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White Lies

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September 1st, 1984

 

In retrospect, Ridley could see that she had made a mistake. A rather big mistake. Nothing life altering, so she thought; nothing condemnable, so she thought; but obviously a significant blunder on her part. While it hurt her pride to admit it, she was a lightweight, and maybe drinking firewhiskey on the Hogwarts Express was a slight miscalculation.

Make that, a gross miscalculation.

“Oi, Rid!” called a slender, olive skinned girl from across the compartment. Her springy, ebony curls bounced as she tossed her head to the side, trying to release one rebellious tendril from between her eyelashes.

Ridley pushed the mouth of the bottle against her lips, and tipped the contents back into her mouth. Her face puckered at the burn of the spirits, and hoarsely she answered, “Yeah?”

“I think,” sang Ridley’s friend, Brinn, “that this is gonna be a good year.” Brinn was well tipsy at that point, her warm brown eyes blinking slowly and full lips stretched into a giddy smile. Ridley found the other girl’s hand on her knee, and so grabbed ahold of it. Leaning forward, she held their entwined fingers in the space between them, and grinned back at Brinn.

“I think so too,” she agreed, giggling lightly in a way that only alcohol could induce. Brinn released her hand, and beckoned for the bottle Ridley held protectively against her chest. Passing over the firewhiskey, she sent a wink to Brinn’s neighbour, a tall narrow faced boy with honey blonde hair. He smirked back at her, and leaned forward in his seat, catching an unspoken invitation to conversation.

“I don’t think I’ve heard about your summer yet, Calvyn,” Ridley gossiped, tilting her head to the side innocently. The boy returned her gaze unbroken and unaffected. Ridley refused to break, a sense of curiosity and indebtedness pushing her forward. Calvyn opposed her with a similar level of determination. Finally, he dropped his stony faced stare, and smirked at her once more.

“I suppose you haven’t,” he conceded, leaning back into his seat and crossing his arms across his chest. Beside him, Brinn continued to babble, nearly incoherent now, to Ridley’s neighbour and friend Marcus. Burly, dark haired, Marcus listened to her intently, even smiling encouragingly. Ridley wasn’t sure how interested the boy was in the conversation, but his interest in her school mate was undeniable.

“Well,” shifting her focus, Ridley turned her attention back to the blonde across from her, “how was your summer?"

Calvyn eyed her suspiciously. “It was alright.”

“Just alright?”

“Er, yes?”

“You didn’t meet anyone new?” Ridley leaned even closer in; Calvyn shifted back, “No budding friendships or whirlwind summer romances?”

Instead of replying, the boy turned his head towards the window and appeared to immerse himself in the scenery flashing past. No emotion escaped him, and when Ridley decided that was all she would get from her silent friend she shook her head and slumped back in her seat. Truth be told, she was lucky to get as close to the subject as she did before Calvyn shut down. He wasn’t the type to kiss and tell.

Absentmindedly twirling a sun bleached lock of hair between her fingers, she contemplated Calvyn’s well guarded secret. Ridley’s older sister, Rosalynne, had been strangely absent for most of the summer; either locked in her room or on unexplained outings from the house. While this wasn’t that much call for concern in Ridley’s opinion, a most unusual sighting of her schoolmate at three in the morning in her family home was rather alarming.

Ridley herself had just got in from a meeting with a friend that ran further into the night than she’d intended. She’d crept through the front door with the stealth of a burglar, creeping through the nearly pitch black front hallway as though her life depended on quietness. Her parents of course weren’t home, rather she feared alerting her older brother, Ryerson, whom she could count on to report her misstep to her dear parents. He was dutiful, Ryerson was.

She thought that she had just made it home safe as she navigated the rest of the bottom floor, and the stark whiteness of her bedroom door came into view. Suddenly, a door behind her creaked open and she froze. Shuffling feet made their way across the hallway and a yawned, “lumos” made her whip around, expecting to see a victorious Ryerson prepared to reprimand her.

Instead, she was shocked to find Calvyn, hair tousled from sleep and gray sleep pants hanging low on his hips. “What the hell?”

Realizing he wasn’t alone, the boy flashed the illuminated wand towards her, temporarily blinding her with the intense light. Putting a hand in front of her face to shield her eyes, she stepped forward cautiously and hissed, “What are you doing here?”

There was dead silence for a moment as Calvyn lowered his wand arm to the ground and stared at Ridley with wide brown eyes.

“Er...” he stalled, looking back down the hallway he came from, before sputtering, “Sorry, gotta go.”

With a crack that made her wince, Calvyn disapparated and left her alone before her hopefully empty room. Confused, and a little bit peeved, Ridley resolved to pull the information from her friend once September rolled around, knowing full well he couldn’t avoid her at school. She turned back to her room, hoping Calvyn was the last surprise guest of the evening, and pushed herself inside, no intent of forgetting that night whatsoever. It wasn’t as though her longtime friend was unwelcome in her home, in fact Ridley had made a point of having her friends over whenever provided a chance during the summer. Well, perhaps not that summer, but the longstanding tradition still stood, nonetheless. However, Ridley had no recollection of inviting over any guests, and she had serious doubts that Calvyn was covertly squatting in her family home. That meant that someone else must have invited her friend over, and Ridley had a feeling she knew who.

“Yoohoo, Ridster,” cackled Brinn, waving a hand in front of her face, “Are you daydreaming?”

Snatching Brinn’s open hand, she lowered it from her face, and brought her focus back to her friends, who were gradually showing more symptoms of drunkenness. Ridley, herself could feel her head swimming and a lazy happiness taking hold of her, but it wasn’t enough. She needed to be truly intoxicated if she were to get through the sorting ceremony and Headmaster’s typically long winded speech. And, perhaps she expected some impending social interactions that she was very much not looking forward to. Stealing the bottle of firewhiskey from where it was now in Calvyn’s clutches, she took a final swig, emptying the bottle.

“Easy there, champ!” cautioned Marcus who reached for the bottle, and seeing it emptied sent her a confounded look. She grinned back at him widely, swaying to the side as the train rolled around a curve in the track. Calvyn reached across the compartment and rested a steady hand on her shoulder, keeping her from falling out of her seat as the train’s path straightened out. Calvyn shot her a concerned look as he reprimanded, “Have you ever partook in, ‘drinking responsibly’ Rid?”

“What does it look like I’m doing?” She giggled in reply. “I am very responsible,” she added with a chortle, crossing her legs daintily and giving her friend a smug grin.

“Of course you are, Rid,” Calvyn retorted, with little relief.

“Speaking of responsible,” piped up Marcus, turning his attention away from the chattering friend across from him, “Have any of you guys seen Molly about?”

“Yeah,” chirped Brinn, her eyebrows drawn together as her inebriated mind tried to wrap itself around their friend’s absence. “Do you know where she’s at?” she directed to Ridley.

Ridley uncrossed her legs and leant forward, resting her elbows on her knees in front of her. Head in hands, she murmured, “She made Head Girl, so I imagine she’s doing some kind of...” Ridley groaned as a wave of nausea overcame her, “Head Girl stuff.”

“Head Girl? No way!” cackled Brinn, before striking up another round of enthusiastic chatter with Marcus.

Meanwhile, Calvyn was growing more worried as Ridley’s complexion grew fairer. “Are you alright?” She caught him looking toward a small rubbish bin by the window, giving him a smack on the leg.

“I’m not gonna throw up, you pestering ninny.”

“Pestering ninny?” He cracked a laugh, “your vocabulary has grown rather archaic over the summer, hasn’t it.”

Ridley rolled her eyes, “So my summer’s up for conversation, huh?” She pinched the bridge of her nose as a her head began to throb. She could admit to regretting the last shot of firewhiskey now. Groaning as the train thundered around another turn in the track, she tipped her head back against the cushioned seat and stared up at the low ceiling of the Hogwarts Express. Sunlight filtered in through an uncovered window to her right, and she contented herself for a few moments with watching the fluttering choreography of dust motes in the air. Eventually, the light withdrew from the compartment as the locomotive took its passengers through a tunnel of sorts. Ridley resolved to close her eyes.

“You look like you could use some water, Ridley.”

Sluggishly, she opened her eyes and looked at Calvyn from under her eyelashes. Taking a moment to consider it, she finally came to the conclusion that yes, she was thirsty . Sitting up, and then taking some time to adjust to her new altitude, she reached for the empty bottle of firewhiskey by Calvyn’s feet.

Meanwhile, Marcus was confused, “But we haven’t got any water?”

From the corner of her eye, she watched the boy across from her stare blankly at Marcus, steadily. Under their breath, Ridley heard someone cough in a way that sounded suspiciously like “ Wizard.” She cracked a smile, twisting the cap off of the bottle and casting an inverbal evanesco , clearing out any residual alcohol. Satisfied, she placed the tip of her wand inside the mouth of the bottle and then enunciated, loud enough for Marcus to overhear her, “Aguamenti.”

A despondent, “Oh...” could be heard over the swishing of water against the glass. The clear liquid rose quickly, and Ridley released the charm just as the level approached the neck of the bottle. With a grateful hum, she put her wand back in her lap and rose the repurposed container in a toast. “Cheers,” she scoffed, to which Calvyn rolled his eyes, and brought the bottle to her lips. The clean, pure taste of water was a refreshing contrast to the acrid aftertaste of the liquor. She gulped down the liquid greedily, the coolness slightly easing the churning in her stomach.

“Better?” inquired Calvyn.

“Much.”

Suddenly, the sliding door beside her shook, and in her surprise a splash of water spilled over the lip of the bottle and landing in her lap. Bollocks.

“Routine ch—oh it’s just you lot.” A rather tall girl, with wavy blonde hair and an obvious air of confidence, leaned against the frame of the sliding door as she cast her gaze around the compartment. Ridley caught her eye and sent her a grateful smile.

“Molly!” sang Brinn, with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, “Ridley told me you were Head Girl. Congrats!”

“Thanks, Brinlay.” Molly shifted her gaze back to her best friend and eyed Ridley critically. As her eyes moved to the bottle in her hand, Molly’s sharply arched eyebrows rose in incredulity. “You’ve already started drinking?”

“You gonna take house points?” chortled Marcus, invoking a round of shrill giggles from Brinn that hurt Ridley’s ears.

The Head Girl in question pierced her offender with a glare that was simultaneously mesmerizing and terrifying. If anyone could kill a man with a mere look, Ridley would put her money on Molly without question.

Marcus, however, was not your average man. In fact, it would be an undeserved credence to call him anything greater that an adolescent. His maturity and emotional range rivaled that of a guinea pig (Ridley couldn’t recall why exactly a guinea pig shared these characteristics, but felt that it just fit), and was alarmingly obtuse. His company, despite all of this, was tolerable enough, and she wouldn’t deny that both Calvyn and herself had at times referred to the boy as the group’s “muscle”.

And so, taking these intellectual shortcomings into account, it was hardly a surprise to the compartment’s occupants that Marcus was almost entirely unaffected by Molly’s cold demeanor.

“I’m gonna take that as a no,” he trailed off, turning his gaze instead to the scenery beyond the window.

“You’re just jealous,” Ridley tried to break the building tension in the small space, “because we’re having a great time and you have Head Girl duties to attend to.”

Molly rolled her eyes, but a smirk was just barely detectable in the corner of her mouth, which Ridley counted as a win on her part. She shifted her weight to the other foot, leaning more heavily against the door frame and replied, “Well it’s my duty to tell you lot that we’re a few minutes away from Hogsmeade,” she cast a reproachful look to Marcus’ wrinkled jumper and trousers, “so you may want to change into your school robes.”

Molly watched over the group vigilantly, and only when every student in the compartment was pulling their robes over their heads, did she nod to herself in satisfaction and turn to make her way back into the corridor.

She halted in her efforts suddenly, however, when Marcus called to her, “Molly!” The girl turned her head over her shoulder and looked at the burly boy with curiosity.

“How was your summer?” he inquired, as his head popped through the neck of the garment.  

Molly stared at the boy blankly for a moment, then blinked. Turning to Ridley she announced, “I’ll meet you guys at the carriages,” before she added, “And Marcus, your robes are inside out.”

Smiling as he watched her retreating form, Marcus sighed “You can’t blame a guy for trying.”

 

Chapter Text

As Ridley carefully stepped out of the carriage, her hand in Calvyn’s as he guided her way to the ground, she couldn’t hide a smile as her eyes caught the sight of the great castle. Hogwarts was undeniably home in Ridley’s eyes.

As her feet reached the gravel, she thanked Calvyn and righted her robes. Stepping to the side so that her friends behind her could exit the carriage, she searched the growing crowd for any sign of Molly. Behind her, she could hear the familiar sounds of her friends’ laughter and the tell tale grunts of rough housing. She was not expecting, however, the sudden shout “OHHH!” and crushing impact of a body colliding into her backside. Ridley flailed as she fell with her offender, and tipped dangerously close to another figure in front of her. The trio toppled over like dominoes. The gravel crunched beneath them, and Ridley was suddenly, although sheepishly, glad that she had someone else to soften her impact. She was not so glad when she felt an elbow in her back as the body behind her got back onto their feet, using her as support.

“Merlin’s pants,” groaned what she recognized as Marcus’ voice. Of course, who else could it be but Marcus? “Guys, I’m sorry.”

“Ridley!” she heard Molly’s shrill voice not too far away. The body beneath her groaned, and she could feel the heat rising to her cheeks as she shifted herself away. Her immediate surroundings were exploding with sound.

Marcus was a guilty mess, “Bloody Hell, Rid, are you alright?”

Ridley too was a guilty mess, “I am so sorry, are you okay?” The figure on the ground in front of her, a young man with chestnut brown hair, grunted as he too made his way into a standing position.

Molly, was a mess of an entirely different sort. “Ridley Clarke, if you have injured, maimed, or—”

She stopped dead in her tracks, face frozen in realization as Ridley’s victim turned towards the Head Girl. Ridley’s stomached flipped as she recognized the boy, and cursed internally.

“Oh,” the previous passionate tone drained from Molly’s voice, “it’s you.”

The young man brushed off the dirt from the front of his robes, and stared down at the pair of girls from his impressive height. “It is.” He punctuated his reply with a malicious grin.

Ridley’s friend met the opposing boy’s gaze head on, subtly shifting towards her.

“Funny,” Molly cocked her head to the side, “I didn’t see you at the prefect meeting, Collins.” She crossed her arms over her chest, the picture of cool. “Term hasn’t even started and you’re already neglecting your Head Boy duties.”

Ridley’s eyes shot to the boy’s chest, and sure enough a glinting, gold Head Boy badge was pinned to the lapel of his robe. Collins noticed her gaze, and shot her a satisfied smirk. She looked away.

“I heard you made Head Girl, Brady,” he chose to ignore Molly’s accusation, “but I couldn’t believe it.” His eyes became softer with mock curiosity. “Did you have to sleep with the Headmaster for that?” He flicked the almost identical badge pinned to her robes. She smacked his hand away.

A passing second year looked over her shoulder in shock, nose wrinkled in disgust. In a lighter situation, Ridley would have laughed. As it was, all she could do was try not to puke.

“No, actually. I had your mum do all that dirty work for me.”

“Excuse me?”

“I figured she owed me one, what with me convincing my friend over here to tolerate her son’s ugly mug for a good year.”

Collins’ face was growing red with anger, his fists tight by his side. “How dare y—”

“Wait,” Molly interrupted, a victorious smirk growing on her lips. “Did she help you get yours too?”

Collins looked like he was ready to explode, when a sudden bout of dizziness hit Ridley head on. She swayed to the side, and mumbled an apology to Molly as she bumped into her. The Head Girl wrapped a hand around her upper arm, steadying her. Collins glared at her in disgust. “Is she drunk?”

Molly ignored him, instead leading Ridley through the thinning crowd, in the direction of the Great Hall. Collins was on their heels.

“You can’t accuse me of neglecting my duties, Brady,” sneered the boy from behind her. A wave of nausea was building in Ridley’s stomach, and suddenly her tongue felt strange in her mouth. Collins continued his tirade, “when your friends are the ones drinking themselves off their asses.”

A strong, commanding grip latched her around other arm, and she found herself being jerked around to face the fuming Head Boy. Instead of a surprised squeak escaping her mouth, however, something even worse worked itself out. The sudden shift in balance was enough to throw her over the edge, and with a last thought, oh no, Ridley Clarke vomited all over her ex-boyfriend's Italian leather oxfords.

He was silent, and somehow the only sound in the world at that point was the sickening wet splatter as Ridley’s supper made contact with Collins’ shoes and surrounding ground. Behind her, Molly whispered, “Oh, Rid.”

Mortified, she stared at the puddle of sick for a moment, before slowly raising her eyes to her victim’s face. He was furious. There was a certain, fiery element to his eyes that Ridley had only seen a few times before that moment. She hadn’t missed its presence. His mouth was set in a tight, thin line, and Ridley knew that he was only seconds from bursting.

In her head she could hear the countdown, not unlike the ticking of a bomb.

Three

Two.

One.

“YOU VOMITED ON MY SHOES!” Collins looked down at his feet abhorrently, flicking a chunk off of one toe with a brisk kick. Ridley winced. “Do you have any idea how much these cost?!” He threw his hands up in the air, “And now they’re covered in your stomach acid!”

“Oh don’t be such a drama queen,” sneered Molly, drawing her wand from her sleeve. Collins flinched as though expecting to be cursed by the girl, but rather she casted quick Scourgify and stared at him placidly. However, a slight discoloration remained on the beige leather.

“Your crude spell work isn’t going to fix this, Brady.”

“Is there a problem here?” The slow, baritone drawl sent a shiver down her spine, and Ridley watched as the blood drained from Collins’ face. His eyes went wide as they set themselves on the source of his panic. Molly, however seemed rather pleased. Turning to face the newcomer, Ridley found herself facing her Head of House, Professor Snape.

Collins cleared his throat and replied, “Clarke vomited on my person.” He punctuated the remark with a withering glare, cast toward Ridley. She blinked, hardly bearing the strength to remain standing, much less retort.

“And you would vilify her for being ill?” the Professor pressed on. Collins began to stutter a weak excuse, his mouth gaping open, like a fish. The Professor’s eyes were fixed on Collins and Ridley couldn’t tell whether she imagined the predatory gleam.

“Now, Mr. Collins, I understand that the authority you are granted as Head Boy is something of a novelty,” he sneered, crossing his robe clad arms over his chest, “however, you must realize that certain accidents such as these are forgivable.”

“Accident?!” Collins screeched, finally having found his voice.

“Yes, Collins,” Snape drawled, “or do you believe that Miss Clarke would intentionally assault you with bodily fluids?”

Ridley could feel her face getting hot. All she wanted was to settle into her dorm room and sleep until graduation.

Collins, meanwhile, was beginning to shake with fury. “She is drunk!” he shouted. Professor Snape fixed the Head Boy with a leveled glare. “Sir,” Collins added.

Snape turned his head to face Ridley, still maintaining his greater height. It was rather intimidating.

“Miss Clarke,” the words rolled off his tongue with an air of boredom. “Have you been drinking?”

Ridley lifted her eyes to his, momentarily anchoring herself in that moment on the intense darkness they held. She lied, “No, sir.”

“Of course not.” He turned his gaze back to Collins and gave him one more measuring look as he ordered, “Mr. Collins, make your way to the Great Hall immediately.”

“But sir—”

“Ten points from Ravenclaw.” Snape fixed him with a withering glare, “Or would you care to make it thirty?”

Red faced, Collins snapped his jaw shut and shuffled off, nearly bringing a pair of second years to the ground in his escape. Steely eyed, professor Snape watched the Head Boy scamper off, before turning his attention back to his Slytherins.

“Miss Brady,” he nodded to her in acknowledgement, “congratulations on making Head Girl.”

Molly glowed under the praise from whom Ridley knew to be her favourite teacher. Standing a little bit straighter she replied, “Thank you, professor.”

“You may make your way to the Great Hall,” Snape released them, stepping aside to let them pass through the throng of students migrating towards the Welcome Feast.  Ahead, Ridley caught sight of Brinn, Marcus and Calvyn, the latter of which was looking at her expectantly. Molly was the first to move on, nodding to the professor respectfully as she passed. Ridley made as if to follow, however a heavy hand on her shoulder halted her.

“Not you, Miss Clarke.”

Ridley’s stomach froze over as she looked up at the professor. There wasn’t any sinister intent that she could see written on his face, but she knew better than to take a Slytherin’s word at face value. She quickly locked eyes with Molly who was waiting, confused, on the threshold of the castle entrance. Ridley nodded her on, and her best friend sent her back an understanding smile before following their group into the Great Hall.

“If you will follow me,” Snape intoned, with his typical lack of emotion. The thinning group of students in front of the castle parted easily for the brooding professor, and Ridley in tow struggled to keep up with his long strides. In front of her, the intimidating figure of the potions master had a certain grace as he walked, his black robes streaming behind him in his wake. To her surprise, the professor walked past the Great Hall, and rather continued through the corridor before taking a left, down a staircase. They were headed toward the dungeons.

Ridley felt her anxiety peak. Was she going to be punished?

She couldn’t sense any malice in her Head of House, however. In fact, he seemed as level headed as she was accustomed to seeing him in any other regular circumstance.

The pair’s footsteps echoed off the stones walls, and the overall quietness of the castle was unnerving. She’d never missed a sorting ceremony, or a welcoming feast for that matter. Although, she thought, she didn’t exactly yearn for the experience presently.

