Waverly is pretty sure that the worst moment of her entire life takes place during the summer before her fifth year at Hogwarts.
It starts off as a normal morning, or at least as normal as a morning can get in the Earp household. Waverly wakes up to the sound of her sisters squabbling just outside her bedroom door and throws her covers off with a huff, rubbing at her bleary eyes as she crosses her room and flings open the door to investigate the ruckus.
The two older Earp girls are standing out in the hallway between Waverly’s bedroom and the bathroom opposite, Wynonna still in her sleep shorts and a tank top and Willa wrapped in nothing but a large fluffy towel, her hair still wet from the shower. The pair are engaged in a vicious argument and Waverly would perhaps be annoyed at them for waking her up with their raised voices, had she not become accustomed to the seemingly endless quarrels between her sisters during her fifteen years of life.
“…and you could get not only yourself but the entire family in serious trouble if you get caught!”
Leaning against the doorframe with her arms folded across her chest, Waverly’s emergence from her bedroom does nothing to stop the two girls from arguing, in fact it is almost as if they are so caught up in their heated debate that they haven’t even noticed her.
“But I’m not going to get caught!” Wynonna snaps back.
“You’re still sixteen, Wynonna. You know that underage magic is illegal.”
“Jeez, Willa,” Wynonna lets out a dramatic groan. “It was a joke. Lighten the fuck up!”
Taking a step forward to intervene, Waverly finally catches her sisters’ attention and they take a momentary break from their bickering.
“Do you two ever stop arguing?” Waverly sighs exasperatedly. “The day has barely even started, what is it this time?”
“She,” Willa steps in immediately, pointing an accusatory finger at Wynonna, “thought it would be amusing to summon my clothes out of the bathroom through the window while I was in the shower.”
“And it was funny,” Wynonna retaliates, rolling her eyes with an ease that comes from years of practice. “Until Willa started going on about underage magic.” Turning her full attention back to Willa, Wynonna adds, “They aren’t going to know it was me. We live in a house full of magic.”
“It’s the principle!” snaps Willa. “You need to stop being so childish the whole time and learn some responsibility.”
Wynonna opens her mouth to argue back and Waverly gets ready to step between her sisters in case one or the other of them decides to get violent (it’s happened before, and the result wasn’t pretty), but they’re interrupted by a shout up the stairs before Wynonna can get another word in.
“Girls, your Hogwarts letters are here!”
Willa scowls at Wynonna one last time and says, “Don’t think I’m done with you, Wynonna,” then strides down the hallway to her bedroom at the far end, slamming the door shut behind her with a bang that is just slightly louder than necessary.
“Man, I hate her sometimes,” Wynonna mutters under her breath as soon as Willa is out of sight.
“She does have a point thought,” Waverly reminds her. “When you leave Hogwarts you can’t expect to continue breaking all the rules and getting away with it.”
Wynonna frowns at Waverly and says, “Well maybe when I leave Hogwarts I’ll start following the rules. But until then…”
Wynonna rests a hand on Waverly’s shoulder and the immediate effect of the gesture is that Waverly closes her mouth and stares up at her older sister, a worried frown etched onto her face.
“You’re starting to sound more like Willa every day,” says Wynonna, and Waverly stiffens at the words. As the youngest of the three, there isn’t really anything that she hates more than being compared to her older sisters and Wynonna knows that. It’s a dirty tactic, but Wynonna has never played fair before and Waverly knows better than to expect her to start doing so now. “Besides, you’ll get your chance to put me in line when we’re back at school. Come on, let’s go and get our letters.”
The seriousness of the previous conversation disperses as Wynonna nudges Waverly playfully with her elbow and the two girls to descend the stairs towards the smoky smell of cooked bacon.
“Stop it, Wynonna,” Waverly says, as she feels the anxiety bubble within her at the thought of what might be waiting for her in the envelope with her name on it downstairs. “You’ll jinx it before I’ve even read it.”
Wynonna just snorts.
“Waves, they gave me a Prefect badge last year. There’s no way that they aren’t making you one.”
