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Trials of a Brave Heart

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Joss O'Hara was working out in his garden, pruning the roses he and his wife had planted when they had first moved into this little hideaway cottage in the middle of the valley. They had liked its small size and remote location which gave them an added sense of security. This was because the house stood alone amongst the rolling hills and meadows which seemed to extend into the horizon with nothing else in sight.

Joss stood up momentarily to give his reddened knees some reprieve. As he stood, he looked out to admire the view, before turning back to survey the other gardens he still needed to attend to. The lawn featured a dozen different gardens which he took care of daily while he waited for his wife to return home. Looking towards the front of the house, he decided the roses were good enough for the day and moved on to the next garden. This one was specifically for vegetables which his family used regularly to prepare their meals, especially since it was late in the summer and most of the vegetables were ripe to eat.

Joss enjoyed spending most of his days outside, especially while his three-year old daughter slept in her room upstairs. She was the perfect child, so full of life and curiosity. She did not fuss often and lavished in the attention he and his wife gave her. Joss smiled as he thought of how his life had unexpectedly turned out; a caring wife he never thought would agree to marry him and a house centered in a beautiful meadow away from the rest of the harsh and deceptive world. But the best thing him and his wife agreed was the blessing which was their daughter; whom he would give his life for. Despite the war he had more in his life than he had ever anticipated. This is why he wished it was him risking his life in order to protect his family…

After Joss picked the vegetables, he got up to tend to the side garden to water it. It had been a hotter season than normal, and this had become his routine. Spending all his spare time attending to the yard, mostly because it was all he could do. Just wait and watch the skies for anything peculiar. Any signs telling him to flee at a moment's notice. Watching for any sign of his wife or the other Phoenix members in need of help. Joss had been on edge for the past three years while his wife, Lena, had gone to join the Order of the Phoenix alongside their friends James, Lily, Remus, Sirius, Alice and Frank, among others. It angered Joss to think that he was of no use; it was his world too and he could do nothing to prevent the evil that was coming.

By now the sun was shining overhead, as bright as it had been all summer. But before he could move to the next garden, he heard an unexpected noise coming from the house. It was his daughter, Marnie, screaming in her bed. Joss always left the windows open so he could hear her cries or squabbles. Often Marnie woke up giggling which would alert him that she was awake. This time however was different and almost terrifyingly unusual. He quickly started heading towards the house before he stopped momentarily in his tracks. Off in the far distance, there was a dark greenish-purple hue invading the light sky. This was it… they were coming.

XXX

Eight years later…

I woke up to see the sun just visibly showing over the distant hills that surrounded my house from all sides. I always loved watching how the sun changed the scenery and colouring of the meadows depending on what time of day it was. So far, the sun made the tops of the hills glow almost as if they were engulfed in a golden blaze. I smiled as it felt like the flames were filling my body with a bubbling excitement like I was about to explode. I had been waiting for this day my entire life.

With the sudden realization that today was actually the first of September, I threw off my covers and catapulted myself out of bed right to my bedroom door. I opened it with excitement and briefly paused to hear the sizzling sound of bacon on the pan. No sooner had I realized this, I could suddenly smell the hot grease wafting up the stairs from our small kitchen where my dad was no doubt preparing breakfast for the two of us. I bounded down the stairs and took a running slide through our sitting room in order to reach the kitchen which was at the back of our house. We lived in a small cottage which seemed detached from the rest of the world. This had apparently been a major selling factor for my parents when they bought the house during the war, especially since me and my dad had both been vulnerable targets. Ultimately my mother's life became endangered due to her family choices. I briefly frowned at this thought as I looked up to see my dad placing what looked like a pound of bacon onto a serving plate. He turned around and smiled at me as he set the plate down on our small table in the so-called dining room which was just off our kitchen. Since we live in such a small house all of our furniture is also fit to size. I thought of this as I looked down at our table which was covered in food including pancakes, bacon, sausages, beans, scrambled eggs and waffles as well as our ancient looking tea pot which had belonged to my mother's family.

Dad kept smiling as he rearranged the food to fit the final serving plate and looked up at me when he finally had everything on the table.

"Well I know this may not compete with the Hogwarts feast you'll have later tonight but I do think the O'Hara house feast is pretty spectacular" my dad exclaimed as he sat down in his usual seat which was closest to the kitchen. He also gestured for me to sit down across from him which was my usual seat.

Everything in this house was worn which I felt gave the cottage a very warm and welcoming feeling. I had spent my whole life here since my parents moved in right after their wedding. They got married just before the start of the Wizarding War and had me six months later. My father has always assured me though that I was not the reason they had gotten married; the war had just sped up their agenda to start a family. I never doubted what my dad told me since we were always honest with each other and I knew he loved my mother dearly. She was the love of his life.

"Dad these are all your special breakfasts combined!" I exclaimed while already shoveling food onto my plate.

Even though I was quite small for my age I usually ate twice the amount of food that my father did for every meal. This made every meal look like we had a larger family than just the two of us.

I was in the middle of scarfing down my waffles when I looked up and noticed my dad staring at me with only his cup of tea in his hand. I swallowed my mouthful and looked back at him with a large grin.

"Dad, I can't believe I'm finally going to Hogwarts. I hope I make some friends on the train right away just like mum! Wasn't that how she met Aunt Alice and Marlene?" I looked at him thoughtfully and watched as the corner of his mouth turned up into a small smile while his eyes sparkled with the tinge of sadness he always got when I mentioned my mother.

He set down his cup and answered my question with his hands folded together on the table. "Yes, your mum sat with Marlene and Alice on her first day and even though she got sorted into Hufflepuff and the others into Gryffindor, they were always the best of friends."

He finished explaining and drifted his gaze to look out the window which features our backyard and the sprawling hills in the distance. He returned his gaze a moment later and looked at me thoughtfully.

"You know Marnie, you will probably have many different experiences than your mother, so do not get discouraged if you don't make friends right away. I do know however that there are a couple families in the area with children starting this year or who are already in school. I am sure there will be many students there for you to meet and befriend."

This statement from my father sparked my interest since he never talked about knowing any of the local families. The only family I knew of was the Lovegood's who were a good five miles away. Mr. Lovegood and my father shared a passion for gardening which I assumed was the only reason we saw any of the neighbours at all. This also meant that I would get to see Luna once in a while whom I really considered to be one of my only friends. It was a good thing we got along quite well and meant that we would spend hours sharing stories in the meadows near my house and picking wildflowers. But I knew she didn't start school for another two years, so my father couldn't have meant her.

My father also liked to keep me close which meant I could never go far and rarely even visited the Lovegood house. I also did not know any other neighbours or anyone from the closest town since my dad preferred to stay at home. I was surprised then to find out that even though I did not know anyone else and never saw my dad go anywhere by himself, that he somehow had knowledge of who lived nearby (and by nearby, I mean like a 20-mile radius). The only other visitor we ever got was my uncle who was accompanying us to King's Cross and would probably be arriving any minute.

As if on cue, before I could ask my father about these mysterious neighbours, I heard a soft rapping at the door.

I stood up quickly and propelled myself from the table to take another running slide towards the front door before almost tripping over my opened trunk which was currently in the middle of our sitting room. I heard my father scold me for being too reckless, but I was too excited to contain all my energy for what was going to happen today.

I threw the door open to see my dad's best friend standing on our little stoop. He was dressed in a worn looking overcoat and dress pants which also looked a little too large for his fairly thin figure. But despite his drab appearance he had a large smile on his face as he looked down at me.

"Uncle Remus!" I yelled as I threw myself onto him which almost caused him to lose his footing. "Today is the day! I get to go to Hogwarts! What house do you think I will be in..? I hope I am in Gryffindor like you… or maybe Hufflepuff like mum was. I will be happy with anything- well maybe not Slytherin" I started to ramble through my excitement as my father came to the doorway to greet Remus.

"I thought you would be done packing by now, especially since I came to pick you up and drive you to King's Cross," Remus inquired as he looked over at my opened trunk which was only half full with articles of clothing hanging out of it. However, he had a knowing smile on his face which showed that he purposefully arrived 90 minutes early for this very reason.

My father returned his knowing smile and explained, "Well, we were up late last night watching movies and playing monopoly. We started that game last week and had to finish it before Marnie left, and she just wouldn't let me win."

My dad then turned a mocking smile down towards me which I returned by crossing my arms over my chest.

"Dad," I huffed, "You are too old for me to let you win, plus, how will you ever learn if I go easy on you? Monopoly requires certain special skills to win." I explained with a devilish grin.

I was always told by both my dad and Remus that I had my mother's competitiveness. It was always something that I loved to hear them say. Dad would also tell me how much I reminded him of my mother in general which always made me feel closer with her.

It was then that Lupin frowned while looking over at Joss. Joss was focusing all of his attention on Marnie with glossy looking eyes and Remus thought it must be hard on his friend to watch his daughter go to school and have her be away from home for so long; all without Lena by his side.

Chapter Text

Coming into the city in Remus's car was like a foreign experience since I had only ever been to the city a handful of times, without ever having the opportunity to explore it. When we arrived at King's Cross Station it seemed like this was where everyone in London had been heading. There was an unimaginable amount of people, more than I had ever seen in my life! Everyone also appeared to be in a hurry, brushing by my trolley and threatening to tip over my trunk. Dad had his hand clasped on my shoulder to prevent us from becoming separated. Remus was a pace behind my father and had his head tipped down as well as the flaps of his overcoat flipped up. I think this was one of the reasons my father and Remus got along so well; they both cherished their privacy.

After endlessly navigating through the hordes of people, we finally reached a large pillar between the ninth and tenth platforms. This was where Remus had ultimately been directing us to go despite me actually not being able to tell which direction we were heading in. I looked up at the brick façade skeptically before looking back at Remus for confirmation. The wall looked pretty real and solid to me, but he returned my look by nodding his head slightly and then lifting it forward to indicate moving towards it. In response my dad squeezed my shoulder and looked down at me to meet my eyes.

"Your mother always said taking a running go at it made it easier," he smiled and put his hands over mine on the trolley. "Together?" He asked after sensing my hesitation.

"Together," I nodded feeling slightly more confident with my dad at my side.

We pushed the trolley towards the very solid looking wall against my better judgement. My dad started to jog which forced to me to start running just to keep up. Right before I thought we were about to crash into the wall my surroundings went pitch black for a split second before changing to reveal another platform. Right in front of me now was a scarlet steam engine along with what looked like hundreds of kids milling around with trolleys. I knew we were in the right place since they were mostly carrying trunks along with either owls, cats, or toads set on top in cages. I smiled at what was obviously the first bit of unimaginable magic I had ever seen which had allowed us to walk through the wall. I looked back in time to see Remus casually stepping through it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I guess to my uncle, who had attended Hogwarts with my mother for seven years, the wall entrance was normal. I couldn't ever imagine getting used to these impossible feats. Magic was hardly ever used at my house and I hardly ever left it to be able to see others performing it.

I turned around to take in the sheer size of the train itself. It was everything Remus and dad had explained it to be. I still couldn't believe this day had finally arrived.

At this point my dad squeezed my shoulder again.

"That was pretty fantastic and not scary at all once you figure it out," my dad said to me reassuringly.
I smiled back at him in agreeance.

"Why don't we head over closer to the train and we can figure out what to do from there?" he added before directing me closer to one of the train cars.

I could tell my father sounded more confident than he felt. I knew it was hard for him to let me go to Hogwarts where I wouldn't see him for another three months. This was largely because I had never been separated from my dad for more than a night or two. On occasion, I had been allowed to sleep over with Luna or at Remus's house, but those visits were very few and far between. My dad felt he needed to keep a close eye on me and protect me. It wasn't that he didn't trust me- me and my dad had a very close relationship- the war had just taken its toll on him.

Once we approached a mostly clear entrance onto the train, it let out a warning whistle. I looked up at the clock to see it was 10:55, meaning the train would be leaving in five minutes. I looked over at my father who was rapidly trying to clear his face of the evidence that he had tears in his eyes. I knew this was hard on him, we were each other's best friends despite the fact that he was my father. This didn't mean that he wouldn't punish me if I did something wrong or that he didn't worry about me if he thought I was in danger. It was actually the opposite, he probably worried too much about me which was also probably one of the reasons for his tears.

Thinking about how much I would miss my father, I felt tears well up in my own eyes causing me to bury my face into my dad's chest. Hogwarts was where I had always wanted to go ever since my dad told me about it when I was three years old. He really hadn't had a choice after I turned my pillow blue from crying into it after being punished for drawing on the walls. I had been so terrified that I had done something else wrong that I started wailing. Despite my punishment being one of solitary confinement in my bedroom, my dad had come running, knowing something else was wrong.

That night he sat me down in our sitting room armchair next to the fireplace and took out a chest from the attic which was filled mostly with my mother's things from her time at Hogwarts. After that night my father brought the trunk of my mother's things up to my room and hung her poster of the Hollyhead Harpies as well as her Hufflepuff banner onto my walls where they still hung today. I have also read her copies of Hogwarts a History and Quidditch Throughout the Ages probably a thousand times each since then.

My father took both of my shoulders and pried me away from his body before crouching down to look me in the eyes.

"Marnie, I don't want you to worry about making friends right away or even worry about me being all by myself. I know you think of yourself as my little protector, but I have Remus and Mr. Lovegood to keep me company. I love you so very much and I know you have been excited about attending Hogwarts practically your entire life. I want you to have fun," he paused as if contemplating something, "but not too much fun."
I knew he was only half kidding.
I then gave him another bone crushing hug before whispering, "I love you too dad!"

After I let go Remus stepped forward to me another hug. He ruffled the hair on the top of my head and looked at me with excited eyes.

"Stay out of trouble, and don't be too much like James. Try to follow more in your mother's footsteps" he said amusingly although with a sad smile on his face.

I knew who James and Lily Potter were from being told numerous stories from Remus's childhood as well as my father's stories from his time knowing them through the Order. I didn't know too much about the war but James and Lily had been very close friends of my parents and so I heard lots of stories from their time together despite the war.

Remus then took my trunk and handed it to me as I climbed up onto the train. He waved one last time and then waved dismissively for me to go and find a seat. With another pause, I started lugging my trunk down the narrow hallway and peered into one of the first few compartments. There was a boy with dreadlocks and a girl with such shiny black hair, it almost looked blue. I entered the compartment a little sheepishly before they looked up from their conversation with huge grins on their faces. I smiled back and had to clear my throat before speaking. It felt like my voice was somewhere at the bottom of it.

"Hi, is it ok if I sit with you two?" I asked in a hoarse voice.

They kept smiling at me and the girl responded at once.

"Of course! This is Lee and I'm Angelina, we are both first years and just met on the platform after Lee here ran over my foot with his trolley." At this statement, the boy laughed in embarrassment and I could see his cheeks turn a slight shade of pink.

"Yea well, I've already said I'm sorry about that, just lost control of the trolley is all and couldn't really see over my trunk." he answered more confidently.

I stepped through the door and went to pick up my trunk before being thwarted by Lee who stood up and placed it in the overhead compartment. After thanking him I sat down and briefly hesitated before starting up a conversation with the two first years. I was so excited to have met some people who looked just as excited as I felt and were first years just like me. But I was also nervous at meeting people in general. I had had very few experiences meeting new people, but then also thought of my mother who met her best friends on the train. I knew my dad had warned me about not needing to make friends right away, but Lee and Angelina seemed so friendly, I just had a good feeling.

"My name is Marnie, it's nice to meet you both" I paused briefly, trying to make my voice louder. "So, which houses do you want to be sorted into?" I asked them both in my still quiet voice.

Angelina looked at me with a bright smile and laughed at my question in a non-condescending way.

"Lee and I were just talking about that! We both actually want to be in Gryffindor the most, but I wouldn't mind being sorted into Ravenclaw. What about you? I kind of hope maybe all three of us get sorted into the same house so we could at least know some friendly faces."

I smiled at the idea of being in the same house as them. I was already starting to like Lee and Angelina since they were being so nice, and I agreed that it would be less intimidating knowing some people in the same house on the first day.

"My uncle was in Gryffindor which I think is also my favourite after reading Hogwarts: A History but my mum was in Hufflepuff which I think is also a good house-"

Lee chuckled at this, so I looked up at him in surprise.

"Sorry," he said, "it's just that Hufflepuff seems so plain. I'm certain I will get into Gryffindor, so you guys will just have to get sorted same as me" he smiled with even more confidence in his voice.

At this Angelina leaned over towards him and proceeded to stomp on his foot with a devilish grin on her face.

"Ow, what was that for?" Lee asked while lifting his knee, so he could rub his foot.

"Don't be rude to Marnie, there's nothing wrong with any house, well except for Slytherin" Angelina said with a shiver seen noticeably run through her shoulders. "And also, this makes us even" she added as she continued with her devilish smirk.

"Yea, I don't think I want to be sorted into Slytherin either," I said, shaking my head. "But my mum was sorted into Hufflepuff while the two friends she met on the train were sorted into Gryffindor and they stayed best friends, even after they left Hogwarts," I said with a smile thinking of my mother again.

Lee nodded his head before speaking. "Yea I guess you guys are both right, and I think we should all be friendly regardless of the sorting. But I still think nothing is better than Gryffindor."

It looked like Angelina was gearing up to retaliate again, which made me smile at their developing antics, when the compartment door slid open.

"Oi, couldn't agree more with you there chap, nothing is better, fiercer, or braver than a Gryffindor. Our entire family has been sorted into that house and we intend to uphold the family honour!" the new boy exclaimed from the compartment entrance.

Looking over, I noticed that there were two boys standing in the doorway with their trunks in tow. The one who had spoken seemed to be talking in an exaggerated, haughty voice while the other was trying to suppress his laughter.

"Boys are unbelievable" Angelina shook her head while the two new students fully entered the compartment to join into our conversation.

They were the tallest out of everyone here and had matching flaming red hair. They were also identical.

"This is George and I'm Fred Weasley, future Gryffindors extraordinaire!" Fred exclaimed as the two brothers shoved their trunks up above and took seats opposite each other.

I think it was George who sat beside me and Fred who was beside Lee both being closest to the door. Angelina was on the other side of Lee whom I was facing.

Before I-think-Fred continued on with his increasingly dramatic spiel, I-assume-George leaned down towards me and held out his hand. I hesitated briefly before taking his hand and shaking it.

"Don't mind my brother, he likes to make a lasting impression" the probably-George explained as the rest of us smiled and laughed.

"I resent that statement. Not because it isn't true, because we will be infamous, but because you are trying to downplay our first ever impression for Hogwarts" Fred grinned proudly before meeting my eyes which made him gasp. "Your eyes, they're so... vibrant! They almost match my hair".

I looked away blushing fiercely at the direct acknowledgement of my distinguishable eye colour. I shared this unique colouring with my mother who also had the almost orange hue tinting to her irises.
I turned back sheepishly to meet Fred's own bright blue eyes and couldn't help feeling overwhelmed from the direct, inquisitive attention.

"Yea, they're kinda strange. But they're hereditary, I get them from my mum," I explained, still managing to maintain eye contact. "They're considered hazel but have this reflective quality that makes them appear almost orange," I kept explaining and noticed Angelina trying to swat Fred on the shoulder by leaning over Lee.

I couldn't help smiling at how confident and fiery Angelina seemed. It was almost humbling how she wanted to reprimand Fred for being so direct after only just having met me. She would for sure be sorted into Gryffindor.

I quickly surveyed the other four individuals around me who all undoubtedly seemed qualified to be in the house known for its bravery and loyalty. Although Lee, Fred and presumably George were flippantly vocal about their intention for being sorted into Gryffindor, it seemed outwardly obvious that they would all get their wish. It was likely even that they would stay friends, despite only knowing each other for a short time. It was like watching puzzle pieces click into place as their personalities interacted. This made me frown slightly since I wasn't sure if I had the same qualities as the other four. I was loyal to my family and few friends, but I was nervous about meeting new people and even about going to Hogwarts. I had read all the books on magic I could find to prepare myself, but I still felt inadequate compared to families who actively used magic and probably demonstrated different skills for their children. I also didn't think I was very brave, or at least not as brave as them.

Just then, the redhead beside me looked over and showed concern on his face since I guess he had noticed my anxiety.

"I hope Fred didn't offend you, he can be pretty blunt about most things. He didn't mean to upset you. I know him well enough to know that he only said something because he thinks your eyes are fascinating" the confirmed-George explained, looking over at Fred who was now telling a joke to Lee and Angelina who were laughing hysterically.

"No, it's not that. Fred seems nice and I can't wait to get to know everybody," I paused in order to work up the courage to confess my fear. "It's just, I can see that you all belong in Gryffindor and I just don't think I would be classified as brave or strong. I mean, my mum was a Hufflepuff and she managed to stay friends with people from other houses. I am just worried that I don't belong with the rest of you and you all seem so nice and friendly," I stopped before I started to ramble.

George looked down at me with concern and opened his mouth to respond but I heard Fred speak up first. We both looked over to acknowledge him.

"Of course, you belong with us! I mean if our prat of a brother Percy is a Gryffindor, you certainly can be," Fred exclaimed confidently.

"Bravery isn't always as obvious as never backing down from a fight or never taking no for an answer," Angelina piped in with her affectious smile. "It's standing up for yourself and not giving up when things look bleak or prove difficult," she added triumphantly.

"Yea, I mean I figure each of us decides to be brave, it's nothing we are born with," Lee added looking at me with an encouraging smile.

Just then George picked up my left arm as if he were inspecting it for something. He paused and inquisitively tapped his bottom lip as if intently trying to decide something. "Yep, you look plenty brave to me Marnie. We all see it," George set down my arm and gave me a wide grin as the other started laughing at his exaggerated nature.

Their comments all brought a huge smile to my face as I felt a warm sensation fill up my chest. I just met these people, yet they were already trying to placate me from my fears. I couldn't believe they were being so nice and friendly. So, I made a vow that even if I was sorted into another house, I would remain friends with this bunch. I wonder if this is how it had been for my mum...?

Chapter Text

We arrived in Hogsmeade just as the sun was setting in the distance. I got off the train following the twins and looked towards the horizon, thinking of the hills that surround my house. The views there are pretty spectacular, and I love how the sun typically sets over the pond to the west.

It seemed impossible that I had only woken up this morning to see the first break of sun from my bedroom window in England and was now looking at it set in where I suspected was Northern Scotland. It was probably the most eventful day of my life, but despite all of the things that happened I was still full of excitement.

The five of us went to collect our trunks and followed the crowd of older students who obviously knew the way to go. Amongst the commotion I started to get separated, probably because my legs were not as long as Angelina's or the others'. Moments later the beacon of red hair from the twins faded from my view and I started to feel slightly anxious. This was only the second time in my life I had been in a group this size and everyone was all fairly bunched together. Most students were keeping up with their own groups or crossing distances to meet up with others. I started to feel sweat on the back of my neck and my breathing elevated before I felt a hand on my arm. I looked up to see one of the twins and instantly felt relieved. I couldn't understand my reaction to the crowd of students; it seemed odd. But then again, I had never been in any similar situation, so I didn't know what to expect.

I was fairly sure that the twin who had grabbed my arm was George. I spent a large portion of the train ride trying to decipher differing characteristics between the twins and noticed that George has a faded scar on his brow line which is almost imperceptible. Fred on the other hand has slightly different eyes which are a shade bluer than George's. This is also aside from their varying personalities. George is more mild mannered compared to Fred who seems to enter every situation like a blazing force.

I looked up at the twin in front of me and found the slight scar over his right eye.

"Didn't think you could get away from us that easily did you?" George asked with a wink.

The red-headed boy then started to pull my arm through the crowd until we soon met up with the group.

Fred looked over at the two of us once we arrived and dramatically wiped the back of his hand across his forehead.

"I thought you had been lost to us forever, trampled by all of the ogre-like Hogwarts students," he sighed even more dramatically with a wink.

Instead of blushing or feeling embarrassed in response to Fred's exaggerated display, I met his bright blue eyes with a determined grin.

"Well wasn't it your job to keep me safe and away from the danger of the ogre-like Hogwarts students?" I looked at Fred with a challenge in my eyes.

I figured if I was going to keep up with their antics I would have to fight back. "If I succumb to any danger, you will have to surrender to the wrath of my father," I retorted with satisfaction.

Fred looked taken aback as the others laughed.

"We have a fiery one here Freddie, I think she's a keeper!" George exclaimed proudly.

Before Fred could fire a retort, Angelina interrupted the competition of wits.

"Hey, you never mentioned your father on the train," Angelina said thoughtfully. "What house was he sorted into?"

I paused briefly at the change of subject. Dad had warned me that his status may upset some children who come from pure blood or prejudicial families. But that was a crazy insinuation for these four, they had been nothing but friendly to me, so I ignored the warning in my head.

"Umm, actually he's a squib," I said casually, still slightly monitoring for any negative reactions.

But I couldn't see any. Angelina looked thoughtful of my answer while the others looked like they didn't really have an opinion on the matter. I felt my chest fill up with relief. I wasn't embarrassed by my father, he was my best friend, and I would choose loyalty for my father over anyone else's opinion, even those who treated me with kindness.

After assessing the almost uninterested reactions from my new friends towards my father's blood status, I turned back to look at Fred. He held my gaze, and I knew he was forming a rebuttal to my former quip on his character and duty to protect me, when I heard a sneer from behind me.

"Your dad is a squib, what a joke! I can't believe they actually sent you an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, that's just pathetic." I cringed at the hateful words coming from behind my back. We were almost on the other side of the Hogsmeade platform where I could see the blackened lake in front of us.

The five of us all stopped and I turned around to see a brutish boy who was even taller than the twins looking down at me with hateful contempt. I felt my heart split between cowering away from this obvious bully and giving him a piece of my mind for insulting a man he did not know. But, before I could decide what I wanted to do, Fred stepped right in front of the boy with a look of utter rage.

"Yea, well I'm surprised they're still extending invitations to families as nasty and bigoted as yours!" Fred shouted, inching closer to the boy.

However, before anything could get anymore heated or dangerous, an extremely large man approached our group and looked down at us with worry in his eyes.

"Wha's goin' on 'ere?" The giant man stepped closer to me as if sensing the two boys posed a threat. He had it half right.

Fred was the first to stand down only after staring at the hulking boy for a few more moments. He then swung around and took my arm to direct me away from the bully in the opposite direction.

"Just protecting my friend from bullies, sir" Fred stated with rage still in his eyes as he continued to size up the other boy.

The giant man seemed taken aback at this information and looked at the large boy wearily before standing in between him and us.

"Well le's move along. Firs' years follow me!" he hollered and I gladly obliged.

"You can't hide behind weasels forever squib! You don't belong here!" the bully added from somewhere behind the giant man.

I looked over at Fred who still had a tight grip on my arm and anger in his eyes. I was a little surprised that he didn't turned around at the other boy's taunt but was glad he decided to stay by my side instead. Maybe he was too angry to hear the last comment. He was also murmuring under his breath saying things like "unbelievable" and "I should'a". It was only when we approached the end of the lake, where the giant man had led us, that Fred finally released my arm. He looked down at me pointedly and stared directly into my eyes.

"Now you can't tell your father I don't keep you from danger," he said seriously as he continued to stare at me.

After a moment of silence, I broke it by quietly laughing at the seriousness of Fred's face and the relief that these are the people I luckily sat with on the train. I continued to laugh and saw Fred's features soften as he started to chuckle along as well. The others soon joined in as we all shared a moment knowing that we all had each other's back from here on out. It was obvious that the others shared Fred's feelings towards the other boy and would be there for me in any similar situation.

Before entering the boat, Fred took my hand to help me into it. I sat down beside him and looked over at him inquisitively. I had just met this boy but he had decidedly stood up in my honour without being asked or even knowing me very well. Maybe it was that Gryffindor bravery the others had all been on about, but I couldn't help but be in awe of what Fred had done for me. I also glanced down to see that Fred still hadn't released my hand from when he helped me onto the boat. Fred had a comforting presence about him that made me feel more secure in this almost foreign realm.

The group was all immersed in excited whispers about almost being able to see the school when I looked at Fred's face. I had only been joking about him protecting me but I had a slight suspicion that even though we had both been joking around, Fred had immediately taken my words seriously. I didn't know what incentive he could possibly have in wanting to protect me but I was almost relieved that I wouldn't have to navigate my first year alone.

Little did I know that when I briefly looked over at Fred, George watched the two of us inquisitively. George felt relieved that Fred seemed to like the new girl as much as he did. It was like one of their many shared twin moments when they had the same feeling without having to communicate it to each other. Marnie seemed to illicit a shared reaction from him and his brother that was protective and genuine. George kept thinking to himself that Marnie must be a Gryffindor, she just doesn't see it yet. Maybe that was a job for him and Fred…

Chapter Text

The ride in the boat was exhilarating as we rounded the corner and took our first glance at the castle. It was magnificent just in its sheer size alone. I had never come close to seeing anything like it and I suspected the others hadn't either. The five of us shared a boat which was magically steering itself across the lake. This was definitely the second bit of unimaginable magic I had witnessed today.

The massive castle quickly approached as we arrived at the opposite shoreline. We were all talking in excitement as we embarked on our first official entrance into the school. I was gawking at the castle which we would all soon call home and was amazed by its level of grandeur.

We were now waiting just outside the supposed Great Hall where a Professor McGonagall had left us moments ago. I was so nervous that I became aware my palms were starting to sweat. I tried to think about the kind words Fred and the others told me encouragingly on the train, and also of my mother's past with her ability to maintain her own friendships. However, right now it was hard to have confidence in either scenario. Before I could panic too much though the large doors we were standing in front of opened. We were then promptly ushered into a Great Hall by Professor McGonagall whom I could see leading the large group of first years. It was even more nerve-wracking to see the rest of the school staring at us in interest and anticipation of who would permanently join their houses.

I barely heard the professor's instructions but quickly noticed the old, haphazard looking hat she placed upon a stool. Even more intriguingly, it noticeably started to sing. Taken aback at the sheer impossibility of the situation, this was most definitely the third piece of extraordinary magic I had witnessed today. When the hat finished its song the entire school applauded loudly at its presentation of school spirit, loyalty, and allegiance. Professor McGonagall then started to call up first years alphabetically. We had to wait awhile before Angelina Johnson was called up. It was almost instantaneous before the hat yelled GRYFFINDOR from atop her head. Angelina smiled profusely as she ran over to the table with the loudest applause, with every member standing up in ovation. The level of excitement in welcoming Angelina to their house seemed like pandemonium. It was touching how truly excited all of the older students were to welcome first years they hadn't even met into their houses.

Lee Jordan was right after Angelina. He didn't look nearly as confident as he had seemed on the train- figures. But the same thing happened as Angelina, where the ratty old hat yelled out GRYFFINDOR after only seconds of being placed on his head. Lee was also met with the same level of excitement from the older Gryffindors.

There were only two students after Lee before I heard Professor McGonagall call my name.

"Marnie O'Hara" she said in her authoritative sounding voice.

I hadn't really gotten a good look at the professor before when she briefly introduced herself to the first years when we had all arrived at the lake-shore. Now, I could see her worn features did not diminish the level of authority and respect she obviously maintained. But, behind her stern look I could tell that she hid something softer. Or at least something less formative.

I looked away from the professor only once I was beside the stool, to which I promptly sat down. I looked out over the crowd and scanned the four long tables. I couldn't help thinking that the length of the tables alone would probably fit twice the length of my entire house. Then, I surveyed each table individually and noticed the different colours signifying each house. I obviously knew Gryffindor was red since that is where Lee and Angelina were now sitting, looking at me encouragingly. I also knew that Hufflepuff was yellow since that was the colour of my mother's banner that had hung on my bedroom wall since I was young. The other two I could also decipher honestly due to the different manner of the students either dressed in blue or green. The green-adorned students all sat up straighter and didn't exude as much outward excitement as the other three houses. I also saw some of the students who sat closer to the front of the hall looking up at me with sneers on their faces. Amongst them was the horrible boy we had met at Hogsmeade station. He had already been sorted into Slytherin. His name was Marcus Flint.

Professor McGonagall then placed the hat on my head and I almost yelped in shock when the hat started talking inside my head.

"Ah, yes, O'Hara. I remember your uncle being sorted years ago. He was fiercely protective of your father was he not? He was easily sorted into Hufflepuff along with your mother Lena Tress. She was very selfless your mother, an example of all the Hufflepuff qualities not unlike yourself." The hat paused as if contemplating something silently on its own. "I see your family has passed many of their traits onto you which you now embody. But I sense a deeper need which will undoubtedly come to pass. I can see the bravery you hold and I sense there will be many instances where this bravery will be necessary in order to carry on. In order to survive. It is not the physical or bold bravery that most Gryffindor's outwardly possess but the ability to move forward and depend on others as well as protecting the ones you hold dear. There is much to uncover in yourself and in your future so I believe I now know the best place to put you..." The voice in my head before it cut out as if a radio had been forcefully unplugged. Then I heard a louder voice over top of my head.

"GRYFFINDOR!" the voice boomed before I saw all those students wearing red robes jump up off the benches such as they had for Angelina and Lee. As soon as McGonagall took the hat off my head I leapt off the stool and almost ran towards the open seat beside Angelina. Lee was sitting on the other side of the table and both of them had huge grins and were giving high fives. A few of the older students leaned over to shake my hand or clasp my shoulder as a brief welcome into their house. I couldn't have been more ecstatic about being accepted into the same house as my new friends. When I sat down moments later and the noise died down, I looked up to see the next student being sorted. Watching the sorting now made me start contemplating what the hat told me. I had sort of forgotten about my father's brother since my father didn't usually talk about him. I knew there was a picture back in our sitting room on the mantel of him and my father holding a large fish they caught near their childhood home. I also knew he was a wizard and had actually been friends with my mother while they had both been students. But it had been years since I had heard my dad speak of him.

Before I could think of any of the other ominous things the hat had said in my head the hat was announcing that the next student was being placed into Ravenclaw. I clapped and focused my attention back to the two red heads who were at the end of the line of first years. They were giving us a thumbs up and Lee, Angelina and I were laughing out of excitement and anticipation for their sorting. Finally, after about 10 more minutes Professor McGonagall called out 'Fred Weasley'.

Fred bounded up the steps and easily took his place on the stool. In even less time than it had taken the hat to decide Lee and Angelina the hat exclaimed that Fred would also be joining Gryffindor. We all hollered in excitement as Fred ran over to the table with his hands shaking above his head victoriously. Fred took his place beside Lee who clasped Fred's hand before both of them sat down. Angelina and I were also looking at Fred with huge grins and clapping fiercely. We all eventually went quiet to see George receive the same fate as his twin brother. George made a similar entrance like Fred towards our table and took his place beside me. I gave him a hug which he returned just for Angelina to join in, forcing me to be stuck in the middle. George was the last student to be sorted which caused the whole Great Hall to become louder in excitement over the newest additions to each house. The five of us were all looking at each other happily, taking in the great fortune of all being sorted into the same house- not that any of us ever doubted it. Another red head soon came over to our section and congratulated all of us, especially Fred and George, for being sorted into Gryffindor.

"Thanks Perce," George said from beside me which made me look up at the new boy inquisitively. So this must be Fred and George's brother that they had mentioned on the train. He had horned-rimmed glasses and was just as lean as the twins. Not as muscular however or as tall. He was obviously older than all of us but it only seemed to be by a year or two. No sooner had Percy left us to return to his seat that another red head approached our end of the table. This boy was obviously older and broader than the other three red heads. He had even more freckles on his face and longer hair. He also seemed the more outdoorsy type than the others whom I assumed again were all brothers. I would need to get better acquainted with the twins to learn more about their family. We hadn't really talked about any of our families on the train ride, but there was obviously lots of time to learn.

"Hey Charlie!" Fred exclaimed from the other side of the table.

The taller boy smiled back at his younger brothers before surveying all of us.

"I see you have already made some new friends," he said with a smile.

"Yea, we all knew we were destined for Gryffindor which is how we knew we were associating with the right kind of people," Fred said with a wink. "This is Lee," he motioned with his hand towards his right, "and that is Angelina and Marnie," he finished, moving his hand around the table.

"We all sat together on the train." George added in explanation.

Charlie smiled again.

"Well it's great to meet all of you and I'm sure we will all become better acquainted. I am your prefect after all."

He looked at all of us as if sizing up for the amount of trouble we would cause. But, he smiled and continued.

"I just wanted to congratulate you two trouble-makers on continuing the family legacy and to meet your new friends."

He then returned to his seat after Fred and George thanked him.

"Oh, by the way, the password is 'hippogriff'. You'll need to tell that to the portrait before being allowed to enter the common room." Charlie said mysteriously before walking to his original seat, presumably with his own friends.

I then glanced back to the rest of the group with a confused look on my face.

"What does he mean you have to tell the portrait?" I asked, not even comprehending what that could mean.

Fred looked over at me with an amused look on his face. "Didn't your mum go to Hogwarts; how can you be so confused about a talking portrait?"

Before I could come up with my answer Angelina interrupted, "Her mum was in Hufflepuff you tosser, how is she supposed to know the Gryffindor secret if her mum never even knew?"

She looked at Fred expectantly for a reply.

This caused Lee to start laughing and George to look a little apologetic for his twin's ongoing bluntness. It wasn't Fred's comment that had bothered me so much, I mean all of them had grown up with magical parents so they were knowledgeable about such things. I just wasn't as accustomed since my father couldn't very well show me and my mother wasn't around.

But before I let it get too awkward, with Fred not having an immediate comeback, I changed the subject.

"Fred, George, how many brothers do you actually have?" I asked looking at both of them inquisitively.

They both smiled back and answered simultaneously. "Four."

"Plus one sister who's also the youngest," George added.

"Wow, your poor mother, I thought you two were more than enough to handle," I answered smugly which caused Lee to start laughing again.

In turn, this caused Fred to swat him on the shoulder.

"You think you're so witty, don't you Hare?" Fred asked with a challenging look in his eyes.

This new nickname made me stop short of coming up with another comeback. Hare was the nickname my mother had given my father from the first time they met as kids. When their group of friends were all hanging out, my mother would refer to him and my uncle as the Hare brothers. It was sort of strange now for someone to be giving me the same name.

Fred had mistaken my brief silence for disliking the new name which caused him to dawn a devilish grin.

"Ha, I've won this round Hare. This is also your new name which you will now be forever referred to as," Fred continued to grin, giving me a challenging look for me to object.

I honestly didn't mind the new name, plus it made me feel even closer to my mother on a day I really wished I could have shared with her. I just had to make sure my dad never heard it; I didn't think he would appreciate it very much. But, since we never had any visitors anyways, I didn't think it would ever be a problem.

"Ok, I'll accept the name," I paused watching the smile grow on his face, "but for me to accept it peacefully you will forever have to save me from any danger. Live up to that Gryffindor family legacy you keep bragging on about."

I chuckled, waiting for him to react to my condition. I was surprised though to see his face change to a more serious look before he nodded in acceptance.

"Hare, I will always protect you, from any danger from now and always. You have my word."

He then stood up and offered his hand for me to shake. I stood up grinning and took it. His face remained serious which slightly baffled me since I had meant the condition jokingly. As we sat back down I looked over at George who only shrugged his shoulders. The other two were chuckling at our antics. But, before I could ask Fred anything, an older man approached the podium at the centre of the staff table. He had the longest, whitest beard I had ever seen and deep purple robes. I recognized him from my chocolate frog card collection as Albus Dumbledore, the school's headmaster. He told us that between our excitement and hunger he would wait to make his announcements until after the feast. He then sat down which prompted an assortment of food to appear on the plates that had previously been empty. The food smelled incredibly delicious as I started piling one of everything onto my plate. This prompted Lee to stare at me questioningly.

"Oi, Marnie, you're the smallest one here. Are you really going to eat all that food?" Lee asked skeptically.

I grinned back at him, "Just watch me."

As I ate all the delicious food, that somehow tasted even better than it looked, I thought back to this morning with my dad. My life had significantly changed from just this morning and it was almost incomprehensible to believe that I had already made new friends, been sorted into a house, and had finally made it to Hogwarts after all my years of waiting. I was almost afraid it was a dream since everything had so far worked out better than I ever expected or hoped for. I smiled up at my new housemates and couldn't help thinking that as incredible as it all was, the O'Hara feast still could not be replaced.

Chapter Text

The five of us slowly headed to the Gryffindor common room after the welcoming feast. Lee had gawked at me the entire time stating that he couldn't believe how much I had eaten. I think I surpassed both him and the twins in the amount they had eaten which gave me a sense of satisfaction, especially since Fred even tried to keep up.

As we trudged up what felt like a countless amount of stairs, I saw a snip of red hair stop at a large portrait that featured a fairly large woman dressed in 18th century attire. We had been following the twin's brother Charlie since he's the Gryffindor prefect and obviously knew where we were going. Once the group of red-adorned students all stopped, I heard him say the word "Hippogriff" to the portrait lady just to see the large frame swing forward as if on a set of hinges. I didn't think I would ever get used to all the surprises that seemed to fill the castle.

We were all quite tired after having stuffed our faces, so I followed Angelina up to the first-year dorm in the girl's wing. When we opened the door we were greeted by two other girls who were already in the room sorting out their possessions. Somehow all of our things had already made their way up to the dorms. I think Remus told me that house elves were responsible for carrying up all the trunks. I frowned at realizing just how many trunks that would mean with everyone in the school.

I was interrupted in thought by one of the girls quickly approaching us with a large smile on her face. Before either I or Angelina could say anything the girl started to give us each a hug. I was taken aback by the obvious gesture of excitement and affection. I couldn't get over how friendly all of the Gryffindor's seemed to be. Maybe that was one of their main characteristics as well.

After the girl stepped back from us she introduced herself as Alicia Spinnet. I noticed the other girl roll her eyes in amusement which was telling that this is how Alicia had introduced herself to the other girl as well. We soon found out the other girls' name as we all introduced ourselves. Her name was Katie Bell and I thought she looked somewhat similar to Alicia. While Katie had darker hair than Alicia, they were both brunettes and similar in height. They also both appeared to also have more athletic builds, same as Angelina, whereas I was always more scrawny looking.

We were all settled shortly after, which left us all sitting at the ends of our beds and sharing stories about ourselves. I mentioned my father being a squib since we went around talking about our parents. I explained that my dad's brother had been in Hufflepuff but had died when I was a baby. He is also the reason my parents met since my mother and uncle ran in the same group of friends who would often all hang out at my father's childhood home during the summers. I also wanted to vet my new roommates since I didn't want to be sharing a room with anyone who reacted the same way as Marcus Flint had. I would have probably begged Dumbledore to have me re-sorted since the hat had almost put me in Hufflepuff. I was proud and protective of my dad and I refused to be friends with anyone who posed a threat to our happiness. However, the girls hadn't really reacted at all. I also told them that my dad was an editor for books written by witches and wizards.

My dad's business was run through an owl-delivery system which allowed my dad to work from home. I didn't mention however that my dad rarely left the house. Honestly, he probably left once a month to go to either Remus' or Mr. Lovegood's house. Sometimes he went into the small village about ten miles away if we needed something out of necessity. But often, Remus would just bring by groceries or the two of them would go into town while I was left with Luna and her father. I was never allowed to be at home alone. I also found out that all three of them were half-bloods which eased my anxiety about them judging my own family. Once we finished talking about our families Alicia jumped up off her bed and started rooting around her trunk.

"I have to show you guys something," Alicia said excitedly. "You've all got to try these!"

Alicia stood up from her trunk with a bag of candies in her hand. She randomly selected one for each of us before returning to sit down on her own bed with one for herself in her fingers.

"My brother gave me these before I boarded the train this morning and told me to share them with my new bunk mates," she explained while we all looked at her a little skeptically.

I had never seen these particular candies before and I looked around to see we all had different coloured ones. Mine was speckled gray with black dots while I noticed Angelina's was white with black stripes. Katie's was a solid brown colour and Alicia's was solid gray. As if sensing our hesitation Alicia put hers in her mouth first. After a couple seconds a loud trumpeting sound erupted from her mouth. She quickly brought her hands up to her face to try and stifle the loud noise which sounded more and more like an elephant. After about a minute the trumpet noise died down and Alicia's mouth finally closed. She kept her hands up as if uncertain of whether the noises would start up again. She also looked slightly embarrassed probably meaning she hadn't previously known the effects of the candies. However, the three of us just looked around at each other before breaking out into a hysterical laughter. Angelina then proceeded to put her candy into her mouth. Almost instantly she started emitting a ferocious growl which sounded like a hungry tiger. This caused us to further break into hysterics as we watched the ridiculous sight. Katie then put hers in her mouth right after Angelina piped down. She immediately started barking like a dog. I looked down at mine before deciding to join in. The sensation was automatic as it took hold. All of a sudden I had no control over my own mouth and I could hear a cackling emerge from my throat. I realized that it was a sort of continuous laughter, like a hyena. Once mine ended we all looked at each other and burst into laughter.

"Your brother must have wanted to sabotage your first impression if he didn't tell you what they did," Katie said as she continued to laugh along with the rest of us.

"Well, it didn't work now did it?" Angelina asked with a smile on her face.

She turned slowly to face me with a devilish grin on her face. "Oh, I have the perfect idea for who should get the rest of these" she exclaimed as I returned a knowing smile.

"Oh, yeah. I feel some of our fellow Gryffindor's need to experience these first-hand," I said gleefully before adding, "but I think it would be better if they were unbeknownst to the effects."

Angelina nodded in approval as she then explained our meeting with Lee and the twins on the train and how a good prank may be what the start to this year needed. And this friendship. The other girls eagerly consented to the plan before deciding to call it a night.

I pulled back the blankets and closed the red curtains that covered the four-poster bed. I lay down in the sheets and went over the events of the day in my head. I felt a smile form over my face, as if uncontrollably. I couldn't have pictured a better outcome to this day; a day I had been anticipating my entire life. And this was only the beginning.

XXX
The next night our group of first year Gryffindor's sat in a circle in the common room. Angelina and I had introduced Katie and Alicia to the boys when we had sat down for breakfast that morning. We were now all discussing our first classes which had been Herbology and Charms. Both classes seemed incredibly interesting but I had a hunch I was one of the only few who thoroughly enjoyed Herbology. But we realized that by being first year Gryffindor's together, we had all the same classes, especially since we couldn't take electives yet.

At this point in the evening, the group fell into an easy silence. This acted as a cue for the four girls to all give each other a knowing look.

"Hey guys, I have some candy here that my brother gave me, I thought we could all have one?" Alicia asked in a pretty innocent sounding voice.

I could see Katie turning away briefly to stifle a smile while Angelina and I held passive looks on our faces. Alicia handed one candy out respectively to everyone like she had done the previous night. The three boys looked far less suspicious than we had and each immediately tossed a candy into their mouths. Simultaneously the boys each started making animal-like sounds. George, who was sitting directly to my right ate an orange looking candy and was now making orangutan-sounding hollers. Fred, who was sitting at the end of the group, beside George, had eaten a dark brown looking candy and was whinnying like a horse. Lee, who was on Fred's other side, across from me ate a green candy and now had small puffs of smoke coming out of his mouth every time he made a deep roaring noise. I think he must have eaten a dragon one. All at once, after the four of us girls collected ourselves from our laughter, we all stood up and bolted for the stairs to our dormitory. The boys followed suit moments later, after the candies had fizzled out. However, we were already in our dorm when the boys started running up the staircase only to have it turn into a slide under their feet. I had read this fact in the many times I read Hogwarts: A History which made it part of our prank plan in the first place. It was also easy to execute since the first-year dorm was the first door up the staircase. Plus, we knew the boys would be mistakenly trusting of us girls.

We all looked out our dorm door to see the boys fall and slide down. They were now hollering out in confusion as we laughed down at them. I could hear Lee and George cursing as they stood up at the bottom of the staircase.

"This round goes to you," Fred yelled begrudgingly. "But don't think we won't pay you back tenfold." He shouted determinedly before I heard their three sets of feet finally shuffle away from the stairs.

The four of us were still laughing and giving each other high fives. The Gryffindor girls were seeming to be a force to be reckoned with. Plus, we couldn't let the boys' confidence get too big as they had been going on about their prankster feats. I thought of all the stories Uncle Remus told me about his time at Hogwarts with his fellow Gryffindor rebels. It made me smile, despite the half-hearted warning Remus had given me on the platform. Maybe I was a little like James under all my characteristics derived from my mother.

Chapter Text

Over the next few weeks, we all got accustomed to life at Hogwarts. It was now the second last day of our first month and we were all bustling with excitement. September 29th was the first day of flying lessons; and it also happened to be my birthday. I was the first one awake in my dormitory which meant I didn't have to fight over the bathroom with any of my other dorm mates. We had all become quite close with each other and often spent our nights chatting on our beds when we weren't sitting in a group with Lee and the twins in the common room. The boys had taken our prank in stride; trying not to let it hurt their egos too much. It had also only been a matter of days before they used the first ever charm we learned to float dung bombs up into our dormitory during dinner. And since they had stalled us that night by playing exploding snap by the fire until a later hour than usual, our dormitory smelled absolutely horrid by the time the four of us a traipsed upstairs. But, when we rushed downstairs moments later, the boys were nowhere to be seen.

I was taking my time in the shower since our typical routine was usually all of us scrambling around at the last possible minute. After about ten minutes I stepped out and securely fastened my tattered bath robe over my body and headed over to the mirror. I stared into it, not looking or feeling any older. My hair was still the same chestnut colour that landed just above my shoulders. It had always had a slight wave to it which I knew came from my mother. I actually looked a lot like her, having the same style and colour of hair as well as my characteristic eyes. Dad liked to tell me they had a bronzish glow to them, but I always thought they looked more orange. Whichever one, they were very distinct. Sometimes I felt self-conscious with how much they stood out. I also sometimes caught Fred staring at them when we were eating or sitting around the common room together. George however always seemed to sense my unease and would toss crumpled paper or spit balls at his twin. George would also tell me randomly that although they stood out, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. He explained that his red hair always automatically identified him as a Weasley anyways, which wasn't a bad thing either. I always smiled at his assurances.

I had grown fairly close with the twins, probably above all the others in our group, despite us all being very friendly. Angelina and I were also fairly close while I had noticed Katie and Alicia were always seen together. It never bothered me that we all formed different friendships with each other since we spent most meals and evenings all together anyways, along with attending all of our classes.

I walked out of the washroom to collect my robes and was surprised to see that the girls had already left the dormitory. It was odd that I hadn't heard anyone use the washroom but I supposed they all decided to go down for breakfast.

With that thought I heard my stomach grumble and decided to head down to the Great Hall. As I walked down to the common room I was immediately surprised to see all of my friends still in their pajamas standing at the bottom of the girls' staircase. The twins each held one end of a fairly large sign that said 'Happy Birthday Hare' on it. It also had a moving figure on it which I noticed was a rabbit – or hare- magically jumping around. I couldn't help but smile and roll my eyes at the obvious reference to the nickname which mostly only Fred called me by.

"Happy birthday Hare," Fred yelled up at me as I finished descending the stairs into my group of friends.

"Yea, happy birthday Marnie!" Angelina came up and gave me a big hug.

"Here you go Marnie, thought we could all have a birthday-style breakfast," Lee approached carrying what looked like a carrot cake.

"Come on guys, I'm not actually a hare you know!" I gently scolded my friends, noticing Fred giving me a smirk.

"I told you, I forever deemed you as Hare," Fred explained coolly.

He and George went to sit down in front of the fire while the rest of us followed.

I noticed all of the girls roll their eyes in response to Fred which told me this part of the plan had not been their idea. I also couldn't help but wonder if Fred actually knew that carrot cake was indeed my favourite. I doubted it since not many eleven, I mean twelve, year-olds actually liked carrot cake as their favourite.

"I can't believe you guys did all of this for me!" I exclaimed, beaming at all of my friends.

"Of course we did this for you," George piped in, "you deserve a proper birthday from your mates."

"Plus, we expect all of this for our own birthdays you know," Alicia added with a sly grin. "We had to set the bar high."

"Yea," Lee agreed, "I want my birthday to have butter beer, none of this tea nonsense," Lee indicated to the tea pot Katie was passing around.

We all chuckled at Lee while I sat down and helped myself to a piece of cake.

"Where did you guys get the food anyways?" I asked, knowing I had never seen food readily accessible outside of meal times from the Great Hall.

"Ask us no questions," George started.

"And we shall tell you no lies." Fred finished with a matching grin.

I looked at the twins ruefully before dropping the subject. Since I spent the majority of my time with the twins, I was privy to most of their secrets. And since they were already becoming characteristically known for being pranksters, they had a few many secrets to keep. For example, I knew they had a stash of dung bombs suitable to last the whole term which they had secretly bought in Diagon Alley without their mother's knowledge. They had also ventured out of the common room after hours to explore the castle numerous times while only getting caught about half the time. The worst had been when they had gotten caught by Professor Snape and had to clean all of the cauldrons until Snape deemed them adequate. That had taken nearly an entire day- on a weekend no less. I had also come along with them one night when the twins decided to show me the Astronomy Tower. We sat there for hours eating Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and talked about everything and nothing. The twins told me about their childhood and growing up with five other siblings. They also mentioned that their house's name was called The Burrow which I thought sounded oddly familiar. But mostly they told me of their more famous pranks as children, including almost getting their younger brother to perform an Unbreakable Vow and letting a garden gnome loose in their eldest brother's bedroom which had apparently dug a large hole in the middle of his mattress. During all of their tales though I noticed that the twins hardly pranked their sister, if ever.

We spent the early morning eating cake and discussing the upcoming flying lesson. The twins and Angelina already had experience flying on brooms while it would be the first time for the rest of us. I couldn't help thinking that my father wouldn't approve of me being on a broom, but it was school sanctioned. Plus, I was quite looking forward to the experience.

When it was nearing time to head down to the quidditch pitch, the others went up to quickly get ready so we could all head down together.

Lee was talking with the twins about the professional quidditch league, while Katie and Alicia were discussing how exhilarating it must be to fly around on a broom. This left Angelina and I to walk together in an easy silence.

"Are you nervous Marnie, about flying I mean?" Angelina asked in a lowered voice which I understood to mean she was making sure the others wouldn't hear.

Angelina was always understanding of my lack of knowledge of magical things despite not being a Muggleborn. I had confided in her about my dad's protectiveness and how I practically grew up a muggle, not that I necessarily minded. I also mentioned how reclusive my life had been and that my dad preferred to remain away from most of everyone else. Angelina had been understanding and not at all judgmental but I was still hesitant to tell the others of the extent of my dad's nature. I was confident however that they would react similarly to Angelina. George would also sometimes take the time to explain things if he saw that I was confused or struggling, not that I ever let on that easily.

"I'm fine Ange, thanks," I responded to her question. "I'm actually pretty excited, I've never been able to do anything like this before. Plus, it has to be safe if the school requires that every first year learn how to fly." I added with growing confidence.

Angelina smiled back at me and nodded.

We had just reached the pitch and I saw a teacher approaching us with spiky gray hair and yellowish eyes. Immediately, I was glad to see that I wasn't the only one outside of my family with peculiar eye colouring.

"Good morning boys and girls, I'm Madam Hooch. Welcome to your first flying lesson. Everyone gather round and stand beside a vacant broom which I have already laid out for you," she said with a no-nonsense air of authority.

I headed towards a pair of broomsticks with Angelina before we both waited for the next instruction.

"Alright, now that everyone has their own broom, we can get started. Now, in order to take control of the broom, everyone must raise their dominant hand above their broom and yell 'UP'. This will cause the broom to ascend into your hand. Everyone got that? Alright, on my mark- three, two, one…" and then she blew her whistle.

I raised my left hand over the broom and hesitated.

"Up," I said, trying to find a louder voice than the one being swallowed down my throat.

The broom rolled around on the ground, raised an inch, and then dropped back down. I looked over at Angelina to see her broom swiftly raise into her hand on her first attempt. The same thing happened with the twins, Alicia and Katie who all had wild grins on their faces. Lee's broom was also slowly raising up into his hand, albeit with a little less fervor than the others.

"Remember how much you were looking forward to this," Angelina reminded me gently.

I nodded towards Angelina before turning back to my own broom more determinately.

"UP!" I shouted, immediately causing the broom to come evenly up into my hand.

I looked back at Angelina with a pleased grin on my face.

"Alright children, the next step is to mount your brooms. Once secure, push up off the ground, hover for a few moments, and return firmly back down." Madam Hooch instructed.

The rest of the lesson went fairly well. I was a little shaky on the broom at first, but I was able to complete the tasks that Madam Hooch instructed. Towards the end of the lesson she even let us fly around the pitch a few feet above the ground in single file while she went alongside us to make sure nothing happened or any student got too overzealous or confident.

It was an incredible feeling to have the wind in my face and feel weightless above the ground. I almost wanted to raise my arms like wings but then figured I would have fallen and ended any chance of flying ever again if my father heard of a related injury.

At the end of the lesson, the seven of us headed over to the lake. Flying lessons had replaced Potions class for the day which was a birthday present all in itself. We all lazed around in what was probably one of the few nice days left of the season. The boys eventually started a competition to see who could go into the lake the farthest without disturbing the giant squid. They each only made it to shin depth before the giant creature would come and prohibit them from venturing any farther.

When the sun started to sink in the sky, I started to hear my stomach growl.

"Oi Marnie, I think you have a wildebeest living in that stomach of yours, I can hear it from here!" Lee exclaimed, who was sitting the furthest away from where I was sitting.

I stuck my tongue out at him for his characteristic lack of tact.

Before I could answer, Fred, who was sitting beside Lee, elbowed him in the stomach.

"That is no way to address Hare on her birthday you git," Fred told Lee in what I felt was an exaggerated tone.

"Come on Marnie, shall I escort you to dinner?" George asked more humbly as he bowed down and extended his arm towards me.

I took it, giggling at both of the twin's antics before having both him and Fred escort me to the castle while the others followed close behind.

I also saw Angelina try to punch Lee in the arm, presumably for his comment, but missed since he proceeded to run away from her. This caused the two of them to start running towards the castle in an attempt for Ange to catch Lee. Katie and Alicia laughed in delight as they cheered Angelina on and also ran to keep up.

The twins and I were the last to reach the castle having been farther behind the others who were most likely already in the Great Hall; unless Lee was cowering off somewhere avoiding Angelina's wrath. I noticed however that the twins were leading me off in another direction away from the Great Hall.

"Hey, I thought we were going to dinner?" I asked the twins who both smiled down at me.

"Oh but we are Hare," Fred answered, mussing the hair on the top of my head.

"We couldn't share our secret with the others, but since it is your birthday," George explained.

"-and you are our very best friend," Fred added, causing me to involuntarily blush.

"-we are going to share our secret with you." George finished with a wink.

We descended down a few staircases and were situated in where I thought was almost directly under the Great Hall. Fred approached a portrait of a fruit bowl and wiggled his finger over a painted pear, while George kept his arm looped through mine. He watched his brother with a knowing smile and I was surprised to hear the pear actually giggle in response to Fred's action. The frame then proceeded to open much like the Fat Lady's portrait for the Gryffindor common room. George then lightly guided my arm through the hidden entryway that Fred had already stepped through.

After we entered the hidden room I immediately noticed that we were standing in an extremely large kitchen that had four tables looking and positioned identical to those in the Great Hall. I also noticed the large amount of house elves who were all bustling around.

"Oh! Mr. Wheezies!" I heard a high-pitched voice say as I looked over to see a house elf running over in greeting.

"Mr. Wheezies! You have come back to visit! Posy is so happy!" the house elf went on, who was undoubtedly named Posy. "Oh, Mr. Wheezies have a guest. A pretty girl! What does Posy call you miss?" the squeaky house elf looked up with bright eyes.

"Oh, my name, my name is Marnie," I stuttered, taken aback by her sheer excitement.

"Miss Marnee!" Posy exclaimed. "You must follow Posy, Posy will get you some dinner," she said, pulling on my other hand with George still latched onto my arm.

Posy guided us to a small table tucked into the corner of the large kitchen. No sooner had we found our seats that the house elf was already setting off to get us some food.

"Oi, Posy," Fred said to get the house elf's attention. She quickly turned around in acknowledgement.

"It's Marnie's birthday. Could you maybe whip up something extra special?" Fred asked causing Posy to let out a shriek of excitement.

"Oh yes, Mr Wheezy! Miss Marnee, you don't worry now, Posy get you something extra special for your birthday!" Posy then ran off into the crowd of other house elves before I could object.

"How did you find this place?" I asked as I looked at the two boys sitting on either side of me.

"Our brother Charlie told us about it. I think Bill told him before us." George explained.

"Yea, but no one told Percy. We all figured he would rat us out or something." Fred added with a grimace.

"Well, thank-you for sharing the family secret," I responded to the twins.

"Of course Marnie, you're our best friend. How could we not tell you?" George said with a smile.

I looked up at Fred who was vigorously nodding in agreement.

Moments later we were interrupted by a bustling Posy who was carrying what looked like five platters of food. She set them down haphazardly and took off the silver tops to present large amounts of my favourite foods including roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, scallop potatoes, corn bread, and chocolate pie. I was amazed at how Posy could even remotely know what my favourite foods were.

"Here you go Mr. Wheezies and Miss Marnee," Posy said before running off to do something else.

"This is amazing! These are all my favourite foods! Absolutely incredible!" I smiled, already piling the food onto my plate.

The twins just smiled back at me, grabbing their own plates and dug in.

An hour later we were all stuffed and Posy took the plates and trays away. We decided that it was probably time to head up to the common room before it got past curfew. We then slowly climbed out of the portrait hole after bidding the house elves goodbye.

"Hey George, isn't the Hufflepuff common room just down the hall?" Fred asked with a mischievous grin.

"Why Fred, I do believe you are correct," George answered while I could see both of them grabbing some dung bombs from within their pockets.

"Hare, you are the birthday girl, care to throw the first bomb?" Fred asked with a grin and extended his hand out.

I accepted it, grinning back at Fred. We crept down the hall and lucked out when we saw an older student step out of what looked like a stack of barrels and headed in the opposite direction than where we were standing. We took the fleeting opportunity to chuck the dung bombs into the common room before sprinting back in the direction we had come from. Unfortunately, we ran right over a cat; Mrs. Norris.

"Who dares hurt my precious cat!" Filch scathed at us as he rounded the corner and bent down to assess his stupid pet.

The twins looked loathsome at the caretaker while I just sighed. Some way to end my birthday.

Chapter Text

Filch's detention had been pretty horrible. He made us clean all the toilets in the dungeons which were mostly frequented by the Slytherins. George told me afterwards that the boys' washroom smelt like a troll had been hibernating in there. Fred on the other hand had been uncharacteristically quiet, only talking with George for the rest of the week. He seemed angry, but none of the rest of us had any idea of what was setting him off. It wasn't like it was their first- or probably their last- detention at Hogwarts.

It was now a week after the detention had taken place and I was sitting in the library with Angelina studying for our upcoming Herbology test. The book I was reading was explaining the 212 uses of foxglove when I felt Angelina kick me from under the desk.

I looked up with an incredulous expression before noticing the twins slowly approaching our table. Well, more accurately, George was pushing Fred towards the table while the two were obviously having a whispered disagreement.

"Marnie, Freddie here has something he would like to share," George exclaimed with a smile on his face.

He then looked back at Fred who looked like he was contemplating turning back. This forced George to grab his elbow and shove him forward.

Fred let out an exasperated sigh when he saw his twin was not budging on his decision to force Fred to say whatever it was they had initially discussed. I was at a loss for what Fred could possibly have to say, especially after all of this effort.

"So, uh, Hare…. The thing is…." He paused while looking back at George who gave him an encouraging smile and a thumbs up. "Hare, I'm sorry I failed you." Fred finished with a dejected look and stared down at his feet.

I looked back at him in shock, not knowing what to say or even make of the situation. I quickly looked over to George for guidance who just nodded towards Fred in response.

"Fred, how could you possibly think you failed me? You and George are my best friends." I responded at once, still trying to rack my brain for some sort of sensical explanation as to why Fred was feeling this way.

"Unless, you did something behind my back?' I suggested, already doubting Fred would ever do that.

"NO! Oh Merlin! No!" Fred sputtered as if the insinuation itself was preposterous. "No, the detention!" He explained frantically, still horrified at the idea of doing anything behind my back.

"The detention? That's what this is about. That's why you have been avoiding all of us for the past week?" I asked in an incredulous tone.

"Well yea," Fred said matter-of-factly. "I swore to protect you. And that includes from slimy gits like Filch." Fred explained more confidently.

I shook my head in bafflement. "Fred you idiot! Being your best friend makes me a fellow prankster by extension. Plus, I do recall that we…" as I pointed between myself and Angelina,"… started the pranking wars anyway. You can't beat yourself up about getting detention. I mean, we were all caught red handed." I finished.

Fred took a moment before he looked back up at me.

"So, you forgive me?" Fred asked in a surprised tone.

"You git, I was never mad at you in the first place. Just glad to have my best friend back. Brooding is not a good look for you mate," I added while smiling at him.

"You two are hopeless," Angelina said looking between the two of us while shaking her head.

"Ain't that the truth," George added also smiling in relief. "Glad to have that wrapped up." He added as both he and Fred sat down to join us, with absolutely no intention of studying.

XXX

After our so-called incident was wrapped up, our group dynamic thankfully returned to normal. I found it extremely odd at how seriously Fred was taking this whole protecting thing. I even asked George about it, since he was always the more grounded of the two. But George had just shrugged it off, telling me that I knew how Fred was. After that, I let it go deciding it wasn't necessary to give it much more thought.

The only thing any of my friends seemed interested in discussing now was the first quidditch game of the year which was quickly approaching. It was to take place in the middle of October, between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Our prefect, who was also the twins' brother Charlie, was also due to play in the game as Gryffindor's captain and seeker. He was also reportedly very good as per the twins and seeing as how they talked about Percy and Ron, I didn't think they were just talking Charlie up for the sake of family.

I knew it was the morning of game even before I opened my eyes. I could sense all three girls hovering over my bed before they decidedly started jostling me in an attempt to wake me up.

"Geroff me," I grumbled, causing them to laugh and toss me my robes.

"Get up Marnie! We have to be able to get good seats to watch the game." Katie said.

I could hear her walk away towards the washroom presumably to finish getting ready.

"Do not go back to sleep Marnie!" Ange yelled warningly. "I will jump on you!"

"Oo, that's how I get my brother out of bed at home. I can still outrun him, so that's how I still get away with it." Alicia laughed before she followed Katie.

"Alight, alright, I'm up," I said groggily, lifting myself out of bed.

I started almost blindly putting on my robes after having removed my sleeping clothes. Once I had my uniform on haphazardly, I heard what sounded like a pelting sound at the door. Since the other three were in the washroom, I hesitantly went to the door and opened it, but was confused when there was nobody there. Dazed, I stuck my head out to look around the staircase only to see a small rock whizzing through the air aimed directly at my head. In a sobering instant I quickly ducked out of the way, narrowly avoiding the flying object.

"Who is sending rocks to our door?" I yelled down the staircase, not wanting to enter the common room before I washed up a little or tamed my hair.

"Hurry up you lot, we need to eat before we head out to the pitch and we need to be able get good seats!" Fred explained in an exasperated tone.

"Oi, you gits almost hit me!" I yelled back, knowing Lee and George must also be there.

"Well we can't see where you are," explained George.

"And we just wanted you lot to hurry up," added Lee.

I groaned at them exasperatingly and slammed the door having no energy to argue with them. But as I walked towards the washroom I could have sworn I heard Lee say 'Ow' and at least one of the twins speaking in an annoyed tone.

Twenty minutes later we all headed out to the pitch after having hastily scarfed down some food. As we walked by, both twins patted Charlie on the shoulder while the rest of us smiled and wished him good luck. I also noticed the full plate of food in front of him which still looked untouched.

We were indeed some of the first few people to make it to the pitch much to the delight of my friends. We found our seats located in the front-center of the stands, although slightly more towards the Gryffindor side to avoid enemy territory. The twins were telling me how they thought Hufflepuff's weren't all that good at playing quidditch although I suspected they were probably just biased. On the other had I had never seen an actual quidditch game while I knew the twins played in their back yard. So they definitely knew more than I did.

"I can't wait til it's us out there Georgie," Fred said thrillingly.

"I couldn't agree with you more Freddie! We'll make Gryffindor proud," George returned triumphantly.

"You guys are going to try-out for the quidditch team?" I asked, this being the first time I had heard the twins mention it.

"Of course Marnie, quidditch is one of our favourite things. It's one of the main reasons we were looking forward to coming to Hogwarts in the first place," George answered with Fred smiling in agreeance.

"We are going to be beaters," Fred said as I remembered those were the two positions who hit the balls called bludgers at other players from the opposing team.

"Yea, well you're looking at your chaser team right here," Katie piped in as she indicated to Alicia and Ange.

I knew there were three chasers on a team who scored points by throwing the quaffle through either of the three hoops on the opposite team's end. Seriously, this is all any of them would talk about for weeks. Plus, I had read my mom's book about the intricacies of the game more times than I could count.

Fred and George smiled in approval to what Katie said while Lee explained that he had an interest in announcing the games. When they all stopped talking about their dreams of entering the quidditch team they all looked at me.

"Marnie, you should be the seeker!" Alicia exclaimed with the others nodding enthusiastically.

"Way better than the keeper!" Fred added.

"Plus, you're small so you can speed to the snitch faster. Seekers are usually small for that reason," Angelina explained.

I looked up at all of them who were all decisively set on playing quidditch, and probably had been long before they started school.

"I don't think I want to," I answered calmly.

Sure, I loved flying lessons but I had never once thought about joining the team, even when I was waiting to start school. It wasn't just because I thought my dad would avidly forbid me from playing, but I had never had a passion for it like my friends surely had. And I thought that was probably a very important aspect for the team.

"But you know," I interrupted before they could all start questioning me, "you will have a number one fan in the stands, which is a very important commodity," I explained coolly.

They all smiled at me and agreed before turning their attention to the pitch where the teams were entering from opposite sides. I could see Charlie walking towards the center where he met a girl with her brown hair tied back into pigtails in front of Madam Hooch. The girl looked to be about Charlie's age. They shook hands and then returned to their respective teams before mounting their brooms. Madam Hooch mounted her own broom shortly after before magically releasing the balls from their case. After a moment the flying teacher blew her whistle and the players were off.

During the game I quickly looked back and forth between all of the players, trying to decipher what was going on. Lee, who was sitting beside me, started to commentate the game to our group which became immensely helpful. Fifteen minutes after the game had started Charlie caught the snitch. Gryffindor won 230-60.

XXX

Over the next few months we all became busier as classes came into full swing and teachers seemingly wanted to cram our young brains with as much knowledge as they could before Christmas break. I was excited at the thought of seeing my father whom I had been writing to almost every day. I had obviously told him about being sorted into Gryffindor and meeting most of my friends on the train; just like mum! I also explained my classes to him, telling him my favourite was Herbology, as well as flying lessons. I also assured him that I had been safe but had then left out the pranks I pulled and the detentions I had received; mostly with the twins. The detention I had received on my birthday had not been my first and I later drilled it into Fred's head that it was not his fault if I was ever with him when I got punished. He had begrudgingly agreed.

All of my friends were also getting excited to return home to their families. Angelina explained that her family always went to her granny's cottage in order to go skiing. Lee's family typically went to his uncle's place in the city where his entire family got together and where he would hang around with his cousins. Alicia on the other hand typically had a quieter, family Christmas with her brother, same as Katie, who stayed at home with her parents and grandpa. The twins also explained to me what their Christmas's consisted of; like how their mother spent all year knitting each of them a personalized sweater and the big feast she prepared for their entire family. The only thing the twins didn't seem to like was that their mother played Celestina Warbeck who apparently was a witch who only sang sappy love songs to which their mother cherished. After hearing the twins' stories, even despite the questionable music, the Weasley Christmas sounded pretty spectacular. For my own Christmas I knew Remus would come over and spend the night Christmas Eve, barring it wasn't a full moon, and the three of us would wake up early the next morning to exchange gifts. Dad would also cook us a full breakfast, much like the one he had made on September first and we would then spend the day lounging around. I would usually spend it reading since I always got a new book, and then we settle in to eat a large roast at the end of the day. I was always in charge of the dessert, which had been chocolate pudding when I was younger, but last year I managed to make a pumpkin pie. I hadn't ever thought that I needed anything else than what I had with my family, but the chaos and craze of the Weasley holidays sounded like something that I curiously wanted to experience.

A week later we were finally boarding the Hogwarts Express to go home for the holidays. The seven of us all crammed into a compartment and excitedly talked about our studies being temporarily on hiatus. Currently, I was talking to Lee about which class we were most thankful to be over; Potions or History of Magic.

"Excuse us for a moment," George interrupted as he and Fred stood up and opened the sliding door.

I noticed Fred trying to inconspicuously rub his sleeve over the glass before slipping out.

"We have some business to attend to, be back soon," Fred answered, already making his way down the hall.

I stared after them inquisitively before turning back to Lee.

Ten minutes later the twins returned with the slight smell of gunpowder following in their wake. I looked at them quizzically but they just smiled and started talking to Ange about how they were bound to go skating on the pond behind their house. Moments later though a very angry Marcus Flint came stomping down the hallway before stopping outside our door and glaring into our compartment. It was obvious there had been some kind of small explosion since his face had gray ash all over it and his hair was standing straight up. It also looked like his eyebrows were singed. Lee was trying to hold back his obvious laughter while I saw the girls snicker at his appearance.

After a glaring moment he went to open our compartment before the twins stood up defiantly.

"I wouldn't do that if I were you," George told him tauntingly.

"Yea, that thing is rigged to blow," Fred added with his hands crossed over his chest.

Flint looked as if he was contemplating whether their words were true or not before hesitantly reaching to open the door; deciding that the twins were lying.

"Look at you Flint, greasier than normal, and a face that's already blown up," George interrupted causing Flint to pause in his movement.

"Plus, I don't think no eye-brows would be a good look for you, they're already half gone," Fred continued causing Flint to pull his hands up to his brow line as if trying to confirm Fred's words.

At this point I tried to hold back my laughter at Flint's appearance and skiddish behavior.

Flint looked down at me with malice.

"You dirty squib, you can't hide behind these weasels forever," Flint sneered but then stormed off in the same direction he had come from.

At once Lee and the girls started applauding which caused George to take a bow. Fred however sat down beside me and put his hand over mine which was resting on my knee.

"I'll always protect you Marnie, no one will ever hurt you. I won't let them," he said solemnly and hugged me.

I was still surprised at how serious Fred could be when someone even slightly tried to offend me. But, as my head looked over his shoulder during our embrace it was then that I saw the words Dirty Squib scrawled in someone's breath on the compartment door, haphazardly erased.

When we exited the train a few hours later the others ran off to their families after giving their hurried good-byes. I remained with the twins as we surveyed the crowd looking for our parents. The twins smiled when they saw a woman come bustling through the crowd with a warm smile and matching red hair.

"Fred! George!" the woman shouted, waving her hand and hurrying over to our location. I also saw a young boy and girl, both with red hair, following closely behind the woman. They must be Ron and Ginny.

The woman approached the twins and pulled them into a hug before letting go and glancing over at me.

"Oh dear, you must be Marnie! The twins have told me so much about you!" the woman smiled before she hugged me in greeting. I was taken aback at the outward motherly affection which made me frown slightly.

"Mrs. Weasley," I said when the woman let me go, "it's nice to meet you too!"

"Oh dearie, call me Molly! And this is Ron and Ginny," she added, gesturing down to the two young children.

Before I could say anything else I saw my dad approaching from the crowd. In response I ran up to him and jumped into his open arms.

"Dad! I've missed you so much!" I said as I buried myself into his chest. "Come, you have to meet my best friends!" I added and led him by the hand a few feet over to where the Weasleys stood. But before I could introduce my dad, Mrs. Weasley was already extending her hand towards my father.

"Joss, I hadn't realized you were Marnie's father," Mrs. Weasley said as my father took her outstretched hand and clasped his other hand on top.

"It's good to see you again, Molly. I am glad to confirm that my daughter's decidedly best friends are indeed your sons," my father added as the twins and I looked between them in bewilderment.

"How do you know Mrs. Weasley?" I asked as the twins asked their mother how she knew my father.

"Oh, we know each other from years ago," dad said with a tint of sadness in his voice which was almost imperceptible. I knew this to mean that they had known each other from the war.

Because of this I didn't press the matter further since I was fairly confident in my assumption. I noticed the twins had stopped their own line of questioning, maybe also knowing of the underlying insinuation of the war.

"Joss, you are welcome at the Burrow anytime you know, if you feel up to it I mean," Mrs. Weasley said knowingly. I became intrigued with the level of which Mrs. Weasley apparently knew my father.

"Thank-you Molly, I appreciate the invitation. We will have to take you up on that offer one day," my father said with a smile on his face. I was actually surprised and elated at the prospect of my father going anywhere that wasn't Remus' or Mr. Lovegood's. I did often worry at the amount of friends my father seemingly lacked, especially with me at school.

"Well we better get going Marnie, your uncle is waiting for you at home," my father said as I hugged the twins and went to leave, but not without Mrs. Weasley giving me another hug.

I waved back at the Weasley's seeing that Percy and Charlie had caught up with their family as we left the platform. I couldn't help thinking that the twin's mother was even more amazing than I had anticipated.

XXX

I woke up Christmas day to the smell of waffles and bacon. Feeling the chilled air of my room I almost wanted to stay under my warm covers but my stomach growled in protest. I was also sure that our small fireplace would have a fire going since it was typical for my dad to light one during the winter months. Decidedly, with trepidation, I jumped out of bed and grabbed my ratty cloak and slippers before rushing out of my bedroom and cascaded down the stairs into the front entryway. Turning around to head towards the kitchen I saw that my dad and Remus were already there, both with a cup of tea in hand. My dad was still preparing the food while my uncle sat at our small counter on a stool. I couldn't quite hear what they were talking about due to the crackling fire and they went quiet when Remus saw me approaching.

"Good morning Marnie, Happy Christmas!" Remus exclaimed, setting his cup down to give me a hug.

Dad put the last waffle onto the stacked plate and set it down on the table before turning to me and giving me a hug as well.

"Happy Christmas Love," dad said as he kissed my forehead.

He released me moments later so we could all sit down at the table. It was always our tradition to eat breakfast before presents since my dad said he preferred to see my reaction to the gifts, which he wouldn't be able to if they were left at the foot of my bed.

Uncle Remus asked me all about my classes and was especially interested in Defense Against the Dark Arts. I told him we were learning about merpeople and that my favourite class was Herbology which I saw made my dad smile. I also told him about my flying lesson and how I hadn't gotten it right away before Angelina had helped me.

"Oh Marnie, don't worry. You seem to have picked it up well!" Remus said encouragingly before he started to chuckle.

"James and Sirius were pros much like you say your friends are, but I struggled a bit. It was James who had to encourage me that I could fly. I think it was about the third or fourth time that the broom went into my hand. And poor Peter…" Remus added, "…. His broom didn't even move the first couple of times he commanded. I think he finally got it around his twelfth time." He paused as if caught in his own memories.

"But nothing beats that first feeling of flying through the air," Remus added wistfully.

We continued talking about school and what I thought of Hogwarts in general while we finished breakfast. Remus magically cleared the dishes once we were done and I dashed for the tree. I knew dad cut it down from the forest that surrounds the meadow around our yard. It had always been our tradition to go out into the woods on December first to select a tree. When I was younger my dad would bundle me in a snowsuit before setting me on a ramshackle sled and pulling me out into the woods. I would always choose a tree much too tall for our cottage and my dad would have to convince me on another one. It made me sad that my dad had done it alone this year.

"This one's for you Marnie," Remus held out a gift wrapped in brown packing paper.

I opened it to reveal a book called The Lesser Known Uses for Magical Herbs and Where to Find Them.

I looked up at Uncle Remus and gave him a huge bearlike hug.

"Thank-you so much uncle!" I exclaimed, already wanting to read it.

"You're very welcome Marnie, I gathered you were really enjoying Herbology from the letters you sent me," he responded.

We then started opening the rest of the presents. I gave Remus a Gryffindor coloured scarf and dad a magic mug which kept your tea continually warm since he was always leaving it around the house and forgetting about it until hours later.

We continued until there was only one present left under the tree which my dad reached for and handed over to me.

I opened the small gift to uncover a small velvet box. Inside was a gold chain necklace with an empty pendant.

"It belonged to your mother. We had agreed that once you attended your first year at Hogwarts we would give it you. Why don't you try it on?" dad suggested as he took it from me and placed it around my neck.

I looked down to admire the necklace and saw that the once empty pendant had changed to a red ruby. I looked up to my dad in astonishment.

"It changes to whatever house you're sorted into. When your mother had it, it had been amber to represent Hufflepuff," dad explained before I even asked the question.

"What beautiful magic," Remus said as he inspected the necklace.

I was speechless at the thought that my mother had worn the necklace when she attended Hogwarts. I also couldn't fathom the form of magic which recognized her as a Hufflepuff and myself as a Gryffindor.

"Thank-you," I whispered as I buried my head in my dad's chest and gave him a hug. I felt tears pang my eyes and willed them to go away. I didn't want my dad to think I was upset when I was quite the opposite.

"I have an idea Marnie," my dad said as he gently pulled me away from him so he could look at me. "Why don't we go visit your mother? You haven't seen her since the end of summer."

I nodded fervently still not trusting my voice from breaking. I hurried up the stairs to get dressed.

Fifteen minutes later I came bustling down the stairs. Remus agreed to apparate us individually to save time from the long drive to see where my mother was. He decided to take my father first so he would be waiting for my arrival. Once Remus apparated with me, he left us and agreed to return in a couple of hours so he could prepare the feast for tonight.

I took my dad's hand as he led me down the familiar way to where my mother was. I always got sad coming here for obvious reasons but was also happy to have this connection to her.

When we arrived in her wing I saw a familiar boy walking towards us.

"Hi Neville, happy Christmas," I said rushing over to hug the younger boy. I had known Neville for years and had grown quite fond of the timid boy. I had promised him that I would look out for him once he entered Hogwarts in a couple years. I had also written him a couple letters assuring him there was nothing to be scared of, except maybe the Potions master.

"Oh hi Marnie," Neville replied as he happily returned the embrace. "I've stopped in to see your mum briefly this morning, she's looking quite well," Neville said giving me an encouraging smile.

It was difficult being two young children who bonded over the torture of their parents at the hands of Death Eaters. I waved at him, promising to say good-bye to him and his gran before leaving.

We continued down the hall before turning into the familiar room that was now my mother's home. My dad was first to enter with me close behind. I surveyed the walls which were covered in drawings I had made for her over the years. There were also pictures of me everywhere from different stages of my life plus some of the letters I had written to my dad while at Hogwarts.

"Good morning Lena," dad said quietly once my mother noticed our arrival.

She was shuffling around her room, tinkering with the trinkets on the shelf at the far end. Most of the items were odd bits and rubbish she found around the hospital but some were actual objects dad would bring her to keep her occupied. I saw the sad smile on his face that he always got when seeing her.

She started waving energetically once she noticed us without saying anything. She was often very quiet, not saying much. But she always had a happy demeanor and would show us around her room. Today was no different as she noticed me and took my hand to guide me over to her shelf. She started showing me her collection as I picked up a dried flower which dad must have brought her over the summer. I went to show her the flower when I caught her looking down at me and pointing to my necklace.

"Yellow," she said still looking at my ruby red necklace.

I looked at my mother with an astonished gaze.

"That's right Lena, yours used to be yellow," my dad responded to the rare utterance of my mother speaking.

At my dad's words she nodded her head vigorously before turning back to her collection. For the rest of our visit my mother only mumbled to herself on occasion and didn't say anything else to us. We had taken her down to the cafeteria where we all ate Christmas cakes and pudding. Watching my mother, it always looked as if she were in a childish daze. It was difficult to comprehend, although I loved my mother with all my heart, I had never known her as anything different. She had been tortured by Bellatrix Lestrange near the same time as Neville's parents. My mother had been on a special mission for the Order of the Phoenix and had gotten captured by the Death Eater before she could report back to the others. Apparently, my mother had been trying to protect Lily and James after discovering Frank and Alice. The details were fuzzy and despite how honest me and my dad were with each other, the torture of my mother was definitely not a topic he liked to explain, especially to his eleven-year-old daughter.

I had never been angry at my mother or felt abandoned by her. I was actually quite proud of her for fighting for our family and friends. For a better world, without dark magic. But looking into my mother's eyes and not seeing any recognition or even essence of being an adult woman was cruel. My deepest most secret place in my heart almost wished she had died. There seemed to be much crueler fates than death. But every time I pictured visiting my mother's grave instead of hospital bed made me feel anguish, despair, and reluctance. This is why I sometimes doubted that I wasn't a coward; that I even belonged in Gryffindor, because I couldn't picture this kindness for my mother.

A couple hours later, when my mother was falling asleep in her bed, we bid her good-bye. I hugged my mum, putting a smile on her face before leaving for the next room to see Neville.

"Your baby is a Gryffindor Lena," Joss whispered to his wife before he bent down to kiss the top of her head and pulled the blankets over her.

He stood up and exited the room to find his daughter which meant he didn't hear the whisper from his wife.

"Red."

Chapter Text

The rest of the holiday flew by. Remus, dad and I spent New Year's Eve together, as per tradition. It was a quiet evening but dad made his famous maple-glazed goose. Luna and her father also stopped by, since Mr. Lovegood was the one to provide the goose, which was a nice opportunity to visit with the younger girl. I showed Luna my book on Herbology while she brought along her newest book on The Unknown Magical Creatures of Morocco. It had been our past time to share our books and I always found Luna had the most interesting and most obscure collection.

After New Year's everything was quiet and before long my father was escorting me back to King's Cross. It was only a few moments after entering the platform we heard the sounds of a woman calling out to us. We turned around to see Mrs. Weasley leading her children towards us with a beaming smile on her face. I could see Ginny holding on to her mother's arm as they approached with Ron on her other side. The twins were also following closely behind with matching grins on their faces.

"Oh Marnie dear, I hope you had a good Christmas!" Mrs. Weasley beamed at me. "I just wanted to make sure I saw you off before you got on the train," she added, bringing me in for a hug.

"Oo Mum, look at her pretty necklace," I heard Ginny say and saw her pointing to my mother's pendant hanging around my neck.

"Don't point Ginevra, it's rude," Mrs. Weasley scolded her daughter before turning back to me.

"That is a beautiful necklace Marnie," Mrs. Weasley said kindly. "I remember your mother always wearing it everywhere she went. A beautiful piece of magic."

I gaped at her response.

I had already deduced that Mrs. Weasley had probably known my mother since she seemed to know my father from the war. But it was startling to hear a comment like that from someone I still hardly knew. Of course, my father and Remus mentioned mum all the time, but it was always hard imagining other people knowing her before she was tortured. Especially when many of those people had either been tortured themselves, imprisoned, or had died.

My thoughts were interrupted by the screech of the warning whistle. I hugged my dad fiercely, holding back a sudden string of tears before he kissed me and nudged me off towards the train; it was still difficult to leave my father behind. But the twins looped their arms through mine and guided me towards the steam engine to find a compartment with our friends. We were lucky enough to find a vacant one with a view facing the platform where I could see my father talking with Mrs. Weasley. It looked as if they were old friends catching up which made me hopeful yet again that my dad would branch out of his comfort zone to rekindle an old friendship.

Lee and the girls soon found us as the train set off for Hogwarts. We all talked about our Christmases and the presents we received. No one was quite as enthusiastic about my book as Luna had been and I was slightly jealous of the homemade sweaters the twins were sporting. Fred's was blue which I found brought out his bright eyes whereas George's was green. They also had large letters on the front to signify their first names. I felt most people would find this helpful to depict each one from their identical nature, but I didn't need sweaters.

Before long we arrived back at Hogwarts and gorged ourselves at the Return Feast. Soon after, we each declared that we were all pretty exhausted and decided to head to bed, especially since we had already caught up on the train. Up in our dorm the girls quickly got into their beds and fell asleep moments later while I laid there for a while thinking about my dad back home and feeling guilty for what felt like me abandoning him and my mother. I knew she probably wouldn't even notice my absence but my dad and I often visited her in the hospital; at least once a week all throughout my childhood. It had been straining on both of us to have my mother the way she was when I was growing up. Dad was raising me on his own, and the reality of a sick wife had turned my father into a recluse.

I held my pendant which almost seemed to be glowing red in my palm as I drifted off into a fitful sleep. After a while I started to dream of my mother wearing the yellow pendant while screaming out to me as I tried to get to her. But before I could there was a flash of green and the pendant turned red.

The next morning I headed down the stairs earlier than usual since I had been plagued with unsettling dreams. I was surprised to see the twins already up, huddled together by the fire. When I went to approach them George turned around with a smile having sensed my presence.

"Hey Marnie," he said as I sat down.

"Good morning Hare," Fred added with a smile.

"We need to give you your Christmas present," George added which caused me to look at him wide-eyed.

"But I didn't get you guys anything, I thought we decided that!" I exclaimed, remembering the discussion the seven of us had had at the beginning of December.

"Don't fret little Hare," Fred cooed provokingly.

I leaned over to swat him.

"It's nothing we paid for, it's just our deepest, most prized secret," George explained mysteriously.

I was already privy to most of their secrets but I had no idea what they were talking about.

"We've had it since your birthday actually, but it took us a few months to figure it out," Fred said before taking out a large piece of parchment.

"Yea, and we haven't really had a good opportunity to show you without the rest of the gang," George continued as I looked at both of them eagerly.

"Well, come out with it then, what is it?" I asked, already intrigued and growing impatient with the twins explanation.

Fred obligingly laid the piece of parchment between the three of us and brought his wand to it. I noticed George inch towards the paper as if creating a closer barrier away from potentially prying eyes. I followed suit, leaning in to see what was so special about this blank piece of parchment.

Fred tapped his wand before speaking an unusual incantation.

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."

This immediately caused ink to appear. I didn't get a chance to read the title though as Fred unfolded the parchment to reveal a map. Before I could ask what the map was for I saw three familiar names scrawled together in what looked like the Gryffindor common room.

Marnie O'Hara

Fred Weasley

George Weasley

The names were in a circular formation much like how the three of us were sitting.

"Bloody hell!" I swore which caused George to chuckle and Fred to look at me aghast. I usually didn't swear, and I'm pretty sure I had never sworn in front of the twins.

"Pretty cool huh?" George asked.

"It shows the entire castle and everyone in it. It also shows when people are moving which is how we will be more successful in our future nighttime adventures," Fred explained with a sly grin.

"Brilliant!" I exclaimed, my eyes hovering over the map.

I could see the girls moving about in the dorm as well as a stagnant Lee who was obviously still sleeping. I could also see Professor McGonagall heading out of the staff room with the school healer Madam Pomfrey. Further on there were some Slytherins walking around the entrance of the Hufflepuff common room who were obviously up to no good.

"Yea, so we can use this anytime we want and will never get caught. It's fool proof!" Fred exclaimed excitedly.

"The only thing you have to remember once you're finished is to tap your wand over the parchment and say 'mischief managed' or else anyone can read it," George added demonstratively.

George waved his wand over the parchment and I saw the black ink disappear, leaving the map blank again.

"That's unbelievable! Where'd you get a thing like that? Another family heirloom?" I asked thinking back to how the twins knew of the entrance to the kitchens.

"No, when Filch took us to his office after getting caught on your birthday we noticed a filing cabinet that was labelled 'Confiscated Items' and nicked it when you and Filch left the office first," George explained as I gazed at him in amazement.

"Well, better put this away for safe keeping," Fred said returning the secret map to the pocket in his robes. "Happy Christmas Hare!" he continued.

I gave them both a hug in return just as the girls started filing down for breakfast. George went up to wake Lee so we could all head down to the Great Hall together.

XXX

The start of term ended up being pretty uneventful except for the use of the map which the three of us had used a few times to either head to the kitchens for a midnight snack or to explore the castle. We also noticed on the map that there were seemingly a few hidden passageways leading out of the castle. I thought it was a little irresponsible for whoever had created them when the castle was being built, but the twins thought it was brilliant. Accordingly we decided to check each of them out over the course of the next couple weeks to avoid suspicion.

One night in late January, we waited in the common room for everyone to vacate, including our friends. As much as we trusted them, we wanted to save this for just us. So once Charlie and his mates left the common room, we were the only ones remaining.

"Shall we?" Fred asked with a gleam in his eyes.

Nodding, we all stood up and headed for the portrait door.

"Heading out again young Weasleys?" the fat lady asked disapprovingly as we exited into the corridor. "I don't think I've seen a duo as mischievous as you two since Potter and Black," she added causing me to wheel around to look at her.

"You remember James and Sirius?" I asked in disbelief.

I knew most of my parents' friends had been in Gryffindor but that had been before the war, which seemed like a lifetime ago.

"Of course, and you also remind me of their friend who always tried to reel them in but never was any good at it. He always ended up joining them in most of their troublemaking," she added with disdain in her voice.

"Remus," I answered with a small smile.

"Yes that was his name; quiet, lanky child who never ate enough," she added as Fred nudged me in the arm.

"Sorry to break up the reminiscing but Filch is headed this way," Fred added irritably.

George pulled my arm in the opposite direction before I could ask the portrait lady anything else.

The three of us then headed towards the statue of the one-eyed witch. We came to the Defense Against the Dark Arts hallway, led by George, and went behind the statue.

"You never told us you were friends a mass murderer?!" Fred said incredulously.

"What?" I asked not having the slightest clue of what he was talking about.

"Sirius Black, don't tell me your family consorts with that lunatic!" he continued in an almost angry voice.

I stared at him for a moment feeling myself getting angry at the insinuation.

"My family does not consort with him!" I shouted at Fred. "Yes, my parents were friends with him before the war, but we have had absolutely nothing to do with him since. I'm happy he's rotting in Azkaban! My family lost too much at the likes of him!" I continued glaring at Fred in anger.

I couldn't believe that he had automatically jumped to this conclusion. It was because of Sirius that Remus was so depressed, that I didn't remember Lily and James and that my mother was the way she was. My mother had found Alice and Frank tortured and had gone to try and warn Lily and James. But she couldn't find them and it was only after she had been tortured that we found out Sirius had been responsible for their deaths.

George was looking thoughtfully between Fred and me, probably trying to figure out the best way to end the escalating conversation between his twin and his best friend. I could also see a tinge of regret in Fred's eyes which I knew meant that he was internally battling between maintaining his ego and admitting to making a mistake. But this had been a huge mistake. And although we had only known each other for less than a year and there was bound to be some lingering secrets, my mother for example, I couldn't believe that Fred would believe this of me and my family. He called me his best friend, so he must find me trustworthy. But this was too far, too painful.

