"It's so bloody hot here," the boy droned dramatically, falling onto his friend's bed with a thud. He threw his hand over his forehead and let his sleeve soak up the thick layer of sweat covering his skin before looking over at the girl packing. She glanced over at him with one corner of her mouth turned upwards in a small smirk but did not cease her packing.
She wasn't going to play the Devil's Advocate to the boy and say that it wasn't hot, although she was very tempted to. She loved crawling under his skin. However, there was no denying that it was, in fact, bloody hot. She'd go as far to say it was morbidly hot. The television in the background said so, at least.
"Temperatures will continue to rise today, reaching the high 30s Celsius," the news anchor sighed miserably. Jo sighed along with her, throwing the last bit of her robes down in defeat. "So please remember to cover up and stay cool today, folks."
The television went off a mechanical buzz. Jo looked over at Anthony who was holding the remote in a death grip. If it weren't for how tight his fingers were locked around the plastic she was almost certain the sweat would've sent the remote flying.
The heat had been just as terrible for the past week. It always got unbearably hot that time of year. According to the almanac, it would be even worse next summer. The city was in as much of a frenzy as they could be without having a heat stroke. Water was being used relentlessly, so much that one might think London was going through a drought. There were people being rushed to the hospitals for overheating. Air conditioners were going out. Some areas even had blackouts due to the demand for electricity.
As if on cue, Anthony asked, "Remind me again, Miss Nettles, why you do not have an air conditioning unit in this lovely flat?" The sarcasm was practically dripping from his voice and Jo had to resist the urge to hex the boy off her bed. She supposed her father could've done something to better the current situation like invest in a fan or possibly request that the building be renovated to accommodate the patrons, but she'd never brought the idea up to him. She'd have to settle for spending summer holidays in the pits of hell.
Jo didn't take pride in the fact she had lived in a run-down flat with no heat or air conditioning. She didn't boast about the vermin that made themselves quite at home within the walls of the building. She didn't enjoy the squeaky floorboards or the leaky roof or the noisy neighbor that indulged her father too much. But she didn't need her friend to rub it in her face.
"I've told you, Anthony, the building is so old that it never had one installed," she hissed through gritted teeth. She tried to dull the annoyance in her chest; she knew her friend came from a much more comfortable standard. The difference in their lifestyles was striking.
"Why not cast a cooling charm then, like a normal witch," he proposed with a satisfied smirk. Jo began organizing her trunk. That was something she could take pride in.
She had a system set up: books went to the bottom of the trunk neatly placed together like jumbo puzzle pieces and were then covered by nicely folded clothes. Skirts on the bottom layer then shirts, jumpers, and robes -- in that order.
Shoes went on the top with the soles facing upwards, so they didn't get her things dirty. Then there were scarves, ties, and knee highs, or things of that nature, were thrown on top. She had a separate, smaller trunk for things such as cauldrons, quills, ink, parchment, and supplies for Divination. A Ravenclaw must always be prepared, her mother had told her.
"For starters, I'm underaged," she informed her friend as politely as she could manage. For a Ravenclaw, sometimes Anthony could be forgetful. "Secondly, my parents try to live normally for the sake of my mother's sanity." Anthony pulled a face but nodded, looking around the girl's room in mild interest. The boy didn't notice the way his friend's voice caught at the mention of her mother, but she went on as if nothing had happened.
Jo closed her trunks with a loud thud, dragging them behind her as she left the room wordlessly. She didn't need to spend too much time dwelling on the sentiments of leaving her parents without a goodbye. It had been the fifth year she went off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, there was no need to say goodbyes just to say hello again in a few months.
That is if you weren't afraid of trolls roaming around the school or giant snakes that could paralyze you slithering about all over the place. And don't forget to mention werewolves and Animagus’s running amok across the school grounds. Aside from all those things, she couldn't imagine why a parent might be worried about their child's wellbeing when going off to Hogwarts. Her parents sure didn't seem to care. They also didn't mind she'd be going to the Quidditch World Cup on her own. On her own meaning with Cedric and Anthony. The light of her life and the fire of her lungs.
She'd write to them, her parents, over the course of the term until Christmas. Jo, however, wasn't sure if she'd be visiting for Christmas this year. She'd rather avoided an argument that was sure to happen over something so minuscule or just plain idiotic. She'd avoid another awkward Christmas morning with gift exchange with distant family members. She'd avoid the sleepless nights in her lumpy bed.
