As a Muggleborn, there are several aspects of the magical world that Nicole sometimes finds beyond her comprehension, despite being one of the top students in her year. Divination, for example. The only subject that she received lower than Exceeds Expectations in her O.W.L.S. in June, because it’s painfully unfair that half of her grade for the course should depend on her ability to pretend to see shapes emerge from the mist of a crystal ball and then invent a fictional scenario that is almost certainly not going to happen as a result of said non-existent shapes.
Apparition, too. The very fact that a magical person can just envision any place fathomable and then travel there in the blink of an eye by simply thinking about it in a certain way is utterly mind-blowing. Though Nicole can’t deny that the part of her that used to obsess of sci-fi movies as a kid is thrilled at the prospect of having all of her childhood fantasies about teleportation come true during apparition lessons later this year, it doesn’t stop the mere concept of it from being completely mind-boggling.
But out of everything in the magical world, the thing that baffles Nicole the most is Wynonna Earp.
“Hypothetically, if somebody was to release two dozen pixies into the school, where do you think they should release them to maximise the chaos?”
Specifically, Nicole is perplexed by the red and gold Prefect’s badge that is pinned slightly askew to the front of Wynonna’s school robes.
“Please tell me that you’re not planning to do exactly that,” Nicole pleads with her fellow Prefect as they amble along the corridor outside the Charms classroom, patrolling the school as part of their duties.
“That’s ridiculous,” Wynonna dismisses her with a wave of her hand. “Where am I going to acquire two dozen pixies?”
Nicole has to repress a snort because she doesn’t doubt even for a moment that Wynonna has both the motivation and the means to get hold of enough pixies to wreak havoc on the entire school. If there is anybody capable of such a feat, then it is Wynonna, and Nicole is all too aware that any attempts to dissuade Wynonna from carrying out such a plan when she already has her mind set on it will just have the opposite effect, no doubt encouraging her to take things three steps further by unleashing a couple of nifflers and a medium sized acromantula on the student body too.
“Okay,” Nicole says after a few moments of thought, “but as a Prefect I feel like I should just let you know that I can’t condone that behaviour. Hypothetical, or otherwise.”
Wynonna lets out a huff, absent-mindedly using her wand to levitate a crumpled ball of parchment that lies discarded by the door to a nearby classroom. With a couple of swishes of her wand, the ball swoops around Nicole’s head and then ducks between her legs, before Wynonna vanishes the litter with a final flick of her wand.
“You sound like my sisters,” grumbles Wynonna, her voice laced with distaste.
“I met Waverly the other day,” Nicole says brightly, smiling at the memory of her encounter with the youngest Earp. She’s been replaying that day over and over in her mind since it happened – having wanted to introduce herself to Waverly for a while, she’s now worried that she’s blown her only chance at friendship with the Ravenclaw girl by staring a bit too much in the library and then confessing her love for a sport that it turns out Waverly isn’t just disinterested in, but actively dislikes along with those who play it. “We were both in the library during the Quidditch match.”
Wynonna scowls, no doubt at the memory of losing to Slytherin by just ten points, a result which, from what Nicole has heard from the rest of the school, might have gone the other way if Slytherin hadn’t been awarded penalty after penalty for Wynonna’s bad language and foul play.
“Of course that’s where Waverly was,” Wynonna complains. “Nerd.”
“Hey,” Nicole says, jumping to Waverly’s defence, even when she isn’t around to hear Wynonna insult her. “There’s nothing wrong with actually wanting to complete your homework on time.” Nicole nudges Wynonna’s arm with her elbow and then teases, “You should try it sometime.”
“Boring,” Wynonna shrugs, rolling her eyes. She turns her head to look across at Nicole, eyes alight with mischief and a wicked grin crossing her lips, and then says in a low voice, “There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to release magical creatures into the castle to liven up the school day.”
Nicole thinks that there’s an awful lot wrong with what Wynonna is suggesting but after five years of watching the other girl cause rampant mayhem without a second thought for anybody else in the school, Nicole also knows better than to try to persuade Wynonna otherwise.
“PIXIES? I DON’T EVEN WANT TO KNOW WHERE YOU GOT THOSE FROM!”