All of a sudden my thoughts were plagued by the ongoing nightmares I frequently had about green lights, screams, and my mother's crumpled body. My father knew I had nightmares since I would wake up screaming throughout the night when I was younger. Ange had also woken me up a couple times for murmuring and whimpering in my sleep. But I hardly ever divulged the content of my nightmares. I had always known it would upset my father greatly and I still hadn't divulged any details about my mother to my friends. It felt too vulnerable.

And now my best friend was threatening me with associating with the murderous bastard ultimately responsible for not having a true mother.

Through all of the confusion and my slew of thoughts, I turned on my heel and ran out of the entrance. The tears I was trying so hard to keep back were flooding down my face. I quickly reached the fat lady's portrait and gave her the password before running through the opening. I was thankful that the girls had already fallen asleep which enabled me to fall onto my bed and pull back the curtains undisturbed. I fell asleep hours later after silently crying myself to sleep.

The nightmares that night were about an unfamiliar sounding man, screaming in what sounded like anguish and my mother's own cries. I woke up only a few hours later to see that the sun had not yet risen. The girls were still sleeping as I quickly got dressed and headed out of the dormitory. Today was thankfully Saturday so I could easily avoid everyone for the day without having to disclose what had happened or admit to any of my secrets or feelings.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs I noticed Fred and George asleep on the couches near the fire. I assumed they had planned to intercept me when I came down but were too deep in sleep to hear me quietly slip out the portrait hole. I headed down to the kitchens where Posy obligingly gave me a few muffins and crumpets to sustain me until dinner. I then headed out of the castle in time to see that the sun had started to rise. It reminded me of home which made me wish I could see my dad or even escape to the meadows around my house. I missed my dad terribly and had never been hurt like this by anyone before.

I didn't want to stay anywhere too obvious since I knew my friends would come looking for me when they realized I was gone. So I wandered down the hill, away from the lake, having no real destination in mind. At the bottom of the hill, close to the edge of the forest, I saw a make-shift pen holding funny looking animals that looked like a half breed between a frog and a monkey. I approached the pen slowly and looked at the creatures with webbed feet and hairless bodies before I heard a familiar booming voice from behind me.

"Yer wan ter be careful there, clabberts hav razor teeth an' aren't afrai' ter use 'em," the giant man whom I knew to be called Hagrid said as I turned around to look at him.

"Blimey, if 's not Marnie O'Hara!" Hagrid beamed with a smile.

I had only known Hagrid to be the gamekeeper at Hogwarts and obviously he had also been the one to rescue me at Hogsmeade Station.

"I though' tha' was yeh in Hogsmeade in Septmeber! Yer were a wee feller las' time I seen yeh," Hagrid continued while I looked at him in surprise.

I had never known of any connection that Hagrid had to my family.

'I knew yer mum," he continued a little more softly.

With the mention of my mum combined with my lack of sleep and argument with Fred, I broke down into tears. I was also slightly surprised that I still had the ability to cry after last night.

Having alarmed Hagrid by my outburst, he guided me to his nearby hut and started the kettle. He didn't ask me what was wrong or even spoke to me until he set down a cup of tea in front of me along with something that looked like it was supposed to be cake.

"I see yeh've gotter necklace," Hagrid said pointing to my red pendant while breaking the silence.

I smiled and took the pendant in my hand.

"You knew her during the war," I said, not really having to ask it as a question.

"Yer mum wuz a 'ero Marnie, yeh never ferget tha'," he continued.

I spent the rest of the day with Hagrid and ended up confiding in him about what had happened with Fred. Hagrid in return told me how he had also been friends with not only my parents but with Remus, James, and Sirius as well. I then talked about Remus being like my uncle, which Hagrid didn't seem surprised by.

"Marnie, I'll give yeh some advice 'ere," Hagrid started once it was coming close to dinner. "Yer jus' like yer mum, yeh 'ave a good 'eart and yeh've made some good friends. The war was a bad time, lef' people no' 'rusting. People are still afraid, of You Know Who an' 'is followers" Hagrid continued solemnly.

Although Fred had said horrible things and I was still mad at him, I knew there were better ways to handle our fight than to freeze him out.

Soon after, Hagrid offered to escort me up to the Great Hall for dinner. When we reached the castle I gave him a hug before looking over to the Gryffindor table where I spotted two redheads sitting beside each other.

"Thanks Hagrid," I said as the half giant turned to walk away. "Oh, erm Hagrid," I paused as he looked back at me, "Could I possibly stop by some time to hear more about my mother?" I asked in a quiet voice.

"O' course! Yeh take care Marnie," he beamed and started to retreat again.

I smiled before turning around to approach my friends.

"Marnie, where the bloody hell have you been?" George and Lee asked simultaneously while Ange stood up and gave me a crushing hug.

"We looked everywhere for you," Katie added while Alicia nodded fervently beside her.

"We were really worried Marnie," Angelina said, bending down closer to my ear, "and George filled us in on the basics of what happened. We are all pretty upset with Fred for assuming your dad was friends with a mass murderer," Angelina continued.

I smiled at how my friends obviously had my back.

"I was with Hagrid," I answered simply and took a seat between Ange and Alicia.

The boys were opposite of us, with Fred directly across from me. I tried to look him straight in the eye but he avoided my gaze by looking down at his plate.

"Fred, you are not the one to be sulking right now," I told him sternly.

George was elbowing him in the arm to get him to focus.

"I have taken the day to think and get some distance, you know?" I said still maintaining eye contact. "I talked it over with Hagrid, who also knew my parents and their friends, including Sirius Black," I added before pausing.

I waited to watch Fred's reaction to my comment but he remained silent while only raising his eyebrows in slight surprise as an indication of him listening to me.

I continued.

"You were a foul git for assuming anything that horrible about me or my family. And you have no idea how hurtful your words actually were. My family suffered terribly because of that man, and I should not have to sit here and justify my family's character or situation," I stopped to give a moment for my words to sink in.

Fred looked at me with remorse in his eyes. Hagrid was right, Fred deeply regretted his words, and I was willing to accept that remorse, but not without a few conditions.

"Fred, talking with Hagrid today allowed me to process everything and has led to the consideration of forgiving you," I said, seeing Fred's eyes perk up slightly. "However, I am never having a conversation like this again. I understand that each family has their own scars and vulnerabilities leftover from the war, mine is far from exempt, however that is not an excuse for taking it out on others or attacking your friends without providing them the opportunity to explain themselves. I am your best friend Fred, and that ought to mean something, even when there is doubt." I finished, waiting for him to respond.

Fred remained quiet for several moments while I noticed the rest of our friends awkwardly waiting with bated breath. They were all looking into their respective plates as if their dinner was extremely interesting.

"You actually forgive me?" Fred finally asked in surprise. "Marnie, I more than agree with everything you said, but how can you forgive me? I mean, I've always been defensive at the talk of Death Eaters. Like you said, every family has their baggage from the war, same as ours. But I hurt you Marnie, more than that stupid Flint, more than anything I swore to protect you from. I failed, and yet here you are forgiving me?" Fred asked incredulously.

"Yes, I am Fred Weasley. With the condition that we are never in this situation again and that you make up for our shortened adventure…" I paused thinking about any last minute add-ons. "Oh, and you have to pull off a prank on Marcus Flint that dyes his hair red and yellow before the end of term," I smirked.

"I solemnly swear," Fred answered with a large grin before extending his hand towards mine.

I accepted his hand and shook on the agreement. I saw the rest of our friends silently sigh in relief as we all fell into light conversation. I felt bad for how worried everyone had been about me, but this morning I had felt like I couldn't handle the world. The state of my mother had inevitably shrunk my own world to include just me and my father with few exceptions. Interacting with friends and solving issues was almost foreign to me, but I felt like space, and of course the help from Hagrid, had assisted me to solve the issue effectively. I looked over at Fred and smiled, causing him to grin back. The issue itself had been inexcusable, but the person whom it had come from was forgivable. He's my best friend, and in time I am sure we will learn each other's histories. But for now, we just have to trust that each other is worth the leap of faith.

Chapter Text

It wasn't until the following day that Fred and I reconciled. In recompense, the twins and I ventured to Honeydukes as an immediate effort to placate the situation on Fred's part. I was excited to finally have reached Hogsmeade, two years before I would actually be allowed to as per school policy, while we explored the closed sweet shop. Fred even bought me a licorice wand even though I assured him I could pay for my own. In the end we left money on the counter before heading back through the secret passageway in the cellar.

Over the next few weeks, the three of us also used the map more to sneak out at night; either going down to the kitchens or up to the Astronomy Tower. I refused to go to the forest, much to the twins' chagrin.

Tonight we decided to first go to Honeydukes and leave some cash on the counter for some pumpkin pasties and treacle fudge. We then headed up to the Astronomy Tower to eat undisturbed and away from questioning gazes on our contraband candy.

"Hey Hare," Fred interjected into our easy silence. "I had an idea about how to prevent myself from being a prat in the future," he continued.

"Ooo, I'm listening," I replied to his impending idea with a cheeky grin.

"Well, I know how much I messed up with the whole mass murderer thing, but I also know how quick my temper is to jump the gun," he explained as I nodded in agreeance.

"I concur," George added while narrowly avoiding a swat on the arm.

"So," Fred continued, "I was thinking that maybe we could each ask each other one big question. I know we talk to each other all the time, and we aren't in the habit of keeping secrets, but we also haven't been around just the three of us long enough to talk about everything. I'm not expecting to learn everything tonight or put you on the spot which is why I limited it to one question. And also, George wasn't privy to this idea so don't feel like we are ganging up on you or anything," Fred quickly added.

I paused for a moment.

"Alright, I think that sounds like an okay idea," I responded, feeling my hands start to sweat at the idea of how many things I hadn't yet disclosed to them.

"I'll go first," Fred said as if to ease the pressure. "How does your dad know our mother? I mean, I've never heard our parents talk about friends like your family, we've obviously never met, and your dad didn't ever go to Hogwarts."

"Oh, that's easy. I'm fairly sure they know each other from the war," I answered. "All of my parents' friends joined the Order of the Phoenix, including my mother. So I just assumed that your parents were part of it as well or were associated. I hadn't actually confirmed it with my dad yet but I'm pretty positive that's the case." I finished, getting nervous talking about my mother in relation to the Order.

"Oh, that makes sense. Our parents don't ever talk about the war or anything like that to us. And I think they were associated with the Order last time but they had six young children so it was difficult," Fred explained.

"Oh, well my dad has told me most things, although I don't really remember the name Weasley ever being mentioned, but my dad could have said Molly at some point and I wouldn't have ever known whom that was," I said.

"You're lucky your parents tell you things, ours never tell us anything. But the war was just so horrible, so dad never mentions it to avoid upsetting mum, and mum avoids it not wanting to get upset around us kids," Fred continued frowning.

"Yea, well my dad does tell me most things, but I can understand why your parents don't. I don't even push my dad for details or answers since it does obviously upset him," I continued.

"It must have been hard for your dad during the war," Fred went on looking at me with sad eyes. "I know our family was in trouble for being blood traitors, I couldn't imagine what it was like for your dad being a squib who defied the Death Eaters," he finished in a weary tone.

I looked up at him in slight surprise. Fred was offering more information without my asking. I figured this was more of an olive branch, plus an extension of friendship. I didn't think there were very many eleven-year-olds who were this empathetic to the implications of being a squib eight years ago, or divulge their family's status as blood traitors.

"I don't remember much, but I do get bits and pieces you know?" I said as I saw both of them nod, showing that they must have some inkling of remembrance for the war, despite how young we had all been.

"I know my dad was also really involved. He tells me that lots of our family and friends used to hide out at our place, since it's so secluded. Plus, he used to sit in on their strategy meetings and such. Despite not being able to do magic, he did everything he could to help," I finished before we all went silent.

"He loves you very much Marnie," Fred said quietly while I could feel my eyes slightly burn with the threat of tears. "To risk so much for you and everyone else when he couldn't defend himself properly. And to put his own safety to the wayside for the sake of everything else, not a lot of people did that. Plus, it seems like he still acts that way for you. From what I've gathered about your dad, he still protects you with everything he has," Fred continued as I fought even harder to fight away the tears.

I know how much my father loves me and has given to raise me the way he has. But for Fred to be reiterating it to me was very actualizing; especially for an outsider to notice our way of life after being so isolated for so long.

I nodded at Fred, not trusting my own voice.

"That's why I think it's so important to protect you Marnie, because your family so fiercely does so. I want to be able to do that too in order to even have a shot at being your best friend," he continued with a fiery look in his eyes.

It was almost incomprehensible to form a response to what Fred was telling me. We should be too young to be talking about such complexities and vulnerabilities. I hadn't even imagined people like this existing, wanting to know my past in such detail, swearing to protect me in the wake of my family's efforts. It was overwhelming. Fred was seemingly a force to be reckoned with.

"I don't know what to say," I said when I eventually looked at Fred.

"Why don't you ask the next question," Fred implored.

I finally looked over at George who seemed to have taken Fred's words more in stride than I had.

"What are you most afraid of?" I asked, wanting to be less vulnerable in the moment comparatively to the twins.

George's expression deadpanned.

"All my life my greatest fear has always been the same; losing Fred," he answered quite readily. "But I think at this moment I would have to add an appendix," he looked at me with a sad smile.

"You," he added quietly.

I was taken aback at how George could even add me to this scenario.

"George, I agree that you and Fred are my best friends, but he's your twin. How could you ever compare me to him?" I asked incredulously.

"Marnie, of course Fred being my twin makes our connection different, but as we've told you, you are our best friend. Even though I'm not your sworn crusader like Fred has deemed himself, we are all equals in this friendship. I always want to share everything with both you and Fred, not either or. Plus, friends are just as important as family. I think we have thoroughly established that blood has no bearing on what truly matters," he finished seriously.

I just smiled at George who returned my reaction. We both knew that there was nothing more to say, and that I obviously felt similarly for the both of them.

"Why don't you go next Georgie," Fred suggested.

"Alright then, I've been wondering this for a while Marnie, where do you live?" George asked. "We've told you all about The Burrow and everything we usually do at home. I know you have mentioned living in a small cottage in the middle of a meadow, but that could be anywhere in Great Britain," he finished.

He was right, I never talked much about my home. It seemed private, and opened opportunities for people to ask about my mum.

"Well I don't live in any town. The closest would be about ten miles away, that's called Ottery St. Catchpole..." before I could continue the twins interrupted.

"No way!" George exclaimed.

"That's where we live, just to the west of the village by about three miles," Fred added excitedly.

"How is that possible?" I asked, hardly believing the twins. "We live ten miles south of the village. I've only ever met one of our neighbours and they are further south than we are," I explained, referring to the Lovegoods.

"I can't believe our parents never mentioned you before, they must know we live near each other since both our families lived in their same houses during the war," George surmised.

"Well, my dad did mention knowing of some local children attending Hogwarts which I found surprising at the time, but I never questioned him further about it," I added, piecing together the vague clues from my father.

"Well, this is brilliant!" George exclaimed. "Now we can spend the summers together no problem!" he continued while Fred and I nodded excitedly.

"I know I haven't been all that forthcoming about my family beforehand, but I feel I should tell you, my dad and I are pretty reclusive. I feel pretty exposed just talking about it, especially when people like Marcus Flint exist to try and defame my family. Not that I expected anything like that from you, I just don't have much experience sharing my past," I explained while the twins looked at me solemnly.

I didn't really know how much they could sympathize or understand the dynamics of my home life, but at least they were making a good effort. I also didn't always know how to explain how things were in my life, but the twins were always giving me opportunities to try.

Finally, I looked at Fred since I had the remaining question left to ask.

"Are there any other Death Eaters that'll send you off the rails again? I mean if you hear their name?" I asked, wanting to pointedly avoid further mishaps with Fred.

"Antonin Dolohov, he killed our uncles," Fred said gravely. "And Bellatrix Lestrange since there is no magical household who doesn't fear her name next to You Know Who," he continued.

I flinched at the sound of Bellatrix's name. It had been Bellatrix who had actually tortured my mother along with Neville's parents. Plus, I knew the name Dolohov. I knew all their names, both suspected and confirmed. It was horrible hearing how the twins had also lost family during the war. Like me, they had not known their uncles properly and now would never have the chance. The Death Eaters had a volume of victims, regardless of blood status. Pure-bloods who were considered blood traitors, half-bloods who associated with muggles, those who married squibs…. And of course muggle-borns.

"I'm sorry Fred- and to you George- to not know your uncles properly, the war took too much," I looked at them with sincerity as I saw both sets of eyes fall. It was probably too much for us to comprehend, the loss and chaos of the war, but we were now giving each other the freedom to confide our thoughts and feelings amongst ourselves. I felt better now, having a little more understanding of my two best friends, and also letting them in on some of my own secrets. Not all, but there was always time. Plus, it seemed like the twins would find out about my mother soon anyways since they would most likely come and visit over the summer.

"Well I don't know about you two, but I am drained from all this sharing," George said in a more relaxed tone that made me smile.

"Yea, why don't we call it a night?" Fred asked and I nodded.

The three of us all left the Astronomy Tower and headed for the common room. Each twin put their arm over my shoulder as we walked side by side. It felt comforting to feel their warmth, like a reassurance of everything they had told me. They would always be there for me.

XXXX

Winter was giving way to spring which also meant that the year was winding to an end. For the teachers, this meant that exams were approaching so the amount of homework was becoming alarming. Angelina, Katie, Alicia and I were usually in the library each night much to the disappointment of the twins. Lee even joined us most nights since he wanted to improve his grades a bit.

At this point, the twins and I had investigated most of the secret passageways. Three of them were caved in, one led to Honeydukes, one led to the lake, while another led out near the greenhouses. The last one could only be accessed through the Whomping Willow which you would have to be mad to try and access, meaning we had only accessed most of them.

The times the twins did join our group in the library, it seemed they were mostly interested in discovering ways to pull off the prank I had requested against Flint. Fred had decided on putting something into his shampoo bottle but was still unclear on the required magic to fulfill the actual dyeing of the hair. Hence the need for the library.

It was the end of May, and I was starting to feel the heightened pressure of exams. We had been studying for months, but I was still unsure about the exam process and was convinced there was still so much I was forgetting. Ange was the only one who would try and join me every time I declared I was going to the library, but even she didn't accompany me all the time.

So, one day after Potions class, I was walking from the dungeons to the library to study for the half hour before lunch. My friends had all alternatively chosen to go to the common room to relax.

"All alone dirty squib?" I heard a malicious sounding voice call out from behind me.

My skin was crawling, willing me to walk away instead of turning around to face my aggressor. But I did turn to see Marcus Flint and two other Slytherins I had often seen him hanging around with.

"Almost worse than a Mudblood you are O'Hara," he remarked in a snide voice. "And no weasels around to protect you," he added, making the other two chuckle.

"What do you want Flint?" I asked with as much confidence as I could muster.

"For you to disappear," he answered nastily.

I noticed the three of them inching closer to me.

"You don't belong here dirty squib, I bet you can't even use that thing properly," he sneered as he looked at my wand which I had already grabbed out of my robes.

After a brief moment, the three of them rushed up and pushed me onto my back. I hadn't realized that they had been forcing me towards an opened broom cupboard that was obviously unused due to the clouded, dusty potion jars and assorted broken mops. Once I was inside, they closed the door and I was immediately immersed in darkness.

"Pathetic Gryffindors haven't even learned the unlocking spell yet," I heard one of the other boys say in a faint voice, as if he was walking away from the closet.

"Dirty squib, where she belongs with all the rubbish," Flint added, affirming that they were walking away, due to his lower volume.

I tried knocking on the door and yelling, but after what seemed like an hour, no one came. I listened carefully for any indication of movement outside the cupboard but no one hardly ever used this particular corridor and there were no more Potions classes for the day. I was angry at myself for allowing Flint to get the upper hand and gang up on me. I also couldn't wait to learn more spells and defenses against the escalating antics of those who wished me harm.

After what must have been hours, I heard the sounds of running feet heading down the hallway. I started pounding on the door only for it to be thrown open moments later. I squinted at the immediate light that filled the cupboard before two sets of hands grabbed onto my arms and lifted me up. I then came face-to-face with the twins and the rest of my friends who all looked extremely worried.

"Marnie, who did this to you?" Fred almost shouted as I finally gained the ability to see again.

He had a fiery look which told me had been worried and was now angry.

"We were so worried," Alicia interrupted. "We even went down to Hagrid's to check if you were there."

"It was Fred and George who somehow figured out where you were," Katie said as I knowingly understood that to mean they had used the map.

"How long was I in there?" I added, still dazed from the cupboard.

"Well dinner just ended, and we've been looking for you since you were absent at lunch," George said causing my stomach growled on cue.

"Why don't we get you some food?" Lee asked kindly and I nodded in approval.

My friends then obligingly all turned to head towards the kitchens.

"Marnie, was it Flint, did that slimy git put you in here?" Fred asked angrily.

"Yea, him and his Slytherin cronies," I answered, not wanting to divulge what they had said to me yet. I was still too upset at what had happened and what they had said.

Fred nodded once and grabbed George's arm as if to lead him towards the Slytherin common room.

"Fred, I need you to stay," I said, hoping it would convince him enough instead of blindly going after Flint.

He paused, and I saw the conflicted look in his eyes.

"Of course Hare," he answered after a moment and they both joined the group to head to the kitchens. George ended up taking my arm as Fred stayed at the back of the group, probably scouting for any sign of Slytherins.

I knew we would get back at Flint, but right now I was starving, angry, and a little humiliated. I just wanted my friends to reassure to me that I was fine and that I did indeed deserve to be at this school. Because as much as I disliked Flint and knew he had been wrong, his words still bothered me as I struggled to forget them.

Chapter Text

It was the middle of June and exams had started. We had already completed our Herbology finals, both practical and written. For the practical exam we had needed to extract enough milk from a coughing cactus to sufficiently suppress the common cold. Fred, Lee and Alicia's hands were still riddled with red dots after being amply pricked by their cacti. We also finished our exams for Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, History of Magic and Charms. This left Potions for this afternoon and Astronomy which was the final exam to take place this evening. I was extremely nervous for Potions since we had all been struggling in that class. Part of me suspected that it didn't really have to do with our skill, but more to do with our sorted house.

But, after spending three hours brewing a Forgetfulness Potion, I submitted my vial to Professor Snape and almost ran out of the classroom. I was so relieved to have completed the task, at least somewhat adequately, and wouldn't have to enter the dungeons for another two months.

The last few weeks had been busy in preparation for the daunting reality of our first round of exams. The twins had also pranked Flint soon after he had locked me in the cupboard, following my previous instructions. But his hair had turned pink and orange instead of yellow and red like I had requested. The effect however had been just as humiliating and the dye the twins' had used had fortunately been irreversible for three full days.

I also talked Fred out of a few, more confrontation pranks against Flint, since I was too worried Fred would have been in deeper trouble than just detention.

The next day the seven of us headed down to the lake, relaxing in the glory of being done our exams. I wasn't actually too worried since I felt that I had known a lot of the answers and had proven myself in the practical exams. The only one that was up in the air was Potions, but it wasn't worth worrying about for another week, when we were due to receive our grades.

As we sat basking in the sun I started to feel conflicted, not wanting to really leave Hogwarts and my friends for two months, but also really missing my dad. It was comforting to know that the twins lived close by and we could visit each other more easily. But Katie's family was going to Belgium for most of the summer while Lee's was going to Ireland. Angelina and Alicia would be around, but they both lived in the city which I knew would make it harder for me to go and visit. This was uncharted territory with my dad.

When the sun started to set that night over the Black Lake, we decided to head back up to the castle for the End of the Year feast. I was admittedly starving and excited to see who had won the house cup. Gryffindor had already secured the Quidditch Cup which was very exciting, with Charlie obviously being extremely happy.

We were some of the last ones to take a seat in the Great Hall. Once we sat down the headmaster soon stood up front and addressed the school.

"Another year has passed here at Hogwarts, and I am happy to say that it has been quite a successful one. Our first years have started upon their path to wisdom, whereas our older students have followed their own with a little less trepidation than before," Professor Dumbledore said sincerely.

His words seemed almost whimsical, which somehow complimented his respective stature.

"Now, to declare the House Cup for this year. With 282 points, Ravenclaw. With 304 points, Gryffindor. Hufflepuff has an esteemed 325 points, leaving the winning house to be Slytherin, with 387 points," he finished as all the students wearing green robes erupted into applause.

It took several moments before the headmaster could continue since the Slytherins' were quite boisterous about their win. However, when they did eventually quiet down, the headmaster just smiled and finished his speech.

"Tuck in."

As the headmaster returned to his seat a massive feast magically appeared before us. We enjoyed our last meal, talking and laughing amongst ourselves until the last remnants of food vanished. Afterwards, all of us trudged up the several amounts of stairs to the common room where we sat down in some unoccupied chairs. We were all pretty tired after finally having completed our exams and for stuffing our faces with vast amounts of dinner and dessert. But we wanted to spend as much time together as possible. Lee and Alicia were playing Exploding Snap while the rest of us mostly just watched and talked amongst ourselves. There was little else to do since we were all pretty exhausted.

"Well mates, I fear we must bid you farewell until tomorrow," George said exaggeratedly.

"Yea, I fear me and my dear brother have yet to pack and time is now of the essence," Fred added with similar reverence.

"You haven't packed?" Angelina asked incredulously.

"Actually, neither have I," I added as I stood up to go to my own dormitory.

"You three are quite the set," Angelina said, shaking her head despite the smile on her face.

I headed upstairs and was soon joined by the rest of the girls who were getting their last few possessions packed away. The other three sat on their beds while I scoured the dorm locating all of my things.

"Can't believe ruddy Slytherin won the House Cup," Katie said with disdain.

"We didn't even come close," Alicia added with a frown.

"At least we claimed the Quidditch Cup!" Angelina said encouragingly.

"It's been ages since Gryffindor has won either cup," Katie added half-heartedly.

"Yea, I heard McGonagall saying that it's been about a decade since Gryffindor has won the House Cup and this was the first time in about twelve years that Gryffindor has won the Quidditch Inter-House Cup," I claimed as the girls' faces fell.

"We will just have to reclaim that Gryffindor glory," Angelina said with a determined look.

"Yea, next year we'll make the quidditch team and wipe those smirks right off their faces," Katie added fiercely.

"Alright Gryffindor's, but in the meantime I'm going to call it a night," Alicia announced as she pulled the curtains on her bed closed.

"Night Leesh," we all said as we each followed suit.

I had finally located all of my things and closed my trunk. Tomorrow morning we would be heading back to London.

XXX

The train ride was pretty laid back as we all enjoyed each other's company. But the closer we got to London, the more I felt that I was really going to miss my friends. Obviously, we had all grown to be very close, so I thought it was going to be strange returning to the quiet of my cottage with just my dad. At Hogwarts I rarely ever ventured anywhere without at least the twins or Ange by my side. Most times, we all hung out and traveled between classes together as well as spent our evenings in the common room. There was always someone to talk to, or somewhere to go. Things on the other hand were pretty confined at home. It had never bothered me before, but I had never known any different. Even visiting my mother, I never got to see the city since we only ever travelled directly to the hospital, typically via side apparation with Remus. I also knew my dad really no longer trusted the world and made it his primary duty to protect me, but I was hoping that things could change, if only just a little.

"After you milady," Fred offered his hand as I stepped off the train.

We had all said our good-byes in the compartment, and now the twins and I were standing together on the platform, searching the crowd for our parents. As if on cue, I saw Mrs. Weasley and my father approaching us together with Ron and Ginny in tow. After seeing them we ran over and stood together while we waited for Percy and Charlie to find us.

"Marnie dear, I was just talking to your father about the two of you coming over for dinner this weekend," Mrs. Weasley said with a smile.

I looked up at my dad who laughed and nodded, telling me he had already agreed.

"That sounds wonderful Mrs. Weasley!" I exclaimed, looking over to the twins who were whooping in excitement.

Charlie and Percy soon arrived at our group, and my father decided it was time for us to leave. After exiting the train station we walked out to the parking lot to Remus' car and got in. I wasn't surprised by Remus' absence since I knew from my recent Astronomy exam that tonight was a full moon. This probably meant that I wouldn't see Remus for another couple of days.

I looked out the window as my dad started to drive out of London.

"Dad, did you know the Weasleys lived close to us?" I asked, already knowing the answer.

"Er- yes, I knew Molly and Arthur lived nearby," my dad confirmed a little awkwardly.

"Why haven't I ever met them? I mean, you and Mrs. Weasley were obviously friends at some point," I pushed a little to try and get more information from my dad. Usually I would have let it drop, but ever since that one night with the twins on the Astronomy Tower, when I learned that the twins lived relatively close to us, it had irked me slightly that I couldn't have known them sooner.

"Marnie, that was a long time ago," my dad started. "Plus, it was different back then. I had you to take care of and they had six or seven children by that point. It was difficult to keep in touch, and by the time you were older, I hadn't heard from them in a while," he continued.

I remained quiet as I processed my dad's response. It made sense, and I didn't fault him for not introducing me to the Weasleys sooner, but I started to consider how much different our lives could have been if not for the war. It was a rabbit hole of 'what if's' which left an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.

"Look, Marnie, I've already talked with Molly while you were at school and both of us are more than happy for you and the twins to see each other throughout the summer," dad interrupted my whirling thoughts.

"Thanks dad," I smiled back at him before turning around to stare out the window.

XXX

The following weekend, my father and I were walking through the meadows, down a semi-beaten path towards The Burrow. It had taken us a fair bit to get there, but we left mid-afternoon and made good time. When we had crossed over the last hill I could see a tall wooden structure sitting up on a ridge; if only a little haphazardly. As we got closer I could see that the base structure was made of stone while the stories above it were constructed out of rickety dark wood with various windows placed throughout. It reminded me of the quaintness of my own home, especially since it was also surrounded by the same meadows and rolling hills.

We approached the house and my father knocked twice on the wooden door. I could hear some bustling footsteps approach before it opened and Mrs. Weasley greeted us. She quickly took the potato salad which I had in my hands and we followed her into the kitchen before she gave me her usual hug.

"The boys are out back near the pond if you would like to join them Marnie," Mrs. Weasley told me with the back door already open to usher me out.

With a wave back to her and my father I headed out and soon saw a group of red heads across the yard, sitting on a rickety dock.

"Marnie, you're here!" Ginny exclaimed as she ran over to me.

I hadn't really ever talked to the young girl so I was taken aback by her excitement towards me.

"Hey Hare," Fred said as he and George also made their way over.

They each hugged me before we all went over to the dock where I could see Charlie and Ron sitting.

"Hey Marnie, nice to see you again," Charlie said as I greeted him back. I got a small hello from Ron.

Percy was apparently too refined to join us at the dock, so he was reportedly waiting for dinner up in his room.

The rest of us spent the next hour by the dock, sticking our feet in the cool water while we waited for dinner. Charlie talked about dragons and how he was working towards getting a job taking care of them. I thought it sounded pretty incredible despite the obvious hazards. The Weasleys also told me about their eldest brother Bill who had recently taken a job in Egypt as a curse breaker. I couldn't believe all the interesting and seemingly dangerous jobs you could get in the magical world. Dad had only ever told me about muggle jobs like being a veterinarian, a mailman, or a bank teller, despite growing up in a magical family.

Before long we heard Mrs. Weasley calling us for dinner. We all trekked up the yard to the backdoor where we washed up for supper. Then we all filed into the dining room and sat around the large table which seemed to take up the entire room.

"Marnie, it's so good to finally meet you!" the man at the end of the table called out to me. He looked slightly older than my dad and had matching red hair like the rest of the Weasleys. I easily figured he was the twins' father.

"It's nice to meet you as well Mr. Weasley," I responded before turning back to serve myself some dinner. Mrs. Weasley had made lasagna which smelled wonderful.

"Marnie, where's you mum?" George asked innocently as my face fell.

I had forgotten to tell them.

My dad looked down at me with a sad expression mixed with surprise and confusion. But before any of us could answer, Ron piped up.

"She's mad isn't she?" he said pretty non-chalantly.

"RONALD WEASLEY!" his mother fumed at him.

"Well it's true isn't it? Her mum's not right in the head. I heard you and dad talking about it," he added as Mrs. Weasley glared at him.

"RONALD BILIUS WEASLEY, YOU HEAD STRAIGHT TO YOUR ROOM AND STAY THERE TIL TOMORROW!" she shouted, causing Ron's face to fall.

"But mum, I haven't even had dessert," he moaned, obviously not understanding the brevity of his words.

"NOT ANOTHER WORD, GET UPSTAIRS NOW!" Mrs. Weasley finished with her entire face now scarlet.

I just looked down at my plate, not having the courage to look at either my dad or the twins.

"May I be excused?" I whispered while already standing up and heading outside. I hadn't even waited for an answer.

I returned to the dock where we had all been sitting earlier. I felt so ashamed that I had been the cause of my father's humiliation and the twins' probable anger. I hadn't told them this major thing in my life, and my father probably thought I was too ashamed. But I'm not ashamed of my mother, she's my hero. She sacrificed herself for me. Plus, Neville's gran is always telling us we ought to be proud of our parents for their courageous sacrifice. I agree with her, I just know the world won't always comply. People like Ron saying it as if it doesn't matter. Or worse, people like Marcus Flint who would just ridicule her. So, to protect my mother's name, I decidedly never talked about it. I had meant to tell the twins before they came over to my house this summer, but I hadn't found the right moment. No moment ever feels right to tell your best mates your mother has been in a hospital your entire life for losing her mind after being viciously tortured.

Soon after I heard feet approaching me from behind, but I remained sitting where I was looking out over the water.

"Hey Hare," I heard Fred say quietly.

"Is this seat taken?" George asked from my other side.

I just shook my head in response. They both sat down and we sat in silence for a few moments.

"We understand why you didn't tell us," George was the first to speak.

I looked up at him in disbelief before turning back to look at Fred who nodded his head in agreeance.

"I was going to tell you," I whispered, still feeling guilty over various aspects of the situation.

"We know," Fred responded, clasping his hand over mine as a sign of assurance.

We sat in silence once more as I worked up the courage to explain myself to them.

"It was Bellatrix Lestrange," I finally whispered, feeling Fred shudder at the mention of the Death Eater's name.

The twins remained quiet, allowing me to continue telling the story.

"Like I've said, my mother was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. At the time, she was on a special mission that went horribly wrong. She found her best friends in the same state that she is in now and went to warn other friends of my family since she somehow knew they were in the same danger. But Sirius Black betrayed them all by giving the Death Eaters important information about my parent's friends which led to them being murdered. My mother as good as lost four of her friends because of those two Death Eaters and was caught before she could report back to the Order. She was heartbroken and lost focus, so they found her and tortured her, just out of spite," I stopped as I felt tears steam down my face. George put his arm around me as Fred kept a firm grip on my hand.

"I'm so sorry Marnie," George whispered in my ear while I felt Fred start to trace the top of my hand in a soothing gesture.

"I remember that day. It's vague, but I remember the sky turning dark and I could hear screaming, which doesn't really make sense since I was at home whereas my mum was somewhere else. It's the only thing my dad will never talk about, what happened that day. And that's all I remember. Purple skies, a green flash, and the sound of my mother's shrill screaming paired with my own. I think somehow my dad went to her when the Order found out, but she had already been alone for hours. After that, I know she was taken to St. Mungo's where she's been ever since," I finished, feeling a hollow ache in my chest.

We sat in silence for a while before I finally felt my tears finish falling.

"I've never told anyone about that day," I said as I felt the twins look at each other over my head.

"You mean, what you remember, you've never told anyone?" George asked.

"You two are the first, I never wanted to tell my dad. I always figured it would make him too sad," I explained.

"Your secret's safe with us," Fred assured as I felt myself relax a little.

I hadn't expected the two of them to respond like this. Especially since Fred seemed to get set off at the mention of Death Eaters. But I also knew they empathized with me and maybe now understood some of my other tendencies.

"Why don't we go get some dessert?" George suggested while I felt dread once again fill up my chest.

"I think I disappointed my dad," I said to the twins.

"No, Marnie, of course you didn't disappoint your dad. You should have heard him. He really wanted to come down and talk to you, saying he was sorry about you not having enough time to be comfortable enough telling your new friends about your mum," Fred said seriously as I looked at him with surprise.

"Yea, we convinced him that it might be easier if we told you ourselves that it didn't matter that you hadn't told us yet," George explained.

"Plus, we wanted to tell you that we are seriously considering dropping Ron as a brother," Fred added which caused me to laugh.

"He's your family Fred. Plus, I'm not really mad at him. I was madder at myself for not telling you sooner," I explained as we all stood up to head back to The Burrow.

"Well, he's still a prat," George said.

"And he's going to regret his words," Fred added as I knew the both of them were already scheming.

We entered back through the kitchen door and joined our families for dessert. Mrs. Weasley gave me a big hug and apologized for how tonight had unfolded. I assured her that there was nothing to forgive, and my father looked at me with a sad smile. I could tell through his expression that he was just worried for me and wasn't actually mad about the situation which made me feel relieved. The rest of the evening went by pleasantly enough and we left once we had cleared and cleaned all of the dishes.

"We will have to have you over again Joss," Mrs. Weasley said as we headed out the front door.

I could tell she was worried my father had been too offended to want to come back.

"Molly, tonight was wonderful," my dad reassured her. "And I think next time we will have to host your family," he added as I saw Mrs. Weasley's face light up.

"That would be wonderful Joss," Mr. Weasley responded as we started heading down the walkway.

"I'll owl you with a date," my father added before waving good-bye.

I was surprised by the extended invitation my dad had just suggested. I was also very excited at the prospect of the twins seeing where I had grown up and sharing another part of my life with them.

My dad then put his arm around my shoulders reassuringly as we walked home. I actually felt relieved with the turn of events that had taken place even if it had come up rather abruptly. I realized I had chosen my friends pretty well for them to react the way they had in lieu of what had happened. And now they knew the truth about my mum.

XXX

It was the end of July and the Weasleys were due to arrive within the hour. My dad had finally been able to arrange a suitable date for their entire family to come over since Mr. Weasley had been very busy at the Ministry, working late and on weekends.

I was helping my dad set up a table in the garden since it was impossible for ten people to eat around our tiny table in the dining room. I don't think we actually had a dining room, just a nook between the kitchen and sitting room. But dad had built a pergola out in the garden about ten years ago which was meant to accommodate a larger number of people.

I was setting out our folding tables when I heard voices trailing from around the house. I looked up to see Mr. and Mrs. Weasley turning the corner from our front yard followed closely by the twins who were looking around curiously.

"We figured you might be back here, we tried the front door but didn't get an answer," Mrs. Weasley explained as she came over and pulled me into a hug.

"Sorry about that Molly, we must have lost track of time," my father answered, going over to shake Mr. Weasley's hand.

"Can you show us around Marnie?" the twins asked rather excitedly.

I looked at my dad for permission since we hadn't finished setting up yet.

"Go, I can help your father with everything," Mrs. Weasley interjected as I saw my dad smile and nod.

I heard Mrs. Weasley order Ron to stay and help her, much to his chagrin while the twins and I were joined by Ginny. Charlie gave me a friendly wave but stayed with his father and Percy who were discussing the electricity that turned on our outdoor fairy lights.

I walked the three Weasleys around my yard, showing them the different gardens my father kept. We then walked down to our own pond and put our feet in.

"Your house looks like it's something out of a bard tale," Ginny exclaimed while I smiled back at the younger girl.

"Thanks Ginny, I do love living here," I exclaimed, admiring the setting sun with the others.

"Can we see your room?" Fred asked after having grown bored of sitting.

I looked over at my dad who was now sitting with the rest of the Weasleys under the pergola. I knew dinner wouldn't be ready for at least another 30 minutes.

"Alright," I answered as the three Weasley siblings smiled and I led them inside.

Joss saw the four children head for the front of the house. He assumed Marnie was now touring them of the inside. He knew his daughter was still too young to consider anyone as more than a friend, but he still didn't like the idea of his only daughter spending time alone in her room with kids the same age as her. At least the younger child was with them. Plus, he had to admit, he trusted Molly and Arthur's children. He was just characteristically protective of Marnie.

"Here we are," Marnie announced as they ended the tour with her room. She had quickly shown them the ground floor which was completely visible from the front door. Ginny had marveled at the ceiling high window at the back of the house that overlooked the rolling hills into the distance. We were now all sitting in my room as Ginny was admiring my Hollyhead Harpies poster, telling me she had one of her own. Fred cringed slightly at the sight of my Hufflepuff banner but hadn't said anything.

"I thought you were in Gryffindor," Ginny said as she too noticed the yellow banner.

"I am, they were my mother's," I explained matter of factly.

"Oh, that makes sense," Ginny smiled. "I'm sorry by the way for my git of a brother," the younger girl continued which made me smile with her reference to Ron.

We all sat around while the twins investigated the contents of my room. They were displeased by the number of books I owned but were impressed that I had my own dung bomb stash ready for next year.

My father soon came up to my room to announce that dinner was ready. He surveyed the room before smiling and gesturing for us to go clean up. We all filed downstairs and outside to the back yard. Dad and Mrs. Weasley carried out supper as we all socialized under the stars. I had also made some blueberry pies which were served once the dinner plates had been put away.

At the end of the night, the Weasleys eventually came into our living room to use the floo since they didn't want to walk back in the dark. Mr. Weasley had connected our fireplace to the system for the evening to which dad had consented.

"Thank-you again Joss, this has been wonderful!" Mrs. Weasley said as she gathered her children in front of the fireplace.

"Good-bye Marnie," the twins said as they each hugged me.

"Thanks for showing us around," George said as he entered the fireplace and disappeared in a flurry of ash.

"We had a lot of fun," Fred added before he followed after his twin.

"Your house is really cool Marnie," Ginny said, joining her father to leave.

"Sorry Marnie, you know, for last time," Ron said rather timidly.

His mother was expectantly waiting for him in the fireplace.

I smiled at him which he sheepishly returned. The twins had divulged that they had been nefariously pranking him since my last visit and I told them to lighten up. I wasn't upset anymore and he was too young to know any better.

With one last smile Mrs. Weasley then grabbed hold of Ron and followed the rest of her family back to The Burrow.

Chapter Text

I woke up to the sun pooling into my room. Sitting up I could see it blazing across the fields and reflecting off the hills which made the grass fields look like a golden sea. As I rubbed my eyes to adjust I started to feel anticipation rise in my chest much like it had a year before. But instead of feeling trepidation and nervousness, I was ready for the familiarity of Hogwarts.

After throwing on some clothes I headed downstairs to find my father sitting out on the back porch with a tea cup in his hands. I sat down beside him and joined him in staring out into the distance.

"I never get tired of this," my father said quietly as he continued to gaze out.

"I always miss it when I'm away," I replied softly.

My father turned to look at me with a sad smile. But after a moment he deepened it in an attempt to hide what I had already seen. Plus, the new smile still didn't reach his eyes.

"I wasn't expecting you up this early. Want to help me with breakfast?" my father asked in a lightened tone.

I still felt guilty for leaving my dad for so long. I knew he loved this house and the life we had here. But, with me attending Hogwarts life wasn't the same here for him. It wasn't the way it was supposed to be, the way he had planned when my parents first bought this place. I almost wondered if dad should sell the cottage and distance himself from all the 'what ifs' that filled its walls.

"Of course dad," I answered as I followed him into the kitchen.

This year we met up with the Weasleys to go to King's Cross. Remus couldn't drive us since he was recovering from the recent full moon, so it made the most sense to tag along with them.

Over the rest of the summer I had spent as much time as I could with the twins, sometimes with Ginny tagging along with us. She was a clever little girl for being two years away from even starting at Hogwarts, plus she enjoyed scheming along in the pranks that we planned with the twins. And when we weren't scheming we had spent the hot summer days swimming in their pond. On the rare rainy days we had played exploding snap and swapped stories up in the twins' room. One night I had even been able to sleep over, with the assurance to my dad that I would be sleeping in Ginny's room. The four of us had stayed up telling scary stories until Mrs. Weasley ushered the twins to bed. But while they were brushing their teeth Ginny and I snuck up to the twins' room and jumped out from under their beds once they had turned off the lights. As a result they screamed bloody murder while Ginny and I ran back out in the nick of time without being caught. So instead, Mrs. Weasley had scolded the boys for causing a ruckus while we listened from the staircase landing. Fred and George glared daggers at us the next morning.

Once we all had gotten through the brick wall Mrs. Weasley and my father ushered all of us to the train where we said our good-byes.

"I'm going to miss you Marnie, I don't like being the only girl," Ginny said as she gave me a fierce hug.

I returned the embrace and kissed the slightly shorter girl on the forehead.

"I'll see you at Christmas Gin, and I'll write to you loads of times," I added as we both smiled at each other.

"Good-bye, Marnie dear," Molly said after giving four of her children their good-bye embraces.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Weasley, thank-you again for having me over this summer," I said as she brushed the hair off my face.

"It's no trouble at all Marnie, don't you mention it. And we'll have you and your father over for Christmas," she added.

I then turned to my father who I could see had tears welling up in his eyes.

"You think this would have gotten easier," he said as he pulled me into his chest. "But seeing you go is never going to get any easier," he whispered which made my own tears start to fall.

"I love you dad. I do hate leaving you," I said as he pulled me back to look at me.

"I know you do Marnie. I love you too. But you also love going, and that's okay to want without having to feel guilty," he added as he gestured to where the twins were boarding the train.

I smiled and nodded before heading over to join them. I looked back as George took my trunk and Fred helped me onto the train. My dad smiled and waved up at me before I turned away. As we walked down the corridor in search of our friends, I felt Fred tighten his grip on my shoulder reassuringly.

XXX

The train ride and sorting were more relaxed this year since I wasn't nervously awaiting my own fate. My friends and I greeted the newest Gryffindor additions with as much excitement as others had done for us the year before. It was strange though to see the new first year students and realize that we were no longer in their position. We also spent the rest of the night catching up during the feast and in the common room later on even though we had spent the entire train ride together. I had missed my friends terribly and hadn't had the chance to see anyone else besides the twins all summer.

"Angelina, I think you definitely got taller," Lee speculated as Ange straightened her posture at the comment.

"Yea, I have actually, three whole inches. And I'll need it too, for playing quidditch and all," Ange answered as the rest of us smiled.

"Hold on there Johnson, you haven't even tried out for the team yet," Fred speculated before Angelina stuck her tongue out at him.

"Yea, well we all know she's going to make the team, she's the strongest one here," Alicia offered as us girls all nodded in agreeance.

"Wait, hold on a second, don't go puffing that Gryffindor ego she's got there," George said as I could see Ange start fuming.

"Hey, if anyone's got an enlarged ego, it's you two prats," I interjected before Ange got too riled up.

"Well we all know who hasn't grown any and has a little wee ego to match," Fred retorted with a smirk.

"Yea well the greatest things come in the smallest packages," I replied smugly.

"Yea, they do," Fred answered quietly with a smile all while still looking at me.

I was surprised he had forfeited the argument so easily, and so calmly. But before I could think about it too much Katie interjected and suggested we all head to bed, probably taking advantage of the lull in our heated discussions. Ange was still reeling beside me.

The following week was quidditch trials, and it was all any of the six of them could talk about. Lee had already asked McGonagall if he could announce at the games since the previous announcer, Victoria West, had graduated last year. McGonagall had taken it into consideration, bearing no one from the other houses asked for the position as well.

"Who do you think we'll be competing against?" Alicia asked as she moved the food around on her plate without touching it.

"I think that third year Alexis Chandler and that fifth year Douglas Logan are both trying out for chasers besides the three of us," Katie answered, also not touching her food.

"I know that Miles Flaggerty and Roland Montgomery are trying out for beaters as well," Fred said as he shoveled food into his mouth.

"You don't look at all nervous," I said, looking at him surprisingly.

"Why would we be nervous?" Fred answered as he indicated to George who was also piling food onto this plate.

"What if you don't make it, or worse, only one of you gets it?" I asked goadingly.

"That's not going to happen," George answered confidently.

"You don't know that," Katie retorted back.

"Oh but we do," Fred continued, causing me to shake my head at their unwavering self-assurance.

"Didn't know we had a couple of Seers in our midst," I said sarcastically.

"There is so much you do not know little Hare," Fred replied which prompted a scowl.

Before I could retort, Charlie approached our group.

"Better get a move on, tryouts start in fifteen," the older boy said as he then made his way towards the exit.

The rest of my friends followed Charlie's lead and headed towards the pitch. Lee followed them out to watch in the stands while I told them I would be there shortly, after using the loo.

Five minutes later I was walking towards the pitch when my path was blocked by Marcus Flint and his pathetic cronies.

"What do I owe this pleasure?" I asked them sarcastically as I already held out my wand.

I was not letting them get the upper hand this time.

"I thought I explained to you last year that you're not magical enough to be at Hogwarts. There's no way a squib like you passed all those exams. You have to be able to use a wand to do that," Flint answered maliciously. "Your blood is too dirty to be able to produce any proper magic," he added as the others snickered.

"Last I heard it was you Flint who wasn't doing too well in school. Guess your blood isn't helping you with your studies," I retorted confidently. "Plus I highly doubt these two imbeciles can help you," I indicated to the other two boys who stopped laughing and glared at my response.

"You filthy squib, you'll pay for your traitorous words," Flint responded with malice.

"Wingardium Leviosa!" I shouted as he went to use his own wand.

As he floated in the air he collected himself enough to send a jinx at me.

"Flippendo!" he shouted.

I felt a mild tickle instead of the typical jolt usually caused by the knock back jinx. Instead I only got pushed a couple of inches while still remaining standing.

Unfortunately, I was standing at the top of a staircase and the couple of inches I moved back sent me falling down the stairs. As I lost my footing I saw Flint fall to the floor as my own spell was interrupted. After falling backwards down the stairs I landed on my back in an unnatural position and looked up through my clouding vision to see the three boys retreating out of sight. I could hear their muffled laughter before everything started to go black. I could also feel the radiating pain from my leg shooting up my back, but the blackness was making it all fade. The last thing I heard were gasps and feet running towards me before the darkness finally took over.

"Alright, I've made my decisions for who is going to be on the Gryffindor team this year. First off, Oliver Wood will return as keeper. Alicia Spinnet, Katie Bell, and Angelina Johnson will be our chasers while Fred and George Weasley will be our beaters. Thank-you everyone for coming out!" Charlie announced after the quidditch trials had ended.

He had been quite impressed with the skills shown by his brothers who he knew had practiced all summer in their backyard.

"Wicked!" Fred and George said at the same time while giving each other a high five.

"I can't believe we all got on the team!" Alicia squealed as they all congratulated each other.

"Congratulations you guys, you all flew brilliantly," Lee said as they all turned around to see their friend headed towards them.

Fred frowned, "Lee, where's Marnie?"

"Oh, yea she never made it to the tryout," Lee said in a bewildered tone.

"But she said she was going to come right out, where could she possibly have gone?" Ange asked with mounting anxiety in her voice.

Fred and George also shared a worried look. Marnie always seemingly got into the worst situations when she was alone. Plus, she was their best friend and they weren't currently in a row, which meant she wouldn't be avoiding them. And she had said she was excited to cheer them on, so something had to be wrong.

Before any of them could move or decide their next step they saw their brother Percy jogging over.

"Fred, George, it's Marnie," he panted as he tried to catch his breath. "She's in the hospital wing," he finished, trying to regain composure.

But the twins were already bolting for the castle.

The rest of their friends were also closely behind as they all carried their brooms up towards the hospital wing. They ran the entire way there and stopped only when they had reached the doorway. As they entered they surveyed the room to see Marnie sleeping on one of the farther beds. Fred could see multiple bruises on her legs and arms, plus a rather large one on her cheek. He then ran over to the bed while wanting to take her in his arms but stopped when he saw how fragile she looked.

"What do you think you are all doing?" they heard a shrill voice from behind them as they turned to see the hospital matron rushing over towards them.

"Tracking in all that mud and racing over recklessly towards my patient," she went on as she started tending to Marnie who was still unconscious.

"What happened?" Fred asked, ignoring everything Madam Pomfrey had just told them.

"She fell down a staircase, backwards from the sounds of it," Fred flinched at the matron's explanation as he inwardly reprimanded himself for not being there.

"Must be a clumsy little thing," Madam Pomfrey continued as Fred turned to look at her.

"Marnie is not clumsy," he said evenly.

But the matron only nodded and returned to what she was doing.

Fred then shared a look with George who returned a grim nod. They knew Marnie hadn't fallen, which meant she had been pushed.

"Can I stay with her?" Fred asked Madam Pomfrey while already taking a seat by Marnie's bedside.

"Oh, alright, but only for a little while. I need to tend to her constantly since she still hasn't woken up," the matron answered sternly.

Fred nodded and looked up at the rest of his friends who adamantly requested that they be updated as soon as she wakes up.

George however took the opposite seat from Fred as the others vacated the hospital wing.

"You didn't fail her mate," George whispered as he read Fred's face.

"This always happens," Fred replied angrily. "That Flint bastard waits until we are otherwise occupied and attacks her. He should be expelled!"

"I know mate, and we'll get justice. But Marnie is strong. I'm sure she defended herself," George said easily.

"But she shouldn't have to do it alone," Fred added as George gave him a sad smile.

It hurt George just as much to see Marnie like this. He felt his gut being filled with the need to bring down fiery vengeance upon Flint. But he also knew Fred took it on a personal level, one he could never quite understand. Losing Marnie was George's biggest fear, and yet it still effected Fred differently.

XXX

I could hear someone bustling around me as I tried to open my eyes. My entire body felt stiff and ached all over.

"Don't move child, your bones are still mending," I heard a woman tell me as I tried to lift my head to survey my surroundings.

"Where am I?" I asked, not having met this particular woman before.

"You're in the hospital wing child. I'm the matron, Madam Pomfrey. You had a tumble down some stairs earlier today," she explained as I started to remember my confrontation with Flint.

I was suddenly angry with myself for having lost focus and letting Flint get away again. His jinx had been too weak to do anything, I had just been standing in the wrong spot.

"I just sent your friends away for supper," Madam Pomfrey continued while I figured she was referring to the twins. "I'm sure they'll be back before curfew."

I smiled at her words but frowned at how I had missed their tryouts. I hoped everyone had made the team.

Twenty minutes later I heard the door to the hospital wing open. I looked over to see the twins return my gaze.

"Hare!" Fred shouted as they bounded towards my bed.

"Thank Merlin you're alright!" George added as they both sat down around my bed.

"We just had to tell the others you were still unconscious," Fred added as I frowned for making them worry. "Was it Flint?" Fred asked intensely, causing me to my gaze away.

"What did he do to you?!" Fred insisted as I fought to look back at my friends.

"I'm so embarrassed. He jinxed me after I put my own spell on him, but I was standing at the top of the stairs. It nudged me over and sent me falling," I admitted, feeling my frustration growing.

"That bloody bastard!" Fred roared.

"Fred, it was my fault, I let him get the upper hand!" I explained dejectedly.

"Marnie, he shouldn't be trying to attack you in the first place," George said firmly while taking my hand gently. It was like he was handling a porcelain doll.

"Yea, you're right," I said quietly knowing I had lost the argument.

My eyes were already growing heavy despite the fact that I had just woken up.

"We'll let you get some sleep Hare," Fred said knowingly, already getting up to leave.

I watched them exit just as my eyes fell shut.

The next time I woke up I felt the weight of a body sitting on the edge of the bed. My eyes fluttered open as I looked into an unexpected pair of twinkling eyes.

"Ah, it's good to see you are awake Miss O'Hara," the headmaster looked at me in interest.

"Is it standard for the headmaster to visit all of the students who end up in the hospital wing?" I asked curiously.

"I'm afraid not my child. I did indeed take a particular interest after hearing from Professor McGonagall that you had literally landed yourself in here," he said with deep concern in his eyes.

I nodded, contemplating how much I wanted to divulge to the older wizard. Of course I didn't want to cover for Flint, but I didn't know what would happen if I did confess. Plus, I was still angry with myself for letting Flint get away.

"You know, it is an admirable Gryffindor quality, weighing the outcomes for certain circumstances and not wanting to show weakness in the presence of their foes. However, I must press the issue that outward and malicious prejudice is not tolerated at Hogwarts, especially when it lands one of my students in the hospital wing," Professor Dumbledore continued as if he could read my conflicted mind.

"It's because of my dad," I whispered, feeling the sadness I felt that not everyone would accept my father for how he was born, despite not knowing him or how much he means to me. I knew that was why Flint always targeted me; calling me a dirty squib.

"Ah, Joss is a brave man Miss O'Hara. I understand the fierce protectiveness you must feel for him, but I also know he wouldn't want you ending up physically injured trying to maintain his good name. As long as he remains the man he is, which I'm sure he always will, his character can never truly be questioned. Even from blood supremacist families such as the Flint's," Dumbledore explained as he let on more of what he knew about the situation.

"You know my father?" I asked before it dawned on me. "The Order."

"Yes my dear child, Joss was always an imperative person to have around, regardless of his magical abilities. He dedicated his life to Lena and their friends. Nothing can ever be more brave or commendable that that," the headmaster continued as I nodded. "You have his same determination, but of course you carry Lena's gentler spirit," he added kindly.

It felt strange hearing of my parents from the headmaster. I felt like I hardly knew this version of my father; more outgoing, more driven. Not that my father was unmotivated, he just didn't branch out much anymore. And my mother with her time in the Order, I felt Professor Dumbledore was probably one of the last people who could tell me about her from that time. Knowing her right up until she was tortured.

"Nonetheless, I must let you rest child. I know Madam Pomfrey would like you to stay until this evening before releasing you. Therefore, I will talk to Professor Snape and see to it that a careful eye is rested on Mr. Flint. Now relax and I will let both Mr. Weasley's know that they can return to your bedside if that is alright with you?" Dumbledore asked with that twinkle returning to his eye.

"Oh yes, they can come in," I answered as he stood up and headed towards the door.

Fred and George entered moments after the headmaster had taken his exit.

"What did Professor Dumbledore have to say?" George asked while he took his usual seat across from his brother.

"Oh, just asking about Flint," I answered calmly.

"Is that slimy git being expelled?" Fred asked with a hint of delight in his eyes.

"No, I don't think so. But Dumbledore was pretty explicit that they're not going to let Flint continue to harass me," I answered more confidently than I felt.

George took my hand and nodded.

"Well we will also put a stop to anything that gets passed the teachers," Fred continued confidently which made me smile.

"Mr. Weasleys! Miss O'Hara needs to rest so she can be able to attend dinner this evening. She will kindly meet up with you then, but in the meantime you are banned from this hospital wing," Madam Pomfrey came out reprimanding the twins.

George grabbed Fred before he could make a scene and they both bid me farewell as the matron gave me another sleeping draught. I felt much less achy than I had the first time I had woken up the day before and I was looking forward to not having to be put to sleep every few hours from the bustling matron. It would also be nice to be able to hang out with my friends again and not have Fred give me that blatant worried look anymore or have George treat me like a fragile doll. Before the potion took hold I swore to myself that next time I would be ready. Flint wouldn't threaten me anymore.

Chapter Text

Over the next few weeks my friends wouldn't let me go anywhere by myself. Between classes I started noticing that they would form a loose circle around me while we walked down the corridor. They would also guide me to sit in the middle of our group during classes and meals; plus the girls wouldn't even let me go to the bathroom alone anymore. I would have found it annoying, but I was honestly happy to have friends as kind and protective as they were.

Today was the first quidditch game of the year and I noticed that Lee and I were the only ones actually eating our breakfast. Even the twins looked a little green as they stared down at their food. They were facing off against Ravenclaw whose team consisted mostly of sixth and seventh year students.

"Hare," Fred said while I turned my gaze to look at him. "We all thought it over and decided that you should sit with Hagrid at the game today."

I could see the seriousness in his expression, there was no room for debate.

"Coincidently he is already planning on attending the match and we have already asked him to sit with you," Fred continued as I just stared between all of my friends who nodded in agreement.

Obviously this had all been a plan the six of them had made; presumably because Lee would be sitting in the announcer's box and the others would be out on the field. And last time they had all been at the pitch without me I had ended up in the hospital wing for two days. I was thankful for how much they obviously cared for me but this did seem a little drastic, especially making plans without my involvement. At least I really liked Hagrid.

I let out a sigh, "Oh alright, I'll sit with Hagrid," I said and rolled my eyes for dramatic effect.

As if on cue I heard a loud voice from behind me.

"Ready ter go 'hen Marnie?" Hagrid asked as I spun around to see the half-giant standing behind me.

I looked back at all my friends with a half-afforded glare before standing up and following Hagrid. They were all giving me meaningful smiles which I couldn't help returning and gave them a thumbs up for good luck before exiting the Great Hall.

Hagrid and I headed to the pitch alongside most of the school and ended up sitting at the far end of the Gryffindor stands, giving Hagrid enough room to sit.

"Haven' seen yeh in a while Marnie," Hagrid started once we were seated and waiting for the teams to arrive.

"Yea, my friends have been a bit protective of me lately. I haven't really had any time to myself," I answered, noticing Charlie heading to meet the Ravenclaw captain who was already standing in front of Madam Hooch.

"Well I know Fang 'ould love ter see yeh," Hagrid answered which caused me to look up at him and smile.

"I would like that too, how about tomorrow? I have my afternoon free after Transfiguration and I'm sure I can talk my friends into letting me go down and see you," I told him with a smile.

"The twins told me wha' happened. Ruddy 'orrible how tha' boy is treatin' yeh," Hagrid looked at me with a sad smile.

"Yea, but Professor Dumbledore is looking into it. I'll be alright," I told him reassuringly.

"Dumbledore's true ter 'is word Marnie. Yeh'll be safe," Hagrid said confidently with a gleam in his eye.

I couldn't help but return Hagrid's infectious smile before turning my attention onto the field. My friends were already mounted on their brooms and Madam Hooch was lifting the whistle to her mouth. When it went off moments later everyone instantly fled off in different directions.

"And they're off," I heard Lee from the announcer's box.

"Johnson is the first to catch the quaffle, not too shabby for her first ever game," he continued which made me smile at his accreditation to our friend.

"Johnson passes it to Bell who is heading towards the Ravenclaw goalpost. Oh, but her hand's knocked by a bludger aimed by Correll," I watched as the quaffle fell from Katie's hands into another chaser's who had been flying underneath.

"Donaldson carries the quaffle and passes it to McKinley who is nearing the Gryffindor posts. McKinley aims the quaffle and- scores. Wood misses the quaffle by an inch," Lee continued in a dejected tone.

"Ravenclaw scores the first goal of the game. Now Martin is carrying the quaffle and passes it back to Donaldson who drops the quaffle. One of the Weasley beaters hit a nicely aimed bludger at him. Way to go George! Or is it Fred? Anyways, Spinnet catches the quaffle and makes her way down the pitch. She lines it up for the score but Thompson is there to make the save. Bad luck there Leesh, but keep it up!" Lee commented enthusiastically.

I turned my attention over to where Lee was commentating and saw Professor McGonagall leaning down to whisper in his ear.

The rest of the game went by in a flurry of exertion. I could see the determination of my friends heighten as the scores became further and further apart. Currently, Ravenclaw was winning 90-20. They had been playing for about twenty minutes with the older Ravenclaws expertly maneuvering around the newer Gryffindors.

I could see the frustration in my friends' faces when all of a sudden I saw Charlie and the other seeker fly off in a rushing effort to catch the snitch.

"Weasley and Harris are neck-in-neck going for the snitch. Harris reaches- and he has it. Ravenclaw wins," Lee said rather unexcitedly.

The Ravenclaws were visibly ecstatic along with the Slytherins who were always happy to see the Gryffindors' beaten. Hagrid and I then made our way down from the stands to meet up with my friends. He left me just outside the change rooms so I could wait while he returned down to the grounds. Minutes later my friends came out looking fairly dejected.

"It was a good game guys," I said, trying to put some conviction in my voice.

They were all dragging their feet as we headed back towards the castle.

"We were rubbish," Katie said, obviously frustrated from the results of the game.

"Yea, we're going to have to practice twice as hard for the next game," Ange said more determinedly.

"Slytherin has another thing coming if they think they're going to win against us," Fred said even more confidently as we all agreed and headed towards the Great Hall for lunch.

XXX

I had woken up twenty minutes ago to end up staring at myself in the mirror. I noticed that my hair had gotten longer over the past year since it now hung down my back instead of just hanging off my shoulders. Plus, it had a slightly darker chestnut hue than before. Looking at my eyes, they were still noticeably orange but I found I liked them more and more and was less embarrassed by how vibrant they were. Today marked the first day of being thirteen and I was looking for any physical indicators. I tried to remember back to last year and could actually see some of the differences in my appearance since then. I still wasn't much taller but I looked a little more mature; more angular and less rounded.

When I finally started getting ready and headed downstairs, the girls were still asleep in their beds. Today was Saturday which was an added birthday bonus, and I knew they would continue to sleep for the next few hours since they had all been practicing quidditch whenever they could. Ange and the others were determined to bring Gryffindor the upcoming win during the next game on the first of November and were tirelessly training to achieve their goal. Not wanting to wake them, I slowly closed the door behind me and headed downstairs where I surprisingly found the twins already sitting on one of the worn couches.

"I figured you two would be asleep for ages," I said, causing them to turn around at the sound of my voice.

"Nah, can't miss any time for your birthday," George said even though I could see the dark circles under both of their eyes.

"Really guys, I won't mind if you head back up. I'm sure Lee won't venture down anytime soon anyways," I added, knowing Lee was always the last of us to wake up every morning.

"Trying to get rid of us Hare?" Fred asked slyly.

"Of course not…" I answered before being cut off.

"Alright then, no question about it. Let's head down to the kitchens and see what Posy can whip up for us!" Fred said excitedly, already up and pulling me out of the portrait hole.

We decided to take the muffins and other pastries Posy had given us out to the lake. In great birthday fashion we took the secret passageway that leads from the second floor of the west towers out to a rock formation beside the lake. There was a nice, grassy area near the shoreline where we sat out and ate our fill while watching the sun rise over the lake. It felt blissful to just enjoy the quiet company of my best friends and feel the warmth wash over me from the rising sun. It wasn't long after we had finished our breakfast that I noticed George lean up against the tree and doze off; indicated by his rhythmic breathing. Fred however stayed awake and sat with me in an easy silence. As we sat together I noticed him sporadically turn his gaze towards me and stare for a few moments before returning his gaze back to the lake. It wasn't uncommon to catch Fred staring at me whenever we were together, he had done it ever since we met. I also hardly ever called him out on it but George would often do so if he noticed me getting uncomfortable about it. But that had only been in the beginning of first year; I had gotten used to it since then.

"Why do you do that?" I asked before slowly turning my head to meet his gaze.

"Do what?" Fred returned innocently.

"Always stare at me. It's weird and uncalled for," I answered still looking at him expectantly.

"Because you're beautiful," Fred answered simply.

I started to feel the heat flush my face, forcing my gaze to return back to the lake. Fred was always forthcoming and blunt, but this seemed almost too direct, even for him.

Also at that moment, if I had looked by the tree, I would have seen a small smile appear on George's face.

"You, you think I'm beautiful?" I stuttered, not knowing what else to say.

"I thought I told you that when we met last year on the train. Your eyes, they're incredible. I can never get used to them. Plus, they bring out the orange in your hair. And obviously I have an affinity towards those with red hair," Fred said smugly before continuing. "You're my best friend Hare, I should be allowed to look at you," he stated nonchalantly.

"Yea, I guess," I said quietly, still at a loss of how to take in Fred's words.

We were best friends but I still didn't know all of what that entailed. Maybe the whole staring thing was normal for friends as close as us. But George never stared like Fred did. It made me feel very confused but I felt the issue had been settled for the moment after Fred's matter-of-fact explanation. He obviously didn't feel there was anything askew about his actions and it's not like the attention was unwanted. I just didn't know what it meant while Fred seemed to think it was an indication of our friendship.

Soon after, we noticed the girls and a very sleepy Lee coming down the hill to join us. They all wished me a happy birthday and sat in a circle around us. George woke up when they joined in on our conversation which wasn't really about anything in particular. We just spent the quiet afternoon outside enjoying the sunshine and a reprieve away from studies and quidditch.

"Her Marn, I have the perfect idea to celebrate your birthday!" Ange exclaimed excitedly and stood up, offering her had for me to do the same.

Before I could inquire, she continued with her suggestion.

"Why don't we all get our brooms and watch the sun set?" One of us can pair off with you and Lee and we can all fly around and enjoy the last of the warm evening," Ange continued as everyone agreed to the idea.

We then all headed for the pitch while Angelina, Katie, Alicia and the twins gathered their brooms from the storage.

George was the first one to meet Lee and I at the pitch while I could see the others following closely behind.

"Come on birthday girl," George smiled, reaching his hand towards mine.

I graciously let George guide me to sit on his broom. It felt odd, climbing onto the front of the broom stick while George put his arms around me from behind. But once George was settled, we kicked off the ground and I could see my friends getting ready to mount their own brooms. Alicia and Katie were soon following us and Lee was getting on the back of Fred's broom. Typically that was the easiest way for people to sit two to a broom, but I figured because I was still so small that George felt more comfortable having me up front.

"So what does thirteen feel like?" George asked as we flew around the pitch at a cruising speed.

"Much like twelve did. But I did notice I do look different from my last birthday," I answered.

George laughed, "Well you do look a little goofier."

I elbowed him in the ribs which caused the broom to weave slightly.

"Don't be knocking us out of the air now Marn. I don't think Fred would ever forgive us," George said with a smile in his voice.

"Why is he always so serious about me? I mean I know you guys are my best friends, but he gets so intense about some things. Plus, he stares at me all the time," I continued, wanting to get his twin's opinion.

"We love you Marnie, and it's just how Fred shows it. He's never had to be as protective of me like he is with you," George explained gently. "Plus, we know you can fight your own battles but it doesn't mean we want you to have to. People have treated you more harshly than us and it's not like me or Fred to stand idly by," he continued.

I put my hand over his which was still gripping the broom.

"I don't know what I would do without the two of you," I said quietly, leaning back slightly more into George.

It was always so comforting to be around them, even when their antics drove me crazy. But it was worth it to have their level of friendship and loyalty. Plus, it's not like I minded the pranks and mischief.

"You would have likely been a little cast-off, only hanging out with the house-elves," George said jokingly, earning him another elbow jab.

"Posy would make an excellent friend!" I exclaimed sincerely.

"Yea, but like I told you in first year, we're not letting you get away that easily," George replied referring to our first trip to Hogwarts, when I hadn't been able to keep up with the group at Hogsmeade station.

We then went into an easy silence as we raced around with the others under the setting sun. Fred and Lee raced me and George but lost handily in their efforts; much to my enjoyment. It was only right before the sun disappeared under the horizon that we glided back down to the ground and headed towards the castle for dinner. That night we had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, just like Posy had made me a year before. I smiled at the thought that house-elves really do make good friends. Plus, the twins and the others were pretty great too.

Chapter Text

Right after my birthday, autumn seemingly disappeared without a trace. The cool October chill breathed the promise of winter much to the chagrin of my friends who were constantly practicing quidditch for the upcoming November match.

Today was Halloween and I was happily awaiting the celebratory feast that was set to take place later this evening. We just had to get through Potions first which I actually didn't mind despite the Potions master who was a character all in himself. He was constantly reprimanding any Gryffindor for the most trivial things. Last week Lee had lost five points for sneezing.

"Today you will be brewing a Sleeping Draught. If any of your incompetent brains can brew this potion adequately, it is typically strong enough to have lasting effects for six hours. However, body size does take into account. For example, larger built individuals, such as Mr. Flint, would only be put out for five hours whereas scrawny little things like Miss. O'Hara would be put out for seven. This is to be taken into account upon administration which is especially important in a hospital setting where this potion is regularly administered by healers," Professor Snape finished with a sneer.

I could also see Flint smirking at me from across the room.

"Also remember to crush the wormwood, not cut it. Anyone who does this will be missing their eyebrows, and probably their nose," Snape commented snidely while looking over to the side of the room where the Gryffindor's sat.

After successfully stifling myself from rolling my eyes at Snape's insinuation I paired off with Angelina while Katie paired with Alicia and the twins with each other. Lee often partnered with Kenneth Towler who was a boy in their dorm. He was friendly enough, but he often became a target for the twin's antics, which was probably the reason he didn't hang out with us much outside of class.

Ninety minutes later Ange and I were handing in our phial of Sleeping Draught which I felt met Snape's adequate standard. It had been difficult in the end due to the effects of the potion which gives off a wafting yellow cloud to indicate its completion which also causes mild drowsiness. As we were finishing up the rest of our friends had already submitted their potions and were now cleaning their stations.

"Oi Marnie, I'm famished here!" Lee exclaimed as the rest of my friends were now making their way for the door to head to the Great Hall for dinner.

"I'll be right behind you guys," I waved as Fred and George gave me a meaningful look.

I knew they were still hesitant about ever leaving me alone but I waved them off again since I still had to collect all my belonging and Lee was now exaggeratedly chewing on his own arm.

"Go, I think Lee needs you more than I do right now," I said before turning back to collect my things.

The twins hesitantly followed Lee and the girls out as I put the last few of my things into my rucksack. After I was sure I had collected everything I made my way towards the door before stopping at the sound of an angry voice. Outside the classroom I could hear Professor Snape chastising a student.

"Mr. Flint, you imbecile. I am taking ten points from Slytherin," Snape remarked coldly while I could hear Flint start to protest.

"Do you think I enjoy taking points from my own house? I would have hoped by now you would have learned to read and follow simple instructions," Snape replied.

I angled myself so I could see their interaction without giving myself away. This was in time to watch Flint give Snape one last glare before storming off.

I stood rooted in place waiting for Snape to hopefully leave for the Great Hall.

"Five points from Gryffindor Miss O'Hara. For eaves dropping," Snape added without even looking at me before taking his leave.

Despite losing more points for my house I stood smirking at what I had heard before going off to catch up with my friends. I guess those precious Slytherin's weren't all great at potions, even compared to us lowly Gryffindor's.

When I got to the feast I could see Fred become more visibly relaxed as he saw me approach.

Taking a seat between Lee and Katie I looked at the assortment of food which all looked phenomenal. Candied apples, cauldron cakes, pumpkin-pops, black forest cake, spiced plums, apple crumble, poached pears and fig tarts were all laid out among other dishes that weren't placed right in front of me where I sat down. My stomach started rumbling in anticipation.

We sat and stuffed our faces until an hour later when we retreated to the common room where we fell onto the first available chairs. The amount of food I had eaten put me in a sluggish state where I found myself closing my eyes and listening to my friend's easy chatter. The familiar hum of their voices soon lulled into a light sleep.

All of a sudden I was walking through the Great Hall determinedly towards a group of students I found unfamiliar. As I approached them I sat down in the seat I had seemingly been heading towards in between a girl with dark brown hair and a taller blonde boy. Looking over to the boy who greeted me I was taken aback.

"Dad?" I said aloud but knew he hadn't heard me. It was like my voice was an echo, unheard by the people around me.

"Penn, have you written to Joss today?" I felt my mouth move and was surprised to hear these words come out and be acknowledged by the boy.

"Not yet, I know it's been a couple of days but I've been busy preparing for tomorrow's quidditch match against Gryffindor," the blonde boy replied.

"Well he's been writing to me every day wondering about you. You should really write to him," I spoke again, realizing I didn't recognize the sound of my voice as my own.

I reactively lifted my hands to my lips and was even more surprised to see that my robes were adorned with yellow instead of red. This caused me to anxiously grab for my mother's pendant which always gave me comfort when I felt nervous and saw that the gem was amber instead of the ruby I was used to. I was really starting to panic.

"Lena, are you going to help me with the Potions assignment? Professor Slughorn is expecting the assignment tomorrow," the girl beside me asked which made me turn to look at her.

She had shoulder length, dark brown hair and big brown eyes. Even though I had only seen her as an adult, she shared those eyes with her son. This was Alice Fortescue, Neville's mother. I fought the urge to cry as I saw the life and awareness in the young Alice's eyes. The panic I felt then started to escalate, causing me to stand up from my seat and head for the exit.

"Lena, what's wrong?" the younger Alice asked from behind me but I had already started retreating.

Soon I noticed that my surroundings had started to blacken. The blurry scenery of the Great Hall then changed to show the hospital room which housed my mother, but I was looking at it from down on the floor. I noticed my body was laying in weird angles and there was something inhibiting me from calling out for help. Every time I tried to cry out it was like my voice was gone. All I could hear was my own soft whimpering before a healer I knew by the name of Mr. Poke entered and gazed down at me with worry.

"Marnie, are you ok?" I heard the healer ask me in a different yet familiar voice.

"Hare, wake up," he said which made me more confused and my surroundings went blurry again.

"Wake up!" I heard someone shout and startled me awake.

I looked around me anxiously and saw my friends all watching me with concern. Thankfully, I realized I was still sitting in the chair I had nodded off in after the feast.

"You were having a nightmare Hare," Fred said worriedly.

"Yea, you kept murmuring something about a girl named Alice," Ange said quietly as the others nodded.

"Oh, that's strange," I replied in a whispered voice before standing up.

"Must be all that sugar from the feast. I think I'm going to call it a night," I said, already turning to go towards the girl's staircase.

"Yea I'm going to call it too," Katie said, following me up the stairs.

I could feel all of their stares on the back of my head as I walked away. I think only Ange knew I got nightmares since she often woke me up from them. I had never confided in anyone about my frequenting nightmares including the twins or my father. This one however had been different. Usually, they were just filled with smoke or mist with jets of colour shooting around. Or blurry, unfocused backgrounds and my mother's crumpled body. They were always horrible, especially with the sounds of my mother screaming, but I had never had flashbacks of my mother's life. I didn't even know how that was possible, especially since I obviously hadn't been there when these events took place. I hadn't even been born. From the looks of it my mother and her friends had been in their fifth year. My parents hadn't even started dating until the end of my mother's sixth year despite them being friends for years before that.

I laid in my bed quietly with my eyes closed so that the others wouldn't question me further. After a while I fell into a fitful sleep plagued by my regular nightmares only to be startled awake in the wee hours of the morning by my mother's screams.

That morning I was the first one down to the Great Hall, not being able to sleep anymore despite my level of exhaustion.

My friends joined me twenty minutes later, all looking nervous about the quidditch game against Slytherin which was set for today. None of us ate very much, except for Lee who was piling on the bacon and eggs. As I sipped at my tea I heard screeches from the owls which indicated the daily post arrival. I saw a peppered white and black owl approaching me which I knew belonged to my father for his editing business. This owl's name was Caelum and he had belonged to my father for years, and frequently brought letters to me from him. So I wasn't surprised when the owl arrived with a letter tied to his leg. I gave him a piece of toast to eat as a show of affection before I went to open the letter. I also pet the kindly bird who nipped at my fingers playfully.

I un-scrolled the letter to see my father's hasty handwriting.

Marnie,

Your mother injured herself last night somehow when getting out of bed. Healer Poke has informed me that she has a broken leg and sprained wrist. I am headed for St. Mungo's right now and Augusta has also informed me she has already checked in on her today. There is no need to worry, I promise to send an update tomorrow. You know this isn't the first time your mother has injured herself unsupervised. She just gets confused at night and sometimes doesn't know where she is. I don't want you to panic Marnie and I promise to tell you if anything else happens.

I love you so much Little Badger,

-Dad

The letter ended with the nickname my father had given me from the time I was born and only really used when I was upset. Obviously, it had come from my mother being a Hufflepuff.

I felt tears sting my eyes in fear and worry for my mother. How could I have seen this? Last night I had seen my mother hurt and lying on the floor with her broken leg. In the dream it had been me, but it had been a dream. How had I seen something that happened in real life? This was impossibly absurd and was making my stomach become nauseated as a result.

"Hare, everything okay?" Fred asked, bringing me out of my spiraling panic.

"It's my mother, she broke her leg," I replied as Fred and the rest of my friends dawned worried gazes.

"Marnie," Angelina said quietly, "you've never mentioned your mother before," she continued in a soft tone before I looked up at my friends feeling even more overwhelmed.

I couldn't explain my mother right now as I tried to frantically piece together what seeing my mother in my dream meant. It hadn't been a prophecy since I had probably seen it happen in real time. Plus, seeing my mother's memories was not part of the Seer repertoire. But I didn't think any of this merited anything good; sane people should not be able to see thoughts and scenarios play out hundreds of miles away from someone else's mind.

"Hey Hare, look at me," Fred said as I started to feel dizzy.

"Hare, I need you to look at me," Fred said a little more sternly while I forced myself to look him in the eyes.

Fred brought my hand to his chest.

"Breathe with me Hare," he said, as I somehow feeling the rise and fall of his chest.

I eventually matched his calm breathing and realized mine had been quite elevated. I could start to feel the anxiety subside but my mind was still reeling at the unfolding reality of what happened. I didn't even know whom I could tell since this seemed so unprecedented. What if it meant I was insane? Or dangerous? Maybe my mother wasn't the only one I could see? Or worse what if I had had something to do with my mother getting hurt?

"I'm sorry," I said, suddenly too overwhelmed to be around anyone.

I stood up abruptly and ran out of the Great Hall. I could hear my friends shouting after me and half expected them to follow, so I quickened my pace. I couldn't face having to explain myself right now or anything about my mother. I decidedly headed towards the hidden passageway that would lead out to the lake but stopped just before the exit at the other end. I then sat down in the opening of the passageway where I could see the lake through the rocky camouflage. I remained in the enclosure to avoid running into anyone, even though most people were now heading out to the quidditch pitch. I felt guilty that I wouldn't be cheering on my friends who had been practicing vigorously to be able to beat Slytherin, but I just couldn't face seeing anyone at the moment.

After a while I could hear the cheering from the pitch as well as Lee's faint commentary of the game.

"Weasley hits the bludger towards Pucey who drops the ball," I could hear Lee between my swirling thoughts.

What if I was crazy?

"Bell catches the quaffle."

What if my friends didn't believe me?

"Spinnet scores the goal."

What if I was responsible for hurting my mother?

"Johnson takes the penalty shot."

How would my father react?

"Weasley sees the snitch."

Would Fred still want to protect me?

"Gryffindor wins!"

What am I supposed to do?

I could hear the sounds of most of the school returning to the castle. Thirty minutes later I also heard two sets of footsteps approaching my location from within the hidden passage. The twins sat down on either side of me without saying anything. Soon after George put his arm around me which seemed like the last delicate straw. I broke into sobs.

"Hare, what happened?" Fred asked gently while George rocked me back and forth.

"I'm possessed. You shouldn't be near me. I might be dangerous," I blurted out between sobs.

"Marnie, what in the name of Merlin are you talking about?" George asked incredulously.

I tried to calm my breathing down and fight back the sobs to try and explain my thoughts to the twins. Once I had somewhat calmed down I described what had happened in my dream and how I had seen my mother's friends. I also explained how everything had changed and I was transported to my mother's hospital room to see her hurt and trying to call for help. The constant throughout the dream had been that I had taken my mother's place in both scenarios which could be how I caused her to get hurt. Maybe my running had moved her in real life, causing her to fall and break her leg.

Once I confessed everything I went quiet and tried to catch my breath.

"Hare, you actually believe you hurt your mother?" Fred asked dubiously.

"And you think you have the potential to hurt us or others?" George added in a careful voice.

"Well yea," I said wearily.

"Hare, that's not true. You have to believe us when we say that's just not possible," Fred said earnestly.

"But how do you know? It's not like I wanted to hurt my mother but I could have unknowingly," I retorted.

"We know because we're your best friends. You couldn't have hurt your mother, it's against your nature Marnie. You're fiercely protective and braver than you know; especially when it comes to your family," George said confidently.

I paused, taking in their words.

Sensing my hesitation Fred moved to sit in front of me and looked me in the eyes.

"One day you're going to realize why you were sorted into Gryffindor. You're going to see what George and I see without reassurance. But until then, George and I are here to tell you that you don't have the capacity to hurt anyone. You're fair and fierce and strong without having the intolerable ego. Your reason for being here is to protect the ones you love, not hurt them. And you will always succeed in that, which is why we feel the obligation to protect you in return," Fred said seriously.

I immediately started thinking about what the Sorting Hat had told me the year before; about being inwardly brave and having to build my confidence in order to protect myself and the ones I love. It was almost eerie to hear similar words coming from my best friend. What was I missing that was seemingly obvious to those around me?

"Okay," I said to Fred before wrapping my arms around him.

I stayed in his embrace for a few drawn out moments as I felt his grip tighten over me. It was a comforting gesture and made me actually calm down for the first time since reading the letter.

"I'm sorry I missed the match," I said sincerely. "I really wanted to see it."

"We understand Marnie," George answered with a smile.

"I heard you won," I said which caused them both to smile.

"Yea, we were loads better!" Fred said enthusiastically.

"All that practicing thankfully paid off!" George added.

"I'm sure Ange and the others are pleased," I said before my smile dropped.

"Hare, we talked to them about your mother," Fred said knowingly.

"We just told them not to bring it up until you felt ready to tell them yourself," George continued which made me return a small smile.

"Thank-you. You really are the best friends I could have asked for," I said trying to fight off more tears.

"Yea, we couldn't have you running around with those quaint little Hufflepuffs," George teased. "Or the house-elves," he continued as I jabbed him in the ribs.

"On second thought, you two are just a couple of hopeless prats who need me to save you from yourselves," I remarked with a smirk. "Or just save everyone else from you," I added as George went to swat me before I ducked and started running down the tunnel.

The twins followed me all the way to the Great Hall where we sat down with our friends for dinner. I sat between Ange and Katie to save myself from the twins' reckoning.

Once I was seated I saw Ange give me a worried look before I put my arm around her reassuringly. She leaned her head onto my shoulder in return. I was grateful that Ange and I could communicate through non-verbal cues. She knew I would tell her everything later, but I just wasn't ready yet.

Chapter Text

It was the week before Christmas break and the school grounds were covered with a fresh blanket of fluffy snow from the previous night. This inevitably meant that the seven of us were racing down to the grounds to take advantage of the opportune winter's day which also gratefully happened to be on a Saturday. I was currently helping Alicia and Katie make a fort while Ange helped the boys make an immensely large snowman. Precariously, they decided to place the snowman right outside the fort's opening, much like a sentry to a castle. They even leaned a large branch against it as a makeshift staff. An hour later we stood back to admire our efforts.

George and Lee however took the moment to shove the snowman over onto the fort.

"You prats!" I yelled as they doubled over in laughter.

In retribution I bent down and made a snowball before taking aim at George's head. It pelted him straight in the nose.

"Hey!" he yelled as he wiped the snow from his face.

"Serves you right," I said in a dignified tone while crossing my arms over my chest.

"Well I'd get running if I were you," George replied smugly as he and Lee bent down to form their own snowballs.

Without another word I turned and dashed to the other side of the grounds followed by the girls. A snowball fight soon broke out, boys against girls, as Fred decidedly joined the enemy team.

It paid to have three chasers on my team, plus I wasn't a bad shot myself. I had just pelted Lee in the shoulder while Ange and Katie landed shots on George's back and Alicia hit Fred in the chest. But the competitiveness of the boys kept us on high alert as they mischievously set up traps and cornered us if we broke away from the group. I had decided to try and circle around to where the boys were huddled behind a tree while the girls launched a frontal assault. However, the boys had magically rigged the ground behind them to swallow the person up to their hips if they stepped in the right spot.

Letting out a scream as I fell into the cold earth the boys looked back at me in hysterics.

"Looks like we caught a Hare," Fred said while still laughing.

"Ha, ha, very funny, you prat," I told him as I crossed my arms over my chest.

My feet were already aching from the cold and my torso was starting to go numb.

"Why don't you get me out of here?" I asked Fred as he approached the hole I was stuck in.

"You have to admit, it's a pretty funny bit," Fred said amusingly.

"Which part? Freezing to death or being stuck?" I said mockingly, trying to bait him.

"Oh come on Hare, lighten up. It's all in good fun," Fred tried to say reassuringly as I watched the girls all sneaking up behind him.

"No, this is fun," I said causing Fred to have a confused look on his face.

Just then Alicia, Angelina and Katie all bombarded Fred with snowballs in the back. I could see him stiffen at surprise of being pelted from behind but didn't dare turn around so to avoid being hit in the face. He then dropped to his knees and covered the back of his head with his arms before raising them in surrender.

"Looks like you fell into our trap actually," I said with a smirk, also noticing Lee and George slowly making their way to our location.

They had previously been ambushed by the girls while I had been distracting Fred. All part of the plan.

"Alright Hare, the girls get this round," Fred said begrudgingly as he stood up and pulled me out of the snow.

I immediately started shaking after having being submerged and having all my layers soaked through in the freezing weather.

"Better get you warmed up Hare," Fred said, already taking my hand and leading me up towards the castle.

Angelina, Katie and Alicia were all giving each other high fives as George and Lee followed them dejectedly back up towards the castle. The two boys both had snow in their hair and looked as if they had been hit from all directions. They were always too trusting of us.

We all headed to the Gryffindor Tower so we could change and sit by the fire. Lee and Katie decided to play exploding snap while Ange and Alicia went to walk around the castle to stretch their legs. This left the twins and me deciding to go down to the kitchens.

We walked down to the basement in an easy silence, all still exhausted from the hours we had spent outside. When we entered the kitchens however our easy silence was cut when we became immersed in the bustle of the house-elves cleaning up the supper dishes.

"Miss Marnee! Mr. Wheezies!" we heard Posy calling out as she ran up to greet us.

"Hello Posy, how are you today?" I asked politely, seeing the house elf light up.

"Always so nice to Posy, Miss. Marnee is! I is well miss. What can Posy get for you?" she asked before leading us to the small table in the back.

"Some hot chocolate would be great," Fred said once we all sat down.

"I get your hot chocolate right away! Miss Marnee and Mr. Wheezies must be cold from the snow! I get this for you right away!" Posy said before she ran off towards the ovens.

"Marnie, we got a letter from mum today," George said gleefully.

"Oh yea, how is she? How's Ron and Ginny?" I asked, not having heard an update in a while.

"She says that you and your dad are invited over for Christmas dinner as well as New Year's Eve," Fred said excitedly.

"Oh that sounds wonderful!" I said since I had always secretly hoped I would be able to spend Christmas with them.

"Yea, mum always puts a big effort into Christmas and New Year's. Lots of food and friends over. It's always a lot of fun," George continued with a wide grin.

"Sounds fantastic," I said, now watching as Posy set down our hot chocolates.

I turned to the house elf before she started to walk away.

"Oh Posy," I called out to get her attention.

"Yes miss," she replied politely with a big smile.

"I wanted to give you your Christmas present," I said, immediately causing the house elf to gape in silence.

The twins also looked at me ruefully.

"That better not be clothing," Fred mumbled as the speechless elf stepped closer with even bigger eyes.

"Hush, we've learned about house elves in History of Magic. I know they won't accept clothing," I whispered severely. "I would never offend Posy," I added before turning back to look at her.

"Here you go Posy, it's a Christmas card," I said as I put the envelope into her little hands.

"A Christmas card?" Posy asked quietly as she opened the paper to reveal a piece of parchment with a drawing of herself in the kitchens with added Christmas decorations in the background.

I didn't draw regularly but I wasn't half bad when I put my mind to it. I had often drawn things for my dad and Remus growing up, both of whom had actually framed a few of them.

I watched as Posy stared at the picture as her eyes started to well up.

"Oh Posy, I didn't mean to offend you!" I said hurriedly. "I thought it was just clothing you couldn't receive," I looked at the house elf worriedly.

"Miss Marnee is too kind to Posy!" the house elf wailed as she flung herself onto my lap.

"Well you're my friend too Posy," I explained, only making the house elf's sobs become louder.

"Posy does not have any possessions Miss Marnee. I shall go put the picture under my pillow," Posy said, running towards the other side of the room, carefully pressing the card to her little chest.

I looked after Posy as she disappeared into another part of the kitchens before turning back to the twins. George was smiling at me with a mocking look while Fred just shook his head.

"You are one of a kind Marnie," was all George said as Fred just looked at me with an undecipherable expression.

We then stood up and headed out of the portrait hole.

"Care to throw a few dung bombs into the Hufflepuff common room?" Fred asked revealing some from the depths of his pockets.

He also took out the map to see if Mrs. Norris or anyone else was approaching. I nodded and took one of the bombs out of Fred's hand before approaching the entrance which looked like a bunch of stacked barrels. I stood there for a few moments before turning back to look at the twins.

"What should I do?" I asked since no one was heading out of the common room like last time.

"Knock?" Fred answered with a shrug.

I gave him a skeptical look before turning back to the stack of barrels. I knocked twice and paused before knocking three more times a little louder. To my surprised fortune the entrance opened up and I could see a few Hufflepuffs looking towards me in surprise. We then used that moment of disbelief to chuck the dung bombs and flee back down the hallway. We ran all the way back to the Gryffindor common room before settling down in front of the fire in an innocent manner. Lee and Katie were still sitting together while Ange and Alicia were reportedly upstairs in the dormitory. After a few minutes I decided to head to bed myself and bid everyone good night. By the time my head hit the pillow a few minutes later I fell instantly asleep, dreaming of Christmas cakes and mistletoe.

XXX

A week and a half later was Christmas Eve. Remus was spending the night as per our tradition but had decided not to accompany us to the Burrow the following day. Despite them obviously knowing each other since they had both been associated with the Order, Remus decided to maintain his minimal association with the wizarding world. I was a little disappointed when Remus rejected my dad's offer, but I understood his reasoning. His answer for everything was always him being a werewolf; especially since they were further looked down upon than squibs by the wizarding world, not that I thought the Weasleys would hold such prejudice. However, we were the only family Remus had ever known after Lily, James and Peter were murdered all because of their best friend Sirius Black.

Although we had all been greatly impacted by Sirius' deception and betrayal, Remus had outwardly taken it the worst. He was more reclusive than my dad and coupled his hurt with the realities of being a werewolf. When I looked at my uncle I almost wondered if he considered himself cursed, having lost too much for too steep a price. At the end of the day we still had mum, but Remus had lost the men he considered to be his brothers.

Every now and then he would accompany us to see mum, but I would catch his pained look as the reality of the war always hit him. Remus and my mother had been very close at school, although I knew I didn't know the whole story from their time at Hogwarts. I felt it must be like losing her every time he visited which is why I also wondered how my father could walk into that room every week and not break into pieces.