Yes, not going home for Christmas seemed very attractive to her.
"Where are you going," Anthony called, trying to catch up to his friend who was already downstairs. The house was a mess, for sure, and it slightly embarrassed Jo. Anthony came from a wealthy home. He wasn't a pureblood or any of that mess, rather his parents were good with their money and had plenty of it due to hard work and lots of inheritances. Their house-elf took care of the cooking and cleaning; every time Jo had gone to visit the place had been spotless. Her house, in comparison, looked like a storm had just ripped through.
"To the taxi," she called from the kitchen as she scrawled onto a napkin she had left.
Gone before you got home. Sorry that you couldn't make it in time, I'll be fine with Anthony. I'll work hard and be back soon.
She could feel the grimace of Anthony behind her laced with confusion. Surely, he understood why her goodbyes were so curt. She'd told him time and time again about her strained relationships between herself and her parents. It wasn't as if she didn't love them because she did. Nonetheless, things weren't bright and sunny amongst the three of them. Especially the married couple.
If they weren't arguing, they were off at work. If her father wasn't at work he was drinking his life away, not wasting a moment to complain about the life he'd willingly chosen to live for the sake of his wife. If her mother was at home, she was nitpicking about every little thing Jo did. The way she paraded around the house or listened to her music. The way she ate or the way she did her homework. No matter what Jo did, it was a losing battle with the woman.
The Ravenclaw knew, deep down, it was bitterness that made her mother the way she was. Who could blame her? Jo's grandparents had practically disowned her after finding out her mother was a Squib. She couldn't attend Hogwarts because what was the point? It wasn't as if she could perform any magic. To make matters worse, she married some botched Slytherin from Scotland with no money or influence.
From that moment on, they only contacted her mother to check on Jo. They never visited on holidays or sent cards to the woman. They never checked in or made the effort to make sure she was alright. The only reason they even thought of Jo was that of her magical abilities, her intelligence, and, above all, her potential.
It was no secret Josephine Marie Nettles was one of the more talented witches of her class. Perhaps not as impeccable as Hermione Granger or even Draco Malfoy, much to her chagrin, but the top of her class nonetheless. The young girl, as her grandparents knew, had a knack for Defense Against the Dark Arts and don't forget the part where the girl was an amazing Chaser on the Ravenclaw team.
The old couple saw so much in her that they couldn't pass up the opportunity of wearing her on their sleeves as some sort of trophy. And Jo wanted nothing to do with any of that.
Had they been seeking a true relationship with her, a genuine bond that lasted until the day they passed on, then she would've given them the time of day. However, it became quite clear after many indifferent letters that they were only interested due to their vested interest. It had stung, at first, that she had no true family members to lean on in her hour of need. She couldn't rely on either of her parents, let alone trust them with her heart. She sure as hell couldn't run to her grandparents. She had no close relatives anywhere near her. She was alone, with the exception of Cedric, Anthony, and Luna.
But Jo had decided, quite some time ago, she could live with that. Happily.
The trip to the portkey checkpoint was agonizingly slow. Traffic was bumper to bumper for at least ten blocks. Anthony, unlike Jo, had no patience. The boy had ridden in a car maybe twice in his life, excluding this particular journey, and he'd never gotten used to the feel of them. They made him anxious.
"Are you sure this is safe," he whispered, not wanting to grab the attention of the taxi driver in the front seat. The middle-aged Muggle man was rather plump with a beard curling down his chin. His puffy eyes were focused on the road and Jo was almost certain he wasn't paying the teens the slightest attention. His chubby, little fingers were gripping the wheel so tight his hardly existent knuckles were turning white. He reminded Jo a bit of this woman named Marge her mother knew.
"I'm positive," she reassured him, flipping through her book quietly. She took the time, as she was sure it would be at most an hour before they got to the checkpoint, to read over her coursework for the terms this year. "Rumor has it someone is taking on the new position as the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor from Lupin." Anthony fell back into the leather seat dramatically, cringing at the hissing noise as he slid.
"Whoopie," he droned robotically, wiping yet another layer of sweat from his forehead. "I'll miss the old git... he was the only good one out of the bunch." Professor Lupin had been their favorite Defense teacher in quite some time. He made lessons engaging as well as interactive and rather enjoyable. Jo, along with a few other students, had no problem with him being an Animagus. But she saw all the problems coming along with allowing someone like that to stay. The Ministry, and parents, would be outraged. She'd miss him, though. She'd always think of him when eating chocolate bars.
