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we could be heroes

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Friday, 4 September, 2009

"Are you ready, Rena?" Dad's voice came from the front of the car. Mum was busy driving, white knuckled and pale. They were late, which didn't come as much surprise. Irena was the first one to go to Hogwarts in their family since Mum graduated, but that was ages ago.

Irena grinned to her dad from the window seat. "Of course I am!" Irena said at once, but in her tummy she was nervous. It would be good to get out of here, her family could be too much sometimes!

They parked outside the train station, getting Irena's cart ready. She had so many books and things from Diagon Alley! So did Dad, but he was a Professor, so it wasn't surprising. "God, we're going to be late." Mum said grumpily while everyone filed out of the car.

Leo stood beside Irena, Perseus busy poking and prodding his arm. "Cut it out, will you?" Leo asked angrily, shuffling away from his brother. Perseus only laughed, continuing to annoy his brother.

"We wouldn't be late if we left when I said." Dad pointed out plainly, though he smiled playfully at her. Even when they disagreed, they never grew angrily with each other. Padfoot and Moony had said they were soulmates, but Irena didn't know what that meant.

"Cedric, would you be quiet with that? I get it, you're right." Mum chuckled, helping Selene and Nova out of the car. "Percy! Stop chasing your brother! Cedric, can you wrangle them in?"

Dad grinned, going after the two boys. It'd be nice to spend time alone with Dad without all the others getting in the way, which seemed to happen often. Mum picked up baby Aurora, waving her wand over the others. A small silvery tendril appeared over each child, linking them back to Mum. Perseus and Leo were dragged very suddenly towards her. "God bless Molly for teaching me the leash spell, I can't have them all falling onto the tracks." Mum muttered, placing Aurora on the cart with Irena's things.

"Fawn, you worry too much." Dad chided, kissing her, picking up Zenith and putting him on the other cart. Irena took Dad's hand as they walked to the entrance.

They went through the wall on Platform 9 and 3/4, surrounded by other wizards and witches at last. It wasn't that Irena hated Muggles, they were just so boring! She wanted to play fairy and goblin, but no Muggle made a good playmate, not like her best friend, Teddy Lupin.

"Sirius, come to see your two off?" Dad asked as they approached the four people. Sunny, their daughter, squeaked excitedly, saying hello to Nova and Selene.

Sirius, who everyone called Padfoot, beamed. "Nope, just Teddy this time! Remus is taking a break from teaching this year, he figured that ten years was enough before vacationing." Padfoot said with a grin.

"I'm standing right here." Moony grumbled, but he smiled.

Teddy broke free from his fathers and embraced Irena. Moony bent down to them, looking to his son, ruffling his hair, kissing Irena on her cheek. "Teddy, remember what we talked about last night?"

"Yea." Teddy muttered, as if he'd rather be anywhere but there.

"What'd you talk about?" Irena asked.

"Dad wants me to control my Metamorphmagus powers." Teddy groaned. "He thinks I'm gonna be bullied all cuz my hair changes colors!" He huffed, clenching his fists.

Irena frowned. "Well, remember Asher, from the DA? He was pretty mean." She reminded him. They both had gone to Dumbledore's Preparatory Academy for Young Pupils (and the Magically Influenced) but it was such a long name, everyone shortened it to the DA.

"She's right, Ted." Moony told his son affectionately. "I won't be there to protect you this time, you're going to be far, far away." His focus turned from his son to her. "Irena, you'll make sure that he listens, won't you?"

Teddy groaned audibly. "I will, I promise." Irena told him.

"Wait, if Remus is retiring, who's taking his place?" Mum asked.

"Harry is." Padfoot said with a proud smile. "He was crushed after the accident, left poor Cho alone and came to ours for a while. Remus already was thinking of vacation, and it seemed like a worthy opportunity."

Dad grinned. "Harry's coming to work with us? Oh, Neville'll be so glad!" He said cheerily.

"I think he'll do an excellent job." Mum said confidently. "He did so good with Dumbledore's Army, getting us all ready for the final battle."

The train made a loud, long toot sound, signaling that the train would be leaving in ten minutes. "I think it's time to board soon." Padfoot mused, looking down at all the children, but Teddy and Irena in particular. "I suppose it'll be time to say our goodbyes. Cedric, you'll look after them, make sure they don't get into too much trouble?"

"Oh, no, only a little bit of trouble." Dad teased.

Mum bent down tending to Irena's clothes carefully. Her blue eyes looked into Irena's, which was almost startling. "You'll be good, won't you?" She whispered to Irena. "No getting into trouble, no being mean to teachers, and no setting things on fire!"

"Yes, Mummy, I know!" Irena groaned, growing red in the face. The first time she'd ever performed magic had been a total accident! She'd been throwing rocks at recess at the DA, which apparently was against the rules. She got sent to Headmistress Sprout's office, where she got scolded and threatened to send a Howler to her mother. Irena had set the filing cabinet on fire, but it was a mistake.

She smiled, straightening her jacket. "Your wand is in your suitcase, I don't want it to be lost on the train. Magic is quite hard to perform without one." Mum told her, kissing her forehead. Her face twisted, as if she were sad. "Oh, you look so grown up, look at you. Let me get a picture."

The parents made Irena and Teddy stand in front of the brick walls while Mum took a picture. Irena hugged each of her siblings goodbye before getting on the train with Teddy and Dad. "You two don't need a chaperone, do you?" Dad asked. "You can find somewhere to sit yourselves?"

"Yes, Dad, we can." Irena said pointedly.

"Thanks for the offer, Mr. Diggory!" Teddy said cheerfully. Dad gave Irena a kiss on the forehead before leaving for the teacher's compartment. "Dads said that this is one of the most important days of our lives, on the first train ride to Hogwarts. The friends we make here will last a lifetime."

Irena sighed. "I don't think that's true." She shook her head. "We'll have plenty of time to make friends in classes and at lunch. Can we sit together?"

"Well, duh!" Teddy told her, grinning. They went from compartment to compartment, looking for somewhere empty to sit. The train gave off another toot , signaling that there was only five minutes left. They went into a compartment where only two people sat, a girl and a boy. "Can we sit here?" Teddy asked when they came in.

The boy, an odd looking boy, peered up to them. "Yea, sure." He said in a monotone voice. Teddy stored their luggage in the upper compartments, sitting beside the boy. Irena sat next to the girl, waving out the window to Mum, Padfoot, and Moony before the train lurched into motion.

"So, what are your names?" Irena asked, looking at the boy and girl. The boy had a shaved haircut, the fuzz showed that he was supposed to be blond. He had deep green eyes and freckles, as well as a dark bruise on his eye. Mum always said it was rude to stare, but he was very hard not to look at. "I'm Irena, and this is Teddy."

Teddy smiled, looking at them. The girl who sat across from the boy had long black hair tied into two braids, but the way they looked at the ends proved that her hair was meant to be very curly. "I'm Aria, Aria Rowe. That's Felix Fitzgibbons, we come from the same home."

"Oh, like you're brother and sister?" Teddy asked. "I've got a sister."

"No, I've got a sister." Felix muttered, avoiding looking at them. "But I've never even met her."

Irena wanted to know more, but he grew very quiet, looking at the landscape out the window instead of them. Aria was more eager to talk. "No, we come from the same care home, Chatsby's Home for Lost Children. I haven't got parents, I used to have this one lady take care of me, but she got old and died, and they moved me to the orphanage with boys like Felix, who were never wanted in the first place." She said with a smirk, looking to Felix.

"Shut it!" Felix snarled angrily.

"Hey, let's all take a deep breath, okay?" Teddy muttered, trying to keep the peace. Felix sighed angrily, looking out the window.

Irena looked at Aria. She had a sharp jaw and puffy lips with big dark brown eyes. "Well, I live in London with my mum and dad and all my brothers and sisters. I'm glad to finally be away from them, I can finally have some peace and quiet!"

"Depends on what house you get into!" Teddy teased. "I know I'm gonna be Gryffindor, cuz both of my dads were in Gryffindor. I know it's gonna be loud, cuz my house is loud! I love it though. I hope I'm in Gryffindor."

Aria looked on to Teddy, analyzing him. "I hope I'm in Slytherin." She said coolly.

"That's the evil one! You-Know-Who was in that one!" Irena exclaimed. She hoped that she would be in Hufflepuff, since mum and dad were both in Hufflepuff. It only made sense, didn't it?

The other girl only laughed. "You-Know-Who was only one wizard, there have been plenty of other Slytherins who've been good- very smart too. It's the house of cunning and cleverness, is it not?"

"I suppose.." Teddy mumbled. "I kinda always thought that kids in Slytherin got put in there by accident, that no one wanted to be in Slytherin.."

"Well, I guess I'll be one of the first." Aria told him proudly.

There was quiet in the car. "I think being in Hufflepuff might be nice." Irena murmured. "They always seem pretty friendly, I think. Plus, my mum and dad were in Hufflepuff and they turned out alright."

The train witch came with her snacks, Irena already knew what she liked. Most of the candy was made by Uncle Freddie and Uncle George, and they always let her sample things before selling them (Mum doesn't like it, but who cares?). "Oo, Felix, I think you'll like these Ton-Tongue Toffees!" Irena teased.

Even if Felix was brooding and grumpy, he couldn't refuse sweets. He took the little bit of candy, unwrapping the wrapper, taking a tiny nibble. Felix coughed suddenly, making Irena laugh as his tongue began to grow. Felix squealed in alarm while Aria laughed.

"Irena!" Teddy chastised her, raising his wand, flicking it to Felix's tongue. " Finite Incantatum. " He cast, making the tongue go back to normal size. "That was a mean trick, Irena." Teddy told her.

Aria was still laughing while Felix pouted. "It was a funny trick!" She giggled.

"I'm out of here." Felix said suddenly, standing up and grabbing his old, broken suitcase, leaving the three of them alone. He slammed the door shut, making the glass rattle in its frame.

Irena felt guilty, sitting back quietly. Teddy looked out the window. "I'm- I'm going with him." Teddy announced, grabbing his suitcase.

"What happened to us sitting together?" Irena complained.

"I want to sit with Felix now." Teddy replied plainly, leaving, running after the other boy.

Aria sighed contently. "Tell me which candies are safe, okay? Don't make my tongue big." They rode the train to Hogwarts. Aria didn't have much of a story to tell, so Irena told her all about her family, about the DA, about the Christmas and New Years parties at the Burrow with everyone she considered family. By the time they had reached Hogwarts, Irena was busy telling her about what she'd got for Christmas last year.

"And then Uncle Moony got me- wait, I think we're here." Irena said, gazing out the window. The landscape was beginning to change, the moors and meadows that the train once passed had turned into a dark, lush forest. "Okay, Dad told me what happens now. We're supposed to change into our robes- done. We're supposed to leave our luggage on the train too."

The train came to a stop, letting Irena and Aria out onto the platform. The kids around her were buzzing with excitement, older children left to the right of the platform for the carriages to Hogwarts, while a large, tall man called out to her right. "Firs' years! Firs' years! C'mere!"

Irena and Aria were one of the first to arrive in front of the man. He really was quite tall, probably three times Irena's size (though she was short for her age). Aria watched reprehensibly as Teddy and Felix tumbled out of the car with another boy, laughing and just being loud. "Stupid boys." Aria shook her head.

"Boys are stupid." Irena agreed, though she mostly echoed Aria's own sentiments. Irena wanted Aria to like her. While Teddy had his moments of being annoying, Irena didn't actually think he was stupid.

The large man cleared his throat, silencing all the first years. "Alright, firs' years, come with me. I'm Hagrid and I'm the Keeper of Keys at Hogwarts. We'll be taking the boats on the lake to the castle- watch yer step!- I'm also the Gamekeeper on campus, and I teach the Care of Magical Creatures class, but you won't be seein' much of me 'til third year."

They stumbled through the dark forest, Irena and Aria held onto each other tightly. Teddy tripped over a root, tearing the knees on his robes. Padfoot would surely be upset that he tore his new trousers, he was usually upset about that sort of thing.

"Four to a boat!" Hagrid said when they approached the shore. Irena looked to Teddy to see if he wanted to ride with her, but he was too busy with Felix and the other boy to even notice her.

Aria sat in a boat, and Irena joined her. Two other girls joined them, a pretty girl named Tabitha Travers, and another girl named Philomena Fitzgibbons. Irena remembered that Felix had the same last name, but she didn't mention anything to her. It seemed that she didn't even know he existed.

They made their way through the water. There were times when Irena looked into the water and thought she saw a face or a hand. It was magic, but it didn't make her feel any safer knowing there was something watching them from under the water. Irena was relieved when they hit the shore, stepping out to a large wooden door.

Hagrid knocked with his large hands, the door swung open. "Professor Longbottom, I've got the first years." Hagrid told the professor who stood in the doorway. He was tall and very slender. His hair was messy and his hands were stained brown. Irena remembered Mum mentioning a Longbottom when talking about the war. He seemed about her age.

"Thank you, Hagrid, feel free to move to the Great Hall." Professor Longbottom grinned. The Gamekeeper shuffled into the doorway, disappearing, but not without leaving a few good natured muddy footprints. "This way, first years, let's get a move on, we don't want the feast to start without us!"

Longbottom stepped through the door, disappearing into the hall. The first years looked around at each other, wondering what to do. Irena watched as Teddy and his new friends raced in after the professor, the rest of the first years followed suit. Irena was getting a bit clammy now, so she wiped her hands off on her robe.

In the hall, the walls were dotted with portraits, all moving and smiling at the incoming students. The ceilings were so high, they almost seemed to disappear into the shadows. There was a warm glow throughout the castle and Irena could hear the chatting of the older students from the Great Hall.

They were led into an empty chamber not too far from the Great Hall. Irena's stomach growled, all she'd eaten that day was breakfast and sweets on the train, she looked forward to the hearty Hogwarts meals everyone always talked about.

The professor clapped his hands together, grinning as the first years quieted down. "Welcome to Hogwarts, all of you." Longbottom said. "The start-of-term banquet will begin shortly, but before you take your seats in the Great Hall, you will be sorted into your houses. The Sorting is a very important ceremony because, while you are here, your house will be something like your family within Hogwarts. You will have classes with the rest of your house, sleep in your house dormitory, and spend free time in your house common room."

" What kind of name is Longbottom anyway? " Aria whispered to the three girls. Tabitha giggled, so did Philomena. Irena only wanted to pay attention to Professor Longbottom, eager to learn more, even if they were things Dad already told her.

Longbottom continued his speech. "The four houses are called Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each house has its own noble history and each has produced outstanding witches and wizards. While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor. I hope each of you will be a credit to whichever house becomes yours.

"I'm Professor Longbottom, the head of Gryffindor house. There's Professor Slughorn, the head of Slytherin house, Professor Flitwick, the head of Ravenclaw, and Professor Diggory, the head of Hufflepuff." There was a pause, someone had opened the door and whispered something, closing the door. He didn't seem upset or fazed by this. "The Sorting Ceremony will begin in a few minutes, I suggest you fix yourselves up in this time. When I return, we will begin the ceremony."

He disappeared through the doors, leaving the children alone. "Do I look okay?" Philomena fretted, running a hand through her silky blonde hair, it looked like it was made of gold.

"Yes, Philly, you look fine!" Tabitha told her assuredly.

Irena touched the braid in the back of her head. Mum had braided her hair for the train ride, but it still looked okay for a ceremony, right? The door opened quickly and the group shuffled out of the tiny chamber and into the Great Hall.

Everyone gawked at the first years, which made Irena nervous. Teddy must have been nervous too, since him and his group eventually gravitated toward Irena and her new friends too. The ceiling was covered in magic floating candles. Irena caught Aria and Philomena staring upwards excitedly at it all. So what? Mum made candles float at home too!

They stood at the front, Irena felt the funny twist in her stomach. She wiped her hands on her robes again.

Longbottom placed a tiny wooden stool near the front with a frumpy, ugly brown hat. The professor was ginger and kind with it, setting it up perfectly. Irena watched in shock as it sat up, forming a face with its folds, and began to sing.

Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,
But don't judge on what you see,
I'll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There's nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can't see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffis are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends.
So put me on!
Don't be afraid!
And don't get in a flap!
You're in safe hands (though I have none)
For I'm a Thinking Cap!

The crowd cheered, clapping their hands as the hat finished its song. She peered up at the staff table. In the center sat an older woman in deep maroon and gold robes. She drank from a goblet, grinning down at all the first years. Beside her was a tiny dwarf, and on the other side was Dad- er, Professor Diggory. He smiled sweetly to Irena, muttering something to the lady in the center, who nodded and smiled, looking down at Irena.

"When I call your name, you will sit on the stool and place the hat on your head until it sorts you." Professor Longbottom said warmly. He took out a piece of parchment from his robes, unrolling it and squinting. "Antwork, George."

A boy with dark skin and curly hair stepped forward, sitting on the stool timidly. The hat thought for a moment before shouting, "HUFFLEPUFF!" The kids from the table in yellow cheered and clapped as he went and sat beside them. I hope I'm in Hufflepuff.. I really do!

Kids with A names went first, like Riley Appletree, who became a Ravenclaw, and Talon Aves, who became a Gryffindor. Then, there were B names, C names, and finally, D names. Longbottom cleared his throat. "Diggory-Black, Irena!" He called out.

"Good luck!" Teddy whispered as she left.

"It'll be fine!" Aria told her.

Irena went up to the stool, glancing to Dad and the Headmistress before looking at Professor Longbottom. She trembled a bit as she sat on the stool and he placed the hat on her head, beaming at her.

"Ooh, yes, I haven't sat upon a head like yours in nearly a century!" The Sorting Hat told her as everyone around the tables stared at her. Can you hurry this up? Irena begged. "Hurry up? We've only just got acquainted! Now, let's see.. I see a great mind.. so talented! What's this? A loyalty to friends, quite a lot of bravery, I'll give you that. I see.. a bit of selfishness and entitlement, ah a spoiled girl. I see ambition and the need to prove yourself.. with a mind like this and a history like yours.. I see no other choice.. SLYTHERIN!"

She froze on the spot, looking around. The kids at the Slytherin table cheered loudly, banging against the table loudly. "Go on then, love." Professor Longbottom told her in a quiet voice. Irena got off the stool, walking very quickly toward the Slytherin table. This was very much not what she wanted. Her cheeks flushed and she could feel the beginnings of tears in her eyes, she buried her face in her sleeves, listening to everyone else being sorted.

E, then it was F . "Fitzgibbons, Felix." Longbottom announced.

Irena raised her head to watch the boy through irritated eyes. The hat barely touched his head before announcing: "GRYFFINDOR!" The table roared in delight, Irena felt jealous. Even Gryffindor would be better than being in Slytherin. She looked up to Dad, who watched her intently, his facial expression unreadable.

"Fitzgibbons, Philomena." The professor called.

Felix's eyes widened as she stepped forward, sitting on the stool, sweeping her golden blonde hair away from her face and behind her ear. The hat hadn't even touched her head before shouting: "RAVENCLAW!" The table clapped ceremoniously, as if they were too good to bang on the table.

Irena let her face fall back into her arms as she listened. G, H, I, J, K, L .. "Lupin, Edward." Longbottom called out, peering around. She looked up again, noticing a bit of his hair on the back of his head twitched from brown, to auburn, to blond, then back to brown. He hated being called Edward.

The hat was quick with its decision: "GRYFFINDOR!"

Great, now I'm virtually alone!

More names were called and soon, Irena was not the only one at the Slytherin table. M, N, O, P, Q, R.. "Rowe, Aria." He called out.

The hat sat on her head for a while, Aria only grinned. Even from a distance, everyone could see that she would grow up to be beautiful. "SLYTHERIN!" The hat called out. Aria raced to the table, shoving herself in a seat beside Irena.

"We're together again!" Aria whispered with a grin as more kids got sorted. At least she had her new friend with her. Irena worried as she watched Teddy, him and all his friends had been sorted into Gryffindor. Did that mean they had to be enemies now?

The sorting ceremony was finished, and there was a good amount of students in each house. The Headmistress, McGonagall, stood by the podium while things quieted down. "I have a few start of term notices for all of you," She spoke in a clear, authoritative voice. "First years, as always, should note that the Forbidden Forest is forbidden to all pupils. Mr. Filch is asking that no magic be used in the halls during the passing period.

"As for our staff, Professor Remus Lupin has decided to take a leave of absence and in his absence, we will be joined by Professor Harry Potter, the newest Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." McGonagall said with a smile.

Irena watched as the man stood up by the table, adjusting his glasses and waving, smiling an awkward smile. The Gryffindors cheered, even a few Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws did too. His eyes drifted to the quiet Slytherin table, resting on Irena. He never visited like Uncle Ron and Auntie Hermione, but when he did, he was always curt and short with her. He'd never liked her, but maybe this year could change that. She wanted to be liked!

The food appeared at the table at once. Steamy roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, several helpings of the creamiest, cheesiest macaroni and cheese Irena had ever tasted, and steamed vegetables. Come dessert, she was almost too full, but indulged in a bit of chocolate ice cream anyway.

She was good and sleepy by the time everyone decided to sing the Hogwarts song, but she paid no attention to it. They followed the two prefects, Amanda Polliwog and Robin Boartusk, to the Slytherin common room. It was hauntingly beautiful, with bright luminescent green lights and decorative serpent art over the walls.

Irena yawned tiredly, going upstairs to the Girl's Dormitory, while the boys went downstairs. She went into the room, meeting with her new roommates. Aria was there, of course, with her bed set up by one of the windows, Irena's was beside hers at the other window. Tabitha Travers, who wanted to be called Tabby now, introduced herself, and so did another girl, Diana Dolohov.

She collapsed on the bed tiredly, yanking the curtains closed as she fell asleep.

That night, she dreamed she was a bird floating on the breeze over the lake.

Chapter Text

Monday, 7 September, 2009

"How do I look?" Irena asked. It was early in the morning on their first day of classes, she was quite nervous. The four of them had become fast friends over the weekend. They got their timetables on Saturday and spent the rest of the weekend exploring the castle. Irena didn't see much of Teddy, when she did, he was basically unapproachable.

Aria smiled. "You look fine! Come on now!" She reassured her. "We're going to be late for Transfiguration, we've already missed breakfast!"

The four girls rushed through the hallways, the corridors emptying as students made their way to class. "Get to class! Sooner rather than later, unless you want detention!" The apparition of Percy Weasley shouted to them. Some of the older students told the first years that he had died in the Second Wizarding War, but Irena was too shy to ask. Similarly to Teddy, he wasn't very approachable either.

They rushed into the Transfiguration classroom. "Good, he's not here yet!" Tabitha breathed a sigh of relief.

"You might want to rethink that.." Irena whispered, noticing the large pale gray wolf bounding towards them.

The wolf transformed right before their eyes, and suddenly, Irena's father was walking briskly towards them. "Such a pleasure to have you join the class, ladies." He smiled down at them. "Perhaps I ought to transfigure one of you into a pocket watch to ensure the other three will be on time."

"Sorry Professor Diggory." Diana whispered, looking down at her shoes, her auburn hair sweeping over her face and making a curtain.

Dad only sighed. "There's two desks just over there, please, sit down. We're taking a practice exam today, and that's all. I want silence in my classroom, so please, no talking." He said shortly. The three girls shuffled to their seats while his eyes remained on Irena. There was no time for talking- in this room, at this moment, he was her teacher, not her father.

Transfiguration was boring, but everyone had finished the exams early, so Professor Diggory ended up transforming his desk into a pig, then transforming himself into his Animagus form, then back.

Class was over, Irena waved goodbye to her father and went along with her friends to the next class, Charms. Charms with Professor Flitwick was an exciting class, Irena even got to wave her wand a little and try some spells. Then, it was lunch.

Out of the four of them, Diana was definitely the bravest, mixing foods together to try new flavor combinations. Tabitha was probably the most friendly, having invited Philomena, the Ravenclaw, to eat with them. The Gryffindor boys stared at them the entire time, whispering.

"Do you think they're plotting something?" Aria asked.

"Why would they be plotting something?" Tabitha asked, taking a large bite of food and swallowing.

Aria giggled while Irena grew red in the face. "Irena may have fed Felix a- what's it called again? - a Ton-Tongue Toffee." Aria informed them.

Diana giggled. "How long did his tongue get? I love the Weasley's shop in Diagon Alley. Mum never wants me to go in it, it's always so busy! She says it's full of naughty things- things that make your nose bleed and your ears turn pink."

"Yea, I know the guys who run it." Irena bragged. "My Uncle Freddie and Uncle George founded it, they let me sample things." She told them proudly. She thought of her two uncles and how she hadn't seen them in a while- maybe at Christmas?

Tabitha gaped. "Well, you'll have to buy us something !"

"Why would I do that?" Irena chuckled.

"Because they're obviously looking to get revenge!" Aria retorted, giggling. "I'd be careful if I were you, Irena. Because I don't think you're going to get out of this unscathed."

When lunch was over, the first years shuffled out to the Quidditch field for flying lessons. For once, Irena wasn't nervous. She was good at flying and she knew it, Ginny Weasley from the Holyhead Harpies had taught her how to fly, after all! They gathered around a large bundle of broomsticks, waiting for the teacher.

"Hello, hello, hello!" A cheery, chipper voice. A small, thin witch walked over to them. "Oh, you first years are so cute!" She giggled. "My name is Mathilda Honeybrook, but you can call me Ms. Honeybrook. I'm the Quidditch referee for the games and I teach children like you how to fly."

Teddy was with his friends. "What if we know how to fly already?"

"Then you'll feel right at home, Mr. Lupin." Ms. Honeybrook said. "Now, each of you go stand beside your broom and hold out your hands, tell the broom, Up! and we'll see who can get their broom the quickest. First student to do so will win 15 points for their house!"

Irena quickly went to a broomstick, Diana and Tabitha at her side. Aria and Philomena seemed more unsure, but Irena's cheek made up for the five of them. "Irena, I bet I can fly around the Quidditch hoops faster than you!" Teddy teased.

"We'll see." Irena told him with a smirk. There was a chorus of students shouting Up! to their brooms. "Up!" Irena told her broom, it floated up quickly to her hand. Teddy's did as well. Ms. Honeybrook was busy with Philomena, so Irena and Teddy mounted their brooms.

Teddy grinned as they kicked off, floating up into the air. "On the count of three- Felix, you count us off!" Teddy shouted to his friend.

Irena gripped her broom, shuffling her weight as she glanced to the boy below them. Felix squinted up and, for a brief moment, she was glad she chose to wear trousers that day. "One, two, three- go!"

The two took off, flying higher and higher towards the goalposts. Irena was lighter and more aerodynamic, Teddy was gangly and lean, like his father. "I thought this was supposed to be a challenge!" Irena teased.

"It is!" Teddy told her with a grin, leaning forward on his broom, moving quicker now.

The class watched them as the two of them flew around. Irena dipped and dived through the hoops with great agility and accuracy, just like Ginny taught her. Teddy hadn't done as well when flying with Ginny.

"My wand! I've dropped my wand!" Teddy squealed.

They were up so high, by the time the wand hit the ground, it would be good and lost. "Don't worry, Ted, I'll get it!" Irena told him, abandoning their game. She peered down at the wand, pushing the broom into a deep dive.

Her physical situation soon grew to be completely vertical, the wind blew through hair, disrupting any brushing she'd done that morning. The breeze ripped through her ears and her nose grew very cold, but she stretched out her arm, reaching the wand when it was only ten feet above the ground. Irena didn't pull her broom back up in enough time, she ended up crashing into the field, rolling slightly, but remained rather unharmed.

"Irena!" Teddy flew down to meet her while the class raced over to her.

"Your wand, Ed." Irena smirked, handing him the prized wood. He took it from her with a grin, helping her to her feet. Her heart raced, she had not felt that kind of exhilaration in a long, long time.

Ms. Honeybrook stormed over to them. "You two, McGonagall's office, now ." She growled.

Irena and Teddy looked to each other, shrugging. Aria gawked at her, as if she had underappreciated her skill. It was a good feeling to have everyone stare, she thought. Irena had shown off her gifts, what was the harm in that?

They walked through the halls to the Headmistress's office. Irena got that little feeling in her stomach again. "I think I'm gonna get in a lot of trouble.." She mumbled, looking to Teddy.

"Yea, they'll probably give us detention, but who cares?" Teddy grinned mischievously. "You saved my wand and we're both good at flying, better than those other kids. Maybe McGonagall will get you to join the Quidditch team early, like Uncle Harry!"

Irena shook her head. "Probably not! He was a Gryffindor, remember? I'm a stupid Slytherin." She pouted.

"Slytherin's got some cool wizards that came out of it!" Teddy tried to encourage her.

"Like who? You-Know-Who?" Irena retorted.

The pair were stopped very suddenly. Harry Potter, or, Professor Potter, stood before them. His hair was graying and he had a bit of a shadow on his face. He carried a walking stick and wore casual clothes, unlike other professors. "Teddy, where are you two off to?"

"McGonagall's." Teddy confessed. "We weren't being that dangerous, I promise!"

"I only did what you did!" Irena told him defensively. "Teddy dropped his wand and I went to catch it!"

"You know, you really ought to blame Ginny! She taught us all this stuff!" Teddy added on.

The professor only sighed, his eyes settling on Irena again. He could not hide his look of contempt for her, his eyes softened when he looked to Teddy. "I suppose you two ought to be on your way then." Harry said, hobbling away, leaning heavily on his cane.

They continued walking through the halls. Irena couldn't tell what was worse, the fact that she knew she was going to be in trouble, or the fact that she would have to tell on herself. They stepped into the office.

"Come in!" McGonagall's voice was heard from around the corner.

Teddy turned to look at Irena. "You stay quiet, I'll take it from here." He whispered to her. "Professor, how are you?"

"Oh, Mr. Lupin, it's a pleasure to see you." McGonagall smiled to Teddy. "You too, Ms. Diggory-Black. What's got you two in here? You should be enjoying your flying lessons with Ms. Honeybrook in the sunshine- while it lasts, anyway!"

He coughed. "Well.. Professor.. we've gotten in a bit of trouble, you see." Teddy began. McGonagall peered up at them from her papers, a reserved look on her face. "Me and Irena were on the brooms and she dropped her wand and I dove to catch it. I crashed."

McGonagall looked at Irena, then to Teddy. "Is that so, Mr. Lupin? Because, just by the state of Ms. Diggory-Black's hair and robes, I'd think that she would be the one who must've crashed into the ground."

Her eyes stared into Irena, making her feel even more guilty. "Fine, it was me! Teddy dropped his wand and I went to get it. I'm good at flying though, I swear! Ginny taught me and she was on the Holyhead Harpies and played Quidditch when she went to Hogwarts!" Irena rambled.

The Headmistress sighed. "Both of you, detention with Professor Potter this weekend, he needs help cleaning his classroom and planning lessons. If I hear any complaints from him, you will wish otherwise."

"Thanks Professor." Irena sighed in relief. Potter she could handle! She couldn't imagine having detention with anyone else, even as prickly as Potter seemed to be.

Teddy agreed. "Thank you, Professor McGonagall."

"Now go, I believe Madame Pomfrey will want to look at those scrapes." McGonagall sighed, going back to her paperwork.

Irena and Teddy walked to the hospital wing, giggling. "She didn't make me Seeker, but I suppose detention is better than expulsion." Irena boasted, laughing. Madame Pomfrey fixed up her scrapes and bruises, but not as good as Mum did.

A group came to the hospital wing. "Where'd you learn how to fly like that?" Tabitha asked earnestly, Diana, Philomena, and Aria at her side.

"Ginny Weasley." Irena gloated.

Diana shook her head. "You know all the Weasleys?" She said in awe.

"Well, yea." Irena shrugged. She liked being the center of attention! Even the boys gawked at her, Talon gaped, and Felix had a reserved look to him, as if he saw her in a new light. Good. Irena thought.

 

Tuesday, 8 September, 2009

The shuffling of papers, the smell of ink, the whispers of students. It was the next day, the second to final class of the day. Irena was tired already, having suffered through her History of Magic class before. Professor Binns wasn't nearly as entertaining as she thought he would be. All the first years were pretty disappointed by him and his teaching style.

Now, it was Defense Against the Dark Arts, a class that Irena was quite excited for. Dad had talked to her the day before, scolding her for disobeying and agreeing with McGonagall's detention. Irena knew she'd done wrong by flying dangerously, but it had been fun.

The gentle click of a walking stick alerted the class to be quiet. Professor Potter stood before them, adjusting his wizarding robes, clearing his throat. Irena sat near the front, sitting beside Philomena. Philomena had become her study partner, she was very smart. Irena could feel Felix's sharp eyes digging into them. Irena had not been the only one to notice their likeness.

"Please, quiet down." Potter's voice rang through the classroom, silencing whispers. "Welcome to first year Defense Against the Dark Arts, I'm your teacher, Professor Harry Potter." He paused as the words spilled from his mouth, as if he could not believe them. "I know how you all are, how you're feeling. I remember my first year at Hogwarts. Exhilarating, really. Very exciting."

Philomena raised her hand. The professor pointed to her, calling on her. "Is it true that you fought in the Second Wizarding war? That you won?" Philomena asked excitedly.

Potter smiled. "Yes, that is true-" Aria's hand went up. "You- what is your name?"

"My name's Aria Rowe." Aria told him. "Is it true that you used to play Quidditch too?"

He laughed. "I don't think that's a very appropriate question." Potter told her. "Let's stay on topic, eh? I'll answer any burning personal question after class." He told them, stepping over to a large screen, pulling it down by hand.

"Why not use magic to pull it down?" Irena whispered to Philomena.

Potter clicked his cane on the ground twice, looking to Irena carefully, the same look of contempt he always seemed to have when looking at her. She couldn't understand what made him dislike her so much- he seemed to like other students, but why not her?

"For your first year, we're going to focus on things you might already be familiar with from Muggle literature." Potter began. "We're going to learn about vampires, zombies, and a few easy defense spells. It'll be an easy year in this class, I want to keep it relatively stress free."

Irena watched him carefully as he clicked through the slides on the projector. A picture of a vampire, of a twisted and wicked looking zombie, a hag, imps, ghosts, and stuff Irena had never seen before.

The class was easy and quick, leaving time for whatever questions the first years had to ask. The Gryffindor boys were very excited that he would be their DADA professor. Next was Potions, Teddy bragged very loudly to the surrounding Gryffindors about how Harry was his godfather. Irena was very quiet. Nobody seemed to notice his apprehension of her, which was good. Irena only wanted to talk about things she was proud of, not things she was ashamed of.

"I'm kinda nervous to meet Slughorn.." Diana confessed as they walked to class, she had her arms crossed. "He's the head of our house, we want him to have a good first impression of us, right?"

Tabitha shrugged. "I heard he was nice- some of the older students talked about the guy who came before him. He was really, really mean. He worked for You-Know-Who, I heard. He died in the Battle of Hogwarts."

"He's been teaching Potions for generations, everything is gonna be fine." Philomena reassured the Slytherins.

They stepped into the dungeons. On the projector, Slughorn had a seating chart and the phrase, Let's harbor house unity, you'll never make friends unless you have the opportunity!

"Philomena was right, he is a big softie." Aria whispered to Irena, giggling.

Irena peered up to the seating chart nervously, wondering who she was sitting beside. Her eyes searched for her name as she stood by the entrance, the other students did the same. Her heart sank. Aria would be several tables away, Teddy too. Plus, she had to sit beside Felix, who she was pretty sure hated her.

"Hi." Irena muttered to him as she sat at the small table beside him. Felix didn't say a word, but Irena could see Talon, his friend, guffawing at Felix and probably Irena too. I hate boys. They're so stupid! She thought, taking out her parchment and quill.

Talon was mouthing things to Felix and pointing to Irena. "Is something the matter? Because if you're talking about me, I wouldn't mind hearing what you're saying." Irena asked sourly, partly to Talon and partly to Felix.

Felix turned and looked at her. Irena had never sat this close to him before, she could easily tell that his buzzcut was blond, like woven gold, like Philomena's. Unlike Philomena's brown eyes, Felix's were a shade of emerald green. "Sorry, this is a bit awkward." He said curtly.

"I'll say." Irena corroborated in a snotty voice.

"Could you introduce me to your Ravenclaw friend, by any chance?" Felix asked, scratching the back of his head, his black eye drawing her attention away. "Philomena Fitzgibbons.. I think she could be my sister."

Irena sighed, analyzing him. He was being genuine. "Yea, I can do that." She agreed, glancing to Philomena, who sat beside a Hufflepuff girl. The two of them laughed loudly. It's easy to have house unity when you're not in Slytherin.. Irena thought bitterly.

Class began, Slughorn was a short statured man who walked with a spring in his step and not a hair on his head. He rambled on about the class, as if it wasn't self explanatory. Potions class was for making potions, obviously.

"What is she like?" Felix asked in a whisper while Slughorn showed different potions he'd made before.

"Who?"

"Philomena." Felix asked. "Is she snotty and rude, or kind?"

Irena smiled a bit. "She's really kind, really nice. Funny too. A bit of a know it all, but seeing as she's Ravenclaw, that much is understandable." She chuckled breathily, fighting to keep her voice a whisper.

"Perfect." Felix grinned, going back to paying attention to the lesson.

She went back to her notes, glancing to Philomena. If Philomena was her friend, and Felix's sister, would that make Felix her friend by default? He was being rather kind, considering she'd tricked him into growing his tongue several extra inches.

Maybe making friends from other houses isn't as hard as I thought!

Chapter Text

Wednesday, 30 September, 2009

School was great, but a bit boring. Things had really started to settle in now, she was doing homework all the time- essays were a weekly thing, practicing magic was everyday. Irena had been doing well in Charms, she was the first in her class to complete the Levitation Charm. Herbology too, Professor Longbottom seemed to like her. His class was easy, it was mostly just following directions.

Felix had introduced himself to Philomena and, when retelling each other's stories, realized they'd been long lost twins. Now, they all ate together at lunchtime at the Gryffindor table. It was nice to be in Teddy's friend group again, it was as if nothing had changed.

It was Wednesday now, nearing the end of the first month. Dad always helped her with her homework, but she didn't really need him. Plus, it was more fun to do homework with her friends in the library.

After class, they went out to the Quidditch hoops to watch the teams practice, sometimes they even got to fly around on brooms too. Irena and Teddy were much better than the others, so they started to teach them how to fly. Talon got much better, nearly as good as Irena and Teddy. Felix wasn't very good, but Teddy and Talon were very patient.

Aria didn't really like flying, leaving Diana on the ground with her, since Diana wanted to impress her (or at least that's what Irena thought). This left Tabitha and Philomena to teach. Talon seemed very eager to teach the girls how to fly. Before long, they were all playing Monkey in the Middle with an old football.

They went back into the castle just as the sun set. Irena wanted to take a shower, so did all the other girls. It was warm that day, and they played very vigorously. "Race you there!" Tabitha giggled as they dropped Philomena to her common room.

"Not if I have anything to say about it!" Diana told her. The two girls ran down the stairs of Ravenclaw tower.

Irena and Aria giggled. "The water's always warm, I don't understand the rush." Irena told Aria.

"Do you think Talon likes Tabitha?" Aria asked. "He seemed very grabby to her today. I know there's a certain way you're supposed to sit on a broom, but it just felt like too much, you know?"

"We're 11. I don't think that's even on our radar yet." Irena teased as they made their way down to the dungeons. Diana and Tabitha were long gone now, set on taking their showers first.

Percy Weasley stood in the hallway, his face sour. "You're lucky you're here before curfew. Try to be a little earlier next time." He said pointedly to the two Slytherin girls. "Tell your friends next time I catch them running in the hall, they're getting a week's detention."

"Gotcha." Aria told him with a smile as they walked into the entrance of the dungeon. " Elder Wand. " She told the door. It was the correct code. The door clicked open and the two girls stepped into the common room. Students were busy with their homework, other Slytherins chatted eagerly with each other. "I wish we had cool apparitions like the Hufflepuffs do." She said with a sigh as they made their way up to their dorms.

Irena agreed. "I've only ever met the one Hufflepuff ghost, I didn't know there were two." She conversed.

"This girl was telling me all about it. There's one girl there named Veronica. She's a total airhead, apparently, but she's nice. Then there's another girl named Rose who likes to help others with their homework." Aria explained. "They always hang around each other."

She smiled. "I wouldn't mind being a Hogwarts ghost."

"I disagree." Aria teased. "Considering you have to die to become a ghost, no thanks!"

"We're all gonna die someday." Irena rolled her eyes as they made their way into the room. Tabitha sat on the bed, pouting. Apparently, Diana had beat her to the first shower. "I'd stay at Hogwarts instead of.. I don't know.. Hell ."

Tabitha chuckled. "Morbid much?" She asked, laying back on her bed. Her shower supplies were beside her, as if she were already gearing up to go in after Diana. "I don't wanna think about dying. It's too scary."

The door opened and steam came through the entrance. Diana's auburn hair was flat to her face. Tabitha stared at her. "I welcome death, it's comforting." She announced, adjusting her pajamas against her wet skin.

"You might be the only one who thinks that." Aria teased. Tabitha went to take her shower, Diana climbed onto her bed, looking through a picture book. "Irena, you can take your shower before me."

Irena nodded. "Thanks, Ari."

"We should have nicknames." Diana blurted. "Just like the Marauders from the 70s. It could be fun."

Aria laughed. "What would the names even be? Would we invite Philomena too? Would we make a little map too?" She teased.

"Yea, maybe you're right.." Diana mumbled, avoiding their eyes.

Irena grabbed her catalog from Witch's Weekly. She loved Christmas and was already picking out gifts for her wish list. "Isn't the Marauder's Map just an urban legend- er, a Hogwarts legend?" Irena asked casually. She looked at the catalog of gifts. A pearl necklace would look divine with her complexion, wouldn't it?

"I believe it's out there somewhere." Diana told her confidently. "It's probably locked up somewhere by Filch where no other students can get it." She was quiet for a moment as she continued to read. "It says here that the Weasley twins used it when they were at Hogwarts! Maybe you can talk to them, Irena?"

She chuckled. "Sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if they made that up too." Irena grinned, grabbing a Sticky Note, sticking it to the page beside a heart shaped necklace. "Mum says they like to exaggerate their stories. With all the stuff they say, I wouldn't be surprised if she's right."

They were quiet for a moment. Irena missed her mum. Sometimes, when she found herself alone, she'd think about her and feel like crying. Mum had never been this far away for this long before. Dad was in the building, sure, but it wasn't the same.

Before long, Tabitha got out of the shower, leaving Irena to it. She took a quick shower, mostly washing her body and hair. Auntie Luna made some special type of shampoo and conditioner for her, making her hair soft and silky. She was good at potions. Irena went to sleep quickly that night, not even being woken up by Aria coming out of her own shower.

 

Thursday, 1 October, 2009

Irena got up early. She'd been having lots of restless sleep lately. Her dreams were filled with flying, but never with a broomstick. It was weird, but very freeing. Just.. very restless.

It was only 7 in the morning; only 30 minutes before they had to be up for breakfast anyway. She yawned, going into the bathroom to brush her teeth. Maybe I can squeeze some extra time into my drawing.. Irena wondered. Potter had assigned them to draw a werewolf for their homework, which was one of the weirdest and easiest assignments she'd ever done. It was as if he thought they were children which, for all intents and purposes, they were. But Irena wanted to be taken seriously.

She clicked on the light to the bathroom, shutting the door behind her, looking for her toothbrush and toothpaste. Irena got it ready, wetting the toothbrush, putting the toothpaste on it, wetting the brush again, then placing it in her mouth. The bristles scratched against her teeth and gums.

Sometimes, Irena liked to see what she was doing in the mirror. She peered up quietly, looking at her mouth, then to her hair.

Her hair.

Her hair.

Her hair.

"OH MY GOD!" Irena screamed, dropping the toothbrush into the sink, spitting out the paste and rinsing her mouth. Her hair was a bright yellow, as if someone had snuck up on her and colored each strand with a highlighter.

Somebody stepped in, opening the door. "Can you shut it?" Diana whispered, looking at Irena. "OH MY GOD. YOUR HAIR!" Diana screamed.

"WHAT ABOUT YOURS?" Irena cried, looking at Diana's full head of bright, hot pink hair.

"SHUT UP!" Tabitha's angry voice came from inside the room. "Some people are trying to sleep!" Irena and Diana walked over to Tabitha's bed, ripping the curtains open. "What the hell?" Tabitha groaned.

Sure enough, her hair was a bright, luminescent orange. "Not Tabitha!" Diana squeaked.

Irena went to Aria's bed where she slept soundly, probably putting to work a silencing charm on her bed. Her hair was a bright blue, as if someone had taken a bit of the sky on a clear day and colored her hair. "Aria! We've been hoodwinked!"

Tabitha screamed when she saw her hair, Diana looked like she was going to be in tears.

"Hoodwinked?" Aria whispered, waking up, rubbing her face. She opened her eyes, widening them in shock as soon as she saw Irena clearly. "My God.. your hair!"

Irena shook her head. "Look at yours!" She told her.

All four girls stood in the bathroom now, each one could see the damage done. To whoever had done it, credit had to be given. It was a dye job that was enviable to Muggles, Irena knew that much. They would have to bleach their hair several times before dying it to get vibrant shades like theirs.

"I bet it was those Gryffindors." Aria hissed as she twisted a light blue curl around her finger.

"You don't think it was Philomena, do you? She'd never betray us like this!" Diana squeaked.

"Boys can't get up to the girl's rooms! There are protections in place!" Tabitha argued.

"Yeah, and first years aren't supposed to know how to do a spell like this." Irena retorted. Her mind raced a hundred miles a minute. How were they going to go to class like this? It was humiliating! "You three come with me, I'm gonna go see my Dad." Irena told them.

The four Slytherins wrapped their hair in scarves they had lying around, quickly getting dressed and leaving. There were a few Slytherin students in the common room, but they didn't say anything as the four girls ran past.

Irena led the girls to the Transfiguration classroom. Diana fought to open the door. "It's locked!" She told the other three. "Irena, I don't think your dad is in!"

She pushed them out of the way. " Alohomora! " Irena cast. The door clicked open. "You three stay here, I don't think he's awake yet." She told them. Tabitha shut the door closed behind them and the three girls took off their scarves while Irena went to his office.

If the talking didn't wake him, the loud banging on his door certainly did. Professor Diggory opened the door, looking down to Irena. "Good God, what time is it? What are you doing here?" He asked tiredly, still in his pajamas and nightcap.

"I need- well, we need your help." Irena told him, removing her scarf.

Dad ran a finger through her neon hair, a look of confusion and maybe a bit of disgust. "My word.. your hair is terrible!" He whispered. "Let's get you to the hospital wing." He stepped out of the door, glancing at the other three. "All of you?"

"We were.. hoodwinked!" Diana told him.

"Yes, I do think that's the case." Dad said. "If we go quickly, no one will see." Professor Diggory walked them to the hospital wing quickly, walking across the entrance to the Great Hall. There were students eating, students that had seen what had happened.

Footsteps were heard behind them, laughter too. "Colorful morning, Irena?" Felix called after her.

"You sick git!" Aria shouted, shoving him.

"Ms. Rowe!" Professor Diggory said sternly. "Let's get to the hospital wing, then we can settle this like people, not children." He muttered, glancing at the Gryffindors and Philomena. She was fighting to hide a smile, her hair was as normal as ever. "You four, come with me now ."

Eight students followed Professor Diggory to the hospital wing. "Oh, hello, Cedric, how are you?" Madame Pomfrey smiled, looking at the four Slytherin girls. "What have you done to your hair?"

Felix and Talon burst out laughing loudly, only to be silenced by Professor Diggory's silencing gaze.

"I think they might have pranked us, miss." Tabitha said politely. "Can you change it back?"

Madame Pomfrey glanced from the afflicted girls to the Gryffindors and Philomena. "What spell did you use to change the color?" She asked.

"We enchanted the shower head with the Color Changing Charm." Felix told them, clearing his throat while Dad stared down at them angrily. I hope they get detention for this! Irena thought with a smirk.

The nurse smiled. "Well, that should be easy enough to change back. Just tell me your normal hair color and we'll try different shades until we get it right. Who would like to go first?"

Irena raised her hand first. I don't want to miss class! She thought.

"Very well, Ms. Diggory-Black, let's see what we can do. Go ahead and stand in front of this mirror for me." Madame Pomfrey said with a kind smile.

Professor Diggory turned sharply. "You four, you're coming with me to McGonagall's office." He ordered.

"I didn't do it! They just told me about it this morning!" Philomena stammered.

"McGonagall will know. Come now ." He said sternly, leaving. The four students left after him. Felix turned to admire his work, grinning mischievously before leaving as well.

The other girls shook their heads in the mirror. "We'll find a way to get them back." Aria promised.

"Please, focus, Irena." Madame Pomfrey cleared her throat, dragging Irena's focus from their conversation to the mirror. " Colovaria, " She tapped her wand to her head. Her hair changed from neon yellow to a light shade of brown. "Alright?"

Irena blinked. "Could you make it the same shade as my eyes? Pretty please?"

She sighed audibly, smiling and shaking her head. She tapped the wand to her scalp again. " Colovaria ," Her hair turned several shades darker, matching her eyes perfectly. "Good now?"

"Yes, thank you!" Irena beamed as Aria shoved her way to be next. Truthfully, she'd changed her hair color to be a bit darker than it was normally, but Madame Pomfrey would never know the difference.

Diana looked at her reflection in the mirror. "I don't know.. I think I kinda like it." She mumbled.

"Are you kidding? Going to class with bright pink hair?" Tabitha scoffed, shaking her head. Aria's hair was back to black and she stood beside Irena while it was Tabitha's turn.

Aria shook her head, thinking. "We've got to get them back.. something humiliating."

"We could make their hair change colors too?" Diana offered.

"Copy them? No way." Aria growled.. "We need to go bigger.."

Madame Pomfrey glared at them. "You four need to be the bigger people, that's what you need to do." She told them sharply. Irena gave Aria a look to say, We can't talk about this here. Aria nodded her head in agreement.

After she fixed Diana's hair (who begged to leave a pink tinge to it), they scurried off for last minute breakfast, and a chance to change into their robes, only barely making it to class on time. There was no time to plot revenge, not until lunch.

"How'd you even do that?" Irena asked as they sat down at the table. Aria and Tabitha were still quite mad about the whole ordeal, Diana was just hungry, so she didn't do much talking.

Felix grinned proudly. "It was Teddy's idea, but I did the research in the library." He boasted. Irena felt upset all of sudden. She wanted to show off her magical prowess to everyone! She wanted to be better than Felix!

"Where did you get the idea from? You never told me." Philomena murmured.

Teddy suddenly grew red in the face, but it was Talon who answered. "Teddy's a Meta- a Meta- what is it now?"

"Metamorphmagus." Irena told him curtly, looking to Teddy angrily. "Does Moony know that you've told people about your secret? He won't be happy with you, I hope you know that."

He grew very flushed. "You won't tell him, won't you? These are my buddies- I trust them! They're nothing like the kids at the DA, not all of them are magical, you know! Of course they were gonna tease me about it.. they don't understand.. not like Felix and Talon."

"Aren't you gonna show us whatever a Metamor- whatever you can do?" Tabitha asked curiously and eagerly, her tone changing at once. It appeared that she was no longer mad at the boys.

Teddy grinned, turning his hair into a vibrant, wine colored purple. Then, it turned to Diana's hot pink, Aria's light blue, then back to the tawny brown color that Remus asked him to keep it too.

"Wicked." Diana and Philomena whispered at the same time.

"How much detention did McGonagall give you?" Irena asked in a teasing tone.

"Surprisingly, not that much." Felix said with a smile. "We just have to clean out the Slytherin dungeons next weekend."

Aria rolled her eyes. "You three are going to pay for what you've done, so I'd watch your back." She said suddenly, still quite angry with all of them. She stood up quickly, taking her lunch with her and storming away.

The table was quiet for a moment. Teddy and Felix were very quiet, picking through their food awkwardly.

"What's her problem?" Talon asked in a frustrated tone.

"I guess she didn't really like the prank.." Philomena mumbled.

"Girls are so confusing!" Teddy exclaimed when they were sure Aria was out of earshot.

Irena frowned. Boys are so stupid! "I suppose you wouldn't understand the importance of public appearance to some people," She said pointedly. "It's not a girl thing." Irena stood, grabbing a tiny sandwich and an apple, loping her book bag over her shoulder. "I'm going to make sure she's okay."

"Should we come too?" Tabitha asked, referencing herself and Diana.

"No, I've got this." Irena said with a smile, waving goodbye to the little group. The prank was a bit humiliating, yes, but it was funny to look back on. "See you all on the Quidditch field later?"

Teddy sighed. "No, it's supposed to rain today. Professor Longbottom told me."

Irena sighed. "Alright, see ya." She told them all, running to catch up to Aria to make sure she was okay. She also wanted to talk about revenge prank ideas with her.

The only way to truly get them back is to embarrass them like they've done to us.

Chapter Text

Monday, 26 October, 2009

"I don't think all this vengeance is good for your liver, Aria!" Philomena's inconsolable voice was heard from behind the group. "Seriously, I would just let it go!"

Aria turned on her heel, the other three girls just behind her. "Sorry, Philly, I didn't see those bloody Gryffindors dyeing your hair bright green!" She hissed. "Now leave us to this. If you're not quiet about our prank, then we'll include you."

Philomena squeaked in fear. "Alright! Alright!"

They'd spent the month researching different pranks in the library, asking older students for their prank ideas. Irena had even found a book in the library by the Weasley twins: How to Jinx Your Friends and Hex Your Enemies, by Fred and George Weasley . Of course, as soon as she'd found it, the Gryffindor boys came up to them. She hid it and could never find it again.. much to everyone's displeasure ("It's not my fault they don't use the Dewey Decimal system here, it's so confusing!" Philomena had said).

"Hair like woven straw.." Tabitha gushed. "I'd love to prank her!"

"She needs to pick a side." Diana said haughtily. "Us or them. She can't be in the middle."

"Maybe if she gets caught in the crossfire she'll pick a side." Irena mused while they walked quickly to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. "Maybe we should wait 'til the Gryffindor boys prank her. She's brilliant, you know, we could use her for more prank ideas."

Diana scoffed. "Brilliant? She's a know-it-all." They were quiet as they walked. "Maybe she could have good prank ideas though.."

"It shouldn't take a month to come up with an idea." Tabitha grumbled. "We're sorry excuses for witches. I bet they've already forgotten about their prank, they won't see the connection, they'll just think we're being mean."

Irena and Diana shook their heads. "I've still got people calling me Pinky- they definitely won't forget for a long time. All year, I think." Diana told her.

"Quiet you three! We're going in now." Aria snapped, entering the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Aria had slowly become Professor Potter's prized pupil over the course of the month, much to the dismay (and jealousy) of Irena. They were both skilled when it came to the class, better than Diana and Tabitha, Potter just didn't seem to cherish Irena's presence compared to Aria's.

They entered quietly. Professor Potter was at his desk, holding a small rectangle to his ear. It must have been a Muggle cellphone, he chatted eagerly with the person on the other end, wearing an easy smile on his lips. "Alright, Lily, give the phone back to your mum, okay?" He looked up to the four girls, pressing a finger to his lips to say shh .

Irena flashed him an uneasy smile as they went straight for the bookshelves. Professor Potter didn't have many books, he said he'd been collecting books on defense spells, but it was apparently a slow process. "There it is!" Irena whispered, noticing the Weasley prank book, ripping it from the shelf, sitting at a desk and opening it. Diana joined her, peering over her shoulder.

She flipped through the pages, looking for something to catch her eye.

The Stickfast Hex - Collosho (CAWL-low-shoo)

An excellent hex with many purposes! One time, when we were out of bed late at Hogwarts, the caretaker, Argus Filch, caught us. George had been reading about this one spell earlier- what was it again?- Colloportus! It seals doors closed, yes. Well, we used it on him and it's become a spell close to our hearts.

This hex can be used for mild pranking of friends, or, if one needed an escape from a captor, this spell could also come in handy for that.

"We could glue their feet together at the Halloween ball!" Diana whispered excitedly, reading over her shoulder. "Imagine them dancing, then all of sudden, they all trip over and fall over in front of everyone! It would be hilarious and so embarrassing."

Tabitha rolled her eyes. "As if they'll be dancing! Tom Yaxley told me that most students just hang out on the walls while the dance floor is empty. The only people who ever really dance are the ones who enjoy the music, enjoy dancing, or are spending time with a date."

"Did Tom Yaxley ask you to the dance?" Diana asked cheekily. Tabitha hit her over the head gently with a paperback book. "Jeez- okay! Chill, Tabby!" She squeaked.

Irena read on, looking to the next page. A small picture was painted for each hex. She ran her finger over the person stumbling over in the image, knocking their potions to the ground. The next picture was of a person laughing while many quills covered them, the feathers tickling them.

"We could tickle them at the dance!" Irena offered.

"Not embarrassing enough." Tabitha yawned.

"Will we ever find the perfect prank?" Diana asked with a sigh. "All these spells seem so hard.. we're only first years!"

Aria looked to Diana. "We're first years with a plan, passion, and drive. We could do anything ." She said assuredly.

"I still think we could change their hair colors." Diana mused.

"Teddy would change his back in an instant, that's no fun." Irena retorted with a grin. She liked Aria's sentiment. They were first years with a passion, a passion for revenge . That sounded cool.

Professor Potter set his phone down noisily, walking slowly to them without his cane. He was clearly limping. Mum and Dad never told Irena exactly what happened, but she knew he used to be an Auror. "What can I help you ladies with?" He asked with an easy smile, looking at Aria in particular.

"We need a really good prank idea." Diana squeaked. "Nothing mean, you know? But something embarrassing."

He smiled, rubbing his chin, looking at the shelves as he thought. Potter took a book from its place on the shelf. "Perhaps a Hair Loss Curse will do the trick." Potter mused with a mischievous grin. Irena stayed quiet, pretending not to exist.

"A curse?" Aria asked.

"Not a bad one, it won't do permanent damage." The professor reassured them. "No, this is perfect for a good prank." He gave the book to Aria, Curses and Counter-Curses by Vindictus Viridian .

Aria read it over with pursed lips. " Cal- "

"Oi! Not here, put your wand down!" Potter stammered.

"Sorry!" Aria squeaked, placing her wand on the desk. "Calvorio!"

The professor nodded proudly. "More emphasis on the vor part of it, otherwise you've got it down." Potter told her.

"Cal vor io?" Irena asked timidly.

"Precisely." Potter told her, flashing her a smile. It wasn't as warm as Aria's, but she took it as a sign. Did he see her prowess? Irena was neck and neck with Aria in his class, she wanted to be celebrated too!

Aria frowned. "Is there anything we could practice on? Anyone?"

"You're not practicing on me!" Diana squeaked, touching her hair at once. "I nearly lost my hair before, Mum wrote me a long letter, she thinks I dyed it on purpose and threatened to shave me!"

Tabitha and Irena giggled. "Shave you? That would be counterproductive, I think."

"I take her threats very seriously." Diana told her grimly.

"I believe Hagrid's just got some wild magic sheep- rainbow, I believe. They need shearing. You could always ask him." Potter said with a grin.

Aria smiled. "Thanks Mr. Potter!"

"Use the spell wisely!" The professor told them. Aria put the book back on the shelf, running off, Tabitha and Diana at her heels. Irena stood to follow them. "Irena, a word?"

Her stomach twisted. "Yes, professor?" Irena asked weakly. Was he going to warn her specifically?

Professor Potter looked to his shelf of books, sighing. "I love a good prank, as you know." He began, turning to look at her. "But I don't want to hear the specific details of this one. I don't want to be involved in your wrongdoings."

"Yes, I understand." Irena said coolly, wishing for nothing more than to run after her friends.

"If McGonagall asks, you found that spell yourself, alright?" Potter said with a grin. Another smile just for Irena. Maybe he liked her?

She grinned. "I know, Professor. We found that book after class and browsed through spells." Irena told him.

Professor Potter began to limp back to his desk. "I know that Sirius and Remus must have tipped off our dear Teddy for their prank, they were the Marauders after all, Master of Pranks at Hogwarts . Even Fred and George looked up to them." He sat down in his chair tiredly. Irena recognized his effort for his age. He wasn't a young Hogwarts student anymore, that was certain. Sometimes, the wistful way he spoke of Hogwarts would give away his love for the school. "I thought you four could use a leg up. Leveling the playing field."

"We're so grateful for your help, Professor." Irena told him with a smile, glancing at all the pictures on the wall. They'd been the first year diagrams of different creatures- giant tarantulas, zombies, vampires, werewolves. It reminded her of the DA. The kids there would always have their drawings in the hallways.

He chuckled. "Well, I suppose you ought to be getting on. I don't believe they'll reserve any rainbow sheep for you to practice on." Potter told her. Irena turned on her heel, leaving. The other three girls were gone, probably sprinting to Hagrid's hut.

Irena made her way through the halls quickly, sidestepping and dodging other students. I gotta get to Hagrid's hut! She thought as she panted, making her way outside. Irena ran down the path toward the hut where she saw the other three girls training.

"Did you- did you save any for me?" Irena asked as she approached, fighting to catch her breath.

"Yea, you can do those green ones over there." Tabitha said coolly. " Calvorio! " She incanted, flourishing her wand over a particularly bright red sheep. The red curls disappeared right before her eyes.

"Amazing!" Irena whispered.

She stepped over to the two green sheep. One was a bright green, the color of summer grass. The other was a deep emerald. Irena grasped her wand nervously- casting spells was still new to her and her confidence level was always low when practicing a new spell. " Calvorio! " Irena cast.

The light green sheep did not move as the red light spurted from her wand. The hair shrunk back into its follicles until the sheep was naked, its skin a pale shade echoing the color of its wool.

The emerald sheep was too busy with eating grass to realize his herd was suddenly very hairless. " Calvorio! " Irena cast again. The sheep made a little Mm? sound as the hair disappeared from its body.

Irena looked around. "I think we're ready!" Tabitha giggled excitedly.

The four girls began to walk back up as the sky was turning violet. "I can't wait to see the looks on their faces when they've realized that they've got no hair!" Diana gushed excitedly.

"It's what they deserve." Aria agreed.

They walked back into the castle, not even Percy Weasley could tell them off. They were right on time. "Oi! Irena!" A voice was heard with echoing footsteps. The four girls stopped, turning around to see who was speaking. Teddy approached gingerly, looking nervous in front of all the Slytherin girls. "Irena, have you got a date to the Halloween ball yet?"

"No, I don't." Irena replied curtly, looking to the other girls with a giggle.

"Well.. would you maybe want to go with me?" Teddy asked sheepishly. "Felix and Talon have got this bet their running against each other that whoever gets a girl to go with them to the dance, they'll get five galleons and.. well.. I really wanna win!"

Irena looked to the three girls awkwardly. She had not anticipated this. Diana nodded aggressively, though they were tiny nods. Any other time, she would have looked like she was spasming. She must mean yes.. Irena thought. "Sure Teddy, I'll go with you." She grinned.

Teddy beamed, turning around quickly. "I told you so! I told you so! Give me my five galleons!" He shouted, running down the hall where Felix and Talon stood, kicking dirt up with their feet stubbornly.

"You weren't supposed to say yes!" Talon called out to Irena, though the three boys were all smirking.

The girls giggled in whispers. "If we go to the dance as their dates- we can prank them easier- and at the same time!" Aria told them. She looked up to the boys. "I haven't got a date!"

"Talon, you could ask me!" Diana called after them cheekily.

The Gryffindor boys approached them. "Would you- would you like to go to the dance with me, Diana?" Talon asked eagerly.

"Yes, I would!" Diana purred.

Felix's eyes shifted to Aria, looking to her with contempt. "Come on Felix, have you got a date?" Aria asked pointedly, lifting her eyebrow and smirking.

"I think I'll go alone.." Felix told her with an uneasy smile.

"Come on, you could ask Tabitha too." Irena offered. She was glad Teddy asked her specifically. Going with Felix or Talon would be too awkward, she didn't know them as well.

Felix flashed her a grateful look. "Um, well, Tabitha, would you like to go with me?" Felix asked shyly.

Tabitha looked to him oddly until Aria elbowed her sharply in the ribs. "Sure, Felix, I'll go with you." She flashed him a smile.

The boys grinned. "I'll pick you up this weekend and walk you to the Great Hall." Teddy told Irena with a wink, dipping into a low bow and leaving, the other two breaking into a jog away from them.

The girls turned and continued to the dungeons. "I was supposed to go with Tom Yaxley!" Tabitha growled. "I was going to tell him when we got back."

"Then I'll go with him," Aria told him. "Don't you understand how perfect this is? We go to the dance with them- they think they won this prank war. We'll get them back and it'll be a total surprise. In front of everyone too!"

They snickered at the thought of the three boys, completely bald and hairless, in front of everyone. Irena held her excitement back, but she was very excited for those Gryffindors to get what was coming to them.

 

Saturday, 31 October, 2009

The four girls stood outside the dungeons. Irena put on the little dress Mum had packed for her. When she saw the older Slytherin girls, they were dressed much better, but they went the wrong way to the Great Hall. Irena made a mental note that when she was old enough, she wanted to be like them.

"Do you know why they're going the wrong way?" Irena asked as they waited for the Gryffindors to arrive. Diana's hair was curled, and Tabitha's straightened. The older girls loved to dote on them, which of course meant having them look their absolute best.

Tom Yaxley leaned up against the wall beside Aria. He was a second year student, and was taller than the rest of them. "They're going out for drinks at the Hog's Head, sneaking out, you know. It's invite only, thrown by older Slytherin students. They don't invite little kids like us."

"Who wants to drink anyway?" Diana retorted. "Mum says Pumpkin Juice tastes better than Firewhiskey." She said with a smile.

Tom only shrugged, as if he had nothing else to say.

Footsteps and laughter echoed through the corridor as the three boys came over to them, in their robes. Teddy and Talon looked fantastic, very professional. Felix's robes seemed a bit worn, outdated, and were likely hand me downs. Teddy grinned at Irena. "Ready to go?" He asked them.

"We've been ready! The dance will start soon." Aria grumbled, taking Tom Yaxley's hand as they all walked as a group to the Great Hall. Tabitha had been right, there weren't many students on the dance floor. All the more perfect to prank them! Irena thought with a smile.

There was a swinging jazz band in the corner. Older students danced vigorously, others crowded around the snack table. It was unlike any dance she'd ever been to. There had been Daddy-Daughter dances at Dumbledore's Preparatory Academy, but it was nothing like this. This.. this was for grown children.