The three of us had visited my mother the first day I had returned since I wanted to see her after her injury. Dad had told me she had just gotten the cast taken off and was slowly getting back on her feet. We guided her on a short walk around the Permanent Spell Damage ward and even ran into Neville's mother. Augusta had been walking beside Alice who looked straight at my mother without any recognition of her once best friend. My mother also returned the vacant expression as we continued on to my mother's room to put her to bed. Despite how sad it was to visit my mother I was glad we went and ensured that she was alright after her fall. Plus, I ran into Neville and gave him his Christmas present which was a knitted Gryffindor scarf. He smiled sheepishly at me while mumbling something about not being sorted into that particular house. Augusta just scolded her grandson and reassured him that of course he would be sorted into the same house as his parents.

XXX

We spent Christmas Eve playing scrabble and eating sugar plums. Dad made his signature maple-glazed goose since we would be spending both Christmas supper and New Year's Eve with the Weasleys. December 31st fell on a full moon this year so Remus wouldn't be able to come with us even if he had wanted to. So we just enjoyed each other's company before Remus decidedly turned in for the night. We have a small bedroom which also seconds as dad's office for his editing business at the top of the stairs. But because Remus is the only one who ever stays over, it is his unofficial room both when he is and isn't here. The closet is filled with some articles of his clothing and piled with books he has collected over the years. I'm pretty sure the sheets are also from his own bedroom which he brought over for creature comfort.

The next morning I woke up to feel the chill of winter creep in through the old windows and sparse insulation. I hugged the blanket up to my face before deciding to hurry down to the fire which was surely already started. I hurriedly got out of bed and walked to the top of the stairs only to hear my dad and uncle's hushed tones emanating from the sitting room.

"You should come tonight Remus, you know Arthur and Molly would love to see you," my dad said quietly.

I heard Remus sigh in response before answering.

"You know as much as I do that if Marnie hadn't befriended their sons that you wouldn't be in touch with them either."

I frowned as Remus' answer was seemingly truthful.

"You're probably right Remus. But I don't regret being in touch with them now," my dad said gently. "Molly is just as mothering as always while Arthur is just as quiet and caring."

There were a few moments of silence before my uncle responded.

"I'll think about it Joss, but I don't regret living my quiet life with you and Marnie," he paused. "Lena is enough of a reminder of our time from back then," he continued sadly.

I could almost hear the frown on my father's face.

"Remus, you know Marnie and I are always here for you. We're your family. And if it wasn't for you, I don't know how I would have raised her all by myself. We as good as raised Marnie together, but I just want you to consider the possibility of reaching out to old friends. We aren't the only ones who are hurting," my dad replied quietly before I heard him get up and head towards the kitchen.

I heard my uncle sigh after a few moments before getting up to presumably follow him.

"You know our girl wakes up hungry. You better be frying up the works," I heard Remus say with a small laugh.

I frowned at the conversation between my uncle and dad. I was happy to hear that my dad was getting comfortable branching out from our small little life, but it was sad to hear that Remus still held some trepidation about following suit. However, it had taken my father eight years to do so, so maybe Remus just needed more time. Plus, I also couldn't help smile at the reference to being raised by not only my father but my uncle as well. Remus had always been such a large part of my life and I had always gone to him when I didn't want to confide in my dad. Being referred to as 'our girl' was both humbling and comforting.

I waited a few more minutes at the top of the stairs before being overtaken by the cold. I then hurried down the stairs to sit by the fire while hearing my dad and uncle in the kitchen. Remus soon came to join me and handed me a cup of hot chocolate before we started talking about school and the twins. He asked how we were getting along plus wanted to know about all of my other friends. However, he seemed especially interested in how I got along with the twins and even asked about Charlie and Percy whom he also knew were in school. I couldn't help smiling at his want of information on the Weasleys after just hearing their hushed conversation. I figured it could only be a step in the right direction.

"Alright breakfast is on, get it while it's hot," my dad said from the adjacent room.

Remus and I stood, moving towards the wafting scents of eggy toast and sausages.

We all sat down and filled our plates while falling into a comfortable silence. Dad raised his glass of pumpkin juice as we started eating.

"Happy Christmas," he said causing us to raise our own glasses.

I smiled at my dad while I clinked my glass against his before turning back to my food. After breakfast was finished, we went over to the tree to open presents. I sat down in front and was responsible for handing each person a gift. I first gave Remus and my dad each their gift from me. I had gotten my dad a pack of foxglove seeds to be able to plant in our gardens next spring. He smiled at me while Remus opened his own gift which was a sack of wolf's bane seeds. My uncle also looked up at me with a soft expression before quietly thanking me. I had read all about them in the book he had given me last year and figured it would bring him some reprieve from the unforgiving side effects of being a werewolf.

I then reached for a crumpled looking package wrapped in brown paper packaging which was left under the tree. I opened it to find an orange-coloured, homemade sweater with the letter 'M' stitched onto the front. I smiled realizing Mrs. Weasley must have made it for me. I hastily put it on and immediately felt the warmth it provided. My dad was smiling at me as well as Remus.

"I can't believe she still makes those," my dad said with a chuckle.

"Molly always had a motherly spirit. I remember her sometimes knitting those during the Order meetings whenever she could attend," Remus said thoughtfully.

I then continued to pass presents from the tree. Remus had given me another book called Dark Creatures Lurking in Britain. I smiled as I would have something else to read over the holidays. Plus, I knew Defense Against the Dark Arts had been his favourite class while attending Hogwarts. My dad gave me a pair of pink earrings which were in the shape of peonies; victoire de la marne peonies to be exact, which my father kept a garden of under my bedroom window. The fact that my father had thought of a gift that combined my interest for Herbology with his affinity for gardening was heartening and meaningful.

"I love them," was all I could say as I went to hug my dad.

I had read all about my namesake flower in one of my Herbology textbooks. Amusingly, their most common use amongst the wizarding world was to crush their flower into a potion which would then be used to repel rodents from eating one's garden, especially hares- go figure.

I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon reading my new book while I kept on my new sweater and had put on my earrings. After the sun had set, I heard a knock at the door. Dad was finishing the pies he had made to bring over for dinner and Remus was lying down in his bedroom. So, I walked over and opened the door to see Mr. Weasley standing on our doorstep.

"Good evening Marnie, happy Christmas," he greeted me as I went to give him a hug.

"Happy Christmas Arthur," my dad said from behind me with pies in his hands before handing one to me.

"Arthur has offered to bring us to the Burrow instead of getting your uncle to do it or have us drive in the icy conditions," dad explained thoughtfully.

"Shall I bring Marnie first?" Mr. Weasley asked while already extending his arm out to me.

"I'll meet you there dad," I answered with a wave.

A moment later I was feeling my stomach squeeze out my naval right before we arrived in the front yard of The Burrow.

"I'll just go ahead and get your father. Go right in Marnie, Molly's waiting for you," Mr. Weasley said as I started walking towards the front door.

Before I even got to the stoop the door swung open and I was greeted by Mrs. Weasley.

"Happy Christmas dearie! Come in, come in. You're bound to catch a cold being out there in just a sweater!" Mrs. Weasley said grabbing me by the arm and pulling me into the house.

The doorway opened into the Weasley's living room which was nice and warm due to the fire and the fact that the oven had probably been on the entire day.

"Marnie!" I heard Ginny say from the bottom of the staircase as she rushed over to hug me.

"Hi Gin, happy Christmas," I greeted the younger girl who was only about an inch shorter than me at this point.

"Orange! None of us ever get an orange sweater!" I heard George say from behind me.

"That would be because it would clash horribly with our hair," Ginny answered matter-of-factly.

"It's because of her eyes," I heard Fred add as he joined us in the living room.

I looked at Mrs. Weasley who just smiled at the remark and turned to go back into the kitchen.

Moments later Mr. Weasley and my father joined us, and we all sat in the living room while we waited for dinner to be ready.

"How's your Christmas been Marnie?" Ginny asked as she made her way to sit down beside me.

I enjoyed her company and always felt slightly bad for her being the only girl amongst the chaotic group of Weasley boys. Although I knew she enjoyed the company of her brothers.

"It's been pretty quiet, but I always enjoy being at home," I answered.

"I can't wait until I go to Hogwarts! I can't believe Ron gets to go next year," Ginny sulked, causing me to look over at Ron who gave a small smile.

"Looking forward to Hogwarts Ron?" I asked the always timid boy.

From the twins' stories, Ron was seemingly as blunt as Fred and always had something to say, but he was always quiet whenever I was around him.

"Yea, I can't wait to be able to use magic," he exclaimed excitedly.

"Think you'll be sorted into Gryffindor?' I asked, wanting to talk a little more after seeing Ron become more animated.

"I expect so. The whole family's been sorted there, don't know why I would be any different," he answered.

I frowned at his remark even though he had answered in a positive manner. It must be even more difficult being the youngest boy of six, than being the only girl of seven.

Just then Mrs. Weasley announced that dinner was being served. We all piled into the dining room and gazed at the delicious spread of food put before us. The table was filled with yams, roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, squash soup, turnips and tea biscuits. In the centre of it all was a very large roast which was triple the size of the goose we had had the previous night.

The whole dinner was chaotic, noisy and crowded in the best possible way. We were all packed around the worn table which was groaning under the weight of all the food. Everyone was chatting excitedly amongst each other, basking in the Christmas spirit. When we eventually finished dinner, Mrs. Weasley quickly cleared everything away and brought out the pies my dad had made plus some figgy pudding and more sugared plums. After dessert we all retired to the living room where we sat in idle chatter, feeling the fullness of our stomachs.

I closed my eyes for a moment and heard a soft melody in the background as Mrs. Weasley passed around the tea pot.

"Mix a pinch of spice with a dash of charm

And a sprinkling of romance

They're why my cauldron full of hot, strong love

Is worth it, take the chance!"

"Mum, do we have to listen to this rubbish?" Fred asked from beside me, making me realize that this must be Celestina Warbeck.

The twins had mentioned it being their mother's custom to listen to the witch during the holidays.

"Celestina is a Christmas tradition Fred, you know that dear," Mrs. Weasley answered quietly only causing Fred to sigh.

We stayed sitting in the living room for the next hour before Mr. Weasley offered to return us home after seeing Ginny try to stifle a yawn. We bid everyone farewell and headed towards the front lawn after Mr. Weasley while the rest of their family stood waving in the doorway.

"We'll see you New Year's Eve!" Mrs. Weasley shouted cheerfully.

This had been one of the best Christmas' I had ever had.

Chapter Text

New Year's Eve came and went much like Christmas had at The Burrow. The twins had taken turns dancing me and Ginny around the sitting room while the grown-ups imbibed in some fire whisky. Mrs. Weasley's face had been in a permanent blush the entire night while Mr. Weasley and my dad talked animatedly with each other, growing louder as the hours passed. I had even roped Ron into sharing a fast-paced dance after seeing him sit on the couch alone, watching us hesitantly. The timid boy always seemed to be left on the outside of the four of us which I always felt bad about. I had long put our rocky beginning behind us and found the younger boy to be cute and in need of some attention. Bill, the twins' eldest brother, had also been present for the occasion which meant I finally got to meet him. He excitedly greeted me as I walked in the door saying I was the only thing the twins' or Ginny ever talked about in their letters. Bill and Charlie then spent most of the evening together catching up, with Bill passing Charlie some fire whisky when his parents were looking the other way. This left Percy who just floated between groups but mostly stuck around Bill who he blasted with frequent questions about work and living away from home.

When midnight tolled me and Ginny animatedly hugged each other and danced around the living room as we rang in the New Year. Moments later however Fred pulled me by my arm and kissed me softly on the cheek which caused me to turn a deep shade of pink. But before I could assess my own reaction to Fred, George followed suit of his brother but only kissed me on the forehead followed by an exaggerated hug. I then looked ruefully at the twins before spotting Ginny laughing in the corner while Ron smiled cheekily. In response I crossed the room towards them and pulled Ron over by the arm before planting a swift kiss on his cheek which in return wiped the smile off his face and caused him to blush. What I hadn't seen was the scathing look Fred had given us or the stifled laughter from Ginny.

Three days later we were back at Hogwarts and starting up another term. Unfortunately, the winter months made the castle consistently cold which drew all of the Gryffindor's to the fire each night. My friends and I would often play Exploding Snap or just huddle under blankets and talk throughout the evening until we retired to our dormitories. This evening was no different as we were all together in a loose circle while Lee and Alicia were comparing their Chocolate Frog collection. I had my own small collection, but I had left it behind at home. So, while the others discussed their more coveted cards, I was admiring Alicia's Beaumont Majoribanks card, who was accredited as being a legendary Herbologist.

"Do you think Professor Dippet taught You Know Who?" I heard Lee ask as he held up the previous headmaster's card.

"I mean You Know Who must have went to school around that time right?" Katie added while the others contemplated the chilling idea.

"Professor Dumbledore is twice the headmaster Dippet could have ever been!" Fred responded confidently while showing the current headmaster's card. "I mean who doesn't realize they are teaching the world's darkest evil wizard?"

"Do you think it could happen again?" Alicia asked quietly. "You Know Who coming back?"

The others all went quiet while I looked between them to observe their reactions. Angelina turned a ghostly colour while Katie shrunk her shoulders down as if to make herself smaller. Lee furtively stared at the card he was holding in his hands without moving his eyes or saying anything. The twins both grimaced and clenched their jaws while Alicia looked down at the floor. I was inclined to believe that this topic had never come up in any of their homes while it had been a conversation several times in mine. My father and uncle remained unconvinced that He Who Must Not Be Named had actually been vanquished and believed he had only disappeared instead. I also knew Remus had been researching what could have happened between him and little Harry Potter all those years ago and almost believed it had something to do with James, or maybe Lily; some spell they must have cast before being murdered. Plus, the fact that my mother was also brought to her undoing the very same day for the sake of amusement and revenge, it was hard to put my family's faith in the belief that it was truly over. The day the war supposedly ended my family experienced too much loss and heartache to expect peace while I knew most other families blindly believed it so not to experience further anxiety or fear.

"He will come back," I said calmly while my friends gasped and looked at me with a mix of anger, fear, and incredulity.

"How can you say that so surely?" Alicia asked in her sheepish voice, not really wanting to believe my words.

I took a deep sigh before explaining myself. I hadn't told the rest of my friends about my mother up until this point.

"On the day the war ended my mother was tortured to insanity by a Death Eater all because she was trying to save her friends from being murdered. In the end they were murdered and her efforts were unsuccessful. And because of this I have a mother unable to recognize her own daughter, and the rest of my family murdered all on the very same day. He Who Must Not Be Named was never found and the ones who took my family away from me don't even know where he is. So that's how I know he's only biding his time and will rise again once he is capable," I finished in a flat tone.

These are all things I had heard my father and uncle discuss several times and I believed in every word. It made absolutely no sense for the powerful wizard to disappear at the height of his reign only to vanish without a trace and be expected to be dead without confirmation. I knew something must have happened because of the Potter's but it only hindered his goal. So, it would only be a matter of time before he rose again and came out of hiding. And when that time came the target on my family's back would once again resurface. Squibs and werewolves were pretty lowly on the blood hierarchy.

My friends were speechless at my words, not able to form coherent responses. The twins already knew about my mother and I figured that their family also believed in the very real possibility of You Know Who coming back. But the others looked unsure. Angelina was frowning at finding out about my mother and I could tell she figured none of her words would be suitable in reply. Lee and Katie looked uncomfortable at both the fact of my mother and the possibility of the dark wizard's return as if the possibility had never dawned on them. Alicia however looked unsure of whether she actually believed me or not. I pitied families who whole heartedly disbelieved in the possibility of You Know Who's return; they were the most vulnerable as they wouldn't see it coming when the signs reappeared.

"That's absolutely horrible Marnie, I'm so sorry," Angelina finally broke the silence before she came over to hug me. I could feel soft tears falling on my sweater while she held onto me for a few long moments. She truly was a great friend and I knew she also believed everything I had said. It also pained me that she took my mother's secret so emotionally, feeling for her friend's situation she had not previously been privy to.

While Ange hugged me, I could also see the twins looking over at us with solemn looks. It was rare that children our age talked of such things outside the hushed conversations within our own homes. It was absolutely terrifying to think that the war of our parent's generation could one day be ours.

When Angelina finally let go and sat down beside me I could see Katie and Lee looking at me with sad expressions.

"I'm sorry Marn," Lee said quietly, unable to look me in the eyes. "That's awful what happened to your mum. It's not right," he continued as I realized he was trying to picture his own life without his own doting mother.

"That's one big secret to keep all on your own," Katie added next with a meaningful look. "You know we're always here for you right?"

I started to feel tears line my eyes while I nodded back to her. I didn't trust the sound of my own voice not to break.

"That's not fair Marnie, what happened to your family," Alicia was the last one to add.

I could tell she wanted to talk more about my other beliefs but the current tone of the group didn't merit further conversation on the matter. They were all reeling in the fact of what had happened to their friend's mother and what I had been living with since then. It was a lot for a bunch of twelve-year-olds to process.

Shortly after Alicia excused herself to go to bed soon followed by Katie. They both hugged me before going up to the dormitory. Lee was the next to retire, giving me a sad smile before heading up the stairs. Not long after Angelina couldn't stifle her own yawns and hesitantly went upstairs. This left me with the twins in a heavy silence.

"Leesh seems unsure about the whole thing don't you think?" George asked, breaking the silence.

"Yea, it's not all that surprising that not everyone agreed. There are a lot of families that refuse to believe in the possibility of another war," I said matter-of-factly.

"It doesn't make it right. You're her friend, she should believe you," Fred said a little angrily.

"Don't get upset with her Fred, we are both products of how we were raised," I said sadly. "Plus one day, unfortunately, she will be proven wrong when I will wish it had been me."

We sat in silence for an unknown amount of time. I could see George's heavy eyes start to sink as he fought off his tiredness.

"Why don't you two head upstairs? It must be past midnight at this point," I said.

"What are you going to do Hare?" Fred asked.

"Probably stay up for a while. Maybe read a book," I said knowing the nightmares were sure to come tonight.

"Why don't you come up with us instead?" Fred asked while George smiled and nodded.

"You sure Lee and Kenneth won't mind?" I asked, not wanting to let on how much the idea of being with the twins relaxed my whirling mind.

"Of course not. Lee wouldn't mind, plus he'll already be snoring. And Kenneth is a heavy sleeper. Plus, we can draw the curtains closed, make a little fort." The twins smiled as I relished in the idea.

"That sounds like it could be good," I said still wanting to appear more relaxed than I felt.

But the twins just smiled knowingly and each grabbed me by an arm. We made our way up the stairs to the boy's second year dorm. Once we entered George threw me a Weasley sweater and pajama pants that seemed much too small for either of them. I quickly went into the washroom to change before coming out to see the twins had somehow pushed their two beds together and closed the curtains except for where the beds met in the middle. I crawled in between them and felt like it was just the three of us, closed off from the rest of the world. I slunk under the blankets and looked at each twin with a smile before getting comfortable.

"Goodnight Marn," George whispered as I could tell he was already falling asleep.

"Goodnight George," I whispered back.

"Goodnight Hare," Fred said as I turned back to look at the more awake twin.

"Wake me if I have a nightmare?" I asked hesitantly.

"Of course," Fred reassured as he rubbed his hand over my arm.

The soothing motion started to lull me to sleep as I closed my eyes.

"Goodnight Fred," was the last thing I whispered before falling asleep.

The next thing I knew I was walking in between the twins on our way down to the Great Hall.

"Ready for this?" George asked in an unfamiliar voice.

Before I could look over at him or enquire what this was, I saw a younger girl running up to us from the bottom of the stairs. The girl looked oddly familiar, but I couldn't place her.

"Gideon!" the younger girl shouted as she reached us.

I looked over to George only to see an older boy who was not my best friend, although he had similar red hair.

"Good thinking getting the brothers to come along," the girl smiled at me before turning back to head towards a group of about ten people waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs.

I looked between the faces within the group and automatically pulled out a man who looked just like my father along with a younger looking Remus. More closely I realized that James, Lily, Alice, and Frank were also amongst the waiting group. As I continued to look, I spotted an unfamiliar face beside James who was blatantly staring at me while I felt my cheeks start to get warm. But before I could do anything else the young girl I still couldn't place started talking to me while the others filed out of the castle.

As I started to follow the others, the entrance of the castle became hazy while I felt my vision start to cloud. Moments later my surroundings came into focus and I saw Fred and George in a heated battle surrounded by five Death Eaters. I started calling out to them as I feared for their safety. I was however marveling at how two twelve-year-olds could hold off that many skilled wizards for that long before I saw a green curse hit George. I cried out in horror as I saw the lifeless eyes of my best friend looking back at me. I started running, having to find Fred in the thick of battle but by the time I reached the group the Death Eaters were gone and Fred laid at my feet without breathing. I sank down to my knees and cried out in anguish. How could I have let this happen!? It was too much to bear. But before I could think of anything else, I felt a set of hands on my shoulders willing me to come with them.

"Lena, we have to go," the voice said.

"But they are my best friends!" I yelled back defiantly.

"It's a nightmare Marnie," I heard the voice say back.

"You think I don't know that?" I asked incredulously before feeling the set of hands start to shake me.

"Wake-up!" it yelled before my surroundings started to blur once more and I was now looking into Fred's face with tears in my eyes.

Without thinking I grabbed onto him and hugged him fiercely after just having watched him murdered in my dream. He let me hold him while he ran his fingers through my hair.

"It's okay now Hare," he whispered as I softly cried into his shoulder.

Holding onto my best friend in that moment made the reality of an eventual war almost paralyzing. How would I ever be able to cope with losing my best friends or family like my dad and uncle had? No wonder they had shut themselves away from the world, it must have been blindingly difficult to move forward after the day they lost everything. It had been too much; I couldn't live through that and want to survive.

After several moments of holding me Fred gently put me back onto my pillow and continued to stroke my hair as I fell back into a dreamless sleep. Surprisingly I didn't open my eyes until the next morning's sun coaxed me awake. I felt the weight of someone's arm on my stomach as I rolled over to hear a soft snoring. I opened my eyes and saw Fred's sleeping figure draping his arm over me. I smiled as I stared at him for a few moments before watching him start moving around. He then opened his eyes and looked around to notice me awake. With a smile he removed his arm, but not before mussing my already wild hair.

"How'd you sleep?" he asked with a hint of worry in his eyes.

I frowned a little before answering. Fuzzy details were coming back from my dream, but I could only really remember screaming as I knelt down over the bodies of my two best friends.

"Just glad I was here," I answered which made Fred smile in return.

I could tell it was later than we usually slept in due to the brighter sun. But before I could say anything a loud snore cut me off. I turned back over to see George sound asleep with the blankets tucked up around him. He continued to emit a tirade of snores while I giggled and Fred passed me a pillow. We then both started beating him with our pillows until moments later he was jolted awake.

"Oi, I'm sleeping here," he said as he pulled the blankets up over his head.

"Yea well we're not and we're starving," I answered with a laugh as my stomach growled in agreeance.

"Yea well it's hard trying to sleep with you kicking me every five minutes," George added grumpily.

I then stood up on the beds and started jumping in-between the twins while they dodged my landings. They were cursing and laughing at the same time as I coerced them out of bed.

"Oi, some of us are still sleeping!" I heard Lee grumpily exclaim from outside the curtains.

We all stopped for a moment before sharing mischievous grins. The three of us then hurried out of our enclosure and ran for Lee's bed where we all jumped around while Lee unsuccessfully tried to swat us away. Thankfully Kenneth was an early riser and had already gone down for breakfast. After a few moments Lee successfully pushed us off the bed and the boys made their way to get ready. In the meantime, I quickly went to my own dorm to change before heading back down to the common room to wait. The girls were probably already waiting for us in the Great Hall since they hadn't been upstairs. Minutes later we headed downstairs, but Lee refused to talk to us. George and Fred however had their arms looped through mine as we walked to breakfast with Lee grumpily trailing behind. I hadn't been looking forward to having the talk with my friends like I had last night, but I knew it had been inevitable. Plus, the following dreams had been unbearable but with the twins at my side it had almost been tolerable.

We entered the Great Hall and were met with sleepy smiles from the girls. Alicia looked slightly awkward, but I just smiled at her which she gratefully returned. I didn't fault her for having her own convictions, I just didn't envy the day which I believed would inevitably come to pass. I just hoped for my friend's sake that she was prepared enough to be able to survive and protect herself. But I figured I would always be around to protect her as well, along with all my other friends since this is what makes fighting worth it. To stand with your friends against an impossible foe with confidence because they are worth it.

Chapter Text

Springtime at Hogwarts was always damp and dreary, despite the grandeur of it all. This was because the rain was constantly pouring down, having replaced the Christmas-like snow. On this particular rainy day my friends and I were going between classes in long sweaters under our cloaks in an attempt to try and stay warm. However, by the time we made it to the greenhouses for Herbology we were trying to shake off the dripping water in our hair to maintain some ounce of dryness since we were already chilled to the bone. Even though I was used to the soaking wetness which accompanied British springtime, at home I always had the option of staying indoors.

"Today we will be going out to catch some leaping toadstools," Professor Sprout announced once we all gathered in the greenhouse, much to everyone's dissatisfaction.

I could hear my friends sigh at the promise of spending the afternoon out in the foggy fields being pelted by rain. I knew however that this was the most opportune time to catch the creatures since they preferred to frolic in the rain.

"Do try to look unhappy," I heard Ange say from beside me as she witnessed my smile.

"But I've only ever read about them! They're very useful in all sorts of potions," I relayed as I started to get excited over my knowledge of the plant-based creatures.

"I'm going to stop you right there," Fred said from behind me as we collected our pails and gloves from the racks. "You are the only one here who actually wants to do this and it only makes it worse when you start firing off random tips of knowledge which I will never need to know in the foreseeable future," he continued while I stuck my tongue out at him.

"Alright students, I require that you collect a dozen toadstools before being able to come back to the greenhouse," Professor Sprout ordered while Ange automatically looped my arm.

"I'm with Marnie! She'll have us out of there in no time," she said as she started pulling me towards the brush where they were known to be found.

"I guess my facts are useful," I said slyly over my shoulder as Fred pouted back at me.

Once we entered the brush I pulled Ange over to the forest's edge where I knew we would be able to head them off as they came out. Sure enough as soon as we approached we saw three toadstools jumping merrily towards us while I could see the other students scrounging the sparing few which were already out in the open. Angelina and I divided our efforts as we each went after a toadstool. Before long we had collected ten of them and were prowling around for our last two. Just then I spotted some at the edge of the tree line still lurking in the shadows. I pointed to where I had spotted them while Ange nervously nodded her head. We circled around to corner the creatures before each diving to catch them. I easily caught mine while I looked to see Ange stuffing hers into our bucket. Having been successful in catching our dozen I started to walk over to her in triumph before I stopped in my tracks. It felt as if someone was staring at me from behind, so I turned around to survey the dark and gloomy forest. I wasn't able to notice any movement but even still, I couldn't shake the feeling that it was like a pair of eyes were piercing into me.

"Marn, are you okay?" I was startled at the sound of Angelina's voice.

I didn't move for a moment since I was still trying to locate the source which I almost felt was inching closer.

"Come on Marnie," Angelina said more urgently. "Let's get out of here."

I could hear the trembling in her voice as she too looked into the Forbidden Forest.

Looking over my shoulder one more time I returned to the clearing with my friend without finding the source of the staring. It was unnerving how still everything had been for somewhere so full of creatures. The wind had even stopped as I only heard and felt the movement of my own breath. Only another reason not to indulge the twins in venturing out here.

We walked back to the greenhouses in silence. When we had passed the twins, who were covered in mud, it only looked like they had about four toadstools.

"What were you looking at Marnie?" Angelina asked after we had given our toadstools to Professor Sprout who was extremely pleased in our efficiency.

"Didn't you feel it?" I asked.

"No, what are you talking about?" she asked worriedly.

"The eyes. It felt like someone was staring right at me," I explained. "It was strange though, it was like I could actually feel it but no one was there. Or at least no one that I could see."

"There was no one there Marnie, not except for the leaping toadstools," Ange said in an anxious tone.

"Yea I guess you're right Ange," wanting to placate my friend. "It was nothing."

We then waited for twenty more minutes before the rest of the class filed in, sopping wet.

The rest of our friends looked extremely annoyed as they handed over their buckets.

"You win Hare," Fred said as I looked at him curiously. "Your facts are not useless, especially if it gets me out of the rain," he said as I laughed.

When we later walked back to the castle I was still mulling over the occurrence in the forest, or at least what I felt had happened. I figured it was best if I didn't tell the twins who would only worry over what was potentially nothing, especially since Angelina hadn't seen anything. I guess it was just the eeriness of the forest and one of the many reasons not to enter.

XXX

The sogginess of spring eventually dissipated allowing us to actually venture outside without catching a cold. I could feel the promise of summer, and with it the anxiety of exams. Last year I had proven even to myself how adept I was at my studies. I had passed all of my classes with Outstanding's in Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration and Astronomy while receiving Exceeds Expectations in Potions and Defense Against the Dark Arts. I had only gotten an Acceptable in History of Magic which I never felt too sorry over. Now I wasn't as anxious for the exams as last year which meant I didn't spend every literal minute in the library. Plus, my friends were less than enthusiastic to let me venture there alone after last year's mishap. So, it was much to the twin's relief that I spent a lot of my nights in the common room, opting to study there instead. I was currently charting out a star map while Lee and Fred played wizard's chess. The girls were finishing their Potion's paper while George sat down across from me.

"I'm not lending you my chart," I told him without looking up.

"You insult my pure intentions Marnie," George answered as he sat down.

"What's your angle then?" I asked suspiciously, knowing the twins never wanted to sit with me while I did homework.

"Just to sit with my best friend is all," he answered nonchalantly as I looked up at him and smiled.

"I sometimes forget you have the ability to sit still for a moment," I told him while looking over to Fred. "Your brother on the other hand does not have that skill."

George chuckled and pulled out a book from his rucksack before opening it up.

"That's not a required text," I said while I tried to make out the unfamiliar cover.

"No, it's a Charms book I found on one of our many adventures to the library," he said sarcastically while I laughed.

Since I did actually like going to the library and the twins didn't like to leave me alone, they ended up tagging along most of the time.

"What's it about?" I asked curiously.

"Trick charms. They're not curses or anything, just hexes not ordinarily taught in school," he answered as I became more curious.

"Look at this one for example, the bat bogey hex. I think the name is pretty self-explanatory," he said as he passed over the book.

The page did indeed have illustrations depicting an individual with full-grown bats flying out of their nostrils.

"This is brilliant!" I exclaimed while George grinned in return. " But I don't envy the poor chap you try this out on," I added while slightly shuddering.

"I'm sure you'll be there when I do," he answered as I smiled before returning to my chart.

We sat there in amicable silence for the next hour before our friends one-by-one went off to bed. Before long it was just the two of us as Fred eventually waved at us from the staircase.

"You know, sometimes I like it just the two of us," I said as I gathered my things into my rucksack to carry upstairs.

"You know, I do too," he answered warmly.

I then patted him on the shoulder and headed to bed. George and I both knew we were in a trio-package. Our lives had become all intertwined which didn't really function without the other two being by our sides. But it was nice to enjoy each other's company once in a while, as I assumed it would be the same with Fred. Fred and I had just never been alone together which I now found slightly strange. George had already escorted me some nights to the library while Fred would opt to go back to the common room instead. I guess Fred and I had just never been in a situation yet where George would opt to do something different. But I'm sure when the time came we would be just as amicable as George and I while just enjoying the singular company.

XXX

Exam week brought about the same air of panic as it seemed to every year. A fifth year Ravenclaw named Claire Booth ended up in the hospital wing after she left wailing from the library one night. I also heard of a Slytherin sixth-year passing out after forgetting to attend four consecutive meals in the Great Hall. They apparently found him in the back of the Restricted Section.

"Lee! You're going to fall into your food," Katie yelled as Lee's head nodded forward towards his dinner plate.

"How long were you up last night writing that History paper?" I asked as he shook his head in an attempt to wake himself up.

"How is it possible to write two and a half feet on Sardinian sorcerers? It's bloody impossible!" Lee ranted.

"Well you could have started a week ago which would have kept you from staying up late last night," I replied cheekily.

"Shut it Marnie," he replied while George elbowed him.

"Oi, keep it friendly Jordan," Fred said cautiously.

"Alright, alright. Don't jab me in the ribs," Lee said as he looked between the twins.

I just shook my head knowing the twins never let Lee get away much with his sarcasm when it was directed at me; which made it difficult since that was one of his main traits. I never even minded since I usually just handed it back to him.

A moment later someone went fleeing from the Great Hall wailing in hysterics.

"There goes another one," Katie said non-chalantly as the girl was followed out by some prefects and Professor Sprout, probably to escort her to the hospital wing.

"Hey Marnie," Angelina cut in after we had all turned back to our meals. "I was hoping I could invite you over this summer?" she inquired with a smile.

"That sounds wonderful Ange," I said before hesitating. "I would just have to ask my father first."

"Oh, of course Marn," she replied genuinely. "But my parents are happy to come get you and also meet with your father beforehand."

I smiled back at her as I started to get excited over the prospect of spending some time in the city outside of the hospital.

"That sounds great Ange," I exclaimed.

"I've already been exchanging a few letters with my parents and they are fine with the whole thing," she explained.

"I'll send a letter tomorrow and tell my father, I'm sure he'll be alright with it," I told her.

I knew my father would be hesitant about the idea but I also knew he would allow me to visit one of my friends, especially Ange. I had already told him all about her, plus meeting her parents would provide some needed assurance.

"Why don't we all head up to the common room before Lee wears his food?" Alicia suggested as Lee started to nod off again.

The twins grabbed Lee from either side and hauled him up to their dormitory. The girls and I sat near the fire while we waited for George and Fred to return.

"Well sleeping beauty is back in his chamber," Fred said as the twins joined us.

"I never figured exams could be so cutthroat," Alicia said worriedly.

"Yea, is it really that horrible in OWL year?" Ange asked.

"Charlie said it wasn't that bad but you have to stay on top of your studies," George said calmly.

"But Charlie is a bright kid, even if he plays it down a bit. In his fifth year he got eight OWLs, I'm sure he'll get at least the same this year for his NEWTs," Fred added.

"Good thing we won't have to worry about it for a few years yet," Katie said.

"Yea, our exams are enough as it is," I added with a sigh.

"I think I'm going to call it a night," Ange said as all of us agreed.

The four of us then headed upstairs while the twins headed back towards the boys dorm. All of our trunks were mostly packed, including mine as I was slowly learning not to leave packing until the last minute. After we were all settled in bed a few minutes later the others soon after fell asleep. I listened to their rhythmic breathing as I soon found myself drifting off into an easy sleep, thinking of exploring London and further branching out from the little cottage on the hill.

Chapter Text

As I stepped off the train with the twins following close behind, I tried not to get sucked in by the crowd. Students were rushing around with their heavy trunks trying to locate their parents, while parents in return bustled around; several with younger children in tow.

"Look there's mum," George pointed straight ahead, looking past several other families.

Seeing our target, I followed the twins closely before I eventually saw three red heads standing in a bunch along with my father. When we got close enough I ran up to him and gave him a big hug while he planted a kiss on my forehead.

"How's my girl?" dad asked as I smiled up at him.

"I was actually hoping you could meet my friend and her family?" I asked.

I had already told my father about Angelina's invitation which he had tentatively agreed to.

"Of course I'll meet your friends Marnie," he replied with a smile.

"Marnie, let me have a look at you," I heard Mrs. Weasley call from behind me.

I turned around as the older woman was already making her way to pull me into an embrace.

"It's good to see you Mrs. Weasley," I answered as she pulled me in.

"Always so skinny," she replied as she sized me up.

"Mum, she eats more than we do," George answered while I stuck my tongue out at him.

"I do believe that," my father added with a grin.

Before I could respond I heard my name being called out. I turned around to see Angelina and who I assumed were her parents approaching us.

"Ah, you must be Angelina's parents," my dad said as he watched the family approaching. "I'm Joss O'Hara, Marnie's father. It's nice to finally meet you, I've heard so much about your daughter through Marnie's letters," my father greeted as he shook hands with both of Ange's parents.

"It's so wonderful to meet you as well, I'm Pauline Johnson and this is my husband Heath. Our Angelina has also told us so much about Marnie," Angelina's mum introduced herself.

"It's good to meet you Joss," Mr. Johnson said as he shook my father's hand.

"As I'm sure Marnie has already told you, we would love to invite your daughter over during the summer, possibly for a stay-over? We understand you live farther out in the countryside, but my husband and I would be more than happy to come collect Marnie and drop her off via apparition. Or have her come via the floo network, whichever is better suited for you," Mrs. Johnson finished as they both looked at my dad.

"I would consent to having our fireplace connect to the floo for a night while Marnie is over at your place. We've had it connected before," my father responded.

"That settles it then," Mr. Johnson said with a smile. "Why don't we have Marnie over next Thursday if that works with your schedule? It's the end of our holiday from work that week and we don't yet have anything planned. We definitely wouldn't mind spending it touring Marnie around London."

"Yea I suppose next Thursday would be fine with us. I'll make sure to have the floo set up for that day and send you and owl to confirm," my dad answered while Ange and I beamed at each other.

I gave her a hug before our families parted ways. We then headed out of King's Cross with the Weasley's before heading to my uncle's car.

"We'll be seeing you shortly dear!" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed while we bid the red-headed family good-bye.

XXX

Over the following week I waited in anticipation for going to visit Angelina. I knew my father was nervous about it, especially since he remained silent on the topic, but I was too excited to want to back out.

On Thursday afternoon I was slinging an overnight bag over my shoulder while my dad guided me down the stairs.

"Now remember, the floo network will be open all night if you need to return," my dad reminded me for the tenth time.

"Yes, I remember," I replied.

"And Mr. Johnson has told me you are free to use their owl Maximillian if you need to contact me for anything," my father continued.

"Yes, I'm aware," I answered.

"And do not go anywhere in London unaccompanied by Mr. or Mrs. Johnson," my father added sternly.

We were in front of the fireplace and I looked up at my dad.

"I know dad, I promise to be safe and not venture off," I assured.

"I know I don't make this easy," my dad sighed as he rubbed the back of his neck.

"You're allowed to worry, you're my dad," I answered before giving him a hug.

I then stepped into the hearth and grabbed some powder from the cup my dad was holding out.

"Now, very clearly," my dad ordered.

"156 Patmos Road!" I yelled as I threw the powder down causing a flurry of ash.

All of a sudden, I was sliding down and catching glimpses of other exits, but never long enough to make out what I had seen. Moments later I shot out in an unfamiliar house to see Angelina sitting on the couch.

"You made it!" she exclaimed as she came over to help me out.

"That was brilliant!" I said as I looked back at the fireplace I had just exited from.

"Was that your first time?" Ange asked inquisitively.

"Yea, dad can't travel in the floo network," I answered as Ange nodded in understanding.

"Marnie, so glad you made it!" Mrs. Johnson stated as she walked into the room followed by her husband.

"Why don't you help Marnie up to your room to drop off her things before we head out?" Mr. Johnson asked as Ange took my hand and led me out of the room. At the end of the hallway, near the front door was a staircase which we started to climb. Once we reached the top, Ange's room was the second door on the left. There was a cot already set up beside the bed which is where I set down my bag.

"Ready to go?" Ange asked excitedly.

"Of course!" I exclaimed as we returned downstairs.

We left the house and side-apparated to the Thames River where we walked up to the Westminster Bridge. Angelina and I followed her parents as we gazed out along the river and across to the other side which featured the heart of London. As we followed Ange's parents, I noticed they walked while amicably chatting and holding hands. The sight made me sad as I had never seen a married couple outside of Mr. and Mrs. Weasley and although I knew they loved each other, they didn't typically show their affection outright like this.

We eventually crossed over the Thames where I was able to see Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. I appreciated the Johnson's taking me to the tourist spots since I had never seen London like this before, even though I'm sure they had seen it hundreds of times.

We then headed away from Westminster up towards Mayfair where the Johnson's took me to one of their favourite restaurants. I ordered the roast dinner along with Mrs. Johnson while Angelina and her father ordered the shepherd's pie. We were even allowed to order dessert which ended up being the trifle since it came as a house recommendation.

Before heading back to Ange's house, we walked through Trafalgar Square and up along the streets of the theater district before heading back towards the Thames. Once we came to the water again, we stopped to see the city lights reflect off its surface. The nighttime air buzzed with excitement along with the constant bustling which could only be referred to as the pulse of the city.

"Ready to head back girls?" Mrs. Johnson asked as we nodded.

Ange held onto her father while I grabbed Mrs. Johnson's outstretched hand. Moments later we were in front of their home and walked up the footpath. It was later in the evening so Ange and I decided to go up to her room to partake in sleepover-like activities. Once upstairs, we changed into our sleep clothes before we sat on Ange's bed.

"Crazy to be done our second year isn't it?" Ange asked as I looked over her small book collection on the shelf above her bed.

"Seems like I waited for so long to go there only for it to fly by," I commented as I turned my attention back to her.

"Are you going to see the twins this summer?" she asked.

"Yea, I think we're going there next week for dinner," I answered with a smile.

"That sounds nice, I would love it if one day I could go there," she smiled.

"I'm sure they would love to have you Ange, just ask. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are very friendly and would more than likely extend an invitation to you," I responded.

"I don't know how you keep up with them," Ange responded earnestly.

"What do you mean?" I asked not understanding her comment.

"I love the twins, and I love that we are all friends, but they are so high energy and you just match them tit for tat. Some days I just retreat to our dorm because they just keep going and I'm already tired. But you always follow them, scheme with them, venture off with them. Sometimes I wish I could just keep up," she explained while I mulled over what she was saying.

"Yea well someone has to reel us in," I answered with a smile. "Lee definitely won't do it and Leesh and Katie aren't always there so that leaves you to be the voice of reason."

"That is true," she responded. "But I just wish I was a little more adventurous."

"Ange you're a Gryffindor! You are made for adventure. Plus, you're a great chaser who made the team second year, and you never back down from a challenge," I went on.

"You still don't believe you're meant for Gryffindor do you Marn?" she asked.

"I don't know, it just seems so obvious for the rest of you while I'm being locked in closets, thrown down staircases and never have enough bravery to stand up for myself," I responded quietly.

"Marnie, you are brave. I honestly don't know what I would do if Flint was always targeting me. And you do stand up to him, that's why he brings his cronies along. Plus, like I said before, bravery isn't always so blatant. You're the one who told us about You Know Who when I hadn't ever heard anyone talk as candid as you did, even my parents. You're not afraid to state your beliefs or do what you think is best and for that you may be the bravest out of all of us," she went on as I stayed silent.

"I just don't see what you and the twins see. Plus, the Sorting Hat went on about something similar after deciding I shouldn't be sorted into Hufflepuff," I answered.

"The hat talked to you?" Ange asked.

"Yea, that's why it took so long," I replied.

"It honestly was just a few moments, probably less than a minute," she explained.

It had seemed a lot longer than less than a minute.

"What did it say?" she asked curiously.

"It talked about honing my bravery and that I will need it to survive in the future," I replied.

"Well isn't that ominous," Ange responded with her brow furrowed. "But seriously Marnie, you are brave and I'm sure in time you will come to see that," she finished with a smile.

"Want to go through the new Broomz magazine I just got, they're featuring the Nimbus 2000!" she exclaimed excitedly after it seemed we needed a subject change from all the serious talk.

I just shook my head while moving closer to her so we could both read the magazine more easily.

XXX

Two weeks after my visit with Ange the two of us were headed over to The Burrow to spend the day with the twins. On my previous visit I had asked the twins' about inviting Angelina over and they had instantly agreed.

It was a scorching July day and we had both come prepared with our bathing suits. Mr. Johnson apparated both of us to The Burrow and promised to return after dinner. As we approached the front door, we were greeted by Ginny who had obviously been awaiting our arrival.

"Oo you're even prettier than George described," were the first things out of the younger girl's mouth which made Ange's face turn bright red.

"Honestly Ginevra, I don't know where you get your loose tongue," Mrs. Weasley came into the doorway as she ushered both of us inside.

"It's lovely to meet you Angelina, the twins have told me so much about you," she smiled as Ange continued to blush.

"It's nice to meet you as well Mrs. Weasley," Ange responded as we entered the kitchen. "The boys are already by the pond if you want to head out," Mrs. Weasley said as she opened the back door for us.

Ange and I then followed Ginny down the back hill towards the pond where we could see five boys swimming about in the pond.

"Hey Hare! Hey Ange!" Fred called out as we approached the dock.

We took off our covers and jumped straight into the water. We had expertly come ready to go swimming and had instead brought a change of clothes for later. I could see the twins look at Angelina in her two-piece bathing suit while I self-consciously looked down at my one-piece. It was odd to see the boys look at Ange like they were and even worse to compare it to how they always looked at me. These were my friends and I never wanted them to look at me like anything else anyways.

Ginny soon joined us as we all swam around.

"Want to see who can swim to the other end and back the quickest?" Fred asked with a grin.

"Pretty sure it won't be you mate," George responded which made Fred scowl.

"Alright, you're on," Ange responded confidently.

Six of us lined up as Ginny stayed to judge and Percy decided to bask in the sun a while.

"On your mark, get set, GO!" Ginny shouted as we all took off.

We were all pretty even in the beginning but soon Ange and Charlie were taking over the twins who struggled to keep up. I, unfortunately being small and un-athletic, soon fell to the end. Charlie easily ended up surpassing the group and made it back first, closely followed by Ange. The twins fought to catch up but were passed by Ron who finished for third. When the twins finally finished, they took their defeat in stride and started splashing the others. I decided to forfeit the race altogether and stay on the other side away from the brutal attack.

Ginny, who had smartly gotten out of the pond, walked over to the other side. She sat down and put her feet in while I waded in the shallows.

"Did you hear Charlie is moving away to Romania?" Ginny asked.

"Yea, the twins wrote to me about it," I responded while gauging the girl's reaction. "It must be tough seeing another one of your brother's leave."

"Yea, it's strange to think that I haven't even started at Hogwarts but Bill and Charlie have already gone through it and are now going out and moving away," she said sadly.

"Yea, I was just talking about something similar with Angelina the other day. It's like we all agonizingly await to attend Hogwarts but now two years have already gone by," I replied.

"Mum's not too happy with Charlie that he's off working with dragons," Ginny added.

"Yea, I'm not that surprised. I don't think my father would ever allow me to do that," I replied.

"Well, it's not like you really need permission though do you? I mean mum would have revoked it with both Bill and Charlie if she could have. It's ultimately up to us what we do in the end," I paused at Ginny's words as I had never contemplated any dangerous or unconventional jobs like the two older Weasley's had.

But before I could give it much more thought Ange swam over and joined us.

"Fred and George are idiots," was all she said while Ginny and I grinned.

"I would have hoped you would have learned that by now Ange," I replied with a smirk as she stuck her tongue out at me.

Just then Mrs. Weasley called us into the house to wash up and change for supper.

When we all came downstairs from changing Ginny sat between Ange and I while Ron sat on my other side and George sat beside Ange.

"Looking forward to school Ron?" I asked after not having had much opportunity earlier in the day to ask.

"Yea, I can't believe it's finally my turn to go. I should be receiving my letter any day now," he finished with a proud smile.

"But Ronniekins, what if that letter never comes? Maybe they've met their redhead quota for the school," Fred jabbed while I glared back at him.

"Yea well, I guess I can take Charlie's place then can't I?" Ron responded indignantly.

"Don't worry yourself with them Ron, they're just being idiots," I responded as Ron turned back and smiled at me.

"I don't know how the twins ever convinced you to be friends with them Marnie, you're too good to be with the likes of them," Ron said as Fred and George outwardly objected from across the table.

"Pipe down you two," Mrs. Weasley chastised as the twins both glared at their younger brother.

"Oh, well I'm the only one who can keep them in check you see," I said while grinning at the twins.

"You'd like to think so Hare," was all Fred said in return.

I then leaned down to whisper to Ron.

"I'll try to keep them out of your hair," I told him while he returned a sheepish grin.

"Thanks Marnie," Ron replied before we both returned to eating.

No one besides Ron had more on their plate than I did and we both successfully finished our fill.

After dinner there was a rap at the door.

"Hope I'm not interrupting, you must be Arthur Weasley," I heard Mr. Johnson say from the front door.

Ange and I collected our things and met her dad out on the landing.

"Time to go Marnie?" Mr. Johnson asked as I nodded.

"I'll be back for my daughter in a moment," Mr. Johnson added as Mr. Weasley nodded.

I waved at everyone who were all congregated out the front door. However, in a moment I was no longer looking at The Burrow and was instead looking at my cottage. I walked towards the door as I waved Mr. Johnson good-bye. He smiled before he disappeared with a pop back to The Burrow to collect Angelina.

XXX

July 31st posed to be a strange day in my house. It was Harry Potter's birthday and as a sort of tradition dad, Remus and I would all head out to Godric's Hollow to pay our respects to James and Lily. We knew Harry was being raised by Lily's sister Petunia who had nothing to do with the magical world, and by extension, us.

Although my father hadn't attended Hogwarts or been a part of Remus and James' tight knit childhood group of friends, the men had grown very close when they all joined the Order. As well, as boys, Remus and the others had known my mother quite well and my mum by extension had been Harry's god-mum. Lily chose her best friend while James had chosen his, this unfortunately left Harry unable to be raised by my father and Remus like I had. Very few people knew of Harry's godparents and both of their ill-fates, and I often wondered where this left little Harry.

Of course, I didn't really have any memories of the black-haired baby, save for one. I remember the summer before that fateful Halloween where it had been too hot to even think. Lily and James were over at our cottage and we were all huddled by the pond. I remember the Potter's along with Remus and my parents all being there as Harry and I both went around in the water with our parents. Harry had a little turtle floaty while I remember sitting on a giraffe.

The memory is hazy, and I don't know if I remember everyone who was there but I do remember Lily taking me on a ride while my mum swapped to take Harry.

"I'll tell you a secret Little Badger," I can hear Lily whispering to me. "We want to have a little girl, just like you," she finished as I beamed up at her.

"Just like me Aunt Lily," I repeated back at her while she smiled warmly.

Just then there's a flurry of splashing on my back which makes me squeal. I turn around to see one-year-old Harry fluttering his arms around since mum has brought him to see me.

"Arry!" I yell playfully at him.

I bend over once he has stopped flailing while he flashes a wide grin at me. I bend down very close to his little ear.

"We're going to have a little sister, you and me," I say before the memory cuts out.

Remus and dad talk of Harry often, but I have never brought up my precious memory.

We had just come back from visiting my aunt and uncle's graves and I had the same hollow feeling I felt every year. I know I didn't remember much of them, but I know they had loved me like their own and I was angry that I never got any more memories with them or had been able to grow up with Harry. I didn't even know my own god-brother.

We were sitting around the coffee table back at the cottage while dad made some tea. The three of us were quiet as I saw the same pained looks my dad and uncle always got.

"So, I guess our Harry will be starting at Hogwarts this year," Remus started.

"You'll look for him won't you Marnie?" dad asked while I tried to give him a reassuring look.

"Of course I'll find him," I answered. "But honestly, I don't think it'll be difficult locating The Boy Who Lived," I said as I grimaced at the name the wizarding world had bestowed onto him.

"He must look like James with that mop of black hair he had," Remus mused as I smiled.

"But those big green eyes of his, those were Lily's" my father added.

I had heard them ruminate about Harry before, having never been able to get in touch with Petunia. We had no pictures or status reports about how he had faired throughout his childhood without parents. Plus, to hold so much on his shoulders already must have made it difficult for him to adjust to a normal life.

I was nervously excited to see the boy who had once been raised to be practically my brother, but I didn't know what to expect. I had spent my childhood hearing his praises from Remus and dad while he probably hadn't heard anything about me. Plus, he wouldn't remember me after being so young. I didn't know how I should approach the situation or if he would even want to know about the family he had who hadn't been able to ever reach him.

Dad and Remus had tried many times but since Petunia and her husband were muggles, the owl post hadn't been an option. Dad was privy to the ways of the muggle post but the hundreds of letters we sent always went unanswered and apparently Professor Dumbledore had deemed it unauthorized to actually visit the muggle house.

I was only a month away from meeting Harry and had already deemed it necessary to introduce myself to the boy and explain as much as I could to him while at least being his friend, if he'd have me.

The three of us then all sat around in a sad quiet sipping our tea and thinking of Harry.

Chapter Text

A month later I was sitting at the Hogwarts feast trying not to stare at the dark-haired boy with the scar on his forehead waiting to be sorted. I felt uneasy about meeting Harry all summer, which only heightened as September neared. Now, as I finally saw him, I had no idea how to actually introduce myself.

Earlier at King's Cross, before we had even gotten on the train, the twins had come rushing over, telling us they had seen him. My uncle and dad were standing a few feet away from the Weasley's, since Remus hadn't wanted to be noticed, when we heard their news. In response the three of us all turned to look at each other as I felt my stomach begin to knot. I knew Remus had appeared at the terminal this year because he had wanted to catch a glimpse of the boy but we had no such luck. And when I boarded the train the twins led me to where they already knew our friends to be which had stopped me from looking for Harry myself.

Now I was watching him nervously as I already knew the boy to be him. Despite not being able to actually see the iconic scar, his messy hair and angular face instantly gave him away as James' son. When he was finally called by Professor McGonagall, the room broke out into a multitude of hushed conversations. I watched as the older witch put the ratty hat over the young boy's head and waited with bated breath as the seconds rolled by. So, the hat was talking to him like it had me… I wonder what houses the hat was contemplating for him.

After about what seemed like over a minute the quiet of the Great Hall was interrupted by the shouting of the hat.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

I instantly rose to my feet and clapped at the great fortune of Harry joining my house. I could also hear the twins yelling beside me that 'we got Potter'. Once he was sorted, I watched as he approached our table and sat beside a girl with bushy brown hair who had already been sorted into our house. But before he sat down, we locked eyes for a moment. I felt the pressure in my stomach but forced it back down as I smiled at him. Hesitantly he returned the smile before being lost behind the mane of hair.

We waited another ten minutes to see Ron be sorted into Gryffindor as well. I also rose to my feet and met Ron's eyes who I noticed blushed as he sheepishly waved me back and sat down across from Harry. I wonder if they had already met on the train.

As the food magically appeared I looked over to see Ron's eyes light up in astonishment. I couldn't really see Harry since we were sitting on the same side and the girl's hair continued to block my view.

After the food eventually cleared and Dumbledore finished his speech, I walked over to where Neville was sitting.

"And you said you would never be sorted into Gryffindor," I remarked towards him.

He turned around with a sheepish grin and gave me a small smile. I gave him a big hug in return before whispering in his ear.

"Don't doubt yourself Neville, the hat doesn't make mistakes," I said as I felt him tighten the embrace.

"Oh, the password is 'golden snitch'," I added with a devilish grin before I noticed Ron turn to look at me in confusion.

"And what's the password good for?" Ron asked while I only continued to smile innocently.

"To tell the fat lady of course," I answered.

"What are you going on about?" Ron replied, not understanding my words just as I hadn't when it had been Charlie and me two years back.

"I guess you'll just have to figure that out," I said with a wink before returning to my friends.

"You're wicked you know that Hare?" Fred said with a smile.

"Yea, well it's my turn to flip the tables. I didn't know what anyone was talking about when it was me," I answered.

"Yea, but at least we told you," George responded.

"Are you saying I should go back and tell them?" I asked.

"Of course not!" they both answered as I laughed.

Our group of friends started to walk away towards the Gryffindor common room, not knowingly leaving Neville, Ron and Harry in the Great Hall.

"Who is that girl?" Harry asked curiously.

"That's the girl I was telling you about, that's Marnie. She's really great; I've known her for years," Ron embellished slightly. "Still don't know why she hangs out with the twins though," he continued shaking his head.

"How do you know Marnie, Neville?" Ron turned to the new boy and asked.

"Oh, my gran knows her father," Neville mumbled, not being able to give the whole truth.

"Oh, okay," Ron answered, taking the boy's answer at face value.

"She seems familiar," Harry said as the boys started to follow the prefect, which was also another one of Ron's brothers.

"Well I'm sure you'll get to know her, she said she's going to keep an eye out for me," Ron answered with a grin.

From the train ride with Ron, Harry had gathered that Ron had a crush on this Marnie girl. And from their brief interactions she seemed nice enough and Harry had noticed her staring worriedly at him while waiting to be sorted.

"She told me the same thing," Neville added to Ron's comment with a smile which caused Ron to scowl.

Harry wondered if somehow this girl was related to his past which was seeming to be one big unknown. He then made it his goal to find out.

XXX

It was nearing the end of the first week of classes and Marnie still hadn't had the confidence to approach Harry yet. She would often look at him in the Great Hall or common room before quickly turning away if he noticed. She couldn't understand why this was so difficult when she had been waiting to meet him for a decade. But what if he was angry with her and her family for not being in his life, despite their efforts. Or if he just didn't want her to be in his life at all. The varying prospects made her stomach ache.

I was now being escorted by the twins into Defense Against the Dark Arts which was our only class on Friday's. As the three of us entered the classroom I looked over to see Ange waving us over.

"Bloody hell, we have another one," Fred said as I looked up at the new Professor who still had his back towards us.

Taking in the newest member in the slew of defense professors, I was startled as I looked at the back of this man's turban. The voices around me became muffled as I focused in and felt the same chilling sensation I had a year before near the Forbidden Forest. It was like this man had a pair of eyes on the back of his head which were now boring into me.

I visibly shook as I started to hear George saying my name.

"Marnie, are you alright?" he asked worriedly.

"Yea, why wouldn't I be? Just startled I guess to see yet another teacher for Defense," I answered.

"You can't be cold Hare, it's stifling in here," Fred added having seen me shiver.

"Just a random chill I guess," I said as I continued to stare at the teacher's back.

He then turned around to introduce himself before I was taken aback. The man I had been initially weary of was a stuttering, pale man, who looked no more than one hundred pounds in weight. He was an obviously feeble man who shouldn't really pose much of a threat. However, all throughout the lesson I still couldn't shake the uneasy feeling I got from being in his presence.

After a class spent just watching the movement and patterns of our new professor due to a lack of focus, my friends and I headed up to the common room before dinner. We all took a seat in a circle of couches while we finally relaxed from our first week back. I closed my eyes for a moment as I tried to collect my thoughts from the past three hours before I felt Ange nudge me in the side.

I opened my eyes to see Ron and Harry standing beside me.

"Hey Marnie, do you mind if we talk to you for a moment?" Ron asked with a smile while Harry nervously stood beside him.

"Of course," I replied as I got up to follow them to the other end of the common room which was currently vacant.

I sat down opposite of the boys who went silent upon my sitting.

"Is there anything specific you wanted to talk about?" I asked, looking quizzically between the both of them.

"Well, Harry here has a pretty surprising question to ask you actually Marnie," Ron said, still not having heard a word from Harry.

I looked at the boy thoughtfully as I braced myself for what Harry wanted from me.

"Erm- it's just- you look so familiar to me and I can't think of how that could be possible," Harry said with a sigh.

I looked down at my feet before looking back up at him.

"I do know you Harry, or at least I did when we were young," I whispered while I heard him sharply inhale.

"Why didn't you tell us you knew Harry, Marnie?" Ron interrupted while Harry just looked over at him.

"My father and uncle were best friends with your parents," I explained slowly.

I watched the sad expression form on his face which made me panic.

"I promise we tried to contact you, probably hundreds of times but we never got a response. We always figured your aunt never wanted you to meet us," I explained frantically. "My father and uncle even tried to get custody of you at one point since my mum is your god-mum but…" I was cut off by Harry.

"Your mum is my god-mum?" Harry asked, obviously intrigued.

"Yes," I whispered with a smile.

I could feel tears well up in my eyes, but I forced them away.

"It's just that it's not possible for her to fulfill that duty," I explained, unable to reach Harry's eyes.

"Oh…. Right," Harry said as I saw him look over at Ron.

I figured he must have told Harry about my mum already.

"Please don't be mad Marnie," Ron said quietly.

"Of course not Ron, it's alright that you told him," I replied back with a smile.

Before I could say anything else the twins came over to our little group.

"What's going on over here?" Fred asked slyly while I saw George furrow his brow in worry.

At the sight of my unshed tears Fred's expression turned.

"Why is Marnie crying?" Fred asked more harshly as he looked over to his brother and newfound friend.

"Fred, calm down. I'll explain later okay?" I asked pleadingly but I knew he wouldn't back down so easily.

George on the other hand could see the desperation in my face and nodded.

"Come on Fred, Marnie's got it handled," he said as he yanked on his brother's arm.

"Two minutes Hare," Fred said which I knew to mean that was all he was willing to stay away while I was distraught.

The twins then walked away while I turned back to Harry.

"I'm sorry about that, they're pretty protective," I explained feeling embarrassed at their increased level of protectiveness over me.

"Do you remember them?" Harry asked, which I knew to mean his parents.

"A little, but I wasn't too much older than you," I said with a frown. "But we have some pictures at home, I could get dad to send you some that you might not have seen before," I suggested as Harry's face lit up.

"I've actually never seen a picture of them before," Harry admitted while I gasped.

"How is that possible?" I demanded, feeling my sadness turn to anger.

"My aunt and uncle lied to me about everything and refused to show me anything concerning my parents," he explained.

"That's outrageous!" I exclaimed. "I'll be sure to tell my dad and uncle about this. Maybe there's something we can do," I said as I started to think of a plan.

"You really do look out for everyone don't you?" Harry asked with a smile as he looked over at Ron.

"Of course, you're my brother," I replied, not even really thinking of what I was admitting to.

I watched Ron's bewildered expression but couldn't read Harry's.

"I'm sorry Harry, it's just… I know that's what I called you when we were young. And with my mum being your god-mum, and well your parents were my god-parents..." I rambled before Harry interrupted.

"I never thought it possible that I could have a sibling," he answered with a little bit of a shine in his eyes.

I smiled before I walked over to hug him. He returned the embrace with a tight grip while I felt a tear land on my shoulder.

"I'm sorry I didn't talk to you sooner. I just didn't want to lose you again," I whispered as I felt my own tears fall.

"I understand Marnie," he whispered back before he finally let go.

"Want to head down for dinner?" I asked both boys.

"Yea I'm starved," Ron answered, causing Harry and I both to laugh.

"Plus, it looks like Fred is staring bullets at us," Harry said a little alarmed.

"Come on, we have loads to talk about," I said, putting my arm over Harry with Ron walking on my other side.

I waved at my friends to tell them to follow us down and soon felt the twins right behind us, although staying uncharacteristically quiet. We headed for dinner and I ended up sitting between Fred and Harry while Ron sat on Harry's other side. Harry and I talked about both of our childhoods which left me outraged with his aunt and uncle. But Harry was especially interested in my dad and uncle as I told him he could send them a letter if he so wished. I also told him I would send a letter and ask for some photos to be sent of both of our parents and family so I could point everyone out. I knew Fred and George were picking up pieces of our conversation, but they remained silent as I talked with Harry. They knew I would explain everything later on and respected me to come to them which I greatly appreciated. However, Fred had set a hand on my leg which he kept there for the entire meal as it brought me comfort and reassurance. This was one of the best days I had ever had at Hogwarts, the day I finally got my brother back.

Chapter Text

The next two months at Hogwarts mostly focused around Harry. The night we first talked I also sent a letter to both my dad and uncle telling them about Harry. I also requested pictures of our family to be able to show him and explained how outraged I was that he had never seen a picture of his own parents. Since then my family and I had been corresponding almost daily and Harry had even started to write to them as well. I knew he asked them all sorts of questions and they had all been eager to oblige. Dad even invited him over for Christmas which Harry happily agreed to.

I also told the twins about knowing Harry's parents during the war and how I had few cherished memories of being like his older sister. In response they had just hugged me and forwardly treated Harry like one of the mates whenever he was around. The only thing I couldn't quite convince them of was to lay off Ron.

It was now Halloween and my group of friends were all heading down for the celebratory feast. I was excitedly explaining to Harry that it was much like the Welcoming Feast but filled with sweets and pastries instead of meats and potatoes. As I talked to him though, I noticed him give Ron pointed looks when we took our seats.

"What's going on between you two?" I asked looking between them. "Come on, out with it."

"Well, I may have insulted this girl," Ron explained while I shook my head.

"Hermione," Harry filled in.

"And she might be crying her eyes out in the girl's lavatory," Ron finished while I gasped.

"Ronald Weasley! All that girl wants is some friends, she's just trying to in her own way," I explained, standing up from the table to head back out of the Great Hall.

"By bothering us and complaining?" Ron asked incredulously.

"Yes!" I shouted back as I headed away from the table.

"Oi, Marnie, where are you going?" Lee called out after me.

"Just to the bathroom Jordan," I called back causing Fred to elbow Lee.

Once I exited the Great Hall, I walked down the stairs and through the corridors until I reached the lavatory in the Charms hallway, which I knew was the class the first year's on Thursdays. When I opened the door, I immediately heard a light sobbing before I closed the door gently.

"Hermione, are you in here?" I asked, causing the girl to emit a squeak like I surprised her.

"It's Marnie, isn't it?" Hermione replied back.

"That's right. I just wanted to come down and tell you that I know what an insufferable fool Ronald Weasley can be," I said casually before sitting up on the sink.

I heard Hermione let out a soft laugh.

"You don't have to be nice," she commented which meant it was my turn to laugh.

"I just figured you would want to hear it from someone who had their deepest secret spilled because of Ron that he isn't all that bad, he just talks before he thinks," I explained before a pregnant pause.

The latch on the stall door then clicked and the puffy-faced girl stepped out.

"He did that to you?" she asked as I nodded.

"Yea he did, and it was horrible. But I think he might have felt even worse about it than I did when he realized what he had done," I explained while Hermione nodded.

"I know I talk too much, and I come off as a know-it-all," she started to explain before I cut her off.

"I told him all you wanted was to be friends," I replied which caused her to softly blush with a smile.

After a few moments of quiet I hopped off the counter and stretched my hand towards her.

"Why don't we go to that feast, the pumpkin pasties are the best," I said as she smiled before taking my hand.

"You should be a prefect," Hermione said which incited me laugh.

"That's awful nice for you to say, but I'm afraid Fred and George might disown me," I said to which she only nodded.

But as we approached the door, I started to smell a hideous odour coming from just outside paired with a loud stomping sound. I looked back to Hermione who just shrugged with a fearful look in her eyes.

"Marnie," she whispered.

"Yea," I said back.

"I'm starting to remember something that is supposed to protrude this distinct odour," she said while covering her nose.

"I'm not going to like it am I?" I asked as she shook her head.

Back in the Great Hall Harry and Ron were talking with Lee and the twins.

"How was I supposed to know that by being annoying she was trying to be my friend?" Ron asked causing Harry and Lee to shrug.

"Oh dear brother, there is still so much you need to learn about our feminine counterparts," Fred said while shaking his head.

"Is that why you keep Marnie around?" Ron asked while it was then Harry's turn to shake his head.

"Marnie is one of us, and she also happens to be the one fixing your mess," George explained with a stern look.

Harry and Lee stifled their laughter.

"Troll, in the dungeons!" Professor Quirrell shouted moments after rushing into the Great Hall. "Just thought you would like to know," he added before passing out.

The hall immediately erupted into panicked whispers.

"SILENCE!" Professor Dumbledore shouted as every student followed his solitary instruction. "Prefects, escort your houses promptly to their houses. Professors, with me to the dungeons," he exclaimed efficiently.

The boys stood up before Harry froze in his tracks. He looked over to Ron who had stopped with him instead of following the others.

"Marnie and Hermione, they're down in the dungeons," Harry said frantically.

Harry then took off opposite of the students followed closely by Ron. Once they had run down to the Charms hallway, a horrible, putrid smell emanated from the other end. They followed the scent cautiously before hearing a pair of screams. This started them hurrying for the girl's lavatory again before running through the entrance which had already been parted from its hinges. When the boys finally turned the corner, it was only to see a huge troll in between them and the girls. Hermione had a visible wound on her head while she was holding an unconscious Marnie in her lap.

"Are you alright?" Harry asked as he simultaneously sized up the troll.

But before Hermione could answer the troll started to seize towards the girls.

"Hey dung brain," Ron hollered as he started throwing rubble at the troll.

Harry followed suit as both boys threw debris at the troll. In response, the troll turned around and started to advance onto them instead.

"Do something!" Hermione screamed as Harry noticed the troll bending down to attack.

Taking advantage of the troll's lowered position, Harry jumped onto its head which caused the troll to abruptly stand up and try to sway him off.

"Ron!" Harry yelled in a panic.

Hermione expertly started coaching Ron into a plan from across the room where she was still separated from them holding Marnie. As per her instructions the troll's club started floating in the air above the troll and then unceremoniously came crashing down onto its head, rendering him unconscious. As the troll fell, Harry ungraciously made his way to jump off and landed beside Ron. The two boys then approached Hermione and a very still Marnie.

"What happened?" Harry asked frantically.

"We were making our way to leave the lavatory when I figured out that there must somehow be a troll in the corridor. But before we could make our move, the door blasted open causing Marnie to be thrown back. She hit her head and landed unconscious. I ran to her and dragged her to the far end, but the troll spotted us. Thankfully that's about the time you two ran in," Hermione explained as Harry bent over to bring Marnie's head to his own lap.

"You're okay now Marnie. I'm here, your brother's here," Harry repeated while Hermione looked surprisingly towards Ron who just put his finger to his mouth and shook his head, indicating it wasn't a well-known detail that the O'Hara girl and the Boy Who Lived considered themselves siblings.

Moments later a group of professors approached and McGonagall let out a loud gasp.

"What is the meaning of this?" she demanded while the others looked around in astonishment.

"Looking for fame and glory most likely," Snape sneered at Harry rather maliciously.

"That's enough Severus," Dumbledore ordered before approaching the group of children.

"Professor McGonagall, send for Madam Pomfrey so Miss O'Hara and Miss Granger can be assessed. Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley will be escorted by myself to the Gryffindor common room while they relay their story to me."

"It was me professor," Hermione interrupted before anything more could be said.

"What do you mean Miss Granger?" McGonagall asked incredulously.

"I mean, I went looking for the troll while Marnie came to try and talk me out of it. But we saw the troll before we could escape and then Harry and Ron came and saved us when they noticed us missing at the feast," she explained while her head of house looked appalled.

"That is a serious feat Miss. Granger which recklessly rendered Miss. O'Hara unconscious," McGonagall shook her head. "Fifty points from Gryffindor. Now follow me as we help get Miss. O'Hara to a hospital bed," she grabbed onto Hermione's arm and she levitated Marnie away.

Dumbledore did escort the boys to their dormitory, but silently since Hermione had taken the blame, before making his way back to the dungeons to rid of the troll.

As the two boys entered the common room, they were met by the stares of every Gryffindor who had obviously noticed their absence.

"Where the bloody hell is Marnie?" Fred asked, almost charging the boys.

"In the hospital wing," Harry answered meekly.

"What happened?" George came over with a worried expression.

"She was sort of mowed over by a troll," Ron explained.

"WHAT?" the twins shouted in unison while Angelina, Alicia, Katie, and Lee ran over.

"What do you mean mowed over by a troll?" Angelina asked incredulously while Fred and George were already running towards the door.

"Fred! George! Stop!" they heard their prefect brother shouting, to which they easily ignored.

The twins ran all the way to the hospital wing before barging in and spotting Marnie a few beds away. She was unconscious and had bruises all over her arms and face.

Fred let out an audible whimper while he and his brother made their way to her bedside.

"It's nearly curfew! You boys mustn't be here," Madam Pomfrey chastised as she came out of her office with healing potions for Marnie.

"Please, just five minutes?" Fred pleaded while the matron took in his desperate manner.

"Fine, but not a minute more or you won't make it back before curfew," she said before turning away.

"Why is it always Hare?" Fred asked anxiously, causing George to look over at his brother.

"She's always trying to do the right thing and because of it all she always ends up here," Fred continued.

"She's a fighter Fred, there's nothing that's going to slow her down," George said softly while carefully picking up his friend's hand.

"Bloody git of a brother, she was fixing his bloody problem. She shouldn't have even been there," Fred started but George just sighed.

"Yea, but then Hermione would have been alone. And who knows what would have happened?" George countered making it Fred's turn to sigh.

Both of them looked over to the adjacent bed where Hermione was sleeping, no doubt having been given a sleeping draught.

"Just feel so bloody helpless," Fred said dejectedly.

"Me too, Fred. Me too," George agreed before the two of them went quiet.

They just looked at Marnie who remained asleep through their brief visit, looking worse than she ever had. After their five minutes ended, both Weasley's slowly got up and hesitantly left the hospital wing with intentions to visit first thing in the morning.

XXX

Marnie could feel the sun coming through the window as the light shone through her eyelids. There were muffled whispers around her bed which she thought was very odd. Her birthday had already passed, and she didn't think it was a quidditch game today, so why were the girls circling her bed?

But then the events from last night slowly filtered back as the last thing she remembered was the horrid stench of the troll and the door being blasted through as it entered the lavatory.

"'Ermione," I whimpered as I tried to open my eyes.

"Ermione. Needs help," I said, trying to brush back the wave of nausea and blurry vision.

"I'm here Marnie, everything is alright," I heard the girl say from somewhere beside me.

I could then feel both of my hands being held and the weight of someone leaning over the end of the bed.

My vision slowly came through as I noticed Fred and Harry each holding one of my hands and George sitting on the bed at my feet. Hermione was standing beside Harry and Ron was at the foot of the bed looking at me. I tried to smile but felt the muscles in my face hurt from the movement which caused me to wince.

"Marnie, don't move. You were thrown by a troll," Harry ordered as he gently put his other hand on my chest to stop me from getting up.

"What happened?" I asked, hearing Harry sigh.

"Ron and I came to get you once Professor Quirrell announced there was a troll in the castle. When we got to the girl's lavatory Hermione had dragged you out of the way, but the troll was advancing towards you. So, Ron and I got its attention and eventually were able to take him out with his own club," he explained quietly while Hermione and Ron nodded their agreeance.

"But, that's not the official story so don't say anything, even to the professors," Hermione whispered.

I managed to nod briefly in assurance.

"Am I the only one who got hurt?" I asked hopefully.

"Yea, and I'm so sorry," Ron said guiltily.

"It's not your fault Ron, I'm just glad that no one else was hurt and that I managed to find Hermione beforehand. Plus, it's nice to see everyone here together," I said with a pointed look at Ron who blushed.

"Yea, we're all good now. After the troll and everything," Hermione said with a smile.

"Hare," Fred interupted quietly. "I can't believe you go from taking on Flint to a mountain troll."

"Not that the two aren't necessarily dissimilar," George added with a smirk.

"But we would really appreciate it if every time you confronted something you didn't end up bruised and unconscious," Fred finished with a sigh.

"It's not like I do it on purpose," I said, sticking my tongue out at him.

"Alright, I think it's time for Miss. O'Hara's visiting party to leave and only return tomorrow after she has gotten some rest and has had time for her bones to mend," Madam Pomfrey interrupted.

My friends all bid me good night before quietly vacating the wing. Despite only having just woken up I could feel everything in my body aching which in turn made my eyes feel heavy. Within minutes I was asleep again.

XXX

Two day later I was finally able to leave the hospital wing. The twins and Harry had been constantly at my bedside which had driven Madam Pomfrey mad, but they hadn't budged. Harry filled me in on more details about the troll attack, which had usually made Fred turn green. I think it scared the twins more than ever this time when I had landed myself unconscious.

I also found out that one of the only downsides to having a new brother was that he reports back to my family. Dad and Remus had almost come to the school when Harry told them I had been attacked by a troll. Apparently, he tried to downplay it in the letter, but hearing your daughter was attacked by a full-size mountain troll is an extreme circumstance in itself.

In response I had to send dad my own letter telling him he couldn't pull me out of school since it would leave Harry by himself. This had gotten my father to begrudgingly agree to let me stay, especially since Harry would be playing in his first ever quidditch game in a few days.

A few days later Harry and the rest of my friends were setting off to play their first game of the season. All of them had been extremely hesitant to leave me alone, with Lee in his usual spot to announce, so I was sitting with Hagrid, Ron, Hermione, Neville and Luna.

As we watched the players come out on the pitch, I felt my stomach hitch since I was nervous for Harry only being a first year. Hermione and Hagrid also shared my concern while the others were stoked to see Harry fly. Reportedly he was quite brilliant. As we watched them set off, I was quite impressed to see Harry zooming around purposefully as he looked for the snitch. However, after the game began Harry's flying soon became erratic, like he had lost control.

" 'Here's summat wrong wit' 'Arry's broom stick," Hagrid said as I stood up in worry.

I then watched Harry's broom suddenly drop about ten feet before somewhat stabilizing. Seeing this I shouted at the top of my lungs.

"FRED! There's something wrong with Harry's broom!"

I hadn't expected Fred to hear me, but he looked out into the audience before looking up towards Harry. In response to seeing Harry whirling about Fred and George both flew over to Harry and tried to get him off the broom. I watched nervously as it seemed to be an impossible feat. When either of the twins tried to grab onto Harry, the broom would try and buck Harry off. Tears formed in my eyes as I watched my best friends attempt to bring my brother to safety. After several failed attempts, the twins decided to fly lower, underneath Harry, so to catch him if he fell. Although I was thankful for their efforts, it made me sick to think they would have to try and catch Harry from those heights. Just then I felt Hermione pull on my sleeve.

"Look Marnie, it's Snape," she said as I grudgingly pulled my gaze over to where the professors were sitting.

Sure enough I could see Snape incessantly mumbling while keeping his eyes from blinking. Classic signs of a jinx.

"What in Merlin's name is he doing?" I asked incredulously as I tried to fathom why the professor hated Harry so much.

Harry had told me all about how Snape incessantly targeted him in class, more so than any other Gryffindor. But to try and kill him in a quidditch match, that seemed off the charts.

"Wait here," I heard Hermione say before heading off in the direction of the professor's section. I darted my gaze between Hermione and Harry, watching as the twins circled and Hermione made her way over. Moments later I saw smoke start emanating from where Snape was sitting and realized Hermione had started a small fire to break the professor's gaze, therefore breaking the jinx. I then whirled my head back over to Harry who now had control over his broom. I let out a deep sigh in relief.

In the next moment however Harry's broom darted towards the ground and I felt my stomach drop again. Instinctually, I grabbed onto Ron who was the closest beside me. He clasped onto my hand and we both watched in horror as Harry neared the ground. However, in the nick of time he pulled up his broom before setting down on the ground. Still watching him, I noticed him starting to heave. This seemed to be all I could take watching Harry si I decidedly turned to go down to the pitch.

"Marnie, look!" Ron exclaimed, causing me to turn back curiously.

"Harry Potter has the snitch! Gryffindor wins!" I heard Lee bellow from the announcer's box.

In utter shock I ran and hugged Ron before turning to Neville and Luna. All of us then ran down to the pitch with Hermione who had caught up to us.

I ran straight at Harry who returned my embrace as I practically threw myself onto him. I had tears of relief and saw Fred and George approach. I disentangled myself from Harry for a moment only to hug Fred and George.

"Thank-you," I whispered to both of them.

"He's our friend too, Hare," Fred said with a smile.

"Couldn't have him becoming a pancake now. He's an excellent seeker, we need him to win the cup," George said, causing me to hit him on the arm.

I then turned back to Harry and put my arm around his shoulder. He was now talking with Ron and Hermione about what we had seen.

"We'll talk later," Harry whispered beside me, trying to be discreet since now it seemed a teacher was out to murder him.

But before we could say anything else, we heard a snarling voice from behind us.

"Look, O'Hara thinks she has a boyfriend," I heard Flint sneer maliciously.

"How does the dirty squib think she could ever date someone as famous as Potter here, despite his already bad taste in friends," he said looking over at Ron and Hermione.

"You leave her alone Flint," Harry said evenly, causing Flint to raise his eyebrows in surprise.

"You don't want to be with the likes of her Potter, her blood is as dirty as they come," he added.

"Shut it Flint, you already lost the game," I said wanting to prevent any fight from breaking out.

"Yea, well your boyfriend here is a pathetic flyer who can't even handle his own broom," Flint snarled.

I noticed now that his cronies had also started to walk over.

But before anything could break out, Hagrid finally made it down to the pitch and hollered at the gathering Slytherins.

"Get away with yeh!" he demanded, earning him some well pointed sneers from the Slytherins.

"Dumbledore warned yeh bout harrassin' anymore," Hagrid said sternly before Flint sent one final glare and finally turned away with his teammates.

"Thanks Hagrid," I turned around with a smile.

"Best be gettin' up ter the castle yeh lot," Hagrid said.

The twins were already in the changing room along with Angelina, Alicia, and Katie. Harry ran off to quickly change while we waited for them to return. I noticed that Hermione, Ron, Neville and Luna had me flanked as I came to stand in the middle of the group.

That night at dinner, after convincing the twins not to murder Flint, Harry and I were discussing the letter I was going to send my father about the game.

"I don't want him to worry!" Harry said in desperation.

"You told him about the troll!" I retorted.

"Yea, but this is different," he said unconvincingly.

"A teacher is trying to off you mate," Ron piped in while Harry turned back to glare at him.

"What if he revokes my quidditch permission slip?" Harry asked anxiously.

I looked at him for a moment and knew the game meant just as much to him as it did to the twins and the girls. And even though I was still anxious from today's game, I didn't want to take that happiness away from him.

"We won't let that happen Harry. I'll make sure he doesn't do anything rash. I mean, Remus talked him into letting me stay in school, I'm sure he will do the same for you," I reasoned.

We both looked at each other a moment later.

"What if he wants to take us out of school?" we said simultaneously before laughing at our identicalness.

"That's just creepy," Ron said with a shudder. "I've only ever seen Fred and George do that, and I think they rehearse," he continued.

We smiled at each other before I got an idea.

"I want to show you something," I said, grabbing his hand to lead him away from the group.

My friends gave me a quizzical look, but I waved them off.

"I'll meet you back at the common room," I said.

I led Harry to the trophy case outside of Madam Hooch's office. I had seen it when I had taken flying lessons in my first year because I had known to look for it. Remus had always gone on about James' seeking days and how talented he had been to watch. That was why I had looked for his name in the engravements of previous Gryffindor seekers.

"Dad knows James was a seeker and how much it meant to him," I said while Harry stared at his own father's name. "He won't make you quit," I finished confidently.

"Thanks Marnie," was all he said while he continued staring at the name with a small smile.

After several minutes we made our way back to the Gryffindor common room where our friends were waiting. Harry went off to talk to Ron and Hermione, no doubt about Snape's attempt on his life, while I went to sit with my own friends. I already knew what had happened during the game, so I didn't particularly feel like hashing out the details from earlier. It was actually nice to just be able to relax with my own friends who were still reeling from their win against Slytherin and temporarily forget about the dangers which seemed to be following me and Harry.

Chapter Text

It had taken a solid week and even a letter from Professor Dumbledore, but my father finally agreed to keep both Harry and I enrolled at Hogwarts. A troll attack and an attempt on Harry's life had been at the very least, extremely taxing on my father's nerves, however it had been eventually agreed upon that Hogwarts still remained one of the safest places for magical children to attend school.

However, Harry and I had another feat to go up against since Flint had taken it upon himself to start rumours in lieu of our confrontation on the quidditch pitch. Since Hagrid had prevented him from direct action and he was still being watched by Dumbledore, Flint had instead told the entire school that I was dating Harry. This meant that the entire school concluded that I was out to harness some of Harry's fame for myself while Harry was out of his mind for dating a squib's daughter. Oh yea, he had also told the entire school about my dad.

Harry and I then spent the next week with our heads down, especially when we were seen together. George had been telling everyone off who tried to approach me whenever I was with my friends, which I was extremely thankful for, but Fred just sulked. I couldn't even comprehend how the rumour that was ruining my life could upset him so much, but I also didn't really want to ask; I had enough to deal with.

By the end of the week I was exhausted from trying to keep a low profile and trying to avoid explaining myself. Although Harry and I were obviously not dating, our tight family connection and our self-proclaimed sibling status still seemed too private and intimate to share, especially when it was still so new to us.

So, this meant that when I entered Potions class with my friends, I tried to stay in the middle of my friends before taking our usual seats on the unofficial Gryffindor side. Soon after, Professor Snape made his austere entrance and immediately started firing off his usual pointed questions.

"What is the purpose for brewing Tempus Gloria Miss O'Hara?" was the first question he posed as I looked up unsurprisingly at Snape who had his usual sneer.

"I'm not sure professor, it wasn't in this week's readings," I answered as I tried to rack my brain for a detail I may have missed.

"You foolish girl, you read about it in the first year's lessons," he retorted with contempt.

I then started to think back to our lessons two years ago before the professor continued with his snide remarks.

"Not surprising, Potter didn't have the answer either this morning while he was actually supposed to have read the chapter," he said pointedly while I felt my ears turn red. "Obviously not drawn by magical ability, just as sure as your mother wasn't" Snape continued before I looked up in horror.

"Harry is my brother!" I shouted, knocking back my chair in anger. "Not that I should have to explain that to you or anyone else," I continued staring down the professor. "And how dare you bring up my mother or my family when we are just supposed to be talking about potion brewing."

By this point I was completely outraged. I shoved my things into my rucksack and stormed out of the classroom. I couldn't be bothered with how many house points I had surely lost or the smirking Slytherins from the other side of the room, including Flint. My relationships with both Harry and my mother were two of the most intimate and complicated things in my life, neither of which should be broadcasted around the school, especially by a professor. But what could I expect from the man who made an attempt on Harry's life only a week ago?

I stormed my way to the library where I pulled down the textbook for first year Potions. I was even further annoyed when I couldn't locate Tempus Gloria anywhere; what a lying git.

About twenty minutes later, while I still poured over the Potions texts for the answer, I was approached by Harry, Hermione and Ron.

"Erm Marnie," I heard Hermione say timidly. "Is everything okay?"

"Snape is a slimy git," was all I answered.

This seemed to be an acceptable answer for the three first years as they then proceeded to sit down.

"Can I see that?" I asked, pointing to Hermione's Potions text she had just taken out.

"Erm, sure," she said as she passed it over.

I began flipping through it feverously and finally arrived at the page labelled Tempus Gloria

"It's for brewing glory!" I exclaimed, having finally found the answer.

"Ugh, it's because this is a new addition," I added while looking at the cover.

"You were learning about this potion too?" Hermione asked while I just scoffed.

"Snape got after Harry for not knowing the answer too," Ron explained.

"Oh, don't I know it," I exclaimed while the other three looked around at each other nervously since I had been noticeably angry ever since they sat down. "Snape told me all about how my idiot boyfriend Harry Potter hadn't known the answer either and how I should know a first year Potion; but this is a new addition!" I yelled while Hermione looked around nervously. "Slimy git probably knew that too and just wanted to make me look like a fool while he insulted my mother," I went on hearing Harry gasped.

"He did what?" Harry asked clenching his fists.

"He went on about how my mother wasn't attracted to magical ability, obviously a slight on my father since the whole school now knows about that too," I went on. "That was the last straw. I yelled at Snape after that about how he was insulting my family and I shouldn't have to defend myself, before I stormed out," I finished noticing Ron and Harry looking loathsome.

"You stormed out of class?" Hermione asked a bit disapprovingly.

"For Merlin's sake Hermione, he was insulting her mum," Ron said while Harry nodded vigorously.

"We should do something," Harry finally said.

"Harry, he's already trying to kill you, we have bigger issues to worry about," I said, placing my hand over his before he finally nodded. "Plus, I'm sure the twins already have that handled."

Before I could say anything else the librarian, Madam Pince, came over with a disdained look.

"Miss O'Hara, kindly remove yourself from my library since it appears you have no control over your own volume," she ordered.

I was now too exhausted to argue so I collected my things.

"I'll see you guys later," I remarked before I made my way up to the common room.

When I got there, I sat down by the fire and waited for my friends to return from class.

"Don't worry Marnie,' George said when he entered the common room and made his way to sit down beside me.

"We definitely got Snape back," Fred continued with a smile.

"Opened all the jars with horseflies in the supply cupboard," George went on with a devilish grin.

"He'll find himself a nice surprise when he opens the stores tomorrow," Fred finished proudly.

"Hey Hare," Fred said gently. "Why don't we just go down to the kitchens for dinner."

I stood up and Fred followed me out without hearing my answer.

"Isn't George tagging along?" I asked but Fred shook his head.

"Thought maybe it could just be the two of us this time?" Fred asked.

We made our way down to the cellar and were greeted by the usual energetic Posy.

"Our usual table there Posy," Fred said causing the house elf to giggle.

We sat down just as Posy ran off to bring us some food.

"It wasn't right Hare, what that slimy git said to you, in front of the whole class no less," Fred said gently.

"It's just because he hated James when they were at school and now it's anyone who associates with Harry," I said with no further ability to muster anymore anger.

"That doesn't make it right or appropriate," Fred said but I just shrugged.

"I'm a little more preoccupied that he seems intent on attacking Harry," I said while Fred lowered his gaze.

"Are you sure it was Snape?" he asked for not the first time.

"I've told you Fred, we saw him casting a curse, he wasn't blinking," I replied.

Posy then brought along some food which interrupted Fred's line of inquiry. I didn't really eat much but I did take the cookie Posy offered when she noticed my untouched plate.

"Fancy going up to the Astronomy Tower?" Fred asked on our way back.

I figured I didn't have anything to do but didn't have much energy to be sociable like we usually were in the tower.

"We'll be away from everyone," he added which led me to agree.

Fred took out the map and directed us through the hallways. The sun was setting over the horizon as we stared out, remaining silent. At some point Fred put his hand over mine as we continued to stare out in an easy silence. I knew I wasn't giving Fred much to go on, but I just felt exhausted from the day's events and didn't really want to explain myself. I hadn't noticed but eventually I nodded off as I leaned on Fred's shoulder. I felt him move from under my head as I opened my eyes sometime later to gaze out at the night sky.

"How long was I out?" I asked as I sat up properly.

"About an hour," Fred answered.

"Why didn't you wake me?" I asked incredulously.

"You needed the rest," he answered matter-of-factly.

I just stared at Fred, somewhat surprised by such a selfless act.

"Hare, I know I've been brooding all week while the whole school harassed you. Plus, it ended with a teacher trying to humiliate you in front of the entire class; it's too much for one person to handle, especially the person who means the entire world to me- besides George," he added which made me smile.

I then leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.

"Come on Freddie," I said as I stood up and offered my hand to him.

Once he stood up, I kept my hand in his while we made our way back to the common room. We stayed in an easy silence, but I knew Fred knew I felt the same way about him and had accepted his form of an apology. The twins didn't always articulate their emotions effectively, but their gestures were always well-intentioned, and I appreciated Fred's admittance to his odd behavior. I still didn't want to know the reasoning, plus I'm not even sure Fred knew. He had probably just acted out of instinct instead of actually figuring out why he felt the way he had. Regardless, I walked hand-in-hand with one of my best friends to the common room. But right before we gave the fat lady the password, I stood on my tip toes and whispered in Fred's ear. He nodded at my proposal and headed in while I ran up to my dormitory. Seconds later I came down with my pajamas in hand while the twins bid our friends goodnight. The three of us then made our way up to the boy's third year dorm to make our bed-fort where I could sleep in the middle.

As we walked away, I was unaware of the concerned stare coming from my brother.

"Where is my sister going with your brothers?" Harry asked pointedly while Ron and Hermione turned to look at the retreating trio.

"Oh Harry, they're just friends, you need to relax," Hermione said shaking her head before returning to her book.

"Yea, don't sweat it mate, Marnie is just really close with Fred and George. Plus, she's had a rough day," Ron said a little less confidently than Hermione.

Harry just stared after them. He kept his gaze at the empty staircase for a few more moments before sighing and returning his attention to his Charms essay. Having a sibling was a full-time commitment; he couldn't have anyone taking advantage of his sister now.

Chapter Text

Apparently standing up to a professor earns you some respect points amongst the student body which meant that I was no longer the number one outcast at Hogwarts. The Slytherins still hated me of course, but what else was new? It was however a bizarre change of pace to have the rest of the houses congratulate me as I walked down the halls while some even apologized to Harry for assuming we were together when it was now common knowledge we were somehow siblings. I couldn't have been bothered with all of the attention, but I was glad that the rumours seemed to have dissipated.

We were now into December and Harry and I were eagerly awaiting our first Christmas together at the cottage. Harry hadn't actually met dad or Remus in person yet, so I was extremely excited for us all to finally be together. However, we wouldn't be going to the Weasley's this year since Ginny and their parents were travelling to visit Charlie in Romania on his first year away from home.

"Are you sure you won't sign up to stay at the school Hare?" Fred asked one evening as we all sat by the fire in the common room.

"I've told you, this is the first Christmas our family is having with Harry and I can't miss it," I explained without even looking up from my book since this had been at least the twelfth time Fred had asked me.

"But we always spend Christmas together," he said rather dejectedly before I finally looked up at his pouting face.

"That has only happened one time, and it's not like I haven't said I won't miss you," I answered.

I also noticed this seemed to cause Fred's eyes to perk a bit. He then sighed after a moment and gave me a soft smile.

"I know how much this means to you Hare. It's just… I rather like spending Christmas with you," he said which I knew made me blush since my cheeks felt warm.

So, in response I quickly put my face back behind my book, not understanding my bizarre reaction.

XXX

A few days later the Weasley's were bidding us farewell in the front hall of Hogwarts as Harry and I were all bundled to head to England for the holidays. George pulled me into a warm embrace, also giving me a swift kiss on my forehead.

"Watch out for yourself won't you?" he asked with a small laugh.

"I do have Harry with me you know," I answered haughtily at the insinuation that I attract danger and catastrophe.

"Yea, that doesn't really make me feel any better," he replied uneasily "It's almost like you two attract danger together, which only heightens with proximity," he added. "So just be careful."

Fred then grabbed my arm once George let go as I was almost spun into his arms.

"You two are acting awfully protective," I said pointedly.

"Well you've given us good reason too, now haven't you," Fred said while I just leaned into his embrace.

"It's not like I go looking for trouble," I countered with a sigh.

"I know. But I'm rather convinced it seeks you out," he replied.

We stayed in our embrace for a few moments before I finally stepped back.

"Happy Christmas, the both of you," I said before turning to join Harry again.

In response Harry then took my hand as we started to head out.

'Happy Christmas Marnie," Ron said when I passed him who had previously been bidding Harry good-bye.

I gave Ron a quick hug as I passed which I saw made him blush rather severely.

Harry then led me out to the large group of students who were being escorted down to Hogsmeade Station.

Several hours later, after Harry and I had sat with Angelina, Katie, Alicia, Lee and Hermione, we were boarding off the train. Harry immediately grasped my hand which felt sort of clammy, but I didn't fault him for being nervous. From what Harry had told me, he had had a less than adequate childhood and family who had never shown him any proper kind of affection. This experience would unfortunately be quite foreign to him.