The air temperature steadily fell as they descended, and eventually the winding staircase came to an end. Stepping out into the shadowy dungeon, Ridley shivered, cursing the uncommonly cold autumn. In the flickering light of the torches along the corridor, she saw the potions master cast her a contemplative look, before striding off again.

Recognizing the direction they were taking, Ridley became more and more convinced that she was about to receive something of a slap on the wrist.

Any minute now they were gonna reach Snape’s office.

Any minute now.

But they didn’t.

Because the professor’s game of follow the leader was cut short as it brought them instead to the hidden entrance to the Slytherin common room.

As the professor came to a halt, Ridley nearly ran into him, confused as to what his game was. Snape caught on to her confusion, and held her gaze, daring her to voice her thoughts. After a moment of silence, he announced the password, “Manticore.” The stone wall parted, revealing a dim passage into the common room beyond.

“But, sir,” she started, suddenly bewildered by his leniency. She didn’t believe for a second that he thought her merely ill. He fixed her with a stony look and interrupted, “Miss Clarke, while I appreciate your enthusiasm ,” he drew out the word, though his tone suggested it sickened him, “to start your final year at Hogwarts,”

Ridley looked down at her feet, hiding her reddening face. The professor continued, “I would not have thought it would be one of my upper year students, who I would expect to know better by now, that I would find intoxicated before term had even begun.”

There was a tense moment of silence, and Ridley shuffled her feet. “My apologies, professor.”

“You’re not entirely dimwitted, Miss Clarke,” he drawled, as Ridley finally met his eyes. “At least do your house the favour of not acting as such.”

“Of course, sir.” She almost wished that he were yelling at her. His words were said without contempt, but there was a certain note of disappointment in his voice, just barely palpable, and it perhaps felt worse. She hadn’t considered how her actions would affect her Head of House, or even Slytherin as a whole. The house wasn’t exactly in the favour of the wizarding world presently, and it made her sick to think that she was encouraging that shared opinion.

Another contemplative silence stretched between the professor and his student before he announced, “You are dismissed, Clarke.”

Ridley nodded in acknowledgement, and turned away from the dark figure. She had just begun to make her way down the dim passage before she heard Snape’s call, “And if you show up to my class hungover tomorrow morning, understand that it will be the last potions class you shall ever attend at Hogwarts.”

“Understood, professor,” she called back over her shoulder, watching his silhouette disappear as the common room entrance resealed itself. Absentmindedly, she smirked to herself as she emerged in the desolate common room, with it’s green aura and cold air. At least she knew she made it into Snape’s exclusively NEWT students’ potions class.

Chapter Text

Fortunately for her, Ridley was not hungover the next morning. In fact, she felt better rested than she’d been in what were probably months. Her sleep had been so deep that the girls she shared her dorm with had not managed to wake her when they, according to Brinn, had snuck in at three in the morning. Brinn claimed that they’d had the best night of their lives at Hogwarts, and Ridley had seriously missed out.

Ridley seriously doubted that.

Striding into the Great Hall, she was pleasantly surprised to find it nearly empty. Evidently, Ridley was not in the habit of waking up early. Smiling to herself, she wandered over to the Slytherin table, taking a seat not far from the middle. Scooting into her chair, she met the wide, blue eyes of a small girl on the opposite side.

Ridley sent her a small smile, and the girl, a first year presumably, cast her eyes down shyly. Pale, almost white blonde hair fell over her shoulders, and some curtained her face. Ridley felt a rush of empathy for the girl, knowing full well she had a healthy fear of the upper years when she was eleven as well.

Scanning the table, Ridley found a stack of toast and a dish filled with marmalade. Suddenly ravenous, she reached for the toast and piled a couple of slices on her plate, smothering them with a thick layer of the jelly. She had to restrain herself as she took the first bite, not allowing herself to moan at the explosion of citrusy flavour on her tongue. Merlin, did she miss Hogwarts’ food.

Chewing she let her eyes wander around the room, letting them focus on the head table for a moment. Even the teaching staff, it seemed was hesitant to rise from their beds so early. Only a few professors were up and ready to face the day thus far. Professor McGonagall and Madam Hooch were conversing amicably, Hooch gesturing somewhat wildly while McGonagall nursed a cup of tea. A few seats down the table, one of Ridley’s least favourite professors was flipping through a large book and nibbling on a muffin. Every couple of bites, she would screw up her face and grab a quill from beside the book, scribbing angrily in the text. Ridley abhorred her. Unsurprisingly, the feeling was mutual.

Even further down the table, Ridley was startled to meet the eyes of Professor Snape. In the time it took her to blink, his eyes were adverted, focused on his plate as though he’d never been looking at her. Ridley was thrown, not sure what just happened. It was innocent enough to be caught looking at someone, she thought. But there was something more there, and it unsettled her. Bravely, however, she continued to look at the professor, scrutinizing him. His black hair hung about his shoulders, and while previously she’d accounted his unhealthy pallor to the stark contrast between his already pale complexion and that ink black hair, she found the theory contested. Under his eyes were dark, almost bruise like rings. Perhaps he wasn’t sleeping? His cheekbones seemed sharper, skin pulled more taut over his bones. Perhaps he wasn’t eating?

Ridley found the answer rather quickly to the latter speculation, as she watched Snape push around the food on his plate with a fork. None of it made its way to his mouth. Was he ill?

Suddenly, his eyes lifted and bore directly into Ridley’s with startling intensity. Aghast, she broke the stare and focussed back on her stack of toast. Surely Snape didn’t know she’d been watching him? The unease in her stomach disagreed.

“Ooh, I like this.” Ridley nearly jumped at the voice so near her. Molly lowered herself into the seat beside her, holding Ridley’s hair in one hand and examining it. She’d made an effort to tame her hair that morning, and somehow managed to wrangle her unruly, brunette curls into a thick braid. Some tresses had escaped, and hung loosely around her face, but she considered it a battle won, altogether.

“Thanks,” Ridley mumbled through a mouthful of her breakfast. Molly smirked and swiped a slice of toast from her plate, nibbling on it while she rifled through her canvas bag. Pulling out a leather bound notebook, she opened it up around halfway to a blank page and returned back to the bag in search of a quill. Ink and quill retrieved, she dipped the instrument into the ink pot and scribbled down the date at the top, right corner of the page, Sept. 2, 1984.

Don’t you think it’s a bit early for a diary entry?” Ridley teased. Molly scoffed, stealing her pumpkin juice too. She took a long drink, draining the cup, before setting it back on the table with perhaps a little too much force.

“I’m doing an experiment,” she stated plainly, scratching something down on the paper.

“An experiment?” Ridley inquired, craning her neck to see what Molly had written. Subject subdued. Rough night? Prepare to exclude data due to outlier.

“Molly, what the hell?” Ridley laughed, returning to a more comfortable position. “Who are you observing?”

Molly nodded her head down the table, and Ridley twisted in her seat to follow the girl’s stare. Almost at the very end of the table, Brinn sat with her head in one hand, and the other stirring a bowl of porridge. She looked exhausted.

“Okay,” Ridley turned, looking at her friend skeptically, “what are you going to do to Brinn?” She was beginning to feel a bit uneasy. There was an obvious rift between her two friends; they’d never really seen eye to eye in all the time she’d known them. And while Ridley could admit that Brinn’s presence did become a bit irritating every once in awhile, she was concerned for her welfare.

Molly could see her concern written plainly on her face and chuckled, “It’s not like that.” She turned as the sounds of boisterous young men reached her ears, and sure enough, Marcus, Calvyn, and a myriad of other upper year Slytherins were approaching the table. Leaning closer to Ridley, she nodded to Brinn and whispered, “Just watch.”

Ridley turned in her seat once again, and unsurprisingly as Marcus and the group of boys got closer to the table, Brinn’s demeanor changed entirely. Her face lit up and an appealing smile stretched over her perfect teeth. She sat up straighter, and just projected an overall aura of flirty happiness. Marcus sat across from her, and she leaned toward him across the table. It was a total flip.

“So, she likes attention.” Ridley took another bite of her toast, raising her eyebrows in an unspoken question, so what?

Molly rolled her eyes, and made another note beneath the last. “Yes, but specific attention, right?”

“Erm, I suppose, yeah.”

“What if there was a way I could make her react like that to literally anybody.”

Ridley stared hard at her friend, unsure of where this was leading. Sure, Molly indulged herself in people watching, and Ridley respected that of her. She was one of the most observant people she’d ever met. In fact, Ridley often likened her to the great muggle detective, Sherlock Holmes; not that she’d ever admit that to Molly.

“Okay,” she twisted her full body to face Molly’s, her knees brushing the side of her friend’s thighs. “First of all,” Ridley held up an index finger and waved it animatedly, “What do you get out of this? And how would you go about achieving it?”

“I’m going to train her to subconsciously associate certain events or actions with Marcus’ arrival,” she stated plainly, looking back over to Brinn and scribbling away in her book. Glancing up from her page, she caught Ridley’s bewildered look and sighed, before continuing, “I’m gonna cough, or clap, or something else that sounds natural, everytime Marcus approaches her,” she took a quick break, which she used to swipe another half of toast from Ridley’s plate. Between mouthfuls, she finished, “so eventually she’ll learn to expect Marcus whenever I cough, or whatever, and voila.” She smiled smugly, “A perfectly trained Brinn.”

Ridley was baffled, “You’re classically conditioning her?”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Molly looked at her, perplexed. “It’s only for shits and giggles, really.”

Ridley didn’t believe her.

“Miss Clarke,” suddenly drawled, a deep voice behind her.

“Holy sh—” she jumped in her seat, knocking her elbow off the edge of the table, “Ow!”

Molly smirked as Ridley screwed up her face in pain and rubbed her elbow. Turning to the professor, she shrank under his critical gaze, “Sorry professor, you startled me.”

Snape merely turned to Molly, nodding his head in acknowledgement, “and Miss Brady. I have your schedules.”

Molly smiled charmingly, accepting the proffered slip of parchment. Ridley followed suit, thanking the professor.

“And, Clarke,”

Ridley looked back up to the taller man, a strange mixture of curiosity and apprehension tugging at her stomach. “Yes, sir?”

“After classes, I’ve arranged for you to see the Headmaster about your Defense Against the Dark Arts conflict. He’ll be expecting you at eight o’clock, tonight.”

“Alright, thank you, professor.” Ridley was surprised. Of course, her O.W.L. results and circumstances surrounding her poor performance in the class last year were no secret to the professor. However, she’d yet to approach her Head of House about getting into the seventh year class, and it seemed out of character for the man to resolve her issue without any initiative on her part. Deciding not to overthink it, she attributed it to his efficiency as a teacher.

“Potions, Charms, Defence, and Transfiguration. Not bad for a Monday,” Molly chirped, laying the schedule flat on the table. Ridley hummed in agreement, scanning her own page. A healthily tanned hand, with long elegant fingers, suddenly snatched the parchment from her loose grip.

“Oi!” she yelped, throwing herself around in her seat to glare at a smirking Calvyn, “I wasn’t done with that.”

Calvyn gave her a mocking pout, raising the parchment above his head as Ridley tried to swipe it back. “You ought to read quicker, Rid.”

“It’s my schedule, I’ll read it as quickly as I please,” she sulked. Calvyn scooted into the seat beside her, his eyes flickering over the page one last time before he relinquished the parchment. Ridley gratefully accepted it, and tucked it into the safe confines of her school bag.

“So we’ve got Potions and Transfiguration together,” Calvyn stated as he reached for a stack of toast. “But, surprisingly, not Muggle Studies.” The boy looked at her conspiratorially as he buttered the slice he’d retrieved and took a generous bite. The bread crunched under his teeth. Ridley blanked under his stare.

“You’re taking Muggle Studies?” Molly asked, bewildered.

Ridley nodded.

“Why?”

“Why not?”

Molly looked at her, an even stare that made Ridley question herself too. She let her eyes flicker back down to her plate in front of her. All it held were crumbs. Ridley pushed the plate away and turned back to her best friend.

Molly blinked, “It’s useless.”

“It’s easy,” Ridley argued.

Shrugging, the blonde added, “It’s our last year, and the last chance for us to get our N.E.W.T. levels in classes that’ll actually help us.” She glanced down at her watch, before flipping her notebook on the table closed and stuffing it into her bag. Ridley supposed it was time for Potions.

Following suit, Ridley threw the strap of her bag over her shoulder and stood up from her seat, following Molly. Calvyn was on her heels.

“Well yeah,” Ridley replied, catching up to Molly and striding alongside her, “but I don’t think that a lot of quidditch players need N.E.W.T.’s in Ancient Runes, or Arithmancy.”

“They probably don’t need to take N.E.W.T. level Potions, either,” Molly fired back.

“I like Potions,” Ridley stated, point blank.

Molly merely rolled her eyes, before launching into a conversation about Stephanie Lawson’s disappearances from the girls dormitory the year before. Calvyn participated enthusiastically, predicting this year to be much the same. Molly bet five galleons that she was seeing Michael Kent; Calvyn thought Troye Bentworth.

Ridley nearly scoffed at her friend’s musings. Troye Bentworth was most definitely not sleeping with Stephanie Lawson, or any girl at Hogwarts for that matter. She had it on good authority that Bentworth was so to speak, playing for the other team. Calvyn and Molly, however, did not need to know that.

The pair gossiped like old birds the whole way to the dungeons, Ridley sniggering every so often. By the time they’d reached the Potions classroom, her questionable interaction with the professor that morning was almost entirely gone from her memory.

Almost.

“I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” groaned a forlorn Marcus, reclined on the grass propped up by his elbows behind him. Brinn, Calvyn, Molly, and Ridley herself lay beside him in similar positions, watching the quickly setting sun dip into the lake’s horizon. Ridley pulled her robe closer to her as a violent shiver wracked her body. It was looking to be a viciously cool autumn.

“Oh, Marky,” Brinn shuffled closer to the sulking boy and placed a consoling hand on his upper thigh, “You can do it!”

Out of the corner of her eye, Ridley saw Molly contort her face in disgust. Ridley had to suppress a snort. Brinn continued to pet their burly friend, as said manchild whined about his Herbology class and some Gryffindors. Ridley merely rolled her eyes, as she twirled a fallen, yellow leaf between her fingers.

“I don’t think I’m gonna make it through the school year either,” Molly droned, low enough for only Calvyn and Ridley to hear, “without throttling the whiny bastard, that is.”

At that Ridley couldn’t smother an undignified snort. Calvyn smirked; Molly massaged her temples.

The sky was a pretty gradient of tangerine and vibrant indigo as the sun became but an orange sliver along the horizon. With a resigned sigh she peered down at her wrist watch. Quarter to eight.

“Alright, I gotta go.” Ridley got to her feet, brushing the grass off of the back of her robes. Throwing her school bag over her shoulder, she met eyes with Molly who sent her a knowing look before smiling encouragingly.

“What are you doing?” Marcus turned his attention away from Brinn and gazed at her questioningly.

Before Ridley could open her mouth to reply however, Molly sneered, “Drowning puppies in the dungeons. Mind your own business, Marcus.”

Marcus was, as per usual, unaffected. He merely shrugged nonchalantly and turned his attention back to the now babbling girl beside him. Ridley snickered as she passed Molly, who was muttering under her breath. “Nosy prat.”

“I’ll see you guys later,” Ridley called to her darling group of friends as she made her way back to the castle.

The trek to the Headmaster’s office was an unusually short one, as Ridley found herself lost in thought. She’d concluded that her first day back at Hogwarts had gone rather well. Potions was business as usual, stressful, challenging, and ultimately satisfying. The same had went for Charms and Transfiguration. However, Professors Flitwick and McGonagall still looked at her different, with a certain edge of pity perhaps. Only in Muggle Studies did she find sanctuary.

The sudden arrival to the entrance of the Headmaster’s office startled Ridley out of her contemplative state. The corridor was empty as she stood in front of the hulking, ugly gargoyle that protected the entrance. Though dead still, the statue’s eyes framed by a handful of wrinkles and squat nose, seemed to be staring right at her. Ridley narrowed her eyes at the creature suspiciously. Did she imagine the twitch at the corner of its mouth?

Ridley decided it was laughing at her; she stuck her tongue out at it.

“Miss Clarke!”

Ridley jumped, before spinning around to see a tall, white bearded man, striding toward her with a grace that defied his apparent age. Upon his crooked nose sat a pair of half moon spectacles, beyond which clear blue eyes twinkled at her mischievously. “You’re early.”

Glancing down at her watch she replied, “I guess I am, professor.”

Dumbledore smiled at her knowingly as he approached her. Reaching her side, he spoke the password, “liquorice wand” to which the obnoxious statue leapt aside. Beckoning her to follow, Dumbledore strode through the passage to a winding stone staircase. Ridley proceeded, and swallowed her anxiety as the pair approached the office door. The Headmaster pushed the door open, holding it for Ridley as she entered after him.

The office was just the same as the last time she saw it, perhaps the only difference being the state of his phoenix. The bird, she last saw as a rather sickly looking animal, now shone with a great aura of magnificence and pride. At Ridley’s appearance, the bird cawed and launched itself off its perch, flying Merlin knows where towards the back of the room.

The same silver trinkets hummed, clicked, and whirred away on various tables and stands among the room. Former Headmasters watched her from their places high on the walls, some with curiosity, a few with notable loathing.

With a flourish of his wand, Dumbledore conjured a chair. “Please take a seat, Miss Clarke,” he suggested, as he made his way over to his desk. Sinking into his own seat, he shuffled about some parchments and placed them somewhere off to the side. Folding his hands on the surface, he looked at her expectantly behind his glimmering spectacles.

Ridley took a deep breath as she approached the chair, her stomach slightly twisting nervously. Best to get it done and over with , she thought.

And so, she took a seat.

Chapter Text

“Professor Snape tells me that you would like to take seventh year Defense Against the Dark Arts,” announced the Headmaster through his great white beard. His gaze on her was unwavering, and Ridley couldn’t help but squirm beneath it.

“Yes, sir,” she nodded, wringing her hands in her lap.

Dumbledore smiled at her almost sadly, looking down at a slip of parchment in front of him. Sighing, he replied, “Well, Miss Clarke, this makes for a rather difficult situation.”

Ridley swallowed. “I can imagine, professor.”

The tapping of the headmaster’s fingers on his desk joined the whirring of instruments and muffled snores from one napping portrait. Dumbledore looked at the parchment contemplatively, before looking back up to her, “It's been made clear to me that you are very much intent on graduating this year.” He looked up at her from beneath his spectacles.

Ridley nodded. “I am,” she looked down at her clasped hands, “No offense, professor, but I’d rather be finished with school as soon as possible.” She smiled up to him halfheartedly, hoping that it appeared somewhat charming. The headmaster hummed from across the desk.

“I’m sorry, Miss Clarke, but I’m afraid the decision isn’t entirely mine in this case.” He almost sounded sympathetic, Ridley thought. His pity only went so far, she found, when it came to his students in the less favoured house.

“I’m sorry?” She replied, admittedly confused. What concern regarding the workings of the school could possibly not be in his purview.

“Professor Frey is teaching Defense this year, as I’m sure you’re aware, and only she can grant admission to the class to unqualified students.”

Ridley blanked. “Wh—what?” she stammered.

“While I am a firm believer of the necessity of the Defense Against the Dark Arts course, I must ask you whether you absolutely need it?” He continued, shuffling through the small pile of parchment in front of him. Ridley was still silent, trying to wrap her head around the situation. Picking up a particularly neat and organized looking page, he added, “In your fifth year interview with Professor Snape, it seems you were interested in pursuing quidditch as an occupation? N.E.W.T. levels in Def—”

“I don’t understand,” Ridley interrupted, drawing her eyebrows together, “How does only Fr—erm, Professor Frey have the authority to get me into the class? Surely as Headmaster you could overrule that, or something?”

Dumbledore looked at her patiently. “Of course I could.”

He let the statement hang in the air for a second, before continuing, “However, with the size of the upper year classes this year, it would not be fair for me to allow students to take classes that are already exceeding maximum capacity, without permission from their instructors.”

There was a moment of silence, Ridley chewing her lip as she thought, and the headmaster sitting in his chair patiently. Ridley swallowed her disappointment, and nodded. “I see.”

“Please don’t think your situation is hopeless, Miss Clarke. I’m merely telling you that I can’t grant you access to the class.” Ridley looked up slowly, dreading his next words. “You will have to speak with Professor Frey.”

Ridley groaned, and ran a hand over her face. Dumbledore raising his eyebrows questioningly. Sitting up a bit straighter in her seat, she explained, “I’m sorry professor, but there is no way Professor Frey is going to let me into her class.”

“I’m sure she will underst—”

“She hates me!” Ridley interrupted, slumping back in her chair in exasperation. Dumbledore’s eyes steeled.

“Miss Clarke, you have come to me because of your determination to take this class. I cannot help you, as I’ve explained, so you must help yourself. Consider this an exercise in initiative.”

Ridley nearly rolled her eyes. She didn’t lack initiative. She simply had enough brain cells to rub together to recognize a lost cause when she saw one.

“And if she says no?” Ridley ground out.

Dumbledore stared at her in that steady, patient, and incredibly unnerving way of his. “Then we will figure something out. Perhaps a tutor.”

Ridley perked up at the mention of a tutor. Observant as ever, Dumbledore added, “But you must receive a no from Professor Frey first.”

Warily, Ridley nodded her head. She figured she’d find Professor Frey tomorrow and get the ugly out of the way as soon as possible.