As Aunt Gus’s voice echoes throughout the Great Hall, Waverly shrinks down into her seat and tries to pretend that she doesn’t exist. The Howler isn’t even for her – it hovers opposite Waverly in front of Wynonna, who is paying more attention to the plate of waffles that keeps refilling itself in front of her than to the spitting red envelope that scolds her for her latest wrongdoing loud enough for everybody in the Great Hall to be able to hear it.
It’s not unusual. Wynonna probably receives a Howler from Aunt Gus about two to three times each school year, hence why she is more interested in her breakfast than the screaming envelope. The same can’t be said for the rest of the school. Almost every single pair of eyes in the Great Hall are currently focused on where the two Earp girls are sitting, enraptured as they listen to Aunt Gus reprimand Wynonna.
“ARE YOU INCAPABLE OF GOING A SINGLE WEEK WITHOUT GETTING INTO TROUBLE? I’M IN HALF A MIND TO COME STRAIGHT TO THE CASTLE AND TAKE YOU HOME MYSELF TO SAVE US ALL THE SHAME OF WAITING UNTIL THEY EXPEL YOU!”
“They’re not going to expel me,” Wynonna mutters under her breath, helping herself to a third waffle now that her plate is empty of the first two. “I’m an Earp.”
Waverly loves Wynonna, she really does, but she hates this, hates the gung-ho attitude that Wynonna has where she thinks she can get away with anything and everything just because she’s from a well-known family. She hates how Wynonna somehow manages to get away with far too much, and that even when she doesn’t she seems to take each punishment as a violation of her rights and an excuse for her next misdemeanour to break even more school rules.
Waverly hates how the rest of the school indulges what Wynonna does with more attention than it deserves; how each time Wynonna does something that catches everybody’s attention it ends up being all the school can talk about for days; how Wynonna’s escapades somehow makes Waverly more interesting, not because she’s Waverly and people finally want to get to know her, but because she’s Wynonna’s sister and everybody is suddenly interested in talking to her as if hoping that she can give them an inside scoop on Wynonna’s life.
She hates it.
“WHAT WOULD YOUR PARENTS THINK?”
Wynonna lets her fork drop to her plate with a clatter and looks up at Waverly, exasperation in her eyes as she says, “And there is it.” With her hands now free, Wynonna flips off the Howler with both middle fingers just as the envelope bursts into flames and its ashen remains drift down to the table. “Guilt-tripping me with the dead parent card isn’t going to stop me from doing anything.”
With the Howler now gone and the rest of the school back to muttering softly as they continue to point and stare at where the two youngest Earp girls sit, Wynonna returns her undivided attention to her food, not even looking up as somebody new approaches and joins them for breakfast.
“A Howler before Halloween?” says the newbie - one of Wynonna’s band of misfits, seventh year Doc Holliday - as he drops onto the bench next to Waverly. “Is that a new record, Earp?”
“Nah, remember my second year?” Wynonna replies through a mouthful of waffle.
Doc grimaces and then replies drily, “I’d really rather not.”
Wynonna looks up from her breakfast, and then immediately starts choking on the food in her mouth. Her face turns a deep red colour, not too dissimilar from the Howler that was so recently screaming at her in front of an audience of the entire school, and as she coughs and splutters, Wynonna reaches for her goblet of pumpkin juice and takes a long swig to wash the food down.
“Okay,” Wynonna rasps, when she’s finally regained a small amount of her composure, “what the hell is that?”
It takes a few moments for Doc to realise that Wynonna is addressing him and when he does, he responds, “What the hell is what?”
“That!” Wynonna answers, as if it is obvious. Waverly, about as confused as Doc seems to be, looks at her sister expectantly with her own breakfast now forgotten. When Doc continues to stare blankly at her, Wynonna rolls her eyes and gestures to her own upper lip as she says, “On your face! The … you know…”
Waverly switches her attention to Doc and her eyes widen as she notices the patchy teenage fuzz masquerading as a moustache on his upper lip. She manages to refrain from laughing, but she can certainly see why Wynonna, being the person that she is and with the level of tact that she doesn’t have, managed to nearly suffocate on her own breakfast at the sight.
