ceiling.

She watched Bellamy take in the room slowly and methodically, running his eyes all over everything he could see, like he didn’t want to miss a bit of it. Clarke wondered how much, exactly, he’d seen of the magical world. Every time, he seemed to find something new to study. She’d watched him at Hogwarts, soaking it all in like a sponge, like he was bathing in it. Trying to get the magic to stick to his skin.

He looked at the books lining her shelves, with the moving illustrations that grew up off the page. He picked up one of the letters from Nathan, which she’d stuck to the wall with a gluing spell. The parchment looked empty, so he didn’t know what it was, and Clarke crossed over with her wand out.

“Here,” she waved her wand over the letter, revealing the words. “It’s a special invisible ink. Nathan, Wells and I all have some, so we can write to each other in it.” Bellamy looked charmed by it, so Clarke fetched one of the extra inkwells she had sitting on a shelf, and held it out to him. “So you can write to us, too.”

Bellamy watched her hand just for a moment, like he wasn’t sure he was really allowed to take it, and then slipped the little vial into his pocket. “Thanks.”

He looked at her watercolor paintings, which she’d charmed to move around and glimmer. He reached out to touch them just barely, like they were too important to risk damaging. To Clarke, they were just ordinary paintings, but to Bellamy they were probably a marvel. The thought of that, of someone being so impressed by her work, warmed Clarke down to her toes.

“You made these?” he asked, and Clarke nodded. “You’re really good.”

“Thanks.” She offered him a chocolate frog, from the stash she has piled up on the old desk in the corner, and Bellamy took it with a grin.

“The first time I opened one of these, the frog jumped out, and landed right on my sister’s face.”

“You have a younger sister?” Clarke chirped, pulling up one of the bauble chairs her father enchanted to float and bob in the air, but never drop its passenger. There was a second, red one, which Bellamy claimed. “What’s that like?” Clarke was an only child, and imagined having Wells was rather close to what having a sibling was like, though she’d never know for sure.

Bellamy shrugged. “I dunno. I like it. She’s my favorite person in the world, even if she is annoying.” Clarke grinned. “Her name’s Octavia.”

“Is she a witch?”

“Yeah,” he smiled, clearly proud of it. “She’s starting Hogwarts next year.”

“I’ll look out for her if she’s in Slytherin,” Clarke offered, and Bellamy’s smile grew soft, and then tapered off completely.

“I’m not an orphan, you know.”

Clarke blinked back at him, surprised. “But they said you’re Marcus’s ward.”

“I am, sort of,” he sighed. “It’s difficult to explain. Most of the time, I live with my mum, in our flat in Manchester, where I grew up. I didn’t even know I was a wizard until I was twelve.”

“But how? You should have gotten your Hogwarts letter at eleven. Everyone gets it at eleven.”

Bellamy shrugged. “Marcus said I just--slipped through the cracks. The only reason he even found out about me when he did was because he was looking for Octavia. And then I guess he just felt so bad about overlooking me, that he sort of took me in. He tries to show me around the wizarding world, to get me caught up. I’m already a year behind--a fourteen year old in third-year.” He said it with some embarrassment, like he actually felt ashamed of himself.

“But that’s not your fault,” Clarke said hotly, leaving no room for argument. She couldn’t believe that they’d just completely overlooked him! She didn’t even know that could happen! “It’s their fault for not finding you when they should have! They’re the ones who should be embarrassed,” she told him, “Not you.”

Bellamy looked back at her with owlish eyes. And then he started to laugh. “You know, Marcus said you get angry like this because of your mother.”

Clarke frowned. Whenever her mother got angry, she just became very quiet and let her eyes go all dark and mean, and she started to count to ten. Clarke didn’t think they were similar at all. “My mother?”

“She’s American,” Bellamy said, like that should explain it. “Everyone knows Americans are hot-headed.”

Now it was Clarke’s turn to laugh, because if there was anything that her mother wasn’t, it was hot-headed . But to be fair, her father wasn’t, either. “I think I might just get that from me,” she admitted, and Bellamy shrugged. Clarke glanced out the window, where the summer sun continued to bake England like an oven. A formation of geese passed by overhead, and Clarke was struck by inspiration. “I have an idea,” she said, grinning back at Bellamy. “Want to play some Quidditch?”

Clarke’s father had bought her, Wells and Nathan all matching brooms to practice with, and after a year of flying lessons under the terrifying Professor Indra, she wasn’t all that bad.

But Bellamy had had two years of flying class, and a handful of natural talent, so he was much better, and an awfully sore winner at that.

“C’mon Griffin,” he crowed, after getting the quaffle through the “hoop”--which was really just a circle they’d drawn in the grass--for the fifth time. “Are you even trying?”

She didn’t hate him, she didn’t. He was nice, secretly, and she was beginning to think they were friends , but. Friends could want friends to fall off their broomsticks, just once or twice. Just when they were being truly insufferable.

It was late and getting dark out by the time their parents--well, Clarke’s mother and Marcus--came to collect them. Bellamy had scored roughly twenty-seven goals, while Clarke hadn’t scored anything.

“Maybe you’ll get better,” Bellamy grinned, and Clarke swatted at him with her broom. “I’m going to try out for chaser next year.”

“Me too,” Clarke decided impulsively, and Bellamy raised his brows at her, like he didn’t really think she could do it, which only made her want it more. “That way, during a match, I can knock you off your broom.”

“Sure,” he agreed, but not like he really agreed at all. “Who knows, maybe you’ll make it. I think the Slytherin team might be hard off enough.” He laughed when Clarke shoved him, even though her mother yelled.

“Wasn’t that the boy you were at war with all last year?” her mother asked, once Marcus and Bellamy left and the gray powder had settled.

“Not all last year,” Clarke said. “We came to an agreement.”

Her mother hummed, unconvinced. “And now you’re friends?”

Clarke shrugged, heading back to her studio, to work on her first invisible letter to Bellamy. She didn’t know where he lived, but then she didn’t have to, did she? Owls had a knack for things like addresses. “Yeah,” she decided. “Now we’re friends.”

But she still had to beat him at Quidditch, which meant lots of practicing over the holiday. She forced Nathan and Wells to play with her, fetching them before sunup, and not letting them leave until dark. They enchanted an old bird feeder that her mother had forgotten about, and two metal fence posts, into the hoops so they had the illusion of a real, actual Quidditch pitch.

Clarke was still fairly rotten at the sport, but to her chagrin the boys seemed to have a gift for it. There wasn’t a goal that Nathan couldn’t keep, and Wells was every bit as quick as a good seeker should be. But at least Wells was taking the whole thing seriously--he really did want to try out for the team, when term started. Nathan was just passing the time.

“Why are we doing this, again?” he asked, flopping down on his back in the grass as the sun set. Wells wasn’t with them, was home sick in bed, so it was just Nathan and Clarke batting the quaffle back and forth for hours.

Because Bellamy Blake is a sore winner and needs to be taught a lesson,” Clarke explained, for the fiftieth time. It was late August, and the whole month had been wet and muggy, so they were often caught playing in the hot summer rain, getting mud all over their hair and knees and elbows. Her mother had taken to just leaving some spare towels inside the front door, for them.

“So are you and he friends now?” Nathan asked, sounding purposefully vague, and Clarke closed her eyes as she laid down next to him. The grass was still wet from the morning’s thunderstorm, and it was sticking to her skin.

“Yes,” she said, and she could feel how smug he was. “I know, I know; you told me so.”

“Told you both so,” he grinned. “That makes me twice as right as usual.”

Clarke just sighed. He wasn’t wrong . She’d let him have it.

Her Aunt Nia came to visit, just for an afternoon. She hardly ever came round, which was just as well, because Clarke hated her. She had a pinched face and a shrill voice and she was always yelling at her about crossing her ankles, and she always brought Clarke’s cousins, whom Clarke hated too. Ontari always pinched her until welts sprouted along her skin. She was just eight, but she was tall for her age, and mean . And then Roan was Roan, and Clarke hated him too.

Except Roan didn’t come this time. He was on some fancy internship in Romania, working with dragons for the summer. Clarke didn’t miss him--but it did mean she was on her own with Ontari, and had to spend most of the afternoon hiding from her in a broom cupboard.

Bellamy wrote back to her, a little. Just twice, but that was at least once more than she was expecting. He didn’t say much; he talked about riding the Muggle trains deep underground. He talked about his home in Manchester-- the dodgy end , he called it, and about his sister. He asked how her Quidditch training was going, but Clarke was pretty sure he meant it as a joke.

He wrote to Nathan too, but not to Wells, even though Wells said he didn’t mind.

“He apologized way back at the beginning of last year,” he said, when Clarke prodded him into telling her. “A few days after it happened.”

“What, before The Feud?” Clarke asked, flabbergasted. Why would Bellamy have fought back so hard, if he’d already realized he was wrong?

Wells rolled his eyes. “ Yes ,” he said. He hadn’t liked The Feud. “Why do you think I never cared to get involved?”

“Hmm,” Clarke said, rolling back over on her stomach, to watch Asteria play in her mother’s hydrangeas. Technically, she wasn’t allowed to. Technically, she didn’t care.

Her last night at home, she spent in her father’s study, where they could eat with their hands and not get yelled at by her mother.

“I take this to mean you’re no longer worried about making new friends?” he asked with a knowing smile. Clarke had written back home at least once a week, telling stories about her classes and her roommates--censoring the bits she knew her mother might not approve of, of course. Sometimes her mother would respond with a That’s nice, dear. Remember that teeth cleaning serum I gave you. But mostly it was her dad.

Clarke smiled into her biscuits. “No,” she agreed. “I’m not worried.” She still had Wells and Nathan, as always, but now she had Emori and Fox and Denae too, and maybe even Anya, just a little. And Bellamy.

“Good,” her father said, and they clinked their cups together. “I knew you could do it. Now, what is this I’m hearing about Quidditch?”

 

Clarke found Bellamy first, alone in one of the front-most compartments on the train. His eyes were closed, head leaned against the glass like he was sleeping. He jumped when Clarke flopped down on the seat beside him, and scowled at her, eyes still a little foggy.

“Late night?” she grinned, and he yawned in answer, not bothering to even cover his mouth.

“I stayed up half the night, helping O pack,” he explained, scowling at no one in particular. “I kept having to tell her, no Octavia, you don’t need to bring mom’s good kettle. Because they have kettles at Hogwarts. They’re perfectly good, magical kettles, Octavia. No, you don’t need to bring that old quilt. Because they have blankets at Hogwarts. ” He made a face. “And in the end, I still had to give up half my trunk so she could fit all her stuff.”

Clarke grinned and patted him on the knee, comfortingly. “You’re a good brother.” She watched the tips of his ears go pink and he turned away.

Nathan and Wells found them then, just in time for the sweets trolley, and they’d barely all sat back down before the train lurched out of the station. Clarke settled in for the ride.

 

Clarke was a second-year now, which meant that she got to ride in the horseless carriages with the other upperclassmen. She marched up along with Nathan, Bellamy and Wells--but Wells stopped short at the sight of it.

“Wells?” Clarke asked, looking back. He was staring at the empty hitch, where normally a horse might stand. “What’s wrong?”

Wells shook his head, and followed her up onto the bench seat. “Nothing. Just thought I saw something. I don’t know.”

“Maybe Blake’s not the only one who didn’t sleep well, eh Jaha?” Nathan said.

Clarke got to watch the sorting from her own table this time, too, and she sat up extra-tall when Octavia Blake was called--a tiny girl with long brown hair that walked like she was ready for battle. The hat had just touched the crown of her head when it announced GRYFFINDOR, and Clarke knew Bellamy was whooping the loudest as his little sister skipped off to sit right by him.

Roan was a seventh-year then and Head Boy, because of course he was, and as if that wasn’t enough he was also the Quidditch team captain, and star player. The band that he’d formed in his younger years seemed to have dissolved on its own, with Echo and Niylah going their own separate ways.

Anya was Head Girl for Slytherin that year, which made her difficult to bear. Suddenly they had chores , to keep their dorm and the common room tidy. They weren’t allowed to leave their clothes or shoes-- or horses , Anya had said sternly to Fox--lying anywhere, and the curtains to their bed chambers had to be tugged shut when they were gone. They took turns, polishing the toilet.

“I just don’t understand why she’s suddenly got a broom up her butt,” Clarke said darkly, and Wells pet her shoulder.

“She wants to be an Auror, doesn’t she?” he asked, and Clarke shrugged. Truthfully, she wasn’t sure--although it wouldn’t surprise her. She could easily picture Anya on the Ministry Guard, or maybe as the Minister of Magic, herself. “This is her last year to make an impact. She’s probably just nervous.”

“Well she doesn’t have to take it out on the rest of us,” Clarke sighed, clapping loudly as the Gryffindor team ran out onto the pitch. She and Wells were at try-outs, to support Nathan and Bellamy.

“What’s an Auror?” Octavia asked, not bothering to hide the fact that she was eavesdropping, and Clarke bit back a grin. She was every inch as precocious as her brother.

“A dark wizard catcher,” Wells explained patiently. “They catch the bad guys.”

“Like magical policemen,” Octavia decided. She liked to do that; equate things from the wizarding world, with things from the Muggle one. It helped her understand, even if Clarke didn’t really get it. She was just starting her first semester of Muggle Studies that year, and had no idea what policemen meant.

“I want to be one of those too,” Octavia added, and then stuck two fingers in her mouth so she could give a sharp whistle, when her brother made a goal. “Or maybe I’ll work with dragons. Bellamy said dragons are real, and that some wizards live with them in Romania. I might do that. Or both. I haven’t decided.”

“Bellamy said you wanted to be a professional Quidditch player,” Clarke said, trying to hold in a laugh. Octavia was a year younger and a half younger than her but they were fast friends, like Wells, and Nathan.

“That too,” Octavia agreed.

Bellamy made the team as chaser, with Nathan as the youngest keeper Gryffindor ever had. They celebrated in the boys’ common room, which was still just as messy and cluttered as Clarke remembered it being. Still just as warm, and comfortable, even if the sofas smelled a little like burnt cotton.

“You’re up next,” Bellamy told her, flopping down on the couch so she bounced up on the cushion beside him. He was still wearing his Quidditch gear, still slicked with dew from the clouds and sweat, and Clarke made a face at him. “Slytherin try-outs are tomorrow.”

“I’m aware,” she snapped, and he grinned at her.

“What’s wrong? Don’t tell me Clarke Griffin’s actually nervous .”

Clarke poked him in the shoulder, hard, and he laughed, leaning over to put his sweaty hair in her face so she shrieked, in retaliation.

“Bellamy Blake, you’re a pig,” she declared, but he didn’t seem offended, instead choosing to take that moment to try and show off some juggling act that he’d learned over the summer, with the shiny golden pears kept up on the mantle. He dropped every single one of them, and Clarke laughed so hard she cried.

She was late getting back to her own common room, and Anya was there waiting for her in the shadows, like a cobra waiting to strike.

“Fifteen points from Slytherin,” she said, nostrils flaring with rage as she stalked off towards the bathroom. Clarke made a face after her, before hurling herself on her bed.

Bellamy was in the stands the next day, as promised, and he’d made her a banner. She knew Wells had probably helped--and maybe even Nathan and Octavia--but the idea itself had Bellamy Blake written all over it.

Except for the enchanted glitter. That was definitely Wells.

She did horridly, of course, and was out of the running within the very first round.

But she had fun, which was the overall point of it, and her friends all came hollering and running at her across the pitch when it was over, as if the match had been real and she’d somehow won the whole thing.

“You guys do know I didn’t make it, right?” she asked, even as they all crowded around her, chanting her name.

“Number One loser at Hogwarts,” Bellamy grinned, and Emori charmed the banner to fly over their heads, proclaiming CLARKE GRIFFIN: #1 LOSER AT HOGWARTS. It was all rather oddly sweet, even if Roan was unbearable about it. Clarke refused to even look at him during the actual scrimmage.

“I’ll still knock you off your broom,” she said, as Bellamy walked her back to the castle.

He shook his head, but the grin was still there. “When pigs fly.”

“Oh, but you already do,” Clarke chirped, and Bellamy shoved her.

 

Octavia often invited Clarke, Emori and Fox up to her dorm. It was closer to most of their classes, and it was warmer than the dungeons, and Clarke got on well with Octavia’s roommates.

Well, she got on with most of them.

“Is anyone here with us, right now?” Mel asked. Clarke could feel her hands going clammy, but she kept her eyes shut, as instructed.

Octavia was not so diligent. “There are seven people in this room,” she pointed out. Mel ignored her.

“We are here today, to commune with any spirits who might be trying to communicate,” Mel announced to the world in general. Clarke could practically feel Octavia rolling her eyes.

“If it’s a spirit you want, there are like, ten of them just down the corridor,” she said, and Mel ignored that too.

They were circled around a special board of some sort, which Mel had brought with her. She said it could help them talk to the dead.

Clarke wasn’t really sure why they needed a board for that, when Octavia was right; there really were ten ghosts lurking somewhere just down the corridor. Maybe more. Hogwarts was filled with them.

“Spirits, please tell us if you’re here,” Mel crooned, and Octavia made a noise of disgust.

Clarke really did try to contain herself, but she couldn’t hold her laughter back when Harper spelled BOLLOCKS with the little wooden triangle, when Mel asked the spirits what it was she should call them.

 

It was the first year that Clarke shared any classes with Bellamy, though they only shared two. Potions was easy enough; Bellamy saw her sitting alone at the table and managed to nab the chair next to her so they’d be partners for the year, and it was nice. They worked well together, and experimented a little when they could, making snide remarks about Professor Muir’s ghastly breath, and it was fun.

It was less fun when two Ravenclaw first-years, a pair of gangly boys named Jasper and Monty, were seated with them to be watched over. They were glorified babysitters, and all because the Ravenclaws couldn’t manage to brew a single thing without somehow catching it on fire. It was a gift, really, and Clarke and Bellamy both were ready to throttle them by the end of the first hour.

“You know they call us mom and dad behind our backs?” Clarke whispered. They were in Divination, the other class they shared, which was only a little more difficult because neither of them thought Divination really ought to be a class at all. Wells was supposed to be sitting at the round table with them, but he was ill again.

Wells was ill more often than not these days, and Clarke knew it wasn’t his fault and that he couldn’t control it, but even when he was around, he was distant, and closed off. She hardly saw him at all, anymore. And Nathan wasn’t much better, now that he had a crush. He was always off studying with Bryan Moorkey. Lately it was just Bellamy and Clarke.

“That’s because they’re brats,” Bellamy whispered back, searching through his textbook for the image index. They were reading each other’s tea leaves, or at least just trying to find the pictures that matched each little lump of green best. “I think this might be, uh, mountains? And this little--I dunno, squiggle? There? That might be a bird. So, maybe a bird, from the mountains?”

Clarke bit her lip to hide a smile. “A bird from the mountains? That’s my future?”

Bellamy shrugged. “Don’t kill the messenger. Why, what’s mine?”

“Well this crooked, freckly spot definitely represents death and suffering,” she said, pointing it out, and watched Bellamy try not to laugh.

“Right, obviously. And that one’s the Grimm, I suppose?”

“Your future is grim,” Clarke said soberly, and Bellamy choked.

Behind them, Dax and Graham were snickering over something, and Graham kicked a foot out, knocking it against Bellamy’s chair.

“Watch it,” Bellamy growled. He was still a bit taller than all the other third-years, but Graham was big too, a beater on the Quidditch team, and less easily intimidated. He was one of the nastier, older Slytherins that Clarke didn’t really know.

“Or what?” Graham asked, grinning so all his thick, blunt teeth showed. “You might be someone out on the pitch, Blake, but you don’t scare me. I’d never be scared of a Mudblood.”

Clarke knew Bellamy was standing, pulling his wand out, same as Graham, but she didn’t even feel herself move before she’d hexed him. Scales started to sprout all over his skin, covering every inch like an itchy green rash, and when Graham tried to speak, his tongue filled up his mouth so he hissed, instead.

Bellamy stared in awe. “How long have you had that one up your sleeve?”

“Since The Feud, last year,” she admitted. They watched as Graham started to scratch himself all over, hissing with rage as he ran from the classroom, the professor calling his name the whole time.

“Thanks for not using it on me,” Bellamy said, as the professor shouted.

“I still might,” Clarke warned, and turned to face her judgment.

She got detention everyday for a week, but it was completely worth it.

She also lost Slytherin another twenty-five points, which had Anya spitting with anger, but it was worth that, too.