Waverly smiles and shakes her head at Wynonna’s words. It’s one of life’s biggest mysteries – something that gets questioned not only in the Earp household but throughout Hogwarts too – why the senior members of staff at the school deemed Wynonna Earp, a notorious troublemaker since she stepped foot in the castle as a tiny eleven year old, more worthy of the title of Prefect than her other, more rule-abiding classmates. Waverly’s initial theory is that they misguidedly thought that giving Wynonna some responsibility would somehow also give her a behavioural awakening, though one only has to meet Wynonna (and Waverly is pretty certain that most of the teachers at Hogwarts have had Wynonna in their office at least once) to realise that a badge to pin on her robes isn’t enough to turn her into a model student overnight.
“Let’s hope so,” says Waverly as she follows Wynonna into the kitchen, where a pan of bacon is frying on the stove next to another pan of scrambled eggs that is stirring itself.
Their Aunt Gus sits at the kitchen table reading today’s copy of The Daily Prophet and, upon seeing the two girls, jumps to her feet and picks up a yellowing envelope in each hand, extending them out to her nieces. Her hands trembling with a combination of anticipation and excitement, Waverly accepts her own letter and sits down at her usual seat at the kitchen table.
Waverly knows that there’s something wrong the moment that she takes the letter. It is familiar – thick parchment for both the envelope and its contents, Waverly’s name and address printed in an emerald cursive on the front, and the Hogwarts crest stamped onto the seal – but it is too familiar, and that is what is wrong. There’s no extra weight of the badge that Waverly so desperately wants to find within.
Her heart stops beating for the long few seconds that it takes her shaking fingers to slip beneath the wax seal and peel the envelope open.
Inside are two neatly folded leafs of parchment and…
No shiny blue badge with the letter ‘P’ on it.
Waverly feels her entire world crumble around her as everything she’s been working towards for the last four year dissipates into nothing all at once.
From the seat beside her, Wynonna lets out a heavy sigh and tosses her own letter to the side as the pan of cooked bacon soars across the kitchen and begins to decant itself onto plates.
“Yet more spellbooks that I’m not going to read,” she says flippantly, stabbing a piece of bacon with her fork and lifting it to her mouth. She pauses with the fork at her lips, noticing the expression on Waverly’s face, and asks, “Hey, what’s wrong?”
“There’s no badge,” Waverly says in slight disbelief. She’s spent so long dreaming of being a Prefect, years in fact, that she never once stopped to consider what she would do if she didn’t get the position.
“That’s weird,” Wynonna shrugs. “They must have forgotten to put it in the envelope.”
“No,” Waverly corrects her, “they didn’t forget. There’s no letter either. I’m not a Prefect.”
Wynonna drops her fork with a clatter and snatches the sheets of parchment out of Waverly’s hand, her eyes first scanning through the letter, then flicking through the list of school supplies on the second sheet.
“What?” Wynonna frowns, dropping the letters and picking up Waverly’s discarded envelope, as if there might be some big secret within that the youngest Earp has missed. “But you’re … but I’m a Prefect. Why wouldn’t they make you one?”
Though Waverly knows her older sister is in just as much disbelief as her and that her words are not intended to hurt, they sting her deep inside more than she’d care to admit.
“I bet they gave it to Chrissy,” she mumbles under her breath, fighting against the lump that threatens to form in her constricting throat, desperate to keep it together at least until she can excuse herself from the table and return to the privacy of her own bedroom.
Through a mouthful of bacon, Wynonna comments, “Her dad is Head of Ravenclaw, is that even allowed?”
Waverly shrugs dejectedly, but when she opens her mouth to respond, she can’t get another word in before a new arrival to the kitchen gets everybody’s attention.
“Good morning, Aunt Gus.”
Willa enters the kitchen, now fully clothed and her hair dry, shooting Waverly an insincere smile before glaring at the back of Wynonna’s head. Wynonna doesn’t even have to look at Willa to be able to sense the look of pure evil that is sent her way, and using some kind of magical power that Waverly thinks no book would be able to explain, Wynonna manages to choose the exact split second that Gus isn’t paying attention to send a rude hand gesture in the direction of her older sister.