Clearly proud of his own attempts at growing a moustache, Doc scowls at Wynonna as he says, “It’s called facial hair.”
Wynonna has the audacity to actually snort.
“I’m pretty sure that my Great Aunt Cassie has more facial hair than you.”
“Oh,” says Doc, leaning across the table and tilting his head to the side as he quips back, “it runs in the women in your family, does it?” He sits up straight once more, using his fingertips to stroke the fuzz on his top lip, then continues with an air of pride, “This is a sign of my masculinity.”
“Oh please,” Wynonna rolls her eyes as she picks up her fork and aggressively stabs at a chunk of waffle on her plate. “I’ve seen you naked and it’s gonna take a lot more than a pathetic moustache before you’re anything close to mascul-“
“Sorry, what?” Waverly interjects, her eyes wide as she processes Wynonna’s words and the flippancy with which she says them. “You’ve seen Doc naked?”
“Yeah,” Wynonna shrugs as if this is old news. “Problem?”
“You and him?” Waverly asks, eyes flickering between the pair of them and her face slowly screwing up in disgust as her mind floods with images that are enough to put her off the rest of her breakfast. “You’ve … but I thought that you and Dolls were…”
A trace of incredulity crossing her face, Wynonna replies, “Me and Dolls are not…”
“You and Dolls aren’t what?”
As if sensing that he is being talked about, Dolls chooses that exact moment to join the conversation, hovering behind Wynonna’s shoulder as his eyes move between the three of them seated at the table, expectantly waiting for one of them to give him an answer. When none of them do, he lets it drop with a shrug, tapping Wynonna on the shoulder and gesturing with his other hand towards the doors out of the Great Hall.
“Anyway, come on Earp,” he says. “We’ve got Transfiguration in twenty minutes and I’d bet my wand that you haven’t finished the homework yet.”
“We had homework?” moans Wynonna, getting to her feet in a hurry and swinging her schoolbag over her shoulder. “Shit…”
Waverly tuts softly under her breath and watches in amusement as Wynonna grabs another waffle with her hand and starts eating it as she chases Dolls out of the Great Hall.
“Well that’s my cue to leave,” grumbles Doc, his voice noticeably gloomier as her stares after Wynonna and Dolls. While Waverly has absolutely no interest in hearing any of the sordid details about her sister’s personal life, the revelation that she and Doc have had something going on between them, no matter how brief of an affair it might have been, along with the look of resentment that fills Doc’s eyes as he stares after Wynonna means that Waverly can’t help but wonder if there is something more complex going on between Wynonna and her two closest male friends.
Doc leaves with a glum expression on his face, swinging his legs over the bench and getting to his feet before trudging out of the Great Hall with his hands buried deep in the pockets of the grey uniform trousers he wears beneath his school robes.
Watching him leave, Waverly’s eyes fall on a familiar redheaded Hufflepuff approaching where she now sits alone, and the sight is enough to turn the corners of Waverly’s lips up into a smile and push all thought of Wynonna’s hypothetical love triangle out of her mind.
“Where is Wynonna off to in such a hurry?” Nicole says, dropping into Wynonna’s recently vacated seat across the table from Waverly, her eyes still glued to Wynonna’s back as the middle Earp girl almost sends two first years flying in her urgency to leave the Great Hall.
“She forgot to do her Transfiguration homework,” answers Waverly, adding as a mumbled afterthought, “Again.”
“Your sister continues to baffle me,” says Nicole, shaking her head disapprovingly, though the trace of a smile that crosses her lips puts her disapproval in an oh-that’s-so-Wynonna kind of way.
“You mean how after five years she still hasn’t realised that she could avoid detention by actually doing her homework?” Waverly asks. She rolls her eyes, though by this point she has moved way past irritation at her sister’s behaviour, and almost beyond desperation too, into boredom at the repetition of Wynonna’s lack of consideration for school rules. “Or the fact that the public humiliation of getting a Howler from our aunt seems to do nothing to stop her from pulling idiotic stunts like releasing a swarm of pixies into the Great Hall during the evening feast?”
Nicole grimaces as she replies, “I feel at least partially responsible for that one. She told me about her plans and I didn’t try very hard to convince her not to do it.”