“If that’s all, you may go Miss Clarke. Send me Professor Frey’s answer and we’ll work from there,” he dismissed her.

Getting to her feet, she smoothed out a few wrinkles in her robe and nodded in reply, “Thank you, professor.”

Nodding in acknowledgement, he shuffled around some parchment on his desk and reached for a quill. Turning, Ridley strode out of the room and closed the door gently behind her. Taking a deep breath, she began the descent down the stone staircase, her footsteps echoing unnervingly.

Tomorrow was going to be a long day.

 

The moment she stepped foot in the common room, she regretted it.

“Oi, Clarke!” cried an overly enthusiastic voice. Ridley didn’t even make an effort to suppress her eye roll. Malcolm Davis, much like Marcus, could not be deterred.

Malcolm, a dark and curly haired boy with wide brown eyes and a great smile, was tall, charming, and attractive as hell. But Merlin was he irritating.

“So, Clarke,” he sidled up to her and swung an arm around her shoulder. “When’s the first quidditch practice?”

“You mean tryout?” she corrected, shrugging his arm off her shoulders. He smirked, almost predatorily, and planted himself in front of her. Ridley came to a halt and narrowed her eyes.

“No,” he shook his head, “I mean official team practice.” He winked in a way that she was sure made other girls melt. Ridley however, only felt hardened.

“You’re very sure of yourself, Davis.” She let her voice slip into a cold drawl, perhaps emulating that of the potions master. Still smirking, he threw his hands up guiltily. Ridley took a step forward, and watched as the smirk began to slip from his face. Void of emotion, she added, “Don’t be.”

Malcolm looked confused. He’d been the star chaser of the Slytherin quidditch team since his and Ridley’s fourth year. But that was with oafs like Richard Menley and Frank Otto as captain; idiots that sure knew how to fly, but had no respect for strategy or subtlety. Ridley wasn’t going to make that same mistake.

“You’re a good chaser, Davis, I’ll admit that,” she continued, looking down at her fingernails boredly. Looking up to meet his wide brown eyes, she added, “But you’re an idiot.”

Davis was absolutely floored. “Wh—What do you mean?”

“I appreciate your aggression,” she explained further, almost as a consolation of sorts, “But you lack discretion. I don’t mind if you play rough, so long as you can get away with it.” Ridley gave him a once over, as though measuring him. “And I don’t think you can.”

Malcolm was frozen in surprise, and Ridley took advantage of that to move past him. Making her way to the girls dormitory, she’d just gotten to the foot of the staircase when she heard behind her, “You’re wrong! I can!”

Twisting slowly on her heel, she blinked at him. Raising one defined eyebrow, she replied, “Prove it.” And with that she continued her ascent up the secluded staircase.

 

Her dorm room was a mess. The moment the door swung open, she was swallowed in a tidal wave of sound. Brinn, and two other seven years that Brinn was close to, Maisie White and Esther Conner, were screeching in tune to a small gramophone on the right side of the room. Clothes were strewn about their three neighbouring beds, and Ridley imagined that if she were to check the bathroom, the counter would be covered in with makeup. On Brinn’s nightstand she caught a glimmer of light reflecting off a half empty bottle of firewhiskey. Ah, so that explains it.

One of the more quiet girls in their year, Scarlet Ainsley, was sat on her perfectly made bed flipping through a thick novel. Ridley caught the girl send the louder group across from her a dirty look, though none from the rowdy crowd really noticed. She couldn’t help but smile to herself.

Lastly, in the bed beside her own, Molly was flat on her back and staring up at the top of her four poster bed. With her wand in her hand, she lazily cast a charm with a flourish, and sent a handful of illuminated bubbles floating up into her bed canopy.

Ridley waltzed over to her friend’s bed, waving to Brinn and her gang along the way. “You guys going out tonight?”

A chorus of “Yes!” and variations were their reply.

Plopping down on the plush duvet, she leaned back alongside Molly and admired her handiwork. The glowing bubbles had not popped, and instead stuck to the canopy above them, illuminating the space like globe string lights. There were tons. Some glowed a cool, blue colour, and others an ethereal whiteness.

“How enchanting,” Ridley cooed, mesmerized by their beauty.

“Calvyn told me your vocabulary was getting rather posh,” Molly remarked, “I didn’t believe him until now.”

“I’ll push you off,” Ridley threatened, but her smile ruined the effect to some degree.

Molly snorted, “Not on my bed you won’t.”

Ridley wanted to argue, but a sudden need to get out of her robes and shower the day away prompted her otherwise.

“I suppose you’ve got me there,” she drawled, hopping off Molly’s bed and crouching in front of her trunk just a few feet away. She unlatched the top and opened it, before rummaging around for a towel and set of pyjamas. Finding a pair of soft flannel shorts and a button up top, she tossed them on her bed alongside a clean and folded towel.

“So how did it go with Dumbledore?” she heard Molly ask from behind her.

Ridley snorted, “It was pointless.” Turning around, she flopped on her bed and pulled her pyjamas into her lap. “He said I was unqualified for the class, which is absolute bullshit,” she ranted. “So what if I didn’t complete the exam, that doesn’t mean I don’t know the material! AND, he isn’t going to let me into Defense unless Frey agrees to it.”

Molly raised her eyebrows, “Good luck with that.”

Ridley raised her hands and crossed her fingers cynically, before getting back to her feet. “I’m gonna talk to Frey tomorrow and just get it out of the way. The sooner she says no the sooner I can get a tutor.”

“A tutor?” Molly sounded intrigued.

“Yeah, he mentioned it as an alternative if I don’t get into Frey’s class.”

Molly’s thin, blonde eyebrows were drawn together in thought. Aloud, she wondered, “Who do you think would tutor you? A professor?”

Ridley cocked her head to the side contemplatively. She felt herself chew on her lip as she thought and forced herself to stop; her lips were chapped enough without further abuse by her teeth. “Yeah, I guess it probably would be a teacher. I don’t know who would have time for it though.”

Molly shrugged, “Eh, you’ll find out soon enough I guess.”

“Yeah, we’ll see,” was all Ridley replied. Grabbing her clothes and towel, she made her way into the bathroom and proceeded to have a long, damn near scalding shower.

 

Today was the day. Ridley was going to talk to her least favourite professor, get rejected, and then sit through a full day of class, most likely feeling like shit. And she was entirely ready for it.

Ridley’s first class on Tuesday was Charms, which was fortunate for her because the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom was along the way. She had it on good authority that Frey had a class with third years first period, and so planned to get there early enough to catch her before the class arrived.

This early in the morning, the corridors weren’t terribly busy. Most students were still eating breakfast, or sleeping as Ridley would’ve liked to be doing. Instead she was waltzing through the near empty hallways of Hogwarts on a mission to get turned down. She shouldn’t have been so enthusiastic.

Her enthusiasm was slightly dampened when the Bloody Baron swept out from a wall, and passed through her unexpectedly. She nearly shrieked at the shocking chill, and in her head cursed the frightening phantom. Shivering, she shook off her nerves and kept walking.

And then suddenly she was there. The door to the classroom was closed, although Ridley imagined it was unlocked. Raising a fist, she knocked loudly on the solid wood door, and awaited signs of life from the beyond.

“Come in!” she heard from inside, muffled slightly by the thick wood. Turning the handle, the door opened with a creak, and found herself back in one of her favourite classrooms. It was all so familiar to her; the large windows, the high ceiling, the faint  and untraceable smell of something having been burnt. She missed it all—well except for her .

Professor Frey sat at her desk at the front of the room, a thick book in front of her and quill in hand.  She had a long, narrow nose and pinched face, that had reminded her of a rat since she started filling in for Professor Kettleburn—who had just come back from St. Mungo's after a nasty encounter with a grindylow—in Care of Magical Creatures last year. Her thin, gray hair was scraped back into a severe ponytail, and her beady eyes were trained on Ridley. She was surprised.

“Miss Clarke, I wasn’t expecting you,” she twittered, setting her quill back in its inkwell.

Ridley nodded, before replying in a reluctantly polite tone, “I’m sorry to disturb you, professor, but I needed to speak to you.”

Frey eyed her warily, before waving her forward. “What is it that concerns you, Miss Clarke?”

Ridley approached the desk and replied, “I was wondering if you had any room in your seventh year class for additional students?”

The professor folded her hands on the desk and her brow furrowed in thought. “You’d like to join, am I correct?”

Ridley merely nodded, already guessing the professor’s reply. I’m sorry Miss Clarke, but the class is just too full this year.

“There is, in fact room for more students,”

Ridley’s eyes widened in surprise. That isn’t what she’s supposed to say?

“However, I will not allow you to take it.”

Time froze for a beat, as Ridley processed the professor’s statement. There was room, yet she was still barred from joining?

Professor Frey gazed at her steadily, and Ridley could almost feel the weight of her eyes on her. Licking her lips, and composing herself, she inquired, “May I ask why, professor?”

Frey sighed, turning her eyes back to her book in front of her. Having gotten over the surprise of Ridley’s sudden appearance, and curiosity satisfied, she’d lost interest in one of her least favourite students. Flipping a page, which Ridley noticed to be scribbled on and downright vandalized by the woman in front of her, Frey answered, “I’m going to be entirely honest with you, Miss Clarke. Defense Against the Dark Arts is a very fast paced class, especially at this level, and frankly I don’t think that you will be able to keep up.” Ridley bristled. The professor continued, “I don’t want you to think I’m the bad guy here. I promise, that’s not my intention. I merely doubt that this class will benefit you in any way, and honestly, I don’t want to feel responsible as a teacher for any of my students underachieving.”

“Underachieving?” Ridley parroted, her cheeks beginning to redden in anger. “Professor, Defense has always been one of my strongest subjects, ever since first year. And I’m not one to ‘underachieve,’ especially in this class.”

Frey rolled her eyes, and Ridley felt her anger spike. Placidly, in a way Ridley absolutely despised, Frey spoke to her as though she were a small child, “I’m not trying to downplay your work ethic, Miss Clarke. But you must understand that almost all of the material covered in these N.E.W.T classes build on the skills learned in sixth year, and without exam results I can’t be certain you’ve acquired those skills.”

“It’s not as though I failed the exam though, is it? Wouldn’t that have been worse!?” Ridley’s voice was rising, and she was desperately trying to get a hold on her anger.

Frey was also growing impatient. “At least if you failed I would’ve known you were capable of magic!” she snapped. Her face fell, and Ridley could tell she already regretted her outburst.

“You know exactly why I couldn’t do the exam,” Ridley nearly growled, “And I am perfectly capable of performing magic at the moment.” She had half a mind to give the professor a demonstration, but to be honest, she wasn’t looking forward to another slap on the wrist from Snape. She was sure she’d receive much worse than being sent to bed without supper, this time.

Frey almost looked as though she was about to apologize, but changed her mind at the last minute. Steeling herself, she ground out, “I will not permit you to take this class, Miss Clarke. You are dismissed.”

Ridley was sure her fury was rolling off of her in waves as she stared Frey down. She maintained her glare for a good couple of moments, before swiftly turning on her heel and stalking back towards the door; she took extra care to slam it hard enough to make the professor jump.

And now, to sit through class and feel like shit for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

 

As luck would have it, Ridley was still thoroughly pissed off by the time she’d finished with classes for the day. When her friends asked her what was wrong with her, they met silence. Molly and Calvyn had whispered to each other and cast worried glances in her direction almost all day; she wanted to tell them to calm down, but she couldn’t muster the energy to be both angry and comforting. In her classes she’d sat idly, quill in hand as she pretended to scratch down notes whenever a professor swooped past her desk. Her mind, however, was spinning as she found herself entertaining a large handful of scenarios where she could get back at Frey. She’d been entertaining the idea of somehow, and with extreme discretion, making the wretched professor’s quill explode at breakfast the next morning. Ridley almost laughed aloud as an image of Frey’s bewildered, ink splattered face, came to mind.

She was so immersed in her daydreams, in fact, that she found herself unconsciously making her way out to the grounds. She’d stopped in front of the main doors, taking a moment to gather her thoughts. How did I end up here? Shrugging, she decided to follow her gut, and stepped out the castle, and down the stone steps. Pulling her cloak around her tighter, she tried her best to ignore the brisk autumn wind. It was a clear day—perfect in Ridley’s opinion—with the sun shining and a cool breeze teasing her curls. The trees standing at the edge of the lake were an explosion of reds, oranges and yellows, and as she got closer, her feet crunched upon their fallen leaves. For such a nippy day, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of warmth.

Ridley didn’t need shade, she decided when the lake shore was but yards in front of her. The air was cool, but the sun was beginning to warm her, so she staked out a dry spot between two trees and lay back on the grass. She could feet bits of broken leaves in her hair, and was sure she’d be a mess when she decided to head back, but the overall sense of peace settling on her was worth it. She could finally feel the storm inside her easing, as she stayed reclined on the grass with the sun kissing her eyelids. The sound of water lapping against the pebbly shore was familiar to her, bringing her a certain sense of deja vu. Ridley couldn’t help but smile as memories of sitting by the lake after exams with her friends, and even that of an icy polar dip with Molly and Calvyn last spring, came floating back.

Ridley sighed. Despite her wish to finish school as quickly as possible, she had to admit that she would desperately miss Hogwarts. Her time at school was so full of happy memories; making the quidditch team in second year, meeting Molly on the train, a rather pathetic with duel with a pompous ass of a first year—better known as Calvyn Neering. But there were dark ones too; a nasty note crumpled up and flung at her face over breakfast, a missed period that lead to an awful pregnancy scare, a seizure that terrified her dorm mates so much that it was never talked about again, an insidious fear of—

Stop.

Ridley opened her eyes, and was surprised when two fat tears rolled onto her cheeks. Wiping at her face angrily, she dried away the evidence of her weakness with the edge of her sleeve. She’d came out here to calm down, not get worked up about something she couldn’t change. Taking a deep breath, she pushed the darker thoughts to the back of her mind and sat up. She’d been out there long enough, and the chilly breeze was becoming too much. Getting to her feet, she brushed off her back as well as she could, and sent one last appreciative glance to the lake surface. The sun was low in the sky, nearly touching the horizon. Supper must be underway by now.

Her stomach gurgled in confirmation.

As she hiked her way back to the castle, she decided that she wasn't going to dwell on her confrontation with Frey any longer. The daft cow wasn’t worth her consideration. Ridley refused to let the loathed professor get in her way of her education; if she wanted to study Defense Against the Dark Arts, then she sure as hell would.

I could try for a tutor now , she thought. Although, she had to admit, she was stumped as to who would take the time out of their busy schedule to show little old her a few defensive spells. It wouldn’t be a terribly difficult task though, she convinced herself, as she was a fairly quick learner.

Perhaps McGonagall? The transfiguration professor was undeniably an accomplished witch, and Ridley had no doubt she’d be a capable tutor. However, as deputy Headmistress, Ridley was sure McGonagall already had her plate full. And of course Dumbledore was loath to burden his right hand woman with a stubborn Slytherin, like herself. But Ridley was not stubborn; no, that implied a lack of flexibility. Ridley was very much open minded, not so foolish as to ignore reason when it presented itself. No, Ridley was merely determined. And she saw no reason to give up her simple pursuit of knowledge. Regardless, she pegged McGonagall as an unlikely contender.

Keppler, the arithmancy professor, was known to have been a dueling champion in his day? Surely that was evidence of competence in Defense?

As Ridley found herself back in the castle, she decided that the draft wasn’t really that terrible. She could feel a chill in her cheeks and tip of her nose, and could imagine that she looked rather red. The moderate warmth of the indoors was undoubtedly welcome. From the great hall, the smell of dinner was wafting out and her stomach growled impatiently. Her shoulder, however protested slightly more demandingly. The canvas school bag she’d slung over her shoulder was beginning to dig into her flesh with too much strength, heavy with textbooks.

She’d brought her school bag with her on her way out to the lake, and was beginning to regret not stopping by her dormitory to drop it off first. Deciding that it would be more convenient, Ridley resolved to stop by the common room and then dump her books on her bed before heading back to eat. Perhaps Molly or Calvyn were waiting for her.  

Ridley was walking briskly as she passed the door to the Great Hall, hoping that no one would see her and bully her into sitting down with them before she could drop off her stuff. Her friends were relentless when it came to her eating with them. Luckily, her mates were either elsewhere, not paying attention to passersby, or too deep within the hall to notice her as she scraped by the wide, open entrance. She scuffled down a nearby staircase and descended into the cool, dimly lit dungeons. On either side of the staircase, flickering torches adorned the walls, and bathed the expanse in an eerie glow. Ridley had become used to it, and even appreciated the medieval aura. The soles of her trainers clip clopped their way down the stairs, and when she finally got to the bottom, she swung around the wall.

And bumped straight into an oncoming body.

Her face collided with a solid chest, as the rest of her body smacked right into a hard expanse of black fabric. A startled groan above her made her heart freeze. Shit.

Jumping back, wide eyed, she gasped an apology, “I’m sorry professor, I wasn’t looking where I was going.”

Snape looked back at her stunned, and Ridley felt even more mortified as blood rushed to her cheeks. His eyes roamed from her reddening face, down to her shoes and back. Ridley stilled.

“Have you been rolling about on the ground, Miss Clarke?” He said it without emotion, just bored curiosity. But there was a certain light in his eyes that she thought may have been teasing.

“I wasn’t rolling,” she snapped, surprising herself with the ferocity of her voice.

Snape merely raised his eyebrows. Was that a smirk on his lips? Crossing his arms over his chest, Ridley couldn’t help but admire the slenderness of his hands and arms. In fact, her Head of House was a rather lean man, the rigid, linear quality to his black robes accentuating his slim figure. Typically, he wore a dark, black cloak that flared behind him as he walked and practically doubled his size. But, in rare moments such as this, he abandoned the extra layer, and Ridley could admit to appreciating it. Wait, no I don’t!

“I thought that I looked presentable enough,” she remarked, looking down at her robes. So they were a bit wrinkled, but she didn’t see any traces of the outdoors on her person. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a pale, long fingered hand reaching toward her. She froze, lifting only her eyes, and watched as Snape stretched his hand up to her head. A slight tug on her hair was all she felt, before he retracted his hand and held up his prize for her to see. Between his thumb and index finger, he clutched half of a crimson maple leaf.

Ridley stared at him in confusion, and realizing what he’d done, he froze as well. It was an innocent enough gesture, but even Ridley could see that it was pushing some boundaries. In fact, the boundaries were becoming even more strained as Ridley realized how close the pair were standing.

Clearing her throat, Ridley took a step back and commented, “Thank you, sir.”

Snape had broken from his reverie, and his face was suddenly blank, no trace of even the tiniest of smirks on his lips. Emotive as ever, he replied, “Do maintain some semblance of presentability, Miss Clarke. This is a school, not a summer camp.” With one more glance at her curly mess of hair, he stalked his way past her and disappeared up the staircase from which Ridley had come.

With a huff of frustration, she resisted the urge to stomp her foot like a toddler, and continued on to the Slytherin common room.

 

“She said what to you?!” gasped Brinn, perched on the end of Ridley’s bed, while Molly sat next to her, flipping through her transfiguration textbook.

Ridley shrugged, peaking over Molly’s shoulder and glancing at a chapter about animagi. “She thinks I’m incapable of defensive magic,” she answered simply.

“You? Incapable of defensive magic?” Brinn scoffed, jumping off the bed and waltzing back over to her own. “She’s an ignorant cow.”

Ridley nodded along, but her heart wasn’t in it anymore. Her deep hatred of Frey had been long established, but to be honest, her scathing comments didn’t make Ridley any more passionate in her loathing. Ridley was beginning to find that the Defense professor’s opinion of her mattered only slightly to her, and was steadily diminishing in importance to Ridley.

“I’ve only got to see Dumbledore now and figure out an alternative,” Ridley announced, reclining back on her bed. As her head hit her pillow she closed her eyes and savoured its comfort. Much better than the ground.

“Tutor?” Molly questioned, still looking down at the text. She licked her thumb and flipped the page.

“I imagine so,” Ridley sighed, staring up at the canopy of her bed. The green velvet could use some adorning, she decided, grabbing her wand off the top of her closed trunk beside the bed. Biting her lip, she searched her mind for some sort of inspiration. After a moment of thought, she had an idea. With a flick of her wrist, a burst of silver light streamed out from the tip of her wand. The beam hit the velvet above her and shattered on the material like fireworks. Silver dots on the canopy twinkled and flickered in their dark green sky. Ridley thought it a close enough resemblance to a starry night, and smiled in satisfaction.

“Maybe Professor Keppler would tutor you!” chirped Brinn, whose eyes were alight with excitement. “He’s like really good at dueling.”

“I’d thought of him too,” Ridley admitted, tossing her wand back onto her trunk. It landed with a clatter.

“Oh, can you imagine it Rid?” Brinn was nearly swooning at this point, starry eyed. Ridley imagined the girl was fantasizing about their handsome Arithmancy professor.

Keppler was a well built man, tall and muscular. He had a strong jawline, which seemed to be permanently covered in an eternal five o’clock shadow. His eyes were a brilliant blue, and his sandy blonde hair perfectly coiffed. It didn’t hurt that he had a nice laugh and enough charisma to make a dementor fall in love with him—half the girls at Hogwarts already had.