Willa takes her seat opposite Waverly, helps herself to a slice of toast, and then, without about as much tact as a mountain troll, asks, “What’s wrong with Waverly?”
There’s a lump in her throat that is difficult to speak past and her eyes are trying to give way to tears, but Waverly answers anyway.
“They didn’t make me a Prefect.”
“Wasn’t it obvious they were going to give it to Chrissy?” snorts Willa, shooting a brief but scornful glance in Waverly’s direction that does nothing to improve Waverly’s mood. “Her dad is Head of Ravenclaw, after all.”
“Willa!” Wynonna snaps, jumping to her younger sister’s defence, and Waverly worries for just a second that her two sisters are going to start fighting it out over the breakfast table, not that it would be the first time that that has happened. Reaching a hand out and resting it on Waverly’s arm, Wynonna continues in a softer voice, “Don’t listen to her. Being a Prefect is shit anyway.”
Waverly knows that Wynonna’s words are filled with good intention, but with the disappointment at not being made a Prefect still stinging like a fresh wound, the lump lodged in Waverly’s throat just gets bigger as her heart clenches painfully in her chest.
“That’s easy for you to say,” Waverly chokes out. “You’re a Prefect!”
“And isn’t that the only proof you need that the title means nothing at all?” Wynonna attempt to reason.
“Look!” exclaims Willa, as if completely oblivious to Waverly’s disappointment, raising her own Hogwarts letter aloft in one hand and a brand new badge emblazoned with the gold letter H in the other. “I’ve been made Head Girl!”
It’s the last straw for Waverly, who pushes her chair back and gets up from the table, her bacon still untouched on her plate. With her eyes stinging from the onset of tears and an ugly sob threatening to rip from her throat, she races out of the kitchen and towards the stairs before the tears can start to cascade down her cheeks, vaguely aware of the way that Wynonna raises her voice in Waverly’s defence behind her as she goes.
“Willa, you insensitive piece of Hippogriff shit, can you not see that Waverly is upset about…”
And that’s the last thing that Waverly hears before she slams her bedroom door behind her and collapses face first onto her bed.
After a family trip to Diagon Alley the following day, during which Waverly says a total of about four sentences, she locks herself in her room with her new spellbooks for a week, only emerging for meals. She spend the first couple of days crying into her pillow, wallowing in her own self-pity as she wonders why it was decided last year that Wynonna, the epitome of irresponsibility, should be made a Prefect when she, a model student with a perfect set of grades and enough enthusiasm to keep an entire class of first years excited about their History of Magic homework for a whole term, should miss out on the position this year.
Once the initial shock has worn off (and her eyes have shed enough tears to fill the Great Lake at Hogwarts twice over), she keeps to her room almost out of spite. But the truth is that she doesn’t particularly feel like facing Wynonna, and she especially can’t deal with Willa flaunting her new Head Girl badge around the house, so she just settles for sticking to the familiar four walls of her own room and listening to her sisters squabble and fight over the most mundane things across the house.
It gets boring after a while, listening to Wynonna and Willa argue each day, a clash of personalities that has always sort of been there, intensifying in recent years as bitter house rivalry and Quidditch tensions get added to the mix. And it always follows the same narrative too; Wynonna does something that gets on Willa’s nerves, Willa scolds her for it, and then Wynonna refuses to take criticism from a sister only eleven months her senior and stubbornly fights back until on some occasions sparks literally do fly.
Waverly sometimes considers going against all her morals and breaking the laws of underage magic to cast a muffling charm on her door, just to get an hour or two of peace, but her judgement always wins out in the end. She’s too much of a goody two-shoes.
She’s too much of an aspiring Prefect, even after the rejection.
