There are few things Oliver knows as undeniable truths in his life.
One: His sister is, above all, his greatest responsibility.
Two: He wants to make his father proud.
Three: He absolutely hates the train ride into Hogwarts.
Luckily for him, this will be the final September where he is subjected to the hours cooped up in the rolling tin can. The last fall where he’ll have to stare at the seemingly endless country and try to tune out the younger students restlessly wandering the hallways outside and chatting loudly.
Usually, his misery has company and makes the journey a little more bearable, but today he is not so lucky. His little sister, Thea, has decided that at thirteen years old she’s far too cool to be sitting with her older brother. His best friend Tommy is MIA, like he has been most summer, this time citing a Slytherin girl who simply demanded his attention.
At least he gets the compartment to himself, he muses as he stretches his legs through the open space.
The Daily Prophet sits in his lap. He’d brought it on board to read, but so far he can only stare at the front headline – Dark Magic on the Rise Again? – and the moving image of the Minister of Magic calmly explaining with that bland smile of his that no, there was no foul play suspected in the murder of Robert Queen.
Oliver knows more than anyone that it’s all a bunch of public relations nonsense.
The back half of his summer had been overcome by the sudden death of his father, and the intense investigations that followed, so he’d know better than most how much the authorities were baffled.
He still isn’t sure what the worst part about the whole thing had been – watching his mother completely shut down or sitting in a gray room for hours on end while being treated like a hostile suspect in questioning.
It didn’t help that Oliver was the one who found his father’s body, sitting in the living room like a sick surprise for the Queen family to wake up to.
But really, the rumors that followed for weeks in the papers, that he would really kill his own father, probably took the cake. Speculation swirled about – tales of friction between father and son, on a longstanding rivalry, tension, pressure, what have you, emerged from nowhere and circulated the press.
Nobody in his life that mattered – his mother and sister – believed it, but the very idea stung an already painful spot.
It died out eventually, and the press latched onto a new theory – that dark magic was involved, on the rise again and would surely get all wizards this time around.
It was a great scare tactic that the papers loved to use.
Ever since the fall of Voldemort at the hands of Harry Potter so many years ago, wizards still lived in constant fear that a new dark power would suddenly rise and start a third war. There was hardly any evidence of that, but every remotely suspicious occurrence brought on the dark magic rumors again.
And fear sold papers like nothing else.
It made him almost glad to get to escape from home for a while and start the school year. Though the student body at Hogwarts was not the most forgiving, at least no prodding journalists would be able to harass him about Death Eaters when he tried to get breakfast.
He tears his eyes away from the newspaper when he hears a soft knock on the compartment door, before it slides open a few inches, a blonde head poking in.
“Hi, I was just – oh ” blue eyes that hide behind a pair of glasses widen. “I’m sorry – I didn’t realize you were in here. I was just looking for a place to sit. Every compartment is – well, super full. But I can see that you’re here doing your brooding thing and I’ll just –“ she gestures behind her, trailing off.
Almost of its own accord, Oliver feels his head shake. “You can sit here, if you want.”
Bright pink lips turn upward in surprise. “Thanks.”
She shuffles in, hiding a grimace as she drags her trunk in and avoids eye contact, moving through the compartment as it to be as undisruptive as she can possibly be.
Oliver doesn’t realize he watches her movements until she falls into the seat in front of him, looking at him for a second before her eyes widen and she turns to the window outside.
He also doesn’t realize he’s smiling until he catches his own reflection in the glass and has to wipe it off.
A few minutes pass in silence, the girl’s eyes stay almost diligently trained on the window outside but Oliver can’t help stealing glances at her curiously.
Finally, he follows his need to speak up.
“You’re American?” he says, forcing his voice into what he hopes is casual. She tears her gaze away from the passing fields with those wide eyes again, the surprise that he’s speaking to her evident on her face.
“Yeah.” She sputters. “Yes, I am.” She presses her lips tightly together, as though stopping herself from saying more. It’s a curious thing.
“So if you’re American why are you…” he gestures around him.
“Why am I here and not there?” she says with a small smile. “Wish I knew the answer. My mother’s a Muggle, so she didn’t know about any of this stuff. When I got my letter, I just assumed Hogwarts was the only school in the world, which sounds pretty silly in retrospect I guess.” She gives a small shrug. “I guess I was just meant to be here.”
It’s a really simple way of looking at things. He almost admires it.
She doesn’t ask about his own nationality, likely because everyone in this part of the world already knows about the story. Robert Queen sweeping in from America after the war and using his resources to help put everything – including Hogwarts – back in working order, and setting up his lucrative business here.
It’s only at this point does he realize he doesn’t know the girl’s name.
“I’m Oliver,” he offers with a smile.
“Right,” she responds automatically. She pauses. Then blinks. “I mean – I know who you are, obviously. It’s kind of hard not to –” She gestures to the newspaper in his lap. “— with everything that’s been going on.” Her mouth drops open and she looks as if she’s about to apologize, but Oliver stops her with a shake of his head.