But Ridley wasn’t sold on him. She wasn’t terribly into buff guys; she prefered men with a leaner physique. And his colouring didn’t suit her; she’d always been attracted to darker features. She appreciated his charm, but she found subtlety to be infinitely more intriguing. As for his hair, well Ridley wouldn’t deny her appeal for guys with long hair—and Merlin’s pants did it sound like she was describing her flipping Potions professor.

No, she wasn’t into Snape. Sure, she could admit that he was her type, physically. And sure, maybe she’d thought about him in that way maybe once or twice, but what girl hadn’t at some point! He was her teacher, and he wasn’t that much older than her, so of course she’d developed a crush on him back in fifth year. Needless to say, what happens in fifth year stays in fifth year.

“Ridley, you alright? You went a bit pale there.” Molly was poking her in the shoulder, and Ridley turned to face her in surprise. She didn’t realize she’d zoned out that much.

“Uh,” she started, furrowing her brow as she searched for an excuse, “Yeah. I was just trying to remember how many inches Snape wanted for that essay on Veritaserum.”

“Forty-eight,” Molly answered casually, glancing down at her watch. She swung her feet off the bed and stood up, before striding over to her own bed. Picking up her discarded robe, she pulled it over her button up blouse and pleated skirt, all the while informing Ridley, “I’ve got to go meet someone. I should be back a bit later tonight.”

Ridley wiggled her eyebrows at her teasingly, but Molly merely rolled her eyes in reply.

“Meeting someone? Sounds scandalous,” Brinn stage whispered, shooting a glance at Ridley and winking an eye.

“Head duties,” Molly stated in excuse, already making her way to the door.

“A different kind of head, I expect!” Ridley called out to her. Molly flipped her a glossy black, middle finger nail as she disappeared out the door. On the bed across from her, Brinn joined Ridley as they collapsed into a fit of laughter.

 

Chapter Text










 

Headmaster Dumbledore,

As you wished, I am writing to inform you that in an entirely unexpected chain of events , Professor Frey has denied me admittance to her Defense Against the Dark Arts class. I hopefully await your suggested alternative.

Sincerely Shocked , Ridley Clarke

Ridley looked over the note one more time. Sure, it was a bit snarky, but she’d given up the pretense of politeness. The Headmaster had ignored her warning and set her to a task that was simply a waste of time. She would waste no more time with courtesy.

“That should do,” she announced, tossing the slip of  parchment to the table top. Molly’s hand snaked out and grabbed it up before Calvyn could get his greedy little paws on it, and read it with a smirk.

“Straight to the point,” Molly laughed, “I like it.”

Calvyn was nearly hopping in his seat, desperate to be included. Rolling her eyes, Ridley passed the note along to the bouncing boy who ripped it from her hand. Eyes scanning the parchment feverishly. With a gaping mouth, he looked over to Molly. “You like this?”

Molly shrugged, taking a sip of her pumpkin juice.

“It’s brash,” Calvyn elaborated, “And snarky, and disrespectful?”

“Yeah,” Molly shot him a look, her green eyes fixed on their male friend. “I mean, I’m not saying I would’ve written it. I’m not an idiot,” she scoffed. Ridley fixed her with a glare, grabbing the note from Calvyn’s tanned fingers and rolling it into the shape of a small scroll. Plucking a piece of twine out from her pocket, she looped it about the parchment and tied a small, secure bow. Now all she had to do was wait for the post.

It was only Wednesday, and Ridley couldn’t wait for the weekend. While she missed out on the fun the first night back to school, she planned on making up for it in full on Friday or Saturday night. Brinn was a bootlegger of sorts, and by some unknown means the girl could procure almost any type of alcohol you could name. Ridley was grateful for their somewhat wild child friend, as she had a relationship with firewhiskey that was in need of some patching up.

“You lot down for some fun this weekend,” she remarked passively, poking at the pile of scrambled eggs on her plate. They’ve gone too cold , she thought in excuse.

“I don’t really trust your idea of fun,” Molly said blandly, “It usually results in alcohol poisoning or entire loss of dignity.”

“Well yours usually results in STDs or accidental pregnancy,” Calvyn defended her, wrapping an arm around Ridley’s shoulder. Snorting, she shrugged off her friend’s arm.

“Well that sounds fine and dandy, but—” Ridley started.

“Did you just say ‘dandy’?” Calvyn interrupted, spinning to face her.

Ridley narrowed her eyes at the boy, “Yeah, I did.”

“When did you turn into such a batty old bird?”

“When did you turn into such an irritating ponce?”

A sudden screech caught Ridley’s attention, and sure enough in a flurry of feathers and hoots, the morning post arrived. Nearly a hundred owls swirled in the air above them, some dropping from the gale of birds to swoop down to the tabletops. One particularly massive Great Grey was making straight for Ridley. Thinking quickly, she pulled her pumpkin juice from the table, downing it in one gulp as the colossal bird came to a fluttering halt on the surface in front of her. A roll of papers thudded on the table in front of it. Molly grabbed the Prophet, fending off Calvyn’s greedy hands. Meanwhile, Ridley carefully tied her note to the leg of the giant grey owl. It looked at her with beady, expecting eyes. Rolling her own, she grabbed a knut from her bag and held it out to the bird. “Take that to Albus Dumbledore, please.” The owl snatched the coin from her fingers and gracefully took off into the air.

“The Ministry is amending the—” Molly started, holding the paper delicately in front of her.

“Yeah, no one cares about the Ministry, so...” Interrupted Ridley, grabbing her copy of the Prophet, feverishly flipping through it. Beside her Molly sighed. With a smile of triumph, Ridley pointed to the Quidditch section, listing the results of the national league matches for that week. “This is what people care about.”

The smile quickly slipped from her face. “How the hell could the Falcons lose to the Harpies ?!”

“Miserably, apparently,” chimed Calvyn reading over her shoulder, comforting as always. The final score was a 180-70 win for Ridley’s least favourite team.

“I don’t get it,” Ridley despaired, scanning along the recount of the match, “Their keeper is great, their chasers are bloody mint, and their beaters are top of the line,” Ridley rested her head on her folded hands in front of her. Into the table she murmured, “If they reinstate Caprice’s contract one more time, Merlin help me.”

“Caprice? That’s the seeker, right?” Molly questioned above her.

“Yeah,” Ridley answered, passing the paper back to the Head Girl, who promptly flipped it back to the article on the Ministry’s amendments and what not. “ The shittiest seeker.”

“He isn’t that bad,” intoned Calvyn, who was beginning to shovel porridge into his mouth. Ugh, boys.

“He hasn’t caught a snitch in a game for three years, Calvyn,” she sneered. “That’s pretty bad.”

The blonde shrugged his shoulders, and had opened his mouth to reply, when a fat, white envelope fell from the sky and landed flat on his head. It slid off and hit the table, where Calvyn looked at it wide eyed for a moment or two. Scrawled across the front in crimson ink and somewhat recognizable handwriting, was Calvyn Neering.

The shock was short lived however, as Calvyn calmly pocketed the letter.

“You aren’t going to open it?” questioned Ridley, a sneaking suspicion lingering in her mind.

“It can wait,” he said calmly, avoiding Ridley’s eyes. He turned back to his porridge and continued to stuff his face. She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment, before turning back to Molly. She would let it go for now, but she knew he had to read the letter at some point. And with Calvyn’s renown lack of patience, he’d probably tear the envelope open during class that day. Ridley smiled to herself; they had all their morning classes together.

“So about this weekend,” Ridley lowered her voice. Molly sighed beside her, lifting her eyes from the Prophet exasperatedly. “Before you ask, yes there will be a possibility of alcohol poisoning and loss of dignity, as you so eloquently put it.” Molly rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest, but didn’t turn back to the paper so Ridley still considered it a win. “But, I figure since you are such a responsible and mature young woman,” she said in as a tone as velvety and posh as she could, “that you would be significantly less vulnerable to such outcomes than the rest of our plebeian housemates.” Ridley sealed her plea with a smile, to which Molly once more rolled her eyes.

Sighing, Molly replied, “So, you want me to babysit?”

“It would be greatly appreciated,” Ridley said cheerfully, taking her friends’ hands in her own.

Molly put up a valiant front, but her smile could not be entirely conquered, so with a twitching smirk she conceded, “Fine, but if we get caught I get to take house points.”

“Oh happy day!” Calvyn cheered mockingly, suddenly on his feet behind the pair. “I thought I was going to have to hold back Ridley’s hair while she spewed, but the honour is all yours, Molly!” He jumped back as Ridley swung her hand back at him, and chortled as he danced over to Molly’s other side. “Well ladies, are we off to Herbology or not?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Molly appeased him, tossing her bag over her shoulder and passing the Prophet back to Ridley. Slipping the paper into her own bag, she heard Molly chide, “Let's just settle a bit though, alright? This cheery thing just doesn’t sit right with me.”

Ridley snorted, and stood up, straightening her robes. “Neering just can’t wait to see his darling Professor Sprout after so many painful months apart.”

“I’ll admit, my heart does ache to see my dear Pomona,” he sighed, as the trio made their way out of the Great Hall, and towards the main doors. “You know, nothing turns me on more than a woman who can garden. You just wait, I’ll crank up the charm a bit and by the end of the year she’ll be planting her tulips around my—”

“I will puke on you,” Molly warned, cringing.

“Nah,” Calvyn patted the Head Girl on the back, and hooked a thumb towards the friend on his other side, “Ridley’s a better bet for that, I think.”

Ridley groaned, and rubbed at her reddening cheeks.

You vomited on my shoes !” Calvyn squealed, bending his knees and flapping about his arms. Molly chortled; Ridley bristled.

“Oh shut up will you,” she growled, sticking her hands in her pockets as a sudden breeze assaulted the group.

“But honestly,” Calvyn ignored her, moving ahead of the group and turning around to face Molly and Ridley. Walking backwards, he kept pace with the pair while he exclaimed, “I just can’t wait to see the blessed Gryffindors!”

Molly and Ridley groaned in tandem, and met eyes. The enmity between the Slytherin and Gryffindor houses was the school’s worst kept secret, and the traditional rivalry had not skipped Ridley’s generation. Where the more sensible students, such as Molly—and Ridley liked to think herself included—opted to ignore their more righteous peers, many of her other housemates had come to enjoy antagonizing the Headmaster’s favoured house. Calvyn was no exception to this. But, Ridley thought, Calvyn never got caught. And Ridley respected that.

Still walking backwards, Calvyn was grinning at his friends when he collided with a younger student immersed in a thick book. Shock crossed his face briefly, and her ignorant friend almost fell to his feet, but righted himself quickly with a grace Ridley was envious of. The younger student wasn’t quite so lucky. Sprawled out on the grass, book still in hand, he looked on at the group wide eyed. Ridley noted his crimson and gold tie. As the three passed the befallen student, he shouted an angry “Hey!”

Smirking, and pointing to his victim—still walking backwards, mind you—Calvyn shouted back, “how’s it going, mate?”

Molly sighed as the boy turned back around, and walked alongside the girls again. “You’re a twat.”

Smirking, Calvyn threw both arms around Ridley and Molly’s shoulders, drawing them in closer to him. Ridley groaned at the contact, while the Head Girl merely side eyed their male friend.

Beaming despite the insult, in his trademark sing-song voice, Calvyn merely replied, “I know.”




Despite her previous confidence, Calvyn did not open his letter in any of the classes Ridley shared with him. She didn’t know if her friend could feel her eyes on him throughout most of the morning, or if its contents were truly so dull they could not tempt Calvyn’s childlike curiosity. Or perhaps they were so incriminating that the boy dare not expose even the envelope. Ridley was holding out for the latter possibility.

Regardless of the nature of its contents, the fact of the matter was that Ridley caught no further glimpse of it throughout the day. Frustrated, and unsatisfied, she had taken to the quidditch pitch after her last class. With a heavy sigh, she sank into a seat in the stands and fished out a roll of parchment, a quill, and her transfiguration text from her bag. Placing the textbook on her lap, she laid the parchment out flat on top of it, trying her best to smooth out the fold lines. Quill in hand, she poised it above the blank page and considered it for a moment. Inspired, she brought the tip to the surface and began to write. The scratching of the quill against the parchment and stark contrast between the creamy white page and the oily black ink was the ultimate satisfaction.

A solid fifteen minutes later, her poster was complete. With a sigh, of relief, she set her quill down on the bench beside her. As she waited for the last traces of ink to dry, she admired her handiwork. Her eyes scanned over the bold title, ‘TRYOUTS’ and session dates in her slanted handwriting. In the top left corner, she’d doodled golden snitches with fluttering wings, and in the bottom right a collection of quaffles and bludgers. In Ridley’s opinion, it wasn’t half bad.

Movement in the corner of her eye grabbed Ridley’s attention, and she looked up to see the Headmaster striding along the bottom of the stands. She looked on as the old man began to climb the stairs and rise to her level. He shot her a characteristically friendly smile, though Ridley couldn’t fathom why he was so universally friendly, and sank onto the bench beside her.

“Hello, professor,” she greeted, nodding back to him.

“Good day, Miss Clarke,” he replied, looking about the pitch. “It’s a beautiful day to be outside,” his blue eyes twinkled in the sunlight as he winked at her, “Great for drawing.”

“It is,” she agreed, smoothing out her dried parchment, “Although, I’m not really drawing.”

His eyes drew together, seemingly in confusion, and Ridley sensed that she just walked into a trap. Damn him. With a sigh of resignation, she passed him the parchment and watched his face as his eyes scanned over it.

“Oh, a quidditch notice?”  His eyes crinkled in amusement, before he outright chuckled. “Very pragmatic, Miss Clarke. Your writing has always had a certain character to it that has amused me immensely,” he praised, pointing a long, thin finger to the last line of her notice.

This year we play to win, so don’t waste my time.

Ridley shrugged and accepted the parchment as he passed it back to her, “The Slytherin team isn’t fooling around this year.”

The Headmaster chuckled once more, “I eagerly await to see how this season progresses.”

Bullshit, Ridley thought. She barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes at the mad old man. There was no doubt in her mind of Dumbledore’s ever growing confidence in his precious Gryffindors’ team. Hold onto your pants, she thought spitefully. She’d show everyone the potential of her house.

“However,” the Headmaster began, a note more serious than his previous tone, “I must confess that I didn’t venture out here to discuss quidditch with you.”

“I had a sneaking suspicion,” Ridley droned, neatly folding up her poster and stuffing it into her bag less ceremoniously.

“I’m afraid to say that there is only one other professor who would be able to tutor you in Defense,” he said seriously. Ridley twiddled her thumbs nervously.

“Able, or willing?”

Dumbledore shot her a small smile, tinged perhaps with a small measure of pity. “I am sure you understand, Miss Clarke, that the teaching staff as a whole is rather overwhelmed by the size of your class,”

Ridley nodded along, already having received a spiel of similar content.

“And I can think of naught but one professor whom I can faithfully say is capable of withstanding the challenge.”

“So someone with a smaller workload, then? Someone with less students; someone who teaches one of the less popular subjects, maybe?” Ridley deduced, her eyes widening in realization and apprehension. “It isn’t Trelawney you have in mind, is it?”

Dumbledore looked at her sharply, and Ridley shrunk under his gaze, “No, Miss Clarke. Professor Trelawney, I might also add, has as much on her plate as any other teacher at Hogwarts.”

The man sighed, pushing his spectacles up the bridge of his nose. “While burdened with a great number of duties and responsibilities, I have every confidence in Professor Snape’s commitment to the students of his house. I must say that I am almost entirely certain that the pair of you will be able to arrange something mutually beneficial.”

The Headmaster turned to her with a knowing smile and tipped his head toward her. Ridley however, was frozen.

“Wait, you said—um—Professor Snape?” She stammered, beyond shocked.

“Yes, I did.” His eyes twinkled infuriatingly once more, and his lips were drawn in a smug smile.

“Well,” Ridley blinked before letting her eyes roam the vacant quidditch pitch once more. Merlin help her.

“Great.”

Chapter Text

Mercifully, the rest of the week passed in a blur of late nights spent in the Slytherin common room and the occasional shiver inducing excursion out to the lakeshore. The first week of class was characteristically relaxed as far as school work went, the only assignment needing Ridley’s attention being Snape’s essay, which she had mostly finished by Friday afternoon.

Setting her quill aside, she leaned back in the wooden chair and sighed, relishing the quiet atmosphere of the library. Across from her, Molly was flipping through a thick leather bound tome with one hand and making notes with the other. To Ridley’s right sat Calvyn, who was crafting paper cranes and charming them to float with a flap of their wings—the occasional iteration pelting itself at a lone Gryffindor seated at the table beside them. The last member of their misfit study group, Marcus, was scribbling along his parchment, brow furrowed and tongue peeking out from between his lips. Ridley was rather impressed with his determination.

“It’s no use,” Marcus suddenly groaned, his eyes sharp with his frustration. “Even the passage Snape assigned for this is shorter than the word count!”

Molly sighed, looking at him pointedly, “Well, you could try looking for, oh I don’t know, additional references?”

Marcus’ mouth gaped open. “Is that...Is that what you guys did?” His head swiveled around to Ridley and Calvyn.

Ridley nodded her head, looking at him evenly while Calvyn answered, “Yup.”

He glared down at his essay, before clawing at it with a ferocity Ridley was not prepared for, crumpling it into a tight ball. Reaching for his wand, he brought the tip to the mauled parchment and was about to cast a spell, when Molly grabbed his hand and hissed at him.

“Marcus Yllingsworth, if you set a fire in this library, Merlin help me, I will bind your limbs and toss you in the Black Lake. You’d better pray that the squid is feeling merciful this week.”

The boy met the Head Girl’s glare, a mixed air of apprehension and perhaps pride swirling about them. Marcus hesitated, looking down at his wand arm, and the slender feminine hand wrapped around it. With a breath of resignation, he moved to put his wand back and Molly withdrew her grip. He seemed to sink in his seat, shoulders slouching as he regarded the balled up parchment with distaste. While the boy looked on at the problematic essay, Molly watched him carefully. Suddenly her eyes softened, and she reached for the parchment. Flattening it out in front of her, she said calmly, “Let me look this over.”

Marcus brightened, and straightened up in his seat before moving closer to his blonde neighbour, reading over her shoulder as she made marks of her own on in the margins. Softly she admitted, “I can think of a couple texts that should help support your thesis.” Standing up, she motioned for him to come with her and slipped behind the nearest row of shelves. Smiling gratefully, Marcus shot out of his seat and followed the wispy blonde into her domain.

“He worships her,” Calvyn stated plainly, beside her. Ridley turned her head to her friend and nodded, catching the far away look in his eyes.

“That he does,” Ridley agreed, closing an abandoned book to her right. “I miss being worshipped,” she admitted, looking down at her nails.

Calvyn looked at her evenly, his eyes never leaving her own as he said lowly, “Branson Collins did not worship you.” Her eyes flitted down and he continued, “He was obsessed with you.”

The boy leaned back in his chair, and Ridley looked at him with all the appreciation he’d earned as one of her best friends since she was eleven years old. With another distanced look in his eyes, he pondered, “I think a lot of people tend to misinterpret possessiveness for love,”

he looked back to her, uncharacteristically serious, “And I know that you aren’t one of those people, Ridley Clarke.”

She shot her friend a tiny smile, secretly proud of this small moment of maturity in him. But the solemnity of this conversation just wouldn’t do.

Clearing her throat, she casually leaned back once more in her chair, pinning Calvyn with a mischievous look. “Speaking of young love and romance, perhaps you’d like to tell me about your summer now?”

Calvyn’s face betrayed no emotion, and it took a mere second for him to respond. Leaning toward her, he said sweetly, “I don’t kiss and tell, love.” And the bastard bopped her on the nose.

Slapping his hand away she narrowed her eyes at the boy and hissed, “Well, love , seeing as you were an intruder in my home I think that—”

“Oi, Brinn!” He suddenly shouted, waving his hand in the air and looking past Ridley’s venomous face. In the distance Madam Pince shushed the boy across the room with an ironically loud “ Shhh .” Ridley pinched the bridge of her nose and smothered a shriek of exasperation. Instead of throttling Calvyn as she so dearly wished to do, however, she turned in her seat and shot her oncoming friend a strained smile.

“Hey Brinn,” she said in a clipped voice, “Have you come to work on your potions essay too?”

Ignorance was bliss, Ridley supposed, as the dark haired girl smiled happily at the pair, completely oblivious to the tense atmosphere. Coming around to Ridley’s side of the table, she plopped into Molly’s vacant seat and cheerily said, “No, I just wanted to make sure you guys were still up for an adventure tonight?”

“Well, I don’t know about you, Rid,” Calvyn nudged her with his elbow, making Ridley roll her eyes, “but I’m always up for some well mannered frivolity.”

“Excellent,” Brinn beamed, before looking to Ridley, “And you Ridley?”

Ridley considered, her options for a moment. Her essay was nearly finished, just needing a bit of proofreading and a conclusion. It wouldn’t hurt to take the weekend off, she surmised. And, she thought with an inward smirk, Calvyn wouldn’t be quite so tight lipped about his scandalous summer affair after she got a bit of firewhiskey in his system.

“I think that I too, would be most inclined to partake in a respectable soiree,” she replied, poshly.

“Who’s sorry?” Marcus piped, appearing from the shadows of the book shelves. Beside him Molly rolled her eyes. In front of him, Brinn was glowing.

“She said ‘soiree’, Marcus. It’s like a party,” Molly corrected him, passing the generous stack of books into his thick arms. He took them graciously, still beaming at the Head Girl despite, her correcting him. Noticing Brinn, he chirped, “Oh hey, Brinn. What are you up to?”