It’s almost a relief when September the first finally rolls around and the three Earp girls, along with three heavy trunks and three broomsticks and three caged owls, find themselves boarding the familiar steam engine for the beginning of another year at Hogwarts. She says “almost a relief”, because now instead of having to accept that Wynonna is still a Prefect and Willa is Head Girl, she gets to watch them fulfil (or in Wynonna’s case, complain about) their duties every single day.
And then there’s Champ. Waverly’s idiot of a boyfriend.
Waverly realises that “idiot” should not be the first word that comes to mind when she thinks of her boyfriend of five months and that alarm bells should be going off in her head at this, but in all honesty she’s too fed up to care. That, and said “idiot” of a boyfriend is currently pretty much the only person in the world who spares Waverly a second glance, even if she is fairly sure that most of the attention he gives her is in the hope that a couple of empty compliments and a bit of affection might be enough to earn him a quick handjob in one of the many broom closets at Hogwarts.
It’s just the two of them in their compartment on the Hogwarts Express, not counting Wynonna who has been dead to the world since about five minutes after the train left Kings Cross Station, sprawled across the seats opposite them with her mouth hanging open and her chest rising and falling slowly with each breath. Waverly sits closest to the window, her head leaning against the cool glass as she stares out at the green countryside that passes by as the train travels north.
“It’s exciting to be going back to Hogwarts, isn’t it?” Champ muses aloud, and Waverly hums absently in agreement. “We get to see each other every day now.”
Waverly doesn’t respond. Her own excitement at going back to school has more to do with the fifth year curriculum; exciting new spells, more complex Potions, the introduction of a new runic alphabet in Waverly’s favourite subject - Ancient Runes. None of her excitement for the upcoming year is fuelled by the prospect of her relationship with Champ becoming more convenient than it was over the summer holidays.
Waverly is saved from having to feign enthusiasm by the arrival of somebody new when the compartment door slides open and Xavier Dolls, one of Wynonna’s friends, enters. If anybody can actually be called Wynonna’s friend. The select group that Wynonna spends most of her time with is made up of the few people in the school who are willing to tolerate her, rather than people who actively seek out her company and friendship. Dolls is one of the handful of people at Hogwarts that Wynonna hasn’t pissed off – or perhaps one of the handful of people that Wynonna has pissed off but not to the point where they dislike her as much as the rest of the school does.
“Earp,” he barks out in Wynonna’s direction. When Wynonna makes no response, simply letting out a soft snore as she continues to sleep on the seats opposite Waverly and Champ, Dolls huffs irritably and leans down so that his mouth is right next to Wynonna’s ear, before repeating much louder, “Earp!”
“Whaaa-?” Wynonna startles from her sleep, grappling for the wand tucked into the waistband of her jeans and pointing it at Dolls as she lurches up into a seated position. When she realises who has woken her, she lowers her wand and sighs, “What the hell, Dolls? You know not to wake me unless it’s an emergency!”
“It is an emergency,” Dolls informs her. “Your sister is losing it.”
Wynonna, eyes still hazy from sleep, turns her head in Waverly’s direction and arches her eyebrow, before the realisation hits her and she slumps back against the seats, rolling her eyes and letting out a dramatic groan as she does so.
“Oh, that sister.”
“Yes,” Dolls nods, with an impatient eye roll of his own. “The Head Girl. You were supposed to be at a Prefect’s meeting in the first carriage fifteen minutes ago. She says that you’re deliberately showing her up on her first day as Head Girl.”
As obstinate as ever, Wynonna simply quips back, “Then my plan to show her up every day as Head Girl is off to a fantastic start.”
“Come on, Earp,” says Dolls, prodding Wynonna’s shoulder with his hand. “Don’t make me carry you there.”
Wynonna gets to her feet with a groan of protest and follows Dolls out of the compartment, grumbling something that sounds a lot like “all work and no play makes Jack a dumb fucking loser” under her breath as she goes.
“I’m glad you’re not a Prefect,” Champ tells Waverly, pressing a sloppy kiss to her cheek, oblivious to the way that Waverly stares at the door her sister just left through with a look of saddened longing. “It means you can spend more time with me.”
Champ’s heavy arm around her shoulder feels like more of a burden than a comfort these days.