She takes a deep breath, looking to the ceiling as if mentally counting down. “I’m Felicity.”
“Felicity,” he repeats, the smile that lands on his face when he says her name almost automatic. “Nice to meet you.”
Felicity returns the grin. “Likewise. Sorry about the—” she moves her hand from her mouth to the floor a few times. “— you know. I would say it’s not a normal thing, but unfortunately this is pretty much my default setting.”
He can’t help but stare at her with a grin on his face, wondering why he’d never met her earlier. Are they in the same year?
When he voices his question, she shakes her head. “I’m a sixth year, actually. And I’m in Ravenclaw.” She nods to the scarlet Gryffindor scarf that sits on his trunk. “So that’s probably why we’ve never run into each other.”
He nods slowly, taking in the blonde in front of him with a growing smile on his face, wondering where she’s been hiding from him all this time.
When Felicity knocked on the last compartment of the train’s door, she really didn’t expect to run into Oliver Queen. Even less so did she expect to actually sit down and make conversation with him, past the realm of small talk and diving into anything and everything.
She thought she had known Oliver Queen before – the talk about him never ceased even before his father’s mysterious and unfortunate death – but she was wrong. The Oliver that sits before her is not at all what she’d been led to believe.
Talk around Hogwarts outlined a confident, outgoing star student who charmed all of his teachers with his words and not his wand. Girls in bathrooms gossiped about him being a shameless flirt, a heartbreaker with lines for days but an irresistible attitude.
The boy that sits in front of her today is nothing like the talk.
He’s quiet, just a touch aloof and holds himself tightly. He’s not surrounded by a harem of women like the rumors would make it seem, but seemed quite content to be by himself before she walked in.
But what she likes most about sitting with Oliver is talking to him. His eyes don’t glaze over like so many others do when her mouth runs away with her, but sparkle in amusement.
He lets her do the talking, but carries the conversation well, prompting her with questions about her: her house, her summer, her interests.
He’s an attentive listener, she notices in the middle of a story about her mom discovering she’s a witch, when he leans in as she speaks and never dares to look away. And if he licks his lips in response to her leaning in too, well, that’s probably just her imagination.
“So, she really wanted to put you on TV?” he says with a laugh.
“I know.” She rolls her eyes. “What kind of mother looks at her magical daughter and thinks, we can totally make bank on this, right? But that’s her. All about the drama.”
“Sounds like an interesting woman.”
“She is.” Felicity looks out the window, the familiar ache of realizing she won’t see Donna Smoak for another ten months hitting her again. “I give her a hard time, but she really has worked hard for me. My dad wasn’t really around, so…” she trails off, suddenly very focused on the setting sun outside.
“I’m sorry.” Oliver says softly.
“Don’t be.” She looks back at him and shrugs. “I grew to realize it was his loss, not mine.”
Oliver looks back at her with what she doesn’t want to describe as amazement, but his eyes are wide and a small, appreciative smile grows on his face at her words. She’s heard a lot about his smirks and charming smiles, but this one, which feels like a rare gift, is something she’d rather keep any day. “That’s a nice way of looking at it.”
He leans further into the empty space between them, his elbows resting on his knees. Only later will Felicity realize that she mirrors his response.
“I always liked to think so.” Her voice drops to a whisper.
They fall into a comfortable silence, the only sound between them is the gentle rocking of the train.
When the compartment door slides open, both of them fly back into their seats.
“Hey, Ollie I think it’s — oh. ” Felicity looks up to see a dark-haired boy giving a suggestive smile and looking at the compartment. “Hello there, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize Ollie was with someone.”
Across from her, Oliver rolls his eyes. “Tommy, this is Felicity. Felicity, my best friend Tommy.”
Tommy’s looks at her carefully. “Felicity,” he repeats, a sparkle of something unrecognizable flitting through his eyes. “Sorry to interrupt you two, I just came to tell Oliver here that we’re almost at Hogwarts and he should probably change into his uniform now.”
Felicity looks out the window again to see that it’s twilight outside, meaning they’d be reaching the castle any minute.
“Oh!” she says in surprise, jumping from her seat. “I guess I should be getting on that too.”
Tommy looks at her with a raised eyebrow and a smirk – so unlike the looks Oliver had met her with all these hours it feels strange to see.
When the train does stop at Hogsmeade station, Felicity tries to be the first person off. She thinks she can hear Oliver calling out from behind her, but that could be the noise of the crowd playing tricks on her. She finds a carriage to take up the castle with a group of rowdy second years and ignores the way Oliver stops just short of where she takes off, kicking the dirt.
Yes, when she knocked on the compartment door, she didn’t expect to run into Oliver Queen. She didn’t expect to get to know him, or to instantly grow quite as fond of him as she is now.
But Tommy Merlyn’s arrival reminded her what life would be like once they stepped off the train.
That’s why, as she makes her way into the castle with the memories of the ride in fresh on her mind, Felicity doesn’t expect she’ll see much of Oliver Queen in the school year.