“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” Waverly reassures Nicole. “I’m not sure you could have said anything to stop her.”
Nicole laughs softly in agreement, a pretty laugh that fills Waverly’s heart with a warmth that she decides that she wants to feel over and over again. As her laughter falls away, Nicole’s gaze flickers up, her brown eyes wide and filled with a doe-like innocence as she looks at Waverly.
“Anyway, enough about Wynonna, how are you?”
Though the question, at least Waverly assumes so from the expression on Nicole’s face, has no deeper intention than genuine interest in Waverly’s life, it still takes her aback. After their first meeting, Waverly had been certain that any future interactions with Nicole wouldn’t stretch further than perhaps a nod of acknowledgement in the other’s direction as they pass in the corridors, particularly considering Waverly’s accidental rudeness with her comments about Quidditch players. It’s enough of a surprise that Nicole has made the choice to come and talk to her at breakfast at all – indeed Waverly presumed that Nicole just wanted the hot gossip about Wynonna’s latest escapades – let alone the fact that she is showing an interest in Waverly.
“I’m … I’m good, thanks,” she replies, her mouth a little dry as she stumbles over even the most basic of answers in her surprise. “And you?”
“Not too bad,” answer Nicole. Reaching a hand up to her own neck, Nicole tilts her head to the side and winces, before she says, “My neck aches a little though … you know, from holding up my giant head.”
Waverly lets out a low groan and covers her eyes with one hand as she shakes her head. Letting her hand fall back down to her side, Waverly says, “I really cannot apologise enough for what I said about Quidditch players.”
“Apology accepted,” says Nicole. A slow grin starts to spread across her face and Waverly lets herself relax, until Nicole’s expression turns serious and she adds, “but on one condition.”
With her heart racing inside her chest, Waverly fights a wave of panic as she asks, “What’s that?”
Nicole leans across the table, and though the pause before she speaks has Waverly almost trembling in anticipation, her voice is full of teasing undertones when she finally speaks.
“You come and watch me play the next time that Hufflepuff have a game.”
Waverly sighs in relief and then nods, “Deal.”
“Waverly,” says Nicole, feigning seriousness and tilting her head to the side slightly as she leans closer. “I’m going to have to ask you to calm it down with the enthusiasm.”
Waverly sighs again exaggeratedly for comedic effect and then fights back a smile as she looks at Nicole and says, “The things I do for friendship.”
The slow grin that spreads across Nicole’s face at the word friendship is so pure that Waverly wants to capture it in her memory forever. It’s almost as if Nicole can’t quite believe that Waverly wants to be friends with her, a thought which stuns Waverly because she can’t quite comprehend why Nicole would choose to join her for breakfast, when she presumably has so many other friends from her own year group that she could sit with instead.
“What’s your first class?” Nicole asks, as Waverly finishes the final mouthful of her breakfast as sets her cutlery down on the plate.
“Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
“Can I walk you to class?” asks Nicole, almost breathlessly.
Waverly freezes up in shock, though not in a bad way. Definitely not in a bad way. She’s struck once again by how innocent Nicole’s request is, and wonders immediately why she’s wasted the last four years at Hogwarts seeking the approval of literally everybody else in the castle when all it takes is one wide-eyed Muggleborn for her to suddenly feel incredibly valued as an individual. Not even Champ, with his slightly ill-placed yet well-meaning affection, has ever filled Waverly with this kind of warmth before.
“I’d like that,” Waverly agrees with a shy smile. “But don’t you have your own class to get to.”
“It’s fine,” Nicole dismisses Waverly with a casual flick of her hand as she gets to her feet once more. “It’s on the way.”
Waverly is pretty certain that Nicole is in the same Transfiguration class that Wynonna and Dolls have first thing this morning, and despite knowing that the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom is two floors higher and in the opposite wing of the castle to Transfiguration – definitely not on the way at all – she agrees regardless.
Waverly follows Nicole out of the rapidly emptying Great Hall and the pair fall into stride out in the Entrance Hall as they walk towards the Grand Staircase.
“So.” Nicole starts, “it’s the Hogsmeade trip next weekend. Are you going?”
“Yeah,” answers Waverly. “I think I’m supposed to be going with Champ.”