Clarke was stuck in detention with Professor Wallace--not to be confused with Headmaster Wallace, who was Professor Wallace’s father. Professor Wallace was young, as far as professors go, with a hooked nose like a bird’s beak, and narrow eyes that made Clarke squirm. He taught Defense Against the Dark Arts, was the head of Slytherin, and everyone was a little bit sure that he was a vampire. They’d never seen him in the sunlight. He sat at his desk, leaned all the way back in his chair with his feet propped up in a pair of very shiny very sharp-toed boots made out of something’s skin.

The classroom was mostly empty when Clarke arrived for her scheduled hour of punishment, but Jasper was there, and Monty. They’d probably set something on fire again, or managed to blow something up. Echo was there too, although Clarke wasn’t sure what for, Murphy, and Emori. Graham was likely still up in the hospital wing, recuperating. Clarke sat down beside her roommate.

“What did you do?” she asked, and Emori gave a feral grin.

“Nicked an enchanted map from the squib’s office,” she said. By squib she meant Emerson, the school caretaker. “Got caught in the room, but managed to convince them I was trying to steal exam answers, instead.” She waggled a bit of parchment at Clarke under the table, so she could see. “Heard you turned Graham Avery’s skin inside out,” she said, and Clarke made a face in disgust.

“That sounds awful--I just gave him a snakeskin rash. Ugh, who started that rumor?”

Emori shrugged, unconcerned. “I’m happy, either way. He’s a git; had it coming to him.” She tore a page from her textbook and folded it into a dragon before charming it to fly over towards where Murphy was asleep on his desk. The paper dragon started to smolder around the edges, and soon the room smelled like burned hair.

“Boys are the true enemy,” Emori said, seriously, schooling her face when Murphy woke and hurriedly patted out the embers caught on his robes.

Professor Wallace was mostly content to simply ignore them and focus on his nap, which meant that when Clarke caught sight of Bellamy waving at her from the doorway, she was able to sneak out while Emori covered for her.

“What about when he wakes up?” Clarke asked, but Bellamy just grinned and flicked his wand, so that an envelope sat up on Wallace’s desk.

“Professor Pike has a soft spot for me,” he admitted. “He wrote you a get out of jail free card.”

“A what?”

Bellamy shook his head, leading her off down the corridor with an arm around her shoulders. “We really have to work on your Muggle Studies.”

“Why’d you break me out?” she wondered. “It was just an hour. I could have done the assignment, or something.”

Bellamy gasped dramatically. “What, and let my knight in shining armor just waste away in prison?” He grinned, and it set Clarke off grinning too, the warmth of her best friend.

It still made her feel a little guilty, thinking of him like that. Made her feel like she was betraying Nathan and Wells somehow, even though she knew that wasn’t fair. They were all her best friends, and maybe that made her greedy, but. So what? She would be greedy about it. She had three best friends, and she loved them.

But Graham didn’t forgive or forget so easily, and they hadn’t seen the last of him. That weekend, Gryffindor played against Slytherin, and Graham had it out for Bellamy the whole match.

Gryffindor won, of course, but in the end Bellamy was still sprawled out on the common room sofa, with a broken nose and some sprained ribs from the bludgers. The broken nose was an easy enough fix; Clarke had seen her mother mend so many. But she couldn’t do much for the bruising, or the pain.

“I should join the team,” Octavia said. She was shaking with anger; Clarke and Harper had had to drag her, kicking and thrashing, from the stands so that she didn’t go after the Slytherins. “I could be like your bodyguard. I can protect you.”

Bellamy smiled, splitting his lip open again so it glared a bright juicy red. “Two more years,” he told her. “We can be co-captains.”

It clearly wasn’t the answer that his sister wanted to hear, and she started to sulk, making the air above them grow chilly with snow.

“Tavia, stop that,” Harper barked, smoothing where the flakes had fallen on her hair.

“Bellamy,” Roma, the Gryffindor seeker, asked, stepping into the room. She must have just changed out of her uniform. “How are you feeling?”

Bellamy readjusted himself on the couch, where his feet sat in Clarke’s lap, because he was being a baby about wanting them elevated. “Bit rubbish,” he gave a crooked grin, the one he flashed at girls that he found pretty. Clarke, Nathan and Octavia all rolled their eyes in perfect time.

If he feels good enough to flirt, he doesn’t need to have his feet up , Clarke decided, and stood. She still had an essay to work on, after all.

But when she got to her common room, she found Graham was waiting.

Dax was there too, and Mbege, flanking Graham on either side, to keep her from escaping.

“Done making out with your boyfriend?” he sneered, and Clarke scowled at him.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” she snapped. She was used to it by now, of course, whether it was Wells, or Nathan, or Bellamy. Everyone always assumed the same thing, because everyone was an idiot.

Graham snorted, like she’d just told a joke. Or maybe she was the joke. “That’s not what he seems to think,” he said, marching closer, so that Clarke was forced to take a step back, and then another and another, until she was pressed up against the cold marble wall. “Tell your Mud--”

There was a loud noise, and the four of them were startled, glancing over to see Murphy picking up a fallen lamp. He looked back at them all, unimpressed.

“Sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all. “Am I interrupting?”

Clarke took the chance to slip past Graham, across the room and up the stairs towards her dorm. She wanted to stop and ask Murphy if he’d done it on purpose, to ask if he’d heard those boys threatening her and had decided to help. She wanted to thank him either way, but she also didn’t want to spend another moment in the same room as them.

Clarke had felt anxious about being a Slytherin, about being a member of the house that the whole world seemed to think only took villains, but she had never felt scared in her own common room . She’d never felt scared of her own housemates.

Anya was in their room, perched on her mattress with a book when Clarke stumbled in, and she glared at her from over the rim of her reading glasses, looking her up and down. “What’s wrong with you?”

Clarke thought about not saying. She wasn’t in the business of tattling on others, and she preferred to fight her own battles, but this wasn’t like The Feud. Even when she’d hated Bellamy Blake and thought the worst of him, she’d never thought he might do her real harm. She’d never actually been scared of him.

“Graham Culling threatened me in the common room,” Clarke blurted, and watched as Anya’s whole face got dark. “Because I’m friends with Bellamy, and he’s a Muggle-born,” she added, just in case.

Anya shut her book and set it aside. “I will deal with it,” she promised, and left.

Clarke sank down onto her bed with a shaky sigh, and Asteria seeped into her lap with a chirp, butting her head up against Clarke’s hand so she’d pat her. She wasn’t sure what Anya planned to do about Graham, or if she should tell her about the others, Dax and Mbege too.

Fox was the next to come home, and it was easy for her to fish the story out of Clarke, and then of course she told Emori when she showed up, too. They had to keep her from marching over towards the boys’ dorms, to deal with the three, herself.

Finally, just before curfew, Anya came back. She glanced at the three girls, scrunched together on Clarke’s bed, and said simply, “It’s taken care of,” before shutting the lights off without another word.

Clarke didn’t know what Anya had done, to take care of things, but Graham wasn’t at breakfast in the morning, and Dax and Mbege both ducked their heads down as she walked by.

Roan was there though, and he slid into the seat across from her, purposefully, with no infuriating smirk in sight. Instead, he looked angry, and serious. “Why didn’t you tell me you were being targeted?”

“Because it’s none of your business,” Clarke snapped, bristling at his tone. “How’d you even find out?”

“I’m Head Boy ,” Roan said, exasperated. “ And your cousin. Did you really think Anya wouldn’t tell me?”

Clarke felt a sharp spark of betrayal towards her roommate. “Well, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

“I know,” he agreed. “I took care of it.”

Clarke stared at him. This was Anya’s answer? Sicking her cousin on the bully, like some guard dog with a ponytail? “You didn’t have to do that. I can take care of myself.”

To her surprise, Roan just said “I know.”

Clarke blinked at him. “You do?”

He sighed. “I’m not your enemy, Clarke. Blood is blood. I do have some sway, and it would help you to remember that. Use it. I know you hate our house, but you were placed here for a reason. Stop ignoring your roots.” Clarke watched dumbly as he picked up his plate of hard-boiled eggs, which was all he ever seemed to eat in the morning, and marched off down the table to sit with the other seventh-years.

She found out later, what had happened. Graham was cooped up in the hospital wing for days, nursing his wounds. Dragon fire burns were difficult to treat, and Mister Nyko hardly had the proper equipment to do so. They must have been very painful, but Graham refused to give up who’d done it. Clarke didn’t need to see the matching burns on Roan’s fingertips, to know. He must have brought some of it back with him, from his summer internship. She would have expected him to sell it, instead; dragon fire can fetch a pretty penny. But instead he used it to torment Graham Culling, and Clarke wasn’t sure how to feel about that.

She hated Graham, and she knew he deserved what he got and more, but-- Roan . It was a lot to think about.

Wells told her all about how Graham whined like a baby in the hospital wing, while Wells was laid up for his own illness. It was the most animated she’d seen him in weeks, and she was getting worried.

“You think he’d tell us, don’t you? If he was really ill, like--dying?” she asked, brushing the tip of her quill against her cheek in thought. Nathan hummed from where he was sprawled across the other end of the sofa, squinting at his Arithmancy book like if he looked at it hard enough, it might start to make sense.

“Wells,” Clarke clarified, and Nathan made a grunting noise she took to mean oh . She sighed. If Bellamy were there, he’d understand. He’d be worried with her, and he’d march up to the hospital wing and demand to see Wells, just to make sure it wasn’t dragon pox or something.

But Bellamy wasn’t there; he was on a Hogsmeade trip, with the rest of the third-year’s.

“I’ll bring you back something,” he’d promised, giving her one of his one-armed boy hugs before leaving. Now Clarke and Nathan--and Bryan, because Bryan tended to be wherever Nathan was, those days--were all camped out in the Gryffindor common room, waiting for him to come back.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Bryan told her, and Clarke frowned. She didn’t mind Bryan, but she hardly even knew him, and he was just always around . Sort of like how Roma always seemed to be around when Bellamy was. Clarke didn’t like it. It felt like their group was getting stretched out, like an old sock, and she was worried about what might happen once all the elastic was gone. Would they just...fall apart, like threads?

Marvelous. Now she was worried about two things.

Asteria mewled pitifully from the floor, because she wanted Clarke to pick her up, instead of jumping. She was going through a needy phase, and Clarke didn’t know how to say no.

Technically, she wasn’t allowed to let Asteria roam about the castle, or take her to any different common rooms. Technically , she wasn’t allowed in the Gryffindor common room herself, except for on special occasions like after-match celebrations--but that seemed to be one of the rules everyone tended to ignore, or just forget about.

“Is my brother home, yet?” Octavia called down the stairs. She’d done it twice every hour since Bellamy first left that morning. Apparently he’d promised her a gift, too, and she was rather impatient. Clarke wasn’t sure why she refused to come downstairs to wait with the rest of them, like a normal person.

“No!” she called back, and heard the door to the girls’ dorm slam shut.

In the end, Bellamy and the rest of the upperclassmen didn’t return until just before sunset, brushing the flurries from their shoulders and hair as they came inside. Roma was with Bellamy again, so close she was nearly attached to his arm, although he hardly even seemed to notice.

“Heads up, Miller,” he grinned, tossing something through the air. Nathan dropped his book on the floor to catch it, although Clarke was pretty sure he could have caught the thing regardless.

It was an old Quaffle, and Nathan smirked as he looked at the ragged stitching. “Thanks, Blake. You shouldn’t have.”

Bellamy made a face at him. “It’s not just any old ball, smartass. It can never hit the ground.”

Nathan shared a wary look with Clarke, before holding his arms out over the floor, and letting go. The Quaffle fell just to an inch above the old oak floorboards, and hovered there for a moment, before it began to drift through the air, the way it might have rolled lazily along the ground.

“It’s so you can cheat,” Clarke realized, and Bellamy flashed Nathan a sly grin.

“I’m going upstairs to change,” Roma announced as she left the room, and Bellamy watched her go like he thought no one was looking.

“Your sister wants her present,” Clarke told him, and almost as if on cue, she heard a door open upstairs and the sound of bare feet on the staircase.

“Bell!”

Bellamy mirrored his sister’s tone of voice. “O!” She glared at him, and he smiled. “What, not happy to see me? No hug? Kiss on the cheek? Not gonna ask about my day?”

Octavia scowled and crossed her arms, ready to start a fight. Clarke sighed, setting aside her Transfiguration assignment; there was no finishing it, now. “You could have brought me,” Octavia said, voice somewhere between a pout and accusation. “I know you’re good at sneaking. You go down to the kitchens almost every night.”

Bellamy shrugged, crossing over to flop down between Clarke and Nathan. He was still chilly from the air outside, and Clarke suppressed a shiver. “Not worth getting caught, sorry. Maybe next time, though. Here,” he tossed something to her too, although it was smaller than the Quaffle, and wrapped up in a box.

Octavia opened it eagerly, and pulled out a pair of plain black leather gloves.

“They’re impenetrable,” Bellamy told her. “I watched the sales woman slam her hand down on a sword, and it didn’t go through.”

Octavia ran about the tower for the rest of the night, in search of sharp things to impale her hands with--except, of course, the gloves repelled them all. She loved them. Clarke was pretty sure she was plotting how to take over the world with just those gloves, and eleven years’ worth of spitfire.

“You’ve created a monster,” she told Bellamy, and he laughed. A fourth-year had bought a pack of playing cards that were charmed to switch faces when you weren’t looking, making nearly any of the usual games impossible, which was what made them fun, and everyone was crowded around the biggest of the stained coffee tables, playing knock rummy.

It was nearly curfew by the time the last game ended, and Bellamy saw Clarke out through the portrait, Asteria padding along at her heels.

“I got you something too, you know,” Bellamy said, and Clarke watched as he searched around in his pockets for something, before coming up with a box even smaller than the one he’d given Octavia.

Inside, Clarke found a silver chain so thin it resembled a strand of hair, catching the light.

Bellamy Blake had bought her a necklace.

There was a pendant dangling from the center, just a small one, shaped like a cat. Clarke stared at it for so long that it made Bellamy nervous.

“It’s not new or anything,” he started, and it sounded like an apology , so Clarke cut him off.

“I love it,” she said, and meant it. Bellamy grinned, and pulled a matching chain from underneath his jumper. At the end of his hung what looked like a narrow silver snake.

“They fit together, see?” He leaned over, so he could press their pendants together, and his snake became her cat’s tail. “They reminded me of Muggle jewelry--two people will get matching necklaces, or rings, or something. To show they’re best friends.”

It clearly just slipped out, because Bellamy froze for just a moment, like he wanted to snatch the words back, stuff them in his mouth and swallow them.

Clarke beamed. It was nice to know she was his best friend, too. She threw her arms around him in a messy, rushed thing of a hug--she was still running late, after all.

 

A week after Hallowe’en, Bellamy and Roma went on a date.

“You’re doing what ?” Clarke asked, when he told her, and Bellamy gave her a strange look. She might have deserved it. He was trying to do something weird with his hair, in front of his mirror, while Clarke sat on his bed and looked at him like he’d just grown a second head.

It was just-- dating ? Since when did Bellamy date ? Since when did any of them date ? Dating was for old people, and she said so.

“You do realize I’m two years older than you, right?” he asked, but now he just sounded amused.

“One and a half,” Clarke corrected, instantly. It was instinct by now. She tugged at her necklace without really meaning to--that was instinct too. She liked playing with it, twiddling with it in class or wrapping her finger around the chain as she worked on her homework. She hardly ever saw Bellamy touch his; it just rested safely under his shirt. She wasn’t sure he ever took it off. “But Roma’s thirteen.”

“She turned fourteen last month,” Bellamy shrugged. “She’s got an early birthday. How does this look?” He’d run his fingers through his hair like a garden rake, so it was all sticking up every which way. He looked like he’d just been electrocuted by one of Jasper and Monty’s backfired spells.

“You look like a kneazle,” she said.

“Excellent,” Bellamy grinned, snatching up his jacket. It was the weekend, and he and Roma were going to Hogsmeade. For their date. A date . “I’m told girls like fluffy things.” He looked pointedly at Asteria, curled up and purring in Clarke’s lap.

“Can you believe Bellamy’s going out on a date ?” she asked, falling down beside Wells in a huff. She found him up in the astronomy tower--he was always in the astronomy tower, those days. He didn’t seem to like being around people anymore, which seemed odd. Wells loved people.

He gave her the same strange look that Bellamy had earlier, which only made everything worse. “Yes. He told me about it.”

“He told you ? When?” Clarke frowned. She’d hardly seen him at all that past week, which wasn’t all that unusual. They took different classes, and had different schedules.

Wells shrugged, and the conversation lagged. In its place sprung the questions Clarke had been brimming with for the past months. Where do you go these days, so I never see you? Why are you always ill? What’s wrong? How can I help you? Why are you hiding things from me? What are you thinking? I can never tell, anymore.

She pulled at her silver cat, and Wells stared at it. “Do you ever have something that you want to tell someone, but you don’t actually want to tell them?” he asked. “You just want them to know, on their own. Not like, figure it out, or anything. Just know. Just like that.”

Clarke reached over and took his hand. It was warm; he was always warm, those days. Was it some kind of permanent fever? Or maybe she was just always cold. “You can tell me anything, Wells,” she said, and he smiled, but it was the sad kind.

“I know,” he said, and they sat together until the sky changed.

Clarke found Bellamy the next morning, at breakfast. They ate together sometimes, when she was tired of her roommates or when he was tired of his. The prefects used to glare at them at first--you were supposed to eat with your house--but eventually they got used to it.

“How was your date?” she asked primly, and he laughed so hard that food spewed from his mouth.

Octavia wrinkled her nose, across from them. “Gross.” Bellamy made a face at her.

“You sound like your mom,” he teased Clarke. “It was good. We went to The Three Broomsticks. It’s a pub, but they have food there. I’ll show you around next year.”

Clarke hadn’t actually realized she’d been worried about the date until Bellamy mentioned taking her to Hogsmeade. If he could take her, his best friend, and show her around, then surely it didn’t mean much that he’d taken Roma. They went on a date. They ate, and had fun, and maybe they held hands or whatever else it was that couples did on dates, but that was it. Bellamy was still her best friend, was still hers , and she wasn’t about to lose him.

She hid her grin by swiping some bacon from his plate, crossing her eyes at him when he objected. This wasn’t going anywhere.

And it didn’t. Clarke didn’t lose Bellamy, not really, but she gained Roma, and she wasn’t sure that was any better. She didn’t really mind Roma, didn’t dislike her at all. She was nice, and sometimes she helped Clarke and Nathan with Arithmancy, because that was her best subject.

But it was like Bryan all over again, and it was just frustrating . She didn’t like that whenever she went to see her boys in their common room, it was never just them that she was seeing. She didn’t like that Bellamy kept getting distracted during Potions because Roma would make little birds chirp at him from across the room.

And she didn’t like that she was frustrated. Her friends were happy, so she should be too, but she just wasn’t.

“We could kill her,” Emori offered, when Clarke finally gave in and spent twenty minutes ranting about it in their room. Fox was trying out some new spell on her horses and pretending not to hear them, because she didn’t like talk about violence.

“I don’t want her dead,” Clarke said, exasperated, staring up at the ceiling. It was shaped like a dome, with some vivid mural painted across it in dull hues of gray and black and green. She couldn’t really tell what it was, but the sight always made her skin crawl. Sometimes things inside the painting moved, but it was too far above them to make out, so it just looked like dozens of writhing insects. “I like Roma.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” Emori chirped, helpfully. “I think I want a tattoo.”

“A what?” Clarke asked, looking away from the mural.

“You know, those inky designs you can get painted on your body. I think I want one. Or maybe more than one.”

Clarke frowned. She’d only ever seen those sorts of patterns on the skin of dangerous-looking people, the kind that hid in alleyways and dark corners. “Where?”

“On my face,” Emori decided, and Fox laughed. “I’m serious! Something big and loud, that tells the world,” she paused, thinking.

“Tells the world what? I made a mistake when I was twelve and have regretted it ever since ?” Clarke asked dryly, and Fox had to muffle her laugh with a pillow.

“Something that tells the world, hello world, I’m Emori, and I’m here to steal all your gold.

Clarke and Fox were in tears by the time Anya came in, and ordered them all straight to sleep.

In the end, Clarke didn’t have to worry about Roma for very long.

“We’re taking a break,” Bellamy said, the first morning of the holidays. They were all heading towards the train home, trunks trailing after them.

“She dumped him,” Octavia supplied helpfully, ignoring Bellamy’s scowl. “I think she just didn’t want to have to get him a present.”

“I’m sorry,” Wells said, because Wells was the nicest. Nathan just sort of smirked very loudly until Bellamy kicked him.

“There’s plenty more mermaids in the sea,” Bryan offered, because Bryan was still there.