A few moments later I spotted my dad and Remus, wearing his usual trench coat, so I pointed them out to Harry. His face lit up in nervous excitement as we headed over. As we got closer, they spotted our approach and I could see both men staring at Harry. We were almost face-to-face when my father and Remus visibly lit up and came to greet us.

"Harry, I'm Joss, and this is Remus!" my father exclaimed while he came up to Harry with his arms extended in offering for a hug.

Harry hesitantly went into my father's arms before fully committing and returning the familial embrace. A few moments later he was then approached by Remus who also offered his outstretched arms. I noticed both men with tears in their eyes while they took the boy in, already considering him to be one of their own in our odd sort of family.

"You look just like James," Remus said as he looked down at Harry who I could also tell had a shine in his eyes.

"So, you both really knew my parents?" Harry asked despite all the correspondence he had had with my father and uncle.

"Yes of course," they answered gleefully.

"You got the pictures we sent didn't you?" my father asked while Harry nodded and thanked him profusely.

"Well why don't we set off?" my dad suggested while he hugged me in greeting and took my trunk.

Remus did the same for Harry as we walked out of King's Cross and headed for Remus' car. On the way home Harry asked both my father and Remus lots of questions about his parents and even life at the cottage. I remained mostly quiet during the ride while I just smiled at their reunion. I had Harry all to myself at school while dad and Remus had only letters to communicate. Plus, it had been a decade since they had seen him.

Nearly an hour later we arrived home and Harry marveled at the cottage as he stopped in the drive.

"It's not much, but it's served its purpose for us," my dad said setting my trunk down beside me.

"It's brilliant," was all Harry said before I took his hand to lead him inside.

"It's quite small, so as we told you in the letter, Remus and I put another bed in Marnie's room for you two to share," my dad said as we walked in the front door.

"Why don't you show Harry upstairs while Remus and I start dinner?" dad continued.

Obligingly I led Harry so we took our trunks and lugged them upstairs to my bedroom which oversaw the front yard. I went over to my bed while Harry took the one adjacent which occupied the space my desk used to take which was now pushed up against the window.

"Would you like to see the rest of the house?" I asked and Harry eagerly agreed.

I showed him where dad and Remus' rooms were as well as the bathroom located upstairs. We then traipsed downstairs while I showed him the sitting room where the pictures of our family sat on the mantel.

"Your mother is beautiful," Harry remarked as he looked at my parent's wedding photo.

I absolutely loved that picture which showed my dad twirling my mother around in her elegant white dress in the meadow in which they got married. Mum's head is dipped back in pure enjoyment while my father looks at her blissfully and in awe. I'm sure that was what true love looked like if ever captured in a Polaroid.

"Lena never went long without smiling," Remus said walking over towards us.

"She's almost glowing in this picture," Harry replied.

"Well she is three months pregnant there," Remus answered with a smile.

"Oh, I didn't even know," Harry answered with a blush.

"The war changed a lot of things," Remus said with a sad smile.

"I would have liked to meet her," Harry replied.

I heard Remus's breath catch slightly as he turned to look back at dad who was working away in the kitchen.

"Well Harry, Joss and I were actually going to offer you the chance," Remus said slowly. "I just have to tell you that her mind isn't there and she won't know you or even any of us," he continued despondently.

Harry took my hand and gave it a squeeze paired with a meaningful look.

"Marnie has told me all about her mum and why she can't legally proclaim herself as my guardian but that doesn't change the fact of who she is," Harry said. "Plus, you have all had to live with her condition and I only think it's right if I do as well," he continued while still holding my hand.

"Very well Harry," Remus replied. "We were planning on going to St. Mungo's on Christmas," he continued before sitting down.

We joined him on the adjacent couch and talked amicably as Remus asked Harry about school, pointedly avoiding talk of trolls or quidditch for now; but I knew that would only come later. Soon after dad announced that dinner was ready and the three of us all headed for the dining table. Harry sat in the vacant seat at the end which looked out into the backyard and gaped at the view.

"This is a remarkable place you live in," he said, causing my dad to chuckle.

"It never gets old," dad replied serving a large portion of food onto Harry's plate.

It was comforting to see dad and Remus already taking care of Harry; serving his food and such. I could tell from their faces that dad and Remus were concerned with the size of Harry and the condition of his clothing but hadn't said a word as of yet.

The rest of the evening went by pleasantly as we sat around like normal families do and talked about school, interests, likes, memories, amongst other stories and anecdotes. Harry filled Remus and dad in on a lot of details in his letters, but it made it more real to hear it directly from the boy. They had obviously been appalled with Petunia's actions and outraged that Harry had only just found out about most of his life in the past few months.

But around eleven o'clock, when Harry and I could no longer suppress our yawns, we were ushered to bed by dad and Remus.

"Oh Harry, we cleared out some drawers for you in this half of the dresser," dad told him while they escorted us to the bedroom.

Harry opened the drawers only to have a confused look on his face when he found the drawers already full.

"We didn't know what you would need," Remus answered modestly while Harry took out some new articles of clothing that dad and Remus had obviously bought for him.

'You really didn't have to do this!" Harry exclaimed returning the clothing to the drawer.

"Nonsense Harry. This is your home now and we are here to take care of you," dad said earnestly.

Harry was silent while he nodded at them. I could tell he didn't trust his own voice from breaking if he were to speak. Dad and Remus smiled at each other before going to close the door.

"Good-night you two," they said.

They then closed the door and Harry and I were left alone.

"I can't believe any of this is real," Harry said with his back to me as he was still staring at the opened drawer full of clothing.

"We all love you Harry, we always have," I answered seeing Harry just nod again.

I took my own clothes and headed for the bathroom to get ready and give Harry a moment to himself. When I returned Harry was already in his bed and the light was turned out.

"Good-night Harry," I said as I climbed into bed.

"Good-night Marn," he answered rather sleepily.

Hearing the rhythmic breathing from Harry was quite soothing and after a few minutes, lulled me to sleep.

XXX

Christmas morning arrived a few days later as Harry shook me awake.

"Get up Marn!" I heard him say as I also felt the sun peeking through our window. "I can already smell Joss making breakfast," he said before he threw the door open, creating a draft.

"Warn me will you before you swing that door open," I said while sitting up and rubbing my eyes.

I grabbed my old robe before hastily tugging it on and followed Harry downstairs who was almost bouncing with excitement. We were greeted by Remus who was already sitting by the fire with a full tea pot and awaiting cups for each of us.

"I figured you might need some tea to warm up," he said as I eagerly poured Harry and I each a cup and sat down.

Harry eyed the tree which was full of presents. The four of us had actually gone into the woods the first day after we were back from school so Harry could partake in our tradition of cutting down a tree and decorating it. It had been a lovely, bright day which ended with the four of us making ornaments of popcorn strings and paper cut-outs before hanging them all up. Remus had also made us hot chocolate as we had sat around and admired our completed work.

"It's not a lot but we work with what we have," Remus said while he watched Harry look at the tree.

"It's more than enough," Harry exclaimed and sipped his tea.

Dad soon announced that breakfast was ready, inviting us up to the table. Dad had made a full English breakfast with all the fixings so we piled everything onto our plates and sat amicably while gazing out onto the hills which were covered in a fresh blanket of snow. When we were finished eating we then gathered around the tree. We had actually been to the local shops earlier in the week as well as Harry had insisted on wanting to buy some presents which dad eventually agreed to.

Harry was the first to hand his presents out to each of us so I opened mine to find a simple bracelet with the word sister engraved onto it. I was speechless as I bent over to hug Harry. I held him for a few moments while I thought of the strength of our new bond. I had never before realized I had missed Harry so much, having very little memory of our young childhood together, but ever since meeting him in September it was as if feeling a missing piece of my life click back into place. I was just relieved that Harry obviously felt the same way.

Harry also gave my dad and Remus each a framed picture of Harry and I which Hermione had taken with a muggle camera she had brought from home. It had been a candid shot from a day where we were all sitting together outside by the lake at the beginning of November, despite the autumn chill. Harry was sitting beside me with his arm around my shoulder as we laughed at something the twins had said. The picture showed how much we obviously cared about each other and also how protective Harry was already of me. You could tell in the way he had his arm and the manner in which he sat. I hadn't actually seen the picture yet but Harry had told me about it just before we headed for the cottage. Harry had just needed to pick up some frames from the local store which he did earlier on in the week.

Remus and dad were both speechless for a time while dad set the picture amongst the collection on the mantel. I knew Remus would either bring his to his own home or set it up in his room here where he had his own collection of photographs that didn't fit downstairs.

Harry then continued to pass presents from under the tree. He looked intriguingly at the cushy parcel addressed to him wrapped in brown parchment.

"This one is from Mrs. Weasley," he said questioningly as we nodded and he opened it to find a blue sweater adorned with a golden snitch.

I simultaneously opened my own orange sweater, much like the one I had opened last year, only slightly bigger. I smiled at the thought that Mrs. Weasley had obviously chosen the colour she felt suited me the most; one of which she could never make for her own family for risk of clashing horribly with all of their bright hair.

"This is brilliant," Harry exclaimed as he put it on over his pajamas.

The next ones passed around were from me. Each of them got a small package, not unlike the ones I had given them last year.

I watched as they all opened their respective packet at the same time to reveal their own seeds.

"I thought we could create a new family garden," I said while dad snapped his head up with a glistening look.

"Dad, that one is called Joss flower, while uncle's is silky lupine. Harry, I couldn't find a flower with your namesake so that one is a lily in respect for your mother," I added while watching tears form in his eyes.

"And I'll add some peonies from your garden Marnie," dad said.

My family all hugged me before my dad examined the seeds.

"Marnie, if I'm not mistaken these are red twin lilies you got Harry here," dad said while Harry and Remus looked at me with a smirk.

"Well Lily did have red hair," I countered but everyone just chuckled at me.

"It'll be a beautiful garden Marn," Harry said with his hand clasped in mine.

He then returned to the tree to retrieve more presents. After the ones from Remus and my father, plus a book from Hermione to Harry and some sweets from Ron to both of us, Harry retrieved the last present.

"This one isn't signed," Harry said while we all looked quizzically at the package.

Harry carefully opened it to show a very handsome cloak. But my father and Remus gasped at the sight of it.

"I thought it was lost!" Remus said while Harry and I looked at them in confusion.

"It was as far as I knew," dad added while we still had no idea what they were talking about.

Harry tried it on before I felt my eyebrows sore to the top of my head.

"Har- Harry, you- you're invisible!" I exclaimed causing Harry's head to shoot downwards to examine his body.

"How is this possible?" he asked extremely surprised.

"It was your father's. It was his invisibility cloak," dad answered sounding awestruck.

"We thought it was lost, we never found it after your parents passed," Remus continued.

"It belonged to my father?" Harry asked as a huge smile formed across his face.

"And it didn't say who it was from?" Remus asked as he took the tag to see if there were any clues.

"It just says use it well," Harry explained as both Remus and dad now looked over the tag together.

"I wonder who had it all this time…" dad asked in bewilderment.

"It doesn't really make any sense," Remus continued. "The only ones I could think of are maybe Kingsley Shacklebolt or Albus Dumbledore."

"Well in any case, that was James' and I'm glad to see it bestowed to you," Remus addressed Harry.

"As long as you don't use it for trouble,' my dad cautioned while Harry nodded and I tried to stifle my chuckle.

After we were finished with the presents we made our way upstairs with our things and got ready to visit the hospital. Once I re-entered the bedroom, having gotten dressed, Harry came up to me and took my hand.

"Don't be nervous Marnie, I know your mum is unwell but I still have to meet her," Harry said confidently causing me to smile and grab his hand in return.

We then made our way downstairs together and got into the car. Remus had been skeptical about apparating three people to London without having complications so they thought it best to drive. An hour into the city, we remained mostly quiet while we looked out over the snowy hills which were elegant and fragile looking under a plate of glass. When we finally made it to the city we filed into the hospital and up to the Spell Damage Ward.

We were walking up to my mother's room when I spotted Neville and his gran step out into the hall. I turned on my heel and looked at Harry.

"I should have told you," was all I said before he noticed Neville.

"Oh, hi Harry," Neville said nervously and Harry met him with a confused look.

"Neville's parents were the ones my mother found before she went to try and find your parents," I said watching Harry nod in understanding.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised to see you here with Marnie," Neville added with a sad smile.

"I won't tell anyone Neville," Harry added which caused Neville to give a look of relief.

"There's nothing to be ashamed of you three, your parents and your mother are war heroes," Neville's gran said disapporvingly.

We nodded while Neville's gran put her hand on her grandson's shoulder. Remus and my father also started to usher us to the room as we bid Neville a happy Christmas. The four of us then entered the room which was adorned with a few paper snowflakes that the volunteers had probably made. My mother smiled at us from her bed surveying Remus, dad, and I as we filed in. Her eyes then landed on Harry and widened before she dawned a smile. She then raised her arm towards him and my father put his hand on Harry's shoulder.

"Lena would like you to go over to her," dad said while Harry nodded.

Harry walked over to my mother's bed and sat beside her as she moved over to make room for him. She was playing with some paper which she had folded up into what was probably supposed to be a flower, but it was hard to tell.

Harry received the gift graciously and pulled out his own gift from his pocket. It was a small angel ornament which had the word godmother etched onto it. My mother took it and inspected it intensely while her finger ran over the carved-out word. She then set it on her bedside table where there were many other trinkets having been set there previously.

We spent the rest of the afternoon there. Mum was unwilling to get up from her bed so we all sat around her and ate the Christmas pudding provided by the hospital. Dad at some point put on the radio since mum would usually hum along to the melody. I noticed after a while that my mother was indeed humming to the same Celestina Warbeck song I had heard last year at the Weasley's.

I've got a cauldron full of hot, strong love

It's a recipe so rare

There's no potion or elixir that

Could ever quite compare!

In the late afternoon my mother started to fall asleep so we took our leave after bidding her a happy Christmas. Harry was the last to give her a hug as she finished by holding his face in her hands. Without a word she let go and laid back down on her pillow. We then filed out and headed back for the car. We were all silent but I took Harry's hand in mine as we walked out. The car ride was similar in silence during the hour drive home, although it was a heavier silence than before.

Once we got home Harry and I went up to our room while dad and Remus set off to make dinner. We each sat on our own beds while I watched Harry from across the room. He had been silent and somewhat hard to read since we had left the hospital and although it had never been easy seeing my mother, I had always been used to her condition. This was all brand-new for Harry.

"She was just trying to save my parents," Harry finally said as I continued to watch him.

"Yes," I answered plainly.

"We were all a family and she was just trying to save them," Harry went on and I heard the hitch in his voice.

I then went over to his bed and sat down beside him. I put my arms over him which inevitably caused him to break down. I couldn't imagine going your whole life thinking your parents died in a car crash only to find out the more complicated truth a decade later which also came with the reality of your insane god-mother. It was a lot for an eleven-year-old to chew on. We sat in silence for a long time as I gently rocked Harry back-and-forth and he cried into my shoulder. I wondered if he had ever broken down about his parents before, or even been able to.

After a while Harry sat up and wiped his eyes.

"No one will ever split this family up again," he said more confidently than I had expected from him.

"When Voldemort comes back no one will take this family from us," he said causing me to unintentionally shudder at the name.

I inwardly chastised myself for the involuntary reflex.

"You believe he will?" I asked, not having known Harry's opinion on the matter.

"All three of you believe it, so that's good enough for me," he said confidently.

We then sat in silence for a moment longer before I spotted the sweets Ron had given to both Harry and me.

"Care for a chocolate frog to brighten the mood? Remus always says chocolate is the best cure," I said as Harry took the frog I was offering.

We each unwrapped our candy and quickly ate the frogs before they could hop away.

"Who did you get?" Harry asked, having finished his candy before me.

"Helga Hufflepuff," I said as I passed my card over to him.

Harry then turned his card to reveal Albus Dumbledore.

"I've already got this one," he said while I looked inquisitively at the headmaster's portrait.

"What does his caption say? Mine just talks about her being a founder of the school," I said while I went to file it away with my other cards.

"Oh, it just talks about his positions and…" he cut off but continued staring at the card intently.

"Something wrong?" I asked, looking at Harry while not understanding his severe interest in the collectable card.

"Oh nothing, it just talks a little more about the Wizengamot," he said unconvincingly.

But before I could ask anything further Remus called us for dinner. Harry dropped the card into his trunk and walked out of the room heading for downstairs. While watching Harry vacate the room I quickly picked up the card and scanned to the bottom.

'Nicholas Flammel', I thought to myself. 'I wonder who that could be. And why would Harry be so interested?'

I pondered this as I followed after Harry towards the kitchen. I knew Harry had been pretty secretive with Ron and Hermione since Snape had tried to kill him, but I had no idea what this could possibly have to do with a colleague of Dumbledore who was known for possessing the philosopher's stone.

But my train of thought was soon interrupted as we all sat down together and finally started to talk amicably once again. It had been an emotional day which had left us all drained, however it had still been one of the best days of my life. It had been incredibly meaningful to share Christmas with Harry as well as have him meet his god-mum which I think further solidified his integration into our family. Now we just finished the day off with light chatter and excellent food, although not our traditional glazed goose; that was to be saved for New Year's Eve which we had already invited Mr. Lovegood and Luna to attend.

Chapter Text

The rest of our break was wonderful as Harry settled in at the cottage and got to experience our quiet way of life. Harry seemed very relaxed to just sit around the house and have the freedom to do whatever he pleased, which was mostly talk with Remus and my dad.

New Year's Eve was also an exciting event, despite us not being at the Weasley's. Harry got to officially meet Luna when the three of us hung out, and although I wasn't dancing around our sitting room like I had at the Weasley's a year prior, we still had an exciting time. We spent the night drinking sweet-cranberry tea made from Mr. Lovegood' garden and discussing our favourite classes at Hogwarts among other topics. Harry and Luna also became well acquainted and bonded over being in the same year and the trivialities of what that entailed. Harry didn't even seem phased by Luna's bluntness or eccentric nature which made me very happy; especially since I knew Luna was having some difficulties with the students from their year.

When we arrived back at Hogwarts a few days later however, it was only to be harangued by the Weasley's who had not faired very well being left alone in the castle. So, much like they had when we left, the Weasley's were waiting for us in the front hallway when we arrived along with all the other students off the train.

"Have a happy Christmas Marnie?" George asked after spotting me and enveloping me into a hug.

'Quit hogging her will yah" I heard Fred exclaim from behind his twin.

Fred then took me by the wrist and brought me into his own embrace which lasted slightly longer than George's did.

"Jeez, I was only gone less than two weeks," I said while the twins both escorted me to the Great Hall for supper.

"Tell us everything," they both said as we sat down with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of our friends who we had sat with on the train back.

"Miss us did yah Fred?" Lee asked with a grin while he had already started piling food onto his plate.

"This place seems almost haunted when everyone isn't here," Fred said while George nodded.

"Well there are ghosts," I said smartly but this only prompted the twins to give me rueful looks.

"And having only Ron and Percy for company isn't much fun either," George added, causing Ron to aim some peas from his spoon towards his brother.

"Ronald!" Hermione chastised when some missed their mark and landed in her hair.

"We did aim some snowballs at Professor Quirrell as he was strolling the grounds though," Fred said triumphantly while Hermione and Angelina gasped in horror.

"Calm down, he didn't figure out it was us; we ran away before he even turned around," George explained while I just shook my head.

"Did you get my sweets Marnie?" Ron asked, interrupting his brothers' anecdote, much to George's annoyance.

"Yes, we ate most of the chocolate frogs already. It was really kind of you Ron," I said while I noticed the youngest brother blush.

"That reminds me," Harry whispered which caused Ron and Hermione to bow their heads towards him.

I tried to listen to their conversation but Lee and George were too busy laughing at something Fred had said to be able to hear anything else.

We later left the feast after having overstuffed our stomachs and meandered our way back to the common room. The twins were ahead of me slightly as they were trying to enchant some part of Ron's clothing as a prank. I hadn't had the energy to hear the plan or put sufficient effort into stopping their antics against Ron.

"Hey Marnie," Harry said as he fell back to walk beside me so that it was just the two of us.

"I was wondering if you would want to take the first midnight walk with me under my dad's cloak tonight?" he asked with a grin.

"I would have thought you would have invited Hermione or Ron," I said.

"I haven't even told them about it yet, although I will soon. But I thought it would be something for my first venture to be with my sister," he said with a smile.

"That sounds brilliant," I answered while I felt some energy resurface.

So, we all sat in the common room while Harry and I waited for everyone to else to go to sleep. I sat with the twins reading a new book about magical herbicides while Harry sat conversing secretively with Hermione and Ron. I watched them from behind my book while I thought of ways to get Harry to tell me what was going on without him trying to protect me from whatever he thought I needed protecting from. I had noticed him talking in hushed tones with Ron and Hermione quite often leading up to the Christmas break, and it seemed to be continuing.

About an hour later, the girls were the first ones to retreat to our dorm while I told them I would follow later on. Lee was next while I also saw Hermione retire to the first-year dorm around the same time. It then came down to the Weasley's who we had to outwait. The twins hadn't stopped filling me on their time while I was away, explaining new schemes they were planning and all the new things they had discovered. Apparently they had snuck out with the map every night over the holiday. But, as I sat with my book, they eventually bid me goodnight and went upstairs. Ron soon followed and it was just me and Harry. He already had the cloak stashed under his school robes which made it easier to escape. Since no one was left in the common room, we put the cloak on inside before leaving through the portrait.

We walked silently through the halls as I realized Harry had probably never been out after curfew in the castle. We went up to the Astronomy Tower before returning down and walked back towards the Divination Tower on the other side of the castle. However, without the map, the darkened halls were slightly unfamiliar and we eventually got lost. While looking around we suddenly came to a dead-end hallway which had us opening doors as we sought an exit. Behind one door which looked like all the other classroom doors we had opened; we found a fairly larger room which seemed the most promising to find a way out. However, the almost empty room had a featured mirror right in the center.

"Do you think we will show up in the mirror?" Harry asked curiously.

We headed towards it and were both suddenly shocked when we saw an image reflected in the mirror while under the cloak; but it was something entirely different than ourselves. Impossibly, there was a different person in the mirror which caused us both to gasp out loud and stumble away from the mirror.

"Wait, it's…" I said as I stood from under the cloak and slowly approached the mysterious mirror.

I could only stand in shock and silence while I felt hot tears spring to my eyes.

"Marnie, I don't understand," Harry said while I felt him step beside me in the same amount of awe and bewilderment.

"Do you see her Harry?" was all I could ask.

"Yea," he whispered. "I can see both of them," he finished while I furrowed my brow.

"Both of them?" I asked.

"Yea, they're my parents Marn, aren't they?" he asked while I tried to make sense of what he was saying.

"I only see my mum Harry. And she's… she's looking at me, really looking at me Harry. Like I'm her daughter and not just a stranger," I said while I felt Harry slip his hand into mine.

"That's wonderful Marn. I see my parents. They're standing on either side of us. And they're smiling, just like we're a family portrait," he said quietly while I tightened my grip in his hand.

"What does this mean Harry? I don't understand how this is possible," I said.

"I don't know Marnie. But there are all sorts of complex magic. Like your necklace for example," he stated while I reached up to hold the ruby in my hand.

"But does it do anything besides show us our wishes?" I asked, hearing the slight desperation in my voice.

"I don't know," was all he said.

We stood there silently for an indeterminate amount of time before we eventually decided to leave. We walked back under the cloak in silence, too deep in thought to have anything constructive enough to say to one another. It was only when we reached the portrait again and stepped into the common room that we took off the cloak and acknowledged each other.

"Goodnight Marnie," was all Harry said while he brought me into a tight embrace that lasted a few moments.

"Goodnight Harry," I replied before kissing his cheek and turned towards the girl's staircase.

That night's sleep did not come easily as I stared up at the ceiling and only thought of the look in my mother's eyes as she looked between Harry and me. She had a loving smile and held her arms out towards us, although Harry hadn't been able to see it. But the thing that was truly keeping me awake was that look, the look of recognition in her eyes that I had never seen. It was something that I had obviously always wanted and now that I had seen some variation of it, my heart hurt and rejoiced at the same time. It was a long time later that I did finally manage to drift off into a fitful sleep.

"Lena!" I heard from behind me as I turned around on instinct.

"Lena, you will never in a million years guess what just happened!" the red-headed girl said as she caught up to me; to whom I knew was Lily.

"James Potter asked you out," my voice answered without me even thinking about it.

The girl gasped in response.

"How in the name of Merlin did you guess that?" Lily asked while her cheeks turned scarlet to match her hair.

"Lily, anyone could have guessed that! The boy is smitten with you," I continued to say in that hollow voice. "The real question is what did you say in return?" I continued but I already knew the answer.

"Well, I may have said yes this time," Lily replied timidly before turning her eyes straight towards mine. "You know, he's pretty mature now and I threatened him against anymore pranks on Sev," she said with more determination.

"Well it's about time you accepted that boy. We were expecting he would implode if you didn't say yes this year," I continued while Lily swatted my shoulder.

I instinctively put my hand up to the place she had hit me since I could actually feel the residual impact from her swat.

"So, Lena," Lily said cheekily. "Now that I've said yes to James, what are you going to do about S-"

Before Lily could finish her question I was abruptly woken up by Ange who was shaking my shoulders.

"Marnie! You overslept, we're going to be late for class," she said while throwing my robes at me.

I hastily got up without giving my dream any more thought. And by the time we finally got to class I had a hard time focusing on the lesson or anything at all. My mind kept drifting back towards that mirror and the look on my mother's face. It was like the rest of the day went by in a trance since it was almost impossible to focus and the minutes seemed to drag on in an infinite concession of blurry moments.

By the time dinner was over and we were finally back up in the common room I could only stare at the opened book in front of me without actually reading it.

"Hey Fred, I think I forgot my favouite sleeping clothes in your guys' dorm, can I go up and get it?" I asked while Fred looked questioningly back at George before turning back to me.

"Of course Hare," he answered before I quickly got up and headed for their dorm.

"Forge, did Hare leave something in our dorm?" Fred asked as Marnie retreated for the stairs.

"No, I don't think so Gred," the other answered while they both stared at the staircase where Marnie had just run up.

After I returned from the boy's dorm I said quick good nights before heading upstairs and feigning sleep until the girls all came up and actually fell asleep about an hour later. I then snuck downstairs with the map and escaped through the portrait hole towards the room with the mirror.

When I finally entered the room I quickly approached the enchanted mirror and took a seat in front of it. After a while, my mother did the same and we sat facing each other while she remained smiling and reaching out towards me. I could never touch her or hear any words but the image always brought me to tears as my heart ached for it to be a reality. But as much as it hurt to be denied this actual reality, I found I couldn't pry myself away. After a few hours I noticed Harry and Ron approaching on the map and made my way out via the back-exit Harry and I had initially been searching for when we originally found the room. I didn't want to be spotted by Harry or especially Ron and have to explain myself, so I silently retreated to my dorm.

This became my routine every night after dinner as I would tell my friends I was going to the library or to study somewhere so I would get more time with my mother before Harry would eventually show up. I would sit in front of the mirror for hours and just watch as my mother and I sat together in a friendly silence; although I yearned to hear her speak.

On the fifth night I stayed longer than I had all week since Harry hadn't shown up yet.

"Ah, you and Harry are more alike than I would have anticipated, especially since you are not in fact related by blood," I heard the headmaster's voice say from behind me.

I whirled around in utter surprise since I hadn't seen his name approach on the map.

"This is the fifth night in a row you have come back here Marnie, and I must say I am concerned for your attachment to the mirror," Dumbledore said with a frown.

My eyes wandered to the floor as I felt I had been caught somewhere between a lie and a secret.

"You must know what the mirror does by now?" Dumbledore asked while I slowly turned my eyes back up to meet his which were surprisingly still twinkling.

"Umm, it shows us our wish," I said lamely as it was what Harry had called it.

"Yes, but only our most deep and desperate desire," he said seriously.

"That's why Harry saw his parents," I said while Dumbledore nodded.

"I will assume that you see some variation of Lena in your reflection," the headmaster continued, causing me to give him a small nod in return.

He then paused while gazing down at me.

"Marnie, I must ask that you never go looking for this mirror again," he finally said while I looked up at him with a desperate expression before he continued. "Many people have wasted away in front of this mirror as it is easy to become ensnared by the past and our own desperations," he continued while I thought of how taken I had become by the mirror.

"Promise me Marnie, that you will never go searching for this mirror again, and to know that it is being moved from this location tomorrow," he finished while looking at me expectantly.

"I promise," I said after a moment and finally felt my exhaustion set in.

My entrancement with the mirror over the last week had taken most of my energy and had kept me from properly sleeping.

"Shall I escort you back to the Gryffindor common room?" he asked while I nodded.

"Will I lose house points for this?" I asked, still feeling embarrassed for having been caught.

"I think the lesson of the mirror is difficult enough for a fourteen-year-old without having to worry about house points," he said with a small smile.

When we arrived at the common room he waved me goodbye before I entered. I then immediately changed my clothes and headed for the boy's dorm where I quietly put the map back in Fred's trunk before crawling into his bed.

"Hare?" Fred asked sleepily while I snuggled in beside him. "Is er'ything 'right?"

"It is now," was all I said while he put his arm over my body.

In two minutes flat I was fast asleep.

Chapter Text

Much like I had every night that week, I was sitting at home at our dining table, watching a small television which sat on the kitchen counter with an antenna. I was watching the news and felt my stomach tie into knots as I held my breath, waiting for what I knew by now was inevitable. I had seen the same news broadcast every night as the broadcaster from the muggle station announced that there was a dead man found inside his home when his family returned from staying out of town for the night. The thirty-seven-year-old man had been in perfect health and authorities were yet to discover a cause of death.

Like clockwork I then stood rather hurriedly from the table and ran to the front closet to collect my overcoat.

"Joss, this is it!" I exclaimed as I noticed my dad descend the stairs slowly with a rather sullen expression.

"Joss, this is what we have been waiting for. This is the first outright murder of a muggle instead of a disappearance. We have to act quickly," I said, just as I had all the nights before.

"I know," was all my father said as his face hardly hid the anxiety he was feeling.

But before I could say anything else, a baby starts crying from upstairs and my father lets out a sigh. He turns and starts ascending the stairs before pausing to look over his shoulder.

"Come back to us Lena," he whispered as I feel my own tears form and can only nod.

Then he starts up the stairs again and I rush out the door. Once I am out on the drive I turn my foot on the spot where I'm standing and apparate to a flat in London. I knock a particular rhythm on the door and wait to hear a shuffling of feet approach. After hearing a number of locks click out of place the door opens to reveal the same red-headed man who I always mistake for Fred.

"What were my last words to you when I graduated Hogwarts?" the red head asked, being the same question as always.

"You're at a crossroads Lena; follow your own heart to where you want to be and choose so you have no regrets," I whisper while feeling my cheeks blush, but I never know why.

The man gives me a small smile while opening the path through the doorway to allow me entrance. Through the small hallway it opens up to a large circular table which takes up the entire room. I survey the people who are already here and see only James Potter and Sirius Black. They both stand up as James strides over to give me a hug.

"I told you Lena would be the first one to show," James says as he turns back to look at Sirius.

"Oh, but I never doubted that James," was his answer as he stares at me, giving me a smile and extending his hand to shake mine.

We are then interrupted by another knock at the door and Dumbledore, along with several other of my mother's old classmates, file into the room. I see James straighten his posture as Lily Evans enters the room, even though they're already dating, which makes me smile as she goes to sit on his other side. Alice and Frank also enter as well as a few others I don't readily recognize. I am seated between the two red heads who always stunningly remind me of Fred and George and wait only a few moments for the meeting to begin.

"As you've all undoubtedly seen, the Death Eaters have indeed started killing muggles more openly, just as we feared," Dumbledore says while we all solemnly nod our heads.

"I think it is now more than sufficient to assume that the Death Eater numbers are nearly double from when they began and this will only cause more brazen acts of violence against not only muggles, but muggleborns, squibs and the like," the headmaster continued while looking between Lily and me with a sad expression.

"With that being said, our surveillance and covert missions will remain as planned but only executed with at least one other Order member. Protective charms over all houses are also encouraged while remaining discreet in your everyday lives," Dumbledore paused in a heavy silence as we all thought about what this meant for our families.

I clutched my amber necklace in my hand.

"It has also come to my attention that James and Sirius have intel on Antonin Dolohov and a few other members who may be responsible for the most recent muggle killing. It is my advisement that we send out some members to track their movements as they will undoubtedly be celebrating this most recent act and will be invariably reckless with their actions," he continued while I saw Potter and Black nod in agreement.

"Fabian and I will be more than happy to accompany James and Sirius to bring them support and report back tomorrow at our regular meeting," the red head beside me stated while I suppressed my gasp of worry.

"Alright, that will be adequate, however it is suspected that more Death Eaters may show up at their rendezvous," Dumbledore continued.

After a brief pause I raised my hand.

"I'll accompany them," I said as Dumbledore only nodded.

"Alright then, meeting dismissed. We will reconvene tomorrow to discuss what you all find this evening," he ended before we all filed out.

My vision started to cloud as it normally did at this point but instead of waking up in my bed, I was now following James, Sirius, Fabian and Gideon to a secluded pub in the middle of a rural setting. We were keeping a distance, trying to remain in the foliage while listening to the boisterous conversation of the men in the distance.

"Congratulations Antonin," I heard one say.

"The Dark Lord will be most impressed," another boasted.

We were all sitting in the dark as I took in my surroundings. As I looked at the tavern and its scenery I felt a sharp pain in my stomach as it became nauseatingly familiar; a setting from another one of my dreams. This is where Gideon and Fabian died.

As if on cue two men who were walking to the tavern spotted us and ambushed from behind while casting the Dark Mark up into the air to summon the others from inside. Fabian and Gideon charged forward, away from our initial spot while James and Sirius tried to circle around and provide cover. However, I realized I couldn't move. Gideon must have put a charm on me to prevent me from moving.

I started frantically trying to undo the sticking charm, but it was too late. Gideon and Fabian were surrounded by at least five Death Eaters.

"No," I cried in my own voice instead of my mother's. "I don't want to see this again!" I continued crying as I felt myself become unstuck by the charm and went rushing towards the bodies of my friends.

Their likeness to Fred and George was eerily similar as I bent down over their bodies. That's when I felt the hand on my shoulder again.

"Lena, we have to go," it coaxed hastily while I could also hear the pain in their voice.

This time I knew the voice belonged to Sirius Black.

"But they are my best friends," I yelled back defiantly as I then heard James coming over and grabbed onto my other shoulder.

"The pub is still filled Lena. We only have a few moments until they realize we are here. We need to leave now!" Sirius said almost angrily as he tugged on my arm and brought me to a standing position.

When I stood up I felt my vision going blurry again. Moments later I was transported out of the hideous site where my mother's friends had died into my four-poster bed at Hogwarts.

I was now looking up at Angelina's concerned face as I tried to catch my breath.

"Marnie, you were crying in your sleep," she said in a worried tone.

I sat up and looked around the dorm.

"Don't worry, they're still asleep," Ange assured as I looked over at Katie and Alicia's sleeping silhouettes in the early sun.

I nodded my head before I threw back the covers and got up to head towards the lavatory.

"They're getting worse Marne," Ange said anxiously before I stopped and turned back to face her.

"I know," I whispered while staring at my friend who I knew I had been worrying over the past few weeks.

"I wish there was something I could do for you," she continued.

"I know," I answered again as she nodded.

"Do Fred and George know?" she asked and this time I shook my head.

Ange took a moment.

"Does Harry know?"

I shook my head again. Ange pursed her lips.

"I think you should at least tell one of them. I think maybe they would know better than me on how to make these nightmares stop. You've had one every night for the past two weeks," she stated with concern in her voice.

"Okay, I'll think about it," I promised.

Twenty minutes later I came out of the lavatory after having gotten ready to see that Katie and Alicia were awake.

"Excited to finally go to Hogsmeade?" Alicia asked while I smiled and nodded.

"I can't believe you missed it in the fall!" Katie exclaimed, causing me to give her an incredulous look.

"Well it's not like I asked to be attacked by a troll," I said but Katie just shrugged.

I threw my pillow at her.

"Well, we will take you to all the cool places!" Alicia said and they started to get ready.

Afterwards we met the boys down in the Great Hall for breakfast.

"Ready for Hogsmeade Hare?" Fred asked when I sat beside him.

I nodded in response while I scooped some porridge into my bowl.

"Sleep alright Marnie?" George asked who was sitting across from me, making me pause.

"A little restless was all," I answered.

I didn't notice the meaningful look Ange gave him who was sitting on the other side of Fred.

"Well alright, just as long as you're okay," he said while I nodded at him.

George shared a look with his twin while I started to talk with Lee who started talking to me about Zonko's Joke Shop.

"I can't believe the three jokesters of Gryffindor haven't been to Zonko's yet!" Lee exclaimed while I gave him a rueful look.

"Like I told Katie this morning, it's not like I was intentionally knocked out by a troll!" I exclaimed but Lee just shrugged.

"The two of you are quite the pair," I said and noticed Lee blush slightly.

After about fifteen minutes had passed the food cleared from the table and my friends and I all stood up to meet by the front door so we could head out for Hogsmeade. We passed by Harry and his friends who were all still sitting at the table.

"What would you like from Honeydukes?" I asked him.

"I don't need anything," was all he answered while I saw Ron nudge him in the stomach.

"I know you don't need anything but I'm going to bring you back something regardless and I know you wouldn't want their famous blood pops now would you?" I asked while Harry made a disgusted face.

"Alright, I would like to try Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans. Ron says they're a riot," he chucked so I agreed I would bring some back.

Just then Percy walked by to usher us to the front door.

"Hey Marnie, how do you know about the Blood Pops? They're only exclusively sold at Honeydukes," he asked while I thought of a good excuse.

"Oh, Ange told me about them," I answered casually and saw her turn around in front of us with a staggered expression.

I shook my head discreetly to indicate to not say a word. She just rolled her eyes.

Percy thankfully didn't question me any further as we all congregated at the front of the school and the twins and I handed over our permission slips. Shortly thereafter, the seven of us were heading towards Hogsmeade. I was extremely excited, despite having been to the village before. But train rides and nighttime treks out of the castle couldn't really compare to actually experiencing the shops with my friends.

Ange and Katie were already pulling me towards Honeydukes when the shops came into view. The atmosphere in the sweet shop was wildly different than our nighttime ventures. Despite us having just gotten there, the shop was already filled with students stocking up on their candy supply. I made my way to collect Harry's beans, while also grabbing myself more chocolate frogs and also trying some Glacial Snowflakes. In the end it proved difficult to pry Lee away from all the sweets, but we coaxed him out by promising to go to Zonko's Joke Shop next.

I was amazed as soon as I walked through the door. There was an amass of products lining every single wall, most of which I had never seen before. It was then the twins turn to grab onto my arms as they pulled me towards the closest merchandise. It was fantastic to witness and experience the joke shop with the twins when it was the first time any of us had seen anything like it before. Sure, there were a few popular prank items sold in various shops in Diagon Alley, but there wasn't a store catered to the craft. This was almost like entering a different dimension, one that superseded anything I could have dreamt about.

George then pulled me to look at the fanged flyers while Fred was beside us looking at some stink pellets; apparently more potent than dung bombs. We were all in awe of the possibilities.

"You have to come see the Nose-Biting Teacups!" Lee shouted as he came up behind us.

We then turned to follow Lee as he led us to the opposite end of the store. All-in-all we spent over an hour looking at all the products, much to the girls' dismay. They weren't all that into pranks like we were, especially since sometimes they were on the receiving end when we got bored.

"Marnie you have to try butter beer!" Angelina said as she finally coaxed me out of the shop.

"Alright, that sounds great!" I said as I went to buy a few items I felt were obligatory to add to my prank stock.

After that the seven of us filed out and headed for The Three Broomsticks where we ended up finding a large booth while Lee and Katie went to fetch the refreshments. Minutes later they came carrying some of the drinks while Alicia went to go help with the rest. Katie set mine down in front of me which looked caramel in colour and smelt like hot toffee. After inspecting the new drink, I went for my first sip with little trepidation. It was like hot caramel and pumpkin spice warming my entire body; much like the effect of melted butter.

"This is brilliant!" I exclaimed with a large smile on my face.

"Can't believe we've been missing out all this time!" George added while we all raised our glasses in a celebratory toast.

"So guys, glad you finally made it to Hogsmeade?" Alicia asked while George hid a mischievous grin.

It technically wasn't our first time…

"Well it's not like we were going to leave Hare before," Fred said matter-of-factly while I turned to stare at him in surprise by his frank statement.

"Yea, but we figure now Marnie owes us some more butter beer since we had to wait a whole three months to try it after everyone else," George added with a smirk.

I then turned my attention to him and rolled my eyes.

"Oh, I guess you're right," I said while standing up.

Fred went to object but George covered his mouth so to not lose out on a free drink from their best friend.

"Hey Ange," Fred whispered when Marnie was safely out of earshot. "How's Marnie been sleeping?"

"Erm- like she said, a little restless," Ange covered while wanting to be honest with the twins but didn't feel like it was her place if Marnie was seemingly hiding it from everyone.

"Alright, if you say so," was all Fred answered when both of them knew there was something more.

Marnie then came back with three more butter beers while Lee complained that he didn't get a free drink.

"Oi, you had at least three last time we were here! You didn't miss out like Fred and George," Katie exclaimed but Lee just sighed.

The rest of the day was spent talking around the table at The Three Broomsticks while they all enjoyed their butter beers and idle chatter. It was only when the sun began to sink in the west that the seven friends finally decided to head back to the castle in time for supper.

In the Great Hall Marnie spotted Harry and went over to give him his sweets before rejoining her friends. However, Ron insisted on moving towards them and asking them all about Hogsmeade and what to look forward to.

"I can't believe we have to wait two more years!" Ron said in anguish.

"Come off it Ron, we all waited the same amount of time as you," George said as he rolled his eyes at his brother's wallowing.

"Alright, well I think I'm going to call it a night," I said as I started to feel the effects of not sleeping over the past few weeks and the added exertion from today.

I noticed Harry and my friends look at me with worried expressions but no one said anything. So I got up from the table and headed back for the Gryffindor Tower. When I was finally in my dorm and had switched out of my robes, I fell onto my bed and was thankfully met with sleep moments later.

I was now running down a quaint road in the middle of the night. I felt the panic in my chest and the tears running down my face. I had to make it there in time. Wherever there was. But, like always, I stopped at the walkway of where I had obviously been heading and felt my breath sharply intake. The Dark Mark was over top of the house I had been running towards and my blood went cold. I was surprised I couldn't see my own breath. I then ran towards the door and opened it without any regard or pause for my own safety. In the den, which was off the front hall, I let out a cry of startled anguish as I saw Harry- no James- Potter laying too still on the floor with his outstretched wand in his hand. His eyes were open, but unblinking as I couldn't hold back the sobs of losing my dear friend, my brother.

But then I heard what I thought were footsteps descending the stairs which gave me a glimmer of hope.

"Lily," I sobbed as I stood up and went to the stairs only to be confronted by a cloaked figure which definitely did not resemble anything like a man, or even a human.

"Voldemort," I said as I saw the weakened figure head towards me as I prepared for the worst.

But the figure turned to mist as it approached and went straight through me instead. It was a terrifying experience that made me start screaming. I couldn't stop even as I felt someone shaking my body. This only made it worse as there was no one in front of me.

It was then that I finally opened my eyes.

"Marnie!" a girl yelled as I took in my surroundings and realized Hermione Granger was beside me and had her hands on my shoulders.

"'Ermione?" I asked in a raspy voice.

I coughed to try and clear my throat.

"I'm sorry Marnie," I heard Ange say from behind her as I turned my attention and saw tears in my friend's eyes.

"Angelina came and got Harry and the twins when you wouldn't stop screaming in your sleep. They all sent me upstairs to help Angelina wake you," Hermione explained while I just nodded.

"I'm sorry Marnie, I know you didn't want to tell anyone about the nightmares but you just wouldn't stop screaming. I tried to wake you for a good minute but you wouldn't wake up. It was terrifying so I ran down and got the twins who already knew they couldn't ascend the stairs. By that time Harry came over and I explained things to him. He immediately told Hermione to go up with me and now here we are," Ange explained quickly.

"It's okay Ange," I assured as I watched her expel a sigh of relief.

"Well, you definitely don't have to tell me what's going on," Hermione said in a wary tone. "But, I'm afraid you will have to come down and see the twins and Harry. They're pretty beside themselves with worry," Hermione finished while I nodded again.

"I guess I better get this over with," I said while Ange offered me her hand to stand up.

I was in my t-shirt and sweatpants, so I didn't bother changing.

The three boys were pacing at the foot of the staircase when I came down and bombarded me when I descended.

"Hare!" Fred shouted.

Angelina and Hermione were following close behind and chastised them to give me some room. They then led me to a vacant couch off to the side where we all sat down and remained quiet for a few drawn out moments.

"Are these the same dreams Hare?" Fred asked seriously, which also broke the silence.

I knew what he meant since the twins were the only ones who knew about the dreams I had about me being my mother.

"Sort of," I whispered. "They're the same idea but different memories," I said while I shuddered.

"What are they talking about Marnie?" Harry asked anxiously while I let out a sigh.

"I guess it's time I told you," I said while the others held their breath. "I dream about my mother. I mean her memories, I guess. It's hard to explain but I am always her in the dreams and see events from her past. I hear her voice come out of my mouth and I see all the people she was friends with," I said while not able to look anyone in the eye.

"Do you see my parents?" Harry asked causing my breath to get caught in my throat.

"They're hardly ever good memories," I said, not being able to answer his question directly.

Especially not after the one tonight. I saw Harry nod and lower his gaze sadly.

"Why were you screaming Marnie?" Ange asked worriedly.

"I saw him," I said while I started to shake.

"Who did you see Marnie?" George asked while he put his hand over mine.

"Voldemort," I whispered while everyone else gasped in horror.

"You mean Lena saw him!" Harry shouted but the others all told him to hush.

I only nodded while both twins put their arms over my shoulders. We sat there in silence for another few drawn out moments.

"How long have you been having these dreams Marnie?" Harry asked finally.

"I don't know exactly. I've always had weird dreams about my mother and her becoming insane. But they got more vivid when I came to school," I explained.

"Three years!" Harry exclaimed again while the other shushed him again. "Does Joss know?"

"No, I've never told him," I answered.

"But you're seeing Lena's memories! This must mean something!" Harry continued while the other four looked at me.

"Marnie, if I can say something," Hermione posited gently. "I've read about occlumency and other related topics, and this may be your mother communicating with you."

"Maybe, but don't you have to be in the same room as the person?" Angelina asked.

"Not necessarily. Especially if there is some sort of magical binding agent," Hermione continued.

"My mother is insane Hermione, she doesn't have any memories left," I said simply.

"Well whatever is going on Marnie, we need to figure this out," Harry interjected.

"I think it's up to Marnie to decide there mate," George said while I squeezed his hand in gratitude.

"Well, the nightmares have been getting worse, so I wouldn't mind maybe trying to figure it out," I admitted honestly. "But we don't tell my dad or Remus," I added while Harry sighed.

"Okay Marnie," Harry said and the others nodded enthusiastically.

"We won't tell anyone else without your permission Marnie," Hermione added with the others agreeing.

"Want to go back to bed?" Angelina offered but I shook my head.

"I don't think I can," I said and shivered slightly.

The image of a ghost-like Voldemort passing through my body was beyond disturbing and mortally terrifying.

"Come on Hare," Fred offered his hand as he stood up.

I didn't see Harry go to object but Hermione elbowed him in the ribs and gave him a pointed look. The twins escorted me to their dorm where we pushed the beds together and withdrew the curtains. It was still too early for Lee or Kenneth to be in the dorm yet. The three of us laid down beside each other with me in the middle.

"Have we ever told you about the Unbreakable Vow we almost got Ron to perform when we were younger?" George asked.

"Yea, but tell me again," I answered as I stared up at the ceiling and listened to my best friends tell me goofy stories from their childhood.

Hours later, after Lee and Kenneth had come in and fallen asleep, I eventually heard George drift off. But Fred stayed awake beside me as we just held hands and stared up. He stroked the back of my hand which did finally make me feel soothed and relaxed me enough to finally put me to sleep.

Fred smiled back at his sleeping friend's figure and leaned over to kiss her on the forehead while he watched her sleep for a few minutes. He knew she was finally relaxed by the sounds of her soft breathing and the calm expression on her face. He knew Marnie still kept secrets from everyone but he and George had learned long ago to give her time and to just always be there for her when it got to be too much.

As he laid there staring at his friend he couldn't help but notice the flutter in his own stomach and the ease he felt as he watched Marnie sleep. Shaking his head, he finally rolled over and fell asleep to the rhythm of her breathing, not understanding why it felt like a couple of fairies were dancing in his stomach.

Chapter Text

The rest of the winter months rolled by with the six friends trying to decipher the cause for Marnie's dreams. Hermione had been pretty keen on telling Professor McGonagall while Harry had suggested confiding to the headmaster, but Marnie was adamant about remaining quiet. Fred and George stood by her decision but worried whether it was the right one, especially when the nightmares had remained fairly constant. It wasn't at all surprising now for Marnie to crawl into the twins' beds in the middle of the night at least twice a week. In preparation, George and Fred permanently left their beds together to have enough room for Marnie to crawl in between them. Harry continued to ignore the fact that his non-biological sister spent many of her nights in the beds of non-familial boys only because he knew Marnie got more sleep that way.

Marnie and the twins had also picked up more on Harry, Ron and Hermione's suspicious behavior and tried to piece it together when they weren't studying or the twins weren't preparing for quidditch. Their second match was fast approaching which made Marnie even more anxious than she already felt. With Snape out to murder Harry and Voldemort haunting her dreams; sleep was almost a hopeless feat at this point. It was only heightened when Harry begrudgingly told them Snape would be refereeing the upcoming match.

"You can't be serious!" I exclaimed as Harry told us one night in the common room. "I knew we should have told Dumbledore about Snape," I continued while Hermione nodded in agreeance.

"We've been over this Marnie, we agreed he wouldn't believe us without proof," Harry explained while it was Ron's turn to nod along.

"Yea, but I don't want your dead body to be the proof!" I exclaimed causing Fred to put his hand over mine.

"Calm down Hare, you know Georgie and I won't let anything happen to Harry," he said while I reluctantly nodded.

It wasn't that I didn't believe him, since they had proven they would look out for Harry during the last game. But two third years up against a schoolteacher, the odds weren't exactly stacked in their favour.

"It'll be alright Marnie," Hermione encouraged with a slight smile.

I looked at her face and nodded in a sudden wave of confidence. But before I could say anything about my forming plan Neville literally hopped into the common room with his legs stuck together from a binding jinx.

"What happened Neville?" I exclaimed as Hermione and I approached him.

"Malfoy," he answered nervously, Hermione quickly reversing the spell.

"Need me to go after him?" I offered angrily since I knew Draco Malfoy had been targeting Neville all year.

"No, I don't want to cause any more trouble," he answered timidly.

"You need to stand up for yourself!" I encouraged, putting my hand on his shoulder.

Harry then came up to us and offered Neville a chocolate frog.

"You're always going to be ten times the wizard Malfoy will ever be," Harry said but Neville only nodded his head.

It looked as if he was suppressing tears of gratitude. Harry then led him over to the couch where the rest of the boys were still sitting so I turned to Hermione.

"Well, I guess we better get researching different ways to help Harry if things do go south during the match," I said and Hermione agreed.

"I already pulled some books from the library so we can study in the common room tonight," Hermione replied.

I nodded before following her towards a study table.

"I can't believe how similar those two can be sometimes," Ron said shaking his head and watching the two girls depart after hearing their conversation.

"Yea, well they are both trying to save Harry's life," Fred countered.

"I just wish Marnie wouldn't worry so much," Harry added while the twins shook their heads.

"Listen mate, if the roles were reversed, would you be so calm if someone was out to get your sister?" George asked while Harry brought his hands to his face.

"But they are aren't they!" Harry exclaimed in an exasperated tone. "Being associated with me already puts a target on her back. Plus, those bastard Slytherin's who target her when she's alone and I'm scared out of my mind why she dreams about Voldemort nearly every night. It has to mean something!" Harry finished while the three other boys bowed their heads sorrowfully.

"You think maybe it's time to confide in an adult?" Ron asked while the others turned to look at him.

"Honestly I've already been considering it myself," Fred added while the other two nodded; Neville had since left the group.

"But who would we tell?" George asked.

"Marnie's right, it might be too hard on Joss and Remus with Lena involved," Harry said.

"So that leaves McGonagall and Dumbledore as our best options," George replied.

"I think McGonagall would be more suitable since she is our head of house and it would be easier at least to get a meeting with her. Plus, if she deems it important enough, she can bring it to Dumbledore directly." Fred added.

"Now who's going to be the one to go behind Marnie's back?" Ron asked solemnly.

Harry went to answer but Fred cut him off.

"I'll do it. I've taken Marnie's wrath before and I don't mind being the center of it when I know I've done the right thing. Plus, you have enough to worry about Harry with the upcoming match and whatever it is you guys are always whispering about," Fred said as he gave a pointed look to both Harry and Ron who couldn't look directly at him in return.

"Thank-you Fred. I'll owe you one," Harry said with a grateful expression.

"Yea, well let's hope your sister doesn't murder me before I can collect," Fred replied as he stood up and started to make his way for the deputy headmistress' office.

He arrived at the door which stood adjacent to the portrait hole only moments later. Fred knocked and waited a moment before he heard footsteps approach.

"Mr. Weasley, this is a surprise," Professor McGonagall said in greeting with suspicion laced in her voice after she had opened the door.

I guess that was called for.

"Erm, professor, I thought I might have a word with you about something rather important," Fred said seriously while he watched the expression change on McGonagall's face from trepidation to concern.

"Of course, why don't you come in and take a seat?" the professor gestured as she stood aside and allowed Fred to step through the doorway into a parlour which was obvious for receiving guests with a couple chairs and a coffee table centered around a small fireplace.

"What can I help you with?" McGonagall asked as she took a seat and gestured for Fred to sit across from her.

"Well, it's Marnie actually. I don't really know how to explain this but she's been having dreams, nightmares really, most every night now," Fred started to explain while McGonagall studied him.

"Is something bothering Miss. O'Hara?" she asked as Fred shook his head.

"No, it's nothing like that. She says she has these vivid dreams about her mother," Fred paused while the professor offered another speculation.

"Well I'm sure it is very difficult for Miss. O'Hara to deal with her mother's condition," she continued but Fred shook his head again.

"No, I mean, Marnie has dreams where she is her mother and lives out her mother's memories," Fred continued and watched the professor's expression change into concerned surprise.

"Are you telling me Mr. Weasley that Miss. O'Hara has dreams of her mother's past?" she asked rather seriously.

"Yes. And the worst bit is that recently they have all had… they've all had You Know Who in them," Fred finished as McGonagall gasped.

"How long as this been going on?" the professor demanded.

"These particular dreams seem to have started after she got back from Christmas break, but I can't be for certain," Fred answered miserably.

"Why hasn't she brought this to my attention sooner?" she demanded again.

"Marnie is still afraid to bring it to anyone's attention, especially her dad. A small group of us have been trying to figure out the cause but we haven't had much luck and they only seem to be getting worse," Fred explained while the professor nodded along.

"Well, thank-you for telling me Mr. Weasley. It is a very wise thing you did," McGonagall said and stood up to escort Fred to the door.

"You won't tell Marnie's father will you?" Fred asked more desperately than he had intended.

"For the moment I do not think Joss will need to be privy to this information, but there may come a time where that will change. For right now I am going to tell the headmaster who will no doubt have a conversation with Miss. O'Hara," the professor explained.

Fred soon vacated the room and McGonagall closed the door behind him. He felt as if several pounds of weight was being added to his shoulders as he slumped back to the common room. He entered to see Marnie and Hermione still sitting at the table looking over books while George, Harry and Ron sat in their same seats and gave him worried looks when he walked in. Fred just nodded his head and went over to Marnie.

"Hare, can I talk with you a minute?" Fred asked in a hesitant tone.

He knew he had done the right thing, but he didn't know what it would cost him.

"Of course," Marnie answered, getting up and following him up to the boy's dormitory.

"This must be serious if you've brought me up here," Marnie joked but Fred only returned a small smile.

He also paused a moment to watch Marnie's smile drop from her face.

"What's up Fred?" she asked worriedly as he sat down on George's bed.

Marnie followed suit by sitting on Lee's bed which sat opposite.

"Well, we haven't been able to come up with anything about your dreams," Fred started while Marnie just sighed.

"You didn't tell my dad did you?" she asked unsurprisingly.

"No, I told Professor McGonagall who I am pretty sure is on her way to tell Professor Dumbledore," Fred answered while he looked down at his hands. "But I did ask her not to send a letter to your dad. At least not yet," Fred added hastily.

Marnie stayed quiet which eventually brought Fred to look up at her. She was staring thoughtfully at the ground, looking rather ragged.

"Are you mad?" Fred finally asked with bated breath.

Marnie let out a slight laugh.

"Maybe I would have been a week ago. But honestly…" she paused releasing a heavy sigh. "I'm so tired Fred. I see that- that monster nearly every night in my dreams. I see Harry's dead parents. I see other people's corpses at my feet. It's too much Fred!" Marnie exclaimed while Fred got up and joined her on Lee's bed.

Fred put his arm around her as she leaned on his chest. Her breathing was labored but started to calm when he rubbed his hand up and down her back.

"We just couldn't watch you suffer anymore," Fred said quietly while Marnie remained silent.

"What's wrong with us Fred?" Marnie asked desperately. "Between my dreams and Harry's scar bothering him, we probably belong in a hospital wing," she continued with a mirthless laugh.

"What do you mean Harry's scar?" Fred asked in bewilderment.

"Oh, I thought I told you," Marnie said shaking her head. "His scar has been hurting at odd times. Harry seems to think it's a warning of some kind but he won't tell me much more," she continued.

Fred paused for a moment.

"What if your dreams are a warning as well?" Fred finally said as the thought that had been at the back of his mind for ages finally came to the surface.

He had been too scared to ponder it before, but now it was seeming to be more and more accurate.

"What would my dreams be a warning about?" Marnie asked curiously.

"Well, you've been dreaming about Death Eaters and You Know Who. So that might be the warning. You and your family are always talking about how they will come back one day," Fred stopped with a pregnant pause.

Marnie gasped taking in Fred's words.

But before she could say anything more Professor McGonagall came into the dorm with a worried expression.

"Miss. O'Hara, Professor Dumbledore has requested an immediate meeting with you that he felt couldn't wait until tomorrow," the deputy headmistress said as she raised her arm in a beckoning manner towards Marnie.

Marnie immediately stood up and followed the professor down to the common room where Harry and the others caught her eye with worried and meaningful glances.

As they stepped into the hallway Marnie kept following the professor towards the headmaster's office.

"Given the circumstances I will not press the matter of you being in a boy's dormitory Miss. O'Hara, but I will say that I do not encourage such behavior in my students," Professor McGonagall said while Marnie nodded and felt her face go flush.

They arrived at the foot of a large gargoyle statue where the professor gave the password.

"Fudge Flies," she said before the statue seemingly came to life and moved to reveal a staircase.

Professor McGonagall then raised her arm to usher Marnie forward. Marnie ascended the staircase alone before she came to a large wooden door at the top. She approached it and raised her hand to knock but heard Professor Dumbledore speak before she could.

"You may enter," his voice instructed in a calm and inviting tone.

Marnie entered the chamber to see a large, ornate office filled with an assortment of instruments and books. She couldn't help but gaze around and take everything in.

"Won't you have a seat Marnie," Professor Dumbledore offered as he gestured to the seat opposite him.

Marnie sat down and folded her arms in her lap.

"Am I in trouble Professor?" Marnie blurted before she could stop herself.

Professor Dumbledore let out a soft chuckle.

"No my child, I have not called you here to punish or reprimand you. If that had been the case I would not have called you at this late hour," he said reassuringly. "I would like you to tell me about these dreams you have been having."

I took a deep breath, having guessed this was the cause for the meeting, before starting into my retelling of all my dreams I had had over the past few months. It wasn't too long since they were mostly consistent; Voldemort's ghost, Harry's parents, Fabian and Gideon.

Dumbledore remained silent throughout the entire reiteration. Even when I stopped talking he still pondered my words.

"So, these dreams are always the same?" he finally asked with curiosity in his eyes.

"Yes," I answered.

"And Voldemort and his followers are always there?" he asked

"Yes."

"I see. Well I think that is all for tonight," Dumbledore said as I looked at him surprisingly.

"Are you going to tell my father?" I blurted again.

"No Marnie, I feel telling Joss would not benefit your situation or his own," he answered with a knowing look in his eye.

I stood up then, having many questions in my head but little energy to ask. I followed him to the door where he took something out of his robe pocket.

"Here, I asked Madam Pomfrey to concoct this sleeping draught for you," the headmaster said as he put the vial into my hand. "It is a particular variation which suppresses dreams," he explained.

I smiled in relief and pocketed it before heading out the door.

"Thank-you professor," I said and he nodded with a smile.

"Marnie, do tell me if more happens or things develop. But I feel there is no need to dwell on your current dreams as of now," he said while I nodded and turned back towards the stairs.

It was late, but still before curfew, as I made my way back to Gryffindor Tower. When I entered the common room, I was met by my anxious looking friends who had obviously been waiting up for me. I gave them a re-hash of what happened and showed them the sleeping draught which I held possessively in my hands. I couldn't remember the last time I had gotten a proper sleep.

"Why don't we let Marnie go try out her new potion and we can ask her more questions tomorrow," George suggested to which I was grateful.

I gave my good-byes then before heading up to my own dorm and changing my clothes. I fell onto my bed and took the regulated dose of the potion. Only moments later I could feel a tingly sensation in my extremities as my body became heavy, including my eyes. Soon I felt my mind go cloudy and I drifted off into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

After my meeting with Dumbledore my dreams seemingly began to go back to normal, even without the Sleeping Draught. However, this did not stop my friends from keeping a watchful on me despite my many reassurances.

Quidditch also became another preoccupation as Gryffindor's match against Slytherin was fast approaching. This had everyone on edge since Snape was refereeing and seemingly had it out for Harry's head.

So, on the morning of the match, none of them had much appetite for food. By the time Oliver Wood came around to collect the team, no one had touched their food or even spoken very much. However, Marnie and the others wished them luck as they walked by and headed of for the pitch.

Marnie and the rest soon followed as they made their way out to the stands with the rest of the school. Marnie ended up sitting in between Hermione and Neville as they waited for the teams to come out. By the time they did Marnie was on the edge of her seat in anxious anticipation. This also meant that she did not notice Draco Malfoy come and sit behind them while he taunted Neville and Ron.

Professor Snape blew the whistle once the captains had shaken hands and the teams mounted their brooms. So far it didn't look like he was targeting Harry, but the match had only just begun. The girls however were playing quite well as each of them had already put away a goal making the score 30-0. The twins on the other hand were not as quick since they closely surveyed Harry for his well-being.

Back in the stands Malfoy started mouthing off to Ron which eventually incited a physical brawl that went unnoticed by both Marnie and Hermione as they sat staring at the edge of their seats. It was during this altercation that Harry seemingly spotted the snitch, which Lee exclaimed over the commentary, and sent Harry barreling towards Snape in a downward fury. Snape moved out of the way in the nick of time just as Harry folded his hand over the snitch, ultimately winning the game.

Hermione and Marnie stood up in relief and exuberance as Harry came safely back to the ground and held the snitch triumphantly in the air. His fellow teammates soon followed as they all huddled in the center of the pitch in celebration. Marnie and Hermione turned to head down when they realized Ron and Neville were on the ground and had indications of being in a brawl. The girls then spotted Malfoy and worked it out for themselves what had transpired. Marnie helped Neville to his feet while Hermione helped Ron before they all headed down to meet everyone.

Once on the pitch Marnie ran over to Harry who was also standing beside the twins congratulating him. She grabbed Harry in mid-sentence and brought him in for a bone-crushing hug since she was immensely relieved that he was alright, and also that they had won the game.

"Oi, what about us?" Fred asked cheekily while I gave him a grin before letting go of Harry and moving over to him and George.

The team then decided to head to the changing rooms while the rest of us headed back to the castle. We were all in the common room, which was filled with rowdy students still jubilant from the recent win. Already there were snacks going around and music playing from somewhere. Gryffindor's definitely knew how to throw a party at a moment's notice.

However, I had a hard time joining in when my friends returned without Harry in tow. Since Snape had still been at the pitch when they left, maybe he had taken a chance to attack Harry when they were alone. But before my mind could go into complete chaos, Harry entered the room with a rather serious look on his face. He bee-lined for Hermione and Ron who were sitting on another couch and started talking in their usual hushed tones before going back out through the portrait hole. I starred after them for a minute with half a mind to follow before Fred came up to me and offered his hand.

"Care to dance Hare?" he asked with a goofy grin.

"You're out of your mind Weasley," I answered but not without a smile.

"Is that a no?" he asked cheekily before I accepted his hand and followed him to the opened space in front of the fire place where some of the older students had moved the couches to the side and were dancing to the fast-paced rock song that was playing.

It was highly suspect that the older students had some sort of secret stash of fire whiskey and were taking the recent win as an excuse to imbibe. However, Fred just spun me around as we both danced like idiots and laughed profusely. He even brushed off the students who came to congratulate him by smiling and then redirecting his attention back to me. It felt incredible to finally have a bit of fun and relax after the past month. The thoughts of Harry's suspicious behavior dissipated as our friends joined in and George stole me away from Fred much to his disgruntlement. Ange and Leesh were also dancing wildly together while Lee and Katie danced with blushes on their face despite their lack of touching. This lasted well into the night as we relished in our Gryffindor pride and the fact of just being with friends. It was only broken up when Professor McGonagall finally came in and ordered us all to bed. In fear of strict retribution, the entire Gryffindor Tower was silent and in their beds within the next five minutes.

XXX

The next week got seemingly better after as the dreams remained at bay and life began to return to normal; all except for Harry who was acting outwardly suspicious. This was only cemented when he turned up one night with a sorrowful look.

"We have a detention tomorrow night," he said in a mournful tone.

"Aren't you being a little dramatic? It's not like you're a saint with the rules," I said while he just gave me a withering look.

"We have to go out into the Forbidden Forest," he said while my eyebrows shot up to my hairline.

"That's not possible," I said but he just sighed.

"All four of us have to go out tomorrow night with Hagrid apparently, Neville included," he explained.

"So, I'm assuming Malfoy was somehow the cause?" I guessed while Harry nodded dejectedly.

"Well, I guess having Hagrid there will be some sort of comfort," I said only semi-confidently.

Soon after, Hermione and Ron entered the common room with similar looks on their faces. Harry stood up to go and join them while I continued to stare after them. I had already confronted Harry numerous times about their suspicious behavior, but he had remained silent on the topic. Ron had even remained mum, despite my best efforts to worm it out of him. All I had to go on was Nicholas Flammel and Professor Snape; however, I was less certain about Snape's involvement in this scheme ever since the quidditch match. He had had plenty of opportunities, and obviously the perpetrator was not concerned with crowds due to the attempt made during the last match. But Harry had remained unharmed, thankfully, which left me unconvinced about our initial theory.

The following night I begrudgingly bid the four first years good luck as they set out to meet Hagrid at the Forbidden Forest. To make it worse, Filch had arrived to escort them with Malfoy in tow. After staring at my homework for a good hour without much progress, I decided to call it a night and went upstairs to bed. Sleep came easily enough though as the darkness of the room enveloped me.

I was now sitting in the same den that I had seen Harry's father's murdered body in my previous dream, however I was sitting on their couch as I looked between Lily and James' smiling faces. Sirius Black was also present and sitting beside me on our own loveseat. I could feel the nervousness in my body as I sipped my tea and listened to Lily and James discuss why they had called us here.

"Well, as you very well know, Lily is expected to have our child within the next few weeks," James explained as the obviously pregnant Lily beamed beside him.

"So, we wanted to discuss the idea of becoming our child's god-parents," James continued while I heard an audible inhale from Sirius.

"Padfoot, you had to know this was coming," James said keenly.

"Not necessarily, there was always Remus or Peter to consider," Sirius explained but James shook his head.

"It was always you brother," he replied before the two men fell into an emotive silence.

"I mean we had thought you and Lena-" James started after a moment before Lily audibly cleared her throat and threw a pointed look at her husband which silenced him.

"Lena, you are also an obvious choice to be this little one's god-mother," Lily added while she was smiling in an almost glow.

"Yea, plus we promised Marnie a sibling," James said with a chuckle.

I heard Sirius make an odd noise again while I finally turned to look at him. His eyes were focused on the ground before turning up to look and smile at Lily before James cleared his throat.

"In all seriousness, we know what this means during a time like this," James explained while the room exalted a palpable heaviness.

"That ruddy dark wizard is never coming anywhere near my godson," Sirius exclaimed.

James smiled. "How do you know it's going to be a boy?"

"Lena already gave us all our perfect little girl," he explained while I felt heat rush to my cheeks.

"Marnie and this little child will never be harmed by Voldemort, you have our word," I said ignoring Sirius' previous statement.

I woke up suddenly after that with a confused sense of what I had just seen. There were too many unknown variables to fully understand what I had just witnessed and what it meant. Thinking back to the conversation though, the topic was seemingly about the protection of Harry from Voldemort. After this realization there was no way in hell I was ever returning to sleep without knowing how and where Harry was. So, I ventured down to the common room to wait for his return. It was far later than I had expected when they came shuffling in around three in the morning.

"Marnie, what are you doing up?" Harry asked as the four of them came over to join me in front of the fire.

"I had another dream," I answered.

Neville looked confused by my answer while Ron feigned his own confusion.

"I thought they had stopped," Harry said anxiously.

"They had, and this one wasn't necessarily bad, but I was worried about what it could mean," I said while Harry, Ron and Hermione all dawned guilty expressions.

"It didn't by chance have to do with me and Voldemort, did it?" Harry asked solemnly.

"Why would you even say that?" I asked while I felt the anxiety rise throughout my body.

"Well, I think I might have just run into him," Harry said in a rare shaky tone.

The four of them then went into a rehash of the night's events which left me speechless.

"So not only was it the most idiotic plan to let first year students serve detention out in the Forbidden Forest, but you just had a run in with the darkest wizard of all time who just happens to have a vendetta against you?" I asked incredulously while the others remained silent.

We remained sitting there in silence for a long time while it was evident there wasn't much more to say. Neville ended up falling asleep on the end of the couch before Hermione eventually decided to head up to bed. Ron and Harry eventually went up to their own dorms, leaving Neville asleep on the couch. I pulled one of the faded quilts over him before deciding to head up to the third-year boy's dorm and crawled into bed with Fred. The beds weren't pushed together anymore since I had been regularly staying in my own dorm but Fred didn't even wake as I crawled in next to him. I did see however a smile cross his face as he rolled over and put his arm around me.

I hadn't planned on falling asleep but I awoke to the room filled with daylight and Fred laying on his back while he looked over the map.

"How long have you been up?" I asked as Fred shifted his attention to me at the sound of my voice.

"Not long," he answered in a non-committal sort of way. "I am worried as to why you are here though. I thought you weren't having nightmares anymore," he continued with his brow furrowed in concern.

I then explained my dream and what had happened to Harry during his detention. When I finished Fred remained quiet while he took in all the information.

"I sometimes worry that you and my brother hang out with the bloke," he said before I took a pillow and hit him over the head.

"This is serious!" I exclaimed.

"I know that Hare, I'm just nervous," Fred explained while I gave him a small smile.

I knew anything other than feeling pure bliss made Fred uncomfortable which made it lucky that not much fazed him.

"Well, I guess we better head down and go find them," Fred suggested while I nodded.

Fred then pulled back the curtains to reveal George pretending to read a book on his bed.

"You knew he was here didn't you?" I asked.

"I don't know how you could accuse me of that Hare. I can't see through opaque curtains," Fred answered with a shrug while George closed the book he had supposedly been reading and shrugged as well.

I huffed and stormed out of the room to return to my own dorm to get dressed. But before I left George called out which made me pause.

"I thought McGonagall warned you about spending the night with us untrustworthy boys," he said cheekily.

"Shut it Weasley," was all I said before I turned and exited the dorm.

XXX

The rest of the day, just like those to come, were filled with heightened anxiety and a necessity to study for the upcoming exams.

Harry had apparently started having nightmares after his run in with Voldemort which had undoubtedly made him uneasy. He and Marnie spent a lot of their nights sitting together in silence while they tried to study. It had become an unspoken rule between them not to talk about Voldemort or anything related since they had seemingly gone through every scenario to no avail which had only left them frustrated and strung out. Harry also wouldn't talk about whatever it was he had been doing over the past few months, so Marnie settled for spending all their free time together so she could keep an eye on him.

Finally, the last day of exams arrived and Marnie spent the latter part of it sitting outside by the lake as her friends all basked in the relief of making it through. The last exam for the first years followed that of the third years so Marnie hadn't seen much of Harry or the others. Her friends had also called in an early night since most of them had been studying well into the previous night; except of course for Fred and George.

Marnie drifted off into a fitful sleep, much as she had over the past weeks, since one did not sleep well with the threat of a certain dark wizard on the loose. Marnie had been consistently having the same dream as before, where Lena was sitting in the Potter's den and receiving news of becoming Harry's godmother, all the while promising to protect us from Voldemort himself. However, on this night, the routine dream transitioned at the end to my mother ascending the stairs of the Potter house, except I knew it wasn't the same day as the four adults sitting in the living room. There was an eerie silence that filled the house and I could feel the terror emanate throughout my mother's body. Reaching the top of the stairs I turned to go down the hall and finally heard the sound of a crying baby. This made my mother start running towards the room in the middle of the hall. Seeing Harry in his crib brought a rush of relief which was severed at the sight of Lily's body lying still beside the it. Tears were furiously cascading down my face as I held back the dire urge to bend down and hold my best friend who was no doubt dead. But somehow Harry was still safe and I needed to take him away. I went over to the young boy who was sobbing profusely but held his arms towards his godmother as a sign to pick him up. My mother slowly took the boy from his bedroom and left without looking back at the unbearable sight. My mother even turned her head when passing the den and sheltered Harry's eyes so he wouldn't see his father. Once out of the house and on the street my mother stood looking at the house for a brief moment before apparating away. This meant that she did not see the hooded figure who rushed towards the house only moments later.

I woke up then with tears running down my face as I bolted out of bed. I immediately rushed down the stairs into the common room with the intention of heading out the door, although with no particular destination in mind. However, I was stopped by the presence of my head of house and headmaster standing in the common room, after just having entered through the portrait hole.

"Ah, Marnie, I guess I am not surprised that you have awoken, given the circumstance," Dumbledore said which startled me.

"Where's Harry?" I blurted while McGonagall approached me and put her arm on my shoulder as a comforting gesture.

This did not put me at ease.

"Harry is safe and being attended to in the hospital wing," Dumbledore explained while I gasped in horror.

"It was Voldemort," I exclaimed loudly which made McGonagall flinch beside me.

"I unfortunately must agree with you," the headmaster said with a saddened expression.

"What happened?" I asked again while Dumbledore beckoned for me to sit on one of the couches.

McGonagall sat beside me as Dumbledore sat across. Dumbledore then went into a summary of what had happened to Harry that night in the depths of the castle and how he had come face-to-face with Voldemort in an attempt to save the philosopher's stone. He also explained how Professor Quirrell had been the host body for Voldemort to enter the school and live while he reserved enough strength to return to his own body. It was all terribly complex and left a disgusting taste in my mouth. It also made me realize that I had been right in questioning our theory about Snape when it had indeed been Quirrell. At the end of his retelling, Dumbledore brought me to the hospital wing since it was decided that there was no way I would be able to go back to sleep.

It was frightening seeing Harry's ragged body while he was also unconscious. I guess this is how the twins must feel when I end up in here. I sat with Harry for the entire night as I nodded off a couple times in my chair. It wasn't until the morning however that he awoke himself and nudged me lightly.

"I really want to be mad at you, you know," I said in a stern voice when I opened my eyes.

"I know," Harry replied softly.

"I knew you were keeping something from me. I could have helped!" I continued in a frustrated voice.

"That's what I was afraid of," Harry replied honestly as he looked me in the eyes.

"Marnie, I have waited my entire life for a family I didn't even know I had. There's no way I could ever jeopardize that and put you in danger," he explained while I shook my head in further frustration.

"So my consolation is to sit and watch my family go and risk their lives without my even knowing. How is that fair?" I asked while I crossed my arms on my chest.

Harry sighed. "I guess it's not fair."

"Damn right it's not. So promise me you will never keep things from me again," I said.

"On one condition," he answered. "You do the same for me."

I thought it over as I realized all of what that meant.

"I promise."

We both smiled then as Professor Dumbledore entered the room.

"Aw, Harry. It's good to see you awake. I was hoping Marnie, that you could give us a moment. I'm sure the congregation outside would appreciate an update," he said with humour in his eyes.

I nodded before I stood up and headed towards the door after giving Harry one more smile which he returned. I then went to join my friends outside and coax them into joining me for breakfast since I could already feel my stomach growling.

After the fiasco that was Harry, Ron and Hermione risking their lives and facing Voldemort, the next couple days were quite peaceful in comparison. Even Harry facing dad and Remus. They had met us at the train station as always and begrudgingly let Harry follow his aunt and uncle out of King's Cross. Dad and Remus had been vague on the explanation as to why it was necessary but assured us that Harry would be re-joining us at home by the end of the month. Mrs. Weasley had also come over and introduced herself to Harry before we all went our separate ways; Ginny had been overly excited about seeing Harry. It was both comforting and sad to leave Hogwarts, Harry and my friends for my own home. But this past year had been way too exciting for any one person to endure. The routine quiet of home felt to be just what I needed, especially when Harry would come to join. If only things were to go just as you planned.

Chapter Text

When Harry did finally come and join us in time for his birthday, we were planning a big birthday party where we invited both the Weasley's and the Lovegood's. Harry helped throughout the week while dad also adamantly tried to convince him to drop out of Hogwarts and be homeschooled instead. However, Harry was finally able to convince dad that Voldemort had it out for him despite where he was, and he wasn't going to let the dark wizard scare him away from the life he loved. Remus also helped to ease my father's nerves while the reserved man uncharacteristically disagreed with my father on the subject. But I also knew how much Hogwarts meant to my uncle.

So, by the end of the week, most of the anxiousness had dissipated and we all waited for the arrival of Harry's guests. I hadn't seen the twins all that much this summer and was eager to hang out with them, much like Harry was to see Ron.

At around noon we heard a knock at the door as Harry and I raced each other down the stairs to answer it. Harry, with his faster pace and reflexes, arrived at the door first and opened it excitedly. Ron was standing next to his mother who both greeted him animatedly as he invited them in, along with the rest of the Weasley's. I smiled as Fred and George walked through the door and immediately came over to see me. As George hugged me though, I couldn't help noticing how Ginny was hiding behind her mother as Mrs. Weasley talked to Harry and handed my father a homemade cake.

"Gin's acting a bit strange," I said as I motioned over to the timid girl who was typically animated in character.

"I'm surprised really," Fred started.

"She hasn't shut up about meeting Harry since we parted ways at King's Cross," George continued while they both shrugged.

Mr. Weasley was the last to enter who was unexpectedly followed by some guests.

"Amos?" my father asked in greeting as he went over to the man who I had most definitely never met before.

"Yes, well Amos here asked me about my plans for the weekend and extended himself an invitation when I told him about Harry's birthday," Mr. Weasley explained while he unsubtly explained to my father as to why there was a party crasher at our front doorstep.

This man however remained oblivious and shook my father's hand before spotting Harry and introducing himself. That was when I noticed the Hufflepuff seeker enter our house.

"Cedric Diggory?" Fred asked in disgust as he saw the boy enter through the door.

"How does your dad know this prat?" George asked in a whispered tone beside me.

"No idea," I answered as I saw both Cedric and his father turn their attention to me.

"Ah Joss, this must be your daughter!" the man exclaimed with more excitement than was necessary.

The man then approached me and surveyed me in a way which I felt I was under a microscope.

"She's a real looker, eh Cedric?" the man asked while I gaped in response.

"Dad!" Cedric exclaimed in a rather embarrassed tone.

"She must know how beautiful she is, there's no need to be bashful. Those eyes are just exquisite," he added while Fred put a protective arm over me and my father cleared his throat in discomfort.

"Well Amos, that's a very forward analysis of my daughter. Now why don't we all move to the backyard where we have some tables set up?" dad suggested as the uncomfortable air started to dissipate and everyone jumped at the opportunity to change the subject away from my appearance.

We all then started towards the back door while Fred kept his arm around me and also glared at Cedric who was giving me an apologetic look.

"Who does he think he is?" George asked while we walked together outside away from the crowd.

"Mr. Diggory is rather ghastly," I said with a shiver running down my spine.

"No wonder pretty boy is so full of himself," Fred said, staring at Cedric with a withering expression.

"I actually don't think Cedric is all that bad," I said looking at the boy who was the only one sitting with the adults besides Ginny who was blatantly staring at Harry.

We sat under the tree for a while, with the twins pointedly turning their backs towards Cedric.

"Marnie, why don't you help me collect some plates?" dad asked from the table before I stood up and followed him into the kitchen.

"Why don't you hang out with Cedric? The poor boy is sitting all alone and is actually very nice," dad said once we were inside.

"The twins don't really seem to like him," I answered, although I did feel guilty for leaving Cedric out.

"I can only imagine why," dad said.

"What?"

"Oh, nothing," dad said dismissively. "Just talk to the boy won't you," dad finished as he carried more plates outside.

So when I came back outside I approached Cedric instead of rejoining the twins and asked him to join us.

"I don't think your friends like me much," he said as he directed his gaze towards the twins who were looking at us with contempt.

"Well, then I'll stay here with you," I said before sitting down beside him.

"You don't have to be so nice. I know we weren't invited," he said blatantly.

"Yea, I didn't know my dad even knew yours," I answered honestly.

"Well, we do live just over that hill," he said as he pointed in the distance to the east of the property.

"Oh," was all I said as I thought back to before I attended Hogwarts and my father had made that vague comment about knowing some local children starting at Hogwarts. I guess he hadn't just meant the twins.

"Don't worry, my dad doesn't typically hold a lot of friends," Cedric added which caused me to stifle a laugh.

"Believe it or not he does mean well," Cedric continued while I tried really hard to believe him.

"I've seen you in school before," Cedric continued, changing the subject.

"Yea, well I've seen us crush you at quidditch," I countered with a smug grin.

"Ah, that Gryffindor modesty," Cedric retorted which caught me off guard.

"You aren't a bad seeker though. But I just can't change my loyalty from my brother," I said while Cedric looked over at Harry.

"It must be nice to be so close with someone that you automatically consider them to be your family," he said thoughtfully. "I've always wished that I had a sibling," he continued.

"Yea, well I had to wait ten years to see mine again," I said, surprised with the amount of honesty I was relaying.

"Well, he's definitely lucky to have someone like you watching out for him. By the sounds of it, he definitely needs it."

"Oh, you don't know the half of it," I chuckled as dad brought out dinner.

The twins joined the table when the food showed up, with Fred claiming the other seat next to me. It was quite palpable however how much Fred was loathing Cedric's company; but I quite liked him. Even after holding the title of Hogwart's Pretty Boy, he seemed to have a level head and a mild manner. I just knew the boys would never befriend a quidditch rival.

A distraction thankfully came with the arrival of Luna and her father as they circled around from the front yard and joined us at the table where dad and Mrs. Weasley were dishing out the food. Luna went to sit beside Harry, with Ron giving her an uncomfortable look, while Mr. Lovegood sat beside Remus. I glared at Ron for being impolite to Luna, but before I could do anything to chastise him Cedric once again took my attention.

"Isn't it so peaceful living out here?" he asked while I turned back with a smile.

"Yea, it's ruddy fantastic," Fred answered sarcastically before I could say anything.

"Fred, you live in the area too and you love it," I said sternly giving him a severe look.

Why was he acting like such an arse?

"Oh yea, my dad told me you live over to the north," Cedric said kindly but Fred just grunted.

"Have you lived here your whole life?" I asked Cedric while trying to ignore Fred's behavior.

It wasn't that much better that I could see George doing nothing to reel in his brother; this always meant that he felt similarly to Fred.

"Pretty much, my father and I moved out here when I was young. Before that we had a flat in the city," Cedric answered.

Having my own precarious situation with my mother, I didn't press him about his. So we continued with our idle chatter while the twins remained quiet and brooding beside me. I was however, pleasantly surprised with how personable Cedric was turning out to be, and not at all like how the Gryffindor quidditch team made him out to be. By the end of dessert I felt Cedric and I had at least become fairly good acquaintances and promised to talk once we returned to school. Cedric was the first to leave with his father, followed soon after by the Lovegood's. I had been upset that I hadn't spent much time with Luna but we promised to hang out later in the summer when the gardens were in full harvest. The Weasley's stayed to help clean up and I noticed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley talking with Remus. I realized that this was the first time they were actually seeing him in recent years and was pleased to see a smile on his face as he spoke with them.

The twins however were being stubbornly quiet and mostly ignoring me. So, having none of their juvenile behavior, I went over to join Harry and Ron who were also bashing Cedric and his quidditch skills.

"What is wrong with everyone?" I asked in an exasperated tone as I stood up to leave.

"He's the enemy Marnie, you shouldn't be hanging out with him," Ron warned while I turned to give him a scornful look.

"He's not evil! He's just in Hufflepuff instead of Gryffindor! Why is everyone making a big deal about this?" I shouted as I stormed off.

I then went to sit beside Ginny who was still sitting at the table by herself.

"Why are boys so immature?" I huffed as I sat down.

"Not all of them are bad," Ginny responded turning her gaze towards Harry again. "I saw you talking with Cedric, he's really quite handsome," Ginny said before I could comment on her staring.

"He's also nice and friendly and charming," I said not wanting to hear about what his fan club usually gushed about at school, his looks.

"You two seemed to be getting along," Ginny continued with a mischievous grin.

"Stand down Gin, I only just properly met the boy," I replied shaking my head. "Plus, your idiot brothers were terribly rude."

"Yea, they get like that. Don't worry, they'll come sulking back to you. You are their queen after all," Ginny explained slyly.

"I am not, I'm their best friend and they shouldn't be faulting me for trying to make friends with someone else," I said indignantly.

"True, but I know they also don't like to share you," she replied causing me to think over her response.

It was true that she hardly went anywhere without Fed and George by her side. Only a few times when she was either with Harry or Angelina, and even then, they were typically always around.

"I'm still upset with them," I huffed as Ginny chuckled.

"They deserve it," she replied with a smile.

The girls then spent the next while talking of other things than boys until Mrs. Weasley announced they were leaving. Marnie bid all the Weasley's good-bye except for the twins who were still brooding, and then went back into the house. Harry and the others were already sitting on the couch.

"It seems Fred and George didn't take kindly to my request," dad said while I sighed and dropped down into one of the chairs.

"They're being stupid," I commented.

Remus chuckled. "Well fourteen-year-old boys do tend to be like that sometimes."

"Give them time Marnie, they're just used to your undivided attention," dad continued to explain but I sighed again.

"I think I'm going to go up to bed," I announced given that it was pretty late.

I walked over and hugged everyone while wishing Harry a happy birthday for at least the twelfth time. I then climbed the staircase and got ready before flopping down into my bed. My frustration kept my mind running but thoroughly exhausted my body, so I finally drifted off to sleep before Harry even came in for bed.

XXX

The rest of the summer was a lot more exciting since Harry was around and I had a few chances to go stay with Angelina, Alicia and Katie. But I felt when I was home that the house was much livelier than it had ever been before Harry. I could see both dad and Remus were visibly more upbeat, not that they hadn't been content during my childhood, but I think they had always worried about Harry's well-being. Also, as promised, the four of us did have a sort of harvest party at the end of August with the Lovegood's which gave the opportunity to properly catch up with Luna. In lieu of the celebration, Luna had brought her own blueberry concoction as a gift to try, which Harry and I had had a hard time trying to drink, especially after she told us she had added rutabaga and turnip. But Harry and Luna were becoming fast friends as Harry never seemed to mind how eccentric Luna could be and Luna didn't cloud her judgement on Harry's byproduct fame. Looking at the two of them together, I couldn't believe that her and Harry were going into their second year already which meant, even more dauntingly, that this would be my fourth.

The twins also started sending me a bombardment of letters the following day after Harry's birthday. They apologized profusely in each one and admitted to being idiotic prats. I had held out for an entire week before my father urged me to respond so he could eat breakfast in peace without a flurry of letters coming through.

A letter I hadn't been expecting though came from Cedric, who also sent me a letter on August first. It was a simple letter, but surprising none the less.

Dear Marnie,

I wanted to thank-you for your hospitality last night, especially since I know we arrived uninvited. I know my father can be too forward sometimes but he does mean well, so I hope he didn't offend you.

Anyways I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your company and was hoping we could stay in touch before school starts.

All the best,

Cedric

I didn't think my family had found out about the letter yet since it had arrived with the tens of others from the twins. Plus, when we did start writing back and forth it was easy enough to assume I was receiving a letter from the twins or one of my other friends who I also kept in touch with.

XXX

Soon enough it was nearing the end of summer which meant we were receiving our Hogwart's supply letters.

"Well, I guess it's as good a time as any to visit Diagon Alley," my father said that morning as Harry and I looked over our lists.

So, after breakfast we all stood in front of our fire place which dad had agreed to leave permanently on the Floo Network. He had decided this so that Harry and I could travel easier without always having to rely on Remus.

"Marnie, why don't you show Harry how it's used and go first?" my dad asked as I took some powder from the pot he was holding and went to stand in the fireplace.

"Now, very clearly," my dad said as he always instructed me to.

"DIAGON ALLEY!" I exclaimed before throwing the powder down and was immediately transported through the network.

Moments later I was standing in the Leaky Cauldron as was the designated point of entry for Diagon Alley. Dad soon arrived with Remus as they had side apparated since dad wasn't able to use the Floo. However, Harry was nowhere to be seen.

"Where's Harry?" I asked as dad and Remus cursed.

"I knew he didn't speak clearly enough!" dad exclaimed.

"Well, he couldn't have gotten too far, let's get searching," Remus said as he went to enter the alley with us following close behind.

We walked up and down the street as my anxiety rose with each passing minute.

"Joss! Remus!" I heard a booming voice call out from behind us which made us all whip around.

As we did turn, all three of us were relieved to see Hagrid walking with Harry at his side.

"We need to work on your enunciation," dad said as he ruffled Harry's hair and brought him into a protective hug.

"Thank-you Hagrid," Remus said as the half-giant smiled and turned away as he expressed he had business he needed to attend to.

"Well now that that's all settled, I'll meet you three at Fortescue's in an hour," Remus said as he headed away from us down the alley.

I also gave Harry a hug before the three of us turned and headed in the opposite direction of Remus.

"Merlin! Why do you two need so many books for Defense Against the Dark Arts?" my father exclaimed since he was carrying our lists and telling us what we needed from each store.

We entered Flourish and Blotts and were immediately taken aback by the sheer number of people in the store. Thankfully however we soon ran into a familiar red-headed family and went over to greet them.

"Marnie!" the twins exclaimed as they saw me and Harry headed over towards them.

Mrs. Weasley and the others also turned around as they noticed the three of us walking over.

"Oh, I didn't know you were coming out today Joss, I would have suggested you join us," Mrs. Weasley said kindly.

"Well I just thought it best since the kids got their lists today," he answered with a smile.

"What's all the fuss about?" I asked as I saw Mrs. Weasley dawn a blush which made the situation even more confusing.

"Gilderoy Lockhart is signing books," Ron explained in disgust while his mother shot him a look.

"That's the bloke who wrote all these books we have to get!" I exclaimed turning to investigate the man responsible for all of this.

It seemed a little narcissistic to require every student to purchase these many books from the same man.

Sure enough I caught sight of a middle-aged man who obviously obsessed about his looks. His hair looked like it was dyed blonde to keep the greys away and gelled back off his face. He also dawned a cheesy smile as he greeted everyone who approached him. Unfortunately, we were much too close to the man and he spotted Harry once his gaze turned our way.

"Well, if it's not Harry Potter!" he exclaimed causing Harry to stop dead in his tracks.

I could see the discomfort radiate off of him while my father went to put his hand on his shoulders to beckon him away. However, Mrs. Weasley was closer and pushed him towards Lockhart instead. In a few sudden movements Harry was propelled onto the landing where Lockhart was standing and having his picture taken by a reporter. I could feel my face turn red with anger as I knew this glory hog was only exploiting my brother. As Harry tried to make a run for it however, the man gave a pile of books to Harry which were apparently all signed, and all on our school list.

Harry was then finally able to make it away from him and automatically gave Mrs. Weasley the stack of free books. My father nodded in approval as he held up the two bags already containing each of our school books which he had hastily purchased. The three of us then tried to get out of the store before Harry received any more unwanted attention, with my hand protectively on Harry's shoulders.

However, we were stopped short at the sight of Lucius Malfoy having a heated discussion in front of the exit with Mr. Weasley. Harry and I fast approached Ginny who was seemingly standing in the middle before my father could stop us. Mr. Malfoy looked up at us as we approached and then to my father as his expression turned to an air of disgust.

"It looks as if your blood traitorousness has no bounds Arthur, especially with the lowly company you keep," Mr. Malfoy spat before turning to exit the shop, but not before he returned a book back to Ginny's cauldron.

My face was a red as Ginny's hair as I went to chase the Malfoy's out of the shop. I could feel Harry gearing up to do the same but a hand was grasped over each of our shoulders before we could do anything.

"Stay here you two!" my father ordered as we grudgingly stopped in our place.

"Did you hear what he said about us?" I exclaimed hotly spinning around to look at my father.

"And it's nothing different than what I have heard before. I am only happy to have Arthur as a friend and not have to deal with the likes of the Malfoy's in our daily lives," my father explained softly while I still clenched my fists.

"I know you two must hear things at school but I am telling you not to waste your time going after those who you feel slighted by. We are no less human and you are no less a witch and wizard by being a part of this family," my father continued while I loudly exhaled.

"Alright," I mumbled, slowly feeling the anger ebb away.

"Yes Joss," Harry echoed as I saw him look proudly up at my dad.

"Alright, now let's go meet your uncle. Your family is more than welcome to join us for ice cream," my father added as he turned to Mr. Weasley.

"I think we best be getting back, but we will see you all in a couple days!" Mr. Weasley answered as he shook my father's hand and brought him into an embrace before turning to leave with Ginny and Ron.