As they step onto the first moving staircase, Nicole turns to look at Waverly, her eyebrows raised in surprise.
“Champ … Champ Hardy? You two are still…?”
Waverly nods, and then says, “Uh huh. Six and a half months.”
Nicole’s eyes widen and she stares out into the distance for a few seconds as the staircase comes to a shuddering halt beneath them. She waits until they have started walking again, taking a door that leads out of the central staircase and into the part of the castle where the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom is, before speaking again.
“Things are pretty serious then?”
Waverly shrugs, leading the way along a narrow corridor and then up a twisting spiral staircase before answering, “I … I guess so.”
“No need to sound so enthusiastic, Waves,” Nicole says, any sign of whatever it was that crossed her face when she learned about Waverly and Champ gone as she shoots Waverly a teasing smile and nudges her elbow against Waverly’s arm. Waverly’s eyes widen at the unexpected pet name, which Nicole seems to immediately take as a bad thing, rushing into a hasty apology. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to … can I call you that?”
The rush of affection that Waverly feels for Nicole upon hearing the nickname intensified by the fact that it just slipped out by accident, is unlike anything that Waverly has felt in a very long time, and she nods shyly.
“I like it.”
Nicole relaxes visibly, letting out a long sigh of relief just as they reach the door to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, where Waverly can already see some of her classmates beginning to settle into their seats beyond the classroom door.
“Well, here we are,” Waverly says brightly, not exactly sure what the etiquette is for thanking a budding new friend for accompanying her to class. For going completely out of her own way to walk Waverly to class, despite having her own lesson in a different part of the castle to get to, and particularly after Waverly did the exact opposite of giving Nicole a reason to want to be such a good friend during their first meeting. “Thank you so much. You really didn’t have to do this.”
“I know I didn’t,” agrees Nicole. “But I wanted to.”
They hover awkwardly at the door to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, neither one quite sure how to part ways. Waverly has never had the pleasure of being walked to class before and she isn’t really sure how to say goodbye – does she walk into class and then Nicole leaves, or should she wait for Nicole to leave before she enters the classroom?
Nicole is the one who finally puts an end to it.
“Well, I should go,” she says, and Waverly thinks that the reluctance that she hears edging its way into Nicole’s tone could be more than just wishful thinking on her part. “I have to get to Transfiguration.”
“Okay,” nods Waverly, taking a slow step backwards towards the classroom door as she lifts a hand to wave goodbye. “Bye, Nicole.”
Hogsmeade never fails to leave Nicole in a stunned state of awe. Every trip feels like the first one and the excitement of walking down the path from the castle in the midst of a swarm of students and seeing the picturesque little village with its crooked buildings and winding streets come into view has Nicole’s heart doing little flips in her chest as she imagines what the day has in store.
Hogsmeade has an old-fashioned kind of charm to it. The buildings are small and quaint; wooden signs swing in the breeze above the entrances to shops, smoke drifts up from crooked chimney pipes atop tiled roofs, and the window of Honeydukes displays shelf upon shelf of glass jars filled with coloured sweets like an old Victorian shop. Yet there’s something so incredibly special about the magic that brings Hogsmeade to life and sets it apart from the small Muggle villages dotted across the British countryside.
Nicole, along with what feels like every other Hogwarts student visiting the village, spends the first hour of her trip in Honeydukes. It takes that long to make it around the entire shop, what with how many teenagers are crammed into such a tiny space, but even when Nicole finally makes her way out of the busy shop and back onto the cobbled streets, her hands and pockets overflowing with paper bags full of a colourful assortment of all kinds of treats, Nicole is still certain that there must be at least one kind of wizarding confectionary that she’s been meaning to try but has missed out on due to the sheer number of students crowding the shelves in Honeydukes.
Bidding farewell to two of her closest friends in Hufflepuff, who have both arranged to meet their boyfriends in the disgustingly frilly teashop down one of the side streets off Hogsmeade’s main road, Nicole ambles down the street alone, basking in the crisp autumn breeze that hits her face and the aura of magic that fills the air.