Jo chuckled, enjoying the sight of her best friend suffering. It was a little malevolent, but she enjoyed it when the wealthy got a taste of the basic life. Anthony didn't hide his distaste for it well, but he tried for the girl. It was clear as day that he would rather be cleaning Hippogriff shit than sitting in some unsanitized Muggle contraption in one-hundred-degree weather.
Jo rolled down the window, leaning her head against the door as she murmured, "I hope it's not another botched one." Anthony chuckled bitterly.
"For one of the greatest wizards of our time," he began but trailed off once he got a strange look from the driver. "Never mind, then."
The wind, as they moved little by little through the city, was cool against her sun kissed skin. It did little to ease the heat, but it did make her face prickle delightfully.
If the Ravenclaw was being honest with herself, she would miss London. She'd miss the skyscrapers and symphony of car horns and engines. She would miss the street performers and the lights at night. She'd miss crawling up the fire escape to get a glimpse of the river reflecting the stars. It would be a different scene at Hogwarts, not that she minded. But something would be missing while she was there.
After another forty-five minutes, and a bit of an argument over cab fare with the driver, the pair raced to make it on time. As per usual, muggles were ambling about the area without the slightest clue as to what was happening around them. Jo could point out a few recognizable wizards heading towards the checkpoint, all of them excitedly chatting amongst each other with smiles.
"I told you we should have left earlier," Anthony barked, gathering his trunks on a cart with Jo's and speeding towards the platform. The girl's face scrunched up in bitter confusion, but she chose not to make a comment. She'd had enough drama over the summer to last her two lifetimes. It was easy keeping up with her friend giving her athleticism, but she struggled to weave in and out of the crowd with such a bulky load.
"We're going to make it," she shouted at Anthony after catching a glimpse of a clock. "Stop fucking running, you twat!" But the boy didn't listen. One of Anthony's quirks that Jo had come to love, and hate, was his punctuality. Mr. and Mrs. Goldstein had raised their son to be so prompt and impeccable that it was a blessing and a curse to everyone around him.
He never failed to wake everyone up on time in the mornings, which was an advantage and disadvantage. Anthony had some sort of natural alarm clock installed into his brain right as he started school, rising and going to sleep at the same time every day. He never missed any meals or any classes unless with good reason. Don't forget to mention he always knew the schedule of events happening. Jo loved it but despised it simultaneously. She hated it on days like this -- when Anthony was so afraid he'd be late the boy practically went into a panic attack.
They made it to the platform ten minutes early with four times as much sweat as they had in the car, both panting like wild animals with heaving withered lungs. Jo sent her friend a well-deserved glare for making her run a goddamn marathon, but he shrugged her off as he shrunk their luggage to fit in their pockets with a bit of wandless magic. Jo took hers, shoving it into her jean pocket and approached the checkpoint with caution.
Jo had only magically traveled once with her father and had only apparated and, from what she could remember, it wasn't pleasant whatsoever. She could remember feeling like she was being pulled apart like taffy then being smashed back together not at all gently. Judging by the hesitance on her friend's face she could tell he was thinking the same. She'd hoped that using the portkey wasn't the same feeling.
Anthony leaned over and whispered, " I've never traveled on my own before." His voice was filled to the brim with shame and embarrassment as Jo sent him a sympathetic smile and a kind rub on the shoulder.
"Well, I've only ever traveled from here to Hogwarts so don't feel too sorry for yourself," she chirped. "There's a first time for everything, is there not?" Anthony gulped, looking from her to the group of Quidditch fans who'd be traveling to the campgrounds with them. Most of them were supporting Ireland, not to Jo's surprise. She, on the other hand, was cheering for Bulgaria. No, she was cheering for Krum.
If she was actually thinking about the sports aspect of choosing a team Ireland would've been the better choice. However, she couldn't simply abandon her one and only idol, Viktor Krum. He'd been her heartthrob ever since she ever knew he existed. And how convenient it was that he was just in her age range. Jo couldn't help but laugh at the thought of Viktor Krum even looking her direction let alone entertaining her 15-year-old-hormone-induced fantasies.
Nevertheless, the pair smiled at the sports enthusiasts with kind eyes and prepared to portkey.