"Are you hungry?" Teddy asked kindly. "I see they've got some pasties over there."

"Yes, please." Irena grinned, watching him leaving. Aria and Tom Yaxley had already made their way out on the dance floor, swaying back and forth, while maintaining a distance between them. Irena didn't know if Aria actually liked Tom, he wasn't particularly handsome, plus, he was a boy. They hated boys.

Talon and Diana left to dance as well, leaving Tabitha and Felix. "May I have this dance?" Felix asked kindly. Tabitha was watching Aria and Tom Yaxley quietly, a look of disgust clear on her face.

"Sure." Tabitha said sharply, following Felix out to the dancefloor.

Irena watched them as Teddy returned, handing her a cookie that changed colors and a cup of fruit punch. "After eating, do you wanna dance?" Teddy asked with his mouth full.

"Sure." Irena told him, eating the cookie in swift bites, downing the fruit punch quickly. Teddy did the same, grabbing her hand and pulling her out to the floor.

The jazz band was in full swing, playing a happy tune that allowed all the kids to jump around and "dance". Irena didn't care, she was having fun and waiting for Aria's signal. Aria wanted to flash them a hand sign so all the boys would have their hair removed at the same time.

Philomena approached, dancing alongside Irena and Teddy, grinning to Teddy.

The band changed tunes, playing a slower tune now. Older students got closer to each other, wrapping their arms around each other as they swayed back and forth. The younger students fled the scene, but Aria looked to the three girls, flashing the hand signal. "Now!" Aria whispered sharply.

" Calvorio! " Irena whispered, flourishing her wand in Teddy's direction. She heard Diana and Tabitha do the same.

Teddy's hair on his scalp disappeared before her eyes. He let out a yelp, looking to the other two, touching his now bald head. "My hair!" He exclaimed. "Your hair!"

Felix and Talon touched their heads too, though Talon looked much more alarmed (he took good care of his hair and was proud of the way it looked). The three of them ran off, leaving the girls giggling.

"That was the prank?" Philomena scolded the four of them as they made their way to the walls.

"You know, I think they'll be too proud to admit who made their hair disappear," Diana grinned mischievously. "Talon won't want to admit that a girl made him go bald in the blink of an eye!"

Tabitha and Aria laughed while Philomena shook her head. "McGonagall will find out one way or another, I hope you know that." Though she too was smiling. It'd been a funny prank.

The boys were not seen for the rest of the night, much to the girl's delight. They all went to bed that night, sleeping a little easier, knowing that the Gryffindors finally got to feel the same humiliation they felt.

Chapter Text

Friday, 20 November, 2009

Irena let out a hefty sigh as she sat down at the Slytherin table. It was all becoming too much.. too much to bear. She was really looking forward to Christmas break. It gave her push, it gave her drive. She knew it'd be awkward if she came back from Hogwarts having failed her Astronomy quiz, but she wasn't sure she'd done well on it.

"So, are you guys gonna stay at Hogwarts over break or..?" Tabitha asked casually as Irena sat down tiredly.

Diana shook her head. "I'm going to see my mum. She misses me." Diana said plainly.

"I'm not staying.. I don't wanna be here one more minute." Tabitha agreed.

Aria was very quiet. "What about you, Irena?" She asked tentatively.

"I'm going home. Mrs. Weasley throws a Christmas party every year, then Mum throws a New Year's party." Irena replied tiredly. "Should be so much fun. Alone with Teddy. Pretending to be friends for my family's sake."

She blinked, sighing. "Well, I'm not going back to Chatsby’s. I don't think Felix will either." Aria said plainly, picking through her dinner.

Irena looked back at the Gryffindor table to the boys. Madame Pomfrey grew their hair back perfectly. Teddy's hair was its same tawny brown color, Talon's was long and black to his ears, but Felix was the luckiest. He no longer had a buzzcut, but instead, a pile of golden curls sat atop his head. He looked more like his sister now than ever before.

Philomena sat beside them at the Gryffindor table, laughing with the others.

"She's chosen her people. No need to bother with her now." Aria chided.

"It'll be fun, won't it, Irena? Brushing elbows with the Weasleys?" Diana changed the subject, smiling warmly to Irena. "Maybe they could give us some prank ideas."

Irena shook her head stubbornly. "No more pranks." She said flatly. It'd be good to get away from Hogwarts for a while. The Gryffindor boys were ignoring them, Philomena had to pass messages from person to person. Sure, she would hate to be around all her siblings, the house was so busy, but it would be good to be around people who weren't Slytherin.

Her stomach ached, still reeling from her nerves around the test. I want to go home. Irena thought. She almost felt like crying, being overcome with homesickness. "You alright, Irena? You look a little green and blotchy." Diana asked.

"I need to go have a lie down." Irena sighed. She stood, making her way out the door.

Drip, drip, drip.

The magical ceiling was.. raining? I don't have time for this. Irena thought stubbornly, walking faster. The rain seemed to follow her, pouring even quicker now, drenching her. Irena looked around. No where else was it raining, it was just a small cloud following her.

By now, everyone was quiet, watching her. Irena waved her hand over it, trying to get it to disperse, but the cloud would not quit. The Gryffindor table was roaring, more than just the boys they'd pranked. The rain got worse. Irena felt flushed, having the whole table laughing at her.

I need to get out of here! Irena thought, beginning to walk quicker now to the door. There was a puddle on the floor, making her slide and fall to her knees. The laughter was loud now, more than just the Gryffindor table.

"Irena!" Diana squeaked, running over to see her. A cloud had begun to gather over her head too. As Tabitha and Aria approached, they too had clouds. "Are you alright?"

Tears threatened to spill from her eyes. She lifted up her hands. They were bleeding, and her knees on her pants had been torn, she bled from her knees. But the thing that hurt most of all was everyone's eyes on her, everyone's laughter.

" Finite Incantatem! " A strict, authoritative voice rang through the laughter. Irena watched Dad walk over to the four girls quickly. The others weren't nearly as wet as her. Her hair stuck to the sides of her face. "Come on, Rena, let's go get you some dry clothes." He whispered. "You three, come with me. Do you have any idea who could've done this?"

Tabitha blinked. "Well.. Teddy, Talon, Felix, and Philomena I'd think.." She muttered.

Professor Diggory nodded. "Professor Longbottom, would you round up those four and bring them to McGonagall's?" He asked. The head of Gryffindor house nodded, leaving to his table.

Irena felt herself being guided toward somewhere, but she felt frozen in embarrassment, not wanting to look at anyone. They stepped into the Headmaster's office, dripping wet. "Professor Diggory! Why have you brought these wet students into my office- oh they're dripping all over the floor!"

"You ought to ask Professor Longbottom about why my daughter and her friends are soaking wet." Dad seethed. Irena looked up to him. He didn't get mad often, so when he did, Irena knew he was serious.

"Sorry, Professor, I've got no clue what you're on about." Longbottom called. Irena watched as he pulled in the four students, all looking quite guilty. "I've called Slughorn and Flitwick here as well."

McGonagall shook her head. "Can you tell me why all four heads of houses are coming to my office?" She asked pointedly, irritated.

"There was a rain cloud over my daughter's head." Dad hissed. "They tell me it was those four."

The door opened again. "I was called?" Slughorn's voice echoed in the room. Irena began to shiver. "Flitwick and Potter are also on the way."

" Potter ? What's he got to do with this?" Longbottom asked in an annoyed tone. "Godric's sake, he better not be undermining me again! I'm Head of House, not him!" He growled.

"ENOUGH!" McGonagall bellowed, quieting them all down. Irena had never heard her shout before, it was a little scary. The door opened and Irena watched Professors Flitwick and Potter come through, albeit slow, since Potter had his cane. "Can someone- in a calm manner, tell me what's going on?"

It was quiet for a moment. "Professor, it wasn't me! I've done nothing! It was all them!" Philomena squeaked, whether she was pleading to McGonagall or Flitwick, Irena had no idea.

"Sure, Philomena, go ahead and act like you had nothing to do with this." Aria snapped. "I saw you laughing with them too."

McGonagall closed her eyes, taking a deep breath in. "What happened?"

A pause. "We might have conjured up a few rainclouds to follow the girls around the Great Hall.." Teddy confessed. "We didn't mean for anyone to get hurt!"

"Well, apparently, you didn't mean well enough." Dad seethed.

"Leave the lads alone, they're just trying to have a little fun!" Potter defended them.

Dad scoffed angrily. "And let the girls get bullied for it? Just a month ago, they changed their hair color-"

"-they did get detention, Cedric-" Longbottom added.

"- and now my daughter's soaking wet, bleeding from her hands and knees, much to the joyous uproar of everyone in the Great Hall." Dad snapped. Irena wanted to curl against him, as if hugging him would make all the bad feelings go away.

McGonagall stood. "Cedric, I must ask you to stand down." She said sagely. "You're not thinking like a teacher, you're thinking like a parent." She told him, her tone serious. Not even Dad could argue with that.

"I think Professor Diggory has a good point." Slughorn commented. "These boys have been quite naughty.. not very unified as houses."

"I don't understand." Potter scoffed. "A little prank war never hurt anyone!"

"This isn't a war, it's one sided!" Dad rose to the occasion.

"No, because just a month ago, these four came to my classroom looking for a jinx or a hex to prank these Gryffindors with." Potter told them. Irena felt guilty. It was payback, wasn't it? "Took all their hair off. Brilliant spell, brilliant execution. It was funny . Just like this prank was funny."

"You think it's funny that these kids have made my daughter slip and fall in front of everyone?" Dad laughed, almost angrily, almost forced, as if he couldn't believe what he'd said. "It was funny that she fell and started bleeding. God's sake, it's just like last time, Potter!"

The professor frowned. "Last time?" He stammered before his face twisted in realization. " Last time? When will you get it through your head that it was an accident- Fawn's already forgiven me.. it's been over a decade, Cedric! Let it go!"

"I will never forget how you refused to give up that damn book." Dad spat.

"It was burned up with the rest of the hidden things!" Potter told him angrily.

"You just don't seem to value the women in my life like I do." He muttered. "What if it had been Cho? Or Lily? Or Minnie? You wouldn't be upset?"

Potter opened his mouth to speak, but was silenced. "Diggory, Potter, I think me and Slughorn can take it from here, you two can go outside." Longbottom said, fizzling the tension out. The two men left.

"I do believe I've seen that spell before, though it must have been years.." Slughorn muttered as the door closed behind them. Irena shivered, feeling very awkward now. I wish Dad was still here..

"I was thinking the same thing." Flitwick grinned. "So I suppose we know who they got the idea from.."

Teddy's face paled. "How'd you know?"

"Remus, your father, he played the same prank when he was your age." McGonagall told them, almost wistfully. "Him and the Marauders on a poor Slytherin boy named Severus Snape. Did he tell you about that? Did he give you the idea?"

He sighed. "Well.. yea! I told him we were playing pranks on Slytherins-"

"-You didn't think to mention that you were playing a prank on your cousin, then?" McGonagall said roughly. Teddy grew very quiet. "That was a very cruel prank, very embarrassing. I will let Slughorn decide all of your punishments."

Talon sighed audibly, putting his face in his hands. Irena bit her lip, willing herself not to cry. Crying was weak and childish, but she wasn't sure she'd be able to hold in her tears if she saw Dad again.

"I've got half a mind to keep you four for Christmas break to do work around the castle-" Slughorn began.

"Please, Professor, I need to see my family! I miss them!" Philomena sniffled. She was crying now. She's weak. She hadn't even been pranked!

Slughorn quieted her. "I won't make you stay for Christmas. I expect you all to be in my classroom for detention every night until break. I've got cauldrons that need scraping, walls that need scrubbing, vials and beakers that need to be cleaned. I could use the help."

Longbottom and Flitwick nodded their heads. "That sounds like a reasonable punishment." The professors agreed.

"Very well, Horace, you've got some cleaners for your classroom." McGonagall told him. "All of you better get going if you want to make it before curfew." Her attention turned to the Slytherin girls and the Gryffindor boys (and Philomena).

Professor Longbottom exhaled sharply. "I've got quite a few things I'd like to say to Potter.." He grumbled, getting up and leaving. The Gryffindor boys followed after him tentatively.

Philomena was crying now. "Come on, let's go back.. not too bad of a punishment really.." Flitwick murmured.

The Slytherin girls walked out without Irena while she went to her father. Dad didn't care if she was wet, he embraced her tightly. When everyone was gone, she let herself cry. "Daddy.. everyone was laughing at me.."

"It's okay." Dad told her gently, tucking a lock of wet hair behind her ear. "They'll forget all about it come Christmas. New Years will start with a new, clean slate." He smiled at her gently.

Irena sniffled, wiping her eyes on her hand and her nose on her robes. "You think?"

"I know ." Dad told her. He circled his wand over her knees, healing them quickly, then her hands. "Let's get you to bed, eh?"

She shook her head. "Can I stay with you? Please?"

"Just another week before break." Dad reminded her. "We can be together as much as you want after that." He stood, taking her hand in his as they walked down the hall toward the dungeons. Percy Weasley stormed over to them, but Dad waved to him. Even Percy cracked a rare smile to him.

He paused at the entrance to the Slytherin dungeons, bending down to get to Irena's level. "I'll see you tomorrow, alright? We can have lunch together, work on Transfiguration homework. I've noticed you've fallen behind."

"Sure." Irena told him curtly.

Dad kissed her forehead. "I'll see you in the morning, would you like me to walk you in?" He asked.

"No, I've got it." Irena said, though she secretly wished he would. She didn't want everyone to think she was some weak little girl who had to have her dad do things for her- even if she wished it were so. Strong witches didn't have their parents behind them, did they?

She walked in, ignoring the prying eyes of everyone around her as she walked up to her dorm. The other girls were busy drying their hair and robes. Irena felt embarrassed around them. She didn't say a word as she changed out of her wet clothes, hopping into bed and pulling the curtains around.

"Irena?" Diana's voice called.

"Go away." Irena told her.

"Okay well.. I love you, you know! Just hope you know." Diana told her gently. Irena listened to her receding footsteps. Irena stifled her cries in her pillow, but couldn't stop the tears from coming now that she was in private.

 

Friday, 27 November, 2009

The train sounded a large toot toot to signal to the passengers that they should board. Hogwarts students did not hesitate to board, seeing as fat snowflakes began to fall from the sky. Irena was boarding alongside Tabitha and Diana.

Aria stood at the station in a wool coat, waving goodbye to her friends, a sad look on her face. Irena turned, waving to her with a quiet smile before getting on the train beside her friends. They sat down in a compartment. Irena looked out the window gloomily as the train started to move. Snow covered pine trees blew past them.

The door opened and the worst person stood before her. "Can I sit with you guys?" Teddy asked.

"No." Irena said plainly. "Get out."

"But Talon's staying behind with Felix to keep him company- I've got no one to sit with!" Teddy exclaimed.

Diana rolled her eyes. "Go sit with Philomena and leave us alone!" She grumbled.

Teddy pursed his lips, as if he wanted to say something, but he just left them all alone. Irena looked back at the window, knowing it was going to be an awkward Christmas this year.

By the time night rolled around, the train arrived at King's Cross. Irena watched as Diana dove into her mother's arms, embracing her, while Tabitha walked to her mother with a smile. "Ready to get going?" Dad asked from behind. "Mum's out in the car, she says it's too cold to wrestle the others out. Teddy's riding with us too."

"Ugh! Are you kidding?" Irena huffed.

"Be kind to him, just during this break." Dad chided, grabbing her hand tenderly. Teddy ran up to them, walking behind them. Dad walked them all out to the baby blue car.

Mum stood, embracing Irena tightly. "Oh- I've missed you!" Mum gushed, covering her face with kisses. Irena felt so happy she could cry. Mum stood, kissing Dad on the cheek. "I've missed you too, but you already knew that."

"Remus asked me to take Teddy." Dad told her. "Full moon's coming up."

"Yes, Sirius is at Grimmauld Place with the younger ones." Mum said. "Go on Teddy, hop in the back- Leo, get out of the front seat and sit in the back, Dad's riding shotgun."

Irena watched as her younger brother groaned, getting up and leaving. Leo sat in the middle while Irena and Teddy sat on either window in the very back. Aurora and Zenith sat closer to the driver's seat.

"So, how was Hogwarts?" Leo asked, glancing at Irena and Teddy.

"Fine." Irena muttered.

"Yea, it's fine." Teddy mumbled.

Leo raised an eyebrow, rolling his eyes. "Whatever. Don't tell me. I don't care." He rolled his eyes.

They drove through snowy London. Other cars didn't do so well in the snow- Muggle cars. Their car was magic and handled just fine, thanks to Padfoot. He loved working on cars and motorcycles and things. He wasn't a salesman by any means, but he enjoyed making a bit of money from what he loved.

Dad lifted Irena off the sidewalk by her arm as they walked in, giggling. The house was warm and full, it smelled of warm cooked dinner. "There they are!" Padfoot's voice called through the house. Irena ran to embrace him before Teddy embraced his father. "What's this I hear about you getting in trouble at school?"

"Dad.. it was just a prank!" Teddy huffed to his father while Irena's father took Irena's things up to her room. In the living room, Irena watched the three girls, Sunshine, Selene, and Nova play fairies. In another world, she would have joined them, but she felt too grown up now.

Sirius shook his head. "We don't play pranks meant for enemies on our family, Ted." He murmured.

"She made my hair disappear at the Halloween ball!" Teddy said defensively.

"She did, did she?" Padfoot said teasingly, looking up to Irena with a proud twinkle in his eye. "Nice one!"

Irena felt proud again. "Professor Potter helped us. He gave us the idea."

"Professor Potter.." Sirius laughed. "James would love to hear that.. ah. I heard Cedric and Harry got in a bit of a tiff in McGonagall's office."

Mum was nearby, working in the kitchen, even if the saucers and bowls weren't moving themselves thanks to Padfoot's household magic. "A tiff? Cedric and Harry never told me about that." She muttered.

"It wasn't a tiff.." Dad argued, sitting at the table with Leo and Perseus as they played with their Wizard action figurines. "Just a mild disagreement."

Padfoot laughed. "One that led to you two having to be sent out of McGonagall's office! Nothing escapes us, me and Moony. Flitwick writes to him nearly every week, updating him with all the news. Flitwick sees all ."

Dad rolled his eyes. Mum was not pleased. "Well, I hope Cedric hasn't scared him off too bad, I was looking forward to seeing him at the Burrow this year. I haven't seen Cho in ages, I'm sure Minnie's grown up so quickly, just like little Aurora."

"Are the Malfoys coming to the New Years party this year?" Dad asked.

"I've invited them." Mum replied casually. "But if you and Harry are having a tiff, I might have to tell Draco not to come. You know how they are.. even after all these years."

Sirius frowned. "That'll change. Draco's got his daughter, Isabelle, Harry's got his daughter, Lily. Once they get to Hogwarts, they'll be great friends, I know it. Once they're friends, Harry and Draco will have to reconcile."

"For the sake of our traditions, I hope you're right, Padfoot." Mum muttered, drinking something from a cup, wincing. "The Burrow will be busy this year."

"It's always busy." Dad laughed. "Molly had so many kids and they've all had kids too!"

"I hope our house is like that someday." Mum grinned. "I want to be old and have twenty grandchildren."

Padfoot laughed. "Good luck! Kids these days.. never mind." Irena giggled, making Sirius chuckle.

I'm never getting married to a stupid boy!

Chapter Text

Thursday, 24 December, 2009

"Come on, Nova, we don't have all day!" Mum yelled up the stairs. "God's sake, I don't want to be late to Molly's party! Padfoot and Moony have left already!" She shook her head while Dad stood beside her.

He grinned an easy smile, kissing her forehead. "We'll be early even if we leave in 15 minutes, don't worry so much, love." Dad told her. When Irena saw them together, it made her heart warm. Moony said they were proof that soulmates exist. It was a comforting thought to know that someone out there was going to love her unconditionally.

The little mousy haired girl teetered down the stairs, forcing the family to rush to the car. Dad had put an undetectable extending charm on the car, so there was more seating than Muggles could tell from the outside. Nova and Selene sat near the back, clutching a few of their dolls. Perseus and Leo were playing cards, leaving Irena with the babies.

It wasn't that she didn't like Zenith and Aurora, they were only 2 and 1 years old, respectively. So.. they were annoying. At least Zenith babbled in baby talk. Aurora only ever cried. Irena sat quietly, looking through a book she'd brought. It was a book from the Hogwarts library about Animagi.

Padfoot always seemed to love transforming into his dog form, and Dad into his wolf form. She was curious how to become one- or at least figure out what her form would be if she decided to transform at all.

The ride was long from London up north where the Weasley clan originated. Irena read a lot about famous Animagi, which was slightly exciting, but looking out the windows kept her from being carsick, so she did that instead.

They arrived by sunset, walking through the doors of the tall house. The house was pleasantly warm, music played throughout the home and it smelled of delicious food. "There you are!" The older woman, Mrs. Weasley, squeaked. "I was worried when you didn't come early."

"Oh, Molly, you don't have to worry!" Mum grinned, embracing her. "The war's long over, peace is here. Who else has arrived?"

Mrs. Weasley smiled. "Everyone, almost. They're all in the living room, in case you wanted to say hello." She told them all, winking to Irena as she followed her siblings to the living room.

Irena stayed close to her mum. She was always nervous at these- seeing people once a year was nerve wracking. "There's my favorite god-daughter!" A familiar warm voice was heard. Irena grinned, running to embrace Hermione. "How is Hogwarts? Everything you've ever dreamed of?"

"It's lovely." Irena told her.

"Lovely is an understatement." Ron grinned, taking a swig of whatever he was drinking.

Hermione pulled Irena up on her lap, wrapping her arms around her tightly. Irena smiled as Ginny and Luna appeared in the doorway, two small children in their arms with their heavy winter coats. "Not good flying weather!" Ginny chorused as she came in.

"Is it ever good flying weather?" Luna chided glumly, placing her baby down. The child, Little Molly, took off right away alongside her brother.

Ginny came forward, taking off her coat and hanging it up. "Oi! Ron's turning into Uncle Bilius!" She teased, taking the bottle from his fingers, sitting between Hermione and Ron. She looked at Irena. "Oh that's right- you've started Hogwarts this year, haven't you?"

"Yes." Irena grinned.

"What's your favorite class?" Ginny smiled.

"Flying." Irena said proudly. "I'm the best, but the flying instructor hates it. Slughorn says I ought to try out for the team next year."

Ron laughed. "'Mione, remember Harry in his first year? When he went to fetch Neville's Remembrall from Malfoy? Christ, he really was an excellent Seeker." He chuckled wistfully.

"Any boys at school caught your eye?" Luna asked, sitting down on the floor beside the couch, playing with little baby Aurora. "I know when I was your age, I had the biggest crush on a sixth year named Mercury Selket, a Ravenclaw. He thought I was a bit too odd.. his loss I suppose."

Ginny chuckled. "His loss is right! My gain!" She teased, making Luna laugh.

"I haven't got any boys in mind.. boys are dumb." Irena told them, making the group of adults laugh.

Hermione giggled. "You keep that in mind when you start fancying them. Boys are dumb."

"Oi!" Ron laughed. "Is Harry coming? Does anybody know? I miss that bloke.. only wondering what he's up to on Christmas Eve."

Mum and Dad sat down in a loveseat close by. "Harry and Cedric apparently got in a bit of a tiff last week." Mum explained. Dad rolled his eyes.

"A tiff? That's quite exciting. Did you duel, or just fists?" Ron asked Dad.

"No, we didn't fight. " Dad said grumpily. "Just a disagreement."

It was obvious to everyone in the vicinity that it was a touchy subject. "I'll just ask Harry 'bout it then.. if it's that much of a tiff." Ron whispered under his breath, fiddling with his wedding ring on his finger.

The door opened and in walked two twins- the famous Weasley twins. Irena recognized Angelina Weasley from all the photos hung around the Quidditch shop in Diagon Alley. Her two children followed after her, Ember and Herb. George was next with his wife, Daisy. Daisy was a Muggle, so she wasn't particularly famous in the Wizarding World. Their children, Arthur and Audra, ran off with their cousins upstairs where all the other children were.

"Saw Bill in Diagon Alley today!" Fred announced. "He and Fleur finally got time off this year, they should be on their way." He grinned, putting his coat up on a hanger.

Just as they made their way inside, Sirius and Remus and their children entered. Irena avoided Teddy's gaze, instead watching Sunny run up the stairs to the others. "Why does it feel like someone should be upstairs watching all those children?"

"It's Christmas holiday- we're taking a holiday from children rearing." Ron grinned cheekily.

The night ticked on as the adults recollected their memories from Hogwarts, laughing. Irena felt grown up and mature around them all, but she was wanting to go upstairs. Drunk adults were no fun to be around.

The door opened and two families came in. Irena didn't recognize the red haired man, he had a large scar across his face. His wife stood beside him, perfectly beautiful. They had two daughters beside them and one son. "Victoire, Dominique, Louis, allez! " The woman instructed.

The eldest girl looked only a year younger than Irena, she thought she'd recognized her from Dumbledore's Academy, but the thought was fleeting as the three of them raced up the stairs. "Fleur!" Mum said happily as the blonde woman, Fleur, embraced her.

Fleur glanced at Irena. "Is this your daughter?" She asked warmly, her voice thick with a French accent. " Elle est belle! C'est magnifique! "

Irena blinked awkwardly, suddenly curling into Hermione shyly. "Oh, Irena's a bit shy." Mum told her with a warm, teasing smile.

"Ah." Fleur chuckled. "Irena, I remember the day you were born! It was at my house, at Shell Cottage. Oh, it was a blessed day, truly." She said wistfully, embracing Dad.

The other family who'd entered the house was Professor Harry Potter and his family. Irena watched as a young Lily Potter raced up the stairs to join the others, her brother at her side. His wife, Cho, held a baby who seemed about Aurora's size, going to sit in the living room.

Harry looked to Irena, dipping his head. "Was wondering when you would get here, mate." Ron grinned, dabbing him up and shaking his hand.

"It's good to see you, both of you." Harry grinned, embracing Hermione, then Fawn as well. "Sorry if we're a bit late, Minnie was not very interested in laying down to sleep in the car. Cho's the only one who can drive and I'm no good with her."

Cho rolled her eyes as Mum took the baby from her, bouncing her. Minnie had dark hair growing on her head, while Aurora's was a lighter shade of brown. "Mum, when are the holiday festivities going to begin?" Ginny called out.

"Soon, I'm very glad Harry's here." Mrs. Weasley grinned. "If you want to call down all those children from upstairs, perhaps that'd be a good idea."

Sirius stood, kissing Mrs. Weasley on the cheek tenderly, leaving upstairs to his husband. Irena was excited for the Christmas festivities. Every year, the Weasleys would put on a little show. It was the same every year, but she still enjoyed it. Hermione squeezed her contently. "Are you ready for Saint Nick to bring your gifts?"

"Yea.. Saint Nick .. that's definitely what's about to happen." Irena giggled. The adults around her laughed, which made her feel good.

The hoard of children came downstairs. Irena watched as every single one of her siblings climbed onto her parents laps, even Leo, who was much bigger than the others. Ginny dipped down to the floor with her wife, since Rose and Hugo wanted enough room to sit on Ron's lap.

Mrs. Weasley came out with a small, beaten up story book. She sat down on one of the empty chairs and the music stopped as she began to read. Everyone listened quietly as she began. " 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house; not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse! The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there, " She turned the page noisily.

" The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads. And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap.

" When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

" The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the luster of midday to objects below, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer! " Mrs. Weasley showed the pictures in the worn book.

Ginny and Luna giggled as their two children listened intently, finally old enough to understand the story. Irena leaned back against Hermione. "Are you listening to the story?" Hermione whispered into her ear.

"No." Irena whispered plainly. "I've heard this story every year for 11 years, I think I know what happens in the story." Hermione chuckled, kissing Irena's cheek. Harry was watching them intently, taking a swig from whatever wizarding beer they had around the house.

The story continued as it always did. When Saint Nick came, there were thundering footsteps on the Weasley roof, and Arthur Weasley would apparate into the fireplace, pretending to be Santa. It worked, since he was an older man now, and plump around the middle. Irena might have been fooled before, but she wasn't fooled now.

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" Arthur (as Santa) called out, much to the excitement of all the children. "I see many good children on my Nice List here! I've got sweaters my elves knitted for all of you!" Arthur said cheerily, taking his satchel off his shoulder, handing sweaters out. Mrs. Weasley was beaming as each child rushed to put it on.

He handed Irena her sweater, a large light blue sweater with an I embroidered on it. Irena rushed to put it on, grinning, everyone else was smiling too. Santa disappeared and Arthur came back out. "Oh my! What lovely sweaters you all have- I hope I didn't miss anything!" He said cheekily, kissing his wife.

Christmas was good that year, Irena got lots of good gifts, like a new quill to perfect her handwriting and invisible ink. The food was amazing, thanks to Mrs. Weasley ability to cook large amounts of home cooked meals. Lots of people from the Christmas party went straight to Grimmauld Place, which was much bigger than the Burrow. Lots of the Weasleys stayed at the Burrow, but not Uncle Ron or Aunt Hermione.

Irena didn't understand the point of New Years. Mum always liked to talk about when she lived in America, she would sneak to Times Square to watch the ball drop in New York, but they didn't have that in London. So what if someone wanted to make a resolution? They could do that any day of the year, it didn't have to be at the turn of the year.

Still, 2010 had arrived. Dad got everyone those Muggle glasses where the eye holes are the zeroes. It was goofy, but she could see the appeal of New Years when the clock struck 12. Mum and Dad shared a kiss, giggling to each other. Harry and Cho did too, and Hermione and Ron, and Draco and Florence.

Was it a crime to want to be kissed? She was only 11, she didn't quite understand kissing all that much; only that it made people happy. She wanted to be happy and if in the process she could make someone else happy, then it would be good, wouldn't it?

Uncle Regulus joined in the celebration, but not as much as the others. His wife was a Muggle and she always wore the most beautiful headscarves- she called them Hijabs , she always coordinated them to her outfits. Auntie Cleo rarely took off her headscarf to show her hair, but when she did, Irena couldn't help but stare. She was one of the prettiest girls Irena had ever seen.

When asked why she never removed her Hijab, Cleo only told her it was something she would learn about later in life. Irena wanted her own since they were so beautiful. Cleo gave her a deep emerald green one for Christmas and Irena wore it around the house proudly. It was Slytherin, after all!

But there was something more pressing to her. She had to know. Regulus was the only good Slytherin she knew, besides Draco, but Draco was a bit frightening to her. How hard was it to make it through Slytherin without turning evil?

"Without a war raging, Slytherin is just another Hogwarts house, like Hufflepuff or Gryffindor, only for the most ambitious witches and wizards." Regulus explained over breakfast. School would be starting again soon after a month-long break. While Irena was excited to get away from her annoying siblings, she didn't know how excited she would be while shunning Teddy and his friends.

Sirius sat down at the table, pouring a bowl of Cheerios . "Ambition can be a dangerous thing." Padfoot added on sagely. "A little bit of ambition is good, a lot of ambition isn't always good. When it becomes overwhelming, that ambition can go hand and hand with evil. Evil magic seems to be the strongest type of magic to learn, but the strongest magic anyone can learn is love."

Irena didn't understand what they'd said completely, but she took it to heart. Love was stronger than magic, love was more important than ambition. Just because she was Slytherin didn't mean she was evil, Slytherins had the capacity to love others, did they not?

"Teddy, do you want to ride in the train car with me?" Irena asked when they were boarding the train again. Diana and Tabitha would just have to suck it up.

His eyes widened. "Really? You want to ride the train with me? But I thought you hated me!" Teddy stammered.

"I think I'm gonna make my New Year's resolution to be more forgiving." Irena told him with a smile. Yes, that was the same thing Florence had said, but it sounded so mature and grown up, so she said it too. It was true, anyway. "So I forgive you."

Teddy smiled. "I won't make you regret it, I promise!" He squeaked as they climbed onto the train.

Irena and Teddy made silly faces to their families out the window, making Padfoot and Moony laugh, which felt good. The forgiveness thing seemed to go hand and hand with being selfless, which was also new. Irena never had a reason to care about other people before, but forgiving people felt like it was all about selflessness.

"What's he doing here?" Tabitha growled, opening the door.

Diana stood at her side, her hair very obviously cut. It looked lovely up to her shoulders, almost a bit healthier.

"I've decided to forgive him." Irena said coolly. "New Year's resolution."

Tabitha looked at him closely, shrugging and sitting down. "Whatever. I'm not gonna worry about it." She mumbled, sitting down and opening what seemed to be a new book, maybe a Christmas present.

"Promise you won't change our hair color or drown us in rainclouds?" Diana asked tentatively.

"I promise." Teddy reassured her.

Philomena eventually found their car, sitting down with them, making faces out the window to her adoptive Muggle parents. She seemed happy too.

As the train pulled away from the station, Irena was filled with a sense of warmth and affection for everyone in the car with her, even Teddy and Philomena. This forgiveness stuff felt really good for her too!

They all laughed, telling each other stories from Christmas and New Years, about their families and parties, gifts they'd gotten. Diana said her mother was her New Year's kiss, which seemed typical for all of them.

By the time the train arrived at Hogwarts station, Irena spotted the dark figure of Aria laying in wait for her three friends to return. A dark presence, as if she was upset with them for leaving her at Hogwarts.

Remind me to ask McGonagall and Mum about inviting Aria next year- I think she needs some Christmas spirit.

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 5 January, 2010

"I just don't understand," Aria muttered as they were in the library. "They humiliated you. You shouldn't be so quick to forgive them. If it were me in your place, I wouldn't speak to them at all anymore."

Irena was working on her paper on the Curse of the Bogies for Defense Against the Dark Arts class, Tabitha was practicing her charm work, and Diana was smiling and waving to the Gryffindors (plus Philomena) across the room. "Do you think he likes me?" She asked, amused.

"You shouldn't want him to." Aria said coolly.

"Mum has a new boyfriend. His name's Gabe. I like Gabe, he's really nice." Diana continued, clearly not giving much thought to whatever Aria said. "They kiss so much, Gabe's always hugging Mum and dancing with her. I think I'd like to have that.. I think that's what having a boyfriend's all about."

Tabitha scoffed. "Whatever happened to boys are stupid ?"

"Some are." Diana said with a pleasant sigh. "Some just need to learn I think."

"Those ones do." Aria told her, turning the page in her book. "Well, if all of you want to fantasize and dream about boys, I've got a prank to plan."

Irena rolled her eyes. "No more pranks, let's just try to keep the peace around here."

"And let them get away with it? They started this.. changing our hair, dousing us in rain water. We're gonna finish and we're gonna go out with a bang." Aria told them. "I'm looking at Legilimency- mind delving. Imagine being able to hear all their thoughts. We could write them down and tell everyone. They wouldn't even be safe from their humiliation inside their own heads." She chuckled darkly.

Tabitha looked at Irena, frowning slightly. Diana gazed at the Gryffindor boys, though they didn't seem to notice her. "We're only first years Ari.." Irena muttered. "Maybe you could pick something less ambitious?"

"Can I practice on you? Please?" Aria begged.

"Fine, what number am I thinking of?" Irena sighed dismissively, thinking of the number 42.

Aria stared at her intently, squeezing her eyes in concentration. "You're thinking of... the number 18!"

"No, nice try." Irena teased, rolling her eyes.

"Maybe I should talk to them.." Diana said dreamily to no one in particular.

Aria scoffed. "Honestly, Diana, if you're going to have a crush on a boy, don't have a crush on a Gryffindor! I don't think I could stand to be around you if you started dating one of them." She said sharply.

Diana turned back, looking crestfallen, going back to her Astronomy chart. Irena felt sorry for her.. maybe it was the selflessness she'd been learning about. She'd forgiven all the boys, which made Potions with Felix much easier. He wasn't too bad to be around, all things considered, though he really liked to show off. This wasn't a big deal, since Irena was excellent at Potions.

"Who's gonna be my Valentine this year?" Diana moped.

"I'll be your Valentine!" Tabitha told her earnestly.

"Not the same." Diana pouted, going back to scribbling names of stars and planetary bodies. Tabitha turned back, flourishing her wand once more. Aria licked her finger, turning the page to learn more about Legilimency. 

Irena sighed very quietly, going back to her essay. She did not like not planning pranks anymore. It was boring.

 

Sunday, 14 February, 2010

Irena opened her eyes tiredly in her bed. Diana was squeaking. "Irena! Irena! You got a note and it's Valentine's day!" She could hear her jumping around on the floors. Irena had been up late the night before, talking with Aria. She was practicing Legilimency and was actually getting okay at it. 1 time out of 10, Aria could read her mind, which was better than not at all.

She swished the curtain open, Diana crawled in beside her. Irena groaned. "You're too touchy feely."

"You're too dark and twisty. Open your note!" Diana said excitedly, shoving the letter towards Irena. Tabitha was busy brushing her teeth, her hair wet from showering- even she looked eager to know what it said.

Irena groaned, taking the letter and opening it, reading it out loud before processing it. " Dear Ms. Irena Diggory-Black, you are invited to Valentine's day lunch with Professor Cedric Diggory on Sunday, 14th of February, 2010, at 1:30 pm. Sincerely, Professor Cedric Diggory, Professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. "

"Aw! I thought it was gonna be a boy!" Diana moaned in defeat, laying down on the bed beside Irena.

Aria's wry, malicious laughter was heard from her bed. She was sitting up, reading. "As if a boy would ask Irena out on Valentine's day." She teased.

Irena felt her heart break a little, a pit formed in her stomach. "Yea, well did any boys ask you out, Aria?"

"No, but my dad didn't." Aria taunted.

"Didn't Tom Yaxley ask you out?" Tabitha asked, trying to change the subject.

"At least I have a dad." Irena said pointedly, sitting up. "I'm not some dark little mind reader, I've got a family and they love me. It's cheesy, but I don't care." She said sharply, getting out of bed. It was a little after 11, she had plenty of time to get ready for her lunch.

There was quiet. "Irena, that was uncalled for." Tabitha muttered.

"And her comment wasn't?" Irena sneered. "Telling everyone that no boys find me desirable? At least I don't have greasy Tom Yaxley at my heels, begging me to do whatever with him. He's ugly and stupid!"

Aria glared coldly. "At least I've got a boy who's interested in me instead of being a girl who's uglier than a pig and meaner than a damn werewolf." She hissed, closing the curtains around her bed, muttering some silencing charm.

Irena felt guilty, but felt more angry. Her selflessness could only stretch so thin, she didn't have patience for Aria, not today. She quickly put on her Slytherin sweater and a skirt with long socks, brushing her hair and leaving without another word. Irena ran out, but soon realized that she had nothing to do.

Dad would probably be busy grading papers, so she hung around in the library, looking through all the books and things lazily. Her homework for the weekend was completed and now she had no one to talk to.

"Oh, hello, Irena." A voice whispered from the other end of the shelf. Teddy stood at the other end, his hair brushed nicely, his clothes clean. "Have you got a Valentine?"

Irena did not need anymore humiliation. "Yea." She said with a smile, hoping she seemed genuine.

"Where'd they go? The library's not a good place. Plenty of people are outside playing in the snow, but lots went to Hogsmeade. There's loads of couples in the Great Hall too." Teddy chuckled, approaching her. "Did your date leave?"

She looked at him. Clearly, he had a date, or at least, somewhere to be. Irena looked him up and down. They were friends, they could be honest with each other, right? He was naturally selfless, something she was envious of; there were many things to envy about Teddy. "Alright, you caught me." Irena sighed. "I haven't got a date."

"Ah." Teddy chuckled. "So you're browsing the library-"

"-and pretending I don't exist." Irena finished with a heavy sigh. "At least until 1:30, when I've got some Valentine's day lunch with my dad. Is it cheesy? Embarrassing, do you think?" She asked earnestly. Friends gave each other advice, she figured.

He shook his head. "We're pretty young still." Teddy agreed. "Dating seems to be for older kids. I'm fine with waiting- I know I've got a pretty bird waiting for me someday. Dads are soulmates, I know it, so I've got to believe there's someone out there for me. I don't think it's embarrassing to have your parents give you gifts. Dads sent me loads of chocolate frogs, more than I can eat. I've been giving them out."

Teddy held out the tiny package of chocolate frogs. Irena grinned. "Thanks, Ted." She giggled, taking the frog and putting it in the pocket of her skirt. He was smiling. Yes, he was as selfless as it got. Irena touched his shoulder, pulling him close, planting a kiss on his cheek. "I've got to get going, it's nearly 1:30."

His hair flipped back and forth between tawny brown and peach, his cheeks reddening. "Alright, you go do that, I've got- I've got more frogs to hand out." Teddy chuckled, pulling another frog from his robes, showing it to her before walking away.

Irena turned on her heel, smiling as she left the library. When she walked the halls, she took the frog from her pocket, eating it slowly as she wandered toward the Transfiguration classroom. She watched all the couples in the hallway, kissing or otherwise cuddling. She let her mind wander, placing herself in each of the girl's places.

She imagined a boy wrapping his arm over his shoulders as she wore his sweater, kissing her cheek sweetly. Giving him gifts and telling him she loved him. Love was bliss. Love was strong. Love was all around. If Teddy was right about the soulmates thing, then somebody had to be out there for her, waiting for her to do all that. It was a comforting thought.

There was shrill giggling coming from one end of the hall. Tabitha and Philomena were chasing each other down the halls, they hadn't even noticed Irena. Irena would have to apologize to Aria, but Aria did not understand selflessness like Teddy did. I really messed things up, Irena thought sadly. If Aria never forgave her, they'd be stuck together for six more years, unspeaking.

She didn't want to think about that.

Irena swung the door to the Transfiguration classroom open. Dad was busy talking to a student, but as soon as she stepped in, he shooed them away. They were alone. "There she is, my darling Valentine." He said warmly, stepping over to her and kissing her forehead. "How are you? Why the long face?"

"Nothing." Irena lied, avoiding his eyes. "Just a bit of an argument between me and Aria."

He sighed, leading her to his office. "We can talk all about it- I've got your favorite. Mum made us French toast, delivered it this morning. I thought of brunch, but I know you like to sleep in. I can heat it up with the Reheating charm." Dad chattered as they sat down in his office.

Pictures were hung everywhere on the wall. The largest was a portrait of Mum, Dad, and a tiny little baby. They both seemed so young, so smiley. Irena knew she'd been born fresh out of Mum's Hogwarts graduation, but it was odd to see her look so similarly to the other girls she'd seen. They smiled and laughed to each other, bouncing little baby Irena on their lap.

Dad warmed the lunch, serving the two of them. "Wouldn't you want to be with Mummy today? It's Valentine's day, after all." Irena said casually, taking the plate and silverware, eating slowly.

"Come on, and leave you to yourself?" Dad said with an easygoing smile. "You are the exact person I want to be with, right here and right now. Mum's got plenty of Valentine love at home with your brothers and sisters. There's no place in the world I'd rather be than here, with my Valentine."

Irena grinned to him. She felt warm and content, maybe it was Mum's cooking, or maybe it was the comforting presence of her father that made her feel happier than before. Dad asked about all her classes, making sure she was caught up on homework, which she was.

"So, what's happened with Aria?" Dad asked as he cleaned his plate. Irena explained everything to him, the tension from Christmas and the argument they'd had. She had come to the realization that a blow up was inevitable- Aria wanted to prank the boys, Irena wanted to forgive them. Even if neither girl confronted the other, the truth was plain to see in front of everyone's faces. "She'll forgive you, it's inevitable."

She frowned. "You're not mad?"

"Life's consequences, my dear." Dad said sagely with a smirk, taking her plate. "I see no reason to be upset with you, when Aria and your other friends can do it instead. It wasn't a nice thing to say- either of you. Perhaps you could come up with something to make up for it."

"Like what?" Irena asked defeatedly. There was no way to make up for what she'd said. She probably just lost all her Slytherin friends. What then? Could she be banned from her own house? Everyone liked Aria, she was cool and calculating- sometimes she'd let you borrow her notes. Everyone liked her, so if she turned them all against Irena, no one would like Irena. Could she switch houses? Maybe she'd be better off dropping out and being a Squib..

"You could think of a new prank," Dad offered, cleaning the plates with a nonverbal spell. "A harmless prank, mind you. As much as I love to do it, I cannot continue to mouth off to Professor McGonagall without getting in trouble." He chuckled.

She giggled, thinking. It was nearly 3 now, so it would be a good idea to go to the library and think of a prank. Irena's eyes wandered aimlessly over Dad's personal collection of books. "Daddy, what's an Animagus?"

"You know how I can turn into a wolf? And how Padfoot and Uncle Reggie can turn into dogs?" Dad told her, putting the now clean dishes to the side. "We can do that because we're Animagi. It's hard magic, I could teach it to you after you graduate. You'll be far too busy with classes in the meantime, I hope."

Irena nodded blankly, making a promise to research more about Animagi later. "I suppose I better come up with a new prank plan!" She chirped. "See ya later, Dad."

Dad smiled up at her, a lingering look of affection and pride in his eyes. Irena knew, soulmate or not, her father truly loved her. He proved it every chance he got, and she was more than grateful to have him around Hogwarts. Free homework help for the hardest class in the school was a godsend. "You go on and do that, sweetheart." He purred.

She smiled, leaving out of his office, her belly full of food, her heart warm with love. Love was the strongest form of magic, and she could feel it in every footstep she took, every breath her lungs filled, the breeze from her brisk walk in her hair. Love was in the air, and it drove her. She would find a way to make Aria be her friend again.

 

Friday, 26 March, 2010

"Please, just give me a second- hear me out!" Irena whispered as she approached the girl's table at the library. Aria sat with her nose in a book, stubbornly refusing to give Irena the time of day. Tom Yaxley sat beside her, scribbling something onto a bit of parchment. Diana was trying to give Tabitha and Philomena a couple's tarot reading, despite not knowing anything about Divination. "I've got a prank idea, okay?"

This raised some alarms, but not the ones Irena wanted. "Look, she doesn't want to talk to you and she doesn't want to be your friend anymore." Tom Yaxley said plainly. "Go run off and do something else, why don't you? Go be with those Gryffindor boys."

Irena blinked. "I have a prank for the Gryffindor boys. It's a good one, an embarrassing and funny one. If you would just listen to me for one mo-"

"Shh! You're ruining my focus!" Diana told her.

This was how it had been for a month. Aria, Tabitha, and Diana rose early to avoid Irena, they didn't sit with her in the Great Hall, they didn't talk to her in class, they went to bed before she did. Irena had never felt so alone- at least she had Philomena sometimes.

Philomena blinked to her, her warm brown eyes looking to Irena as she abandoned Diana's reading. "You can tell me the prank- I promise I won't tell Felix. I'm still a bit upset with him over the prank last time, seeing how I got in trouble with those boys. I'd like to see them get what's coming to them." Her eyes danced with genuine amusement, that's why Irena liked her. Philomena was simple in every way, except she was a brilliant witch. She couldn't hide how she truly felt.

"I got this idea from some of the stories after Valentine's day," Irena began, making sure the others were listening, even if it was passively. "What if we got some Amortentia and gave it to the Gryffindor boys? They'd be obsessed with us for a little while and it would be so funny. Everyone would see it and they wouldn't be able to stop it until the potion wears off."

Even Tabitha and Diana were listening now, but Aria still stared into her book. "We're first years, Amortentia is NEWT level." Tabitha retorted. "I was hoping you'd create some type of jinx like they did."

"Well, over Easter holiday, I could go to Weasley's and get three vials. We could make them into chocolates or cookies and give them to the boys." Irena continued. "Please? It would be so funny! My birthday's coming up- this is what I want. I want us to be friends again."

Quietness. Diana bit her lip. "I really don't want to get in trouble.. it's pretty obvious who gives others Amortentia, cuz then they're obsessed with that person.." She mumbled.

"I agree." Philomena corroborated. "I already got in trouble last time, and Diana makes a good point. It could be traced back to us."

Tabitha frowned. "I think it's a great idea." She told them. "I'll do it with you, Irena. I think it could be really fun, perfect for an end of the year prank. What are they gonna do to us with two months left of school?"

There was a shuffling on the other side of the table. Aria bore into Irena, her glare still sharp. Her face relaxed as she sighed. "Fine, I'll do your prank." She said defeatedly, though a hint of a smile dragged at the corners of her mouth. "Under one condition: I want to prank Teddy. I want to make him obsessed with me ."

Tom Yaxley looked to Irena, as if begging her to say no. Aria knew it'd strike a chord with her, Teddy was like a brother to her; but this was more important. "Fine, you can make Teddy fall in love with you, I don't care." Irena said coolly.

"But this won't-" Tom Yaxley began.

"Don't worry, Tom, Teddy would never replace you." Aria said sharply. "He's a Gryffindor for God's sake, I would never want him in a way that matters." She touched his hand over the table, looking to him. Irena felt a shiver of revulsion. Whatever happened to boys are stupid ?

Tabitha smirked. "I wanna prank Talon." She said, much to Diana's dismay. "I wanna see what Diana sees in him, seeing as she pines after him so much. All I see is cockiness, arrogance, and stupidity- though I suppose he has nice hair."

"One time, I bumped into him and accidentally smelled his hair." Diana confessed excitedly. "It didn't smell like anything, mostly just smelled like hair." Philomena and Tabitha laughed, only to be shushed aggressively by the librarian.

That one left one more. "Then I'll prank Felix." Irena nodded assuredly. He was her friend, he sat beside her in Potions, so he would be easy to prank, right? Philomena fixed her with an odd look. "You think I'd leave your brother out, Philly? Where's the fun in that?"

"Don't embarrass him too badly, please!" Philomena pleaded.

"I'll only embarrass him a little bit." Irena teased, rolling her eyes. There was an open seat beside Diana, and, since everyone seemed to be in great spirits, Irena sat down. Aria went back to reading, Tom went back to ogling her, Diana began to shuffle her tarot cards again to read a fake couple's reading for Tabitha and Philomena. It felt like home again.

Home felt like pranks. Home was good.

Chapter Text

Sunday, 28 March, 2010

"Happy early birthday, Irena." Aria whispered. It was still early in the morning. Diana and Tabitha were still asleep, not preparing themselves for the train ride back home for the Easter Holiday. By the time she'd return to Hogwarts, Irena would be 12, and there would be no point in having a late celebration.

She handed a pretty large parcel to Irena, covered in brown paper. "Aria.. you didn't have to.."

"I wanted to." Aria reassured her. "Go on and open it."

Irena grinned, tearing apart the paper. She was so glad to be friends with everyone again, it was refreshing to be talked to and interacted with. She was especially glad that Aria was her friend again.

Aria had purchased a large, hardcover textbook. A Witch's Guide to Transfiguring into a Fantastic Beast by Louise Horsetail . Irena grinned, opening the book and giving it a sniff. It was brand new and, it being hardcover, must mean it ran a pretty penny. "Oh, Aria!" Irena exclaimed.

"It's okay, Tom lent me some money. His mum's rich, she didn't even notice him sneaking money from her." Aria giggled, a smile that Irena was so grateful to see. Irena flipped through the pages briskly- they were even in color!

She glanced up to Aria. "How'd you know?" Irena asked. She hadn't told anyone about her curiosity around Animagi, so how did Aria know? Hadn't they gone a month without speaking?

Aria tapped her temple, smirking. "I've gotten quite good at Legilimency, you know." She said proudly. "It's not hard to climb into your mind, really. I'm still learning, but I can usually tell what others think about when they think about it often enough. Diana thinks of that Gryffindor boy, Tabitha thinks about Diana, Philomena thinks about homework. If it's on your mind, I probably know it."

Irena blinked, grinning mischievously. "And what does Tom think about?" She teased, poking Aria in her ribcage playfully.

She giggled, maybe because of the tickling. "He thinks of me, obviously!" Aria retorted playfully. "It's odd seeing yourself through someone else's eyes, but he doesn't think anything badly of me. He's a sweet guy, really."

"I'm glad you have someone like that." Irena said honestly, touching Aria's hand gently. "You only deserve nice things in your life."

"You mean it?"

"Yes, I do." Irena assured her.

It was bittersweet to leave her behind, but Irena was excited to get home and see her family. This break would be about her, it was her birthday, after all! Diana and Tabitha opted to stay behind at Hogwarts with Aria, meaning it was just Irena, Philomena, and Teddy on the train. It wasn't a terribly long ride, not while in their company.

She got off with her dad, seeing Teddy reunite with Padfoot. Sirius had to stay at Grimmauld Place with the kids, since it was a full moon the night after. This meant the house was full, but it didn't matter much to Irena. She and Teddy stayed upstairs, reading the new book she'd gotten.

"Maybe I ought to write Florence Malfoy." Teddy mused. "Mum's long dead, I haven't got any other Metamorphmagi to talk to. I think with my powers, I could transform into an animal at will." He laid back on the bed. "We could be like the Marauders! Dads always talk about how during Moony's transformations, the rest of them would transform into animals too."

Irena smiled. Oh, if only he knew the prank they had planned! "I'd talk to my Mom. She loves Aunty Flora." She said casually. Florence always had new, different hair when she came to see her. Sometimes, as a joke, she'd transform into different people around the house. There were times when Irena had spoken to her, thinking she was her mother.

Teddy sat up quickly, leaving out the door. Irena sighed, looking around her room. It was embarrassingly pink- at least she thought so anyway. The wallpapers were pastel pink from when it'd been a nursery, and there was an old dusty dollhouse she hadn't played with in years. Irena sighed contently, leaning back and grasping her Tigger stuffed animal. It was old and very worn, but it smelled of home.

She had missed the Tigger toy, but she didn't want to be bullied at Hogwarts for it, so she left him at home. I wonder what would happen if I took him back with me.. Sometimes being in bed alone was too much. The toy brought her comfort, but Irena didn't want to be teased for it.

The boy returned quickly, his hair changing to the same shade of pastel pink as her walls. "Fawn says Florence can come to the party." Teddy grinned, leaning back on her bed. "We can be like the Marauders!"

"Minus the werewolf!" Irena teased.

"Minus the werewolf." Teddy agreed.

 

Thursday, 15 April, 2010

Irena opened her eyes tiredly, expecting to be alone in her bed. She groaned groggily, only to find herself squished in between two people. Mum sat on one end of the bed, holding her close, while Dad was on the other side, hugging her close to him as well.

"Happy birthday, darling." Dad whispered. "Wake mum up for me, will you? Just act like you're stretching." He chuckled breathlessly into her hair.

Irena smirked, letting out a giant stretch, moaning audibly, as if it'd been a really refreshing stretch. Mum opened her eyes, the icy blue irises staring into Irena's. Irena could never understand why she couldn't have her mother's eyes instead of her ugly brown ones. "Good morning, baby! You’re 12 years old today! Do you feel any older?"

"No, I just feel squished. Maybe a little hot too." Irena said groggily.

Mum kissed her forehead, getting up. Dad took Irena's hand, leading her down the stairs. She was very happy to see the big family at the kitchen table. Padfoot and Moony sat on one end of the table alongside Teddy and Sunny. All of Irena's siblings were there.

"Sorry! The young ones got hungry and.. well.." Moony trailed off, looking guiltily to his empty plate.

"It's okay, Remus." Mum chuckled.

"Werewolf's gotta eat!" Padfoot teased. "Happy birthday, darling! Did you see what we bought you? Open your gift!" He said excitedly.

Dad shook his head, kissing the tops of his son's heads as he took their plates. "Let her eat first! Ginny and Luna will be on their way soon, something about taking her out for her birthday. Ron and Hermione ought to be here this evening, Draco and Florence too."

"There's no time like the present!" Moony retorted. "Please?"

Mum laughed. "Go on and open their gift, Reni." She said affectionately. A parcel in polka dot wrapping paper floated to the table. Teddy watched eagerly with his dads.

Irena opened the present excitedly, wondering what it could be. Inside the box was a bright pastel pink Muggle home phone. "Woah!" Irena squeaked, taking it out of the box gingerly. "This is so cool!"

"It was my idea!" Teddy told her. "I've got one at home, now I can call you whenever I want! Owls take too long." He grinned. Irena beamed.

Sirius and Remus watched happily. "We're so glad you like it, love." Sirius purred.

"You could call us too, you know!" Remus laughed. "You'll be a teenager soon- we figured you'd like more people to talk to other than parents."

Padfoot grinned cheekily. "I remember when I was a teen- we didn't have Muggle phones. I ended up running away from home to live at James' house. Remember that, Moony?"

"Do I ever!" Remus chuckled.

"You ran away ?" Irena squeaked. She never wanted to be a teenager if it meant running away from Mum and Dad!

"My parents weren't, well, they weren't as nice as yours." Sirius put it delicately. "I don't think you'll run away, but it's in your blood to rebel as a member of the Black family. I ran away, Regulus defied Voldemort, your mum ran off to America with your dad-"

Mum shushed him. "Let her eat! Ginny and Luna will be here soon!" She scolded, placing a plate of steaming French toast in front of her, though Irena felt like Mum didn't want him retelling stories of her teenage years to everyone. I'm gonna ask Dad about that one later. Irena thought with a grin.

She ate quickly, getting dressed into clothes fit for warm weather. It was a sunny day out, so why not? Irena was just in time, Ginny and Luna had used the Floo powder into the fireplace just as she was coming down the stairs.

"There's the birthday girl!" Luna sang.

"Where are Molly and Finch?" Mum asked Ginny casually.

"Mum has 'em. She knows we ought to spend time with our favorite adopted niece today." Ginny grinned, embracing Irena tightly. "You ready to go to Diagon Alley?"

Irena nodded vigorously. "You ought to be good to Ginny and Luna now, you hear?" Dad grinned. "I don't wanna hear that you were bad." He teased. Luna giggled. Ginny grabbed onto both of them. Irena knew what apparating felt like, but her stomach still did a little twist every time she had to apparate anywhere.

They were outside the Leaky Cauldron, walking through it, waving to others sitting at the tables before making their way to Diagon Alley. "Where are we off to first, birthday girl?" Luna asked eagerly.

"Can I tell you guys a secret?" Irena asked with a cheeky smile.

"Duh!" Ginny laughed. "Who are we gonna tell?"

"Really, we're quite good at keeping secrets." Luna told her dreamily, looking mischievously to her wife. "Go on then, spill the beans."

Irena giggled slightly. "I've got a prank planned! I need to go to Uncle Freddie and Uncle George's shop for some Amortentia." Irena told them. "I told my friends I'd get it.. it's too hard to brew for us."

Luna giggled. "Okay, we'll stop at your brothers’ first, then we can do a bit of walking around." She said happily to Ginny. Ginny took one of Irena’s hands, Luna took the other as they wandered through the cobblestone streets. It was like shopping for school supplies all over again- it was so exciting! Irena was about to burst when they finally made it to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.

"Oi!" One of the twins- had to be Fred, since he had both ears. "I heard it was somebody's birthday today! Tell ya what- you can have anything from this shop for free." Fred grinned, leaning beside her.

Ginny pushed him away playfully. "Haven't you got customers to deal with?"

"Irena is VIP!" Fred argued, smirking to his sister. "Irena, have you ever seen a Pygmy Puff?"

"I don't think her parents will be happy if she brought a pet home." Ginny retorted.

"Didn't like your Pygmy Puff, Gin-Gin?" George's voice was heard from up the stairs. "Such a shame, he was a real cutie."

Ginny shook her head. "We need Amortentia." She told them. "Irena is planning a prank."

George lit up. "Well, we know all about that! Right this way, please!" He grinned, placing a hand on Irena's shoulder. "We've got the potion, the perfume, we've even got little boxes of chocolates and sweets infused with it. Whoever eats this will fall in love with you!"

"Have you got any Amortentia cookies?" Irena asked sheepishly.

"Do we ever!" Fred replied. "What flavor?"

"Chocolate chip?" Irena asked. "Enough for three boys?"

" Three boys?! " George scoffed. "You're worse than Ginny!" Ginny punched him roughly in the arm, frowning. "Kidding.. kidding.."

Irena laughed. "They're not all for me, they're for my friends too. We've been in a prank war with these Gryffindors and I think with this prank, we'll win." She said cheekily. Customers milled around while Fred found the cookies.

"Very, very potent." Fred told her, squatting down to her level. He held three large cookies. "Should last a day, maybe two if he has a slow metabolism. Just wave your wand over it thrice and say the name of the girl you want the boy to be obsessed with."

"Thanks so much!" Irena said cheerily, grabbing them and looking at them. They were perfect!

"How much for 'em?" Ginny asked, pulling out her coin pouch, looking at her older brothers.

Fred smiled, looking down at Irena. "On the house." He told her with a nod. "Your mum saved my life, I can only wish to bring her children a little bit of joy." Fred reasoned, looking up to Ginny. Irena didn't quite understand, so she made a mental note to ask her mum about it.

They didn't spend too much longer in Diagon Alley before going back home. Luna kept the cookies hidden in her pocket, the prank would probably be something Mum would frown upon, so it would be better if it stayed a secret. They stepped into the house, just to hear everyone shout "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Mum made cake, lots of people showed up. The games were fun, the dinner and desserts delicious. Irena made sure Teddy talked to Florence, but the attention was back on her when it was time to open her gifts.

Mrs. Weasley knit her a hat, while the Malfoys got her a new quill set. There were lots of new books and things for next year. "Is that everything?" Irena asked, looking around at everyone. Wrapping paper surrounded them, Mum was collecting it all the Muggle way.

"There is one more gift, kind of from everyone." Dad grinned, going into another room. He returned with a huge parcel, expanding his wingspan. He placed it gently onto the ground. "Go on and open it."

He sat beside her on the floor as she tore open the package, squealing in delight. "You got me a Cirrus 2010?!" Irena cried out in delight, pulling apart the paper surrounding it. The broomstick was made of dark oak wood, but had a slight green tinge to it. "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! "

Dad laughed when she fell into his arms, he kissed her cheek as everyone around them laughed. "Go thank Padfoot and Moony, also Auntie Ginny, and you'll have to be kind to Professor Potter, since it was his idea." He chuckled.

"I was thinking we could practice this summer." Ginny grinned. "You've got to get ready to be on the Quidditch team next year!"

Irena beamed. "Can I try it out right now? Pretty please?" She asked.

"Don't bump the chandelier or break anything." Mum told her. "Or you'll be grounded off the broomstick."

"Yes, Mum." Irena agreed. Dad helped her uncover the broomstick entirely, setting it up for her. Irena got onto it, kicking up gently into the air. Everyone watched as she floated up slowly, grinning. She didn't dare go whipping through the house on it, the time for speed would be for that summer.

She descended slowly, making sure not to break anything or step on anyone. "This summer, we'll practice. You'll make a very good Seeker, I think." Ginny smiled.

"Me too?" Teddy asked. "I've got my Nimbus 2008, it still works."

"If you can get on the Gryffindor team next year, we'll buy you a new broomstick." Sirius promised, ruffling his son's hair. "I was pretty good at Quidditch in my year, so I think you'll be pretty good too."

"Cedric was good too, wasn't he?" Remus murmured. "I could watch him on a broom during the matches. I think the only person who was his match was Harry." He chuckled.

Dad laughed, kissing her. "Yes, it's in her birthright to be an excellent Seeker." He grinned.

Irena leaned back against her father as he laughed, continuing to share stories from previous Quidditch matches at Hogwarts. Soon, the party was over, and everyone filed out, leaving back to their homes.

Mum was tucking Irena in for the night. She was pretty coordinated with scheduling around the house. Aurora was in bed by 7:30, Zenith was in bed by 8, Nova and Selene were in bed by 8:30, Perseus was in bed by 9, Leo was in bed by 9:30, and Irena was in bed by 10.

"Mum?" Irena asked before Mum could finish tucking her in.

"What is it?" Mum asked sweetly, kissing her forehead, playing with her hair.

"Today Uncle Freddie said you've saved his life." Irena murmured. "Can you tell me about it?"

Mum sighed slightly. "You want to hear a story about the war? It's scary."

"Mummy, I'm 12 now, I can handle stuff like this." Irena reassured her, wanting to hear more. Stories were so interesting!

She sighed, looking up, as if she was thinking. "Well, in the Battle of Hogwarts, we were setting up a hospital wing in the Great Hall, and we were tending to the people who got injured. There was a huge explosion near the Room of Requirement, so me and Daddy went to see who'd gotten hurt. There was Uncle Freddie and his brother, Percy. And I healed Uncle Freddie, but that meant I had lost Percy."

Irena blinked. "Percy Weasley?"

"Yes, Percy Weasley." Mum told her. "Your brother is named after him, of course. He just wants to go by Perseus instead of Percy, but I think that'll change once he starts going to Hogwarts." She chuckled.

"I know Percy Weasley- he's one of the most annoying ghosts in Hogwarts. Always giving out detentions and yelling at us. But he gave his life for his brother?" Irena asked.

Mum nodded sadly. "He gave his life for all of us." She told her. "Be nice to him, okay? He was always a little bossy, but he means well." Mum kissed her on her forehead gently, giving Irena one last hug before leaving.

Irena grabbed Tigger, holding him close to her. The pink phone was on her nightstand, the books on her desk, the broomstick leaning against her wall. She gave the toy a  deep sniff, looking around at the dark room. The Amortentia cookies were safely hidden in the pocket of her jacket. The school year would be over in 2 and a half months- she couldn't be more excited.

She was grateful for it all, for the first time in her life. Happiness felt like something she was entitled to, but now, it felt more like a rare privilege. She had everything she could want- her family and friends loved her.

It feels good to be loved, Irena thought with a smile. Even if it isn't by some stupid boy.

Chapter Text

Monday, 19 April, 2010

Irena sighed tiredly, getting up from her bed. It'd been a few days after her birthday, she was back at Hogwarts. She told everyone about her gifts- omitting the part about the Amortentia treats except to the Slytherin girls- and everyone was quite excited for her.

"You really think you'll make the Quidditch team next year?" Tabitha yawned.

"I think if I practice a lot this summer, I will." Irena grinned as she got up to brush her hair and teeth. A few of the older Slytherin girls had been talking about things they were going to do during the summer to make themselves more desirable- things like exercising, changing their beauty routines, and other stuff. Irena didn't care about it anymore, she wanted to focus on Quidditch. Boys were stupid, even if Diana and Aria were changing their tune about them.

Aria was still asleep, while Diana daydreamed from her bed. "You think next year Talon will like me?" She mused. "He stayed behind for Easter Holiday, and he waved at me twice . I think he's my soulmate."