Hermione had also joined us during the slight altercation and turned to follow the Weasley's since her parents were over talking with Mrs. Weasley.

We then headed down the street and saw Remus sitting out at one of the tables outside.

"I saw a very irritated looking Malfoy walk through here a few moments ago," Remus said casually as we all headed in to order.

"Yes, well, when is that man ever happy?" dad responded while Remus only nodded.

XXX

We ended up being dropped off at the Burrow on the morning of September first since dad had one of his rare meetings in the city with a book editor and it had been a full moon last night. Mr. Weasley had also come to own a muggle car over the summer holidays and had made a few necessary magical changes for all of us to be able to fit into it. It was a lot larger than Remus' who hadn't ever enlarged the inside of his car since we had never needed to. The issue remained however that we were terribly late in leaving as it seemed everyone had forgotten at least something. So, by the time we arrived at King's Cross we only had five minutes to make the train.

I ran off ahead with the twins who were following Percy. Percy was in quite a mood since he thought it best for a prefect to arrive early and was now profusely late. Their parents were accompanying Ginny as it was her first year to Hogwarts while Ron and Harry were together at the end. I made it onto the train with the twins and immediately set off to find our friends. The train set off only minutes later as we settled in the compartment with Lee and the girls.

About twenty minutes into the ride however, Hermione entered the compartment followed by Neville and Ginny.

"Marnie, have you seen Harry or Ron?" she asked nervously as I gave her a quizzical look.

"Not since we got on the train, but they were right behind us," I answered.

"Well, we haven't seen them since we went through the platform," Ginny added in a nervous voice.

"Gin, this isn't some prank is it?" I asked sternly since I couldn't figure out their angle.

"Marnie, we're serious," Hermione replied with an anxious tone.

"Well, maybe they found another compartment and are waiting for you there," I offered while the three standing in the doorway looked unconvinced.

"Alright, we'll take another look," Hermione said before they turned and went back down the hall.

I was then preoccupied for the entire train ride as I tried to think of the very last moment I had seen the two boys. Unfortunately, I was quite certain that had been while we were walking through the station, before we ran through the wall.

When we arrived at Hogwarts and I searched the crowd for both Harry and Ron, I met up with Hermione who looked as anxious as I felt.

"So I take it you never found them?" I asked as I felt the knot tighten in my stomach.

She only shook her head as we made our way for the horseless carriages. I sat in with Ginny, Hermione and Neville as we rode in a nervous silence.

"Marnie, I'm sure we'll see them at the feast," George said while we walked from the carriages into the castle.

But he had been wrong. It wasn't until we were sitting in the common room and I was halfway through writing a letter to my father that Ron and Harry walked through the portrait hole. I shot out of my seat at the sight of them and pulled Harry into a crushing hug.

"Where the hell have you been?" I asked sternly noticing Harry looked embarrassed.

We went to sit down where we had been before, and Harry and Ron started their story. Apparently, the wall had sealed shut when they tried to go through and the next logical answer had been to carjack Mr. Weasley's Ford Anglia and fly all the way to Hogwarts.

"Dad is going to murder you," was all I said while I gave him a smug grin.

Harry sighed and put his head in his hands. The twins on the other hand were wholly jealous they had taken the train and were subsequently mad at Ron for not telling them. This meant that the twins stood up and went to play exploding snap with Lee and Katie since Angelina and Alicia were already upstairs.

"There's something I haven't told you yet," Harry whispered after the twins had left and it was only us with Ron and Hermione. "A house-elf came to our house in the middle of the summer," Harry explained as I just gaped.

"What in the name of Merlin are you talking about?" I asked, not having the slightest clue of what he could be referring to, his story didn't seem very plausible.

"One night when you were over at Angelina's, I was woken up in the middle of the night to a house elf named Dobby sitting at the edge of my bed. He warned me not to come back to Hogwarts," Harry explained while I continued to gape at him.

"I thought you said no more secrets!" I exclaimed.

"I wanted to tell you, but it was the day before we went to Diagon Alley and there wasn't really a good time where Joss or Remus weren't around," he reasoned while I nodded.

"So why do you think this Dobby felt it necessary to warn you against coming back to the school. I mean what could possibly be worse than last year when you met Voldemort?" I asked in a hushed tone while Hermione and Ron shuddered.

"Dunno, but after all the effort I put in trying to convince Joss to let me stay, I didn't really want to bring it up," he said forcing me to agree again.

"Well, we will just have to keep an eye out for anything suspicious," I said before I heard my name being called.

"Marnie!" Lee whined from across the room. "Fred is cheating!"

"I am not!" Fred answered while I sighed and got up.

"Oh, and I'm glad you didn't get suspended!" I said which made Ron and Harry blush in embarrassment before I turned and walked over to referee between Lee and Fred.

Chapter Text

The first week of school ended up being quite taxing, especially since it started out with Mrs. Weasley sending Ron a howler during breakfast. Harry had also gotten a letter from both dad and Remus, but although they had written that they were disappointed, Harry didn't get reamed out in front of the entire school. The worst thing however ended up being Defense Against The Dark Arts which was now taught by the biggest imbecile I had ever met.

"Makes you wish old Voldie was back doesn't it?" Fred asked after one class where I just sighed in response.

Despite being slightly astounded that Fred would bring up the subject of our previous teacher being a parasitic host for the Dark Lord himself, at least Quirrell had known what he was talking about. Gilderoy Lockhart was by all accounts, an idiot. He had given a pop quiz on the first day, the same quiz to every year, which posed personal questions such as 'What is Gilderoy's favourite colour? And 'What season best compliments Gilderoy Lockhart's wardrobe?' It was outright embarrassing for him and a nightmare for us. To top it all off, we were required to read from each of his books every night, which was seven in total. Usually classes assigned two books at most for the entire year and only used one at a time for particular lessons.

So, by Friday, I was already behind on my homework and fed up with everyone's bad mood. So, to be by myself for a while, I brought my books out to the quidditch pitch to study.

"Is this seat taken?" I heard a familiar voice ask after sitting out there a while.

"Cedric, what are you doing here?" I asked, having figured no one came out here much besides for games and practices.

"I should be asking you that. I've never see you out here like this before," he answered with a smile.

"You come out here a lot?" I asked lamely.

"Yea, the quidditch pitch is my favourite spot, plus it's usually pretty quiet," he explained while I nodded. "So, do you mind if I join you?"

"Oh, of course not!" I answered as I moved my mess of books out of the way.

"You're studying Defense too?" he asked with his own pile of books held up in his hands.

"It's just so ridiculous how he expects us to keep up. Especially when he doesn't even talk about the content in class. I mean seriously, if I have to hear another thing about his wardrobe again I think I'll scream," I exclaimed annoyed.

"Today he told us all about the pet kitten he had as a child," Cedric grimaced, causing me to shake my head in indignation.

We then fell into an amicable silence as Cedric opened one of his books and I turned back to mine. We stayed like that for at least an hour before I noticed the sun getting dangerously low.

"I guess we better turn in," Cedric said as if reading my mind.

We then packed up our books and headed into the castle.

"I guess I'll see you around," Cedric said with a smile once we made it to the main entrance.

"Yea, maybe we'll run into each other at the quidditch pitch again," I replied, noticing the continued smile on his face.

"I'd like that."

Cedric then left me standing outside the Great Hall as he entered. I felt a warm sensation cover my entire face which I literally tried to shake off. Maybe I was coming down with a cold or something.

XXX

Cedric and I did in fact meet up with each other as we came to study in peace at the quidditch pitch on a weekly basis. We usually did our Defense readings, but Cedric had also started helping me with Potions revision as apparently Snape didn't hate the Hufflepuffs as much as he loathed the Gryffindors.

"Happy Birthday Marnie," Cedric greeted one evening as he showed up to the quidditch pitch.

I saw him carrying something small under a handkerchief which I stared at with nervous anticipation.

"What is that?" I asked skeptically.

"It's your birthday present," he answered simply.

"You really didn't have to get me anything, my friends and I have a strict no gifts rule since there are far too many of us," I explained but Cedric only shook his head and smiled.

"Ah, well I was not privy to this rule, so you will just have to accept it," he replied easily.

He placed what felt like a small cage into my hand before I slowly pulled off the handkerchief.

"It's a fairy," he said while I looked at him in bafflement. "My dad works for the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures so he's spent my entire life telling me all about magical creatures and how to care for them. It's pretty easy to catch fairies."

"Are you allowed to?" I asked skeptically upon closer inspection of the creature.

It was quite beautiful as I noticed the luminescent glow of its skin.

"Well, I don't know how the teachers feel about them being kept as pets, but you can let it out anytime you like. I just figured you might want to see one up close," he explained.

"Well, thank-you," I answered, feeling that sudden warm sensation which had me dreading that I might be getting sick.

"I think I'm catching a cold."

"You know, we could meet up in the library instead to study," Cedric offered.

"But there are more people there, it would be more difficult to meet up by chance," I replied but noticed the rueful look he gave me.

"We could plan a meeting then," he responded simply while the warm sensation persisted across my face.

"Yea, I guess we could," I answered. "Alright, how about this Wednesday after Charms?"

"I look forward to it," he replied as I found I couldn't come up with anything else to say.

We then decided to walk back together while I remained in a nervous silence. He bid me good-bye in our usual spot outside of the Great Hall before I sighed and walked the fairy to my room before heading down for dinner.

"Where have you been off to?" Angelina asked once I sat down.

"Studying," I answered simply.

"We were in the library though, we didn't see you," Katie added.

"Oh, I was actually reading outside," I replied nervously since I hadn't actually told any of my friends yet that I had been meeting up with Cedric.

"It's a bit chilly out," Lee commented while I threw him an annoyed look.

"What's going on Hare?" Fred asked as he sensed my anxiety.

"Well, I've actually been meeting up with Cedric to study sometimes," I divulged which automatically cued a fit of giggles from Katie and Alicia.

"Why the hell are you hanging out with that git?" Fred asked rather unkindly, causing me to glare back at him.

"We have been over this Fred, Cedric is my friend. Plus, you apologized for being an idiot over the summer so let's move on," I replied sternly.

This prompted Fred to hold back his next comment.

"She's right Freddie, we did apologize," George added.

"Thank-you, now let's find another subject," I said with blatant intent.

"How could you not tell us you had it in with Cedric Diggory?" Alicia asked much to my annoyance of not changing the subject.

"We're just friends Leesh," I replied sourly.

"Yes, why don't we change the subject?" Fred asked more pressingly before Lee started talking about Gilderoy Lockhart and how he had regaled his story of taming werewolves today.

"He's such a moron," I said since I knew only too well how impossible that was.

XXX

Over the next month Fred remained uncharacteristically quiet about my study sessions with Cedric while the girls continued to pester me for details.

"Why don't you just go for it?" Katie asked one night as we all sat in our dorm.

"There's nothing to go for, we're just friends," I exclaimed just as I had all the other times she'd asked me.

"He got you a fairy, boys don't give their friends fairies. No one gives their friends fairies, they're hard to catch. It's all really quite romantic," Alicia added, even though Cedric had claimed the opposite.

I looked over to my bedside where the fairy was sleeping. I had tried to let it out of the cage the night of my birthday since I didn't know how fairies felt about captivity, but it hadn't bothered to leave. I had since left the small cage open on the windowsill so that it could fly away anytime, but almost a month later it was still here.

"You must think he's at least handsome," Alicia continued.

"Of course, but I'm not some girl that fawns over him. He's just a nice guy who became my friend. Plus, you never gave me this much trouble over being friends with Fred and George," I replied.

"Of course not, they're Fred and George, you're restricted access to them," Katie answered simply while I gave her an incredulous look.

I didn't really want to know what she meant.

"Well, I'm going to call it a night," I said before drawing the curtains closed before anyone could object.

The lights went out shortly after while I stared at the soft luminescent glow of my fairy, which I had secretly named Aster. I didn't know if fairies had genders, so I went for a more neutral namesake. I watched it sit on the small branch Cedric had placed in the cage and wondered what a fairy could possibly have to think about. Sometime during this however, I fell into a peaceful sleep.

XXX

The Halloween Feast soon arrived to everyone's excitement. I was extremely eager since I hadn't been able to enjoy it last year in lieu of being assaulted by a mountain troll. This also meant that Fred and George wouldn't leave my side. They even threatened Ron not to do anything stupid which made his ears turn red.

"Don't be mean to him," I chastised as we walked away from their group towards the Great Hall.

"Ron is prat by nature, and it nearly cost you your life," Fred retorted in a voice that sounded more like a growl.

"I highly doubt a mountain troll will enter the castle for the second year in a row," Lee offered but this just earned him a scowl from Fred and George both.

"Well I didn't think it would ever happen the first time," Fred replied which ended the debate.

We then entered the Great Hall and I couldn't help but gasp as I took in all the sweets and decorations.

"It all looks so good!" I exclaimed, running forward to an empty seat and started piling on the meal of only desserts.

"Slow down there Hare," Fred said half-heartedly with a grin.

"Speak for yourself," George added as he started to pile on his own plate.

The excitement of the students felt contagious as everyone enjoyed their food.

"Where's Harry and the others?" I asked since I hadn't yet seen them.

"Don't be asking that. I'm sure they're fine," Fred warned but I continued to look around.

"Hermione didn't even get to try the food last year," I added with a slight frown.

"We are not searching the castle for them, I'm sure they're alright," George offered.

"They have just as much luck as I have," I reasoned which caused Fred to scowl displeased.

"Drop it Hare, I'm sure they're okay," he said with more confidence than I felt.

"Marnie, they're with Nearly Headless Nick," Neville piped in while I turned to see him down the table.

"You see?" Fred continued but I just shook my head.

We then enjoyed the rest of the meal until we all were stuffed. It seemed the rest of the school was doing the same thing as most students got up at the same time we did once the dishes were cleared. I wasn't really paying attention as we all walked in an easy silence with our bellies full. I was surprised then when everyone seemed to stop in their tracks and I heard a few gasps up ahead.

I listened to the murmurs and heard the name Harry swapped around which kicked up my concern. This prompted me to start filing through the crowd before I heard the obnoxious sound of Draco Malfoy's voice saying something about 'mudbloods being next'.

"You hear that Squib, those with dirty blood ought to be watching themselves now," Marcus Flint whispered down at me as I unnoticeably walked by him.

My skin started to crawl at the blatant threat as I also noticed the writing on the wall written in blood. And of course, Harry, Ron and Hermione standing right in the center of it. I brushed by Flint without reacting to his threat and approached Harry who I knew had finally noticed me. However, I heard Dumbledore speak before I could ask my own questions. He ordered everyone back to their dormitories and to follow their prefects. This was immediately followed by Percy's no-nonsense voice rallying up the Gryffindors.

I stood rooted in place while I saw Harry being ushered away by Dumbledore and read the words on the wall, which had indeed been written in blood. What the hell was the Chamber of Secrets? Maybe this is what that Dobby had been warning Harry about…

There was definitely a heightened sense of anxiety going around the school since more and more people became aware of what the Chamber of Secrets was and what it meant for it to be opened. It had initially been assumed that Harry and the other two had somehow opened the chamber, but that rumour was thwarted when the knowledge of the Slytherin heir came about. This added to the uneasiness as some of the Slytherin students started indulging the rumours and threatening muggleborn students, or in my case, children of squibs. Flint and Malfoy were only too happy to go along with it all.

However, the anxiety was challenged by the impending quidditch game against Slytherin. The team had been practicing diligently all week in the rain, much to the annoyance of everyone except Oliver Wood, the team's captain.

The day of the match was no better as the rain poured down onto the pitch. This however, did not prevent most of the entire school from going down to watch the highly anticipated game. I was sitting with Neville, Ron and Hermione as we waited for the players to come out. Luna had also joined us, who was adorned in a fluorescent yellow rain jacket.

The teams soon came out and began underway at the distant sound of Madam Hooch's whistle. It was difficult to watch through the rain as each of the players disappeared behind the fog and heavy rainfall. However, after a while it seemed that Fred and George were spending an awful lot of time chasing the same bludger around.

"What's going on with that thing?" I asked Ron who only shrugged.

"It almost looks as if it's only following Harry," Hermione commented in a worried tone.

I only sighed in return since it wouldn't be the first time Harry was targeted during a match.

We watched Fred and George fail to rid of the bludger before a time out was finally called.

"Something's not right," I said as I failed to hear what anyone was talking about over the whistling wind. After a few minutes however, the Gryffindor team ended the time out and Harry went off alone, while Fred and George returned to play.

"What the hell are they doing?" I asked incredulously.

Hermione scoffed. "Oh, I'm sure it was Harry's idea to go off all alone."

Unfortunately, I couldn't disagree with her despite being annoyed with the twins. Harry was out there now looking as if he had lost control of his broom since he was constantly dodging the advances of the bludger. Hermione and I were sitting at the edge of our seats as we held hands for moral support.

"He's seen it," Ron shouted as we all watched Harry take off in a downward spiral.

Harry levelled off before hitting the ground and dismounted from his broom. I could hardly hear Lee over the rain announcing that Gryffindor had won. However, the bludger kept going and started to charge Harry who was now on the ground holding his arm. The bludger had already hit him once. Thankfully Madam Hooch was able to call the bludger away while we all started running to the pitch. Harry was lying still on the ground. When we arrived, though, Lockhart was sitting beside him and it looked like he had already tried to fix Harry's broken wrist.

Harry was staring at his arm in disgust since it was now able to bend at all angles.

"What did you do?" I demanded, sitting down next to Harry and looked at the professor in revulsion.

"This is the thanks I get?" he asked haughtily before turning away and retreating out of the crowd.

I scowled since that didn't even dignify as an answer but only further confirmed his incompetence. But his mauve coloured robes disappeared behind the crowd before I could tell him how I really felt.

"Bloody useless that one is," I muttered before turning back to Harry and helped Hagrid lift him to the hospital wing.

I really wish Harry could play a game of quidditch without his life being threatened.

Harry ended up staying the night in the hospital since he needed to regrow his bones. I was still fuming about Lockhart and wasn't ready to talk to the twins who had seemingly abandoned Harry, even if that wasn't really true. So, I went upstairs early that night and closed myself off in my bed. I ended up staring at Aster while they came out of their cage and sat on my chest. We stayed like this a while before I fell asleep at some point.

I had another dream where I was walking alone in the dungeon corridor, heading for the library.

"Well if it isn't Lena Tress, the stupidest half-blood there ever was," a voice said coolly as I noticed I was walking by the Slytherin common room.

My mother turned around to see a boy with white-blonde hair and an evil smile. He must have been in his seventh year and looked an awful like Draco Malfoy; this must be his father Lucius.

"Tell me Crabbe, what possesses a girl with bright prospects, despite being a Gryffindor, to decide to date a squib?" he asked his friend maliciously who had come to join him.

"Someone who disobeys the Dark Lord, that's who," the ugly boy answered with his own creepy grin.

"Shut it Malfoy," my mother hissed as she squared her shoulders against them.

"I mean, I can't blame you for not pursuing other prospects that came your way," he went on slyly.

"I said shut it," my mother continued with more volition.

"It's going to be such a waste when the Dark Lord has to rid of you for disobeying him," Lucius purred while he came purposefully closer.

But my mother stayed rooted in her place before taking her wand out at him.

"At least I stand up for my own right, while you just stand there going from your father's orders to You Know Who's. It's pathetic how you think you are your own man when you have never once had your own thought, let alone acted in your own conscience," my mother said coldly.

"There are things I know that you couldn't even comprehend," Lucius spat with his stark face flushed red.

"At least my own knowledge didn't cost me my dignity," my mother finished while stepping back to return the way she had come.

"I will see to it that you and that squib boyfriend of yours are dead at my feet," Lucius yelled back but my mother kept walking away until they disappeared out of sight.

I woke up with a start, much to Aster's annoyance. They had fallen asleep on my chest and found that I had rudely waken them.

I hadn't had any dreams since last year, and that had meant Voldemort had been roaming the castle. I laid there until the sun peaked through the window going over the possibilities of what my dream could have meant. Plus, I thought maybe the bludger and this Dobby-elf might all be connected. And then there was the obvious point of the Chamber of Secrets opening. What a disaster.

Chapter Text

The following Wednesday I was sitting in the library with Cedric as we soldiered through our Defense Readings. This week was all about Basilisks and how Lockhart is apparently the only person to have seen one alive in the last century. I was beginning to wonder who had edited these books to even get them to print since these stories were obviously bogus. I would have to write about it to dad in my next letter and ask about his own editing and how this could have ever happened. Unfortunately, since the books did go to print, and they were assigned, Cedric and I were stuck reading through them on a rare sunny day in November. Although it was quite cool outside, I could see several bundled students walking around near the Black Lake.

"So, how did your dads react when they found out about the Chamber of Secrets being opened?" Cedric asked as he closed one of his books before opening the next one.

"Dads?" I asked, wondering what he meant. "Oh, you mean Remus. He's actually my uncle, but close enough I guess. He didn't seem too concerned in comparison to my father. I think Dumbledore had to send dad a personalized letter stating that it is still in Harry's and my best interest to stay at Hogwarts."

"Sorry, I just assumed they were together," Cedric said while I shrugged.

It wasn't that far off to assume Remus was my father or even that he was my dad's partner considering they practically lived together and were raising Harry and me alone.

"My dad was actually pleased since he figured it gave me a chance to protect my fellow Hufflepuff's," Cedric said but I noticed his embarrassed blush.

"Your dad sure is proud of you," I said, but this caused Cedric to expel an exasperated sigh.

"I just wish he wasn't always bragging about things that haven't even happened. Sometimes I feel I'm not going to meet all his expectations and I will just end up failing him," Cedric admitted in a soft voice.

"That will never happen. I can tell your dad thinks the world of you and that's why he boasts, it's not because he expects anything from you," I said confidently.

"You think so?"

"Yea, I can tell just by the way he looks at you, you're his entire world," I said more warmly.

As much as Mr. Diggory seemed a little too brazen at times, I felt he was fairly harmless. He just wanted Cedric to have everything he could ever want.

"Well, I guess that's been true since my mother died when I was five," Cedric said softly.

I felt my hands start to sweat at the mention of his mother.

"I'm so sorry," I offered sincerely.

As difficult as my mother's situation was, she was still alive.

"Thank-you. And it's okay you know, you don't have to tell me about your mother, I'm not telling you this to expect any kind of reciprocation. I just wanted you to know," Cedric explained.

"Thank-you," I returned the sentiments, feeling my heart rate start to go down. "Maybe another time?"

"Of course. If ever you are ready I'm here to listen."

I stared at Cedric for a few moments. The twins were always kind and patient with me, along with my other friends, but it seemed almost sincerer coming from someone like Cedric.

He was definitely more than just the heartthrob all of the other girls deemed him to be, he seemed to be a truly kind-hearted person.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Katie, Alicia and Angelina approach us from behind before they decided to sit down a few tables over. I locked eyes with Ange who gave me an apologetic look while the other two were incessantly giggling. I knew I shouldn't have told them about my meeting with Cedric today until afterwards. More surprisingly though Fred, George and Lee followed moments later with the twins both giving me disapproving looks.

Cedric must have noticed my diverted attention because he turned around and spotted my friends.

"They still don't trust me, do they?" Cedric asked about the twins as I turned my attention back to him.

"They're just being prats," I said shaking my head.

"They care a lot for you," Cedric shrugged as if he wasn't fazed by the hostility he was receiving from them. "Plus, you seem to spend all your time with them and mastermind some of their pranks," he added while I feigned innocence.

"What ever do you mean?" I asked casually.

"I do recall that a certain prankster somehow opened the Hufflepuff common room in our first year and dungbombed us," he added while I felt myself blush. "How did you manage to open the door anyways?"

"I knocked," I answered casually with a smirk.

"But if you get the knock wrong you get drenched in vinegar," he said while I thanked Merlin that hadn't happened to me.

Then I got an idea for my next prank.

"Want to call it a day?" Cedric asked, maybe sensing that my brain was already figuring out the execution for my prank.

"Sure, meet up next Wednesday?" I asked with a smile, to which he easily returned.

"Sounds great," he answered before he packed up his things and left the library.

I then walked over to my friends and took a seat. Alicia and Katie were still watching the spot where Cedric had left even though he was already out of sight.

"Pretty boy leaving so soon?" Fred asked in a voice that sounded like he had a bad taste in his mouth.

"Oh, forget him," I said, not having any energy to put up with Fred's childishness. "I have a prank for the Hufflepuffs."

This automatically changed Fred's mood who leaned over to hear my plan. I proceeded to hunch over in a whispered huddle with the twins and Lee while I filled them in. Twenty minutes later we were exiting the library despite Alicia and Katie called out asking me to stay and tell them details on Cedric. I didn't even turn around to acknowledge their ridiculous request.

We were walking down the kitchen corridor while Lee made sure no one was coming on the map. Once the coast was clear he gave our usual cue and Fred went to the door.

"Now remember, third log from the bottom. Knock three times, pause, and then two more times," I whispered.

Fred nodded back at me and started knocking. He paused a moment to wait for the door to open but instead the upper log opened on a top hinge, pouring a large vat of vinegar on top him. I hit the ground laughing hysterically as Fred just stood there in utter shock. I could hear Lee and George laughing just as hard from behind me but Fred started to come to his senses. This was my cue to leave.

I quickly stood up and bolted for the Gryffindor common room. Unfortunately, I could hear and smell Fred which meant he was only a few paces behind me. Once I was through the portrait hole I sprinted to the girl's staircase where I stood just out of reach in a taunting fashion.

Fred rushed to the bottom of the staircase, followed closely by George and Lee who were still laughing.

"You can't stay up there forever Hare," Fred called with a scowl.

"I can stay here as long as it takes for you to shower. I'm sure the guys won't let you up without a good hose down," I countered with glee.

I was quite proud that I had gotten the one up on Fred.

"Oi, Fred, you smell foul," Angelina said as she passed the boys and came to stand beside me while covering her nose.

"Thanks for that bit of information Ange, I had no idea," Fred replied sarcastically but Angelina just shrugged.

"Well I better be off," I said turning to follow Ange up the stairs.

"Yea, you better hide," Fred called out while I could still hear the boys howling in laughter.

I turned around one last time to stick my tongue out at him before disappearing up the stairs and into our dorm. I would have to thank Cedric for the idea, and make sure Fred never finds out that Cedric had any part in it.

XXX

Unfortunately, the excitement and merriment caused by the prank was short lived when students started becoming petrified. This of course spouted a whole new argument with my dad about letting us stay at Hogwarts. Apparently even Dobby the elf had been back to warn Harry to leave. I had to admit, as much as Hogwarts was my favourite place in the entire world, things weren't looking too great. Harry's situation was only heightened when we learned he was a Parseltongue at the Dueling club, in front of the entire school no less. Now everyone thought he was the heir of Slytherin or some such nonsense. Another issue to deal with besides all the above was that we had started to notice Ginny's odd behaviour. She had been almost hysterical when Ron and Harry had stolen her dad's car and her mood hadn't really changed since. This seemed especially unusual since Ginny had been raving about attending Hogwarts all summer.

"Maybe we should take her to Honeydukes?" George suggested one day as we all walked down the hall.

"I think something else is bothering her, she's not homesick," I replied as we turned the corner to find a group of huddled students.

Blatantly, they all seemed to be shouting at each other.

"Oh no," I whispered only to take off running a moment later towards the fringe of dark hair I could see sticking up over the group of Hufflepuffs.

"You did it! You're the heir of Slytherin," one idiot Hufflepuff was spouting as he pointed his finger at Harry.

I rushed over and stood between Harry and the boy with Fred and George following close behind me.

"Why don't you go find something better to do, I hear you lot are good at that," George said starkly to the boy.

He was interrupted of any retort as Professor McGonagall came rushing and saw the petrified boy on the ground whom Harry was standing beside. I also noticed Nearly Headless Nick had somehow also been petrified as he was floating near the body of the boy. McGonagall ordered the idiot Hufflepuff to use a fan to blow Nick up the stairs while she attended to the petrified boy until Madam Pomfrey arrived. McGonagall then whisked Harry away before I could ask him anything.

Everything since the moment I had run towards Harry seemed to have gone by in a flash and now I was left with nothing else to do but wait. So, I walked back to the common room with the twins to wait for Harry's return.

When Harry did arrive through the portrait hole later I ran up to him followed closely by Hermione and Ron.

"What happened?" I asked anxiously as I had been worried Dumbledore might believe the ludicrous rumours about Harry being the Heir of Slytherin.

"He believes me that I'm not the heir," Harry said, allowing me to breathe a sigh of relief.

"Did you tell him anything else?" I asked, knowing Harry had a lot of secrets at the moment.

"No, I didn't tell him about the Polyjuice plan to prove my innocence, or that I hear voices in the walls," he whispered with fervor and a pointed look.

We had disagreeing opinions on whether Harry should tell Dumbledore about everything that had been going on recently. Harry told me weeks ago that he had started hearing whispers inside the walls of the school and that they were also homicidal in nature. I thought it was a little out of our depth since none of us had any idea what it meant, except for the fact that Harry would be carted off to St. Mungo's if anyone ever found out. Dumbledore seemed like the safest option. I hadn't even told the twins about the trio's scheme, it almost seemed too dangerous.

The one thing the twins were good at was cheering up Harry. Over the next week they acted like his bodyguards and hyped up the whole Slytherin Heir thing. They told students who looked mistrusting towards Harry that Harry was out choosing prospective victims. With the whole thing blown out of proportion, it almost seemed comical.

However, the one thing that was proving stubbornly difficult was my dad. He had written to us every day asking for an update about the school. It was obvious how worried he was about the two of us, which was understandable, but it almost made me wish he wasn't so in tune with the wizarding world, like Hermione's parents.

"Hey Marnie, you should read this," Harry said one morning in mid-December.

It was a letter from Remus.

Dear Harry and Marnie,

I hope you two are doing well and staying out of trouble, given the circumstances. I wanted to take the rare opportunity with Joss out of the house to advise that the two of you stay at Hogwarts for the Christmas holiday. It has come to my attention that the Weasley's will also be spending their holiday at the castle and it might be in your best interest to stay with them. I know how much that school can mean to someone, especially someone who has had a difficult childhood, so despite the Chamber of Secrets being opened I still think you should stay.

I also write this to tell you that Joss has been vocal about his intention to try and keep you at the cottage after the holidays. I have tried talking to him about it, but you know how he worries. He hasn't had it easy either.

If you two do decide to stay it will negate the decision and I feel the three of you will be better suited having taken that conversation off the table.

If it helps I will be incapacitated this Christmas with my 'hairy little problem' so you do not have to worry about me.

I love you both and look forward to seeing you over the summer holidays.

Sincerely,

Remus

I finished reading the letter and looked up at Harry. We had already had this conversation and were unsure of whether to return for Christmas. As much as the two of us enjoyed spending the holidays back at the cottage, we were afraid of what conversations my dad might try to incite. As well, there was the whole Polyjuice scheme and it looked like it would be ready just before the break.

"We stay?" I asked as I looked up at Harry.

"We stay," he replied with a nod.

Chapter Text

The twins were ecstatic when I told them Harry and I were going to stay for Christmas. As they put it, this meant that they didn't have to suffer through a second Christmas with just Ron and Percy. Ginny would also be staying, but she was still being uncharacteristically timid and always seemed to be upset. It also looked like she hadn't been sleeping.

Hermione had also decided to stay since she was part of the Polyjuice scheme and they were determined to figure out who the actual Heir of Slytherin was.

The days leading up to the break were uneventful and by the time the rest of the school had left, I found myself starting to relax. This was despite the fact however, that my father had been extremely upset when Harry and I had told him our decision to stay for the holidays, Ginny acting on edge, and Harry having an identity crisis while simultaneously trying to reveal the Heir of Slytherin. It also didn't help that since the entire school was determined that Harry was in fact the heir, Harry was also starting to believe he shouldn't have been sorted into Gryffindor. He had told me this one night after everyone went to bed, but I didn't think he had told this to Hermione or Ron yet.

XXX

Christmas morning was met with a cool draft, heightened by the fact that I was the only one sleeping in the dorm. It also took me a moment to realize I had been woken by the sound of something pelting at the door. Skeptically, I got out of bed and opened it cautiously to find bits of broken quills and rubbish piled up on the ground.

"I'll be down in a minute!" I hollered at the boys who were no doubt waiting for me to accompany them for breakfast.

I went back to my bed and noticed the small pile of presents at its foot. I frowned slightly as I knew this was a tradition for a lot of families, but one my father stoutly dismissed. Instead, he believed in spending every moment of Christmas morning together and watching the expression of everyone as they opened their gifts. My stomach fell picturing my father all alone. Remus would be recovering in bed or off somewhere in the woods while my dad would probably be sitting alone with his cup of tea.

I tried to push these thoughts away as I noticed his familiar scrawl on one of the presents. I took it in my hands and carefully opened the small sack. Inside were dried purple hyacinths; the forgiveness flower. This caused tears to tinge my eyes before I wiped them away and smiled. This meant, although in his own particular way, that my father wasn't angry about Harry and I staying here, or at least he wasn't anymore.

I was even more pleased since purple hyacinths are used in potions for healing small cuts as well as love potions. I would have to crush them up later and store them in my trunk.

Next was one from Remus which was another book on Defense Against The Dark Arts. I almost laughed out loud when I read the title: The Real Lessons in Defense Against The Dark Arts.

Hopefully this would help in learning something useful. I had written to Remus about Professor Lockhart's lecture on werewolves to which Remus had replied I needed a proper education away from this obvious fraud.

Harry and I had decided we didn't need to get each other anything this year, along with the rest of my friends. But I noticed the last package which I eagerly opened to reveal my standard orange sweater from Mrs. Weasley. I had grown out of my old one by the fall, so I had been eagerly awaiting a replacement. I was also pleasantly surprised to reveal a homemade carrot cake which was also my favourite. I put it off to the side to bring down and share with the others once I was ready, but I noticed a small package which had been covered by the others. I picked it up curiously and read the tag.

To Marnie,

You still didn't tell me specifically 'no presents'

Happy Christmas

~Cedric

I felt like a fool that he had found this loophole and that I hadn't gotten him anything in return. Despite this, I opened the small little box to uncover a very handsome looking quill.

There was another note inside.

My father has been working with hippogriffs this summer and I had a few feathers saved.

I inspected the grey-hewed feather flecked with black and gold. It was very beautiful and extremely extravagant. Since hippogriffs are very proud creatures with a level three classification, their feathers are not often used for quills. I carefully stowed it away in my trunk before quickly getting ready and bringing my carrot cake downstairs.

It seemed that Harry had gotten a plum cake from Mrs. Weasley as well which created a nice Christmas breakfast for all of us. We even tried to eat some of the treacle fudge that Hagrid had made for Harry, but it needed to be melted on the fire first so as to not chip our teeth. Once we stuffed ourselves I followed the twins outside to play in the snow. Harry and the other two second years were too worried about their plans for tonight while Ginny and Percy seemed to have better things to do. I was kind of hurt that Ginny flatly denied my invitation, but then again, I knew there was something bothering her. I would have to take some time over the holidays to talk to her.

It was a glorious afternoon with the shining sun and thick snow. We built an impressive fort with a look out, a dungeon, and a trick door built into it. By the time the sun was setting we made our way back to the castle to change and head down for dinner.

"Look at all the food!" I exclaimed when I entered the Great Hall with George and Fred.

"Oh yea, you missed out last year," George said as we took our seats.

"This was definitely the best thing about having to stay here last year," Fred added.

"Still doesn't beat mum's cooking," Ron piped in.

"Of course not, you idiot," Fred answered in an annoyed tone.

"Be nice," I said reproachfully but my constant defense for Ron's sake had all but lost its meaning by now.

"In the spirit of Christmas, I will agree to behave and ignore my brother's glaring idiocy," Fred continued but did so very reluctantly.

"You're unbelievable," I said but unable to stop my victorious smile.

We spent the rest of the meal stuffing our faces with every type of food imaginable. I had roast beef, turkey, ham, and casserole served with potatoes, yams, turnips, carrots and peas. This was followed by more carrot cake, pumpkin pie, plum pudding and treacle fudge.

By the time we were done Fred was dragging me by the hand in an attempt to coax me up the stairs. I felt much too heavy on my feet and was thankful to see the plush couches by the time we reached the common room. I plopped down into the loveseat beside the fire and pulled one of the faded quilts over me. I don't think I had ever been so full in my life. Fred sat beside me and pulled me close so I laid on his chest while he talked to George. Fred started to stroke my hair casually which caused me to close my eyes and forget all about the fact that Harry was currently disguised as Gregory Goyle somewhere interviewing Draco Malfoy about him being the Heir of Slytherin. I didn't even know when I fell asleep, but I hadn't felt that relaxed in a long time.

I was even more surprised when I woke up the next morning in our makeshift fort in Fred and George's room. The curtains were all closed except for the middle ones which is where I was laying. George was still asleep on my left while I saw Fred stirring on my right.

I rolled over, so I was facing him and put my thumb on finger on his nose and waited. Moments later he was gasping for breath.

"You trying to kill me Hare?" he asked groggily while rubbing his eyes, a smile already apparent on his face.

"How did I get here?" I asked.

"I carried you of course," he said simply.

"Why?"

"Because I can't climb the girl's stairs and you don't deserve to sleep on the couch," he answered.

"Why didn't you wake me?" I continued.

"Because you looked so peaceful," he answered softly.

I stopped my interrogation and just looked at him. It had been very sweet of him to carry me up to their dorm without waking me and allowing me to sleep in their beds. Plus, the three of us hadn't done this since last year. It was also nice to do this without there being some sort of crisis.

This thought then brought me to think of Harry and the others.

I got out of bed, but not before rolling over a disgruntled George who tried to push me off the bed before rolling over and covering his head with his pillow. I went back to my dorm and got dressed before heading back down. I poked my head in the second-year dorm on my way down and was surprised to see Hermione's bed was empty. This made me feel uneasy about what had happened last night. But before I continued down to go find Harry I stopped by the first-year dorm and found Ginny already dressed and sitting on her bed.

"Good-morning Gin," I greeted but she only looked startled that I had interrupted her staring into space.

I could also see the purple circles under her eyes; I think she was getting worse.

"Can we talk?" I asked prompting her to look at me skeptically.

"I guess," she answered after several moments pause.

I took the half-hearted answer in stride and sat down across from her.

"What's been going on?" I asked directly since I figured it was passed the point of beating around the bush.

"Nothing," she answered unconvincingly.

"Come on Ginny, we've all noticed that something has been going on," I continued as I left it open for her to explain.

I was still unconvinced it was homesickness.

"I'm worried about Harry," she blurted before she covered her mouth as if she had said something she shouldn't.

"We all know he's not the Heir of Slytherin Ginny, and the whole school will figure that out soon enough," I explained while watching the girl worriedly.

"But he's going to get hurt," she urged, making me feel like I was missing some key point.

"Well, he is prone to danger, but I'm sure it'll all be okay," I tried to soothe her while she shook her head.

"You don't understand, he's in danger!" she continued with tears welling up in her eyes.

I moved over and put my arms around her. It felt as if the younger girl had more to say, or at least I was missing some crucial detail, but Ginny had stopped talking at this point. She was now sobbing in my embrace while I stroked her hair to try and calm her down. It was twenty minutes later before she stopped and at that point I didn't want to bring it up again, she was obviously high strung about whatever was going on. Plus, since the Chamber of Secrets had been opened, I didn't have to know this secret detail to realize that Harry was some sort of target in all of this, especially since his name was being thrown in the ring for being responsible.

I walked down the stairs nearly an hour after I entered the first-year dorm with Ginny who had puffy eyes but hadn't said a word since she started crying. I was holding her hand and shook my head at the twins who looked at her skeptically. Thankfully they took the hint and the four of us instead went down to the Great Hall in silence.

I was thankful to see Harry and Ron already sitting and eating breakfast. This also seemed to lighten Ginny's mood, if only slightly, since she let go of my hand and went to sit beside Percy.

"Where's Hermione?" I asked the two boys who in return looked slightly embarrassed.

"Well, the potion went a little wrong for her," Ron whispered as I sat down and leaned over towards them.

"She used cat hair," Harry continued while I took a moment to realize what that meant.

"She turned into a cat?!" I asked wildly, causing them both to shush me.

I felt terrible for Hermione who had spear-headed the whole scheme and was now confined to a hospital bed with curtains around it for privacy.

"So, is it Draco?" I asked eagerly but watched as their faces fall.

"No," they answered dejectedly.

"Does he know who it is?"

"No, it was useless!" Harry answered in a frustrated tone.

I sighed and felt even worse than I had when I found out about Hermione, it had all be for naught.

The boys continued to brood while Ginny stayed silent beside Percy with a far-off gaze. My morning which had started off happily had quickly soured.

XX

This continued to be the theme for the next few months as the fear associated with the Chamber of Secrets remained and everyone around seemed to be soaking it in. Even though Harry and the others had disproven the Draco theory they had somehow replaced it with an even more disturbingly posited one that suggested Hagrid; I had outright refused to believe this.

It was now February and worse than ever it was being topped off when Professor Lockhart hatched another one of his imbecilic plans and arranged to have grumpy looking dwarfs deliver valentine cards amongst the students. Apparently, the miserable mood brought by the petrification of our classmates could be uplifted with this expert plan. I couldn't even fathom his level of idiocy; neither could the other professors who were enraged with the presence of the dwarves constantly interrupting their classes on February fourteenth to deliver pink and red coloured love declarations.

We were sitting in Potions class when an extremely hairy looking dwarf with wonky looking wings barged in and delivered a valentine to Katie. Her cheeks ended up turning the colour of Lockhart's fuchsia pink robes as she hurriedly tried to stash the letter into her bag. Unfortunately for her, George grabbed the letter and we figured out quite quickly that it had come from Lee. We all almost lost it right in the middle of Snape's lecture which caused him to send us death glares while Lee sank down in his seat with his head in his hands.

Angelina also ended up getting one from a first year named Dennis who apparently had a crush in her from watching her on the quidditch pitch. It was pretty cute, especially when we saw him staring at her during lunch and then turning away in a blush when he noticed our attention was turned on him.

The best though was when Harry had apparently received a singing valentine in the middle of the Charms corridor on his way to class. The twins had been there and had subsequently been singing it every chance they got, typically when Harry was within ear shot. I could see Harry was even more irritated than usual and tried to convince the twins to lay off, even if it was hilarious.

The most surprising though was on my way to dinner when one of the straggling dwarfs came up to me in a gruff manner by harshly pulling on my robes. I stopped and looked down at the cupid impersonator to see him extending a letter towards me. I took it which allowed for the dwarf to let go and disappear down the hall. I turned the envelope over in my hands before ripping it open and reading the script.

Meet me in the Astronomy Tower for a night you'll never forget, 1900hrs

That was all the letter said.

I had half a mind to think it was Marcus Flint creating a plot and to just toss the letter. But another, more curious part, wondered if it might be Cedric. He always seemed to be doing nice things for me and the way he wrote was similar to this, short and to the point.

I decided to tuck the letter into my robes and headed towards the Great Hall with a smile plastered on my face. I couldn't help but think about the letter all throughout and had a hard time focusing on the conversations around me.

"Coming back to the common room Marn?" Angelina asked.

I hadn't noticed the others were already finished and were all standing.

"I'll meet you up there," I answered.

The others didn't press the subject further which I had found surprising and waited until they had left. I then stood up with the letter clutched in my pocket and headed towards the Astronomy Tower. It wasn't long before I entered the east corridor and headed towards the staircase. There was an evident chill in the air as I noticed a window had carelessly been left open and now there was a puddle of water which I'm sure at one point had been a heap of snow. I walked over to try and close it since I could feel the chill running through my body and was giving me shivers. Unfortunately, I was born without the blessing of great height and fumbled around as I stood on my tiptoes trying to bring the latch down. The water was also, unfortunately, icy which I found out when my feet came out from under me. I was face down on the ground before I could register anything else. Irritated, cold and sore, I tried to raise myself up. This was instantly thwarted however when I realized my wrist hurt enough to indicate that it was sprained.

Sighing, I raised my hand for inspection and contemplated forgoing the rendezvous with this mystery person to head for the hospital wing instead. But when I looked down to push myself up with my good hand I saw two bright yellow eyes reflected back at me in the icy waters.

Chapter Text

"The voice!" Harry exclaimed as the three friends walked back from dinner.

Before Hermione or Ron could say anything in response Harry took off running back down the stairs.

"Where are we going?" Ron asked with his breath coming out as laboured panting alongside Harry.

"It's going to attack!" Harry shouted, ignoring Ron's question.

Hermione and Ron shared a worried expression but kept running alongside Harry. They all rounded the corner towards the east wing before Harry stopped cold in his tracks. This caused Ron to run right into him and ended up on the floor.

"Maybe a little warning?" Ron asked grumpily as he picked himself up.

Hermione however shushed Ron and pointed towards the other end of the hall.

"There's been another attack," Ron stated in a frightened voice. He was starting to pick up on the trend that it always seemed to be the three of them discovering the bodies of petrified students.

Hermione nodded but kept pointing at the crumpled figure.

Harry was rooted in place.

"Wait, is that Marnie?" Ron asked causing Hermione to become annoyed since it was obvious Harry was taking this much worse than anything else that had happened this year already.

Harry ignored the both of them and finally started walking towards the familiar body. His sister looked lifeless and Harry found he couldn't breathe. What if she was dead? The entire school knew her father was a squib and Flint had even said something to her about it when the chamber had first opened. Plus, Malfoy was always running his mouth about there being killings next. It couldn't be her.

Marnie was the only person who he felt truly understood him. She knew when he was keeping something from her, but she also knew not to pry and let him come to her. She was kind, patient, and caring amongst their group of friends but also fiercely protective. Harry knew that Marnie worried excessively about him and did everything to prevent worse things from happening. But above all she was his sister and Harry didn't have the nerve to be able to bend down and check if she was still breathing.

Harry was slightly brought out of his trance at the notice that Ron was talking with someone. Harry let his frustration start to surface since he couldn't bear the thought of being accused of hurting Marnie. But he stopped short at the sight of Fred Weasley. His face was as white as a ghost as he just stared down at Marnie, much like Harry had been doing.

It seemed as if they had been standing there for an infinite amount of time. Harry still couldn't touch Marnie, but he was now kneeling beside her as he felt tears fall down his cheeks. Fred was sitting opposite him with a horrified expression. Harry had no idea where Hermione or Ron had gone off to but at least one of them, probably Hermione, had had the sense to go and get a professor.

Flitwick was now running down the hall looking harried and frantic.

"She's only petrified my dear boy," Flitwick finally exclaimed sadly before he put a levitation charm on her.

Harry let out the breath he had been holding and merely nodded. He then followed Marnie up the stairs being guided by Flitwick.

However, Fred and Harry were turned away from the hospital wing since Madam Pomfrey wanted to assess Marnie for any risks; Harry didn't have the energy to argue the point. So, the four Gryffindors skulked back to the common room instead where they were greeted by their friends. George was the first to sense trouble.

"What's going on Fred?" he asked seriously already having assessed Fred's expression.

"It's Hare," he choked out.

"No!" Angelina exclaimed coming over to see what was going on.

"Is she…?" Lee stopped short, scared to ask about the fate of his friend.

"Petrified," Harry answered before walking past the group and heading upstairs.

Ron followed him shortly after and was joined by Neville. Both boys remained quiet as they sat with Harry on each of their beds. There was nothing to say to each other that they didn't already know. Each boy cared deeply for Marnie and were devastated that she had been attacked.

Harry's despair gradually turned to anger as he thought about the person who had done this, who was unleashing this demonic thing that preyed to kill the students. Without a word Harry got up from the foot of his bed and stormed out of the room. Neville and Ron looked at each other quizzically before following him out.

"Hermione," Harry called out as he looked around the common room.

"She went out mate," George replied in a rather dejected tone.

"What?" Harry asked disbelievingly, Marnie had just been attacked. How could she be so reckless to go back out at night when the Heir of Slytherin was obviously on the prowl. Not to mention that Hermione ranked fairly high on possible targets.

"She said she had to look in the library for something," Alicia added.

"Is she out of her mind, it's almost curfew and Marnie was just attacked!" Ron added sounding rather hysterical.

Harry and Ron then ran out of the common room before they could hear the protests from the others. However, they weren't two feet out the door when they came toe-to-toe with Professor McGonagall. The professor had a grave look which made Harry's stomach sink even farther, as if that were possible.

"Potter. Weasley," she sounded surprised but solemn. "I have to address the common room, something else has happened."

Harry had already guessed.

"Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention?" Professor McGonagall announced once she stepped into the common room, commanding the attention of all the students before they fell into a hushed silence. "There have been three more attacks this evening."

The professor's tone was grave as she addressed her house.

"Three!" several students exclaimed, many of whom hadn't found out about Marnie yet.

"Things are looking quite severe at this point and I must tell you that if the person responsible is not caught quickly, the school will have no choice but to close," McGonagall explained gravely.

Harry felt as if his entire world was threatening to cave in around him. Marnie was petrified, Hermione was most presumably also petrified, and now it was a very real possibility that he was to go back and live the rest of his life with his aunt and uncle without the use of magic until he was of age. Maybe Joss and Remus would be able to adopt him, but who knows how long that would take since they hadn't had any success in the past.

Professor McGonagall then went on to announce new rules that were to be effective immediately, including an earlier curfew and the need to be escorted between classes by a professor. Once she had ended she came over to where Harry and Ron were standing and beckoned them to follow her.

When they reached the hospital wing Harry could feel his stomach sink to the floor. Professor McGonagall pulled back a curtain to reveal a very still looking Hermione. Apparently, she had been holding a mirror in her hand which confused Harry even more than he already felt. Marnie lay beside Hermione in the next bed. Apparently, they had both been assessed by Madam Pomfrey by this point and were now allowed to receive visitors.

Harry looked up to see that Fred and George had also followed Professor McGonagall and were now sitting by Marnie's bed. I guess it made sense they were able to visit since they were her best friends. Harry also couldn't help but remember that Fred had appeared moments after they had found Marnie, which was surprising since he had thought Fred had gone up with the other fourth years when they all left the Great Hall. But Harry was feeling too exhausted and overwhelmed to question him about it at this point. Plus, it wasn't like Fred was the one who was responsible, he would never harm Marnie.

XXX

The next month dragged by with uncertainty. Most of the other students were scared and sullen as they feared they may be attacked next. Very few people now believed that Harry was the heir since Marnie and Hermione had both been attacked, and when Harry had been seen somewhere else no less. But this didn't really do anything to lift his spirits.

"We should go talk to Hagrid," Harry announced one day as he and Ron sat in the common room.

It also happened to be the twins' birthday, and by late afternoon they still hadn't surfaced from their dorm. Harry knew that they had not taken Marnie's condition very well and had been uncharacteristically quiet, mostly keeping to themselves. Harry didn't blame them though, he was barely keeping it together as it was.

"Are you sure?" Ron asked sceptically.

This hadn't been the first time Harry suggested this, but Harry felt more determined this time.

"Yes, time is running out and he is our only lead," Harry answered confidently.

Ron nodded, feeling just as futile for doing something. Both of them set out for the gamekeeper's cabin before they could voice many of the reasons telling them to believe Hagrid was innocent and to just drop it.

"Hagrid?" Harry called out as he knocked on the large wooden door.

It took a moment for the half-giant to appear at the door with a cross bow aimed right at them, nearly sending Ron toppling onto his backside.

"Hagrid!" Ron yelped feeling only slightly relieved once the gamekeeper quickly lowered his weapon and ushered the boys in.

"You shouldn' be out 'ere, it's gettin' late!" Hagrid exclaimed but nonetheless invited the boys to take a seat at his table.

"We have to ask you something important," Harry pressed.

Instead of answering Hagrid placed the weapon against the wall and joined the boys. He was obviously nervous which only heightened when there was a sudden knock at the door.

"Do you have the cloak?" Hagrid asked hurriedly motioning for Harry to put it over them as he reached back for his crossbow.

Thankfully Harry had figured they would be getting back past the earlier curfew and brought it along. Him and Ron moved over to the far corner of the wooden hut. He had no idea who had Hagrid feeling so on edge but Harry certainly wasn't expecting it to be Professor Dumbledore who entered followed closely by a professional looking man.

"That's dad's boss!" Ron whispered while Harry continued to stare at the men.

Harry and Ron stood in the corner, somewhat horrified as they listened to the men talk to Hagrid about being arrested and coming quietly to Azkaban. It only got worse when Lucius Malfoy walked in and handed Dumbledore an Order of Suspension.

Harry couldn't believe it as he watched two of his mentors being carted out of the hut as if they were criminals. But before Hagrid stepped out, he started talking aloud, knowingly towards the boys.

"Fer any answers yer may wan' ter follow the spiders," he said vaguely. "An' someone will have ter feed Fang."

Moments later all four men were gone, and the two boys were left standing under the cloak. They waited several minutes to make sure no one came back before they finally pulled it off. The look on Ron's face was troubling to say the least since it resembled the time he had vomited slugs in their first year.

"Why did it have to be spiders?" he whined, anxiety filling his voice.

"Come on!" Harry thought that was the least of their concerns and pulled hastily at his friend's hand and beckoned Fang.

XXX

"Some birthday this is," Fred huffed at the fact him and George had spent the day sitting in their dorm.

Lee had spent the morning with them, trying to cheer them up, but had since gone off to find Katie and the others. Fred knew that the others were worried about Marnie, but it didn't seem to compare to how debilitating it was for Fred and George. They hadn't bothered with setting up any pranks recently since Marnie wouldn't be able to see their success (or failure). It had been a very long 45 days.

"Ready to go and see Marnie?" George asked while Fred peered forlornly out the window.

The sun was already setting which he found somewhat surprising. Time seemed to drag by without their best friend being able to wake up, but it also seemed to not have any bearing. Fred constantly found himself not knowing the time as his friends dragged him between meals and class.

Before Marnie, it had always been just Fred and George against the world. Of course, they loved their family, but it always seemed that all they ever needed was each other. But that all changed when Marnie entered their lives. He knew how George felt, especially since he knew that George's greatest fear now included losing Marnie. But now Fred was faced with his own feelings and vowed never to take his best friend's presence for granted once she was revived.

Fred nodded at his brother and headed down towards the common room. None of their friends were there which Fred silently felt thankful for since he had started to find it irritating how they looked at him with pity. There was no doubt it would be worse on their birthday.

When they finally made it to the hospital wing they were surprised to find it locked. George knocked on the door. They knew there was still at least an hour before curfew.

A frazzled looking Madam Pomfrey answered the door and stared sadly at the boys.

"I'm sorry you two but we are no longer allowing visitors," her voice was sullen.

"Why not?" Fred asked with only a half-hearted attempt to try to check his anger.

"Dumbledore is gone and now we can't trust that whoever the heir is won't come back and finish the job," she continued in a frightened voice.

She then closed the door without another word and Fred could hear the lock re-latch.

"With Dumbledore gone, people could actually start dying," George whispered from beside him.

Fred turned to survey his brother who had his anxious eyes downcast towards the floor. But as much as he wanted to console his brother, he knew he was right and Marnie may be in even worse danger than they had originally thought. His anger roiled to the surface.

Fred then spun around on his toes and stormed down the stairs. George followed him only saying something once Fred turned away from the Gryffindor common room.

"Where are we going?" he asked nervously, but it was redundant since he already knew the answer. "We don't actually know that it's him."

"Of course, we do! We have said it a million times since Marnie was attacked and now we have to do something!" Fred retorted storming towards the Slytherin common room.

The twins had figured out how to get into the Slytherin common room in their first year when they had put magical dye in Flint's shampoo bottle. And now Fred was going to kill him.

They were making their way through the dungeon corridor when they were met by their other friends who seemed to be coming back from the library. Angelina was leading the group and gave them an affronted look.

"What are you two doing down here?" she asked with her arms crossed over her chest.

She knew they had no intent on going to the library.

"You just thought you would storm the Slytherin common room?" she asked with her eyebrows shooting above her bangs. "We're not stupid," she continued while both twins refused to meet her eyes and remained quiet. "We know what you two think, that Flint is responsible. But you two hair-brained idiots confronting him on his turf surrounded by his entire house will only get you sent to the hospital wing or worse. You act like you are the only ones hurting which is absolutely ludicrous. We all love Marnie and are worried for her sake, so you need to smarten up or she will come after you when she wakes," Angelina finished her rant.

Fred couldn't help but smile at the idea of Marnie coming after him, because there was no doubt that she would.

"Dumbledore is gone," George said which brought Fred back to the present.

Alicia and Katie gasped while Lee and Angelina looked confused and worried.

"They won't let us see her anymore," Fred added.

Angelina nodded, but rounded her five friends to start quickly making their way towards the Gryffindor common room. The others no longer felt safe just standing in the corridor this close to curfew near the Slytherin common room.

The rest of the night was spent by the fire as they all sat mostly in silence. There was nothing to say as they all realized how dire the situation had become with the forced absence of their headmaster. The others all trickled off to bed as the hour got late but Fred and George couldn't find the will to even try and go to sleep. Luckily this meant that they were still awake when their younger brother and Harry stumbled into the common room looking as if they had survived the apocalypse.

"What happened to you guys?" George asked getting up in concern and walking towards the boys.

Fred noticed Harry and Ron give each other a look before coming over to sit with them. Harry looked as if he were struggling to decide what he wanted to divulge, but Ron jumped the gun. Ron dove right in and re-hashed their entire night as he explained what had happened with Hagrid and Dumbledore and how that had led them into the Forbidden Forest.

"A real acromantula!" George asked in awe.

"I can't believe you survived!" Fred added, recognizably proud of his younger brother for one of the few times in his life.

Ron and Harry looked exhausted and soon after their regalement, headed off to bed.

It was then that Fred and George decided to follow suit and headed upstairs to their own dormitory.

When they were laying down, Fred knew that George was still awake by the sound of his quieter breathing.

"Happy birthday Forge," he whispered.

"Happy birthday Gred."

Chapter Text

I could hear a mixture of voices standing around me as I squinted against the bright light. I felt incredibly stiff and moved around in my bed trying to listen. However, when I started to move the voices abruptly stopped and I heard a few gasps.

"She's waking up!" I heard a cheerful voice that almost sounded like Mrs. Weasley.

What was I doing at The Burrow?

I tried to open my eyes for a second time, but it took a moment for my surroundings to come into focus. When it did I noticed there were several people standing around a bed I now knew wasn't mine, most of whom had red hair. Mrs. Weasley was in fact here holding my left hand and staring down at me with a teary, relieved expression.

"What is everyone doing here?" I asked finally realizing that I was in the hospital wing at school.

How had I ended up here?

A pair of bright yellow eyes flashed across my memory and I flinched at the thought.

The last thing I remembered was that I had been trying to close the window in the east corridor when I fell on some ice. Then, when I had gone to get up I remember my wrist hurting and then looking down into the icy reflection to see a pair of hideous eyes staring back.

"You were petrified darling," my dad spoke, whom I saw was standing on my right and holding my other hand.

His voice cracked and I noticed his weathered expression.

"I got attacked?" I asked incredulously.

I hadn't remembered being physically attacked, only looking into those eyes.

Harry then stepped from beside my dad with an exhausted look. Although he looked as if he had recently cleaned up, he still appeared as if he had gone through hell.

I gasped out loud at his appearance.

"What happened to you?" I asked in a worried tone.

Harry smiled back at me, although he held a pained look in his eye.

I saw him contemplating on how to answer me before I heard a loud sob erupt from beside Mrs. Weasley.

"I'm so sorry Marnie!" Ginny Weasley cried and catapulted herself onto my waist and buried her face into the sheets.

I was at a complete loss for words as to why the youngest Weasley was acting so distraught. Honestly, I had no idea what was going on in general.

"Why don't we give Marnie a moment alone with her family?" Mrs. Weasley suggested kindly while she pried her daughter from my body.

I could tell Ginny didn't want to leave and I felt bad for the girl who looked like she was riddled with guilt. I wanted to comfort her and reassure her that whatever she thought she did, I could never be angry with her.

But Mrs. Weasley led Ginny away closing the curtain behind her. Before they were closed I briefly caught the elated looks of Fred and George who smiled at me encouragingly. I couldn't help but smile back at their obvious relief.

I then turned my attention to my family. Remus, dad, and Harry were all still standing around me.

"What happened?" I asked pointedly.

They all sighed, and each gave me a sincere yet exhausted look.

Dad started.

"Well, first thing, it's June," he said empathetically.

"June!" I shouted with my eyebrows raising to the top of my head.

"Well that's how long it took for the mandrakes to mature," Remus added kindly.

I grumbled as I tried not to blame my problems on Herbology. Afterall, it was still my favourite subject.

"I wasn't fast enough to save you," Harry whispered from the foot of the bed.

I noticed Remus and dad turn their gaze with empathetic expressions.

"Harry, we've told you; this wasn't you fault," dad said but Harry keenly shook his head in stubborn admonishment.

"I heard the basilisk. If Hermione hadn't figured it out who knows what would have happened. Ginny might have…" he stopped short and I saw him swallow in fear.

"Wait, hold up. A basilisk was the one prowling the school and trying to kill off muggle-borns and squib-borns alike and somehow you have pinned the blame all on yourself?" I asked incredulously.

Harry couldn't meet my eyes.

"Tell me what happened and convince me that this is your fault," I replied challengingly.

Harry took another sharp breath before delving into his story.

I listened with baited breath the entire time as he regaled the last four months. Apparently, I had been one of the last ones to be petrified along with Hermione and the Ravenclaw prefect, Penelope Clearwater. These attacks had also incited the consideration to close the school.

I cringed at this detail since I felt, that no matter how dire things had obviously been, it would be catastrophic if Hogwarts ever had to close its doors.

Harry pressed on to explain how Hagrid and Dumbledore were later forced to leave the school which only made things worse and caused the hospital wing to barre its doors against visitors.

I thought about what this meant for Harry and the twins who had been able to come and visit for three whole months. I didn't know what I would have done if I had been in their situation.

Harry then came to the end of the story where last night he had gone into the Chamber of Secrets to rescue Ginny who had been taken at the request of a young Voldemort who had somehow been living in the confines of the journal that supposedly Lucius Malfoy had given to her during his argument with Mr. Weasley at Flourish and Blotts in the summer. What a convoluted plot.

But, this obviously made sense as to why Ginny had been so distraught all year, she had had Voldemort as a pen pal.

I suddenly felt guilty that I hadn't taken the opportunity to further question Ginny about her feelings since it appears she had never disclosed anything to anyone all year. That was a lot for a first year to carry on her shoulders.

Then I realized why Ginny had looked so guilty, she felt responsible for me being petrified.

I frowned. I would definitely have to convince her not to feel any blame since I certainly didn't fault her for anything.

Harry had gone quiet at the end of his story and was looking at me with an anxious expression.

"I can't believe I was asleep for the apex of the year and missed all of the action!" I exclaimed loudly, startling Harry in the process.

Remus laughed.

"Of course, that's what you're upset about."

Dad still had an anxious expression, but I could see Harry's lightening.

"Maybe you could have if I had figured it out sooner," Harry started but I cut him off.

"Harry! Will you stop trying to place all of the blame on yourself. I'm alive and so is Ginny. You saved the day just like you always do. I am just proud of you," I said sincerely and watched the small smile form on his face.

"Yes, and honestly it might have been the safest thing that Marnie was petrified," dad added while I struggled to keep from rolling my eyes.

Harry noticed and stifled his laugh.

We sat together a while longer as dad and Remus caught me up on things at home and how worried they had been. Apparently, the school hadn't allowed visitors after I had been petrified due to the worsening circumstances.

Harry did end up opening the curtains after a while when he went to check on Hermione who was still recovering like me.

Immediately, I noticed Fred and George standing off to the side, staring in our direction.

I smiled at the both of them and beckoned them over.

Remus and dad, who had needed some motivation from Remus, went to go stretch their legs as they let Fred and George take their seats.

They both had big, dopey grins on their faces.

"So, I'm told it's been a while," I said as they got comfortable.

"Too damn long!" George exclaimed while I noticed his mother scowl at him from across the room.

"Well, I would say I missed you, but it feels like I just saw you at dinner," I said as I remembered where I had been going that night.

"Why were you in the Astronomy wing anyway?" George asked probably noticing the blush on my cheeks.

"Well, I was on my way to go meet up with Cedric," I said as innocently as I could.

I didn't mention the Valentine's note or anything. I made it seem like a harmless study meet up or something.

But instead I heard Fred scowl and turned to him in surprise. I met his eyes with a questioning gaze but he just rolled his eyes.

"Of course, you think you were going to go meet pretty boy," he said but this only increased my level of confusion.

"Well, yea. That was who I was planning to meet," I said calmly, not understanding his reaction.

He crossed his arms and slumped back into his chair. His gaze remained on mine and turned into a challenging stare.

"It wasn't him who sent you the Valentine," he said pointedly.

"How did you know I received a Valentine?" I asked, still baffled.

Then it clicked.

"It was from you," I whispered.

I could see George looking at his twin from the corner of his eye. I was under the surprised assumption that George hadn't even known.

But why in the name of Merlin would Fred have sent me that Valentine?

"It doesn't matter Hare," he sighed and came forward again. "I just wanted to spend some time with you and make a night of it."

I knew he was trying to make it seem like less than it had probably originally been. But I let it slide. Fred had never shown any interest in me other than being my best friend. Or at least I didn't think he had. Plus, we were best friends and one shouldn't be fraternizing with their best friend.

The three of them went quiet before Fred scowled again.

"Pretty boy has been waiting outside the hospital wing since this morning."

I gave him a surprised look.

"Cedric has been waiting for me to wake up?"

"Yea, he was also visiting nearly every day before the ban," George added while I only nodded.

I didn't want to give away how excited I felt. There were butterflies circling in my stomach.

As if on cue, my father and Remus returned with Cedric in tow.

"Guess who we found skulking by the door?" dad asked as I noticed Cedric start to blush.

Fred scowled again and got up to leave. I frowned after him as George followed. At least George turned around to give me an apologetic look before they both exited. I still didn't understand why Fred seemed to despise Cedric so much.

"Hey Marn," Cedric said interrupting my thoughts.

I turned my gaze towards him and met his with a smile.

I noticed dad and Remus go to talk with Mrs. Weasley, all the while turning their gaze towards us once in a while. It was pretty obvious the three of them were spying.

"How are you feeling?" he asked sweetly.

"Like I got the best sleep of my life," I replied which caused him to chuckle.

But his face turned serious after a moment.

"I was really worried about you Marn and the whole time I just felt like there were so many things I hadn't gotten the opportunity to say to you," he continued before stopping short and blushed again.

"What sort of things?" I pressed, feeling the butterflies reawaken in my stomach.

He inhaled deeply before smiling at me.

"Like apologizing for not sending you a Valentine's Day card. Or not being able to ask you on a date," he replied, with the redness in his face brightening.

I just gaped at him while he waited patiently for me to respond.

"You want to take me on a date?" I asked incredulously.

"Of course, I do," he answered simply, as if to insinuate anything else was absurd.

"Why?" I asked, still in shock.

He dipped his head slightly towards me.

"Well, I can't fully answer that with your dad and uncle staring at me. But I really like you Marnie. You're the most interesting girl I have ever met and evidently one of the few who doesn't swoon. Instead you make me work for your affections. You're smart and brave…" he lowered his head even closer. "And the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. It's almost like you're a fairy who glows angelic light and has her own wings."

I gaped again with my mouth open. Who says those kinds of things, especially to me?

"But what about Cho Chang?" I asked dumbly.

He scoffed.

"I profess my affections to you and that's your answer?" he sighed. "Cho doesn't hold a candle to you."

I could feel my face burn crimson.

"I like you too," I finally whispered back.

A smile beamed onto his face as he sat back and just stared warmly at me. I was glad since I felt like I needed a moment to collect myself. But, we were then interrupted by my dad and uncle. Remus had a bemused look on his face.

Cedric respectfully got up and offered his chair to my dad before he bid us farewell.

"I'll write you when I get back for the summer," he said and waved to give me one last warm look.

Then I watched him as he exited the hospital wing. When I turned back it was to see both Remus and dad staring at me with knowing looks.

"Well, I'm sure that was an amusing conversation," dad stated while I just rolled my eyes.

"You're going to be in for a long summer darling," Remus added which changed my look from embarrassment to confusion.

He shrugged in response and the matron came to check on me so I couldn't question him any further.

Fifteen minutes later I was finally discharged. Dad and Remus explained that they were to return home and would pick me up at King's Cross in two days. I walked them down to the front door and bid them farewell before turning back into the castle. I had to go find Ginny and make sure she didn't blame herself and reassure her that we were still friends. Plus, I'm sure she would want to hear all about Cedric Diggory asking me out on a date. I started up the staircase since I figured she would be hiding up in her dorm.

Why was Fred angry with her? And why did he hate Cedric so much when George seemed to be able to at least tolerate him.

There seemed to be a lot more to catch up on from the last four months than she would have thought. But they were all best friends, they could get through everything, including Voldemort traipsing through the castle two years in a row now. Hopefully next year they would all finally get a break.

Chapter Text

The first half of the summer was pretty boring, especially without Harry around. As per his unusual arrangement, he was to spend the first half of the summer with his wretched aunt and uncle before he would be able to stay with us. To make matters worse, Fred was acting like a complete git and had pretty much stopped talking to me which caused George to become the go-between as I tried to figure out why Fred was acting like such a prat. I could tell George was sympathetic, but annoyingly he kept mum about what was bothering his twin.

The only interesting thing was Cedric. We had been writing nearly every day to each other as he told me about his travels with his father. Unfortunately, we had had to postpone our date since his father, unbeknownst to Cedric, had planned a month-long excursion across Eastern Europe to explore possible chimaera sightings. However, this hadn't kept him from writing to me and regaling all their adventures; they still hadn't determined if a chimaera was in the region or not.

It was now a week before Harry was set to come stay with us and I felt the summer was at an all-time low. Ginny had written to me to say that their family won some money and were using it to go on holiday to visit Bill in Egypt. I could tell my father wanted to broach the subject since I had been brooding about Fred all month and my father knew I was upset they were leaving for a whole other country without even writing a good-bye. But we both remained silent on the matter.

It felt like the week before Harry's arrival was crawling at a snail's pace. I was no longer hearing from George or Ginny since they were probably too busy with their family and now even Harry was silent. We had been writing frequently but I knew his uncle's sister was in town and that meant trouble.

I sighed, watching the sun set from my window and decided it was time to start making dinner. It had become something I did every night since it offered something to do for an hour of the day that took my mind off my boredom. When I got down to the kitchen, I started taking out some pans and turned on the little antenna television that sat on our small peninsula countertop to listen to the news as I cooked.

"In breaking news, a mass murderer had broken out of prison and police are asking everyone to stay alert as they try to recapture the criminal. He was convicted of killing twelve innocent civilians nearly thirteen years ago and has been serving a life sentence ever since," the muggle reporter explained in an anxious sounding voice.

I was thankful that we didn't live in the city. It seemed like a dangerous place to be while no one ever came out to the rolling hills of the country if they felt a hankering for killing innocent bystanders.

I was waiting for the vegetables to simmer, allowing myself to finally look up at the television report. There was a red banner running across the screen which identified the man by description before they flashed his picture. The sauce jar I had been holding fell out of my hands and broke into hundreds of tiny shards on the ground. But my attention was still on the screen which showed the picture of the escaped criminal.

Sirius Black.

Dad and Remus ran from upstairs and stopped short when they saw all the glass I was surely standing in.

"Marnie! Are you alright?" dad asked as Remus pulled out his wand and tidied away the glass shards.

Angry tears were burning my eyes but all I could do was continue to stare at the screen.

"Are you hurt darling?" dad asked softly.

I could only shake my head.

Remus noticed my diverted attention and finally turned to look at the screen. He let out an immediate gasp and probably would have dropped something if he hadn't put his wand away. "How can that be?" he asked incredulously as we all now stared at the small screen.

Dad looked as if he were about to faint as I somehow found enough focus to pull a stool out for him to sit on. He almost fell onto it while keeping his focus glued onto the screen.

The man who was responsible for my mum's attack was now on the loose. Because of him Lily and James Potter were dead, and all our lives had been altered because of it.

Hate filled my gut as I glared at the picture they had in the corner of the screen. The picture shown was obviously one taken from Azkaban and showed him with a wildness in his eyes. He didn't deserve to be alive when Harry's parents weren't. I wanted him dead.

I didn't think the three of us got much sleep that night as we fretted over the current situation. It was known throughout wizarding Britain that Sirius Black betrayed his friends (and the Order) to Voldemort when he showed his true loyalties towards his family and fellow Death Eaters. Because of this the Potter's died but also led Harry to unwittingly defeat Voldemort. This meant that Sirius Black was presumably angry with the boy who was now much older than the infant he had been when Voldemort lost his powers. What if he came after Harry?

The next day was finally the day before Harry was set to arrive and surprisingly, Arthur Weasley came to join us for dinner. The three men apparently had business to discuss which seemed rather pressing, most likely to do with Sirius Black. My father had asked that I make dinner, I assumed to keep myself busy, while they sat and conversed in hushed tones in the sitting room.

When I announced that dinner was ready, the three men came and sat down at the set table. I dished out the lasagna as each one of them looked up at me appreciatively.

"This is wonderful Marnie!" Mr. Weasley beamed as I sat down, already with a spoonful in his mouth.

I smiled back and thanked him before the men returned to their apparent discussion.

"So, it's decided then. Remus will take up the position," Mr. Weasley said encouragingly and my dad nodded along.

It seemed my dad was the least on board with this idea based off his expression.

I risked my own question out of curiosity.

"What is uncle Remus going to do?" I asked as innocently as I could manage.

"He's going to teach you at your school this year!" Mr. Weasley explained excitedly.

I could see my uncle smile at the statement and I knew why. He had always loved Hogwarts and had since kept up with his academics. Typically, Remus would help dad out with his publishing and editing, while also doing some freelance work for one of the major paper's dad was assigned to under an assumed name. Plus, he also helped edit Mr. Lovegood's paper, the Quibbler. Teaching would be a brilliant thing for him to do.

I beamed at him as I figured out what this meant.

"Yes! That means you'll be replacing that dunce from last year," I said.

Dad scowled but Remus and Mr. Weasley chuckled. It was common knowledge how horrible Gilderoy Lockhart had been for a teacher.

"Well, Mr. Lockhart did end up suffering permanent brain damage Marnie," dad said quietly.

My face fell for a moment. I didn't want that idiot anywhere near my mum.

"Don't worry. The hospital will make sure your mother is safe," he reassured knowingly. I scowled at how readable my face apparently was.

"Well, I think it's brilliant that you'll be teaching us Defense, and so will Harry," I added encouragingly, changing the subject back.

I could tell that the three men shared a look at the mention of Harry which made me curious, but I knew my questions wouldn't get any more answers.

Mr. Weasley soon got up to leave after I had cleared the dishes and Remus helped me tidy up.

"Fred and George asked me to give you these," he said with a kind smile.

I took the letters greedily from Mr. Weasley's hands before I thanked him. He nodded his head knowingly before bidding us all goodnight and stepping out of the door.

I stared down at the letters with the familiar scrawls on them, both bearing my name. I rushed up to my room since Remus was already in his room and dad was sitting at the table going over his upcoming deadline to be ready before Harry arrived.

Once I had my door closed behind me I flopped down on my bed and looked over at Harry's empty one. We were all anxious to have Harry with us for his own protection and there still seemed to be lots of preparations for tomorrow.

But I shook my head before my anxiety completely took over and opened Fred's letter first.

Hare,

I know I have been avoiding you for most of the summer. I am still sort of mad, but I don't want to make that your problem anymore. I know about Sirius Black and I know what that means to you. I'm worried Hare, I need to make sure you're safe!

I tried to convince dad to let us come tonight but I think he's still disappointed in us for ignoring you.

I am sorry Hare. I hope you can forgive me.

Love,

Fred

I read the letter over three times as I felt my chest become lighter than it had been since the end of term. Fred had been upset that Cedric had visited me in the hospital when I was petrified and then stopped talking to me when he found out Cedric had asked me on a date. He heard from Ginny who practically yelled it across the common room when I told her, which had caused Fred to storm up the stairs. He hadn't talked to me much since then. He had even sat with Harry and the other second years while I sat with Ange and the others on the train ride home.

I sighed with relief and felt Fred seemed to finally be over this whole Cedric thing, whatever it was. I was still a little peeved that it came about with the escape of a dangerous Death Eater, but I decided to ignore that part.

I then opened George's.

Marnie,

I hope you are well and safe with the big, bad Sirius Black walking about. But seriously, be careful!

Also, Fred wouldn't let me read over his letter, so I hope it's nice. He's been a ruddy mess since the end of term and I know it's less than you deserve.

I miss you a lot Marnie and hope I will get to see you soon and tell you all about Egypt!

Stay safe until then!

George

I folded up the letters and held them to my chest. I felt the tears fall down my face as I thought about seeing the twins. I hadn't realized just how upset I had been that Fred was freezing me out, but they were my best friends. I felt less than whole without them around.

That night though I had another fitful sleep full of half strewn dreams. I know I had been crying a lot in them and I could remember closing myself off in a yellow-curtained bed instead of the red I am used to. I had also seen a pair of sad, gray eyes piercing into me which made my chest lurch.

When I woke up just as the sun was rising, I felt heart broken and I didn't know why.

I tried to shake off the feeling as I got up and started to collect my things to get ready. I was interrupted shortly after when I heard a knock at my bedroom door.

"Marnie are you up darling?" I heard my father ask.

I opened the door and could immediately tell something was wrong.

"What is it dad? Did something happen to Harry?" I asked fretfully.

My dad frowned.

"Well, yes…" he said as I gasped. "But he's safe! There was an incident last night with Harry performing some under-age magic, but the Minster for Magic stepped in himself and made sure Harry was safe."

I felt my stomach drop as I thought of Harry being expelled or arrested.

"He's fine Marnie," dad reassured, pulling me into a strong embrace. "The Minister is just as worried as we are about Harry's safety and hasn't even mentioned any repercussions for him. I think this is just going to be swept under the rug. Remus went to the Leaky Cauldron last night when we received the owl and is making sure Harry gets all sorted out. We are going to meet them as soon as you're ready."

Dad stepped back to let me go get ready. I rushed to the bathroom and was out five minutes later all set to go. I found my dad standing in the sitting room in front of the window as he watched the skies. I went to stand beside him and noticed our owl appearing closer with a letter tucked under his talons.

Dad opened the window once Caelum approached and let him come into the house to deliver the message.

Be there soon

I read the short script from beside my dad and wondered who could have written it. But before long there was a popping noise from outside and I looked up to see Mr. Weasley.

I almost ran outside as Mr. Weasley bent down to give me a hug. I could see his own worry etched into his face. Dad only nodded at Mr. Weasley before Mr. Weasley pulled my arm close and asked me if I was ready. I nodded while still staring at my father before feeling that familiar pull in my navel. Moments later I was standing outside the Leaky Cauldron in London. Mr. Weasley escorted me inside where moments later I heard my name being shouted. I whipped around to see Fred and George barreling down the stairs towards me.

Without even thinking I ran up to them and enveloped myself in their embrace as we stood in our group hug.

"I've missed you so much," I said as I breathed in their familiar scents.

Fred coughed nervously as he pulled me out of the embrace and looked me in the eyes.

"I know I've been a lousy friend. And it seemed the longer I ignored you the worse I felt. Then I would feel guilty…." He stopped when I put my hand to his mouth.

"Let's just forget it alright?" I asked hopefully.

He looked at me in surprise before nodding and bringing me back into a hug.

"Marnie?" I heard another familiar voice.

I looked up to see Harry walking down the stairs, followed closely by Remus. Instantly, I pulled out of Fred's embrace to run up towards my brother. But before I could speak someone called out behind me.

"Harry!" my father's voice rang out from behind us as I already held Harry in a fierce hug.

I didn't want to let him go.

Dad just took the opportunity to hug us both as we stood there for a few drawn out moments. I could feel the relief set into both my father's and Harry's shoulders as we held onto each other.

When we finally pulled away it looked as if we all had a tear in our eye.

"Mind if we have a family moment Arthur?" Remus asked as I saw Mr. Weasley nod and pull the twins away.

Fred and George looked at me nervously, but I nodded towards them reassuringly. I would be safe with my family.

Once the four of us were all seated at a corner table, away from all the other patrons, Harry immediately started to ask questions.

"Remus wouldn't say anything until you were all here, but I just can't understand why the Minister for Magic was so forgiving about me performing underage magic. I mean, I blew up my aunt!" he said while I looked at him in bafflement. Dad hadn't actually told me what he used magic for and this sounded more serious than I was expecting.

"Well, we will talk about the underage thing later," my father chided lightly. "But, have you seen the news Harry?"

"You mean Sirius Black?" he asked while we all nodded. "Yeah, I saw it. Plus, the Minister mentioned it last night. What does he have to do with me?"

My father and Remus both sighed.

"Harry, you know how Joss and I were very good friends with your parents throughout school and afterwards. The group of us would all typically spend our holidays at Joss' parents' place with him and his brother Penn," Remus started while Harry nodded.

"Yea, of course. You gave me that picture of all of you before your seventh year," Harry answered. I could tell he was growing impatient as Harry so frequently did. This time I couldn't blame him since dad and Remus were discussing him in relation to a serial murderer.

"Well, Sirius Black is in that picture. We were all very close with him," Remus finally said sadly.

"What?!" Harry sounded incredulous, this obviously not being what he expected.

"Of course, we didn't know what would happen and that he would actually join the Death Eaters. You should have seen him Harry, he was quite convincing of his hate towards them. After school he even started training to become and auror and…" Remus stopped short, as if it pained him to continue.

"Why didn't you ever tell me this?" Harry asked sourly.

I could hear the anger he was trying to mask.

"Harry, we understand your resentment, but try to understand. He was our friend for years and then the next thing we knew he was in jail, for killing three of our friends. Plus, Lena… We never thought it would affect you like this. We never thought he would escape," dad said despairingly.

Harry remained quiet as I examined his reaction. I could tell his infamous temper was bubbling at the surface, but I also knew he was more upset about Sirius Black than with Remus or my dad.

Remus and dad sighed again.

"There's something else…" Remus paused.

Suddenly, I remembered one of my dreams and gasped out loud. Harry looked at me in surprise, but dad and Remus continued.

"Sirius Black… he's your god-father Harry."

Chapter Text

We hadn't seen Harry all day. He had disappeared off somewhere in the Leaky Cauldron with Hermione and Ron after taking the most recent news pretty badly. Actually, more accurately, he hadn't reacted at all. After Remus told him about his connection to Sirius Black, he had gotten up and left without a word.

"So, Harry's off taking the news like a champ?" George asked sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

"I don't get what the big deal is anyways," Fred said.

I looked at him dubiously.

"The first time Sirius Black was mentioned in association to my family we got into a huge fight," I replied distastefully.

I saw his cheeks turn pink as he bowed his head down.

"Oh, right," he replied sheepishly.

The Weasley's were spending the day buying their school supplies in Diagon Alley while we all waited for Harry to come out of hiding.

We weren't allowed to split up though since our families were all worried about Sirius Black coming after one of us, so I was sitting at a table with the twins while we waited for Mrs. Weasley and my dad to return. They had insisted on getting all the supplies while us kids waited safely at the inn.

"So, how are you handling things? I mean we know how it feels to have a git for a brother…" Fred said provokingly. "But we are worried about you."

I took a deep breath.

"Harry is just trying to swallow the news without showing us his anger. He'll come around when he's ready," I shrugged. "But, honestly, I feel exhausted. I haven't really slept much since I saw the news report and I'm worried Harry might be in trouble… again."

"Well, I mean he's already been up against You Know Who, twice! And that's only since his first year. Sirius Black can't be that big a problem for him," George said cheekily.

I gave him a half-hearted glare before sighing again. I didn't have the energy.

Instead Fred nervously cleared his throat and I looked over at him only to see him staring back at me.

"Would he come after you?" Fred asked in a worried tone.

I had been so focused on Harry, I hadn't stopped to think about me.

"What interest would he have in me?" I asked skeptically.

"Marnie, it's time to go home," I heard my father call from behind me, before anyone could answer.

I saw Harry sheepishly standing behind my father which I guess indicated that we were leaving before he disappeared again.

I stood up and hugged the twins good-bye before exiting the inn and being quickly herded into a Ministry provided car.

My eyebrows rose in surprise with the amount of attention our family was currently getting in lieu of Harry. They had never seemed at all interested with us before.

The car ride home was excruciatingly silent which lasted all the way until we walked through the doorway. Right away Harry went to make a run for it up to our room but Remus stopped him.

"Hold it," was all he said in a firm voice.

We both stopped in our tracks and turned to face him. He was pointing towards the couch to motion for us to sit down.

Dad and Remus joined us as we all sat in a continued, uncomfortable silence.

"Now, we have given you the day to digest this information and we understand that you may still be angry with us, but there are some rules that we expect you to adhere to," Remus said while Harry remained brooding.

"Now, unfortunately we are assuming that Sirius has escaped for some reason to come and seek you out Harry, and we need to make sure you are safe here," Remus pressed on.

"So, there is no sneaking out or leaving unattended for any reason," dad said sternly.

I could see they were trying to shake the anxiety from their voices. They were extremely apprehensive about Harry and his known recklessness.

I noticed Harry clenching his fists before exhaling loudly.

"I just can't believe he betrayed them," Harry said meekly, with a catch in his voice.

I realized Harry was trying to keep his emotions to himself instead of trying to contain any anger.

"He betrayed us all," Remus replied softly, emotion filling his voice.

We remained silent for a while before dad got up and started making dinner. I had since moved over to sit right next to Harry and held his hand. He squeezed it in return and was yet to let go. I had had a lifetime to somewhat come to terms with what Sirius Black had done to this family, Harry had only had a day.

Plus, now his life was in jeopardy again, for like the third year in a row, from the man who could have been his godfather. It was a lot for anyone to handle.

XXX

Dad was quiet the whole way to King's Cross as the four of us were escorted in a Ministry car, just like we had coming back from London.

Remus was going to board the train with us since he would also be living at Hogwarts for the year.

"Be safe," dad said as he brought me into a tight embrace.

We were beside the scarlet steam engine and dad was trying to hide the blatant worry in his eyes.

I couldn't help but feel worried for him in return, we were leaving him behind after all.

"I'll be fine Little Badger," he said knowingly as he patted me on the head. But he pulled me aside before allowing me to board the train. "Marnie, I have to warn you," my father started uneasily. "I know Remus and I have been very focused on Harry since hearing of Sirius' escape, but I don't want you to let your guard down."

"Dad, I'll make sure to watch over Harry," I said reassuringly.

"I know you will darling, but that's not what I'm getting at," dad continued. "Sirius may decide to come after you…"

"What?!" I exclaimed, not believing this was the answer my father was giving me to the initial question Fred had asked me back at the Leaky Cauldron.

"Well, your mother played a large part in foiling his scheme, plus they had a pretty complex history," my father explained nervously.

But before I could ask anything, the whistle blew from the train, cutting off any response I could give.

"Go find Fred and George, I'm sure they're waiting for you," dad said and sent me away without another pause.

I waved when I boarded the train and watched Harry and Remus say their own good-byes. I don't think it was any easier for them.

It didn't take long for me to find my group of friends. Just follow the sounds of boisterous laughter. Sure enough, everyone was looking excited when I entered the compartment and stowed my trunk.

"Is everyone ready for our fifth year?" Katie asked as I sat down between Fred and Lee.

"I don't know, can the boys survive the OWLs?" I responded smartly.

"Ha ha, very funny Hare," Lee said banally.

The train ride went about smoothly, it felt good to finally laugh after the boring and then stressful summer I had.

Part way through however, the train jolted to a stop.

"Who turned down the thermostat?" Lee asked, trying to sound joking but we could all hear the fear in his voice.

Moments later we also saw Draco Malfoy run down the hallway, a panicked look etched onto his face. I leaned over into Fred when I started to shiver. All of the panic and fear I had felt over the summer came racing to the surface.

Alicia gasped and cried aloud when we saw a horrible, black-cloaked creature gliding down the corridor. It turned to look into our compartment before deciding to open the door. I could hear someone whimpering from beside me but couldn't make out who it was. Instead I was transfixed on the creature who seemed to be staring into me. I felt as if all the hurt I had ever felt was being ripped right out of my skin. It was too much to bear.

I saw the faces of James and Lily followed by an image of their graves. I heard Remus howl from outside when he transformed and I was too young to understand that I wasn't going to be eaten alive. I heard my father crying late at night when he thought I had gone to sleep. I saw Marcus Flint approach me in a threatening manner as if he wanted to take my life. I saw all the dreams I had ever had, including a pair of sad, gray eyes crying in front of me. I saw my mother, standing in front of me with her blank stare.

"Lena, please," was the last thing I heard before everything went black.

xx

"Marnie!" I heard several people shout from above me, causing me to finally open my eyes in a confused haze.

"What happened?" I asked, taking Angelina's hand to stand up.

"You passed out," Katie explained, worry evident in her voice.

"Because of that thing?" I asked, a shudder going up my spine at the mere thought of the cloaked phantom I had seen.

"That was a dementor right?" Ange asked, the others nodded in response. I hazily remembered reading about those in one of Lockhart's textbooks last year and how they apparently were the guards to Azkaban. I did not however remember the ludicrous made up story that would have taken up 50 other pages I would have read about Lockhart being a hero.

Fred put his arm around me and I could feel the anxiety coursing through his body.

"It was horrible, wasn't it," Lee shuddered.

The others nodded. I put my head into my lap as I tried to collect my thoughts. My mind was reeling while my body felt incredibly exhausted.

I heard the compartment door open. "Everything alight in here? Marnie?" I heard Remus ask.

I lifted my head to see him passing pieces of chocolate to all my friends.

"Eat it Marnie, you'll feel better," he said kindly.

His expression evident with concern. I'm sure I looked about as good as I felt.

I took the bit of chocolate and hesitantly put it in my mouth. It had an instant effect, like it was defrosting my body from the dementor's curse. Remus gave me another meaningful look before excusing himself. I knew he would meet with me later to check-in but wanted to respect my privacy in front of my friends.

I gave him a small, reassuring smile before I watched him walk away. Then I leaned on Fred and managed to doze off for the rest of the ride to try and conserve the rest of my energy.

XXX

The remainder of the night continued on with the same air of anxiety, especially when Dumbledore explained the rules regarding the dementors; basically, stay far far away from them.

I hardly had anything to eat at the feast and went straight to bed once we had been escorted to the common room by the head boy, Percy Weasley.

I hoped the familiarity of my four-poster bed would allow me to get a good night's sleep. I sluggishly crawled under the covers in exhaustion and was asleep instantly. When I opened my eyes, I was walking towards the library with a large stack of books in my hands.

"I don't know Lena, maybe you should give it a chance," the girl beside me said who had an equally large stack of books piled in her arms.

"Sure Lily, and why don't you say yes to James Potter," I replied smartly while I watched the girl turn the same shade as her hair.

"He's just as persistent as James and he seems pretty sincere," Lily continued, ignoring the comment.

"Yes, well he was sincerely snogging Marlene McKinnon the other day when I climbed through the portrait hole," I replied irritably.

I could hear the anger in my voice but still couldn't understand who mum was talking about. It seemed as if they were talking about boys and dating.

"Need someone to carry those for you Red?" I peered over my own stack of books to see Harry had come up to Lily.

No… it was James and he had a smug grin on his face.

"I've got them, thanks," Lily replied tersely, tightening the grip she had around her books.

I realized I was stifling a laugh.

"Something funny Tress?" I heard an almost seductive sounding voice ask me from behind.

I turned around to see a shining pair of gray eyes reflecting back at me.

Wait, these were the same eyes I had seen when I faced the dementor.

But they weren't sad this time, they looked confident and full of life, with maybe a hint of antagonization.

"Hello Sirius," my mother said blandly, all interest devoid from her voice.

The gray eyes belonged to Sirius Black!

I felt my chest jolt as I blinked my eyes. I had surprised myself awake.

I had never dreamed of Sirius Black before in these weird memories I somehow got from my mother. At least, not advertently. And definitely not when they had been in school together.

What did this mean? And why did it seem like my mother had had some sort of connection with him? No one had ever mentioned anything about it to me before.

Chapter Text

"Marnie, wait up!" I heard a familiar voice call out from behind me.

I turned to see Cedric jogging to catch up with me as I made my way to Divination.

"Can I walk you to class?" he asked kindly.

"Of course," I answered, smiling back at him.

He fell into step with me while we walked towards the North Tower.

"We haven't gotten much of a chance to catch up since I returned from Eastern Europe, I was hoping to finally bring you on that date," he said thoughtfully, almost stopping me in my tracks.

I could feel my face turn hot at the mention of going on a date. Honestly, the escape of Sirius Black had put a screeching halt on most of my life, including corresponding with Cedric. But that maniac was already endangering my family's lives and plaguing my nightmares, he didn't have to affect my dating life too.

"That sounds lovely," I replied softly, trying to hide my anxiety.

But I was having difficulty meeting his eye.

He chuckled softly. "How about this upcoming Hogsmeade visit?"

"That sounds great," I said before feeling a grimace appear on my face.

"What's wrong?" he asked, I could hear the apprehension in his voice.

"Please promise me I won't have to go to Madam Puddifoot's?" I asked, trying not to outright offend him.

Cedric bluntly laughed this time.

"The day is yours. We will do whatever you want to do," he replied enthusiastically.

We had finally reached the top of the stairs.

"Wait, do you have Divination as well?" I asked, excited at the prospect of spending more time with him even though I still felt slightly embarrassed.

"As a matter of fact, I do," he answered. "But I would have escorted you either way."

I blushed fiercely as we entered the classroom and Cedric led the way to a table in the middle. He even stopped to pull out a chair for me. Most of the other students hadn't arrived yet and it wasn't until I noticed two red heads enter the room that I remembered whom I usually sat with.

George was the first to notice where I was sitting and offered me a small smile. Fred followed his brother's gaze and ended up trying to hide his obvious scowl but remained silent on the matter.

Baby steps I guess.

Professor Trelawney soon entered with her signature grandiosity. Wearing a shimmering shawl, she glided throughout the classroom like a bat. The rounded glasses which magnified the size of her eyes tenfold didn't help.

For the past two years I had usually sat with the twins, Katie and Lee who had all decided to take this class as an elective. It was also our pastime to laugh and make jokes about the eccentric professor who tended to constantly declare the death and suffering of others.

Fred and George had explained that their brother Bill had taken the course during his time at Hogwarts and had always gone on about how easy it was. This had been the winning factor against Ancient Runes and Arithmancy. For my other electives I had also chosen Muggle Studies and Care of Magical Creatures; I still had no idea what I wanted to do once I graduated.