Molly noticed Brinn too, sitting in her seat. Standing, she looked down at the shorter girl and blinked slowly, while Marcus made his way around to his seat beside Brinn and dropped the collection of books to the surface. Oblivious to Molly’s distaste, Brinn almost sang, “Oh not much. I’m just making sure everyone’s still committed to partying tonight. I’ve arranged for a few bottles of firewhiskey, and I’m going to go fetch them once it gets dark.”

“Sound’s great Brinn. I don’t know about you lot,” Marcus intoned, gathering up his parchment and books, “but I think the beginning of this year deserves even more celebration than the others!”

“The beginning of the end!” Calvyn nearly shouted.

“Will you stop your wailing,” Molly reprimanded the boy, smacking him on the head with a rolled up bit of parchment. “You’re going to get us thrown out.”

Calvyn smiled back up to the Head Girl cheekily, “Well I suppose it’s a good thing I’m leaving then.”

Gathering up their sheets and books, the group followed Calvyn’s lead and made their way out of the library. Ridley had to grab Calvyn’s arm and herd him out with rest of their friends as he launched a final crane at the lone Gryffindor he’d been terrorizing a short while before; the Gryffindor flipped him a bird of a different sort.

Calvyn erupted into laughter, and snaked an arm around Ridley’s shoulder as they finally made it out of the library. Loathe to admit it, she couldn’t help but smile.



Ridley was not smiling.

Her back was aching, her neck suffering from the mother of all kinks, and she felt as though a small army was marching through her head. Was it just her or was her bed a hell of a lot harder than usual? Did she fall onto the floor in the middle of the night? With a groan, she peeled her eyes open, wincing as the light aggravated her already splitting headache.

“Bollocks,” she moaned, her voice groggy despite her short slumber. As her eyes adjusted, she came to realise that she was not in her dormitory. With a jolt, she sat up straight, her head swimming in protest, and came to see that she was in fact in the prefects’ bathroom. And her makeshift bed was an empty tub.

She took a moment to breathe, casting a worried look about the blessedly empty room. It was dimly lit, only a few candles burning away on the farthest wall. It must’ve been really early, she deduced. At the least, she thought, no one will be awake to witness my shame.

Any happy thoughts were chased away by another throbbing ache of her head. Moving her hands up to massage her temples, she gave a yelp when two rather cold and solid objects hit her skull.

“What in the—” she started, before she growled in frustration. In her right hand was an empty bottle of Ogden's Finest, and her left an ornate silver flask. Tight lipped, she glared at the offending objects; the glass bottle glinted at her snarkily, while the finely written engravement, C. A. Neering, seemed to smirk. She tried to open her hands and drop the containers, but they wouldn’t budge. She violently shook her hands, fruitlessly trying to dislodge the flask and incriminating bottle, but to no avail. A sticking charm, Ridley surmised. That bastard.

With a snarl, she awkwardly braced her wrists against the edges of the basin and shifted onto her knees. Where was her wand? She hoped she hadn’t sat on it. Casting a worried gaze around the large bathtub, and was relieved to find it at the far end. With the hand encasing the flask, she pawed at the wand and clumsily rolled it toward her. With a determined look, she tried to pick up the length of wood, sandwiching it between her new drink carrying limbs. It was useless. The containers merely scraped against the bottom of the tub, unable to grip the inconveniently thin circumference of her wand. With a sigh of resignation, she sat back on her haunches and and glared at her useless hands. This was embarrassing.

Once again appreciative of her solitude, she leaned forward and brought her mouth to the porcelain surface of the bottom of the basin. She felt the cool wood of her wand brush against her nose, and adjusted accordingly, grasping it between her teeth. Sitting back upright, wand in mouth, she cocked her head to the side and considered her next step. If she were curvier, she’d probably maneuver the instrument into her cleavage, simple as that. As it was, her willowy figure was not so well endowed, and anything she tried to hide next to her chest just slipped out of her shirt.

As luck would have it, she remembered that she was wearing knee socks, and so plopped back onto her bottom. In a mastery of flexibility she didn’t know she possessed, she awkwardly bend over her legs and shoved the wooden length as far into her left sock as she could. By the time she managed to place the wand, far enough that only the tip of the handle poked out from the navy garment, her head was spinning. Bringing her head between her knees, she recovered her breath, and waited for the whirling in her head to stop.

A faucet was leaking somewhere in the bathroom, the rhythmic dripping sound commanding in the empty silence. She gave herself until the count of thirty-four drips to rest, but after that she started to rise. Vaulting the edge of the tub shakily, she looked around for her shoes on the stone floor. Spotting them a about a yard away, she clumsily paced over to them, her feet cold even clad in her socks. She nudged her feet into the trainers, almost falling over in the process, before turning for the door.

The hallway was gloriously empty, moonlight glinting through the stained glass windows and painting the ground in a myriad of muted colours. She was wide awake by now, and realized that she had no chance of sleeping off her headache. On the other hand, she was grateful for her wakefulness; she was more aware of her surroundings than she usually was this late (or perhaps early) hour, and she wasn’t keen on running into Filch or his hateful bitch of a cat. She peeked around every corner she came to, and jumped into the shadows at the slightest noise.

Ridley had almost reached the dungeons—was only one flight of stairs away in fact—when she heard the swish of cloak behind her, and soft footsteps. With reflexes that impressed even herself, she threw her body to behind the nearest object—in this case a suit of armour—and crouched, making herself as small as possible. Her knees complained, and her back was already messed up from her makeshift-bathtub-bed, but she forced herself to stay as still as she could. The footsteps were growing louder as the figure approached, and crossed her fingers—or at least tried to. The figure slid into Ridley’s view, dark and tall from what she could see. They abruptly halted in front of the suit of armour, and Ridley stopped breathing. If she could stop her heart she would, as it was beating hard enough that the individual before her could probably hear it.

A long, painful moment passed, before Ridley had to breathe, or she’d pass out. Suddenly, a blinding light shot out from in front of her, and she recoiled violently from it. With an embarrassing yelp, she fell back on her bottom, her head hitting the wall and her bottle-hands hitting the floor with a clang as she tried to catch herself.

“Well, what do we—” the familiar baritone voice caught itself in the middle of the snarl, “Oh, it’s you.”

“It’s me,” she agreed snarkily, clumsily getting to her feet. Professor Snape lowered his wand from her pinched face, and sent her a measuring look. She made to rub the back of her head, but stopped herself as she remembered how useless her hands were at present. The professor’s realization of this however, was fresh. She caught his glinting, dark eyes trained on the empty bottle of alcohol, and knew she was done for.

“Uh,” she started, frowning at his raised eyebrows, “I don’t know how that got there.”

“Really?” His eyes flitted over to her other hand, which held her dear friend’s flask. “And what, pray, is that?”

“Pumpkin juice.”

At that, he simply rolled his eyes. “Go to bed, Miss Clarke. And you’d best dispose of those, before you find someone less tolerant of your...habits.”

She wanted to groan, and laugh, and scream as his implication that she was an alcoholic, all at the same time. Instead she replied, “Sorry sir, but I can’t. See, I’m rather attached to them.” She put her arms out to the side and shook them, demonstrating the magical grip between her hands and the containers. “Literally.”

With a sigh, he stepped forward and motioned for her hand. She raised that which encased the empty bottle, and almost shivered as his hand supported hers from the bottom. His fingers were freezing. She waited patiently, watching as he prodded at the appendage with his wand, only slightly uncomfortable with the physical contact. With a frown, he released her hand and announced, “It is not a mere sticking charm there, Miss Clarke. I suspect an adherence balm.”

“Oh,” she replied dumbly, looking at her hands. That made things a little more complicated. “I don’t imagine that it will just wash off with soap and water, will it?”

“It will not.” He deadpanned, though Ridley thought he was internally enjoying her distress. He cocked his head to the side slightly in thought however, before adding, “Although I may the remedy in my stores.”

“I would very much appreciate the help, Professor.”

“Well then, follow me.”

He turned briskly, barely waiting for Ridley to follow, and strode down the way she was previously headed. The walk to his office was short, and before she knew it, she was following the potions master through an open door way, and plopped down in the chair in front of his desk. She sat in silence as he walked across the room and disappeared through a doorway that Ridley had noticed with passing curiosity times before. She heard the distant clinking of glass phials and bottles, and her curiosity reemerged. So it must’ve been his private storeroom, then.

A minute or so later, Snape reemerged with a frosted, glass phial, and came to stand in front of her.

“Your hands,” he demanded, unscrewing the cap.

She produced her hands obediently, holding them in front of her without a second thought as to whether the elixir would sting. From the phial, he drew out a glass dropper, and squeezed a drop of the liquid onto the top of her palm, the only exposed part of the hand holding the flask. The liquid was a milky white, viscous mixture, and the drop rolled down her hand and under the flask. She could feel it taking effect immediately, her hand cool where the skin loosened from the silver. She was thankful that there was no pain.The potions master peeled the flask from her palm and set in on the desk beside them with a small thud. Snape repeated the same process with her other hand, and within a matter of seconds, she was free.

Wiggling her fingers gratefully, she smiled at the professor, who was screwing the cap back onto the potion. “Thank you, sir.”

“I’m sure Mr Neering will be coming to Madame Pomfrey or myself with similar symptoms in the near future,” he replied matter of factly.

Ridley shrugged. “I wouldn’t count on that,” she moved to stand up, “I have something far worse than a sticking balm in mind.”

Snape almost smiled at that, a small twitch in the corner of his mouth that Ridley rarely saw on the stony faced man. It made her smile.

“Well, if that is all, Clarke, then you ought to get back to your room. If I catch you out of bed at this hour again, there will be consequences,” he reprimanded, though not as serious as she’d heard from in the past. Ridley merely shrugged it off.

“Alright. Thanks again, professor,” she said in farewell, making her way to the door. Behind her she heard the creak of leather and a wooden chair being sat in, and fleetingly wondered why Snape was also out of bed at this hour. Brushing the thought off, she was almost at the door when she suddenly remembered something.

Turning quickly, she called, “Oh! Professor, I forgot, but there is something I’d like to ask you.”

He looked at her curiously from behind his desk, setting down the quill he’d just picked up. With raised eyebrows he nodded her on.

“See, Professor Frey won’t let me join the seventh year Defense class,” she started, stepping forward. “And so the Headmaster suggested that I seek a tutor.” The words suddenly seemed to get stuck in her throat, and she had to swallow the building flood of anxiety as she said, “I was wondering if you would be willing to help me out?”

Snape was quiet for a long moment, his face betraying no emotion. He leaned forward in his seat with a creak of the chair, and folded his hands together on the desk in front of him.

“And Professor Dumbledore has approved of you seeking me as a tutor?” he asked, skeptically.

“He recommended it.”

The potions master drew his eyebrows together in thought for another long moment, absentmindedly steepling his fingers. Ridley chewed her lip, and mentally crossed her fingers. She couldn’t survive anymore embarrassment that night.

“I suppose,” he finally started, leaning back in his chair with carefully disguised gleam of pride in his eye, “that we could work something out.”

Ridley’s stomach leaped, and a smile broke out on her face. At least something good had come from this wretched night.

“We’ll meet in the potions classroom after supper on Monday night to work something out. Seven o’clock. Don’t be late.”

“Thank you, professor. I won’t be late I promise,” she chirped, a stupid smile still tugging at her lips. With a rushed goodnight, she let herself out of the room and nearly skipped back to the common room. With her spirits this high, who knew, maybe she wouldn’t murder Calvyn in his sleep.

 

Maybe.

Chapter Text

“Donovan, what are you doing?! This isn’t Sunday brunch, a little energy, please!” Ridley screeched, hovering in the air above the quidditch pitch. Beside her, Calvyn snickered as Charlie Donovan jolted, nearly flinging himself off his broom. He looked at her with wide, blue eyes, and Ridley was sorely tempted to pelt the idiot with a bludger.

“Well?” she questioned, her voice betraying her exasperation, “Shoot!”

The wiry boy gulped, and steadied himself atop his broomstick, while Ridley watched with a trained eye. He drew back his throwing arm and hurled the quaffle toward the end of the pitch. She watched as the large, red ball sailed through the air and knew almost immediately it was too short. Anticlimactically, the quaffle reached the peak of its trajectory and pitched downwards, landing with a muffled thud on the ground a good couple of metres in front of the hoops. It took almost all of her will power not to facepalm herself.

“So you’ve got yourself a hot date tonight, I hear,” Calvyn snickered, tossing his bat into the air and catching it as it twirled back down to him.

Ridley rolled her eyes as she stroke another name off the list. “And who did you hear that from?” she asked offhandedly, observing what was left of her prospective team after the first round of tryouts.

“A little birdy by the name of Brinn.”

“Then of course it’s true...” she drawled off, narrowing her eyes at a rather smug looking fifth year. She could just barely hear his boasting over the growing wind, “I’m a shoe in for keeper, no doubt...” Another name was stroke through.

“Wait, really?” Calvyn almost slid off his broom.

“No, you dolt,” she scoffed, snapping her notebook closed and tucking the quill behind her ear. “You know I’ve sworn off men.”

As she tilted her broom downward and plummeted to the ground she could hear Calvyn shouting at her back, “I didn’t say it was a guy!”

The wind whistled through her ears and whipped at the stray hairs that escaped her messy braid. The ground was rushing toward her fast and with a childlike smile she pulled up last minute and levelled out. As gracefully as one could, she landed on the ground with a heavy thump and strolled over to the centre of the pitch. Teenagers were dropping out of the sky like flies, following her to hear her verdict. Ridley flipped open her notebook and licked her lips as she waited for the last of the stragglers to come to a halt in front of her. Over the chatter, she started, “Alright, I’ve worked out the first cut.”

The voices of her audience silenced, and she cast a measuring look over the crowd in front of her. Thumbs twiddled; knees shook; faces paled. “We’re doing this in alphabetical order. If I don’t call your name you can go. If I do call your name, stick around for a second and I’ll tell you when the next round of tryouts are.”

Clearing her throat, she started reading from her messy list, skipping over any hastily stroke through names. Her voice rang clear in the crisp morning air, joined by the occasional curse word or dejected huff as she skipped over a great number of names. The more passionate outbursts were met with a withering glare. By the time she reached the end of the list, the previous group of thirty had thinned out to nine.

“Congratulations,” she flipped her notebook shut once more and tucked it inside her robes, “you lot aren’t all that bad.”

“Such flattery,” muttered Calvyn from behind her, who’d just landed. Ridley rolled her eyes.

“Thursday night you’re going to practise with what’s left of the team from last year, and we’ll see who can keep up.” She pulled the tie off her disaster of a braid and shook out her hair. “Practise starts at seven, but be here a bit early so we can explain the drills and jump right into it.” Gathering her messy curls into a haphazard bun atop her head, she finished, “Any questions?”

The pitch was silent except for the chirps of some perseverant crickets. Ridley smiled. “Great, see you Thursday then.”

As the group of teenagers rushed back toward the school, eager for breakfast and chattering excitedly, Ridley made her way over to help Calvyn and the team Keeper, Brooklyn James, wrestle a particularly energetic bludger back into the trunk.

“Bugger,” Brooklyn said through gritted teeth, before she was able to snap the brace over the writhing ball. Calvyn wiped some sweat off his brow with a laugh, and Ridley moved onto securing the quaffle. Cleaning up was quick work, and before she knew it, Calvyn was levitating the trunk and leading it to the field house. Hot on his heels, Ridley was fishing the keys out of her pocket. As she found the right one, a rusty skeleton type with the Hogwarts insignia pressed into the handle, she pushed Calvyn aside and unlocked the door with a hollow click. The door swung open to reveal a musty, unkempt room; the light seeping in through the doorway illuminated a flurry of dustmotes.

“Well this is rather sad, isn’t it?” Calvyn wrinkled his nose and heaved the trunk in over the threshold. Ridley shrugged her shoulders and cast a quick Lumos , illuminating the far corners of the room and directing her vain friend to a set of shelves that held similar trunks.

“We don’t get a lot of volunteers to clean it up, surprisingly,” she said offhandedly, inspecting a well worn pair of gloves that had been tossed onto the shelf in front of her. The leather was supple; more worked in than threadbare. She cocked her head to the side in thought before stuffing them into her pocket. “Why, are you interested?”

Calvyn scoffed, or at least tried to. It came out more as a sneeze. “Farthest from it.” A beat passed. “What I am interested in, however,” Calvyn spun around with a mischievous smirk, “is what you’re doing tonight.”

Ridley struggled not to sigh. Instead she sent him a level look, “Are you asking me out, Calvyn?”

His face froze, and then the smile dropped. There was a tense moment of silence, and Ridley rolled her eyes as her melodramatist of a friend drew it out. With a jarring snort, Calvyn began chortling and cackling as if she’d told him the dirtiest joke; a lone tear escaped his eye. Ridley couldn’t help but crack a smile as he bent over at the middle, holding his stomach as he laughed; she too, thought the idea absurd.

“Oh, Rid, dear,” he finally finished laughing and straightened up, still smiling, “You kill me.”

“If only it were that easy,” she teased, stuffing her hands in her pockets and striding over to the door. Shouldering it open with a creak, she took a deep breath of the fresh air that rushed past her, and held the door open for her good-humoured friend. Handing him the key, she let him lock up while she basked in the warm rays of the rising sun. As the key turned in the lock with a scrape and a click, she admitted to her friend, “I’m meeting with Snape tonight.”

“Lucky guy,” he snickered, earning a haughty look. “What for?”

They were making their way back to the school, footsteps muffled softly by the dewy grass. The sun was well risen, and Ridley relished the gentle warmth hitting her back as they traversed the grounds. Ridley took a moment to consider whether she should tell her friend the truth. He hadn’t been terribly forthcoming when she asked him about his summer escapades, had he?

Calvyn narrowed his eyes at her, sensing her hesitation. Ridley smirked back at him.

“I don’t think I’ll tell you.”

“Then, I’ll just have to assume the worst.”

“And what would that be?”

As the unruly boy began to make a crude gesture, and Ridley had to stop the conversation before it got out of hand. “No, no, no! Stop right there.”

Calvyn let out a light laugh, too childlike for his lewd character. Ridley side eyed the boy, “He’s giving me private lessons. Tonight we’re going to try and figure out some kind of schedule that will work for both of us.”

Her friend seemed confused. Cocking one eyebrow, he questioned, “But you’re great at potions?”

“It’s for defense.”

“Oh, I see.” There was still a note of confusion in his voice. His brow was furrowed, and opened his mouth as if to ask a question, before snapping it shut, abandoning his thought.

“What is it?” Ridley sneered. The ground became hard, changing from trodden grass to uneven cobblestone. They were nearing the front doors.

Calvyn stuck his hands in his trouser pockets and shrugged, “Well, I just thought he wasn’t, you know,” Ridley cringed inwardly as she guessed his next words, “ allowed, to teach Defense.”

The pair were silent for a moment, as they approached the great oak doors of the castle. It was a fact that most of her Slytherin peers liked to ignore, that their Head of House was a former Death Eater. Those from the darker wizarding families that survived the war were split between hating or worshipping him for it, depending on their parents’ opinion she supposed. Still, the war was fresh in the wizarding world’s eyes, and the Slytherin house ever under the watchful gaze of the press and general population. That was usually enough to keep them from expressing their fetishized view of the Potions Master.

“Yeah, I thought that too,” Ridley admitted to her friend softly. “But Dumbledore actually recommended him.”

Calvyn’s eyebrows almost shot off his face, and Ridley laughed back at him as she slipped in through the huge door and made her way into the foyer. Her friend was hot on her heels. “Seriously?”

“Snape is the only one he can ‘faithfully say is capable of withstanding the challenge.’

Calvyn hummed to himself in thought as they crossed the Welcome Hall. The smells of breakfast were drifting through the open doors towards which they were headed. “You are a bit of a handful,” the boy conceded.

Ridley smacked his arm playfully, though a small part of her agreed with him. She could be a bit of a challenge; strong willed at times, straight up uncompromising at others.

She hoped Dumbledore was right.



Seven o’clock couldn’t come around faster for Ridley, who’d been all but bouncing in her seat for most of the day. It was strange for her to be excited about anything studies related; she’d been passionate about a few muggle studies projects here and there but it wasn’t something she could share with her friends. She wasn’t particularly inclined to share these Defense sessions with her friends either, come to think of it. It was something of a special little secret she’d kept between the parties involved, with the exceptions of Calvyn and Molly. They were her closest friends though, so they didn’t really count.

But yes, it was quite a special little secret. Ridley couldn’t imagine that there were a great many students who received private lessons from the infamous Potions Master, much less in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Given his passion for the subject, Ridley was sure she was going to be in for some lessons that would greatly surpass any the wretched Frey could deliver, both in enjoyment and substance. She imagined they would be much more practical.

Once supper came around, her stomach was beginning to roll with nerves. What if he changed his mind? What if he didn’t think her worth his time?

She forced herself to breathe, and ate her food as slowly as she could, though she was dying to scarf it all down and get the meeting done and over with. She was glad she took her time though, the roast was quite lovely. Every once in awhile, her eyes would flicker up to the Head Table. A few times she’d caught Snape staring into his goblet, or disinterestedly pushing about his food with a fork. One time, he’d caught her gaze and Ridley almost choked on her pumpkin juice. She kept her eyes on her own table after that.