"He waved cuz you were staring at him!" Aria retorted groggily. "Besides, he's gonna be in love with Tabitha soon, cuz you didn't wanna prank him."

Diana suddenly grew concerned. "It's not permanent, right Irena?" She fretted. "He can't be in love with Tabitha forever!"

"God, I hope it's not forever." Tabitha said, rolling her eyes.

"It's not." Irena replied. "But I think we ought to wait until further in the term. Maybe even closer to the last day of school. I don't think they'd give us detention next year for something we've done this year."

The two girls nodded in agreement. "Irena should be our chief prank planner." Aria said with a smile, getting out of bed.

"She has great ideas.. plus great foresight." Tabitha agreed.

Diana only nodded, not saying another word, a look on her face told Irena that she was still thinking about Talon.

 

Friday, 21 May, 2010

"Please Philly? Quiz me one more time!" Felix begged. Teddy had gotten the idea from his dad to form a study group for the end of the year exams. So far, Philomena had taken the lead in reteaching every single thing they'd learned. "I barely know anything about the Gargoyle Strike of 1911!"

Philomena sighed, rolling her eyes. "I think the real studying we should be doing is learning how to fly. The final exam is coming up and I'll be ruined!" She fretted.

Irena giggled. She was feeling quite well with all their exams. "Philly, the flying exam is not in the final grade. If you don't pass, you'll just have to take flying lessons again next year." Irena told her assuredly.

"Exactly! I can't be with the first years!" Philomena melted, putting her head in her hands.

"I'll teach you- I'm satisfactory at flying!" Tabitha told her with a smile. "We can practice after lunch."

There were no classes, only studying for the tests the week after. On May 31st, there was the Transfiguration exam. Teddy was busy reading through his textbook in preparation, but Irena had extra help in turning her needle into a match- Dad had to make sure his own daughter passed his class.

On June 1st, there would be the Charms exam. Talon was on the other side, practicing his wand flourishing and Levitation charm, Diana by his side. She wasted no time in grasping his wand to teach him, and performing the spell alongside him. Irena felt confident in this class as well, having a good grasp on spell casting. All that mattered was intent, drive, pronunciation, and wand waving.

Then, on the 2nd, there was Potions, which is why Irena was studying with the study group. "Does anyone remember the ingredients that go in a Forgetfulness potion?" Irena asked aloud.

"2 drops of Lethe River water, 2 Valerian sprigs, and 4 mistletoe berries." Aria told her, sitting down beside her. Tom Yaxley was busy with his friends, too busy to try to study with a bunch of first years.

"Thanks, Ari!" Irena told her with a grin.

"Seems like somebody fed you some Forgetfulness potion." Tabitha teased.

"Quiet please! Talon's almost perfected his Ice Jinx!" Diana snapped as Talon waved his wand, whispering the spell under his breath. A large block of ice, likely 6 inches by 6 inches, appeared on the table.

Teddy squeaked. "My paper!" He scolded, grabbing the paper before the ice could melt all over his work.

The day after, June 3rd, would be spent taking the History of Magic exam, which was very daunting to all the first years, since it was so boring. Irena enjoyed history class and lent her notes out to the study group. On June 4th, they would take the Defense Against the Dark Arts exam, which everyone felt pretty good about.

After that, they had the weekend to study for the Astronomy exam on the 7th, the Herbology exam on the 8th, and the Flying exam on the 9th. First years would have the rest of the week off until June 15th, when they would board the train to King's Cross and go home.

Irena didn't understand how anyone could take more classes than what was required, but many of the older kids enjoyed taking the extra classes (and apparently the extra exams).

Many of the students had picked up extra nervous habits throughout the week. Philomena constantly whispered to herself during the test (which Felix loved, since he sat next to her in every exam- it was all alphabetical order, naturally). Irena had begun to bite her fingernails down to the nail beds. Talon's naturally smooth, silky hair had become greasy and unkept. Diana had bags under her eyes, and Tabitha's hair was falling out.

Irena had to reassure herself that everything would turn out okay for all of them. It was only their first year, how bad could the exams be?

 

Wednesday, 9 June, 2010

"Good, we're all here in one piece!" Ms. Honeybrook chorused as she approached them on the Quidditch field. All of the first years were outside, the warm sun was glowering down onto them. Irena had taken off her robes, opting for a pair of shorts with a collared shirt. "It seems like testing was rough for everyone this week.. such a shame."

Testing had been rough, but they had gotten their scores back quickly. Philomena had top scores in their class, but Irena was a close second. She had missed a few questions on the Potions exam, ones that Philomena had gotten correct. Irena would beat Philomena in this flying test though.

"Should we get started?" She smiled. "The point of the exam is to fly high, flying through those hoops and touching back down." Ms. Honeybrook explained to them all. "We'll go in sets of five, who wants to go first?"

Irena's hand shot up at once, no one else's had.

"Perfect, I'll take you girls." Ms. Honeybrook said sweetly.

Philomena let out a nervous whimper, Diana squeezed her knuckles closed into fists, Tabitha clenched her jaw, and Aria swept a lock of hair off her shoulder. Irena led them up to the beginning, where all the old brooms sat.

"Now, the point of this exam is to measure your knowledge of flying. This means you must fly, you must maintain a reasonable speed, a reasonable distance from other fliers, and you must not bump into anything." Ms. Honeybrook said. "Please, mount your brooms and when I say go, you will go."

Irena mounted the broomstick, her heart pumping. She turned and looked at Teddy, smirking. He flashed her a thumbs up. She turned back, looking to Ms. Honeybrook. The other girls had done the same, however more timid than Irena. Ms. Honeybrook blew into her whistle, and they were off.

She kicked up into the air, flying 5, 10, 15, 20 feet into the air. Irena pushed the broom to go as quickly as it could, looking behind (and below) her at the others. Tabitha was just behind Irena, closely followed by Diana. Aria tailed her, and Philomena was last, only just having launched.

Irena leaned into her broom, going up higher, through the large floating hoops in the air. She could feel the breeze licking her hair, whipping across her face. Her nose felt cold, her face was twisted into a grin. The hoops were easy and she finished first, but not without doing a loop de loop in the air before landing.

People around her clapped as she landed, and Ms. Honeybrook even seemed proud of her. Tabitha landed close beside her, smiling. Diana landed beside them, stumbling a bit. Aria landed slowly and gracefully, and Philomena nearly crashed.

They waited to hear Ms. Honeybrook's grade decision for Philomena. "A passing grade, Ms. Fitzgibbons." She announced, making the Slytherins cheer for her and the Gryffindor boys clapped.

That evening, the first years gathered in the Gryffindor common room. A record player was playing in the room. Many first and second years hung around, dancing and talking, while the other students were studying elsewhere. It was time for the final prank of the year.

Irena, Aria, and Tabitha had disappeared into the bathroom to enchant the cookies. Irena went first, swirling her wand around the cookie three times counter clockwise. "Irena Juliette Diggory-Black." She spoke her full name into fruition.

Aria was next, swirling her wand around the cookie, speaking her name. "Aria Delphini Rowe." She said quietly.

Tabitha was last, twirling her wand around hers. "Tabitha Anne Travers." She whispered.

The spell was complete. Diana and Philomena stood in the doorway apprehensively. Irena had planned out the whole prank, feeling very responsible and very excited. "Okay, Diana, you'll give Tabby's cookie to Talon, Philomena will give my cookie to Felix, and I'll give Aria's cookie to Teddy. Then the festivities will begin!" Irena clapped.

The girls laughed, even Diana and Philomena. Aria handed the cookie to Irena as they walked back, trying to look inconspicuous. Irena watched as Diana and Philomena disappeared into the crowd, and Irena left for Teddy.

"Hey, Teddy, I've got you this cookie from the Great Hall." Irena said cheerily, handing it to him.

Teddy grinned, taking it at once. "Thanks! I'm so hungry!" He cheered, taking it and eating it in several quick bites. Irena watched as his face changed, his eyebrows furrowing. Teddy looked across the room to where Aria and Tabitha were sitting, leaning against a wall. "God, Aria looks so pretty today, doesn't she?"

"She looks pretty all the time, Ted." Irena giggled, seeing that it worked.

"Do you think that she thinks I look good?" Teddy fretted, licking the palm of his hand and swiping it over his hair. "I think I'm gonna ask her to dance. A pretty girl like that deserves a good dance, she shouldn't have to sit on the wall- oh Godric, she's looking at me. How do I look?"

Irena laughed. "Go ask her to dance, you goof." She pushed him. Teddy left Irena's side, leaving to Aria. She watched him go, she watched Aria's face turn pink as she glanced up to Irena before being swept away into Teddy's awkward dance. A sharp tap on her shoulder made her turn.

Felix stood beside her, his eyes cloudy and dreamy. Philomena was beside him, her eyebrows furrowed, a look of concern on her face. Irena was going to ask if she'd given him the cookie, but her question was answered when Felix said, "Your face looks so beautiful in the firelight."

"What?" Irena laughed, almost out of habit. No boy had ever said that to her- no body had ever said that to her.

He smiled dreamily. "I can only imagine kissing you.. your lips look so soft.. your eyes are the darkest shade of brown, as if they were chocolate chips. I could gaze at you forever."

"He ate it all! The whole thing!" Philomena whispered. Irena was getting nervous. She didn't actually want to be kissed, and nobody seemed to recognize what was going on. It wasn't as embarrassing as she wanted it to be.

Felix didn't seem to hear his sister. He grabbed Irena's hand in his, giving it a squeeze. "Your hands are so soft.. I could hold them forever. I could hold you close to me and smell your hair.. your beautiful hair.." He leaned in and Irena pushed him away.

"I regret this prank!" Irena told Philomena, who laughed.

A squeal was heard. Tabitha ran beside Irena. "Irena, we have a problem! I think Diana ate some because-"

"Tabby? Where's my beautiful Tabitha? If only I could look upon your beautiful face one more time.." Diana called out, Talon at her side.

Aria came to their side, looking behind her. "Teddy wants to kiss me! We have to get out of here and run!" She chirped.

Irena nodded. "Run!" She told them. The four girls began to sprint down Gryffindor tower, hand in hand.

"Where are you going, love?" Talon called out.

"Irena, you mustn't escape me!" Felix followed.

"Tabbyyyyy!" Diana called.

"Aria, please, just one more dance!" Teddy bellowed.

The four turned a corner sharply, sprinting now. "Look, let's hide behind that tapestry!" Philomena whispered as they all pushed their way desperately into the small alcove. Irena panted, trying to catch her breath.

"Shut up, will you? They're going to find us!" Aria whispered sharply. Irena grew very silent, as did the other two girls while they listened to their captors looking for them. Irena's heart was beating out of her chest- not from fear, but from excitement, and maybe the running too.

A sob was heard. "She'll never love me!" Diana cried down the hall. Irena felt Tabitha stiffen beside her.

"Good! Tabitha will be all mine!" Talon sneered.

Tabitha tried not to laugh. " I never thought I'd be fought over like this.. I feel like a character in a book! " She whispered into Irena's ear, who giggled quietly. Philomena shushed them aggressively, keeping an eye out through a tiny hole in the tapestry.

"Irena!" Felix called out, his voice pained. "Irena, where did you go?"

"Why are you looking for Irena?" The familiar, relaxed voice of her father echoed down the halls.

She stiffened at once as Tabitha and Aria looked to her worriedly. It was, at this very moment, Irena uttered her very first curse word. " Shit. " Irena whispered breathlessly.

"Professor Diggory, do you know where Aria is? Aria Rowe? Long, beautiful dark hair, the most beautiful doe eyes you ever saw? The brains and wit beyond her years?" Teddy asked, his voice echoing.

Diana and Talon's footsteps were heard. "Professor Diggory-" Diana began.

"No, Professor Diggory- let me-" Talon cut her off.

"Quiet, both of you!" Dad's authoritative voice hushed them. Irena knew she was gonna be in trouble now, if not detention, she was surely going to be grounded. "What is going on? Teddy, you've never expressed interest in Aria before!"

"I've only recently discovered her beauty and I must tell her!" Teddy cried out.

There was a pause. "Can whoever is behind that tapestry come forward? I can see your shoes." Dad said, using his stern, authoritative voice. Philomena crept out, Aria after her, then Tabitha, and finally, Irena.

Felix let out a laugh, running toward them excitedly. Dad raised his wand. " Colloshoo !" He incanted, Felix's shoes stuck to the ground, making him trip and fall. Irena flinched, grabbing onto Tabitha's hand. "Irena, what have you done?" Professor Diggory asked sternly.

"If I may, Professor," Aria squeaked. "We may have given them a love potion.."

"Diana wasn't supposed to have any!" Tabitha piped up. "It was supposed to only be the boys!"

Dad looked from the four girls to those afflicted, sighing. It was as if he was deciding whether to be Dad or to be Professor Diggory. He decided on the latter. "You four, you will follow me to Slughorn's office. You four, we're going to follow these lovely girls to Professor Slughorn." Diggory told them.

Felix got up as they walked down to the dungeons. Irena instinctively stayed close to her father, but he didn't so much as glance at her as they walked down the halls. He knocked on Slughorn's door loudly.

"Yes, Cedric?" Slughorn asked, opening the little window to his door.

"I've got some students infected with Amortentia." Dad told him. "Is there any way you could- you know?"

The Potions Master sighed, closing the window and opening the door. The girls shuffled through. Philomena was looking down at her shoes, while Aria gazed around at the office. Tabitha looked at the boys, more peculiarly at Diana.

"I remember the last time I saw it this badly." Slughorn said casually, sitting the four of them down on an old, worn couch. Felix was gazing lovingly to Irena, much to the distaste of her father. "Oh, it was many, many years ago. Professor Harry Potter and his friend Ron Weasley."

Dad laughed. "Harry drank a love potion?"

"Oh no, it was his friend." Slughorn twittered, grabbing four glasses, pouring an odd wine colored liquid. "I'll never forget that day. We had a bit of mead after, poisoned mead. Fawn Black was there as well- if it weren't for her quick thinking, we may have lost poor Ron that day." He chuckled.

Irena beamed, wishing to hear more stories of her mother. Her life seemed so grand, so daring, so interesting! "Irena is Fawn's daughter." Dad chuckled, looking down at her.

Slughorn handed the drinks to the four seated on the couch. "Tonic for the nerves." He told them. Talon and Teddy guzzled the drinks quickly, Felix drank his slowly, never removing his eyes from Irena, while Diana sipped her pleasantly. "It seems that young Irena has developed her mother's potion making skills."

"Well, actually, I purchased these cookies from Weasley's Wizard Wheezes that were made with it." Irena muttered, wishing she'd concocted the potion herself. Had Mum made the potion before?

Teddy and Talon looked at the girls oddly. "I feel.." Teddy wondered aloud. "I feel a bit sad all of a sudden."

"Yes, well, love is fleeting." Slughorn told him. "You'd be better off heading to the Great Hall for a little snack before bed." He smiled warmly at them all.

"What's happened?" Felix asked, coughing.

Dad smiled- Irena felt it had been a good prank if he was smiling. "Love potion, dear boy. It appears that you were in love with Irena." Professor Diggory explained. "Sorry if your knees are a bit bruised, it appears you fell on your way here."

Felix frowned. "Irena? I was in love with Irena?" He asked distastefully. Talon and Teddy burst out laughing, clutching their stomachs. Felix drank more from his glass, downing it.

Diana looked up at the girls. "Oh, I've just had the worst thought." She whispered, standing up. "Talon gave me a bit of his cookie, I ate it and I was in love with Tabitha!" Nobody said a word. "It didn't actually happen did it?"

Tabitha laughed. "It's okay, Di, it was just a prank." She giggled as Diana embraced her, giggling herself.

"Should we get McGonagall involved?" Slughorn asked.

"If no one is upset.." Dad mumbled. "You four don't want to..?"

Talon laughed. "It was a good prank, which one of you came up with it?"

"I did." Irena boasted. "It was my prank."

Teddy grinned mischievously. "We're gonna get you back next year! All our prank ideas are gonna sit and ruminate in our minds this summer and next year, we're gonna get you!" He teased.

"Not if we get you first!" Irena told him.

"You won't." Felix said, his smile relaxed, though he looked on Irena with a new light- was it pride? Could it be possible that they were considered competition, instead of girls to harass? "Don't worry about it, Professor."

Dad chuckled. "I don't wanna hear about a prank like that raincloud one, you understand?"

"Yes, professor, we understand." Talon agreed.

Irena grinned, looking at the girls, then the boys. What a perfect end to a perfect year!

 

Tuesday, 15 June, 2010

"Do you promise to write? Everyday?" Diana asked tearfully. They had just gotten off the train at King's Cross station. Young wizards and witches mulled about, looking for their families. "Oh, I can't miss you again! Promise you won't make any friends this summer?"

Irena laughed, Mum stood just beside her. "I promise I won't make any friends without you- I'll send an owl everyday!"

"Diana, why are you so worried? We're gonna spend the summer together." Tabitha giggled.

"But Irena and Aria won't!" Diana squeaked. Irena had only just recently learned that Tabitha and Diana were next door neighbors. "Aria- where's Aria? I'm gonna have to send her owls every day too!"

Irena glanced at Aria, who was walking towards the exit, Felix beside her. They were off to the orphanage again, a fact that was plain on their sad, crestfallen faces. Felix's eyes lingered on Philomena, who was embracing her adoptive Muggle parents, before leaving.

"Well, I suppose it's time we get going." Padfoot motioned, smiling to Mum and Dad, Teddy just beside him. Moony was chatting eagerly with Harry just a few feet away, his children milling about with his wife. Irena looked at them. The eldest, Lily, was Leo's age. The second oldest, James, stood beside her, frowning as he studied Remus. The last, Minnie, was in Cho's arms, though she reached for Harry to hold her.

Mum nodded. "Yes, I've got pumpkin bread cooling on the counter at home. Let's go. Irena, please say goodbye to your friends for the summer."

Irena looked to Tabitha and Diana, whose mothers (and Gabe, standing beside Diana's mom) stood beside their daughters. "Goodbye Diana, goodbye Tabby." Irena told them, hugging them tightly.

She took her mother's hand as they walked toward the exit, getting into their magic car, and leaving back to Grimmauld Place for the summer.

Chapter Text

Wednesday, 23 June, 2010

Dear Irena,

HOW ARE YOU? I am sooo bored. We got home a week ago and all mum ever wants to do is spend time with Gabe. He isn't even a wizard, what does he know? They really seem to be in love.. but mum is supposed to love me first!

Mum said that since I got a passing grade on my Transfiguration test, she's gonna get me a pet next year! Tabitha thinks I should get an owl, since they're the most useful in delivering messages, but my family's got an owl already. Gabe thinks I should get a toad. Stupid Gabe. I think I want a little kitten. Do you have any name ideas?

Please write me back soon, Aria isn't answering any of our letters and I miss you.

Lots of love,

Diana Dolohov

 

Friday, 25 June, 2010

Dear Diana,

Sorry about Gabe! I miss you very much! I've been spending my summer with Teddy so far, and his company is nothing like yours.

I definitely think you should get a kitten. My Mum had a Wampus-Kneazle cat when she was at Hogwarts, but she said it ran away during the Second War. When you adopt it, please send me a picture so I can give some name ideas.

I've been with Ginny Weasley (from the Holyhead Harpies) at her house so far this summer. She's been testing me and Teddy to see what roles we'd be best at. Now, I know I'd be a terrible Beater and a no good Keeper, but Ginny says I'd make an okay Chaser- and an even better Seeker. Teddy's gonna train to be a Beater, but Ginny doesn't seem confident that he'll make the team this year.

I haven't had a chance to write letters to anyone, I forgot to. I'll try writing Aria after I send this one off.

With love,

Irena Diggory-Black

-

Dear Tabitha,

Please tell Diana to get a kitten. I don't want an owl or a toad in our dorm room, but a kitten would be fun to pet and take care of. Think about the bigger picture, Tabby!

With love,

Irena Diggory-Black

-

Dear Aria,

How are you? I miss you so very much! I think about all the pranks we did last year and all the pranks we'll do this year too. We're gonna get those Gryffindors so hard, I have lots of ideas, like making everyone's robes inside out for the rest of the year. Luna's helping me write spells so I can perfect them.

Diana says you haven't been writing back, is everything alright? I can only imagine how depressing life at the orphanage can be. Maybe I could come visit you- you're in London, right? If not, we can definitely coordinate going to Diagon Alley together.

I've been reading my Animagus book. I'm thinking of asking Professor Potter to teach me how to cast a Patronus, since the book says that a witch's Patronus is also her Animagus form. Do you want to learn how to do that with me? It could be a fun project for us next year.

Anyways, I love you so very much and I hope everything's okay. You're one of my bestest friends in the whole world, and I care about you. I'm sorry for our argument earlier this year, I still regret it very much.

With (lots and lots of) love,

Irena Diggory-Black

 

Sunday, 4 July, 2010

Dear Irena,

I have sent the same letter to Diana and Tabitha. Please do not write to me. The people who run this place read every letter you send, and they don't like magic.

I love you very much and I hope I can see you again soon.

Sincerely,

Aria Rowe

 

Thursday, 15 July, 2010

Dear Irena,

I got my new little kitten! Tabitha convinced me to get one, as long as we all get to take care of it. Gabe and Mum thought he was the cutest. I can't get a picture, so I'll describe him. He's dark brown, like a chocolate frog, and he's got bright green eyes. He has a big tummy, and he likes to eat, he doesn't like playing much and likes to sit on my lap.

He's the cutest thing I've ever seen, I think! Tabitha thinks I should name him Toad, but I think that's dumb. Please tell me you have another name in mind! I want it to be cute, but also witty, you know?

Did you want to go to Diagon Alley to shop for school supplies? Tabitha's mum is working it out with mine, and they're thinking of going in the last week of August. I think mum is gonna make me get a haircut, so I'll need your input on what I should get.

You're gonna make an amazing Seeker this year! I'm gonna ask Mum to buy me a Slytherin scarf so I can cheer you on from the stands!

Lots of love,

Diana Dolohov

-

Dear Irena,

My mum is buying me a broomstick for next year, I think she wants me to try out for the Quidditch team. Is there any way we could practice before tryouts? I don't think I'll make the team second year, but maybe with practice we can be on the team together!

What model do you have? I want the same one, but Mum says she would engrave mine so we don't get them mixed up. Write back to me soon?

From,

Tabitha Travers

 

Friday, 23 July, 2010

Dear Diana,

Yay! I can't wait to see that kitten. I love fat cats. Maybe if we can snap a picture of him at Hogwarts, I can show my mum and I can get my own, so he can have a friend!

I think a good name for him would be Coco, or Brownie. Brownies are brown like him, and they're pretty fattening, so I think that would be a perfect name. Please let me know what name you decide on.

Mum says we're going to Diagon Alley on the 27th of August, maybe we could meet up at the Leaky Cauldron? I think if you get your haircut, I'll get mine cut too. Mum says I have split ends. I still want mine long enough to tie back for Quidditch, so I don't know how much I'll get cut off.

You're so sweet! I can't wait to see you!

With love,

Irena Diggory-Black

-

Dear Tabitha,

I have the Cirrus 2010, my Auntie Ginny says it was very expensive and she would recommend the Nimbus 2009 as a first broomstick (she played for the Holyhead Harpies, she's an expert on this stuff). We can definitely train together- maybe next year you can spend the summer at Ginny's house and we can practice all summer, like me and Teddy.

I think you would make a really good Chaser, because you have a light build and I think you could ride pretty quickly if you put lots of effort into it.

When are you and Diana planning on going to Diagon Alley? I would really like to go with you both! I miss you so much!

With love,

Irena Diggory-Black

 

Saturday, 7 August, 2010

Dear Irena,

Mum says that August 27th is a good day to go to Diagon Alley! I'm so excited to see you! I decided to call my kitten Brownie- you can meet him as soon as we get on the train. Mum cast a spell on him to make sure his fur doesn't stick to our robes.

I think I want a super short haircut, maybe up to my shoulders. Tabitha is thinking about getting a similar haircut so we can match. Mum thinks a scarf is a good idea, since it'll be cold in the stands while I watch you play.

Did you hear Tabitha's trying out? I don't think she'll make the team, but she doesn't know I think that. I don't want to be mean, but she's not practicing like you are. Maybe you can give her pointers this year?

I'm soooo excited to see you!

Lots of love,

Diana Dolohov

 

Friday, 27 August, 2010

"Come on, I don't want to miss seeing Diana and Tabby!" Irena squeaked, pulling on Teddy's arm as they ran through Grimmauld Place.

Teddy chuckled. "I don't wanna miss seeing Talon either, goof."

"Oh, bugger off." Irena giggled.

Dad, Mum, Moony, and Padfoot stood beside the door. Luna and Ginny were busy with the younger kids. "Let's get going, they're probably there already." Mum whispered, taking Irena's hand. They all apparated to the Leaky Cauldron, leaving to Diagon Alley.

"IRENA!" A yelp was heard, Irena was barreled into by both Diana and Tabitha, who were nearly jumping up and down when they saw her. Diana was grinning. "I missed you so bad!"

Tabitha was grinning. "Can we go to the Quidditch shop first? Please?"

Mum laughed, introducing herself to Diana and Tabitha's mothers. "I'm Fawn Black, by the way. I'm so glad our daughters get to be friends at Hogwarts, Diana and Tabitha seem very lovely." Mum said, shaking the hands of the older women.

"A Black, eh?" The first woman, who had light blonde hair, sneered. "I'm Teresa Travers."

"I'm Dew, Dew Dolohov." The other woman, who stood beside a tall, spindly man, said, shaking her hand warmly. Irena started to think that Diana's mum was a lot nicer to be around compared to Tabitha's mom.

Sirius cleared his throat. "Talon, where are your parents?"

"Dropped me off, went to go look at other stuff." Talon told him.

Remus was chuckling. "He reminds me a bit of you when you were that age, Padfoot." He whispered. Sirius punched him in his arm, though he was giggling.

"You must be Professor Diggory- Diana's told me a lot about you." Dew smiled, shaking Dad's hand. "We're really so grateful to you, I was so worried Diana would fail Transfiguration. I had McGonagall, I remember the class being very difficult."

Dad grinned. "Both your daughters are lovely to have in class, perhaps they would receive top marks if they weren't so chatty." He said cheekily. Dew chuckled a bit, while Teresa stared at him apprehensively.

"You were in the war, weren't you?" Teresa asked coolly.

"Yes, we both were at the Battle of Hogwarts, fighting on behalf of the Order of the Phoenix and Dumbledore's Army." Mum said, her tone becoming short and curt. "Why do you ask?"

Teresa smiled, though she held a look of distaste for them. "Tabby, dear, perhaps we'd be better off shopping on our own, like last year. Hmm? Let's go."

"Mum, I want to be with my friends." Tabitha said at once, yanking her arm away. "You can go on your own if you want. I don't wanna leave Diana and Irena, I haven't seen Irena all summer!"

Her mother looked coldly, looking around at all the parents, her cheeks grew very red.

"We'll take good care of her." Mum said sweetly.

Teresa forced a smile. "Very well." She muttered. "Dew, do you think you could take her home?"

"Yes, I can take her home, Terry." Dew said with a smile. Teresa nodded, apparating away. "Sorry about her- she's got hard feelings around the war. Her husband's still in Azkaban."

Mum sighed, ignoring Dew. "Sirius, Remus, why don't you take Teddy and Talon to go robe shopping- here are Irena's measurements." She handed a paper to Moony. "We'll go to Flourish and Blotts for books- they're all the same for everyone in second year, I believe. We can meet back up at the Quality Quidditch Supplies."

The four boys left. Dad smiled to Dew. "Were you at the Battle of Hogwarts?" He asked casually as they began walking. Mum struck up a conversation with Gabe, something about the Muggle radio.

"Ah, no." Dew replied, sweeping her long brownish red hair over her shoulder. "My husband was a Deatheater, Antonin Dolohov. He was killed months before the Battle at Hogwarts. I never really liked the whole Pureblood stuff, my Dad was a Muggle, I was a Halfblood. I took Diana and fled to Spain for a while."

Dad nodded. "Well, I'm glad things are better now- for all of us."

"Me too." Dew smiled, giving Diana's hand a squeeze.

They walked through the cobblestone streets. People of all ages bustled around, going from shop to shop. "Daddy, can we pretty please get ice cream?" Irena asked sweetly, tugging his hand gently.

"If you behave yourself." Dad told her. Easy enough. She wanted a chocolate raspberry cone! "Fleur, Bill, what are you doing?" He said at once as they walked over to a small family. Diana and Tabitha were jumping from cobblestone to cobblestone, playing with the curse, Step on a crack and you'll break your mama's back! Irena watched as Tabitha stepped on a crack on purpose, laughing all the more.

There was the tall red haired man with the blonde woman from the Weasley Christmas party. "Cedric!" The woman, Fleur, cheered, embracing him.

"We're shopping for school supplies for our eldest." Bill gushed, his hand on the shoulder of a little girl. She had red hair like her father, but it seemed diluted. Her face was speckled with freckles, her lovely gray eyes looked at Irena carefully. "Victoire's off to Hogwarts next week! Time flies."

Dad laughed. "It certainly does. I'll see you in class, eh, Victoire?" He bent down to look at her.

She clutched her mother's hand, hiding. "She's a bit shy, I do hope she grows out of it at Hogwarts. I wanted to send her to Beauxbatons, but Bill insisted." Fleur gushed. "I suppose it'll be easier to have her closer to us."

Victoire looked shyly to her, while a smaller, blonder girl stood beside her. " Papa, je veux robes nouveau! " She squeaked, while their flaming haired brother stood beside his mother.

Bill laughed. " Quand tu alles a Hogwarts, tu peux avoir robes nouveau comme Victoire. " He told her. Irena had no idea what they said, but it sounded pretty. The little girl sighed, looking to her older sister with a look of jealousy. "Irena, these are my daughters, Victoire and Dominique, this is my son, Louis."

"Hello." Irena smiled at them, giving a small wave.

" Bonjour Irena! " Dominque grinned. Irena loved the way her name sounded in her language. "I'm gonna go to Hogwarts the year after Victoire, I'm so excited!" She twittered, but Victoire still seemed apprehensive of Irena.

"I'm gonna try out for the Quidditch team this year." Irena gushed. "Ginny says I'll make a good Seeker."

Dominique grinned. "Ginny is ma tante , my aunt. She's great."

"I think we ought to get going, we don't want to leave those Gryffindor boys waiting." Mum said with a smile. "You all can get to know each other on the train, eh?" She rubbed Irena's back gingerly.

The little blonde French girl looked crestfallen for a moment. "Ah, au revoir, Irena ."

"Bye-bye!" Irena said with a smile. They continued walking to Flourish and Blotts. Dew, Gabe, Diana, and Tabitha all left to one side, while Dad, Mum, and Irena went upstairs.

Mum looked through the books intently, looking down at her list. Dad already held a bundle of books, one for each kid. "Standard Books and Spells, Grade 2.. oh where is it?" Mum mumbled to herself.

"It's interesting seeing people after the war." Dad mumbled while Irena sat on the floor, flicking through an old, dusty book. "Do you remember Dolohov?" He asked Mum.

She looked from the shelf. "Isn't he one of the ones we saw in the café?" Mum asked.

"Yes, the one that Regulus killed. I wasn't going to say anything." Dad murmured. Irena liked listening to their conversations- sometimes when she was quiet, she felt like they forgot she was hearing every word they said. "He was ruthless back then wasn't he?"

Mum laughed. "We all were." She told him. "Remember Wormtail? And Bellatrix? By the end of the war, I didn't have energy to care about life. I don't think any of us did. It was all about survival, all about winning. They killed too."

"Yes, I remember." Dad mumbled. "Poor Lavender Brown.. poor little Rose. She comes into my class sometimes at Hogwarts. I think she forgets she's not a student there anymore." He said casually, his brows furrowed.

She didn't say a word, only looking back at the shelves. Mum always bit her lip when she felt like crying, Irena noticed. She never talked about the war, because it always made her want to cry. Irena stood, wrapping her arms around her mother's waist.

"Oh, my sweet girl." Mum muttered, bending down to embrace her. "You both will write to me about the dates for Quidditch? I want to come to your matches. Maybe even the little ones will want to come." She, of course, meant Irena's siblings.

Dad grinned. "That would be sweet."

"If I even make the team.." Irena sighed. "There'll probably be older kids trying out, older kids who are better than me."

Both parents shook their heads, bending down to meet her at eye level. "Irena, you're going to make it." Dad told her assuredly. "I've seen you flying, you're spectacular."

"Ginny told me you fly like Harry Potter when he was your age!" Mum told her with a smile, her eyes searching Irena's face. Sometimes, she really looked like a bug when she did that. It was hard not to laugh. "You are going to make it, they'd be stupid to deny you."

Mum embraced Irena, kissing her cheek, Dad wrapped his arms around both of them. Sometimes, she liked having them together with her. She liked to pretend that she was an only child, that she was their only daughter. Her heart ached when she remembered next year, Leo would be joining them to get his school supplies. Was it selfish to want her parents all to herself?

They spent the day getting things on the class list. Then, the girls went to get ice cream and wander the Quidditch shop. They went to get their haircut with the boys. Diana cut off nearly 6 inches of her hair, letting her rosy colored locks go just below her shoulder. Tabitha cut her hair to a similar length, but got bangs too. Irena lost all her split ends, but her hair was still longer than theirs.

The families all went back home. Mum helped Irena pack up her school supplies the night before the ride to King's Cross station. "Reni," Mum told her at once as she flipped through the pages of her new spell book. "Please, go easy on the pranks this year, okay?"

Irena sighed. "Yes, I know ." She growled, rolling her eyes. Stay out of my business!

Mum looked at her affectionately. She got onto the bed alongside her daughter, pulling her close to her, kissing her forehead over and over. Irena tried to push her away, but it was impossible. "Stop growing up! I don't like it!" Mum giggled.

"I can't help it!" Irena laughed as her mum tickled her.

Mum let go, kissing her cheek. "Between you and me.. the love potion prank was pretty good." She whispered to Irena. "Very clever, but you could ask me for prank ideas! I never got to play any pranks when I was at Hogwarts."

"Maybe if you weren't a transfer student." Irena poked her tongue out teasingly.

Her mother looked wistfully to Irena, still smiling. "I love you." Mum whispered.

"I love you too!"

Chapter Text

Friday, 3 September, 2010

Irena took a deep breath in, watching the Muggles mill around in the train station. Dad clutched his little cart of things, grinning beside her. Mum held onto the others tightly, Leo fixed her with an attentive gaze. Perseus was busy teasing Nova and Selene, while Zenith and Aurora toddled around behind their mother.

She ran at the barrier quickly, closing her eyes, waiting for impact, but it never came. Dad was just behind her, wheeling his cart of things. Leo and Perseus were next, then Selene and Nova. Mum came in with the final two.

A shrill squeak was heard and Irena felt herself be barreled into. "I missed you!" Diana cried.

"You just saw me a few days ago!" Irena giggled, hugging her back. "Have Tabitha or Aria arrived yet?" She asked earnestly. 

Diana shook her head. "Just you and me!"

Dad was busy loading her things onto the train, then he came back for Diana's, just to be kind to her mother. Mum stood alongside the other kids, making sure they weren't being too naughty. "Next year, this'll be you, Leo." Mum told him with a smile.

"Ugh, don't remind me!" Irena groaned.

"You don't want to see your brother at Hogwarts?" Mum asked playfully.

"No, I like my peace and quiet." Irena grumbled, making Diana giggle.

Leo rolled his eyes. "As if I'll be in Slytherin!" He told her. They always bickered- they were siblings, after all. "I'll probably be in Hufflepuff."

"That's what I thought last year." Irena sniffed. "Look where I ended up!" Leo rolled his eyes.

Diana let out a squeak as she spotted Tabitha across the way, running over to her. " Salut Irena! " A familiar warm voice and accent chirped. Dominique held onto her mother's hand as Fleur and Mum began talking.

Victoire held onto her father, looking nervously around her. Bill peered around. "Do you know where Cedric is?" He asked Irena. Irena shook her head. He nodded, looking down at his daughter. Bill bent down to Irena's level. "Do you think you could do me a favor?"

"Sure." Irena shrugged.

"Could Victoire sit with you on the train?" Bill asked.

She looked nervously to her father, then to Irena. "Sure!" Irena smiled. "Has she got an accent like Dominique?"

"Yes, a little." Victoire murmured.

"Well, I'll have to introduce you to all my friends, I think we're gonna have a full compartment." Irena began explaining. Victoire watched her as she spoke, letting go of her father as he grabbed his son, joining his wife. She was slowly becoming less shy, it seemed. "There's me, Diana, Tabitha, and Aria- we're all Slytherins. Then, there's Teddy, Talon, and Felix who are in Gryffindor, and the oddball, Philomena- wait, there she is!"

Philomena was walking toward Irena. She hadn't changed a bit that summer, her hair was still light blonde, her eyes still brown, though she had a red sunburn across her nose and cheeks. "Irena, it's so good to see you! Who's this?"

"Victoire Weasley." Victoire said plainly, though she still seemed a bit reserved and shy. "It's my first year."

"She's riding with us." Irena added.

Philomena smiled, shaking Victoire's hand. "It's so nice to meet you." She greeted the younger girl warmly.

Diana and Tabitha returned to the group with Aria, Felix at their side. Philomena grinned, hugging him tightly. Irena looked at him oddly. He'd been shaved again, his normal curly, blond hair seemed odd when it was so short and spiky; a buzz cut on his head. "Hey." Felix smiled at Irena, giving her a small wave.

"I've been studying the perfect spell all summer for you, Fel." Philomena told him. "Dad studied Latin in university, and he said it lined up. I'm gonna make your hair grow back once we get on the train. It'll be just like the end of last year."

Felix smiled now. His face wasn't bruised like last year, but his lip had scabbed over and he had a cut over his eyebrow. "Thanks, I was a bit worried because of-"

" FELIX! " Teddy and Talon shouted, barreling into their friend. Felix resorted to laying on the ground, laughing with his mates. Irena grinned.

Teddy stood up, helping Talon and Felix to their feet. "So, who's this?" Talon teased with a smile, making Victoire hunker down, grabbing onto Irena's sleeve, gazing up at Talon. Irena hadn't noticed how much they had all grown compared to their first year. Victoire seemed naturally small, but maybe she just needed time to grow.

"This is Victoire, she's riding the train with us." Irena said flatly, wrapping her arm around Victoire.

Felix smiled an easy going smile. "We're gonna have a full compartment then." He said. The train let out a large toot to signal people should begin boarding. "We'll just have to figure out seating arrangements when we get there."

"I don't want to sit next to any boys." Aria sniffed haughtily.

"Ever thought that we don't want to sit next to you ?" Talon told her snarkily, furrowing his eyebrows. "Let's get on before all the seats are taken."

The three boys ran off to claim their spot. Irena turned to her family. Mum embraced her tightly, kissing her cheek. She lingered, her breath hot on Irena's ear. "You'll owl me about your prank ideas, won't you?"

Irena grinned mischievously, even if the others could see her. "I'll draft some up for you before we perform anything." She giggled.

"Good girl." Mum told her, pulling away with a wink. "Say goodbye to your sister, you won't see her for a few months." She ordered. Leo hugged Irena warmly. He was a good little brother- as far as little brothers go. Perseus was a bit annoying and hugged her too tightly, squishing her. Nova cried, wiping her tears on Irena's robes, while Selene hugged her gently. Zenith and Aurora didn't understand.

Victoire wept as she hugged her mother. Fleur was whispering in French, wiping her eyes. Irena decided to wait for her before boarding the train. It felt good to take care of someone else, she realized. Victoire was so small and Irena could not remember being that short this time last year.

Fleur and Bill covered her with kisses before the pair boarded the train. Teddy and Talon were busy making faces through the window at their parents. Teddy pushed his nose against the glass, making a pig nose, while Padfoot dipped his index fingers in the corners of his mouth, stretching them out.

The train let out another toot while Irena boarded, holding onto Victoire while she navigated to their car. Irena opened the door to see how full it was. 

On the right, Teddy sat near the window, waving to his sister. Talon sat beside him, Diana by his side as she held a fat brown kitten. Aria sat beside them, rolling her eyes.

Felix and Philomena sat on the floor, Philomena was reading through her notes furiously while Felix looked hopefully at her, touching his hair thoughtfully.

To the left, Tabitha sat near the door, grinning to Irena and Victoire. "Victoire, I've saved you the window seat- the best seat in the house!" Tabitha smiled sweetly. Victoire stumbled over to where the open seat was, smiling out the window to her parents. Irena sat down beside Tabitha near the door, excited for the trolley witch to bring around the sweets.

The train took off, wheeling away from the station. Diana handed Brownie to Irena, letting Tabitha and Victoire pet him. He had quite a round tummy and was warm. He slept peacefully on her lap. He was the cutest thing Irena had ever seen, she reserved herself to sitting very still so he stayed beside her.

"Okay, everyone quiet! Philly's gonna make Felix's hair grow back!" Teddy hushed everyone, though it was mostly Diana and Talon talking about their summers. Philomena looked to Teddy, her cheeks growing as red as her sunburn.

Philomena laughed nervously. "You don't all have to listen.." She told them.

"No, we should be taking notes." Teddy teased.

Aria was watching them carefully, furrowing her brow in concentration, as if this was somehow as interesting as classwork.

Felix looked up to his sister. "Just don't set me on fire, okay?" Felix told her.

"Not a chance." Philomena laughed. She took a deep breath, clutching her wand, swirling it around Felix's head, muttering, " Crescere comas. " Under her breath. The car watched as Felix's golden locks spilled from his head, twirling messily as they grew to his ears. It was as if he'd never gotten his hair cut at all.

Talon and Teddy clapped politely, as if they were two spectators at a golfing game. Irena giggled. "Nice job, 'Mena." Irena told her warmly. "Too bad we won't have an egg alongside us this year!"

Felix frowned. "It's not too late, we could shave you!" He teased her.

"You wouldn't!" Irena poked her tongue out at him.

"Talon, you like my haircut, don't you?" Diana asked, twirling her hair in her finger as she sat beside him.

Talon almost seemed perturbed. "Uh, yea, sure, Diana." He said with an uneasy smile. Diana grew very red in the face, beaming to him. She never seemed to pick up on things like that, not like Irena.

The trolley witch came by, Teddy handed his galleons to Irena, the two of them bought candies and sweets for the car. "No Ton-Tongue Toffees?" Felix asked cheekily.

Teddy chuckled. "Don't you know that master pranksters never repeat the same trick twice?" He told Felix, biting into a chocolate frog. "It wouldn't be as surprising."

"Repeating a prank wouldn't be pranking, it would just be bullying." Irena told him assuredly. "But I appreciate you calling me a master prankster, Ted. It really helps my self esteem."

He rolled his eyes. "You won't be a master prankster for long- once you make the Quidditch team, you'll be too busy ." Teddy told her.

"You're trying out for Quidditch?" Felix asked excitedly. "I stole a few of Teddy's books last year and I learned everything about it-"

"-I was wondering where those went." Teddy said pointedly.

"-Do you think we could practice? I think making the team would be fun, plus the flying lessons last year were fun too." Felix looked at her.

Irena let out a breathless chuckle. "Well, I'm supposed to be helping Tabby practice anyway- the more the merrier, I suppose." She smiled. "I think it'd be in your best interest to ask Teddy for help too, cuz if you join the Gryffindor team, then you'll be my competition."

"Oh, you're on!" Teddy grinned.

The train ride went swiftly, filled with warm, happy conversations about the summer. Victoire was very quiet, opting to stare out the window and pet Brownie, who was now asleep on her lap. The train was coming to a stop soon, and Philomena was telling Victoire what to do next. Aria was sleeping on Diana's shoulder, who, for the first time since they got on the train, was very quiet.

"There's a big tall guy outside." Philomena explained. "His name's Hagrid. You're gonna go on these boats with a bunch of other first years. Then, you'll meet Professor Longbottom- he's really neat- really nice. Then, you'll go to the Great Hall to be sorted. Hopefully you'll be in Ravenclaw." She smirked. "Seriously, I need to find some friends from my own house. I'm stuck with these oafs all the time."

Diana frowned. "Slytherin's the best house." She tutted. "Ravenclaw might be the smartest, but Slytherin's got the best grades. We're smart too, but ambitious and driven."

"The most powerful wizards in history have come from Slytherin." Aria added groggily, waking up.

"But isn't Slytherin the evil one?" Victoire fretted. "Daddy was in Gryffindor and so were all his brothers and his sister. Mummy didn't go to Hogwarts, 'cause she lived in France." She twisted her robes nervously in her fingers.

Talon grinned. "Gryffindor's the best house. We're the most welcoming anyway." He narrowed his eyes to Aria.

"Kids usually get into the house their parents were at, at least for Purebloods anyway." Tabitha explained. "Mum was in Slytherin, so was Dad, before he went to Azkaban. Now I'm in Slytherin. If your dad's a Gryffindor, then you'll probably be one too."

Victoire nodded quietly, taking it all in.

"Well, both my parents were Hufflepuff and look where that ended me." Irena murmured, petting Brownie's head. His ears are so soft.. Irena thought. "But Slytherin's not too bad. No evil wizards around.. 'cept maybe for us. We're prank masters."

Teddy laughed. "In your dreams."

"You just told me I was not even an hour ago." Irena argued, suddenly annoyed. Why did we sit in the same compartment with these stupid boys? She thought to herself. Sometimes the boys could be agreeable, but sometimes they could be really challenging. "Whatever. It's not like you get to choose anyway. It's no use worrying about it."

There was quiet in the train car now, nobody bothered to argue with Irena. They put Brownie away when the train came to a stop. The second years hopped out of the car, opting to go on the carriages this year, waving goodbye to Victoire as she left with the younger kids.

"Victoire seems nice." Diana smiled when they got up on the carriage together. Irena couldn't figure out how it was being pulled- it was invisible. "A bit shy, but nice."

"I was pretty shy on the train last year." Tabitha told her. "Once she gets a few friends her age, I think things will be different."

"I wish she'd stay our friend!" Philomena squeaked. "She seems so kind, plus, we could always use one more girl in our prank war."

Talon shook his head. "With you, we've got more than enough."

"Us boys are outnumbered." Teddy agreed. "We don't need anymore people."

"What if she's a Gryffindor?" Irena asked with a grin.

Talon thought for a moment, but it was Felix who answered. "Another Gryffindor? Well, we might be able to forget her girlhood if it means she's on our team for pranks." He grinned. "I think she knows a lot about pranks- more than she lets on."

"I just think she's shy." Philomena told him. "She just is more than she lets on. I don't think she's usually that quiet normally. There's a personality hiding under there." She tucked her hair behind her ear. Teddy watched her.

The carriage moved quickly and they were let off. The students began shuffling toward the Great Hall. Irena felt good and confident, knowing she was one of the kids no one would pay attention to tonight. It was all about the first years.

The boys waved goodbye, going to sit at the Gryffindor table. Philomena lingered with the girls at the Slytherin table, but was shooed away when Headmistress McGonagall asked for everyone's attention. Irena sat beside Tabitha near the wall, while Diana and Aria sat on the other side.

Irena watched with a smile as all the first years shuffled out and down the hall behind Longbottom, catching the dilute auburn hair of Victoire Weasley. The sorting began, starting with Ashe, Wilburn. Victoire was the last little first year out of all of them.

"Weasley, Victoire." Professor Longbottom, smiling knowingly to Victoire. It wouldn't be until years later that Irena figured all the staff had been preparing for the influx of Weasley children that would plague Hogwarts.

Victoire sat on the stool. The hat had only barely touched her head before bellowing, "GRYFFINDOR!" The table erupted into cheers, Irena watched as Victoire went to sit right beside Teddy.

"Such a shame." Tabitha murmured. "Looks like she'll have to be the enemy."

"The enemy?" Diana asked.

"In our prank war!" Tabitha laughed. "You heard those boys. They want another Gryffindor to help with their pranks. And she's a Weasley- her uncles are the master pranksters. We're screwed this year."

An older Slytherin shushed them roughly. Irena hadn't thought of that. Uncle Freddie and Uncle George weren't really her uncles, but Mum made them seem like they were. If it came down to it, would they favor Victoire over her? If they had to pick a girl to tell their prank ideas to, would it be Irena or Victoire? The thought left a bitter taste in her mouth.

McGonagall tapped her lectern, letting the owl's wings spread out. "Now, students- Mr. Lupin, Mr. Fitzgibbons, please ," The boys quieted down, their faces turning red as everyone bent to look at them. Irena grinned. They were so easily embarrassed. "We've got a new staff change this year, Mr. Macmillan will be taking the place of our librarian. I expect you all to be especially kind to him at this time."

The new person stood from where he sat beside Professor Potter, waving with a smile. Irena made a mental note to introduce herself to him. The last librarian was always cross and mean, but Mr. Macmillan was young and seemed nice enough, just from his exterior. Dad was grinning at him, as if he recognized him.

"As always, do not venture into the Forbidden Forest if you do not wish to die a painful death." McGonagall continued. "Mr. Filch asks you to keep the magic to a minimum during passing periods. I, and the rest of our staff, ask you all to keep pranking to a minimum this year as well. Harmless pranks are all fun, but we ask to keep them just that: harmless ."

The four Slytherin girls giggled to each other, glancing to the Gryffindor boys and Philomena. Yeah, right! Irena thought with a grin. Pranks weren't fun when they were completely harmless! The risk was what made them fun.

The food appeared. Large, steaming turkeys, gravy spilling into the pans, steamed peas, mashed potatoes, and small loaves of bread. The girls ate until they were full, as did everyone else. McGonagall stood again. "Now, let us sing the Hogwarts song!"

Everyone burst into song. Irena was ready to sing this year, being in better spirits than the year before.

" Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts, teach us something, please! Whether we be old and bald, or young with scabby knees! Our heads could do with filling with some interesting stuff! For now they're bare and full of air, dead flies and bits of fluff! So teach us things worth knowing, bring back what we've forgot. Just do your best, we'll do the rest, and learn until our brains all rot! "

Everyone laughed, even McGonagall. "The magic of music will bring us together as a school- I know it to be sure!" She wiped tears of laughter from her face. "Prefects, please lead the first years to their dorms, the rest of you get some rest!"

The four girls left to the dungeons, going straight to their dorms without talking to anyone. Irena felt so tired, getting into her pajamas, brushing her teeth, kissing Brownie goodnight, then heading off to bed.

Her dreams were filled with flying again. The Snitch was only just in front of her.. it was so close.

I'm gonna catch you!

Chapter Text

Monday, 6 September, 2010

"I heard tryouts are happening next week." Tabitha spoke casually as they walked down from the Astronomy Tower. It would be an easy year in Astronomy, more stuff that they learned last year. Math, angles, names of stars and moons. "I'm so nervous!"

Irena smiled. "Tabby, we practiced so much this weekend." She said reassuringly. "You're gonna make a great Chaser. Besides, Chasers are the ones with the most players. You've got a better chance becoming one of 'em instead of, let's say, a Keeper."

Tabitha sighed contently. "Teddy's nice for helping me practice." She smiled.

"Oo, do you like him?" Diana teased. She'd been busy all morning singing California Gurls by Katy Perry over and over under her breath. "He's cute.. I suppose. If you get over the whole Metamorphmagus thing."

" I don't like him! " Tabitha snapped through gritted teeth.

Diana frowned. "Jeez, it's whatever, Tabby, seriously." She said defensively. She quickly forgot all about Tabitha's attitude, going back to singing under her breath. " California girls, we're undeniable.. "

Aria was very spacey, not staring at anything in particular. Philomena was very quiet, her cheeks red. Philomena stood very close to Irena, whispering to her. "Do you think I look okay?" She whispered.

"Yes, you always do." Irena said with a smile. Philomena did not look relieved. "Why do you ask?"

She avoided Irena's gaze. "No reason!" Philomena squeaked, her cheeks growing even more pink beneath her sunburn.

They arrived at the dungeon just in time, a tedious walk from the top of the Astronomy tower to the dungeons. There was another seating chart, though they weren't paired up this year. Instead, they were grouped four to a table. Irena quickly noticed that it was one person per each house at every table.

"Irena, over here!" Teddy called from the table. "You're at my table!" He grinned.

Irena glanced up. If he was the Gryffindor and she was the Slytherin, that meant.. "Philomena, you're sitting with me." Irena grabbed her hand, taking her to their table. Philomena was very stiff, sitting very close to Irena at the table. Teddy didn't seem to notice, he was too wrapped up in his conversation with the token Hufflepuff, Sage Poults.

"Alright, Potion students!" Slughorn clapped his hands together, silencing everyone. "I'm so happy to see all of your bright and shining faces! Some of you a bit more sunburnt than others.." He looked to Philomena, who ducked her head in embarrassment. "You'll see that you're at a table with three people- none from your own house. This is to promote house unity, just like last year."

She glanced around at the other tables. Near the front, Irena could see Diana and Talon at a table. Diana was busy poking Talon under the table, and he poked her back, giggling silently. Near the back, Irena could see Felix and Aria at a table together. Beside them was Tabitha, who had scooted her chair toward Aria's table. They were far enough away that Slughorn didn't notice there was no Slytherin at her table.

"Today, we're gonna go over some potions we're going to learn about." Slughorn murmured, tapping his wand to his lectern. Cauldrons appeared on each person's table, having been summoned by a nonverbal spell. "Who can tell me what this red potion is?"

Philomena, completely forgetting her former embarrassment, shot her hand in the air to answer. Slughorn gestured to her to answer. "That's a Fire Protection Potion, or Ice Potion, Professor." She answered quickly. "It provides protection from most magical fires."

Slughorn grinned. "Excellent work, Ms. Fitzgibbons. 10 points to Ravenclaw." He said warmly, making Philomena smile. "Now, who would like to try some?"

Nobody's hand shot into the air, and many sheepish glances were cast around the room.

"Mr. Aves, how about you take a taste of the Ice Potion? Unless you are not too busy flirting with Ms. Dolohov." Slughorn said coolly, giving Talon a small glass of the red potion. "It won't hurt you any."

Talon glanced nervously at Diana, his cheeks red. The class laughed when Slughorn called them out. Diana looked dazzled, and he had to impress her, apparently. He took the cup, downing it in one big gulp. He let out a gasp. "I'm c-c-cold!" He began shivering.

"Perfect!" Slughorn bellowed. "Come on up, lad, come to the front, yes, perfect, alright." The professor looked out at the class, a mischievous grin on his face. Slughorn waved his wand over Talon, and bright flames billowed from his wand and onto his body.

Diana screamed the loudest out of everyone in the room, but even Irena and Philomena let out screams of alarm. " TALON, NO! " Teddy shouted, standing at once. He grabbed his wand, raising it. " Aguamenti! " A jet of water shot from his wand, spilling over Slughorn and Talon, though it didn't put out the fire.

The fire disappeared into Slughorn's wand. Talon stood at the front of the room, his uniform soaking wet, his eyes wide with shock. He touched his face, his eyebrows and hair specifically. Slughorn looked slightly upset by the water, lifting his wand to Talon once more.

"NO!" Diana and the rest of the class shouted, believing he was going to set Talon on fire again.

Slughorn only laughed. "I suppose Mr. Aves should be off to the hospital wing.. change out of those wet clothes." Talon was still frozen to the spot. "Mr. Aves, would you like a friend to take you?"

Teddy's hand shot up, so did Felix's, but Diana was near the front. "I'll take him, Professor!" Diana told him.

"Very well." Slughorn told her. Talon shuffled over to his desk. Diana quickly swept up her bag and his, slumping it over her shoulder and taking his hand, guiding him out of the classroom. His face was still frozen in fear, and Irena couldn't tell if it was a side effect of the icy potion or his brain processing the traumatic experience of being set on fire.

The rest of the day went on, but everyone was talking about the second year who'd been set aflame in Slughorn's classroom that morning. If Talon wasn't aware he'd suddenly become a celebrity, he was going to be delighted.

The four girls sat at the Slytherin table for lunch, eating quietly. "I guess Diana really likes him.." Tabitha mumbled before taking a bite into her ham and cheese sandwich. The Great Hall was generally empty today, most people were outside. Tabitha had begged to go outside, but the other three weren't interested ("We're going outside to practice Quidditch, Tabby!").

"She's so brave." Philomena said quietly, working on a bit of homework for Astronomy early. "I wish I could be that open with somebody I liked."

Irena twitched an eyebrow up. "Who do you like?" She giggled, drawing Tabitha's attention. Aria was reading a book so intently, she didn't seem to notice the other girls beside her. How she could be bothered with a book when her friends were right in front of her, Irena had no idea.

"Hold that thought- look it's Diana!" Tabitha squeaked. Even this drew Aria's attention away from her book. Diana hurried down the room to the food. "Oi! Diana! How are things?"

Diana looked at them, flustered, before making her way over to them. "How- how are things? How was Potions? Miss anything good? I-I need to pick up some lunch for me and Talon.. Pomfrey's orders.."

"You didn't miss anything interesting." Philomena reassured her. "How is he? If he's got an appetite, that's a good sign, right?"

She giggled, tucking her hair behind her ear. "Yea.. he's great.. really.." Diana's cheeks grew red.

"What's up with you? Why are you so..?" Irena asked with a smile. Something had happened, clearly.

Diana giggled, quickly taking a seat beside them, abandoning her mission. "Pomfrey gave some type of draught to Talon.. something to calm him down, you know. He got all sleepy and stuff.. but like he was still awake, you know?" She gushed, talking in quick whispers, her cheeks glowing now. "He kept saying, Diana? Where's Diana? Like he was looking for me!"

"That's fantastic, Di." Tabitha grinned. "I suppose you'll be wanting to get back to him?"

"Oh- yes! I nearly forgot!" Diana squeaked, grabbing Irena's sandwich, placing it in her mouth, taking a napkin and grabbing another before rushing off.

Aria was looking at Tabitha oddly, her eyebrows furrowed, while Tabitha ate with her eyes looking down at her lap. Aria shook her head nonchalantly, returning to her book. Irena didn't know what was going on between her three friends, and neither did Philomena, it seemed. "Why'd she have to take my sandwich?" Irena groaned.

She grabbed another one, taking another bite. Strawberry jam and peanut butter- yum! Philomena giggled, her cheeks still red from blushing. Irena quickly remembered what she had to ask Philomena about. " Sooooo, Philomena, you didn't answer my question!" Irena said in a sing-song voice. "Who do you like?"

"Nobody!" Philomena squeaked. "I don't like anybody."

"Good, cuz boys are gross." Aria said at once.

"Cheers to that." Tabitha agreed, but Aria only frowned again.

Irena knew that there was more than what Philomena was saying. "Philly.. I know that's not the truth."

Philomena looked alarmed. "Fine, I lied! But the boy I like isn't anyone you guys know! He's a Muggle boy who lives on my block and-and we spent the summer together-" She stammered.

"Eww!" Aria laughed. "Not a Muggle boy! No.. we'll find you some nice wizard boy to be with." She thought for a moment. "Like.. Roan Rookwood. He's cute and he's pretty smart. I think you'd get along."

Tabitha guffawed. "Yea, if she wants to be asked weirdly personal questions and look at big welts and sores that cover his face." Tabitha giggled. "No, Philly, you should.. well, what about Teddy Lupin?"

Philomena swallowed. "Oh no, I couldn't.. the prank war.."

"No harm, no foul." Irena told her reassuringly. She surely wasn't going to date Teddy- he was like a brother to her. Come to think of it, Irena didn't really care for any of the boys at Hogwarts. Mum liked to watch the Twilight movies with Irena, and no boy ever came close to as romantic as Edward Cullen . Perhaps, if there were a vampire at Hogwarts, she would be a little more interested.

She only shook her head, tucking a lock of blonde hair behind her ear. Philomena was quite pretty, Irena reflected. She looked like a girl in a movie and, if one ignored her bright sunburn, she could be a vampire herself. Philomena broke out into a nervous chuckle. "I don't need a boyfriend.. I'm going to turn 13 in two weeks.. 13 year old girls don't need boyfriends .. that's what my Dad says.."

"He's not here, is he?" Aria grinned cheekily. "Your loss." She went back to her book, Tabitha looked out the window to the people outside.

Irena looked to Philomena, who breathed a sigh of relief that the attention was no longer on her. She leaned in close to her friend, resting her chin on Philomena's shoulder. "Whoever this Muggle boy is," She whispered. "I'll help get him to like you."

"You will?" Philomena whispered.

"Of course, Philly." Irena grinned. "You're my best friend."

Philomena's eyes searched her face, as if she could not believe Irena. She smiled, chuckling before returning to her parchment, and Irena returned to her sandwich. She was acutely aware of Aria watching them, but Irena made no notion that she knew. Aria was too quiet.. she must have been planning something but Irena couldn't tell what it was.

 

Saturday, 18 September, 2010

"It's a good day, a good day for Quidditch tryouts." Irena breathed, looking out the window. Her stomach twisted in something. Was it fear? Or excitement? Whatever it was, it really made her have to use the restroom.

Irena pushed her way through Diana and Tabitha. Diana was busy tying Tabitha's hair back into a bun, and would tie Irena's hair into plaits when she got the chance. Diana was good with hair, just like Mum was, which Irena hoped she could be someday.

Aria snored loudly from her bed. "Should we wake her?" Diana asked tentatively.

"And get our heads bitten off?" Tabitha grumbled.

Irena rolled her eyes. "Aria's our friend, we have to at least invite her." She told them grumpily. There was a tiny part of her that would be sad if Aria missed tryouts. Irena wanted something to hold over her, something that would show that she could be better than her at some things. Their friendship was a friendly competition, and Irena only wanted to win this once. "Hey, Aria? Tryouts are soon if you wanted to-"

"Yea! Okay!" Aria mumbled groggily, shooing Irena away, rubbing her face tiredly. She was surrounded by her messy head of curls. Although she had just woken up, even Aria was beautiful. She could pass as a vampire with her pale skin and dark hair, perhaps even better than Philomena.

Within the hour, all four girls were ready to go. Tabitha was so jittery, fiddling with her robes. Irena remembered to take deep breaths, just like Mum always told her when she got worked up. I've got it in the bag, I'm going to do great. I am everything they're looking for in a Seeker. I've practiced for this moment all summer.

They made it out onto the field. Many people sat in the stands. "There you are!" Philomena grinned, running up to them. She seemed to notice Tabitha's nervousness. "You guys are gonna do great. The other kids don't look like much."

Irena smiled, embracing her. Diana and Aria walked back with Philomena to sit down. Irena took Tabitha's hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. "Irena!" Dad's voice came from behind her. I forgot Professors could watch.. She thought, suddenly very nervous. He smiled his easygoing smile, bending down to kiss her on her cheek. "Good luck, you're going to do great." He told her. Dad glanced at Tabitha. "Good luck to you too, Tabitha."

"Thanks, Professor Diggory." Tabitha said in a monotone voice. Irena and Tabitha made their way to the group on the pitch.

The school had decided to group all the tryouts together. Teddy sat among other Gryffindors, looking quite nervous. Felix was beside him, tearing through bits of grass. Talon sat beside them too, but Irena hadn’t known he wanted to try out.

"Please, sit with your house." The Gryffindor captain said warmly, pointing toward the Slytherin group. Irena nodded, casting a sideways glance to the three boys, flashing them a smile and a thumbs up. Teddy grinned uneasily, flashing her a thumbs up too.

Irena sat down on the grass alongside Tabitha. They were the only second years trying out, it seemed. The captain, or who Irena assumed to be the captain, clapped his gloved hands together. "Alright." He announced. "My name is Austin Evergreen, and I'm the Slytherin Quidditch captain this year." Austin grinned, tucking a stray brown curl behind his ear.

It all became very apparent at that moment. Her stomach fluttered, not with nerves for the game, but for him . Austin Evergreen.. Well, he was very attractive. His hair seemed perfectly curly, his eyes seemed kind, his smile wide, his jaw sharp. Irena suddenly knew what Diana felt all those times she saw Talon, and Philomena with that Muggle boy. Irena took another deep breath. No, she didn't want to be distracted. There would be time to talk to him after tryouts- after she made it .

"We've got a little agreement going on, all of the captains." Austin continued to explain. "Hufflepuff will have their tryouts first, then Ravenclaw. Gryffindor will be next, then Slytherin will be last because we're so polite." Austin turned to the other captains, smiling sheepishly.

Tabitha let out a shaky sigh as the Hufflepuff team stood, getting ready for their tryouts. "Last? I don't.. I don't know if I can handle waiting.." Tabitha worried.

"Don't even think about it, Tabby." Irena reassured her. "Just watch them as if we were watching the team practice, or an actual Quidditch game." She said, Tabitha leaned her head against Irena's shoulder. It was an odd sensation, but it was comforting feeling her friend so close to her.

The Hufflepuff tryouts were quick, so were the Ravenclaw's. It made sense, since they didn't have an actual game to play. "Oo, Gryffindor!" Tom Yaxley laughed, clapping Austin on the back. "Good luck picking between a bunch of second years, Pep!"

"Quiet, Yaxley." The Gryffindor Quidditch captain, Pepper Talpin, retorted. She tucked her long cherry red hair behind her ear, turning to her team.

Tabitha sniffed. "I wonder if she dyes it." She whispered.

"She probably uses the charms in Witch's Weekly." Irena reasoned quietly.

Pepper smiled, getting the teams to stand. "Gryffindors! It's so nice to see so many of you trying out! Now, let's all stand up. I think we'll try out some Chasers, if I could borrow Yaxley from you, Evergreen?"

Austin smiled, waving his hand in dismissal. "Go ahead." He told her.

Tom Yaxley hopped onto his broomstick, launching himself in the air. Pepper smiled. "Such a shame that Helena Cooper graduated last year, she was a brilliant Keeper." Pepper sighed to Austin. "Well, who all was trying out for Chaser? I've got one role to fill."

Irena watched intently as Talon's hand shot into the air, as well as another girl's. Talon mounted his broom, floating up quickly into the air with the other girl. Pepper flew up along with them. Teddy and Felix watched anxiously.

"I guess Tom Yaxley isn't a big fan of second years anymore." Irena whispered to Tabitha.

Tabitha giggled. "If you got dumped by Aria, one of the prettiest girls in our year, I think you'd feel pretty sour toward the whole year." She whispered, making Irena laugh.

Pepper threw the Quaffle into the air, letting the witch shoot it into the rings, then Talon. Irena thought quietly that, even if neither got the Quaffle through the hoop, Talon had better arm strength and better aim.