Bellamy shrugged, apparently unconcerned. “We had fun,” he said. “Truthfully I didn’t want to have to get her a gift, either.”

Bellamy sent his first letter to Clarke the next day, so she woke up to Cassie, his old and weathered barn owl, tapping its beak against her window. The parchment looked blank, but she knew better, and said the spell that made the ink visible.

I’m bored.

Clarke snorted, because of course he’d waste an entire piece of parchment on that. She wrote directly underneath it. Want to come over? You can bring Octavia. She gave the letter back to Cassie, fed her some treats from Papsukkal’s stash, and sent her off.

His reply came back that afternoon, which meant he really must be bored. Bellamy never wrote back so quickly. He said he tried to make it a habit, to never write with a quill outside of Hogwarts. He said it was a crime that they didn’t allow ballpoint pens, whatever those were.

Can’t. Mum’s working all hours so I’m in charge of the flat. But thanks.

Clarke sent back a game of hangman, because she thought it might make him laugh, and considered.

She’d never seen where Bellamy lived, before. She’d been in his dorm room loads of times, of course, even though he complained constantly about not being allowed into hers. It wasn’t like she could change the spell; it’d been that way since forever. She couldn’t help that girls were simply more trustworthy.

“It’s sexist,” Bellamy had said, grumpily. Really she’d known he was just annoyed that he couldn’t lay out a bunch of smoke pops around her dorm, waiting to be triggered by unsuspecting girls in the middle of the night, filling the room up with smoke and the smell of dragon dung. She still remembered their Feud--she knew what Bellamy could be capable of.

“It’s life,” Clarke had shrugged, and left Bellamy to his grumbling.

The boys’--Bellamy’s and Nathan’s, that was--dorm was exactly as Clarke had suspected it would be. Messy and a little stale, like they never opened the windows. Bellamy’s bed was always warm and unmade and comfortable, much more comfortable than her own, and at first whenever she would visit, she’d end up falling asleep there.

She was pretty sure Bellamy figured it out, that she had nightmares, but he never asked, and so she didn’t mention it.

But she’d never seen his home , the one he was born in, the one he came from. She’d never seen where he and Octavia were raised, where they lived outside the castle. She didn’t even know what their mother looked like, or her name. She knew they lived in a place called Manchester, and she knew that, at least according to Bellamy, it was as if the sewer had thrown the whole city up, by mistake. She wanted to go there, to see what it was like. She’d never been to a Muggle city before, except London, and even then her family had stuck to the wizarding side.

She asked her father to loan her some fare.

“What for?” he asked, not glancing up from his book.

“The Knight Bus,” Clarke said, and her father looked at her over his spectacles.

“Why do you need fare for the Knight Bus?”

“To visit Bellamy. He can’t come here, so I thought I might go to Manchester, to visit with him and Octavia. Their mother is ill.”

It wasn’t a complete lie--Bellamy had often mentioned how his mother overworked herself until she couldn’t get out of bed, and he was left to care for her for two or three days before she went right back to the job--but it wasn’t the whole truth, either. Clarke worked better with the truth when it was in fractions.

“That’s nice of you,” her father said, and pulled a handful of galleons from the pockets of his trousers. “Give them my best.”

“I will,” she promised, and slipped out before her mother could come home and veto the entire thing.

Clarke had taken the Knight Bus just once before; when she was ten years old, with her Aunt Nia. Her Aunt Nia hated the Knight Bus, but the place where they were going didn’t have a fireplace connected to the floo network, and Clarke was too young to apparate, so the Knight Bus it was.

Ontari had pulled on her hair the whole time, but for the most part it was enjoyable. Clarke had loved watching magic unfold before her, since she wasn’t allowed to create it on her own.

Now she was nearly thirteen, and more than used to magic. But the bus was still a sort of thrill that she couldn’t get with regular old Hogwarts magic.

She Papsukkal with her, because he was the only one that knew where Bellamy actually lived, so it seemed like a good idea.

Papsukkal was a well-trained and older owl, which meant she didn’t have to worry about him too much in public. Mostly he just perched on her shoulder, talons only a little bit sharp, and chewed on her hair absently.

“You have to tell me where to get off,” she told him, as they boarded the bus. There were witches and wizards asleep in the rolling beds on the ground level, so she paid the little bit extra and climbed up to the top, where she could sit at one of the little round tables and watch the world pass by through the window.

Pupsukkal clicked his beak, which she took to be agreement, and they were off.

He nudged her when the conductor announces the stop at Piccadilly, and Clarke rushes to make it out before the doors snap close and the bus takes off again in a rush.

“I need you to show me where to go,” Clarke said, and Pupsukkal made a grumble low in his stomach, like a cat purring, or maybe like he was a little annoyed. But he stepped off her shoulder and glided through the air just a few feet ahead of her, careful not to get too far or too high, so Clarke could follow.

The Muggles gave her strange looks as she passed; owls weren’t too common in Manchester, apparently. Clarke did her best to seem mostly inconspicuous, even so.

Eventually, they turned down a few cobblestoned streets and rounded a few more corners until Pupsukkal let out a triumphant sound and flew up to rest on the window box of a flat. It was tiny, and crumbling, and Clarke hadn’t ever really given much thought to where Bellamy might live, but somehow it was exactly what she might have imagined. She knew he didn’t have much, in the way of money or things. She knew that was why he liked to buy them all presents, saving up for them over the weeks, like he was trying to prove that he could.

There was a little dialing pad with grimy buttons and age-stained stickers lined on one side, with different names. They weren’t interesting names, like wizards had, though. They were boring, plain old Muggle names.

BLAKE was number three, and Clarke pushed the button. Nothing happened. She pushed it again.

She could always unlock the door with magic, but she was under the age of majority. It would be illegal. She might be arrested, or expelled . She pushed the button a third time.

There was a loud knock, and Clarke looked up to see Papsukkal rapping his beak against a window. After just a moment, the window slid open from the inside, and she saw the mop of dark curls and brown freckled skin as Bellamy stuck his head out.

“Hullo old boy,” he told Papsukkal cheerfully, and then frowned. He hadn’t even noticed Clarke yet, and she had to swallow a laugh. “Oi, where’s your letter?”

“He doesn’t have one,” Clarke called, and Bellamy hit his head on the window in surprise.

“Clarke?”

“Yes, it’s me. Can I come up? Your Muggle button doesn’t seem to be working.”

Bellamy flushed at that, and Clarke grinned. “Yeah, that’s been busted since the summer. Um, sure, yeah, just--” he disappeared inside, and Clarke waited.

The heavy black door opened with a groan, like a yawning mouth, and Bellamy stood in the opening, with bedhead and pajama pants and striped socks but no shoes. Clarke had missed him.

She hugged him when she stepped in, and Bellamy hummed. “Missed me?” he teased, and she didn’t bother lying.

“Yes.”

“Clarke?” They pulled apart to find Octavia standing at the top of a narrow staircase, grinning down at them. She rushed down the steps, two at a time, and Bellamy had to leap out of the way before she threw herself into Clarke’s arms. They hadn’t grown that close over the semester, but Octavia had a flair for the dramatic.

“O, get off her,” Bellamy made a face. “She just got here, let her breathe.” He turned and led them upstairs to the Blake’s flat, and Clarke saw that inside it was even more narrow and crumbling than the outside.

But it was also warm, and filled to the brink with things . There was a collection of wicker baskets lining one wall, each filled with quilts and blankets dyed bright colors, and there were shelves holding books and not-books in equal measure, as if whenever they had something they didn’t know what to do with, they’d just stick it there.

“Want to watch a movie?” Octavia asked, and Clarke looked at Bellamy for a translation. He was fussing with something in the kitchen, which was roughly the size of a postage stamp. The room Clarke and Octavia were standing in, which Clarke might loosely label the lounge, wasn’t much bigger. They could all easily see each other and hold a conversation, even with the sagging corduroy couch and crooked white cabinets in between them.

“It’s like a story told all in pictures,” Bellamy explained. “But the pictures move, and talk.”

Clarke frowned. “I thought Muggles didn’t have moving pictures.”

Octavia looked up at her with wide eyes. “You’ve never seen a movie?” she asked, clearly horrified, and Bellamy scowled at her from the kitchen.

“She was raised in the wizarding world, Octavia. They don’t have those there.” But his sister had already run over to the stacks and stacks of what were apparently movies, searching through them for her favorite one.

She ended up choosing one that was drawn like a children’s book, about a horse from America. It was fun to watch, and Bellamy made them all toasted cheese sandwiches, and the couch was worn in and a little uneven, but Clarke liked it. It reminded her of the one from the Gryffindor common room.

She got lost halfway through the movie, and ended up in a game of Scrabble with Bellamy, which she’d never played before, but managed to get the hang of fairly quickly.

“No, kneazle isn’t a word in Muggle Scrabble,” Bellamy smirked, and Clarke scowled. That was the fifth word he’d discounted from the game.

“Well it should be,” she sniffed, indignant, and he laughed. “Someone should make a Wizarding Scrabble.”

“You should do it,” he agreed. “It could be your contribution to society. “Toerag doesn’t count either, Griffin.”

It was nearly dark by the time Clarke realized she should probably get going.

“Where’s your mother?” she asked, fetching her boots from where she’d kicked them off earlier. Bellamy rubbed at the back of his neck, looking embarrassed.

“She--works a lot,” he shrugged, and Clarke let it go. “Your parents seriously let you come here on your own?”

“I’m a very trustworthy person,” Clarke said, and he grinned.

“I’m sure, but I’m still surprised they didn’t come with you.”

Clarke shrugged. Truthfully, she was a little surprised herself. She’d sort of expected her dad at least, to want to join, if only because he was always intrigued by Muggles. “My mom was working, and my dad barely ever leaves the manor, these days. I think he might be feeling under the weather.” Bellamy reached down and squeezed her hand, just once, a wordless I’m sorry .

He walked her down to the street, and she hugged him again before she left, just because.

Papsukkal was waiting for her on the street lamp outside, and he swooped down to her shoulder immediately. “You could have come in,” she told him, but he just ruffled his feathers a little, as they started off towards the bus stop.

 

Clarke didn’t figure out what was wrong with Wells until the summer before their third year, and even then she only really figured it out by accident.

He was still sick all the time, bedridden once a month at least, looking exhausted and worn thin even when he wasn’t confined to the hospital wing.

Their professors seemed incredibly accommodating, all things considered. It was a wonder they hadn’t just sent him home indefinitely, to come back once he was better.

That was something that she worried about, Wells being sent away because of whatever it was that was wrong with him, and she said as much to Bellamy.

“They can’t send him away,” Bellamy reassured her. “His dad is the Minister of Magic. They wouldn’t risk pissing him off.”

Clarke knew it was true, of course. Headmaster Wallace and Mister Jaha were old friends, or at least old acquaintances. But she still worried--what if Wells never got better? What if, whatever it was he had, wasn’t able to be cured?

Bellamy was the only one she could really talk to about it; Miller was always busy with Bryan, those days, and Clarke didn’t think Wells wanted her blabbering on about his ailments to her roommates, and she didn’t want to risk speaking about it to Wells himself. He was probably feeling awful enough as it was.

Things had changed between her and Bellamy, since she’d visited him at his flat. While before he’d been shy about mentioning things from his Muggle life, now he was open about it with her. She knew all about his strange neighbors, and the vendor that sold strips of roasted meat outside his building, and how frustrated he was with the landlord because their shower hadn’t worked for months.

“Do you know what it’s like to only be able to take baths ?” he’d asked, disgusted, and then shook his head at her. “What am I saying, of course you do. Wizards only ever seem to take baths.”

It was exciting, hearing about his Muggle life. Even in her Muggle Studies class, they only ever seemed to talk about the boring sides of it all. They certainly never mentioned movies.

Roma came in to find them playing Scrabble in the common room-- Wizard Scrabble this time, as Clarke had said; they were at Hogwarts now, which meant they got to use Wizarding words. Bellamy had brought the game back with him after the break, in case she wanted to play.

Clarke hadn’t seen much of Roma since she and Bellamy broke up, but she still felt awkward, like maybe she should leave, in case they wanted to speak privately.

But Roma and Bellamy just shared a small, polite smile, and she turned to head up to the girls’ dormitory. Clarke waited until she couldn’t hear her footsteps anymore, to speak.

“Are you two getting back together, do you think?”

Bellamy snorted. “What, me and Roma? Nah. It was fun, but I think we both think we’re better off as friends.” He put down an O square with a smirk. “Mooncalf . Seven points.”

Clarke didn’t actually see much of Wells until the summer, which she felt bad about, and she really only saw him then because Bellamy had gotten a job that summer and couldn’t visit very often, which she felt even worse about. She knew that Bellamy hadn’t replaced Wells in her life, not really, but. He sort of had, hadn’t he? She and Wells had been slowly growing apart over the school year, seeing less and less of each other, while she spent all her time with Bellamy.

She made up her mind on a sunny June morning. “I’m going to see Wells,” she announced, voice echoing through the corridors, before stepping into the fireplace, and tossing down the powder.

Clarke found the Jaha manor relatively empty, which wasn’t unusual. Wells’ mother hadn’t been fond of keeping servants, and in her memory her husband and son had kept that tradition alive, employing only a single house elf for the entire estate. Wells’ home was, as Nathan once put it, what he imagined the inside of a stone might be like. There were dozens and dozens of windows and skylights, each covered up by thick heavy curtains which blocked out the light until the corridors and rooms were all dim and dismal. Rows of portraits of Jaha’s long passed watched as Clarke made her way to the main stairs. They never spoke to her, not even when she was little, and used to chatter on to any painting she saw.

She ran into Tilly, the Jaha’s house elf, just outside Wells’ room.

“Oh, hi, Tilly,” Clarke said, only a little awkward. She didn’t like feeling awkward about being in the manor uninvited. She’d never had to be invited before, and it had always been fine when she arrived unexpectedly.

Tilly squinted up at her, like she was trying to place her, which just made Clarke feel worse. She was an elderly house elf, and Wells had been gifting her with little bits of clothing for years, but she just refused to retire. She was wearing a pair of clean, striped socks on her feet, and a giant floppy sunhat with a brim that kept sagging over her face, and was carrying a feather duster.

“Miss Griffin,” Tilly said, finally remembering. She gave a little bow, and the sunhat nearly flopped all the way off her head. “Lovely to see you. Should I let Master Wells know you’re here?”

“Oh no,” Clarke said, waving her off. “I’ll just surprise him, thanks.”

Wells wasn’t in his room when Clarke walked inside, which didn’t mean much. Tilly seemed to think he was home, so he was probably in the washroom or something. Clarke decided to wait for him, poking around his room as she did. It was tidy, as Wells’ room always was, with only a handful of things out of place. There was a nightshirt resting on the corner of his bed, probably from when he got dressed that morning, and some sort of notebook left open on the tambour desk. There was a book left out on the nightstand, and Clarke crossed over to perch on his bed, and look at it.

There was a marker halfway through and Clarke flipped to the page. There was a recipe for Wolfsbane Potion, and a sketch of what a werewolf’s transformation looked like, along with the symptoms listed underneath.

Clarke knew they were due to learn about werewolves late in their third year; maybe he was getting a little ahead of the workload. She started to read.

The monthly transformation of a werewolf is extremely painful if untreated and is usually preceded and succeeded by a few days of pallor and ill health.

Clarke’s mind rolled the words over for just a second before everything clicked into place, just as she heard the door open.

She stared at Wells, watched as he noted the book in her hands, the look on her face, and finally glanced down at the floor and sighed. He looked tired, but then, he always looked tired, didn’t he? And now she knew why.

“For how long?” she asked. She couldn’t believe he hadn’t told her--she couldn’t believe she hadn’t known . She didn’t remember a time when Wells wasn’t sickly.

“I was bitten when I was three,” he said, coming inside to shut the door. He looked at her a little warily, like he wasn’t sure how close he was allowed to get, and Clarke felt her chest ache.

“You’ve been a werewolf this whole time,” she said, and Wells winced. “All on your own?”

“My dad knows,” he shrugged. “And Headmaster Wallace. All the professors know. That’s why they’re so good about my taking days off.”

Clarke felt all her past thoughts and memories and worries come together to form a constellation in her mind, with this missing piece finally making the picture clear. “How did I not know?”

Wells shrugged again, looking helpless. “It’s not like I wanted you to,” he said, and Clarke frowned, because that was the biggest part, wasn’t it? Why hadn’t he told her? She’d always told him everything--she’d thought they both did.

But then she realized he was still standing awkward by the door, like he was ready to run away if she told him to. Like he thought she might actually tell him to.

“Oh god, Wells,” Clarke rushed over to him, pulling him into a hug. “You know this isn’t--I mean, yes, it changes things, of course it does, but you’re still my best friend. You’ll always be my best friend. I love you.”

Wells leans into her. They were nearly the same height those days, but Clarke wasn’t sure that would last long. She’d seen what puberty had done to Bellamy, and Mister Jaha was very tall.

“I love you too,” Wells sniffed into her shoulder, and Clarke held him even tighter. She thought she might never let go.

She spent the summer researching werewolves, and Wells hated it.

“Here, look, it says that powdered silver--” Clarke leaned over to show Wells the passage in her book, but he cut her off with a sigh.

“And dittany can be applied to a fresh bite to seal the wound,” he repeated verbatim, and gave a sad smile. “You really think I haven’t read everything I could find? I’ve been dealing with this my whole life, Clarke.”

She sighed, rolling over onto her back. They were outside her manor, lying under the dappled shade that her tree offered. From her spot on the grass, she could see the names her father had carved into its trunk, barely changed with age.

“I’m sorry,” she offered, but Wells just shrugged where he was plucking up blades of grass, wordlessly turning them into little insects that flew off along the breeze for a few seconds before dissolving in the air. It was soft, pretty magic, Wells’ specialty.

“Are you going to tell the others?” she asked.

“I didn’t even tell you. You’re just nosy.”

Clarke grinned. “I know. Sorry.” She reached over to pet Asteria, on her other side, still wary of Wells even after all those years. That made sense now too, why cats had always hated Wells. She’d always felt sorry for him because of it.

“I think you should.”

Wells hummed absently, still playing around with wordless spells. He was getting good. “Think I should what?”

“Tell the others,” Clarke huffed, because honestly . He was acting so cavalier about the whole thing, and it was driving her mad. “You know they’ll still love you, right? It won’t change things for them, either. And then maybe with more help, we could--”

“Clarke,” Wells said, quietly.

“What? I know it might be scary, but--”

Clarke ,” Wells said, and this time his tone of voice gave her pause. She’d never heard Wells sound like that. Like he was angry. “There’s no cure!” he said, shouted really, the words bursting from him like a bird that was cooped up for too long. “They’ve been studying lycanthropy for decades , and found nothing! Doctors and aurors and Ministers and alchemists--none of them have been able to figure it out, and you think a bunch of third years might be able to?” He shook his head. “I’m just--I’ve accepted it, you know? I’ll never get better. I’ll never be able to do certain things, because what if there’s a full moon and I run out of potion, or I forget to take it, or something else happens? I’ll never be able to work for the Ministry, because what if they find out? I’ll never be able to be honest, completely honest, with anyone. And yeah, it sucks, but I’ve accepted it, okay?” He let out a ragged breath, apparently finished.

“You can be honest with me,” Clarke said, and he nodded.

“You,” he agreed. “But only you.” And that was the end of it.

Except, it wasn’t the end of it for Clarke.

She couldn’t tell Nathan or Bellamy herself, she knew that. It wasn’t her secret to give out. But she couldn’t just let it sit bottled up inside her, not when she could be doing something about it, to help her best friend. Just because he’d given up on himself, didn’t mean that she would too.

But Wells was right; a couple of third years wouldn’t be able to figure it out on their own. They’d need help. The question was, how to ask for help without spilling the secret?

She decided to write to Emori; now that Anya and Roan had graduated and left school for good, Emori was the most Slytherin person she knew, and could stand to be around. She made her letter as vague as possible, just in case, and Emori’s response arrived the next day.

Poison them , it said helpfully, and Clarke wasn’t really sure what else she expected.

Her parents invited her Aunt Nia for supper, which meant Ontari and Roan were invited, too.

“Welcome, Nia,” Clarke’s father greeted them at the front door, because Nia hated to travel by floo powder.

Ontari stood at her right elbow, and caught sight of Clarke. She made a face at her. Clarke rolled her eyes; Ontari was only ten, still, but she’d be attending Beauxbaton’s when she was old enough, because Aunt Nia hated Hogwarts, too. She was French, and as far as Clarke could tell, she hated nearly everything there was in the English Wizarding world. The only reason Roan went to Hogwarts was because Durmstrang was too far, and wouldn’t accept him.