Molly and Calvyn were conversing across from her when ten to seven rolled around, not quite finished eating. Ridley cleared her throat, “I’m going to head to my meeting. I’ll see you in the common room after, yeah?”

Molly agreed and wished her good luck. Calvyn sent her a solemn salute.

With a roll of her eyes, Ridley stood from her spot and strode out of the Great Hall, buzzing with nervous energy. The walk to the dungeons was short, but she used that time to compose herself. By the time she’d reached the door to the potions classroom she was almost her smug—and perhaps too blasé—self. Shaking her sleeve down her arm, she peaked at the gold watch on her wrist and smirked; 6:59. Swallowing the last of her anxiety, she raised her hand and knocked upon the door three times, firmly. After a moment of silence, she caught the expected, baritone response, “Enter.”

Pushing the door open, she crossed the threshold, before shutting it softly behind her, all the while gazing about the room in a slight sense of wonder. The work benches had been pushed to the sides of the room to clear an open space in the centre. The torches burned brighter than they did in class, casting a warmer light about the classroom, and confirming her suspicions that the professor kept it dim during class time to make his students uncomfortable.

“I like what you’ve done with the place,” she announced absentmindedly, observing for the first time in its entirety the stained and scorch marked stone floor. She didn’t need to remember where she, Molly, Calvyn and Brinn had sat for the first five years of their schooling; a rather large splat of discoloured stone marked a regular occurrence of spills and disasters, much thanks to Calvyn and Brinn.

Snape ignored her comment. “Sit,” he commanded instead, and conjured a chair in front of his desk at the front of the room. Obediently, Ridley paced over to the chair and sat across from him as he scratched a final note on whatever parchment presently commanded his attention.

“I trust the tryouts are going well,” he said conversationally, setting down his quill down and leaning back in his chair. His eyes were as analytical as usual, the flickering torchlight making his gaze more intense than she was used to. Ridley forced her own gaze to meet his.

“Yes, I’ve made the first cut already. I should have the team finalized by Thursday night,” she replied, “We might make the finals this year, I reckon.”

Snape raised his brows, perhaps not so much in surprise but in doubt. Ridley tried not to take it too personally.

“What day do you have set aside for practices this year?” he questioned.

Ridley looked up toward the vaulted stone ceiling in thought, “Tuesday evening, Thursday evening and Sunday morning.”

Now Snape really was surprised, “Three days a week?” Ridley nodded. “That is rather ambitious.”

“Like I said, professor, we may actually make the finals this year,” she said with a smirk.

Snape looked at her steadily, “I look forward to seeing that.” Reaching for a leather bound notebook, he let it fall open in front of him and thumbed his way across the pages. Running his finger down a particularly dense page of spiky handwriting, he explained, “Evenings are the only possible times I could meet with you.” He flipped the page and his eyebrows drew together in thought, “Mondays won’t work, and I’m sure you have rather pressing commitments on Friday nights,” he looked up at her slyly and Ridley narrowed her eyes. Again with the insinuations against her character. Although, she was quite impressed he didn’t book her for Friday nights simply out of spite, having caught her in a myriad of compromising situations on that particular day of the week.

“Which leaves, Wednesday night.” He steepled his fingers against his lips and looked at her expectantly, his dark eyes daring her to argue. Wednesday was fine with her.

She nodded in agreement, “That works perfectly well for me.” A moment of silence followed, and Ridley wondered whether their meeting was coming to a close. She didn’t think that anything that transpired in the past five minutes couldn’t have been sorted with a few owls back and forth?

The professor’s gaze was still trained on her, and Ridley sensed a shift in his manner. While their earlier discussion had been friendly, his tone almost teasing, there was a sudden solemnity.

“Well if that’s settled,” the professor got up from his seat with a gracefulness that Ridley couldn’t help being jealous of. She watched with curiosity as he maneuvered around the desk, his black robes swishing, and glided to the center of the room. “Shall we?” he offered with a level tone. Ridley was confused.

“Uh,” she started, awkwardly rising from her own seat and padding over to the teacher, “shall we what?”

Snape was being patient with her, Ridley noticed. He just barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “I need to test the extent of your abilities so that I can start making lesson plans.”

“Oh,” she started, padding her way over to stand across from him. He shifted his stance, drawing his wand and pushing back his sleeves.

“Oooh,” finally understanding, she shed her cumbersome robe and tossed it onto a nearby work bench. As she drew her own wand, Snape openly rolled his eyes at her. Standing in her white button down and skirt, she felt the slightest bit vulnerable, and almost regretted abandoning her robe, regardless of the impracticality of it. Ignoring the focused, analytical gaze of the professor, she too shifted her stance into something a bit more defensive. Taking a deep breath, she readied herself before meeting Snape’s black eyes and nodding.

His velvety tone reverberated through the stone walled room and made Ridley’s stomach dip, “Begin.”

Biting her lip, she considered her first move. Testing the waters, she broke the short lived stalemate with a tentative, “ Expelliarmus .”

Snape waved it off with ease, and the corners of his mouth turned down. Ridley remained uncertain, and steeled herself before casting a hasty “Stupefy!”

Her professor was openly glaring at her now, and the magic had just barely burst from her wand tip before she felt a sharp sting erupt along her wrist. WIth an embarrassing yelp, she jumped and almost dropped her wand. Wide eyed she stared at the blossoming red splotch along her inner wrist in bewilderment. Looking up she met Snape’s gaze with a heated, “Hey!”

“Try harder,” he drawled without the slightest note of empathy. He relaxed his stance from his previously defensive manner, and watched her down the length of his hooked nose. His air of nonchalance was enough to have Ridley bristling.

Straightening her back, she shoved the stinging pain of her wrist to the back of her mind. Reigning in her frustration, she relaxed her narrowed eyes and steadied her facade. She was calm, she was collected, she was level headed—or at least she looked it. Raising her wand, she let no emotion cross her face and let loose an nonverbal body bind. Snape waved it away, but didn’t berate her. Progress.

Gaining confidence, Ridley began firing off hexes and jinxes as they came into her head,  Snape continuing to shield himself against them. As more spells bounced off the Potions Master harmlessly, he began shooting back nonverbal hexes of his own. By the third cracker jinx to explode about her feet, she was able to detect a subtle hum of magic that signalled an incoming hex from her opponent. From there on, she was able to narrowly dodge Snape’s expert attacks or throw up a quick shield charm to dissipate the sneakier ones. It was becoming exhausting, calling to mind effective spells and casting them without betraying her intentions, all the while dodging some rather dirty moves her opponent was pulling. Slytherin duels where as a rule particularly dangerous.

Ridley found that she was entering something of a dance with Snape, a tango of wills. From the outside, it looked like a random and reckless barrage of hexes and jinxes, cast almost too quick to comprehend. Ridley knew better.She was good at duelling, a necessary skill for anyone who associated with Calvyn Neering, and tired though she was, she instinctively looked for holes in Snape’s defense and feinted and dodged. There was a defining choreography that directed the fight, a mutual reading of each other’s body language and calculated moves that fell into a pattern that Ridley could learn and manipulate. The thing was, Snape was undoubtedly better.

She’d just dodged an especially nasty looking curse when her foot slipped and she began to pitch over. Flailing, she yelped and plummeted to the ground, her wand being tugged from her grip simultaneously. Hitting the shockingly frigid ground, she let out an Oof and allowed herself a mental string of violent curse words on behalf of her offended tailbone.

Felled, disarmed and slightly chilled, she looked up at her teacher as he strode towards her. He clasped her wand in his hand and wore a smug smirk on his lips. Gazing at him in obvious confusion, and the slightest admiration, she let out a characteristically intelligent, “Nice.”

Ridley detected a barely audible chuckle, and smiled as he offered her a hand. Grabbing the proffered limb, she let him pull her to her feet and plucked her wand out of his deft fingers. Turning back to what Ridley observed to be a slick icy patch which defeated her, she commented, “Clever, that. I thought you just missed me.” With a flourish, she melted the death trap before casting a quick Evanesco .

“I’m wounded, Clarke,” he said dryly, leaning against the oak desk and scrutinizing her with his dark, slightly humorous, gaze.

Ridley scoffed, “I rather doubt that, sir.” She wandered over to the work bench on which she’d set down her outer robes and shrugged into them. Behind her Snape merely hummed in agreement. Twisting her wrist with a flash of gold, she peaked at her watch and was nearly floored by the time. Three quarters of an hour had passed in what had felt like a mere ten minutes. Perhaps her exhaustion wasn’t unwarranted afterall. Looking at her wrist, she noticed once more the streak of inflamed skin from the first stinging hex Snape had hurled at her. No longer distracted with the task of defending herself from her professor’s creative and rather nasty attacks, she would admit that her wrist perhaps smarted a bit.

Catching her train of thought, Snape demanded, “Show me your wrist.” Ridley looked up at the professor in surprise, but obediently padded over to him. Holding her offended limb out for his inspection, she tried not to wince at the coldness of his fingers as he gently grasped her hand. As he twisted her wrist slightly to see the extent of the damage, she suggested, “It’s really not that bad, sir.”

Snape looked at her impatiently, releasing her hand and walking around to the opposite side of his desk. “Don’t be foolish Miss Clarke,” he chastised in an rather dispassionate tone. She watched him tap the desk with his wand, and heard a replying click of a lock. Sliding a drawer open, Snape rummaged around in it and sent what sounded like a handful of glass vials clinking together, “It’s hardly intelligent, suffering unduly.”

“You’re the one who hexed me,” she said hotly, giving him what she suspected to be a fairly insolent look despite herself. Snape remained unaffected.

“You deserved it,” he said simply, “Surely you don’t think you’ll win any duels with a single disarming spell.”

“Forgive my reluctance to attack a teacher,” she replied dryly, crossing her arms across her chest.

Snape stood straight for a moment and looked at her thoughtfully, “I’d wager a fair few of your peers would be only too happy to have the chance, Clarke.”

Ridley merely snorted, “Well I must say, professor, that I am not one of them.”

“A relief, I assure you,” he droned, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “I shall sleep easily tonight.” She rather doubted that, if the dark circles under his eyes were any indication. Ridley would wager that the professor hadn’t slept a full night in weeks.

Retrieving a glinting jar of a thick, violet paste from the drawer, Snape slid around the desk and offered it to her. Curiously, she let him drop it into her open hand and looked to him for instruction.

“A general soothing balm,” he lectured leaning back against the desk once more with his custom air boredom. “Apply it twice a day on clean skin, generously. The burn should be gone in a few days so you won’t use it all, but knowing what you and Neering get up to on the weekends I imagine it should come of use again.”

Ridley grimaced but didn’t bother to disagree. There was no denying that her friend group had a penchant for mischief. Genuinely, she replied, “Yes, I’m sure Calvyn will also appreciate this in due time. Thank you, sir.” She shoved the jar into her pocket.

Snape nodded along knowingly, before standing once more, only slightly intimidating now at his full height and swathed in his dark robes. In a voice as deep as his black eyes, he informed her, “There’s not much more we can do tonight. We’ll meet again next Wednesday evening, same time.”

As he made his way back around his desk and sank into his chair with a creak, Ridley recognized the dismissal. With a nod, she replied, “See you then,” and then strode toward the door. Opening the door and hardly looking back, she called out, “Goodnight, professor,” and exited the potions classroom. She knew better than to expect a reply.

Chapter Text

 

A/N: Big thanks to everyone who is following this story, sorry about the wait times between updates! Shout out to LoverAngel13 for the comment, it really helps to get me back on track :)



“You look like shit.”

Ridley sighed, and softly shut the book she’d been reading, letting the pages fall over her thumb tucked inside. Rubbing at her tired eyes with one hand, she looked up at Calvyn and winced internally. He almost looked worried about her.

“You found me,” she said simply, watching as he sank onto the bench across from her. The tall, gangly boy made the small alcove she’d absconded to look cramped indeed. She noted the way his gaze flickered between her unkempt hair and hunched shoulders. She willed her hands to stop shaking.

“I just followed the trail of broken hearts,” Calvyn shot her a small, lopsided smile. “Rough night?”

“I didn’t get much sleep.”

“Molly thought you were having nightmares.”

Ridley rolled her head back and rested it against the cool stone as she deadpanned, “I was thinking about you and Professor Sprout.”

She was relieved to hear a soft chuckle, a concession on Calvyn’s part. The boy wouldn’t push the issue any further, as she feared Molly would have if she found her first. Instead, he asked her what she was reading.

Flashing the leather front cover, she replied, “Nicostrata’s Guide to Offensive Strategy.” Ridley sighed, “At my last Defense session Snape made me look like a first year throwing sparks.”

“You were duelling?”

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Ridley grumbled, “It’s Defense, Calvyn. What else would we be doing?”

“I can think of a great many unsavory activities.”

Groaning, Ridley began to pack up her things. Nestling the leather bound tome into her bag, she questioned, “How do you sleep at night with such a twisted imagination?”

“Better than you, apparently.”

She shot him a stern look, but it was lukewarm. Shrugging back into the robe she’d been using to cushion the hard bench she’d been sitting on, she stood up and slung her bag over her shoulder. Calvyn got to his feet alongside her, and led the pair out into the third floor corridor. Warm morning light streamed through a wall of stained glass, painting the grey stones of the hallway in a rainbow of colour. As Ridley walked alongside her friend, she couldn’t help but admire his profile. A veneer of blue and purple light danced across his face, particularly vibrant against his fair complexion and flaxen hair. His face was a handsome one, she could admit, with his prominent cheekbones and aristocratic features. Clear, jade green eyes shone behind his long feathery eyelashes, and soft plump lips balanced out what could have been a severely masculine appearance. And despite all this, Ridley could say she had never, ever , been attracted to this young man who had become one of her closest friends. How could she when she’d watched him puke his guts out into the Gamekeeper’s pumpkin patch on a yearly basis.

“Are you checking me out?” Calvyn teased, suddenly. Drawn from her thoughts, she gently backhanded him against his chest, prompting a healthy round of laughter from the pair.

“Forgive me, dear friend,” she jested, her voice a sickly sweet parody of Brinn’s flirty lilt, “but my fickle heart could not bear the strain of a single day without sight of thine blessed face!” Forgetting about her terrible night, she grabbed Calvyn’s hand and giggled as he gave her a spin.

Calvyn chuckled along with her in a posh accent of his own, “Oh, my sweet Lady Ridley—”

“Lady?” Scoffed a painfully familiar voice.

If it weren’t for her friend’s hand clasped within her own, and his quick reflexes, Ridley would’ve fell flat on her face. As it was, Calvyn threw a sturdy arm around her waist and drew her back upright as she began to tip over with an embarrassing squeak. Steady on her feet once more, she pushed Calvyn’s arm off of her and brushed some imaginary dirt off of her front.

Just a few short paces in front of her, Branson Collins was planted directly in her path, arms crossed and a sourly smug look playing his face. Raising his eyebrows, he continued, “Really, Lady ? Is that what you call a conniving trollop these days?”

Ridley grabbed at her friend’s sleeve and held in with an iron grip as he jerked toward Collins. While her stomach clenched painfully at the coldness in the eyes of the young man across from her, she couldn’t help but feel a lick of anger at his words.

“I’d say anything goes,” she replied calmly, summoning every bit of strength so that she could hold his slate grey eyes with her own, “lately everyone’s been calling some self-absorbed bellend Head Boy .”

His eyes flashed, and he took a menacing step forward. Ridley held her ground. As his eyes scoured her figure, she suppressed a shudder. There was a time when his gaze on her was appreciative, when his eyes were warm and his smile was welcoming. How did it all turn so fucking bitter.

“Long night Clarke?” he sneered, looking at her tousled hair as though it personally offended him. “Did you pay a visit to all the Slytherin boys’ dormitories,” he shot a scathing look at Calvyn, “or just Neering’s?”

Ridley had only blinked before her friend lashed out with frightening speed, and slammed her ex-boyfriend against the closest wall. Collins hit the stone with a dull thud, and a garbled protest halted in his throat as Calvyn’s wand pressed into the soft skin above his collarbones. Ridley hadn’t even seen the boy draw.

“You better watch your tongue, mate,” Calvyn hissed, his voice unusually silky and deep. Ridley watched with great admiration as he pressed his wand even deeper into Collins’ throat, “It almost sounded as though you were insulting my friend Ridley, here.”

“I—I’m Head Boy!” Collins stuttered, his eyes flashing with indignation.

“What are you going to do, take away points?” Calvyn scoffed. “I’ve always wondered how the point system works; whether you guys really need to speak out loud to make deductions.” Her friend’s lips suddenly stretched into a vicious smirk, “Do you think you need a larynx to take away points?”

Finally, Ridley could see the fear in Collins’ eyes. As he began to struggle, Calvyn tightened his grip on the front of Collins’ robes, and turned his gaze to her, “Shall we find out?”

Ridley let her robe sleeve gather at her elbow as she brought her wrist watch closer to her face; classes would let out soon. Calvyn wouldn’t want an audience.

“Some other time, perhaps,” Ridley said levelly, looking at Collins thoughtfully, and his eyes widened. Had he always been that pale?

Calvyn looked at her critically, looking for any shred of sympathy or compassion for the pathetic scrap of a wizard in front of them. Ridley narrowed her eyes at him stubbornly. Did he really think her so weak?

With a final shrug, he let go of Collins’ collar, and the boy nearly slid to the ground. Taking a step back, Calvyn shot a withering glare at the bewildered Head Boy, before offering an arm to Ridley. Gratefully she latched onto him and made to leave. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Collins shuffle to his feet.

“Feral bitch—” she heard him start to mutter, and she acted without thought. She whipped around just as he plunged his hand into his robes, and before he’d even properly retrieved his wand she’d disarmed him. He froze in shock as his wand sailed through the air, and Ridley caught it with half a mind. In one fluid motion that even she wasn’t expecting, she threw a fist, wand still in her grip, in the general direction of Collins’ face. There was a sickening crunch.

“I am not fucking feral!” she shrieked into his reddening face. With a groan he brought a hand to his dripping nose, and his eyes shot wide open in horror as it came back bloody.

“Wha—Shit—My nose!” He wailed, tipping his head back to stop the blood from dripping down his face.

Ridley was ready to serve another blow, one hand fisted in the collar of his shirt, “A broken nose is gonna be the last of your fucking problems—”

“What on Earth is going on here?!” came a sudden bark from down the hall. Ridley’s head whipped around to find the source of the noise, and felt her rage dissipate as she caught sight of a thunderous Snape stalking towards them.

“Professor...” she started, frozen by the ferocity of his gaze. Collins had collapsed against the wall in pain and Ridley remained latched onto his person, arm drawn back to hit the boy again; the pair made a peculiar tableau. Trying to gather her wits, she breathed, “We were...just...uh...”

Snape shot down her fumbled explanation with an icy glare, coming to a halt beside her. With a gentleness that contradicted the quiet fury rolling off of him in waves, he grasped Ridley’s shoulder and drew her away from the cowering boy; she didn’t dare resist.

“This is the second time in less than a month that I’ve found you two at each other’s throats,” he hissed, his steely eyes sweeping over the pair. Collins stood at full attention, but his face was still pale as a corpse. There were few things that terrified Branson Collins more than an incensed Severus Snape. “What is the meaning of this?”

“They attacked me!” the bleeding dolt cried, waving a finger at a deadly quiet Calvyn and Ridley. “Neering threw me against the wall and threatened to tear out my throat, and Clarke punched me in the face,” he prattled on in a nasally whine, his eyes wide as saucers, “like—like a muggle !”

Ridley narrowed her eyes and moved to step forward, stopped only by Snape’s firm grip on her shoulder. “What’s worse, professor? Hitting someone like a muggle, or trying to curse them when their back is turned?” she sneered.

Snape merely looked at her, his eyes betraying no emotion, before levelling his gaze on Collins—who happened to be glaring daggers at Ridley. Feeling the scrutiny of the Potions Master back upon him, the boy shuffled his feet nervously.

“And why, Collins, do you think Mr Neering and Miss Clarke decided to...attack you?” His voice was level, deceivingly so. The boy across from him cast an anxious look from the quietly seething Calvyn, to an obviously riled up Ridley.

With an almost cartoonish gulp, he pleaded, “I—I was only asking why Clarke looked so tired, and then Neering just came at me from out of nowhere and—”

“Oh that is such a steaming load of—” Ridley was cut off as Snape’s grip on her shoulder tightened like a vice. She snapped her mouth shut with a loud click of her teeth. Across from her, Collins narrowed his eyes at her and stood a little straighter, his self importance finally rearing its ugly head.

“And Clarke is clearly unstable, professor. I don’t know why she was even allowed to come back this year.  All she does is assault her classmates, and make off with strangers, and—and—drink!” He sneered, scouring her with a predatory gaze, “I wouldn’t be surprised if she was drunk right now!”

In a split second the predator had become the prey, as Snape thrust a hand against the boy’s chest and pushed him back into the stone wall. “That is quite enough, Collins,” He barked, and even though the professor wasn’t much taller than the Head Boy, he seemed to tower over the cowering student. “Is this what being Head Boy means to you? An opportunity to pick petty little fights that you can’t finish, over nothing more serious than measly grudges? Does it mean strutting about the castle, flashing your shiny little badge and trying—and let me stress trying — to convince anyone who has the misfortune of catching your eye, that you are somehow better than everyone else? That you are special?”