Then, it was the Keeper's turn. Another wizard wanted to be Keeper, but Teddy was the superior choice. Even Pepper smiled at him as he made a save in the goalposts. Finally, it was the Beater's turn, and Felix had given it his best shot, but he was outmatched by the other witch who was trying out.

The captain floated down. "Great job, Gryffindors! Results will be posted on the announcement board on Monday, just like everyone else's." Pepper said happily. Teddy grinned at Irena as he followed the others off the pitch.

Her stomach dropped when she realized it was their turn. Austin smiled contently, looking at everyone. "Let's see.. I want to begin with.. hmm.. the Chasers." Irena felt Tabitha stiffen beside her. "Who here is trying out to be a Chaser?"

Tabitha stood. "Me, I'm trying out." She squeaked. Four other Slytherins were beside her, which did not seem to bode well.

Austin grinned. "Perfect! Tom, go on ahead up to the post, just like before." He ordered. Irena flashed Tabitha a good luck smile as she floated upwards on her broomstick.

Irena watched as each Chaser tried to get the Quaffle past Tom Yaxley. Perhaps Tom Yaxley was just an excellent Keeper, or all the Chasers who tried out sucked. Irena felt terribly. She'd worked so hard to help train Tabitha, but the others that were trying out were miles ahead of her. Tabitha could sense it too. As they all touched down on the ground, a few Chasers seemed excited, clapping each other on the back, while Tabitha sat down on the ground.

"You did great, Tabby." Irena told her.

"You just focus on doing good for both of us." Tabitha said shakily, as if she wanted to cry. "I will just have to live vicariously through you, okay?" Irena gave her peck on the cheek, making Tabitha blush.

"Who was trying out for Seeker?" Austin asked.

Irena stood, grabbing her broomstick. "I am." She said, "Irena Diggory-Black."

A few Slytherins laughed. "Professor's daughter!" A few whispered, but Irena refused to let it get to her.

"I am as well." A cool voice came from behind her. "Elphaba West." Irena turned to see the girl. She had dark hair, cut short to her head. She looked much older, maybe a fifth year.

Austin smiled at Elphaba and Irena. "Well, this should be fun." He chuckled, going into the box and pulling out the tiny little Snitch. It glinted in the light and Irena felt her stomach do a somersault. "Whoever catches this first will be Slytherin's Seeker, no need to wait for results."

He let the Snitch go. It floated away. Elphaba got on her broom, kicking off into the air.

"Go, Irena, go!" Tabby shouted. Irena nodded, getting on her broomstick, jumping into the air. Irena floated to the top of the arena, remaining at the same level as Elphaba. She noticed in the stands, Philomena cheered her name alongside Diana, Talon, Teddy, and Felix. Aria read beside them.

Not too far away, Dad sat on the stands, Professor Potter beside him, and on the other side, was Mum. She grinned at Irena, the same smile that Irena saw in herself every time she practiced smiling into the mirror. Irena smiled, ripping her focus from her friends and family and looking back for the Snitch.

Elphaba seemed to be doing the same, though she didn't seem to be distracted by the crowds. She shot upwards suddenly, her eyes focused on something up high. Irena did the same, going as quickly as she could.

The golden flicker that Elphaba had seen had truly been the Snitch. They flew upwards, higher, higher, and higher still. It was growing very cold, and Elphaba faltered for a moment, but Irena continued.

The Snitch paused for a moment as the two finally caught up to it before pelting straight down. The pair followed after it, now neck and neck for the Snitch. The wind whipped through Irena's hair, assaulting her face with coldness, making tears fall from her eyes and her nose run, but she was certain not to give up for a little cold.

"Give up!" Elphaba shouted.

"Never!" Irena bellowed, thinking of a way to push herself forward for the Snitch. At the Academy, they'd taught the students a bit about physics. If Irena could find a way to make herself more aerodynamic, she could go quicker, which was something she had advantage over Elphaba. Elphaba may have been a more experienced flyer, but Irena was smaller, lighter, and more nimble.

In physics, they'd been taught that by perpetually spinning, they could go quicker, because of the laws of Inertia. Elphaba had clearly not been taught this, since she would have used it to her advantage.

Irena began spinning around quickly, torpedoing straight down. She reached out her hand, so close to the Snitch, abandoning Elphaba now. The ground came closer and closer, but Irena couldn't let up, not yet. The world spinned around her, and she could hear the shrieks- or cheers, maybe- of people watching.

Her hand closed around the Snitch, and she stopped spinning, pulling up on her broom, floating along quickly around the pitch, only 10 feet away from the ground. Irena landed clumsily, something she wished she could do more gracefully, but as she stood, the world spun around her and she collapsed.

"IRENA!" Tabitha shrieked, Irena could feel the thudding of many footsteps coming toward her in the grass. Tabitha crouched beside her. "Are you alright? Oh, please be alright! " She cried.

She watched as Austin came closer to her, a look of concern on his beautiful face. Irena smirked, giving the Snitch to him. "I'm dizzy, Tabby, not dead." Irena muttered, clutching her forehead.

Austin grasped her hand, standing her up. Elphaba looked disheartened as she watched them. "You fly like that again, and we'll win the Quidditch Cup." Austin whispered into her ear, his breath hot against her neck. "Welcome to the team, Irena."

Chapter Text

Monday, 20 September, 2010

Irena grinned as she walked out of the Potions classroom to lunch- and the announcement board. She felt confident, she didn't need to check. Irena Diggory-Black: Slytherin's Newest Seeker was all anyone could talk about, making her more of a celebrity than Talon was when he was set on fire.

"I'm not gonna bother to look." Tabitha groaned while they walked to the Great Hall. "I know I didn't make it. Everyone else did so well except me ."

Felix nodded in agreement. "Me too. I'm not gonna bother checking."

Teddy and Talon grinned, each feeling confident too. Diana smiled, watching Talon, but Irena couldn't help but feel Philomena watched Teddy the same way. She shrugged it off. No one was immune to Teddy's joy. If he was happy, it was very hard to remain unhappy.

Irena thought about Austin again. They hadn't had much time to talk to each other since the tryouts, but he'd started to acknowledge her in the halls. Once the teams were announced, they could start practicing, and she could practice alongside him. Irena hadn't bothered to tell anyone about how she felt about him- maybe she could tell Diana, if she could ever get her alone.

There was a crowd of people in front of the announcement board, and the Gryffindor boys shoved people out of the way.

Irena read the Slytherin one carefully, wanting to remember all the names. She wasn't going to be another stupid second year, having to do introductions with all the team members.

2010 Slytherin Quidditch Tryout Results (New members in bold)

Beaters: Austin Evergreen (Captain) and Erwin Larch

Chasers: Thyme Oakwood, Orchid Zhou , Josiah Juneberry

Keeper: Tom Yaxley

Seeker: Irena Diggory-Black

Irena squeaked in delight, grinning when she saw her name. She'd officially made it, it didn't feel real! Tabitha embraced her tightly. "Josiah's a seventh year student. Once he graduates next year, they'll let me in." Tabitha told her. "I'm gonna practice until my fingers fall off!"

"You're going to make a great Quidditch player, Tabby." Irena told her.

Teddy and Talon were jumping up and down now, hollering in delight. Teddy was Gryffindor's newest Keeper, and Talon was Gryffindor's newest Chaser. Felix smiled, happy for his friends, but he still had to be secretly jealous of them.

Irena remembered what happened after her tryout, the way everyone had ran to her as fast as they could. Mum nearly cried, thinking she'd been injured, but Dad seemed so proud of her. Even Professor Potter seemed happy, which was pretty rare. She was considering talking about Patronuses with him after class one of these days.

Their lunch group moved away, going to the Great Hall for lunch. Irena's eyes lingered on the list for a moment longer, relishing in her achievement. "Hey." A voice came from behind her. Irena turned to see the Slytherin Quidditch captain. She had the instinct to fix her hair, willing her cheeks not to grow red like the other girls' did.

"Hi, Austin." Irena said with a smile, feeling her heart race. God, what should I do with my hands? Irena was beginning to feel very awkward.

He smiled a bit, probably in response to hers. "There's, uh, Quidditch practice this Wednesday, I've booked the field. Be there after class, before the sun sets." Austin waved, turning and leaving.

She breathed a sigh of relief, going back into the Great Hall, sitting down at the Gryffindor table with the others. Teddy and Talon were talking excitedly about the tryouts, no one really seemed to notice her absence.

"What kept you?" Philomena asked with a smile.

"Ah, Quidditch captain." Irena breathed, sitting down beside her, grabbing a bowl, a spoonful of mashed potatoes, putting gravy on it, and grabbing a few sausages. "Just wanted to tell me about practice on Wednesday."

Philomena chuckled breathlessly. "Is that why you seem so flustered?"

Her heart stopped. " What? " Irena asked in a whisper. Philomena's eyes danced with amusement. "No, no, nothing like that.. no it's just he's my captain.. I've got to impress him, you know?"

"Oh, you've got to impress him ?" Philomena continued to tease.

"Well don't you feel the same way for that Muggle boy?" Irena teased, making Philomena turn red too.

"What's got you two blushing like tomatoes?" Diana asked with a smirk, taking a bite of whatever she was eating. "Is it gossip? Tell me! I won't tell anyone I promise." Irena and Philomena laughed. Diana wasn't great at keeping secrets.

Philomena and Irena answered at the same time: "Nothing!"

"There's definitely something." Teddy teased, turning his cheeks red like theirs, grinning. "Have I got the shade right?"

"Oh, that's perfect." Talon added. "Now add the whispering."

Teddy leaned into Felix and began whispering in gibberish. Irena rolled her eyes while the others laughed.

After Transfiguration, the others went outside, wanting to enjoy the sun. Philomena had decided she'd had enough sun, deciding to go with Irena to the library. They browsed the shelves. Philomena was looking at books about Quidditch in particular, since she was finished with all her homework already. Irena wanted to find books about Patronuses and Animagi.

The librarian, Mr. Macmillan, was dusting off a few books at his desk. Irena approached. "Oh, please, don't tell me I've forgotten your name." He squeezed his eyes closed. "Everyone's been callin' you the Torpedo Girl. I can't remember your name."

"Irena." Irena replied with a smile.

"Irena!" Mr. Macmillan sighed. "I'm going to remember that. You're Cedric's daughter, then?" He asked.

She smiled. "Yes, you knew him?"

"Did I!" The librarian chuckled wistfully, getting a distant look in his eye. "He was my Head Boy! I remember your mum too. We used to go out- Anyway, you're here for something, I can tell. What can I get for you?"

Curiosity burned in her to learn what Mum was like when she was Irena's age, and Mr. Macmillan knew better than anyone else. He was her boyfriend . Irena sighed, slightly flustered, trying to remember the task at hand. "Do you have any books on Patronuses? I want to learn how to cast one."

" Patronuses ?" Mr. Macmillan scoffed. "Why such a difficult spell for someone so young?"

"Just curious." Irena shrugged. "Do you have any books?"

He frowned, as if he were thinking for a moment. "I've got some in the Restricted Section, come with me." Mr. Macmillan began walking toward the gated doors, opening them with his key and letting her inside. He began walking to a few shelves, looking at a few books, opening a few and reading a few pages, before handing one to her. "You'd be better off asking Professor Potter for help with casting one."

"I know." Irena sighed, looking at the book he gave her, La Défense de Magie Noire . "He's just a bit intimidating, being the Chosen One or whatever. I want to at least have a background on it before I ask, you know?"

Mr. Macmillan smiled, nodding. "He taught me how to cast my Patronus." He told her, lowering his voice. "Used it to save him from some Dementors."

" You saved him ?" Irena whispered excitedly.

"'Course I did." The older man chuckled, scratching the beginnings of a beard that lingered on his chin. "We all did at the Battle of Hogwarts. It was him who defeated You-Know-Who, but he couldn't have done it alone. Who's the intimidating one now?"

Irena smiled a bit, sighing, avoiding his gaze. She clutched the book close to her chest. "You said you.. knew my mum. What was she like?" Irena asked excitedly.

"One of the strongest people in the whole world." He told her, patting her shoulder. "Let's get out of here. I don't think I can let you check that one out, but you can read it while in the library." They walked out together.

He hadn't said much about her mother, but the information satisfied her for now. Irena sat down beside Philomena, opening the book and sighing. "Do you know French?" Irena groaned. "If only Victoire were here.. her mother is from France."

Philomena blinked. "Well, we could always check the book out and ask her at dinner."

"No, Mr. Macmillan said I couldn't leave with it, it's from the Restricted Section." Irena sighed, squinting her eyes, as if she could read it any better by squinting.

"The Restricted Section ?" Philomena gasped. "Are you sure you can read it?"

"Well, seeing as it's in French, I can't." Irena told her. "I don't want to tell him I can't read it.. I'm just gonna sit here for a while and do some homework." She glanced at him awkwardly before pulling out her parchment.

Philomena shrugged. "What if you copied some of the letters down and gave them to her to decipher? Just copy the whole page." She offered the idea, going back to her Quidditch book, where players zoomed around the pages, tossing Quaffles to each other.

"Good idea." Irena told her with a smile.

They'd spent so long in the library, the sun had begun to set. The other girls came in, working on their homework, while Irena busily scribbled down the words from the book. She'd finished the chapter on Patronuses and was ready to leave, so she gave the book to Mr. Macmillan, leaving with the others.

"So, what were you so busy scribbling down, Irena?" Tabitha asked. "Quidditch strategy?"

"No, that's Austin's job." Irena retorted, though the thought of seeing him again put a smile on her face. "It's nothing, really. I've just got something I need translated is all."

Aria was quietly looking out the windows as they strolled to the Great Hall. Irena was hungry now. Austin told her to get second helpings of dinner every night, so she had calories to burn at practice. Irena had been hesitant, feeling full was a bit of an odd feeling, but a comfortable one.

"Diana, did you see I did a loop de loop on the broom today?" Tabitha chattered excitedly.

"Irena did that in first year." Aria retorted coolly.

"It's okay, I'm sure it was spectacular, Tabby." Irena smiled at her. Tabitha seemed a bit downcast, but brightened slightly at her comment.

Diana paused. "I think I sense something.." She told them.

"Di, didn't we cover this last year? You don't have psychic powers, you don't have The Sight." Tabitha teased, grabbing her hand. "Come on, I'm starving!"

They continued down a particularly dark hallway, the torches had not been lit, but she could hear the clatter and sound of the Great Hall, pulling her closer. Irena had not even noticed the tapestry moving.

" GOTCHA! " A number of voices rang out over all the girls, and four figures jumped out, pouring bags of something down the robes of all five of them.

Irena felt the powder move down her cloak, drying and sticking to her skin at once. It began to get very, very itchy, and she began to scratch furiously. The torches lit down the hall, one at a time. She felt her stomach twist in anger as she saw the laughing faces.

Talon wheezed, clutching his side, while Felix rolled around on the ground. Teddy was giggling, holding some bit of parchment paper, and they had apparently adopted Victoire into their crowd, since she too, was holding an emptied plastic bag. On the side, was written, Weasley's Itchies and Scratchies Powder .

"PRANKED!" Teddy laughed. Irena felt so upset, it felt as if bugs were crawling along her back. She reached to scratch furiously, but nothing seemed to work. Teddy fist bumped Victoire, then Talon, and then Felix (when he was back on his feet). "You guys are gonna lose this prank war!"

Talon grinned. "We've got the Weasley and the Marauder's Map!"

" You have the Marauder's Map ?" Aria hissed. " Accio map! "

The map flitted from Teddy's hand to hers. "RUN!" Tabitha squealed, grabbing Diana and running back where they came from. Talon ran after them quickly, not realizing that neither of them had the map.

Irena grabbed Philomena and took off behind Aria while the other three ran after them. Irena held her wand, casting a spell she'd seen in the book. " Petrificus Totalus! " She cast upon Felix, who froze up stiffly, falling down. Teddy and Victoire were still on their heels.

Philomena looked at them determinedly. "GIVE ME THE MAP, ARI!" She shouted, grabbing at Aria's hands, pretending to yank the map away from her, taking off around the corner. Victoire followed after her, leaving Aria and Irena with the map, heading over to the Slytherin dungeons as fast as they could.

" Pet- man, what was that spell you used?" Teddy shouted behind them. " Pet -"

" Protego! " Irena shouted. It was the very first spell she learned. Dad made her learn it before going to Hogwarts. It didn't do much to Teddy.

"STOP!" A voice bellowed. Irena grabbed the map from Aria, dipping it into her robes. They turned to see McGonagall, her stern face walking toward them. " What is the meaning of this? Running in the hallway! Are we first years?"

Irena shrunk back. "N-No ma'am." Teddy squeaked.

"Where are the other ones?" McGonagall growled. "And for Godric's sake, Aria, stop scratching yourself, you're turning pink!"

Footsteps from the side. "Caught these two runnin' in the hallway, Professor." Filch's disgustingly excited voice hissed, holding onto Philomena and Victoire's robes. Philomena kept reaching into her robes to scratch. Irena scratched the back of her neck.

"Professor McGonagall, I heard the laughter and giggling and running. " The voice of Percy's Weasley's apparition was heard. "I thought you might like to see them for yourself." Diana, Tabitha, and Talon shuffled out beside him, looking very guilty. Irena caught Victoire's eye as she stared wondrously at Percy Weasley. Apparently, she had never been naughty enough to cross paths with him.

Felix raced into the clearing, stopping when he saw everyone standing around, very obviously in trouble.

The Headmistress whirled around, looking at Teddy in particular. "Mr. Lupin, tell me what is going on now . Spit it out."

"House unity, Professor!" Victoire squeaked.

"House unity?" McGonagall repeated, scoffing. She looked down at Victoire, and her expression softened. " House unity? "

Tabitha agreed. "We're having a friendly competition. Like Quidditch!"

"Yea, like Quidditch!" Felix told them.

" Like Quidditch? " McGonagall scoffed, looking at all the Gryffindors. Everyone knew she had a soft spot, which could be frightening as a Slytherin, but now Irena could share in some of their good Gryffindor luck. Her eyes narrowed as Diana scratched at her hands desperately. "Do you all need to see Madame Pomfrey?"

Nobody said a word. "Um, I think so." Philomena mumbled.

"Okay, well.." McGonagall sighed. "Please, keep your house unity to a minimum of avoiding the hospital wing. Don't overwhelm Madame Pomfrey and.. no running ." She turned, flicking her wrists to send them all away.

Irena breathed a sigh of relief as they all went to the hospital wing, she grabbed Aria. "I've got to put the map in our room, come with me?" She asked with a triumphant grin.

"Okay, let's go!" Aria whispered.

They went upstairs, hiding the map under Irena's mattress before running off toward the hospital wing to get rid of their itchiness.

 

Wednesday, 22 September, 2010

Irena made her way out onto the pitch, sighing contently. It was still warm out, for being late September. She was far too swept up in her Potions lesson to focus on Quidditch, she fought to push her thoughts aside.

She was determined to be friends with everyone on the team. Wasn't that what Quidditch was all about? Teamwork? Of course, the Seeker didn't have to be friends with their teammates, the Seeker had their own part of the game that wasn't bothered by anyone else, except for the other team's Seeker.

Maybe it was Austin. Irena was going to do her best to impress him. Boys were stupid.. but maybe that was only boys in her year. Austin was a fourth year, and he'd be turning 15 in November (Irena had asked Diana, since she seemed to know), making him the youngest Quidditch captain in a decade. She wanted to impress him and get his attention, what better way to do that except making friends with the team?

Only a few people were around, ready for practice. Irena stepped into the locker rooms. The boys were on one side, separated by a short barrier to prevent peeking. Two girls were on the girl's side. The first, Irena already knew from past Quidditch games, Thyme Oakwood. She had honey colored skin, and dark curly hair. She looked at Irena, scowling, before tying up her hair and leaving.

"She hates when people aren't early." The other girl, who must've been Orchid, replied. "You're Irena? The new Seeker?" Irena nodded, going to her locker. It didn't seem they would be practicing on brooms today, since Thyme was wearing running gear, and Orchid was tying her trainers. "I watched your tryouts- that trick you did on the broom was absolutely amazing ."

Irena grinned. "Thanks!" She squeaked, putting on her exercise shorts and short sleeve shirt.

Orchid waited while she tied her shoes. "You have to teach me how you did it. You went so quickly.. quicker than they do at the World Cup, I think." Orchid gushed as Irena stood, they walked out to where people on the team were gathering.

Austin smiled as he saw them, Thyme still scowling. Irena tried to remember what year she was.. she seemed to be a fourth year, like Austin. Irena felt her throat close as she approached Austin, smiling and willing herself not to blush. One thing was very certain to her: Irena was the youngest one on the team.

"As you can tell," Austin began in his warm, summery voice. "We aren't going to be on broomsticks today. Starting today, we're going to start a month-long training course. In the past, Slytherin has failed because they've run out of stamina, but not this year. I'm going to win us the House cup."

A few of the boys clapped, Irena didn't see Thyme clap, so she stayed still.

"So, stamina. We're going to work on it by running during practice. I want everyone to complete three full laps on foot before leaving. Those lightest and quickest among us may have an easier time than the rest of us." Austin chuckled, his eyes resting on Irena. I don't think I can run very fast.. Irena thought. "Let's get a move on, people!"

He turned around and began to jog briskly around the course. Thyme followed after him right away, as well as Josiah. Irena knew his name was Josiah, since he'd played the year before. He was very tall and lanky, a Chaser.

Tom Yaxley ran with his friend, Erwin. Erwin had bright green hair, which was odd compared to everyone else at Hogwarts. Irena and Orchid began to jog briskly after them, but not before tying their hair up. "So, what year are you?" Irena asked as they ran.

"Third year." Orchid breathed. It became increasingly obvious to Irena that they really needed this training, already her heart raced and her lungs burned, but she wouldn't give up. "Have you decided what classes you're going to choose next year?"

Irena frowned. "What do you mean, what classes?"

"At the end of second year, they let you choose your electives!" Orchid grinned. Irena had a sense that she would get along with Philomena- someone who was also overly excited by mundane school things. "It really personalizes your Hogwarts experience."

"Ah." Irena said politely, not wanting to talk anymore. She felt like devoting all her energy to running for now.

They passed the first lap, taking time to walk with the others, catching their breath and pacing themselves. "Fuck- it's hot out." Austin breathed, making the older kids laugh. Irena watched with wide eyes as Austin began to take off his shirt, throwing it casually to the ground. She stared, making sure her mouth was closed.

He seemed very strong, his arms seemed so much bigger now. He had to have good upper body strength, being a Beater, but she wasn't prepared to see so much of him like that. He grinned to Thyme and Josiah, they seemed to be his friends.

Tom and Erwin began running again, then the other three. Orchid and Irena were the two newbies, they would catch up with the others in training soon. "Did you know much about the team before trying out?" Orchid asked.

"No, not really." Irena confessed. There were even a few times she'd chosen to study inside instead of going to the matches. "What should I know?"

Orchid smiled. She did that often, Irena gathered. She had a beautiful smile, the way her skin stretched around her teeth, and the way her monolid eyes crinkled in their corners could make anyone want to smile alongside her. "Well, as one newbie to another, there was a lot of drama last year. I tried out and I learned everything ."

"Really?" Irena asked, suddenly feeling nervous. She hated drama and hated confrontation.

"Oh yea." Orchid told her. "The two who were here last year, a boy named Alder, Alder Evergreen, he was Austin's older brother and was captain before him. There was a girl too, her name was Leonora Gold, she was a Chaser." She began, a bit rambly as they began jogging again. "They were, like, in love. Everyone loved Alder and Leonora, they really were quite nice people. When it came time to pick the captain, Alder had a really hard time picking someone.

"Everyone wanted to be captain, of course. Josiah especially, and he would have been made captain too. Except one night, Josiah kissed Leonora at a party- it was a bad kiss, they'd been drinking, you know? And she didn't want to, you know? And it was right before graduation, so he had to pick someone. Alder picked his little brother, Austin. Everyone's holding their breath now, wondering if Austin'll make a good captain, or if Slytherin's screwed for the next three years."

Irena nodded. "It seems that Austin doesn't really seem to mind Josiah." She commented.

"Well, you want to be friends with your teammates, right?" Orchid chuckled. "Things are still tense, I can tell. I think it could be an interesting year- seeing how things unfold. I think you're a stroke of good luck. Slytherin haven't won the House cup for five years, it's only ever been Gryffindor- except Ravenclaw won once I think."

"You could be a stroke of good luck too!" Irena grinned.

"No, I don't think so." Orchid giggled, but they were too tired to talk again.

Irena let her thoughts be filled with Austin, smiling slightly to herself as she thought of him. She'd noticed the large mole he had on the center of his back, knowing it'd be a part of him that only the Quidditch team saw.

Did he think she was a stroke of good luck for the team? That was the question that lingered in her mind long after they'd finished practice. Perhaps Austin believed she was lucky, and it made him think of her. Irena couldn't think of Austin thinking of her in the times when his mind was quiet, it made her stomach do a flip, it gave her the urge to bite her lip to keep from smiling.

I really hope I'm lucky. If I'm lucky, then Austin will be mine before he graduates, I know it.

Chapter Text

Friday, 8 October, 2010

Irena took a deep breath in, looking at the door to Professor Potter's classroom, clutching the piece of parchment close to her chest. It had taken her a lot of endurance (and patience) of teasing to get Victoire to translate the text about Patronuses, but it was worth it. Aria had been trying to get the girls to shun the Gryffindors, but Diana couldn't ignore Talon, Philomena couldn't ignore Felix, and Irena couldn't ignore Teddy and Victoire.

Victoire had many laughs about the itching powder, which was fine for Irena. She was glad that Victoire would have friends at Hogwarts, she'd really started to come out of her shell, and Irena was glad. Even if it was at her expense. It stung sometimes, but Irena was still learning to be selfless, and she could handle the snide comments if it meant Victoire could be friends with the boys.

She'd been putting this off for a while. Irena was still wary of Professor Potter, but he'd been so kind to her lately, surely that meant she could ask for extra lessons? Irena blinked. "I can do this." She breathed, opening the door and walking in.

The classroom was empty, quieter than it usually was. It seemed that she was the only soul in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. "Professor? Professor Potter?" Irena called out, walking straight to his office. No response. She opened the door, looking inside.

Piles of ungraded papers were stocked on his desk, as well as a quill and a tub of red ink. A mug of tea still steamed just beside his work. He must've just left, but had to plan on returning, otherwise why else would he leave his tea here? Irena resigned to waiting, looking around the room.

On the walls were portraits of a beautiful woman, who must've been Professor Potter's wife, Cho. Dad talked about her sometimes. Beside her were three children. Irena knew they were Lily, James, and Minerva, their children. Mum talked about them sometimes, and Irena felt like she'd met them at Dumbledore's Preparatory Academy. There were other pictures, older pictures. A man who looked like the Professor danced alongside what seemed to be his wife, an auburn haired beauty, but they were dressed in seventies style clothing.

The other wall from his desk was totally bare. A large, beautiful mirror was hung, but that was it. Irena looked at her reflection in it, amazed by what she saw.

Irena could see herself, though she was older in her reflection. She was smiling triumphantly, on her head sat a crown emblazoned with beautiful gemstones. Her hair was long and beautiful, like how the older Slytherin girls had theirs. She was surrounded by golden goblets and stacks of Galleons. She was rich! But, more interestingly, was what was on her person. A large, silky cloak was cast over her shoulder. In her right hand, she held a long, ugly wand with knots on it. In her left hand, a weathered salmon colored stone.

"Hello, Ms. Diggory-Black." A voice startled from where she was transfixed at her reflection. Professor Potter hobbled over to his desk among his papers. "I see you've discovered the Mirror of Erised. I've been teaching about it to my NEWT students, they've got a paper to write due next week."

Potter looked down at his papers, as if he forgot she was there. But he looked up soon after, smiling. "What do you see?" He asked.

"I'm surrounded by goblets and Galleons, there's a crown on my head." Irena told him. "What does it mean?"

"Your greatest desire is shown in the mirror, so I suppose your greatest desire is to be rich." Professor Potter chuckled. "Don't feel too badly, it's a common one. Some people's desires are a bit odd, or a bit pathetic. The most common ones seem to be winning the Quidditch cup, or being rich, or being among their friends."

Irena chuckled breathlessly, nervous. "So-"

"So did you want to ask me something?" Professor Potter interrupted.

She nodded. "I did." Irena told him, tucking Victoire's parchment into the pocket of her robes. "I was in the library the other day, looking in the Restricted Section, when I came across an interesting piece of magic." She said with a smile, but it seemed Professor Potter was no longer interested, maybe even angry.

"No, absolutely not." He said angrily. "How dare you? Ask me about Horcruxes when you know the history behind them? Should I even be bloody surprised?" Potter said angrily, standing up. "Get out of my classroom now."

Irena blinked, very shocked by his reaction. "No, Professor, I-I wanted to ask about Patronuses." Irena squeaked, making her way cautiously to the door.

"Can't you see I'm busy?" Potter growled. "Ask me at another time."

She left the office, just to hear the door slam behind her. Irena felt tears run down her cheeks, hot and frustrated. Nothing had changed, not for her. He's always going to hate you. Irena thought, sniffling, wiping her eyes. It wasn't fair, she didn't deserve to be hated. Luckily, it was Friday, and she could just go back to her room.

Irena left the classroom, willing not to pass anyone who could see her crying. She went to the dungeons, keeping her face down and her hair over her face so no one would see her. "Hey, I was looking for you!" A voice called after her, but Irena walked faster. "Irena, wait up!"

Footsteps slapped after the cobblestone floor as her captor ran down the hall to catch up to her. Irena looked up, wiping her eyes and nose before speaking. "What?" Irena asked, her voice congested and shaky.

Felix stood before her, his mouth open. Hadn't he ever seen a girl cry before? He looked like he wanted to say something to her, but couldn't get the words out. "I, uh- Teddy is looking for the Marauder's Map, do you still have it?"

"Yes." Irena told him, looking to the dungeons. They were so close.. she could go into her bed and cry by herself. That was all she wanted.

"Can we have it back?" Felix asked, fiddling with his fingers, his eyes scanning her face.

"No." Irena snapped. "Just- just leave me alone, okay?" She sighed, feeling bad for snapping at him.

Felix blinked. "Is everything okay?"

Oh, now he was going to try to comfort her. "It's none of your business." Irena said curtly, wiping her nose on her robes again. "I have to go work on my Charms homework." She gestured to the dungeons.

"Oh, okay." Felix mumbled. "I'll see you at dinner?"

"Maybe." Irena said sharply, going to the Slytherin dorms, acutely aware of him watching her leave.

She walked through the busy common room, avoiding everyone, even Austin and the other Quidditch boys who hung around the fireplace. Irena went straight to her room, opening the door, expecting to find it empty.

Aria sat on her bed, lazily reading a book. Diana sat on the ground, on her back, while Philomena and Tabitha sat on the floor with their wands out, looking down at the Marauder's Map. They all turned to look at her tear stained face. Irena could only imagine how puffy her eyes were. "Reni-" Philomena began.

"Just leave me alone." Irena snapped, ignoring the nickname they'd taken to calling her. Mum and Dad came up with it first, it didn't feel right to have other people call her that. "Don't call me Reni either."

Philomena blinked her big, doey brown eyes. Irena put her bag by her bed, taking off her robes and laying down on her bed, pulling the curtains tight around her. The room was quiet, even without her casting a silencing charm. Irena sniffled feeling tears come to her, rolling down her face horizontally onto her pillow.

She could hear whisperings. ("Should someone go talk to her?" "I don't want to, I'm no good at comforting people." "Well, she's our friend!" "We can't just let her cry in there all alone.") Irena didn't make any notion that she'd heard them. She just wanted to be alone.

"I'm leaving. You guys can just keep working. I need quiet." Aria's voice was heard, as well as her footsteps, and the sound of a slamming door. Irena sniffled. Was she that much of a burden to them? It felt like it.

The curtain opened a little. "Irena?" Philomena whispered. "Can I come in?"

"I don't care." Irena said sharply.

The curtain opened, the bed shook as Philomena got in, and the curtain closed again. Irena felt Philomena lean over, laying beside her. Irena turned to face her, their faces only inches apart. She could hear the whispering of Diana and Tabitha as they left too. ("Let's go to the Great Hall for a snack!" "Leave the map." "Okay.")

Philomena didn't say anything as she laid on Irena's pillow, only her eyes made any notion that she was a living person. They scanned her face, looking at her. "Do you want to talk about it?" Philomena whispered, even if they were alone in the room.

"No." Irena grumbled. Yes. She wanted to say. But who would believe her? Professor Potter was perfectly perfect with all his other students. He was warm, bubbly, he loved to joke around- especially with the Gryffindors. He just didn't seem to like her.

"Do you want a hug?" Philomena asked.

Irena looked at her, blinking. "Yes." She said in a quiet voice. Philomena wrapped her arms around Irena's head, pulling her close. Irena hugged Philomena's frame, sniffling.

"Do you want to know a secret?" Philomena asked. "It might be funny enough to cheer you up, you just have to promise not to tell anyone- not a soul. Not even Diana or Tabitha know. It'll be a secret that only you know."

She looked up, tucking brown hair behind her ear. "Tell me then, silly goose." Irena told her with a weak smile and a congested voice, and a well timed sniffle.

"Okay.." Philomena took a deep breath in, gathering her words. "When I said I had a crush on a Muggle boy.. that was a lie." She paused, but Irena didn't know what she meant. "I.. I think I have a crush on Teddy."

Irena sat up quickly, grinning. "Teddy? Teddy ?" She began to laugh, wiping her tears away with her palm.

"Hey- no being mean!" Philomena giggled, her cheeks growing red. "I thought since I know you like Austin.. you deserve to know the truth." She bit her lip, looking at Irena. "You're not going to tell anyone, right?"

She shook her head. "Your secret is safe with me, Philly." Irena reassured her. Still, Teddy? She could think of a host of reasons not to like him. They'd done everything together, she'd even been potty-trained alongside him, they'd grown up playing together at recess, and even lived with each other for a while.

"Okay, good." Philomena breathed. "It's just.. so weird. I've been trying not to think about it. He's Felix's best friend, and he's basically your brother. I'm trying to put it out of my mind, but I can't help it. I just.. like him, you know?"

Irena grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze. "Do you want to try.. you know.. getting him to like you too?"

Philomena bit her lip, thinking for a moment. "Of course I would.. but what would people think of me?"

"Diana has had a crush on Talon basically since they met." Irena giggled. "I don't think anyone will think anything of you."

"But Felix might.." Philomena sighed. "He's so nice to me.. it's really nice having a brother, you know? I don't want to ruin that. I really love Felix. If it makes Felix uncomfortable, I don't want to do it. But.. I really like Teddy!"

Irena laid down beside her again. "We'll figure it out." She told her, kissing Philomena's nose, which made her giggle. "Things like these work themselves out. We've only got two options: date him, or leave him. One is objectively better than the other, but it's also harder."

"You're so analytical, you'd do well in Ravenclaw." Philomena giggled, laying on the pillow, their faces inches apart. Her breath was warm on Irena's face.

She pushed her playfully. "Whatever!" Irena giggled.

 

Wednesday, 20 October, 2010

Irena stood outside the empty locker room, peering up at the clouds. It was supposed to rain today, which meant it was a terrible time to practice. "Lovely day out." Irena scoffed as she heard footsteps behind her.

"There'll be times we have to play in the rain." Austin's voice was heard, startling her. "Looks like it's just us today. Everyone's out sick with the flu. I heard they're cancelling the Slytherin Halloween party." He said casually, grabbing their broomsticks.

She couldn't form words. A practice.. alone.. with the cutest boy in the school. Irena felt lucky, but also mortified. "The-the Halloween Ball?" Irena stuttered.

"No, the party." Austin chuckled, handing her the broom. "Don't you know that Slytherin has a party every Halloween weekend? There's this secret passageway to the Hog's Head, in Hogsmeade. We all go out for drinks and dancing, it's quite fun."

Irena gulped, mounting her broom as she floated up alongside Austin. She was glad they weren't going to run. "I knew of it, but I've never been." She confessed to him. "What are we working on today?"

"Well, of course you haven't, first years aren't allowed, Slytherin Code of Honor. " Austin chuckled. Irena let go of her broom to tie her hair back, balancing on it precariously. "But, the team always goes. So if it was happening this year, you'd be invited. I wouldn't let you drink though, you're more of a child than anyone else."

Her heart sank to her stomach. A child? Is that what Austin thought of her? He didn't seem to notice her reaction, Irena tried not to let it show on her face. "Is there a date set for the first match?" She asked, changing the subject purposefully.

"Oh, yea." Austin told her. He flew a little closer, and Irena felt her stomach lurch. He was only a few feet away from her. "Honeybrook's spicing things up this year. She noticed you at tryouts, and the whole atmosphere at the school. The first match is on November 6th. It's Slytherin versus Gryffindor, which should be interesting. I knew Slytherin would be first, everyone wants to see you play."

She blinked. " Me? "

"Yea, well, you did that one move. Nobody's seen that in ages, not at Hogwarts, and rarely professionally. Most people who try the Spiral Dive end up getting hurt or killed. That's why you never see Hogwarts students trying it. It's dangerous." Austin paused, looking at her. "That's why we need to practice it."

Irena chuckled. "Practice?"

"Well, the crowds love it, I love it, and the scoreboard will love it too." Austin grinned cheekily. Irena felt her cheeks warm, but Austin didn't seem to notice her blushing. "So, let's try it. The Seeker has to be quick, the other members don't. So we're going to practice it until you're an expert at it, and then you can teach everyone else."

She smiled. "What do you want me to do?"

"I did some reading about that Muggle thing you said- Inertia? It's quite impressive that Muggles learned about that before we did." Austin told her. "So, does it only work when you're up and down? Because if that's the case, we'll want to work on making sure you don't totally eat it. I want to try flying across the field, just to see if it makes a difference." He pulled out a stopwatch.

Irena nodded, putting her goggles on, feeling the cold rain on her skin. She wasn't going to complain, not in front of him. "I'll go as fast as I can normally, and then I'll spin next time ‘round." He nodded, pressing onto his watch. Irena flew, pushing herself against her broom, making sure she was as aerodynamic as possible. She flew around the pitch, feeling the wind in her face.

"Good, that was about 45 seconds around the field, better than anyone else on the team." Austin praised, and Irena relished in it. "Let's see if that Inertia stuff does anything to make you quicker. Ready, set, go!"

She was off again, pressing her body against her broomstick, shifting her weight to the side. Irena felt herself spinning round and round, she could feel the world spinning around her, the way gravity pulled at her back, then her front, and all around her sides.

After she got a good spin, she could feel her center of gravity change, as she spun faster she could feel herself becoming pressed against the wood, becoming more aerodynamic. The wind flitted through her ears, and Irena found it hard to steer.

Irena watched as Austin grew closer. She stopped at once, nearly crashing into him. "32 seconds!" Austin grinned. "Not bad!"

"It's harder to control, I think." Irena breathed.

"That's okay." Austin told her. "We're here to work on it. I didn't think it would be perfect the first time." He looked at the stopwatch, pulling out a Muggle pen and clicking it, pulling out a notepad and writing something down. "I think we could try spinning in intervals."

Irena watched his hands, he really did have lovely hands.. Irena thought of holding them. He appeared to be left handed, which was perfect, because she was right handed.

She thought of how difficult it would be to write with her left hand, because it was non dominant. Irena let her mind wander throughout practice, and as she was walking back to her room, she realized the perfect prank.

It would be a simple, easy charm. She would change the Gryffindor's hands- Victoire would not be exempt. She would change their hands to be neither left nor right handed. It would be like dancing with two left feet: it would be virtually impossible.

And she would do it right before the Gryffindor-Slytherin match, just to make things more difficult for Teddy and Talon.

It was perfect.

Chapter Text

Friday, 22 October, 2010

"Okay, so, let me get this straight." Philomena whispered, furrowing her brows. "You want to prank the boys by making both of their hands non dominant ?" They were casually walking to the library, the four of them. Aria was nowhere to be found. "So, it's like the opposite of ambidextrous?"

Irena nodded. "That's a perfect way to put it- Diana and Tabby didn't quite seem to understand." She chuckled.

Philomena shook her head. "You have a lot of research to do then, we all do." She chuckled. "Trying to figure out how to open the map, trying to figure out this prank, getting you ready for your first Quidditch match- it's a bit much for one person, isn't it?"

"I'm delegating!" Irena squeaked. "I focus on Quidditch, and you research the charm-"

" Me ?" Philomena whispered. "Irena, I can't get close to Teddy like that-"

"You won't have to, that's why we've got Tabby and Diana." Irena told her. "They don't have any hold ups, they can cast the charm." She grinned.

Philomena sighed, rolling her eyes as they walked into the library. The library was more full than usual, and Irena could see Aria sitting with a group of older Slytherins, beside Tom Yaxley. Philomena looked away, pretending not to see her. They sat down in a secluded part of the library.

Diana and Tabitha went to talk to the Slytherins, Irena didn't care. She and Philomena began looking at the shelves for books on charms- for the map and the prank. "Irena?" Philomena whispered when they were alone. "I don't know if Aria likes me anymore." She confessed.

"What makes you think that?" Irena asked. Aria had been distant lately.. but when wasn't she mysterious? And mean. It was so like her to be mean. It wasn't out of character. "Did she say something to you?"

Philomena sighed. "I-I.." She began. "One time I walked past her to get to my dorm, she was with that group of older Slytherins. They called me a Mudblood . I asked Professor Flitwick what it meant, and he told me not to worry about it. But when they said it, they laughed, and I think it was meant to hurt my feelings."

Irena blinked, nodding. Mudblood.. that was something she'd heard before. "That.. wasn't nice of her." She echoed, trying to comfort Philomena without diminishing her feelings. "Have you talked to her about it?"

"No, she always leaves before I have the chance. When we were looking at the map, she ignored me the entire time. I think she was looking for a reason to leave. I just.. did I do something to offend her? I can apologize, I have no problem doing it." Philomena whispered.

"If she's calling you Mudblood , there's no way to get her to like you again." Irena jumped. Austin sat in a chair beside a shelf, they hadn't even noticed he was there. It was odd seeing him out of his Quidditch uniform, but he almost appeared more attractive than before. His robes were beside him, and the first few buttons on top of his shirt were open. His hair was perfectly messy, and he held a book in his perfect hands. "Mudblood's a terrible word."

Philomena frowned. "What's it mean?" She asked.

Austin sighed, closing his book, getting up to get close to them. "It's a word for Muggleborn witches and wizards." He told her. "People with non-magic parents. Purebloods hate them. Slytherin is full of Pureblood wizards who hate them. It's what the Second Wizarding War was all about. In my opinion, Slughorn's not doing enough to quiet them. He's just pretendin' it doesn't exist, and it's hurtin’ people." He gestured to Philomena.

"Oh." Philomena sighed, looking down at her shoes. "So she doesn't like me.. because my parents aren't magic?"

Irena frowned. "That's stupid. Aria can't be stupid like that, we're her friends."

"She's got new friends, if you can't tell." Austin sighed. "What's your name, love?" He asked Philomena. Irena was secretly jealous that he called Philly love , but she reran his sentence in her mind. Love, love, love.

Philomena looked up at him. "Philomena Fitzgibbons, second year, Ravenclaw."

She held her hand out to shake, and Austin took it with an easygoing smile. Irena felt herself melt. "I'm Austin Evergreen, Slytherin Quidditch captain." He told her. Austin took his eyes off Philomena and rested them on Irena. "Irena, will you be coming to Quidditch practice? I asked the Hufflepuff team to practice with us this weekend. A lad in Divination predicted that it'd be overcast, but not rainy."

"Yea, I'll be there." Irena said with a smile, feeling her cheeks grow red. God, I'm so embarrassing. Irena thought as he chuckled, noticing her blush. "Hufflepuff, huh? Are they good?"

Austin shrugged. "They're alright." He took a small box out of his pocket. "Is that Macmillan git on break yet? I need a smoke." He whispered, opening the box to show many, tiny cigarettes.

"Yea, he's just gone." Philomena told him. "You really shouldn't smoke, it'll kill your lungs. Everyone in the Muggle world knows that." She crossed her arms.

He chuckled, shrugging again as he went beside the window, opening it and lighting a cigarette with his wand. "Guess my magic lungs'll just have to handle it." Austin said with a cheeky smile, taking a puff. "What's had you two looking so earnestly for, anyway?"

Irena looked to Philomena, who looked back at her. She would have to speak this time. "Well, two things." She chuckled nervously, suddenly embarrassed. "We're in a prank war with a few Gryffindors, and we've just thought of the perfect prank, only now we've got to try and orchestrate it. And we're trying to open the Marauder's Map."

His eyes widened. "The Marauder's Map? You've got it?" Austin gaped. "That's like.. Hogwarts history. Hogwarts legend. I didn't know it actually existed." He took another breath of his cigarette. "Have you got it on you?"

Irena pulled it from her pocket, handing it to him. He held the cigarette between his lips as he held it carefully. "We don't know how to unlock it." She confessed.

" Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.. " Austin sighed. "I can only hope to leave my mark on Hogwarts like this-"

" MR. EVERGREEN! " An angry voice was heard. Irena and Philomena took the map back quickly, going back to the bookshelves. "Mr. Evergreen, I told you, no smoking in my library!" Mr. Macmillan hissed. "Put that out right this minute!"

Irena chuckled quietly as Austin put out his cigarette. "Sorry, Mr. Macmillan." He expressed.

"I ought to have you suspended from Quidditch." He growled. "I won't.. but this is your final warning before I go straight to McGonagall." Mr. Macmillan's face was bright red, and Irena made eye contact with Austin, who looked like he was trying not to laugh.

Austin nodded. "Yes, I understand, Mr. Macmillan." He tried his best to sound sincere.

Mr. Macmillan hovered for a moment, sighing and leaving. Austin chuckled, glancing at the two girls. Philomena grabbed Irena's arm, pulling her away as she smiled sheepishly to him. "Okay, I see what you mean." Philomena whispered. "I see why you like him."

"You better still have a crush on Teddy." Irena whispered harshly. "I'm not here to compete."

"Godric, no." Philomena giggled, her cheeks reddening. "You can have him. I'm sure he tastes like cigarettes. But he is cute.. plus he seems nice enough." Philomena glanced around the corner at him.

Irena sighed contently. "You see why I've got to win? To impress him? I'm not very pretty, I'm not very funny, and I'm not very smart- I just have to get him to notice me by winning the Quidditch match."

She frowned, shaking her head. "You're beautiful, Irena! You always make me laugh and you get some of the best scores in our year. There's more to love about you than just Quidditch." Philomena reassured her. "Now, we've got some charms to research, don't we?"

They spent the day in the library. Diana and Tabitha worked on the map, while Philomena was busy, her nose in a book about Latin, thinking she'd just write her own charm for the prank, since she'd written the spell to grow Felix's hair back. Irena was reading about Animagi again, letting her curiosity consume her.

"I think I've got it." Philomena grinned. "Should we try it out? Any takers?"

"Try out a spell you wrote?" Tabitha asked with a teasing smile. "Count me out. Maybe next time, Philly."

Diana shook her head. "Me neither. I like my hands the way they are."

Irena giggled. "Hmm.. try it out on that Slytherin over there, the one who's at the edge, by Aria." She whispered.

"On Quinn Fir?" Diana whispered. "He is a bit mean. I don't like him. You ought to, Philly." Even they were excited to prank the Slytherins.

Philomena giggled, giving her wand a wave, pointing it to him. " Duae sinistrae. " She whispered, giving her wand a flick. A spurt of pale silver light shot from it, landing on an unsuspecting Quinn Fir. At first, they couldn't tell it had worked.

When he picked up his hand, Philomena's spell had done its job.. sort of. She'd quite literally given Quinn Fir two left hands , in that on his right hand, it was an exact replica of his other. He let out a shriek of fear, and the girls quickly buried themselves in their books, acting as if they weren't responsible.

"That's perfect, Philly." Irena whispered.

"Quiet, you." Philomena chuckled, her face reddening as she shook her head.

 

Sunday, 24 October, 2010

Irena made her way out onto the pitch, looking out at the empty stands. Whoever had predicted it would be overcast, was wrong. It was brilliantly sunny, and, if not for the coldness of the autumn air, it would be like summer.

"Remember, this is only a practice." Austin reminded the team. They'd all mostly recovered from the flu, but Irena decided to keep her distance. "I don't want anyone walking to the hospital wing after we're done, their team or ours. Do you understand?"

Tom Yaxley grinned. "Loud and clear, Evergreen!" He cheered.

Austin sighed, looking at him defeatedly, then to Irena, rolling his eyes. The team made their way out onto the pitch. Irena buzzed with excitement at the prospect of playing against actual players, even if it was just practice. They made their way out onto the field, among the other Hufflepuff players.

"Please, shake hands! Everyone!" Ms. Honeybrook squeaked.

Irena identified the Hufflepuff Seeker, a boy named Thicket Morrison, who was spindly and tall, who could easily be an excellent Seeker, or a terrible one. "Good luck." Irena grinned, looking up to him. He must have been a fifth or sixth year, he seemed quite old.

"Good luck to you as well." Thicket told her warmly, shaking her hand. His hands were terribly clammy.

Ms. Honeybrook clapped. "Since we've got an audience, I'll referee the game and announce it." She said cheerily, holding the box of Quidditch balls. Irena peered to the spot on the grass where people sat. She saw Diana waving her hands wildly to her, jumping up and down, Philomena and Tabitha at her side. Aria sat on the grass beside them, unmistakably bored. "Please, mount your brooms."

Irena got on her broom as Ms. Honeybrook released the Bludger and the Snitch. It flew just beyond Irena's and Thicket's faces, as if it was teasing them. It flew away, out of sight. Honeybrook held the Quaffle up, tossing it into the air.

Someone grabbed it, and the game was afoot. Irena flew up into the air, soaring high above the game, listening to the sound of announcing. "The game begins! Thyme Oakwood begins by grabbing the Quaffle, flying as close to Marino Gooseberry's goalpost- she throws the Quaffle and misses! It's okay.."

She blocked out the sounds of the game, searching for the Snitch. Irena peered down at the game, an angle that most would not be able to watch a Quidditch game from. She looked down at the audience, seeing her friends were seated now, watching. Her heart lurched as she noticed Dad was standing, watching them eagerly. She couldn't have him find out about her crush on Austin, it would be so awkward .

"Seekers Thicket Morrison and Irena Diggory-Black sit just above, looking for the Snitch!" Honeybrook announced, before going back to the game. Irena sighed, focusing on the task at hand, peering down. Austin smacked a Bludger over to an unsuspecting Hufflepuff Chaser, only to be saved by a Hufflepuff Beater.

Irena glanced to Thicket, who didn't seem to notice the Snitch yet. A few points were scored from the goalposts, but she really just wanted to find the Snitch.

A few more minutes passed, but a glint of gold by the audience triggered her. The Snitch was flying just above Dad, as if it was teasing her. Irena pushed her broom downward, spinning determinedly, hoping to pick up speed.

"It seems that Slytherin Seeker, Irena Diggory-Black, has found the Snitch- Thicket's on her tail!" Honeybrook's excited voice was heard echoing around the course. Irena pressed her body against the broomstick, feeling the laws of Inertia press against her. "Godric- she's doing the spinning thing again. It's quite impressive really!"

Irena lifted her broom up from the ground just before crashing, whipping along quickly, just as she had practiced. Spinning made her quick, but the laws of motion made it so she could go quickly and steer- an object must remain in motion.

She sped along the grass, straight toward the audience, not paying attention to Thicket, who was apparently several feet behind her. Irena soared directly over her father, causing him to duck, but the Snitch was on the move again. She spun quickly, ignoring the cheers of her friends. Her eye was on the Snitch, but so was Thicket's.

It was right in the middle of where the game was taking place. Irena flew quickly after it, careful not to crash into one of the Chasers.

As if in slow motion, one of the Hufflepuff Beaters smacked the Bludger right in her direction. Irena hadn't had time to react consciously, and her instinct took over as she swung her weight, spinning around upside down on her broom. Irena sat back up, not bothering to peer backwards as she continued after the Snitch.

Irena began to spin once more, her eye on the Snitch, going quicker and quicker as she approached, grasping the Snitch in her hand at last. She righted herself, closing her eyes to make her feel less dizzy as she looked down at the pitch.

The Hufflepuffs had all landed, tending to their wounded. Irena floated over to the Slytherin team, still clutching the Snitch. "What's happened?" Irena said breathlessly, still clutching her head, trying to let the dizziness go.

"Hufflepuff Beater, Adelaide Books, just smacked a Bludger right in the Seeker's face." Austin told her. "Would've got you, I think that's what she was planning for, anyway. Good thing you got out of the way when you did, or Madame Pomfrey might have to fashion you a new nose as well."

Irena chuckled awkwardly as they floated down, putting the balls back in their boxes. Irena let her hair down, beginning to walk to the locker rooms. Orchid and Thyme raced forward, hoping to be first in the hot showers. "Oi!" Austin called to her, just as she was about to go inside. Irena turned to look at him. "You did good today, just thought you should know. If you play like that at the match, we'll surely win."

She smiled, feeling herself blush as she walked inside the locker rooms to get undressed, deciding to shower at her dorm instead. Irena stepped outside at the same time as the other girls, they began walking back to the castle.

Thyme tapped her on the shoulder, making Irena jump. Was she gonna get yelled at?

"You did good today, kid." Thyme flashed her a tiny, rare smile before splitting up to walk alone.

Orchid blinked in shock. "Did Thyme just compliment you?" She breathed. "You must have done a good job today. I wasn't watching, I was busy with the other Chasers."

"It's alright." Irena chuckled. They made their way into the castle when Irena was hounded by her friends.

Philomena was grinning. "Oh, you did amazing with the spinning! I'm so glad we studied a bit of physics before, I'm so glad you're applying them to Quidditch, you're bloody brilliant, that's what you are-"

"-I thought you were gonna be hit in the face with that Bludger and ruin your perfect, beautiful nose!" Diana squeaked. "I'm so glad you're alright, I'd hate to have to walk you back to Pomfrey, she never gets noses right!"

"I thought you were gonna crash into us at that one point, I hadn't even seen the Snitch by us, honestly," Tabitha chirped. "It was impressive."

They looked to Aria to see what she was going to say, but she only shrugged. "It was alright." Aria told Irena, glaring at Philomena as she left them.

Philomena looked downcast, and Irena balled up her fists. Maybe it was the adrenaline coursing through her veins from the match, or frustration that her friends weren't getting along. "You know, Aria, if you aren't interested in watching, then don't bother coming!" Irena shouted.

"Fuck off." Aria snarled, turning around, her wild black curls bouncing as she glared at Irena, turning and leaving even faster.

Irena shook her head. "She has no right." Irena whispered to Philomena, who looked grateful to her. "One of these days, she's gonna see how wrong she is to abandon us. She's not getting credit for our next prank, that's for sure."

Tabitha nodded. "She has been acting differently since hanging around the other Slytherins.." She mumbled. "A few I know, they aren't terribly mean, they just hate Mudbloods. I don't even know what a Mudblood is."

"Did someone say Mudblood?" Dad's voice came from behind them. "Who's saying Mudblood?"

They grew very quiet, glancing at Philomena, who looked at her shoes. Irena looked to Professor Diggory. "There's this group of Slytherins who are being mean to Philomena, calling her a Mudblood in the hallways and just being bullies, really." Irena told him.

Philomena looked to her desperately, as if she wished Irena hadn't told him.

"Does Professor Slughorn know?" He asked, crossing his arms. But no one responded before he continued talking. "A Mudblood is a serious word to throw around. I haven't heard it in years.. not since the war. I can talk to him for you, Philomena, if it's something you would like."

She blinked her big brown eyes to Professor Diggory. "I don't.. I don't want to get anyone in trouble.. it's nothing really.. I just avoid certain hallways now.. you know? Keep to myself, they leave me alone."

"Philomena, you should." Diana told her very seriously. "You don't have to do this alone."

"No, no." Philomena concurred. "I don't want to make them more mad. Thanks for offering, Professor Diggory.. I just don't want to be-"

"-a snitch?" Dad asked, almost teasingly. "No one would think otherwise."

Irena grabbed Philomena's hand. "It's okay, she's just not ready." Irena told him. I'll get you ready. She loved Philomena, more than she loved Aria. Philomena was her best friend, and Irena would protect her.

"Okay." Professor Diggory nodded. "You will get me when you're ready?"

"Yes, professor." Philomena promised.

He patted Irena on the back. "You did good today, sweetheart. I can't wait to see your match in November." Dad grinned before leaving. Irena felt warm inside.

"So.. about the prank.." Philomena changed the subject, as they walked down the hallway, completely forgetting about their past conversation. Diana and Tabitha loved Philomena too, and they didn't want her to be uncomfortable.

Philomena was so loved, Irena just hoped that she was able to see it too.

Chapter Text

Wednesday, 27 October, 2010

Orchid flew around in the air alongside Irena. It was a bright day out, but her breath billowed from her mouth in a fog. "Okay, wait, show me the spin again." She breathed, adjusting her goggles on her face.

Irena shifted her weight, swinging around before righting herself on her broomstick. "It's better when you're moving." She giggled. She was glad that Orchid was one of the nicer Slytherins on the team. Tom Yaxley had never been very kind to Irena, but he had become less so, ever since her tiff with Aria. She didn't care, not now.

The Chaser began moving, spinning on her broom ungracefully. Orchid stopped, righting herself. "I don't think I'll get it down." She breathed. "I'm too dizzy." She leaned against her broom, closing her eyes. "Did you hear about the Slytherin party? They're not cancelling it at all, it's this Sunday, on Halloween. Do you think you'll go?"

"Probably not." Irena chuckled.

"Why not?" Orchid asked. "I never got invited last year, so I'm gonna make sure I go this year. We could go together!"

Irena winced. "I'll think about it.." She mumbled. She knew that Philomena would never get invited to a Slytherin party like that, and probably not Diana or Tabitha either. Besides, everyone who goes to the Hog's Head usually goes to drink, and she didn't think it'd be fun to be around a bunch of drunk people. Sometimes Mum and Dad would drink on New Years, and Irena didn't think it was fun to be around them.

"Think long and hard." Orchid told her. "Otherwise I'll have to go with Erwin and Tom." She rolled her eyes.

Austin blew on his whistle and they all floated down to the locker rooms. Irena changed out of her Quidditch uniform and left stiffly to the castle, not waiting for the others. She wanted to spend time with Austin and the team, but she just wished that it would be at another time. Besides, going to the Halloween Ball with her friends sounded more fun.

Would Teddy ask her to the dance again, after last year? She quietly hoped he'd ask Philomena, but she wouldn't make any hints that he should, it would give away her secret. Irena made her way through the corridors, feeling tired. Practice had been twice a week now, once during the week and once over the weekend. Austin wanted to make sure they'd do well, but she had almost no energy to talk to anyone.

She went into the Slytherin common room, walking past all the Slytherins. Irena was acutely aware of Aria's eyes watching her, but she made no notion. They were all talking about the Slytherin party. Irena definitely wasn't going now.

"There she is." Tabitha cooed as Irena walked in. "We've just been talking about the prank and the Halloween Ball. Remember last year's Halloween Ball?" She giggled with Philomena and Diana on Diana's bed, Brownie laid in Philomena's lap, sleeping. "We noticed no one's been asked to it. I think they're waiting for us to strike."

Irena smiled, laying her things down. "We'll just have to surprise them, then." Irena smiled. "Maybe.. we could get them during lunch on Friday, just before the dance. I need to give them time to go to Pomfrey, I don't want to get in trouble for foul play at the Quidditch match."

"See, this is why you're the Prank Master. " Diana complimented. "We would have never thought about this stuff. Not about the Ball or the Quidditch game!"

She smiled tiredly. "I'm going to take a shower." Irena told them curtly, grabbing her towel and soaps. Diana meant it as a compliment, but it didn't really feel like one. She felt overwhelmed, really. The Quidditch game was stressful, Professor Potter and his hatred of her was stressful, her crush on Austin was stressful, Aria's hatred of Philomena was stressful, and yes, the pranks were becoming stressful too. Plus, homework, but that seemed to be the least of her problems at this point.

The shower was good, hot and steamy. Irena came out, feeling more refreshed. Diana and Tabitha sat on the floor now, whispering while sitting beside the Marauder's Map. Tabitha held a book in her hands, Hogwarts, a History . Philomena slept on Diana's bed, Brownie beside her, as if he were a stuffed animal. She smiled, sighing contently.

"No, no." Tabitha whispered. "It's got something to do with pranks, we know that. And it likes it when we say up to no good. " She pointed to the map. "We need to think of the other words."

Diana sighed. "Maybe we should ask Teddy and the rest of them."

"No, Di, we can't." Tabitha told her. "That's like.. admitting defeat. We can't."

"Maybe we should give up and give it back?" Diana asked, staring at the floorboards and her bare feet.

Tabitha frowned. "And let them put itching powder on us again? No thanks!" She went back to her studies.

Irena laid on her bed, closing her eyes. She fell into a light and dreamless nap.

 

Friday, 29 October, 2010

The girls were a bundle of giggles as they went to lunch on Friday. They'd rectified the plan, charming the Gryffindors at lunch seemed a lot easier than at dinner. "Wait, tell me what the spell is again? I don't want to mess it up." Diana whispered as they walked down the corridor.

" Duae sinistrae, " Irena told her. "But be careful, don't be willy-nilly. This is Philomena's spell that she wrote, not someone like.. Merlin or Dumbledore." She said, "Not to discredit Philly.."

Philomena giggled. "It's okay, I don't think of myself as Dumbledore's equal." She told them.

"Did Quinn's hand ever go back to normal? Diana?" Tabitha worried, twisting her robes in worry.

Diana looked at her. "I think it took a couple days.. and a couple of powerful spells. Some of the Slytherins were talking about it. Aria was there.. but she didn't even look at me." She muttered. "I don't think McGonagall wanted to make a big deal about it, so she kept quiet."

"I hope it won't be too obvious it's us." Tabitha sighed.

"McGonagall's precious little Gryffindors can handle a prank." Irena scoffed. The other girls laughed as they walked into the Great Hall, settling down across from the Gryffindors at their table.

Teddy grinned up at them. "Hello, girls." He said chipperly. Talon gave a small wave, and Felix grunted from where he was busy with his homework. Victoire sat beside Teddy. "We were talking about the Halloween Ball, are you going?"

"Maybe, haven't been asked." Irena told him. "I didn't think any of you were gonna ask us, not after last year."

"Nonsense! We can go! Just.. no pranks, okay? Normal Halloween night?" Teddy asked.

Irena exchanged a knowing glance to the others. No pranks on Halloween? Good thing we've got one planned for before then.. She thought. "That sounds just fine. Halloween Truce."

"And before the match." Talon added. "I won't hesitate to go to McGonagall."

"Yea, yea, whatever." Tabitha told them.

There was an awkward pause as everyone thought of what to say. "Um, Tabitha, have you been asked to the dance?" Teddy asked sweetly and Irena felt Philomena stiffen beside her.

"No, I haven't." Tabitha giggled. "Is this you asking me?"

"Perhaps, if you'll say yes, otherwise.." Teddy chuckled, even blushing a bit.

"I'd be happy to go with you." Tabitha told him. Irena reached for Philomena's hand under the table, giving it a squeeze. She didn't respond.

Talon blinked at Diana. "Diana-"

"YES!!" Diana blurted. "Sorry.. you were saying?" Talon chuckled, shaking his head.

"I'll just pick you up before the dance, okay?" Talon laughed, while Diana glowed red.

Everyone looked to Felix, who seemed very entranced by his Charms homework. Victoire nudged him. He glanced up, looking at Philomena and Irena. "Philomena, would you like to go to the dance with me?"

"You can't take your sister!" Talon told him. "You gotta ask Irena!"

Irena felt her cheeks redden. If only Austin would take her to the ball.. "Teddy took Irena last year, and they're basically siblings!" Felix argued.

"You're her twin!" Teddy told him.

She laughed. "It's okay, you better take Philly, she makes a better date than I will." Irena told them. They looked confused. "She's more dancey, you know? I'm more of a lean against the wall type."

"I'll go to the dance with you, Felix." Philomena told him hoarsely.

"Perfect!" Felix said with an easy smile, going back to his work.

Victoire looked around, biting her lip. "I'm the only Gryffindor girl who will talk to you three, and you don't even bother asking me?" She asked plainly, making all the boys look quite embarrassed. "I'll go with Irena. She'll be more interesting than any of you."

Irena laughed. "Here's to leaning against walls together, Vic." She raised her glass, tapping it gently against Victoire's. She grinned excitedly.

They ate lunch together, talking casually about class and gossip (apparently the news on Quinn's hand had gotten to the Gryffindors, but only because all the Slytherins thought one of them cast it).

The group began walking out of the Great Hall, going to an empty corridor. "Now!" Irena said sharply. She pulled out her wand, pointing it to Talon. " Duae sinistrae !" She cast, hearing the spell echo around her, in Diana's, Tabitha's, and Philomena's voices.

"What?" Talon laughed. "What was that?"

"I think you'll find things are a bit more handy now.." Tabitha said cheekily.

Their eyes widened. Talon raised his hands to his face. Sure enough, he had two left hands- two hands with two thumbs in the exact same spot. Felix, Teddy, and Victoire looked at them, but it was Talon who let out a squeal, running off.

Felix raced after him, trying to maintain a hold on all his papers with his two left hands, and failing, letting his parchment fall to the floor.

The girls couldn't hold in their laughter. It felt good to win for once, Irena reflected. Victoire looked at Irena sadly. "Irena.. I thought.." She whispered.

"All's fair in love and a prank war." Irena told her as Teddy walked away. "You'll get us back."

Victoire blinked, not comforted at all. "I'm going to the hospital wing." She echoed, walking away.

The girls laughed. "Godric, did you see Talon's stupid face?" Tabitha wheezed.

"That was refreshing!" Philomena breathed to Irena.

"He deserved it." Irena confirmed.

"Let's get out of here before they trace it back to us!" Diana squeaked, and the four girls ran off, howling with laughter all the way to the Slytherin dungeons and their dorm room.

 

Sunday, 31 October, 2010

Irena stood outside the Great Hall, the dance inside roared with energy. It'd been a lovely night, truly, but her social battery felt terribly low. The Gryffindors came to the dungeons to walk them to the dance. For now, she could see Victoire dancing alongside Philomena and Felix.