“It has been too long,” Clarke’s father said, taking Aunt Nia’s fur coat--although why she should need to wear a fur coat in the middle of summer, Clarke didn’t know.

“Clarke, why don’t you and Roan go fetch Ressy?” her mother asked. Ressy was the house elf that worked mostly in the kitchen, and she was rather hard of hearing.

Clarke and Roan walked mostly in silence until the words bubbled up inside her. She still didn’t trust her cousin, but ever since the incident with Graham, she’d been wondering if she was maybe a little too harsh on him. He was right, after all. They were family. “So what are you doing, now that you’re out of Hogwarts?”

Roan gave her a strange look, all raised eyebrows, and she nearly told him to forget it. “I’m training to be an Auror,” he said, and she tipped her head back at the thought. There were hardly any Slytherin Aurors, she knew. There was a reason their house was so affiliated with dark wizards, and that didn’t lend many Slytherins to becoming dark wizard catchers.

“Anya is too, isn’t she?”

Roan nodded. “We’re in the same class. She’s good.” He gave a sly grin. “I’m better, of course.”

Clarke snorted. “Of course.” They reached the kitchen and sent Ressy out to her mother, which left the platter of winter melon tarts ripe for the pillaging. Clarke handed one over to her cousin before scooping up one for herself, and then hopping onto the counter to eat it.

“Roan,” she started, “You’re sneaky.” Roan scoffed. “If I know a secret, and I can’t tell anyone, but I want them to know, how should I get them to figure it out on their own?”

It was probably wrong, to try and get Nathan and Bellamy to discover Wells’ secret--maybe even as bad as telling them, herself, but. She needed them to know, and she couldn’t just tell them. And she was Slytherin for a reason, after all.

Roan hummed, thinking it over. “Think like a Slytherin,” he shrugged. “You’re sneaky too, when you want to be. How important is it that they figure it out?”

“Very.”

“Think like a Slytherin,” Roan repeated with a shrug. “Lay out all the pieces so they can put the puzzle together themselves.” He finished his tart, and waited for Clarke to finish hers, before they rearranged the plate so that it looked like none were missing.

“We should probably go back out there,” he sighed. “Before my sister decides to set the whole place on fire.”

“Your sister is a demon,” Clarke declared, and Roan didn’t argue.

It was a possibility that she might not hate him. Maybe.

 

The Blake’s went shopping for school supplies with them that year, and Clarke could tell that Bellamy was embarrassed.

Octavia wanted the kind of new broom that all her friends were getting, and new robes since her old ones were a few inches too short, and the nice new copies of all her textbooks, instead of the ratty second-hand ones that Bellamy could afford.

“O, we have to get your robes from the shop down the road,” Bellamy told her when he caught her eyeing a pair with purple stitching, on display for full price. He looked pained as he said it, and Clarke had to bite her tongue to keep from offering to buy it instead. She knew that would only make things worse; she’d made that mistake last year, and Bellamy hadn’t spoken to her for a week afterward.

But he didn’t seem to mind when Clarke or Wells offered to buy everybody sugared nuts, or pumpkin gelato. Clarke’s parents were chaperoning, technically, but they’d opted to let the kids go off on their own near the east end of Diagon Alley. She thought they might actually be on a date.

Nathan and Bryan were on a date. They kept holding hands, and Bryan would do this thing, where every time Nathan turned to the side, he’d put his hands on his shoulder and lean up to kiss his cheek. Clarke suspected that Nathan kept turning away so much, just so he’d keep doing it. It was gross.

They ran into Jasper and Monty at the sweets shop, with Monty’s parents too. Clarke wasn’t sure what had happened to Jasper’s parents, but she knew that he spent every holiday at Monty’s home, and seemed to live with him off-campus as well. Bellamy said he’d talk to him about it, but she wasn’t sure he ever had.

“How was your summer?” she asked them, politely. She liked the boys well enough, but it was hard to get to know someone when you were constantly trying to prevent them from blowing things up.

Bellamy and Wells were up at the counter, ordering for everyone, when it happened.

Diagon Alley was under attack.

There were a handful of screams, enough for Clarke to turn and see what was the matter, and then the earth shook with a loud blast that made her ears ring, and drowned everything else out. There was smoke all around, making her eyes water, and half of the building had caved in, on the other side of the room. There had been people there, sitting at the tables, and now there was just smoke and ash and rubble and-- god --the people were crushed, underneath.

Clarke ,” Bellamy grabbed hold of her shoulders and turned her around to face him, grip hard enough to leave bruises. She could barely hear him; how many times had he called her name? What was he saying? --our parents! Her parents, they needed to find her parents. She nodded dumbly and let him lead her away, stumbling over the crushed brick and furniture and bodies .

There were bodies everywhere, and she was tripping on them.

“Wells,” she said, and her voice was hoarse. Why was her voice hoarse if she hadn’t been screaming? The smoke, she realized. How much had she breathed in? “Where’s Wells?”

Clarke started to look around wildly, thoughts finally catching up to her brain, gone fuzzy. “Nathan,” she said, and she started to cry.

Bellamy just kept moving, pulling her through the crowd. Everyone was running in different directions, and Clarke had read about this, in history books. About wars, and bombs, and mobs running in a panic. People would fall and be crushed to death by the stampede. She didn’t want to die like that, bones crunching under everyone’s boots, choking on her own screams. She clung to Bellamy’s arm.

He led her to the east end of the Alley, relatively still intact. She saw her parents waiting for them in front of Ollivander’s, on the front steps so they were out of the crowd’s path. Wells was with them, along with Nathan and Bryan and Octavia--of course. Bellamy would never have left Octavia behind; he must have gone back for Clarke. She’d been too busy being useless, and hadn’t noticed them leaving, and he’d had to go back for her. He might have died , going back for her, and Clarke cried even harder.

There was a fireplace in the back of the wand shop, and they stepped into Griffin Manor, battered and bruised and covered in ashes.

“What was that?” Clarke asked, but nobody answered. Bellamy was still holding her hand. Neither of them tried to let go.

“I think we’ll order your supplies,” her father said, eventually. “Bellamy, Octavia, we’ll get yours too of course.”

Nobody argued, and no one went back to Diagon Alley that week.

It made the front page of The Daily Prophet, the next morning. DARK WIZARDS ATTACK DIAGON ALLEY , Clarke read over her father’s shoulder.

“But why did they do it?” Clarke asked. She was still a little scared, with leftover panic from the day before, but she was also angry now, and exhausted. She’d barely slept; every time she closed her eyes, she heard the screaming, and smelled the smoke, and saw the bodies. She read the article once her father was finished with it. Thirty-two had died. And for what?

Her father sighed, rubbing at the skin of his temples. He did that more and more those days, like he was constantly warding off headaches. The day before was the first time he’d left the manor in months. “Clarke,” he gestured for her to sit down on his knee, like she used to do when she was little, and had a bad dream.

She let her father wrap her up in his arms and even though she was so much bigger now, it still felt warm, and safe, and comforting.

“There are some witches and wizards who believe that people like you and Wells are better than Bellamy and Octavia,” he said.

“I know. They call them-- Mudbloods .” She stumbled over the word, whispering it. It still felt wrong to say it.

Her father nodded. “Yes, they do. But some go even farther than name-calling. They believe people like Bellamy and Octavia should die.”

Clarke felt her mouth drop open, in shock. “But the people that died yesterday, they weren’t all Muggle-born!”

“These people use fear like a weapon. They wanted to scare us, all of us, into agreeing with them.”

“But we won’t,” Clarke declared, feeling what was left of her fear dissolving, changing, until all that was left was hot anger.

“No, we won’t,” her father agreed, and pressed a kiss to her hair. “This might be a hard year for you,” he warned, like he might know something she didn’t. “Promise me that no matter what, you’ll look after your mother.”

Clarke looked at him funny. “Okay,” she promised.

He smiled. “You’re my favorite daughter.” It was something he used to say, when she was young. An inside joke. But I’m your only daughter , she’d laugh, and he’d say Oh, that’s true, isn’t it? Well, you’re my favorite child then . And she’d laugh again, and say But I’m your only child! and it would go on and on.

“You’re my favorite father,” she smiled back, and stood up. If she didn’t rush through packing, she’d be late to the train home.

Home . To Hogwarts.

The platform that was usually so loud Clarke couldn’t hear herself think, practically echoed. There were no shrieks of laughter from friends reuniting, or warm teasing from parents as they saw their children off. They were in mourning. Clarke had gone over the list of names over and over again that morning. She hadn’t known any of the people who died, but she still felt the loss like an ache deep inside her. They’d died because there were evil people in the world. They’d died for nothing.

Clarke found Bellamy and Nathan already waiting in their usual compartment. Octavia was probably sitting with her roommates, and she knew Bryan had elected to ride with his brothers, after everything that happened.

Clarke sat down beside Bellamy, and slipped her hand into his. He squeezed hers back, and she reached over for Nathan’s too, so they were all clasping hands when Wells walked in.

“Oh, I see how it is,” he said, trying for a joke, but falling flat. It was clear he’d been crying. Nathan held his other arm out to him, and he took it.

“Everything’s going to be different this year,” Clarke said, meeting Wells’ gaze. She didn’t just mean the bombing.

But it was Nathan who answered her. “Yeah,” he agreed, as the train began to roll. “Everything.”

Clarke could see the thestrals now. She turned to Wells, wide eyed and open mouthed, and saw that he already knew.

“You can only see them if you’ve seen someone die,” he explained, and then answered the unasked question. “My mum.” He hopped up into the carriage. Nathan and Bellamy could see them too. Most of the students could. Clarke watched the strange horse-like creatures, and wondered if it was beautiful, or sad, that they would no longer miss out on this magic.

Probably it was both.

The attack on Diagon Alley had convinced Headmaster Wallace that the students needed to know how to defend themselves. Where before they’d been learning Defense Against the Dark Arts in a mostly-hypothetical capacity, now they were learning how to put it into practice.

“Knowing how to duel,” Professor Wallace said, “Is your greatest chance at surviving, should you ever go up against an enemy.”

Professor Wallace was the only one who seemed actually delighted by what was happening in the wizarding world. Every week, there were more and more incidents and attacks, though none were as horrible as the first. Clarke didn’t know how long that would last; every morning, she woke expecting to learn that she’d lost someone. Charlotte, a Hufflepuff first year, had lost both parents in the attack on Diagon Alley. Wells told Clarke she had nightmares, and would wake up the whole dorm with her screams.

“Who wants to go first?” Professor Wallace asked. He liked to do that, too; to pit the students against each other, without actually teaching them anything. They were like experiments to him.

“I’ll go,” Graham said, and Clarke could feel his eyes on her, like a predator. Now that Roan and Anya were gone, Echo and Atohl had replaced them as Head Girl and Boy, respectively. And while neither of them disliked Clarke, she wasn’t holding out much hope that they’d have any interest in a feud between a fourth and third year.

“Excellent,” the professor said, and Clarke knew he was going to call her name before he did it. “Griffin, you too. Now! First, you both bow, and then, have at it.”

He hadn’t even taught them any dueling spells, but then, of course he wouldn’t. Clarke went through a mental checklist of every attack and defensive spell she knew. Graham was a year older, had a whole other year’s worth of schooling on her. He grinned at her across the platform. He looked like a viper.

Expelliarmus ,” Clarke said, because that was the first spell she could think of. Graham dodged it easily, and parried with a spell of his own.

Things went on like that for a while; Graham would cast a spell, Clarke would dodge it and cast one of her own for Graham to dodge, and so on. The thing was, Clarke had never really taken much interest in spells that could do real harm; she’d only ever looked up hexes and jinxes and charms that should could arm herself with, for The Feud.

After one of Graham’s fiery comets nearly singed her leg off, Clarke shouted the first spell that popped into her head, and it sent Graham flying across the room.

She blinked as the class erupted into cheers, and Professor Wallace had to shout in order to be heard. He ordered her back to her seat, and called up the next opponents, apparently content to let Graham sit unconscious on the floor where he landed.

“What was that ?” Emori asked, and Clarke stared down at her wand dumbly.

“A spell to put books in order,” Clarke said. “I was helping my dad reorganize the study the other day.”

“Do you reckon it was trying to put Culling on a shelf in the library, and the wall got in the way?” Emori wondered, and they burst into laughter.

But dueling wasn’t all they learned in class, that year.

“Werewolves?” Clarke asked, staring down at the assignment in front of her. She very pointedly did not look at Wells, which was difficult since he was sitting beside her. “But we aren’t due to start reading about lycanthropy until after the holidays.”

Professor Wallace sneered back at her, like he did whenever she pointed out that he was wrong. Which was often, seeing as he was wrong an awful lot.

“I see you’ve dutifully read the syllabus, Miss Griffin,” he said, “But with everything that’s happened recently, I thought it imperative that I teach you all how to defend yourselves against these vicious killers, as soon as possible.”

“What’s he talking about?” Clarke hissed, and Wells slipped her his copy of The Daily Prophet, saved from that morning. He liked to carry them around and do the crosswords in his study hall.

“There were werewolves at the attack in Diagon Alley,” he whispered back, as Clarke scanned the article on the front page. Apparently as time went by and more witnesses were interviewed, the pieces were all being put together. The media was calling the attackers Reapers , and apparently a large percentage of them were werewolves who had been cast out by society, and embraced their more inhuman side.

The Ministry wanted to compel every werewolf to register themselves with the government. Clarke was fuming by the end of class.

“What’s got you in a knot?” Bellamy asked when she collapsed beside him in a huff.

“Doesn’t it bother you at all?” she snapped, and Bellamy frowned at her. “What they’re doing? The Ministry? With the werewolves?”

“Oh,” he said, and Clarke stared at him.

“Oh? Oh? That’s all you have to say? They’re talking about forcing these--these people , who are sick and need help , to register themselves, and for what? So they can lose their jobs? Or be attacked in their homes? And all you can say is Oh ?”

“I think the idea is to stop them from attacking other people in their homes,” Bellamy said, and Clarke glared at him.

“I can’t believe you,” she said, standing up and collecting the books she’d scattered in her outburst. Bellamy scowled back at her.

“Listen, I don’t know why you’re acting so--”

“So what ?” Clarke demanded, and Bellamy gaped a little bit, searching for words.

“So hormonal ,” Bellamy snapped, and Clarke stared at him. “Seriously, what’s your damage?” he asked. “Is it that time of the month?”

Clarke scrunched her nose up. “That what?”

She watched as suddenly Bellamy went red all over. “You know, that,” he squirmed, and now she was very confused. “ Period ,” he whispered. “That girls get, every month?”

Clarke stared down at him, mouth open in shock. Was Bellamy Blake seriously asking her that ? “What does that have to do with anything?” she asked, and now they were both bright red. “It’s not like it--I mean, I just take a potion and--how do you even know about that?”

“Muggles, remember?” he said, and she was nearly tempted to ask how Muggle women dealt with the blood, if there was no potion for them to take for it.

“I can’t believe you,” she said instead, for a second time, and finished collecting up her books in a rush.

“Well, I can’t believe you either!” Bellamy called after her, as the librarian hissed at him to be quiet.

“Bellamy Blake is a toadstool,” Clarke said.

Jasper and Monty glanced at each other, clearly unsure how to respond.

“Is there a particular reason he’s a toadstool?” Monty asked, and Clarke sighed. There were so many reasons.

Bellamy wasn’t in her Potions class that year, which meant she was left to look after Jasper and Monty on her own. Or so she thought.

“Who’s a toadstool?” Finn asked, sliding onto the stool beside her.

Finn Collins was a Hufflepuff fourth year, with nice eyes and nice hair and he was dreamy , the sort of boy that all the other girls daydreamed about in class.

Clarke didn’t daydream about him, of course. She was too busy for that. And too sensible. There were too many other things she had on her mind; she didn’t have time for boys with nice eyes and nice hair and nice smiles.

She’d asked Wells about him after her first day of class. It was the responsible thing to do; she couldn’t be Potions partners with just anyone .

“He’s nice,” Wells had shrugged. “I don’t know that much about him. He’s got a Muggle dad, and they live in some Muggle town in the middle of nowhere. He seems to get on with everybody. Well, except Murphy, but no one gets on with Murphy.”

And now he was sitting beside Clarke, leaning over their shared cauldron to see if it smelled right.

“Well don’t just sniff it,” Clarke said, exasperated. “The fumes could be dangerous!”

Finn smiled expectantly. “Well then how do you suggest I see if it smells like,” he checked the book, “Sweet mint and winter wheat?”

“You’re supposed to waft ,” she said, and demonstrated.

Across their table, she heard Jasper say “What if we--” followed by a moderately small explosion.

Clarke sighed and sat down their ladle, to pick up her wand and freeze the fire that had latched onto Jasper’s robes.

Finn was laughing, because Finn seemed to think everything was funny. It was annoying, really. He was annoying. Even if his laugh was very nice.

“So, Clarke,” he started, and she sighed. She didn’t like that he called her Clarke. She didn’t call him Finn. He was Collins, and she was supposed to be Griffin. They weren’t on a first-name basis, yet.

It was possible that Bellamy might be rubbing off on her.

“Hogsmeade visit’s coming up in a couple days,” he continued, and she thought she might know where this was going.

But it couldn’t be, could it? There was so much going on in the world--the attacks, the werewolves, the Ministry--surely Finn wasn’t concerned with dating , of all things?

But he was.

“I was wondering if you’d let me buy you a Butterbeer?” he finished, and Clarke just stared at him.

“What’s that?” Jasper asked. “What’s happening?” Monty shushed him, but it was clear he was eavesdropping, too. Clarke turned to glare at them both.

But she needed to answer, didn’t she? Finn was still waiting.

“Uh, okay,” she said, and Finn beamed at her.

Clarke was still in a bit of a daze by the time she made it to Arithmancy, and sat at her usual table, with Nathan and Bellamy.

She and Bellamy still hadn’t spoken since their fight, and he looked thoroughly miserable. Nathan looked less than thrilled about having to go through a whole class with them ignoring each other, and forcing him to play go-between, like it was first year all over again.

But Clarke just sort of sat and stared, still going over everything with Finn. He’d asked her out, on a date . With her . And she’d said yes ! She was going on a date --her!

“What’s wrong with you?” Nathan frowned, jostling her shoulder.

Jasper leaned over from his table across the way. “She’s lovestruck ,” he cooed, and Monty rolled his eyes.

“Wait, what?” Bellamy said, confused. “What do you mean lovestruck ?”

“Finn Collins asked her out on a date,” Monty said, confirming every single one of Clarke’s thoughts. She groaned. “She said yes,” Monty added, helpfully, and Clarke laid her head on the table.

“Did you not want to?” Nathan asked, carefully, and Clarke looked up at the ceiling, like it might have an answer.

It didn’t. Mostly it had cobwebs and what looked like it might be a painting of a giant’s foot.

“I don’t know!” Her head was starting to hurt. Was she falling ill? That felt like a real possibility. “I just--there’s so much going on right now,” she explained. “People are dying , and being attacked and I just don’t know if I should be going on dates , when I could be--”

“Go,” Bellamy said, cutting her off, and Clarke stared at him. Nathan stared at him too; it felt like the whole class was staring at him. He cleared his throat and shrugged. “If you’re worried that you aren’t allowed to be happy, just because other people aren’t, don’t. You’re allowed to be happy, Clarke. You’re allowed to have fun, and,” he paused. “Go on dates,” he finished lamely.

“Thanks,” she said, quiet, and the professor called out a page number, signaling the start of class.

Clarke did go on her date with Finn, and it was fun. He took her to The Three Broomsticks, and they ordered every drink on the menu so they could sample the different tastes. He made up stories about the fat old bartender, and how many wives he might have stuffed away in the attic upstairs, and made Clarke laugh so hard that butterbeer came out of her nose.

They ran into her friends on the way out--Bellamy, Nathan, Bryan and Wells. Octavia was no doubt back in Gryffindor Tower, suffering, since she was left behind again .

Clarke introduced Finn, and they were all nice enough--some (read: Bryan and Wells) more than others (read: Bellamy and Nathan).

It was autumn, crisp and chilly with frost but no snow, and Finn wrapped his yellow-and-brown scarf around her when she complained that she was cold. He held her hand and walked her back to the dungeons, stopping just outside the stone wall that hid the entrance to the Slytherin common room.

“I had a nice time,” Finn said, still playing with her fingers. Clarke bit back a smile, charmed in spite of herself.

“Me too.”

Finn nodded, hesitated, and then leaned in, and Clarke let him. The kiss was soft, and chaste, and mostly just sort of warm. He pulled back after a moment, grinning. “You can keep the scarf,” he offered, tugging on one end. “It looks better on you, anyway.”