In a voice so low and deadly that even Ridley felt a shiver, Snape warned the boy, “Well let me inform you then. You are not special; you are not clever. You are not better than anyone in this school; you are not better than anything in Hagrid’s paddock. That little pin on your chest is nothing but a formality at best, a political statement at worst. If you think for a second that you are secure in your position as Head Boy then I suggest you check back into reality, because a single word from me of what happened in this hallway today will bring your whole glittering world crashing down. If you speak of this, or so much as breathe a word of it in your sleep, to anyone , then I promise that I’ll be giving my account of your behaviour along with it. And then you can say goodbye to Head Boy, you can say goodbye to Hogwarts, and you can say goodbye to any possible Ministry position in the future.”

Snape leaned back, finally giving the spooked boy some room to breathe, “Am I clear?”

Collins nodded his head yes with a shaking, “Yes, sir.”

“Go.”

The Head Boy took off like a bat out of Hell, and once he’d skittered around a far off corner, the Potions Master turned his furious attention back to Calvyn and Ridley. For a long minute he looked at the pair, measuring them with his piercing obsidian eyes. When he finally opened his mouth to speak, a door slammed just down the hallway from them, and a rush of voices bounced off the stone walls of the corridor. Ridley breathed a sigh of relief for the momentary lapse in tension. With a huff, Snape dronned, “Get out of my sight.”

The pair were quick to move, no more content to bask in the Potions Master’s turbulent atmosphere than they were to be hung their toes in Filch’s office. Freedom was a sweet feeling, for all three seconds of it.

“Not you, Clarke.”

Calvyn didn’t even bother to wave her off, too desperate to escape Snape’s wrath. Ridley glared at the traitor’s back as he retreated into the safety of the inner castle. Taking a steadying breath, she turned to face the livid Potions Master.

With a curl of his lip, Snape whipped around on his heel and set off for the dungeons at a pace that had Ridley winded as she tried to keep up. This was beginning to feel too familiar to her.

The walk to the dungeons was mercifully quick, the staircases just where they needed them and stationary; the castle seemed to have sensed the Potions Master’s silent fury. Descending into the cool, dim depths of the dungeon, Ridley felt just a bit better. This was home soil for her.

As the pair reached Snape’s office, the professor threw open the door and strode into the room without so much as a glance behind him to make sure his victim was still there. Ridley followed carefully and came to a halt in front of the Potions Master’s sturdy, oak desk. There was a certain organized chaos to it, littered with notebooks and parchments in haphazard piles.

Across from her, Snape sunk into his seat, the worn leather creaking, and with steepled fingers he observed her. She felt like a bird in a cage, vulnerable to his prying gaze and with nowhere to go. Taking a deep breath, Ridley thought to herself, Don’t be ridiculous. If he can look at you like some kind of experiment, then why shouldn’t you do the same. Gathering her wits, she decided to do just that. With narrowed, calculating eyes, she let her gaze roam over her professor’s face and tried to decode the enigmatic man in front of her. No longer did he seem to be trying to contain a storm within him, but rather seemed resigned to disappointment. Ridley’s stomach twisted. As frightening as an angry Snape could be, his disappointment ate at her.

As she sat in regretful silence, she tried to guess how he would break her. Would he shake his head and give up? Would he tell her that he thought her capable of so much more? Whatever she thought he might tell her, Ridley could say that she had never been so thoroughly thrown as when her Head of House, pinching the bridge of his nose, finally opened his mouth to address her.

I am not fucking feral ?”

Chapter Text

I am not fucking feral ?”

Ridley could only imagine what she looked like as the Potions Master parroted her earlier outburst, moving his pale fingers away from the bridge of his nose to steeple them in front of his mouth. An uninvited image of herself in that moment played in her mind, wide blue eyes and gaping jaw just as pathetic as she’d expected them to look. He pinned her with an exasperated stare, the dark half circles under his eyes and heaviness of his hooded lids screaming at her that he didn’t have time to deal with the misdeeds of unruly students.

“I hardly thought I could scandalize you, Clarke,” he admonished venomously, “especially not with your own words.”

Ridley’s jaw snapped shut, almost painfully so. Shifting in her seat, she crossed her arms across her chest and muttered, “Well I’m not—um—feral...”

“You could have fooled me,” Snape hissed, slamming his hands flat on the desk and leaning forward in his seat. Ridley winced. “Or do you think it’s perfectly civil or intelligent in the slightest , to attack your peers because they said something you didn’t like—in broad daylight nonetheless?” There was an obvious tension in the small space of the professor’s office, a cool thickness in the atmosphere that usually would have had Ridley’s stomach doings flips—in fact it had just a few moments ago—but a patronizing note in Snape’s voice was enough to spark her temper.

“You make it sound like we were arguing about Quidditch; like he wasn’t throwing insults at me when my back was turned!” She tried to sneer cooly, but she knew her clenched fists betrayed her frustration. “Maybe you forget that part where he drew his wand on me, as I was walking away ?”

Snape merely rolled his eyes, and Ridley couldn’t help but feel a bit surprised as he began to calm down; she’d thought she’d been rather cheekier than the fearsome teacher would tolerate. “He called you feral, Clarke,” he droned, tapping a pale slender flinger on the wooden desk impatiently, “and having seen you duel, I know that you are capable of disarming an adversary without injuring them.”

“He called me a feral bitch,” she corrected, holding up one petulant finger, which received a narrow eyed glare from the professor across from her. “And he fuc—he deserved it.”

Sighing, the Potions Master leaned back in his chair and rubbed a hand over his chin. “Not meaning any offense, Clarke,” he started cautiously, his dark brows lifting, “but I hardly think Mr. Collins has been the first to call you that.” Ridley merely shrugged, acknowledging the truth of the statement but not wanting to agree with him. Snape pursed his lips in thought, “And in all the years I’ve been your head of house, I’ve never known you to care about what anyone else says about you, much less be provoked to violence?”

Ridley merely hummed, the anger draining away and being replaced with dread as she sensed an unwelcome heart to heart on the horizon. “Yeah, that’s me. Sticks n’ Bones.”

“Stones.”

“Whatever.”

There was a steady beat of silence; a tentative ceasefire. Ridley uncrossed her arms and held her hands in her lap, searching for imaginary dirt under her fingernails. She could feel Snape’s pointed gaze on her and stifled the urge to wring her hands together. There was a question in his analysis of her, she knew that much. She didn’t know if she wanted to answer it.

“I’ve always cared what people think of me,” she admitted softly. “I cared a lot and I didn’t want people to know that.” Snape’s chair squeaked as he leaned toward her, just enough that she knew he was listening. His silence was a prompt to continue in itself.

Her hands were starting to shake, so she hid them in her robe sleeves, gripping the fabric tight like it was some kind of anchor. It wasn’t as though she would be telling him anything he didn’t already know. Most of the staff were aware of just how messed up she was, and Snape was undoubtedly the one most invested in her case.

“I used to try so hard to be nonchalant and just be un-bothered by everything, but thinking back, it was just so...exhausting. And—you know— after last year, everyone probably knows anyway...How much I care...” Ridley trailed off, finally facing Snape. His face was inscrutable; she envied his perfect mask of neutrality. And she hated it. “I guess I just don’t see the point in pretending otherwise anymore.” She took a deep breath, and faced her teacher with a weak smile.

“Gods above Clarke, I’m asking you to stop beating up your peers, not turn off your bloody feelings.”

“One moment of vulnerability,” Ridley rolled her eyes, now the exasperated party, “You couldn’t let me have that— just one.” Snape opened his mouth, probably to make some scathing or characteristically venomous reply, but Ridley cut him off, “Furthermore, I am not beating up my peers! I punched my ex-boyfriend in the face because he’s a pompous ass who has been harassing my friends and I since the start of term.” She could feel the heat in her cheeks as she finished; it never felt quite right talking to teachers about relationships with other students.

If Snape felt any discomfort, he didn’t let it show. Rather, he just sighed deeply and reached for his quill. Scratching down something on a nearby scrap of parchment, he simply droned, “Two weeks.”

Ridley was confused. Cocking her head to the side, she sputtered, “I beg your pardon?”

 

“Two fucking weeks,” Ridley announced, sinking to the ground with all the grace of a lame moose. She had laid her outer robe out on the grass like a makeshift blanket, and reclining back she rolled her sleeves up to her elbows. Tilting her face toward the sun, she soaked up every bit of warmth she could. The frigid, breezy autumn weather had taken a leave of absence, it seemed, as the sun beat down on Ridley and her friends. No wind teased her hair, nor did a single cloud float across the sky.

Beside her, Molly sat cross legged on a pouf she’d conjured, flipping through a mystery novel. “So he only gave you detention?” She queried, her whiskey brown eyes flicking up from the dog-eared pages. For someone who loved books so much, the Head Girl didn’t treat them very well.

“Did you miss the two weeks worth part?!” Ridley sneered, plucking a handful of grass out of the ground and tossing it at her friend spitefully.

Molly scoffed, “Well it’s a hell of a lot less than you deserve. You’re lucky you weren’t expelled.”

Ridley shot her a glare, but there was no heat behind it. She supposed her friend was right, there were much worse things than detention with Snape; the first thing that came to mind being detention with Professor Frey. She nearly gagged at the thought.

A sudden squeal caught Ridley and Molly’s attention, and they looked to the tree in front of them, where Calvyn and Brinn were duelling in the shade. A victorious whoop came from Calvyn, who was slapped on the back by a chortling Marcus. Brinn was less enthusiastic about the duel’s outcome, rubbing the exposed skin of her left shoulder.

“Neering, you ass,” she hissed, nursing the blooming red sting on her shoulder, “I’m sensitive.”

“Don’t I know it,” Calvyn laughed, not sympathetic in the slightest. Brinn glared at him, casting a cooling charm on the sting under her breath and stalking off to take a seat on the ground. Marcus shot Calvyn a mischievous grin and followed after her like a puppy, plopping down beside her and leaning against the tree trunk. As Brinn’s face lit up, Molly huffed.

“Can no one beat the legendary Calvyn Neering?!” boasted Calvyn, both hands in the air as though he were asking the gods themselves.

“Who’s Calvyn Neering?” Ridley snorted as she tried to read Molly’s book over her shoulder. The Head Girl caught her peering at her novel and snapped it shut, glaring at Ridley half-heartedly. Ridley simply stuck her tongue out at her.

“What’s this?” Calvyn cried, dropping his arms and stalking toward the girls. “Does someone dispute my famed skill? Stand up, naysayer, and face me like a man!”

“I would prefer not to,” Ridley replied simply, looking up at her thespian friend with smug defiance.

“On your feet, Bartleby!”

“Go on, Rid,” Molly smirked from atop her pouf, “show us what Snape’s taught you so far.” There was little more that she could do but roll her eyes, especially when the rest of the group were beaming at her in their anticipation.

“So what’s the wager, Neering?” She sighed boredly, pushing herself to her feet. Calvyn smirked as she padded toward him across the grass, twirling his wand between nimble fingers.

“If I win, you write my next Charms essay” he replied smugly, though Ridley couldn’t help but shake her head at his disappointing lack of creativity.

“Alright, fine,” Ridley sighed crossing her arms. She could feel her lips turning up into a devious smirk as she continued, “But if I win, I get to read your mail for a month.”

His eyes narrowed and Ridley could almost see the thoughts racing behind his eyes. “No deal.”

“Oh, come on!” Ridley groaned, “Are you that scared I’ll win?”

Calvyn merely shook his head, and turned as if to walk away. That bastard . “Fine,” Ridley grumbled, wrinkling her nose, “You can take my next cleaning shift in the fieldhouse.”

“Much better,” Calvyn beamed, taking a few steps forward and reaching out a hand. Ridley sighed in defeat, and clasped his proffered limb, shaking on it. After releasing her hand, Calvyn bounded back so that there were a good handful of yards between them. With a flourish, the boy bent at the waist in a fluid bow—ever the dramatic—while Ridley merely tipped her head forward lazily.

Assuming a defensive stance, she considered the boy, who was currently blowing kisses to a passing group of giggling fourth year Ravenclaws. The moment they were out of sight, however, his eyes were back on Ridley and shone with an intelligence that he so often made an effort to hide. Calvyn Neering was a skilled dueller, Ridley couldn’t pretend otherwise. The pair had always been pretty evenly matched; Calvyn seemingly having been born pre-programed with a plethora of curses and hexes that Ridley had only ever read about. If Ridley won a duel, she figured it was merely due to her quicker reflexes, and a creativity that kept her opponents on their toes. Usually that was enough.

“Scared, Clarke?” the boy taunted, his eyes flashing playfully. Ridley ignored him, quickly eyeing the canopy above them, heavy with dying leaves; the corner of her mouth quirked up.

Absentmindedly, she waved off an incoming stunner, and then quickly dodged a cheeky little jinx of Calvyn’s own invention (picture a shower of white glue and seven glitter bombs—the extra fine stuff).

Ridley groaned, quickly dusting off a patch of rainbow glitter that had landed on her shoulder, to the delight of her opponent. Shaking her head, she simply pointed her wand at the boy and cried, “ Confringo! ” Calvyn’s eyes lit up in alarm—they didn’t often use especially damaging spells against one another in duels like these—and rushed to shield himself.

In the end it wasn’t worth the effort, as the curse went high and exploded along a low hanging branch above him. A shower of yellow and orange leaves tumbled down from the sky, rustling against each other and crunching under Calvyn’s feet as he tried to move out of the stream. “And that’s why she’s seeker everyone, not chaser,” she could hear Calvyn snort from the other side of the shower, “because she can’t aim for shi—” His proclamation ended with a sudden yelp as Ridley’s inverbal knockback jinx hit its mark, and he skidded along the grass on his bottom.

Behind her Marcus erupted into a fit of roaring laughter, Brinn giggling along with him. With a victorious smirk, Ridley turned to her friends and was happy to see that even Molly was sniggering shamelessly, her book abandoned on the ground beside her. Feeling a little smug, she curtsied to her small audience, chuckling as Brinn shouted, “Bravo!”

“So Snape taught you the blasting curse? No—wait—the knockback jinx?!” Marcus sputtered, his eyebrows drawn together in confusion, “I thought we’d learned all that in, like, fourth year?”

Molly groaned as she rubbed at her temples, the picture perfect image of exasperation. “He didn’t teach her the spells, Marcus. He’s been teaching her to use her environment to her advantage,” she turned her stern gaze to Ridley, who’s eyes immediately widened, “ Right?

“Um,” Ridley stumbled over her words, not overly keen on incurring the legendary wrath of the Head Girl. “Well—yeah, I suppose?”

Molly’s attention whipped back to Marcus, who was completely unfazed by her chilly glare. Rather, he was beaming, “Well, that’s pretty neat!”

“HEY!” came a shout from behind Ridley. Spinning around, she watched a disoriented Calvyn get to his feet, hair a mess of leaves and robes askew on his shoulders. Pointing his wand at her accusingly, he shouted, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings!”

“MR.NEERING!” came another shrill voice. Making her way up from the greenhouses, Professor Sprout had really worked herself into a huff. As she made her way past the group she hollered, “I KNOW I DON’T SEE YOU DUELLING ON SCHOOL GROUNDS!”

Molly was the first to snicker, snapping her book shut with a soft thud and vanishing her pouf. It dissolved into the air behind her as she made to walk away, the rest of the group getting to their feet to join her. As she passed a dumbstruck Calvyn, she placed a hand on his shoulder that belied her teasing smirk. Softly she hummed, “And what a beautiful voice the fat lady has.”



The next few weeks passed by in a pleasant blur; Ridley’s two weeks of detention were no more heinous than she had expected them to be, but involved a lot more dirty cauldrons than she would have preferred. Her defense sessions almost made up for it, however, as she and the Potions Master moved beyond their diagnostic duells, and started to practise a handful of complicated charms and counter curses. Most sessions ended with a playful duel regardless, but they were much less formal than their first few classes. She, and most of her peers for that matter, had settled into their classes and fell back into their school year routines. The last breaths of summer had vanished, and the sunny days that Ridley had so cherished at the beginning of term had become few and far inbetween. When the wind howled at night Ridley often caught herself mentally thanking the fifth year Calvyn for the thick wooly socks he’d gifted her for Christmas two years ago; a charms genius in disguise, the boy had charmed the socks to always keep her feet toasty warm.

The only thing more bitter than the autumn weather, was the rivalry between Quidditch teams. With the first game of the season a mere week away, tensions were running high, especially between the Slytherin and Ravenclaw houses. It was a curious match, the cunning and resourceful against the quick witted. Ridley would admit to having underestimated the ferocity of the Ravenclaws in the past, but after enduring the trials and tribulations of the weeks leading up to that first quidditch match of the year, she would never make that mistake again. Sure, she’d faced the aggression of Branson Collins—a Ravenclaw through and through—but she’d simply chalked that up to him being an ass-hat. She’d never had any real problems with that house before, no one did. If one were to believe the passionate sermons of the legendary wizard preacher, Calvyn Neering, the proud intellectuals of Ravenclaw were interested in only three things; how smart they were, how much smarter they were than everyone else, and getting smarter than the person they were five minutes ago. After witnessing the fervor and precision with which said house completely ruined Ridley’s week, however, she would have to disagree. That sort of commitment required a definite personal interest, and she had a feeling that a certain Ravenclaw Head Boy with a superiority complex was behind it.

It started out as relatively harmless pranks—dungbombs tossed into the prefects’ bathroom and hiccuping jinxes cast during class presentations—things that Ridley and Calvyn thought were absolutely hilarious in third year. But the Slytherin’s didn’t take kindly to being the butt of a schoolwide joke, and pretty soon the Hospital wing was filling up with battered and bruised students of all houses. Ridley dared not leave the common room without her wand in hand, having already been accosted by an assortment of Ravenclaw underclassmen. Under her bed, she’d hidden her most prized possession, her broomstick. Concealed with disillusion charms and more wards than you can count on one hand, the Wind Whistler 7 Ridley had received as a Christmas present in fifth year was undoubtedly safe from the machinations of Hogwarts’ vengeful Quidditch fans. If only she could say the same for the members of her team.

“No, no, no!” Ridley groaned, rocking back on her broomstick and tugging at her hair with both hands, “Davis, you have to pass to Kempsford first, then you shoot after she passes it back to you!”

Davis looked at her blankly, already holding another quaffle in his hand. Tossing it up in the air and catching it again he reasoned, “But why would I do that, when I could just shoot from here?” He punctuated his argument with a toss of the quaffle towards the middle hoop, a good ten yards away. The red ball soared and the shot looked promising, before it went a little too wide and pegged the side of the hoop, landing in the sand below with a hollow thud.

“Merlin’s tits,” Ridley whined, rubbing at her temples; it had been a long day. “That’s it, practise is over.”

Five teenagers sighed with relief, and sped towards the ground, desperate for showers and much needed sleep. Ridley was too stressed to feel relief at the prospect of a steaming shower and soft bed; her left-wing chaser couldn’t understand the simplest of drills, the other two refused to speak to each other, the newest beater was in the hospital wing with a nasty case of Mumblemumps, and her other beater was Calvyn—no explanation needed there.

Speaking of Calvyn, “Hey, Neering!” Ridley shouted at the retreating back of the boy as he tried to sneak his way back to the castle, “Has someone forgot that they took my cleaning shift?”

With a groan, the boy sluggishly turned around, head lolling to the side, “I didn’t realize that was tonight. Can’t it wait til tomorrow?”

“Hooch will have my head if it doesn’t get done tonight, and I have to find a new beater for next week’s match,” she tutted, not the slightest bit sympathetic for the boy who’d repeatedly called her a Pansy-Ass all through practise, “So hop to it!” Reaching into an inner pocket in her quidditch robes, she pulled out the key to the fieldhouse and flung it at her friend with a smirk, “Happy trails!”

As she walked away from the pitch, she could hear Calvyn grumbling and the rattling of vexed bludgers in their crate. With a huff she pulled her hair out of her face, piling the springy brown curls into a bun atop her head and hoisted her broomstick over her shoulder. Gods above, a hot bath would be nice right now. Her robes were sticking to her clammy skin, and her whole body was aching.

The sun had well set by the end of practise, and the stars were finally starting to peek out from the darkness. A halfmoon guided her way back to the castle, illuminating the grounds in a faint silvery light. The grass was already wet with dew, dampening her feet as the moisture seeped in through her trainers and the wind had started to pick up, whistling through the trees and nipping at her cheeks. She flexed her bare hands, trying to get some blood flowing through her chilled fingers. She should have brought those gloves she’d nicked from the fieldhouse a few weeks back.

Wait —Ridley came to a slow stop, narrowing her eyes at her pale hands and frankly grubby looking fingernails— I did bring those gloves! She could remember grabbing them off of her cluttered bedside table before heading out for practise, and then setting them down on a trunk in the fieldhouse so she could pry open the latch on the bludger case with her fingernails. She must have forgotten to pick them back up after. Chewing her lip, she looked back at the fieldhouse, a small stone building off to the side of the quidditch pitch, then longingly to the castle, where she could sit in front of the fire in the common room while she drafted her list of potential beaters. Every fibre of her being wanted to sink into her favourite green velvet armchair and wash her hands of the mess that was tonight’s practise, but those gloves were a rare steal around here, and she’d left her warmest pair at home. The last thing she wanted to do was send an owl asking her mother to send her irresponsible and scatterbrained daughter a measly pair of gloves. The effort she’d use trying to remain civil with the woman who birthed her could be put to a million better uses—such as taunting Calvyn Neering.