"Today we are going to gaze into the future with our crystal orbs," Professor Trelawney announced in dramatic gesture.

I looked at the glass ball which was sitting in between Cedric and I with skepticism. What could this decoration really tell me about my future? Cedric instead looked thoughtfully into it before glancing back down to reference from his book.

"You should start," I suggested since it seemed Cedric was already giving this more effort than I was.

"Alright, well already I am seeing two colours swirling around, almost as if they are competing with each other," he stated observantly.

I furrowed my brow as I looked quizzically down at the crystal ball. Already Cedric was taking this more seriously than I ever had.

"What are the colours?" I asked, still feeling skeptical.

"Red and yellow. But it almost looks like they are fusing in the middle to create a vibrant orange colour," he continued thoughtfully.

"Well, what is that supposed to mean?"

"It says here that the presence of two colours means either competing interests or the presence of two souls," he recited.

"What else?" I asked, my interest now regrettably peeked.

"Red is supposed to symbolize love or passion or inversely betrayal and rejection while yellow symbolizes friendship and loyalty or ending and passing on," he said ambiguously.

"Well, isn't that just covering all of the bases?" I asked incredulously. "So, either, I'm one person or two, in love or being betrayed, while being loyal or dying? That is completely bogus," I grumbled and crossed my arms over my chest.

Cedric smiled softly before returning to his text.

"It also says that the emergence of orange means that the circumstances of the red and yellow will give birth to a new direction in your life, determinate on the decisions made from the soul-bearer. Either, one will choose to whither out of existence or strive for betterment and prosperity," he finished bluntly.

"Well isn't that cheerful," I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes.

"Why don't you try," Cedric offered kindly, passing over his text.

I gazed down at the glass ball and was surprised to actually see a colour emerging out of its cloudy-like haze

"Your aura shows purple," I started before referring down to the table shown in the book.

"Purple means you are excited to start a new journey based on recent decisions you have made."

I looked up to see him break into an infectious smile.

"The lightness of the purple shows infinite youth, whatever that means, and this line of pink-ish red is supposed to represent a strong bond binding to your soul," I continued, not really understanding the elusiveness of the script.

I looked up at Cedric who just beamed back at me.

"What?" I asked skeptically, unsure of how he could have understood a single word of what I had said.

"I'm just glad I met you Marnie O'Hara," was all he replied before he sat back and just stared at me with a smile.

I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and couldn't think of anything else to say in response.

After class, Cedric escorted me down to the Great Hall before we could part ways to our separate tables. We were standing, facing each other for several minutes and I could start to feel the stares of several students turn towards us. Cedric had been holding my hand and eventually brought it up to his lips before he softly brushed them over the top of my hand. I felt shivers of excitement cascade down my spine and couldn't help the large grin from spreading across my face before he bid me good-bye.

I turned around and walked towards my friends who were all staring at me with wide eyes and goofy grins, all except for Fred. But, fortunately, he kept his opinions to himself all throughout the meal while the girls bombarded me with silly questions.

What did he smell like? Were his eyes actually the colour of honey? Was he taking me to Hogsmeade? But, as exhausting as their questions were, I couldn't help but feel excited. I had never had a crush on a boy before and out of everyone at this school, the resident dream boy had chosen me to go on a date with him. We weren't official by any means, but the attention Cedric showed me almost seemed intimate. I couldn't help but enjoy it.

We were later interrupted when Harry and his friends came and joined us for dinner. I could instantly see the sour look on Harry's face as he sat down.

"That Divination professor is out to get me," Harry sulked, tipping me off to be alarmed.

"Is this Snape level or Quirrell level of out to get you?" I asked skeptically.

Ron tried to stifle his laugh while Hermione gave him a pointed look.

"No, not like that. She just won't stop telling me I'm going to die," Harry explained exasperatedly.

"Well, you are prone to chaos…" I muttered, thinking of all the events which had taken place in the last three years.

Harry sighed again but was interrupted by Hermione.

"Well, she is a phony. Plus, Divination isn't a science and has no evidence of actually working," I was surprised that Hermione had the capability of talking ill of a class or professor.

"Well, it beats having to take Ancient Runes," Ron retorted, causing Hermione to roll her eyes.

"If it helps Harry, she seems to think I have two souls, or a split soul or something," I added, trying to reassure Harry that he wasn't the only target for her exaggerated theories.

Ron laughed while I even saw Hermione crack a sarcastic smile. Obviously, Professor Trelawney wasn't the most favourited teacher in the school.

"Plus, it looks like I won't be going to Hogsmeade this weekend," Harry added.

"Why not?" I asked incredulously.

I knew my dad had signed the form.

"Professor McGonagall is saying that Joss isn't technically my guardian and it would have to be signed by either my aunt or uncle," Harry explained dejectedly.

"But you have a bed at my house, you're my brother!" I said, feeling my frustration roil to the surface.

"I know that Marnie," Harry said more softly.

I frowned at him before sighing and trying to swallow my emotions. Obviously, Harry was already seeing the unfairness of it all and my anger wasn't helping.

So, for the rest of the night I avoided talking about the upcoming Hogsmeade weekend since Harry was obviously annoyed and the twins didn't like the reminder that I wouldn't be spending it with them. Fred had been subtler with his disapproval of Cedric, but it was still quite obvious he had an issue with it.

In lieu of this, the girls eventually decided to spend the evening up in the dormitory to be able to talk about the trip.

"So, Katie, has Lee asked you yet?" Angelina asked provokingly, making Katie's face turn beet red.

"Yea," she answered softly, barely able to meet any of our eyes.

In response, Alicia started to incessantly giggle.

"He's been following you around like a puppy since last year, it's a wonder he hasn't asked you to be his girlfriend yet," Alicia stated boldly.

I could see Katie was fiddling with the ends of her sweater, but a smile was also evident on her face through all the red.

"He really likes you Kate, I'm sure you'll have a good time," I said, trying to sound reassuring to her obvious nerves.

Unfortunately, I watched as Alicia's devilish grin turned onto me.

"And I'm sure you will have an exciting time with one Mr. Diggory," Alicia gushed.

The girls had been on about my date with Cedric since last June when he had first asked me. It was now September and they were beyond intolerable by this point.

I shook my head, trying to fight the blush forming across my face. To give my myself a moment to think, I turned my head to look at Aster who was sitting contentedly in their cage by the window. It had almost been a year and I found I now had a very loyal companion. Dad had been weary when I had brought Aster home, but even after being let out in the garden, Aster still found their way in through my window at night. After that, dad had conceded on the matter and Aster was allowed to stay in mine and Harry's bedroom.

"Cho Chang stares bullets at you though when she sees you in the halls," Katie added, obviously happy the focus had been taken off of her and Lee.

"Yea, I have noticed she doesn't take kindly to me," I said, a little perplexed with the Ravenclaw seeker's opinion of me.

I hadn't even talked to her before, but it was no secret that she had been crushing on Cedric since the middle of last year.

Cedric himself didn't really seem phased by it though since Cho was not the only girl who blatantly ogled him when he walked by, and I was used to people judging me based on their own prejudices. So, Cho didn't really worry me.

We stayed up later that evening than usual, enjoying a rare night away from the boys. We could talk more freely, which ended up meaning we talked mostly about them. The giggling didn't stop until after midnight once we finally turned out the lights.

The next morning, I was held up by the girls who deemed it necessary to dress me and fix me up. Alicia rifled through my trunk while Angelina applied my make-up. I felt absolutely ridiculous. However, when they were finished, I was surprised with how much I liked the result. The bronze-like colouring over my eyes seemed to make the shimmering orange pop from my irises while the soft pink on my lips softened the look.

Katie chose my only pair of dark-washed skinny jeans, which I had buried in the bottom of my trunk, and topped it with a tight-fit orange turtleneck. I knew Alicia had wanted me to show more skin, but it was cold out and I wasn't dressing down just for a boy.

I also vetoed their first idea of a dress, especially since I would have had to borrow one of theirs.

By now it was almost eleven o'clock and we were filing out of the dormitory to make our way towards the entrance hall. I passed Hermione and Ron who I could tell were trying to stifle their excitement as they stood beside a dejected looking Harry.

I went over to him and just gave him a hug while we stood together in silence. I knew he didn't want to talk about the issue anymore, but I could still see his evident disappointment. I also knew Harry was not used to physical affection and struggled to seek it out when he was feeling upset.

Harry tightened the embrace in response as I stood with him. By the time we separated, I could feel at least some of the tension had left his shoulders. We bid him one last good-bye with the promise of bringing him back some sweets before leaving the castle.

"I don't know how you do that," Hermione said a little perplexed.

"Do what?" I asked unknowingly.

"Make Harry let out his emotions. Ron and I have been trying all week to get him to relax and you do it with one hug," she continued, a hint of annoyance in her voice.

I couldn't help but laugh a little. Harry was pretty simple to read, you just had to respect his space first and know how to fill in the blanks. He wasn't one to share his feelings, but his face read like an open book and he usually just wanted someone to share the burden, even if he did so unwillingly. Shouldering everything was definitely his fatal flaw.

We soon left Hermione and Ron behind as my friends and I approached the village. Since we had left later, the boys had already headed down and had agreed to meet the girls at Zonko's. I knew that the plan was for Lee and Katie to branch off from the group while Alicia and Ange hung out with the twins. I was to meet Cedric in front of Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop.

I quickly waved off my friends as they each gave me one last smirk before heading towards the joke shop. I headed in the opposite direction and immediately saw Cedric standing outside our agreed meeting spot. He hadn't noticed me yet and I took the moment to collect myself. It was stupid that my heart was beating rapidly and I had to remind myself to slow my breathing. Cedric and I had been hanging out together for over a year now and I counted him to be one of my friends. But seeing him standing there in some faded jeans and a tight-fitting white long-sleeve made me see him in a different light.

I quickened my pace as I came into view and he waved me over.

"Wow, you look brilliant," he said as I felt my blush deepen.

I took a moment to try and steady my breathing.

"You look pretty good yourself," I answered, hoping I didn't sound too awkward.

But he smiled and offered his arm to loop through mine.

"Where to first Marnie?" he asked politely.

"Well, I did promise Harry to get him some sweets," I answered, wanting to make sure I bought them before I forgot.

My brain was acting pretty strangely being around Cedric and I wanted to make sure I kept my promise.

"Alright, Honeydukes it is," he agreed heartedly before he lightly led me over in the right direction.

The warmth of his arm through mine was almost exhilarating since I had never actually been on a date with anyone before. Cedric was so gentleman-like but also brought butterflies to my stomach.

While we were looking around Honeydukes I decided on some fudgeflies and more chocolate frogs for Harry, not wanting to spend the entirety of our date being indecisive.

Fifteen minutes later I paid for my purchases and walked out with Cedric.

"For you," he said softly before pulling out a candied rose from behind his back.

"You shouldn't have!" I said, chastising myself for not getting him anything.

He was always getting me things while I still hadn't gotten him anything in return. I would really need to clue into this dating thing.

"Don't worry about it Marnie, I was already planning on getting you this," he answered as my heart sank further; he had already had a plan.

He took the candied rose out of my hand and unwrapped it before handing it back.

"Taste it," he said, excitement coursing through his voice.

The moment my tongue touched the candy I noticed it slowly start to move. In utter surprise I moved my face back and watched in wonder as the candy blossomed before my eyes.

"Do you like it?" he asked, watching my awed reaction.

"This is amazing magic!" I exclaimed, fascinated with the candy.

"I'm glad you like it," he said before looping my arm again.

We walked around town for a while as I ate my candy and realized how content I was just being by his side. Despite my earlier nervousness, I felt completely at ease with Cedric and was enjoying just being with him.

After a while we decided to stop in to The Three Broom Sticks to enjoy a couple of butterbeers to finish off the day. Cedric had insisted on ordering my drink, despite the many attempts I made to try and pay for his.

Expertly, he dodged my efforts and returned minutes later with our drinks to the small booth I had secured in the corner. As we sat together sipping our drinks I started to notice how nervous Cedric seemed and made no effort to fill the heavy silence. Our once easy nature had turned almost tense as I could see Cedric mulling something over in his head. I started to feel apprehensive as I painstakingly went over every detail of the day in my head and wondered what I had done wrong. But before I could drive myself completely insane Cedric broke the silence.

"Erm, Marnie…" he started, already losing his nerve.

"Yes, Cedric," I said apprehensively, trying to make sure he didn't back out of whatever it was he wanted to say.

At least awkward conversation was better than pained silence.

"There's… there's something I wanted to ask you," he continued nervously.

I could tell he was fighting with himself to maintain eye contact.

I looked at him expectantly while he worked up his nerve.

"Well, Marnie, I was wondering if you wanted…" but he was cut off abruptly by Fred coming up to us.

I wanted to scream bloody murder before I looked at the anxious expression on Fred's face.

"Hare, George isn't feeling well and had to go to the hospital wing," he said in obvious distress.

I temporarily forgot about what Cedric had been trying to say and looked worriedly up at Fred. I then took a quick survey of the room and realized George was nowhere in sight. I turned back to Cedric who also looked worried and nodded understandingly towards me.

"You need to go Marnie," he said softly. "I understand, I'll talk to you later."

His expression was so understanding and patient I could have cried. But despite my appreciation and curiosity towards him, my worry for George superseded it.

So, I quickly exited the pub after giving Cedric a quick good-bye hug and jogging all the way up to the castle behind Fred. When we arrived, I went to make my way towards the hospital wing when we were intersected by our friends exiting the Great Hall.

"Oo Marnie, how was your date?" Alicia asked excitedly.

Angelina gave me a quizzical look, but I ignored them all as I stared at a very healthy-looking George standing beside Lee.

I turned to Fred, anger bubbling to the surface.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" I shouted at Fred angrily.

My friends' faces all fell as they looked at me with shock. I had never had an outburst in the five years I had known them, least of all with Fred. But before Fred or I could continue George cut me off with a sad expression.

"Fred, you didn't," was all he said as he stared sorrowfully at his twin.

Fred was nervously laughing now as he looked between all my friends and then back to me. I could feel angry tears starting to breach the surface.

"You planned this?" I asked incredulously. "You used your own brother as an excuse to interrupt my date! I thought we were passed all of this. I thought you had let it go and you could just be happy for me. He was going to tell me something and now I will never know since you are the world's biggest git and you can't swallow your own ego and just let your best friend be happy!" I shouted, before realizing I had probably said too much.

I then spun around and ran up the stairs towards the Gryffindor Tower.

My first date with my first crush had gone exceedingly well until my best friend in the entire world had gone and ruined it. I couldn't believe how angry I felt as I seethed while going over the events of the day in my head. I had no idea what Cedric was going to say now but what if he thought I had organized a cop out with Fred to get me out of the date. What if he wanted to date someone else after this? What if everything was ruined? In that moment I realized how much I actually cared for Cedric and how betrayed I felt by Fred.

The tears wouldn't stop coming as I buried my face in my pillow and sobbed until I had no more energy. Eventually I must have drifted off to sleep because I was woken hours later by the hushed whispers of my friends.

It seemed to be dark outside now which it hadn't been when I had come up.

"I can't believe Fred did that to her," I could hear Angelina say sadly.

My eyes were still heavy from all the crying I had done earlier and I could feel myself start to drift off again.

"Yea, Fred doesn't have a good enough excuse," Katie said with a defensive edge in her voice.

"Do you think she knows?" I could barely hear Alicia whisper.

Know what?

Chapter Text

I didn't talk to Fred for two weeks after the Hogsmeade trip. I could feel the tension amongst our friends since Fred was noticeably absent while I refused to make amends. I knew Fred regretted what he had done, George had told me as much, but I couldn't get over my anger. Cedric also hadn't talked to me much since our date, and I was beyond nervous about it. Aside from idle chatter whenever we bumped into each other, he hadn't brought up our date at all.

Angelina and I were walking alone, headed towards the library when I noticed someone coming towards us in a pointed manner. I looked up to see a very smug looking Cho Chang approaching with her friend Marietta in tow. I sighed audibly.

"Marietta wasn't I just saying how I was on my way to go ask out Cedric Diggory?" Cho said goadingly, stopping in front of Angelina and I with a smug expression.

I almost felt too exhausted to try and argue the point, but I didn't want Cho to think she could start walking all over me now. But before I could act Angelina came to my aid.

"Sod off Cho, Cedric would be a fool to go out with someone as tactless as you," Angelina retorted fiercely.

I could see the anger instantly cross over Cho's face with Marietta looking quite haughty herself.

"Well, Cedric smartened up enough to avoid an orange-eyed freak like her," Cho shot back maliciously.

I saw Angelina look like she was ready to pounce before we were thankfully interrupted. My hands still securely holding onto Angelina's arm bracingly to try and hold her back.

"Oi, it would be best if we kept this to the quidditch pitch don't you think Chang?" I heard Fred say as he came over to stand in between us and Cho.

This was the first time I had heard his voice in two weeks, and despite still being angry with him, I knew I missed him. It was more than nice to see and hear him again.

Cho and Marietta decidedly stormed off after Fred's intervention. Watching them leave, I was noticeably aware that Fred was awkwardly standing in front of me.

"I better leave you to it," Angelina said hurriedly before she too practically sprinted away.

I would have to be angry with her later.

"Well, thanks, I guess," I said awkwardly before Fred shrugged and put his hands in his pockets.

"Are you talking to me now?" I asked, not knowing where this left us or even what was really going on anymore.

He shrugged again which tipped my short capacity for patience. I huffed before spinning around and heading to storm off after Angelina.

But his whisper stopped me in my tracks since it sounded almost like a whimpering sound. "Hare."

I allowed myself to take a deep breath before turning around.

"Yes Fred," I replied shortly.

"I'm sorry," he said before dropping his gaze again to the floor.

I stood there in consideration for a moment while I decided whether I wanted to forgive him yet. As far as I knew, whatever I had had with Cedric was over because of Fred, but on the other hand I missed my best friend.

I grumbled and expelled another audible sigh.

"I forgive you," I said quietly.

Fred couldn't believe his ears and almost thought he had misheard since she had spoken so softly. He also felt he didn't deserve her forgiveness, especially since all of his friends, including George and even Harry, had reamed him out for being a git. But he looked back up at her again and saw her small smile towards him. He didn't need any more time to consider her response before he was crossing the distance between them and bringing her into a tight embrace.

"I've missed you," she said as she almost fell into him.

Fred could tell how exhausted Marnie was since he felt he was almost holding her up. He then guiltily contemplated whether or not Marnie had been sleeping very well these past few weeks.

"Want to head down for dinner?" he asked, wanting to make sure Marnie was at last eating.

Despite her exhaustion she nodded and let Fred lead her down to the Great Hall. She noticed the automatic relief across her friends' faces when they noticed her and Fred's arrival together and despite it all she couldn't really help but smile back.

"Thank Merlin," George said as Fred came over to sit beside him.

I took the vacant seat beside Ange who just leaned supportively into me. I returned the gesture by resting my head onto hers. I decided I couldn't be angry with her for leaving me alone with Fred since it had led to our reconciliation and truth be told I really was exhausted. But the meal was livelier than it had been since Hogsmeade and I reveled in the normalcy of it all. The effortlessness of our group returned as if nothing had happened. But a dull ache remained in my chest as I thought of what I had potentially lost with Cedric.

"Erm, Marnie," I heard a familiar voice from behind me.

I turned to see a nervous looking Cedric standing behind me. I tried not to gape in surprise.

"Might I have a word?" he asked before I could even respond to his presence.

I simply nodded, and my friends somehow remained silent despite all of their blunt personalities while I stood up and went to join him in the entrance hall.

"I think I owe you an apology for my misunderstanding," he started as we took a seat on one of the benches in the nearly empty hallway.

Mostly everyone was inside the Great Hall eating supper by this point, so we remained undisturbed. I could only manage to look at him in confusion.

"Let me explain," he paused and nervously ran his fingers through his hair. "I just heard about Cho and I feel terribly that you had to endure that tasteless confrontation," he scowled at the thought and I couldn't help but smile. "I needed to let you know that the reason I have been keeping my distance is because I thought you wanted it. After learning about Fred's lie, I didn't know if you had planned it or if you were even using it to think about what you wanted. But I started to notice that you weren't speaking to Fred and that also made me nervous about things since I didn't want to come in between the two of you…" I tried to process all of the information.

"What were you trying to tell me in The Three Broomstick?" I asked, instantly needing to know the answer in the midst of all this confusion.

He cleared his throat nervously before summoning a bout of confidence. I could see his shoulders straighten up and his gaze turn to look me in the eyes.

"Marnie, I wanted… I still want… to ask you if you would be my girlfriend?" he stuttered while still trying to keep his cool.

He smoothed his hand through his hair again before crossing both hands onto his lap. I could tell he was extremely nervous.

I was left speechless. My brain went into hyperdrive which ironically left my mind blank on what to say. I could see Cedric watching me with increasing apprehension before I summoned my will to answer.

"Yes," was all I could muster for my reply.

I saw the moment of surprise cross his eyes before he broke out into the biggest smile I had ever seen.

"Brilliant," he said, still sounding as nervous as I felt.

I could see his eyes were almost twinkling now before I noticed him inching closer. Before I could react, he bent down towards my face and gently placed his lips on my cheek.

"I'll see you tomorrow then Marnie?" he asked gently, drawing his face back to look at me.

"Of course. I'll meet you outside the Great Hall to walk to class?" I asked, knowing we had Defense Against The Dark Arts together.

"I'll see you then," he replied before heading back into the Great Hall to finish dinner.

I knew my friends would be eagerly awaiting my return, but I wanted to figure out my own reaction first before they made a spectacle out of it. I knew they meant well and were really excited for me, but I still wanted to savour this moment of pure bliss for a little while longer.

Figuring I could head down and visit Posy later on, I started towards the Defense hallway to go and visit Remus. I had already noticed he hadn't been present at dinner.

"Come in," I heard his voice beckon after knocking on his office door.

I had already visited the office a few times in the last month, usually with Harry when we would meet with him on our days off.

"Marnie, this is a nice surprise," he said as he gestured for me to sit on the chair beside his small fireplace.

He sat across from me and was already offering me a chocolate frog from a small trinket box.

"To what do I owe this social call?" he asked kindly, with a hint of exaggeration in his voice.

Remus and I had a very close bond, especially since he had practically been raising me since I was three years old. Even before then, he was a big part of my life since I don't have any early memories without him in it. So, by this point, it felt like he could read me like a book without me actually having to say much. So, I assumed he could sense my current mood of excitement and apprehension as I took the chocolate frog and started to unwrap it.

"This wouldn't have anything to do with Mr. Diggory now would it?" he asked slyly.

I was almost surprised that he had guessed it right away, but Remus had known about my friendship with Cedric over the past year and quite possibly knew about my crush. My face turning red was answer enough which caused him to lightly chuckle.

"Well, it seems you have surpassed everyone from my time in Hogwarts to find a proper date," he continued.

"Sorry?" I asked, confused by his remark.

"Well, James stalked Lily around for about five years before she finally agreed to go out with him, Peter and I were never very good at finding dates, and even your father took his time in asking your mother out," he explained with an amused look on his face. "But on a more serious note, I hope you know I will be keeping a watchful eye on this young man to make sure he is acceptable enough for you," he added wryly.

I was only half sure he was joking. I then spent the remainder of the evening with Remus before he dismissed me right before curfew.

"I expect you will find tomorrow's lesson most exciting," he said as he escorted me back to Gryffindor Tower.

"What is it?" I asked impatiently, wanting Remus to tell me what to expect.

"What fun is it if I ruin the surprise?" he returned my question with an amused look.

I sighed before realizing we had already made it back to the Fat Lady's Portrait.

"Have a good night Marnie," he said before he turned to leave.

I bid him good night before stepping through the portrait and immediately came face to face with Alicia and Katie.

"So?" they both asked excitedly.

"What?" I asked in return, feigning ignorance.

"Oh please, you know what we're asking," Katie responded impatiently before I sighed.

I noticed all of my friends were still up and eagerly awaiting my return.

I was escorted by Katie and Alicia who practically threw me down on the couch beside Angelina before they returned to sit across from us. Lee was sitting on Katie's other side while Fred and George sat on the floor in front of the fire.

"So, what did Cedric want to talk to you about?" Alicia asked more forwardly.

"Oh, just something about being his girlfriend," I answered nonchalantly as I tried to play it up for them.

Alicia and Katie both squealed loudly enough to make Lee jump in his seat. Angelina excitedly grabbed onto my arm as I tried to remain as collected as possible. I didn't want to give anything away.

"What did you say?" Alicia asked as she leaned over even closer towards me.

I gave a long pause as I tried to savour the moment of keeping them in suspense. I also took the moment to look over at George and Fred. George had a genuine smile which felt encouraging that he was actually happy for me. It had been strained between us lately since he felt the need to stay by both of our sides, which ended up dividing his time. I already knew he thought Fred had crossed the line and didn't actually have an issue with Cedric aside from being a quidditch rival. But he also hadn't explained to me why Fred was being such a prat, despite the many times I had asked him. I knew it must have been difficult for George to be the middleman in between Fred and I and I only hoped we wouldn't have to go back to that.

I then turned my attention to Fred who surprisingly had a smile on his face. I could see the pain in his eyes, but I knew he was actually happy for me, or at least the most he could be. I realized then that I had been holding my breath when I forcibly exhaled in relief.

I was brought back to face the others when Angelina, through her excitement, started to crush my arm under her fingers. Alicia and Katie looked as if they were about to burst while I noticed Lee leaning away from them so to avoid being startled by another outburst.

"I said yes, obviously," I answered simply which caused another round of squeals from the girls and for Lee to lean even further away.

The rest of the night was spent excitedly chatting by the fire. Fred had even commented he was happy enough if it meant Cho Chang would leave me alone. I couldn't help smiling at my friends' excitement for me and inwardly thanked whatever fate had brought me to them. As cheesy as it was, I wanted to make sure I never took my friends for granted and felt fortunate to have stopped at that particular train compartment five years ago.

By the time we got to bed I was overly exhausted. The girls had also tired themselves out which meant we were all pretty quiet as we got ready for bed. Once we had turned out the lights, I watched Aster sitting on their perch as my eyes became heavier with exhaustion. I noticed it was almost like they were glowing brighter tonight than they ever had before. But before I could ponder those implications anymore, I succumbed to my tiredness.

"Lena," I heard a familiar voice call from behind me.

I turned around to see a skinny boy with flat, brown hair and a pale complexion.

It was Remus.

"Hey Moony, what's up?" I asked, unfamiliar with the given nickname.

"Well, actually, I wanted to talk to you about Padfoot," Remus explained while I felt a jolt from within my chest.

But my mother sighed, obviously frustrated.

"If Padfoot wants to talk to me that's his prerogative, he shouldn't send you as his owl," I replied in an annoyed tone.

"You know he has already tried," Remus answered more delicately.

"Well, then he shouldn't be such an insufferable toe rag!" I fumed.

Remus chuckled which caused my frustration to surge.

"Taking a page out of Lily's dictionary," he mused.

What are they talking about?

Regrettably, I knew, I felt myself start to smile. My mother was obviously trying to bury the rising excitement I could feel from inside her chest.

"He cares for you Lena," Remus started again, still in his delicate tone.

"I know," I muttered back, butterflies now entering my stomach.

The scene ended as the volume of my dream seemed to go mute and I watched my mother and Remus walk away, leaving me behind. Soon after I had been left in the darkness, I woke up.

 

Chapter Text

Cedric met me outside of the Great Hall just as he had promised the previous night. My stomach erupted into a swarm of butterflies after just seeing him standing there. Part of me almost thought it had just been a dream. But Cedric waved me over once he saw me and I couldn't help but jog over to meet him.

"How was your evening?" he asked politely.

I turned pink at the thought of my friends gushing over him.

In response I heard him chuckling lightly.

"Don't worry, my friends gave me a hard time as well," he said knowingly, saving me from any embarrassment of having to repeat anything my friends had said.

We talked easily with one another on our way to Defense, but my heart almost skipped a beat when he took my hand. He was still holding it when we entered the classroom and I saw a smile cross Remus' face when he noticed.

"Good morning class," Remus greeted everyone once the class was seated.

He got a round of sleepy responses.

"I had noticed that your Defense Against The Dark Arts teachings have been somewhat lacking and was hoping to remedy that with some exposure to some dark creatures," he explained.

I saw many of the students peak with interest. No one was leaning on their desk anymore.

Remus started to gesture towards the looming trunk which I hadn't noticed was sitting in the front of the room.

"Today I want to show you all what a boggart is and how to deal with them. Especially since they can be found in one's home," Remus continued.

The excitement was almost palpable in the class. I had already learned about boggarts surprisingly last year since they had appeared in one of Gilderoy Lockhart's books; he had supposedly seen a boggart's true form since he wasn't afraid of anything. What a git.

I stared at the trunk apprehensively as Remus continued on with his lecture. I already knew boggarts took the form of whatever one feared most, and I realized I had never considered that about myself before. I pondered the notion, still staring at the looming trunk.

I definitely had a large dislike for snakes, especially after learning of the immensely large basilisk that had almost killed me. I also took a particular dislike to trolls, but that was just common sense. And then I thought of the dementors…

But then I thought of that night in my first year when I had sat with the twins in the Astronomy Tower. George had divulged that he was most afraid of losing me and Fred. Was that still true? And how would a boggart show that?

Then I started thinking of losing my friends, my family. What would I do without them, without Harry and George? Without Fred. I shuddered at the thought before a brand new one took hold. What if the boggart appeared as my mother? I obviously wasn't afraid of my own mum, but I knew deep down that her vacant expression hurt just as much as it had as a child. Of course, I didn't say anything anymore, but seeing her look at me was like deepening a scar that could never heal. But was that fear?

Cedric tapped me on the shoulder which brought me out of my plundering reverie. I noticed students pushing their desks to the sides of the classroom and I quickly got up to join them. I didn't want Cedric, or anyone else, to notice my anxiety.

Remus ordered us into a line and somehow, I still ended up near the front. Angelina had come out of nowhere to take my hand and dragged me towards the front of the line where she stood with the rest of my friends. Cedric had followed along to which I was very appreciative.

Angelina ended up being the first student to go up against the boggart, I could see the determination on her face. I also hadn't realized I was holding my breath until Cedric held my hand and rubbed his thumb over it in a soothing gesture, but I didn't take my gaze off of her.

Angelina held her wand at the ready as Remus unlocked the trunk. Immediately we were met by the sight of a hooded-cloaked figure. The man, or whatever it was, showed no face but stood their looming in an intimidating fashion. It took me a moment to realize this figure was supposed to be Lord Voldemort. I could see Angelina freeze in her own mind as she stood staring at the boggart. I couldn't see her face, so it was difficult to gauge her full reaction. However, a moment later, I heard her perform the charm against it, reducing the once fearsome being into big, blow-up balloon. It was almost eerie to watch the once menacing form idly float in front of Angelina, but most of the other students laughed.

We all high-fived Angelina as she walked past our group and went to the back of the room. Alicia was next. Like Ange, a figure stepped out of the trunk when Remus unlocked it, but this time it was obviously a man with a familiar face. It was Sirius Black. He looked like the posters I had seen in Diagon Alley which is no doubt where Alicia gotten these images. I hadn't realized that his escape had affected her so, but then again most of Britain was under high alert for his re-capture.

Alicia froze for about just as long as Angelina had before transforming the gray-eyed murderer into a fluffy little dog. I guess his shaggy hair had inspired her.

Fred went up next. I started to feel slightly dizzy from the amount of time I was holding my breath. Once again when the trunk was opened a familiar person appeared out of it, but this time they were suddenly asleep on the floor. George was at Fred's feet, unmoving. I realized he must be dead. The gasp I released was audible and I felt Cedric's grip on my hand tighten. I didn't pry my eyes off of George, or at least the image of his dead body. I could also see the anger shuddering through Fred's shoulders as he somehow managed to udder the charm. However, instead of something funny appearing, George was replaced by a dead girl. My eyes somehow widened even more, instantly recognizing the girl as me. I gaped at the boggart-version of myself who was lying eerily still at Fred's feet. My body was stark white with no signs of life as my chestnut hair lay limp over my shoulders.

Fred's shoulders had stopped moving along with his entire body. He was just standing there like a statue.

Remus came over and put a hand on Fred's shoulders before summoning his own charm on the creature. I wondered how Remus was affected by it, I was his niece after all.

But after Remus uttered the defensive charm my body became a play doll before being thwarted back into the trunk. Remus took a moment before turning around and sending Fred to join the others in the back of the room. As he passed, he didn't even look in my direction.

Nobody was eager to go next after that.

I looked around as everyone else immediately found the floor or the ceiling highly fascinating. No one wanted to be called upon. Determinedly, I stepped forward since no one else seemed to want to, and all of a sudden, I felt like I had something to prove. I didn't want the vision of my own death to impede me from anything.

I stared decisively forward and was even patted on the back by George and Katie as I passed by. Soon I squared off from the trunk and waited in anxious anticipation. Once my wand was raised, I gave Remus a small nod, not wanting to take my gaze from the trunk.

Again, the trunk was opened to reveal a person stepping out of it. I was almost expecting to see Fred or George, much like Fred's boggart, or maybe even Sirius Black, like Alicia's. But the person coming towards me was a woman, and her appearance made my skin crawl. From her long, curly, black hair to her saucer-like dark eyes, everything about Bellatrix Lestrange was horrifying. Like her cousin, her image was well-known and often used in the Daily Prophet when news was slow. She was always labelled the most fearsome Death Eater alive. She was also the one who tortured my mother.

Like me, she also had her wand raised forward and looked as if she were about to use it. Thoughts of my mother seeing Bellatrix like this moments before being tortured into insanity filled my mind as I tried to maintain focus. I had to remind myself that I was not about to be tortured, that this time I had the upper hand. She wasn't real.

I repeated these thoughts until they became a mantra and I was finally able to cast the charm, turning the disturbed Death Eater into a plush toy with curly black hair. There was no way in hell I would ever want to play with that thing.

I turned to go and join the others in the back, feeling utterly exhausted. Angelina and Alicia congratulated me, but Fred still wouldn't look me in the eye. I knew he wasn't mad, so I decided to give him some space to sort himself out.

It wasn't any easier watching the others face the boggart even though my turn had finished. George's was similar to Fred's as I watched our dead bodies lay at his feet. Lee's ended up being a banshee which I felt was kind of random while Katie's ended up also being Sirius Black. The reoccurrence of both George and Katie's was not any easier than the first time to witness.

The only other fear I was interested in after that was Cedric's and he ended up going right after my friends. I watched more curiously since I didn't really have a clue as to what his boggart would show. I watched as Remus re-opened the trunk to shockingly see Mr. Diggory step out of it. As far as I knew, Cedric had a pretty close relationship with his father, and even saw past his blunt character.

I was almost waiting to see anger or something fear-striking in Mr. Diggory's face to explain the boggart, but I realized that his expression was sad. Grief-stricken actually. I knew the look all too well as it haunted my own mind. Images of my father from my childhood flooded back as I remembered what the separation from my mother had done to my own father.

In that moment I looked away, feeling as if this moment was too intimate for me to witness. I ended up hearing Cedric utter the charm and didn't look back until Cedric was coming to sit beside me. I studied his expression as he sat down and saw the anxiety paired with embarrassment fill his face. I took his hand as a sign of comfort and was glad when he didn't move away. I hoped he would also take the gesture as a sign that I didn't need an explanation or even expect one. I had my fair share of complex family situations so I definitely wouldn't judge him for his.

By the end of the lecture, most of my friends were beaming with self-assuredness. Ange was definitely the worst as she acted like she had just triumphantly taken down a mountain troll. Cedric however had excused himself politely and promised to meet up with me later after dinner. I just smiled when he left, not wanting him to feel any pressure.

The twins however were uncharacteristically quiet. I ended up walking in-between them and matching their pace as I waited for one of them to speak. Both of them didn't utter a word the entire way back to the common room but did end up each taking one of my hands. At least I felt I was comforting them a little.

XXX

It wasn't long before the twins bounced back, returning to their regular-animated selves by dinner. They hadn't said a word about their own boggart yet, but I already knew their feelings on the matter. It seemed little had changed since our discussion on the Astronomy Tower several years ago.

They did however jump out of a broom cupboard when Lee walked by, shrieking like a banshee. This caused Lee to let out a high-pitched scream in response and he still hadn't forgiven them.

By the time dinner was cleared, I excused myself from my friends to go and find Cedric. A little surprisingly, but as promised, he was waiting by our usual bench. A small smile reached his lips as I approached.

"Care for a walk?" he asked, reaching to take my arm.

I happily obliged, letting him lead us towards the Divination Tower. No one would be there at this hour. As we walked through the quiet corridors, I could feel some anxiety start to form in the pit of my stomach. I knew I had already decided to tell him, I just never liked this part.

"Bellatrix was the one who attacked my mother," I blurted out unexpectedly.

Cedric stopped and turned to look at me with concern.

"You don't have to explain yourself Marnie," Cedric said kindly.

The joy I felt at his words competed with my growing anxiety.

"I know. And I thank-you for that and I extend the same curtesy, but I want to tell you about my mother now," I explained.

He continued to look at me kindly, allowing me to continue.

"I was three years old the night she tried to save Harry's parents. But she was too late, and only ended up rescuing Harry," I paused, drawing a breath to continue.

"That was very brave of your mother, I'm glad she was able to get Harry to safety," Cedric said, causing me to nod.

"Yes, that was very lucky. My mother actually came face to face with You Know Who that night, but by then he was already too weak. She was able to get Harry to safety, but somehow ended up being caught on her own again by Bellatrix who was furious about You Know Who's sudden departure. She tortured my mum into insanity in retribution and my mother has been at St. Mungo's ever since," I was trying to suppress my tears by this point.

"She has no recollection of ever having a husband or daughter either," I ended sadly.

I had no voice to continue. In response, Cedric took hold of me and brought me into a tight embrace.

"I am so sorry Marnie, I am just so sorry," he repeated sympathetically.

I could hear the sincerity in his voice. When I eventually pulled away it was to look into his eyes.

"I just wanted you to know that I understand your boggart, there's no need to explain. My father wore that same look for years, it's not something you ever forget."

Cedric nodded solemnly, not elaborating on the subject. He knew there was nothing to explain. After continuing our walk, Cedric eventually ended up escorting me back to the Gryffindor common room just before curfew.

"Good-night Marnie," he said softly before bringing his face to mine and kissing me softly on the cheek.

His warm breath sent shivers throughout my body and caused my face to turn hot.

"Good-night Cedric," I whispered, watching him leave down the stairs.

It was long after he had disappeared from view when I finally turned towards the portrait of the fat lady.

"Much like your mother you are," the fat lady said in an almost patronising tone.

"My mother wasn't in Gryffindor," I snapped back, not having any patience for quips against my mother.

"No, but that lad of hers was," she replied slyly.

"My father was never at school," I answered blankly.

The fat lady gave a sly smirk.

"My dear girl, I am talking about your mother and Sirius Black."

 

Chapter Text

 

When I hurried past the fat lady, I quickly ran up to my room, ignoring the looks from my friends.

My mother had dated Sirius Black? The idea itself seemed preposterous, inconceivable… impossible. This was the man who had betrayed her, all of them.

My mind was reeling from behind the closed red curtains since I had wanted to remain undisturbed from my dormmates. Aster came over to sit on my chest and I methodically started running my finger over their wings and I tried to will myself to sleep. Apparently, Aster seemed to like this, and I wanted answers. I just had to fall asleep. Eventually, I did end up falling into a restless sleep and tried to summon my own dreams. If my family didn't want to tell me the truth about Sirius Black, then maybe my mother would.

I was walking in the pitch black of my dream, willing a memory to appear that would provide any necessary information. But I had never done this before.

I tried calling his name.

"Sirius," I called out, feeling a little hopeless. "Sirius!" I repeated again, with more volume.

A scene started to appear around me. When it finally came into a focus, I realized I was on a familiar looking street. There was also a black-haired man running towards me.

"Lena!" he called frantically.

"Sirius, where have you been?" I asked with equal hysteria.

We turned to stare at the Potter residence.

"Are they….?" he asked in a frightened whisper.

I felt my body convulse under stress.

"I can't, not again," I started, feeling the sobs escape.

Sirius Black put his arms around me and tightly pressed me against his body, almost as if trying to keep us both standing.

"We can't leave them," he whispered into my hair, wet from his tears.

"I know."

He hesitantly pulled away but didn't let go of my hand as we started towards the house with great hesitation.

"He might still be inside," Sirius said wearily, trying to put an edge into his voice.

"He's not, I already saw him leave," I replied, feeling a shudder crawl up my spine.

"What!?" Sirius asked incredulously.

"Not now," I said, almost whimpering.

We were now paused at the door with Sirius' other hand on the doorknob. He inhaled deeply, as if trying to summon the ability to open it, before turning the handle and propping it open. The hallway was darkened, and it felt as if my blood had frozen inside my body. The tears were a continuing steam down my face, but the sobs had subsided for now.

I took out my wand. "Lumos."

I braced myself as we walked into the short hallway before looking into the den. I knew James was right off the entryway.

Sirius' agonized cry was evidence enough that he had spotted his proclaimed brother lying on the floor. I didn't want to see him again, but I knew I couldn't let Sirius alone. I allowed myself to crumple to the floor, more out of necessity since I felt I could no longer stand. It was too much to bear.

"That bastard!" Sirius suddenly shouted.

"I think he's gone now," I said meekly.

"Not him! Wormtail!" he continued.

"What do you mean?" I could hear the disbelief in my mother's voice.

I could also tell she didn't want to hear the answer.

"I'm going to kill him!" Sirius continued with vengeance and hate coursing through his voice.

It was terrifying.

I woke up with a start and was thankful to see the red curtains of my four-poster bed surrounding me. Aster was looking at me with concern since I had startled them awake. Carefully, I put Aster onto the pillow before throwing back the curtains and running towards the washroom. I felt like I was going to be sick. I had had this dream before, but it had never gone this far. The feelings my mother felt were like my own and now I felt crippled with grief. I ran some cold water on my face and tried to even out my breathing. It took several moments before I could even lift my head again. The walls of the dormitory seemed too confined, I needed some space. I quickly threw on some pants and the jumper that Mrs. Weasley had made me before heading out of the room. I was almost jogging down the stairs with my head looking down when I bumped into someone on their way up.

"Marnie!" Angelina exclaimed.

I looked up at her to apologize but saw the anxiety on her face.

"What's happened?" I asked worriedly.

I didn't think I could take anything she was about to say.

"It's Sirius Black, he's just tried to get into the common room!" she said frantically.

I blanched, feeling the nausea rising again.

"Professor McGonagall is taking us all to the Great Hall, I was just on my way to come get you," she continued.

I didn't reply but followed at her brisk pace to the common room where everyone was quickly gathering.

"Hare!" I heard Fred say anxiously from across the room.

He was coming over at a hurried pace.

"Are you alright?" he asked worriedly, surveying my face.

He obviously saw something I hadn't been able to hide.

"What did you see?" he asked in a whisper to avoid others hearing.

"I saw him," I replied uneasily, unsure if the words had even left my lips.

"He won't hurt you, I promise," Fred said confidently, bringing me into a protective embrace.

"Gryffindor's follow me!" I heard an authoritative sounding Percy order from the entrance of the common room.

Fred released me but took my hand and led me towards the exit. I barely felt my other hand being taken by Harry who was looking at me with concern. I knew he suspected I had had a dream, but there was no way I could tell him. At this moment I was just worried that Sirius Black was going to get his hands on Harry, and I wouldn't be able to defend him.

A new sense of fury started taking hold when I thought about the fact that Sirius Black had somehow been able to enter one of the most secure places in magical Britain which was also currently being guarded by dementors. It shouldn't be possible. And if that couldn't keep him out, how were Harry and I supposed to stop him?

When we arrived at the Great Hall I could see the other houses filing in. I was relieved when I saw Cedric enter the room and made an effort to catch his eye. Despite everything that was going on, I just wanted to ensure he was alright.

"School-wide slumber party?" Cedric asked lightly as he came over, obviously oblivious to the situation.

"Are you daft? Sirius Black tried to get into our common room!" Fred retorted angrily.

I also realized he was still holding my hand. I pulled my hand back and gave him a withering look.

"Well he didn't know that now did he. I just found out about two minutes ago myself so why don't you sod off?" I replied forcefully.

My usual level of patience was non-existent, and I had no time to referee Fred's attitude. Fred shuffled his feet and mumbled an apology before I saw him go off and join George.

"Is it true?" Cedric asked concernedly.

I could see him trying to keep up his confident façade, but the truth was we were all scared.

"Yes, it appears to be," I replied evenly.

My anxiety was currently being overtaken by my level of exhaustion.

"Should I stay with you?" he asked sincerely, the fear now plain on his face.

It was sweet how Cedric obviously cared for me and wanted to protect me but sleeping beside him seemed too intimate for the current state of our relationship.

"I'll be fine Ced, I have Harry and the others to stay with me. You should go be with your friends and stick together," I replied with my own level of concern showing through.

I wanted to make sure he knew how worried I was about him as well.

He gave me a soft smile in return.

"That's the first time you've called me Ced."

He then took my hand and brought it up to his lips before kissing it sweetly. Despite the chaos around us, for a split second, I felt like we were the only two in the room. I somehow felt grounded and weightless at the same time and was thankful to be temporarily brought out of my own anxiety.

"Good-night Mar, sweet dreams," he said softly, dropping my hand back down.

"Good-night Ced, be safe," I replied, reluctant to let him go.

But he nodded and turned around to go and find his friends. I sighed and followed suit, finding my friends in an assortment of states. Although the overall mood was still anxious, the girls were giving me big grins after seeing me with Cedric. Ginny and Hermione were also there, bearing their own grins while the boys rolled their eyes. Fred had an unreadable expression but dropped it quickly before I could decipher anything while Harry looked livid. I guess your maniac godfather trying to kill you and then watching your sister have an intimate moment with her boyfriend was too much to handle. He didn't say a word after that. Ron just scowled when I walked past which just caused Ginny to whack him over the head.

Immune to everyone's reactions, I crawled into the sleeping bag beside Angelina and did my best to ignore her sly grin. However, Alicia and Katie had returned to panicking and I could hear Lee and George trying to calm them down.

Five minutes later, Percy, along with the other prefects, were dimming the lights and ordering everyone to sleep. I closed my eyes and listened to everyone around me fall into their own slumber. But I was plagued by the vivid memories from my dream and was in no state to fall back asleep. It had been one of the worst ones yet, but I guess mum had been trying to warn me what Sirius Black was capable of. He was obviously cunning and resourceful enough to break into the castle undetected and had blatantly vowed to kill who I could only assume was Peter Pettigrew all those years ago. It was disturbing to think what this man was capable of committing.

XXX

Over the next week most everyone was on edge, but that didn't stop anyone from getting hyped about the upcoming quidditch game.

Hufflepuff had replaced Slytherin against Gryffindor since Draco Malfoy was feigning an injured arm due to his mild scuffle with Hagrid's hippogriff.

So I was spending my evenings going back-and-forth between watching both teams' practice. The Hufflepuff team had been skeptical of my close connections with the entire Gryffindor team, but dating the team captain had its perks. So, every night I would bring out my homework to keep up for my OWLs and sit in the stands to support my friends and boyfriend. By the end of the week however, things were seeming a bit tense.

"Marnie, you shouldn't be sitting and watching the Hufflepuff's. It's treason," Ron fumed one night in the common room.

"Ronald!" Hermione scolded. "You're not even on the team, what has gotten into you?"

Ron just grumbled and folded his arms over his chest.

I rolled my eyes at his odd behaviour. This incited a chorus of giggling from the girls who looked at me slyly.

"Cedric is so quiet and mysterious," Katie giggled which caused Lee to sigh and look at me warily.

"Kate, he's not mysterious," I said, wanting to placate the ongoing glares I was constantly receiving from Lee.

"But he is a gentleman," Alicia cut in.

I just rolled my eyes and shrugged. It had been like this all week and I was on the losing side of an up-hill battle. I gave my best apologetic look to Lee. He didn't look impressed.

"The real question is do you have any insider tips? You could be our little spy," George suggested for the tenth time that night.

I turned my exasperated expression towards him, but he just shrugged.

"I know you'll cave eventually."

"I told you I won't tell you anything, just like I don't tell Cedric anything about your strategies," I explained again.

"Who's been leaking Gryffindor quidditch strategies?" Oliver Wood asked frantically when he passed by.

Alicia rolled her eyes.

"No one Oliver, Marnie has kept her word," Angelina reassured their captain.

He gave me a hard look before nodding and continuing up towards the boys' dormitories.

"Everyone should be asleep by nine!" he shouted over his shoulder.

"Good-night Oliver," everyone replied evenly.

Everyone was used to Oliver's high-strung personality when it came quidditch. The poor bloke only wanted to win the cup in his final year.

Obligingly, we did all go to sleep at nine though. Despite how much Oliver annoyed his team, they did respect him and the game. They also wanted to win almost as badly as he did. Almost.

The next morning, I headed out to the pitch with Ron, Hermione and Neville to watch the match. Unfortunately, the rain was torrential and there was no possible way of staying dry. Thankfully, Hermione had been clever enough to put a charm on Harry's glasses, so he would be able to see the snitch better, or at all. The rain was almost like a white sheet.

I could barely see Oliver and Cedric walk towards the middle of pitch to shake hands before taking their places back with their teams. I couldn't hear the whistle over the wind, but moments later all the players were in the air. It was difficult to keep track of everyone since they would disappear into the rain and I could hardly hear Lee, so it was difficult to keep up with the score.

"Blimey it's freezing," Ron shouted from beside me.

The rain had been cool, but it felt like a new, frostier chill was taking hold.

"They've seen it!" Hermione exclaimed from my other side pointing at Harry and Cedric racing for the snitch.

I watched in anticipation but saw Harry stop in his tracks. As the panic started to set in, I stood up and leaned against the wooden rail since we had gotten front-row seats.

There was a billowing, cloaked creature floating in front of Harry.

I cried out his name, but flashes of James' body floated across my vision.

"Harry!" I shouted, worried it was his dead body I was seeing.

"No!" I screamed louder, frantic to get to my brother's body.

I could faintly see him falling through the air and then saw a flash of a motionless body lying on the floor.

"Harry," I said one more time, still trying to reach out my hand to touch him before everything went dark.

xx

"Harry's fallen!" Angelina exclaimed as she quickly dismounted beside George and started to run after Fred.

"Hare will never forgive me," Fred muttered to himself.

He approached Harry's unconscious body with trepidation before bending down to assess him. He also heard Alicia shriek when she approached, and Fred knew how bad it looked. Thankfully, Harry appeared to be breathing, but they needed to get him to the hospital wing immediately.

"Marnie!" Fred heard someone say from above him.

"Oh great," Fred thought to himself. "Hare doesn't need to see Harry like this."

"Marnie!" Fred heard Angelina exclaim before he saw his friend stand up and bolt for the other side of the pitch.

"What's going on?" Fred asked aloud, frustrated that it was taking so long for a teacher to arrive.

Then he saw her, crumpled in a heap at the foot of the stands. His Marnie being surrounded by several students and teachers.

Finally, Madam Hooch was coming over to help him with Harry.

"What happened?" Fred croaked, still staring as Cedric knelt by Marnie's side.

"She passed out from the dementor, same as Potter. Fell from the stands it looks like. Quite a few broken bones but she's breathing. She'll be fine," Madam Hooch explained much too casually for Fred.

All he wanted to do was leave Harry with the quidditch teacher and flee to her side, but she would never forgive him for leaving Harry. He had also fallen from a great height. Plus, Diggory was there. As much as Fred hated to admit it, the pretty boy did obviously care for Marnie, and would at least ensure she got to the hospital wing before Fred could attend to her himself.

Fred gritted his teeth.

"If it wasn't for this bloody rain, I could have seen her. I would have caught her," Fred thought to himself furiously.

And why the hell had a dementor been in the middle of the quidditch pitch during a match?

Fred ended up escorting Harry up to the castle along with his teammates and watched Cedric like a hawk the entire time. Angelina and Ginny were also with Marnie which made Fred more comfortable with the situation, but he was still antsy.

xx

Harry started to stir from his bed.

"Did we win?" were the first words out of his mouth.

The team couldn't look him in the eye.

"Cedric caught the snitch mate," George explained delicately.

"He did try to ask for a rematch, but they won fairly," Katie added disappointedly.

Harry looked dejected and obviously angry with himself.

"No one blames you mate," Fred said, wanting to cheer him up, especially with Marnie still unconscious.

Fred started to stare at Marnie again and tuned out of the conversation. She always looked so fragile when she slept, especially being covered in bruises. She was also still soaking wet and wished the matron would hurry up and attend to her.

"Marnie?" Fred snapped out of his thoughts and turned back to Harry.

He had a frantic look in his eye.

"What happened to Marnie?" Harry asked anxiously, now turning to look at the far bed she was laying in.

"Same thing as you I guess," Lee shrugged.

"We were with her," Ron started to explain. "She was screaming your name and then she just passed out. We tried to catch her mate, really! But she was already leaning over and then she just fell."

It was obvious Ron was worried his best friend would be angry with him. But Harry tried to sit up instead causing Fred to push him back down.

"Rest up mate, she's in good hands," he said quietly.

Harry looked over again and saw Cedric idly sitting by her bedside. He sighed before nodding and relaxed back down onto his pillow.

"He better not try anything funny with her," Harry added grumpily but didn't try to get back up.

Fred couldn't help chuckling and shaking his head. Harry obviously shared similar sentiments about Cedric as he did, but for the moment both boys knew he was who she needed, no matter how much that upset them. Fred could also see George giving him and Harry a knowing look which caused him to scowl. Fred wasn't going to give in that easily to the idea of Cedric and Marnie together, but at this moment, the dire circumstances seemed to prevail. He would have to re-assess once everything was back to normal.

 

Chapter Text

Lena.

That was all he could think of when he saw her. Her brown hair plastered to her face because of the rain, and those shining bronze eyes. He thought they always showed the fiery spirit she hid through her gentle nature. But he knew better. Lena Tress was the bravest girl he had ever met, but how was she here? A fifteen-ish year old girl sitting and watching quidditch like it was the most natural thing to do; like they all used to do.

Wait, that can't be her.

He thought more realistically to himself. Lena was all grown-up; this was Harry playing-not James. Sirius sighed. And he was no longer the somewhat-innocent school-boy he had once been.

So, if that wasn't Lena up there, sitting amongst all of the red and gold adorned students…

Then this was Marnie.

XXX

Cedric had hardly left my bedside since I arrived in the hospital wing after the game. I had been groggy waking up and it took an entire day for the splitting migraine to pass, but now I felt ready to get on my feet again. Madam Pomfrey, however, had other plans and had ordered that Harry and I remain in the hospital wing over the weekend. Fortunately, I didn't mind my boyfriend sitting idly by my side and trying his best to keep me entertained, or at least from dying of boredom. I had also noticed that Ron and Hermione had been trying to keep Harry occupied from sulking over his broken broom since they hadn't left Harry either.

Cedric still felt terribly about winning the game, but from his retelling it seemed like he had won fairly, despite the anguish felt by the Gryffindors. In return, I had felt badly that I didn't see him win, since by that point I had been falling out of the stands.

The one downfall to all of the company though was that it had been difficult to talk to Harry, and I knew something other than his obliterated Nimbus was bothering him. Remus also made it his habit to come and visit us alone after curfew, since professors did not have to abide by such rules.

"And how are my two miracles this evening?" Remus asked us with his given nickname.

He had thought it quite astounding that we had both been relatively unscathed after separately falling about thirty feet to the ground. Dad had also lost it when Remus had the unfortunate duty of writing home to him. Apparently, Professor Dumbledore had thought it best if the news of his two children almost falling to their deaths came from his best friend and not the same man who had told him about the mountain troll and basilisk.

"Ready to get back to my own bed," I pouted in return.

I hated the feel of the hospital wing, and I longed for the coziness of the fifth-year dorm. Angelina had informed me that Aster was starting to look weary from my absence, so she had started to bring Aster's cage over to her bedside, so they would have someone nearby.

"I heard that Poppy is willing to let you both out of here tomorrow, just in time for classes to start back up," Remus replied lightly.

Harry kept quiet, still as moody as he had been all weekend.

"Harry, I am deeply sorry about your broom. I have been trying to sort something out with Joss, but right now doesn't seem to be the best time, he's still in a bit of a fit after you both fell," Remus explained in his gentle tone.

"No, I have the money to buy a new broom over the summer. I just really liked this one and will have to play the rest of the season on the school brooms," Harry sighed.

"Well, I will see what Joss and I can do. Maybe he can access your vault and send one over in the post," Remus continued as cheerfully as he could.

Harry sighed and nodded again. He was never very good at hiding his frustration.

"Why were the dementors even at the pitch?" Harry finally asked in an exasperated tone.

He had obviously been chewing this thought around for a while.

"Yes, well, my guess is they are getting restless that Sirius has not yet been captured. It was the Ministry's promise that he would be caught within the month and now we are into November," Remus answered, the cheerfulness falling from his face.

Remus had been fairly tight lipped about his ex-best friend being an escaped murderer going after the boy he had been helping to raise over the past three years. I was amazed that he could keep it together so well.

Harry did not share this tactful trait.

"Why is it only Marnie and I who faint? I mean, it cost me the game and my broom. What if it's even worse next time? I need to be able to protect myself… and Marnie," Harry went on, anger now evident in his voice.

Of course, I had been annoyed and even scared by the fact that I had plummeted nearly thirty feet down off of the stands when I had seen the dementor on the pitch. The thoughts that impeded my mind next had also been nerve-racking, but I had not thought about the threat of a next time. Obviously, Harry had been keeping tabs and the dementors were ahead two to zip against both Harry and me. Each time we had come into contact with the dark creatures we had both passed out. Something that Malfoy and Flint loved to bring up at every possible opportunity they had to anyone who would listen.

Remus looked thoughtful. "Well, you and Marnie have both experienced much more loss and grieving in your past, something the dementors can easily pick up on. This is why you two both react more severely. But, as it seems to trouble you, I would be willing to teach you the counter-spell, so you feel more equipped and protected."

"Really! That would be brilliant," Harry replied, obviously eager for the opportunity.

"Why don't I let you two rest up?" Remus said afterwards, standing up from the foot of my bed. "You both best be getting a good-night's sleep so there is no reason to keep you here any longer."

Remus came over and kissed my forehead like he used to do when I was little. His gentle expression cracked for a moment and I could see the anxiety he was obviously feeling. I guess having the two people he considered as his children to be in the hospital wing at the same time did not bode well for one's nerves.

We both watched him as he exited the hospital wing before the two of us turned to face each other.

"So, is that what has been bothering you?" I asked knowingly.

Harry sighed again, probably annoyed at how well I knew him.

"Yes, that was part of it, but…" he paused, looking at the closed door of the matron's office.

"I know this sounds mad… but… well, I saw a Grimm," he finished after stumbling over his own words.

I looked thoughtfully at Harry's expression and could tell he felt even more nervous than he was letting on. I knew he normally didn't take Professor Trelawney's visions very seriously, but it was also daunting to have a teacher predict your death every class, especially when a mass murderer was coming after you.

"When?" I asked, feeling intrigued by this potential mystery.

"Well, there was an enormous, black dog at the quidditch game. It was off to the side, away from the stands, but it was there. You should have seen it Marnie, this was no regular dog" Harry continued in a shaky voice.

I already knew about all of the prophecies Professor Trelawney had told Harry, and we had mostly just laughed them off as nonsense. But now, Harry had just fallen off of his broom after witnessing a behemoth of a black dog.

Before I could say anything, we noticed the light turn off from Madam Pomfrey's office which meant she would be coming out to check that we were asleep.

"I won't let anything hurt you," I whispered to Harry.

I couldn't see his reaction through the darkness but knew he would take my words seriously.

"No Marnie, I'm going to learn how to keep you safe." Harry thought to himself before rolling over and closing his eyes to fall asleep.

XXX

A lot happened over the next month which left me itching for the Christmas holiday’s.

Uncle Remus had kept true to his word and had been meeting Harry sporadically to teach him the Patronus charm. Apparently, they were using a boggart which meant I could not join in since my boggart was not a dementor like Harry's. No one wanted to see Bellatrix Lestrange again.

The amount of homework was also catastrophic which meant that I could not spend much time with either Cedric or any of my friends. We did all try to study together but I had been so caught up in the amount of work I had that I never knew who was sitting next to me.

I also had a meeting with Professor McGonagall to talk about my career prospects. McGonagall had handed out slips of paper with meeting times on them one day in early November in order to discuss our plans with her.

11:00 on Tuesday

I held the slip of paper in my fist as I knocked on her office door.

"Come in," I heard the professor call out from inside the room.

I opened the heavy looking wooden door with surprising ease before entering the office. The professor was sitting at her desk, looking like she was marking a pile of two-foot essays. Oh, to be in first year again.

"Have a seat Miss. O'Hara," Professor McGonagall ordered as she gestured to the opposite chair closest to me.

I sat down nervously while I waited for McGonagall to finish writing her notes. I had honestly forgotten these career counselling meetings existed and hadn't given my career goals much thought.

"So, before we start, are there any careers that you feel confident about?" she asked prudently.

I hadn't noticed McGonagall look up from her marking and now my palms were starting to sweat.

"Actually, I don't really have an idea…" I started before the professor cut me off.

"Not to worry Miss O'Hara. There are lots of students who are unsure at your age. This is why we ask now, so we can gear you in the right direction before it is too late. Now, I see you have been taking Care of Magical Creatures, Muggle Studies, and Divination as your electives," McGonagall said with skepticism in her voice when she said the last one.

I nodded at her in agreement.

"Your grades have also been exceptional, and I have no doubt you will receive all of your O.W.Ls at the end of the year. Although, I must mention that you might want to put the extra effort into Potions and History of Magic," she said knowingly.

I could feel myself blush.

"I think I can do that," I answered sheepishly.

"Of course, you can," Professor McGonagall said much more confidently than I felt.

"I have also been told by Professor Sprout that you have been extremely knowledgeable in Herbology throughout your studies. Professor Hagrid also mentioned to me this morning that you have a keen sense with animals and that you have been keeping a fairy?" she asked incredulously.

I still didn't know the policy about having fairies for pets.

"Well, I must tell you that upon hearing this I did go up and check on the creature since it is highly unorthodox to have a fairy in your dorm. They often live in groups and are very loyal amongst their colonies. However, it seems this one is quite attached to you. I noticed you keep the window open and it seemed to blatantly ignore me when I tried to usher it out," she said with something unreadable in her voice. "That being said, there are great opportunities associated with both of those fields. Magizoologists, for instance, study different magical creatures which I am sure could pique your interest. There are many esteemed persons in the profession, such as Gondoline Oliphant who specialized in studying trolls," McGonagall explained.

"Trolls…" I cut in, remembering too clearly of my one and only encounter with trolls.

"Oh, right," the professor said, somewhat awkwardly.

"Then there are obviously herbologists," she continued.

"Sorry, professor," I cut in again. "It's just... my father only ever told me about muggle professions. Would it be so terrible if I were to do something non-magical?"

"Of course not, child," McGonagall looked at me thoughtfully. "I just wouldn't want your father's fears to be the reason you do not pursue your own goals."

I took in her words and sat quietly for several moments.

"O'Hara, I think you are on the right track and will do exceedingly well in anything you choose. I just want to ensure that whatever profession you end up with, it will be one of your own choosing."

Professor McGonagall then stood up and led me to the door.

"Think about it over the next year and find out what it is that would make you the most happy."

She smiled at me kindly and closed the door behind me. My mind was reeling at the possibilities for my future, but I just felt the need to get through my OWL year first. But maybe I didn't have to leave the magical world to find a suitable job.

 

Chapter Text

Christmas this year seemed almost tense since everyone was still so nervous about Sirius Black not being recaptured. In lieu of this, Remus had been granted access to use the Floo to get home, so we didn't have to take the train back. I guess there were a few minor perks to having Harry stalked by a mass murderer.

The nervous energy however did not stop Harry and I from bolting down the stairs Christmas morning. We had woken up with the first peak of sunlight and were excited about the prospect of Harry joining us at the Weasley's for Christmas supper.

Remus and dad were unsurprisingly already awake and were busy getting breakfast ready when we came downstairs. While we waited, we sat in the living room and eagerly picked up the hot chocolate that was already waiting for us.

"Good morning, you two!" dad said as he came in to greet us.

He was wearing a worn apron over his red and green striped pyjamas and shuffled his feet in his ratty slippers.

"Breakfast is almost ready!" Remus hollered from the kitchen as I saw him dish up a pile of pancakes. Amazingly, they were stacked in an alternating pattern of red and green.

"That's brilliant!" I exclaimed, already sitting in my chair as I eagerly anticipated the arrival my breakfast.

"Just a little food colouring," my dad said modestly as he poured tea for himself and Remus.

The plate hadn't been on the table a few seconds before I was grabbing the first few off the top.

"I thought you would outgrow your habit of eating like a lion," dad chuckled as he watched me.

"Well, I am a Gryffindor," I replied proudly, pouring a good helping of syrup across my plate.

"We always wait for Marnie to have food on her plate before serving ourselves at school," Harry added cheekily.

I gave him a withering look but couldn't help but laugh at him. He was right.

Breakfast was over quickly and we dashed off towards the tree. It was my turn this year to hand out the presents and I started with the brown-papered ones from Mrs. Weasley. I was surprised however to see that she had chosen blue for my sweater this year and was reminded of the sweater Fred had received during the first Christmas I had known the twins.

It was a very pretty colour.

I pulled the sweater over my pyjamas and basked in the heat it provided. I then looked over to see Harry had received a green coloured one, just like George had that same year.

I was also excited to receive three new books from each of my family and couldn't wait to get started reading them. I would have to share them with Luna when I saw her tomorrow for Boxing Day.

Soon there were only two presents remaining and I blushed when I grabbed the small one and saw that it was from Cedric. This year at least, I had also sent him a present of my own. I had gotten him some candied hearts I had seen at Honeydukes along with a picture I had drawn of him flying around on his broom. I had drawn it one day during a practice and had waited to give it to him.

I opened his carefully and was in awe when I uncovered a small box with a charm inside.

It had been two months ago, when Cedric had commented on the bracelet that I always wore from Harry. He suggested that I put a charm on it to make it less plain. After that, I hadn't given it much thought since I loved my bracelet that said sister. But I felt I might tear up at the sight of this small little fairy charm, no bigger than my pinky nail. It also came with a note.

Dearest Marnie,

I am wishing you a Happy Christmas and wanted you to know I am counting down the days until 1994 when I can see you again. You are the very best thing that happened to me this year and I wanted to make sure you knew how special you are to me. Like a fairy, you are my light.

Love,

Cedric

I was thankful that everyone seemed focused on Harry's last present and couldn't see my face turn as pink as a peony. However, I was startled out of my thoughts when I heard everyone gasp. I looked over to see Harry holding a brand new Firebolt in his hands.

"Where did you get that?" I asked in amazement.

I knew, as much as my dad and Remus tried to take care of Harry, they definitely could not have afforded this.

"There's no note," he said, obviously in awe.

I was still watching Harry as he marvelled at his new broom before I heard Remus clear his throat.

"Might I have a look at that?" he asked, a hint of worry in his tone.

I looked furtively over at my uncle and father before I realized what they were thinking. If none of us gave Harry that broom, then there were very few people left who would.

"Do you think?" I asked cautiously, not wanting to alarm Harry.

"I can't help but admit there is a strong likelihood Sirius Black somehow got this for you," Remus said solemnly.

"What does that mean?" Harry asked fretfully.

I could see his grip tighten over the broom.

"Harry, I have to make sure this broom can't hurt you," Remus said more authoritatively.

Dad was already moving to take the broom from his grasp.

"Will it get destroyed?" I asked, wanting to stand up for Harry since he had seemingly become at a loss for words.

"Only if it's jinxed or been tampered with," Remus said reassuringly.

I could see the turmoil roiling through Harry's mind, but he eventually relinquished the broom to my father who quickly brought it upstairs.

XXX

The rest of the day wasn't nearly as filled with excitement, but even brooding Harry couldn't deny his anticipation for heading to the Weasley's for Christmas dinner. We arrived shortly before five and knocked on the door. Remus had driven us here in his car, which had only taken about twenty minutes as opposed to the hours it was to walk.

"Happy Christmas!" Mr. Weasley greeted us at the door. "Remus is that yours?" he asked excitedly before any of us could say anything back.

Mr. Weasley was eyeing the car eagerly and Remus obliged him by walking him over.

The rest of us went inside and dad went to deposit our pie in the kitchen where Mrs. Weasley was no doubt finishing with supper.

"Marnie!" I heard Ginny exclaim as she came into the front entryway.

She was wearing a new, gray sweater that her mother had no doubt made her for Christmas. I let her take my hand and guide me into their sitting room with Harry close at my heels. I turned around and saw Harry taking everything in. This was the first time he had ever been to the Burrow which caused me to remember my first time. It had always felt so inviting, almost like a second home with its boisterous laughter and endless smells of cooking. It was much different than our small, quiet cottage.

"Harry! Marnie!" we heard Ron greet us as he came rushing down the stairs.

"Happy Christmas!" I said as I walked over and gave him a friendly hug.

When I released him, I saw he was the colour of a plum. The poor boy was still not too familiar with how to act around girls. I felt bad for poor Hermione who obviously must be hermaphroditic in Ron's mind, or else one of the boys.

"Are they upstairs?" I asked Ron who simply nodded.

Ginny joined me up the stairs and waited with me when I knocked on their door.

"Sod off Ron!" George said, obviously annoyed from earlier antics from his younger brother.

"Oh, I guess I'll just go back home then," I replied mockingly.

I heard a set of feet bolt towards the door and the unlatching of the lock. I was surprised Mrs. Weasley even let them have a lock on their door. Or what was more likely was that she didn't know about it yet.

"Hare!" Fred greeted with obvious excitement.

He beckoned both Ginny and I through the door before locking it behind us again.

"What are you two up to?" I asked curiously since they were both acting so secretive.

"We're just working on some ideas," George said non-chalantly.

"Have you made anything yet?" I asked, already knowing the boys must be talking about their prank project.

Around my birthday, the twins had confided in me about their aspirations for producing joke products. I thought it sounded brilliant and had since been posing ideas to them as well. So far, nothing was out of the proposal stage.

"Fred! George!" we heard their mother yelling from downstairs before either of them could reply to my question.

"Better get downstairs before she becomes suspicious," George said before standing up and leading the way out of the bedroom.

Before I could follow him and Ginny, I felt a hand clasp onto my arm.

"Can I talk with you a minute?" Fred asked, somewhat hesitantly.

"Of course," I asked, interested in what Fred wanted to talk about.

But, without saying anything, he rooted under his bed and pulled out a small, wrapped parcel. I took it from his outstretched hand hesitantly and unwrapped the tiny ribbon. Inside was a small box holding an even smaller charm. I looked up at him warmly. The charm was a shamrock, similar in size to my fairy.

Fred picked up my wrist and went to attach the newest charm.

"What's this?" he asked curiously, spotting the fairy charm.

He sighed with a smile before I could answer.

"Of course, pretty boy got you a charm as well," he said knowingly.

I was relieved to hear that Fred's voice was devoid of its usual annoyed tone whenever he talked of Cedric. In the meantime, I would have to leave the new nickname alone since there was already progress.

He silently attached the new charm.

"You know, shamrocks can be brewed in potions to help with head colds," I blurted nervously.

I had no clue why I suddenly felt uncomfortable with the silence between the two of us.

"How do you keep track of all these facts?" he asked amusedly.

The new charm was on the opposite side of the silver plate Harry had originally had inscribed.

"You know, you should work in a hospital making all these potions," he added thoughtfully.

"Is that a real job?" I asked curiously.

"I would suppose so. There has to be a witch or wizard out there discovering all these cures and potions. Why couldn't that person be you?" he stated simply.

I was thoughtful of his words as he pulled on my arm to lead me downstairs. But all was forgotten once we joined the rest of the party and enjoyed the jubilance of the Weasley's Christmas. I also noticed that everyone except Mrs. Weasley, Remus and my dad were all in new jumpers and sat in any vacant spot in the sitting room.

"Hey, you have a blue jumper this year," George observed with an unreadable expression on his face.

"Yea, mum always makes you an orange one," Ginny added.

"I like the blue," I replied, looking down at my new sweater and feeling defensive against George who was now giving me a smirk.

"It suits you," Fred added kindly pulling my attention from his suspicious brother.

I turned to Fred and returned a soft smile before he changed his expression into a scowl. I could hear the reason. Mrs. Weasley had turned up a Celestina Warbeck song.

"Mum, you're going to force me to cut off my own ears," George added, following suit with his twin.

I shook my head while Mrs. Weasley chastised the both of them before announcing dinner was ready.

Harry's eyes almost popped out of his head when he looked at the feast. Obviously, we had all seen this much food at Hogwarts, but it almost seemed more impressive on the Weasley's limited dining table.

Once we all sat down, we were able to open our magical crackers which floated across the room when pulled open and came with individual paper crowns. Mine was a sparkly purple and fit itself over my head once I put it on. I looked around to see everyone else had a different colour and were already piling food onto their plates.

As always, the evening was unforgettable, and I was absolutely stuffed by the time the last pie was cleared from the table.

The grownups enjoyed one last fire whisky while us kids were given hot chocolate with some added peppermint. The overall volume had decreased slightly as everyone digested and sunk into their seats in the sitting room. Ginny was standing behind me while she braided my hair, which felt very soothing and was making me sleepy. I was watching Harry and Ron play a game of wizard's chess while I noticed the twins were talking in hushed tones with one another, no doubt talking of their prank plans.

By the time dad stood up to announce that we should leave, I was almost asleep in my chair. Harry grabbed my hand and led me all the way to the car where I fell asleep minutes later in the backseat.

XXX

Everyone was excited when we returned to Hogwarts after the holidays. Harry had his firebolt returned to him which caused everyone to be ecstatic. Apparently, dad had owled it back to the school where many of the professors had tested the broom for tampering. It had thankfully gotten the all-clear and Harry was ready for the upcoming match against Ravenclaw.

"Marnie!" I heard my name being called as I entered the Great Hall for the return feast.

I looked over to see Cedric heading towards me with a wide grin. I went over to him in an attempt to have an ounce of privacy from my friends who I knew were watching the entire encounter. Cedric leaned down and planted a lingering kiss on my cheek. I couldn't help but notice that after, he kept his head beside my face for a lingering moment, as if disappointed in having to pull away. I hugged him back once he lifted his head and took the opportunity to kiss his cheek. I saw a light blush form where my lips touched his face.

"Would you care to join me?" he asked kindly, offering his arm for me to take.

"Of course," I answered obligingly.

I took his arm as he guided me towards the Hufflepuff table. I was unaware of my friends' reactions since I never looked back.

xx

"Why does Marnie date that tosser?" Ron asked glumly as he went over to sit with Harry and Hermione.

"He seems to treat her well," Neville added sincerely.

Ron just scowled and put his head on his hands.

"Leave it alone Ron," Fred said as he took his seat next to Harry.

"You've changed your mind then?" Angelina asked, surprised by Fred's levelheadedness on the matter.

Fred just shrugged.

Previously, Cedric had always been a sore subject between the group. Angelina had suspected Fred might have feelings for Marnie, but Cedric was honestly a great match. He treated her friend well and was insanely good looking to boot. She would be lying if she said she wasn't a little jealous.

xx

I had met most of Cedric's friends over the past few months, but I hadn't shared a meal with them yet.

"Hey Marnie!" I saw a boy with short, black hair and big dimples greet me.

I knew his name was Liam Newton, Cedric's best friend. He was quite skinny and loved to talk to anyone who would listen.

"Hey Liam," I greeted back before sitting down across from him.

Cedric sat beside me, pulling my hand into his and setting them on my leg.

"How was your Christmas?" I asked, causing a large smile to cross Liam's face.

"Brilliant! My sister came back from Madrid for a visit," he answered excitedly.

I had known his sister, Olivia, was abroad working on some sort of project concerning international magical relations.

"Natalie's was pretty good too," he added, looking beside him at the pretty girl with long blonde hair tied back off her shoulders.

It also wasn't a secret that Liam had a big crush on Natalie, at least to everyone except the two of them.

"What did you do Natalie?" I asked before the girl returned a friendly smile.

"Just stayed at home with my grandparents. But my aunt and uncle came to visit, and I hadn't seen them since last year, so it was really nice," she explained.

The Hufflepuff's seemed less boisterous than the Gryffindor table always seemed to be. Cedric's friends were very polite and were never rushed to get an entire conversation out in two minutes flat. The Gryffindor's however were always energetic, even at seven in the morning when I was still half asleep. Plus, you always had to be alert for the sudden occurrence of food being thrown. Of course, food fights were prohibited, but it was common enough for Gryffindor's to throw a bagel or something similar at you to get your attention. From the outside, we must look downright unruly.

After the feast Cedric ended up walking me back to my common room and I felt relieved to finally have a minute alone with my boyfriend.

"Thank-you for the charm," I said sincerely, holding it up to show him.

"I'm glad you like it," he replied.

If he saw Fred's charm, he didn't say anything.

"And thank-you for the picture, you really have a talent," he praised while I tried not to blush.

"Well, I guess I should go to bed," I said, trying to think of something that would keep me out here a moment longer.

However, Cedric didn't say anything and instead bent down and inched his face towards mine. At the last moment, I closed my eyes and realized what he was doing.

His lips felt soft and warm as he gently moved them over mine. It was almost like a soft zing of energy being transferred over from his skin onto mine and I briefly wondered if that's what Alicia had meant by feeling the electricity.

Cedric was obviously being respectful, but I could feel the want in his movements before he pulled back. Once he released me, I expelled the breath and I hadn't known I had been holding. I opened my eyes to see his shining back at me. Unexpectedly, I realized that was not nearly enough and I quickly filled the gap between us again. I stood on my tiptoes and found his lips with mine. This time, he enveloped his arms around me and pulled me closer while I relished in his woodsy scent. Through my nose, since I remembered to breathe this time, I could smell something that could only be described as winter, and it was very enticing on him.

I finally pulled away and could see his face was flush. I didn't want to know what mine looked like. However, the amusement was also evident in his wide grin.

"I didn't expect that," he said in a breathy voice.

I smiled ruggedly back at him.

"Neither did I," I replied truthfully.

He stepped back towards me, careful with his movements this time and planted a soft kiss on my cheek.

"Goodnight Mar," he said before walking away.

It took me a moment, after he had disappeared to head into the common room. I hadn't even finished coming through the door when Alicia and Katie approached me, followed closely by Angelina.

"Tell us everything," Katie commanded while already taking my hand and pulling me towards our dorm.

 

Chapter Text

Thankfully, the incessant bothering about Cedric was temporarily replaced by the anticipation of Gryffindor's game against Ravenclaw; and Harry's new broom.

Part of me was relieved that the game against Hufflepuff had already passed since I was wary about Cedric facing off against Harry on his new broom. Of course, I had confidence in my boyfriend's flying abilities, but I wasn't ready to be in the middle of that feud between him and my brother.

I had been able to watch the super-coveted Gryffindor practices, much at the insistence of my friends and brother against Oliver Wood. Oliver was convinced I might be a double agent for Ravenclaw, despite only knowing Luna from that house, but in the end I had agreed to sign a contract written up by Hermione that would disallow me from telling anything. This was a compromise to Oliver's initial unbreakable vow suggestion.

"Well everyone looks fairly sure of themselves," I greeted everyone as I sat down to join them for breakfast.

"It's a shoe in with Harry's new broom," George replied confidently.

I noticed everyone digging into their breakfast with a lack of their usual uneasiness on game day.

"Don't let it get to your heads!" Oliver Wood chastised from down the table.

The Gryffindor captain was currently sitting on the other side of Alicia and was the only one who still had a full plate of food, left untouched. He looked more of the usual green colour and seemed overly anxious towards the others.

"I agree that we have an edge against Ravenclaw, but we can't get ahead of ourselves. We need this win or we are out of the running," he said sternly.

I felt bad for the bloke. He hadn't won the quidditch cup since he took the captain's mantle from Charlie Weasley, and this was his last attempt for it. But his passion had since become an obsession which I felt masked the fact that he was a fairly handsome bloke who probably had a lot to offer. I mean, all of my friends are on the team, my brother is the youngest seeker in a century, and I'm also dating the seeker from a rival team, and none of them are as driven about quidditch as Wood seems to be. It's scaring off a lot of potential.

I shook my head and served up my own plate. It was nice to see everyone in a more chipper mood than they usually were before a game. Plus, I had to admit I was a little excited at the prospect of Harry beating Cho Chang. She had since left me alone after Fred told her off in the hallway right before Cedric and I started dating, however she wasn't above sending me a glare once in a while in the corridors or from across the Great Hall.

Everyone was also ogling over Harry's broom since he had graciously placed it in the middle of the Gryffindor table. I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes when everyone came to gush over the new Firebolt. Even Percy Weasley brought over his now proclaimed girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater, the Ravenclaw prefect. The twins still had a hard time letting it go that Percy was actually showing affection for someone other than his prefect badge, but I thought they were cute.

"Ready to go?" I heard a familiar voice ask, causing me to look up from my breakfast.

I smiled at Cedric who was daringly wearing a Gryffindor coloured hat and looked all set to head out to the pitch.

"Yup!" I replied happily, forcing myself not to leap out of my seat.

I still found it hard to remain calm whenever he was around. Butterflies were running rampant in my stomach. Excitedly, I took his outstretched arm and wished everyone good luck as we walked by. This incited many smiles from my friends and a hardened glare from Cho Chang who had boldly even come over to ogle Harry's Firebolt. I couldn't help but also notice the sheepish look Harry had on his face and I returned it with a raised eyebrow. But he just shook his head and shrugged, erasing all evidence of the previous expression. I didn't give it much thought though as Cedric led me out towards the pitch. It didn't appear that Cedric had even noticed Cho's look, or if he had, seemingly didn't care about the unwarranted scowl.

Cedric was hasty to lead us to the front-centre of the stands and looked as if Christmas had come early.

"I don't think I've ever seen you this excited," I said, unable to stop myself from smiling in amusement.

"I love watching the other teams play! Plus, I must admit, I am eager to see Harry fly," he answered candidly.

I continued to smile at him, feeling the infectiousness of his excitement. Of course, I was always eager to watch my friends play, but it must be different to watch a game when you were a player for another team. I supposed none of my friends were really any better.

"That's not true though," he said without taking his eyes off the pitch where the players were now assembling.

"What do you mean?" I asked blankly.

"That you've never seen me this excited," he replied easily, now turning to face me.

I continued to give him a questioning look.

He smirked. "I was definitely much more excited when you agreed to go out with me," he replied with his eyes almost shimmering.

I could have sworn I blacked out for a couple seconds. But when my senses finally reacted somewhat sensically to his ridiculous answer I still couldn't say anything.

"Marnie, nothing makes me happier than you. Not even flying," he added, kissing me on the nose as if what he had just said was easily plausible.

I kept staring dumbfoundedly but was snapped out when Cedric turned his gaze at the sound of the whistle. Harry was already whizzing around the pitch before any of the others had even reached their positions. It was incredible to see him fly.

My focus was interrupted though when I felt the warm pressure of Cedric taking my hand. I tried to press myself to maintain focus on watching Harry, reminding myself that he had almost died during the last match. But then again, so had I…

It was truly impressive watching the game and Cedric's excitement was now palpable, causing me to sneak sideways glances at him during quick lulls in the game. It was also amusing to hear Lee's commentary since he kept rambling on about details of the Firebolt. It wasn't until McGonagall threatened to demote him from his announcer position that he was able to refocus.

"Spinnet has the quaffle. She makes an easy pass to Johnson who was waiting to make the catch. Nice one ladies!" Lee boasted, despite the watchful glare from McGonagall.

"Potter sees the snitch!" he added before the professor could make any hasty decisions.

This caused the whole school to watch as Harry flew downwards towards a gleam of gold.

"Wait, what is that?" Lee said over the excited jitters of the stands who were all still watching Harry.

Everyone started looking around, myself included, who looked around towards the opposite end of the pitch. I instantly gasped, along with everyone else. There, on the outskirts on the pitch, was a Grimm standing and seemingly watching the game.

"Harry had been right!" I thought anxiously.

Despite listening to Harry and agreeing on the possibility that his paranoia had some grounds, I had never really believed a physical Grimm was stalking him. But no dog was that size and this big, black beast was looking pointedly towards Harry as he dove.

I heard the chaos around me but was still transfixed by this creature. It was like my stare had now become stuck and I couldn't pry my eyes to see how everyone else was reacting. Startlingly, the Grimm eventually turned its pointed gaze and landed on mine, as if it had sensed my stare. We looked at each other for what felt like several moments before it all of a sudden stood up and quickly ran out of sight. I had half a mind to get out of my seat and run after it, but Cedric was now standing up beside me and jumping up and down enthusiastically.

"Marnie, they won! Harry caught the snitch!" he said excitedly, somehow causing me to smile even though my insides were shaken.

He was already leading me by my hand since he was still holding onto it. But it wasn't until we reached the pitch and saw the entire Gryffindor team was laughing hysterically that I figured out why everyone else had gasped; four Slytherin students, including Flint, had dressed as dementors during the game. McGonagall was furious, spewing out different sorts of punishments while the boys fought to untangle themselves from their robes.

It was pretty funny…

But that meant no one else had seen the Grimm.

"Marnie, we won!" Angelina came up and scooped me into a hug.

Katie and Alicia joined in, forming a loose circle as we all jumped up and down. Their excitement was catching.

"Party in the Gryffindor Tower!" George shouted, inciting a roaring assent from the assembled Gryffindors.

Fred was the next to scoop me into a hug and lifted me up into the air.

"Put me down, you prat," I ordered, trying to suppress both my amused smile and the concerned frown I still had from the Grimm sighting.

"You alright Hare?" Fred asked without missing a beat.

"Yea, I just want to make sure you get enough butter beer for the party," I replied quickly.

Fred gave me a thoughtful look before replacing it with a boastful smile.

"Don't worry, George and I never disappoint!" he said confidently before bowing in an exaggerated manner and rushing off with George towards the school; no doubt towards the statue of the one-eyed witch.

Finally, I saw Harry through the herd of people.

"Marnie!" he exclaimed, already approaching me from where Fred had set me down before disappearing off towards the castle.

"Congrats little brother!" I said obligingly, pride evident in my voice.

"Is everything okay?" he asked, just as perceptive as Fred.

I thought about lying to him, but knew we had a promise to never keep secrets.

"Not now," I answered in a whispered tone.

He nodded understandably before Ron came and whisked him back into the celebratory crowd.

XXX

I had luckily been able to sneak Cedric into the party. Being friends with the entire team had its privileges and he surprisingly looked right at home sitting beside me on one of the couches. I was snuggled into his shoulder while we sat with the rest of my friends. Angelina was on my other side but was keeping a respectable distance from us. Katie and Lee were also taking up most of the other couch as they not so secretively cozied up together. I guess they were no longer hiding their affections, even though we had all known for ages. The bootlegged fire whisky bottle George was passing around seemed to give them a confidence boost. The bottle made its way around our group again and this time I took a deep swig of the burning liquid. The alcohol stung the back of my throat as I tried not to cough when I swallowed. Cedric rubbed my back before I passed the bottle to him. He declined another sip and instead passed it along.

"Are you okay Mar?" he asked concernedly.

"Of course," I answered, focusing deliberately on the pronunciation of each word.

Cedric just smiled and pulled me closer into his shoulder. I even think he briefly took a moment to smell my hair as I settled back into his chest.

"I think our little Marnie is drunk," George said chidingly, despite his own slur.

"Leave her alone, it's about time Marnie let her hair down," Alicia answered, coming to my rescue.

I gave her a wide grin.

"Plus, Cedric won't let anything happen to her," Angelina said encouragingly.

I could feel Ange patting my arm affectionately and I swung my own back to return the gesture. I ended up tapping my hand on her stomach.

"So, are you two officially a couple now?" Alicia asked, looking pointedly between Katie and Lee.

"No idea what you're talking about," Lee answered swiftly, turning beet red in the process.

Katie however nuzzled closer into Lee but remained silent.

"Hopeless," I heard Ange mutter under her breath.

Cedric started to run his fingers through my hair as I lay my head on him. It became harder to stay focused as the alcohol clouded my thoughts and Cedric's movements lulled me to sleep.

"Goodnight my love," I heard someone whisper in my ear but I'm pretty sure I was asleep.

I couldn't hear anything else around me and I was stuck in a blackened abyss.

"Marnie. I have to protect you Marnie. I'm so sorry, please forgive me sweetheart," I heard an anguished voice whisper.

I didn't know when I had actually fallen asleep or what time it was now, but my head was spinning, and I felt groggy. I peeked my eyes open and knew it was still dark. What had woken me up? I knew I had been dreaming… about the sad voices.

Then it hit me, as abrupt as the initial occurrence. I had woken up to the sound of screaming. My eyes then shot open, despite my pounding head. It took them a few moments to clear but I suddenly realized I was face-to-face with a pair of frenzied gray eyes.

I was stunned, and felt as if a spell had hit me, but I knew it hadn't. These are the same eyes from all of my dreams. The same eyes from the Azkaban poster. I was staring at Sirius Black.

The screaming was getting closer which finally broke his gaze from mine.

"I have to leave you," he said surprisingly, with anguish cutting through him.

I hadn't expected him to say anything. Especially in such a somber yet husky tone. I knew he was conflicted about something and all of a sudden I felt my own wave of anxiety and sadness, but not because a mass murderer had just been standing over me. I was so confused but didn't have time to comprehend everything because the next thing I knew Sirius Black was already gone and several Gryffindor's were piling into the common room which had previously been empty. Fred was at the front of the crowd.

"Hare!" he shouted anxiously.

I looked up to see him sprinting towards me.

"Are you alright?" he asked, surveying me for any clues.

"Umm, yea, I guess," I answered in a hoarse voice.

My throat was dry from the alcohol and I think I was in shock.

"Did you see him?" Fred asked hastily, still looking in my eyes for some apparent answers.

George had joined us now, giving me the same paranoid look.

"Who?" I asked dumbly.

"Sirius Black!" Fred almost shouted.

I could hear someone who sounded like Ron whimpering from somewhere close by. This probably meant Harry was around, if not already beside George.

"Yes. I saw him."

 

Chapter Text

We spent the night in the common room, since there was no way any of us were getting any sleep. Fred and George had gone as far as forbidding us from going back up to our dorm since they wouldn't be able to follow. Even though Harry didn't say anything, I knew he also felt the same way. He still hadn't let go of my hand which he had taken after I told Fred about my encounter with Sirius Black. I had remained vague on my retelling of what happened, mostly because I didn't know what had happened.

Ron, who was still somewhat hysterical after his own encounter with Sirius Black had apparently woken up to the mass murderer standing over him with a raised knife in his hand. I almost found this peculiar after my own encounter with him. He had been looking at me with an almost awe-struck expression. I wanted to say that my reaction was because of the shock, but I hadn't been afraid at all.

The next morning was hardly better since none of the Gryffindor's had gotten any sleep and we all groggily headed down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the school was anxious to hear the news and were all seemingly waiting for our arrival.

"Marnie!" I heard Cedric's frantic voice calling out for me.

Harry was still holding my hand. He had finally let go at some point last night as we all sat around the fire but had grabbed it again before we headed downstairs. I was worried that he was blaming himself for my run-in with Sirius Black since it was widely rumoured Harry was the reason Sirius had been breaking into the school.

I squeezed Harry's hand reassuringly before he reluctantly let go and was led away by Ron and Hermione towards the Gryffindor table.

"Hey," I answered, hearing the level of exhaustion in my voice.

"What happened last night? Are you alright?" he asked, rather frantically.

But I supposed Cedric had just learned of the news this morning whereas the rest of us had been coping with it all last night.

"Well, I actually saw him…" I started explaining before Cedric made a funny noise followed by a pained expression, I think he actually whimpered.

"Merlin, I am so sorry Marnie. I knew I should have carried you upstairs," he said rather desperately.

"You wouldn't have been able to," I replied more calmly.

"I'm fairly sure I can lift you," he responded coolly, probably thinking I was underestimating his strength.

"No, it's not that," I replied quickly. "The girl's staircase in Gryffindor is bewitched to prevent boys from walking up. It turns into a slide if anyone tries," I explained, taking his hand in the process to try and soothe his nerves.

It was plain how anxious he was. But I guess that was understandable after learning your girlfriend came face-to-face with Sirius Black.

"Ah, I suppose that was why Fred and George were so keen that I make the attempt," he continued, a small smile fighting to break through his pained expression.

"Cedric, nothing happened to me, I am absolutely fine," I said, wanting to erase his fear.

This however had the opposite effect.

"Marnie, I left you around midnight. A lot of people had already gone to bed, including your dorm mates. And Angelina said I wouldn't let anything happen to you. I shouldn't have left you," he said more desperately, the anxiety rising in his voice.

Cedric always had a fairly calm and collected personality. This blatant fear and anxiety was alarming, even more so than after we had faced the dementor last term.

"Ced, I'm fine. And even if I wasn't…" he grimaced and sank his head down towards the floor. "And even if I wasn't it would not be your fault. Trust me, I'm a magnet for trouble and I take full responsibility," I explained, bringing my hand to his chin.

I gently brought his head so that I could look him in the eyes.

"Then I better be more prepared, so I can actually save you next time," he answered more seriously.

"You want to save me?" I asked skeptically, a little taken aback by the specific words he had chosen.

"Of course," he replied with an air of returning confidence.

It now looked as if a fire had been set behind his caramel-coloured eyes. I could see him bringing both of his hands to the sides of my face which he used to bring my lips into his. Instantly, it seemed as if the entire school vanished, and I was standing in a temporary void with just Cedric. The heat filled my cheeks as I brought my hands up into his messy, brown hair.

"Oi, some of us are trying to eat here!" we were rudely interrupted by a cranky sounding Ron.

His own attempted murder did not suit him.

I sighed even though Cedric chuckled into my lips as he slowly pulled away.

"I've got my eyes on you," he said gently, sliding his thumb across my cheek before stepping back.

"As long as I get to keep you safe in return," I replied softly.

"I'm not going anywhere Mar," he said with a smile, already taking a few steps towards the Hufflepuff table.

I smiled and waved back to him before spinning around and pointedly glaring at Ron as I made my way to my own house table.

"Ronald Weasley, you are an enormous prat!" I said with a wave of fury.