"Where's the portkey," Anthony asked benignly. A few men chuckled, elbowing each other in the stomachs and squinting their eyes with laughter. Anthony turned a shade to rival a Weasley's locks and looked to the ground.
A small girl, probably no older than twelve, smiled and whispered, "It's the old oil can." Her chubby little fingers directed their gaze to a battered tin can in the middle of the circle. Jo raised an eyebrow at the can then the group. How seven of them were supposed to all hold onto a tiny can for at least ten seconds was beyond her. But, somehow, magic never ceased to amazed her.
"Alright, everybody, take a hold and don't let go till you hear one of us say so," one man shouted, mounting his place on the can with a wink. Jo quickly grabbed the can, looking at Anthony with expectant eyes. The Ravenclaw hesitated, reaching forward then pulling back in fear.
"Anthony," Jo mumbled, jerking her head towards the can. "Grab it."
"I can't," Anthony whimpered, hugging his hand to his chest like a child. Jo let out a sigh of frustration, forcing a nurturing smile on her face as best she could as the group started to count down.
"Anthony grab the can."
"I said I can't."
"Anthony, you have to grab the can. The sooner we do the soo--"
"I'll just floo there."
"With what fireplace!?" Jo was beginning to raise her voice, not out of malice but out of exasperation. As much as she loved her friend she wanted to rip him limb from limb.
To say that Jo was frustrated would be an understatement. She was sitting there with her hand on a can, waiting for her friend to join her. But he looked like he'd rather be Stupefied.
"Will you please stop chickening out," she begged. "It'll only last for a few seconds, Anthony."
Her friend closed his eyes, shaking his hands like a little girl touching a slimy slug for the first time.
"I said grab the fucking can!"
At the very last moment, with a loud yelp of fear, Anthony gripped the last open section of the can with all his might. The sensation wasn't very different from apparating aside from the fact that there was a noteably less amount of pain. She didn't feel like taffy or like she'd been forced back together. It just felt like she had been yanked up in the air by some invisible string then left to fall for what seemed like ages. She wouldn't deny it was uncomfortable, though.
"Alright, let go!" On cue, Jo let go, not failing to slap Anthony's hand away or he would've held on for dear life until they hit the ground. Anthony had been screaming his head off, flailing his arms about like a lunatic as they neared the grass below.
"We're going to die, Jo!" he cried, trying to grab a hold of his friend. Jo sighed, patting herself to find her wand. She was silently praying she could cast a charm to ease her friend's distress about hitting the ground. Looking down she could see the grass coming in hot and searched more frantically.
Finally, after thinking she'd forgotten it, she whipped out her wand and cast the incantation.
"Arrestor Momentum," she shouted, wand aimed at Anthony. Sure enough, as everyone else's bodies continued to fall with plenty of velocity towards the ground, his began to slow. Jo curled her body, preparing for impact. And boy, was it an impact.
At first, she'd expected the ground to be soft with mud. She wouldn't have minded if she'd gotten her clothes dirty. That would've been manageable. But instead, she encountered a bone breaking amount of pain as she pummeled the dirt. She silently insisted that she hadn't heard a loud snap in her body as she rolled away from everyone to avoid being landed on. She even convinced herself she could stand up and walk. However, when she did, her legs buckled beneath her.
"Damn," she muttered to herself, ignoring just how bad the pain was to search for her friend. After a few moments, she found him gently landing on his feet, rushing over to her as soon as he could.
Falling on his knees beside her, he shouted, "What the hell is going through your head!? The Ministry could track that you used magic away from school! You could be expelled, Jo. What on ear--" Jo stopped him by thumping him hard in the forehead, their small gesture for the other to shut their mouths. Instantly, he did.
"I'll be fine," she assured him. "They can only trace the general area from which the magic came from, Anthony. Not the wand. And since we're surrounded by wizards--," she gestured the group around them, "--they won't be able to know it's me. See, I'm okay."
"I wouldn't say you're okay," a man said, kneeling beside her with warm eyes. He pulled his wand out, muttering a few spells to himself and fixing the aching fracture in her leg. In relief, Jo flopped back into the grass, chuckling to herself.
"Thank you," she mumbled, preening in the setting sun and wind-blown grass. The heat here was surely more comfortable than that of London. Jo smiled fondly at the gentle breeze blowing across the hills, letting her eyelashes flutter as she listened to the soft ruckus happing only a few hundred yards away.
"Come on, Jo," Anthony helped her to her feet. "Let's find Ced."