She felt left out. Irena tried not to let it bother her- that no one would ask her to the Halloween ball. Why had Teddy asked Tabitha? Sure, she was absolutely beautiful, Irena could not deny, but why not Philomena, or her? Why had Felix not wanted to ask her?

Tears threatened to spill from her eyes, but Irena held them back. Did boys not like her? Maybe Aria had been right. She was undesirable, wasn't she? The other girls had boys who thought they were pretty. Why not her?

Irena let out a shaky sigh, wanting to go back to the dorms and cry. It'd been so overwhelming, and it didn't seem to stop. Maybe I should quit Quidditch. That would take care of two problems: the match and Austin. But she knew she could never give it up.

A shout was heard down the hall. Irena got up, looking to the Great Hall before going toward the sound. "How could you let this fucking happen?" An angry voice was heard, Irena hung around the corner, peeking at who was speaking. "Tom- how could you let this- I could kick you off the team for this!"

"I'm sorry! She's so persuasive!" Tom Yaxley's voice was heard. 

Austin ran a hand through messy hair. Irena stopped breathing for a moment, looking at his tight dress robes as his muscles squeezed into them. She looked down and saw Aria, laying on the ground, laughing. "Persuasive.." She laughed loudly, and drunkenly. "I'm a bloody Legilimens, you idiots. I can read every thought you've ever had."

"She threatened to-" Tom began.

"I don't care, Yaxley!" Austin spat. "The rule of the Halloween party: don't let anyone under third year drink. You drank, she drank. She's a damn second year!" He paced. "You're bloody lucky you're the best Keeper in Slytherin, or I'd have you off the team and on your arse in a heartbeat."

Irena leaned away, breathing deeply. Something about seeing Austin so upset over something was.. it made her stomach twist and curl. She walked back to the Great Hall, feeling very flustered. Aria was drunk.. somehow.  She'd broken the rules. Irena knew that she couldn't let her friends see that.

She made sure the group stayed in the Great Hall, checking periodically at the situation until they left. Irena sighed, closing her eyes. It would be mean to go back to her dorm without Tabby and Diana.

Professor Diggory left his post as a dance chaperone to see her in the doorway of the Great Hall. Dad smiled at her. "May I have this dance?" He asked sweetly.

Irena almost gave in, but remembered how uncool it would be to dance with her father in front of everyone else. "No, but thanks." She told him.

"Well, can I stand next to you?" He asked.

"Sure, Dad." Irena chuckled. He leaned against the wall with a sigh. Irena rested her head against his arm, closing her eyes and listening to the music, trying to forget the stresses of her feeble, twelve year old existence.

 

Saturday, 6 November, 2010

Irena was at the locker rooms far too early. Her hands shook, her stomach twisted. She polished the wood on her broomstick twice already, staring into space. Today was the day of the match, she was more nervous now than ever before.

It was greatly anticipated. Irena had been guffawed at by Gryffindors before, but nothing like in the past few days. Trash talk was supposed to be fun, but Irena felt so isolated. The Gryffindors all got their hands fixed, Philomena said. They would be upset for a while.

The door to the locker room opened. Irena glanced up quickly. Thyme stood in the doorway, her curly hair loose and wild down to her shoulders. They made eye contact, Irena opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out.

"I forgot it's your first match." Thyme mused, going to her locker. Irena looked down at her broom again, rubbing more polish over it. "You keep doing that and you'll slip off your broom in the middle of the match, you know."

Irena paused, ceasing to polish the knob of her broomstick, tossing it aside and clutching her broom.

"I remember my first time." She said wistfully, not seeming to care if Irena were listening. "Not highly anticipated, Slytherin hasn't won in a while, and we weren't given a fighting chance. We lost, of course. We always lose." Thyme grew very quiet.

She blinked to her. "Do you think we'll win?" Irena asked plainly.

Thyme looked to her full on, and Irena could see how beautiful she was. She had warm brown eyes, and her skin was a beautiful honey shade. Her dark hair cascaded down to her shoulders, and her face was clear of acne- of which many students her age were afflicted. "I think we have a better chance." She said assuredly, turning back around to tie up her hair.

Before long, the locker room was full of students- Gryffindors mostly. Pepper Talpin hadn't said a word to either Slytherin. She felt good that Thyme trusted her, but that meant the whole team was relying on her now. Her own importance made her sick.

They were set to go out by 10. Austin pulled the Slytherin team aside, and Irena watched him. He seemed nervous, more than usual. "Alright, Slytherins, listen up." He said gruffly. "We're going to play our hardest, our bestest, and our kindest. I don't want too many injuries to those Gryffindors. If we win, then we win. If we lose, then we lose. The responsibility doesn't fall on one person. We're a team, at the end of the day. No person is more important than another."

"TO SLYTHERIN!" The team cheered. Irena still felt nervous. She was their Seeker, after all. The responsibility of winning 150 points fell on her. She tried not to tremble as they began the trek out of the locker room.

As she stepped out alongside the others, Irena felt herself shrink. In all the normally empty stands, crowds were packed, cheering, wearing flags and other memorabilia for each team. Irena eyed the Slytherin seats, seeing Diana, Tabitha, and Philomena, or, she assumed it was them.

Ms. Honeybrook stood in the center, wearing full referee gear. She grinned excitedly. "First game of the year!" She said cheerfully, clutching the Quaffle in her arms. "Don't injure yourselves too badly, I don't want to see any foul play, let's make this a good, clean game. We've got a lot of people watching, more than other games. Let's not scar them too badly, eh?"

Irena blinked, not laughing at her joke. She glanced at the Gryffindor team, making eye contact with Teddy and Talon, who flashed her uneasy smiles, looking just as pale as she felt. It appeared that their hands were back to normal. Good. Irena thought with a smirk. At least that was something that was good.

"Please, shake hands with all the members!" Ms. Honeybrook said.

She found the Gryffindor Seeker, an older boy named Barnabas Fletcher, but when Teddy talked about him, he was only ever Barny . Irena smiled as she shook his hand, his skin covered in zits and pimples- ah, adolescence . He smiled at her. "Good luck to you, Irena." He said cheerily.

"Good luck to you too, Barny." Irena told him with a smile. I'm gonna beat you. I'm not letting you get that Snitch. She told herself. If she believed the arrogance of her thoughts, she probably could win.

They separated again. Ms. Honeybrook let the Snitch out. Instead of flapping to Irena's face, it took off toward the sky. The Bludger flew just between the two teams before flying toward the sky as well. Irena mounted her broomstick, her knuckles white with the strain of her grip. The referee blew her whistle, tossing the Quaffle into the air, and the game was afoot.

Irena launched herself into the air as the crowds cheered around her. She glanced at one of the red and gold stands, seeing McGonagall and making eye contact. Irena smirked, towering higher in the air. "AND THEY'RE OFF!" The speaker, a chatty Ravenclaw girl that Philomena was likely friends with, said excitedly. "Very exciting game today! New Slytherin Seeker and Chaser, new Gryffindor Keeper and Chaser- exciting stuff indeed!"

Once she was higher than the stands, she peered downward, taking a deep breath. Her neck was growing cold, unable to use her covering of hair to guard it. Her hair was up in a bun now, courtesy of Diana's nimble fingers. She glanced down at the audience. In the same stands where the Headmistress sat, Irena could spy her mother and father- and all her siblings.

Leo and Perseus were near the front of the stands, peering up excitedly to their older sister. Irena could see Nova and Selene sitting by Mum, playing with their Wanda dolls- which was essentially Barbie dolls, but for witches, instead of Muggles. Sunny was beside them, Remus and Sirius sat beside Mum. Irena's heart skipped a beat when she saw Regulus and Cleo seated near them. Regulus flashed a smile to her.

Irena knew that many, many years ago, Regulus had been Slytherin Seeker himself. She should have expected that he'd arrive, but her breath still caught in her throat. The pressure was on.

"Irena Diggory-Black, Slytherin's newest Seeker. Quite a peculiar case, truly. The daughter of a teacher- many wonder if that was how she made the team." The Ravenclaw girl mused to everyone in the stands. "Whether or not her father, Professor Diggory, pulled strings, will only remain a mystery to us all. To those who've seen her play, they say she made it on her own merit, but to the rest of us, time will only tell. Talent or nepotism?"

She felt sick. Is that what people thought of her? Daddy's girl, asked him to pull strings to get her on the team. No, she had to find the Snitch now. She had to win. Irena gripped her broom tighter, peering away from the stands and into the game.

Thyme and Orchid were busy passing the Quaffle to each other, before Orchid threw it into one of the goalposts. Irena watched as Teddy kicked it away with his foot, and Talon grabbed it, flying to the other end of the arena. She felt strangely at peace, breathing a sigh of relief.

Several minutes passed, each team had made goals on each side. "BARNY FLETCHER SPOTS THE SNITCH!" The Ravenclaw girl shouted excitedly into her microphone. Irena took off behind him, feeling the cold November wind whip against her.

He wasn't as fast as her, nor as agile, she noticed. Barnabas nearly got smacked by a Beater's bat as the Snitch moved through the tangle of players in the center. Irena dove, dodging a Bludger, almost knocking into Talon as he flew by her. The Snitch picked up speed, launching itself higher into the air now.

She gripped the broomstick as she ascended. Irena was quicker than Barnabas as they went higher and higher, up near the stands with McGonagall and the rest. Irena could feel everyone's eyes on her as she continued upwards, glancing at Barnabas. He smirked at her, pushing ahead. Oh no, you don't! Irena thought as she gave herself a slight spin.

The Snitch sat atop, near the clouds, pausing for a moment, as if it were allowing them to catch up. Irena breathed as she approached, Barnabas close to her. It began a quick descent, and Irena knew exactly what she had to do.

Irena shifted her weight, spinning quickly. She could hear the cheers all around her. "SHE'S DOING IT! MY GOD, THEY WERE RIGHT!" She thought she could hear the Ravenclaw chirp. Her nose ran, but she kept her eyes focused on the Snitch. "FLETCHER'S TAKING NOTE OF IRENA'S STRATEGY AND IS TRYING IT TOO- WILL HE GET THE SNITCH AGAIN?"

She didn't have time to peer over to him. Her eyes were only on the Snitch, she was ahead of Barny, she reached out her arm to grab it, he did the same. The ground was growing closer, and she reached out more so, but couldn't quite reach.

"OH MY GODRIC, THEY'RE GOING TO CRASH!" She screamed into her microphone. Irena kept her eyes on the Snitch, pulling up alongside it as she skimmed the grass, righting herself. A crash and a cry was heard behind her. She didn't have time to look. "BARNABAS, NO! HE'S DOWN! SOMEBODY CALL MADAME POMFREY!"

Irena pushed ahead, following the Snitch, never relishing her focus. She could hear cheering around her. "IRENA! IRENA! IRENA!" The crowds called out. The Snitch took her through the grass, where players played above her. The Snitch picked up again, twisting and turning, as if trying to get her off its path.

The Snitch lifted up higher in the air, and Irena began to spin, centering herself around it, reaching out her hand to grasp it.

Just as she laced her fingers around the Snitch, a large, hard force hit her in her abdomen, where her arm had been raised. The pain was hot, breathtaking. Irena grabbed the Snitch as tightly as she could, but the force had knocked her off her broom. The broom skidded to a halt, suspended in midair, as she grabbed onto it tightly.

"SHE'S DONE IT! SHE'S CAUGHT THE SNITCH!" The Ravenclaw cheered. "SLYTHERIN WINS!"

Irena breathed a sigh of relief, trying to get back on her broom, but the pain in her ribs was far too painful, and the polishing from this morning made it slippery. She could feel her hands slipping, the wood moving beneath her fingers.

"Come here, come here." She heard Teddy's voice behind her. Talon flew over alongside them, a worried look on his face. Irena climbed onto Teddy's broom, coughing into her hand. Irena inspected it curiously. Bits of saliva and spit mixed with blood- her own blood. "Bloody hell, the Bludger- I'm taking you to Pomfrey. Talon, grabbed her broomstick."

Teddy grabbed onto her, his hands holding on her robes, but soon snaked to her waist to keep her balanced. Irena leaned into him, tired. A Bludger had smacked into her, something that was expected. What kind of game would it be if people didn't end up in the hospital wing?

They touched down onto the grass. Irena watched as her mother ran over to her. "Irena- let me look at you." Mum said, pushing Teddy aside, who had a worried look on his face. She lifted up her shirt, looking at the forming bruise. "Broken ribs- Christ. Poppy's got Skele Gro in the wing. Teddy, are you hurt?"

"Is she gonna be okay?" Teddy asked.

"She'll be okay." Mum told him. "Come on, let's go, before everyone starts crowding."

Irena cast a sideways glance to Teddy, smiling at him, as she hobbled away to the hospital wing.

Chapter Text

Monday, 8 November, 2010

Numerous people came to visit Irena after the accident. She laid in the hospital wing for the rest of Saturday and Sunday. Of course, Diana, Tabitha, and Philomena spent every moment they could beside her. Teddy, Talon, Felix, and Victoire visited as often as they could. The Slytherin team visited once, just to congratulate her.

For now, she laid comfortably in her bed in her dorm room, sitting up slowly to get ready for class. Her abdomen ached, but the Skele Gro had mended her ribcage just fine. Mum had stayed all weekend, much to the displeasure of all the Diggory-Black children. Irena liked being fretted over, she found- but not enough to get hit in the ribs by a Bludger.

"Do you need any help getting ready?" Diana whispered as Irena slowly moved from her bed.

"Can you get my uniform?" Irena asked. Diana had been a great help with physical things, Tabitha told her all the gossip from the other students. "The trousers and the blazer, please."

They walked to the Great Hall slowly. Tabitha held her bag. Philomena had met up with them in the hall, wanting to eat breakfast with them. Diana and Tabitha were busy talking to each other, leaving Irena alone with Philomena, something that they hadn't been able to do since the Quidditch match.

"Um, Irena?" Philomena began awkwardly, fiddling with the buttons on her robe, just as she always did when she was nervous. Each button seemed to be a worry stone to her. Irena couldn't believe she still had fingerprints sometimes. "Are you doing anything for Christmas?"

Irena looked at her. She had her hair braided today. "Nothing out of the ordinary, why?"

"I was wondering if you wanted to spend part of the break with me." She asked sheepishly. "I've written to my parents, they're okay as long as I don't bring too many people. I wanted to ask McGonagall about Felix, it might be more fun as the three of us, instead of just us two. I don't think he's ever had a good Christmas holiday before."

She smiled. "I'll ask my dad." Irena told her, taking her hand in hers. "We usually just go to the Burrow- with the Weasleys- and spend Christmas there. Then Mum hosts a New Year's party. Where do you live?" Irena asked.

"Brighton." Philomena replied. "Is it too far?"

"I don't think so, does your family use Floo powder?"

"No, they're Muggles, remember?" She giggled. "Well, can you come with me to McGonagall's to ask about Felix? I think Mum and Dad would love to meet him, they might even buy him gifts too!" Philomena gushed.

Breakfast came and went, Irena slipped by in Astronomy class. Potions class was alright, it was mostly handing back old papers and Slughorn's lecture on the Wiggenweld Potion. Lunch was overwhelming. It seemed like every student knew her name and wanted to say hi to her.

"You're a celebrity now!" Victoire whispered excitedly. "I'm friends with a celebrity!"

"A celebrity who gave you two left hands!" Talon teased.

They all laughed. Philomena rested her hand on Irena's wrist. "I heard some of the Ravenclaws talking about interviewing you for Hogwarts Herald, the school newspaper. They're thinking of making you the front page!"

Transfiguration class was easy, Irena spent her time in the back. She knew Professor Diggory took pity on her most of all, which made it very easy for her to ask about Philomena's request.

Philomena and Felix hung around in the Transfiguration class. "Dad?" Irena asked in a squeaky voice, making sure to keep her hand on her ribs, as if they still hurt. They were, at most, extremely sore and tender. "Philomena invited me to her place in Brighton for Christmas. Can I go?"

Dad sighed, shaking his head with a smile. "I'll write to your mum, see what she thinks. Mrs. Weasley will be upset if you don't come, you know that. Mum will be sad if you miss the New Year's party."

"There are, like, a million children at her house at Christmas." Irena retorted.

"We'll see what your mother says." Dad grinned, kissing her forehead before she left with Philomena and Felix.

Philomena held Irena's bag now, while Diana went off to do something else- likely gawk at the Gryffindor Quidditch practice. Irena had met Barny Fletcher in the hospital wing. His injuries were far worse, having crashed straight into the ground. "I don't think I ever want to see that again." Felix told them.

"What, Professor Diggory kissing Irena?" Philomena said in a teasing tone. "It's just a family thing."

Irena giggled. "Trust me, I try to avoid all of it in front of people if I can." She told them, feeling her cheeks flush. It was embarrassing, as much as she loved her father. "I try to tell him not to be so.. fatherly at school. Maybe by the time my youngest sister, Aurora, comes to Hogwarts, maybe things will be different."

Philomena giggled. Felix didn't say anything. "Okay, you two better let me do all the talking." She began to chatter anxiously. "Felix, you're here because you have to. Irena is here for emotional support."

She laughed. "Emotional support?"

"So, if I go to your house for Christmas, it'll be us three?" Felix asked.

"Is it a problem?" Philomena asked sincerely.

"No, no, it's alright." Felix reassured her, smiling. Years later, Irena would think back on this moment and think of how lucky they all were to have each other in that moment.

They walked to the Headmaster's Office, going inside. "Mr. and Ms. Fitzgibbons, Ms. Diggory-Black, what a pleasant surprise." McGonagall grinned. "I sure hope you haven't bewitched Mr. Fitzgibbons' mouth as one of your pranks."

"Nope, not bewitched." Felix mumbled, his cheeks turning red.

"I'll have to write that one down." Irena said cheekily, making them all chuckle.

Philomena cleared her throat. "Professor, I was wondering if Felix could spend Christmas with me." She told McGonagall in a clear voice. "I know you have to work stuff out with the.. place he lives.. so I'm asking early."

McGonagall looked at them closely. "Yes, I remember now." She whispered. "Philomena and Felix.. Hogwarts' long lost twins. Is it too much to ask to spend Christmas holidays here?"

"My parents want to meet him." Philomena beamed.

The headmistress smiled. "Very well, I suppose a Christmas in Brighton will be brighter than Christmas anywhere else." McGonagall said, eyeing Felix. At that moment, Irena was glad McGonagall favored Gryffindors. Felix deserved a good Christmas. "I'll write to Ms. Carroll to see if you can."

"Thank you, Professor!" Philomena squeaked, wrapping her arms around Felix tightly. He cracked a smile, hugging her back. Their joy was infectious, and even Irena and Professor McGonagall grinned.

The trio left her office, going to the library to do their homework, since Felix was absolutely lost without Philomena. Wasn't that how they were? Philomena was smart, conscious of others, kind. Irena didn't know Felix well, but he wasn't good at school, and he was ruthless in his pranks. They were both her friends, and Irena couldn't ask for better friends.

 

Friday, 19 November, 2010

That day, at lunch, was celebratory. Felix had gotten the okay to go to Philomena's house for the holidays, and so had Irena, as long as she returned for Mum's New Years party. They all ate together.

"Did you see Flitwick's reaction when Philly cast a perfect Shrinking Charm?" Diana gushed as she took a bite from her sandwich. "I think she's gonna get top marks this year. I think she's the best in our class."

Philomena grew beet red. "Oh- stop that! You'd all be just as good as me if you practiced hard enough. That means doing more than the homework." She said pointedly to Felix, who laughed and shook his head.

"Why do extra homework when I can watch Quidditch practice?" He asked.

"Exactly." Tabitha agreed. "Me and Felix are making a pact. We're both going to be on the Quidditch teams next year, even if we have to sit and study the practices everyday." She lifted her head proudly.

Irena frowned. "Speaking of Quidditch; where are Talon and Teddy?"

Victoire tried to hide a smile. "I dunno." She said plainly.

"Whatever, more food for us then!" Diana cheered, grabbing another sandwich and stuffing her face.

Talon and Teddy arrived later, their faces red from running. "Where have you two been?" Tabitha drawled.

Teddy grinned. "We caught the kids going off to Hogsmeade, they brought us some pumpkin juice to celebrate Felix's departure!" He said cheerfully, handing out bottles of pumpkin juice to each of the girls.

Talon grinned. "This means that Aria really won't have anyone to talk to over holiday. All her little Pureblood friends are going off to their rich families and she's gotta stay here alone."

Irena took the bottle of pumpkin juice, opening it. "Be kind to her, okay? You don't know what she's going through."

"I'll be kind to her when she stops calling my friends Mudbloods ." Talon snipped.

"You think I'm your friend?" Philomena asked earnestly. She took a sip of the pumpkin juice.

"Of course!" Talon told her. "You and Felix- plus the rest of you, even if you've given us two left hands and made us bald.. I suppose there's a small part of me that respects you and thinks you're my friend."

Irena snorted. "Sweet." She rolled her eyes, taking a sip of the pumpkin juice. It was sweet in her mouth, and warm in her stomach, like pumpkin pie. "Thanks for the pumpkin juice, by the way. It's good."

"How do you feel?" Victoire asked with a smirk.

"A little achy still, but otherwise fine." Irena blurted out, the words spilling from her before she could think them over.

The boys laughed to each other. Philomena frowned. "What did you do?" She asked.

"Go on, Diana, tell us your deepest, darkest secret." Felix goaded.

Diana blinked. "Sometimes I feel like I'm not good enough to be friends with any of you." She blurted, clapping her hand over her mouth in shock. "I didn't mean to say that!" Diana squeaked.

The Gryffindors burst out laughing. Irena glanced at Philomena. They were both thinking the same thing: someone spiked the pumpkin juice. "Tabitha, what is one thing about yourself that you'd never want to tell someone else?" Teddy asked.

"I try my hardest to be as different from my mother as I can because I'm scared of growing up to be like her." Tabitha said quickly, covering her mouth. Her eyes began to water. "I didn't want to say that out loud! How do I make this stop?" Her eyes grew very wet with tears, but the Gryffindors didn't seem to notice, or they didn't care.

The attention drifted from Tabitha to Irena. "Irena, what is something that you daydream of often?" Talon asked cheekily, grinning.

Irena willed her mouth not to move, but it did so anyway. "I have the biggest crush on Austin Evergreen, but I can't tell him because he thinks of me as a child, and I don't want to make things awkward at Quidditch practice."

The boys laughed, Victoire only nodded. "He is cute, isn't he?" She agreed.

"He's not cute, he's beautiful." Irena confessed, feeling her cheeks redden. "God, why did I say that?" She rested her face in her hands while the echoes of their laughter filled the space around her.

Philomena clenched her fist. "You spiked the pumpkin juice with Veritaserum, didn't you?" She asked angrily. "How did you even get Veritaserum?"

"We borrowed some from Slughorn!" Talon grinned.

"By borrowed, he means we stole it." Felix chuckled, glancing at Talon.

Teddy's focus rested on Philomena. "Well, since we're on the topic of crushes, Philomena, do you have a crush on anyone?"

"Yes." Philomena confessed. "Please don't ask me who.." Irena's eyes widened.

"Who?" Victoire asked with a sly grin.

Her face turned red. "I have a crush on Teddy Lupin." Philomena blurted, and suddenly the laughter died from the people around the table. Teddy grew very red in the face, and he leaned back, scratching the back of his neck, not making eye contact with anyone. This proved to be very funny to Talon and Felix.

Philomena burst into tears. Felix stopped laughing.

Irena stood at once. "You're cruel." She snapped, eyeing the four of them. "Let's go to Slughorn."

"Please don't snitch!" Felix begged. "We didn't tell anyone when you switched our hands!"

"I wanted to ask for some antidote, but if he asks, do you think we'll be able to stop ourselves from telling him?" Irena asked pointedly. Philomena, Diana, and Tabitha began gathering their things. "Idiots, that's what you are. You didn't think this prank through."

Talon stood. "Victoire, Felix, we can't let them go to Slughorn for the antidote!"

"I'll take them to the Slytherin common room." Victoire told them. "Even if it was your idea, Talon."

He glared, sitting back down. Irena huffed, grabbing her bag, swinging it over her shoulder. She only hoped that no one would ask them any questions on their way back. Philomena wiped her eyes, and Irena grabbed her hand, walking with the others to the Slytherin dungeons, just as Victoire promised.

They went back to their room, Victoire promised to sit in the hallway with her homework, making sure none of them went to Slughorn. It was annoyingly efficient.

Fortunately, Aria was off with the other Slytherins, so they wouldn't be plagued by her presence. They sat on Irena's bed with the curtains drawn. "Well, if we're on Veritaserum, maybe we could take this time to learn more about each other?" Diana inquired.

"Sure." Irena sighed.

Diana bit her lip. "You guys like me, don't you? You're my friends, right?"

"You're my bestest friend in the whole world and I love you." Tabitha gushed, growing red in the face.

"Aw, Tabby, I love you too!" Diana squeaked, wrapping her arms around Tabitha. Tabitha smiled, sighing to herself as she hugged Diana back.

Philomena was very quiet. "God, Teddy's never gonna like me back." She said weepily. "I didn't want to say anything. Did you see his reaction? Everything's gonna be weird now. I can't believe Felix is coming over to my house.. I'm so embarrassed!"

"Not too late to disinvite him." Irena quipped. "That little prick."

"No, I can't." Philomena sighed shakily. "He needs a good Christmas, he needs at least one. He's my brother, and even if he's mean sometimes, he should get a good Christmas."

The door squeaked open. Aria was there. "Little girls gossiping behind the curtains, hmm? Is the Mudblood under there?"

"Yes." Diana blurted, covering her face. It would have been easier to lie, but they couldn't do that now.

Aria chuckled. "I would never let a Mudblood mingle and dirty up my sheets, Irena." She said plainly, and her bed squeaked as she collapsed into it. "You might be the talk of the school, but you and I both know that you'll never be as good as me. Quidditch is stupid, it's a soulless career, you'll only get to play a few years after school before being forced to retire. You'll never be a powerful witch."

Philomena was sniffling quietly from behind the curtain. Irena opened it to see her former friend. "I hate when you say things like that." Irena snapped. The words flowed from her mouth freely. "I hope that next year they'll bunk you with girls who actually like you, because I'm tired of you."

She blinked, frowning as she pulled the curtains in her bed closed. Irena smirked, feeling like she won. She closed the curtains again, and Tabitha cast a silencing charm. Philomena began to cry again, and all three girls were more than happy to comfort her.

 

Friday, 26 November, 2010

The train blared its horn. Irena's heart raced as she stood on the platform, the snowflakes sticking to her hair. She boarded the train with Philomena and Felix. Irena only talked to the Gryffindors that Philomena deemed to be okay, and one of them was Felix.

To Felix's credit, he was more compassionate than Irena expected. He didn't mention anything about any of the pranks, especially not what Philomena had said under Veritaserum. He talked eagerly about things she was interested in- classes.

"Orchid, a girl on my Quidditch team, was talking about how we get to pick our electives for next year sometime this year." Irena said casually. She didn't know how else to participate in their conversation, but wanted to be in their bubble. Sometimes, it seemed the twins had some sort of telepathy, and spoke in code. Maybe Irena wasn't paying close enough attention to what they were saying. "What do you think you'll sign up for?"

"All of them!" Philomena grinned.

"None of them." Felix groaned.

"You have to pick at least two." Irena chided. Felix and Philomena then began to talk earnestly about electives- was Divination a valid form of magic? Felix said he might sign up because it seemed easy. Philomena said that she wouldn't sign up because it wasn't analytical enough.

As they spoke, two faces appeared in the window. Teddy and Talon looked sadly at Felix and Philomena, as if they wanted to enter and join them. Get out. Irena mouthed. She'd already sent Diana and Tabitha away to another part of the train, and she had absolutely no qualms about sending the Gryffindors away too.

Teddy blinked sadly. Sorry. He mouthed, taking off down the train to bother somebody else.

The conversation weaved around life at Hogwarts- classes, who was the best teacher, who was the worst teacher, Hogwarts Herald, the school newspaper that Ravenclaws were trying to get off the ground, and finally, Quidditch.

"When the Bludger hit you, did it hurt badly?" Felix asked. "It looked like it did."

"I almost cried when I saw you get hurt." Philomena fretted. "Even if you caught the Snitch or not, you shouldn't have gotten hurt. I saw that Beater, he hit the Bludger right toward you on purpose."

Irena shrugged. "It did hurt. Of course, there was also the fear of falling off my broom. I was lucky to get help getting down safely, honestly," She told them, looking at Felix. Don't talk about Teddy or Talon . She willed him. I wish I had telepathy. Maybe it was less of a twin thing, and more of a sibling thing? If she and Leo worked hard enough, could they share thoughts as well?

"I'm thinking about trying out for Beater next year." Felix confessed.

"Oh, that would be lovely!" Philomena cheered. "As long as you don't smack Irena or Tabitha."

"No, of course not." Felix grinned, scratching his head. "Unless they deserved it!"

Philomena smacked his forearm playfully.

Before long, they were back at King's Cross station. Irena let her mind wander to the Quidditch match again. Dad talked at length with Philomena's family, exchanging Muggle phone numbers. Irena got into their little Muggle car, sitting beside Philomena, as they took off toward Brighton.

Oh, what a lovely Christmas season it would be.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 27 November, 2010

Philomena had the perfect family, Irena realized. Muggles were foreign to Irena, more than they were to Felix and Philomena. They talked a lot about current events, lots of things about the British government and Muggle pop culture references that had to be explained.

Irena had quietly come to the conclusion that Philomena never had to question whether or not she was adopted. For one thing, her parents both had different last names, and they left Philomena's last name from her birth. For another thing, her parents did not look like her at all.

Her mother, Magnolia, told Irena and Felix the intense story of how her grandparents emigrated from Vietnam to escape the Vietnam War. Irena loved to hear her speak, she had a musical Irish lilt, which made her storytelling incredibly interesting. She'd met Philomena's father, Jordan, at University and they fell in love.

Unlike the rest of the people in the house, Jordan was very much American. He said he was from Houston, Texas, and pointed it out on the map. He moved to go to the University of Sussex, wanting to study history and ancient languages, which explained how he helped Philomena write the spell to grow Felix's hair (which he thought was miraculous and hilarious when he actually saw Felix).

Jordan was quick at work to make dinner that night, full of delicious fried foods, stuff that Hogwarts would never have. They always sat down as a family to eat, which was lovely.

"Your father seems like a great guy." Philomena's father told them with a grin, glancing at Irena. He worked as a professor at the local community college, and her mother was a psychologist. "He's a professor too, eh? What's he teaching?"

Philomena chuckled. "Transfiguration, Daddy." She told him. He scratched his graying beard, which stood out against his dark skin. He could've passed as a wizard, perhaps if he wore robes and held a wand. "It's the magic of turning something into something else."

"Like what?" He asked.

"We've only been transfiguring needles into matchsticks, and vice versa." Felix replied, grabbing a handful of chips- or as Jordan called them, french fries . "Nothing spectacular, not until NEWTs."

Magnolia joined them at the table. "Newts? Like.. a lizard?"

"No, Mum, Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test. " Philomena giggled. "Like the A-Levels or, uh, like the AP test in America." She explained.

Jordan nodded. "I see, I see." He murmured. "Nasty little tests, those AP tests." Irena quietly wondered if her mother had ever taken an AP test, having spent some of her life in America.

The topic at the dinner table changed to current events. It seemed casual for everyone else, but it felt riveting to Irena, who only heard about things in the Wizarding World. "Phil, did you hear about the engagement of Prince William? He's going to marry Catherine Middleton sometime next year." Magnolia asked.

Philomena grinned. "That's great news!"

"Don't you get the paper at Hogwarts?" Her father asked with a frown.

"Not Muggle news." Felix chuckled, pushing steamed vegetables around on his plate. "It's odd, coming back to the Muggle world after spending months at Hogwarts. You don't hear much Muggle news, only magic."

Philomena stood up to go to the living room and grab the newspaper to see the headlines. "I would think that news in the Wizarding World would be a bit lighter than ours." Jordan mused.

"Depends on what bit of history you're lookin' at." Irena told him, her mouth full. She swallowed before continuing to speak. "My mum and dad both fought in the Second Wizarding War. Same with all their friends."

Everyone looked at her. " Second Wizarding War ?" Felix asked. "I hate Professor Binns, always teaching us stupid bits of history. Who cares about the International Warlock Convention of 1289 ? We could be learning about real, current stuff!"

"Maybe that is important stuff, dude!" Philomena's father laughed as Philomena returned to the table, going back to her meal. "What do you know about the war?"

Irena loved the attention. "My parents don't like talking about it, I don't think. They were really young. I'm sure you'll hear more about it at the New Years party if you ask. Mum invites all her friends over."

"New Years party?" Magnolia asked.

"Yes, Irena's parents have invited us to London to celebrate 2011 ." Jordan told her. "Cedric said he'd ring me on the landline with more details- said he'd have to figure out how to use the phone. How do wizards communicate anyway?"

Irena giggled. "Owls, mostly." Felix told them with a cheeky smile.

 

Saturday, 11 December, 2010

" IT'S SNOWING! LOOK! " Philomena shouted, looking out her bedroom window. It was early in the morning. Philomena's mum let Irena share a bed with Philomena, but Felix had to sleep in the guest bedroom. "Maybe we can go sledding!"

Irena grinned. "Perfect!" She cheered as they went to wake up Felix. Irena had only ever been sledding a few times, always at the Burrow. Of course, this meant sharing with all the Weasley children as well as all her siblings, so she never really got a chance to enjoy it.

She thought about everyone else's Christmases. How were Victoire and Teddy? They'd be spending Christmas together this year, which meant she didn't have to worry about either being alone. Diana and Tabitha always spent Christmas together, and Talon would have a lovely Christmas with his Pureblood family. 

Irena thought back to Aria, spending the holidays alone in an empty castle. Did she really deserve it? She was a bully, Irena knew that to be certain, but she couldn't imagine how hurt she must feel. All her life, Irena had been surrounded by family and friends who loved her, she couldn't imagine being alone. It stung to think about.

"Let's go!" Felix said cheerily, in a big winter jacket, probably borrowed from her parent's closet.

The three of them ventured out alone. Philomena pulled her sled (which she called a toboggan- Muggles are so weird!) up to a tiny hill near her house. She looked at Felix and Irena with a flushed, but grinning face. "Are you ready for the best sledding of your lives?"

"Most definitely!" Felix beamed.

"Felix can ride in the front first!" Philomena settled. She steadied the sled as Felix sat near the front, grasping the wood at the front. Philomena climbed in behind him, wrapping her legs around his waist. Irena sat in the back, holding onto Philomena, kicking off.

As the toboggan drifted down the fresh, white blanket of snow, Irena was reminded of flying and Quidditch. The cool breeze in her face, the excitement of the rocking in the sled, the cheers of Philomena and Felix were quieter than the roaring crowds in a match, but the joy she felt in both cases was easily comparable.

They didn't go back to Philomena's house for hours, just going up and down the hill on the sled until Philomena's nose turned bright red and Felix couldn't move his fingers. They went back and researched warming charms as Philomena's mother made them hot chocolate. Truth be told, Irena preferred wrapping her cold hands around a mug of hot cocoa instead of a hand warming charm.

This went on for weeks, just until Christmas, when the temperatures dropped even lower. Philomena's parents even wondered if they'd be able to make it to the New Years party in London. Irena knew in her heart that Dad would find a way to get them. She missed her parents, but didn't want to complain.

 

Saturday, 25 December, 2010

Irena was woken early by Philomena and Felix for Christmas. She went downstairs to see all her gifts had been delivered under the tree (Magnolia and Jordan couldn't understand how , and, truth be told, Irena couldn't explain it either). She'd gotten a few Quidditch posters, a few books on different bits of magic, Molly had sent her sweater along with a few sweets.

After unwrapping the gifts, Irena felt very homesick. It wasn't like Hogwarts, where Dad was only ever a few floors away. He was gone, truly gone.

She figured out the landline that evening with Philomena.

"Hello?" Mum's voice was over the line. "Who's there?"

"Irena." Irena breathed as Philomena and Felix left to their gifts. She felt tears well up in her eyes that she blinked away. "I miss you."

Mum sighed into the phone. "I miss you too, Reni, but you'll be back here in a few days, and then we can spend every day together until you go back to Hogwarts." She said in her comforting tone. Irena cried into the phone. "Aw, baby, it's just a few days."

"Are you- are you sure?" Irena cried. "’Cause Phil's parents are saying the weather is getting worse and the trains aren't working or anything. I don't- I don't know how I'm gonna get there."

"It's okay, we'll get you here one way or another." Mum told her reassuringly. "Did you like your gifts? Daddy wanted to get you something Quidditch related, since you did so well in your match."

Irena took a deep breath in. "I liked them, they were nice." She told her.

"We think you could be a professional Quidditch player someday." Mum continued, a smile in her voice. "Just between you and me, I think you're going to make a better Seeker than Daddy was." Irena laughed into the phone, wiping her eyes. "Do you want to see if you can be picked up early? Daddy's been missing you loads, just like me. We could apparate, or take the magic car, or- do they have Floo powder? They're Muggles, right?"

She sniffled, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her sweater. "You wanted to invite them to the New Years party though, I thought. They've been talking about it, neither of her parents have ever been to a wizarding party."

"I'd rather have you here earlier than have them at the party." Mum told her. "You're always my top priority, I hope you know that. We love you so much, Reni. Do you want to get picked up early?"

Irena closed her eyes, thinking. Philomena and Felix had wanted to see her house, but she missed her parents so badly. She even missed her stupid little brother, Percy, and all his teasing. "Can you pick me up early?"

"I'll be there in the morning, okay, baby?" Mum told her. "Just hold on for one more night, one more night there and then you can be with me and everyone else. I love you, okay?" Irena began crying again. "Oh, it's okay, just a little longer, okay? One more meal, one more sleep."

She nodded, crying. "I-I love you, Mummy." Irena whispered.

"I love you too." She said over the phone. "Zenith- Cedric- stop him, he can't touch that- damn it!" Mum sighed heavily over the phone. "I have to go, okay, sweetheart? I'll see you soon. I promise."

Irena sniffled. "Bye, Mum." She said as the phone hung up on the other line.

The door opened slightly with a squeak. Philomena poked her head in, Felix was just beside her. "Everything okay?" She asked, noticing Irena's wet face. Philomena went ahead, wrapping her arms around her friend.

"I'm- I'm gonna leave tomorrow morning, is that okay?" Irena asked, her voice unsteady.

"Of course that's okay." Philomena whispered into her hair. "We'll just make tonight super fun! We should play Monopoly or something. Something to lighten the mood." Irena nodded, wiping her eyes.

They spent the rest of the evening playing Muggle board games. Irena felt that the twins were letting her win, but she didn't care. She just wanted to have fun. She fell asleep in Philomena's bed that night, but she didn't dream.

Irena was woken up by Philomena the next morning. She went downstairs to see Mum talking casually with Philomena's parents. "Oh, I went to Hogwarts too." She was saying while taking a sip of coffee. "I'm a Healer, which is basically a Wizard Doctor. I'm a bit out of practice, I've been busy with all the kids. I'm hoping to apply to work at Hogwarts once the older ones get in. It won't be for a few years."

She stood in the stairway, just out of sight. Mum wore Muggle clothes, as if an attempt to make Philomena's family more comfortable. "Irena mentioned you were in a war." Philomena's father said, making her blood run cold. "What was that like?"

Mum was quiet for a moment, sighing. "It was just like any other war. It was really hard, and incredibly deadly. We won, but at what cost? I lost friends, nearly died myself. It was scary, you know? I went to a shrink for a while after. She really helped me through it."

The stair creaked as she shifted her weight, suddenly drawing attention to herself. Irena made her way down, running toward Mum, embracing her. "I missed you." Irena gushed, feeling herself begin to cry.

"I missed you!" Mum told her, kissing all over her face. "You're a bit sticky, have you been eating Christmas candy?" She asked with a grin, hugging her daughter. "Go on and say goodbye to everyone and thank them for hosting you."

Irena felt a bit embarrassed. "Thank you for having me." Irena told Jordan.

He grinned. "It was a pleasure to have you!" Jordan said, patting her on the back. "Don't hesitate to come back this summer, we live so close to the beach, we'd love to take you."

"That sounds lovely." Mum told him with a grin. "Go on and say goodbye to Philomena and Felix, hmm? You'll see them again on the train."

Irena went to leave, but listened to their conversation. "So you used magic to get here?"

"Basically." Mum's voice echoed up the stairwell.

She stepped into their bedroom. Philomena and Felix sat among a few gifts, including bits of candy that 'Santa' had put into their stockings. "Are you leaving?" Philomena asked, looking quite sad.

"Yea." Irena sighed. "Thanks for having me, I did have lots of fun!"

"You'll just have to show me your bedroom another time." Philomena giggled, getting up and hugging her. "Maybe over Easter holiday? We could celebrate your birthday in person! You could show me all your magical things, I've never been in a witch's house before."

She giggled. "Yea, we'll have to work it out." Irena told her, releasing her embrace from Philomena. "Bye, Felix, I'll see you on the train."

"Tell Teddy I said hi!" Felix said with a smile. Philomena's face fell, and Irena felt a funny feeling in her stomach. "I-I mean, tell him he can eat a dung bomb. That's definitely what I meant."

Philomena laughed nervously. "Gross, Fel."

"Bye!" Irena grinned. Wilma, the house elf, was busy carrying her bags and things down the car.

Mum was standing up now, with her coat on. "Thank you for the coffee, Jordan, it was lovely to visit with you. Everyone here loves tea, but it's good to have an American friend to share a cappuccino with." She grinned.

"Oh, right?" Jordan laughed. "It's terrible, everywhere there's tea, but never coffee." He grinned, glancing at each of them. Irena was dressed, so she put her coat on with her shoes. "It was nice meeting you, Fawn. It was nice to meet you too, Irena. I hope you'll be back soon." He held a piece of paper in his hand. Upon closer inspection, Irena could read 12 Grimmauld Place on it. Mum must have given them their address.

Irena grinned. "Me too!" She squeaked, grabbing Mum's hand.

"Bye!" Mum said, walking out the door. She glanced around, pulling out her wand, casting a warming spell over the sidewalk. "Must've snowed a bit since I got here, the sidewalk's icy again." She murmured as they walked to the car. The car was black, and bigger than it looked. To Muggles, it probably looked like a Jeep, but on the inside, it looked more like a limousine.

One of the perks of having a newer model of magic car, was that it was self driving. Mum laid in the backseat, chatting with Wilma and Irena. "We went sledding and had a snowball fight." Irena gushed, giving her mother a play-by-play of everything they did everyday.

"That's wonderful." Mum said.

It was a long drive from Brighton to London, and Irena eventually fell back asleep.

She woke up in her own bed, in her own bedroom, with Mum laying beside her, asleep. Irena felt very warm and happy on the inside as she curled into her mother. Mum wrapped her arm around her sleepily, kissing her forehead before going back to sleep.

 

Friday, 31 December, 2010

Irena was eager for the New Year's Eve party, she set decorations up alongside the house elves, prepared snacks and dishes with Mum and helped Dad make sure the television was set up to watch the light show.

The first people to arrive were Auntie Hermione and Uncle Ron with both of their children. Irena listened to Hermione gush to Mum all about her campaign for Minister of Magic. Irena enjoyed talking to Ron all about Quidditch, since apparently Professor Potter wrote to him about her match.

Regulus and Cleo came too, which was great fun, since she missed her aunt. Auntie Florence and Draco arrived not too long after, as well as Professor Potter and his wife. Mum had invited Professor Longbottom and his wife, the Healer from Dumbledore's Academy, Hannah Abbott. By that time, the party among the adults was very much getting started. Irena was considering going back to her room, but made the final decision when Uncle Padfoot and Moony showed up fashionably late with Teddy and Sunny.

It was all very awkward between Irena and Teddy. She went up the stairs to her room before saying hello, but soon realized how boring her room was. Irena gazed at her shelf of books, pulling out the Animagus book Aria got for her birthday.

She laid back on the bed, reading it, even if she'd already read it before. If Professor Potter wasn't going to help her, she'd just have to figure out how to transfigure herself on her own. The door creaked open as Teddy stepped in.

"Get out." Irena said sharply, but he closed the door behind him.

"Can we-"

"No. Get out." Irena went back to her book.

"Irena- please! You can't shut me out!" Teddy begged, stepping closer to her bed. She pitied him, but didn't let it show. "I know I shouldn't have made you girls tell your secrets with the Veritaserum, I'm very sorry, I just want to be friends again!"

Irena glared up at him. "You should have thought about that before the prank."

"I know, I know, I'm stupid. I'm an idiot, and I'm cruel. I made a mistake!" Teddy sighed. "Can you forgive me?"

"I'm not the one you should be asking forgiveness of." She said quickly. In her heart, she'd already forgiven all the Gryffindor boys. It was very hard to stay upset with them.

Teddy sat on the bed, putting his head in his hands. Irena went back to her book. "I think I like her too." He blurted out, stirring Irena's attention away from her book. "I think I could. I never noticed her before, I've never liked a girl before. I've been talking to my dads and they've been telling me that this is what a crush feels like. I don't know what to do, I think I've ruined everything."

Irena closed her hardcover book, glancing at him affectionately. "You stupid, stupid boy." She said with a smile. "Philomena's liked you for ages, and you only noticed just now. She's been trying hard to get rid of her crush on you, you know. Out of wanting to spare Felix's feelings and out of concern for the prank war."

"Felix would understand!" Teddy argued. Irena could tell he was passionate about what he was saying, as his face turned red and a vein poked out of his neck. "I'd set aside the prank war for her, I would!"

She smiled, looking down at her hands. If only somebody loved her like that. If only Austin loved her like that. "You love the prank war, how could you give it up?" Irena asked, glancing at him. His hair turned a pale shade of pink.

"I would give it up for her." Teddy swore. "You have to help me tell her how I feel."

"Why do I have to help you? Aren't you mature enough to handle your own feelings?" Irena asked sharply.

He scratched his neck awkwardly. "It's just- you're her friend and you're a girl.."

"So because I'm a girl, suddenly I know everything about love?" She asked, annoyed.

"No- no, that's not what I mean!" Teddy squeaked. "I mean.. you must have some ideas, right? You already knew you liked Austin, don't you have any advice for me at all?"

Irena looked at his red, flushed face, and pitied him again. She would help him. If Irena could give him any advice, she knew the most important thing to say.

After watching many Twilight movies, Irena knew that whatever important thing that had to be said, was best done in private. She remembered the scene where Edward Cullen told Bella Swan of his vampire abilities, how they had been alone in that forest, instead of being in the lunch room or their Biology classroom, where other people could listen. It was romantic, in her mind. Teddy could be like Edward- they did share a name- and she was sure that he could use his Metamorphmagus skills to make his skin sparkle if he tried hard enough.

"One piece of advice." Irena began in a resigned tone. "If you're going to tell her how you feel and you want to look mature, you have to talk to her in private."

"In private? Why not on the train?" Teddy asked with a frown.

Irena could bring her book up to smack him in the head. "Because it could be embarrassing, you nitwit!" She said pointedly. "Don't tell her on the platform, don't tell her on the train, don't tell her in class, don't tell her at lunch. Go into a corridor alone and tell her how you feel. It's more intimate that way."

" Intimate ? Ew!" Teddy groveled.

"If you like her, you'll do what I say." Irena snapped. "She's my best friend, and she's suffered enough because of you. If you hurt her again- so help me Godric- I'll have-"

"Okay! Okay!" Teddy squeaked. "I'll talk to her after class, alone. Where do you think I should do it?"

Irena thought of the most romantic places in the castle. The corridor? Not so much. The common room? Too many people. "Take her out into the courtyard when it's snowing." Irena told him flatly. "Falling snow is very romantic."

"Okay, thank you." Teddy breathed. "Does this mean we can be friends again?"

She smiled, glancing at him. "Sure." Irena told him. Teddy climbed onto the bed beside her, pulling out a bit of parchment and writing the things she said down.

Irena rolled her eyes, going back to her book.

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 4 January, 2011

On Monday, Irena stepped off the platform back to Hogwarts. Teddy had planned out exactly what he wanted to say to Philomena, and asked that she didn't give any hint to anyone about what he was going to do. Irena secretly thought it was cute that he was putting so much effort toward it going well.

It was Tuesday now, and it was lunch time. Irena sat with Philomena and the other girls at the Ravenclaw table, since the Slytherins were still being mean to Philomena.

"Mum got Brownie new clothes to put on!" Diana gushed about her holiday. "I had to take pictures, but you'll see when we get back to the dorm."

Irena watched the Gryffindors carefully, wondering if Teddy had told them about Philomena. He caught her eye across the room. Ask her. Irena mouthed, and he only shook his head, going back to his conversation. She couldn't read lips, so she went back to her conversation with the girls.

"Have you thought of a new prank, Irena?" Tabitha asked. "We haven't thought of much."

"Me and Phil didn't have a lot of time to plot." Irena giggled. "Felix was at her house through the whole break."

Diana chuckled. "What was that like?"

"It was so much fun!" Philomena squeaked. "We went sledding, like, everyday. And we had snowball fights and built snowmen. My parents invited Irena back for the summer, but maybe we could all hang out and go to the beach. You guys aren't too messy, right?"

Tabitha and Diana smiled. "Oh, I'd love to spend summer at your place!" Diana said cheerily.

Their happy moment was soon cut off when Irena heard the laughter from the Slytherin table. She turned to glare. Aria sat among many older students, her mouth agape with inconsolable laughter. "What are you laughing at?" Irena asked angrily.

"Irena-" Philomena whispered. "It's not worth it-"

Irena shook her off. "Well? What are you laughing at?"

"Slytherin's best Seeker in a decade is friends with a Mudblood!" Tom Yaxley wheezed. "You're everything that Slytherin isn't. We would've kicked you out if you weren't a good Seeker." The table erupted in more obnoxious laughter.

She took a deep breath, grabbing her wand. "Irena!" Tabitha whispered.

"Say it again." Irena commanded. She was standing now, and everyone had quieted down to see what was happening. She could hear footsteps behind her. "Go on. Say it again."

"Say what?" Tom sneered.

"Mudblood! Mudblood! Mudblood! " Aria cheered.

Irena gripped her wand. "Irena, please-" Philomena was begging. "They're not worth it."

" Flipendo! " Irena cast, shooting a bright yellow light from her wand. It hit Tom Yaxley square in the chest, knocking him across the table and against the wall, where he laid motionless. "Who else wants to say it? Who thinks Mudblood is a fun word to say?"

Everyone grew very quiet. Aria stood at once. She stared into Irena's eyes, as if she were looking into her soul. Irena stared back, determined.

" Expelliarmus! " A voice behind her cast the spell. Irena turned to see Teddy clutching his wand, glancing at her. 

Aria was stunned for a moment, wandless, glancing from Irena to Teddy. The other Gryffindors held up their wands too, and Irena never felt more connected to them. "Ms. Diggory-Black! Mr. Lupin!" A voice called out from down the hall, making her flinch. It was Professor Potter. Was he going to scold her again? "Could you two please come with me, please? Bring your friends as well." He looked at Tom Yaxley. "Someone ought to fetch Madame Pomfrey."

Irena glanced at Teddy, he nodded, putting his wand away. Irena glanced at the girls at the Ravenclaw table, they got up quickly and the group left for Potter's classroom. Irena should have felt guilty, but she didn't. Tom Yaxley deserved what happened to him, maybe the Slytherins would learn not to mess with her friends. Irena wouldn't apologize for it.

They stepped into his classroom. The girls were very quiet, and the Gryffindors whispered to each other.

"Ahem." Professor Potter cleared his throat, walking over to them with his walking stick. "You do know that dueling is only for the dueling club, right?" He asked, looking at Teddy and Irena specifically. "You're not supposed to duel outside of the dueling club."

"All due respect, Professor, I don't care about a stupid dueling club." Irena said pointedly. "I'm just tired of all those stupid Slytherins bullying my friends. You can put me in detention if you want, maybe even expel me. I don't care. I know I did the right thing."

She could feel everyone staring at her, but Irena wouldn't cower.

"You did do the right thing." Potter told her. Irena felt her heart race. "I think you'd do well with some extra lessons from me, Teddy too, if he wants. You have a gift." His eyes rested on her for a moment. "I was mistaken about you, about your character. I'm afraid that I've judged you, and I apologize."

Irena blinked, feeling her face redden. Was he really apologizing? "Extra lessons?" She asked, not knowing what else to say.

"Yes, extra lessons." He repeated. "Would you be interested?"

"I.. I don't want any extra homework, Professor." Teddy mumbled. "Can we practice during the summer?"

"Yes, that sounds alright." Potter told him. "You ought to go and tell McGonagall what happened in the Great Hall, it will sound better coming from you than one of those Slytherin students."

Teddy glanced at the others, and the Gryffindors left through the door quickly.

Irena watched him carefully, before looking back to the Professor. "Well? What do you think, Irena?"

"I would like that." Irena told him, trying to hide her delight. Learn extra spells from the man who defeated Voldemort, one of the most powerful wizards of all time? How could she say no? "I would like that a lot, Professor."

Potter smiled. "Brilliant." He told her. "I'll see you on Saturday then."

Irena grinned as she turned to leave with the others, going out the door. They went around the corner. She jumped up and down, doing a little dance. "This is excellent news!" Philomena chirped, hugging her tightly.

"Um, Philomena?" A voice came from behind them. Irena turned to see Felix standing there.

"What's up?" Philomena asked.

Felix handed her a small note. "I'm just passing on a message, nothing more." He told her. Philomena took the note and he ran off.

Irena peered at it. It was obviously Teddy's handwriting. " Meet me at the courtyard after class. " Philomena read aloud. "That's odd. Felix's handwriting is messier than this. It can't be from him."

"Maybe you've got a secret admirer!" Diana cheered, Tabitha's cheeks grew red.

They hung out in the hallway until class began, where they all sat down at their tables. Potter had prepared a lecture. Irena took out her notebook, wetting her quill with ink, ready to take notes.

"Today, we're going to learn about werewolves." Potter began, clicking to the first slide of his presentation. "I want to preface today's lesson by saying this: werewolves are not inherently dangerous or evil. They are people afflicted by something like all of us are. There have been werewolf students, werewolf professors, werewolves in the ministry- they are normal people and older textbooks tend to demonize them."

Irena quickly scrawled it out: Werewolves are not dangerous . She already knew this, though. Uncle Moony was a werewolf, and she wasn't afraid of him. He gave warm hugs, let her borrow his sweaters, and gave her chocolate when her parents weren't looking. She wasn't afraid of him at all.

The lesson was easy, talking all about werewolves, their history, important werewolves throughout recent history and their victims, wolfsbane potion, and how to identify the difference between a werewolf and an actual wolf.

The girls nearly raced out the door after Philomena, but Irena was stopped.

"What do you want?" Irena growled as Diana and Tabitha ran out after Philomena toward the courtyard. Aria stood in her way. "Didn't you get the message? I'm not afraid of standing up to you."

Aria smirked. "You made a mistake, Irena." She said coolly. "This isn't over. I'd be more careful who you mess with next time." She cast her long, black curls over her shoulder, bounding away.

Irena rolled her eyes, going to the courtyard. A stray arm pulled her from behind a tapestry, covering her mouth. It was Tabitha. "Look!" Diana whispered. Irena's eyes adjusted to the darkness to see everyone there. Victoire sat near the edge of the tapestry, peering out into the courtyard with Felix and Talon. "Teddy and Philomena.. are they reconciling?"

"Yes." Irena grinned as she watched them. The snow fell lightly from the sky onto their robes, and Irena could see Philomena's nose growing red from the cold. Teddy was talking to her at length, and anyone could see it was important, since he was talking with his hands. Of course it was important, only Irena was the only one who knew what they were talking about.

There was a pause, and Philomena squealed, wrapping her arms around Teddy. He embraced her back, grinning. "That must mean something, right?" Talon murmured. "Something good, I hope?"

"Duh." Victoire snickered. "People don't hug people they don't like, Talon."

They broke apart, and Irena grinned. They left together down the hall. "Where do you think they all went?" Philomena inquired down the hall.

"I hope they aren't planning any pranks without us!" Teddy laughed.

"What happened?" Felix asked.

"Teddy told Philomena that he likes her." Irena told them. Diana squealed in delight. "I had to help them. They both liked each other, they just needed the extra push." She chuckled, just feeling very glad that things would work out.

They all came out from behind the tapestry, giggling. "You're a matchmaker now, Irena." Diana squeaked. The Gryffindors shuffled away awkwardly, but Victoire seemed very pleased, more than Felix and Talon did. "Can you match me and Talon? Pretty please?"

Irena giggled. "We'll see, Di." She told her.

They went to find Philomena, to hear her side of the story. She was in the library, reading. "Hey, did you ever figure out what that note was about, Philly?" Tabitha asked as they sat down.

"Teddy-" Philomena sighed pleasantly, her cheeks growing rosy as she continued speaking. "He took me out alone in the courtyard, we were standing by the fountain and the snowflakes were falling and it was so pretty. He told me he was sorry about the Veritaserum and.. he told me he liked me!"

Diana grinned, as if this were the first time she heard about it. "Oh, that's wonderful, Philly!"

"Now we're gonna be dating." Philomena added with a whisper. "He said he wanted to be my boyfriend, and I could be his girlfriend."

Tabitha smiled. "That's perfect." She giggled. "You're the first one of us to have a boyfriend now."

"I really thought it'd be Diana who'd be the first." Philomena gushed.

"Maybe once Talon sees how happy you and Teddy are, he'll do the same." Diana replied, glancing at Irena, narrowing her eyes and raising her eyebrows.

Irena grinned. "It's great news, really." She told them, though she was anxious to tell them about Aria. "I think you'll be the only girl in our year with a boyfriend."

"I don't want a boyfriend, to be honest." Tabitha confessed. "Boys are gross."

"Teddy's not." Philomena giggled.

"He is." Irena chuckled. "But you don't know that."

"That's only 'cause you've known him since you were in diapers!" Diana retorted.

Irena shrugged. "Probably!" She giggled, pulling out her Herbology homework and parchment, beginning to work ahead.

 

Saturday, 15 January, 2011

Irena stood outside the door to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, sighing to herself. It seemed too good to be true. She couldn't believe her luck- private lessons with the Harry Potter. He'd hated her, or so she'd thought. Were things going to be different now?

She breathed, opening the door. "There you are, right on time." Potter sang from his office. "Come closer, near the front, eh?" Irena smiled, looking to the seat by his desk, and the piles of books and notes. She approached, taking a seat.

"What will we learn today?" Irena asked, taking out her parchment and her quill, placing her wand on the desk as well.

"Well, I wanted to go over what you already know and what you're interested in learning before we begin." He said, adjusted his glasses as he found his seat. "What things do you know about dueling? You must know some , given that you tossed Yaxley on his arse."

Irena left out a nervous chuckle. "Um, well I know stuff you've taught us-"

"Yes, of course." He said with a condescending tone.

"Dad taught me my first spell, the Shield Charm. But I want to learn more about dueling and I want to learn how to cast a Patronus." Irena rambled.

Potter nodded. "The Shield Charm is a good spell, it comes as no surprise to me that he would teach it to you, considering everything he's experienced." He scratched his chin. "A Patronus, hmm? Why is that?"

"I want to see what form it takes." Irena answered plainly. If I know what form it takes, then I'll know what form my Animagus will take . She added in her head.

"Ah, self discovery." He mused. "There's nothing wrong with that. I feel we should start with the basics. Dueling." Potter cracked open one of his books, looking through the pages.

Irena quietly wondered if she should confide in him. "I think I've been challenged to a duel." She confessed, making him glance up at her through his glasses. "The other week.. Aria told me that I'd made a mistake, and that I'd pay for it. I think.. learning all the dueling strategies would be most helpful right now."

He looked at her for a moment, cracking into an easy, wistful smile. "You remind me a lot of myself when I was younger." Potter said casually. Really? Irena thought excitedly. "Ambitious, headstrong, maybe a bit dumb, but that's expected from young students. Noble, I would say."

"Can you tell me about the war?" Irena blurted. "My parents don't like talking about it, but I'm endlessly curious. Binns doesn't want to teach us about it until later into our academic careers. You were part of it, weren't you?"

Potter blinked, sighing briefly. "It was nasty, terrible. You see war films, hear war stories, and it's only ever positive. The defining moments of bravery before self sacrifice, the stories of toil and perseverance. War isn't like that. War isn't good, it's bloody and it's cruel. The world would be better off without it. Muggles and wizards aren't too different in their need for bloodshed, I suppose."

Irena blinked. That was the same answer she'd gotten from everyone else, Mum, Dad, Padfoot, Moony. Would Professor Longbottom have a different answer? "Did you lose anyone?" She asked quietly.

"Yes." He confessed. "Everyone did. In the world, in our minds, in this building. Memories haunt you, in every sense of the word. Percy Weasley died a hero, he saved his brothers. Of course, there's Lavender Brown and Colin Creevey, though their spirits have passed on. The Hufflepuff spirits, Veronica and Rose, both died for the war, though in Veronica's case, she died before the war had even started."

She blinked, looking at his face carefully, studying every part of him. He was older, but the pain still seemed as fresh as if the battles had taken place yesterday. I did that. I made him upset. Irena thought with a guilty feeling in her stomach. "Mum went to a Muggle shrink for a while, she told me." Irena told him. "Have you?"

"Therapy?" He chuckled. "Haven't got the time. I do appreciate Sleeping Draughts from Slughorn from time to time." Potter's face paled, as if he'd admitted some terrible secret, or his greatest weakness. Irena watched him curiously. He cleared his throat, changing the subject in a way that was all too revealing that the topic made him uncomfortable. "Alright, dueling, I think we should start out with the basics. The Disarming Charm, of course." He changed the subject quickly.

Irena frowned. "That's first year stuff!" She grumbled.

"First year stuff that needs revision." Potter chuckled at her disappointment. "Don't be too upset with it, it came in handy many times. I used it on Voldemort more times than I would like to admit- so we're going to practice it as a base level spell, but not to rely on. There are many other good spells we can learn too."

"Okay." Irena murmured, feeling excitement flutter in her chest. It was really happening!

Later, after the lesson, Potter shared bits of chocolate with her as they talked about Quidditch. "Irena, I must know, what sort of drama is happening in the small, meek world of a second year Hogwarts student?"

"Well, Teddy Lupin's got a girlfriend. " Irena grinned. "Philomena Fitzgibbons, she's my best friend."

His eyes widened. "Do Moony and Padfoot know?"

"I think so." Irena giggled.

"You'll have to be my eyes and ears around the school I suppose." Potter chuckled, though his face fell for a moment, as if he'd thought of something else. "When your father is at school, is it awkward?"

Irena blinked, not expecting the question. "Sometimes, yea." She muttered. "But I like having him around. I don't get too homesick when I see him everyday. I miss my mum though." She confessed.

"Are there any things you wish he'd done differently?" He asked.

"Did Professor Diggory put you up to this?" Irena snickered.

"No, I just- my daughter, Lily, starts Hogwarts next year and I don't want to make things harder for her." Potter confessed. "What are some things I should avoid, do you think?"

Irena thought for a moment. Students hardly ever teased her for being the daughter of a professor anymore, but only because they held Dad's class in high regard, and considered Professor Diggory a respectable figure. She was also talented in her own merit.

"Treat her like you would any other student." Irena told him confidently. "Dad always used to leave extra little notes on my homework assignments, or sometimes he kisses me when I leave. Like, it's okay when we're alone, but it's weird when it's around other people."

Potter nodded, scratching his chin and thinking. "I think that'll conclude today's lesson, Irena." He told her briskly. "We can meet again next Saturday, perhaps I can teach you some things about dueling, and you can teach me how to make sure I don't embarrass Lily."

"Okay, Professor Potter." Irena giggled, stuffing the rest of her chocolate bar into her mouth, making her salivate uncontrollably as she picked up her things and left his classroom. She could not hide the spring in her step.

Chapter Text

Monday, 14 February, 2011

"I hate Valentine's day." Irena sighed, sitting down in the library. It was only her, Felix, and Tabitha. "Stupid holiday for stupid people to rub it in our noses about how lonely they aren't ."

Tabitha laughed. "Someone's bitter." She commented.

"She does have a point though, doesn't she?" Felix chuckled. They had decided to form a little study group that Monday afternoon, seeing how everyone else in their friend group would be too busy.

Irena chuckled. "See? Felix agrees. Love is stupid." Felix snickered, patting her on the back.

"Let's make a pact. If we're both single and 30, we'll get married." Felix teased.

"Why would you do that?" Tabitha asked. "That's more stupid, if anything. Marry for love. Don't make yourselves miserable." She shook her head, opening the History of Magic textbook in front of her, beginning her essay.

"Everyone else'll be married by then." Felix retorted. "Just wait- by that time, Teddy and Phil will have, like, six children. Diana and Talon will constantly honeymoon to Paris, or wherever rich wizards go on honeymoons."

Irena giggled. "Maybe they're soulmates." She commented. "My mum and dad are, and it's so embarrassingly obvious sometimes. I can't imagine why anyone would want seven children except them. My house is crazy."

"Where is Diana anyway?" Tabitha asked. "She was supposed to meet us to work on her old Transfiguration homework. Honestly, she's lucky that Irena's her best friend, since Professor Diggory is so strict with everyone else's procrastination!" She chuckled.

"Did Talon finally grow the bollocks to ask her out?" Irena giggled.

Felix laughed, looking up from his parchment. "It'll be a while before Talon asks anyone out. Complains all the time that he's too short, he says he needs a growth spurt. I mean, he's not that short. It's just that Diana's pretty tall."

"She is taller than some of the fourth years." Irena commented with a giggle. "She really likes Talon."

"He's as blind as a bat." Tabitha shook her head. "Imagine having a girl as pretty as Diana interested in you.. he's such an idiot, truly." Felix and Irena looked at her oddly. Tabitha grew red. "What?"

Felix shook his head, eyeing Irena. "Nothing." He muttered, looking back at his homework. Something unspoken went between the two of them, something that Irena wouldn't recognize until she was a little older. "Did you hear what we're doing in Herbology tomorrow? Longbottom's gonna have us dissecting mandrakes."

" Dissecting ?" Irena squeaked, looking down at her assignment, writing a bit about the Tickling Charm. They were learning about nonlethal, nonpainful charms to use defensively this unit, which was good for Irena. "What about all the work we were doing on our Fluxweed plants? They were nearly ready to flower!"