When Waverly was younger, she used to love being an Earp. The name was something to be proud of, descended from generation after generation of rogue dark wizard hunters with an infamous history that seems beyond thrilling to a curious nine year old with her own thirst for adventure.
Now, however, Waverly wishes for nothing more than a single week at Hogwarts where she doesn’t have the shadow of her own surname looming over everything she tries to do. Because not only is Waverly the daughter of notorious dark wizard killer Ward Earp, and the younger sister of Slytherin’s princess Willa and Wynonna the Gryffindor rebel, but she’s descended from the legendary demon hunter Wyatt Earp. And the issue with your great-great-grandfather having his own Chocolate Frog card is that there’s a lot in a name and people come to expect certain things from you.
Waverly still remembers a conversation she had with Wynonna on the first day of Christmas break in Wynonna’s first year at Hogwarts.
“I dunno,” she had shrugged, after Waverly pounced on her with excitable questions about her first term at the school before she’d even had the chance to brush of the ash from her Floo Powder journey home. “It’s alright. Weird though. I sometimes feel like people think they know me already, you know, because I’m an Earp. Like the teachers always expect me to be good at stuff straight away even though I’m not.”
And then she paused, before changing the subject with a wicked grin.
“Oh, but last week I accidentally set fire to half of Greenhouse Two and it was awesome!”
Waverly would like to think that she’s done a pretty good job at trying to forge her own path at Hogwarts. She started at the school four years ago as a tiny but determined eleven year old, adamant that she would not become what the rest of the school would expect of her. In fact, she can still recall the exact words spoken to her by the Sorting Hat as she sat on the little stool in front of hundreds of watchful eyes on her first night at the school, after she told it that she wasn’t like the rest of the Earp clan.
“No? Well there’s no doubt that you have the boldness of a Gryffindor, but you’re a curious little one too, aren’t you? Let’s put you in RAVENCLAW!”
The sigh of relief at not being placed in Gryffindor, where Waverly would almost certainly have spent her seven years at Hogwarts concealed from sight in Wynonna’s enormous shadow, had almost been enough to topple her right off the rickety stool with the Sorting Hat still on her head.
And so Waverly, who, as far as she is aware, is the first Earp to ever be sorted into Ravenclaw, started at Hogwarts with the resolute aim of proving to people that she’s more than just another Earp. She’s worked diligently in every subject, even the ones that she doesn’t enjoy as much as the others, and consistently scored grades within the top two or three students in her year. She tutors the younger students, she regularly helps to run both the school’s Wizarding Chess club and the Astronomy club, and she’s even attempted to start a school newspaper.
And yet, with a family name that has had an immense impact on the Wizarding World and two older sisters who between them could probably bring the entire castle crumbling to the ground, it’s still not enough.
Half of the school most likely hasn’t even realised that there even is a third Earp sister, and the half that has are probably just perpetually disappointed that Waverly is neither as popular as Willa nor as interesting as Wynonna. And it’s not even like she wants to have Willa’s Slytherin fan club or Wynonna’s notoriety, but it would be nice just every so often to be recognised for her own achievements.
To be known as Waverly and not as the youngest, least interesting Earp girl.
Waverly categorically hates Quidditch. Watching fourteen overinflated egos zooming around on broomsticks in the name of sport, putting on obscene displays of aggression for a crowd that seems to worship their every move, is not what she would describe as entertaining.
More specifically, Waverly hates the annual Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match. Because the only thing worse than house rivalry is sibling rivalry, and when two fourteenths of the players on the pitch are Earps, the clash between teams is guaranteed to be monumental.
In a delightful contrast to whatever carnage is taking place outside the castle, the silence in the almost empty library is complete bliss.
Waverly loves the library; the smell of old parchment, the cosy familiarity of the high bookshelves filled from floor to ceiling with thick leather-bound tomes, the flicker of candles across yellowing pages. The scratch of quills and the occasional flip of a page are the only sounds in what is otherwise complete silence. It’s Waverly’s personal haven.