"Marnie, we all agree that Ron is as graceless as a dung beetle. But, maybe today we give him a pass," George said with a half shrug.

I was mildly surprised that the twins seemed to be offering Ron a rare time pass for his boorishness, however I knew they were deeply concerned that he had recently been confronted with the sharp end of Sirius Black's knife. And now, his stupid pet rat was also missing.

I then decided to silently pile porridge into my bowl even though I had no intention in eating it. Instead I sat stewing in my own confused thoughts. I was only interrupted a while later when the morning post arrived. Today seemed like an unusually busy post-delivery, but then again, I'm sure news had already gotten out about the attack at Hogwarts and parents must be worried. As if on cue, a letter dropped in between Harry and I that had obviously been addressed by my dad.

"Not it!" I exclaimed, putting my finger on the tip of my nose.

Harry sighed and rolled his eyes before obligingly taking the envelope from Caelum and opening it.

Harry muttered to himself as he read the letter, but unfortunately, I didn’t think it said anything we hadn't already heard before. Dad had since stopped threatening to pull us out of school, probably because it seemed every few months Harry and/or I were being thrown into some kind of dangerous situation (not on purpose of course). Dad knew he had lost that argument long ago; we both loved Hogwarts too much.

I was surprised though when another letter arrived from one of the school-provided owls specifically addressed to me. I opened the envelope and read through the brief, messy scroll. Hagrid wanted me to visit and was offering to escort me this afternoon down to his hut. Instantly, I felt guilty for not going down to see him sooner. Hermione had been filling me in on the Buckbeak trial and I didn't think it was going very well with the defense case against Malfoy's father who was calling for the hippogriff's head.

By the time I headed down to meet Hagrid, everyone else was up in the dorms having a well-needed nap. The level of crankiness was at an all-time high, and I felt the need to escape.

"Hello Marnie!" Hagrid greeted with his big arms waving enthusiastically towards me.

I went over to meet him and followed him across the grounds, down to his hut. Once we arrived, Fang greeted me with his own friendly barks and slobbery smile. When I was sitting at the table, he laid his head on my lap while I waited for Hagrid to finish making some tea.

"So, how yer doin' af'er las' nigh' Marnie?" Hagrid asked concernedly.

"Oh, I'm alright. Better than Ron anyways. But no one got hurt thankfully." I replied, accepting the tea and a cake-like pastry from Hagrid's outstretched hand. "How is everything with Buckbeak?" I asked, wanting to change the subject.

"Oh, as goo' as ter be expected," he said casually, obviously trying to cover up his anxiety.

"I'm sorry I haven't been down here sooner," I said rather guiltily.

"Don' yeh worry 'bout me. 'Ermione's bin helpin' me out," he replied dismissively.

I could tell something else was on Hagrid's mind.

"I wanted ter talk to yeh 'bout summat important," Hagrid started nervously.

I gave him a moment to collect his thoughts and was intrigued at what he had obviously asked me down here to talk about.

"Sirius Black, when I knew 'im. He wouldn't hav harmed a hair on yer mum's head. He was always so protective of 'er. I don' want yeh ter worry too much 'bout what happened," Hagrid said sincerely, despite his known opinions of Sirius Black.

Hagrid had told me before that on other accounts he felt very betrayed by Sirius, especially since he had spoken to him hours before Sirius had been hauled off to Azkaban. But I knew there was truth to what Hagrid was saying, and that he believed it at least on some level. This also made me feel more conflicted about what had actually happened last night. Honestly, I agreed with Hagrid. These dreams I had been having about my mum and Sirius were confusing but led to the assumption that at one time they were very close, and that he always cared for her. Then, last night, the way he had looked at me. With some sort of desperation… and sorrow. It's like he had been staring into the eyes of an old friend.

Hagrid later escorted me back up to the castle and I wished him luck with the upcoming trial. He gave me a big hug before returning back out to the grounds.

The reality of my exhaustion sank in as I ascended the stairs up to the common room. All of my friends had known I was with Hagrid, so they left me alone when I climbed through the portrait hole and immediately headed for the dormitory. I didn't even take the time to change before I fell onto my bed and climbed under the covers. I don't even remember falling asleep, but it must have been instant.

I woke up to the feeling of something soft brushing across my face.

"Aster, what are you doing?" I mumbled and felt around for my fairy.

"Len, what are you mumbling about?" a voice startled me and caused my eyes to snap open.

"Fred?" I asked unconvincingly, since I obviously knew the sound of my best friend's voice and this one was unfamiliar.

But Fred, or George, were the only boys I ever woke up next to.

"Wait, he called me Len?" I thought to myself, frantically trying to figure out the situation I was in.

Then I realized I wasn't in my bed where I had remembered falling asleep, or even in a bed at all. I was sitting up and had my head on someone's shoulder. It looked like I was sitting out by the Black Lake in springtime and felt the sun beating down on my face.

"Wake-up sleepy head," I heard the voice coax before I immediately sat up and looked over to whom I had fallen asleep on.

"Sirius?" I asked surprisingly, but it came out more calmly in my mother's voice.

It didn't seem like she had been all that surprised to wake up on the arm of Sirius Black.

"You've been up late studying again," Sirius said pointedly, but gave a lazy grin which I knew was making my heart speed up.

"I want to be ready," I said firmly.

My mother sounded confident, but this made Sirius' smile fall.

"We aren't going to graduate for another year Lena. Why can't we enjoy what we have going on right now?" Sirius asked.

"I am enjoying it. But I want to make sure I will get to enjoy my future. I want to be able to have a family and watch them grow up in a world where I am not scared of Death Eaters. I am ready to join the fight and I will do everything I can to prepare before then," my mother continued.

I felt a pang of sadness as my mother said this. I guess she had gotten half her wish, but she never got to see it. It also sounded as if they had had this conversation, or maybe argument, in the past.

"Lena, I want to join the fight as much as you do. For once, I feel as if I have too much to lose and I know my family will be on the opposite side. But Hogwarts won't last forever, and I don't want the Death Eaters to be the reason I waste this time," Sirius said, trying to keep himself collected.

"Well, not everyone has the luxury of being at Hogwarts. Some people are standing vulnerable on the outside and summer is not too far off. We need to know how to protect ourselves," mum said more decisively.

"Merlin, he is all you talk about!" Sirius exclaimed, sliding away from where I was sitting.

He was obviously frustrated, and his gray eyes resembled those from his Azkaban poster for the first time.

"Well, I care about him. He's my friend, and yours. Just like I'm your friend," mum replied more calmly.

I remember dad telling me that mum was never one for arguing, she always went for reason.

"Well, friends can be replaced," Sirius said seething before getting up and storming away.

I woke up with a start and was relieved to see I was actually waking up in my own world. Aster was lying on my chest and the sun was already rising. I gently moved Aster off my chest and onto the pillow before I got out of bed.

Now I felt like I was the one who had been betrayed. Everything I had discovered about Sirius Black this year had led me to speculate what had actually happened and whether he was actually after Harry, or me. Hagrid had even warned me that he might not be a threat and when I had come face-to-face with him the other night, he had looked as if he was seeking forgiveness.

Well, there might be a chance he is sorry for what he did. But I was no longer willing to forgive him. If hurting my mother was that easy for him back then, I couldn't doubt he did it again with the Death Eaters. I had to remember he was the reason Harry didn't have his real parents and my mum didn't recognize me.

I went over to stand in front of the mirror once I had gotten dressed and looked into my own eyes to see what they revealed. My orange irises looked as if they were heated magma instead of their usual, shimmery bronze. As easily as I had seen Sirius' hatred in my dream, I saw my own. In that moment I made a vow to myself. Next time I came face-to-face with Sirius Black, I was going to kill him.

 

Chapter Text

It was difficult to feel excited about going to Hogsmeade, but everyone else was eager to get out of the castle. I headed down to the common room after assessing myself in the mirror and met up with my friends who were all taking advantage of the brief reprieve from OWL studying.

"Good morning sleepy head," Angelina greeted as I went down to sit beside her.

"Sleep well?" Alicia asked casually, continuing to read the book in her hand.

"Yea, I guess," I answered with a shrug.

"Hare?" Fred asked with his brow furrowed.

Him and George were seated in a loveseat to my right.

"Hmm?" I replied, already knowing he could sense something was wrong.

"Care to join us down to the kitchens? We haven't checked in with Posy in a while," he continued.

I knew he just wanted to get me alone, so I would be more willing to talk about what was bothering me.

"Sure," I replied, giving into the growling of my stomach instead of the stubborn voice in my head.

I followed the twins out of the common room and down towards the basements. We remained quiet all the way there until we were interrupted by the clatter and bustling of the house elves.

"Miss Marnee! You have come to see Posy with the Mr. Wheezies!" the little house elf shrieked in delight upon our arrival.

Despite my begrudging mood, I couldn't maintain my angry façade while Posy lead us towards our table. She was downright infectious with her joyfulness. Posy was busy setting up the table which kept my attention, so I didn't see the other house elf approach. I heard someone clear their voice before I turned around to see an elf surprisingly adorned in clothing rather than a ratty looking pillowcase which all the other house elves wore, including Posy.

"Excuse me Miss, I couldn't help overhear Posy call you Miss Marnie. Are you by any chance the sister of Harry Potter?" the house elf asked with his big eyes boring into my own.

It took me a moment to consider who this house elf was and how he had any connection to Harry.

"Oh, you're Dobby!" I exclaimed, giving him a polite smile.

"Yes Miss. Harry Potter always talks about his older sister Marnie. Harry Potter is very protective of you Miss," he continued in a jovial voice.

Dobby's excitement somehow rivaled that of Posy who was off putting together some breakfast.

"Well, Harry always talks so highly of you Dobby. I'm sorry it has taken me this long to meet you," I replied.

"So kind Marnie O'Hara is to Dobby. Just like Harry Potter you are. Dobby has seen the picture you drew for Posy," he said excitedly.

"Well, I can make one for you. I'll bring it next time I come down to the kitchens," I promised.

Dobby's eyes somehow grew even bigger and I could see tears start to swim in them.

"Too kind you are! Dobby is here for you anytime you need anything Marnie O'Hara!" he squeaked before Posy came back with the breakfast.

"Don't be bothering Miss Marnee and the Mr. Wheezies!" Posy chastised which only made me smile more.

I think Posy was worried that we might come and visit Dobby instead of her.

"This is delicious Posy!" I exclaimed enthusiastically which brought her attention back to us and made her giggle.

I kicked both Fred and George from under the table for them to join in.

"Mmmmm!" George said exaggeratingly, but still heaped enormous spoonful's into his mouth.

"Best porridge I've ever had!" Fred added, rubbing his hand over his stomach.

Posy continued to giggle while she coaxed Dobby back into the heart of the kitchen where several other house elves were working about.

"Don't be mean!" I chastised, shaking my head at them.

"Hey, we meant every word. We know Posy is the best," George said matter-of-factly.

"Oh, well… good," I stuttered, slightly taken aback by George's serious answer.

"So, Hare…" Fred said, changing the conversation.

I could feel my face turn red as I remembered my anger and what thoughts I had been having all morning.

"Did you have another dream?" Fred asked concernedly.

I could see George reflecting his brother's worry as they both stared at me, waiting for my answer. The only thing I could focus on was the hatred in Sirius Black's eyes as he stood up and left my mother. Insulting my father in the process; he probably was prejudiced against my father being a squib. I felt the loathing setting in.

"I want to kill him," I blurted out, feeling my nerves shaking.

"Marnie, what the bloody hell are you talking about?" George asked bluntly.

"I am talking about Sirius Black betraying my mother. I saw him! In my dreams, he betrayed her even when they were in school! And now I'm sure he's out trying to kill Harry or even me. So, I have to kill him before he hurts anyone else," I said with a shaky voice.

Despite the hatred I felt, I felt even more conflicted about the thoughts I was having.

"Hare…" Fred said more calmly than his brother.

He brought his hand to my chin and turned my head so that I was looking him in the eyes.

"Marnie," he said more evenly.

He never called me by my first name.

"For as long as I can remember I have hated all of them, Bellatrix Lestrange, Antonin Dolohov… and Sirius Black. At certain points I have probably pictured getting my revenge one hundred different ways. I can understand your anger. I know what it feels like when it flares up after being set off. And I can't even imagine how angry you must feel after having to watch him betray your mother in front of your eyes. But Marnie, this is not you. Don't let that anger control you. You are so brave and loyal and fierce, but that doesn't mean you should give into the anger. It means you can overcome it," Fred said calmly, never breaking his eye contact.

It was like someone had popped an inflated balloon from inside me and now I was floundering in all of my thoughts. Of course, I didn't ever want to have to kill anyone, but what was I supposed to do when there was a direct threat against my family who had already taken so much.

I took several minutes to catch my breath.

"Hare, can I ask you something?" we were back to using my nickname which was a good sign.

"Sure," I replied in a raspy sounding voice.

"Would you have told this to Cedric?" he asked frankly.

I couldn't read his expression, but his voice was devoid of any competitiveness or jealousy. I thought about his question for a while while I ate some spoonful's of porridge.

"I don't think so," I answered honestly.

"Why not?" he continued in that same tone.

"Well, it's different with him. I thought about if the roles were reversed. If he was coming to me and telling me that he was so angry that he was picturing attacking or wanting to kill someone, I would be too worried and would forbid from doing anything."

"But you told us," Fred said thoughtfully.

"Does that mean you would let us attack someone if you deemed it acceptable?" Fred added.

I thought about his question for a few more minutes while I finished my breakfast.

"I would be more willing to talk out the situation," I answered.

Fred just smiled and brought his bowl to his lips to scoop the last of his porridge into his mouth.

"What?" I asked skeptically.

I hadn't thought he would find my answer amusing, but he looked pretty satisfied.

"It's just good to know where I stand," he continued happily.

I just shook my head and continued on with the rest of the breakfast Posy had brought. By the time we headed back upstairs most of everyone was getting ready to go to Hogsmeade.

Angelina grabbed my arm when we were all ready to go and escorted me down the stairs with our group of friends.

"Will you hang out with us for a little while?" she asked.

"Well, I'm not meeting Cedric until we get down to Hogsmeade. And why don't we join you at The Three Broomsticks later on? You can all properly hang out with Ced," I replied, already feeling unsure about the plan.

Of course, Cedric had met my friends, and we had all hung out after the quidditch game, but that was the only other time my friends had all hung out together with Cedric and me. The girls were never shy when I was around him and would often walk with us between classes. I was thankful that Alicia and Katie had stopped ogling, but they still were friendly around him. The boys however, despite their changed attitudes towards Cedric, still kept their distance. Actually, the twins hardly ever walked with me between classes anymore and always waited until I was alone to hang out.

"That sounds brilliant!" Ange answered, still looping her arm through mine as we made our way towards the village.

We all parted ways once we arrived and I promised to meet up with them in an hour.

"Hey Mar," Cedric said gently as he approached me from where he had been standing and waiting.

"Hey," I replied, completely aware of how close Cedric was getting.

"What would you like to do?" he asked while still in our embrace; I could feel his breath on my ear.

"Well, I did promise my friends we would join them in The Three Broomsticks later on," I replied, turning my head to look up at him.

"That sounds good. I'm eager to get to know them better. And honestly, they can be a little intimidating sometimes," he answered candidly.

"How?" I asked, confused as to what he meant.

"They're just so protective of you," Cedric answered with a shrug.

"Oh, yea I guess they are," I replied meekly, a little embarrassed by the realization of how much attention I attracted from my friends.

"Want to take a walk beforehand?" he asked, changing the subject and extending his arm out for me.

I couldn't help but giggle and take his arm before he led us along the town's path.

"So, do they have any weaknesses I should know about?" he asked bemusedly. "You know, in case the entire Gryffindor quidditch team decides to gang up on me."

I laughed. "Well, honestly… not really," I replied slyly.

"Come on Mar, you have to give me something. Everyone has a weakness," he continued playfully.

I couldn't help but think of how true his words were.

"Alright, if you're not going to give me anything to work with. Maybe I could just settle for a kiss?" he suggested easily.

I turned my gaze up towards him and realized he had led us to the end of town.

"Smooth Ced," I replied but moved over so that I was standing in front of him.

I tilted my head up as he brought his own down to reach my lips. He moved his arms around me and pulled me closer to him, causing me to hitch my breath. I wrapped my own arms around his neck and reveled in how good he smelled. His lips were soft and even though I could feel the energy coursing from him, he was still going slow and gentle. My fingers made their way into his hair and I heard a soft moan escape his lips. I couldn't help but smile and he let out a soft laugh. He kept his lips pressed into mine and it was all I could do to try and get him closer to me, even though his body was already pressed up against mine. It was hard to be aware of any of our surroundings, but after several moments I started to hear a low, grumbling sort of sound coming from behind us.

Slowly, I parted myself from his lips but remained in his arms while I looked past where we were standing. In an instant, I was horrified. I tried to scream but my voice was somewhere farther down in my throat causing only a croak to escape.

"Mar, what is it?" Cedric asked softly, not yet realizing my horrified gaze.

I only pointed, still gaping at the beast. I could see Cedric growing more concerned, but he didn't even have time to ask since he was also now staring at the enormous black dog.

It was the Grimm.

The beast was snarling at us as it locked eyes with Cedric.

"Marnie, get behind me," Cedric whispered but the beast only appeared angrier when I went to move.

It then turned its gaze towards me, and I felt confused when I looked into its big, gray eyes. It held its stare, even when its head started to move to its right, as if indicating where it wanted me to step.

Hesitantly, I dropped my hands from Cedric's arm and went to stand where the beast was indicating. Somehow, this seemed to please the Grimm who was now just sitting in between us.

"Marnie!" I heard a familiar voice yell from down the street.

I looked up to see Ron… and Harry's head running towards us.

I was utterly shocked by the sight and the big dog seemed to as well since it froze and stopped to stare at the boys quickly approaching. I guess it didn't know how to process the sight if a disembodied head either. But, before the boys actually reached us, the Grimm got up and leaped off, away from the town.

"Marnie!" Harry yelled again and launched himself at me. "Are you alright?" he asked worriedly.

"What the bloody hell was that?" Ron asked hysterically.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, realizing Harry did not have permission to come into Hogsmeade.

"That's what you're worried about?" Ron continued, sounding as if he were on the verge of hyperventilation.

Harry gave him a pointed look and turned back to me in concern.

"Erm, well Fred and George gave me the map," he whispered, and I instantly felt a high level of rage soar inside me.

"You are being hunted by a mass murderer and the twins decide to give you the map, so you can leave unsupervised?" I asked, hearing my own hysteria.

"Marnie, you were almost attacked by the Grimm!" Harry bellowed, trying to make his sister see sense, and past his foolish decisions.

"Give it to me!" I demanded, holding out my hand.

"What?" Harry asked bewildered.

He had almost seen her be attacked by the beast who was supposed to be the symbol of death and she was still worried about his safety. Harry begrudgingly handed it over and Marnie stuffed it into her coat.

"Tell the guys I'm going back," Marnie announced and proceeded to brush past the younger boys back into town.

Harry turned to see Cedric still standing there looking terrified and confused.

"Look after her will you?" Harry said in a quiet, pleading voice.

This seemed to snap Cedric out of his own fear. He nodded assuredly and ran after Marnie.

"What the hell was that? We just saved Marnie and she's mad at us! She really needs to sort out her priorities!" Ron grumbled, still sounding fairly hysterical.

"She's in shock Ron," Harry retorted, trying to figure out what had just happened.

Harry had been fairly sure he and Marnie were the only ones who were able to see the beacon of death, but now Ron and Cedric had been witness to this animal which obviously existed.

Harry sighed, "I need to go talk to Remus."

"Are you crazy, isn't he your uncle or something? He's going to get you in trouble!" Ron tried to reason with his friend.

"Ron, Marnie is already in trouble and he might actually know what's going on," Harry replied flatly.

"Fine," Ron conceded, and the two boys went back into town.

 

Chapter Text

Fred and George burst into the common room an hour later. I could see their relief as soon as they spotted me sitting by the fire.

"Where the bloody hell have you been?" Fred asked in a frustrated and anxious tone.

"Cedric brought me back," I replied.

"Ron told us you were almost eaten by a Grimm?!" Fred continued hysterically.

I rolled my eyes and put it in the back of my mind to have a talk with Ron later on.

"Well, Cedric and I did see a huge, black dog, but it didn't harm us," I continued, still feeling numb about the whole thing.

I didn't mention the fact that it had seemed to be sentient enough to indicate that it wanted Cedric and I to stand apart. And who knew what would have happened if Ron and Harry hadn't shown up.

"What was it?" George asked more graciously than his twin.

"Well, maybe it was a Grimm. I don't really know…" I drifted off, feeling my head start to overcrowd with thoughts.

"Marnie, I believe you that you saw something, obviously, but you honestly think it was a Grimm? That sounds a little mad doesn't it?" George asked with heavy skepticism.

"No, you know what sounds a little mad?" I asked, focusing my scattered thoughts on the parchment seemingly burning a hole in my pocket.

I pulled out the map and waved it in front of Fred and George. I watched as their expressions turned guilty.

"He is being hunted by a mass murderer! How could you give this to Harry?" I shouted, feeling the anger roil in my stomach.

"Well, so are you, and you still go to Hogsmeade," Fred reasoned, with an edge in his voice.

"And you didn't even think to tell me beforehand, I'm your best friend and I didn't even know you were thinking of passing over the map!" I continued vehemently.

"Well, you are always so protective of Harry, we knew you would never agree but we saw that Harry had more of a need for it than us," Fred continued.

My face must have been entirely flushed; the anger felt like I was gearing up to explode.

"So, now I'm Harry's sister before I'm your best friend? If you haven't noticed, you and George are twins and best friends from way before I ever came along, and we have managed pretty damn well on staying best friends. Looks like you still can't trust me enough. Well, piss off the both of you!" I shouted at both of them before storming up to my dormitory.

Thankfully, the girls still hadn't returned from Hogsmeade, so I had the entire room to myself. I threw myself onto my bed and pulled the blankets up over my head. I just wanted my thoughts to stop racing and for the anger to stop streaming tears down my face.

It was probably only thirty minutes later before I heard three sets of footsteps enter the dorm. I couldn't decipher their whispers as they went about the room and put their purchases away. However, I did sense when they were all standing around my bed a few moments later.

"Ahem," I heard Angelina clear her throat to get my attention.

I just rolled over and waited for them to leave.

"Come on Marnie, we aren't going anywhere," Katie said firmly.

'Why are Gryffindor's so stubborn?" I retorted back at them.

"I don't know hon, but you are the most stubborn lion of them all," Ange replied as she pulled back my curtains and climbed onto my bed.

The other two quickly joined her which left me no choice but to surface from my blanket burrow.

"We heard you had a pretty horrible day," Alicia started, looking at me with concern.

"I don't really want to talk about it," I responded, still feeling exhausted.

"That's alright, from everyone downstairs, we got a pretty descriptive lowdown," Ange replied.

"Who's downstairs?" I asked intently.

"Well the twins are a mess, going on about how they fucked up. And then there’s Harry and Ron. Ron is brooding, which is pretty typical when he does something wrong and Harry is trying to discuss a plan with the twins on how to coax you out of here," all three of the girls rolled their eyes at this.

"Ooh!" Alicia squealed which made me jump. "And that handsome boy of yours is sitting outside the common room. He looks the least worried, but he is obviously concerned. He gave us the clearest explanation and said he just wants to make sure you are safe."

I couldn't stop the smile from spreading across my face. This also loosened my stomach which had been roiling in knots.

"The rest of those boys are idiots," Katie said and just shook her head.

"They've been prattling on and scheming ways to get you to come downstairs. We just came back and told them to stop wasting their time. As if they didn't think to ask your dormmates who are also your best mates," Angelina stated in mock insult.

"I still don't want to go downstairs," I replied.

"We don't blame you," Katie said honestly. "They all need to cool off down there."

"That's why we brought back these!" Alicia said, pointing at the four butterbeers which I now noticed were sitting over near her bed.

"We figured something was up after you didn't show. We weren't with the twins when Ron told them what happened," Angelina explained.

I just smiled and graciously accepted the warm beverage from Leesh.

"Can you guys do me a favour though?" I asked.

"Of course," they all replied kindly.

"Can you go convince Cedric that I'm alright and will just be staying in for the night. I would go see him myself, but I don't want to have to talk to any of the other boys in my life," I said.

"I'll go!" Ange eagerly answered. "I know the poor bloke still feels guilty about that whole Sirius Black incident after I had told him to keep you safe," she admitted rather sheepishly.

"Ange!" I groaned at her.

"Well, I did tell him to watch out for you," she replied matter-of-factly.

"No wonder he's intimidated by you guys," I muttered.

"He is?" Ange asked slyly.

"Just go tell him please!" I replied, throwing my pillow at her.

"Alright, alright, I'm going," she started running away from my pillow arsenal and out the door.

XXX

That night I still had trouble sleeping and ended up looking over the map which I still had in my possession. It had started off with me double checking that Cedric wasn't still standing guard at the entrance of the Gryffindor common room, but thankfully he had listened to Angelina.

Plus, I'm sure the security trolls wouldn't have let him stay there past curfew.

I looked over his name indicating he was probably asleep in his Hufflepuff dormitory. He hadn't moved in over an hour and I could see his other dormmates' names adjacent to his.

I also looked over my friends who were all in their dorms; mostly everybody in the castle was asleep. Aside from some teachers, including Remus, doing their rounds, no one else was walking about the castle. Unfortunately, this was my only form of entertainment and I still wasn't feeling tired.

I flipped over to the next section of the map and was somewhat surprised to see some fast-moving footsteps along the Charms corridor.

Peter Pettigrew.

I had to cover my mouth to stifle my gasp.

Of course, I knew all about Peter, Remus' childhood friend who had also befriended my parents. Apparently, he was a quiet fellow and had been bullied a lot in school.

He was also dead.

I whipped off my covers before booking it to the door and out of the Gryffindor Tower. I followed the familiar path towards Remus' name and found him returning from his rounds in the Defense hallway.

"Marnie?" he asked surprisingly when he saw me turn the corner into the corridor.

"Remus! I have to show you something!" I replied urgently, trying to catch my breath.

Without saying anything, Remus took my arm and led me to his office chambers. He ended up guiding me towards a comfy looking chair and went to make some tea. Moments later, he returned with two steaming cups and sat across from me expectantly. He was waiting for me to speak.

"Well, I know I've never told you or dad…" I started, putting the map between us on a small table.

"I know what the map does," he said without so much as a pause.

I couldn't decipher what Remus was feeling but was very surprised to hear that he already knew of the map.

"Oh," I replied, trying to recollect my thoughts. "Well, I was looking over it tonight…" I started again.

"Marnie, don't you think a map, that could have been easily left about or used to our advantage, should have been brought forward once Sirius Black first breached the castle?" Remus asked reproachfully.

"Erm…" I paused, feeling my cheeks start to burn in embarrassment and regret.

Remus sighed and looked at me thoughtfully. "What was it you saw?"

It was my turn to sigh and try and collect my thoughts again.

"Peter Pettigrew," I whispered, not able to make myself any louder.

There was a heavy silence between us.

"Marnie," Remus paused. "Are you absolutely sure?"

"Yes."

There were several more, long minutes of silence.

"You know, Harry came and talked to me today," Remus said, surprisingly changing the topic.

I raised my eyebrows at him and suddenly realized what that meant.

I could see the worry etched onto Remus' face.

"Marnie… I have to ask that you don't ever leave the castle alone again," he said solemnly, and without room for objection.

"Well, I wasn't alone. And the security is already pretty tight," I replied.

I didn't understand Remus' sudden worry. He was usually more forgiving than my father when it came to any perceived danger. Plus, the big dog hadn't really done anything to us. Maybe Harry had used Ron's story and blown it out of proportion.

"Uncle…" I started, wanting to placate his fear but he pressed on instead.

"Marnie, you can't afford to be reckless. Harry is bad enough, just like James he is. Trust me, I gave him just as much warning as I am giving you. But, I am disappointed you didn't turn the map in sooner. Your mother sacrificed herself and was betrayed by this man. Wandering around and putting yourself in danger would be a poor way of honouring her sacrifice," he finished.

My stomach had returned to roiling knots and it felt like my chest was also constricting. I could never live with myself if I dishonoured my mother in any way.

Remus escorted me back to the tower shortly after and confiscated the map. We hadn't talked about Peter after I had told him what I'd seen, but I think Remus thought I was seeing things after coming face-to-face with a Grimm. He also seemed very weary of this large beast and was adamant that I didn’t leave the castle walls unescorted. I felt very uneasy about the whole thing after I re-entered the Gryffindor common room and Remus returned to his chambers. I had a suspicion that my uncle wasn't telling me something.

XXX

The next morning, I didn't have any alternative than to face the guys. The twins were already waiting for me when I went down early, and surprisingly, so were Harry and Ron.

I only sighed and let each other them hug me, apologize, and then re-iterate how each of them only wanted to keep me safe. I felt too tired to argue and still felt the nagging worry from my encounter with Remus the previous night.

The bad feeling only worsened when Hermione received a letter over breakfast from Hagrid, saying that Buckbeak had been sentenced to death. My gut was clenching with guilt over my betrayal to everyone. First, I had taken my mother's own sacrifice for granted, then I hadn't even thought of handing over the map to aid in the apprehension of that bastard Black and now I was regretting not helping out with Buckbeak's trial or being there for Hagrid in his time of need. Hagrid had always been there for me when I needed someone, and I had been too caught up in my OWL homework and everything else to go down and help him. Suddenly, I lost my appetite.

The next week passed in a nervous and overwhelmed state. I would stay in the library from the time I woke up until the few minutes before curfew. Cedric, Harry and my friends would visit me and usually study as well since most of us had our OWL exams coming up. It should have been comforting to have them there, but I felt as if I were in my own glass orb and the others were on the outer side, just out of reach. I still felt immensely guilty and had since spared an afternoon to visit Hagrid. He had thanked me from coming down and said it helped to be around friends, but I did not feel abated for my guilt.

The only person who I did feel was in the same world as me was Hermione. We would often walk to the library together in the early hours of the morning and would sit with each other until one of us had class, and then we would return to the dormitory at night together. Somehow, she seemed even more busy and stressed than I did, and was taking an inordinate number of classes. I had asked her about it once, but she only waved me off and I decided she would tell me if she felt the need.

XXX

"Good morning Marnie," a rather frazzled looking Hermione greeted me.

I had gotten to the library earlier than usual since I had dreamt I forgot the entire unit on memory charms. I refused to be one of the students who had a breakdown in the middle of the Great Hall; so far there had only been two.

"I had a run-in with Malfoy," she said rather smugly.

"What happened?" I asked worriedly, knowing full-well that Malfoy was just as bad as Flint.

I also knew the Slytherins had been surlier and more aggressive than usual, with the upcoming quidditch finals. The game was set for tomorrow and it was another reason I had snuck off to the library early, I was admittedly tired of hearing non-stop quidditch strategies from my friends.

"Oh, nothing really. I just punched him in the nose for being rude," she said as non-chalantly as she could.

I whipped my head up at her and could see her smug grin.

"That's brilliant! Of course, he deserves it," I replied enthusiastically.

"I am rather proud of myself, plus Harry and Ron got a kick out of it," Hermione said before bringing out an alarming number of books from her rucksack.

"Good morning my lovely girl," I heard another voice say from behind me only moments later.

It was almost like his voice was made of honey with how sweet and warm he sounded.

I turned around and knew I was blushing at Cedric while he came up and planted a kiss on my forehead.

"Hey Ced," I answered sweetly and stood up to kiss his cheek.

I lingered for a moment, but grudgingly pulled away since I didn't want to make Hermione uncomfortable.

"Good morning Hermione," Cedric said politely, already pulling over his own seat to join our study session.

"Hi Cedric," she replied with a friendly smile.

Hermione was not nearly as bad as my other girl friends who would always badger me about Cedric being so sweet and caring whenever he was around. I did however catch the smug look Hermione gave me before she ducked behind her book.

Cedric and I followed suit, not feeling the ability to have a long conversation. I was always panicking about something I thought I had forgotten, and Hermione was taking way more classes than should be possible. I think Cedric felt surer of himself and was more here for my benefit. Or maybe his own since he probably wouldn't ever see me if he didn't come and track me down.

We continued like this throughout the morning, only exchanging a few words when one of us needed clarification on something.

"Hey Marnie," I heard Harry say which caused me to look up from my book on flobberworms.

"Hey Harry. Ron," I acknowledged as they stood across from me.

I assumed they had come to join our study group and immediately returned to my book.

"Can I help you with something?" I asked after several moments of feeling them staring in my general direction.

"Erm- I was wondering if I could have a word?" Harry said timidly.

I knew he was still feeling guilty about the other day regarding Hogsmeade even though we had already buried the hatchet.

I obligingly got up and followed him to an empty row, leaving Ron behind.

"So, I wanted to tell you…" he paused. "I told Remus about the Grimm."

"I know," I said simply.

My guilt started to churn my stomach as I remembered what Remus had told me about my mother's sacrifice.

"Oh. Well, I just wanted to warn you and tell you that I did what I thought was best…" he looked as if he was preparing for my anger.

"I know you did," I answered truthfully. "He took the map though."

"Oh," was all Harry could say.

I didn't really want to talk about my guilt or re-hash my previous anger, so I just hugged him and returned to my seat. Harry and Ron left the library soon after and I didn't see anyone else until dinner. Cedric had to pry me away from my books when finally, he told me he could hear my stomach from across the table.

"I'll come and escort you to the big game tomorrow?" Cedric asked with a big grin in his face.

I knew he was almost as excited as the rest of my friends who would actually be playing in the game tomorrow.

"Of course," I replied happily.

He wrapped me in his arms before kissing me softly on the cheek. I wrapped my own arms around him, trying to keep the embrace for as long as possible before he let go and headed over towards the Hufflepuff table in the Great Hall. I knew I was absolutely smitten with this boy and wanted to savour every minute with him. With a mass murderer and a Grimm running about, one never knew how much time there actually was.

 

Chapter Text

"Marnie, wake-up!" Alicia hollered as I was unceremoniously whacked with a pillow.

"Oi, I am awake!" I retorted, aiming the pillow back in retribution.

But it was gameday and I was up against a chaser; I had no chance of hitting any of them. I also knew everyone was pretty high strung since they were playing in the final game of the season and had to win against Slytherin by 210 points or more. Oliver Wood had been a nutter all week and the stress was wearing down on my friends.

I hopped out of bed and tried to remain as non-descript as possible to avoid any further targeting from my friends. I knew they were just nervous and wanted to make sure I was awake to escort them everywhere. Slytherin had been outright aggressive against the Gryffindor players over the past couple weeks, and Oliver had since made it a rule that none of the players go anywhere unaccompanied.

I was ready ten minutes later with my damp hair put up in a loose bun. By this point Angelina and the other two weren't talking as we walked down single file to the common room where the other players were already assembled. Oliver was mumbling to himself and seemed to be blurting out random tactics which went widely ignored by the boys who had probably been hearing it all morning. I noticed the twins defensively standing around Harry who looked utterly pale and almost sick. There was a lot of pressure riding on him for when he could catch the snitch.

"Shall we go downstairs?" Ange asked, breaking the silence amongst the team.

Oliver gave an affirmative nod which caused the rest of the team to assemble in a tight formation as they left out the portrait hole.

"Alright Harry?" I asked as I had made my way into the inner circle of the team where Harry was.

He only shrugged which caused me to put my arm reassuringly over his shoulder. I knew nothing I could say would make him feel any better.

As we entered the Great Hall it was as if someone had muted the volume. Conversations were paused as the entire school turned to look at my friends with an array of nervous expressions and jovial excitement. It was only the Slytherins who continued with their murmured discussions and withering looks. I swear some of them even hissed.

"Excited for the big game?" I heard Cedric ask from behind me.

He must have seen me enter with the rest of the team.

"Have a seat Ced, and don't mind everyone else. They have their game faces on," I replied as I shuffled over to make room for Cedric to sit down.

I noticed my friends did not have their usual grins as Cedric sat down beside me, but I knew their competitiveness on game day probably swayed their perception from mate's boyfriend to Hufflepuff rival. At least they were all being steely, so I knew they wouldn't say anything.

"Have a good sleep Marnie?" Cedric asked politely, not at all fazed by the cold reception from my peers.

I thought back to the dream I had been having on repeat about Sirius Black betraying my mother and stifled my look of disgust. I hadn't yet confided in Cedric about my frequenting nightmares and I didn't want to start worrying him now.

"It was alright," I answered.

Fred looked over towards Marnie and was surprised and amused that it seemed she wasn't telling Pretty Boy about her nightmares. He was glad that she didn't seem to have this inclination to protect Fred from her secrets much like she was doing with Cedric.

"Should we go out and get a good seat?" Cedric asked after he had finished his plate of eggs.

"Sounds great," I answered approvingly.

I knew the rest of the school would be anxious to get out to the stands for this particular game and I wanted to make sure we got a good seat.

I hugged each of my friends, including Oliver, before heading out to the pitch with Cedric. I knew Hermione and Ron were also heading out but were keeping a slight distance, probably at Hermione's behest. I would really have to do something nice for her after everything she has been doing and for always having my back.

We made it out before most of the school and took some seats in the second row. Cedric refused to allow me a front row seat after my big fall during the Hufflepuff/ Gryffindor match. I couldn't argue his point after having spent an entire weekend in the hospital wing. Although, I did hope the dementors wouldn't make an appearance this time.

We sat in the stands for about ten minutes before we saw the two teams file out onto the field. The reception from the crowd was enormous as the entire school started to shout and applaud. Cedric and I rose to our feet as we hollered along with the crowd and eagerly awaited the start of the game.

Once everyone was in the air, it didn't take long for the plays to get dirty. I rose to my feet again when I saw Angelina get mowed over by Flint. Thankfully she was able to shake it off and Fred brought his own justice by tossing his beater's bat at Flint's back. This brought a grin to my face.

But as the game went on, I began to watch it from the gaps between my fingers. I had to cover my eyes as each of my friends were attacked by the Slytherins. I had to admit though, the Gryffindors were doing all they could to fight back, making the game ruthless.

All eyes were on the scoreboard as most of the school waited for Gryffindor to be up sixty points. Lee's commentary was completely biased and he was downright disgusted with all the illegal plays made by the Slytherin team. Wood had recently been hit by two simultaneous bludgers which had left him momentarily immobilised.

Gryffindor, along with Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were all screaming now just as Alicia scored Gryffindor's seventh goal. Gryffindor was now up by sixty points.

In a flurry of movement, Harry soared upright towards the shimmering snitch. Diabolically, everyone also watched as Malfoy leapt forward to grab onto Harry's broom.

"That's an outrage!" Cedric shouted from beside me.

I clenched my hand around his as I waited anxiously to see who would catch the snitch. The Slytherin beaters sent both bludgers towards Harry which he expertly dodged before diving down towards the ground. Moments later Harry wrapped his hand around the golden snitch and soon dismounted from his broom. Gryffindor had won the match!

XXX

That night Gryffindor had an outrageous party in our common room. Copious amounts of fire whisky and butterbeer were shared amongst the students and I was now being spun on the makeshift dance floor by Cedric. All the other players were close by, participating in their own celebratory dance. Lee was paired with Katie, who were now at least not denying their attraction for one another, Angelina was with George, which made me raise an eyebrow in their direction. They just waved me off, but I knew I would have to revisit that conversation when I was sober. Fred and Leesh were also dancing, but only for the fast songs and it didn't seem as intimate as the rest of us. I knew they only regarded each other as friends.

I loved the feeling of Cedric's arms around me. I always felt safe when I was around him, and he always made it so easy. He was respectful of everything and seemed to wait for me to make my own decisions about our relationship.

I tightened my grip around his neck and brought my lips to his ear.

"Can we get some fresh air?" I asked with as much charm as I could muster.

Since the game had been early, curfew was still a few hours away.

Cedric nodded and took my hand to lead me out of the common room.

"Any place you want to go?" he asked courteously.

He still had his hand clasped over mine.

"Yup," was all I answered as I started leading him towards the Divination tower. I knew no one ever went there outside of class times since it wasn't close to any dormitories and not many students liked running into Professor Trelawney on their days off. It took us several minutes to get to the swirling staircase where I had been leading Cedric. But, once we were at the base, I stopped abruptly, causing Cedric to bump into me.

"You okay Mar?" he asked concernedly.

I had wanted to be alluring and come off as expert at this sort of thing. But the reality was that I was under the influence of alcohol and had zero experience flirting with boys. Even though Cedric and I had been dating since September and had been friends for a year before that, I felt we hadn't had a courtship where I had been all that flirtatious.

Cedric was looking at me with concern and I didn't want to mess this up any more than I already had so instead I inched forward and met my lips with his. Instantly, it felt like I was melting.

I felt his hands squeeze on my shoulders before he moved back, as if it was a struggle for him to detach his lips from mine.

"Marnie, what are you doing?" he asked more playfully.

"Snogging my boyfriend," I replied smartly.

He grinned and continued to look into my eyes.

"Merlin, you are so beautiful Marnie," he whispered gently.

I started to inch back closer and I could hear the struggle in his sigh.

"Mar, I don't want to take advantage of you. I know you've drank tonight," he said more definitively.

I opened my eyes fully to see his caramel ones looking flustered against his willpower.

I straightened my shoulders and met his eyes with a challenge gleaming from them.

"My name is Marnie O'Hara. I was sorted into Gryffindor five years ago even though the hat thought about putting me into Hufflepuff. My brother and best mates just won the Quidditch cup against Slytherin by ten points and I want to celebrate by snogging my boyfriend, Cedric Diggory," I finished my speech which hopefully would convince Cedric I knew what I was doing; and what I wanted.

His smile met his eyes as he started to laugh. He brought his hand up to my face and ran his thumb across my cheek. Shivers ran up my spine and butterflies flew rampantly in my stomach.

"I love you Marnie O'Hara," he whispered, causing my breath to catch.

I continued to look into his caramel eyes which were swirling with happiness.

"I love you too Cedric Diggory," I replied happily before reaching up and crushing his lips into mine.

XXX

I had unsuccessfully tried to keep my make-out session from my friends, but they had all been waiting up for me and squealed when they got me to confess. The boys had taken it less jovially, but none of them had said anything negative which I took as a win. It was nice to think that the twins respected my relationship enough to know how seriously it meant to me, even if they didn't approve of whom it was with.

But the excitement from Cedric's proclamation and Gryffindor's win were immediately replaced by the overwhelming amount of homework and examination preparation. Each exam was grueling in its own way. Potions had us brew a wolfsbane potion which was extremely difficult and highly suspicious. I knew that Professor Snape and Remus did not particularly get along and was worried Snape would say something so that Remus would have to stop teaching. On the other hand, the exams were given and supervised by ministry officials, so Snape couldn't have anything to do with the exam's content.

For Defense, we had to individually face our boggarts again plus transcribe an entire paragraph written in Mermish. History of Magic required a full account of the Troll wars whereas Astronomy required a detailed star map of a February sky; which was extraordinarily difficult given it was May. I didn't fret too much about Herbology since we were required to make a Restorative Draught from matured mandrakes as well as Care of Magical Creatures where we had to properly groom a unicorn's foal; thankfully we didn't have to do anything else with flobberworms. Muggle studies was also a breeze where we had to explain how to use a kettle to properly make tea and Charms where we had to disarm the instructor. Surprisingly, I did it on the second attempt. The ministry official had been very impressed.

The only exam I truly struggled with was Divination where I was supposed to describe and interpret the swirling colours in my crystal ball. I couldn't help remembering how Cedric had somehow interpreted the colours I had foreseen for him earlier on in the year, something about eternal youth and his soul bonding with another. I tried to remember what Cedric had prophesized for me and rambled on about somehow being two people and being loyal. The exam supervisor didn't look that impressed.

By the end I was exhausted but relieved that my OWLs were over. I had promised that once I finished, I would go debrief with Remus since he had wanted to know how well I did. I knocked on his door and heard his footsteps approaching. He gave me a tired smile once he opened the door and beckoned me into his office.

I sat down in my normal chair and noticed that the map was placed out on the table. He must have been looking for any traces of Sirius Black. When he had confiscated it, Remus had stated it would probably be useful for surveying the school.

I waited for Remus to come back with the tea he was making and scanned my gaze over the map. I smiled when I noticed Ron, Hermione and Harry walking together. I knew they had had some stressful times together this year, especially with Hermione taking all her classes.

Then I saw his name…

Peter Pettigrew.

I jumped out of my seat and almost caused Remus to spill the tea.

"Marnie, what's wrong?" he asked worriedly.

I just pointed at the name, unable to say anything else. I heard the cups crash onto the floor as Remus noticed the name as well.

"That's impossible," he muttered, mostly to himself.

"Remus, what does this mean?" I asked anxiously.

"The map doesn't lie," was all he said in an even tone.

"Oh Merlin," I said, even more anxious as I moved my finger over to another approaching name.

Sirius Black.

And of course, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, and Hermione Granger were in the middle of it all.

Remus abruptly straightened and was already headed towards the door. I immediately followed, neither of us saying anything. Remus knew he could never convince me to stay and there was no time to waste. Harry was in danger.

By this time, it was almost nightfall as Remus led us towards the Whomping Willow. He was carrying the map in his hands and brazenly approached the tree.

Before I could object, I saw him pick up a stick and tap a particular knot on the roots which somehow immobilized the otherwise aggressive tree. I continued to follow him down an eerie, underground tunnel with my wand already up. He wouldn't get away this time.

The farther we went down the tunnel, the louder the shouts became. By this point Remus and I were running and came into an old, creaky house.

"The Shrieking Shack!" I thought to myself as I mapped where we must have gone in my head.

We ran up the stairs, following the voices from Harry, Ron and Hermione. I had my wand ready, trying to anticipate any horrors we would encounter behind the door. Once I was inside, I spotted Ron in a bad way, probably with a broken leg. Hermione was standing beside him protectively while Harry squared off against a bedraggled looking man, Sirius Black.

"Expelliarmus," I heard Remus say a moment after we entered the room.

I was expecting him to square off against Sirius as well, but frighteningly he had disarmed Harry.

"What the hell are you doing?" I asked, outraged at the man who I called my uncle.

He had been helping to raise me and Harry for years, and now he was standing beside the traitor who had a wand raised towards Harry.

"Marnie," Remus said gently but I was beyond consoling.

"Marnie?" Sirius turned and looked at me with surprise.

Obviously, he hadn't seen me follow Remus into the room.

The look on his face was filled with emotion but I didn't have time to interpret any of it.

"Crucio," I sobbed as the hatred I had felt all my life bubbled over.

"Marnie!" Remus said as he stared at me in utter shock.

I locked eyes with Sirius and waited for his own pain to take over, but he remained still with very sad eyes.

"Marnie, stop!" I heard Remus say but I easily blocked him out after being frustrated by his own actions.

How could he join forces with the man who killed James and had his wand pointed at Harry?

"You have to mean it," Sirius said sadly, not at all angry with the anguished girl.

Sirius continued to look at how angry and betrayed Lena's daughter looked. Just as Lena had when he had walked away from her that one day in their sixth year. Just as she had when she had learned the truth on the day James and Lily had died.

"I do mean it!" I cried, feeling the tears flow down my face.

Suddenly, I felt a hand clasp my arm and was then coaxed out of my intent to cast an unforgiveable curse.

Harry looked at me with sad eyes, took my hand, but returned his gaze to Sirius and Remus. In our moment of hesitation, I was disarmed by Remus causing me to look upon the men with a heightened fury.

"How dare you!" I screamed, boldly taking a step towards the mass murderer.

"Lena," he said softly.

"DON'T YOU DARE USE MY MOTHER'S NAME IN FRONT OF ME!" I bellowed, disgusted that her name had crossed his lips.

"Marnie," Remus said more confidently. "You don't understand, we need to explain."

"That you betrayed us?!" I spat back at him.

I saw him flinch at my accusation, but I continued to bore my gaze into him.

"Marnie, we saw his name on the map," he tried again, causing me to think back to the moment before we had run out of the castle.

"But it can't be true," I replied, now hesitant in my response.

"The map doesn't lie!" he reiterated.

"The Marauder's Map?" Harry cut in.

"Yes, I helped write it. I know it has to be true," he explained while Harry's and my jaws dropped.

I had had that map for five years and had never understood the obvious nicknames that had appeared under the title. Then I remembered my dream where my mother had used those names; Moony… and Padfoot.

"Padfoot?" I whispered quietly, trying to decipher everything in my head.

"Yes," Sirius replied softly, but I ignored his answer.

I still refused to look at him.

"Prongs and Wormtail?" I asked, remembering the other names on the map.

"Wormtail, a rat," Remus replied more vehemently.

"You were all animagi?" Harry asked bewildered.

"Yes, Peter, Sirius and James became animagi when they found out I was a-" Remus paused.

"A werewolf," Hermione interjected.

I knew Harry hadn't told either Ron or Hermione about this, we had both kept Remus' secret.

"You are the cleverest witch of your age. I assume it was Snape's essay," Remus replied while Hermione nodded.

"Snape," Sirius spat which inadvertently caused me to move my gaze towards him.

"Yes, he's a professor at the school," Hermione continued.

"Indeed, I am," a silky voice came from the doorway.

I hadn't heard his arrival, but our Potion's master stood there with a righteous looking expression before disarming Remus and Sirius.

"I tried to warn Professor Dumbledore you weren't to be trusted," Snape sneered at Remus.

My anger roiled up as I hated the way Snape was addressing Remus, even if I was mad at him myself.

"Snape, we don't have time for this!" Sirius bellowed impatiently.

Obviously, the arrival of our Potions master and their once school-boy nemesis was hardly a hinderance to whatever Sirius had planned.

Snape turned sharply towards Sirius and aimed his wand, so it was touching Sirius' chest.

"Give me a reason, I beg of you. I will end this now," Snape said viciously.

All the facts I had heard in the last five minutes, plus my dreams and Hagrid's heed of Sirius all came rushing back and I was suddenly conflicted about the situation.

Ron was whimpering in the corner, no doubt from his broken leg. I reflexively turned to look at him and instead noticed that Hermione's wand was sticking out of her back pocket. I gently grabbed for it and put my finger to my lips when she noticed my movement. She gave me a tiny nod before I turned the wand towards my professor and the mass murderer.

"Stupefy!" I shouted.

Instantly, Snape was knocked out at Sirius's feet.

"Marnie!" Hermione said in a horrified voice.

I continued to hold her wand towards Sirius.

"You have one minute to confirm what I already think it true," I said evenly.

Sirius met my gaze with a flash of something behind his eyes but covered it immediately before going over towards Ron.

My wand followed him as he made his way over and Ron started to whimper again.

"Give him your rat Ron," I said insistently, having worked out the bizarre scenario in my head.

"Marnie, what are you talking about?!" Ron said hysterically.

"Just do it," I said, leaving no room for negotiation.

Ron reluctantly took the rat out of his pocket and handed the squirming rodent over to Sirius. Sirius grabbed the rat while Remus also held his wand to the animal.

"Marnie, this man killed my parents," Harry said angrily from beside me as my gaze followed Sirius.

"I'm not so sure anymore," I replied.

"Marnie, he betrayed your mother!" Harry insisted.

Remus and Sirius cast a spell simultaneously and at the end, the once tiny rat was now a chubby looking man.

"No Harry, he did."

 

Chapter Text

I could still hear Ron whimpering in the corner as he watched his once pet rat transform into a middle-aged man. It was hard to recognize him from the picture that sat on the mantel back at the cottage. He was much more straggly and feeble looking now.

"Remus. Sirius!" Peter said almost jovially as he came face-to-face with his once best friends.

It was sickening to hear the fear in his voice.

"Harry," I said very solemnly.

Harry kept staring at Peter Pettigrew, but I knew he was listening.

"This is the man who took our parents from us," I continued seething.

At the sound of my voice the rat-man turned around and scampered closer; much like a rodent.

"You… you must be Lena's daughter. And… and Harry… you look so much like James," he squeaked, making me recoil back in disgust.

I raised Hermione's wand, so it was almost pointed at his nose. He looked at it while I saw the nervous sweat drip down his neck.

"GET AWAY FROM THEM!" Sirius howled as he and Remus took Peter by the arms and threw him against the back wall.

"Don't you dare bring Lena and James up in front of them! You betrayed your best friends and they have suffered the consequences," Sirius said in an angry and hurt tone.

It dawned on me then that Sirius had known this secret for twelve years whereas the rest of us were only just finding out now. That must have been a heavy burden that could have cost anyone their sanity. But looking at Sirius now, all I could see was the deep hurt that was driving him for revenge.

I turned to look at Harry who had a conflicted look on his face. I knew he was struggling to believe in what I was saying about Sirius and what Sirius was saying himself.

Hermione had even piped up to ask why Peter hadn't tried to kill Harry before if he had been sleeping in the same dorm as him for three years.

But I already knew the reason.

"He is a coward Hermione," I said evenly. "An insult to the title of Gryffindor and a follower to those more powerful than him."

"Marnie, you believe me?" Sirius asked in a quiet voice.

I looked into his sad eyes and saw only the truth and anguish behind them.

"You had the opportunity to kill me in Hogsmeade and didn't. You had the chance to kill Harry that night when you broke into the castle. I saw it in your eyes then and I see it now. I believe in your innocence even if you were cruel to my mother in school," I finished and watched him flinch.

The pained look on his face told me I didn't have the full story but there wasn't time to discuss matters further.

Remus and Sirius had their wands pointed at Peter for the final blow and I inwardly awaited it. This darkness that I had been carrying for Sirius was now projecting tenfold onto Peter. But just as I wanted the life of my mother's betrayer to end, I heard Fred's words in the back of my mind. I heard him saying that seeking revenge is not an act of bravery. Bravery is overcoming the hate to do what is right.

But before I could say anything Harry stepped forward.

"We bring him to the school so the dementors can take him away to Azkaban," Harry said firmly.

I knew he now believed Sirius and was wanting to do the right thing.

"But he killed your parents," Sirius said a little desperately.

"And it would be a poor repayment for my parents if their best friends became murderers," Harry continued.

"Marnie?" Remus asked, looking at me with a sullen expression.

I nodded and took Harry's hand in support.

Remus then tied Peter up and shackled him between himself and Ron who had surprisingly volunteered.

Remus also raised a still frozen Snape with the hovering charm and led him out of the tunnel back towards the school.

Remus had since returned my wand which caused me to give back Hermione's. We were all walking in single file and I had my eyes set on Peter to make sure he didn't escape. The agreement was that if he went to transform, we would kill him.

I couldn't help looking over at Sirius and catching glimpses of the man who I had hated all my life. It felt as if waves of guilt were washing over my body realizing he had wasted twelve years of his life away from his family; our family.

He was quietly chatting with Harry and I was too distracted to tell what they were talking about.

It wasn't until we came out to the clearing that Harry took my hand with a big grin on his face.

"Marnie, once we prove Sirius is innocent, he can actually be my god-father!" he said excitedly.

Obviously, this had been what the two of them had been talking about.

"No, you can't take Harry away from me!" I said rather protectively and selfishly.

I had waited so many years to have Harry back in my life and I didn't want to have to give up living with him and having him a part of our home.

"Marnie," Sirius said as he bent down to look me in the eyes. "I would never take Harry away from you."

He looked a little awkward as he stood only inches away from me.

But, feeling the remainder of my energy escape, I collapsed into his arms and unceremoniously started to bawl.

Sirius thankfully took it in stride and gently put his arms around me before giving me a firm hug. Despite how malnourished he was from prison; his embrace was warm and comforting.

"You could come and live with us," I said abruptly.

I could feel Sirius' soft chuckle.

"One thing at a time Marnie. But that does sound nice," he replied before I looked up at him.

I smiled at him and saw his eyes shining back.

But the moment was severed when we heard a panicked scream from Hermione.

I whipped my head around to see Remus' body convulsing.

Merlin, he was turning.

The next moments went by in a blur as Peter took the moment of panic to transform and escape. Ron was hobbling to try and get Hermione up towards the castle whereas Harry and I stood in horror.

I had never seen Remus transform. Obviously, we accepted him for what he was and let him run around outside during full moons where we would often hear his howls in the distance. But the topic of his transformation had been sort of taboo and I had most definitely never seen it before.

"Remus, my old friend. Stay with me," Sirius said as he ran up to Remus and tried to hold him against his own fragile looking body.

But Remus continued to convulse before I started to see the changes.

"Children, LEAVE! I've got this handled," Sirius bellowed before changing into the Grimm-like dog I had seen so many times over the last year.

I looked in panic at the two men who were always supposed to be like family to me. Peter, who was nowhere in sight was the reason I didn't have a mother or godparents anymore, but Sirius and Remus were always supposed to have been in my life. And now they were fighting each other for all of us to stay alive.

"Marnie, we have to go!" Harry said in a saddened voice.

I knew he must have felt as anxious as I did. He grabbed my hand as he helped Ron with his injured leg and Hermione helped guide the levitated Snape back to the castle.

I tried not to turn back when I heard the injured whines from behind us.

My anxiety started to heighten before I felt a wave of cold wash over my body.

I couldn't stop reliving my attempt to torture Sirius or reminding myself of how I had hated an innocent man who should have helped raise me. The thought of growing up without Harry or the screams from my mother as she was tortured.

I looked up to see probably a hundred dementors coming towards us. I swallowed, and it felt like ice down my throat.

"Think of something happy!" Harry yelled.

I tried to wipe my mind clear and think of Sirius coming to live with us. Of Cedric telling me he loves me. Of Harry coming to live with us.

My vision was going cloudy while I only heard screams in my head.

"Squib lover thinks she can save him. She knows too much…" I heard a cackling voice in my head.

I wanted to ask who was talking but my voice had gone mute. The cold inside me felt as if it had frozen my insides.

"We need to think of something happy," Harry said in a mumbled tone.

Through the fog in my vision I saw a silhouette with red hair coming towards me.

"Fred?"

XXX

I could feel myself resting one someone's shoulder as I slowly gained consciousness.

"Cedric?" I asked lightly.

"Len, what are you mumbling about?" I knew this voice…

"Wake-up sleepy head," I didn't want to see this again, but my eyes opened anyways.

"Sirius?" my mother replied softly, not at all surprised to wake up on the arm of Sirius Black.

"You've been up late studying again," Sirius said with that same lazy grin.

He looked so handsome as I studied his face, not at all too skinny or paled from his time in Azkaban.

"I want to be ready," I said firmly.

I watched his grin fall.

"We aren't going to graduate for another year Lena. Why can't we enjoy what we have going on right now?" Sirius asked.

"I am enjoying it. But I want to make sure I will get to enjoy my future. I want to be able to have a family and watch them grow up in a world where I am not scared of Death Eaters. I am ready to join the fight and I will do everything I can to prepare before then," my mother continued.

I ignored my pang of sadness and kept reminding myself that Sirius was innocent, and he was just being a git like schoolboys sometimes are.

"Lena, I want to join the fight as much as you do. For once, I feel as if I have too much to lose and I know my family will be on the opposite side. But Hogwarts won't last forever, and I don't want the Death Eaters to be the reason I waste this time," Sirius said, still trying to keep himself collected.

"Well, not everyone has the luxury of being at Hogwarts. Some people are standing vulnerable on the outside and summer is not too far off. We need to know how to protect ourselves," mum said more decisively.

"Merlin, he is all you talk about!" this time it dawned on me who he was talking about.

If they were in their sixth year then mum would be dating my dad by the end of the term, which looked pretty soon by the look of the season.

"Well, I care about him. He's my friend, and yours. Just like I'm your friend," mum replied calmly.

"Well, friends can be replaced," Sirius said seething before getting up and storming away.

The frustration I had felt after watching this memory the first time rose up but then my vision started to cloud. When it came back into focus, I was sitting in the tunnel that leads out to the Black Lake from the castle. It's funny that my mum and I use the same tunnel when we wanted some time alone.

"I knew you would be in here," I heard a deeper voice say from behind me.

My mother doesn't turn to look at him, but I already know it must be Sirius. She probably did as well.

"What do you want Sirius?" mum asks abruptly.

I can tell she's upset by her tone.

Sirius sighs, probably knowing the same thing.

"I know Joss asked you out," he said simply.

My mum turns her head to look at him.

I can feel her quickened pulse and sweaty palms.

"Why haven't you agreed yet?' he asks.

"Because I don't want to lose you," mum says quietly.

Sirius chuckles and puts his arm over mum's shoulder.

"Lena, you are the first girl who ever showed me respect and saw past the Black façade. Because of this you are the first girl I ever loved, but you already know that."

I feel my mother's pulse quicken and a small smile break out, but Sirius continues.

"And as hard of a time as I have had coming to terms with it, I know I blew it. I should have been there when you found out about your dad…" I knew my grandfather had fallen ill suddenly and died while my mother was still in school.

"And I shouldn't want to slow you down from preparing for the real world. Joss has always been the one there for you and as much as I didn't want you to date anyone else, Joss is one of my friends who I do care for," he stopped and brought his thumb up to brush away the few fallen tears running down my mother's face.

"You were the first one I ever loved too," she whispered back.

He sighed but had a smile on his face.

"I know that too Lena. But I'll make you a promise. I will prepare for the fight we have coming and do everything to keep you and Joss and the rest of our friends safe. I'm not going anywhere Tress," he said seriously and playfully at the same time.

"I'll keep you to that promise," my mother replied with her own smile.

I felt as if I was intruding on a very intimate moment from my mother's past but was also relieved to see that Sirius and my mother had buried the hatchet long before the night she was taken from me.

"Marnie. MARNIE! Wake-up," I heard someone urgently calling my name.

My eyes flew open to see Hermione and Harry standing over my bed with wide grins.

"What?" I asked annoyed, realizing I had a splitting headache.

"Come see!" they said, Harry taking my arm to guide me to the window.

I was sure I was still dreaming when I saw Sirius floating… no riding on a hippogriff… outside the window.

"How?" I asked dumbfounded.

"Harry will explain later," Sirius said kindly. "Marnie, about what you said about me and your mother…"

"I take it back!" I said urgently.

"What?" he asked, baffled.

"I saw the truth. I know the whole story of what happened," I said, knowing he would probably think I was insane.

But he just smiled and looked at me with fatherly affection.

"That locket," he said quietly, somewhat out of the blue.

I reached up to hold my ruby pendant.

"That locket was always so full of secrets," he said vaguely before we heard yelling from outside the door.

"I have to go Marnie, but I promise I will keep in touch," he said before turning the hippogriff, which I now noticed was Buckbeak, and flew off into the night.

"Marnie, we have to get back into our beds," Hermione said urgently as we all darted back.

"IT WAS POTTER… OR O'HARA!" Snape said as he barged in before giving me a scathing look.

I'm sure he remembered I was the one who had attacked him.

"Severus think about the insinuation you are making. Poppy has been here the whole time," Professor Dumbledore said softly while being accompanied by a very frazzled looking Minister for Magic.

"I've heard enough," Minister Fudge said before leading the other two men out of the hospital wing, as abruptly as they had entered.

Hermione and Harry spent the rest of the evening explaining the events that took place with Hermione's time turner to myself and Ron. I was actually disappointed that I hadn't figured out that's what Hermione had been using to get to her classes all year, but then again, they were hardly ever used. I was also a little hurt that Harry hadn't woken me up, but they had explained there was little time and they felt it best that Ron was not left alone. I took their explanation in stride and was overall happy that Sirius and Buckbeak were safe.

Madam Pomfrey thankfully let us go the next morning just as breakfast was being served. Unfortunately, Ron had to stay because of his leg but we promised to come back and check on him. I wasn't even down the stairs from the hospital wing before I saw Fred, followed by George and Cedric, running up the stairs.

My heart filled up with the realization of just how much they cared for me as I ran past Fred into Cedric's arms.

"Are you okay Mar?" Cedric asked in a worried tone.

I buried my head into his chest and took in his wintery scent.

"Of course," I answered happily before being escorted down to breakfast where I had to re-tell the events from last night to my friends; leaving out the time turner and my dream.

"Where's Remus?" Harry asked after I was done retelling my story to my friends.

In last night's madness I had almost forgotten that the full moon had caused most of the complications.

"We should go check on him," I said as I stuffed the last of my eggs into my mouth.

"Erm, Marnie," Alicia said awkwardly.

"What is it Leesh?" I asked confusedly.

"Well, it's just…" she started.

"We know Professor Lupin, your uncle, is a werewolf," Lee finished more directly.

"What? How?!" I asked, completely shocked as to how they figured it out.

"Well, we were going to tell you a little more delicately," Fred said with a directed glare across the table, "but the whole school found out last night or this morning."

I felt dread fill up my body. I knew how werewolves were treated throughout the wizarding world. I also knew I had kept a secret from my friends and the twins for five years. Then there was also Cedric.

But Cedric just clasped my hand and squeezed it comfortingly while the others looked at me with worry, not fear or disgust.

"We have to go find him," I said while Harry nodded.

The rest of them seemed to understand as we raced off towards his office.

"Remus!" we both said as we ran into the Defense classroom and saw him stuffing his things into his trunk.

"Hello, you two," he said with a tired and guilty look on his face.

But he opened his arms as we approached and hugged us tightly for a few moments.

"We didn't tell!" I started once he let us go but he just put his hand up to cut me off.

"I know you didn't Marnie. You and Harry have guarded my secret and I know that was a hard burden to bear. It was Severus who told everyone, and the rumour has since spread," he said with a shrug.

"But that's not fair!" Harry started but Remus stopped him again.

"Letting Sirius go was too much for him, I guess. Plus, after last night it is apparent at how dangerous it can be to have a werewolf loose at a school," he said with dread in his eyes.

"You didn't hurt anyone uncle," I said soothingly.

He looked at me with a pained look.

"But, I could have just as easily," he said with finality.

"So, you're leaving?" Harry asked.

"Yes, I thought it courteous to leave before all the letters come tomorrow from the concerned parents," he explained.

"But you were the best Defense teacher we've had!" I said defiantly.

"I appreciate that Marnie, but I must leave before things become worse," he bent down to close his trunk but pulled out a piece of parchment before latching it.

"I believe this is yours," he said, handing the map over to me.

I looked down at it and heard Remus' words ring through my ears about betraying my mother. Plus, the twins had already bestowed it to Harry and we knew all the secret passages.

"Here," I said, decidedly giving it to Harry.

He took it graciously and hugged me, probably not knowing what he wanted to say.

A little while after, Remus led Harry and I out of his office before he closed the door behind him with his trunk in tow.

Harry went on ahead, but Remus took my shoulder and paused to say something.

"I just wanted you to know that I know what Sirius did during your Hogsmeade visit with Cedric," he said while I blushed furiously.

"We were just walking," I said, trying to defend my honour.

"I just wanted to say that Sirius was always very protective of Lena, and when you were born that carried onto you as well," Remus explained.

"I know they dated," I said.

He paused and looked thoughtfully at me.

"When we thought Sirius had been the spy, Joss and I agreed that we should protect you from him and his past with your mother. But now, I'm glad you know the truth. There was never any tension between Sirius and Joss, and they both cared for Lena in their own way," Remus continued.

"I do like that Cedric boy of yours. I know he treats you well," Remus added with a smile.

I felt my blush return and gave Remus one last hug before escorting him to the door. I knew I would see him tomorrow when I returned from school, but in that moment, it felt like it would be a lifetime.

The End of the Year Feast was actually pretty irritating as the rumours spread about my uncle and the escape of Sirius Black. Although, thankfully the two weren't tied together. I worried about Sirius and when we would get to see him again. This was doubled by the fact that Harry would have to return to his aunt and uncles for the first half of the summer and Cedric was also going on another trip with his father. But my friends, especially the twins, had promised to keep me entertained for the summer. I was truly fortunate that they had stood by my family when the news of Remus broke out. Most of them had actually thought it was pretty cool they had a werewolf for a professor. Anything was better than that dung brain Lockhart. But for now, I was sad at how things had been left and frustrated that Peter had gotten away. It didn't look like this summer was going to be a very good one.

 

Chapter Text

There was a knock at my door.

"Are you up Marnie?" my father asked through my closed bedroom.

"Yes!" I said excitedly before going over to open it.

"Looks like you've been up for a while," dad regarded, seeing that I was already dressed and had been reading on my bed for about an hour.

"I couldn't really fall back asleep," I replied.

Dad chuckled and led me downstairs where he poured us each a bowl of cereal.

"I remember going to one of the games when I was a boy," dad said which surprised me that he hadn't said anything before.

"You did?" I asked with peak interest.

"Yea, Australia was playing in the finals and we actually flew out to go see it. I was five years old and Penn was six. I had never seen anything like it," dad said.

"You flew on a broom?" I asked, bewildered.

"No, my family managed to figure out how to buy tickets for a plane," he explained.

"Oh, those are the high-flying birds that you point out to me aren't they?" I replied.

Dad smiled and nodded.

"Granny and Gramps were always trying new things for you, weren't they?" I asked.

"Yes, they were never fazed that I was a squib whereas Penn was a wizard. I think they gave each of us the best life we could for what we were," he said fondly.

The buzzer went off on the oven which prompted dad to take my unfinished cereal away from me and put it in the sink.

"Time to get a move on," he said promptly.

The sun was only just starting to peak over the horizon as dad and I got ready and headed out of the cottage. We walked for probably twenty minutes before we stopped on the top of a foothill.

"Marnie!" I heard a familiar girl shriek before I saw Ginny and all the others come into view. I rushed over to hug the girl who was now an inch or two taller than me. When she finally let go the twins swooped in to take over and enveloped me in a sandwiched hug.

It felt good to see most of my friends as they each took turns hugging me. It was only when Ron gave his own timid hug that I saw Harry beside my father.

"Harry!" I said excitedly before I rushed over to him and wrapped my arms around him.

He was now also taller than me and had definitely fully adopted his father's unruly hair.

"It's only been a month and you've changed so much," I said, still holding onto him.

It had been quite lonely at the cottage. Without Harry, it had mostly just been me and my father while Remus was busier than normal. Apparently, he had been trying to locate Sirius, and once he had the two of them had been making plans to prove his innocence. Dad still hadn't seen Sirius since it was much too risky for Sirius to be out in the open and Remus had deemed it unsafe to travel to his location at the moment. I thought that Remus was still feeling guilty about his transformation at the end of the term even though we had never been upset with him and dad had outright told him he wasn't angry. It was nice though that Sirius had started sending me letters. Mostly he just asked me about school, Harry and Cedric. Nothing too personal or even about my mother. But those were probably face-to-face conversations.

"Marnie!" I heard another familiar voice before I turned to see Cedric and Mr. Diggory approach up the hill.

I ran over to him and threw my arms over him for a brief hug before stepping back and smiling at him. I didn't want either of our fathers to say anything which is why I felt the physical contact should be minimal. I looked over at both of them and saw my own father had an embarrassed blush whereas Mr. Diggory had a sort of smug look. I didn't want either of them to voice their opinions in that moment.

"It'll be any minute now!" Mr. Weasley announced from a few paces away where he was standing beside an old looking boot.

I ran back to my father and looped my arms over his neck.

"I'll bring your trunk over to Molly when you're away," he said, bringing me even closer to him.

I felt it must be exceptionally lonely for my father with Remus constantly away. This summer had brought about a number of changes, and most of which were difficult to adapt.

"I love you," I said before kissing his cheek and then going over to join the rest of the Weasley's and Diggory's.

"I love you too Marnie. And you too Harry!" he exclaimed as we both waved back at him with smiles.

"Ready?" Mr. Weasley asked.

I had never used a portkey before, but Remus had told me about it last week when he had been over for supper. Apparently, it had a similar sensation as apparation but lasted longer and if you weren't careful you ended up flat on the ground.

I was only able to put one of my fingers on the boot since I was squished between Fred and Cedric before the boot started to emit a sort of glowing light. I pressed down my one finger to make sure I wasn't left behind before I felt myself lift off the ground.

"Let go!" Mr. Weasley said after a few moments, and I looked at him like he was mad.

As far as I knew we were as high above the ground as one of those plane birds.

But I trusted Mr. Weasley so I hesitantly let go and felt myself fall backwards. I tried to look around and noticed the ground was only a few feet away. I struggled to bring my feet towards the ground, but I was already falling backwards. Unfortunately, I ended up landing on my rear.

"You alright Marnie?" Cedric asked as I looked up and saw he had somehow landed on his feet.

But I was sure that him and his father travelled via portkey often when Mr. Diggory was doing research for the Ministry.

I took his hand and shook off the light pain radiating from my behind. I was thankful to see that besides Cedric, his father and Mr. Weasley, the rest of the others had all landed ungracefully like me.

Cedric kept my hand in his as we walked to enter the gates for the Quidditch World Cup.

"We're headed this way!" Mr. Diggory announced once we were inside.

"I'll see you soon Mar," Cedric said softly before stealing a kiss on my cheek.

The warmth where his lips touched my skin radiated as I watched him disappear into the crowd.

"Come on Marnie!" Ginny called back before I ran up to walk between her and Hermione.

They were both giggling at my moment with Cedric. As much as I loved Cedric, I didn't miss the attention our relationship seemed to attract.

Mr. Weasley led our group to a small campsite before he set down an even tinier looking tent. We had read all about extension charms last year and I was excited to see the inside. Once it was set up, I led Harry inside who looked very skeptical at the tent compared to the size of our group. But once we stepped through, his face lit up in astonishment before we all started to look around.

"The girl's tent is up!" Mr. Weasley announced as he entered the main tent minutes later.

"Want to check it out?" Fred offered while I nodded and was led out of the main tent by the twins.

I had known they wanted to tell me something since I saw them.

The girl's tent wasn't nearly as big but would fit the three of us with room to spare. There were also cots set up for each of us, so we wouldn't have to sleep on the ground.

"So, what's got you all riled up this morning?" I asked, wanting to get right to the chase.

"Our mother," George answered moodily.

I frowned and figured this meant Mrs. Weasley had finally figured out about the Weasley Wizard Wheezes the twins had finally been creating over the summer. It had been ages that the three of us had been talking over ideas and dreaming up schemes, but the twins had decidedly set about creating joke products over the summer. Admittedly, I had been helping them out as much as I could; it served as a good distraction from the rest of my life. This had meant sending secret and even coded letters at odd times of the day, usually early in the morning before Mrs. Weasley was awake. I felt bad about the secrecy, but the twins had argued their case well. We all knew that she would not approve of the products we were making. This was topped onto the fact that the twins had only received six OWLs between the two of them. I had admittedly been a little astounded since I knew they were good enough students, but they didn't seem fazed by the lack of grades.

"When did she find out?" I asked, knowing by George's tone that I was right in my assumption.

"When we went and saved your brother," Fred answered.

"Oh yes, how were Mr. and Mrs. Horrible?" I asked, referring to the Dursley's.

I was originally supposed to go with the Weasley's to fetch Harry, but my father hadn't thought it was a good idea when I had said out loud what I wanted to say to them. My father had actually grown quite concerned. I also think he was still worried about the Unforgiveable curse I had tried to cast on Sirius. Remus had obviously told my dad but it had since become a taboo topic. The twins had been the most understanding when I confided in them. Fred had been proud that I hadn't actually been able to cast it and also decided not to kill Pettigrew, even though he ended up getting away. Fred and George were also very keen now on wanting to meet Sirius, they figured he would have a lot of interesting stories now that we knew he wasn't a murderer.

"Well, that uncle of his was an alarming colour of purple, and his aunt looks like a horse. It was his cousin though, had 'git' written all over his face," Fred said slyly.

"You didn't!" I said, already knowing the answer.

"Freddie here "accidently" dropped one of his Ton-Tongue Toffee's. It was genius and that gullible oaf fell right for it!" George explained excitedly.

"But then dad yelled at us when we got home—" Fred continued with a sullen expression.

"Mum of course heard and brought up the whole OWL thing again—" George said.

"And this morning she confiscated all the Toffee's," Fred said in an annoyed and dejected tone.

I felt my own annoyance flare up. I had helped develop those and had even dropped some of my own money to be able to order in a specific type of sugar I had read about in my Wizarding Agriculture book. But I didn't think this was the time to say anything, not that I cared about getting the money back. I had known the risk going in.

"Did it work though? I mean on Harry's stupid cousin?" I asked, wanting to change the mood.

Both of the twins lit up smiling.

"Dad said his tongue got to ten feet easily!" George said proudly.

"That's brilliant!" I said, glad that we had at least been successful before Mrs. Weasley confiscated our product.

We then spent the rest of the morning sitting in the girl's tent talking about new products and other products we still had in development. Thankfully I was storing some of our newer experiments and ingredients so to try and protect our investments. I didn't think dad would outright rid of the stuff if he found it haphazardly stashed in my closet. Most of it however was now in my trunk ready for the next school year.

When our stomachs started to grumble the three of us headed outside to join the others for lunch.

"Where have you three been?" George asked when Harry, Hermione and Ron came back.

They had been tasked with getting the water when we had first gone into the tent and arrived only twenty minutes after we came out for lunch. Mr. Weasley was trying to start the fire which didn't give me much confidence that we would be eating anytime soon. Thankfully Hermione knew what she was doing and kindly took over the duty. Once the fire was started, we passed the time by looking at all the wizards who had come to watch the match. People from all different countries were walking around the campsites and setting up their tents. It was interesting to watch them all try and pass off as muggles. Thankfully my dad had attended a muggle school and knew how to dress to fit in. I was currently in denim pants and a t-shirt.

An hour later Bill, Charlie and Percy Weasley all apparated to the campsite in time for food. I got up and hugged the two oldest boys since I hadn't seen them in a few years. I actually hadn't seen Charlie since the end of my second year before he had moved to Romania to work with dragons. Although we hadn't been nearly as close as I was with the twins, or even Ron, I still always liked his company and honestly missed him being our prefect instead of Percy. But Percy had also graduated last year and was since working for the Ministry. Percy was currently going on about his paper on cauldron thickness and I felt myself start to drift off. The twins had warned me it was all Percy ever talked about. I also knew they had sent a fertilizer sample to his desk which he had apparently analyzed for a report. I had tried to feel bad for him, but I thought it was too funny to be too concerned.

Once lunch was over, I decided to go over and find Cedric's campsite to be able to properly say hello to him. We had been sending letters back and forth almost daily since he went abroad with his father again to Norway. Seeing him this morning had sent an excited chill through my body and was now almost guiding me to him.

I started walking towards the second field where Cedric and his father had been directed to go at the front gate. Mr. Weasley had given me permission to go and visit Cedric so long as I returned before everyone headed to the stands. I couldn't get over how many people were all congregated into the adjoining fields. I didn't really know how muggles dressed or how wizards were supposed to fit in, but I felt as if a lot were failing. The array of mismatched colours, fabrics and odd-looking robes which were adorning a lot of the witches and wizards couldn't possibly be considered normal for muggles.

"Mar!" I heard my name shouted excitedly from a few campsites over.

I walked towards the sound of Cedric's voice and smiled when I met his gaze. I couldn't stop myself from running into his arms and letting him hold me. Despite the heat, he still smelled like winter which I felt I couldn't get enough of. When I finally let go, he led me to a seat in front of their cooking fire.

"Where's your father?" I asked.

"Oh, he got led away a little while ago from some Ministry colleagues. He told me he would return in a while," Cedric answered easily.

I inched closer and sidled up beside him, so our sides were now touching. He clasped my hand in his after handing me a cup of tea. There was a pot sitting on top of the dimming fire to keep hot.

"I missed you," he said before leaning down and putting his lips on my forehead.

I knew he had also stopped to smell my hair which I'm glad I had left down today.

"How was Norway?" I asked, wanting to avoid being too distracted by him.

"It was an adventure. I had a lot of fun with my dad like I told you in the letters. But honestly, I would have liked to have stayed and spent some time with you," he answered sweetly.

"Well, maybe we could plan to hang out next summer?" I asked as casually as possible.

He smiled brightly, "I would like that. I'll make sure I ask my dad to let me stay at home for at least a little while next year."

He then put his arm around me and pulled me close to his chest. My head was pulled into him, so I could hear his heartbeat. Its rhythm seemed a little elevated and I wondered if he was just as excited as I was.

"Mar, I hope you will excuse me being forward," Cedric started with as much nerve as he could muster.

I lifted my head to meet his eyes and smiled at his apprehension.

"I am trying to be a gentleman here, but I haven't seen you in over a month and all I want to do right now is snog," he said while his cheeks turned tomato red.

I felt my palms start to sweat in nervous excitement while I tried to muster up my own nerve. I brought my face, so it was only an inch from his and smiled at all the emotions I could see swimming in his eyes; apprehension, eagerness, excitement, and something else I couldn't pinpoint.

"I love you," I whispered before closing the distance between us.

He let out an uncharacteristic moan which didn't go past my own lips. I felt his body lean forward towards mine and his hands, which were around my wrist, tighten.

A moment later Cedric leaned back.

"Merlin, I love you Mar. But I do want to somewhat keep up my gentlemanly appearance with you," he said with a pause. "My dad won't be back for a while…"

I raised my eyebrow but quickly understood his meaning. In response I put my hand into his and let him guide me to his tent which he was sharing with his father. It seemed to be the same size on the inside as the Weasley's which meant there was lots of room for just two people. On each side I could see a bed and Cedric led me to the one on the left. I sat down on it and waited for Cedric to join me. When he sat down, I was very aware of the bed sinking down under his weight.

"I just want to kiss my beautiful girlfriend without an audience," he said reassuringly.

I swallowed before smiling but quickly closed the distance between us before I lost my nerve. But as soon as my lips met his all of my anxiety drifted away. His lips were soft and almost thoughtful across mine, as if he was ensuring I felt comfortable. I deepened it to reassure him which he responded to quickly. I had no idea how long we sat there in each other's arms. His hands went between running through my hair to running down my back to pulling me closer into our embrace.

By the time Cedric pulled back so not to be awkwardly interrupted by his father, he led me out of the tent and bid me farewell. He had offered to walk me back to my campsite, but I already noticed some people headed towards the pitch and I didn't want him to become separated from his father.

He pulled me back into one last embrace and brought me as close as possible so there were no spaces between us.

"Marnie, I hope you know how much I love you," he said sweetly but with a kind of severity behind it.

I looked at him with a smile.

"Well, I am known for forgetting such important things," I said mockingly.

He just gave me a smug look in return.

"Well, I'll always be around to remind you," he said before I turned around and headed back towards my own campsite.

I spent the entire walk back trying to erase the stupid grin off my face, so no one would be suspicious.

 

Chapter Text

"You did what?" I asked the twins as we walked towards the stands.

George had just admitted that he and Fred had gambled their entire savings on a bet with Ludo Bagman, the Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.

"Don't worry about it, Marnie," George said confidently.

I looked at him with an exasperated look. I hadn't minded before, investing in their prank products, but now I was worried I would be the sole sponsor. I knew they would never expect anything like that from me, but I also had faith that they would make something of themselves with these ideas.

"Don't you trust us?" Fred asked simply.

His demeanor took me off guard and for a moment I felt that he had said us only on principle.

"Of course," I said defensively.

Fred shrugged off whatever look had been on his face and proceeded to put his arm over my shoulder.

"Here you go Marnie!" Harry caught up to me as we approached the stadium and proceeded to ascend the stairs.

Harry handed me a pair of omnioculars. I thanked him and took the opportunity of climbing the stairs to try and catch up with him. Obviously, we had been sending letters back and forth during the summer and we didn't dare mention anything about Sirius when we were in the open. Looking at my god-brother now, I pushed the irritating thought out of my head that was telling me he wasn't a young boy anymore that probably needed my guidance. He was only turning 14, but two square-offs with Voldemort in the last three years had hyper-driven him into maturity.

Before I could dwell too much on Harry, we finally reached the peak of the stands, obviously where we had been headed.

"This is incredible!" I said in awe as I looked out over the stadium.

"One hundred thousand people," Mr. Weasley said as joined me with all the others from our party.

I continued to look out in amazement until I heard a clatter on the platform floor. I looked over to see Percy oddly bowing to an older looking man. Percy was bent over so low that his glasses had fallen off and made the sound that had averted my attention.

I looked up at the man who had Percy so enthralled and realized after a moment that this was the Minster for Magic, Cornelius Fudge. The minister was now extending his hand towards Harry who took it and greeted the man heartily. I knew they had met last year when Harry had blown up his aunt and the ministry had wanted to protect Harry from Sirius Black; thankfully saving him from any reprimand for underage magic.

I continued to look at the minister skeptically since I knew he was the one still hunting down Sirius when I knew the truth about what happened to Harry's parents. My stomach dropped even further at the arrival of the Malfoy's. Mr. Fudge was going on about some big donation Draco's father had given to St. Mungo's and I had to force myself not to gag. My mother didn't need any of his tainted money.

Unfortunately, I didn't completely stifle myself and a small noise escaped from my lips. Mr. Malfoy turned his attention and stared at me with contempt. I knew how people like him regarded those such as my father. I even remembered the disturbing memory I had seen about him stopping my mother in the Slytherin corridor and threatening to kill her and my father.

I met his malevolent look with my own determined stare and noticed that Fred moved his body, so I was now behind his shoulder. Mr. Malfoy soon drew his look away and went to sit on the other side of Mr. Fudge. This was only after he had an uncomfortable exchange with Mr. Weasley, who I remembered had had a heated discussion with Mr. Malfoy in Flourish and Blotts two years ago.

Thankfully, everyone's attention was averted as Ludo Bagman arrived to commentate the game.

Once he was in his spot, he put his wand to his throat so to amplify his voice. He welcomed everyone to the game and wasted no time in introducing the mascots. With this prompt, I watched as one hundred veela entered the field. I rolled my eyes, having read all about the creatures who had similar enchanting properties as sea maidens who lured men to do their bidding. I looked over to see Hermione growing impatient with both Harry and Ron who looked as if they were trying to look macho. Unfortunately, George and Fred were in no better shape as they wore expressions akin to drooling. Once the veela were directed off the field, I could hear the adamant protests. I kept staring at Fred as I watched him go from complete awestruck, to frustrated, to slowly aware of faculties.

"You have a little something," I said, pointing to the crook of my mouth to indicate he had saliva running down his face.

His face turned beet red as he hastily wiped his hand across his face while using the other one to nudge my shoulder in annoyance. I just laughed at his embarrassment before turning my attention back to the field in time to see a rainbow appear.

"Leprechauns!" I shouted excitedly as I watched the little creatures throwing gold coins into the stands.

I had also read all about the creatures known for their luck and had admittedly once gone looking for them after one rainy afternoon. My adventure had ended when my father came stalking out in his rain boots to find me running across some of the farther foothills. I had not been allowed to go looking for leprechauns again.

Ludo Bagman once again started announcing to the entire stadium once all of the mascots had cleared to the sidelines. Once Bagman announced both team players, I inched closer to the edge of my seat. The players were very small in the distance, but everyone seemed to be animated over Viktor Krum, the Bulgarian seeker.

I brought up my omnioculars for a closer look at the players and felt a hand press on my stomach and gently nudged me back into my seat. I looked over to see Fred with an anxious look on his face.

"It's a much farther drop if you pass out up here," he said seriously.

I just rolled my eyes but didn't argue the point. I knew I had really scared everyone last year after passing out at the quidditch game from the dementors and falling off the stands.

"They're off!" I heard Ludo Bagman announce which caused me to whip my head back around.

I brought my omnioculars back up to my face and was enthralled by how close it brought me to the action. If the players hadn't been whipping about, I might have actually been able to see the expressions on their face.

It was extraordinary how fast the players were flying around and in no time at all Ireland had scored the first goal. I could hear the wild applause all around me as 100,000 people all stared intently at the players.

"What are they doing?!" I asked when I saw Viktor Krum instantly take-off in a vertical path headed straight for the ground.

The fact that he was going faster than I had ever seen anyone else on a broom was also terrifying.

"Ah, what's he following him for?" Fred said in frustration as I noticed Ireland's seeker Aidan Lynch following close on Krum's trail.

Before I could ask my next question, I stood up in shock and horror as Krum lifted his broom inches from the ground, but Lynch was not so lucky. I could hear his body smack against the ground with an audible thump.

Fred once again put his hands on both of my sides and pulled me back down into a seated position.

"It's called the Wronski Feint," George explained wearily as he looked towards Lynch who was now being attended to by the onsite healers.

"What's that?" I asked, using my omnioculars to zoom onto Lynch who was now somehow returning to his feet.

"It's a very difficult maneuver some pro-seeker players use to throw off their opponent," Fred responded now that he felt sure I would stay in my seat.

I had already heard the twins both assure Ginny that Lynch would recover quickly so I turned my attention back to the players who were all positioned to restart.

Once the game recommenced, it started to resemble a match between Gryffindor and Slytherin, but on a much more intense level. The plays were almost ferocious, and Ireland was awarded the first penalty.

I watched as the angry looking veela all stormed to the field and started moving their bodies in some sort of malicious portraying dance. The once beautiful looking creatures now wore looks of revenge as they squared off against the rambunctious leprechauns. I looked over to see the twins with their hands over their ears to prevent themselves from being smitten again. However, this didn't stop the referee from heading out onto the field and trying to demonstrate his own athletic ability. He was flexing his muscles when Bagman announced for someone to knock some sense into him.

I shook my head before returning my attention back to the match. The sheer finesse of all the players made all of their complex strategies look effortless. The game was getting more ruthless however and the referee still didn't have his wits about him. Ron and Harry were angrily shouting for a time out since it looked like Krum was injured. However, this didn't stop Lynch from descending down the pitch at another alarming rate.

"He sees it!" I heard Ginny squeal.

From the omnioculars I could barely make out the glint of gold that the Irish keeper was obviously chasing after. But, despite his injuries Viktor Krum had easily closed the distance between himself and Lynch.

"Oh no!" I shrieked seconds before I realized Lynch was going to hit the ground again.

I flinched when I saw his body crumple as it had the first time.

"He has it!" I heard Fred announce which made me take my gaze off the very still seeker on the ground being attended to by healers.

Sure enough, Viktor Krum had the snitch raised above his head with something almost resembling pride behind his stoic demeanor.

I was grabbed into a celebratory group hug by the twins and Ginny as they all happily jumped in the air joyously. I easily followed their lead and celebrated in the win for Ireland. I also felt relief wash over me as I realized, in blatant awe, that the twins had won their bet against Bagman.

Ginny didn't let go of my arm as we all walked back to the campsite. Her excitement was palpable as she had both of her hands latched onto my arm and practically pulled me along. When we got back to the campsite, we all sat outside the tents where we had spent the afternoon eating lunch and crowd watching. Mr. Weasley doled out each of us a cup of hot cocoa as everyone went over every exciting detail of the match.

"Time for bed girls," Mr. Weasley said so he could watch that the three of us got safely into our tent.

As I changed into my pajamas, I could hear the boys filter into the adjacent tent. Ginny was asleep by the time her head hit the pillow and I wasn't that far behind her.

Oddly enough I woke up standing in a bathroom stall. When I unlatched the door I came out into a large, stone-walled lavatory with a row of porcelain sinks. I was at Hogwarts in the Charms hallway, one of the cleaner washrooms in the school. I walked over to one of the sinks and gasped when I noticed my hair was about five inches shorter than I currently had it. Other than that, however, my eyes were the same colour of orange, my face was the same angular shape, and I could even see the same line of freckles dusting my cheeks. But I wasn't me, and the yellow robes gave it away.

I sighed in annoyance, but unsurprisingly nothing audible escaped my lips.

"Cissy, I spy an itsy-bitsy squib lover," an older girl said in a voice that sounded as sweet as acid.

I looked over to see two girls who looked as if they must be in their sixth and seventh years of school and who were also probably sisters. Sickeningly, I knew the one who had spoken was Bellatrix Black since I would recognize those blood-thirsty eyes anywhere. Presumably, the blond girl beside her was Narcissa Black, her sister.

I stared at Narcissa, dubbed Cissy, and could see the similarities to her son Draco. As well, since I had just seen her current self only hours ago at the quidditch world cup, she honestly hadn't changed much in the last twenty years. She was a beautiful woman who was obviously raised to eat poise and demure for breakfast.

"Hello Lena," Narcissa said in an eerily calm voice.

Her voice was devoid of all emotion and yet it sent icicles up my spine.

"What can I do for you Narcissa?" my mother answered in an almost bored tone.

I couldn't help but be proud that my mother wasn't afraid of these girls, when I had known they were almost as horrible as students as they were Death Eaters.

"I have heard that you have caught the eye of Lucius Malfoy," Narcissa answered in a tone which can only be described as pins and needles.

"I couldn't care less what that boy thinks of me. He is a vile coward and I pity the woman who becomes his pet," my mother retorted almost angrily.

I grinned devilishly at my mother's answer, full well knowing how far her insult reached.

Narcissa took a step closer to my mother with precision and purpose, however this was decidedly all the permission Bellatrix needed.

The darker haired sister who had been uncharacteristically quiet was now inches from my mother's face with her wand drawn to her chest.

My mother and Narcissa stayed in their positions. I could feel my mother's pulse elevate but she remained cool and collected.

She turned her head slowly to meet Bellatrix's stare.

"Step away from me Bellatrix. I am Head Girl and I will make sure you see the inside of a detention room until you graduate," my mother replied evenly.

Considering Bellatrix Black eventually got in cahoots with Voldemort himself I didn't feel like detention was much of a threat. Surprisingly however, Bellatrix took half a step back before Narcissa raised her hand, beckoning her sister away.

Obediently, Bellatrix retreated, and the two sisters left the lavatory in silence, although not without looks of loathing thrown back at my mother.

"Ginny, Hermione, Marnie!" I was startled at the sound of Mr. Weasley's urgent voice.

I opened my eyes and felt relief to be back in the tent, not face-to-face with the Black sisters.

"Put your coats on, quickly!" Mr. Weasley ordered, and my initial relief turned to anxiety.

I helped Ginny find her coat before we both followed Hermione out of the tent.

I looked around and saw that everyone was fleeing their campsites and headed towards the woods. I turned around to see what everyone was running from and noticed a group of people dressed up in long cloaks and white masks. The costumes were eerie, as if I were looking at a soulless phantom. My anxiety heightened again as I noticed them getting closer, which also meant the screams I hadn't noticed before were getting louder.

I looked up into the air and saw the family of muggles who we had met earlier when they assigned us the campsite. They were being controlled and, most unfortunately, tortured and humiliated. I flinched when I saw the children being spun around in the air and heard their screams for it to stop.

Ginny was latched onto my arm and I brought her face to my chest so I could try and protect her from the ghastly sight. I stroked her hair as we waited for everyone to come out of the boys' tent. I gave Harry a meaningful look who returned it with his own look of worry.

"We are off to help the ministry, stay together and keep each other safe," Mr. Weasley instructed hastily before he ran off with Charlie, Bill and Percy.

It was my turn to grab Ginny's arm and pull her with me as we followed Fred and George into the thrall of people.