He laughed. "Didn't you hear about the sixth years? In Gryffindor, Caiden Hawthorn snuck out with his buddies. Harvested and destroyed every single bit of Fluxweed. Such a shame, really, but he's got detention with McGonagall for the rest of the year."

"Why would anyone want to steal Fluxweed? It doesn't do anything." Irena sighed.

"Irena." Tabitha laughed. "You're such a sweetheart sometimes."

She frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?" Irena asked.

"Fluxweed gets you high, dimwit." Felix teased.

"It's a potion ingredient, are you kidding?" Irena grumbled. "It's got healing properties- how would you even get high off it?"

Tabitha chuckled. "You smoke it, like Muggle weed." She told them. "I've never had it before, but supposedly it's pretty potent. Longbottom obviously didn't want to teach us about it, he doesn't want to encourage underage drug use. People do it anyway."

I bet Aria's tried Fluxweed. Irena thought bitterly, feeling the blood rush to her cheeks as she began to write about the Tickling Charm. Things were quiet at their table as they worked, except for the few questions they posed to each other. Irena felt a smaller group was more efficient for getting work done- but maybe Diana was just too chatty.

"Oi! Diggory-Black!" A call was heard, making them all jump. It was Aria, and her posse was just behind her. She smiled a sickly sweet smile to Tabitha. "Tabby, Mudblood. " She looked at Felix with that comment.

"If I punched you in your lopsided face, do you think you'd bleed red like us? Maybe it'd be a muddy brown color? No, I know it'll be green. Green like a troll's blood." Felix told her coolly.

Aria pulled out her wand and pointed it at him. "I'd be careful, Mudblood. I'm more dangerous than you. Magic runs through my veins, unlike yours, since you stole it." She said snarkily. "Irena, this message is for you. We're going to duel on Friday, after class. In the courtyard. Invite your friends, but it's just going to be me and you. We'll settle this, and you'll see what happens when you challenge me."

Irena blinked up at her defiantly. "You want to get your arse kicked on Friday, then?" She said with a smirk. "I'll have to clear my schedule."

"Do that then." Aria told her, turning and leaving them.

"Godric's sake, you two are so stupid. " Tabitha shook her head. "She hangs around with so many older students, who, undoubtedly, teach her spells beyond our year. Irena, you're going to be killed!"

Her stomach felt very sick all of a sudden. "You don't think she knows the Unforgivable Curses, do you?" Irena asked. There was no way to talk to Potter beforehand, they'd had their lessons the Saturday before.

"She probably does." Felix shook his head. "She's not strong enough to use them. We're only in our second year. I would just prepare for a couple scrapes and bruises."

Irena put her arms on the table, sinking her head into them. This was the worst Valentine's Day yet.

"Aria's not going to do too much damage, I'm sure." Tabitha told her, touching Irena's arm. "You're the best Seeker the Quidditch team has had in a decade, we haven't lost a single game this season. Austin wouldn't let her live if he knew she'd hurt you too badly to play."

She lifted her head up. Felix was furiously scratching at his paper now, unable to look at Irena. "Austin will kill me for accepting it." Irena groaned. She quickly grabbed her things, pushing them messily into her bookbag. "I'm going off to see Professor Potter. He'll know what to do."

Felix watched her, blinking. "We'll come with you."

"Don't." Irena told them harshly, sighing. "Sorry- just, don't. I need to do this on my own."

Tabitha grabbed Irena's hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. "Love you, Irena. You'll be okay."

" You'll be okay." She retorted, pulling her hand away. Tabitha was clammy. "Your dignity and pride isn't on the line." Felix chuckled, shaking his head. Tabitha sighed, going back to her work. Irena turned and left, walking quickly through the halls, just hoping that Professor Potter would be available to see her.

 

Wednesday, 16 February, 2011

"You're an idiot, you know that, right?"

"I know."

"Like, really bloody stupid."

Austin stood below the Quidditch field as they watched the team practice. Irena watched them carefully, feeling a quiver in her stomach. The feeling of oncoming dread was overwhelming, but Irena didn't want to tell anyone. Aria couldn't know the way Irena felt about the duel. What if Diana or Tabitha told? Or Austin? Irena felt like she couldn't trust anyone- except Philomena. Philomena spent so much time with Teddy now, it felt like she'd lost two friends. But they seemed happy, and that was all she wanted.

"Bloody brave, too." Austin told her slowly, taking a breath as he sucked the cigarette between his lips, not even looking at her. Irena's heart twisted as she watched his fingers, his lips- even if the disgusting cigarette smoke made her want to leave. "I heard about what happened before, in the Great Hall. Should've had you kicked off the team, attacking Yaxley like that. Truth be told? He deserved it. Pureblood idiot."

Irena chuckled breathily, sticking her hands in her pockets as Orchid made a goal. "Got any good dueling spells? Advice?"

"Advice?" Austin scoffed. "Be more careful. You're acting like a careless Gryffindor these days. Let the Purebloods have their rule over the school. They'll get knocked down several pegs once they go out into the real world; where they learn that ancestry doesn't matter. Being Pureblood won't win you any points."

She frowned. "Let them bully my friends, then? That's your advice?" Irena snapped, suddenly very angry. She was irritable these days. "What about everyone else?"

"You're a brilliant witch." Austin drawled, taking another drag off his cigarette. "Don't ruin it by getting expelled. Besides, you're the best Seeker Slytherin has seen in a long while, I'd hate to see you off before we win the Quidditch Cup." He chuckled.

Irena rolled her eyes. "What are you going to do after we graduate, then? Die of lung cancer, like a Muggle?" She said teasingly. She was proud of the Slytherin winning streak- she had caught the Snitch in their last three games, meaning that Slytherin had won every game so far.

Austin laughed. "I'm not playing Quidditch after I graduate, if that's what you're asking. Bloody sport, I think I've just about washed my hands of it. No, I'm going to learn a few more healing and defense spells and run off to the hills. Find me a nice Muggle girl, have a few kids, stay secluded. I want to be an old, mysterious forest warlock in 100 years."

"You won't be alive in 100 years if you keep smoking." Irena said pointedly.

"Perhaps I'll be an Auror then- die in the heat of the moment, a hero." He mused. "The rest of your life doesn't matter much, as long as you go out in a blaze of glory. Isn't that true for most of our heroes? They can live terrible, adulterous, cruel lives- but they're redeemed by self sacrifice."

Irena was quiet for a moment, mulling his words around in her mind. She imagined her heroes- Mum was a hero, and to Irena, she'd never done anything terrible. Daddy wasn't adulterous, and Harry was her hero too- he wasn't cruel. She supposed that being a fourth year meant you had a different outlook on life. Austin seemed to be a tortured soul- something that was strangely attractive. She took a moment to admire him silently, hoping he wouldn't turn to look at her.

"Keep your wits about you." He continued, glancing at her. Irena watched as the hair fell into his face lightly, messily, perfectly . "Perhaps, a good spell to use for dueling would be Ducklifors . I've never seen someone use it. Turns 'em into a duck. Could be pleasantly embarrassing, I think. You're not dueling to kill, right?"

"Just scrappin'." Irena told him in a steady voice, but with his eyes on her, her heart raced in her chest. "Nothing worrisome. I'll keep the spell in my mind- I'll be quick with it. It'd be pretty funny to turn her into a duck."

Austin grinned through his perfect lips, glancing up at the sky. "Oi! Tom! Focus on the goal, they're gonna score if you keep daydreaming!" He called out. Irena sighed contently. Austin was good company to keep, she believed. Would he really disappear into a forest one day? If she could help it, she wished to be by his side, but not in a forest somewhere. When Irena imagined her future, she couldn't see the end. Maybe she could be a Healer, like Mum, or a Professor, like Dad. She could work in the Ministry like everyone else did. Perhaps being a Quidditch player would be fun. Irena liked that outcome the most.

"I'm going to the library, is that okay?" Irena asked.

"Go on." Austin told her, snuffing out what was left of his cigarette on the ground and climbing on his broom. "Go study some defensive spells; you're going to need it." He lifted off into the sky, and Irena turned on her heel, going back to Hogwarts castle.

 

Friday, 18 February, 2011

"Irena, you could still back out, you know!" Diana squeaked as they walked down the hallway toward the courtyard. Irena felt reassured, confident, almost, as they all followed after her. "No one would hold it against you."

"Well, Aria would tease her about it for years if she surrenders." Tabitha reasoned.

Irena turned sharply. "Will you be quiet?" She asked coldly. The whole group stood there awkwardly, looking at her sympathetically. Felix and Talon were near the back, holding their books to their chests. Teddy and Philomena stood hand in hand, blinking to her. Victoire was running down the hall, finally caught up. "I seriously can't handle all the doubt coming off you."

"Sorry, Rena." Diana sighed, hugging Irena tightly. "We just love you, you know that, right?"

"We don't want you to get hurt!" Philomena added. "That's why I spent so much time in the library this week- researching. I actually think you're going to do great." She smiled, never letting go of Teddy's hand.

She sighed, turning and leading the now quiet group of friends through the corridor, her grip tightening on her wand as she exhaled unsteadily. Irena ran through spells in her mind, ones she'd learned with Professor Potter, as well as some from the library. Austin's duck spell constantly floated up to her mind, and she couldn't help but smile at the sheer immaturity of it.

There was already a crowd of people in the courtyard. Irena saw Aria's head of curls bounce away from the fountain and into view. "There she is!" Aria said in a sing-song voice, making Irena's blood boil. It was if there was no more room in her mind for being nervous or anxious- only the fact that she had to win. "Took you long enough. You scared?"

"Are you?" Irena asked coolly. The sky was overcast today, though luckily not snowy or rainy. There was a chill, and many students in the crowd held on tightly to their robes, wanting to watch the duel. "Shall we?"

Aria looked oddly to her, before smirking. "Yes, let's begin." She said with a smile.

The students separated to form a bubble, one that neither would escape. Irena was to go to one side, and Aria to the other. Irena was used to the crowds in the Quidditch stands, all the eyes on her. But this seemed more personal. She could see everyone's faces clearly now, and could watch their reactions- something she didn't care to do when playing Quidditch.

Irena held her wand up to her face, bowing politely, Aria did the same. Her heart hammered in her chest as she picked the spell she would use. The Disarming Charm was always a spell that Potter used in duels, and it'd served him well against Voldemort, hadn't it? That was what she would use. Unless a Shield Charm would be better? She wished she had a window into Aria's thoughts to see which spell she would choose.

They made their way several paces away from the center before turning. As if in slow motion, Aria raised her wand and incanted, " Flipendo! "

" Protego! " Irena cast, deflecting Aria's curse. There wasn't time to admire the crowd, Irena's mind was focused solely on Aria now. " Expelliarmus! "

Aria quickly waved her wand before Irena could get the spell out completely. " Protego! " They stood for a moment, looking at each other. "Is that the best you can do? Irena Diggory-Black, daughter of the Transfiguration professor, only knows elementary spells?"

" Flipendo! " Irena cast, but Aria sidestepped it, sending one of her Slytherin friends flying.

" Flipendo! " Aria cast, hitting Irena square in her chest. Irena felt herself being lifted from the ground, spinning slightly by the force of the spell, and landing on her hands and knees. Her robes were ripped at the knees and her hands bled. "Get up! Get up and fight! You stay away from her- this is our fight. I won't stop 'til she surrenders."

Teddy was ready to go after her, but hesitated. Get up, don't give up. He mouthed.

Irena stood shakily, taking a deep breath. Aria was talking to another witch in the crowd, not noticing that she had stood, ready to fight again. " Stupefy! " She cast.

Aria was stunned, stumbling backwards. Irena smirked, but when Aria sat up again, she soon lost her arrogance. " Flipendo! " She cast, sending Irena onto the ground. Before she had a chance to get up, she cast it again. " Flipendo! Flipendo! Flipendo! "

She was sorely beaten, on the ground. Her hair was covered in dust, she bled from a cut on her brow. Irena tried to sit up, but felt weakened. "STOP! Can't you see she's had enough?" Philomena's cry was heard. "Bloody monsters- all of you. " She went to Irena's side. "Come on, let's go to the hospital wing, okay?"

Irena sat up weakly on her elbow, looking to Philomena, then to Aria, who was busy high fiving the Slytherins in attendance. She raised her wand. " Ducklifors! " Irena cast, shooting a beam of yellow light that hit Aria in the back. Before her eyes, Aria shrank down and became a small black duck.

The duck turned, fixing her with a glare, quacking as it waddled over to her with purpose. The crowd laughed as it tried to peck and bite at her. Teddy shooed it away, helping Irena to her feet. Irena leaned against him, closing her eyes tiredly.

" Reparifarge! " A shrill bellow was heard. The duck transformed into Aria again, who looked around, hopelessly embarrassed. No one laughed now. Irena watched as Professor McGonagall stepped into their dueling place. "Ms. Rowe, Ms. Diggory-Black, I must ask that you both come with me to my office right this instant! "

Her heart dropped to her stomach. Irena was in trouble. Of course she was- dueling was forbidden on school grounds, save for the dueling club, but that was only for third years and above. Irena glanced at Teddy and Philomena, giving them a small, sad smile before going after McGonagall. She would face this punishment with pride and with grace.

They went to the Headmaster's office in silence. Aria held her face away from Irena, as if she couldn't bear to look at her. Irena kept her head held high, though her body ached and felt as if it were sapped of energy. They went inside and Irena stood in front of McGonagall's desk, Aria on her left.

"Dueling?" McGonagall hissed as she went to her desk, closing the drawers with a loud thud , making Irena jump. " Dueling? I could have you both expelled- perhaps I should. A school is no place for a duel. You must learn to settle things like people; like adults! What do you have to say for yourselves?"

Irena opened her mouth to speak. "Professor McGonagall, if I may, this wasn't just a duel. Aria and all her stupid friends keep calling my friends, well, she keeps calling my friends Mudbloods and won't stop! I had to show her-"

" You didn't have to do anything," McGonagall growled. "Did you ever think of telling anyone? Are you dense? Your father is Professor Diggory- he'd do anything you'd ask, for Godric's sake! Professor Potter, Professor Longbottom, Professor Slughorn- anyone! You didn't have to take matters into your own hands!"

Hot tears threaten to spill from her eyes. She was in the wrong, wasn't she? McGonagall couldn't expel her, that couldn't be fair! But what about Quidditch? Quidditch was so important to her, Irena knew it'd make a fitting punishment to have her banished, maybe even for the rest of her days at Hogwarts.

"And you, Ms. Rowe, I know you're not innocent in this case." McGonagall seethed.

"She turned me into a duck!" Aria argued, her voice high with emotion. "She doesn't even know how to duel right!"

"You don't know when to quit, do you?" Irena snarled. "You didn't quit, even when I showed Yaxley not to call my friends Mudbloods. You challenged me to a duel. I won't forget that you refused to show mercy. You're a monster. What kind of person uses the Knockback Jinx four times in a row when someone's already on the ground?"

Aria glared daggers at her. "Someone who wants to win!"

" Silencio! " McGonagall cast. Irena couldn't feel her throat open to speak any longer, and she felt quite odd about it. The Headmistress eyed them both, sighing. "You used to be such good friends last year, what happened?" She shook her head sadly.

She chose her group of friends. Irena thought bitterly. She didn't choose me.

"I am going to punish you both. I don't want anyone to think they can duel unpunished on Hogwarts, do you understand?" McGonagall asked. Irena nodded, seeing that Aria nodded as well. "You both are going to have detention everyday for the rest of the months of February, March, and April. You will have detention together everyday until Easter Holiday. I hope you will use that time to rekindle what's left of your friendship and to think on why you shouldn't duel outside of the dueling club. Leave me."

McGonagall waved her wand, and Aria left quickly. Irena's throat released its tightness, and she could breathe easier. The Headmistress went back to her work, as if Irena wasn't there. "Professor?" Irena asked. "Why won't you punish Aria for calling people Mudblood?"

She glanced up to Irena. "Students at Hogwarts are expected to grow a thick skin for the real world. In the world, there are still those out there who greatly respect You-Know-Who's ideology. There is nothing I can do about that, except prepare you all for the inevitable path crossing with those people. Ms. Rowe is not in the right in this case, but I don't wish to punish her."

"She's causing harm!" Irena squeaked.

"Verbally, yes." McGonagall said slowly. "If she physically harms another Muggleborn student, you must let me know at once. Then, there will be repercussions. Otherwise, just as I have said before, leave me."

Irena felt anger flare up inside her. She pursed her lips, clenching her fists. That wasn't fair! There was a culture of bullying at Hogwarts, and their own Headmaster refused to do anything about it. She kept her mouth closed and stormed out before she could say anything else.

Her friends stood outside. "What's happened?" Philomena asked worriedly. "Have you been expelled? Kicked off the Quidditch team?"

"Detention 'till Easter Holiday." Irena said coolly.

"That's not too bad." Tabitha told her encouragingly.

"What happened to Aria?" Teddy asked. "She stormed out crying- we thought you both had been expelled for sure."

Irena blinked. "Aria's getting off easy." She seethed. "She gets to bully Muggleborns all she wants without punishment. One of these days, she'll cast a spell on one of them. Then, we can catch her and put her where she belongs."

"Where is that?" Diana asked plainly.

"In Potter's detention, where he can give her a piece of his mind." Irena said smugly. She suddenly felt excited to see Professor Potter and go over the duel. "I'm off to the hospital wing."

The group followed after her. Irena would look back on this moment in years to come and feel bittersweetly grateful for being able to unite all of her friends like that.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 26 February, 2011

Irena had detention that morning. She was slowly growing tired of the same tedious tasks that McGonagall had set up for them. Philomena had begun to help her with her homework more, since Irena didn't have time. She stayed up most nights, just trying to get everything done. Plus, she worried about Quidditch, which took up energy too.

The only days she didn't have to have detention with Aria was on Quidditch practice days, and Quidditch matches, which she was incredibly grateful for. There was nothing more relaxing than floating up near the clouds and forgetting about the world, forgetting about Aria, about detention, about her reputation.

Word spread fast at Hogwarts, people couldn't tell who had won the duel, actually. Some said it was Aria, since Philomena stepped in, and Irena had done a dirty move behind her back. Others said that Irena had won, and had taken to teasing Aria in the hallways and calling her Ducky . Irena thought they had just finally found a way to tease her the way she teased everyone else.

"We want a good, clean, fair match, okay?" Austin told them in the locker room. Irena was excited for this match, rather than nervous. She'd been able to find the Snitch in the first 30 minutes of every game so far, and was confident she would do it again. "No foul play."

"You got it!" Tom told him with an easy grin.

Austin fixed him with an odd look, glancing to Irena, then back to Tom. "Let's go!"

They made their way out on the pitch. Irena held her broom close to her, looking at the people watching the game. Her heart raced in chest and butterflies fluttered in her stomach as she looked up at the stands. Mum always came to the games, and Irena could see her now, with two children on her lap. The others, Irena supposed, were at Dumbledore's Academy.

The Ravenclaw captain, a muscular girl named Berenice Eaglet, clapped Austin on the back. Irena remembered that she was the Ravenclaw Keeper. Irena scanned the team, finding the Ravenclaw Seeker, a girl named Pandora Toad. Her short, black hair flowed freely, her dark blue eyes stared into Irena.

"Good luck." Irena whispered.

"Good luck to you as well." Pandora told her with a polite smile.

Honeybrook stood before them, grinning. She released the Snitch, who flew in front of Austin before taking off. He glanced at her carefully, an unreadable look on his face. Irena supposed it meant, You better catch that. but she wished it meant, You're the best Seeker for this team, I believe in you. Perhaps, she could turn his faith into love. They didn't need true love for a good relationship, wizards and witches could live without a soulmate. They just needed love, didn't they?

The game began as the Bludger took off into the ether. Irena took off into the overcast clouds, just high enough to observe the game and keep out for the Snitch- a common strategy, she supposed.

The Beaters beat the Bludger around, attempting to crash into the Chasers. It kept trying to float beyond them, to shoot up to the sky, but they smacked it back down toward the game. Irena watched lazily as rain began to fall, soaking her completely with the rest of the players. She shivered slightly as her goggles began to fog up. Irena didn't care to take them off, opting to squint instead.

As the game dragged on, it was evident that the Slytherin Chasers were better than the Ravenclaw Keeper, since Orchid, Thyme, and Josiah kept scoring goal after goal. A gentle buzz, like a flutter of wings, appeared just behind her ear. Irena turned her head quickly, seeing the Snitch. It hovered just out of reach, almost teasingly.

She leaned forward to grasp it, but it flew upwards. Irena took off, not listening to the sound of the announcer, though she was sure that Pandora would be after her too. Irena focused on the Snitch, flying through the rain clouds. She was surely soaked, but as she broke the clouds, everything seemed out of place.

Not out of place out of place- maybe unreal, more like. The sun shone above the puffy white clouds, casting a golden glow over the top of them. The air was cold, and she could see her own breath, but the sky was an incandescent blue.

The Snitch fluttered just a few feet away, and Irena took off after it, circling over the clouds. A small poof sound was heard, much to Irena's alarm, as the Bludger appeared over the clouds, sailing toward her. It seemed the Snitch shared her fear, since it did not move away when she grabbed it. The game was won, and no one knew.

The Bludger didn't stop as it came closer. Irena descended, the Snitch closed in her fist. "THERE'S THE BLUDGER- IT TRAILS AFTER SLYTHERIN SEEKER, IRENA- I THINK IT'S BEEN BEWITCHED!" The Ravenclaw announcer called out.

Irena looked behind her, seeing the ball was still after her. Everyone's eyes were on her, and the Beaters seemed still. Just my luck. Irena thought stubbornly. She'd been injured by a Bludger before, and was not excited to be hurt again. She didn't torpedo downwards, wanting to keep her broom steady. It was not about speed now, it was about agility. This Bludger wanted to kill her.

"SLYTHERIN BEATERS- WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" The girl called.

She ignored the sounds around her, save for the wind in her ears. Irena dipped to the grass, but the Bludger was still hot on her heels. She felt slightly ill, there was nowhere to go; nowhere to hide. Austin and Erwin were behind her, trying to get the ball to stop, but there was no stopping it. It had its heart set on her.

Irena flew into the stands, hoping that the wood would slow it down. "AUSTIN, DUCK!" Erwin screeched. The sound of wood cracking and splintering could be heard behind her as she ducked around the wooden beams. She turned her head to see the two Beaters flying quickly away, the Bludger still behind her.

She appeared from the tent again, her heart hammered in her chest. "THE RAVENCLAW TOWER IS GOING TO CRASH!" The announcer cried. Irena knew Philomena was up there, so she sailed up. The students screamed and cried out, the bodies stuffing themselves into the stairwell. Irena flew to the seats, knowing the Bludger wasn't far behind, grabbing Philomena and flying away.

"Oh my God, oh my God." Philomena breathed as she sat on Irena's broom. "So high up.. so high up.."

She didn't have patience to deal with her frightfulness. "Phil, I need to ask a favor." Irena said quietly as she steered them around. Philomena's arms grabbed Irena's shoulders, the Bludger had gained on them since they were no longer aerodynamic.

"A-a-anything, Irena." Philomena stammered.

"I've already won, I just need the Bludger off me, can you pull out your wand and get it away?" Irena asked, ducking and swerving in an attempt to throw the Bludger off. The rest of the Quidditch teams had devoted themselves to save those in the Ravenclaw seats- it was as if the game was over anyway.

Philomena rifled through the pockets on her robes. " Finite! " She cast behind them. "Shoot, it's still following us.. um.."

"Think of a different spell; any spell." Irena pleaded. She supposed she could drop Philomena onto the grass (from a safe height) and take off. Philomena needn't be in any danger, but she was in danger now. "It-it wants me ."

She breathed, closing her eyes for a moment. Irena flew as far away from the other people as she could. " Reparo! " Philomena called out, the spell sailing behind them. "That one didn't work either.."

Irena gulped, trying not to let hot tears fall from her eyes. "I'm going to sail back down and let you go then." She said shakily. "It-it-it wants me, not you, and I'm stupid for grabbing you; I've put us both in danger."

"No, no, let me try again." Philomena told her. " Protego! " She cast, but the Bludger still continued on its warpath. "I don't understand."

The Seeker had already begun her descent, sailing only five feet above the ground. Irena pushed Philomena away, onto the wet and muddy grass, but her broom faltered, crashing into the ground. A rider who was scared always made the broom act differently, they'd learned that in Flying lessons.

Irena crashed into the ground, though she was uninjured. The Bludger sailed full speed toward her, crashing into the dirt, sending mud flying, before ascending again, Irena rolled away, the ball crashing just where she was a moment before. She began to cry as it ascended again, landing on her ankle, a wave of hot pain came over her as she scrambled to get away.

The ball lifted up into the air, just above her face. Irena knew it was certain death, and she could hear the people crying out for her.

" Reducto! " A voice called, making the Bludger explode before her very eyes, the bits of leather and fodder fell over her like confetti. Irena leaned back, sighing in relief as she grasped the Snitch in her pocket, pulling it out. "It's okay, come and let me look at that ankle."

Professor Potter fell down into the mud beside her, pulling off her shoe and pulling up the leg on her trousers. Irena seemed unable to speak, the pain mulling around in her. She began to cry uncontrollably. She showed the Snitch to him.

"Good, good." He murmured.

Honeybrook ran toward her. " You destroyed my Bludger- Potter! " She hissed. "That Bludger's been in use for over 50 years, they don't make them like that anymore and you made it explode ."

"I'll buy you a new damn Bludger then!" Potter snapped, grabbing the Snitch forcefully from her hand, and giving it to Honeybrook. "Now go tell the bloody announcer that Slytherin's won the game so we can take all these students to the hospital wing."

The referee glared, but didn't utter a word, lifting up her arm to show that Irena had caught the Snitch. Those left in the stands cheered. "Professor, your-your hip-" Irena spluttered through her sobs.

"-Enough about that." He told her.

"HARRY!" Irena could hear her father coming toward them. Irena looked to see her parents in front of her.

Dad slipped in the mud, grasping Potter's hand, helping him up. Mum looked at her. "Oh, my sweet girl." Mum whispered, inspecting the ankle and wiping her tears. "Shattered, it seems."

"Never seen a hex like that, not since.." Dad began.

"Not since I was a student.. dark magic.. dark magic indeed." Potter added grimly. He was thoroughly muddy, though he didn't seem to care. His eyes rested on Irena, covered in the bits of Bludger that were still on the ground. "Fawn, she needs the bloody hospital wing, not a bit of healing magic."

Mum didn't seem to notice as she waved her wand over her ankle. "Just a bit to get you on to Pomfrey, a bit of relief. Is that okay?" She looked at Irena, who nodded. "Cedric, will you carry her?"

"Yes." Dad breathed, going toward her and lifting her up, minding her ankle as they walked toward the castle, Potter and Mum close behind. "You were brave today, my love. Saving Philomena even while in danger yourself. A Slytherin with a heart of gold."

Irena let out an exhausted chuckle, leaning her head into him and closing her eyes, the pain was growing so overwhelming, it was all she had the strength to do.

 

Sunday, 27 February, 2011

Grogginess, subtle pain. Irena let out a groan as she opened her eyes, hearing the gentle sound of a curtain closing. Mum stood in the window, glancing outside at the Hogwarts grounds. Irena knew they were in the more secluded part of the hospital wing, which wasn't surprising.

"Good, the Sleeping Draught wore off." Mum told her with a smile, turning and approaching her. "Madame Pomfrey's almost completely fixed your ankle, it's just a little after breakfast, I'm sure that your friends will be here soon."

Irena looked down at her ankle, fitted in a white cast. "What about the others?" She croaked, while Mum handed her some water. "Leo? Percy?"

"Padfoot stayed with them last night, picked them up from school and everything." Mum told her with a smile. "Daddy's just left to deal with a few students, but he wanted to stay too. That game was scary, wasn't it? A bewitched Bludger? Potter's kicking himself for destroying it, said he wished he could've taken a look at it."

She drank from the straw, listening to her mother. Irena didn't want to say it, but she had a likely suspect on who could have bewitched it. Aria and her friends had a motive, of course, and access to dark magic. "Hmm." Irena grunted in response.

The curtains twitched a bit as Dad walked in. "Oh good, you're awake." Dad kissed her forehead sweetly, grinning. "I guess your friends will be in soon, they've been outside the door waiting for the wing to open. You've got about 10 minutes before they'll be here."

Irena smiled a bit, drinking more water. They cared for her, and that made her feel good. She liked the attention that came with Quidditch injuries. "Will I be able to attend class tomorrow, do you think?" She asked.

"On crutches, just to be safe." Mum said. "But it's Madame Pomfrey's business, you're her patient, not mine." She giggled, looking at Dad. They always had that sort of look, like they were having a silent conversation that Irena could never understand. She supposed that soulmates had telepathy or something; something to explain their behavior. She wished she could communicate with someone like that.

Mum brushed out Irena's hair when the doors opened and footsteps were heard. 10 minutes had not lasted long, but Irena didn't mind if they came early. Philomena came through first, hugging Irena tightly. "I'm so glad you're alright." She sighed. "I couldn't live with myself otherwise."

"Just an ankle, Phil." Irena chuckled, hugging her back. "They could've chopped off my foot, it wouldn't matter much." She pulled away to see everyone else standing around. Diana and Tabitha sat at her bedside, Teddy, Talon, Felix, and Victoire stood awkwardly to the side.

"It's good, you'll be here for today." Diana chattered, breaking the silence. "We've got to plan your birthday! Yours and Teddy's." She opened her planner, looking at the calendar. "Easter Holiday starts April 17th, so after your birthdays, but wouldn't it be fun to have two parties at your house?"

Mum chuckled. "Two parties?"

"Only if it's okay with you, Mrs. Diggory!" Philomena squeaked.

Dad laughed while Mum's face turned red. "I'll just have to adjust a few things, shop extra, clear out a room for those boys." She said with a smile. Irena knew Mum never took Dad's last name, opting to keep her own.

Diana continued. "Tabby wrote her mother, she said it was okay; Philomena wrote her parents, they said it's okay. My mum says it's fine. Teddy's fine, obviously. Talon too. Victoire just needs to write to her parents and we need to talk to McGonagall."

"Victoire shouldn't have much persuading to do." Mum told them. "Bill and Fleur are friends."

"I've been putting it off.. I know they'll say yes." Victoire chuckled, her cheeks reddening.

"I was gonna tell Professor McGonagall that Felix would be staying with me and my dads." Teddy said after clearing his throat. "Which isn't the whole truth, 'cause we'll be at your house too.."

Dad shrugged. "Staying at a professor's house for Easter Holiday isn't too bad." He told them, sitting down on the windowsill, looking out. "But omitting that part might make it a bit easier for her to say yes." He chuckled.

Irena grasped Philomena tenderly. She remembered saving her, she didn't think she'd ever forget those memories. Philomena didn't seem nearly as focused on the others as she did on Irena. Her brown eyes stared into hers sweetly. There were words that were going to be exchanged in private later, Irena knew. How do you thank someone for saving your life? How do you accept someone's thanks for saving their life? She didn't want to be thanked, it wasn't necessary.

After more party planning, Mum and Dad began to grow awkward and restless. "Irena, I'm going to head back to Grimmauld Place." Mum announced when their conversation grew quiet. "I'm a bit worried that Padfoot and Moony have let Percy into the sweets, he really can manipulate them sometimes. Cedric, you've got her?"

Dad smiled, kissing her cheek tenderly, grasping her arm. "I've got her, don't you worry." He told her as she left. Irena missed her Mum already, but she would see her again come the next Quidditch match, and for Easter Holiday. Dad waited a while for her to leave before leaving himself. "I ought to check on a few of my NEWT students, Reni. Is it alright if I go?"

"Go on, Dad, I'm okay here." Irena told him, but he was already leaving.

Diana was still talking about the party. "Talon, if you don't get a gift-" She was arguing.

"-I know, okay?" Talon grumbled as he sat in the window alongside Felix. "Parties should be fun, not stressful, you know."

"Welcome to the life of a party planner." Tabitha said shortly.

The arguing died down as another person entered. Irena's breath caught in her throat as Austin Evergreen stood in the opening of the curtain. Everyone else grew very quiet. "Hey." Austin said with a sly smile, stepping in. "Just checking in on you. How's your ankle?"

"Fine." Irena said with a smile, hoping she didn't look too busted or sloppy in front of him. If only I had a mirror and a little more time! Irena thought stubbornly. "How are the Ravenclaws?"

"Minimal injuries." Austin said, stepping even closer. He stood by her bed now. "You've really got to stop acting like a Gryffindor, you keep ending up in the hospital wing." He chuckled. His hair was perfectly messy, his uniform scrappy. His tie was too loose, his shirt untucked. Irena held her breath as he lifted his hand, touching her forehead.

His touch felt like electricity, hot jolts of energy spread through Irena and she struggled not to flinch away. Austin touched her forehead, his hands were rough and worn, but gentle at the same time. His thumb touched her hair and he smiled as he looked down at her. Her heart skipped a beat.

Austin stopped smiling, blinking as he pulled his hand away, stuffing it into his pocket. Irena wished he would do it again. "Well, we won again. At this rate, we should be well on our way to the final tournament. I think we've got a shot at winning the Quidditch cup this year." Irena basked in his praise. "Just don't do anything stupid, please?"

"You got it, boss." Irena chuckled, smiling. My voice is so annoying!

He chuckled, turning on his heel and leaving. The group was quiet for a moment. "Oh my God." Diana breathed, looking to Irena. "That wasn't Austin, was it? The Austin? From the Veritaserum?"

Irena felt her cheeks redden and she covered her face with her hands. "Is it obvious?" Irena giggled.

"He totally likes you." Victoire whispered. " I think so, anyway."

"Not sure I like his anti-Gryffindor sentiment." Felix grumbled, looking out the window. Irena felt a tiny pool of anger fill her stomach. "He's an excellent Beater though."

Talon laughed. "Exactly, Felix." He agreed. "Not all Gryffindors are stupid brave, just some of 'em. Irena's being stupid brave on her own. Not a Gryffindor thing, just an Irena thing."

"Oh, shut it, will you?" Irena laughed.

They laughed together, but it soon grew quiet again. Irena looked at the break in the curtains, her eyes narrowing. Aria stood in the entrance way, looking at all of them. Teddy stood at once, holding his wand toward her. Felix and Talon did the same. "What do you want?" Teddy asked pointedly.

"Just want to know my house's Seeker isn't too beaten up.. making sure she wasn't bludgeoned to death." Aria smirked, glancing at Irena.

"You have no business being here." Philomena told her sharply. "You could have killed her."

"Quiet Mudblood." Aria said dismissively. "I-"

Teddy grew angry, taking a threatening step forward. "Call her a Mudblood again." He hissed. "Call her a bloody Mudblood again and I swear to Godric I'll-"

"-Oh, I really hope McGonagall doesn't hear you threatening me." Aria smirked, looking strangely brave. Irena couldn't muster the energy for a comeback. "It wasn't even me who charmed the Bludger anyway, I told them not to. Irena's a Bloodtraitor anyway, she doesn't belong in Slytherin."

Irena felt her chest fill with anger. "Get out before I get Madame Pomfrey." She ordered.

Aria raised her hands up in mock defeat. "See you in detention, Irena." She sneered, leaving them all behind.

Teddy sat back in his seat angrily, the other boys went back to looking out the window. "We're gonna prank them." Victoire said at once from beside Tabitha. "We're gonna prank them. Hard ."

Chapter Text

Wednesday, 2 March, 2011

"Come on, Irena, your foot will never feel better if you walk so slowly." Teddy teased as they walked to Potions class. They were a crowd, just as they always were these days. They reasoned that there was no harm in being careful- who knew what Aria was going to do?

Irena hobbled faster. "I literally hate you." She chuckled.

"Why not carry her?" Talon reasoned behind them. "Teddy, you're a Keeper, you're supposed to be muscled and strong."

She chuckled. "Nobody needs to carry m-" Irena suddenly felt herself being swept off her feet.

Felix held her tightly, walking quickly. "We're going to be late to bloody Potions." He seethed, Diana and Tabitha laughed. "Just because you're disabled doesn't mean we won't all lose house points."

"Isn't Gryffindor in the lead right now?" Philomena asked.

"I love having such a smart girlfriend!" Teddy grinned, wrapping his arm over her shoulders. Irena watched Philomena's face glow bright red as she embraced him back. After months of dating, it seemed normal for them to be affectionate. Philomena told her they hadn't had their first kiss, which made sense to Irena. Who would want to kiss a second year boy?

They hurried into the Potions Dungeon, sitting down at the desks. Philomena sat in between her and Teddy, and they held hands under the table. Irena tried to ignore it, but she couldn't focus on the lesson. It felt like her brain was on autopilot when they took notes on their revised Wiggenweld potions.

She couldn't shake the memory of Austin in the hospital wing. The way his hand gently rested on her forehead. Embarrassingly, Irena had placed her hand right where he had, just to imagine it was his touch. Her cheeks grew red thinking of him. The lecture went on swiftly, leaving time after class.

Diana and Talon moved to their table, so did Tabitha and Felix. Irena rested her head in her hands, staring into space. She'd have detention again today with Aria.. something she wasn't looking forward to. "Oh, Irena." Slughorn came over to their table. "You'll have detention here today, no need to go anywhere after class."

"Thanks, Professor." Irena gave him a small smile before going back to staring into space. 

The others seemed to notice her disinterest in their conversation. Philomena left Teddy, opting to hug Irena tightly. "I love you!" She gushed, but Irena didn't respond. "You okay?" She added quietly, looking at Irena intently.

"Yea." Irena said in a monotone voice, not even glancing in her direction. To say that she was dreading detention was an understatement.

Teddy grinned his eager, easy smile. "Maybe we all ought to get detention so we can stick around with Irena for a while." He laughed.

"We can stay, you know that, right?" Diana chattered. "I don't think we'll want to, though. They're scraping old cauldrons that were used to make Polyjuice potion from the NEWT students. Count me out."

Irena remained unfocused. "You all just go ahead, I'll see you in the library later." She murmured as the class was dismissed.

Philomena gave her a squeeze. "You'll find us after?"

"Don't I always?" Irena chuckled, looking at her. The group left, leaving her with Aria and Slughorn.

He waddled over, bringing several cauldrons while Aria sat down across the table. Irena began to clean them with the scraping tool, the only sounds coming from either of them came from working. "McGonagall wanted you two to have detention so you could talk and become friends again." Slughorn told them with a chuckle. "But you haven't said a word to each other- at least not when you have detention with me."

"Respectfully, Professor, I don't want to be her friend." Irena told him coolly. "Not while she bullies Muggleborn students."

Slughorn blinked. "Muggleborn students?"

"It's not so much me, it's more of my friends, really." Aria said defensively, suddenly feeling frightened, Irena supposed. She couldn't hide her smile. Maybe Slughorn would finally get her in trouble?

He seemed cross, looking at both of them. "I've been Head of Slytherin for many, many years." Slughorn murmured while they scraped. "Every couple years, a few students have the idea to bring back all the Pureblood nonsense- calling people Mudblood and the like. Is that the case?"

"Yes." Irena muttered, glaring to Aria. "A few of my friends are Muggleborn, they've been getting bullied by the other Slytherins." She glanced at Slughorn before going back to scraping her cauldron.

Slughorn nodded slowly, glancing to Aria, then to Irena. "Could you give me a list of names, preferably by the end of the week?" He whispered. "I want to know everyone who's doing that."

She smiled up at him. "You got it, Professor." Irena told him. Slughorn left them. Aria was very quiet, while Irena finished cleaning her cauldrons. She was done within the hour, and left for the library.

Irena hobbled over to the library, limping. When she went to their usual table, the group had left. She looked around to where else they could be, suddenly feeling upset. Had they forgotten her? "Hello, Irena." Mr. Macmillan smiled at her. "How are things?"

"I think my friends forgot about me." Irena confessed. "I, uh, I think I'm gonna go to my common room."

He smiled kindly. "It was a pleasure to see you anyway!" Mr. Macmillan told her warmly as she left, hobbling away to the Slytherin dungeons. Irena tried not to let it get to her, but she didn't feel like herself at the moment. Shouldn't she be happy about Slughorn getting the Slytherin bullies? Of course she should , and a tiny part of her did. An overwhelming amount of numbness filled her the rest of the way, and she succumbed to it.

Irena went into the common room. It was filled with those mean Slytherins. They jeered at her, and Irena ignored them. They'll get what's coming to them soon, Irena thought as she walked up the stairs, ignoring the pain in her foot. Ignoring things seemed easier than anything else right now.

She laid her bag by her bed, getting into it and closing the curtains as she opened the Animagus book, reading it again. Irena wished she could learn it like the back of her hand, maybe if she read it enough, she could memorize it.

A mandrake leaf was needed, and Irena would have to keep it in her mouth from full moon to full moon. She would have to make a potion from it. It sounded difficult, but exciting. Maybe it's something I can do this summer, she mused. Irena yawned, laying back in her bed and closing her eyes to take a nap. She felt Diana's cat, Brownie, climb onto her bed, laying down in the crook of her hips. Irena fell asleep.

 

Thursday, 3 March, 2011

She woke up early the next morning, her stomach in knots, pain shooting through her body. Irena hadn't woken from her nap, which was surprising that she slept so long. She had a sudden urge to use the restroom, so she stood to use it.

The room was dark and quiet, everyone was asleep. Irena glanced at Aria's bed, creeping forward silently. She listened to her steady breathing, asleep. Good for her, I guess. She thought bitterly and tiredly, turning on her heel toward the bathroom, going inside to use the toilet.

Irena blinked, rubbing her eyes while she sat down and rested on the porcelain throne. She looked around her, looking into her underwear. To her absolute horror, there was a small gathering of blood. She let out a yelp. The mood swings, the abdominal pain, now bleeding? Had the Quidditch match caused unresolved internal injuries? Am I dying?

"Can you be quiet?" Tabitha groaned. "Shut that light off too."

"Tabby.. I'm dying.." Irena whispered, covering her face in her hands, trying not to cry. Life wasn't good , it never was; but it wasn't terrible . She had so much life left to live: spells to learn, boys to kiss, jokes to tell.. she couldn't be dying .

There was a creak heard as Tabitha got out of bed. She rubbed her eyes as she entered the tiny bathroom, looking at Irena. "You're what now?" She asked, though her tone didn't seem serious. Was death a laughing matter?

"I think I'm dying, Tab, look!" Irena covered herself in modesty, though she knew everybody in their dorm room had seen everyone else naked at least once. She showed her underwear to Tabitha. "I'm bleeding out!"

Tabitha looked at the pants, then looked at Irena. She let out a laugh. "Dying? Dying? Hasn't your mother taught you anything?" She giggled, closing the bathroom door. Tabitha reached under the sink, pulling out an unopened box. "You've only just begun menstruating- didn't your parents teach you about gettin' your period?"

"No, I guess not." Irena replied, suddenly feeling a bit self conscious. "Do you- do you have yours, then?"

"No, not yet." Tabitha told her, sitting on the side of the tub, opening the box. On the side was written Always Maxi Pads . "Mum makes me bring these every year, she always thinks I'm gonna get mine 'cause I'm so irritable with her. I just don't like her." She giggled, but there was pain behind her words that Irena wouldn't understand until later in her life. "Here, you open the plastic bit and stick it to your pants, then you can stick the wings to the side and it'll catch it all."

Irena waited for her to turn around before doing as she said, putting the pad in awkwardly. It was secure. "Can you tell me more?"

"Well, this is the Muggle way to do it. Muggles have to change their pads every few hours. I'm sure the wizarding world has advanced a bit to make 'em magic." Tabitha reasoned casually. "You'd have to talk to Madame Pomfrey though. She's probably the one who'd know, after all. We could go tomorrow?"

She blinked at Tabitha smiling. "I'd like that a lot, actually." Irena told her truthfully.

"It'll be good information for when I get mine." Tabitha continued talking. "Honestly, when you yelp like that, I remember the time the Gryffindors pranked us. I got a little worried I'd get up and see if they gave you purple hair."

Irena giggled. "A master prankster never performs the same trick twice, Tabby." She told her, embracing her. She was feeling so grateful, she could cry.

"Ah, that's right, I wouldn't know, since, you know, you're the master prankster." Tabitha teased, hugging her back equally as tenderly. "Have you thought of a prank yet? It's been a while since the Veritaserum."

She pulled away. "Suspense and surprise go hand in hand." Irena told her, patting her head affectionately before going back to her bed. Sleep came easy to her once more, and she found herself perfectly refreshed for that day's classes.

*

Irena woke up at a normal time the next morning, though a bit earlier to go to the hospital wing with Tabitha. Diana slept peacefully, and they didn't care enough to check on Aria. They rushed through the common room quickly, not bothering to say hello to anyone.

The pair entered the relatively empty hospital wing, save for a few sickly students and Quidditch players. Madame Pomfrey was busy tending to some students, so they waited. Irena kept her eyes on her shoes, feeling too awkward to speak. 

"Hey, how was detention yesterday, by the way?" Tabitha asked casually, wanting to break their tension. "Sorry we didn't get to hang out with you, by the way. They all wanted to watch the Hufflepuff Quidditch practice- plus, it was such a nice day out, you know?"

She didn't say much. "Yea." Irena muttered, keeping her eyes on her shoes. They were buckled and shined, but Irena knew Mum would buy her more come school time next year. When she wiggled her toes, she could feel the edges of the shoe. "I didn't appreciate coming to the library and seeing you all left without me, though."

"Victoire didn't stick around?" Tabitha shook her head, tsking. "We told her to. You know her though. Wild redheads think they can get away with anything. Diana gets away with flirting relentlessly with Talon. Like, come on, not even Philomena and Teddy flirt like that and they're the ones who are in a relationship!"

Irena giggled at this. Tabitha seemed to be good at lightening the mood up. "You think the prank war is over?" She asked. It'd been so long since the Veritaserum, March had only just commenced, and the last prank was in November. It would be so unexpected- would it be a prank, or just bullying?

"Oh, definitely not." Tabitha said with a cheeky grin. "Me, Phil, and Diana have just been waiting for your lead; though I think I'm the one most itching for a prank." She giggled, her eyes trailing off as she glanced away, as if her thoughts were too suffocating to laugh at. "Phil's got Teddy, Diana's got Talon, you've got Austin.. so many boys in our lives. We're only 12!"

She smiled sweetly, grabbing Tabitha's hand forcefully. "We'll find you a boy to like.." Irena promised. "..right after we prank those Gryffindors. What about Romeo Runcorn- Slytherin, third year. He seems pretty nice, don't you think?"

Tabitha's cheeks grew red. "I don't need a boy to be obsessed with, really," She said quickly, not meeting Irena's eyes. "I just need a good prank. And a spot on the Quidditch team next year. Boys are dumb."

"True." Irena mused, resting her head against Tabitha's shoulder as Madame Pomfrey hobbled over. Irena glanced to the little bed where she was before. Her blood chilled when she saw Talon seated on the cot, an ice pack over his eye. Teddy was speaking in quick, hushed whispers. Felix stood beside him, whispering all the more furiously before storming out without a second thought.

"What can I do for you girls today?" Madame Pomfrey asked sweetly. "Irena, is your ankle bothering you?"

She shook her head while Tabitha fell respectfully silent. "Madame.. I was wondering if you could, well, give me any information on periods ?" Irena added the last bit in a whisper, noticing that Teddy and Talon were staring at them now.

"Ah, I see." Madame Pomfrey told her with a twinkle in her eye. "Would you two mind meeting me in my office? I have more, uh, supplies hidden in there. Besides, if it is not something you're comfortable talking about here, we should have privacy there."

Tabitha grinned, nodding. "Thank you, Madame Pomfrey." She told her while they were ushered into Madame Pomfrey's little office. There was a desk on one end near a window, as well as a small table and chairs beside a whiteboard, like the ones found in Dumbledore's Preparatory Academy. One the other side, a large bed with lush bedding and velvety curtains. A fire roared in her fireplace.

"So," Madame Pomfrey began. "What can I help you with specifically?"

"I've just got mine last night." Irena told her. "I'm so tired and cranky.. and I hurt everywhere. Tabby gave me Muggle- what were they called? - Muggle pads, but we don't know what to do." She fretted.

The older woman nodded. "Muggle pads are no good, so I'll give you some Witch ones." She chatted, going to her shelf and pulling out a box. Unlike Tabitha's, it seemed more discreet. Plus, the packaging looked reusable. "Witch pads, designed by witches of course, are far more absorbent, far more comfortable, and they last longer. You let me know when you've run out, since the box is reusable, another plus to our technology compared to Muggle technology."

Irena let out a nervous giggle, since it sounded like Madame Pomfrey was making a joke.

"Anyways," Madame Pomfrey continued with a kind smile. "You'll just want to take one per day and put it in your drawers. Then, you can take it off at the end of the day and you've got a choice on what to do with it. They're biodegradable, so you could put it outside, but it's not recommended. You could put it in the fireplace, but I believe it's just easier to put it in the bathroom bin for the house elves to dispose of."

She nodded, taking the box from her. "Thank you.. Mum never taught me all this stuff."

"That's alright." Pomfrey told her. "I'm sure she's quite busy, but I'd talk to your Dad to ask to give her a ring. If I had a daughter, this is something I would want to hear about right away." She dismissed them, leaving.

Tabitha looked at Irena. "I suppose we should be getting back to our room before breakfast then." She mumbled. "You'd be willing to share those, won't you? When I get mine, I don't want to come in here."

"Of course I'd share them with you, Tabby." Irena told her with a smile. "Let's get back. I could really go for some marmalade toast right about now." She giggled. It was a weird craving- did periods make you have cravings? She supposed it'd be a good question to ask Mum. There was no time to hang around now, not if she wanted to get everything done in time.

They rushed out, box in hand. "Oi! Travers! Diggory-Black!" Talon called. "What're you doin' here? You don't look injured. You sick?" They turned and looked at him in the hallway.

"Go away, Talon." Irena snapped. "It's none of your business." It seemed so much easier to be irritable now, the words seemed to spill out of her before she could really think about them. "What's wrong with you anyway?"

Teddy stood beside him, his arms crossed. "Felix punched him." He replied coldly. "Talon's a dumbarse."

" Boys are stupid. " Tabitha whispered in her ear, as if reminding her of their mission.

"I was in the wrong, I know." Talon sighed.

"I've got things to do this morning, better, more important things than talking to you two." Irena said pointedly, turning on her heel. There it was again, the cold, harsh tone, the rush of annoyance that roared in the back of her mind. Was it the period, maybe? If a period made a girl into a woman, why weren't more witches irritable?

They left to the Slytherin dungeons quickly, dropping the box off under the sink. Irena changed, testing Madame Pomfrey's new products. Tabitha wrapped on the door. "Well, Irena? How are the new pads?"

Compared to the Muggle ones, there was a world of difference. Before, she was cranky, tired, hurting. The pain shot through her middle and into her back, which had made it difficult to sleep before, seeing that she had to take such a long nap. It was more discreet, it definitely wouldn't run the danger of leaking or showing through her uniform.

Irena swung the door open triumphantly.

"They're great!"

Chapter Text

Friday, 4 March, 2011

The next day was dreadful. The cramps had been so terrible, and she'd been in a terrible mood. Irena had gone after class to speak with Dad about getting Mum to come to Hogwarts, and she'd be there on Saturday. For now, they were in a small alcove in the corridors, eating lunch.

"You found this, Phil?" Teddy asked as he bit into his sandwich eagerly. They were seated by a window, and Irena felt strangely peaceful and content.

Philomena sat beside him on the floor, also eating a sandwich. "Yea, when those Slytherins were chasing me, I hid in the window behind the curtain, but it was such a nice place to eat, I felt like it'd be a good place for us to hang out."

"Who chased you?" Felix asked angrily, glancing at Talon, who was talking and joking with Diana, Tabitha, and Victoire. No one had really gathered exactly what happened, but Talon's eye was blackened and things seemed tense between them.

"I dunno." Philomena sighed. "Not like we can do anything about them anyway."

Irena remembered detention on Wednesday, and how Slughorn had asked to make a list of names. It seemed like a lifetime ago now, but it still was prevalent. "Actually, we can do something." Irena mumbled. So far, the only person in the group who knew why she'd been so crabby was Tabitha, but Irena felt like she could tell Philomena too. "Slughorn asked me to make a list of all the nasty Slytherins so he could punish 'em."

Felix's face lit up, and Teddy grinned. Philomena smiled. "Well, let's get on it, then!" Teddy told them, pulling out a bit of parchment and a quill. "Let's make the list then! Philomena, Felix, give me some names!"

"Aria Rowe." Irena offered an idea.

"Tom Yaxley." Felix added. "If he wanted to fight like a man instead of hiding behind his wand, I could break his nose; I've tried, but failed. Stupid Stunning spell." He shook his head while Teddy scribbled the names on the parchment.

"Vivian Antwork." Philomena muttered. "She pushed me into a puddle in Herbology class. Longbottom nearly killed her for it, since he's Longbottom, you know." She lifted her head up, tying her hair back in a ponytail.

Irena thought of another name. "Olaf Cygnet." She added. "Chased him off a Hufflepuff first year last week, since Slytherin Prefects can't be bothered to." Teddy wrote his name down too.

They spent the lunch period coming up with a list of names, only thinking of about ten students in total. Teddy handed her the parchment. "Can we take it to Slughorn now, do you think?" Felix asked quickly as Irena looked it over.

"I don't see why not, if we're finished eating." Irena said with a smile. They cleaned the area with a few cleaning spells (it was mostly Philomena who knew how to do them properly) before setting off to the Potions classroom.

The group stepped in. Slughorn was working furiously on a potion on one end of the room, frowning and placing ingredients into it tentatively. He peered up at them. "Oh, Irena, have you brought me that list?"

"Yes, Professor." Irena stepped over to him, handing him the parchment.

He looked at the names through his glasses, squinting. It was their fault, Irena reflected, that he was squinting. Teddy's handwriting looked more like Runes instead of English. "Thank you, thank you." Slughorn murmured, looking at them now, smiling. "This will be very handy, I'll be talking to each of these students this month."

Irena turned to leave, but a breath caught in Slughorn's throat, as if he wished to say more.

"I like your little friend group." Slughorn told them with a wistful smile. "I enjoy seeing houses intermingling. Slytherins, Gryffindors, a Ravenclaw.. brilliant. You all ought to be on the front of a textbook for.. for house unity."

They chuckled. "Thanks, Professor." Irena said sweetly as they turned to go back. "Where should we go next?" Irena asked, peering around to her friends.

The group grinned. "Not the library.. please! " Diana groaned. "I've had enough of reading for the week. It's the weekend, I want to have some fun!"

Philomena laughed. "That's why you'll never get an O in any of your classes, Di!"

"I don't care anymore." Diana grumbled. "Let's go."

"We could wander around?" Tabitha offered. "Go exploring a bit, maybe?"

"Not a bad idea, Tabby." Teddy grinned. "Let's wander!"

They cheered as they began to walk aimlessly around Hogwarts castle.

 

Saturday, 5 March, 2011

Irena was in her father's classroom early that morning, hanging around his desk awkwardly. He'd made her Chamomile tea, and she sipped it tentatively. He didn't know why she needed to see her mother, only that it was important.

Not even 15 minutes had passed before his fireplace lit up bright green and her mother stepped through. Her hair was tousled and messy, no doubt she'd been tending to the children. Irena quietly imagined what life would be like if they'd had less. No doubt, Irena loved her younger siblings, as annoying they could be, but she wished for the intimacy of having both her parent's attention for herself.

Mum smiled sweetly to Irena. "Hello, my love." She said warmly.

"Coffee is roasting for you, dearest." Dad chided as she kissed his cheek.

"Bless you." She sighed. "Haven't had a chance to have any this morning. Perseus has made it his goal to terrorize the house before Moony comes to babysit." Mum poured some out prematurely into a pastel mug, drinking from it before coming to sit down at their table. "What is it? Why have you requested me here?"

Irena blinked, looking down at her honeyed drink in the mug. The words were on the tip of her tongue, why couldn't she say them? "Irena called you, actually." Dad murmured. "Something about a problem only a mother would know how to handle.. I presume."

Mum focused her eyes on Irena. "Is it a boy problem?" She asked with a sneaky smile.

"No!" Irena squeaked, looking up to them. Why was this so bloody hard? "Mum.. what do you know about.. periods?" She asked, watching her father's face fall slightly, while her mother's lit up.

Dad stood up quickly, wiping his face. "I should leave you.. you two alone, I think.. papers to grade.. students to conference.." He muttered, beginning to pick up a few things from his desk, including his jacket.

Mum grabbed his wrist, staring at him. "Cedric, stay." She ordered coolly, and he obeyed. Irena hoped she'd have that power over someone someday. She looked to Irena again, her icy eyes scanning her daughter's face. "I've been waiting for this day. I got mine when I was nearly 13, but it was far different; being a Muggle and all." Mum nibbled on her lip tentatively while Daddy sat back down, looking into his lap. "Do you- well, do you have supplies? Questions?"

Finally, Irena could breathe easier. The hardest part seemed to be over. "I visited Madame Pomfrey and Tabitha let me borrow one of her Muggle pads." Irena rambled. Mum watched her as she spoke with great interest. She felt mature, like she could be responsible for herself. "Why didn't I know about periods before I got mine? I don't even know why my body's doing this. Is this what makes a woman, a woman?"

She blinked slowly, as if mulling over the questions in her mind. "I suppose Hogwarts could use a better curriculum on sex education." Mum mused to Dad, as if Irena was not there. "Not all women get their periods, mind you. Some women never get their periods, some women have bodies that look very different from yours or mine, but that doesn't mean they're not women. Sometimes, boys can get periods as well. Historically, a period is what makes women women , but it isn’t necessary." Irena did not understand what she meant, but held her tongue.

"Your body is doing that because it wants you to have the ability to have a baby." Mum told her warmly. "Of course, it's early, more ready than you are. It's just something you'll have to deal with in life."

Irena inhaled, then exhaled. Babies? That was what this was about? She was nearly 13, in her mind, she was still a child. Did Philomena have her period yet? Was she going to have a baby with Teddy? How would they even do that? She kept her questions to herself.

"Has Madame Pomfrey given you anything?" Dad asked now. "For your.. cramps?"

"And the back aches." Mum added. "I've been meaning to get back into Potion work. Something to ease that kind of pain." She looked to Dad again, speaking as if Irena couldn't hear. "After all, throughout history major Potion masters have been men. I suppose they didn't realize the trials and tribulations of menstruation, or perhaps they didn't care."

She didn't say anything. "No, she hasn't given me anything." Irena murmured. Was she supposed to? Was Irena supposed to ask?

Dad grimaced. Mum looked at Irena before digging in her pocket. "Fawn, you can't give her Muggle medicine, not while we've got Slughorn and Pomfrey in the castle." He chided while Mum handed her the bottle.

Irena lifted the bottle to her eyes. Paracetamol . "It's worked for me all these years, Muggle or not." Mum told them both quickly. "Muggles aren't magic in the same way that we are, but they aren't completely hopeless either."

She looked to her parents. "Thanks Mummy." Irena smiled. She had been achy in her lower stomach area, enough to beg Diana for Brownie. When he sat on her lap and purred, it made her feel better.

"You can take some now, just start with one." Mum chided.

Dad blinked. "Reni, you know you could have told me about.. this . I could have helped too. There are charms, potions, magical objects. I would've gone and gotten you anything." He told her, his voice gentle, but curt.

"She needed a mother's touch , Ced." Mum teased him.

"Still, my offer stands." Dad chuckled, rolling his eyes while Irena took one of the Paracetamols. "Is there anything I can do?"

Irena looked at them, looking back and forth. "I think I'd really like some chocolate, actually." She said half heartedly. Mum was always so healthy, save for a few holidays when she'd indulge herself on sweets. "It's okay though. A silly request."

Mum giggled. "Well? Go on, Cedric. Get her what she wants. You'll want to get dark chocolate though. Helps out a bit." She told him. Dad stood, planting a kiss on Mum's forehead, then Irena's, leaving. Her attention turned to Irena. "Now, is there anything else you'd like to tell me? Daddy's a bit rough around the edges with girl topics, but I'm not."

She giggled, drinking the last bit of her tea. "Well.. there is this one boy.. his name is Austin and he's the Slytherin Quidditch captain." Irena confessed. "I like him, but he doesn't like me. At least, I don't think so. He's kind to me and I think we're friends."

As she smiled, her nose wrinkled in the middle. "That's great, oh, that's great." Mum chuckled, taking another sip of coffee. "Is he the fourth year boy on your team? The Beater?" Irena nodded. She felt very mature, like an adult, gossiping about boys. "He seems very nice. He's got nice hair."

"I think so too." Irena grinned. "How do I get him to like me back?"

Mum blinked. "It isn't something you can control." She told her, her tone laced with seriousness. "You can't force him to like you, it wouldn't be love. With the right person, everything falls perfectly into place."

Irena watched her empty cup, swirling what was left of the hot water in the leaves at the bottom. Was that how she saw the world? Was that how it was with Dad? Did everything fall into place for them? But they were soulmates, a rarity in a cruel world like the one they lived in now. The world where people hurt each other just for the sake of it, where greed and dehumanization ran amuck, where people married for money, or for security, not for love. What a terrible, cruel world.

"You are going to have your happy ending, Irena, that I am sure of." Mum told her confidently. "I, however, do not believe you'll meet someone at your age that is perfect for you. None of the people you meet at 11, 12, 13- they don't usually stick around throughout your life. You'll find someone later, and you'll be glad you waited instead of settling."

She blinked, peering up to her mother before looking back at her cup again. They sat in silence until Dad returned, where the three of them feasted on dark chocolate for the afternoon. Mum left for Grimmauld Place, Dad left for his studies, and Irena went to her friends. Everything had fallen into place, hadn't it?

 

Wednesday, 16 March, 2011

"Okay, the plan." Philomena had called them all to the Great Hall for their meeting with McGonagall. They had analyzed everything that could possibly go wrong; and everything that could possibly go right. They were prepared to sneak Felix out anyway. 

Teddy chuckled. "Phil, we've been over this a dozen times! Everything's gonna work out."

Irena giggled, resting her chin on Teddy's shoulder. "You're such a Ravenclaw, Philomena. You need to drink some Butterbeer or something."

Philomena glared at them. "He's my brother; sorry if I want to make sure everything goes well!" She said snippily, but grinned mischievously.

Felix sat beside Talon and Tabitha, shifting back and forth. "Guys, really, it's okay, you don't have to go to all this trouble-"

"-SHUT UP FELIX!" They all scolded him.

The Ravenclaw shook her head. "We're going to do everything to make sure you can join the party too." Philomena grinned, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze. "Irena, Ted, Felix, it's time to go."

"If this doesn't go well.." Victoire fretted. She'd only gotten her letter back from her parents the day before: she could spend Easter Holiday at Irena's house. That really meant Felix would be alone at Hogwarts for the holidays.

"We'll just get Potter to lend us his Invisibility Cloak." Irena told them confidently, standing up beside Teddy. "I think he'll let us. It's for a good cause." She looked at their worried faces.

Teddy snickered beside her. "Besides, everyone knows how he liked to get in trouble when he was our age. Quite frankly, we're doing much better than him. Dads told me how in Potter's second year, he had to go into the Chamber of Secrets and kill a Basilisk to save Ginny Weasley!"

"Aunty Ginny?" Victoire asked. "Remind me to ask her about that this summer."

"Enough chit-chat, your window is closing!" Tabitha told them. The trio of Teddy, Irena, and Felix stood at once, shuffling out the Great Hall, dashing to the Headmaster's office.

Irena took a deep breath, looking at Teddy and Felix. "It's gonna be okay, no matter what happens." She said, half to them and half to herself. "No matter what happens, Felix is coming over: formality or not."

Teddy nodded in agreement, his face serious, but his eyes twinkled. Felix looked a bit more worried, so Teddy squeezed his shoulder as they went in. McGonagall was busy conferencing with Hagrid when they walked in, so the students waited for them to be finished. "'Ello." Hagrid said kindly to them as he left.

"Mr. Lupin, Ms. Diggory-Black, Mr. Fitzgibbons; what brings you here?" McGonagall asked, lifting up her eyebrow curiously. Irena was glad once again that the Headmaster favored Gryffindors, maybe she'd actually let Felix spend Easter with them.

Teddy toyed with the sleeves on his robes. "Professor, I was just wondering if Felix could come to my house for Easter Holiday." He asked. "It'll be around the same time as my birthday, and we're all going to celebrate- me, Talon, Victoire, Irena, Philomena, Diana, and Tabitha."

McGonagall and Teddy began talking about the logistics: whose house, what food, where, how long, and who was going to be there specifically. Irena began to zone out, focusing on the loose tag in the back of Teddy's robes. It seemed he accidentally wore his robes inside out. Her heart raced as she thought of the perfect prank. What if I charmed all their robes to be permanently inside out? It was perfect- easy enough, not malicious, and easily reversible. Also, incredibly funny.

"I'll have to make a few calls, alright, Felix?" McGonagall said kindly. "But I don't see how this infringes on any rules. You went to your sister's house for Christmas, and she'll be at Teddy's house too. I don't see why not."

They were dismissed. The three of them stepped out somberly, where Talon, Victoire, Philomena, Diana, and Tabitha stood there, looking at them expectantly. Teddy broke into a grin, hugging Philomena and laughing.

Talon embraced Felix, patting him on the back. The girls jumped up and down excitedly. Irena beamed, feeling very happy that they'd spend the holiday all together, as well as thinking of an excellent prank. She didn't want to say anything about the prank just yet, she wanted to run it by Philomena first.

She decided to live in the moment instead of worrying about things. They were going to have a wonderful birthday party in just a matter of weeks, and that was something worth celebrating.

 

Friday, 25 March, 2011

Irena sat down loudly in the Herbology classroom for detention. She sighed, waiting for Aria and Professor Longbottom to show up. She fiddled with a few bits of leaves left behind on the table in the greenhouse, basking in the unseasonal warmth of the classroom.

The door opened. Right on time. Aria stood in the entrance, staring at her awkwardly. Irena soon noticed the red lining her eyes, the stains of tears on her face. When she breathed, she sounded congested. Whatever had happened, it had made her cry. "You alright?" Irena asked, only because it seemed the polite thing to do.