Clarke floated up to her dorm room, to find the girls waiting.

Denae was a seventh year now, and their age difference had never seemed so stark before. She mostly hung around her own friends, and was hardly ever in their room. Anya’s replacement was a first year named Iva, who seemed to give a lot of credence to things like family names and blood status.

Emori and Fox were pretending to read when Clarke walked in, but each of them had their books shut by the time she closed the door.

“So?” Emori asked, not one to beat around the bush.

“Was it romantic?” Fox wondered, eyes gleaming in the green hue from their lamps.

Clarke shrugged a shoulder, but it was no use; she couldn’t stop smiling. “It was nice,” she admitted. “He was funny, and cute , and--he kissed me.”

Fox squealed, until Emori hit her in the face with her pillow, to shut her up.

“How was it?” she demanded. “Tell us everything.”

Emori made a face. “Maybe not everything .”

“There’s not much to tell,” Clarke said, and that much at least was true. “He walked me home. He kissed me. It was nice. He gave me his scarf.” She flopped back onto her mattress.

“What’s his name?” Iva asked, having sat quietly on her own bunk, the whole time. Clarke hadn’t actually realized she was there, and she frowned. She didn’t really like Iva. Iva was the kind of person that didn’t like sitting near Bellamy, because she didn’t want to breathe the same air.

“Finn,” Clarke said. “Finn Collins.”

Iva frowned, like she was trying to remember something. “I don’t think his family is one of the Sacred Twenty-Eight,” she mused, and Clarke scowled.

That was another thing about Iva--she liked to consult the Sacred Twenty-Eight, the list of the last twenty-eight “pure blood” families left in Great Britain--whenever she met anyone. She’d been ecstatic to learn she was sharing a room with a Griffin, one of the oldest pureblood families there was.

“Yes, well, they wouldn’t be,” Clarke said sweetly. “His father’s a Muggle.”

Iva looked like she’d just smelled something awful, and Clarke wanted to hit her. Or at least hit her with a good bat-bogey hex. “Well, I suppose he’s a halfblood , at least.”

Emori caught Clarke’s eye and mouthed let’s kill her in her sleep , and Clarke went to bed smiling; she’d gone on a date, she’d been kissed , and she was pretty sure she might go on another one. Even her annoying, prejudiced roommate couldn’t ruin that.

Bellamy was right. She deserved to have fun.

And Finn was fun. Irresponsible, definitely. Ridiculous, of course. But oh, he was fun .

He liked to cast levitation charms on their professors when their backs were turned. They never got too high, but it was a laugh, and the whole class adored him.

Finn was popular and well-liked, and Clarke found that she was well-liked with him. He liked to keep his arm around her shoulders in class, when he could get away with it, and Clarke would only pretend to be annoyed at first, but she always let him get his way. He let her wear his jumper, when she shivered. It smelled like him, like lemons and fresh dirt.

He put something on her desk and then looked away quickly, pretending he hadn’t done it. Clarke tried to swallow her grin and picked up the gift. It was small, smaller than her palm, and made out of stone, like he’d carved it, though she knew he’d probably used some sort of spell. It was molded into the shape of a gryphon, and she loved it, and smacked a kiss to his cheek, in thanks.

Potions was fun to share with Finn--they worked well together, as a team, and sometimes they’d experiment with different recipes, just to see what might happen. Most of the time, nothing happened, or if it did, it wasn’t good and they were left cleaning manufactured ectoplasm off the walls. But sometimes, they managed to turn dried maple leaves into swimming goldfish, or powdered copper into little lights that bobbed around like tiny stars.

But Potions wasn’t the only class they shared--Care of Magical Creatures was the only subject she had Bellamy in, and coincidentally enough, Finn was there too.

“Alright,” the professor barked, though she was cooing at a couple of thestrals just moments before. “Get into groups of three! Now , we haven’t got all school year!”

Bellamy grinned widely between Clarke and Finn. “Well isn’t this convenient?”

Clarke scowled at him. He liked to pretend that he liked Finn, but she knew he didn’t, not really. If he did, then he’d be surly towards him, at least a little. But instead he was all cheery smiles and hollow laughs. She wanted to confront him, but she just hadn’t found the time.

“Today, we’ll be doing something different!” the professor shouted. Clarke wasn’t sure if she knew how to speak at a normal volume. “Somewhere in these woods, I’ve hidden five eggs! One egg per group--the first group to find their egg gets an automatic O on this semester’s exams!”

That sent a wave of murmuring through the class, only for the professor to glare at them all. “QUIET!” she called. “There will be no helping other groups, and no dying! You must use only your wands and your natural abilities! Begin!”

“A bit intense for a glorified dog-sitter, don’t you think,” Bellamy grumbled, and Finn laughed airily while Clarke just scowled. Bellamy eyed her for a moment, and then elbowed her in the ribs to get her attention. Honestly , he was such a toddler sometimes. “Your boyfriend thinks I’m funny.”

“That’s because he’s nice, and has no taste,” Clarke snapped, and Bellamy stared at her.

“I happen to think he has very good taste,” he told her.

“Oh, I’m sure that’s all you think,” Clarke scoffed, and Bellamy pulled her aside by the arm. Ahead of them, Finn was pretending not to listen, instead studying a patch of mollymoss rather intently.

What is going on with you?” Bellamy asked, and he actually had the gall to look worried.

“Maybe it’s just that time of the month ,” Clarke said, dropping her voice down low to mimic his.

Bellamy frowned at her. “Is this about Finn?”

“Of course it’s about Finn!” Clarke cried. She couldn’t believe he was actually asking that, as if he didn’t know! She poked him in the chest, hard, for emphasis. “You don’t like him.”

“What? Yes I do.”

“No, you don’t! You’re being nice .” Clarke crossed her arms, waiting for him to try and explain himself.

Bellamy blinked at her. “So you’re convinced I don’t like your boyfriend,” he said, slow, “Because I’m being nice to him.”

Clarke’s eyes narrowed. “You’re never nice,” she accused, and his mouth opened, affronted.

“I’m nice!”

Clarke scoffed, turning to the person nearest them, which happened to be Murphy. Which--okay, maybe he wasn’t the best, most unbiased option, but he was what they had. “Is Bellamy nice?” she asked him, and watched Murphy look at her, and then Bellamy, and then back at her.

“Peachy,” he deadpanned, and continued on through the trees, alone.

Clarke frowned and behind her Bellamy said ha , as if that proved anything. “Where’s your group?” she called.

“Don’t need one,” Murphy shrugged. “I’m a lone wolf.”

She turned back to find Bellamy watching her with his arms crossed, like he was expecting her to apologize, or something. As if.

Clarke turned on her heel and headed off to find her--well, she didn’t really know quite what Finn was, yet. She hadn’t asked him. They’d been on a couple of dates by now, had kissed more than once, she liked to wear his scarves and jumpers and he liked to hold her hand. But did that make him her boyfriend ? She wasn’t sure, and Clarke didn’t like not being sure of things.

“Seriously, Clarke,” Bellamy said, taking longer strides than usual to keep up with her fast pace. He almost ran into a tree at one point, because he was too busy looking at her and not at where he was going. “If you like Finn, I like Finn. I just--you’re my best friend, okay? I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Why do you think he’s going to hurt me?”

Bellamy sighed. “I don’t --or, I’m not, like, convinced he will, anyhow. I just--what if he does, you know? I have to be ready. To protect your honor, or whatever.”

She snorted without really meaning to. “I can protect my own honor.”

“I know. But I figured, we could take turns. Protecting each other’s honor, in shifts maybe.”

Well. She had to laugh at that, didn’t she?

“Bellamy Blake, you’re an idiot.” But she was grinning as she said it, so it sort of lost its heat.

“Yeah, but--” he was cut off by the sound of someone approaching, their feet crunching through the leaves, and Bellamy stepped in front of her with his wand out before Clarke could blink.

The Gryffindors were practicing their dueling, too.

Finn stepped out into sight and immediately raised both arms in surrender. In one hand, was a shiny opalescent egg. “Whatever it was that I did,” he said slowly, “I’m sorry.”

Bellamy gave a false laugh, putting his wand away. “Sorry. Is that it?”

Finn glanced down at the egg, tossing it up and catching it like a ball. “Guess so. How’s that Outstanding mark feel right about now?” he grinned, bumping Bellamy’s fist. Clarke just rolled her eyes and let him sling an arm around her.

In the end, they didn’t get the O. Murphy did.

“But he didn’t even have a group,” Clarke spluttered, when the professor told them.

“Uneven number! I said it was allowed!” she shouted back, and sent them off to their next classes.

They were allowed to keep the egg, though.

“What do you reckon it is?” Bellamy asked, holding the thing up close to his nose, to study it. Clarke was positive he needed glasses, now.

“Should I keep it under a lamp, for warmth?” Finn wondered, and they each agreed that he should look after it for the night, before switching off to Bellamy, and then Clarke, and so on.

“I hope it isn’t an Acromantula,” Clarke said, shuddering, and Bellamy fixed her with a glare.

“Great. Way to jinx us, Griffin.”

Clarke was at dinner, when she heard about it. Emori and Fox were already at the table, gossiping about something, but one of them mentioned the hospital wing, and Clarke interrupted.

“What’s going on? Who’s hurt?”

“That Ravenclaw boy,” Fox said. “Jordan. Apparently he got hit by some curse. They’re not sure he’ll make it.”

Clarke stared in shock. “What curse?” she demanded. “Who cursed him?”

Emori shook her head, mouth half-full of that night’s roast. “No one knows. They think it was Reapers, hiding out in the Forbidden Forest. He was looking for some egg out in the woods, and got separated. Next thing they know, his classmates find his body, bloody and half-dead.”

“How can there be Reapers at Hogwarts?”

Emori shrugged, seemingly unconcerned, but Clarke knew better. “This place isn’t a fortress, Griffin.”

Clarke knew she was right, of course, but it was easy to think of Hogwarts as untouchable. It seemed set off from the rest of the world, a safe haven, but it wasn’t, was it? After all, Diagon Alley had seemed untouchable, too.

She went up to the hospital wing that night, to see if she could check on Jasper, but Mister Nyko turned her away at the door.

“You can try back in the morning,” he offered, “But I doubt much will change. He hasn’t woken up, yet.”

Clarke wrote a letter to her father that night--she’d been neglecting it, putting it off again and again, because she was busy with school and her friends and Finn. But who knew when she’d have time to write to him, after this?

You were right , she wrote at the bottom. Things are getting harder.

 

Monty was by Jasper’s bedside when Clarke went to see him the next morning. There were some fresh-cut laughing lilies in a vase on the windowsill, chortling in the background. Monty probably filched them from professor Pike’s greenhouse.

“Dad!” Jasper called cheerfully, and Clarke frowned back at him.

“I’m the dad?”

“Bellamy’s the mom,” Monty explained. “Since he’s the warm and fuzzy one.”

Clarke gaped at them. “I’m warm and fuzzy!” she said, affronted, and Monty leaned over to pat her on the wrist.

“Sure you are, Clarke.”

“Bellamy asks about our feelings ,” Jasper said. Clarke wondered if Mister Nyko had charmed him, to make his brain doughy and take away the pain. “He brought me these.” He wiggled his nose, scrunching it up towards the pair of Quidditch goggles perched on his head.

Clarke had to bite back a smile--they were Bellamy’s, from when matches were held in the rain. He knew that Jasper wanted to follow in his footsteps desperately and become the chaser for his own team. He knew he admired him, and so he’d given him his goggles . It was sweet.

“I guess the notes you missed today won’t seem like much then,” Clarke sighed, handing the notebook over to Monty.

“That’s why you’re dad,” he said helpfully.

Monty followed Clarke out into the hall, when Mister Nyko told them the visiting hours were over, and she held him as he started to shudder and give little choked sobs. He’d nearly lost his best friend; he’d had to stumble up on his mangled body in the forest. He’d thought he was dead at first.

Jasper was in the hospital wing for twelve days, and everyone took turns dropping off assignments for him, from the classes he missed. They brought him gifts from Hogsmeade, and sat at the foot of his bunk to tell him all the latest gossip, and Bellamy brought him the snitch from that weekend’s match.

“I feel like a celebrity,” Jasper said, mildly. “This is the most attention I’ve ever had. I should get attacked more often.”

It was a joke, but the fear was evident, tucked underneath his voice. He still couldn’t even look at the Forbidden Forest through the window, without shaking. Mister Nyko let it slip that he was having nightmares, and scaring the other patients when he woke them up with his screams.

When anyone asked him what happened, he said he didn’t remember.

Clarke’s father wrote back more than ever, letters long and generally unimportant. But they were still from her father, and so they were still comforting. She could so easily picture him writing them in his study, surrounded by all his old books, with the fire going. He was working from home at the manor again. Her mother sent her love. Thelonious and Marcus visited for tea and biscuits. He was glad she was doing well in all her classes, and making new friends.

He wanted to meet Finn, and Clarke tried not to blush at that thought. Her--whatever Finn was--meeting her parents, shaking her father’s hand, complimenting her mother’s decorating. When would it happen? Over the holidays? That summer?

It turned out to not be any of that.

Clarke had never met Raven Reyes before that year. She was a Ravenclaw, for one, and a fourth-year, for another, and they’d never shared any classes together. Clarke wasn’t sure she’d ever even seen her in the Great Hall.

If Clarke really thought about it, she would have realized that she never really saw Finn outside of class. Sometimes they might study together in the library, brushing their feet against each other under the table, hiding their grins in their hands. And maybe Finn might stop by the Slytherin table at the tail-end of breakfast and play with her hair while she finished her toast, pecking her sweetly on the mouth before leaving. But, aside from their first date in Hogsmeade, they’d never spent much time together alone.

Raven found Clarke in the courtyard, because she liked to sit outside even when it was cold, and in mid-November, it was definitely cold. She was bundled up in two jackets, and Finn’s scarf, shuddering as she went over her notes for astronomy.

“Is your name Clarke Griffin?”

Clarke glanced up and had to squint, through the cold breeze, to find a pretty brunette frowning down at her. She was glaring at something--her chest? No, it was her scarf.

“Yes?”

The girl stiffened. “Are you dating Finn Collins?”

Clarke blinked and had to wipe a tear away with the back of her mitten. It was just so cold . “I don’t know,” she said, because she was taken off guard and wasn’t sure what to say. She and Finn still hadn’t had that talk, yet. Were they dating? Was that what he would call it?

The girl scoffed, puffs of breath forming clouds outside her mouth. “What do you mean you don’t know ?” she demanded, and Clarke stared at her.

“I mean,” she stammered, “ I don’t know! Why? Who are you?”

“I’m Raven Reyes,” her frown became a line, grim and angry. “Finn’s girlfriend.”
“No you’re not,” Clarke said dumbly, because what else was there to say? She wasn’t Finn’s girlfriend. If anyone was Finn’s girlfriend, it was Clarke.

But then Raven sighed, and snuck her hand into her jacket, pulling out a chain with a pendant attached. She held it out, so Clarke could see it clearly; it was a little raven, made out of stone. She could set it next to the gryphon on her armoire, and they would look like siblings.

It felt like there was a stone in her throat when she tried to swallow; she wondered if that one would match, too. “How long--?”

Raven seemed to understand what she was asking. She tucked her necklace back into place with a sigh. “Two years,” she said. She was back to scowling now, but Clarke was pretty sure it wasn’t for her.

“Well, he’s a dingbat,” Clarke declared, ripping the Hufflepuff scarf from around her shoulders. She held it out to Raven. “You can tell him to take this back, as well as anything else I ever got from him. And that I’ll be switching partners in Potions, too!”

Raven scoffed at the scarf with a sneer. “I’m not touching that. I’m not touching anything of his ever again. Tell him yourself. Or don’t tell him, and just ignore him for the rest of the year. Finn doesn’t hate anything so much as he hates being ignored.”

Clarke chewed her lip, gone raw from the winter air. She’d have to use some of Emori’s fancy smoothing cream, later. “You must know him pretty well.”

Raven tossed her sleek ponytail over one shoulder with a shrug. She really was very pretty. It was a wonder anyone would cheat on her, at all. “Since we were kids,” she admitted. “We grew up together, in the same village. I’ve never not known him.”

“Want to go into supper together?” Clarke offered, setting the snow down on the stone bench, to be left to collect frost overnight. It could freeze for all she cared. “We’ll really give him a fright, then.”

Raven grinned, dark and bitter, and Clarke thought she might like getting to know her.

“That’s a fine idea,” she agreed, and they did.

Finn was having a chat with Hanged Harvey, and turned nearly the same shade as the ghost when he caught sight of the two of them, walking into the Great Hall side by side. Neither Clarke nor Raven so much as glanced at him though, instead sitting together at the Ravenclaw table to eat their meal.

Raven introduced Clarke to her housemates, and Monty and Jasper were there too, clearly excited that dad was eating with them.

“What was that about?” Bellamy asked later, catching up with her in the corridor. “Since when are you friends with Reyes?”

Clarke eyed him suspiciously. “Since when are you friends with Raven Reyes?”

“She’s the Ravenclaw seeker,” he shrugged.

“She’s also Finn’s girlfriend.”

Bellamy froze, so that Clarke had to stop and turn to face him. His face was impressively blank.

“Bellamy?”

“I just--have some, uh, homework to do,” he looked dazed, and pointedly not angry, and his hair was still sticking up all over the place with sweat from Quidditch practice. Clarke didn’t trust him for a second.

“Bellamy Blake don’t you dare,” she hissed. “Just let it alone! I don’t want anyone to know, okay? I can take care of myself.”

“I know , Griffin,” Bellamy snapped. “Merlin, aren’t you the one who’s always going on about me studying? Well here I am, about to go study my balls off, if you’d allow that, of course, since I apparently now take orders from you.”

Clarke felt appropriately chastened. It wasn’t his fault that everything was awful and she felt like an idiot, after all. She shouldn’t take it out on him. “No, that’s--you’re right, I’m sorry. Have fun with studying, or whatever.”

Bellamy watched her for a moment before breathing, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Clarke,” and tugging her into his arms.

He was so much taller than her these days, and Clarke had to stand on her toes to fit her chin on his shoulder, the way she used to, close her eyes and breathe in. He smelled like sweat and other gross boy things, but he also smelled like Bellamy , like spices and rain. Her best friend.

“I’m sorry,” he said, muffled into her hair. “He’s a git,” he added for good measure, and she laughed.

“Yeah, he is.”

She didn’t learn about what happened until the next day.

Everyone in the castle knew, of course. Clarke immediately assumed Bellamy told, which wasn’t fair, and she believed him the moment he swore that he didn’t.

It turned out that apparently Raven had gotten into an enormous fight with Finn in the Hufflepuff common room, right in front of everybody, including Wells.

“It was a nightmare,” he told them the next morning. He, Nathan and Bellamy were crowded around Clarke at the Slytherin table, for moral support she was guessing, even though she didn’t need it. Emori and Fox had spent the night comforting her, and threatening Finn with some very illegal and undoable curses, in equal measure. They’d watched as she ceremoniously destroyed the stone gryphon with a deconstruction spell, turning it into a pile of gray dust, which they then tossed out the window.

“We thought she was going to kill him,” Wells continued. “Apparently, they had a fight a couple of months ago, and decided they should take a break--or, something like that. They weren’t really clear; there was a lot of yelling. Anyway, Raven thought they were still together, Finn didn’t, and he didn’t even bother to clarify it before asking you out the next day.”

“The next day ?” Clarke asked.

“Or maybe two days later. I dunno. It was pretty quick, in any case. Raven left the basement crying, and Finn was bleeding from his nose all through the night.”

“Good,” Bellamy and Nathan said, simultaneously, and Clarke smiled.

It was the first time the four of them had been together, since when? The train to school? It felt good, to be back with her best friends. It felt right.

“I’ve decided relationships are rubbish,” she declared. “And I’m never dating again.”

Wells snorted, but didn’t speak, and Clarke frowned at him.

“I mean it!”

“I believe you,” he promised, but he still looked like he was on the brink of a laugh.

Clarke had expected some people to be on Finn’s side. He was popular, and well-liked! He was good-looking and charming and fun and easy to get on with. But apparently Raven Reyes was even more so, and so everyone soured towards him. Clarke asked to switch partners in their Potions class, and Monty agreed to be paired with her, while Jasper moved to her old spot beside Finn.

In Care of Magical Creatures, she refused to even look at Finn, and Bellamy took to standing in between them, acting as a barrier to shield her from him. They still had the egg to look after, and Bellamy played the go-between, passing it along whenever it was another group member’s turn. They still had no idea what lay inside it, but everyday it grew hotter and hotter to the touch, and when Clarke held it up to her ear, she could hear a gentle humming.