A voice shouting her name catches Nicole’s attention and she spends a few seconds looking around for its owner, finally catching sight of Waverly Earp standing outside one of the shops. Waverly is bundled up in a thick cloak, her blue and bronze Ravenclaw scarf, and a pair of fluffy earmuffs, and she bounces up and down on her toes as she waves eagerly to get Nicole’s attention.
“Waverly, hi!” Nicole tries not to seem too eager as she bounds over to Waverly. Glancing around, Nicole frowns at the fact that Waverly is by herself and asks, “No Champ?”
Waverly gestures over her shoulder with her thumb and Nicole’s insides sink with the weight of a heavy anchor as she peers through the glass shopfront behind Waverly, where she can see Champ Hardy amongst a group fo boys laughing at something on one of the shelves inside.
“Apparently Champ’s idea of a perfect date is dragging me along while he mucks about with his friends and pays more attention to silly joke shop toys than her does to me,” Waverly says, her tone bitter as she turns to look at Champ through the window, who seems oblivious to the fact that his girlfriend is waiting for him outside the shop.
“Would you rather he took you to Madam Puddifoot’s?” asks Nicole, thinking of her two best friends and the presumably nausea-inducing dates they are on with their own boyfriends.
“Merlin, no!” Waverly answers with a grimace. “Have you seen the inside of that place? It looks like a lace factory exploded.”
Tilting her head to the side, Nicole teases, “Is that not what girls like?”
“You’re a girl,” Waverly quips back, “You tell me.”
It catches Nicole off-guard. Sometimes she forgets that the rest of the world around her is so painfully heterosexual and she tries not to let the surprise show on her face – the very last thing she wants to do is scare Waverly off.
Instead, Nicole takes a deep breath to calm herself down and replies, “I’m not like most girls.”
She’s trying to be cool and mysterious, despite the hammering of her heart, and she thinks that it works because Waverly takes a few seconds to consider Nicole’s words. But then a sly smile crosses Waverly’s lips and she agrees, “No, I guess not,” which flusters Nicole and leaves her feeling the exact opposite of cool and mysterious.
Twitchy and transparent.
Which isn’t exactly the vibe she’s aiming to give off at all.
Nicole takes a couple of deep breaths to calm herself down, an impressive feat considering the question that’s on the tip of her tongue, and then speaks once more.
“I know you’re on a date,” Nicole uses air quotes as she says the word date, causing Waverly to laugh softly and roll her eyes, “but I was on my way to the bookshop if you fancy coming with me?”
“Seriously?” asks Waverly, her head jerking up and her eyes wide in surprise as they search Nicole’s face for any sign that her invitation might not be genuine. When Nicole nods, teeth digging into her lower lips slightly as she awaits a response, Waverly sighs in relief and answers, “Oh thank you, I’d love to. I don’t think I can put up with Champ’s idiotic friends for much longer.”
Nicole can’t stop the grin that spreads across her face as Waverly bounces over to her. Nicole loops her arm through Waverly’s under the pretence of huddling together to ward off the chilly October breeze and Waverly leans into her side as they stroll down the cobbled road towards Tomes and Scrolls, Hogsmeade’s only bookshop.
“So how has your week been?” Nicole asks conversationally.
“Oh, you know,” Waverly answers vaguely, her voice bright. She glances up at Nicole with a knowing expression on her face, before adding, “It’s fifth year.”
Frowning, Nicole asks, “But I can’t imagine that you’re finding the workload too much?”
Waverly hesitates before answering, then confesses with a little tremor in her voice, “I … I kind of love it.”
She lowers her gaze in shame, as if somehow believing that Nicole is going to find her weird and abandon her with Champ and his friends for the rest of the day for enjoying her academic studies, as if they aren’t currently on their way to a bookshop, of all places. Nicole doesn’t consider herself a violent person, in fact she much prefers to work things out with words than with brute force, but she can’t help but find herself filling with a quiet rage along with the urge to hurt whoever has made Waverly feel like it’s not okay for her to enjoy learning.
It’s maybe not intentional, but Nicole clings to Waverly just a little bit tighter with the arm currently linked through Waverly’s, silently communicating her reassurances that it’s okay for Waverly to be completely herself around Nicole.
“What’s your favourite subject?” asks Nicole, encouraging Waverly to speak more about the things that she loves.