Spinning on her heel, Ridley purposefully strode back to the fieldhouse. She’d get to the  common room ten minutes later than she’d wanted to, but so what. She had only got a quarter of the way back to the castle, so it didn’t take long for her to backtrack, and within minutes she’d sidled up to the wooden door of the fieldhouse.

In the room beyond she could hear a muffled string of curses that made Ridley smile. As she pushed open the door with a creak, she caught sight of Calvyn dragging the bludgers’ case across the uneven wooden floor by one handle. At the sound of the door opening, his head whipped up, his eyes wide in alarm. Recognizing her, he merely groaned, straightening up and arching his back with a pop, “Oh it’s just you.”

Ridley smirked, “Just me. You looked a little startled, there.”

“I thought one of my inferiors saw me partaking in manual labour, my godly reputation was on the line” he said boredly, crossing his arms and staring at her with a petulance Ridley could only dream of conveying. She wanted to roll her eyes and remind him of how everyone their age remembered him screaming as ran around the grounds with a puffskein latched onto his nose back in second year—she’d never heard of a god screeching.

Instead she deadpanned, “Nice to know you don’t consider me your inferior.”

“Everyone is my inferior.”

That did make her roll her eyes.

“So did you come to give me a hand,” Calvyn asked hopefully, as Ridley moved across the threshold, and padded over to the large storage cupboard where the school quidditch equipment was kept. On a dusty old wooden trunk beside it, she spotted her newly acquired leather gloves and plucked them up. Waving the gloves at Calvyn, she merely replied, “Nope, just grabbing these.”

Calvyn groaned, and half-heartedly kicked the wooden crate that held the bludgers. Incensed, the bludgers inside sprang awake and trembled in their box. Ridley sighed, “There really isn’t that much to do,” stuffing the gloves in her pocket, she pointed to a disorderly rack of Cleansweeps on the far wall. “Just straighten out the school brooms and make sure the bludgers and quaffles go back in the cupboard.” Waltzing past the grumbling boy with her prize in hand, Ridley finally let herself look forward to a fireside seat in the common room.

“But it won’t open,” Calvyn whined, stomping over to the cupboard and jiggling the handle in demonstration, “I’ll just leave them in front of the door.”

“No,” Ridley shook her head, “Hooch will throw a fit if they aren’t put away. You just have to wiggle the handle from side to side a bit.”

Calvyn’s face screwed up, “Everyone at this school is a wizard, why can’t anyone fix a bloody door?”

“Merlin’s tits!” Ridley shouted, patience finally wearing thin. A nice squishy chair by the fireplace was calling her name, and this boy she called a friend couldn’t open a damn door. “Just open it!”

Grabbing the door handle and giving it a wiggle, Calvyn snorted, “For someone who talks about tits so much, I’m starting to wonder—” An explosion of glittering pink smoke burst from behind the door as it swung open. The pair yelped in surprise, and Ridley watched in shocked awe as the cloud enveloped Calvyn, obscuring his form so that she could only see his trainer clad feet. The cloud had an iridescent shift to it; pink as Ridley looked at it head on, but a pearly white as she moved her head.  After a moment of curious silence from Ridley, and a haggard coughing fit from Calvyn, the smoke began to dissolve with a faint sizzling sound. Humming in thought, she watched the shifting mist disappear, leaving her baffled friend in its wake. As the last particles winked out of existence, she queried, “Hey, are you alright?”

Calvyn blinked, and then rubbed at his eyes, “I—Well—I think I’m okay.”

He stared at her, his gaze intense and body unmoving. His stillness made her uncomfortable, Ridley was used to seeing the boy fidgeting or fixing his hair or shaking with laughter. This boy in front of her was not the Calvyn she knew. His blonde eyebrows drew together as if he were confused and he rubbed at his eyes again with a groan.

Taking a tentative step forward, Ridley asked gently, “Calvyn, are you sure you’re okay?”

With a deep breath, Calvyn ran a hand through his hair and let his shoulders relax, “Yeah, I’m good.” There was an easy smile on his face, and he was holding himself in the same arrogant manner as he usually did. Ridley would have been relieved, if it weren’t for the sparkle in his eyes.

She took another step closer, this time examining him with a critical gaze. She took him in from his coiffed hair to muddied shoes. Something wasn’t right with this picture.

“Oh, Ridley,” he cooed, reaching for her right hand. Lacing their fingers together, he chirped, “you’re so adorable when you’re suspicious.”

She wrinkled her nose in disgust, “What the fu—”

The words froze in her throat as she felt Calvyn’s other hand rest itself on the back of her neck, his fingers threading themselves in the hair at the nape of her neck. Oh Gods, don’t let this be happening. Like a deer in headlights, Ridley was powerless to do anything as she watched one of her best friends swoop in, and before she knew it she was kissing Calvyn Neering.

No, Calvyn Neering was kissing her!

Chapter Text

Severus Snape didn’t often get nights off. Between marking assignments, consoling pre-teen Slytherins, nightly patrols and research, a moment to sit down and let the mind wander was very scarce indeed. Even in idle moments between classes, staff meetings and meals, his mind was racing with lesson plans and potions that needed brewing; anything and everything he could think of, just to keep his thoughts away from the dark. If he could sleep at night, he’d struggle to find the time for it.

It was a blessing and a curse to be so consumed by the overwhelming tasks of his daily life; sure his waking thoughts rarely had the chance to turn to his less than shining past, but the stress was sure to kill him eventually. He’d been sleeping an average of three hours a night since the start of term, and even those hours were spent tossing, and waking every hour. The man that looked back at him in the mirror in the early mornings was becoming gaunt—at least more so than usual— with dark under eyes and protruding cheekbones. He could almost understand the student body’s speculation as to whether he was indeed a vampire. Eating had become a chore between his almost nonexistent appetite and a pesky ulcer that survived every potion he’d thrown at it.

His private lessons with Ridley Clarke had surely added a good helping of stress to his ever growing workload, but he couldn’t bring himself to regret taking on the task. The girl was curious and eager to learn, despite a well crafted mask of nonchalance she’d formed over her years as a student. She had always been clever, he would admit, turning in carefully worded essays with eloquent and engaging theses, and preparing adequate if not perfect potions in class. It was a subtle cleverness, a confidence that she didn’t feel compelled to parade in front of her peers—rather it seemed she aimed to do the opposite—and he wondered if her abilities were truly a secret between herself and her teachers. He’d been happy enough to watch her grow from a distance, humble in every task other than quidditch where everyone could witness a strategic and technical skill that was frankly rare to see in a witch of her age. But now, the mask she’d perfected as he watched her grow up had started to crack, and a passion shone through that burned brighter than any flame he’d seen. At first he’d reckoned that the defense sessions she seeked were a distraction, just as they had been for him. He didn’t want to think about the war, and surely she wanted to distance herself from the events of last year. His motives for teaching her had been selfish in reality, he needed an escape and he was drunk on the pride that Dumbledore finally allowed him to teach a subject that he’d been denied time and time again. Maybe she had been feeling selfish as well? They would mutually waste each other’s time for the sake of ignoring their problems in as unhealthy way as they possibly could.

But they weren’t wasting each other’s time, were they? Clarke hurtled every obstacle he threw at her, and overcame every challenge with glee. Sure, there was no shortage of swearing and frustration involved in their lessons, but the satisfied grins that she would shoot at him shone with a brightness that had Severus enthralled. He wanted to challenge her, push her past her boundaries and watch her grow. Every countercurse he’d taught her was perfected in a matter of hours, and they were quickly in danger of surpassing the requirements of the NEWT curriculum. Within weeks they’d blasted through a collection of spells and theory that would take almost a year to teach to a class of thirty. Soon he could call an end to their sessions, sign off his approval on her brief but fruitful education in Defense Against the Dark Arts, and hope she’d be able to recall their lessons come exam season.

Or he could keep going; teach her practices that he’d only learned from experience and an unhealthy amount of time spent in the Hogwarts Library as a student.  She would have a more advanced knowledge of defensive spellwork than a good handful of adult witches.

But she is an adult witch, sneered a voice in the back of his mind. His brow furrowed, as his cynical subconscious pulled him out of his musings. In his right hand he grasped a glass tumbler holding two fingers of whiskey—Ogden's Old, of course—while his left propped open a hefty tome in his lap. The glow of a crackling fire bathed his sitting room in warm light, and the plush velvet wingback chair combined with the cozy embrace of the fire’s heat along his clothed legs afforded him a sense of comfort he rarely sought out. Ignoring the book as he had for the past couple of minutes, he swirled the amber liquid around in the tumbler, upsetting his bleak reflection on its surface. Ridley Clarke was a woman grown, he thought to himself before taking a pensive sip of whiskey, she had been an adult by wizard standards since the January of that year, nearly ten months ago. Severus hummed and licked the last bit of whiskey off his lips. Why did that seem so relevant just then?

An aggressive hammering on his office door, just a room away, jarred him out of his meager few moments of comfort. Startled, he sloshed a splash of whiskey onto his lap, narrowly avoiding the open pages of his book. With a snarl, he set the glass down on the table next to him with perhaps a little force than was necessary, and dropped the book onto the seat of the armchair. Stalking out of his personal sitting room, he crossed the threshold of his office and hastily warded off his quarters. The open doorway no longer visible, he stomped over to the office door, nimbly buttoning closed the top fastenings of his shirt. He seldom hoped for the maiming or serious emotional trauma of the students in his house, but truly he thought that was the only justification he could tolerate for encroaching on his time that night.

Withering glare already in place, he whipped open the wooden door which creaked in almighty protest, and opened his mouth to berate his unfortunate visitors.

“Fix him!”

Severus’s jaw snapped shut at the impudent greeting, casting his critical gaze up and down the couple that he least expected to be at his door. A red cheeked Ridley Clarke was standing in front of him in her quidditch robes, jaw clenched and eyes steeled with determination. Her wild brown curls seemed to have been persuaded into a messy bun atop her head, but for a few rebellious tendrils that hung about her face and the nape of her neck. Hysterically wide blue eyes looked even more vibrant in colour against the redness in her cheeks and her stark, thick eyebrows were furrowed almost comically. If she were a cartoon character, she would have steam pouring out of her ears. Severus’ eyes flashed to her left hand, where she held the shaft of her broomstick in a white knuckled grip, and then over to her other hand which was encased by the larger, healthily tanned hand of Calvyn Neering.  

“I told you, I’m totally fine, babe,” the boy looked drunk as he whined, releasing Clarke’s hand and moving to wrap his arm around her shoulders. Wrinkling her upturned and freckle dusted nose, she caught his forearm before it reached her and pushed it back down to his side. She looked as though she wanted to whack him with her broomstick.

“Please?!” She cried desperately, holding the taller blonde boy at an arm’s length. A goofy smile had stretched across his lips, and his eyes looked upon Clarke adoringly.

Severus was nearly speechless. “Well,” he pondered the strange pair in front of him, too confused to feel any of the anger that scorched through his veins just moments ago, “I suppose you two had better step inside.”

Clarke’s shoulders relaxed in relief, and Severus stepped out of the doorway as she dragged the lovesick boy to the chair before his desk. Unceremoniously, she pushed Neering into his seat and stepped back with her arms crossed over her chest. “I love a girl that’s not afraid to push a guy around,” Neering sang with fluttering eyelashes.

Clarke’s face screwed up in disgust and she whined, “Professor!”

Severus pinched the bridge of his nose, starting to get over the shock and becoming increasingly annoyed by the present situation. “Whatever it is you’re doing, Clarke, that thing with your voice...making words...” He groaned, drawing his wand from his sleeve and approaching the seated boy.

Ridley’s eyebrows furrowed, and she looked at him with obvious suspicion, “You mean talking?”

“Yes, that,” he waved her off, taking her place beside Neering, “Stop it.” He could almost hear her roll her eyes as she stalked off to look at one of his bookcases. For reasons unknown to him, the girl was uncommonly curious about the jarred specimens he kept on the uppermost shelves.

Muttering lumos , he reached for Neering’s face and shone his illuminated wand into each of his eyes. Neering winced at first, but the sight of the irritated Potions Master with his wand pointed at his face—probably his greatest asset—seemed to be enough to quell any fight or flight responses. He simply froze.

“He doesn’t have a concussion, Professor, believe me it would take a lot more than a knock to the head to make any guy interested in me,” she deadpanned, joining the pair once again. “He opened a cupboard in the fieldhouse and this huge puff of smoke came out. I think he breathed a fair bit of it in.”

Severus dropped his wand and straightened up with a sigh. “Some sort of love potion then, I expect.” He moved to his desk and leaned against it, facing Clarke with what he was sure was a mischievous glint in his eye. He wanted to push her. “So what is there to do about it?”

Clarke blinked. Dropping her arms from her chest she quickly looked to Severus, then to Neering, and back to Severus again. “I don’t know, that’s why I brought him to you?”

“Oh surely you paid attention in fifth year, this is elementary,” he sneered. “You’ve studied love potions; you know how they work and what they’re made of. Look at the symptoms, think about what that smoke looked like—what it smelled like!”

Clarke was still looking at him slightly slack jawed, and he questioned whether this was the same girl that had nearly conjured a corporeal patronus in their last defense session. Crossing his arms over his chest he snarled, “Use your head, girl! If you can figure out what the potion is, then I’ll give you the antidote. Or maybe you’d like to spend a week with Neering pawing at you and reciting sonnets in the courtyard.”

His student glared at him, lips thin in frustration. He almost expected her to tell him to piss off, but instead she turned to face Neering, who had been watching the exchange in happy confusion. Tapping her bottom lip with her index finger she reasoned aloud, “It was a vapour, so it must have a pretty high temperature threshold; it didn’t light aflame or bake into a solid as a lot of love potions would have.”

Severus nodded her along as her eyes flicked up to his inquiringly. Chewing her bottom lip, she began to pace the length of the office, “It looked sort of iridescent, pink but with a pearly sheen to it; sort of like how a Devotion Draught looks after you drop in the fairy wings.”

Humming in agreement, Severus queried, “And what did it smell like?”

Halting in her pacing, Clarke closed her eyes and tilted her face just the slightest bit upward. “It smelt really floral, but I guess a lot of love potions do. There was a definite lavender scent, and maybe rose oil....and mint?” Eyebrows furrowed, she tried to gather her wits about her. Severus could see the thoughts racing behind her eyes, and when they finally stuck on one answer, he couldn’t help but smirk. “Catnip!”

There it was, that grin that had him hooked from their first lesson weeks ago. It lit up her whole face, and was simply infectious. He couldn’t help but chortle when realization dawned upon her and she cried, “Some bastard is targeting my team with Miss Augustine’s Tenderness Tonic for Terrible Tomcats?!”

“I don’t expect it was Miss Augustine’s brand, but plenty of variations exist. Witches and wizards have been trying to make their unruly cats tolerate them for hundreds of years,” he lectured her, straightening up and padding over to his private stores. From inside the narrow but long closet he searched the shelves for the right vial and continued, “The amount of product that Neering inhaled was more than enough to foster an intense infatuation, but would surely kill anything as small as a cat. For that reason the use of the Tenderness Tonic largely fell out of use in the 1840’s,” he grunted as he stretched to reach the vial he was looking for, dusty and almost invisible at the back of the shelf. Antidote in hand, he walked back into the office where Clarke was listening to him raptly, and dusted off the old glass bottle, “A great many wizard families were said to have loved their pets to death.”

Clarke gave him a small smile, eyeing the vial curiously. It held a translucent, emerald liquid and left a green film on the glass as it sloshed around. Looking up at him from under her eyelashes, she asked, “Why is he infatuated with me specifically? I don’t see him trying to jump you?”

Severus sighed and rubbed at his temple with his free hand, exasperated by her crassness, “Because you were the first person he saw after he was dosed with it; he imprinted on you, if you will.”

“Like a baby bird?” she questioned, ignoring the ire in his voice completely.

“Sure, like a baby bird,” he droned, shooing her away from his charge and standing in front of the boy. “Drink this, quickly now.”

Neering looked at the antidote dubiously, shooting a nervous glance at his friend. Even with his back turned to her, Severus knew Clarke was glaring at the boy. With an exaggerated gulp, Neering reached a reluctant hand forward and wrapped it around the neck of the bottle. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes, brought the bottle to his lips and threw it back. Within a good couple of swallows he’d emptied the bottle and had a good old fashioned coughing fit.

“Merlin’s pants,” he rasped handing the bottle back to Severus who looked on in vague interest, “Do you have a chase for that or what?”

“You still can’t handle shots,” Clarke said passively, wincing when Severus shot her a glare. The girl drank like a mountain troll, and rarely thought twice before letting her teachers know that. If she were as dedicated to her studies as she was to self medicating with firewhiskey, Severus thought there would be no limit to what she could do.

“How do you feel?” the girl queried, taking a tentative step towards her friend. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously, “No burning desire to snog me?”

Neering’s face paled, and his eyes widened as realization crashed over him like a tidal wave. Running a shaking hand through his pale hair, he groaned, “Oh no, I kissed you didn’t I?”

“You sure did!” Clarke sang, almost mockingly. “With no small amount of enthusiasm, I might add.” Crossing her arms over her chest, Clarke was looking more smug than ever, a satisfied smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.

Neering on the other hand, was looking more and more nauseated. Frantically, the boy looked about the room before he set his sights on a rubbish bin at the end of Severus’ desk and snatched it. Don’t you dare, Severus thought to himself as he glared at the swaying boy. No such luck.

With a great wretch, Neering hurled his face forward and proceeded to empty his supper into Severus Snape’s rubbish bin. The wet splatter didn’t seem to repulse his friend, however, who’s smirk had slid clean off her face. Eyes narrowed at the heaving boy, she hissed, “Well I didn’t exactly enjoy myself either, but I wouldn’t have thought I was worth hurling over!”

Severus had a feeling the girl was about to hit her sickened friend, and reached for her just as she moved toward him. Grasping her shoulders assertively, he steered her away from the boy, “Gods above, Clarke. It’s just a side effect.”

Ridley narrowed her eyes, peeking around Severus who stood as a solid barrier between the pair. “Those are some nasty side effects for a love potion antidote.” he turned his head to observe the afflicted boy; he’d paled considerably and was shivering in his chair.

Severus was suddenly feeling much too tired to deal with the situation. “It’s not from the antidote, it’s the tenderness tonic. It’s quite addictive.”

Clarke still looked dubious, and slightly confused.

“He’s going through a withdrawal of sorts. Surely you know how that feels.”

Her eyes narrowed and her upper lip tensed as if to curl, “No, actually I don’t!” Severus groaned internally, all too familiar with that tone of hers.

“I don’t understand why you’re always implying I’m some sort of out of control addict? So what if I drink a little bit every now and then? I’m an adult and it’s not as though I’m not interrupting anyone else’s learning. I’m not even really messing up my own learning, I mean, all of my work gets done well and on time, and I hardly ever miss—”

“Clarke!” barked Severus, making the rambling girl jolt out of her growingly hysterical rambling. She blinked, face cleared of emotion but for the stubborn dip of the corner of her mouth. He watched her upper lip curl once more as he began, in a voice that even he thought overly patronizing, “I quite frankly couldn't care less about your drinking, or your recreational drug use, or any other activity you engage in outside of school hours and out of my line of vision. I am well aware that you are an adult and knowing that, I expect you to understand that while the consequences of your actions fall entirely upon your shoulders, they may in fact also reflect poorly upon your house and peers. Thus you have a duty to conduct yourself with a certain measure of decorum. Do I make myself clear?”

The girl bit her lip and narrowed her eyes; Severus could nearly see the thoughts running through her head as she grasped for the words she needed. Wrinkling her nose, she merely claimed defensively, and entirely missing the point, “I have never taken drugs!” Vehemently she added, “Ever.”

Something ugly was trying to force itself out of Severus’s throat—something blistering like smoldering coal, repugnant and vile as poison. He barely noticed as Clarke shrunk away, confused as to how she had so suddenly incurred the potent wrath of the Potions Master. Severus himself couldn’t pinpoint himself what it was about her that set his temper aflame, but still he towered over her and scowled coldly.

Clarke was a liar, no doubt about that. He was as well. But it was beyond offensive, Severus thought, for this girl that he had defended and advised through the years—had used his own precious time to teach defensive magic—to so blatantly lie straight to his face. Him —the one that had found her, for Merlin’s sake!

Severus’s jaw was set, and it took all his strength to keep it clenched shut when all he wanted was to verbally eviscerate her. It would have been all too easy to remind her of just how intimately he was aware of her substance abuse—how well he knew of what it had almost cost her. Did she know how much that had cost him?

“Get out.”

The girl blanched, “What?”

“I have righted Neering as you demanded so ardently, and seeing as I have yet to find a bottled cure to general ineptitude, there is nothing more I can do for either of you and thus must insist the pair of you go back to your dormitories. I will not hear another word from you tonight other than, Thank you and Good evening, sir .” He snarled, punctuating his demand with a slash of his wand through the air. Behind them the door to the office flew open and hit the wall with a slam. The racket made Clarke jump, but that was quickly countered by the carefully neutral mask she’d affected. Quietly, she ushered a very disoriented Neering out of his seat and towards the door.

As she made to pass Severus, eyes forward and Neering being dragged alongside her, she intoned, “Thank you, and Good evening, sir.” She was close enough that Severus could just barely catch the smell of lavender on her as she breezed by him. He held himself very still, not daring move until he heard the soft click of the door latching shut, Clarke evidently taking more care with the old thing.

Alone again, he pinched the bridge of his nose and thought to himself that this was precisely the reason that Severus Snape didn’t often get nights off.