I saw Fred and George alternate every twenty seconds as they took turns to check that Ginny and I were still close at their heels. They finally slowed down out of necessity when we entered the wooded area at the perimeter of the field.

I took the moment to turn around and check on Harry and the others.

"Dammit!" I said, probably too loud when we were trying to stay away from the costumed freaks.

"What's wrong?" Fred looked back in alarm.

"We lost our younger brothers and Hermione," I said worriedly.

"They'll be fine, they have each other," George reassured, but I knew just as much as he did how the younger three seemed to constantly draw unwanted attention and risk.

Ginny had been silent since we left the tent, but I knew she was trying to keep a brave face.

"You look lost little squib," I heard a voice from a familiar and unwanted source.

I turned around again to see Marcus Flint walking behind us.

"Well, we can't all look at home like you do in a mass hysteria," I replied coolly.

Flint smirked at my comment.

"What do you want Flint?" Fred asked seething as he came to stand on my other side.

"Well, I was trying to stall you long enough for the Death Eaters to catch up and take O'Hara here as a hostage," he replied evenly.

I fought back the shiver that ran up my spine as he stared at me provokingly.

"They can't have her," Ginny spoke up as I saw her draw her shoulders and raise her head more confidently.

Flint chuckled but continued to look me dead in the eyes.

"It's only a matter of time squib before they come for you and rid Britain of all the mudbloods and squibs. And I want a front row seat when your day comes," he responded menacingly.

I could see all three of the Weasley's gearing up to take Flint on, but I didn't want to start a brawl that would bring the attention of the now confirmed Death Eaters.

Thankfully, we were interrupted when we heard several screams which also diverted Flint's attention. I planned to use the interruption as a way to draw the Weasley's away, however Flint got a panicked look on his face and ran off towards where we had last seen the hooded figures.

I looked up where Flint had been staring and saw a green, cloudy image drawn in the sky. It was a picture of a floating skull with a snake running through it.

"Merlin, it's his mark," I whispered with an icy chill.

"What mark?" Ginny asked worriedly again as she took my arm.

"The Dark Mark," I replied.

"Let's go find our dad," George suggested, not able to disguise the worry from his voice.

We quickly headed back towards our campsite. It didn't take long to find it and thankfully neither of our tents had been destroyed or torn down like some of the rest.

"Fred, George, Ginny, Marnie!" Charlie ran out when he heard our approach.

He held the tent flap open and urged us all inside. Bill and Percy were also back but I was extremely worried to see the others hadn't returned.

However, before I could get too caught up in my head, we heard several sets of footsteps approaching the tent. Charlie went back out to investigate and came back with a look of relief. Mr. Weasley entered the tent followed by Harry, Ron and Hermione. I stood up and rushed over to Harry. He returned my familial embrace and I could tell how anxious he had been.

"What happened?" I asked as I guided him to sit down with the rest of us.

Mr. Weasley started while Harry and the others filled in the blanks. If I wasn't familiar with the level of unbelievable that constantly hovers around Harry, I would have struggled to comprehend the story they told.

Afterwards, I had a million questions about this house elf Winky who somehow got a hold of Harry's wand but didn't cast the spell for the dark mark that had scared Flint away; but I was interrupted by Percy and Hermione who were having an increasingly heated discussion about the treatment of house elves.

"Alright, time for bed," Mr. Weasley interrupted with a rare air of absolute authority.

No one argued as we returned to our tent and inched our sleeping bags and cots as close as they could together with Ginny in the middle. I lay my head back down on my pillow and gazed up at the tent's ceiling as I replayed my dream in my head. I had briefly pushed it out of my head in the adrenaline of getting out of the tent and fleeing from the Death Eaters, but now that everything was relatively quiet, and I could only hear Ginny's rhythmic breathing, I couldn't help but think of what my dream meant.

Unfortunately, this one seemed more straight forward than all the others; the Death Eaters weren't afraid to make themselves known and if Flint was right, my family was no longer safe.

 

Chapter Text

"It's rather annoying how secretive everyone is being about this supposed new rule, isn't it?" George asked huffily as Fred and I followed him down the train.

Mrs. Weasley had escorted the lot of us to King's Cross with Charlie and Bill. I wished I had gotten to visit with them more properly but the last day of break had been fairly distracted. When we had gotten back the following morning after the Death Eaters attack, Molly had fussed over everyone; including those who weren't her proper family.

I let Aster out of their cage once we were settled in the compartment with the rest of our friends. My father had brought all of my packed possessions to the Weasley's while the rest of us were at the match. He had also gone shopping with Mrs. Weasley to collect Harry and my required supplies.

"Did you end up choosing some dress robes?" Alicia asked, wasting no time in her excitement.

I felt my uncontrollable blush cross my face as I thought of the sapphire blue gown folded delicately in my trunk. Mrs. Weasley had shown me the dress when we all returned, and I headed up to Ginny's room for my things. Apparently, it had been my mother's and my father had decided to bestow it to me for this secret thing everyone was so hushed about. It had been inexplicable finding dress robes listed with the rest of my required supplies but I could see the sheer excitement in my friends’ eyes.

"Mum and dad brought me to London for a day of shopping. I ended up finding a gold dress," Ange answered more excitedly than I would have thought.

But then I watched as she passively stole a glance at George. I smiled between them but neither of them noticed as they were both awkwardly trying to avoid catching the other's attention. I had asked both of them over the summer if they wanted to pursue anything with each other, but both had given a non-committal answer.

"Katie and I went out together!" Alicia added with great enthusiasm. "She found a pretty purple dress while mine is coquelicot."

I had no idea what colour coquelicot was, and I could already tell the boys were wholly disinterested in talking about dress robes. Therefore, the conversation was soon changed to the disturbing events that took place at the Quidditch World Cup. All three girls and Lee had also been at the game with their respective families. But no one was really eager to discuss the horror which was the Death Eaters, so the conversation later transitioned into the upcoming quidditch season. As interesting as my friends' conversation was, however, I found myself distracted. I mostly just stared out the window and watched the storm clouds roll in. At some point Aster perched into my lap and dozed off. I stroked their delicate looking wings and thought back to seeing Cedric at the Quidditch match, before all the chaos. His kisses had been more urgent, even though he hadn't pressed for anything further than snogging. I had snogged him hundreds of times, but this felt like it was becoming different, filled with something more. I also realized that I liked the urgency behind them, that I wanted Cedric to keep kissing me like the world might end.

When we finally arrived at the school, it was a torrential downpour. The seven of us made a run for it with our trunks in tow. Despite our efforts however, we were soaked by the time we entered the self-pulling carriages. Each of us performed our own drying spell, but the chill had already set into my bones. I hugged myself to try and keep some ounce of warmth throughout my body. Fred must have noticed since he put his arm over my shoulder and rubbed his hand up and down my arm. I paused, for the first time I could remember, and felt that maybe this wasn't completely appropriate when I was dating Cedric. I caught the brief look from Ange's face, but she turned away before I could measure her reaction. Decidedly, I cast off my own doubts, Fred had been my best friend for six years; it didn't mean anything.

We all took off running again once our carriage pulled up to the front of the school.

"Lucky we aren't the ones ferrying in the boats this year,' Lee said as we all took a seat in the Great Hall.

I rolled my eyes but did feel sorry for the first years. I remembered back when it was the five of us coming across in the boats. I hadn't felt that excited in my entire life; seeing the first glimpse of the castle while Fred held my hand.

I cast a quick glance over to Fred who was sitting across from me, beside Lee. He had always been a touchy sort of person, always grabbing my hand to lead me places or putting an arm over me when we walked. Albeit, George was less forward than Fred, but it was just Fred's nature. I shouldn't feel weird about it now.

What did strike me was that Katie was now opting to sit beside Lee, instead of Alicia, who was now sitting across the table from her best friend. Alicia and Katie had been inseparable since our first year as well, not to mention that Lee and Katie's so-called relationship had been manifesting at a glacial rate. The fact that they were sitting beside each other seemed almost momentous. I shared a look with Ange who only rolled her eyes. None of us had ever had a problem with the two of them dating, so we had never understood why they took things as slow as they were. This was the third year there had been something between them, and it was amounting to sitting beside each other.

Before I could comment however, everyone fell silent as Professor McGonagall entered with a congregation of sopping wet eleven-year-olds. I watched as she set the hat upon a three-legged pedestal and waited for it to sing. After six years, a singing hat wasn't as unbelievable as it had once been, although still pretty phenomenal.

"That one looks as if she might faint," George snickered, leaning over and pointing in the direction of a very paled faced girl.

"Hey George, I bet he'll be sorted into Hufflepuff," Lee whispered back.

"What about the kid rolling his eyes?" Fred added, indicating to a boy who looked like the hat was wasting his time.

"Who is that kid?" Ange asked incredulously.

"Obviously destined for Slytherin," Katie answered.

We all snickered.

Once McGonagall started calling forward the students, the seven of us would quietly announce which house we thought the hat would choose for them. At the end, Katie was the winner with ten correct guesses. Alicia and Angelina were next with seven. I was tied with George for five, whereas Fred had gotten four and Lee ending up with two.

Thankfully, Dumbledore kept his tradition and announced the feast before he gave his announcements. Like always, I was astounded with the number of dishes that appeared before us. I made a mental note to go and visit Posy and Dobby sometime this week to give my thanks.

It was always a hassle to try and get any food nearby with the twins piling everything onto their plate. Thankfully, the house elves always made an inordinate amount of food and I was able to put roast beef with steaming gravy, cabbage soup, and hot cross buns onto my plate. The food filled my body with warmth as I felt the chill ebb away. Ange also poured me a cup of tea which I used to chase down my food. By the end, I was content and finally felt comfortable enough from the rain. The desserts were also as wonderful as ever, meaning that I had an extra serving of carrot cake.

By the time Dumbledore returned to the podium in front of the staff table, everyone was stuffed and content. Or at least until he announced that the quidditch season was cancelled.

"What the f-"

"Fred!" I reached over and swatted him on the shoulder.

I could sympathize with his frustration; I knew how much quidditch meant to all of my friends. But I could also see McGonagall sending him a stern look, most likely due to the volume of his outburst. I figured a detention within the first hour of being at Hogwarts was one record he didn't need to break.

But before Dumbledore could continue with his announcements, hopefully explaining why quidditch had been cancelled for the entire season, an intimidating looking man entered the Great Hall.

"That's Mad-Eye Moody," George whispered in awe as the entire school stared at the intriguing newcomer.

"Is that the one your father mentioned this morning?" I asked, remembering that Mr. Weasley had left the Burrow early this morning to help this supposed man with some rogue garbage cans; or at least I think that's what Charlie had said.

Fred nodded as the man walked to the front of the hall.

"I would like to announce the newest member of our faculty here at Hogwarts and the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Moody," Professor Dumbledore said as the bedraggled looking man stood beside him holding what looked like a wooden staff.

As I looked at the newest teacher and thanked Merlin Snape hadn't gotten the opened position, I couldn't help thinking this man looked like a toad. His face was rough, with scars in every direction. His career as an auror definitely showed, and I didn't know if that meant he was good at it or not.

"As I was saying," Professor Dumbledore continued once Professor Moody took his seat where Remus had sat last year. "This year Hogwarts is hosting the Triwizard Tournament."

"YOU'RE JOKING!" Fred replied loud enough that McGonagall fixed him another withering stare.

I knew that by the end of the night, Fred would be handed a detention.

However, Professor Dumbledore took it with humour and responded by almost telling the school a joke. But before he got too off topic, the headmaster cleared his throat and continued with his original announcement.

By the end of Dumbledore's speech, Fred and George had wild looks in their eyes. Apparently, the new age restriction was only a minor setback for the twins trying out and persuading this ominous impartial judge for them to qualify.

"You know Marnie, you'll be seventeen by October," George said as I walked back with him, Fred, Neville, Harry, Ron and Hermione.

"Yes, I'm aware," I responded simply.

I didn't want to admit that I had been thinking about that particular fact since Dumbledore had announced it.

"Ow!" George exclaimed as Fred elbowed him in the ribs and gave his twin a withering look.

"Do you know how many times Marnie has almost died in the last six years?" Fred whispered vehemently to George.

George gave his brother some pause before shrugging. If his best friend wanted to go out for the glory, he wasn't going to be the one to stand in her way. George then looked over at Marnie who was having a lively discussion with Harry and Ron about entering the competition, thankfully meaning she hadn't heard Fred's panicked whispers.

"I would root for you Ron!" Marnie said ecstatically to Ron who was rambling on about competing if he was of age.

George also didn't miss the deep blush cross his younger brother's face from Marnie's answer. He shook his head; Marnie really didn't know the effect she had on people, Weasley's in particular.

Once they all got back to the common room, Marnie and Hermione bid everyone goodnight before they headed up to the girl's dormitories.

"Harry, you wouldn't want Marnie competing, would you?" Fred asked pointedly once she was out of sight.

Harry shrugged. "She's my older sister mate, it's not like I can forbid her or anything. Plus, she's one of the bravest people I know, I think she would have a good shot."

George smiled heartily at Harry before rallying his sulking twin up the stairs.

"It's not like I don't have faith in her, I just want to protect her," Fred said quietly as they made their way up.

"I know Freddie, but maybe to do one you have to let go of the other," George answered honestly.

Fred frowned some more but nodded along. George could only hope his advice had gotten through his twin's stubbornly thick skull.

XXX

"What's your schedule say for today?" Angelina asked as we all received our timetables from McGonagall the next morning.

"Care of Magical Creatures and Defense," I said before grabbing some cereal and milk.

"It looks like we've all got Moody!" Lee said excitedly.

I was intrigued at finding out about this new teacher that Mr. Weasley obviously thought highly of, but I was a little jaded with Remus being replaced.

"I guess I'll see you guys after first period," I said once I finished my breakfast and headed out to the grounds.

The boys all luckily had a free period whereas the girls had arithmancy. I was the only one who had gotten an OWL in Care of Magical Creatures. I was also fairly surprised by this considering I didn't think tending to a unicorn foal had been that difficult.

As I headed out, I was thankful yesterday's downpour had ended. There also weren't too many sixth years taking the elective, but I smiled when I saw a blonde-haired boy standing beside a pen with the rest of the students.

I sidled up beside Cedric who turned his attention when he saw my approach.

"Good morning Marnie," he said as he put his hand in mine.

"Good morning Ced," I replied before turning to look into the pen everyone else was circling around.

"What are those?" I asked, both intrigued and skeptical.

I had never seen a creature like one of these, and it definitely wasn't in the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

"I was hoping you had the answer to that," Cedric answered woefully.

These creatures looked like an engorged snail with pincers. I was intrigued at seeing a new creature, especially one outside of the Ministry approved curriculum. But I was also slightly worried of their safety ranking as well.

"Ger mornin'," Hagrid announced as he stepped out of his hut.

"Erm, Hagrid. What exactly are these?" I asked, taking initiative to ask the question on everyone's mind.

"Blast-Ended Skrewts," Hagrid answered proudly.

I knew there was no creature Hagrid would ever find less than fascinating.

"What are we supposed to do with them?" Cedric's friend Liam asked.

"Raise 'em o' course," Hagrid said excitedly.

Everyone looked back into the pen with high levels of skepticism. I had to admit that they were producing a pretty foul odour and a large amount of slime.

"Go ahead and pick one," Hagrid directed.

"After you mi 'lady," Cedric said in a lame attempt to cover his cowardice.

"I thought you travelled the world finding dangerous creatures with your father," I replied coolly.

"I do!" he answered rather defensively. "But I am at least familiar with those creatures."

I shook my head and made my way to the gate to enter the pen. However, feeling now that he had something to prove, Cedric jogged ahead of me and grabbed two of the small little guys.

"Here," he said triumphantly as he quickly dumped one of them into my arms.

"Eurgh!" I exclaimed, now getting a face full of the pungent odour.

I nearly dropped it onto the ground but managed to quickly set it down from a lower height.

I heard some laughter from nearby. I looked up with a glare since I now realized Marcus Flint had somehow managed to pass his OWL in Care of Magical Creatures.

"I figured you would have one of these as a pet," Flint remarked with the same malicious stare he always saved for me.

"Better than having Death Eaters for parents," I quipped back without missing a beat.

His smirk fell instantly, turning into a spiteful glare.

"You'll pay for your traitorous words!" Flint exclaimed as he made his way towards me.

I noticed his hand in the pocket of his robe and assumed he was reaching for his wand. I already knew Hagrid had gone into his hut to collect the food supplies we were supposed to be trying to feed the skrewts. In response I reached for my own wand, prepared to defend myself.

However, Cedric was in front of me with his own wand poised before I could inhale my next breath.

"I am giving you one chance to stand down and turn back," Cedric said evenly.

The smirk returned to Flint's face as he sized up Cedric, deciding if he could take him on. But I readily stood on his one side while Liam joined in on the other.

"Pretty boy here saved your neck, squib," Flint spat looking at me with a vicious glare.

"Never threaten Marnie again. I'm sure Dumbledore would love an update on the situation where you were told not to harass any of the other students," Cedric said pointedly.

Flint's frown deepened before he turned away in a huff and returned to the other side of the grounds.

"I really don't like him," Liam piped in as he watched Flint return to one of his fellow Slytherins.

"No one really does," I said evenly.

Cedric looked over and gave me a meaningful look.

"Aghhh!" Cedric exclaimed before I could reassure him that I was fine.

Cedric immediately lifted his foot into his hands and hopped around in pain.

"It blasted me!" he said indignantly before he hopped behind me.

Liam was laughing incessantly. "Maybe you should rethink trying out for the Triwizard Tournament if you're going to hide behind Marnie after only being stung by this little creature."

Cedric scowled at Liam, probably for more than one reason.

"I was going to tell you," Cedric started as he set down his foot, trying a little pressure first to make sure it could take his weight.

"I assumed that," I replied simply.

Class was soon dismissed after we had all wrangled up our skrewts and deposited them back into the pen.

Cedric walked me back to the castle before he made his own way to Potions.

"Liam and I only discussed it last night after the announcement," Cedric started.

I could hear that he felt guilty about me finding out his interest in competing through Liam.

"Cedric, it's fine, honestly," I reassured him.

"Well, are you going to try out?" he asked.

"Erm, I think so," I said in a softer voice.

I hadn't actually said it out loud, even though I knew Angelina was also trying out as well as the twins' hair-brained plan.

"You should," Cedric said confidently.

I looked up and smiled at his assurance in me. He kissed me on the cheek, lingering a little before he stepped away and headed down to the dungeons.

xx

"Are you ready for this?" Lee asked excitedly when I found my seat in between Angelina and Fred.

Our group of seven were all seated in our usual corner as we waited for Professor Moody to enter.

"I'm still faithful to Remus," I said stubbornly, not admitting that I was curious of this new teacher.

Ange put her hand over mine in solidarity before we heard the sounds of a wooden cane coming down the stairs.

"Books away," Professor Moody said gruffly.

I could feel the palpable excitement already as everyone eagerly shoved their books back into their rucksacks.

"I understand that you have had some questionable teachers throughout your school career," he started which made my fist clench on the table.

Angelina squeezed my hand again.

Yes, Quirrell-Voldemort was bad and there was nothing worse than Lockhart, but Remus had been exceptional.

"The world is different than those non-sense textbooks. Preparation is key when fighting against dark wizards."

I could tell everyone was hanging off his every word.

"Now, who can tell me the three Unforgiveable Curses?" he asked as my breath hitched in my throat.

I could feel Fred's gaze, but I kept looking towards the front of the class. I had only ever told Fred and George about trying to cast the Cruciatus curse last year; and then there was my mother.

However, Lee's hand shot up into the air to answer.

"What's your name boy?" Moody asked as he called on Lee.

"Jordan sir, Lee Jordan," he answered proudly.

"Jordan, and what curse do you know?" Moody asked again.

I had already retrieved my hand from Angelina's since it had started to sweat.

"The Cruciatus curse sir," Lee responded eagerly.

I felt my ears start to grow hot, probably because my vision was becoming unfocused and my mind foggy.

"Ah yes, let me show you," Moody said boldly, but I must have heard him wrong.

But Lee's frightened gasp told me otherwise.

"On the insect Jordan," Moody explained, and I noticed he was in fact holding some kind of bug.

"Crucio!" I heard Moody say just before my mind took over.

I could see Sirius standing in front of me with that pained look that haunted my nightmares.

"You have to mean it."

Then my vision swirled again, making me dizzy and nauseous.

"Squib lover thinks she can save him. She knows too much…" I heard a muffled voice which I remembered from one of my dreams; or maybe it was when the dementors came…

My world was still spinning as I snapped back to reality and bolted from the classroom. I barely made it to the lavatory before I vomited up the contents of my breakfast. When I finally stood up, I unlatched the door and made my way over to the sink. I forced myself to look into the mirror and hated in that moment that I felt I was looking at my mother's reflection.

I splashed some cold water onto my face and tried my best to put myself back together. I wanted to try and redeem some of my dignity after being the sixth year who puked in class the first day back. When I re-entered though everyone else was collecting their things.

"You okay Marnie?" Angelina asked as she handed me my rucksack.

I nodded before taking it from her.

"O'Hara?" I heard my name being called from the front of the classroom.

"I'll meet up with you guys," I said, trying to reassure my friends.

They all looked skeptical but made their way out, most likely heading for lunch.

"No doubt the lesson reminded you of Lena," Professor Moody said bluntly in his gruff voice.

I couldn't hide my flinch and sat down as the roiling nausea returned.

"Yes, my mother was tortured," I said as evenly as I could muster.

"She was a bold woman," he said, with what I assumed was his variation of kindness.

I nodded and accepted the tea Professor Moody had in his outstretched hand.

"I bet everyone tells you that you look just like her," he continued and I nodded again, unable to say anything.

"Well, you would do best to learn from her," Moody finished before walking over to a cabinet along the side of the classroom.

"Thank-you professor," I said quickly before setting down the tea and silently stepping out of the classroom while his back was turned.

I decided, that once the nausea settled, I would write home asking about this Mad-Eye Moody and how he knew my mum.

 

Chapter Text

I ended up sending a letter to Sirius, asking about Professor Moody since I figured he would give me the most straightforward answer. I also wanted to check in with him, as well as ask about the strange voice in my head.

Once my stomach had settled after the first Defense class, I had those same whispers in my head saying that the squib-lover knew too much. I had finally remembered hearing those same whispers before I passed out during the dementor attack at the end of the year.

"I can't believe Moody turned Malfoy into a ferret!" Lee exclaimed for the dozenth time that night.

It had been a week since the incident and Lee was all but erecting a shrine in Moody's name.

"We know Lee," Katie said as kindly as she could while patting her hand on his knee.

We all agreed it had been the best thing to ever happen in our time at Hogwarts, however it was all Lee ever talked about.

I also felt bad for not warning Neville about the Unforgiveable Curse demonstration, but thankfully he had at least kept down his breakfast. Unfortunately, I was now under the worried monitoring of Fred with copious check-ins from Harry.

I was honestly thankful when Cedric asked to meet up one night after dinner.

"Had a long week?" Cedric asked when he saw me approach.

"Not my best first few weeks back," I replied honestly with a shrug.

"So, where's this wonderful place you wanted to take me tonight?" he asked gleefully, obviously wanting to brighten my mood.

"Follow me," I answered with my most mischievous grin.

"The Statue of the One-Eyed Witch?" Cedric asked in a bemused yet skeptical tone when we came to the third-floor corridor.

"Do you trust me?" I asked playfully before showing him the tunnel.

His smile changed to a more serious look. "With my life."

"Well, then we best keep you alive," I replied, wanting to keep things light.

Sometimes I didn't know what to say when Cedric went all serious and told me point blank how he felt. I always admired how honest he was, but sometimes his sudden declarations took me by surprise.

I then proceeded to shimmy behind the statue and heard an audible gasp from behind me.

"You know I am a Prefect," Cedric said only half-jokingly as he followed me into the hidden passageway.

"A little mischief won't hurt you, or that shiny badge of yours," I replied ruefully before grabbing his hand and leading him away from the school.

Once we came to the familiar trap door, I paused and brought my finger to my mouth in a silencing motion. Cedric looked at me with widened eyes but was probably too surprised to say anything anyways.

After a few moments I was confident the storekeeper was gone for the night and carefully opened the hatch to invite ourselves in. I saw Cedric's torn expression, as he looked back at the safety of the passageway versus not wanting to be left alone. After a second of contemplation he followed after me into the candy shop.

"We're in Honeydukes!" Cedric exclaimed after taking in his surroundings.

"Yup!" I said proudly while I went over to investigate the toffees.

"Are you actually getting something?" Cedric asked when he saw me reach into the blueberry flavoured toffee bin.

"Of course," I replied easily, filling up a small paper bag.

Cedric eyed me carefully before breaking out into a widened grin. I watched him head over to the display of candied wands before I turned around and headed to the chocolate frogs.

Once we had our fill I dug into my pocket and laid the correct change on the counter.

"Hey, I can pay," Cedric said with chivalry dripping from his voice.

"Stand down Ced, this was my idea, it's my treat," I replied smoothly before leading him back through the trap door.

"That was brilliant!" Cedric exclaimed as we came back towards the statue.

"I'm glad you think so. But under no circumstance are you to bring Liam or anyone else down here," I said a little too harshly.

"I promise," Cedric replied softly before grabbing for my arm and bringing me into his chest.

I giggled as I stumbled over my own feet. When he brought his lips to mine, I couldn't stop the sigh from escaping mine or the small groan that unceremoniously came from the back of my throat. I realized that Cedric had dropped his bag of sweets to the ground when I heard a thump on the stone floor. This meant that both of his hands were free to run up my back into my loose hanging hair. I felt as his fingers looped around my hair and circled their way back down to the crook of my neck. They were delicate and warm, and sent inexplicable shivers throughout my body.

By the time Cedric pulled away I knew I was completely flushed.

"I'll escort you back to your tower, mi 'lady?" Cedric asked, attempting to compose himself with his gentlemanly suave.

I laughed out loud but nonetheless took his outstretched arm. He picked up his candy bag and offered me a raspberry flavoured wand before sneakily leading us out of the passageway.

It was thankfully just before curfew, and it also helped to be dating a prefect who the professors actually trusted.

Cedric had joked that I was too mischievous to have gotten the badge this year. I think it had been a way to make himself feel better since I had laughed at him the first time I saw it adorning his robes.

"I had a great time tonight Marnie," Cedric said once we were in front of the Fat Lady portrait.

"I'm glad," I said a little smugly before leaning in to give him a good night kiss.

"I'll see you tomorrow," I said before giving the fat lady the password.

I heard Cedric bidding me goodnight as I walked through and entered to see that most of my friends had already gone upstairs.

Fred and George were sitting off in a corner, surprisingly hunched over a piece of parchment. It was an odd sight, since I knew it obviously wasn't homework. But before I could join them, the twins both stood up and bid everyone remaining in the common room goodnight. I watched as they left, a little stung they hadn't confided in me the problem they were obviously mulling over.

Huffily, I waved at Harry, Ron and Hermione who were the only ones left in the common room before going upstairs. Once I entered the sixth-year dormitory, the other three were already asleep. I pulled out my pyjamas but stopped on my way to the lavatory when I heard a tapping on the window. I looked over to surprisingly see Caelum with a letter attached to his leg. I rushed over and unlatched the window before excitedly taking the letter. In return I looked around for any type of snack for Caelum but had to turn the owl away empty-handed. He did not take this kindly. I shook my hand which Caelum had just nipped as I unrolled the letter in the other.

Marnie,

I have also been in touch with Harry. In response to all of the rumours I have heard, including Harry's scar hurting and your 'memory' I am decidedly travelling north. As for Mad-Eye, he is an invaluable ally. I am not surprised he mentioned your mother, they were once well acquainted. I'll be in contact soon and give my best to the twins. Remember, keep your friends close.

Sirius

I read and re-read the brief scrawl as both excitement and anxiety filled my mind. I had not intended to worry Sirius so much for him to move from hiding. And with no mention of Remus, I now had many more questions I wanted to ask.

I stowed the letter under my pillow, deciding to confide in both the twins and Harry in the morning. Of course, Harry would be in a panic by now, assuming he had just received similar news.

When I came down to breakfast the next morning, Harry whispered his plan to send another letter to Sirius assuring him he did not in fact need to come out of hiding. Despite selfishly wanting to see Sirius, not that I knew how that would be accomplished, I agreed that it would be best if he remained in hiding with Remus. I also tried to question Harry about his scar hurting, but he wasn't very forthcoming. I already knew he had been having strange dreams about Voldemort and Peter Pettigrew, probably two of the foulest wizards to ever walk the Earth. And, much like me, I knew how irritating repeating and vague dreams could be. I had told Harry that it might be some kind of warning, much like my dreams seemed to be. He had taken my advice, but I knew he was just mostly frustrated with them.

I also divulged the letter to the twins who had thought it wickedly awesome that Sirius was 'on the lam'. Apparently, they had heard their father use the phrase after reading a muggle crime novel. However, after receiving our letters, Harry nor I had heard anything else from Sirius. I diligently read Hermione's Daily Prophet to make sure he hadn't been captured, but we both knew if he did it would be plastered on the front page.

Other than that, classes, friends and everything else proceeded in a calmer routine. The school was still buzzing over the Triwizard Tournament announcement, especially as my birthday passed and October came. And even though I still felt a little apprehensive about the content of Moody's lectures, I began to appreciate the realness of his teachings.

"Books away," we heard the familiar gruff voice order everyone as Moody clanged down the staircase into the classroom.

"I love hearing those words," Lee praised as he threw his textbook back into his rucksack.

I noticed Katie give him a wry smile before I turned my attention to Moody who was now standing at the front of the class.

"Today, you'll be tested on the Imperious curse," Moody said with what I thought was a smirk.

"You're joking!" Fred said out loud, not for the first time this term.

However, Moody just eyed Fred before waving him up to the front of the class.

Fred unsteadily got out of his seat and headed for the front of the class.

"It's illegal, though," Alicia piped up with concern filling her voice.

I just watched after Fred with both nervous anticipation and curiosity. Of course, I dreaded any mention of the Three Unforgiveable Curses for what it had done to my and Harry's life. However, I had never actually pictured being victim to one of them. And this seemed like the safest of the three impossible options.

"I thought it more prudent to prepare you for what's really out there. To add to your constant vigilance by recognizing what it feels like to be under someone else's control. But, if you would rather find out the hard way, you may leave," Moody answered definitively.

Alicia shrunk back and shook her head, staying rooted in her seat. I remembered back to our conversation in second year where we had discussed Voldemort returning, right after I told all my friends about my mum. Alicia had been the most skeptical. I was happy enough to see her stay, especially after the recent Death Eater congregation at the Quidditch World Cup. It showed that evil was always capable of rising up and that we had to be ready.

I looked back to Fred who was looking anxiously at Moody.

"Imperio!" Moody said as he swished his wand towards Fred.

I watched as Fred's anxious grimace changed to one of elation. His face almost reminded me of when he had first seen the veela at the World Cup. A look of confidence and delight as Moody made him go up onto his tiptoes and pirouette in graceful circles. I heard Lee and several others break out into laughter while I looked on with awe and terror. There was no way Fred was capable of being that graceful, but that all changed when someone else was in control of his faculties.

Once Fred finished and returned to his seat beside me, he looked conflicted.

"It's sort of amazing," Fred said.

"What do you mean?" I asked with high skepticism.

"You just feel content, like you can do anything," he explained.

"Well, that's not a lie," I said worriedly as I turned back to see George doing a handstand at the front of the class.

By the time it was my turn, I felt apprehensive, but not like I did when I had seen the Cruciatus curse performed.

I walked up to the front where everyone else had stood and looked at Moody as he raised his wand.

"Imperio," I heard him say before a feeling of weightlessness took over.

It was as if the tips of my fingers and toes were now attached to invisible strings. It was nice to feel like I didn't have to make any effort to move or make decisions.

"Do a somersault," I heard the voice in my head say.

I felt the invisible string pull from the top of my head.

"Wait, that's not my voice," I thought, causing a surge of panic to run through my body.

As a result, I crashed down, landing face first onto the ground.

"O'Hara's got it!" Moody exclaimed proudly as I rubbed the top of my now sore head.

"But I fell on the ground," I said grumpily, now feeling the bump already beginning.

"Yes, but you fought back!" Moody said encouragingly.

Unfortunately, as a reward I was put through the curse six more times until I was finally able to cast it off completely. By the time I returned to my desk, I put my head down and just waited for the rest of class to be over. I felt Angelina put her hand on my back as a show of comfort, but I just closed my eyes and waited for the splitting headache to go away from my first attempt at the somersault.

I was later led out of class by my friends towards the Great Hall for supper. I was still achy but yearned for the lasagna which I could already smell wafting from the kitchens.

"Look!" Angelina exclaimed excitedly as she pulled me towards a posted announcement which I saw several other students crowding around.

"The delegates get here next week!" Alicia cried out which made me grimace at her volume due to the still slight pounding in my head.

My friends excitedly entered the Great Hall as they all chattered on about the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang.

We passed by Harry and his friends who were no doubt also talking about the announcement.

"But seriously, could you imagine that idiot as Hogwarts champion?" I heard Ron ask indignantly.

"And which idiot might this be?" I asked as I watched his face turn bright red.

"Erm, no one," Ron mumbled bashfully.

"Yes Ron, who were you talking about?" Hermione asked pointedly.

I responded to her reaction by crossing my arms and staring at him with an impatient look.

"I was- I was talking about Cedric," Ron finally confessed.

I saw Harry grimace at Ron for being found out while Hermione dawned a look of self-righteousness.

"Right," I said before quickly turning around and heading for the Hufflepuff table.

This meant I missed Ginny fiercely stomping on Ron's foot or George whacking him over the head.

But I was just tired from being put through the Imperious curse, tired of worrying about Sirius, and utterly finished with hearing my friends condescend Cedric. I loved him, and that ought to be enough.

 

Chapter Text

"Nicely done, O'Hara," Professor McGonagall exclaimed when I was the first to transfigure my raccoon.

Angelina, who was sitting beside me, gave me a pat on the back, while the other girls rolled up their sleeves to give it another go. Surprisingly, the twins both gave me a grin, probably because they weren't taking the lesson very seriously.

"Want to watch the arrival of Durmstrang and Beauxbatons together?" Fred asked, in sort of an odd tone.

"Of course we are, why would you even have to ask?" I looked at him quizzically.

He only shrugged and turned back to George who had also now transfigured his raccoon.

"What was that all about with Fred?" Alicia asked me hours later as the four of us girls walked to the front hall to await directions from McGonagall.

"No idea." I said with a shrug.

I thought about Fred's behaviour over the past while, and I realized I couldn't pinpoint when I had noticed it change.

"Have you noticed he's been acting a little odd?" I asked, deciding I wanted a second opinion.

"It's just Fred, he's never been what one would call normal," Angelina answered casually.

Her answer was very reassuring and all I needed to hear to brush off the thoughts that were tickling the back of my mind. Of course, I would always be best friends with Fred, nothing could ever change that.

"Hare!" I heard Fred, standing near the front of the congregation of students.

We went to join him, as he was already standing with Lee and George.

"Look at you, all dressed up for the visitors," Fred said as I watched him notice my pink cashmere sweater and black denims.

I could feel my tactless blush flare up, but I flattened my new sweater and stood tall. I had never been one for fashion, accessorizing or really putting much effort into clothing. But I felt if I was going to be one to put my name forward for the tournament, I might as well present myself well. Angelina had also put in some effort with a deep green blouse and brown corduroys.

"Well, you at least put more effort in than your brother," I retorted, just after hearing McGonagall call out Ron for his crooked hat.

Fred chuckled before we were all led out to the front of the school to await the two other school delegations.

"Any final guesses?" Fred asked, me already knowing what he meant.

We had all been discussing how the schools would arrive. Lee was certain Durmstrang would arrive on the backs of dragons.

"I still think brooms makes the most sense," I replied, knowing I was probably wrong.

But how else were they supposed to arrive, if not by train like the rest of us.

"In the sky!" we all heard one of the students call out.

I looked up to see what was impossibly a flying carriage. It was also drawn by several large, flying horses. I couldn't stop my mouth from dropping as I watched the vehicle land. It was all so exciting to watch the situation unfold as several girls wearing matching sky blue uniforms exited the carriage which must have had an extending charm put on it. But, most amazingly was the woman who exited the carriage last. She was noticeably taller than Hagrid which was a terrific feat. She was lovely, striking and largely intimidating as she was welcomed personally by Dumbledore who had gone up to greet her.

However, I was brought back from my gaze when Lee shouted from beside me.

"Look at the lake!" he said which made the seven of us jump and follow the direction of his pointed finger.

Sure enough, the Black Lake was gurgling as if it were about to erupt into a whirlpool. Instead, the mast of a ship rose out of the depths until a grand looking boat was completely out of the water.

It was incredible, just as exciting as the flying carriage. This time, several boys exited the boat wearing red uniforms which looked like they were made out of wool with fur lined cloaks.

"No way!" Fred exclaimed as all my other friends went on their tiptoes to get a better look at the boy who exited last.

"It's Viktor Krum!" Lee bellowed as everyone watched the seeker who had caught the snitch at the World Cup.

After the new arrivals were escorted into the castle, McGonagall efficiently rounded up all of the Gryffindors to head into the Great Hall for a welcoming feast.

"I didn't realize he was still of school age," Katie said excitedly.

I could see Lee sharing her excitement with a slight pause on whether he should worry about his girlfriend ogling a star quidditch player. But Katie was certainly not the only one who was taken by him.

"I bet they'll sit with Slytherin," Angelina said as we found our usual seats.

"Why would say that?" George asked a little exasperatedly.

"Well, they do all look a little straight-faced and surly," she said matter-of-factly.

We watched as the red-cloaked boys wandered awkwardly around the Great Hall. Sure enough, they edged over until they decidedly sat down with the green-cloaked students. I also didn't miss the highly smug look adorn Marcus Flint's face.

"What about Beauxbatons?" Lee piped up.

This time, it was Katie's turn to look a little worriedly at Lee who was watching the blue-adorned girls almost flutter around until they sat with their colour-kin; Ravenclaw.

When everyone was settled, Dumbledore announced the feast and I watched as several unfamiliar dishes appeared.

"What is all this?" George asked, as he questioningly took a scoop of some sort of stew.

I was more forward, being raised to always eat whatever was put in front of me.

"It's delicious," I said after I had swallowed my first gulp.

This seemed to be enough confirmation for my friends who all took a helping.

Fred was pretty obvious he wasn't a fan of the new dish; however, I was surprised when he continued and emptied his bowl. I looked at him with a questioning look, but he only returned with a smile.

Soon after, the dishes disappeared, and a palpable excitement fell over everyone. Dumbledore stood up and announced the two newcomers, Mr. Bagman and Mr. Crouch. I didn't miss the mischievous look pass over Fred and George's faces when they laid eyes on Bagman.

Dumbledore then proceeded to explain that one delegate from each school will be chosen. There will also be three events in which the champions compete in order to win the tournament at the end of term.

I looked over at Angelina who shared a small, knowing look. We were both excited at the possibility of representing Hogwarts as champion.

At this point, Dumbledore requested that a casket be brought in, and all of a sudden, I was scared. But Dumbledore chuckled and didn't seem fazed as Filch pulled in a wooden box.

"The Goblet of Fire," Dumbledore declared as the casket magically opened and revealed a large, golden cup. "One must put their name on a piece of parchment if they wish to put themselves forward. Tomorrow night, the champions will be chosen, and the tournament will officially begin. And I must make myself clear, that there will be an age line put around the goblet should anyone underage attempt to try and hoodwink our impartial judge."

I also didn't miss Dumbledore's gaze as it landed on both Fred and George. Unfortunately, I knew this would not dissuade them from any scheme they were already planning.

After the announcements were finished, everyone stood up in a bustle of excitement.

Fred and George went ahead, and I could hear them asking if Harry and Ron were going to try and put their names into the goblet.

"Stop worrying, they won't be able to get past the age line," Angelina said as she held pace beside me.

"Which one?" I asked, not knowing who I didn't want more to be in the tournament; probably Harry.

"Any of them," Ange replied assuredly.

"Are you still going for it?" I asked, deciding to believe in her reassurance.

"Yes, are you?"

"Yea, I still haven't talked myself out of it," I replied.

"You shouldn't. You would be a great champion!" Ange said more confidently than I felt.

I mean sure, I am an above average student and I feel I have strong skills, now including fighting off the Imperious curse. But I also know Angelina is an amazing chaser, also an above average student and would also represent Hogwarts well. Not to mention, my seeker boyfriend who would fit the bill as well. I didn't know who else would put their name in, but honestly by this point, I was just hoping it wasn't a Slytherin.

"What's the hold up?" Katie asked, who was standing behind me and Angelina with Alicia and Lee.

I looked up and could make out the gruff sounds of Moody's voice.

"Durmstrang's headmaster stopped to gawk at Harry," Fred explained from ahead and I rolled my eyes.

I knew Harry hated any attention having to do with his 'fame'. Of course, no one in their right mind wants to be recognized for the day their parents died.

As I tried to fall asleep that night, I tried to picture what sort of challenges the champions would have to face. The last thing I thought of was that hopefully, if I was chosen, I wouldn't have to try and tame an entire herd of blast-ended skrewts.

XXX

"Oi, sod off!" I howled, feeling a beating of a pillow on my face.

My eyes unwillingly shot open and I saw Angelina already dressed, standing over me. She had a wide grin and threw some clothing at me.

"Get up! I don't want to miss anything!" Ange exclaimed before going over and bashing Alicia over the head.

The annoyance I felt was immediately replaced with excitement. Today was the day the champions would get chosen.

Ten minutes later I was hastily ready and leaving the dormitory with Angelina. Alicia had grumpily buried herself under her blankets and Katie had given a rude hand gesture that told us she was not leaving the comfort of her bed this early.

Although, when we got downstairs, there were several early risers watching for those who entered their name. Angelina and I paused at the entrance of the Great Hall and looked at the impressive looking goblet.

"Good morning ladies," Cedric said as he came to stand on my other side. "You missed your boys attempt to enter."

"What boys?" I asked skeptically.

"The twins and Lee Jordan. About ten minutes ago they were ushered away to the hospital wing to get rid of their beards. Well, I think it may have just been the twins who entered, and Lee just escorted them," Cedric finished with a shrug.

Angelina and I shared a look before we both rolled our eyes.

"Why do we hang out with them again?" Ange asked half sarcastically.

I just laughed before Cedric handed us each a piece of parchment.

"May the best student win?" Cedric said goadingly.

Ange gave him a fixed stare before shaking his outstretched hand.

"You're on Diggory," she said.

I also took a piece of parchment from Cedric and took out my wand to address it with my name. Professor Flitwick had just taught us the signature charm and I was excited for this to be the first instance I used it.

"Good luck Mar," Cedric whispered before kissing me and then walking after Ange towards the goblet.

I looked up and saw people cheering for Ange and then Cedric. I followed suit as they both watched with encouraging smiles. A round of unexpected applause roared once I tossed my name into the flame which was now licking blue. I felt a swell of pride for myself as well as my friend and boyfriend who I think would each be excellent champions for Hogwarts. Cedric then took my hand and walked me out where we found Harry sitting with the other fourth years.

"You entered?" Harry asked with evident excitement.

"We all did," I answered, indicating to Ange and Cedric.

"That's brilliant. Two Gryffindors in the running!" Ron said triumphantly.

"Good luck then, the both of you," Harry said, he too ignoring Cedric's presence.

I went over and hugged him before letting Cedric lead me away. We headed down towards the kitchens, Cedric thinking we were heading to his common room.

"Here," I said, stopping at the portrait of the fruit.

I tickled the pear and lead him into the bustle of the kitchen.

"How did I not know this was here?" Cedric asked in an exasperated tone.

"It pays to not be prefect material," I said proudly before I heard a familiar voice.

"Marnee!" I heard Posy squeal before taking my hand and bringing me to the table in the corner.

"Hello Posy!" I greeted excitedly.

"Who is this handsome boy? No Mr. Wheezies today?" she asked almost smugly.

Who knew house elves could be so devious?

"This is Cedric, Cedric, this is Posy," I introduced the two.

Cedric shook Posy's hand which seemed to delight her.

"Posy bring Miss Marnee and Mr. Ceedric a special breakfast," she said with a wink before scurrying back into the kitchens.

"She is something else," I said while looking fondly after Posy.

"I want to show you something afterwards," Cedric said with a mischievous grin.

"It can't be better than my secret places," I said, this being the second Hogwarts secret I had shown him.

"We'll see," he replied smugly just as Posy came back with steaming hot chocolates and carrot cake.

We enjoyed our meal with the casual doting from Posy. Even Dobby came to introduce himself before Posy shooed him away.

"Alright, where is this place that is better than mine?" I asked as Cedric led me back through the castle and up the stairs.

Cedric just looked at me with a smile before continuing up. We got off on the fifth floor and were now stopped in front of a statue.

"Boris the Bewildered?" I asked skeptically.

"Hey, you brought me to the One-Eyed Witch," Cedric retorted playfully.

"Fair enough."

"Bubbles," Cedric said randomly.

"Excuse me?" I asked, worried he was now losing his mind.

But before he could answer, the statue shifted to uncover a secret doorway.

"Hogwarts never gets any less incredible," I said in awe.

Cedric took my hand and led me inside to a very ornate looking room. It had white walls with golden designs emblazoned everywhere. It looked as if it belonged in a palace, and in the center was a large swimming pool.

"What is this place?" I asked breathlessly.

"The prefect bathroom. Not too shabby for prefect material," Cedric replied smugly.

I stuck my tongue out at him before I watched him take off his shirt.

"What are you doing?" I asked with a nervous laugh.

"Going for a swim," he answered casually.

In no time Cedric was down to his knickers before jumping into the porcelain pool.

"Are you coming?" he asked, eyeing my layers of clothing.

"Turn around," I ordered, crossing my arms over my chest.

"Alright," Cedric replied without hesitation. He swam to the opposite edge of the pool and looked the other way.

I edged out of my clothes, nervous to jump in with only my knickers. I was very aware of my body even though I had hardly ever been before. I also knew exactly what my father would say in this moment and it was not in any way supportive.

I kicked my denims off to the side and stood at the edge. I knew my face was flushed and I still had my arms wrapped around myself. Taking a deep breath, I plunged into the water before I could talk myself into leaving.

"Can I turn around?" Cedric asked kindly.

"Alright," I said, treading water in the middle of the pool.

Cedric turned around with a smile and took a couple strokes, so he was now treading water beside me.

I felt a nervous flutter in my stomach which immediately caused me to splash water at Cedric.

He sputtered in surprise before quickly retaliating. We swam around for a while, trying to get away from each other. All of my self-consciousness disappeared as I squealed in delight. I was utterly soaked by the end when Cedric put his arms up in surrender. I huffed proudly as I took his surrender as a forfeit.

Cedric swam over cautiously, not completely trusting that I wouldn't turn on him. He was close enough now though that I could hear his breath. This was probably because I was holding mine. He slowly wrapped his arms around me, making it difficult to continue treading. As a result, I slipped under and forgot to close my mouth. Cedric lifted me up and I sputtered water out of my throat. Cedric turned me over onto my back and swam me to the steps of the pool so I could sit without drowning.

"Are you alright?" he asked worriedly.

"Just needed to catch my breath," I croaked hoarsely.

"I can't have you dying on me. What if your name gets called tonight? I would have to gallantly take your place in your memory," he said with mocking chivalry.

I splashed him lightly in protest, but he stopped my hand by taking it into his. He then moved my hand to his shoulder before moving his own across my arm and then down my back. He enveloped me in an embrace, and I was aware again of my body and his.

"You are so beautiful," he murmured into my ear before bringing his mouth across to mine.

His lips were warm and filled me with a lightness that cast away my self-consciousness. I found myself wanting more, more of him to fill me with this lightness that made me feel as if I were floating.

I don't know how long we sat there, snogging like our lives depended on it, until Cedric pulled away.

"I think we better get dried off," he said, sounding a little winded.

"Why?" I asked, feeling dazed.

"Because I don't want to miss whose name gets chosen," he replied cheerfully.

"It's that late already?" I asked skeptically.

He nodded and walked out of the water. Somehow, there was a stack of towels in the corner which were steamed and pressed.

"They're warm?" I said as Cedric handed one to me.

"Magic," he replied cheekily.

Once we were dressed, we headed out together towards the Great Hall.

"Good luck?" he asked once we were at the entrance.

"Good luck," I replied, kissing him on the cheek, and heading towards the Gryffindor table.

"Where have you been all day?" Alicia asked with a suspicious smile.

"With Cedric," I replied simply.

Thankfully, the Halloween feast appeared before I could get peppered with any more questions.

"Here you go Hare," Fred said from across the table.

He had a purple dyed candy apple in his hand, my favourite.

I took it from him happily before piling a mountain of sweet treats onto my plate.

Every few minutes though I found myself glancing at the front of the room at the Goblet of Fire. I didn't know if my nerves or excitement were winning out.

By the time the feast was swept away into thin air, every eye in the room was turned onto the goblet.

"I expect the Goblet of Fire is ready to make its announcement," Dumbledore said as he went to stand beside it.

I watched with bated breath as the once orange flames turned blue. After a moment, a parchment came twirling out of the flames.

"The first champion. From Durmstrang, congratulations Viktor Krum!" Dumbledore announced jovially.

The entire school erupted into applause as the famous quidditch player stoically stood up and walked towards the door near the staff table.

The applause continued as the goblet spit out another parchment.

"From Beauxbatons Academy, Fleur Delacour," Dumbledore continued.

I watched as the girl Ron had been ogling over stood up and followed to where Krum had disappeared.

The goblet roared to life again, and I held my breath as Dumbledore read who would be the Hogwarts champion.

"Cedric Diggory!" he exclaimed proudly.

I turned to watch my boyfriend stand up and head towards Dumbledore. He caught my eye, as if asking if I were alright with this decision. I smiled back, showing him how proud and excited I was for him. He returned his infectious smile and walked until he too disappeared through the door.

Of course, I had wanted to be champion, or to see Angelina get the mantel. But I was in no way disappointed to see Cedric get the honour.

The roaring applause carried on. Both Ginny and Angelina hugging me since they were both sitting on either side of me. Surprisingly, Fred had even high fived me. I kept looking at him suspiciously, trying to figure out his motive, before Ginny tugged my sleeve.

I turned and saw she was pointing at the goblet. It had roared back to life and everyone was gasping in surprise.

Everyone watched as a fourth piece of paper emitted out of the flames.

Dumbledore grasped it out of the air and murmured to himself.

"Harry Potter," he finally exclaimed as his eyes cast over the crowd with worry.

"No," I gasped breathlessly, while I felt Ginny squeeze my hand with worry.

"Harry Potter!" Dumbledore said more loudly.

I turned my head to watch Hermione coax my adopted brother out of his seat.

He looked petrified but continued towards Dumbledore.

Silent tears fell down my face, a mixture of my surprise, anger, and terror for the situation. I was supposed to be the one to protect Harry. I had put my name in but had not gotten chosen, and now I would not be able to protect him in the tournament.

I watched as Harry too walked through the chamber door, now looking more like a void. Once he disappeared through it, I stood up.

I wanted more than anything to follow him through the door, but I saw Dumbledore catch my eye. He shook his head slightly, a gesture which I knew meant that he would deal with it.

Ginny pulled my back down and all I could think was that I had to put my faith in Dumbledore. Surely, he could get Harry out of this mess. Surely, he would not let my younger brother enter a dangerous competition to which he was too young.

The murmurs had already started as I watched Dumbledore disappear through the door with several of the other professors including Moody.

"Please protect him."

 

Chapter Text

The following week was one of the worst of my life. My faith in Professor Dumbledore crumbled after finding out he had not been able to get Harry out of the tournament.

Since the feast, Harry now walked around like a ghost, defined by his haunted expression and lack of apparent sleep. We had also been spending most of our time together since everyone else was acting idiotic.

"Morning," I said when I saw Harry enter the common room.

He nodded and took the muffin that I had in my hand for him. Our arrangement all week had been that I would grab him breakfast and we would eat dinner together in the kitchens. Dobby was always ecstatic to see Harry which almost put a smile on his face at least.

I bent down to pick up my rucksack and heard a conversation that abruptly went quiet as the group walked past. I looked up to see Harry's dormmates, including Ron, walk past with awkward expressions. I didn't think Seamus, Dean or especially Neville had any issue with Harry as champion but Ron certainly did. I saw Ron's glower as his gaze moved from Harry onto me. I rolled my eyes and stood up, watching the group of boys leave.

"I wish he wouldn't take it out on you," Harry said sympathetically.

"He thinks I'm the one who put your name in the goblet," I said with a shrug before leading Harry out of the common room.

The night the champions had been announced had resulted in a lot of unexpected reactions. The twins hadn't readily believed me when I told them there was no way Harry had put his name in the goblet. They did eventually come around when they figured I would have put their names in as well. Angelina, Katie and Alicia were non-plussed since they were more excited about having a Gryffindor champion in the mix, no matter the cause for the situation. Ron was the one who completed my strung-out mood that night when he accused me of entering Harry's name. Fred had come to my aid, saying that if I had entered Harry's name, I would have extended the same courtesy to him and George. Ron had just brushed off his older brother and walked away. He still hadn't said a word to me since that night.

The next morning, I had felt isolated, with only Hermione and Ginny really understanding my level of concern. I had been relieved to see Cedric and congratulated him for being selected champion. However, he had also questioned how Harry had managed to get his name into the goblet. This led to me storming away, being completely exacerbated with everyone acting as if Harry would even be able to pull off such a feat.

I walked Harry to his Charms class before I headed off to Care of Magical Creatures.

We walked in silence as I worried and Harry brooded.

"I think this is the worst I've ever felt at Hogwarts," Harry whispered rather desperately.

I looked at him a little skeptically, but he just shrugged.

"Voldemort is always going to be a factor, so I don't count him. And yes, it was the scariest when I thought the basilisk had killed you and the whole school thought I was at fault, but at least I had Ron…" he continued sadly.

I put my arm over his shoulder, feeling terrible for being at a loss for words. The guilt I felt for not being chosen again rippled through my mind. Dad and Remus had already sent me letters asking about Harry and the competition and all I felt was that I had let them all down.

I noticed we had reached Flitwick's class when Harry stopped.

Harry stepped away from where I was standing and looked me in the eye.

"It's not your fault Mar," he said kindly.

I looked back at Harry but only sighed.

"I'll meet you for dinner," was all I answered.

He nodded and disappeared into the classroom.

I kept heading down the hallway until I exited the school. I looked out at the grounds and noticed that there was an unexpectedly large group herding themselves towards Hagrid's hut. I thought it was odd considering so few sixth years had passed this particular O.W.L.

"Merlin, sake!" I whispered harshly before stomping towards the ogling group of admirers.

"Excuse me!" I said as I pushed my way through what looked to be mostly girls, towards the middle of the huddle.

"Move!" I said more forcefully when I saw the familiar tuft of light-brown hair.

Many of the girls around me gave me a snubbed look but Cedric turned around with a grin.

"There's my favourite fan!" Cedric said gleefully as I noticed the quill in his hand.

"I am not your fan!" I retorted in an offended tone.

I looked around loathingly at the students circling Cedric and noticed most of them were wearing pins on their cloaks.

I turned back to Cedric and saw that his smile had dropped and he was returning his quill to his rucksack. The girls then started to walk away when they noticed I now had Cedric's undivided attention and he was no longer giving out autographs.

"You're right Marnie, you're not my fan," he said apologetically.

"What is with the pins?!" I asked in a livid tone.

I had seen enough to notice that they were pro-Cedric merchandise with a defaming slogan of Potter Stinks.

Cedric frowned further.

"They weren't my idea, I swear!" he replied earnestly.

This added to my already sour mood. I knew I had been rather foul ever since Harry was chosen as the surprise fourth champion. I also knew it must be compromising to Cedric's excitement over being chosen as the legitimate champion of Hogwarts.

"Want to go on a secret date later tonight?" he asked in a quieter voice so those who were trying to eavesdrop couldn't hear.

I continued to stare at him before breaking into a smile.

"Yes, I would like that very much," I replied before taking his hand and leading him all the way down to where Hagrid now stood.

I knew that as Cedric's girlfriend, I must at least try and celebrate him being a champion instead of just sulking alongside Harry.

XXX

"Marnie, could yer help me with this?" Hagrid asked midway through our class.

I abandoned Cedric and Liam, leaving them to wrangle all three of our skrewts with mild satisfaction.

"What is it Hagrid?" I asked once I made my way over to him.

"I wanted ter ask abou' 'arry," he said with a worried expression.

"He's scared I think, but putting on a brave face," I replied honestly.

"I'm glad ter know he has you lookin' out fer 'im," Hagrid replied with an air of confidence that I found quite humbling.

"Of course I am, but I'm afraid I am one of only a few," I said worriedly.

"'Arry 'as lots er people lookin' out fer 'im!" Hagrid agreed more enthusiastically.

I smiled unconvincingly before hearing a yelp from across the field. I looked over to see Liam running away from the three skrewts that were now all circling Cedric.

"I better go assist," I said before fast walking towards Cedric.

Heading back up to the castle, Cedric kept his distance since he was now covered in skrewt slime. He promised to meet me on the third-floor corridor after dinner. I went and tried to find Harry, but he was not in the kitchens, common room or the library. Hearing my stomach growl, I finally decided to go down for supper in the Great Hall and worried that Harry had gotten himself into trouble. Hermione wasn't even around to ask.

When I entered the Great Hall, I was relieved to see Angelina and the rest of our friends. I sunk into the seat beside Katie and sighed. Thankfully none of them were wearing any badges.

"Did you hear Harry got a detention for dueling with Malfoy?" Alicia asked with a concerned look on her face.

I sighed and shook my head. Everyone knew how worried I had been all week over Harry, despite their explicit excitement over having a Gryffindor champion. However, all of us knew it was always a bad idea to provoke or engage Draco Malfoy.

"That brother of yours does have a temper," George said a little provokingly.

I turned to him with a withering stare.

"You're one to talk! I am sure Ron isn't willingly missing dinner either," I retorted reproachfully.

George broke out into a wide grin.

"Calm down Mar! I was only trying to get you to smile and lighten up," he responded with his arms up in a surrendering position.

I continued to frown at him but couldn't stay mad. It was tiring actually to be this gloomy and anxious all the time, especially when I was up against the twins and their antics.

I leaned over and lowered my voice.

"Do you have any experiments on the go?" I asked, wanting an update as a distraction.

"Yea, you want to help us this evening?" George answered gleefully.

"Of course, after I meet up with Cedric, I'll head back to the common room to help out. He has rounds tonight anyways so I'll be back before curfew," I replied, happy to have plans for the rest of the night that didn't involve feeling guilty or worried over Harry.

Once dinner was cleared away, I headed up to the third floor and immediately felt pleased to see both Cedric standing near the one-eyed witch statue, and that he was standing alone without his previous enclave of bystanders.

"I can't believe you're the one suggesting breaking school rules," I said a little provokingly.

He smirked and I couldn't help noticing his chest puff out a bit.

"Hey, I wasn't supposed to bring you to the prefect washroom either! It's only for prefects," he answered in mock offense.

I laughed and grabbed onto his arm before he bent down and gave me a kiss. I deepened it by bringing my hands to his cheeks and pulling his face closer to mine. I realized then that I may have been feeling a bit threatened with all the attention Cedric was getting.

He pulled back and took my face in his hands as mine dropped to my sides.

"You know you're the only girl for me," he said simply but I could tell how honest he was being.

"It's always good to hear it once in a while," I said a little smugly before leading him behind the statue.

Cedric smiled again. "You know, a very selfish part of me is glad I got selected as champion."

I looked at him and smiled. "I know I haven't been the best girlfriend for supporting you. You know I'm very proud of you right? I know you definitely deserved it."

"Well, thank-you. That is also nice to hear once in a while, but it's not what I was talking about," he replied.

"What did you mean then?" I asked skeptically.

We reached the other end of the tunnel and I was waiting a minute before giving the all clear.

"I don't know what I would do if you had a hoard of blokes following you everywhere, wanting an autograph or something," he said seriously.

I paused, already sure the storekeeper was gone for the evening. I just stared at Cedric before breaking out into a fit of laughter.

Cedric gave me an annoyed look. "I'm being serious. It's bad enough sometimes with how the twins treat you."

My laughter was cut short.

"The twins?" I asked hesitantly before opening up the door.

"Well, it's actually just Fred if I'm being completely honest. He's extremely protective of you," Cedric replied matter-of-factly.

Despite the twins being my very best friends, I didn't really talk about them in detail with Cedric. Cedric had never come off as overtly jealous of them, but I knew they had never really hit it off. Also, most of my relationship with Fred and George comprised of pranks and joke products which were both highly top secret and, on a need to know basis. In turn, Cedric always respected my friendship with them and hardly ever brought it up directly.

"Fred has always been protective of me," I replied with as much ease as I could muster.

It was odd that the topic of Fred's behaviour towards me was being continually brought up this year. Plus, there was the feeling at the bottom of my stomach and the itch at the back of my mind that I had been adamantly avoiding since the beginning of the term whenever I thought of Fred.

"Well, I'm glad there's someone else out there who wants to keep you as safe as I try to," Cedric added happily.

He walked over to the chocolate frog display and grabbed a couple from the top of the pile.

"Well, there's always Harry," I said.

"True, but he's as bad as you are for getting himself into tight spots," Cedric said skeptically.

I sighed but didn't rebut the remark. Unfortunately, I think this year propelled Harry into first place for who has been in the most danger between the two of us.

Once we were done getting our candy and had a brief snog, Cedric insisted on buying my fill this time since it had been his idea. We then walked back hand-in-hand until we got to the Hogwarts entrance.

"I have to get going on my rounds love. I'll see you later?" he asked, giving me a peck on the cheek.

"See you tomorrow," I replied.

I was the first to walk out and check if the coast was clear.

"Fred?" I asked as I walked right into someone’s shoulder.

He had been standing right on the other side of the statue. This probably meant that the twins had been on their way to Honeydukes.

"See you guys!" Cedric said hurriedly as he walked from behind me and proceeded to jog down the corridor.

At this point he was probably late for meeting up with his patrol partner.

"What?" I asked as I watched Fred's face turn from surprise to something I had never seen before.

He was furious.

"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL?" Fred bellowed with his hands crossed over his chest.

"Come on Fred—" George started but Fred put up his hand to cut him off.

"You brought pretty boy to our secret place? We don't bring anyone here!" Fred continued to yell.

"You gave Harry the map! Of course, he's been here with Ron and Hermione I am sure," I retorted pointedly.

"You had no right!" he continued heatedly.

"No right?! Cedric has been my boyfriend for over a year and it was only recently I brought him! I made sure he was permanent enough to share this secret with," I continued defiantly.

"It's always going to be him," Fred said, but I didn't know what he really meant by it.

I reached over to take his arm but Fred pulled back and gave me an even worse look—one of disgust.

"STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ME! I'm done Marnie," he bellowed again before storming off.

I still had my hand up as if Fred was still there to hold onto to. My mouth was agape in shock and I could already feel the tears welling up in my eyes.

"Marnie…" a voice said before I felt a pair of arms around me.

The strength of the embrace was enough to ground me, probably because these arms were so familiar. It was George.

"Shouldn't you go after him?" I asked, knowing I sounded like I was crying.

"Definitely not. My twin is being an ass and he just hurt my best friend in the entire world," George said matter-of-factly.

"What the hell just happened?" I whimpered into George's shoulder.

George sighed and continued to hold onto me.

"I don't really know Marnie," he replied quietly before pulling away.

George kept one arm wrapped over my shoulder as he led me back to the common room.

Like I said, this was one of the worst weeks of my life.

 

Chapter Text

"He said what, again?" Alicia asked for the dozenth time this week.

We had just walked by Fred and Lee on our way to the Hogsmeade.

"You already know what he said Leesh," Ange said disapprovingly before I could answer.

"I just don't understand how he could be so mad about you and Cedric. I mean he's been your boyfriend for over a year now," Alicia continued despite the pointed looks from both Angelina and Katie.

"I told Cedric one of our secrets," I explained in a dull tone.

I was now at the point where all of my emotions on the subject were numb. It beat the stabbing pain in my chest that I had had for the first week every time I took a breath. Now, it was only whenever I saw him.

"Right—" Alicia said unconvinced.

"Where do you want to go first?" Angelina cut in in an obvious attempt to change the subject.

We had just arrived at the small town beside Hogwarts and for the first time since our third year I didn't feel very excited about it. This time the seven of us wouldn't be meeting up at The Three Broomsticks for a butterbeer and a laugh.

"Where is Cedric meeting you again?" Angelina asked in an unnaturally sweet tone.

Afterwards, all of my friends had been livid with Fred, and a few of them, Harry, Ginny, and Angelina, had all chewed him out for it. But Fred was still actively ignoring me while Lee was the only one who was regularly talking to him. Katie however, made sure to let me know that Lee was not choosing sides. I told them that they didn't have to choose sides either, but it seemed they were all a little hurt and offended by Fred's bizarre behaviour.

The most surprising I found was that George was also giving Fred a wide berth. Of course, they still talked, being as close as they were, but George ended up spending most of his free time with me.

"He's being Liam's wingman or something, so we are going to meet up afterwards at The Three Broomsticks," I explained.

I wasn't upset that Cedric was not spending the whole time with me. He had actually been giving me a lot of space, so we hadn't spent any alone time together since Fred's outburst. Apparently, he had heard most of it, but by the time he turned around to check on me George had already led me away.

"Well, I need to head to Gladrags and pick up some matching shoes to go with my dress robes," Alicia announced excitedly.

"That sounds like something myself and gloomy-pants over here would surely muck up," George said as he appeared at my side.

I smiled, not at all offended by his new nickname for me. He was getting me out of clothes shopping, to which I knew the other three had been looking forward to.

We waved the three girls good-bye before George started leading me towards the other end of town.

"The Shrieking Shack?" I asked in a neutral voice.

"Yea, not a lot of people usually head this way," George answered with a shrug.

We walked in an easy silence until I heard a familiar sounding voice calling out for George.

I looked up and was instantly surprised to see Charlie Weasley standing along the fenced boundary of the Shrieking Shack.

"Charlie?!" I exclaimed in a surprised and excited tone.

He came over with a smile and his arms extended. I met him with an embrace, followed by George.

"You knew he was here?" I asked George, surprised by the sudden appearance of his older brother.

"Of course, I got the owl a week back," he replied matter-of-factly.

"So, how are things?" Charlie asked enthusiastically.

"Well, I know you already know about Harry," I said with a frown.

Charlie frowned back.

"Yea, that's part of the reason I'm here. Mum wanted to make sure someone was here to watch him in the first challenge," Charlie answered almost apologetically.

I knew Mrs. Weasley must be as nervous as my father was at the thought of Harry competing.

"What's the other part?" George asked without skipping a beat.

Charlie sighed. "Well, I know I'm not supposed to say anything, but Harry is already in way over his head I am sure."

I deepened my frown at Charlie. I thought about what he could possibly know about the tournament that would bring him here only a few days before the event.

"Charlie…" I started carefully.

He looked up and read the expression on my face.

"What is it again that you work with?" I asked, fretfully already knowing the answer.

Charlie sighed again. "Dragons."

I saw as George's eyes lit up in both excitement and worry before his gaze turned over to mine.

"Are you going to tell Cedric?" George asked, already knowing I would tell Harry.

I looked at Charlie's pleading expression and knew Cedric had entered himself with no intention on having a leg up, whereas someone was purposely trying to sabotage Harry.

"No, he can wait for the surprise," I said evenly.

Both Weasley brothers gave me a wicked grin.

"Fred still not come to his senses?" Charlie asked, changing the subject.

George's grin turned on a dime and I watched the sadness seep into his eyes. I knew that George was also feeling a little betrayed by Fred, especially since Fred hadn't confided in George as to the true reason for his outburst. Fred and George had also never kept anything from each other in their entire lives.

"Not yet," I replied, more enthusiastically than I felt.

Charlie nodded.

"I do have to get back, but I am glad I got a chance to see you two," Charlie said before extending his arms out for another embrace.

George waved and started heading back towards the village. I had a feeling he was meeting up with Lee and Fred to buy supplies and I needed to meet up with Cedric.

"You know, I never thought the twins would ever let someone else in," Charlie said before I stepped away to follow George.

"Yea, it's always felt as if they claimed me as their own," I said with a small smile.

"I mean, watching you guys during your first two years at school, I remember how relieved I felt that they trusted someone else as much as they trust each other," Charlie continued.

I nodded and smiled.

"I know how much of a prat my brother is being. But I hope you understand him enough to know that he's just acting out because he's confused," Charlie said sympathetically.

"He's pushing George away too," I said sadly.

"Then he's hurting more than anyone can realize," Charlie frowned before digging his hands into his pockets and walking back towards the school grounds.

XXX

"Did you ever find Harry?" George asked that night at dinner.

I shook my head and surveyed the table again for any signs of my adopted brother.

George and I spent the later evening sitting in the common room where Harry eventually showed up. Relief washed over me when he spotted me and walked over.

"Hiya Harry," George greeted, and Harry nodded back.

"Can I have help with some homework?" Harry asked surprisingly.

I nodded and followed him to the other side of the room where there were two empty seats. Once we sat down, I watched as George got up and joined Fred and Lee who were no doubt going over product plans and their inventory from today's shopping.

"So, what do you really want?" I asked, knowing Harry has never asked for homework advice from me in his life.

"I'm meeting with Sirius tonight," he whispered.

My gaze widened and I stifled any loud response.

"How?!" I asked excitedly.

"Dunno," Harry replied unhelpfully.

I sighed but nodded. It made sense Sirius wouldn't divulge something as sensitive as meeting up with Harry at Hogwarts when he was still a wanted convict.

"There's something I have to tell you about the first task," I said with a gulp forming in my throat.

"I already know about the dragons," Harry continued whispering.

"How?" I asked, surprised he had found out so quickly; especially since it was supposed to be a secret.

"Hagrid," he answered simply.

I nodded again, knowing there was no way dragons could be on the grounds without Hagrid's knowledge.

"Did you tell Cedric?" Harry asked in an unreadable tone, not like Charlie almost pleading for my silence.

"No, he entered on his own free will," I answered matter-of-factly.

"Well, I think one of us should tell him. Fleur and Krum most likely know by now," Harry explained.

I sighed. "Maybe it should come from you."

"Why?" Harry asked a little skeptically.

"Well, you guys are both champions. Instead of his girlfriend giving him a clue to make it easier, maybe if it came from you, he would feel he owed you a favour in the future," I explained suggestively.

Harry smiled back at me and shook his head. "You are too corrupt for your own good."

We waited in the corner until we were the last two in the common room. I was reading a book while Harry just gazed around the room with a bored expression.

"Sirius!" Harry gasped in a loud whisper around half eleven.

I looked up in surprise and gazed around until my eyes fell upon the face of Sirius Black poking out of the fireplace.

"How is that possible?" I asked, startled at the sight.

"I broke into a wizard's house who appears to be out for the evening," Sirius explained with a smirk.

I couldn't help but return with my own grin; it was so good to see him again. It also showed that he had almost returned to his normal self. He had a rosier complexion and his face was full, not like the ghostly sunken silhouette he had been before.

"It's good to see you both," Sirius added with a smile before turning to Harry.

"How are you?" he asked kindly.

I looked over to Harry whose face fell in anguish. I knew how stressed Harry had been, especially with Ron being stubborn and the first task coming up. Instead of covering it up for Sirius, Harry broke down. Everything that had been bothering him came out of his mouth, only making the insides of my stomach churn. It was nothing I hadn't heard before, but I couldn't help feeling guilty again that I couldn't do more to protect him.

"Marnie," I heard Sirius say my name, taking me out of my guilt-ridden reverie. "It is a good thing your name didn't get chosen."

I nodded my head, afraid that I would break down if I let myself speak.

Harry took my hand and nodded in agreement.

"There's something else at play here, Marnie. Of course, I would have been thrilled to see you compete and give those champions a good showing off, but I worry there is something else going on behind the game itself," Sirius said forebodingly.

"Now, as for that dragon," Sirius turned to Harry once again but was cut off when Harry and I both heard the sound of a door closing at the top of the boy's staircase.

"Go, Sirius!" Harry said hurriedly, not wanting his godfather to be seen or caught.

Sirius' head instantly disappeared from the fire as a set of footsteps entered the common room. Harry and I both looked up to see Ron enter.

I sighed dejectedly, knowing Ron would have never turned Sirius in, despite his current petty feud with Harry.

Harry probably had the same thought, as his anger roiled up once again. He started yelling at Ron, accusing him of sneaking in on him. I knew Harry was just as upset as I was that we probably wouldn't hear from Sirius anytime soon, but Ron didn't deserve the venomous tirade from Harry. Harry even went so far as to chucking a pin at Ron's head which bounced off and left Ron standing dumbfounded. Harry disappeared upstairs before Ron could deliver any kind of retort. Once Harry had stormed up, Ron kept standing in place, looking after Harry.

"You know he's lonely without you," I said, causing Ron to turn around and face me.

I saw him trying to muster up some level of anger.

"Well, he has you doesn't he," Ron retorted.

I snorted, tired of the both of them and their stubbornness.

"You can be as mad at me as you like, but you know I didn't put his name in that goblet. I have spent the last four years trying to protect Harry, I thought you had done the same," I shot back.

Ron lowered his head; I could see the embarrassed blush cover his face. I walked towards the younger boy and placed my hand on his shoulder.

"He needs you, that's why he's angry," I said more softly, before walking away and heading up to my own dormitory.

Ron didn't say anything, and I hoped that my words had gotten through to him, although I knew how stubborn the Weasley's could be. Ron was the least of my problems at this point.

I wasn't surprised the next day when Ron and Harry still hadn't made up. I ended up at the library with Harry and Hermione, trying to find the spell that Sirius had tried to tell Harry about last night. By the end of the day, Harry was as surly as ever while Hermione looked as frazzled as I felt. It was a helpless feeling to think that I couldn't do anything to help Harry from going off into a dragon's den in a few short days. A fact that was sorely brought up the following lunchtime.

I was sitting alone with George since Fred was off somewhere and the others were all in Ancient Runes.

"May I have a word, Marnie?" Cedric came up, using an almost curt sounding tone.

George looked at me, but I only shrugged. I had an idea of what had happened.

"So, Harry delivered a rather helpful message this morning," Cedric said in an irritated tone once we were alone in the Front Hall.

"And what was that?" I asked, feigning innocence.

"Come on, Marnie. How could you not tell me about the dragons?" Cedric asked in a hushed tone.

"Because you entered this competition of your own volition, same as me," I responded simply.

I stood by my decision about leaving Cedric in the dark. If it had been me, I would have felt cheap finding intel about the tasks before they happened.

"And Harry didn't?" Cedric asked goadingly.

I stared down Cedric, causing him to take a step back. I could see he regretted asking me this.

"No," I stated firmly, leaving no room for questioning.

"Well, apparently Krum and Fleur also know," Cedric said, going for another tactic, although with less vigour.

"Come on Ced, I'm not going to feel bad about my decision. You wanted to be tested by the tasks, this is your test," I explained.

Cedric looked at me for a few moments before sighing.

"You're a real ball-buster sometimes, you know that?" Cedric said with a grin.

"But you love me," I replied smartly.

"Of course, I love you," he answered more seriously.

"Any chance you'll let me know about any intel in the future?" he asked hopefully.

"Not a chance," I answered defiantly, feeling the smug grin widen across my face.

He shook his head with a laugh.

"Any change with Fred?" he asked, changing the subject.

"Nope," I replied resolutely.

Cedric studied my expression before nodding.

He didn't say anything more on the subject but instead led me back into the Great Hall.

I ended up sitting with Cedric and his friends, earning myself some well thought out glares from other girls before George came and collected me for Potions.

"You'll be there tomorrow?" Cedric asked with an excited spark in his eye.

Tomorrow was Tuesday, the first task.

"Of course, I'll be there," I replied reassuringly.

"You'll be cheering me on?" Cedric asked more seriously.

"I can support both my boyfriend and my brother," I replied before kissing him on the cheek.

"Don't get yourself killed by a dragon," I whispered in his ear before standing up and collecting my rucksack.

"No falling off the stands," Cedric replied with a smirk.

I glowered and stuck my tongue out at him.

He laughed and waved me off as I followed George out of the Great Hall.

Unfortunately, I felt that my boyfriend getting burned alive tomorrow was the least of my worries.

 

Chapter Text

"You look dreadful," George said bluntly as I sat down for breakfast the next morning.

"Good morning to you too," I replied, failing to snap back in my exhaustion.

The truth was I hadn't slept very well, and the hour or so that I had, I dreamt about Harry walking into a wall of fire towards the scarily large dragon beyond. I had woken up scared out of my wits and hadn't been able to fall back.

"Erm—Marnie…" I heard Harry say in a low voice beside me.

I looked over to see Professor McGonagall who was most likely here to collect Harry for the first task.

I stared up at him, feeling all my nerves flow throughout my body and making me forget any words at all to say to him.

"You need to let go," Harry said softly, looking down where my hand was still wrapped around his.

I had almost forgotten that I grabbed onto it on our way out of the common room and still hadn't let go.

I nodded and instead enveloped myself around him, sternly telling myself not to break down in front of him; he was already wracked with nerves.

I broke apart from him after hearing McGonagall clear her throat and Ginny grabbing my arm to separate me. She was still holding on to my arm as I watched him being led away, apparently out to the grounds where the pitch was usually set up.

"I need to go see Cedric," I stated, all of a sudden remembering that I hadn't seen him off this morning.

"Marnie, he's already gone off," Ginny said sympathetically.

"I'll go find him then," I said matter-of-factly, choosing to ignore the worried glances from all my friends.

I pulled myself away from Ginny before any of them decided to try and keep me here; all of whom I knew were capable.

None of the students were out to the grounds yet, so I was one of only a few who were outside and not in finishing breakfast. When I entered the stands, I was shocked to see Cho Chang sitting alone, waiting for everyone else to show up. I didn't think she was still interested in Cedric; she had stopped glaring at me in the halls at least since the beginning of the year.

I ignored her and started walking up towards a large tent where I figured the champions must be. I entered once I got to the top of the stands, not really thinking of any rules prohibiting me from entering. Immediately, I was relieved when I saw Cedric, sitting on a cot alongside the tent wall.

"Marnie?" Cedric asked surprised, but with a large smile across his face.

"Hey, you," I replied sweetly, feeling a little bit better than I had since last night.

"I don't really know if you're supposed to be in here," Cedric said, although Fleur and Krum didn't seem to care or even acknowledge my presence.

Harry was off to the side but made no effort to approach me. If I was being honest, my obvious worry over him probably made him feel worse about his situation than he already did.

"I just wanted to wish you luck," I replied before wrapping my arms around his neck and giving him a deeper kiss than I had meant to.

His life being imminently threatened within the next few minutes seemed to forego my sense of chaste.

"Young love!" I heard an unfamiliar woman's voice squeak from behind me, causing me to quickly retract from Cedric's embrace.

I turned around, already feeling mortified, to see a very blonde lady wearing deep green dress robes, staring directly at me. Although her voice had been almost cheerful, her stare was full of scrutiny, as if I were a fly under a microscope; I had read about such things in my father's old biology books.

Cedric kept a protective arm over my shoulder, apparently familiar with the likes of this overly inquisitive witch. But then I turned my gaze to the floating quill and parchment directly next to her left shoulder.

"Rita Skeeter darling, and what might your name be?" the confirmed reporter asked while continuing to bore her gaze into mine.

"Marnie O’Hara," I answered in a timid voice, thrown off by Rita's sudden appearance and fascination with me.

"Not the adopted sister of dear Harry Potter over here!" she said in a hungry sounding tone.

Then I remembered the overzealous piece that had been written about Harry after his wand weighing ceremony. The article where my name had somehow been mentioned. I also couldn't help specifically remembering the part where I had reportedly been stowed away like a caged rat for the first thirteen years of my life before Harry was reunited with me at last. George had howled at the insinuation.

"I should be finding my seat," I said, feeling Cedric's hand almost push me in the direction of the tent flap that would lead me back out to the stands.

"Why run darling, it seems you already love being at the center of excitement?" the antagonizing witch said provokingly as I quickly walked past her.

My arms were crossed over my chest, as if to shield myself from her laser-like vision; but tucked away were my fists. This woman was infuriating and I could only kid myself that my name wouldn't appear in tomorrow's Prophet.

"Is Cedric alright?" Angelina asked me when I took my seat beside her.

"Yea, he was more concerned about that Skeeter lady from the Daily Prophet," I explained, still feeling critical about the witch.

"That woman is horrid! All those things she keeps reporting about Harry," Ginny fumed.

Everyone nodded but before anyone could add their opinion, the booming voice of Ludo Bagman sounded over the converted quidditch pitch. My hand tightened in whoever's hand I was grasping onto; later confirmed to be Ginny. My grasp tightened even more, probably cutting off Ginny's circulation while we watched as a team of dragon trainers, no doubt one of them being Charlie Weasley, lowering a dragon in a cage into the center of the rocky interior that had once been the green grass of the quidditch field.

I felt my other hand being taken and spared a glance to see Fred—no George—take a seat and proceed to run his spare hand up and down my arm in a would-be consolable fashion; if I had the capacity to even remotely calm down.

"You wanted this for yourself," a small voice taunted from the depths of my mind.

"Not for Harry!" I screamed back internally.

"Maybe you are not so brave after all little badger," the voice chastised, reprimanding myself for not being enough to get chosen as the true champion; as someone worthy of protecting Harry.

"Look," George said, forcing me out of my dark thoughts as Cedric was announced as the first champion to compete.

I looked at him with as much excitement as I could muster but was still terrified to watch the boy I loved take on a two-ton beast.

I held my breath as Cedric stepped out into the arena and looked nervously up at the dragon, introduced as a Swedish Short-Snout. I could see the greenish pallor of Cedric's skin from here and watched as he assessed his situation.

The dragon started to growl, mustering a low guttural sound that seemed especially territorial. Cedric thankfully jumped into action, taking out his wand and aiming it towards the beast. His next move was not to attack but instead, he transfigured a nearby boulder into a creature; a dog to be precise.

"It's a distraction!" Ginny said excitedly, keeping her hand embraced in mine.

"I could have taken that thing head-on!" George interjected.

"Don't be daft!" I retorted, causing him to laugh back.

"Whatever gets you to smile, love," George quipped before turning his focus back on Cedric.

I smiled, feeling a little self-conscious from that level of George's affection. Of course, our relationship was purely platonic, but it still got to me the bounds George often went to.

"He's got it!" Angelina cried, ten painstaking minutes later.

I felt a sigh exhale from my lips before my breath immediately hitched again. I then screamed, watching as the dragon turned its attention from the faux-dog to my very real boyfriend. I watched as his champions' uniform caught on fire and heard his cries when the flame touched his skin.

I continued to scream while George stood up beside me and wrapped his arms over me, probably to keep me in place. I had stood up with the others in excitement for Cedric's success and remained standing while I looked on in horror. I could hear Hermione's whispers in my mind saying that people had died in these competitions before.

"He's alright, he's alright—look Marnie, he put out the flames, he's alright," George chanted, long after Cedric had extinguished the flames and dodged out of sight with his prized golden egg.

The dragon trainers had returned to subdue the beast and replaced it with another one, this time a Welsh Green for Fleur Delacour.

I didn't even comprehend what was going on until Fleur had completed her task and Krum was getting reprimanded for causing the dragon to harm her actual eggs. My full attention was brought back by the fierce squeezing of my hand that Ginny was holding. I looked over at the girl and wanted to smile at her obvious affections for my brother but was too scared myself to be able to show anything other than fear.

I swallowed the nerves that felt like they were threatening to make me sick, instead sitting rooted in my seat and watching as Harry stepped out into the arena.

I held my breath and refused to blink, wanting to catch every instant of Harry's match against the Hungarian Horntail; which automatically seemed like the worst beast yet. I watched as Harry immediately cast his summoning charm for his broom and waited impatiently for it to appear in the sky.

Moments later, everyone heard a zooming sound from the direction of the castle and turned in time to watch as Harry expertly jumped onto his soaring Firebolt.

"He's got it!" I exclaimed proudly, jumping excitedly to my feet.

I wasn't the only one as everyone around me watched in anticipation while Harry circled around the dragon.

"This is mad!" I heard Ron shout out from behind me; I could hear his anxiety rising.

"Still think he did it?" I asked pointedly, allowing myself a brief glare at Ron.

I watched as his cheeks turned pink and he shook his head.

The sound of everyone gasping made me whip my head back around in time to see that Harry had gotten hit in the shoulder by one of the spikes from the dragon's tail.

I squeezed both Ginny and George's hands, watching as Harry was now weaving around the Horntail's fireballs. Then, watching as he caught his moment, Harry dove and picked up the golden egg from the dragon's nest.

"He's got it!" I exclaimed again, jumping up and down with Ginny as we latched onto each other.

My worry completely dissolved into overwhelming joy and pride for Harry, and Cedric too! They had both represented Hogwarts fiercely, and were both still living to tell the tale.

"We should go find your boys!" Katie said cheekily before grabbing my hand and leading me in the direction Hermione and Ron had already disappeared off to.

Something told me that after today, Ron and Harry would finally make-up.

I looked over my shoulder in search of a particular red-headed boy, despite my reservations. I quickly found him and locked eyes with Fred who was sharing his excitement with Lee and George. He caught my gaze for a moment and looked as if he was deeply mournful behind his outward jubilance. But, as quickly as his eyes had latched onto mine, he purposely shifted his gaze away and took off back towards the school.

Fred's P.O.V.

It was almost disappointing not being able to watch the first challenge, Pretty Boy versus the dragon, but I couldn't help staring at the back of Marnie's head. Even without seeing her face, I could tell she was utterly panicked. It had been obvious this morning as well that she hadn't slept much, but I had just assumed it was mostly over worrying about Harry. I also fixated on my brother's hand and could almost picture it being mine. George had been reluctant giving me any updates on Marnie since my falling out with her, but I had been persistent with the upcoming task. George finally told me Marnie had all but stopped sleeping and hadn't even really been hanging out with Pretty Boy either.

I sighed, something that went completely unnoticed by Lee or Katie, who were both sitting with me, since everyone else was too preoccupied with the dragon only a few feet in front of us. I turned my attention back when I watched Marnie jump out of her seat in excitement. I looked up to see that Cedric was now holding the golden egg; Pretty Boy hadn't done too bad for himself, not that I could bring myself to admit that.

But then the most horrible noise seemed to explode out of Marnie and I felt as my feet started to move without my permission. Marnie was screaming, a most painful sound that made the inside of my chest clench as bad as it had the day I turned my back on her and walked away. My feet only stopped when I watched my brother wrap his similar arms around her, both a comforting and necessary gesture as I watched Marnie trying to run away; presumably to somewhere where she would think to try and save Cedric. A flood of jealousy and wanting surged up as I continued to stare at my brother but could not will myself to leave my spot. I stood planted in the same place, unable to get past my own stubbornness. If I was being completely truthful with myself, I would recognize that it wasn't stubbornness but shame that I couldn't face Marnie after what I had so foolishly done.

After Marnie stopped her painful sobs, I beadily watched Fleur and Krum complete their tasks against their respective dragons. I was pointedly focusing my gaze but couldn't help averting it to Marnie once again when Harry was called out. Her anxiety was almost palpable, and I even heard Ron whimper from beside me. He had been just as stubbornly shadowing me these past few weeks while we both avoided out best friends.

Again, I chastised myself as I watched Marnie instead of Harry, but couldn't help my urge to want to walk over and envelope her in my arms. I wanted to protect her from her own fear and reassure her that she wasn't alone. But George and Ginny already had that covered, so I looked on with jealousy. Thankfully, she didn't scream this time and jumped in elation when Harry successfully claimed his prize. I couldn't help but turn to Lee and high five him as everyone around us exploded in excitement. By the time I turned back to see Marnie, I watched as Angelina and the rest of them were running off towards the champions' tent. George had since made his way over and was giving me a reproachful look. I ignored it and turned away, unwillingly catching Marnie's gaze. My chest squeezed, but in a different sort of way than before; not so pinchy-like. But, shaking my head in all of my confusion, I turned away and started heading back towards the school.

"Where are you headed?" George asked, almost as a challenge.

"Someone has to get the common room ready for the huge celebration for Harry!" I stated as cheerfully as I could.

Lee wholly approved and offered to come along, as did George. But one look into my brother's eyes told me he wasn't buying my façade of happiness.

 

Chapter Text

Our group missed all of the champions by the time we finally got passed everyone in the stands. Angelina and the rest then eagerly pulled me towards the Gryffindor common room since they knew the twins would have gotten enough sweets by now for the party.

It was unbelievable to feel as though all of the worry and guilt that I'd been feeling over the last few months had finally subsided. Of course, it had been terrifying to watch Harry take on a dragon, but he had done extraordinarily well for himself. He was even tied for first with Viktor Krum. I didn't want to admit it out loud, but it had been obvious Harry had outperformed Cedric, who had stupidly gotten himself caught on fire. I felt a tiny bit guilty for not running to go find him, but I was too caught up in my excitement for Harry. I knew Madam Pomfrey would have fixed Cedric by now and I would go sneak into the Hufflepuff party as soon as I saw Harry.

Oddly, my group made it back before Harry, Hermione and Ron. I smiled, feeling this meant Ron had indeed reconciled with my brother. This made me inadvertently look over to where George was setting up a punch bowl with Fred; who no doubt were spiking it. This time, Fred didn't turn around and I worried once again that I would never get my best friend back.

But my thoughts were interrupted by a loud round of applause. I turned to see Harry enter with his other two best mates, golden egg in hand. His grin spread from ear to ear and I knew he was pretty pleased with himself. I immediately bolted towards him, pushing a few Gryffindors out of the way in the process. Harry's grin grew a little bit more when I tackled him in a crushing embrace.

"Oi, Marnie, he's still got two other tasks to compete in, don't go breaking him now," Ron said jokingly, causing me to look up at the younger red-headed boy.

His blush was already spread out across his face and I knew he felt badly about all his time ignoring both Harry and me.

I let go of Harry and hugged Ron, happy to see life was going back to somewhat normal.

Ron didn't utter any comprehensible words during our hug, but I just winked at both him and Harry before letting them be accepted into the applauding crowd.

"He did alright, didn't he?" George asked, coming up beside me.

"You bet he did," I replied proudly, watching as Harry's other dormmates huddled around him, Ron and the egg.

But before George could give any sort of come back, the common room erupted with an ear-splitting scream. I quickly covered my ears and noticed that the horrible noise was coming from the golden egg.

"Oi, shut the bloody thing!" I heard Fred holler from the other side of the room.

Harry thankfully obliged, but my ears were still ringing.

"What kind of clue is that?" Dean Thomas asked, one of Harry's other dormmates.

"It sounded like someone being tortured, maybe you have to fight off the Cruciatus curse," Neville posed in a worried voice.

I frowned at him, and then at Harry who immediately met my gaze and shook his head.

"Don't be daft, that's illegal Neville," George replied, taking my hand and squeezing it reassuringly.

The rest of the Gryffindors then started their own line of guessing, each one less plausible than the last.

"I better go off to the Hufflepuff common room," I said once my friends had gathered round, all with a cup in their hand.

"No, stay awhile Mar!" Angelina said, wanting to celebrate with her best friend.

xx

Angelina was happy to see a visible difference in Marnie than she had seen over the past month. It was obvious that Marnie had been fretting over Harry and Fred had gone off and completely made it worse. But, watching her brother with pride, Angelina knew Marnie must be feeling on top of the world right now that everyone would be safe for the next little while. Angelina then gave George a meaningful look and couldn't help noticing the slight blush cross his face.

"Yea, we were already by there while we were nicking the food for the party, it didn't sound nearly as fun as ours is going to be!" George said enthusiastically, causing another smile from Angelina.

"Here, let your hair down Marnie!" Katie said, shoving a laced drink into her friend's hand.

"Erm—alright," Marnie said with only mild consideration for still leaving to go find Cedric.

xx

I downed the drink in my hand before grabbing onto Angelina's hand and dragging her towards where many others were already dancing around in their merriment.

Three drinks later I felt as if the world was floating. I was light as a bubble and felt absolutely amazing. I finally reached the punch bowl and put my hand out to scoop more of the liquid into my cup.

"I think I must cut you off love," George appeared at my side out of nowhere.

I had thought he had been talking up Angelina, but he must have seen me trying to sneak another cup.

"I want to go see Cedric now!" I demanded, being overly confident in my lesser functioning to be able to find the common room all the way down into the basement.

George sighed. "You're going to go regardless of what I say aren't you?"

"Yup!" I said proudly before spinning on my foot, almost tripping, but then regaining my footing to head towards the portrait hole.

I had made it out into the hallway with medium effort and looked in either direction, trying to orient myself properly.

"Come on," George said, instantly appearing again at my side.

"George!" I shrieked excitedly before grabbing onto his arm.

"Merlin, you are drunk!" George exclaimed, clamping his hand over mine that was already looped around his arm before slowly guiding me down the stairs.

"What are you doing here, away from the party?" I asked confused, still wondering what had happened to Angelina.

"Making sure you find Cedric safely and then having a stern conversation with him that he will keep you safe," George said more seriously than I had anticipated.

I giggled, not really knowing why.

"He's scared of you," I said, before shaking my head and covering my lips with my other hand. "I wasn't supposed to tell you that!"

George laughed, "He has reason to be."

"You would hurt him?" I asked, picturing George now in a duel against a dragon.

Wait, weren't we talking about Cedric?

We stopped abruptly and George put both of his hands on my arms so that I was now facing him.

"Marnie, you are my very best friend in this entire world. The thought of anyone ever hurting you makes me too angry to even contemplate, and I know Fred feels the same way," he added with confidence.

I sighed, feeling my cheeks become wet before I could figure out why.

"But he's the one hurting me," I said, causing George to bow his head and sigh deeply.

"And I may not be able to forgive him for that, but I know he is hurting himself even more," George replied in a soft voice.

I stared at him, feeling my mind was too foggy and muddled to make much sense of what was going on.

"I know he cares for you deeply, you can see it with the way he always looks at you," George said again.

I looked at him confused, thinking I may have missed the first part of his new sentence.

"Fred?" I asked, feeling something rise in my chest.

George chuckled slightly, "No, I said Cedric. It's the reason I don't give him as much of a hard time as I would probably like. I know he cares for you very much."

I nodded, remembering my quest I was on to go and find my boyfriend.

"We're here Marnie," George said, lifting his hand to gesture towards the b