On this particular Saturday, with pretty much the entire school wrapped up in their cloaks and scarves to watch the Quidditch match that unfolds outside, the library is empty but for two of them. Waverly recognises the other girl, a Hufflepuff who must be a year or two older than Waverly because she’s seen her around but never spoken to her before, and Waverly gives her a little nod of acknowledgement as she takes a seat a couple of tables away and spreads her work out in front of her to get started on her homework.
She’s been working for about an hour when it happens, in the middle of writing an essay for History of Magic with such vigour that the tip of her quill snaps and an ugly smudge of ink ruins her otherwise immaculate essay.
Forgetting that she isn’t alone in the library, Waverly’s exclamation is a little louder than she intends it to be. She glances up, expecting to find the other girl glaring at her for the disturbance, only to find that she’s instead being smiled at, the other girl making a small gesture with her head to indicate that the disruption isn’t a problem, before returning her attention to her own work as if nothing has happened.
Waverly reaches down and fumbles around inside the satchel under her chair for a few seconds, and then when she is still without success, she pulls the bag out completely and empties its contents onto the table. The heavy thud of a textbook followed by the clatter of the rest of the junk in Waverly’s bag tumbling out once again catches the attention of the only other occupant of the library, and Waverly feels her cheeks burning in shame as she holds up an apologetic hand to the Hufflepuff.
“I’m sorry,” she says, in a whisper that is just loud enough for the girl to hear her.
Picking up her wand from the mess scattered across her usually impeccable work station, Waverly mutters an almost inaudible repairing charm under her breath and watches as the nib of her broken quill magically fixes itself.
The hairs on the back of Waverly’s neck prickle as she feels a pair of eyes burning into the side of her head and she looks up to find that the red-headed girl is still watching her with an expression of curiosity in her eyes. Waverly tries to hold her gaze, but can’t manage to keep it up for more than about a second and a half as the way that the corners of the girl’s mouth curl up ever so slowly has Waverly looking back down at the work in front of her as a pink flush rises to her cheeks once again.
When she dares to glance up a few seconds later, it is to find that the girl is no longer looking at Waverly, but the way that she studies her own textbook with the traces of a smile still crossing her face leaves Waverly all the more confused, like she’s missing out on a really obvious joke.
Waverly tries to push it out of her mind. This essay, then her Potions homework and the reading that she needs to do for Transfiguration – that’s all that should be important right now.
It’s harder than she expects to stop herself from looking up every other minute.
Waverly manages to work studiously for another half an hour, taking extra care not to damage her quill again so as to avoid embarrassing herself in front of the other girl any more than she already has, and she’s almost reached the end of her essay when a shadow falls over her desk. When she looks up, it is to find the red headed girl looking down on her, a friendly smile on her face.
“I’m taking a study break,” she says, quietly enough that her voice doesn’t really disturb the stillness of the library, not that there’s anybody else around to complain anyway. “I was wondering if you wanted to join me?”
Waverly spares a quick glance for the work spread out across the table, teeth digging into her lower lip as she considers the offer. Her head is telling her to politely decline – apart from anything else, she’s midway through a sentence, and probably only a paragraph and a half away from completing the current essay, and then she’s still got a sheet of homework questions to get done before Monday’s Potions class – but her heart, swayed by the hopeful look in the girl’s wide brown eyes, wins out.
“Why not?” she replies, setting the quill down carefully so as to not smudge any of the ink on her parchment, before pushing herself up to her feet.
“Great,” the girl smiles at Waverly. “I was going to sit out in the courtyard, unless there’s somewhere else you’d rather go.”
“No! The courtyard sounds good!” Waverly plucks her scarf off the back of her chair and holds it aloft for them both to see as she says, “Look, I’ve even got my scarf in case it’s chilly!”
“Wow, you are prepared!” the girl laughs, as the two of them make their way between the towering bookshelves towards the doors leading out of the library.