Waverly glances up at Nicole briefly, a soft kind of wonder in her eyes as if she can’t quite believe that Nicole is actually interested in getting to know her, then she smiles as she answers happily, “Definitely Ancient Runes. It’s so fascinating, so complex but so rewarding, you know?”
“I … I actually don’t,” admits Nicole. “I didn’t take Runes. I regret it though, choosing Divination was a terrible decision.”
“You took Divination?” Waverly asks, her eyebrows shooting up with such speed that Nicole is surprised they don’t keep going and disappear into her hairline. “That surprises me.”
“Really?” Nicole shrugs, then explains, “I’m Muggleborn so the whole idea of predicting the future is like a childhood fantasy come true. Of course I took Divination.”
“And how did the class compare to the childhood fantasies?”
Laughing and shaking her head at the memories of the complete joke that was three years of Divination classes, Nicole answers truthfully, “It was a complete waste of time, to be honest!”
Upon reaching the bookshop, Nicole reluctantly lets her arm slip free from Waverly’s and pushes open the door, standing aside as she holds it open to let Waverly enter first, who beams at Nicole and mutters a soft thanks in return.
When she follows Waverly inside, Nicole stops and takes a few moments to appreciate her new surroundings. Each towering bookshelf holds hundreds of leather bound books, each book contains thousands upon thousands of words. From spellbooks to advanced potion making, herbology to ancient magical lore, colourfully illustrated children’s books on magical creatures to dusty tomes written in almost forgotten languages, there must be a book on every conceivable subject somewhere in this shop. Nicole could spend a lifetime in here and still barely scratch the surface of the knowledge that is waiting to be uncovered.
But being here with Waverly brings a different kind of excitement. It’s not a date, Nicole has to remind herself every few seconds, because Waverly is just a friend, but Nicole would be lying if she said that she hadn’t meticulously planned out every detail of what a first date with Waverly would entail. And this would be it; a couple of hours in a bookshop where they explore the shelves that are filled with stimuli for an endless number of conversations, how they could get to know each other so well just by walking around this shop and discovering where the other’s interests lie.
Not to mention the fact that Nicole is a hopeless romantic at heart and the throwback to where they first met, surrounded by the high bookshelves of the Hogwarts library, seems to signify something really special to Nicole.
But this is not a date.
It’s so hard to keep telling herself that when Waverly grabs Nicole’s hand with her own mitten-covered one and drags her to the back of the bookshop.
They’re in the Runes section of the bookshop and Nicole barely has any idea what Waverly is saying (something along the lines of a collection of books that she’s been saving up her galleons for) but it doesn’t really matter. Waverly could be talking about a subject that Nicole knows more about than anybody else in the world and the words would still mean nothing because Nicole is far too enraptured by the way that Waverly gesticulates with her arms, far too mesmerised by the passion and the enthusiasm with which Waverly talks, to take notice of the words themselves.
Waverly is beautiful. Of course, Nicole already knew that from a purely objective point of view, but Waverly’s intelligence stretches far beyond any kind of physical beauty. Nicole could be presented with an actual Veela, and she would still think that Waverly, with her quiet charm and otherworldly intellect, is the most beautiful girl on the planet.
Waverly Earp – who even just a couple of weeks ago was nothing more than a stranger, a quiet Ravenclaw in the year below Nicole who always keeps herself to herself, known for being the youngest daughter from a family of famous dark wizard hunters – sharing her passions with Nicole with expressive authenticity, is now just Waverly.
And yet she is so much more than that too.
“Are you okay?”
Waverly’s question brings Nicole out of her own thoughts and she feels a little bit delirious as she answers, “Yeah, I’m fine.”
Way more than okay.
It is thirst finally getting the better of them that forces them to leave the bookshop. Though Nicole could quite easily spend the rest of the day in the bookshop with Waverly, listening to the other girl talk about subjects that she’s interested in and moving from one conversation to another with an effortless kind of ease that is just so completely unlike anything that Nicole could find in any of her other friendships, they have to leave eventually, wrapping themselves up in their cloaks and scarves once more before leaving the shop and crossing the street to the Three Broomsticks.
“Thank you for this,” Waverly says, as the pair sit down at a table near the fireplace in the cosy pub, each holding a frothy tankard of butterbeer.