She wrote a succinct letter to her father about the whole ordeal, while conveniently leaving out most of the details. He responded with an equally brief my condolences before moving on, and she loved him for it.

Her mother sent her a remembrall, in the hopes that it might remind her to look after her teeth. Clarke knew it was how she showed that she cared.

“I think I might leave society and live somewhere in the mountains,” Clarke said. She was studying for the upcoming arithmancy exam, and there was just no way she was going to pass it. It was impossible. Maths was impossible, and she hated it.

“Not me, I love society too much,” Raven said. She wasn’t studying at all, because Raven was one of those infuriating Ravenclaws that never had to study, and barely even had to attend class, to learn everything. “Especially technology. Specifically Muggle technology because no offense, but you guys are like cavemen, comparatively speaking.”

“None taken,” Clarke sighed. Raven and Bellamy had tried to explain the internet to her, and cellular telephones, but she just couldn’t really grasp it, although Bellamy promised to teach her how to play chess against a computer.

She and Raven were lounging outside by the black lake. There was a strange and sudden heat wave that week, which meant that even though it was December, and cold enough to warrant a jacket, the snow was all gone and the sun had warmed the dried grass enough for them to comfortably lay on.

Raven nudged Clarke in the thigh, with her foot. “If you jump in and kiss the giant squid, I’ll take all your exams for you and make sure you pass with flying colors,” she offered, waggling her eyebrows.

Clarke actually almost considered it.

“Tempting, but I think I’ll have to decline.”

“Have to decline what?” Bellamy asked, dropping himself down beside her like a sack of rocks. His hair was going every which way again, and Clarke reached over absently to try and pat it back down.

“Raven wants me to snog the giant squid,” Clarke said, and Bellamy gave a low whistle.

“Hot.” He grinned wolfishly. “And I’m pretty sure you’re its exact type, Griffin.”

Clarke just rolled her eyes. “Are you ready for your exams, then?”

Bellamy gave half a shrug, which meant no, and evaded the question, which mean definitely not. He pulled out their egg from the pockets of his robes, and sat it down for them to look at.

It had been nearly two months since they’d gotten their egg, and it had tripled in size since then. Clarke hadn’t known that eggs could grow. To be fair, she also hadn’t known that they could hum, or shake a little bit on their own, or shine opalescent in the sunlight.

“It’s been buzzing up a storm since last night,” Bellamy said, looking down at it fondly. He’d grown attached to the egg, over the past few weeks, and so had Finn. Clarke didn’t really understand that; it was just an egg. They didn’t even know what was inside it.

“I still hope it’s not an Acromantula,” she said, and he gave her a stink eye for jinxing them again.

Raven opened her eyes, squinting out at them, and flopped over like a fish, trying to get a closer look. “What do you think it is then, Blake?”

“A genie,” he said, making them snort. “And it’ll grant each of us one wish.”

“What will yours be?” Clarke wondered, and immediately regretted it at the sight of his grin.

“That every big-headed pure-blood witch and wizard is suddenly a Muggle-born,” he said, clearly having given this some thought. “And one million galleons.”

“That’s two wishes,” Raven accused.

“Not if I ask for them both in the same sentence.” He rolled so his head rested on Clarke’s shoulder, heavy and warm. “What about you?”

“That I pass all of my exams,” she sighed, and they laughed at her.

“Oh shit,” Raven hissed, and Clarke and Bellamy glanced down to see the egg was visibly shaking, more than ever before. It looked ready to topple over, and she prepared to catch it, just in case, but Bellamy put a hand on her arm.

“Don’t,” he whispered. “It’s starting to hatch, look!”

It was, and they each held their breath as the shell began to fall apart, piece by piece, the thin shards dissolving as they hit the earth. Finally, the egg was undone, and a dragon emerged.

“Merlin’s balls,” Bellamy breathed, and Clarke felt her jaw drop open.

The dragon itself wasn’t very big at all, small enough to comfortably fit in a single hand, or ride about on her shoulder, and was clearly bred to be pet-sized. It gave a loud baby yawn, and small bursts of flame puffed out of it.

“Aw, it’s a baby ,” Raven cooed, reaching a hand out to touch it, but it snapped at her fingers like a cat, and she pulled away.

“Well don’t startle him,” Bellamy said, clicking his tongue at the creature, and to Clarke’s surprise it actually went to him, tripping over its waxy thin wings as it did.

It let Bellamy scratch under its chin, only nibbling on the blunts of his fingers a little, and Raven looked on jealously.

“I’ve been watching his egg for a while,” Bellamy shrugged, scooping the thing up to hold it. “We’ve already bonded.”

“I’ve been watching the egg too,” Clarke pointed out with a frown. She wasn’t sure she really wanted to be bonded with something that might sneeze and accidentally set her hair on fire.

“Finn’s going to be ecstatic,” Raven said, mild. She was talking to Finn again, now that they both had some time to come to terms with the break up and move on. When Clarke asked why she would even bother trying to maintain their friendship, Raven had shrugged. He’s my family , she’d said. Besides my deadbeat foster mom, he’s the only one I have left, and left it at that.

Bellamy and Clarke were not so easily forgiving, and shared a look of disdain. Raven was right of course; Finn would want to keep the little dragon indefinitely, and even if Clarke didn’t really care much about the thing, it was clear that Bellamy was halfway in love with it already.

“What should we call it?” Clarke wondered, plucking a dead blade of grass to pet it with. The dragon started to chew on the brittle end.

“Draco,” Bellamy said, and Raven snorted.

“We’re not naming it dragon ,” Clarke told him. “That’d be like--naming you Wizard , or something!”

Bellamy heaved an enormous sigh, so she’d know he was very put out about this, and said “Fine. What about Sol?”

That was probably the most normal option he was going to give, so Clarke decided to take what she could get. “Alright,” she agreed, “But only if you figure out a way to train it. I don’t want it burning my hair off while I sleep.”

“He would never,” Bellamy grinned at the dragon, making his eyes go crossed like he might for a baby.

In the end, Sol didn’t burn anyone’s hair off while they slept--but he did catch Bellamy’s bed curtains on fire, and bite Asteria’s tail, and make a mess of the Hufflepuff common room when Finn accidentally left him alone by the bookshelves.

“Your son is a menace,” Emori snapped one morning, when she woke to find that Sol had managed to singe his way through the sleeves of every single one of her Oxford shirts. Clarke apologized and promised to buy her some new ones that weekend, scooping Sol up with both hands.

He wouldn’t grow any bigger than he was, apparently, at least according to their professor. And he wasn’t the only hatchling; the other groups each had their own tiny dragon, too. They took to taking them all to class with them, making them do tricks to try and decide which was the best. The dragons seemed to like it, getting the hour to socialize with others like them. Sol took a liking to Murphy’s slender violet water dragon, which was annoying because it meant Clarke had to spend more time with Murphy than was absolutely necessary, something which she tried her best not to do.

Bellamy made a face when he saw that Sol had trotted over to where Elektra was playing in a puddle.

“Didn’t you used to be friends with him?” Clarke asked, thinking back to her first year. “You two used to bully Wells together.”

Bellamy winced, like he always did whenever he was reminded of how he acted, before. She knew he still felt guilty about it, and while she also knew that he’d changed, that he was better now, she had a hard time picturing this Bellamy, her Bellamy, as the same cad that attacked her best friend. “We weren’t really friends . We just--had similar interests,” he finished lamely, and Clarke hummed.

“You were both jerks, so you decided to be jerks together.”

He snorted. “Yeah, that’s exactly it.” There was a crash, and they looked over. “Oi! Murphy, keep your slimy salamander off of my dragon!”

“You know,” Clarke mused, “If Sol and Elektra get dragon-married and have little dragon babies together, Murphy will be our in-law.”

“Now’s not the time to be describing my worst nightmare,” Bellamy said darkly.

Finn spent most of his time around them sulking, because Bellamy had made it explicitly clear that if he so much as looked at either of them, he would shave all of Finn’s hair.

“And the eyebrows,” he’d added as an afterthought, and that had been that.

Apparently, Bellamy had found that his Muggle threats were always taken more seriously.

“Wizards just don’t know what to do when you punch them in the face,” he explained. “Everyone knows how to duel-- expelliarmus and all that. We’ve all got a few good spells up our sleeves, but when it comes right down to it, the common magic person can’t handle an old-fashioned fight.”

“Maybe that’s how they should handle the Reapers,” Nathan said, slapping down that day’s copy of The Daily Prophet . The headline read REAPERS STRIKE AGAIN: MUGGLE PARLIAMENT TARGETED.

The attacks had been getting worse and worse, although lately they all seemed to be aimed at Muggles.

“They have a leader now,” Bryan said. His mother was a squib who worked for the Ministry of Magic, doing something with the numbers there. “They’re calling her Alie.”

“Why Alie?” Clarke asked, but he didn’t know.

“She sounds like a bitch,” Raven offered, mouth filled with pumpkin bread that she’d filched from that morning’s breakfast.

Bellamy sighed, flopping down so that his head was pillowed on Clarke’s leg, as she tried to finish her reading. She was hoping to get it all done before the holidays, which meant she was running out of time.

“They hit a suburb of London, this time,” he frowned up at her, even though with his head at that angle she was probably upside-down. “Be careful when you leave for break.”

“You’re not going home for Christmas?”

He shook his head. “I only did it for O. She said she wants to stay at Hogwarts this year--apparently Indra’s going to train her so she can play Quidditch next year.”

“They seem to be attacking mostly Muggles now,” Clarke said, petting his hair a little when he frowned. “But I’ll be careful. Promise.”

She was careful, hardly leaving the manor at all in the next two weeks. But that didn’t stop the Reapers from attacking Manchester on Christmas day. The dodgy end, filled with crumbling apartments and crooked alleyways.

Aurora Blake was killed in her sleep in the early morning, crushed to death by the debris when the Reapers took out the building next door. Clarke’s mother sat her down after supper, to tell her, and she packed up her things that night.

Clarke found Bellamy out on the Quidditch pitch, in the middle of the rain. Even Octavia wouldn’t have tried to train in this weather, but Bellamy wasn’t really training either. He was just standing there, letting the freezing rain drench him thoroughly as he stared out at nothing at all. He didn’t even have his broom.

“You’re going to get pneumonia and Mister Nyko is going to yell at you.” She had to shout to be heard over the storm.

Bellamy turned to look at her, drops of water caught in his eyelashes and the bow of his upper lip, plastering his curls to his cheek and neck and forehead. He needed a haircut desperately, but now probably wasn’t the time.

He frowned. “You’re not due back for another week.”

“I came home early,” Clarke shrugged.

“You didn’t have to,” he started, but she shook her head. She wasn’t about to let him do that thing , where he tried to save the whole world and comfort everyone but got mad whenever anyone else tried to help him.

“I know,” she said, and then she hugged him.

It was like all the air left Bellamy’s body as soon as she had her arms around his shoulders, leaving him to sag against her until they were on their knees in the mud and he was sobbing into her wet nest of hair.

The storm cleared before he was finished, and then they laid on their backs to dry out in the sun.

“How’s Octavia?”

Bellamy didn’t answer. He was playing with Clarke’s hair, which had frozen now that the rain was gone. If he wanted to, he could probably snap it in half.

“She won’t come out of her room,” he sighed, finally. “Indra decided to give her the rest of the week off, but I don’t know how much good that’ll do. I had to get the house elves to carry some food upstairs to her, since I can’t go in the girls’ dorm.”

“I can try talking to her,” Clarke offered, and Bellamy tugged her in close, so they were hugging lying down.

“Happy birthday,” he said, like an afterthought. “Sorry it’s such rubbish.”

Clarke moved her cheek so she could feel the metal of his snake pendant, underneath his shirt. “It’ll get better,” she said, and they both knew she wasn’t talking about her fourteenth birthday.

“I know,” he whispered, but it sounded like a lie.

 

Things did get better, in a way. The Reapers seemed to go into hiding after their attack on Manchester. It had been brutal enough to spur the Ministry into real action, unleashing newly trained Aurors onto the dark wizards and their mysterious leader, the woman nobody could describe.

“I heard she wears an invisibility cloak wherever she goes,” Sterling, a Hufflepuff first-year, said in a hushed voice. “Which is why you can never see her. She could be anywhere, at anytime.”

Octavia scoffed. “I bet she’s got some nasty facial scar,” she decided. “Like most classic villains. And that’s why she’s so evil; people made fun of her, growing up, and so she turned to the dark side.” Octavia had only grown bolder and brasher since her mother’s death--picking fights constantly, with a shorter fuse and a nastier temper. Bellamy had caught her looking up restricted curses the other day, and Clarke knew that he was worried about it.

“I just don’t want her to go all Anakin Skywalker on me,” he confessed, letting Clarke pet his hair like he always wanted when he was anxious.

“Is that another one of your weird Muggle references?” she asked and he sighed.

“You really do need to watch more movies,” he said. “Octavia’s making a list of all the ones she thinks you should see.”

The rest of the school year was spent studying for exams, and thawing out from the winter. January was nothing but frigid wind and constant sleet and gloomy skies; they were all ready for spring.

Except the weather apparently had different ideas, and summer managed to bypass spring completely, and arrived on their doorstep in May.

“Everything is hot and I’m dying,” Raven declared, lying face-down on the floor of the Slytherin common room. She liked that spot best because the floor was cold marble, and it cooled her skin. She also liked to roll over and stare up at the glass plates in the ceiling, with a view into the black lake, which sat just above them. Sometimes the merpeople would pass by, making faces and waggling their fingers at the students, and once or twice Clarke even saw the giant squid.

“All my friends are drama queens,” Clarke sighed, because it was true--with Wells as the only exception. Even Nathan turned into a martyr when he got a paper cut.

Raven ignored her. “I hope you’re prepared, because when I’m at your place this summer, I’m going to constantly be in the nude. I might even take my skin off. Is that what you want, Clarke? For me to be a skeleton?”

The decision to let Raven stay at Griffin Manor for the summer had been an easy one, once Clarke found out that otherwise, Raven would have to spend it with Finn Collins. She wrote for permission from her parents, and the plans were made within a week.

“I’m pretty sure my mom has a dress code,” Clarke said, dry, but Raven seemed unconcerned.

“I’m a rebel.”

But she was still clearly pretty nervous, as evidenced by how often she asked about the manor, itself.

“So tell me again how many giant columns you have there?”

“None, Raven.”

“Okay, but what about gold-inlaid toilet seats? You have at least one of those, don’t you?”

“Raven, do you think I live at Versailles ? No, there aren’t any gold toilet seats! All of our toilets are perfectly normal white porcelain.”

“You live in a manor , Clarke. Everybody knows that manors come with gold toilet seats, that’s just common sense, honestly.”

Bellamy and Octavia were spending their summer moving in with Marcus Kane, permanently.

“My mom basically let him take over, when he first found us,” he’d explained. The closer they got to summer, to leaving Hogwarts, the more tired and worn-thin he looked. Like he was dreading it. “He’s been in charge of everything for a while, now. Even helped us scrape rent together, when my mom didn’t make enough. Paid for our school supplies, too.”

“Do you think it’s because he feels guilty for not finding you earlier?” Clarke asked. She didn’t know Marcus Kane very well--she knew he went to school with her parents, and they were friends, but she’d hardly ever spoken two words with him before. He didn’t strike her as the particularly charitable type.

Bellamy shrugged. She was in his room, watching him pack because he didn’t like when she helped him; she always threw out the things he didn’t need, but wanted to hoard forever anyways. “I dunno. Maybe, maybe not. I’m just glad O and I aren’t getting split up, or sent to live with some great aunt we’ve never heard of before, you know?”

Clarke didn’t know, but she nodded anyways. Sometimes she worried that there was a great deal about Bellamy Blake’s life that she would never really understand. He had more in common with Raven--both Muggle-born, and orphaned--or even Nathan and Wells, who both knew what it was like to lose a mother. And what did Clarke know about prejudice, or loss? Nothing. He’d been right, all that time ago; she really was just a spoiled little princess, who always managed to get what she wanted.

She hadn’t forgotten about Wells’ illness--disorder? Disability? She wasn’t really sure what to call it--but with the attacks and the situations with Finn and with Bellamy’s mom, she just hadn’t quite found the time to properly think about what to do.

So at the last minute, she panicked and tossed a book about werewolves into Bellamy’s trunk when he wasn’t looking, that she figured he might find and flip through over the summer. And if he realized certain things and came to any conclusions, well, that wouldn’t be totally her fault, right? Bellamy was an observant guy.

You’re a Slytherin for a reason, a voice whispered in her head. It sounded suspiciously like Roan.

That summer was a heatwave.

“I feel like I’m the cookie dough, and the world is the oven,” Raven grumbled. They were lying outside on one of Clarke’s grandmother’s blankets, the soft ones with the Veela hair, tanning in the sun.

“What kind of cookie would you be?” Clarke wondered, because her mind felt too foggy with warmth to hold a more serious conversation. The air around her felt sticky on her skin.

“Ginger snap,” Raven said, “Obviously. And you’d be a snickerdoodle.”

“Obviously,” Clarke agreed, and that was how summer passed; laughing over stupid, ridiculous jokes that shouldn’t have been funny, but were, and spending so much time outside that her skin managed to progress to half a shade darker.

“You’re like a toasted almond,” Raven teased. She’d gotten dark enough that the whites of her teeth and eyes were a stark contrast. And she hadn’t been exaggerating, about wearing no clothes. It was a miracle if she even decided to get dressed; most days, she just wandered around the grounds in a pair of shorts and the top half of a Muggle bathing suit. It was brightly patterned and made mostly of string, and she had a matching set for Clarke to wear.

“Holy shit, Griffin,” Raven crowed when she tried it on. “You didn’t tell me you have tits .”

Clarke felt herself blush all the way to her scalp. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she snapped, crossing her arms, embarrassed. But Raven just shook her head.

“It means puberty was nice to you. Like, really nice.”

“I’m still short,” Clarke grumbled, but she was pleased, really. She had noticed she was gaining weight through the year, and that her bras were getting tighter, her shirts getting shorter, but she’d never really looked at herself like this, half-undressed in front of the mirror.

She looked good.

Her mother had taken to pointedly leaving buckets of the sun lotion salve that she made, out on the kitchen counter so Clarke wouldn’t forget to slather it on. She’d made that mistake before, and had to take an ice bath and then sleep on sticky aloe leaves for her trouble.

Her mother also had a penchant for lemonade in the summer, and she made it the way she did as a child, from raw lemons and sugar boiled on the stove. It was the only thing Clarke had ever seen her mother make, herself.

She and Raven were each drinking a glass of the stuff and flipping through some old issues of Witch Weekly when Marcus arrived through their fireplace, with the Blake siblings in tow.

“Clarke!” Octavia called, rushing over. “Raven! You’re so tan !”

“That’s what happens when you’re not white,” Raven said, dry.

She and Clarke were still in their bathing-tops-and-shorts, sitting out in the shade of the screened porch on her mother’s expensive wicker furniture. Clarke turned to speak to Bellamy, only to find he was across the room, pointedly studying one of her father’s old Muggle toys, charmed to never stop spinning. When she looked a little closer, he was turning pink around the ears.

“Never figured you’d be one for prudence, Blake,” Raven teased, tossing Clarke her over-shirt, as Raven slipped her own on.

“Maybe I’m just a gentleman,” Bellamy sniffed, only turning to face them once they were fully clothed.

It was sweet, really. He was just being a good friend, Clarke knew.

So then why did it make her feel like there was too much oxygen in her bloodstream, and she was going to start floating away?

“We brought our brooms so we can play Quidditch,” Octavia announced, and Clarke groaned without really meaning to, even as Bellamy laughed and swung his arm around her.

“One of these days, it won’t be just me against all of you star athletes,” she said darkly.

Bellamy grinned. “Whatever you say, Griffin. Whatever you say.”

 

The thing was, Clarke really wasn’t going to tell Wells’ secret. Really, she wasn’t.

But then they were swimming out at the pond behind the manor, and Wells took his shirt off because it was a nice paisley pattern and he didn’t want to ruin it--and she saw the scars.

Wells had always kept his shirt on, now that Clarke thought back on it. She couldn’t remember seeing him topless, even when they were little, and it wouldn’t have really mattered. And now she knew why.

There were thick train tracks of scars littering the skin across his ribs and back and stomach. Ropes of discolored, twisted skin wound around his shoulders. It looked like he’d been tortured --and over a long period of time, too.

Clarke scrambled up towards him as soon as she saw, and she watched his smile fall off and his eyes shutter closed. He didn’t want her to know.