The courtyard is just a short walk away; through a door just down the corridor from the library and then down a narrow spiral staircase that brings them out right next to a gargoyle and into the covered walkway that surrounds the little square of grass. The redhead – who, Waverly realises with a startle, she is yet to properly introduce herself to – leads them through an ornate stone archway and across the grass, still damp with dew, to a bench that sits in the shade of a towering oak tree.
Once seated side by side, Waverly opens her mouth to ask her newest acquaintance for her name, but the other girl gets her words in first.
“So, you’re Waverly Earp.”
She doesn’t phrase it as question, but Waverly answers brightly regardless, giving a chirpy, “That’s me.”
“You’re quite a popular girl around Hogwarts.”
Waverly startles. There are many words that she would use to describe herself – determined, studious, enthusiastic – but popular is not one of them, not when she always seems to inadvertently do such an incredible job of blending into the stone brickwork of the castle walls.
The girl nods, and then continues, “Your father was quite a big deal. I’ve read all about him.”
Waverly can’t help the way that her insides fall at the girl’s words. She should have known better than to expect that the girl’s offer of companionship would be anything more than an attempt to pry into the life of an Earp.
“I guess so,” she shrugs dejectedly. “I don’t really remember him much. You probably know about as much about him as I do.”
Waverly pauses, deep in thought about her late father and how the things that helped her through the initial grief of losing her parents at such a young age, such as remembering the sound of their voices or the way they smelt or the feeling of having their arms wrapped around her, are now just a distant blur lost in the haze of a million other memories.
“Don’t be,” Waverly mumbles.
“The Earp name is a big one to live up to,” says the girl.
“You’re telling me?” Waverly snorts under her breath. She’s all too aware of what her name means, about how difficult it can be to try and live up to people whose achievements are always going to be wildly beyond her own dreams. “Well I don’t like to be restricted by a name. I like to think that I can make an impression as my own person.”
The girl’s dark eyes soften, a smile pulling at the corners of her lips, before she lowers her voice and replies mysteriously, “That you can.”
Waverly blushes, unable to stop herself from feeling a little self-conscious about the way that the other girl looks at her like she knows something that Waverly does not. Eager to change the subject, she says hastily, “I’m sorry, here we are talking about me and I didn’t even catch your name.”
“I’m Nicole. Nicole Haught.”
“So, Nicole,” says Waverly, eager to lead the conversation away from her own family name. “Why aren’t you at the match? Not a Quidditch fan?”
“No, I love Quidditch!” Nicole says, her eyes widening in enthusiasm. She shrugs and tilts her head to the side, then continues, “But I fell ill at the end of the summer so I missed the first three weeks of term and I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Waverly. Reaching out to rest a hand on Nicole’s arm just below her elbow, Waverly asks, “You’re okay now though?”
“Yep, all better!” Nicole answers with a nod. “Just a bit of tonsillitis.”
“It’s …” Nicole frowns as she tries to explain, “it’s a Muggle thing. A sore throat.”
“It sounds like it could be an ancient spell,” Waverly says thoughtfully.
“It does,” Nicole agrees with a laugh.
Silence falls between them and Waverly allows the atmosphere of the almost empty courtyard to settle in. The air is brisk but not too cold, though she is grateful for the warmth of the soft knitted scarf bundled around her neck, without which she would probably be shivering nd her teeth chattering together. While the courtyard would usually be bustling with sound, a common route for students passing through from one part of the castle to another between classes, with almost the entire student body out of the school, the quiet is a blissful contrast to what Waverly is used to. The only sign that the castle is usually full of life, other than the two girls who sit side by side on the bench, is the barely audible sound of the big crowd cheering in the stadium in the distance.
“So what about you?” Nicole breaks the silence.
“What about me?”
“Why aren’t you at the Quidditch match?” asks Nicole, tilting her head to the side inquisitively. “Aren’t both of your sisters playing?”
Waverly laughs under her breath and rolls her eyes, not even wanting to begin to imagine what kind of carnage might be taking place on the Quidditch pitch right now with her sisters competing against each other. If last year’s match is anything to go by (Willa ended up in the hospital wing with a bloody nose and Wynonna found herself in detention every Saturday morning for the rest of the month), then the game will probably be the topic of hot discussion throughout the school for the rest of the week.