"No." Aria mumbled, walking over to her. It had been their kindest interaction all year. Irena secretly missed being friends with her, always having someone to compete with was fun and made her more ambitious. Philomena was always the smart one, Diana was always the pretty one, and Tabitha was always the kind one. What was Irena? A prank master? That wasn't nearly as impressive.

Irena looked at her closely as she sat down. "Well, do you want to talk about it?"

Aria looked to her, her eyes big pools of brown, rimmed with wetness, as if she could cry again. "They don't like me anymore." She confessed. Irena felt odd about seeing her this vulnerable. "Slughorn's going to make an example of them. In the Slytherin House meeting next Friday. They blame me. They don't want to be my friends. I don't have any friends here anymore."

Her breath caught in her throat. She had two options: comfort Aria and become friends again, or ignore her and leave her to be alone. Of course, one felt better in the moment than the other, but what would her friends say? What would Philomena say? Irena mulled it in her mind for a moment. "I'm sorry this is happening to you." She told her, a clean, neutral answer.

She didn't say another word as Professor Longbottom entered, smiling at them. Aria quickly covered her face in her sleeves, fixing her face. Irena supposed it was easier to be vulnerable with her instead of him.

"Perfect, you're on time." He grinned, picking up a few plants and things. "You're just going to give the greenhouse a good clean today, eh? Aria, why don't you sweep up some of the organic material on the ground and Irena can clean the windows. Don't throw anything away, okay?"

Longbottom handed Aria the broom and Irena a washcloth and a bucket.

She got to work absentmindedly, but couldn't stop thinking about what Aria had said. 

Should I sympathize with her? How would I do that without betraying my friends now?

Chapter Text

Friday, 1 April, 2011

The crowd of Slytherins sat in the dungeons, waiting around expectantly for what Slughorn had to say. Irena stood near the wall, near the door. Diana and Tabitha stood beside her, fiddling with their robes and whispering to each other. Irena kept her arms crossed in her front, reserved. She knew exactly what this meeting was for.

Interestingly enough, Aria wasn't there. Where was she? Wasn't Slughorn going to make an example of her? Irena pursed her lips, glancing at the other two girls who whispered to each other.

"Do you think this is about the list?" Diana whispered nervously. "Does anyone know we made it?"

Irena shushed her. "Yes." She told her sharply. "No one knows we made it- except Aria. But even then, she could pin the whole thing on me. No one else knows if anyone was involved." Irena reasoned. Could she take the fall for her friends? She'd dueled before, and won. But could she handle older, more powerful, more angry, more ambitious Slytherins? "Just shut up about it."

Tabitha blinked, glancing at Diana. "The others are waiting for the results of our meeting in the Great Hall." Diana told them both in a whisper. Of course they were. Gryffindors didn't know how to keep their noses out of things; but Irena wouldn't have it any other way. "I just hope whatever happens isn't too much , you know?" Diana nodded and the room went quiet as Slughorn entered.

He was flushed, as if he'd just done something strenuous. He was so flushed, the redness traveled from his face to his neck and his balding head. Is he ever going to retire? Irena wondered to herself. She knew from Uncle Moony and Padfoot that he'd been old when they went to school, and now here he was, nearly three generations later. Potter said he knew Voldemort too, which meant he worked in the 1940s, nearly 70 years ago.

"Quiet, quiet please." Slughorn twittered. More students meandered to the front, in front of the couches and near the fireplace. They were somber, emotionless, a few even seemed bored. Among them was the shortest, Aria. Her face was stone and she glanced at Irena before looking down at her shoes. "I'm sure you all know why I've called this meeting." Slughorn said with an awkward smile.

Quiet rippled through the crowd as a few Slytherins glanced at each other in confusion. Were they that out of touch? Weren't they friends with Muggleborns, or, worse, friends with the Slytherins in question? "No, can you explain it to us, Slughorn?" A boy's voice came from somewhere.

Slughorn glanced at the students- his examples. "Well, I'm sure some of you have had the pleasure of hearing about the bullying and harassment that's been taking place this year." He mentioned, eyes scanning the crowd. "Calling Muggleborn students Mudblood , taunting, harassing, dueling, and the like. I've come to put a stop to all this."

Irena bit her lip as Slughorn trailed his eyes to her. Please don't look at me. Please don't call on me. The others can't know. They can't know that I've snitched. A knowing look shadowed over his face. He apparently knew better than to share his informant.

"A few of you have sat idly by while this bullying has taken place, some of you have been affected by it, or perhaps your friends have. Some of you have even participated, whether it be actively pursuing these ideals, or casting a blind eye. There is no room for bystanders in Hogwarts- only greatness." Slughorn told them, beginning to pace with his hands in his pockets.

A few students looked uncomfortable. Irena hadn't realized exactly what she'd done, the impact of it. So many people let it happen.. so many participated.. it was an epidemic, she realized. She pursed her lips tighter, looking down at her shoes, crossing her legs and then uncrossing them. She was uncomfortable now too. Irena wished she'd never gotten involved.

He raised his eyebrows, looking around the room. "Must I remind you all that we are made the same?" Slughorn asked. "I bleed the same blood as you, as her, as him, as them. We are all the same, Pureblood, Halfblood, Muggleborn, we are all the same ."

"He's not going to hurt them, is he?" Diana squeaked.

"He can't.. McGonagall will never allow it." Tabitha retorted.

"I wouldn't put it past this old bat." An older boy whispered to them. "Came out of retirement for the Battle of Hogwarts and never left. He's losing his touch." Irena tried to ignore them all, gulping.

Slughorn sighed as the room grew to uncomfortable whispers. "The students who stand before you now are guilty of perpetuating it." He told them. "They will be in detention for the rest of the year. Let this be an example to all of you: Hogwarts won't tolerate your hate and neither will the Wizarding World. Meeting dismissed."

He left quickly through the doorway, students shuffled around, whispering to each other. "Let's get going, tell the others what happened." Tabitha told them, taking Diana's hand.

"I'll catch up with you guys." Irena smiled, watching them leave. Her eyes fell on Aria, who was getting scolded by older Slytherin students. She looked close to crying again. Irena balled her hands into fists, marching across the room, facing him. "You leave her alone." Irena told him coldly.

He glared down at Irena. She tried to rack her brain for his name- Archer Marble , one of Potter's NEWT students. "Fuck off." Archer said coldly. "It's your fucking fault too, isn't it? You're the reason why I've got detention for the rest of the year? A member of the Black family too.. a Bloodtraitor is what you are." He spat.

Irena grabbed her wand in her pocket, ready to hex him. "Maybe you shouldn't have bullied people if you didn't want to get in trouble." She said sharply, smirking as his face grew even more red.

Archer grabbed his wand, pulling it out, but she was quicker, touching the tip of hers against his throat. He gulped suddenly. Had Slughorn meant for this to happen? In an attempt for house unity, had he split the Slytherins into two? Irena knew her side, but did Aria know hers? Was Aria going to defend her if it came down to it?

"I know how to duel too." Irena said plainly. "You stay away from my friends, Deatheater. " She spat. He had called her names, couldn't she call him names too?

He blinked, and in a moment, his hands were raised, pushing her to the ground. Irena landed on her back, her wand rolling away from her on the dark oak floors. "You'll pay for this one, cunt ." Archer smirked, balling up his fists. Irena closed her eyes, expecting to feel pain, but only the scuffling disturbed her trance.

Irena opened her eyes. A crowd had begun to form of students who wanted to watch. Austin stood before her, Archer was on the floor. Austin's hand was wrapped around his collar, pulling Archer close. "That's my best Seeker that you were planning to thump." He said coldly. "Watch yourself." Austin threatened in a steady voice.

He released Archer, who laid back on the ground. Austin turned, offering a hand to Irena to help her to her feet. Irena grasped him, steadying herself and dusting off her robes. Aria linked arms with her, leading her through the crowd while Austin and Archer settled things.

"Should we wait for him?" Irena whispered as they stood outside the entrance to the dungeons, putting her wand back in her pocket. She let out a shaky exhale, her heart hammered in her chest with adrenaline.

The door opened and Austin stood there, breathing heavily. "Let's get a move on, where are your other friends?" He asked gruffly, wrapping his arm over her shoulder. He smelled like cigarette smoke.

"The Great Hall, I assume." Irena muttered. She had just recollected everything that happened. Austin had jumped in to save her, threatened Archer, who could hurt her, and now his arm was on her shoulder.. Do I smell okay? Does my hair look okay? Does he like me? Why did he do all that? Hundreds of thoughts raced through her mind while her heart raced in tandem.

They made their way to the Great Hall. Aria was a few feet away, leaving Irena slightly alone with Austin- as alone as they could be in the doorway to the Great Hall. He looked down at her, though she could not read his face. "Stop being a bloody Gryffindor, hm?" Austin told her teasingly. "I'll see you at practice tomorrow."

He patted her on the shoulder before taking off. Irena let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding, turning to look at Aria, who smiled. "You like him, don't you?" She asked her.

Irena laughed. "Yea, I do," She muttered, scratching her head awkwardly. She could feel the eyes of her friends from the Gryffindor table staring at her, watching them interact. "I've got to go, I guess I'll see you later?"

Aria blinked sadly. Irena remembered she had no friends to go to, all of the Deatheaters had abandoned her, and she couldn't sit with Irena, not anymore. "Yea, I'll see you around." Aria told her, turning on her heel and leaving.

She watched her go before turning to look at her friends, who each looked thoroughly confused and upset. Irena inhaled slowly, exhaling to calm her heart. They surely had a million questions, and she had answers. Irena reconciled with herself as she began walking toward them: Aria was going to be their friend again if she could help it.

 

Wednesday, 6 April, 2011

"Have you thought about what you're getting Teddy this weekend?" Diana asked as the girls hung around the Great Hall. The boys had to have a stern talking to by Filch, having set off a few dung bombs in Teddy's honor for his birthday. "I've been practicing my knitting, I wanted to make him socks, he's always complaining about how cold his feet are all the time. What do you get a boy who can transform into whatever he likes? "

Tabitha giggled. "I was thinking about getting him a new helmet for Quidditch. I was hanging around with Thyme from the Slytherin team the other day- she's hoping I replace Josiah on the team next year and is offering extra lessons- anyway, I saw the Keeper's helmets and they're dreadfully worn out. If he got hit, his brain would explode from his head. It's still coming, my family owl is so slow. I just hope it'll get here by Sunday."

Irena couldn't talk about birthdays or gifts. Her gaze was transfixed on the ground. Her thoughts were filled with Slytherin stuff, as much as she wished she could focus on something else. She was news, that was certain. Word traveled, and rumors twisted from the cracks in the story. In one, she'd stunned Archer, in another, she cast Crucio on him. Some people wondered if she had defended Aria because they were in love (a popular story, but terribly untrue) and others wondered if Austin loved Irena, seeing that he'd defended her.

"Well, what do you think you'll get for him, Irena?" Diana asked sweetly, stirring Irena from her thoughts.

"Oh, well, I'm not sure." Irena murmured, glancing at them. Austin hadn't mentioned anything to her, not a you're welcome or any word on why he'd defended her so fiercely. Irena's mind couldn't help but wander.. Did he like her? Boys were confusing. Had Dad defended Mum from other people too? If only I could ask.. No, there was no asking Professor Diggory about these things. He, like many other fathers, had a very anti-boyfriend sentiment.

Philomena drew the attention away from her. "I know what I'm getting him." She gushed, her face turning rosy pink as she grinned cheekily. "I'm going to kiss him."

"Ew!" Tabitha reacted.

"Really?" Diana squealed in delight.

Irena peered up at her with a frown. " You want to kiss Teddy ?" Irena asked in surprise. The dating had been tolerable, it was almost exactly as normal, only they held hands. They were friends. But kissing? Irena tried to imagine kissing Teddy- it would be like kissing Leo, or Uncle Padfoot. It was gross .

"Just on the cheek!" Philomena whispered, shaking her head. "Did you all forget we're boyfriend and girlfriend? Girlfriends always kiss boyfriends, that's like, their job." She huffed, crossing her arms and growing red in the face.

Tabitha glanced at Irena with a look of disgust, shaking her head. Diana sighed pleasantly, smiling at Philomena. "I think it's lovely, Mena." Diana reassured her. "If Talon were my boyfriend, he'd be getting a kiss for his birthday too."

"You two are insufferable ." Tabitha rolled her eyes. "Enough about boys. Can we talk about something else? Like the Head of House meetings after break? We've got to pick electives.. we should all try to stick together."

Irena's eyes glazed over as she looked over her shoulder into the Great Hall. Aria ate alone at the Slytherin table, there had been a large gap between her and any other student. Irena heard Tom Yaxley gossiping at Quidditch practice. The Deatheater affiliated students would have taken their punishment silently if Aria had never dueled her and brought attention to their movement.. Are all Slytherins supposed to be densely proud? Irena wondered. Insurmountable pride never seemed to do anyone any good.

"What about you, Irena?" Tabitha asked, stirring her thoughts again. Irena turned away from the Great Hall, focusing on her friends once more.

Philomena sighed, smiling comfortingly to her. "Are you alright?" She asked, touching Irena's hand sweetly. "Is it about what happened at the Slytherin house meeting? Surely, it couldn't have been that bad."

"Well, some people have been saying she cast the Cruciatus curse on Archer Marble." Diana muttered. Irena tried not to let anger flash on her face. Stupid rumors. Leave it to Diana to listen to them. "I think I'd be a bit spacy with everything going on too."

Irena sighed, she couldn't lie to them, could she? "Aria's lost all her friends.." Irena muttered.

"As she should." Philomena huffed, suddenly frowning. "She's a good-for-nothing bully. Harassing Muggleborn students for what reason? From where they came from? As if we've got any control over that. She can eat lunch alone all she wants."

Tabitha nodded, and Diana followed. "If you want to go back to being her friend, be my guest." Tabitha added. "She's mean and fickle. She should pick a group of friends and stay there."

Irena frowned. "She's only 13, she just made a mistake." She argued.

"You see the best in people, Rena." Diana said gently with a smile, but worry lines formed in between her eyebrows. "It's a nice day out, maybe once Potions is over, we could hang out in the sun." Diana changed the subject, avoiding further conflict.

Philomena's worrying gaze never left Irena. "Yea, that sounds like a good idea." She muttered.

 

Friday, 8 April, 2011

Irena sat down in the Transfiguration classroom with a sigh, looking forward to Easter Holiday, even if things were tense in their friend group. Felix had begun casting dirty looks to her, and Teddy watched her carefully. Was it wrong to pity Aria? Perhaps she'd never understand how Philomena and Felix truly felt. She was never going to be Muggleborn, she would never be called Mudblood , despite having two non magic grandparents.

"There you are." Dad said with a grin, kissing Irena on her forehead as he entered. "Hello Aria, I suppose it's my turn to have you two here for detention?" They nodded carefully. "I suppose it will only be fitting to have you two help me. We've gone over the Untransfiguration spell in class, yes?"

Irena blinked. "I think so." She said quietly.

"I don't remember." Aria added, looking at Dad with her big eyes. What did he think about all this?

He only smiled. "It's alright, a bit of review never hurt anyone." Dad told them, whisking his wand. Three large boxes floated over, full of weird odds and ends from his Transfiguration class. "It's supposed to fix incomplete transfigurations."

Professor Diggory pulled out a cauldron. It was covered in bright ginger fur and a tail flicked behind it. "Is that-" Aria began, her mouth opening wide. "It can't be! You left a cat like that?"

"No, no, no." He told her. "It was made as a cauldron, we transfigured it into a cat. I find that these types of animals are less sentient than a real cat." Dad rambled. " Reparifarge! " The cauldron gave a small twist and it transformed completely into a metal cauldron. "Professor Slughorn, I'm sure, will be asking these of me next year." He chuckled.

"So, we're just fixing things?" Irena inquired. Detention wasn't too hard. Sometimes, if Aria was in a good mood, it could even be enjoyable. For now, when Irena watched her, she seemed a bit shocked at what they were transfiguring, but not coarse or angry. She could be so brooding.

Dad smiled. "Precisely." He told her, patting her on the head. "I've got to tend to some questions of my OWL and NEWT students, so I will leave you to it. Go at your own pace, you two can leave when you're done." He stood, his robes whipping behind him, as if a breeze flew past.

Aria quickly got to work, Irena followed her lead. "So, what are you doing for the Easter Holiday?" Aria asked, her voice sounding trite and forced, as if she wished things were casual between them.

Irena glanced up from the feathery goblet that squirmed in her fingertips. "Not much, my birthday this year falls before the break, so we're all celebrating a bit early." Irena omitted the part about everyone coming over to her house.

"That sounds like fun." Aria said with a polite smile. "I'm staying at the castle again, same as always."

They worked quietly after that, the only conversation between them was Reparifarge! back and forth. They made quick work, finishing within the hour. The sun was high in the sky, and Irena knew the others were outside in the warmth. Irena stood outside the classroom with Aria, sighing.

"You know, if you apologize, they might actually forgive you." Irena told her.

"I know." Aria replied.

Pregnant silence existed between them for a moment.

"So why not apologize?" Irena asked, looking at her with a frown. "You can't tell me your pride is going to stop you. You were in the wrong, Ari, but if you apologize and mean it, they'll forgive you."

Aria looked at her now. "I can never form the words, never see the expressions in my head." She confessed timidly, glancing down to her nibbled at fingernails. "I want it to be dramatic. I want them to have to forgive me. I was in the wrong and I know that now."

"Let's plan the apology together then." Irena told her with a smile. Could she mend the friendships of all her friends? That would certainly make an excellent birthday gift, in her opinion. "Walk me through what you would say and do."

She glanced away, as if thinking. "A gift, I would give them a gift. People like gifts. What gifts can I get for them now? Not Hogsmeade or.. or Diagon Alley or anything.. what can I get them?"

Irena grinned now. "I've got just the thing!" She grabbed Aria's hand, and the pair of them raced down the corridor hand and hand. Irena liked to run, feeling her feet slap against the worn pavement in the castle, her breath cold in her lungs, her heart hammering in her chest.

They made their way down to the kitchens. Aria fought to catch her breath. Irena forgot that she would be in much better shape compared to everyone else because of Austin's vigorous Quidditch routine. "Where- where are we?" Aria panted.

"The kitchens." Irena breathed, grinning. "Mum says the quickest way to someone's heart is through their stomach- at least it seems to be the case for Teddy. We're gonna grab nine treacle tarts and we're going to eat them outside. They're gonna be so grateful for them they're gonna completely forget."

Aria breathed deeply. "Stealing from the kitchen? Isn't that more detention?" She squeaked. "I can't.. I can't.. Irena I don't want to be expelled! I'm already in detention everyday for the rest of the year!"

"We're not getting caught." Irena reassured her. "You stand guard, I'm going in. If anyone comes, just say you've got lost. They won't get me in much trouble." She flashed what she hoped was an easygoing smile, but Aria didn't seem very reassured.

Irena grabbed her wand, looking to the door. " Alohomora ," She cast, clicking the door open. The kitchen was relatively busy, house elves bustled from corner to corner, preparing that night's dinner.

"Excuse me, miss, you can't be in here!" One elf squeaked. "Mistress McGonagall-"

"-Have you got any spare treacle tart?" Irena asked. "I'll be out of your hair, I swear!"

The house elf frowned, looking her up and down, even though he only came up to her mid thigh. "Very well." He said slowly, turning. "How many?"

"Nine, please!" Irena told him sweetly. Another house elf, a smaller and thinner one, handed her a cloth steaming. Nine freshly made treacle tarts sat on top of each other. "Thank you so much! I'll make sure to knit you all socks come Christmastime."

The two grinned, turning and going back to work. Irena left, but not without sniffing the warm dinner smells wafting around in the air. She went out to Aria, grinning and holding them up. "You got them?" Aria smiled.

"I sure did." Irena beamed as they walked through the halls, clutching the tarts carefully. Irena's mouth watered. "You're gonna have to put up with a lot of teasing, you know that, right?" Irena told her.

Aria sighed. "I know, I deserve it." She told her. "I can handle it. I can handle being the butt of the joke for a few months, just as long as I can eat lunch with people again!" She grinned, a smile Irena hadn't seen in a while- a real, genuine smile.

They made their way outside, locating where the group had gone. They were just outside Hagrid's hut, Teddy and Talon sailed on their broomsticks. Tabitha, Victoire, and Felix stood close by, studying their flying techniques. "Hello, hello!" Irena called out, handing Aria the treats.

Everyone turned, grinning to see Irena, but when the attention turned on Aria, the energy in the air changed. "Why the bloody hell is she here?" Felix growled, grabbing his wand. Philomena grabbed hers, standing up and going closer to him.

"She's here to apologize." Irena told them. "She's even brought gifts."

"Gifts?" Victoire asked, sniffing the air. "Is that-?"

"Treacle tarts." Aria told them. "Fresh from the kitchens. I broke the rules for you guys." She murmured, adjusting her balance. "Look, I'm really sorry. I know what I did was wrong and there aren't any excuses for what I said and did. I want to make it better. You guys- you guys can be mad at me all you want. You can hex me or you can beat me up or you can insult me. I just don't want to be alone anymore."

The attention shifted from Aria to Felix and Philomena- they were really the only ones who could accept her apology, Irena realized. Felix clenched his fist, as if he could punch her. "Mate- you can't hit a girl!" Teddy whispered, grabbing his wrist. They all looked at Philomena now.

Philomena was pale in the face, her lips pursed. She glanced at Irena, who gave her a small nod, as if to say, Give her a chance. Philomena blinked, handing her wand to Diana and marching over to them, getting into Aria's face. Irena watched as she lifted her hand, slapping Aria across the face, turning her red.

The blonde girl stepped back, crossing her arms. "You can sit with us." Philomena confirmed, turning to sit beside Diana again.

Aria breathed a sigh of relief, handing the tarts back to Irena, bringing her hand to her face, touching the reddening print Philomena had left. "It could have been worse." Irena whispered in her ear as they all sat down on the grass.

Irena reflected that with all her friends together again, it felt just like old times. She vowed never to let them be separated again. Oh, how very disappointing she would be to herself in a few years' time.

Chapter Text

Sunday, 10 April, 2011

The birds seemed to sing extra sweetly that morning, stirring Irena before it was time to go to the Gryffindor room for Teddy's celebration. She put on a blouse, seeing the sun shining through the windows, and drew a comb over her hair. Diana hurried to wrap her gift alongside Tabitha, while Aria sat on the bed. She'd been invited, but she had no gift. Irena had no gift either, until the idea of one hit her.

As Diana and Tabitha left with Aria, Irena reached into her dresser drawer, reaching through the knickknacks and odds and ends to the bottom. Her fingers closed around the parchment, pulling it forward. The Marauder's Map. An endless stream of unanswered questions filled her head- it'd been a source of curiosity for them, but Irena had been too distracted by Aria to figure it out.

She tucked it into her back pocket, breathing out. Teddy would like his map back. That would make an excellent gift. Irena turned and left the dorm, going through the common room quietly, smiling to herself as she thought of Teddy's birthday. The group had worked hard on their homework the day before, so there wasn't anything to worry about today. Today was just about Teddy.

Austin sat in the common room at one of the tables. A miniature Quidditch pitch was on it, and small broomsticks with labels flew about. His face was locked in an intense frown. Irena approached. "Hi." She said with a smile, her heart racing.

He glanced up, his frown melted away into a smile. Austin's hand twitched, as if to grab hers, but he stopped himself. "Where are you off to on a day like this?" He asked warmly.

"Just to Gryffindor." Irena said casually. "It's my cousin's birthday today. We're all celebrating."

"Ah." Austin chuckled, looking down at the Quidditch pitch again, nodding. "Thyme has been sleuthing new members for our Quidditch team- Josiah's graduating and I'm still deciding whether or not to cut Tom Yaxley. Is Tabitha Travers any good? I haven't had a chance to meet her yet."

Irena grinned. "She's great." She told him. "She tried out this year but didn't get on the team. I'm going to train with her this summer, she really wants Josiah's spot." She rambled excitedly. If she could get Tabitha a shoo-in, she would do what she could!

"Nice!" Austin smiled. "I think I'm keeping you from your party. You should get going. I'll see you at practice! Final match is going to be after the Easter Holiday! Slytherin versus Gryffindor!" He pumped his fist into his air, smiling with his lovely teeth.

She raised her fist in solidarity, walking away awkwardly. Was that awkward? I'm so awkward. Irena fussed over herself. She walked quickly through the castle up to Gryffindor tower, where Philomena was waiting.

"Took you long enough! They're all upstairs in the boy's dorm. I'm not sure if there'll be any sweets left." Philomena giggled as they locked arms, going up the stairs. "Teddy's dads sent him so many sweets. I wouldn't be surprised if we're all sick by the end of the day."

They went up the stairs and into the room. Their room had four beds, but there were only three boys. Diana and Tabitha sat on the spare, laughing together with Victoire, who sat beside them. Aria sat on the floor beside Talon while they ate sweets, while Felix and Teddy broke into an uproar of laughter.

"Finally, you're here!" Felix cheered. "Now we can open presents!"

"We couldn't stop Ted from opening the one from his dad." Talon explained with a cheeky grin, popping a chocolate frog into his mouth. "Padfoot packs excellent candies and sweets, I must say."

Irena giggled. "They've both got a sweet tooth." She sat down on the floor alongside Teddy, feeling the map squish against her pants pocket. "Whose gift are you opening first?"

Teddy beamed, his hair changed from different shades of pinks and oranges in his joy. "Um, I don't know!" He stuttered excitedly.

"Open mine, Teddy!" Tabitha squeaked, handing him a poorly wrapped parcel.

He took it, unwrapping the brown paper excitedly, filling the room with sounds of shredding paper. " A brand new Keeper's helmet? " Teddy shrieked in excitement, pulling it over his hair with a huge grin. "Thanks, Tabby! The ones in the locker room are terrible! When we were playing Hufflepuff last time, the Quaffle hit me square in the forehead, it was like I wasn't wearing a helmet at all. Madame Pomfrey had to give me headache draughts for weeks."

"Well, if I'm a Chaser next year, I won't have to worry about clocking you in the head with a Quaffle." Tabitha teased him, making the others laugh. Philomena had squeezed herself between Felix and Teddy, resting her head on his shoulder.

"Who's next?" Aria asked, clapping her hands together excitedly. Felix shot her a pointed look, and Philomena ignored her. It was going to take a while for things to get back to normal.

Teddy didn't seem to notice. "Hmm." He looked at the gifts that were already out. "This one!" He plucked a brightly wrapped gift that looked to be the size of a book. Irena pursed her lips together in excitement.

"That one's from me." Talon told him.

He grinned, his hair flashing bright red. Teddy tore the gift open, his mouth agape as he read the title. Irena looked over his shoulder, laughing out loud. " Twelve Fail-Safe Ways to Charm Witches ?" Irena laughed.

"Talon!" Aria punched him lightly in the shoulder.

Teddy's cheeks turned red as he seemed at a loss for words. Philomena was sitting up now, looking from Teddy to Talon awkwardly.

"My older cousin had a copy: said it made him irresistible. " Talon defended his gift, frowning. "You girls ought to not act like this- we're all learning how to be better boyfriends for you all."

Irena couldn't stop laughing, even Diana, Tabitha, and Victoire were laughing now.

"Teddy doesn't need a book to help him win girls." Victoire retorted, making everyone giggle again.

"Thanks Talon." Teddy chuckled sheepishly, putting the book with the Keeper's helmet behind him. Philomena fiddled with her fingers, looking awkwardly to Irena. Irena was only reduced to giggling now.

Teddy opened other gifts, feeling very happy over the socks Diana knit for him, the coupon for Felix to do his homework for him for a week, and the new ink set that changed colors (just like his hair) from Victoire, but there were two gifts missing.

"Irena, Philomena, you haven't given Teddy any gifts yet." Felix chuckled, popping a Fizzing Whizzbee into his mouth, hovering a few inches off the ground for a moment before landing again roughly.

Irena giggled. "I wanted to give mine last." She said awkwardly.

"Teddy, mine is for later." Philomena said quietly, glancing at the group. "In private. "

No one said anything, the two boys scratched the backs of their necks awkwardly and looked away, while a few of the girls giggled knowingly. Teddy blushed again, smiling cheekily. "Um, Irena, why don't you just give the gift now?"

"Sorry my gift isn't any good." Irena confessed, grasping the parchment from her jeans. "I thought you'd be happier having this back than with anything else."

She watched as his face lit up. "The Marauder's Map!" Teddy squeaked. "It's back! Oh, thank you, Irena!" Teddy grinned, hugging her tightly. She laughed in relief, hugging him back.

"We never got around to figuring it out." Diana giggled, leaning against Tabitha now. "Too hard."

"If I open it, you've got to promise never to steal it again." Teddy announced, grabbing his wand.

"I promise!" Irena said quickly, and the others nodded.

Felix, Talon, and Victoire snickered. Teddy pressed his wand against the map. " I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. " He said in a steady voice. The map exploded in color as he opened it.

Irena gasped, leaning forward. "Wow!" She whispered as everyone crowded around it.

Teddy grinned. "There's McGonagall in her office, must be doing paperwork. Look, there's Potter in the teacher's lounge! With Diggory and Longbottom! They're all in a circle, they must be talking about something. There's Peeves, he must be mucking things up, and there goes Percy Weasley.. he might be going to reprimand someone.."

She didn't care much for the map, just feeling very glad that Teddy was so happy to have his map back. He grinned as he pointed at different things, speaking excitedly about them all. 

There was a lightness to the air, as if the breathing was easier now than before. Irena couldn't wipe the smile off her face.

 

Friday, 15 April, 2011

The week was a busy one for Irena, which left her quite excited for her birthday. It seemed that her teachers were unrelenting, her classes growing difficult, and talk of the next Quidditch match only seemed that much more overwhelming. Luckily, it seemed that after two weeks, the drama around the Slytherin meeting was over.

She had just finished Charms class and was heading out to the Quidditch pitch early, wanting to clear her head. The group hadn't seemed to make any solid plans for her birthday, at least none they expressed to her, so she figured it'd be a surprise.

"Hey, Irena, where are you goin'?" Tabitha asked, running down the hall.

"Off to Quidditch practice." Irena told her.

"Oo! Could I tag along?" Tabitha asked sweetly, linking arms with her, smiling cheekily. Irena narrowed her eyes in obvious, playful suspicion. "Okay, fine. Diana's making me shadow you around school 'til your party. Is it okay?"

Irena giggled. "Yes, it's fine." She told her, squeezing her arm. "Maybe we'll get a head start on Chaser training." Tabitha only laughed.

They spent the afternoon flying around, tossing a Quaffle to each other. It wasn't practice practice, but it was still plenty of fun. Even the rest of the team started to practice around them. Austin hadn't said much to her- scheduling practice on her birthday was bad enough, the least he could do was let her have a fun time.

Just as practice was finishing, Diana streaked out onto the field. "Tabby! Rena! I've lost Brownie- come quickly! I need your help!" She cried. Tabitha glanced knowingly to Irena, who smiled.

"Let's go!" Tabitha grasped her hand as the three of them ran into the castle, going down to the Slytherin dungeons. They went inside, seeing the common room was bustling with action. Diana pulled her into one of the extra, empty rooms, meant for studying.

"SURPRISE!" Everyone cheered as Irena entered.

She had legitimately jumped at this, despite guessing that it would be a surprise party. Irena clutched her chest, letting out a sigh, grinning. "Guys- you didn't!" She giggled, having seen other girls in movies and TV shows saying the same thing at their surprise parties.

"We did, Rena." Philomena grinned, grabbing her hand and sitting her down in the center of the table. A towering cake, which must have been made by someone other than a house elf since it was so tall, sat in the center of the table. On it was written: Happy 13th Irena! She giggled, grinning.

Talon and Felix sat on one end of the room, talking candidly with each other, likely about Quidditch. Felix glanced over to her and smiled before going back to speaking with Talon. Irena remembered their tiff earlier in the year, Felix had said it was just Pureblood nonsense . It seemed they'd made up.

Diana was instructing Tabitha and Aria to carry gifts around the table. Victoire was busy laying out plates, cutting up cake. A few first years wandered into the doorway, looking in curiously. Irena sat alone, feeling quite awkward.

"Welcome to being 13, I suppose." Teddy said cheekily, settling into the seat beside her. "I should have pranked you today. Maybe I can give you a prank idea as a gift. I have many." He grinned.

"I have some too, silly." Irena told him with a smile. "I don't need you to go easy on me for pranks." He chuckled, looking to where Victoire was cutting up the cake. 

Two more people entered the room. "Has it started already?" Orchid asked, playing with a ring on her finger. Just behind her was Thyme, Josiah, and, surprisingly, Austin.

"Nope, you're just in time!" Diana grinned.

They all ate cake and had an excellent time as the sun began to set. The Quidditch team came and left, but Orchid gave Irena a gift- a chocolate bar that was the length of her arm. It was from Honeydukes, which meant Orchid had bought it in Hogsmeade.

"We'll be able to go to Hogsmeade next year!" Tabitha clapped her hands together excitedly. They'd opened the door to other Slytherins, several first years had come and taken slices of cake. Now, older students came in. There was none left after an hour, and Irena was glad it didn't go to waste.

Diana closed the door after the cake was finished. "Present time!" She said cheerily.

A few gifts were pushed in her direction. Irena opened them excitedly. Tabitha had bought her a new Slytherin scarf, having bought matching ones for all the Slytherin girls for the next year. Diana bought her new Quidditch goggles that wouldn't fog up. Felix gave her coupons to do her homework for a week, of which she was appreciative of. Talon got her new broomstick polish.

The final three seemed very excited to spill their guts. Teddy was nearly shaking, Philomena fidgeted in her seat, and Aria kept pursing her lips together. "Well? Have you three got a gift?" Irena laughed nervously, noticing their demeanor.

"It was Aria's idea, actually." Teddy told her excitedly.

"An excellent idea too, I have to say." Philomena added. "But we all worked together."

Aria smiled at Irena, pulling out a small vial with a single leaf, handing it to Irena. "What is it?" Irena asked with a frown.

"Wait 'til the others give their gifts." Aria told her, glancing knowingly at Teddy and Philomena.

Philomena gave her another vial; this one had a dead bug inside it. Teddy gave her the final gift, a calendar of the moon cycles. Irena was thoroughly confused. "Can you explain what it means?" She asked again, shaking her head.

"Come on, Tedward , spit it out!" Talon teased him.

Aria glanced at Philomena, who grinned. "It's the ingredients to become an Animagus, Irena." Philomena told her in a quiet voice. Her heart skipped a beat. "I got you the chrysalis of a Death's-head Hawkmoth. It was terribly difficult. I snuck into Filch's office to find it, I nearly risked detention for you!"

"Wouldn't want to mess with your record, would you, Phil?" Felix teased, making Philomena turn red.

"I stole a Mandrake leaf from Professor Longbottom." Aria giggled. "Perhaps I should have delegated it to Philomena, but it's so easy to steal things when he leaves me alone during detention." She said sheepishly.

Teddy grinned. "I got you a calendar of the moon cycles, since you have to do all that stuff on a full moon, you know?" He told her. "At least, that's what those two told me. It wasn't too hard to nab from the Astronomy classroom."

Irena pressed her fingers against her lips. "Thank you, all of you." She said quietly.

"Aw!" Philomena said, coming around the table and hugging her tightly. "You're the sweetest, all we wanted to do was help you be a more powerful witch." She giggled, kissing Irena on her temple.

A surge of lightning passed through her. "I've forgotten something!" Irena squeaked, standing up at once. "Can you- can you move the gifts to my room? I've got to go talk to someone." She said.

"It'll be curfew soon, the Gryffindors have to go back to their tower, Philomena too." Diana told her. "I'll move these to our room."

Philomena nodded. "Do you want someone to come with you, Irena?" She asked.

Irena shook her head. "I'll do it myself." She said quickly, stuffing her wand into her pocket. "Thank you for the amazing party, really. I've had the best birthday ever." She grinned, disappearing out the door, Philomena, Teddy, Felix, Talon, and Victoire just behind her.

Felix, Talon, and Victoire strolled down the hall, taking the first right to get to the Gryffindor tower. Teddy clasped his fingers with Philomena's, walking her to Ravenclaw tower, which was the next left, further up. Irena watched them leave down the empty corridor, thinking they were alone. Philomena kissed Teddy's cheek, making him giggle out loud.

She continued to the end of the hall, taking a right. She walked up the stairs, going quickly to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. "Professor?" Irena called out nervously. What had she forgotten? Aria. They were all taking the train to Irena's house, all but her. There was no time to ask McGonagall for permission, no, she needed to ask for a favor in this.

"Yes?" Potter's voice came from his office. "Come in!" Irena stepped into his office, where he was busy grading papers on his desk. "Ah, Irena." He smiled at her warmly. "Your father told me it was your birthday today. Happy birthday."

Irena grinned. "Thank you, Professor." She said. "Since it's my birthday, can I ask you a favor?"

He frowned. "I must hear what it is before I agree to anything." Potter told her, scribbling a note on one of the assignments.

"Can I borrow your Invisibility Cloak over the Easter Holiday?" Irena asked. "It's not for anything malicious. I'm sure Professor Diggory has told you- I'm having friends over for the break. You see, I've recently become friends with Aria again, and I've just remembered she'll be left behind during the break, all alone. I really want to sneak her on the train."

Potter frowned. "You want me to help you break school rules then?"

"Yes, you can give me detention, if you want." Irena told him. "I don't mind. I just want to have all my friends together- it'd kill me to leave her out. You must sympathize with me a little, right?"

He blinked, analyzing her before sighing. Potter got up, hobbled over to a chest, pulling out a velvet cloak, handing it to her. "If your father finds out, I'm telling him you stole it from my office." Potter told her. "You're a good friend, you're like your mum." A glimmer was in his eye as he smiled, sitting down in his seat.

"Thank you, Professor!" Irena squeaked. "I solemnly swear to bring it back to you."

"Yes, because I suppose you are up to no good. " Potter finished with a sly, knowing smile. "Go on then, before Percy Weasley catches you out after curfew."

Irena turned on her heel, racing through the corridors, the Invisibility cloak tucked under her arm as she went to tell the other Slytherins the good news.

 

Saturday, 16 April, 2011

The next morning, everyone was awake, ready to board the train. Diana held onto Brownie tightly, determined to bring him along on the ride. Tabitha held their backpacks, only a few small things were needed for Easter Holiday at Irena's house.

"You want me to put this on to sneak onto the train?" Aria asked, clutching the Invisibility cloak. "Won't I get in trouble?"

Tabitha blinked. "Only if you get caught." She told her, her tone mischievous.

"It'll be fine, we're going to go and have a great time." Diana said with a smile.

"Aria, we're not leaving you to spend Easter Holiday alone." Irena told her seriously.

She blinked, exhaling deeply, wrapping the cloak around herself. Aria had already packed a few things into Irena's bag and they were off now. "I'll stay close to you three- don't walk backwards ." Aria's whisper could be heard.

The three girls (at least, that's what everyone assumed as they walked through the corridors) stepped in front of the Great Hall, the decided meeting point. Philomena joined them first, grinning. "No Aria?" She asked, but did not wait for an answer. "Shame, I think we're starting to be friends. She's fun to be around when you're not the one being bullied."

Diana coughed awkwardly, glancing at Irena.

"I like her, though." Philomena continued.

Victoire came to them next, clutching her bag. "The boys are taking so long." She filled them in. "Talon's wondering what hair products to take, Felix overslept. Teddy's trying his best to round them up."

"It's like we're one big family." Diana giggled. "Philomena's the mum, Teddy's the dad."

Philomena laughed. "Not true!" They waited for a while longer for the boys. "We're going to be late." She huffed, checking her watch.

Soon, all three of them appeared. Teddy grinned, planting a kiss on Philomena's cheek now. He took her hand, and the group left for the train station. They all climbed into one train car, just in time for it to take off.

"No Aria?" Victoire asked.

"Well.." Irena giggled as Aria took off the Invisibility Cloak. "We've got a stowaway."

Philomena's eyes widened. "Irena, you could get in so much trouble for that!" She exclaimed. "How could you-? Irena!"

Irena only laughed, leaning against Aria, who embraced her. "It's for a good cause, Phil." Irena told her. "You couldn't have gone while leaving behind anyone else." Philomena opened her mouth to argue, but didn't say a word.

The train ride was long and full of a sugar crazed conversation about different spells and charms that should exist, but don't. It was quite entertaining.

Mum had picked them all up, but she didn't seem to notice Aria was their spare. Dad didn't either, Irena supposed he was a bit tired. They situated the rooms. The girls would sleep in Irena's room, while the boys would sleep in a spare room downstairs. Mum made dinner, and they ate together before going right to bed.

 

Sunday, 17 April, 2011

The next morning, Irena woke awkwardly. She had forgotten everyone she'd invited over. Philomena snored loudly beside her in her bed. On one end of the room, Diana and Victoire slept on an air mattress. Close beside them was Tabitha, and Aria, who was awake.

"Why are you awake?" Irena whispered groggily.

Aria grinned. "I can see what each one of you is dreaming." She told her, whispering from across the room. "Victoire is dreaming about playing Quidditch, Diana is having a nightmare about missing the train back to Hogwarts." Irena eyed them. Victoire smiled in her sleep, while Diana twitched. "Tabitha is dreaming of Charms class, Professor Flitwick seems to like her, since she gets all the answers right. Philomena is dreaming about Teddy. They're holding hands while walking around in London."

Irena grinned. "That's so sweet." She whispered. "Can you see all their dreams?"

"I saw yours too, Irena." Aria told her, smiling knowingly. "You know, you really should learn how to kiss someone before you kiss Austin. It'll be awkward if you try to kiss him like you did in your dream."

Her cheeks flushed red. "I'm going downstairs for breakfast, want to come?" Irena asked. Aria nodded, getting up nimbly and sneaking out the door, not wanting to wake the other girls. They go down the stairs, entering the kitchen.

Mum was busying herself with making breakfast magically, casting spells over the pans and dishes. An egg levitated out of the carton, cracking itself into the pan. The pan cooked the egg by itself as well. Bacon sizzled just beside it. In the sink, the dishes scrubbed themselves clean. Mum sat at the end of the table, drinking coffee and giggling.

"There you girls are!" Mum said with a grin. "Took you long enough to wake up, it's nearly 10! Where are the rest of you?" She smiled. Irena beamed when she saw Uncle Padfoot and Uncle Moony at the table beside her.

"Sleeping." Irena replied.

Padfoot eyed Aria, grinning. "Is this one Philomena? The one who's stolen our sweet Teddy's heart?"

"No, I'm Aria." Aria giggled.

He frowned slightly, studying her. "You're a Pureblood witch, aren't you?" Padfoot asked.

Aria shrugged her shoulders. "Probably." She told him. "Mum and Dad died when I was a baby, I got shipped off to some old lady. She died a while ago, and then I got sent to the same orphanage as Felix. I was given her last name too: Rowe . I'm not sure who my parents were or how to find them."

Moony smiled at her. "There's got to be a way." He told her comfortingly. "Come, sit, eat. Which home has taken you in?"

Uncle Moony and Aria talked at great lengths as she began to consume her eggs and bacon. Eventually, all three boys trickled out, leading Felix to join their conversation. Irena hung around Talon and Teddy, who were each too tired to talk. She tried not to think about how Aria had seen her dream. She hadn't realized she dreamt so often about kissing Austin. How embarrassing. She thought quietly.

Victoire and Diana came down next, then Tabitha. Philomena was the last one down, but she was dressed and her hair was brushed. She smiled when she saw Teddy. Padfoot stood at once, making his way over to her. " You must be the Philomena who has stolen my Teddy's heart." Padfoot said at once.

Philomena flushed red. "Well- I- well- um-" She stuttered.

Teddy also turned red. "Dad!" He scolded after gulping down his third bit of bacon.

Padfoot took her hand in his, bending over to bow to her, kissing it. Philomena chuckled nervously, while Irena grinned. Moony only shook his head. "Pureblood nonsense, that's what that is." He grumbled, making Felix laugh.

"It's not Pureblood nonsense, Remus, it's called respect . Perhaps you should learn a thing or two." Sirius told him off, releasing Philomena's hand and turning to look at his husband. He straightened his jacket, going to sit down at the table again while Philomena squeezed herself in between Irena and Diana.

Irena's two uncles began their friendly bickering. Philomena exhaled, looking at Teddy. "I was not prepared for that. " She whispered, making Diana giggle. Teddy kept his eyes set on his plate of eggs.

 

Wednesday, 20 April, 2011

Mum made sure that each day was packed with something to do, whether it be to go out into London, or to Diagon Alley (where neither Aria nor Felix had been before, and who were quite mystified by the whole experience), or to practice magic at home. There was never a dull day, and everyone had their hands full.

Irena sat upstairs in her room with everyone, reading through different books and things. "Can we play a game?" Tabitha groaned from her bed. "I'm tired of doing homework and studying."

Philomena narrowed her eyes from where she sat at Irena's desk, Teddy beside her. "Final exams are coming up, Tabby, we've got to be as ready for them as possible." She recalled in her firm voice.

"Yes, Mummy Philomena." Diana teased, making Victoire giggle. Philomena only rolled her eyes.

"A game does sound nice." Talon agreed. "Maybe a little one? Truth or dare? Just the truth?"

"I want to play truth or dare!" Teddy agreed.

Philomena looked around. "Fine. We can play a game but then go back to studying." She told them with a condescending sniff. They all sat in a circle on the floor.

Diana sat beside Tabitha and Victoire, Brownie in her lap. "I'll go first!" Diana volunteered with a smile. "Talon, truth or dare?"

Talon grinned as he sat beside Felix. "Um, truth."

"If you could kiss anyone in the room right now, who would you pick?" Diana asked, fluttering her eyelashes. Irena groaned internally. Sometimes, the awkward situations she'd put him in gave her secondhand embarrassment.

He chuckled awkwardly, eyeing everyone in the room. "I guess I'd have to pick Felix." Talon said casually.

Felix guffawed. " Me ? Why me?"

Talon grinned. "Cuz you're so cute!" He said in a high tone, giggling like a schoolgirl. This made them both erupt into laughter. Diana looked slightly crestfallen, looking down at Brownie now. Talon cleared his throat. "Hm.. Teddy, truth or dare?"

Teddy beamed. " Dare ." He said boldly, glancing to Philomena, who gave him a look of approval.

"I dare you to transform into a horse." Talon announced.

" In my bedroom? " Irena asked quickly. "No, no, no, he can't! He'll get hoof marks and poop everywhere!"

Talon frowned. "Not if it's just for a second!" He argued. "Please? I really wanna see him do it!"

Irena grimaced, preparing to say no, but Philomena gave her a pleading look. "Fine. Only for a second. Teddy, if you poop on my carpet, I'm going to use an Unforgivable curse on you." She said jokingly.

He giggled. "Deal!" Teddy said, standing up. Everyone scooted away from him onto the bed, watching as he transformed, limb by limb, into a full grown, auburn red stallion.

"That's brilliant!" Talon whispered.

"Wicked.." Felix muttered.

Teddy, as a horse, noticed their awe. He let out a whooping neigh and clambered his hooves on the floor. " Teddy no! " Irena whispered, but the door flew open only moments after.

A very angry looking Remus opened the door, marching into the room. " Edward Remus Lupin! " He bellowed angrily as Teddy transformed back into his human form. "Just because you're a Metamorphmagus, doesn't mean you can transform into whatever you like, wherever you like!" He scolded.

He glanced at the group on the bed, then looked down at his shoes. Irena peered into the doorway. Padfoot stood there, his mouth slightly agape. Mum was beside him, an angry look on her own face, her arms folded across her chest.

" Your mother would be very disappointed in you ." Remus said angrily. "Whatever is going on up here is going to stop. Teddy, go downstairs now . The rest of you.. if I return to see one of you has transformed into something else or destroyed something.. so help me Godric..."

The older man turned quickly, storming away. Teddy looked apologetically to them all, grabbing his books and things and leaving. Padfoot closed his mouth, following after them. Mum glared at Irena. "No funny business, Irena." She closed the door behind her and the group disbanded.

"Should we keep playing?" Victoire asked nervously.

"No." Irena told them quickly. "We're in enough trouble as it is. I don't think my parents will ever let me invite all of you back again at the same time." She opened her Charms textbook and began to take notes on the Dancing Feet charm, and everyone else did the same with their work.

I just hope Teddy is alright.

 

Saturday, 23 April, 2011

Teddy was most certainly not alright. He was very quiet for the rest of the week, even on the car ride back to the train station, he had not uttered a single word to anyone- except Philomena. The pair stole away from the rest of the group often, opting to whisper to each other instead of joining the group. Sometimes, Philomena would sneak out of Irena's bed at night, probably going out to Teddy, Irena always assumed.

But now, the week was over, and they had boarded the platform. Mum was in a better mood. "I'll see you at your Quidditch match, my dear." She said, planting a kiss on Irena's forehead. They all climbed into one car, seated very quietly. The train pulled away from the station, and Irena breathed a sigh of relief.

"So, what classes is everyone signing up for next year?" Diana asked nicely, trying to break the tension of the group. "I heard all the Heads of Houses are going to talk to us this month about what we're taking. You have to pick two classes, but I heard you could pick three."

She glanced around, seeing if anyone was going to answer. Victoire was unluckily very much a first year, unable to answer. "I think Care of Magical Creatures looks fun." Tabitha replied, glancing at Diana.

"I think I know which ones I'm going to sign up for." Diana grinned, as if the flow of conversation could edge her on to more. "I'm definitely signing up for Divination, it sounds like so much fun! Arithmancy looks fun to me too, even if it's a bunch of math. I think I'll sign up for Care of Magical Creatures so I can be in a class with Tabby."

Felix shrugged. "Muggle Studies looks easy." He mumbled.

"Felix, you're Muggleborn. You can't take Muggle Studies. That's basically cheating." Teddy chuckled. With the happy tone of his voice, the train car erupted into a happy, yet heated conversation about classes, the tension now broken.

Through heated debates- arguing, agreements, planning, Irena did not know what classes to sign up for. She remained quiet through it all, taking note of everyone's decisions in order to decide how to fit all her friends into her schedule.

Philomena had already decided a long time ago, having spoken with Professor Flitwick about it before. She was going to take The Study of Ancient Runes as well as Arithmancy, wanting to take as many difficult classes as possible. She would also be taking Care of Magical Creatures, having met Hagrid, noting his kindness and excitement for the class.

Diana was going to take Divination and Arithmancy, feeling the pull of the future toward them. She also wanted to take Care of Magical Creatures (because "Brownie is so cute and he's non magic, imagine how cute the magical creatures will be!").

Tabitha wanted to take Care of Magical Creatures, but she wasn't confident about the others. She thought Divination looked like it could be easy, and wanted to take third year easy instead of making it more difficult for herself.

Aria, unlike Felix, thought Muggle Studies would be silly to take, since she spent so much time in the Muggle world already. She wanted to sign up for Ancient Runes, since it sounded interesting, and she'd probably sign up for Hagrid's class if everyone else was doing it too.

Felix wanted to sign up for Muggle Studies, Divination, and Care of Magical Creatures, but Irena was sure he only said the last two because that was what everyone else was choosing too.

Talon decided to join Tabitha in only signing up for easy classes, like Hagrid's class and Divination, but his mum told him he had to take Muggle Studies, so he would sign up for it too.

Teddy had already met Hagrid many times, so he was certain he wanted to sign up for his class. He wanted to follow Philomena, so he also signed up for Ancient Runes.

This left Irena, and she couldn't decide. When they had all settled back down into the castle, she decided to pull out her pen and write to someone she knew had all the answers she sought.

Dear Aunty Hermione,

I know you're busy right now with your campaign and stuff for Minister of Magic, but I really wanted to ask for your advice on something, because I know you're knowledgeable about this stuff.

This year, I'm signing up for electives for the third year, and I need help deciding between Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, Muggle Studies, and Ancient Runes. I have to pick two, and I don't think I can pick more than three. Mum says you've taken all of them, so I was wondering which ones you found most interesting and which ones you think are best for me.

Thank you so much in advance!

Sincerely,

Irena Diggory-Black

PS. How did you take all of those classes anyway?

She went up to the Owlery the next morning, tying the letter to one owl's leg, releasing it. Irena only hoped that Hermione would send her a letter back in time for her to make her decision- before she had to talk to Slughorn.

Chapter Text

Sunday, 1 May, 2011

My Dearest Irena,

Thank you for writing to me! I love to hear from you and your academic adventures! You are always welcome to write to me, and I will always try my best to get back to you as soon as possible.

As for classes, I will admit when I was your age, I chose far too many to handle. I had decided to sign up for every single one and Professor McGonagall lent me a Timeturner to get to all of them. No Timeturners will be lent to students, so of course, your maximum is three.

I really enjoyed Care of Magical Creatures, Hagrid is a wonderful teacher, and it's a lovely class to spend with your friends. I had signed up for Divination, and while it is interesting, it is all based on skeptics, which is why I recommend Arithmancy instead. They both attempt to predict the future, but Arithmancy is more logic based. This means Divination is easier, but Arithmancy is more worth it.

I think you would enjoy Muggle Studies! It's not a terribly difficult class, and it's very interesting to see how the Wizarding world sees the Muggle world. Your mother took it, I believe that if you took it as well, you would make her quite proud.

But this decision is your own, and you know yourself best. Please write to me again when you've made your decision.

Sincerely,

Hermione Granger

 

Thursday, 5 May, 2011

Irena hung out in the small alcove in the corridor alongside the others. She leaned against the window, rereading Hermione's letter and considering what classes the others were choosing. They hadn't even bothered to mention it much, since they were all swept up in everything else.

First, it had been Victoire's birthday, and while she begged everyone not to fuss over her, Diana insisted they all put money towards a gift- and they'd purchased a broomstick for her. It wasn't a brand new one, nor the best model, but it would be good for her to practice with that summer, since she had expressed wanting to try out for Gryffindor Seeker next year, like Irena, and would be going to Ginny's house that summer too.

"Talon, what do you want most for your birthday?" Diana asked. Today was Talon's birthday, and they'd all been stumped on what to get him too. Luckily, all he wanted was a birthday lunch, so it was easy enough to celebrate him.

He chuckled. "I want Gryffindor to win the Quidditch cup!" Talon told them.

"Tough luck!" Tabitha jeered playfully. "Not with Irena! She's caught the Snitch every single game so far, and she'll catch it again and win!" She giggled.

"I'll try my hardest!" Teddy said, puffing out his chest.

"Ah, yes, Teddy Lupin, the birthday wish granter. " Aria teased, making Philomena laugh.

Teddy feigned anger, rolling his eyes.

Irena sighed, reading the letter over and over, ignoring the group. Hermione had told her to go forward with Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies, and her gaze hovered on Divination. Arithmancy was math, and Irena hated math, Muggle or not. Maybe Divination could be fun..

She bit into her sandwich, looking out the window, quietly worrying over the next Quidditch match. A surefire date had been set, Austin explained. May 15th. He'd scheduled practices twice, sometimes three times a week. He was determined to win. Irena couldn't help but worry. Their friend group had to stop meeting in each other's common rooms- the Gryffindors had become less friendly to her, and the Slytherins less friendly to Talon and Teddy. It'd become less of a Quidditch match, and more of a way to establish dominance. The Gryffindors had been bullied by the Slytherins all year, and now the Slytherins were being punished. It was time to even the score.

If I win, will the Gryffindors think I'm a blood supremacist? Irena worried, chewing thoughtfully. She wanted to win for the sake of winning, but her house wanted to win just to prove they were better than everyone else. She finished her sandwich, tucking the letter into the pocket of her robes, standing up.

"I'm going to the library." Irena told them. She needed a distraction.. She needed to research the prank.

"Want me to come with you?" Philomena asked kindly.

"If you want to." Irena smiled. Philomena grabbed her things, waving goodbye to everyone as she linked arms with Irena, walking to the library eagerly. "I'm researching our next prank, I've got the perfect idea."

The Ravenclaw girl grinned. "What's the plan?" She asked quietly.

"There's got to be a charm somewhere where no matter what, their clothes will look inside out." Irena giggled. "Like, seams out, tags out, and just all around awkward. Wouldn't that be perfect?"

Philomena smiled. "I think I know just the book to look for, let's get a move on." She said, grasping Irena's hand, walking quicker now to the library. They entered, saying a brief hello to Mr. Macmillan, then going to one end of the library.

Irena stood by idly while Philomena flicked through books, pulling one out. She grinned. "What book is that?" Irena asked.

" Charms for Charming Wizards. " Philomena told her, dusting off the cover. "It's a bit old, a bit outdated, but it should have what we're looking for. It's all beauty tips from the 70s. There's a spell in here about making it so your robes are never accidentally inside out, but we can reverse it."

She sat down, flicking through the pages, while Irena grinned, feeding off her excitement. "You think witches from the 70s looked through this book, looking for advice? How to make your hair have maximum volume at all times ? This book has such old styles, it's cool!"

Philomena grinned. "I found it months ago, looking for beauty advice. I wanted Teddy to like me."

Irena's face dropped. "You mean you got Teddy to like you back?" She asked earnestly, her voice a whisper. "Can you teach me?"

"Well, I mean, I don't really know how I did it.." Philomena said awkwardly. Irena didn't ask anymore, she felt a bit awkward. "Here we are- the spell to keep your clothes from being inside out is Numquam intus sunt , so the reverse would be Intus sunt ."

"Perfect." Irena grinned. "I'm going to plan this out perfectly."

 

Wednesday, 11 May, 2011

Irena waited patiently outside Slughorn's classroom. He was holding a handful of meetings for the second year students each day, and today he'd picked from the D names. She stood beside Diana and a boy named Dennis Dots, another boy, Delta Davidson, had gone inside.

"Irena Diggory-Black?" Slughorn called out as the Slytherin clambered away. Irena waved, leaving Diana alone now, going inside his office. "Excited for the Quidditch match this weekend? I am! We've never made it this far before, and I'm sure we're going to win with you on the team." He shuffled a few papers around on his desk, glancing up to her. "Have you decided on what electives you want to take next year? It's a big decision!"

She smiled, sitting down, feeling the Invisibility cloak nestled in her robes, out of sight. She had a prank planned after this. "I want to take Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, and Muggle Studies." Irena told him confidently.

"Muggle Studies?" Slughorn grinned, writing down her name on a list. "Good, good, it's quite a good class. I find it interesting to hear about Muggle music and Muggle fashion. Muggles have their own potion making too, I read about it. What was it called? Oh- chemistry!"

The Slytherin girl giggled. "Yes, I think it'll be good. My mum took it when she went to Hogwarts. She said it was a lot of fun." Irena said.

"Muggles.. they're not too different from us.. if only more Slytherin students would sign up.. ah, well. I'm keeping you. I'll see you at the match! Good luck!" Slughorn said warmly as she stood up to leave. Irena left them behind, waving as Diana was swept into his next meeting.

Philomena, Aria, and Tabitha waited around Gryffindor tower for Irena. "Are you three ready?" Irena asked, taking out the Invisibility Cloak. "I think we'll all fit, Philomena might just have to bend down a bit."

"So the spell is Intus sunt ?" Tabitha whispered as they made their way up the moving stairwells, standing just outside the portrait of the Fat Lady as they waited for someone to pass by. "Also, what's the plan?"

Aria spoke now. "We're going up to their dorms to hex all their robes to be permanently inside out." She told her. "Philomena is going to do Teddy's, Irena's going to do Felix's, you're going to do Talon's, and I'm doing Victoire's."

"Hexing Talon?" Tabitha giggled. "Perfect."

A lone Gryffindor first year said the password, climbing through, not bothering to close the entrance behind them. The group made their way into the common room. Aria split from them, dashing to the girls' dorms. The rest made their way to the boys'.

Once they made it to the room, the three of them took off the cloak, going inside quickly. "Teddy and Talon are at practice right now, and Felix and Victoire are watching it." Irena explained to Tabitha.

Philomena went straight to work with Teddy's robes, turning them all inside out. Tabitha followed her lead, going to Talon's. Irena began looking through Felix's things, realizing she didn't have her work cut out for her. He didn't have many robes or clothes, only a few things, meaning she was the first one finished.

Tabitha and Philomena had nearly finished when they heard the sounds of footsteps and laughter outside the door. " They're back early! " Tabitha hissed. Irena grabbed the two girls, dipping inside the empty closet beside the empty bed in the empty corner of the room.

The three girls watched silently as they all walked in. Talon went straight into the shower, while Teddy wrestled his Keeper's helmet off his head. Felix was laughing as he came in. "When Pepper threw the Quaffle, just to have it bounce off you and back in her face- I feel so bad for laughing!"

"It couldn't have hurt that bad." Teddy laughed, shaking his hair out, running a hand through it. Philomena tensed beside Irena. "I'm excited for the match this weekend, but I'm a bit worried too. You think Irena is gonna make it? That she'll win?"

Irena flinched, waiting for him to reply. " You're insufferable. " Tabitha whispered harshly.

"Against Barny Fletcher?" Felix asked casually, leaning back on his bed, opening a book beside him. Irena noticed it was the book Talon had purchased for Teddy's birthday. Who is he trying to charm? She wondered. "No, she'll catch the Snitch, everyone knows it. The only reason Fletcher's on the team is because of Seniority. Plus, I'm sure he's shagging Pepper behind the scenes."

Teddy stiffened. "You can't talk like that!" He scolded.

"Why not?" Felix asked, peering up to him.

"It's disrespectful.. it's lewd and it's rude. Those could be your future team mates next year! You're talking about them having... having sexual intercourse !" Teddy stammered.

The door to the bathroom opened and Talon stepped through, his black hair flat against his head, towel wrapped around his waist. Irena's breath caught in her throat.. nobody had seen more of any of the boys than now.

" Diana is going to kill us. " Philomena whispered, making Irena and Tabitha stifle their laughter.

"Lighten up, Tedward ." Talon said cheekily, stepping out of view to get dressed. Teddy got his things together, glaring at both boys. "Everyone knows it's true, even the two of us on the team know it. Fletcher's fucking Pep, it's about the only thing he's good at. That's the reason he's on the team."

Teddy glared. "You two are disgusting ." He spat, going into the bathroom and slamming the door.

Felix was quiet, flipping through the pages in the book while Talon cast a drying spell over his hair. "Oi, mate, wanna do one of our favorite pastimes?" Talon asked cheekily. "One that Ted wouldn't approve of?"

"Hm, explain." Felix goaded playfully.

"Let's go to the first floor, remember that little grate that looks down into the girl's bathroom in the basement?" Talon chuckled, making Felix sit up now. "All those Hufflepuff birds.. mascot ought to be a bird- not a bloody badger."

He cast the book aside. "Let's get on then." Felix chuckled, getting up off the bed and walking away. Talon hadn't noticed his shirt and pants were inside out. 

The door closed loudly, and the only sounds were the sounds of Teddy showering and the sounds of the three girls breathing. " We have to go stop them! " Tabitha whispered. " Peeping toms.. perverts, the pair of them! "

" Can we wait for Teddy to come out of the shower? " Philomena whispered, her face turning red.

" You are no better than Talon or Felix. " Tabitha whispered, a disgusted look on her face.

Irena grabbed the door. "We have to leave now." Irena said, looking at them. "Or we'll get caught! Aria could be done now. We have to go." Tabitha nodded, and Irena grabbed Philomena, whisking her away, closing the door quietly. They swept the Invisibility cloak around them, leaving out the door. Aria waited outside in the stairwell.

"Took you long enough." Aria retorted. "What held you? Did you get caught?"

"Nearly." Irena replied. "Teddy and Talon got back earlier than we thought they would."

"Saw Talon with his shirt off." Tabitha snorted, but her face was still disgusted. "Diana'll be jealous, as if we wanted to see him that way." Irena didn't know why Tabitha was acting the way she was. It hadn't been a big deal to Irena- she'd seen boys without shirts on loads of times in the Quidditch locker rooms. If Tabitha couldn't handle it now, how could she handle it next year?

Irena glared. "Lower your voice." She said coolly. "Stop being so immature."

Tabitha rolled her eyes.

Philomena blinked, blushing. "Nearly saw Teddy come out of the shower too.. wet hair.. no shirt.." She giggled, staring into space.

Aria looked at them, shaking her head. "Let's get out of here before anyone gets suspicious." She said, and Irena nodded in agreement. The four girls made their way back to the Great Hall, where Diana was surely waiting.

Irena had seen Austin with no shirt, but had never imagined him with his hair wet.. she imagined it and it made her smile slightly, but she pushed it from her brain. I'll think about that later. Not now.

 

Sunday, 15 May, 2011

Today was the day.

The most important day of the season.

She tried not to let it weigh heavily on her shoulders, but Irena couldn't help but be nervous. She hadn't slept much the night before, her dreams were full of a wet, half naked Austin pursuing her on his broomstick, playing on Gryffindor, but eventually she began to pursue him instead of the Snitch.

Irena got ready with the other girls quietly. Diana braided Irena's hair into two plaits before tying it up in an ornate braided bun. Tabitha had broken into the face paints, painting the entire left side of her face green, and the other side silver. She tied her hair back into a ponytail, then painted Diana's face. Diana wanted simple face paint, just two lines on her cheeks, one silver and one green. Aria wore a graphic t-shirt with a serpent on the front, underneath was written Slytherin .

"You are going to do great." Diana reassured her as they walked to the Great Hall. Irena felt ill, feeling less inclined to eat breakfast before the match. "You are going to eat, because if you faint while in the air, we'll surely lose."

They all sat down at the Slytherin table. Irena nibbled at a few hot cakes. Austin walked over to her purposefully while the Slytherins erupted in cheers. He smiled when he saw her. "Nervous?" He asked, his teeth glinted at her, his curls falling over his eyebrows. Irena tried not to imagine his hair wet.

"Yes." Irena mumbled.

"We're gonna do great." Austin confirmed, nodding. "Slytherin's never made it this far before anyway, so we've already won in my eyes." He tugged at the sleeves of his shirt. "Finish eating that and come out. I'm giving a pep talk before we start."

Irena nodded, trying to eat the pancakes in front of her as he left, drinking the pumpkin juice. More people came over, but instead of the table exploding into cheers, a tense silence fell over them. Teddy, Talon, Felix, and Victoire stood over them.

" What do you want?" Tabitha asked, her voice cold and sharp as she looked at Talon. To spare Diana's feelings, the girls made a pact not to tell her about seeing Talon nude, or that Talon and Felix had gone to spy on naked, unknowing Hufflepuff girls.