“For what?” Nicole asks, confused as to what she has done to warrant a thank you.
“For saving me from having to spend the day with Champ and his friends,” explains Waverly. She takes a sip of her butterbeer and then, with her teeth anxiously nibbling at her lower lips, continues, “Is it bad that I’m almost glad that he’s with his friends today because it means I don’t have to deal with him one on one?”
Nicole’s eyebrows shoot upwards and she replies, “He’s your boyfriend, isn’t he supposed to be the one person that you want to spend all your time with?”
Waverly’s face falls and she shrugs, before answering, “I guess so. But with Champ it’s just … sometimes I feel like I’m just a piece of arm candy, like he doesn’t actually care about me beyond having somebody to make out with occasionally.” Waverly hesitates, then adds, “And that he can say he’s bagged himself an Earp.”
Nicole reaches across the table and rests her hand over Waverly’s, unable to believe how anybody is capable of making Waverly feel so underappreciated and still be able to sleep at night.
“Waverly,” Nicole says, looking into the other girl’s eyes and speaking with complete honesty. “You’re so much more than some guy’s trophy. Anybody would be lucky to call you their girlfriend. And if Champ Hardy can’t see that, then he doesn’t deserve you.”
Waverly glances down, embarrassed, and makes a noncommittal grunt, so Nicole continues.
“I can’t tell you how to live your life, or who should and shouldn’t have an important place in it,” she tells Waverly, “but if you ever want to complain about boys, or plot how to crush the heteronormative patriarchy, I’m your girl.”
Waverly looks up, a soft smile on her face, and she just opens her mouth to say something in response when the pub door crashes open, letting in a chilly gust of wind as four boys jostle their way inside, led by a familiar figure. Upon seeing her boyfriend, who she abandoned earlier in the day in favour of spending time with Nicole, Waverly sits up straighter and anything she might have been about to say to Nicole goes forgotten.
The boy looks around, searching for the voice that said his name, and when his eyes fall on Waverly and he gapes at her with a dumbfounded expression on his face, Nicole suspects that he might not even have noticed his girlfriend’s absence today at all.
“Oh,” he says. “Waverly. You’re here.”
“Yes,” Waverly answers, her tone brusque, “I am.”
“Who is your friend?” Champ asks, nodding his head in Nicole’s direction.
“This is Nicole,” says Waverly. “We went to look at books together while you were in the joke shop.”
Champ spends a few seconds looking at Nicole, his eyes slightly narrowed as he appraises her briefly, before he relaxes and turns to Waverly with a smile on his face. A stupid, stupid smile that Nicole wants to wipe off with a flick of her wand.
“That’s so cool that you’ve got a friend to do girly stuff with instead of me,” he tells Waverly.
Like Nicole says, she really wants to inflict some physical pain on Champ and her brain is already forming a list of the spells that she could use and ranking them based on a combination of how much embarrassment they would cause Champ and how much pleasure they would give her to use.
But instead of taking out her wand and hexing Champ into the next century, Nicole forces herself to stay calm and asks, “Girly stuff? You mean like reading?”
Waverly’s soft snort from beside her is more than worth any backlash she might face from Champ for that comment. But instead of retaliating with anger, Champ seems to miss the sarcasm in Nicole’s voice entirely, instead taking her by surprise by actually agreeing with her.
“Yeah,” he nods, without a trace of irony in his voice. “Just like that.”
Champ walks closer to their table, closing the gap between himself and Waverly so that he can lean down and press a kiss to her lips, though Waverly turns her head slightly at the last minute so that his mouth lands on her cheek instead. Unperturbed, or perhaps he just didn’t notice Waverly’s lack of enthusiasm for his affection, he straightens up and gets ready to walk over to where his friends stand at the bar waiting to order their drinks.
“See you later, babe,” he says, before he departs.
“I didn’t know that boys couldn’t read,” says Nicole drily, the moment that Champ is out of earshot, “but that explains so much.”
Waverly’s laugh in response, as sweet and smooth as the butterbeer that they drink and such a contrast to the frosty reception she gave to Champ, is possibly the only thing that matters in Nicole’s world.