How long had he had these? How long had he been so badly hurt? How long had he been hiding it from her?

“What happened?” She traced one of the lines, and bit back an angry sob when he flinched. It was too old to still hurt, so it must have been the memory.

Someone had hurt her best friend, tortured him, and she wanted to kill them.

“It’s not so bad anymore,” Wells tried, but even he knew it was a sorry attempt. “Now I take the potion, and I can control it better.”

Clarke stared up at him, and she knew she must look horrified, but she couldn’t help it. “ You did this?” she asked. “To yourself?”

He didn’t have to answer, for her to know she was right.

Wells was tearing himself apart every full moon, because he didn’t want to hurt other people. Because he was dealing with this all on his own, with no one there to help him. Because he was ashamed, or scared, or worried he might lose control.

She had to help him. But she couldn’t do it alone. Raven came back, from fetching more lemonade, and Wells quietly slid his shirt back on before she could see.

“Wells is a werewolf,” she said, later that night, once all the lights were out and she heard Raven’s breathing start to steady in the dark.

There was a pause, and then Raven’s voice, hoarse from being on the edge of sleep. “ What ?”

Clarke took a breath, and then another, and then a third. He might never forgive you , she told herself. And then, he might die if I don’t. “Wells is a werewolf,” she repeated, slower that time, so Raven could really understand. “He doesn’t want anyone else to know, but--he’s hurting himself, and I need to help him. And I need your help.”

She heard Raven mutter under her breath, and then the tip of her wand was illuminating the room. She squinted over at Clarke from the guest bed that her parents had transported to the other side of Clarke’s room. “Jaha’s a what , now?”

Wells and Raven weren’t necessarily friends , not yet, not the way Raven and Clarke, or Raven and Bellamy were. But they were somewhere in that in between stage, where friendship might tentatively start to grow.

“A werewolf,” Clarke sighed. Raven stared at her, speechless, the light from her wand turning her into a kaleidoscope of jagged shadows.

“No,” she said, sounding final, and dropped her head back down on the pillow. “ Nox ,” she added, a little harsher than necessary, and the room was pitch dark again, save for the starlight leaking in through the curtains.

It wasn’t until the next morning, after Raven had had her fill of Clarke’s mother’s truly terrible American coffee, that she seemed to be willing to acknowledge their conversation from the night before.

“So,” she said, glancing around to make sure the kitchen was otherwise empty. It was. “Jaha’s a werewolf ? For how long?”

Clarke shrugged, suddenly anxious. Everything felt more exposed in the daylight--what if she’d made the biggest mistake of her life, by telling Raven? What if she was putting Wells in danger? “Since we were kids,” she guessed. “I don’t know, exactly. He won’t tell me when it happened.”

“Hmm,” Raven hummed. She was getting that look that she got whenever she was trying to puzzle something out. The same look she got before she solved the hardest exam question, or figured out the trickiest wordless spell. She was going to help--well, she was going to treat Wells like a riddle, but that was how Raven helped, anyway.

“You can’t tell him I told you,” Clarke warned her, and Raven made a face.

“Yes, Griffin, I’m not an idiot . Honestly I can’t believe you didn’t tell me earlier.”

“I wanted to,” Clarke admits. “I just--didn’t know how. It isn’t my secret, you know?”

Raven leveled her with a heavy look. “It’s all of our secret, now.”

She started talking to Wells more--she’d talked to him before, of course, but always in a crowded environment, as two parts of the same group. Now she struck up conversation, asking Wells about his father’s work as the Minister--he didn’t know much, and he didn’t really like to talk about his father--asking about the Muggle chess sets he liked to collect and set up along the top of his desk--his mother used to collect them and after she died he carried on the tradition--asking when he was going to join Qudditch--never, because like Clarke, he’d come to realize his services were much better off the field.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Raven asked, and so Wells took out the notebook--he kept a whole notebook --that he dedicated to analyzing and creating Quidditch plays.

“I have some for every house,” he explained as Raven and Clarke flipped through the pages. There were four sections--Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and Ravenclaw. “Their strengths and weaknesses, and how to best play to each.”

Raven pointed at a little circle on a Ravenclaw page, which appeared to have a ponytail, and the letter R written inside. “Is that supposed to be me?”

Clarke could have sworn that Wells was blushing. “I drew some team diagrams.”

“You’ve been holding out on us, Jaha,” Raven said wryly, but her eyes were bright and she looked delighted . “I’m going to use you all year.”

Wells couldn’t come up with a response to that.

Clarke waited until she could catch him alone, when Raven went inside--she’d been taking biology lessons from Clarke’s mother when she came home from work at St. Mungo’s, each day. She also tended to seek out Clarke’s father, regarding any new ideas for inventions he may have. Clarke was doing her best to not feel jealous--after all, Raven was a scientific genius. It made sense for her to be curious, and interested in working with two professionals. And she’d never had any parents of her own, so it seemed only fair, that Clarke should share hers. She had no real interest in her father’s moving blueprints, after all.

Clarke waited until Raven was out of sight, sun beginning to set on them out on the lawn, and then poked Wells in the chest, firmly. “You like Raven! You were checking her out,” she accused, although it was a little more gloating than that. It was just--she’d known Wells her whole life, and couldn’t remember him ever having even a single measly crush on someone.

Wells looked down at her mildly; he kept getting taller, and fuller, and broader, and it just wasn’t fair. “So were you,” he pointed out.

Clarke opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

Was she checking Raven out? It wasn’t a secret that Raven was gorgeous, but then, Clarke thought everyone was gorgeous, really, so did that even mean anything?

Would she date Raven Reyes? Clarke thought about going to Hogsmeade with her, but not as friends. She thought about holding her hand, and wearing her scarf and jumper, like she did with Finn. She thought she might like to kiss her on the mouth.

“Is it possible to like boys and girls?” she asked, and Wells shrugged.

“I don’t see why not. I just assumed you did. I thought you had a crush on Anya, and that was why you were always hanging around her.”

Clarke frowned, thinking back to her first years. Mostly she’d just admired her upperclassman, and wanted her to notice her. But when she looked back on it--yes, she definitely did.

“Oh,” she said, very quietly. The fact of it was still setting in. “How did you know I liked her, when even I didn’t know yet?”

Wells shrugged again, collecting up their blankets so they could carry them inside. “You’re my best friend. That’s what friends do; we notice things about each other that we might not be able to find out, ourselves. Because we see from different angles.”

Clarke had to stand up very tall to swing her arm around his shoulders, but she did, and he let her hang off him for the whole walk back. “Do you think Raven likes boys and girls?”

“Maybe,” Wells said. “I think I might. A little.” He glanced at her and then away, but Clarke jostled his shoulders until he told her. “Bellamy’s very fit.”

Clarke was laughing so hard there were tears in the corners of her eye by the time they made it to the porch, and even though Raven demanded to be told what was so funny, she couldn’t say.

Summer passed in a flood of warm summer rain and sunshine. Clarke managed to perfect a waterproofing spell that let her stay dry even as she stood under the water, but Raven said using magic was “a coward’s move,” and just wandered around normally, getting soaked.

There were still the attacks, mostly on Muggles, explained away by foreign terrorists and freak accidents. There was still unrest, still fear, and anger. But there were others too, who agreed with the Reapers, and felt confident enough to speak freely--about how they hated Muggles, and Muggle-born’s--calling them filthy names that made Clarke’s blood boil.

Diagon Alley had rebuilt itself, and seemed to have forgotten about its own tragedy, save for a memorial carved into the side of the mended building where the bomb went off. It was just as bustling as it’d been before, and Clarke wasn’t sure if that was worse. If everyone just forgot about what happened.

Well, everyone except Raven. She made a point to stop by the memorial every time they visited the markets, standing wordlessly in front of the bronze plate, watching it. Clarke wasn’t sure why, or what she was thinking, but she always stopped. Raven was a Muggle-born, Clarke knew, and she was also the brightest student in her year. She always got top marks, straight O’s, and was a shoe-in for Head Girl.

Ever since her conversation with Wells, Clarke was painfully aware of her crush on Raven, made even worse by the fact that she refused to wear actual clothes .

Raven didn’t actually catch onto Clarke’s discomfort until the night before term started up again, when they were lying side by side on Clarke’s enormous bed, because Raven’s was still cluttered with everything they couldn’t fit in their trunks.

She poked Clarke in the side, so she yelped. “What’s up with you? You’re being weird.”

Clarke thought about just not saying it, but--it was Raven. She could tell Raven. The worst thing that could happen, would be her laughing like it was a joke. “Um, so I think I like girls. And boys,” she added. “Girls and boys. Both. Equally.”

Raven was quiet for a moment. “What, like to date?” Clarke nodded. “Huh. Alright. So why are you being weird about it?”

She could just leave it there, right? She could say she was nervous about telling Raven, and Raven would tell her not to be stupid, roll over, and go to sleep. “Because I think I might like you. Maybe.”

“Only maybe ?” She asked, sounding affronted, and Clarke nearly choked on nothing. “You don’t even know if you like me for sure?”

“Well,” Clarke stammered, “I don’t know, okay? I mean, I’ve never even kissed a girl before, and--”

“Oh, well that’s easy enough to fix,” Raven said, and leaned right over, and kissed her.

It was nice . Warm, and soft, and a little bit wet because Raven licked her lips first. It was definitely better than any of the kisses Finn had given her, and Clarke didn’t really want it to end.

Raven pulled back after a minute, and Clarke could still see the shiny whites of her eyes in the dark where she leaned over her on her elbow. “So?”

Clarke swallowed. “So what?”

“How was it?”

“It was...nice. You’re a good kisser.”

Raven laughed and flopped back down on the mattress. “You’re not bad, either. But I’m not into girls.”

Clarke gave a heavy sigh that made Raven laugh again, but if she was being honest, she wasn’t very disappointed. The kiss had been nice, and Raven was beautiful, and she was definitely interested in girls, but in somewhere in the middle of it all her crush had evaporated. “Figures.”

“Don’t worry,” Raven patted her hand. “When we get back to Hogwarts, we’ll find you a nice Slytherin girl to date.”

“She doesn’t have to be Slytherin.”

“Hufflepuff then,” Raven shrugged. “Or Ravenclaw. Or maybe Gryffindor, if you try really hard. Now shut up; I’m trying to sleep, here.”

 

They’d been back in school for just two weeks, when Bellamy pulled Clarke aside in the corridor, tugging her along to an empty alcove where they could speak without being seen or overheard.

“What are you--”

Bellamy cut her off, looking grim. “I think something’s wrong with Wells,” he said in a rush, and Clarke blinked back up at him.

She and Raven had discussed Wells’ condition a handful of times since summer, but to no real end. Neither of them still had any idea how to cure it, or even lessen the effects a little. And Wells still didn’t know Raven knew.

“He’s always sick,” she tried, shrugging it off, but Bellamy shook his head.

“No, I think,” he looked like he was trying to decide if he should tell her, and Clarke realized that he’d somehow figured it out. “I think he has lycanthropy.”

Clarke thought back to the book she’d slipped into his trunk back in June. “Oh,” she said dumbly, and he stared at her.

“You knew ?”

“He told me!” She worried her lip a little, as his mouth dropped open in shock. “I wanted to tell you,” she said, “But it wasn’t my secret to tell. I was hoping you’d just--figure it out.”

“You put that book in my trunk,” he realized. “I couldn’t remember checking it out of the library.” He looked like he couldn’t believe she tricked him into solving the mystery.

Clarke waved her green striped tie. “Slytherin.”

Bellamy just hummed, crossing his arms, and Clarke tried not to notice them. He was dressed for Quidditch practice though, so it was hard. “Okay, so what’s the plan?”

“The plan?”

“How do we help him?”

“Oh,” Clarke frowned, and he frowned at her.

“There isn’t a plan?”

“Well, I’m open to suggestions,” she snapped. “I’ve tried , but--he doesn’t like to talk about it, and most of the information on werewolves is about how to kill them, not cure them. I just don’t know!”

“Hey,” Bellamy reached over and tugged her into his chest, and she sagged against him. Bellamy always gave the best hugs, and she hadn’t had one in months. He smelled like gross boy sweat and a little bit like dust, but she didn’t even care. “We’ll figure it out,” he rubbed a hand down her back, up, and then down again, soothing. “Two heads are better than one.”

“Three,” she corrected, voice muffled by the padding on his shoulder.

“What?”

“Raven knows too.”

“Did everyone know before me?” Bellamy demanded, and Clarke bit back a laugh.

“Nathan doesn’t, as far as I’m aware,” she placated, but he was still grumbling all the way to the Great Hall.

He was dating a Hufflepuff fifth-year named Gina, and had taken to sitting with her when they ate.

Clarke liked Gina, she did. As it turned out, almost everybody seemed to like Gina. She was nice, and pretty, and had a good sense of humor. She and Raven shared some classes, which meant they got on very well.

“Like Sinclair on a ship deck,” Gina smirked, which sent Raven into a fit of laughter, wiping at her eyes.

“What does that mean?” Clarke asked, and Gina shrugged, settling into Bellamy’s side so she could steal a biscuit from his plate.

“It’s hard to explain.”

So, she and Raven had inside jokes. Which was fine; lots of people did. Clarke didn’t have some sort of monopoly on her best friends--they were allowed to date, and be friends with, other people. And it wasn’t like Bellamy hadn’t ever dated anyone before.

“Yeah, but not like Gina,” Wells pointed out, when Clarke told him. “This is the longest he’s ever been in an actual relationship.”

“What about Roma?” Clarke argued, but Wells shook his head.

“Roma was never serious. Gina is.”

Clarke hadn’t actually been too worried about it, until her conversation with Wells. Now it was all she could think about, and everywhere she turned, Gina was there, folding herself into their little group seamlessly. It was Bryan all over again, except Bryan never made her feel uncomfortable, like she didn’t belong anymore.

Then, as suddenly as the relationship had begun, Bellamy and Gina broke up.

“We just decided we were better off as friends,” he shrugged, when Clarke asked him.

She pestered Raven about it too, since she and Gina were still close, but Raven said the same thing, and then dropped it.

Raven and Bellamy were prefects that year, which meant they had access to the prefect’s bathroom on the sixth floor.

“It’s nice, right?” Bellamy grinned as Clarke looked around the room. It was huge, with an enormous elaborate bath right there in the middle, and moving stained glass letting in filtered sunlight, dappling color along the white tile.

“I guess,” she said, and Raven scoffed. “Why are we meeting here, again?” Bellamy and Raven shared a look, and Clarke grew suspicious, remembering back to her first year. “This doesn’t have anything to do with Polyjuice, does it?”

They looked confused. “Why would it have to do with Polyjuice?” Bellamy asked, and Clarke shook her head.

“Nevermind. So what is it?”

Raven stepped forward, taking a heavy-looking book out of her bag. “Griffin, what do you know about Animagi?”

“Wizards who can turn into animals? We learned about them in Transfiguration last year.”

Raven nodded, and handed the book over for Clarke to look at, flipped open somewhere in the middle. It was a passage on Animagi, complete with sketches of the process. Down near the bottom, she glimpsed the word LYCANTHROPY in large print, and started to read.

“You want us to become Animagi, so we can keep Wells company while he transforms?” she guessed, once she’d read the bit about how werewolves only attack humans, and so an Animagus would be safe.

“They do better in packs,” Bellamy shrugged. “So, we figured--let’s give him a pack.”

“This says it can take years,” Clarke pointed out, but the others looked undeterred.

“I’m a genius, you’re clever enough, and Blake can be smart when he wants to be,” Raven said. “I reckon we can do it in one.”

Bellamy cleared his throat. “I think we should tell Miller. It isn’t fair, keeping him out of the loop.”

“It isn’t--” Clarke started, but he cut her off.

“Isn’t our secret to tell, I know. But that didn’t stop you from telling Raven,” he said pointedly. “Or from kind of telling me. At least, let’s give him that book, and get him to figure it out on his own.”

Clarke hesitated. She really did want to let Nathan in on it--it didn’t seem fair, that he should be left out of something so important. Wells was his best friend, too.

But already three people knowing seemed a bit much; she just wasn’t sure how Wells would feel about it.

“Let me talk to him,” she decided. “I’ll sit with him at supper tonight.”

She got to the Great Hall early, and found Nathan was surprisingly alone at his end of the Gryffindor table, reading something for class. He was probably waiting for Bryan, and so Clarke seized her chance, slipping onto the bench beside him.

“Nathan,” she said, debating whether or not to try catching up first, or just leap straight into things. “We have to talk about Wells.”

Nathan sighed, setting his book aside to look at her, unimpressed. “He gets sick every month, Clarke. You should be used to it, by now.”

“It’s about-- why he gets sick,” she said, stumbling over the words. Nathan blinked at her.

“Is this about the werewolf thing?”

“It’s about--” Clarke stared. “You know about the werewolf thing?”

“He gets sick every time there’s a full moon,” Nathan rolled his eyes. “It’s not like it was hard to figure out. I put it together our second year.”

Clarke just sat there dumbly, trying to think back to what it was that might have tipped him off before the rest of them. Nathan drank his pumpkin juice in silence, letting her work it all out.

How ?” she demanded, eventually, and he smirked.

“I read a lot of horror stories as a kid,” he shrugged. “Lots of stuff about werewolves. I know the signs.” He grinned a little wolfishly. “Or maybe I’m just cleverer than you, Griffin.”

Clarke shoved his shoulder as he laughed. “Well, Bellamy and Raven know too, and we’ve been working on something that could maybe help him.”

That made Nathan sober up. “What kind of something?”

The sounds of chatter and students marching into the hall echoed around them, so Clarke leaned in and whispered “Meet us in the prefect’s bathroom on the sixth floor tonight,” and then crossed over to her own table, where Emori had saved her a seat.

The prefect’s bathroom became their unofficial meeting place for the next two months, until one day Ivan stumbled in on them all circled around the floor, with books open, and mandrake leaves in their mouths.

After that, they decided they should probably find somewhere more hidden to work.

“What about the dungeons?” Bellamy asked, and they all turned to Clarke. “I’m sure there are tons of empty old rooms we could use there.”

“I can check,” she shrugged, but she was doubtful. Emerson liked to patrol the dungeons more than anywhere else in the castle; she suspected he liked the shadows. Emerson was the creepiest person she knew.

Danae had graduated the year before, and they’d thrown her a goodbye party in their dorm, complete with Fox’s home recipe of ladyfingers. Surprisingly, her replacement wasn’t a first-year like they’d been expecting, but was instead Maya Vie, a pretty fourth-year that Clarke recognized from herbology.

“I thought you had a single,” she said, when she saw Maya unpacking her trunk on what used to be Danae’s bed. Maya was Headmaster Wallace’s granddaughter, and while she was quiet and shy enough that Clarke didn’t think she took advantage of that status, she did get certain perks--like a room to herself, across the hall.

“They’re turning it into an office, for the Head of Slytherin,” Maya shrugged. She didn’t seem too upset by it.

She was alone in the room when Clarke walked in that evening, pillowed up on her bed and reading.

“Maya,” Clarke started. “You grew up in Hogwarts, didn’t you? So you know all the hidden places in the castle?”

“I don’t think anyone knows all the hidden places in the castle,” Maya admitted. “Not even my grandfather. But, yes, I suppose I know more than most.”

“Do you know any place that might be good for some secluded studying? I can hardly hear myself think in the library, it’s so crowded these days, and the Great Hall is too. I was using the prefect’s bathroom, but as you can imagine, that didn’t work out.”

Maya hummed. “Yes, I’d think so. You could always try the Room of Requirement.”

“Excellent,” Clarke beamed. “What’s that?”

Maya led her to the bit of plain wall, and told her to close her eyes, and “tell it what you need.”

“What I need?”

“It’s the Room of Requirement . It’ll listen, and it’ll help. It’s a helpful place.”

So Clarke closed her eyes, breathed in through her nose, and thought I need a place where we can learn and train. So we can help my friend. Please, she added as an afterthought. It seemed only right, to be polite when asking for help from a sentient castle.

Her eyes were still closed when she heard stone beginning to shift against stone, and when she opened her eyes there was a door. Maya looked pleased.

“Enjoy your studying,” she smiled, and went home for the night. Clarke waited until she was out of sight, before running off to fetch the others.

“How’d you find this setup?” Bellamy asked, looking around the space that the Room of Requirement had offered them. It was warm, with three burning fireplaces and a handful of soft-looking sofas and lounge chairs. The carpet on the floor was embarrassingly similar to the one from Bellamy’s old Manchester flat, and Clarke hoped he wouldn’t notice.

The whole place resembled the Gryffindor common room quite closely, and Clarke hoped he wouldn’t notice that either--he’d be insufferable about it.