“You just answered your own question,” Waverly tells Nicole. “If I want to watch Willa and Wynonna have it off against each other I only have to wait to go home for Christmas and I can watch it every day. The only differences are that today they’re doing it in front of hundreds of people, sixty feet up in the air, and Wynonna has a heavy bat in one hand.”
Nicole rests a sympathetic hand on Waverly’s arm, then laughs softly and says, “Wow, that bad, huh?”
“You have no idea,” Waverly nods. “I hate Quidditch in general but I loathe it when my sisters are both playing.”
“You hate Quidditch?” Nicole asks, her eyes widening in surprise.
“Fourteen egotistical jerks throwing balls at each other and chasing after a tiny golden flying thing and calling it entertainment?” Waverly snorts softly and then shakes her head. “No, thank you!”
Nicole doesn’t say anything at first, though she cocks her head to the side and arches a single eyebrow in Waverly’s direction. When she finally responds, she deadpans, “I play for Hufflepuff.”
Waverly can’t do anything but gape as her brain processes Nicole’s words. She replays her own last words in her mind and realises that she would be hard-pushed to say something more scathing about the Wizarding World’s favourite sport and those who play it, and as she realises that she’s just insulted her newest acquaintance quite spectacularly, her cheeks redden and she glances away to avoid having to make any eye contact with Nicole.
“I … uh, I didn’t … I had no idea!” Waverly stammers.
“That I was an egotistical jerk?”
Waverly looks up sheepishly, her teeth digging into her lower lip, before she says, “I didn’t mean it like…” Waverly sighs and then says, “You seem like a really nice person.”
“For a Quidditch player,” teases Nicole. She reaches out for Waverly’s arm again, resting her hand on Waverly’s elbow, then continues, “Don’t worry, I get it. Some of them are attention seeking idiots, and I get that it mustn’t be nice for you to have to watch your sisters show off in front of the entire school and get cheered on as they do it. Sport isn’t for everybody.”
“I…” Waverly trails off, staring off towards the far side of the courtyard as she continues to avoid looking at Nicole. “I insulted you and you’re still being so nice to me.”
“Yeah, well, Hufflepuff,” Nicole laughs, pointing at herself.
Waverly forces herself to smile too, though the contents of her stomach feel as though they are churning up deep inside with the mortification of what she said.
Eager to change the subject, Waverly says, “I should get back to studying.” Her eyes flickering up to meet Nicole’s, which are looking down at her with a dark intensity as if she is using them to search deep within Waverly’s soul, Waverly shrugs and adds chirpily, “Homework isn’t going to finish itself.”
Waverly thinks she detects a flash of disappointment cross Nicole’s face as the other girl finally tears her gaze away, getting to her feet and offering a hand out to help Waverly stand up from the bench too.
“Me too,” Nicole agrees, as the pair start to wander across the courtyard towards the heavy oak door that leads back into the castle and towards the library. “It’s been nice to meet you Waverly, even if your views on Quidditch are horribly misguided.”
Following Nicole inside, Waverly concedes, “Well maybe I was a little bit wrong.” With Nicole’s eyes back on her as they walk, a frown etched on her forehead as she silently asks for an elaboration, Waverly continues, “You’re not what I expected from a Quidditch player.”
They re-enter the library and Nicole ripostes, “And you’re not what I expected from an Earp.” With a soft smile on her face as she takes her seat surrounded by heavy books once more, Nicole raises a hand in a jovial wave and says, “See you around, Waverly.”
Waverly isn’t entirely sure how to process Nicole’s parting words – she’s spent years trying to prove to people that she can be more than what they expect from her family name and finally here is somebody who is telling her that she has achieved just that – but as she removes her blue scarf and sits back down at her table to complete her History of Magic essay, Waverly can’t help but cling onto that tiny bit of hope that this isn’t that last she’s going to be seeing of Nicole Haught.
See you around.