The Romanian sun beat down on his back as he stared intently at the letter before him. Summer holidays were winding down to their end, and soon Ben Solo would be back in the corridors of Hogwarts. Year Seven, his last year as a student. He paused that thought to look back at the letter in front of him, admiring the messy yet charming handwriting of his best friend Rey Niima. They had been writing to each other all summer while his family was away on holiday, and he truly couldn’t wait to be seeing her and the rest of their small friend group a few weeks from now.
They had joined Hogwarts together as First Years, but hadn’t truly gotten to know each other until Year Three. The two young Gyriffindor's had almost every lesson together that year, and it wasn’t long before their friendship made them inseparable. An outsider looking in would find the pairing odd: a tall, lanky, and shy young man befriending a small, spunky, larger-than-life young woman...but it worked for them. Rey had eventually introduced him to her other friends from other houses, Poe the Ravenclaw, and Finn and Rose the Hufflepuffs; they were as tight-knit as any chosen family could be. But there was always an exceptional bond between Ben and Rey that even they couldn’t explain, and that bond carried them through their years at Hogwarts.
You won’t believe how fast I can get my broomstick to go now, you’re definitely in for it this season! Rey boasted in her letter. They had both joined Quidditch together in Year Five, but even being on the same team brought a level of friendly competition that pushed each other on the practice pitch every day. He smiled to himself as he read her words, almost certain that she would be right; her skills and size made her a menace to the other teams and in her final season he was sure she was going to let nothing get in her way.
I hope you and your family are having fun in Romania! It’s been a long summer and I can’t wait for our last year at Hogwarts, it’s going to be the best one yet! Also...there’s something I want to tell you but I will definitely tell you in person when I see you (I can already see the worried expression on your face, don’t worry you plonker it’s nothing bad!)
As ever predictable, Ben scrunched his nose at her words. What could she possibly have to tell him? The possibilities began to swirl in his head as the tiniest voice in his head whispered his deepest darkest wish: Maybe she feels the same way about you .
He brushed that voice away with annoying speed, he doesn’t have feelings for Rey. That’s his best friend...even if she has the most beautiful smile and eyes that shine like the full moon over the lake--no! No, he wouldn’t think of her that way, he couldn’t even entertain the idea that their friendship would be ruined if such feelings aren't reciprocated.
He folded the letter back up and stuffed it in his pants pocket. Picking up his own piece of parchment and ink quill, he quickly but neatly drafted a positive response to her letter. Calligraphy had always been a hobby of his, and the fluid swirls of his words looked like art against the parchment. He stuck his letter in an envelope addressed to Rey, grabbed his wand off the desk and silently cast a charm to send the letter to his friend (He definitely wouldn’t make his poor owl fly hundreds of miles while he’s on holiday). Looking up from the large open window of their Romanian villa, he sighed to himself as the cool breeze flowed through his thick black hair.
The beginning of September has finally arrived as Ben hugged his parents goodbye from the train platform. He was unfortunately traveling alone on his way to Hogwarts this year, as Rey’s parents had to take her to the train station several hours later after what she could briefly describe as a “Dittany plant experiment gone wrong”. Rey had dreams of being a healer, and her parents being herbologists meant for some interesting healing applications of common herbs and plants. He chuckled to himself and the story he would undoubtedly hear during their first Great Hall feast of the school year.
The first half of the train ride to Hogwarts was uneventful, but he eventually caught up with Poe and Rose and they spent the second half of the journey exchanging summer stories and instantly dreading the coming coursework. As the journey finally took him to the entrance of the castle, he felt a pang of nostalgia. This was going to be his last time walking through these gates for his first day of the school year. Finn had eventually caught up with the group and they were soon walking through the stone corridors that saw them through endless pranks, panicked study sessions and reprimands from stuffy professors. As the crowds of students made their way to the Great Hall, Ben began wondering about Rey again. Did she make it here alright? Was she going to be happy to see him? Was she going to notice how much he’s changed this summer?
It was mental how much one summer had changed Ben Solo. He was always seen as incredibly tall and slender, with jet black hair that almost reached his shoulders and a brooding demeanor that intimidated his classmates. However this summer, he spent a lot of his time in Romania practicing his Quidditch skills, leading him to build a more toned physique and skin that -although still pale- had a sun-kissed glow that magnified his facial structure. He felt more confident in his appearance, and the deep seeded voice that dared to whisper his innermost thoughts hoped that she would notice.
While the rest of his friends made their way to their respective house tables, he stood near the Gryffindor table but kept his eyes locked on the doorway, waiting for her to appear. Almost as if by the magic of his thoughts, she turned the corner and they almost instantly locked eyes. Her golden hazel eyes brightened the smile that quickly took over her face as she saw him. Her dark bronze curls framed her face as her robes swept around her dramatically. The corners of his mouth cracked open wide and she quickly made her way to him, and the next thing he knew she was wrapped in his arms and his chin resting on top of her head.
“Look at you, you big oaf! Hardly recognized you after being away a whole summer!” she beamed up at him gleefully. He ignored the hustle and bustle of the Great Hall as he looked down at her. Their exchange of letters did not do their time apart any justice, the sweetness of her voice flowed through him like honey.
“Well you refused my family’s invitation to join us, so that’s on you.” he scoffed sarcastically. He was fortunate enough that their families had become friends early into their friendship, but her parents herbology research project had stifled them in joining his family to their holiday home in Romania.
She stuck her tongue out at him as they parted. Her demeanor quickly shifted as he began to notice a stranger standing behind her. He hadn’t made himself known, and it was clear when she began to bite her lower lip that she was about to introduce them. “Ben? I want you to meet Zacharias Smith...he’s my….boyfriend.”
The deafening silence in Ben’s ears was not that of the Great Hall, as he continued to see indistinct chatter surrounding him with no sound to accompany it. Boyfriend? Rey has a...boyfriend? Is this what she wanted to tell me about in her letter? He looked down at her, and her eyes searched his face pensively for a reaction. Quick - he had to give her a positive reaction - one that wouldn’t look like he just took a Bludger to the heart.
“Hey man, nice to meet you. I’m Ben.” he said as confidently as he could muster. He stuck his large hand out to the strange man. Zacharias was only a few inches shorter than Ben, with coiffed blonde hair, tanned skin and freckles that peppered his face. Upon looking at his build - similar to that of Ben’s - he noticed the yellow striped tie donning his robes: a Hufflepuff.
“Nice to meet you Ben, you can call me Zach. Rey has told me so many great things about you.” he responded cheerfully, taking Ben’s hand in a firm handshake. Ben nodded quietly and looked back at Rey, whose pensive look hasn’t left her face. Ben offered her a sheepish smile and nod, silently letting her know she could stop holding her breath. She silently understood, breathing a shaky sigh of relief at the sight of them shaking hands.
Bells began to ring across the Great Hall, indicating that Headmaster Obi-Wan would soon begin his pre-feast address to the students.
“Best be getting back to my table.” Zach smiled at both of them before returning his gaze to Rey. “I’ll catch up with you later?” She stifled a nod and a shy smile before he placed a quick kiss on her cheek and walked away. Ben hastily averted his eyes, not wanting to intrude on the moment. He repressed the sudden feeling of bile rise in his throat as he motioned for Rey to come join him at the Gryffindor table. His mind was spinning with this sudden revelation, but he had to keep a brave face.
Of course she has a boyfriend...do you really think she had feelings for you? The pestering voice cackled in his mind. He shooed it away feverishly as he brought himself back to the present moment and readied himself for a very long school year.