“Maya showed me.”

“Maya Vie?” Raven asked. “I like her.”

“Jasper likes her too,” Bellamy snorted, and Clarke wondered how he always seemed to know things like that. She wondered if Jasper had told him, or asked him for advice, or if Bellamy had just noticed it on his own.

“I don’t like her,” Nathan said, possibly just to be contrary. It was hard to tell with Nathan; he was awfully dramatic, but only ever kept a straight face. “She’s a Slytherin.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Clarke demanded, and she felt Bellamy tug at her arm, wanting her to just let it go.

She couldn’t.

Nathan sighed. “Look, obviously you’re the exception, but when it comes to Slytherin’s, they’re all,” he hesitated, and Clarke could feel her cheeks going hot.

“They’re all what ?”

“Snakes,” he said. “They’re all snakes, alright? There’s a reason people don’t trust them.”

“A female rock python guards its young by day and coils around them by night,” Clarke snapped. She’d looked it up, after her sorting, and had discovered it was true. “Snakes aren’t always just--cold, or scary, or monsters. Sometimes they’re clever, and brave, and loyal. Sometimes we care--”

“Clarke,” Nathan started, but she glared at him to shut him up.

“I don’t want to talk about it anymore,” she said, sitting down in the nearest seat. “We’re here for Wells, so just. Let’s just get to work.”

Nobody spoke or moved for a moment, but then Clarke felt the cushion beside her sink, as Bellamy sat down. He put a hand on her knee, warm and solid, and kept it there for the rest of the night.

Nathan left first, once they’d been staring at their books for so long that their vision had started to go blurry. Raven followed five minutes after, just to be safe, and then it was just Clarke and Bellamy.

It always seemed to be them, in the end.

“He didn’t mean you,” he said, but Clarke shook her head.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

Bellamy sighed, and she let him pull her against his side, so he was holding up her weight. “Yes you do,” he said, pulling the chain from underneath his shirt, and flashing the little silver snake at her. She felt the shape of the cat against her chest, where her own pendant hung. “I got the snake for a reason, you know.”

“I know. Princess of the snake den, remember?”

Bellamy scoffed. “I was an idiot. But I was right. And so were you--snakes aren’t all cold, scary monsters. Have you ever seen a Japanese water snake? They have tiger stripes, and can suck in a toad’s poison and store it, and then use it later on. They’re beautiful. And there are snakes in India that can fly, by slithering through the air. And the Golden Sea Snake can see with its tail, sort of, by detecting light. And there’s this Greek myth based on a snake from the African desert--”

Clarke glanced up at him, amused. “How do you know so much about snakes, all of a sudden?”

“I researched them, your first year,” he said, like it was obvious. “Know your enemy, and all that.”

“You studied snakes so you could better beat me in our feud?”

Bellamy tried to shrug, nonchalant, but his red ears gave him away. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Does that mean I have to research stuff about weird lions?” she asked, trying to bite back a ridiculous smile.

He scoffed. “Like you don’t already know dozens of weird lion facts, or just cat facts in general. You’re obsessed.” He put the necklace back in place, and walked her to the door. “You go out first, and I’ll follow in five.”

Clarke nodded, held her breath, and stood up on her toes to press a kiss to his cheek. It was warm, like the rest of him, and it only lasted for a second. “You’re my favorite, Bellamy Blake,” she said, and slipped out into the empty corridor.

 

Raven was right, of course, as usual.

“I’m always right,” she said, when Clarke mentioned it, and ignored when the rest of them rolled their eyes.

The did manage to figure it out in less than three years. They managed it in less than six months .

“Clearly all those other witches and wizards just weren’t trying hard enough,” Nathan scoffed, and Clarke rolled her eyes at that too. She thought it probably had less to do with them not trying hard enough, and more to do with them not having a personal werewolf that they were desperate to help.

“The right motivation goes a long way,” Bellamy agreed, when she mentioned it, because she could always count on Bellamy to understand.

Raven was the first one to transform, and she didn’t even wait for the rest of them to be there.

Clarke was still in a huff from her morning classes, and a particularly rough argument with Graham, when she marched into the Room of Requirement, and tossed her books to the ground. The room looked empty; the others were probably still in class, or maybe out on the Quidditch pitch for practice, so she might as well get started on her own. They were nearing the final phase of their training.

But just as she reached for the book lying open on the coffee table, she heard a bird call out, right above her head.

Clarke glanced up to see a raven perched on one of the chandeliers dangling from the ceiling. She stared at it, and it crowed again.

Raven ?” There was a third cry, and then it swooped down in a wide arc, only for Raven to appear standing right in front of her, a wide grin splitting her whole face in two.

“What’s up, Griffin? Bird got your tongue?”

Clarke threw one of the throw pillows at her face, for that horrible joke, and then leaped up to hug her, laughing. “I can’t believe you did it without us !”

“I can’t be expected to wait around on you lot all day,” Raven said. “I’d never get anything done!”

Nathan and Bellamy showed up ten minutes later, and Raven wanted to do the surprise all over again which meant that Clarke got to watch her transform. It was too sudden to really study; breathtaking, enchanting magic that had Clarke’s heart beating out of her chest.

After that, they were in a race to see who would be the next to transform, and of course it was Bellamy.

“You two are older,” Clarke pointed out. “You’ve had longer to study this sort of thing.”

Bellamy huffed, laying his enormous head on her lap so she could scratch between his ears.

“Of course you’d be the biggest, flashiest animal,” she told him, and he started to purr.

Nathan was next; one minute he’d been wrestling with Bellamy--and losing--and the next, he was all sleek gray fur and claws. Bellamy rolled off of him in a flurry of orange and black stripes, so they could get a proper look at him.

“Huh,” Raven said. “I was betting wolf, to be honest.”

“You’re a coyote,” Clarke told him, and Nathan barked, somehow managing to sound sarcastic even in lupine form.

“You’re up, Griffin,” Raven said, eyes gleaming. “Oh, please turn into an actual gryphon. That would be awesome.”

“I’ll do my best,” Clarke said dryly, and closed her eyes, like the book told them to.

She was a little irritated that she was the last to change, if she was being honest. Clarke Griffin never came in last place, for anything. But the instructions had been so vague, and varying, and those were the hardest kind to follow. They told her to look inside herself and pull out a different form , and honestly just give her a Latin incantation any old day.

Clarke looked inside herself and all she could see was the snake-tree from her dream. Please don’t let me change into a snake , she thought. Nathan will never let me hear the end of it.

But it wasn’t scales and a forked tongue that she found, when she looked deeper. It was tawny golden fur and strong legs and soft muzzle.

The transformation itself didn’t feel like much; there was a breeze tousling her hair, and then it felt like she was in an elevator that had dropped suddenly, leaving her stomach three floor above. When Clarke opened her eyes, the world had tilted, and her friends were staring down at her.

She didn’t want to eat them, which seemed like a good sign, but she could smell their blood and the salt in their skin, and that was a little bit off-putting.

“Why do you guys all get to be giant predators?” Raven asked, and Bellamy grinned, reaching down to brush his hand against Clarke’s flank.

“Don’t worry Reyes,” he cooed. “We won’t eat you.”

Raven scoffed. “You’d have to catch me first,” and then she was flying around the room.

They told Wells.

Nathan was in charge of leading him down to the Room of Requirement, because apparently he and Wells still met up in the library every Wednesday to play chess. Inside the room, Clarke, Raven and Bellamy were waiting, pretending they weren’t anxious, or worried about how he might react.

“What if he hates us,” Clarke said, again, and Raven sighed, flopping her head back against the sofa. “What if he hates me for telling you?”

“You didn’t tell me,” Bellamy said, patting her thigh, comfortingly.

“You did tell me,” Raven pointed out, and Bellamy reached over to flick her on the nose.

“How Jaha reacts is up to him,” Raven said, heaving herself back into an upright position. She was restless these days, ever since she’d started transforming. She kept wanting to go from one place to the next, never settling down for long. “We can’t control him. We can only control ourselves.”

“Thanks, Yoda,” Bellamy said, dry. Clarke didn’t understand the reference, which meant it was a Muggle thing.

Nathan knocked twice, their usual code, and then the door opened, with Wells right behind him. He glanced around, intrigued.

“You guys found the Room of Requirement?”

“You knew about it?” Clarke asked.

“It’s in Hogwarts: A History ,” Wells said, which made sense. He must have read that book a hundred times when they were kids. He’d been in love with Hogwarts for years, before he’d even seen it.

“Alright enough smalltalk,” Raven barked. “We need to show you something.”

Wells looked at each of them in turn, clearly trying hard not to be suspicious. “O...kay?”

Raven glanced first at Clarke, then at Bellamy, nodded, and then took flight.

Wells watched her flutter around the room, before she eventually landed on his shoulder, and began nipping playfully at his ear. He reached up and she let him stroke her feathers.

“You’re an Animagus?” he breathed, and only looked away when Clarke cleared her throat, pointedly.

“All of us are.”

Wells stared at her, then turned to the boys behind him, and finally back to Raven, still perched on his shoulder, watching him with her beady eyes. “ That’s what you’ve been doing this whole time? Why you’ve all been so busy?”

Bellamy shared a look with Clarke, a silent I’ll go next , before taking a breath, and shifting.

“Merlin,” Wells said, looking at him. Bellamy let out an enormous yawn, growling low in his throat with it, just to show off. Wells looked back at Nathan and Clarke. “And you two as well?”

Nathan shrugged a shoulder, which of course meant yes. Bellamy bumped his giant thick head against Wells’ leg, wanting to be patted.

“Apparently werewolves don’t hurt other animals. And we thought, you know, they do better in packs,” Clarke tried to explain. “So we wanted to give you one.”

It took her a moment to realize Wells was crying.

Clarke reached over and took the hand that wasn’t busy petting Bellamy, and wrapped it up in her own. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen Wells cry--it must have been his mother’s funeral, back when they were still very small. She barely remembered it.

Bellamy bit his hand, just barely, and Wells glanced down at him. “Thanks.” He looked back up at Clarke, at Nathan and Raven as she preened herself. “Seriously,” he said, quiet, “Thanks.”

A full moon came two days later, and they spent the night with Wells in the Shrieking Shack.

“I took Roma here on our first date,” Bellamy said brightly, as they snuck in through the tunnel dug under the Whomping Willow--apparently Headmaster Wallace had given Wells permission to use the shack when he transformed, and taught him a spell that made the tree go still.

“How romantic,” Clarke frowned, batting at the cobwebs, and Bellamy grinned.

“I thought so.”

Wells had taken his wolfsbane potion already, but that just meant he’d keep his human mind--not his human body.

“It might be a little gross to see,” he warned, looking nervous, like he didn’t want them to watch.

“We can leave the room while you change,” Raven offered, surprisingly tactful about it. “Or turn around, if you want.”

He let out a relieved sigh. “Yeah, that would be great, thanks.”

They waited outside the crooked, splintering door, and listened to the sound of bones cracking and reforming, Wells whimpering in pain and then snarling like an animal. Clarke gripped Bellamy’s hand so hard she must have left imprints from her nails, but he didn’t seem to mind.

Finally they heard a low whine, and found Wells sitting on his haunches, looking miserable.

“Well,” Raven said, looking down at him. “That’s not so bad. I mean it’s not like you had much hair to begin with.” Then she was sprouting wings and feathers, flying around in the moonlight that filtered in through the cracks in the walls.

Nathan was next, and he and Wells nosed at each other like actual dogs. Bellamy squeezed Clarke’s hand once before letting go, and transforming, and Clarke followed suit.

There really wasn’t much to babysitting a werewolf, as it turned out. Mostly they just ran about the Forbidden Forest, sniffing out trails to follow and drinking from muddy puddles that Clarke knew she would regret in the morning. She woke up fully clothed, in the middle of the enormous dog pile they’d all formed the night before, sweaty and warm. Bellamy’s head was pillowed on her stomach, while she’d managed to fall asleep half on Nathan’s thigh and half on Raven’s left arm.

Wells was sitting a little apart from the group, clearly having woken up first, and he gave a small smile when he caught Clarke staring.

“No new scars,” he promised, holding up his hands so she could see he was unharmed. “You guys don’t have to come back, you know. I’ll be fine.”

“We love you,” Clarke said around a yawn; she was going to be exhausted in her classes, but that was fine. It was worth it. “We’ll always come back.”

They came back the next time, and the next, until Wells stopped trying to argue.

 

In the end it was Finn who noticed, first, surprisingly.

He pulled Clarke aside after their shared Muggle Studies class. It was the only class Clarke had with Finn, since their break up the year before, and she was doing her best to forget about him completely. It was relatively easy to do; they sat nowhere near each other, were never paired up on assignments, and lived on completely different floors. Their only mutual friend was Raven, and even she knew better than to try and interact with them at once.

But it’d been a rough night, the night before; something had gone wrong with Wells’ potion, and she and Bellamy and Nathan had spent most of their time trying to restrain him, and keep him from going out on the hunt for any unsuspecting students. She still had a massive bruise on her ribs, from when he’d thrown her at a tree, and she knew that when Wells woke up in the hospital wing, he’d start trying to avoid them, out of guilt.

For the most part, being an Animagus hadn’t changed much about Clarke’s life. She still went to all her classes, still tutored younger students in the library every Thursday for extra credit, still hung out with her friends and her cat and wrote to her father each week.

But some things had changed--like how she constantly needed to be touching people. She’d get to the Gryffindor common room and lay down with her feet in Nathan’s lap, and butt her head up against Bellamy’s leg until he pet her hair. She’d rub her face against Wells’ shoulder sometimes, in the morning when she was sleepy. She just managed to catch herself trying to knead against Raven’s back, earlier that day.

And she wasn’t the only one; Bellamy was more affectionate than usual, and also way more territorial. He’d taken to growling, whenever someone they didn’t know got too close to her, or him, or Octavia. He’d bare his teeth and lash out at people in the hall that didn’t look where they were going, and he’d taken to leaning his head down on Clarke’s shoulder, so she could scratch behind his ears.

Nathan was much the same, albeit a little quieter. And Raven had started to steal things--little, shiny things that mostly nobody missed. She’d started up a stockpile in her dorm; desk drawers filled with nicked hair clips and bookmarks and broken chains and smooth river rocks.

They were also, of course, all exhausted.

“Clarke,” Finn said, looking concerned. “Is everything okay with you lately?”

Clarke glared up at him, not really sure why she was being stopped in the corridor by her ex-boyfriend. “What are you talking about?”

“You look like you’ve been mugged,” Finn said, gesturing to the dark circles around both of her eyes. He leaned in a little closer, to whisper. “Is this about Wells’-- condition ?”

Clarke gaped at him. “How do you know about Wells?” she demanded, and Finn actually took a step back in surprise.

“He’s ill every full moon,” he said, like it was obvious, which--okay, it sort of was. Nathan had figured it out too, hadn’t he? It wasn’t completely mental, to think someone else might. “And now you and Raven always look so tired the morning after,” he added, and she hated how concerned he looked. He’d lost the right to be concerned for her, the minute he cheated on her--or, with her, rather.

“I’m fine ,” she snapped, and he flinched at her tone. Good. “And so is Raven, and so is Wells. And if you tell anyone about him, I’ll hex you into another dimension.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Finn said, and she actually believed him. It was hard to remember sometimes, that just because he was a shitty boyfriend, that didn’t mean he was shitty in every other way too.

But they still weren’t going to be friends , if that was what he thought. Clarke gave a curt nod, turned on her heel, and stalked off. She was in the mood for a fight, which meant that of course she found herself at Bellamy’s.

She wasn’t really thinking, when she barged right on into his dorm without knocking. She really shouldn’t have been surprised to find that Bellamy was mid-dressed, shirt in his hands and pajama pants hung low on his waist--but she was, and so she yelped, which in turn made Bellamy jump, and hit his elbow on the dresser, swearing at the pain.

“Clarke?” he asked, sounding strangled, and Clarke could feel how unbearably red she was, and she knew she should apologize for walking in on him, but instead she said

“For Merlin’s sake, why don’t you ever wear clothes?”

Truthfully, she was referring back to the time a few days before, when the Gryffindor common room was having some sort of heat flash, and he’d spent all day lounging around with no shirt on, whining about the heat. But admitting that would mean admitting that she was still thinking about him without a shirt on, which was obviously out of the question.

Bellamy frowned at her. “I’m sorry that sometimes I don’t wear a full suit and robes in my room, when no one else is in here,” he said pointedly.

“Well--” Clarke opened her mouth to bark back, but then she noticed the braided flesh on his stomach, recently scratched open. It must have been Wells, and she rushed over to get a closer look at it, and make sure it wasn’t infected.

“Clarke,” Bellamy said, tugging her hands away when she started to prod his skin there. “I’m okay--I put some powdered silver and dittany on it, just like the book says to.” He smiled reassuringly, thumbs brushing over her knuckles. “I’m okay.”

“Does it hurt?”

He shook his head, and finally stepped back to slide his shirt on. “So do you want to tell me why it is you just ran in here and yelled at me about my clothes?”

Clarke bit back a snarky comment. “Finn found out about Wells.”

Bellamy’s eyes went wide with worry. “What? How?”

“He figured it out on his own,” she shrugged helplessly. “I don’t even know how long he’s known. Maybe years . He wanted to know if I was alright.’

Bellamy’s eyes narrowed the way they always did when he thought about Finn. “What did he say to you?”

“Nothing much,” she sighed, crossing over to sit next to him on the edge of his bed. She wasn’t sure Bellamy had ever made up his bed once, in his entire life. “He knows about Wells, and he knows Raven and I spend the full moon with him. I don’t think he knows we’re Animagi. And he didn’t mention you or Nathan. I think he wants us to be friends .” She wrinkled her nose at the thought.

“And do you?” Bellamy asked, face impressively blank.

Clarke shook her head. “I might not hate him anymore, but. We weren’t even friends to begin with, you know? He’s just some boy I used to fancy, who hurt me and my friend.”

“I can still shave all his hair off,” he offered, and she grinned. “Let me see your side.”

He must have seen her get thrown. Clarke raised the hem of her blouse, just enough for him to see the bruise. “Mine doesn’t hurt anymore, either.”

Bellamy reached out to brush his fingers against the purpled skin, and Clarke held her breath as he touched her.

She really should probably do something about Bellamy Blake.

“Let me know if you need any numbing paste,” she said, and then rushed out of the room.

Emori and Maya were in the dorm when Clarke got in; they’d somehow gotten ahold of Mel’s Ouija board--which meant Emori probably stole it--and were communing with it at the foot of Maya’s bed.

“What’s wrong with you, then?” Emori asked, eyeing Clarke up and down. She knew she must look frazzled; red-faced and hair a mess of frizz from running down the corridor. Her heart still felt ready to burst and worst of all, she could still feel the ghost of Bellamy’s fingers.

“Boys,” Clarke said, and Emori nodded knowingly.

“Want to help us conjure up a demon?”

Clarke looked at the little wooden board. “I don’t really think that’s how it works.”

She glanced at Maya, who simply shrugged. “It’s fun.”

Fox joined them in the circle, when she got home, but Iva turned her nose up at the idea.

“The dark arts should be treated with respect,” she lectured, “ Not mockery, and especially not with some Muggle toy.”

“I say we wipe the Muggle toy all over her things,” Emori said, once she’d gone for a bath. “Or better yet, I’ll wipe my Muggle-born hands all over her face while she’s sleeping. She’ll be tainted forever.”

“She’s a twat,” Fox said, heated, and everyone stared for a moment. Clarke had never heard Fox swear before--she wasn’t sure she ever had .

“What?” Fox asked, defensive. “She is.”

Emori smacked a loud, wet kiss to her cheek and pulled back with a wicked grin. “And you’re a goddess, Foxy.” Fox tried to hide behind her long hair.

“You know Roma tried to pretend she’d forgotten about our astronomy project that was due today?”

“How do you pretend to forget something?” Clarke asked, and Emori scoffed.

“She claimed she couldn’t remember anything from the last three days! Like I’d believe that.”

“Mel said the same thing, just last week,” Fox mused. “How strange.”

“Not really,” Maya said.

“Must be a bout of amnesia,” Fox joked.

“Oi, spirits!” Emori called, “Why are those ruddy Gryffindor girls faking amnesia?”

They all put their hands on the little wooden triangle as it spelled out its response. V-A-M-P-I-R-E-S. They stared down at the board for a moment, blankly.

“Well, that explains it,” Maya said seriously. “There are vampires at Hogwarts, drinking the memories of teenage girls. Through their blood, I’m assuming.” There was a beat of silence, and then the girls burst into laughter. Emori howled, and Clarke had to smother hers with a pillow.