Talon frowned, glancing at Teddy, who was smiling. "Just wishing you a good game, Irena." Teddy said warmly. Philomena was beside him, wearing similar face paint to Diana's, except it was red and gold. "May the best house win."

"Slytherin will win." Irena said confidently.

"That's what you think." Talon retorted.

"Shut up." Tabitha growled. He seemed more confused now by her hostility, and Diana had seemed to notice as well.

Aria cleared her throat. "Good luck Teddy, good luck Talon." She said dismissively, pushing them away.

Diana glared at Tabitha. "What is your problem?" She asked in an angry whisper. "What has Talon ever done to you?"

"You don't know half of it." Tabitha said pointedly, getting up and leaving.

She shook her head, frowning. "I hate when she gets like that," Diana whispered. "She can be so moody sometimes!" Irena quietly wondered if Tabitha was going to be like her soon- growing up into a woman . Menstruating. Didn't it affect moods? It had affected Irena's mood. But Tabitha was moody all the time. It couldn't be the case.

Aria sighed, looking away as she drank from her glass, not wanting to be the one to answer.

Within the next 15 minutes, Irena was in the girl's locker room, putting on her Quidditch gear shakily. The Slytherin team met together just outside the arena, far away from where the Gryffindor team met.

Austin cleared his throat. "Slytherins." He clapped his hands together. "Today is the big one. I'm not going to deny that. This makes or breaks things. But I just wanted to tell you all how proud I am of us. Slytherin hasn't done this well in years, and it's something to be commented on. Let's all go out there and do our best, we're going to have fun, right?"

The team shifted around, looking at each other. "And we're going to win!" Tom Yaxley cheered, pumping his fist into the air. " For Slytherin! "

" For Slytherin! "

" For Slytherin! "

" For Slytherin! "

It felt good to cheer with her teammates as they walked to the entrance of the arena. She could hear the sounds of the crowds cheering and she felt her stomach twist into a knot. Orchid stood beside her. "We got this." She whispered, half to Irena, half to herself. "We got this."

They walked out onto the field beside Honeybrook, who grinned at them. The Gryffindor team followed soon after. "I want a good, clean game." She ordered, her face falling just for a moment. "Just because it's the final game doesn't mean you all need to walk out with injuries."

Irena glanced at Barnabas Fletcher, shaking his hand awkwardly. It was awkward for her, knowing more about his personal life than she could have ever desired. "Good luck." Irena said politely.

"Thanks." Barnabas smirked. Irena frowned. That was rude.

The teams mounted their brooms, and Irena's heart rate mounted on top of itself. She gripped her broom tightly as she released the Bludgers and Snitch. They disappeared into the sky at once. Honeybrook tossed the Quaffle into the air and blew her whistle, signaling the beginning of the game.

Irena kicked off from the ground, flying quickly into the air as the game began. Austin had a strategy: wait for the Chasers to make a few goals before catching the Snitch. It was Irena's role to distract Fletcher, which was awkward. He stared at her hungrily, as if he had his own strategy that had involved transfiguring himself into a lion and consuming her.

" ZHOU CARRIES THE QUAFFLE, SHE TOSSES IT INTO THE GOAL- LUPIN MISSES! SCORE FOR SLYTHERIN, 10 TO 0! " The announcer cheered, sending the Slytherin section into an uproar. Irena felt a sense of pride for her friend.

Austin peered up to her, signaling with his hands: 5 then 0 . He wanted them to have 50 points already before she made any moves toward the Snitch. Irena hovered in the air, resting her chin on her knob head, watching the game. Thyme made another goal, then Josiah, though Teddy blocked that one.

Talon had made two goals, evening the score. He seemed to take pleasure in making Tom Yaxley upset, but it backfired when he threw the Quaffle back, narrowly missing Talon's face (which would be a tragedy, in Diana's eyes).

Orchid was working alongside Josiah, passing the Quaffle to each other before he launched it into Teddy's goalpost, winning another 10 points for Slytherin. Thyme made another goal before Irena noticed a glimmer of gold just above Teddy's goalpost. She flew straight down, barreling for the ground, distracting Fletcher from where it truly was.

The crowds erupted into cheers as Josiah made another goal, signaling the okay for her to go after the Snitch. Irena could still see it, fluttering above the goalposts. She began to twist, swinging her weight around, pressing herself against her broomstick, launching herself faster through the air.

The Snitch turned, disappearing, just as she skidded to a stop in the air. Teddy stood in the goalpost, Fletcher skidding to a stop beside her. "MOVE!" Teddy told them both. Irena turned to see a Bludger being shot toward them by one of the Gryffindor Beaters, only narrowly saved by Austin's bat.

"Go, Irena!" Austin shouted, pointed upwards.

Irena glanced up, seeing the glimmer of gold just above the stands. She began flying, spinning on her broomstick quickly, funneling herself forcefully, flying higher and higher. Fletcher was just behind her, grabbing the end of her broomstick, distracting her and slowing her down as he pulled ahead.

The Snitch veered away, flying lower and lower now. The two Seekers were neck and neck, getting closer to the Snitch. Irena stretched out her right arm, preparing to grasp it. Barnabas seemed to be preparing to do the same as they grew closer and closer to the ground. They were near the edge of the arena. He lifted his arm, but instead of grabbing the Snitch, he shoved her away.

She hadn't been gripping her broom tightly, leading her to topple away. Irena's broom slipped from her grasp and she let out a scream as she began to fall outside the arena. It was sloped, and went away into a bit of mysterious overgrowth. That's a penalty! Irena thought as she fell.

The ground was harder than she could have prepared for, and Irena could hear a sickening crunch as pain exploded through her outstretched arm. Irena rolled down the hill of mysterious overgrowth, through thorny thickets. There was a hole at the end, and she landed with a Snap! into a small cave.

The game blared dozens of feet away. Irena tried to sit up, but the shock made her still. She looked at her arm, it was clearly broken, and it bled profusely. Fear gripped her as she looked around, there was no way out. The walls of the cavern around her must have been 10 feet in the air. Irena sat up carefully, clutching her forearm, biting back a sob.

She reached into her pocket, pulling out her wand. There must be a way out, right? It was so dark all around, she just needed a bit of light.. Irena breathed a shaky breath as she pulled her wand out in two . That was what snapped, she'd landed on it and broken it.

"No, no, no.." Irena whispered, letting the pieces fall to the ground, hearing the echoes of the wood clattering on the floor. The pain was becoming too much to bear now and Irena cried out. She wanted more than anything to be back in the field. Where was everyone? Why weren't they coming to help her? "Help me! Please!" Irena called out. "My wand is broken! My arm is broken! Somebody, help me!"

The cavern became very cold all of a sudden, and a soft whimpering was heard. Irena initially thought it'd been her, so she grew very quiet, but the sound continued. Irena looked around and saw the shadowy figure of a woman appear. "Please, you have to help me, I need to get back to Hogwarts." Irena pleaded with her.

She stepped into the light, and a new sort of fear gripped her, more than her arm; it was the fear of whether or not she would live or die.

The woman looked mummified, with long, black hair that trailed after her on the ground, full of bits of twigs and things. Irena could swear she saw the skeletons of small animals within it as well. The skin on her face was a light green, and in the spaces where her eyes should have been, two black voids stared at her, as if they had decomposed long ago.

Irena recognized the woman- no, the creature , right away. It was a banshee. She'd heard Potter talk about them before, and had seen the pictures of them in her textbook. The banshee continued to whimper as she floated toward Irena. Irena began to cry again. "Please.. please don't hurt me.. I'm just a girl.."

The banshee didn't reply. Her heart felt like it was going to give out, and her stomach had turned into a puddle. Instead of running, Irena found herself frozen in place. Irena began to cry, and the banshee's whimpers were turning into cries. She covered her ears with her arms as the banshee began to scream, making Irena's hair stand on end, filling the tunnel with unearthly sound. Irena cried. " HELP ME! " She screamed, praying that her cries were louder than the banshee's.

The cries of the banshee made her subdued, reducing her to a blubbering, whimpering mess as it approached. Irena could tell, it must have been at least seven feet tall, towering over her now. Irena knew the nature of banshees. They were attracted to the smell of blood, and would drink a person dry if given the chance.

Its green hands coiled around her forearm, Irena sobbed, resisting. "PLEASE, SOMEBODY HELP ME!" Irena called out. The banshee continued whimpering, bringing her arm to its mouth, its fingers frigid and bony, its mouth wet and sickly.

A white light was seen near the end of the tunnel, and the banshee let out a screech. Irena pulled her arm back, covering her ears. A large white stag paraded into the tunnel, dashing over to the banshee, who cried, going the other way to escape.

Irena began to sob in pain. "Irena? Irena?" A voice called.

"Please.." Irena cried.

Professor Potter clamored over to her, his cane forgotten, his wand in hand. "Come here, come here." He told her gently.

"My-my-my wand.." Irena cried as he inspected her arm.

"Did the banshee touch you?" Potter asked seriously. "You must tell me at once. Did she drink any of your blood? Did she touch your wound?"

Irena cried. "I-I-I think so!" She sobbed, the adrenaline racing through her veins made her jittery and quick to tears. "I don't want to die, I don't want to die. " She repeated tearfully.

Potter grabbed her pieces of wand, picking her up in his arms, hobbling down the tunnel as quickly as he could. Irena cried into his robes, feeling herself growing weaker and feebler. The daylight blinded her.

"Irena? Oh my God, Irena!" Mum's voice cried out. "What's happened to her?"

"Banshee." Potter said quickly. "She's injured, wand's broken. We need to get to the castle now . We only have minutes."

Dad was there. "Fawn, you take Irena, I'll go into my wolf form, I'll take you two up there." He said, his voice laced with seriousness. Irena felt herself being passed to her mother, who took her weight awkwardly. Irena felt herself being carried away.

"Stay with me, baby, stay with me." Mum whispered. Irena felt too weak, too feeble, too drained, as if bits of her soul were breaking in two, as if they were being flushed from her system, as if her very self had been left in that cavern.

Irena exhaled, feeling her consciousness slip from her, the cries of the banshee filling her ears.

Chapter Text

???, May, 2011

Her head screamed in pain, and she could hear the cries of the banshee echoing in her ears. Irena let out a sob, remembering the day. It had just happened, hadn't it? She sniffled, feeling her chest fill with fear as her senses slowly became more apparent around her.

She was laying on something soft and cushiony, she felt a pleasant, warm atmosphere around her. She could taste her own mouth: the dryness of it, the taste of grime on her teeth, as if she'd forgotten to brush her teeth the night before. She could smell peppermint and something sharp, like herbs and medicine. The cries of the banshee melted around her and she could hear speaking, Irena opened her eyes to see where she was.

Irena lay in a hospital bed in the hospital wing, glancing around. A bright window filled with warm sunlight illuminated the bedding, the curtains around her were drawn, it was as if she were alone in her own room.

"You're telling me that the board of governors knew there was a banshee on Hogwarts grounds, yet you didn't do anything?" She could hear Professor Potter's voice from the other side of the curtain. "You waited for a student to get hurt before choosing to do something about it?"

There was a pause. "Potter, you and I both know, losing this student would not be such a terrible thing for this world." A sharp, cold voice was heard.

"Go fuck yourself, Malfoy." Potter spat. "You can keep your bias to yourself. I know her. She's my student. She's nothing like he was. If her mother heard how you were speaking.. I would be very nervous for you. Very nervous."

Irena could hear Malfoy sniff haughtily, turning and leaving. She looked down at her arm. It held an odd cast, her bones had been mended, but her hand and wrist were locked in place, save for one spot where a deep, greenish-grayish color settled under her skin. She recalled that the banshee had sucked her blood, and she must have done it there.

The curtains moved, and Potter stepped in. "You're awake!" He whispered in awe, moving toward her carefully, inspecting her arm. "Yes, yes, it's looking much better; much better now. You're healing well.. much better than most.."

"I'm thirsty." Irena whispered, whisking her arm around, looking for a glass.

Potter held a small plastic cup up, putting the straw in her mouth. Irena grabbed it with her left hand, sucking it down. "Do you remember what happened?" Potter asked hesitantly.

"There was a banshee." Irena muttered. "Where's my mum? Dad? Where is everyone?" She asked.

"Your mum went back to Grimmauld Place." Potter told her, scribbling something down on a bit of parchment. "Your dad is teaching right now, and your friends are in class." He was quiet as he wrote, looking up to her.

Irena blinked, wishing Mum were here. "I want my mum." She whimpered.

"Yes, I'll make a call to her right away." Potter told her, getting up.

"What day is today?" Irena asked.

"Today is Friday, May 20th, 2011. You've been asleep for six days." Potter said, leaving.

Irena sat in silence until Mum came. "Oh, my sweet Irena, you're alright." Mum whispered, kissing her forehead over and over again. "Harry's saved you, he's really done it this time." She ran her fingers through her hair.

"You helped too, Fawn." Potter reminded humbly.

"Was I going to die?" Irena asked.

"I'm not sure we weren't terribly in depth about this in class." Potter began. "A banshee likes blood, yes? They take their victims and drain them completely of their blood. The victim is then turned into a banshee themselves, or a Dementor. The banshee had only drank a little, but she left a mark that would have turned you anyway."

Irena breathed deeply while Mum gave her hand a squeeze. "It's alright, sweetheart, you're here with us now, you're safe." She smiled. "Daddy'll be over the moon, we've been so worried about you. You're safe now."

The days flew past, each person who came to visit her more interesting than the last. Mum never left, neither did Professor Potter. People from St Mungos came to visit her, noting her condition and the way Potter had healed her, journalists interviewed her, Ministry officials poked and prodded. Irena answered everything, though it was less about her and more about Harry and Mum. They had made some type of magical scientific breakthrough and it was all anyone wanted to talk about.

 

Monday, 23 May, 2011

Today was the first day of lessons for Irena since the accident. She was supposed to take it easy the rest of the year, having difficulty with her wand. Mum let her borrow her wand, and Irena knew how important it was, she was determined not to ruin it.

She had to keep her cast on. Madame Pomfrey insisted that since Harry had healed the wound, she could have a normal cast- something Irena was grateful for. People stared enough, having heard the story. They never talked to her, only just watched. Irena felt weird about it.

It was Astronomy class now, which was good. Astronomy was easy, plus most of her classes had committed to studying for the tests.

"You feeling alright today, Rena?" Teddy asked kindly in the classroom. People in the classroom stared at her oddly. Irena tried to focus on her star charts.

"Fine." Irena muttered. She didn't sleep much. Her nightmares were full of the banshee, the screams, and how she could have turned into one. "Can you make everyone stop staring at me? Please?"

Talon stood up quickly, looking to the group of Ravenclaw girls who sat at the table beside them. "Go stare some-fucking-elsewhere !" He cursed, making them scatter. He turned, smiling. "Better now, Irena?"

"Yes, thank you, Talon." She smiled politely.

This was how most interactions with anyone in the group went. Nobody wanted to talk about the banshee or the incident, so they tiptoed around it, just trying to be kind to her. Not even Talon felt like boasting about the Gryffindor win to her, which surprised Irena. She supposed he cared for her- at least a little bit.

He sat back down, going back to his star charts alongside Felix.

 

Saturday, 28 May, 2011

The small group had stuffed themselves into the stuffy library that day, near a back corner (Mr. Macmillan was giving Irena special treatment, same as many of her other teachers). Irena had finally started to feel the groove of things, getting back into studying and joking around with her friends.

Felix was busy studying Irena's Transfiguration notes for the final exam next week. " Reparifarge is for fixing mishandled Transfigurations?" He asked, making Irena nod. "Godric, I must have fallen asleep during that lesson. I can't remember anything about it."

Teddy was busy practicing for the Charms exam alongside Diana and Talon. He was trying to cast the Dancing Feet Spell on Talon, who looked very nervous. "No, Teddy, you say it like this. Ta- ron -ta- leg -gra. Try it again." Diana chided.

"Don't mess it up, hm?" Talon asked nervously.

He scrunched up his face, focusing. " Tarantallegra! " Teddy cast. Talon's legs began to wiggle uncontrollably, as if trying to dance like a piece of Jello . " Finite! "

"Good, good, it looks good." Diana grinned.

Tabitha was busy quizzing Aria on the ingredients in a Girding potion. "Um, isn't it dragonfly thoraxes, flying seahorses, doxy eggs, and... don't tell me it's on the tip of my tongue .. fairy wings?" Aria asked.

"Correct!" Tabitha grinned.

Away from everyone else, Philomena was helping Victoire study for her own exams, which were different from everyone else's. Irena knew she was lucky being able to be friends with so many older students- Austin had taken these tests before too, surely he knew what was on them?

Irena had hardly seen Austin since the Quidditch match. He'd visited her in the hospital wing, telling her the terrible news, and she'd seen him in the hallways. It was as if she didn't exist to him, and the thought of it was heartbreaking, but she figured if she could get over him, she could find a nice boy to kiss over that summer.

Victoire sighed audibly, turning her jacket over. "I'm so tired of these bloody clothes- I'm always wearing them inside out no matter how many times I change them around!" She grumbled.

Philomena, Aria, Tabitha, and Irena snickered.

"I know!" Talon agreed. "I'm tired of everyone telling me my tag's sticking out of my robes, as if I didn't know. I take them off and put them back on. It's like I'm cursed.." The girls laughed again. "What did you do?"

Irena grinned. "See, Teddy, I told you I had a prank idea and didn't need your help." She said cheekily, sticking her tongue out at them.

Teddy chuckled, Felix grinned, Talon shook his head, Victoire frowned. "Will you tell us how to fix it then?" Victoire asked, crossing her arms.

" Numquam intus sunt, " Philomena cast, fixing her robes for her.

"Nice one." Teddy whispered to Irena, making her grin all the more.

Throughout the next week, it went as follows:

The Charms exam was that Monday, May 30th. Flitwick tested them on the Dancing Feet spell, the exam was spent making a pineapple dance across the desk, and everyone had passed with flying colors. Philomena had done the best, making hers do an Irish jig, but Diana was a close second, making her pineapple do the Dougie .

Then, there was the Potions exam on May 31st, which was just concocting a perfect Wiggenweld potion. Philomena received full marks, and Felix had done well, but only because he was seated beside her and could whisper to her for help.

They took the History of Magic exam on June 1st, which was just an argumentative essay on whether the Medieval Assembly of European Wizards was successful, or a total bust. Philomena got an O, since she was critical of the assembly in a way that Binns enjoyed. Irena got an E, which was just fine for her standards.

On June 2nd, they took Defense Against the Dark Arts, but they had no exam. Potter had assigned them an end of the year project on their favorite creature covered in class, but handed out Os to most students. Irena was just very glad that she didn't see any banshee related projects.

During the evening of June 3rd, they went up to take their Astronomy exam, drawing the star maps and the rotation of the stars in the sky. It was pretty subjective, and most people got pretty good marks on it.

They had the weekend to study for the hardest exam yet- the Transfiguration exam. The Herbology exam took place the next Monday, on June 6th. It was a multiple choice exam on different plant parts. Philomena got an O (of course) while most of the group scraped by with Es and As.

Dad took the Transfiguration exam on June 7th seriously, stressing out the second years. They had to demonstrate they knew Vera Verto . Philomena's was perfect, while Teddy's still had a tail, and Diana cried when hers still had feathers. Irena's was still furry when she completed the spell, but Dad gave her an O anyway.

After that, they were finished, and spent everyday wandering the castle and stealing the food from the kitchens. They even flew around on their broomsticks a bit, and watched Victoire's flying exam (which, of course, she did well on). 

Irena hadn't felt so happy in a long time.

 

Tuesday, 14 June, 2011

The girls were busy after lunch that day, opting to go pack up their dorm room, since everyone would be off on the Hogwarts Express the next day, back to their homes and families. It was bittersweet work.

They were all talking about summer plans. Philomena invited them all to her house in Brighton, and her parents had tried coordinating, but it seemed that only Irena and Diana would be able to go.

"I wish I could do things with you guys this summer." Aria confessed sadly as she began putting things into her beat up suitcase. "Chatsby's doesn't let us do much. Sometimes we go on field trips around London, but I never go. There's only so much sightseeing a local can handle."

Tabitha was on Diana's bed, grinning. "Ginny Weasley wrote to my mum, I'm going to her house in July to practice being a Chaser." She announced for maybe the twentieth time that week. With the weather so warm, teachers so kind, and all the food and happiness they could get, no one could bother to tell her to shut up.

They spent the evening in the Great Hall, seated at the Gryffindor table, laughing and giggling with everyone else.

Irena went to bed that night, then the Slytherins went to breakfast, unable to find Philomena, Victoire, Teddy, Talon, or Felix. When breakfast was over, the entire Slytherin house had been pranked. All the furniture in the common room was attached to the ceiling, all the dorms had been the same way.

The Gryffindors (plus Philomena) appeared behind them. "PRANKED!" Teddy jeered. "We won the prank war this year!"

They got the luggage down off the ceiling before boarding the train at 11. "You did not win the prank war." Tabitha said stiffly. "We pranked you guys so good, you were stuck with that prank for weeks!"

"That prank was dumb." Talon rolled his eyes while they were in the train car. "It was dumb 'cause we never even noticed. A good prank is dramatic.. soul crushing even.. not just a little pet peeve."

Diana shook her head. "Some of the best pranks are the pranks that go unnoticed." She decided. Everyone seemed shocked that Diana had disagreed with Talon, something she rarely did these days.

The rest of the train ride was pleasant, Irena couldn't imagine having a better group of friends.

When they pulled into the station, everyone hugged Aria and Felix tightly. Irena wanted to cry, leaving Aria to the Muggle world. They left first. Then, Tabitha's mother made her leave next, wanting to get home. Talon left next, then Diana with her family. Victoire went with Bill to Shell Cottage.

"I'll see you in Brighton in July." Philomena told her with a smile as she left.

Irena went back to Grimmauld Place with Teddy, feeling quite melancholy.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 18 June, 2011

Dear Irena,

I can't wait for you to come over to my house! My parents have been working so hard to set everything up for you and Diana to come over. I'm so excited, I could literally burst, I think.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, and we're going to be marching in Brighton, which is also exciting. I'm sure you'll cover it in Muggle Studies. It's a little difficult for me to explain, but my dad is getting us all ready for it.

Please tell Teddy I say hi! I would give him a kiss on the cheek, but I won't have you do that, since that would be weird. I'm kinda glad I didn't invite him, my dad keeps talking about talking to him, and if it was anything like how Teddy's dads talked to me, I don't want the same for him.

Best,

Philomena Fitzgibbons

 

Saturday, 25 June, 2011

Dear Philomena,

I'm so excited to come over, only a few more days left!

I just miss you. I don't have anything to write. I just really miss you.

Love,

Irena

Teddy snickered as he read the letter in Irena's room. "Phil's sending kisses?" He giggled. "I should send her a Howler." He pursed his lips, rereading it again. "I should come with.. it's only fair that I meet her parents, since she met my dads."

Irena rolled over on her bed. "Enough of that." She chuckled. "Philomena's got a reason. Her dad's gonna be overprotective. He's gonna be weird, you know?" Irena explained, cracking the page of her Twilight book. Mum said since she was 13, she was old enough to read them. So far, she'd only just started the first book.

"I guess." Teddy shrugged, setting the letter down on her desk. "We'll just have to wait for you to get a boyfriend. I think Cedric will be pretty upset. Isn't that how dads are supposed to be?" He played with a few fidget things on her desk now. "I think mine were pretty overprotective."

She snickered. "Yours were so awkward." Irena grinned. In the Twilight movies, Edward had met Bella's dad and he showed him his gun. She supposed that was the way all parents were, not just Muggle ones. "But it's to be expected. Not everyone's got two dads. That just makes it more awkward."

"Felix teases me about it." Teddy grinned. Irena's eyes shot up.

"Teases?" Irena asked, in all seriousness. Moony had prepared him for being teased for being a Metamorphmagus, but not for having two dads. She supposed it would be something else someone could be teased about too. What was the word for it- the one Moony used? Homophobia ?

He waved his hand. "Nothing bad- nothing bad!" Teddy reassured her. "Just silly stuff, really. Saying I must get extra dad jokes or whatever. One time he asked if he could have one, since I've got two. He's a funny bloke."

" Perverted bloke, more like." Irena rolled her eyes.

"Yea, yea." Teddy sighed. "Is it obvious?"

"Not terribly, but to us, yea." She said awkwardly. Teddy didn't know they'd snuck into his room to prank him. "Talon seems to be a bad influence."

He scratched his head, grabbing a random book off her shelf, laying on the bed. "He is." Teddy mumbled. "But being like them only gets you so far, I think. I'm the only one with a girlfriend, anyway."

Irena giggled. "Only because you've got me." She teased, poking his cheek with her index finger. He snorted. "I bet Talon and Felix only act that way because they don't know how to talk to girls. You've always known how to talk to girls, 'cause I'm a girl."

"That's true.. that's true.." Teddy mumbled.

"If I wanted to apply feminist theory to it." Irena continued, pursing her lips. "I'd say that you objectify women less than they do. Peeping toms- only seeing girls as bodies for their entertainment. You see us as friends."

He glanced at her. "Not sure about that, Rena. I think you're reading into it."

"You think that 'cause you're a boy." Irena told him flatly. "You don't understand."

"I suppose not." Teddy echoed, flipping through his book lazily. They were quiet for a few minutes, before he got up, putting the book back on the shelf. "Can we prank dial using your phone?"

Irena grinned. "I don't care, you can if you want. I've got Philomena's number written down as well as yours. I don't really call anyone else." She told him.

Teddy beamed. "You could have told me earlier!" He chuckled, going to grasp it, dialing her number in. It began to ring. "I could've been talking on the phone with her earlier.. I feel like I've forgotten her voice already!"

"It's only been two weeks." Irena rolled her eyes.

They grew very quiet as someone picked up on the other end. " Hello? " He called. Irena knew it was Philomena's father. " Who's this? Hello? "

Teddy was frozen in fear, his face nearly as pale as his hair, which had turned into a stark white. Irena grabbed the phone roughly. "Hello Mr. Freeman!" Irena called into the phone, smiling at Teddy. "Is Philomena home? This is Irena."

" Oh, Irena! " Jordan's voice grew warm. " So sorry for being harsh, we've been getting a few telemarketers on our phone. Some bastard must have sold our number or something. Let me get Philomena for you-- PHILOMENA, YOUR FRIEND WANTS TO SPEAK ON THE PHONE!-- She'll be here in a bit. Have you finished packing to come to our house? Phil won't shut up about it- hey! Here she is. "

The phone made an odd sound. " Hello? Who's this? " Philomena asked.

"Philomena, I've got someone who wants to speak with you." Irena giggled.

" Oh, who is it? " Philomena asked as Irena handed the phone to Teddy.

He eagerly took the phone from her. "Hey, Phil, it's me." Teddy grinned. He stood up and walked to the other end of the room, as if to give himself more privacy. "You never told me your dad was American- he's got a scary voice!"

Irena giggled, going back to her book. She was getting to the part of the story where Bella was going to Port Angeles, and was quite excited. I wish we lived in America.. Living in America, or in Forks, at the very least, sounded beautiful.

There was a sharp knock at the door, and Teddy looked up quickly. Irena sighed, pulling herself off her bed to open it. Leo stood in the doorway, frowning. "What do you want?" Irena asked quickly.

"Dad says to come downstairs, something about your friend being here." Leo said flatly.

She frowned. "Okay.." Irena nodded as he turned to leave down the hall. She glanced back at Teddy. "I'm going downstairs." Irena told him, shutting the door behind her. She made her way down the stairs, bare feet clapping against the stairs as she made her way to the living room.

Dad stood at the fireplace, talking candidly to someone sitting on the couch. Irena was going to ask who was there, but she was hugged from behind very aggressively. "Hi, Irena!" Diana said cheerily. "Mum and Gabe dropped me off early, they're going on vacation to Florida ! It's in America."

Irena grinned, hugging Diana now. "We can spend a few extra days together before we go to Philomena's!"

Her mum turned, grinning. "Could you show Diana to your room, help her put her things in there?" She looked at Irena gladly, her boyfriend still talking to Dad happily.

"Yes, of course." Irena smiled, grabbing what Diana had and taking it up to her room. "Teddy's in there talking on the phone, just be conscious of that." She told Diana as they entered the room. Teddy looked slightly shocked to see Diana, but waved happily regardless.

Diana grinned, glancing at Irena, whispering, " Who's he on the phone with? "

" Phil ." Irena giggled quietly, glancing at Teddy, who was talking candidly with Philomena, as if Diana and Irena weren't in the room alongside him. " You hungry? "

" Starving! " Diana whispered.

Irena grabbed her hand, going downstairs, passing her mother in the living room, going into the kitchen. She grabbed her favorite snack, Vera Verity's Flavor Changing Yogurt , pouring some out for Diana and some for her. "You just whisk your wand over and say your favorite yogurt flavor." Irena explained, handing it to her. "It's my favorite snack."

"Hm." Diana thought for a moment. She pulled out her wand, twirling it around in a clockwise direction. "Strawberry yogurt!" The bowl turned light pink, and small strawberry pieces floated to the surface. She took a spoonful, eating it slowly. "Mmm!"

"Could I borrow your wand?" Irena asked. Diana handed it to her. "Vanilla." Irena instructed.

"Boring flavor!" Diana told her cheekily, grabbing her wand back as Irena's bowl turned white.

"I like to put granola and fruit on top." Irena explained, going into the cupboard, then the fridge. "Mum calls it a yogurt parfait . It's cool among Muggles." She bragged, pouring granola into the yogurt bowl, then putting strawberries and blueberries on top.

Diana didn't respond. "You have got to get a new wand."

"I know." Irena giggled, sitting down at the table. "We're going to Diagon Alley before we go to Philomena's house."

 

Tuesday, 28 June, 2011

"Irena, come along." Moony's voice was calling from the bottom of the stairs, clutching the bannister. "I haven't got all day. I'm supposed to be helping Hermione with her campaign."

Irena dashed down the stairs, grinning to Padfoot and Moony. Teddy leaned against the wall, smoldering, though he smiled when he saw her. Diana followed Irena. "Sorry, Diana was looking at the Muggle makeup Mum got me for my birthday." Irena apologized.

"I bet Philomena knows how to use it." Diana grinned.

Padfoot grasped Teddy's hand, disapparating with him. Moony sighed, shaking his head. "Always so quick, that one." He scolded his husband lightly. "I suppose we'll just have to hope we meet them in Diagon Alley. I'm the one carrying all our change." Remus chuckled, holding out his arms. Irena and Diana grasped them, and they apparated to the Leaky Cauldron.

Diana stumbled slightly, looking pale. "First time apparating?" Irena teased.

"Yes, actually." She gasped, bending over. "Mum always takes the Knight Bus."

"Apparating isn't for everyone." Moony chided. He rifled around in his pocket, pulling out a tiny pocket sized mint. "Not chocolate, but it'll make you feel a bit better." Remus handed the mint to Diana, who took it and ate it. "Let's go on in if we want to catch Sirius and Teddy."

The three made their way into the pub. Witches and wizards sat in booths and by the bar. Irena grabbed Diana tightly, seeing a very tall woman with black hair who could have looked like a Banshee.

They went out to Diagon Alley, looking in different shops as they walked along. Irena felt nervous for her next wand, and eyed Ollivander's store precariously, but not enough to make it noticeable.

"I don't feel like running to Quality Quidditch Supplies, is it okay if we purchase the wand without them?" Moony asked after they wandered the streets exasperatedly.

Irena shrugged. "I don't really mind." Truthfully, she wanted to spend a bit of time with Teddy before leaving for Philomena's, but there would be plenty of time for that later.

"Perfect." Moony grinned, guiding her into the shop, Diana at her side.

A wrinkled old man tended to a few boxes before turning at the sound of the bell ringing. He grinned when he saw them. "Remus! Back for another wand so soon?"

"No, for Irena." Remus told him, pushing Irena forward.

She stepped forward confidently, staring Ollivander in his eye determinedly. Her heart raced with her shyness. I need to shake this off. Irena thought. She was thirteen now, who cared about talking to adults when they were thirteen?

"Irena.. Irena.. Irena.." Ollivander rolled her name around in his mouth, as if he liked the way it sounded. "Yes, I remember your mother here.. just a year older than you I believe.. wonderful woman, so very brave.. I remember her well."

Irena crossed her arms, giving up on her bravery. What a weirdo.

He smiled at her, not noticing her discomfort. "White river monster spine core from America.. is it still the one she uses?"

"Yes." Irena told him. "I've been using it too. My wand's broken. I landed on it during Quidditch."

"Ah." Ollivander grinned. "I see. Well, that is quite helpful information. What was your last wand?"

She shuffled her feet. "Dragon heartstring, cherry wood, 10 inches." Irena replied.

"Did you like it?"

"It got the job done."

"But did you like it? Was it spectacular, magnificent, powerful?"

Irena paused, thinking for a moment. "Not particularly." She said truthfully, after slight hesitation. "Is it supposed to?"

"Oh, yes!" Ollivander told her. "It's supposed to be miraculous, ethereal, incredible. Not only getting the job done. " He pursed his lips, as if thinking for a moment. "I see what the issue is. You take after your mother. She has a core from America, I expect you will need the same. Does hers feel better?"

He left, not waiting for an answer. "I.. I suppose so." Irena shrugged, looking after him as he disappeared. She glanced behind her to Moony and Diana. Moony flashed her a smile, while Diana looked at the decorations of the store.

"Yes, yes, I believe I've diagnosed the problem." Ollivander said as he returned, slightly out of breath, as if he had strained to get the wand. With him, he carried a small box, pulling out a wand, handing it to her. "Curupira hair core, hawthorn wood, 12 inches. I'm never right with guessing it on the first guess, but I know this one will be yours."

Irena held it in her hand and she felt an overwhelming sense of dread. It twisted and turned in her stomach, like the waves of the ocean. It crashed against her sides, careening and eroding and overturning her insides.

"Curupira hair?" Moony cleared his throat. "I haven't heard of a wand core like that before."

"It's tremendously rare." Ollivander replied. "A core from Brazil, in South America. It only chooses strong wizards."

Irena chuckled a bit as the dread stilled in her. "You think highly of me, then?"

"Give it a flick, girl!" Ollivander chuckled. "I suppose wand cores from America do well in your family. How many siblings have you got again? I suppose I should order more."

She gave it a small flick, pointing it toward the front windows. The window crashed, blowing it out of its frame, spreading bits of glass all over the cobblestone street. Moony covered Diana with his jacket.

"I believe that's the one then." Ollivander grinned, preparing the box.

Irena felt guilt. "Aren't you mad that I've broken the window in your shop?" She asked sadly.

"Oh, no." He chuckled. "They're self-mending, just watch." Ollivander gestured to the window as the pieces of glass seemed to move in reverse slowly, going back to their exact positions, forming the window just as it was before. "Even if you'd broken it permanently, I don't see how I could be very mad. Your mother saved my life, and I think that I at least owe it to her to be kind to her children."

She smiled as Moony handed him the galleons. The three of them left, Irena grasping her wand firmly and excitedly. It felt better than her last, she could feel the power and confidence rippling through her in her joy.

"You'll be a more powerful wizard than the rest of us!" Diana giggled. "Can we get ice cream?"

"Yes, please, Moony?" Irena asked sweetly, linking arms with Diana.

He chuckled. "Sure. Let's all go get ice cream."

 

Friday, 1 July, 2011

Irena looked out the window as the car drove her and Diana to Brighton. Daddy sat in the front seat, and Mum sat in the passenger. The other kids went to the Weasley's to be babysat, since Philomena's parents invited them to dinner.

"Another American?" Dad talked casually with Mum. "I suppose you'd want to be his friend, you've got stuff to talk about that us Brits will never understand." He laughed.

Diana shuffled in her seat. "Um, Professor Diggory, can you turn the radio on?"

"You like to listen to Muggle music?" Mum asked, grinning. "Just pop music, or any old station?"

"Pop, please." Diana beamed.

She turned the radio on and Last Friday Night by Katy Perry began to play. Diana's favorite artist was Katy Perry. She danced and sang to it before it went on to another song. Irena leaned back and sighed contently, just feeling very excited to get there.

The drive took a while, so it was evening by the time they got there. Philomena opened the front door, racing out to the car. Diana and Irena got out quickly, hugging her tightly. "Hello, hello!" Dad grinned as he carried their bags out of the car, Irena looked and saw Philomena's mother standing in the doorway.

Philomena showed them to her room, where an inflatable air mattress was. Irena rested her case in the corner of the room. "Mum said it'd be better to have the air mattress, but I'm okay with you guys sleeping in my bed. There's plenty of room." She grinned.

Diana clapped her hands together excitedly, jumping up and down. Philomena grabbed them again, and the three girls went downstairs for dinner. Her father sat near the head, his wife beside him, and Philomena on the other side. Mum sat next to Philomena's mother, while Irena sat in between Philomena and Diana.

"Preparing for the school year, Professor Diggory?" Magnolia, Philomena's mother, asked casually as she served Philomena dinner, a traditional Vietnamese dish called Banh xeo . Irena grabbed one tentatively, wanting to try something new. It had a delightful savory flavor, and Irena grabbed more pieces.

Dad laughed. "Not much, no. I usually reuse the Hogwarts curriculum, since I teach all seven years anyway, there aren't many edits to be made." He helped himself to a bowl of rice, drizzling something on top before eating it. "Please, call me Cedric. Not enough people do."

"Oh, Philomena was just telling us about the electives she signed up for." Jordan, Philomena's father, talked excitedly. "What were they again, dear? Magic animals-"

Philomena giggled nervously. " Care of Magical Creatures , Dad, and I'm also taking Ancient Runes and Arithmancy." She told him, mock rolling her eyes, making him laugh too.

"What are you two taking, then?" He asked.

"I'm taking Care of Magical Creatures, Muggle Studies, and Divination." Irena said with a proud smile.

Diana had been stuffing her face when everyone looked at her. She swallowed messily, wiping her mouth while her cheeks glowed red. "I'm taking Care of Magical Creatures, Divination and Arithmancy."

Magnolia chuckled. "This Magical Creatures class must be popular!"

"It is." Dad agreed. "We've got an excellent teacher for it, Rubeus Hagrid. He's been at the school for years. People's parents likely tell their children to sign up for the class since they had him as a teacher too." He took a bite of some of his food, pausing to chew and swallow. "It's such a popular class this year, the headmistress has been writing to us about hiring another teacher for it."

Philomena's parents only replied with, "Oh wow."

"Who are you thinking of hiring, Professor?" Philomena asked.

"We know a family friend, a Magizoologist, Florence Malfoy." Mum said now. "She's thinking about it. Her eldest is going to Hogwarts next year, and her husband is on the Governor's Board. It wouldn't be a terrible move for their family."

The conversation continued talking about classes, about families, about wizarding life. Irena, Diana, and Philomena were excused and went upstairs, where Philomena was going to try to teach them a board game- Monopoly .

Irena hugged her parents goodbye, watching them instruct the car to drive itself back home, and apparating back to Grimmauld Place. She was once again on her own for two weeks, and she was determined not to go home early this time.

She went back upstairs, going into her bag to pull out the Twilight book, cracking it open. Beside it, was her new wand. Irena wanted nothing more than to pull it out and practice, but she knew it would get her in trouble with the Ministry for using underage magic.

Irena opened to the page she had bookmarked and began to read the part of Twilight where Bella meets James, the tracker.

 

Monday, 4 July, 2011

The sun shone brilliantly that day as Irena put on her shorts and t-shirt over her swimsuit. Jordan was raving about an American holiday, Independence Day , which made him and Philomena wear stars and stripes that day. Magnolia only laughed while they went to the boardwalk by the beach.

Her parents set up the towels and the sun umbrellas while Irena, Philomena, and Diana ripped off their clothes to swim in the ocean.

"Wait up, Irena! Phil!" Diana squeaked. Irena ripped off her shorts and t-shirt, making a mad dash to the water. The cool ocean licked at her ankles, but Irena didn't stop running until she was wet, fully submerged with her head under the water. She began to tread water as she swam out just a little farther, Philomena just behind her, grinning.

Diana swam toward them, grinning. "Slowpoke, Diana." Philomena teased. "The water feels so good!"

"It does." Irena agreed.

"Did you know there's a myth in this part of this ocean?" Philomena asked. Diana was fixing Irena with a weird look, as if she expected her to drown right there. "There's supposed to be some ancient magic flora. People say if people swim out too far, the vines from the bottom, near the shore, grab them and drag them under. People say there's a mermaid colony not too far from here."

Diana wobbled in her water treading. "R-Really? Mermaids?"

"And they want to eat you !" Philomena jumped at her playfully, laughing.

"I'm getting a weird energy from swimming here.." Diana fretted. "Something with Irena. It's like a pull in my stomach.. either Irena has swam here before, or she'll swim here again and it will be important."

Irena frowned. "Odd." She commented.

"GIRLS! GIRLS !" Magnolia called from the shore. "PUT ON YOUR SUNSCREEN!"

"Shoot, I forgot about sunscreen." Philomena sighed. "Let's go and put some on."

They swam back, putting sunscreen on. They swam for a while, then going to make sandcastles on the beach- even burying Diana in the sand. After a few hours, they went back to the towels Magnolia had pulled out, deciding to lay in the sun and suntan away from them.

It felt good, feeling independent. Irena had secretly hoped that a boy would talk to them on the beach, seeing that Irena looked pretty in her swimsuit, but no one approached. Wasn't that what boys liked? Skin? Talon and Felix liked to look at girls without their knowing- wasn't Irena letting boys look at her better than being peeped at? Did she look like she wanted to be peeped at? Maybe when she wanted to be looked at, it felt better than having it done without her permission. Was it wrong to want it? Was it wrong to want to be promiscuous? Her mind rambled incessantly and she could not come up with a proper explanation for her feelings.

"You think we're all gonna have boyfriends this year?" Diana asked sleepily as she laid on her stomach. "Phil's got Teddy, I'm gonna have Talon, but what about Irena? Who's gonna be her boyfriend? Felix ?"

Irena laughed out loud. "Godric, no. " She giggled.

"Maybe Austin will like her this year." Philomena said confidently. "You're the one with the Sight, Diana. You've already predicted that Irena will be eaten by mermaids, maybe you can predict who she'll marry- or better yet- everyone's soulmates!" Her tone was almost teasing, but Diana didn't seem to notice.

She lifted herself, resting on her elbows. "That's a great idea, Phil." Diana whispered. "I wonder if Professor Trelawney will give me extra lessons, just like Professor Potter gave Irena extra lessons. I just.. think I have a sixth sense sometimes."

"Like with what?" Philomena asked, still teasing pleasantly, not in a bullying way.

"Well, I think Talon is my soulmate." Diana mumbled, Philomena laughed. Of course you do. Irena thought. "I get the feeling in my stomach when I see him, and it feels like we're meant to be together. We seem so similar. Is it weird to imagine a life with him?"

Philomena only giggled more, making Diana frown. "I don't think it's weird, Diana." Irena told her. "I know that soulmates exist, since Mum and Dad are soulmates. You can just tell they're meant for each other sometimes. They hardly ever argue, but when they do they always make up. If you think Talon is your soulmate, you could be right."

"Love magic is far too complicated and old to study like that." Philomena disagreed. "Divination tries to predict things like that, but it's all subjective, loosely thrown around terms. You'll just have to ask Trelawney how many predictions she's made that haven't come true."

Irena frowned, picking at a piece of rock in the sand with her finger. "Trelawney did predict things to help Harry Potter twice." She retorted. "Divination isn't totally hopeless."

"Whatever." Philomena sighed. "It's too beautiful a day to argue."

Chapter Text

Sunday, 10 July, 2011

The evening sunset glowed gold and amber from Philomena's window while Diana and Philomena talked about boys. Irena read on her bed, grinning as Edward takes Bella to prom , an American Muggle dance, she supposed. When he kissed her, her heart raced. I want to be kissed like Edward kisses Bella.. Irena thought with a sigh.

"...I've kissed Teddy before." Philomena bragged as Irena's senses turned back on, no longer completely focused on her book. "I've kissed him on the lips. It's not as scary as people think." She giggled.

Irena looked at them oddly. " You've kissed Teddy on the lips and you never told anyone?"

"Teddy didn't want anyone to know." Philomena giggled. "It's scary beforehand, you think you'll be no good at it, but it isn't so bad once you practice."

Diana groaned. " What am I gonna do? " She covered her face in her hands, shaking her head. "What if Talon wants to kiss me next year? I'll have no practice, I'll scare him away!" Irena quietly thought the same, but didn't think she'd get in a situation where she'd kiss someone.

"It's okay, I can teach you!" Philomena said. "Both of you! Come here, Irena." Irena abandoned her book, going to sit on the floor with them. "It's just kissing practice, it'll be fun. Then, you'll be prepared to kiss boys. I wished I had help like this before I kissed Teddy."

"Phil, you're such a saint!" Diana grinned. "Kiss me first."

"Okay, I'll kiss you in the boy way, 'cause there's a difference, I think." Philomena said.

She leaned in close, tucking a lock of blonde hair behind her ear as she closed her eyes. Diana closed her eyes too, leaning in to Philomena's kiss. Their lips touched, rosy pink on rosy pink, and Philomena grasped Diana's jaw gently, smiling. Irena felt her heart begin to race, her stomach did a flip. It was over quicker than it started.

"How was I?" Diana asked with an innocent smile.

"You did excellent." Philomena giggled. "Irena, do you want kissing practice too?"

Irena hesitated, feeling her stomach do a somersault, her heart threatening to beat out of her chest. Diana touched her lips, frowning. "It's weird.. kissing a girl.. I'm not sure I liked it.." She mumbled to herself.

"Irena, it's okay if you don't want kissing practice." Philomena laughed, her cheeks growing red.

"No, no, I do." Irena said quickly, sitting up. "Sorry.. I've never done this before.."

"It's okay." Philomena said gently. "This is just what friends do for friends." She scooted closer to Irena, tucking a piece of brown hair behind her ear affectionately. Her face got closer, and she closed her eyes, bringing her lips to Irena's. Irena closed her eyes, just like Diana did.

Her lips were soft, smooth, without flaw. They were perfectly supple, and Irena leaned in to kiss her back. Her heart raced, but her stomach stopped aching, as if her nerves had stopped to watch. Irena instinctually grasped Philomena's face, not wanting to be rough, but wanting to deepen their kiss. It was like the world didn't exist, like Diana wasn't there, like it was only the connection between them.

The door opened quickly. "Philomena-" Her father stood in the doorway as Irena pulled away, wiping her mouth and looking away, feeling embarrassed. "Um, Philomena, Mom's nearly finished with dinner. Just.. come down when you're ready." He shut the door, hurrying away.

Irena didn't say a word, didn't look at Philomena or Diana, suddenly not feeling like dinner at all. Her stomach felt funny.

"Should we- should we go downstairs now?" Diana asked nervously.

"Yes, I think so." Philomena said quietly. "Irena, would you-"

"-yes, I'm coming." Irena cut her off. "Just give me a minute."

Philomena and Diana blinked. "Okay, we'll see you down there." Philomena told her kindly. They both stood and left, leaving Irena in the room alone, where she began to freak out.

Irena paced, rubbing her face. He'd seen it , he'd seen Philomena kissing Irena, she would never be invited back, he'd treat her like he'd treat Teddy.. No . Irena stood up straight, grabbing the wand from her bag, rolling it around in her hands. It was brilliant, the more she looked at it. It had jagged lines throughout it, like multiple bursts of lightning striking the tip.

There was a way she could get out.. but it would cost everything. If she used Obliviate- which she had never practiced, nor did she have any books to read on it- she could make him forget. But there's the Trace charm for underage magic! Irena remembered as she began to pace. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck . It felt good to think in swear words. She was thirteen, couldn't she swear now?

" Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. " Irena whispered under her breath. If she obliviated Philomena's father, it would ruin everything. She'd have to be tried at the Ministry, she would be expelled from Hogwarts, her parents would be angry with her, she'd have to run away.. and she wasn't even an Animagus yet, so it wasn't like she could hide.. " Fuck. God fucking damn it. " That feels good.

She sighed, collecting herself. I'm not going home early. No, I won't. I'm going down there to face them. I'm going to be brave and face them all. It was just kissing, it wasn't like they were having sex or anything. Do I want that? What is sex? All Irena knew was that it felt good, and people liked it.

Irena shoved the wand back in her bag, sighing again. Dad only let me bring it in case I get in trouble. He was always so paranoid, Irena assumed it was just because of the war. He's a good dad. He would understand. She shook her head. No, I'm not going to ruin their lives. Philomena would never forgive her if she obliviated her father.

She turned on her heel, leaving Philomena's bedroom and going downstairs. Dinner hadn't started, Philomena and Diana were still setting up placemats. "Oh, good, you're here." Magnolia smiled sweetly. "Phil's got the mats done, Diana's putting plates down, how about you do silverware?"

"Yes, of course." Irena said curtly, taking the cutlery, placing a fork, knife, and a spoon beside each seat at the table. They brought in dishes- a large hand tossed salad, a platter of precut fruit, and a large, steaming pizza. Irena sat down as far away from Jordan as she could, deciding not to speak much this time.

Jordan began eating, so did Magnolia and Diana, but Philomena picked at her food, and Irena tried to eat a slice of pizza. It was quiet. Jordan coughed slightly. "So, who is this Teddy? When do we, uh, get to meet him?"

Irena was very quiet, not daring to look up. "I didn't think Teddy would want to come." Philomena laughed breathlessly. "We're all a friend group, but he really likes to be around his dormmates, like Felix and Talon."

"Well, if you're all friends, what can you tell me about him?" Jordan asked, looking at Diana and Irena.

Diana grinned. "Teddy's great! He's so nice, and he's an amazing Keeper when he plays Quidditch. He's really smart too. He's so awkward. He's a Metamorphmagus too."

"A what now?" Magnolia laughed. Irena felt guilty now. Philomena was Teddy's girlfriend and they'd kissed. Irena had kissed his girlfriend. If her relationship with Philomena wasn't ruined, her relationship with Teddy definitely was.

Philomena chuckled. "A Metamorphmagus, Mum, it's a witch or wizard who can change their appearance at will without a wand. Teddy's done all sorts of things. He usually changes his hair color, he can change it to any color he wants. One time he transformed into an entire horse in Irena's bedroom." She laughed now.

The attention settled on Irena. She looked up. "Um, yea, Teddy's great. He's my best friend." Irena chuckled nervously.

"Maybe Christmas. Invite him over, 'kay, Philly? We can have Felix over too, that was fun." Jordan grinned.

"Yea, that would be fun." Philomena beamed.

Dinner went on, and no one spoke to Irena. The girls were excused from the table and Irena went upstairs, going to the window, trying to read Twilight and forget about everything else. Just a few more days and she'd be off.. ready to go to Ginny and Luna's house and focus on Quidditch.

"You alright?" Philomena asked as she came in, Diana must have been downstairs still. "You're acting a bit odd."

Irena closed her book, looking at Philomena sadly. "Is everything ruined?" Irena asked.

"What?" Philomena laughed, sitting down by the window. "Ruined? Why would it be ruined?"

"Because we kissed.." Irena whispered, explaining to her as if she'd forgotten.

Philomena laughed. "It was just kissing practice, it didn't mean anything, Rena." She said in a gentle voice. "Kissing practice is what girls do all the time. You're my best friend, nothing is ruined."

"But Teddy.. Teddy won't see it as kissing practice." Irena fretted.

"That's because he won't find out." Philomena rolled her eyes. " Everyone does kissing practice- maybe not boys, but still- girls do it all the time. It's not like I'm in love with you now, I still love Teddy." She sat down on the bed. "You don't feel different , do you?"

Irena hesitated. "No, no." She confirmed. No, what she felt couldn't be love. She was just nervous because she had kissed someone for the first time, not because she was faced with the prospect of kissing a girl . Could girls love each other romantically? Luna and Ginny seemed to. Irena thought about it. She definitely still wanted to be kissed by a boy. Maybe it was just a fluke.

"Good." Philomena smirked.

Diana walked in, stretching and yawning. "Hey guys." She said casually, going into her suitcase to pull out her pajamas.

"Hey, Di, about the kissing practice." Philomena began. "Don't tell anyone about the kissing practice, okay? If it gets to Teddy, it'll just confuse things. It'll be better if he doesn't find out."

Diana blinked. "Yea, sure." She replied. "Just girl stuff. Girls do it all the time at slumber parties. It would be weird if we never had kissing practice, I think." She shrugged.

"Exactly." Philomena nodded, glancing to Irena. "It would be weird if we never had practiced kissing."

It would be weird otherwise.. Irena repeated in her head. But why do I feel so odd?

 

Thursday, 14 July, 2011

Irena waited in the dining room, keeping her eyes focused on the porridge in front of her. Dad would be here to pick her up soon, then he was going to take her to Ginny's place. Diana would stay behind with Philomena, deciding it just a few nights before. They'll probably just have kissing practice without you.

Kissing practice. It felt less like practice and more like the real thing. Irena touched her fingers to her lips absentmindedly, remembering it. Maybe it was just practice, she didn't have anything to compare it to. If that's practice, I'm almost afraid to do the real thing.. Irena thought.

"All finished?" Jordan asked kindly. Magnolia had gone off to work, and Philomena hung around upstairs with Diana.

"Yes, thank you, it was delicious." Irena told him nicely as he took her bowl from her.

He hadn't said anything about catching them kissing, but Irena felt that the air around them had changed; as if it were thicker now, thick with emotions, tensions, like an electric, humid mist that had settled in the house.

"I'm not mad, you know." Jordan said at once, making Irena jump. "You're a good friend to Philomena.. and what you do isn't my business." Irena tensed, ready to feel the scolding. "You're all growing up. Self exploration is normal, encouraged in this house, anyway. Just.. don't ruin things with her. You're better off as friends."

Irena glanced up to him. "Okay.." She mumbled.

"You oughtta tell her to stop that." Jordan chuckled, coming to the table with his coffee. "Teddy seems like a great kid, I can tell she likes him. If she's running around kissing her friends, she'll mess up her relationship with him, you know?" Irena didn't respond, still feeling guilty. "You're around her more at Hogwarts. Just keep an eye on her, okay?"

She looked up to him, blinking. "I can do that."

"Perfect." Jordan grinned. "I didn't want to make it too awkward. I'm not mad at you, okay?"

"Okay." Irena said breathlessly, nodding.

Dad came and picked her up not too long after. Irena said goodbye to Philomena and Diana, promising to meet them in Diagon Alley and to write to them often. In the end, it was bittersweet. 

Even as Dad drove back, Irena couldn't stop thinking about the kiss. Despite the whirlwind of worries, one thing was certain in her mind: whatever kissing was, it felt good, and she wanted to do it again.

 

Sunday, 17 July, 2011

Dear Philomena and Diana,

I made it! I'm in the Highlands now, closer to Hogwarts than ever. Auntie Ginny and Luna's house is exactly how I remember it: it's a bit messy like the Burrow, but otherwise perfect.

There are lots of people here already. Tabitha has apparently been here all summer, practicing to be a Chaser, which is amazing. Austin talked to me about her, so I put a good word in, but she doesn't know. I just want her to have a leg up on the competition, to be completely honest. She's actually getting really good.

Teddy is here too. Don't worry, he doesn't know what happened at our slumber party. He's been helping Tabby train too. Ha. Teddy and Tabby. I think he just wants to be here because it's fun, it's less about practice.

I forgot to mention- Victoire is coming! Remember that she was super obsessed with Quidditch? She wants to be a Seeker, just like her dad, Bill Weasley (there are trophies with his name on them, I read them all when I was cleaning the trophy case last year). She wants me to teach her all my moves. I think I've gotten better at torpedoing compared to last year, so I'll just teach her basic stuff. Who knows, maybe she won't even make the team, and I won't have anything to worry about. But, if she does, she can't be exactly like me, you know? Then it'll be like copying. Copying is so annoying.

Anyway, I've got to go. I'm going to warm up. I hope this letter finds you well.

Love,

Irena Diggory-Black

PS. What day are you both going to Diagon Alley? We could coordinate with everyone here. Teddy is apparently writing Talon everyday, so he's coordinating there. It would be so much fun to go together- we could even ditch the grownups too, since Mum and Dad are gonna be fretting over Leo's first year.

 

Friday, 22 July, 2011

Irena woke up early to go running, just like Austin made them do. Tabitha ran behind her, gasping for breath as she tried to keep up. Teddy ran beside her, determined not to be tired, but his face was undeniably red.

"Hey, wait up!" A voice called out. A small red haired girl ran behind them. Victoire grinned. "I'm ready to train."

"We run first thing in the morning." Irena explained. "Then we go and practice flying before going into special training. Then we have lunch, then we play a few games." She said seriously. She had been having a much better time at this new house. For one, Teddy and Tabitha took orders from her seriously, for another thing, she could use magic.

Victoire blinked. "Okay, that sounds fun." She grinned.

They continued running a lap around the rings. They took some time to rest before going up to practice flying, skirting around the rings, flying up and down to practice their agility. Then, Tabitha and Teddy began practicing, leaving Irena alone with Victoire.

"What do you want to know?" Irena asked, letting her legs dangle from her broomstick as she adjusted her gloves. It wasn't safe, but she didn't care, she just felt cool. Victoire's gray eyes stared at her, and Irena pretended it was in awe.

Victoire gripped her broom, a Thunderstrike 2011, a popular broomstick among professional Quidditch players. "Can you teach me how to torpedo like you?"

Irena laughed casually. "It's taken me a year to learn it, and it's still not perfect." She said modestly. "But we can practice it a bit, you'll just have to practice it more on your own."

She nodded excitedly, tucking her hair behind her ears.

They spent the afternoon practicing before Ginny called them to lunch, ham and cheese sandwiches, steak pies, and sausages- lots of hardy, meaty foods, perfect for building muscle. They played after, practicing with Tabitha's Chaser skills and Teddy's Keeper skills. Victoire would also make an excellent Chaser, but she had her heart set on being Seeker.

That was how everyday went, over and over. Victoire was a quick learner, but in Irena's opinion, she was only half as good as her. Tabitha was sure to make the team this year, and even Teddy had improved.

 

Sunday, 14 August, 2011

Dear Irena (and company),

Me and Diana will be staying at the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley starting August 22nd until we get on the Hogwarts Express. Mum and Dad are leaving to America to visit Dad's family because his mum is sick. You can come shopping with us anytime after :)

Sincerely,

Philomena (and Diana, but she doesn't want to write her own name)

 

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

Irena was only home for a few days before she was shipped off to Diagon Alley, excited to shop for school supplies. Her letter had come that Monday, along with Teddy's, Tabitha's, Victoire's, and Leo's. Mum and Dad were so excited for Leo, but Irena was dreading it. Hogwarts was her turf, and he wasn't going to ruin that.

She held onto the letter from Hogwarts tightly, rereading it again at the bottom of the stairs as everyone got ready. Talon was likely already there. His parents didn't really seem to care where he went, that was evident, since his mother dropped him off the year before.

Dear Ms. Diggory-Black,

Please note that the new school year will begin on September the second. The Hogwarts Express will leave from King's Cross Station, Platform Nine and Three Quarters, at eleven o'clock.

Third years are permitted to visit the village of Hogsmeade at certain weekends. Please give the enclosed permission form for your parent or guardian to sign.

A list of books for next year is enclosed.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Minerva McGonagall, Hogwarts Headmistress.

Irena looked through the other bits of paper enclosed. One was the permission form, which was easy enough to ask for from her parents, so she didn't bother worrying about it. The next was the list of school books she would need.

A list of school books Ms. Diggory-Black will need for the upcoming 2011 to 2012 school year:

- The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 3
- Magical Drafts and Potions
- The Essential Defense Against the Dark Arts
- One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi
- Intermediate Transfiguration
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
- Monster Book of Monsters
- Unfogging the Future
- Home Life and Social Habits of British Muggles

She coughed as footsteps were heard down the stairs. Victoire sat down beside Irena. "I know how you feel." Victoire sighed. "My little sister, Dominique, is going to start Hogwarts this year as well. My cousin, Ember, too. I won't be the only Weasley anymore."

Dad laughed as he pulled on his shoes. "McGonagall was talking about that." He told her with a grin. "An influx of Weasley children is sure to come, you'll all be in Hogwarts for the next ten years. It all started with you."

He stood, clearing his throat. " Leo, Teddy, come downstairs! We're going to be leaving soon! " Dad called. Irena had been sharing her room with Tabitha and Victoire, which was no trouble, it just meant Teddy was a guest in Leo's room.

Tabitha came downstairs, pawing through her hair with her fingers in the mirror by the door. "How do I look?" She asked Irena and Victoire, eyes shifting from girl to girl.

"Beautiful, as always." Victoire grinned. Tabitha blushed slightly, looking away.

Mum came in through the kitchen, putting on her shoes. Teddy and Leo came down the stairs, doing the same. Mum grabbed the three girls, apparating with them to the Leaky Cauldron, Dad doing the same with Leo and Teddy.

They entered the pub, seeing Philomena and Diana seated at the front table. Beside them sat Talon, his hair cut short to his ears in something that looked like a bowl cut. Irena tried not to snicker.

Mum led them to the alleyway, handing a few galleons to Irena. "I expect you'll be wanting to go off on your own with your friends, so I'm setting ground rules, Irena." She said seriously. "Buy your books first, then the rest of your supplies. You can use the leftover money for treats, or anything else you want to buy. Another thing- if I see you going into Knockturn Alley, I'll make sure your Hogsmeade slip doesn't get signed."

"Yes, Mum." Irena giggled as she handed her a small coin purse full of galleons. "I'll meet you at the ice cream shop at 3?"

She grinned. "Perfect. I'll see you!" Mum kissed her goodbye.

Irena put the coins in her pocket, turning to her friends as they began wandering around the shops. "I've spent basically the whole summer training with Tabitha." Teddy told Talon, updating him. "Victoire and Irena came later and we trained with them too. It was loads of fun."

"Tabby's going to be a Chaser?" Talon grinned. "I guess we'll just see who's the better one."

"At least I've got better hair!" Tabitha sniffed, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder. Irena and Philomena laughed.

Diana smiled, walking close to Talon. "I think your hair is wonderful, Talon." She gushed.

Teddy cleared his throat, taking Philomena's hand. "Alright." He said, stopping them. "Where are we going first?"

"I've got to buy books first, my mum said so." Irena told him.

"Silly little rule." Tabitha rolled her eyes. "How will she be able to tell where you went first? We can shop for supplies later."

Irena frowned, feeling infantilized. "Well, it'll be pretty obvious if I don't come back with all the books on my list." She said coldly. "I guess I'll be going to Flourish and Blotts alone, if you're all going to be like this."

"I'll go with you." Philomena told her.

"Me too!" Victoire agreed, stepping closer to her.

Tabitha rolled her eyes. "I want to go to Quality Quidditch supplies. Whoever wants to join me, join me." She began walking away. Talon followed after her, which meant Diana tagged along as well. Teddy remained with the three girls.

Irena led the way to the book store, going inside. She looked at her list again, buying all the books she needed. They went to the Apothecary as well, picking up potion making supplies. They wandered in other sections, looking at quills, then looking at the sweets shop. Victoire and Teddy went inside the Weasley's joke shop while Philomena and Irena waited outside.

Teddy and Victoire didn't come out with many things, but only smiles. "My legacy!" Victoire shouted from the street as they wandered more.

They came to the Magical Menagerie, looking at pets. Irena didn't have time for a pet, Brownie was enough work for her. Philomena wanted to go in, so they did. The group split up in the shop. "Maybe I ought to get a rat.. or a toad.. something that will keep Dominique away from me.." Victoire reasoned to Irena.

Philomena was crestfallen. "I only brought enough money for books." She confessed. "But this little Kneazle kitten is so cute.. the shop owner says no one wants her since she's so small."

Irena looked at Teddy, who looked around nonchalantly. Irena cleared her throat. Philomena pet the little black and white kitten in her arms. What? Teddy mouthed as she stepped on his foot. Buy the kitten for her, idiot. Irena mouthed back. He grinned cheekily. "Phil, I've got money, you know."

"You would buy her for me?" Philomena blinked.

"Well, duh!" Teddy laughed. "Boyfriends always help out with stuff like this, and I'm your boyfriend. Let's buy her." They shuffled to the front, buying the cat.

The four made their way to the ice cream shop. Victoire looked on at Teddy tenderly, almost wistfully. Irena didn't need the Sight to know that she liked him, it was obvious. Out of respect for Philomena, Irena didn't bring it up.

"I think I've got a name for her." Philomena said as they sat outside with their ice cream. "I'm going to call her Miaou."

Teddy laughed. "Meow? Like the sound they make?"

"Yes, but spelled the French way." Philomena sniffed. "Not Meow , her name is Miaou , or Mia . Isn't that cute? You think she'll be friends with Brownie? I sure hope so." She rambled while Irena stared into space.

The day went by in the blink of an eye, and before she knew it, summer was officially over, and it was time for school to begin.

Chapter Text

Friday, 2 September, 2011

"Irena! Leo! Come here, stand in front of the brick wall." Mum told them in an orderly tone. Irena sighed, going and standing beside her little brother, rolling her eyes. "Smile, Irena. Pretend you love your brother, hm?"

She flashed a smile, throwing her arm over his shoulder. Mum snapped the picture. Irena watched as Padfoot and Moony walked in, Teddy pushing his cart full of books, Sunny was dragged along by her fathers.

"Hi!" Teddy grinned. "Anyone shown up yet?" He asked, standing beside her.

"Not yet, we're the first." Irena giggled.

Students bustled around them, boarding the train. Teddy busied himself by putting their belongings in the compartment, securing a spot on board. Next, a few Weasleys walked in. Victoire ran at a full sprint, wrapping her arms around Irena. "I just saw you, Vic! You don't have to-"

"I missed you!" Victoire giggled. "Oh, here come the others." She gestured to the other huddle of Weasleys that followed. Irena waved to Dominique, who flashed a smile to her, tucking her blonde bob behind her ear. "Vain, that one." Victoire whispered. Beside Dominique was a short, freckled boy with hair as red as Victoire's, who must have been their youngest brother, Louis.

Mum stood by Irena, holding onto Leo. "Bill, Fleur!" She greeted, enveloping them in a hug. "Is it Dominique's first year too?" She asked warmly.

" Oui. " Fleur spoke in her accent, an accent that Victoire echoed often when she spoke. "Dominique is starting Hogwarts today. C'est tres triste .. they're growing older." She sighed, touching the top of Dominique's head.

"Leo's starting his first year too, maybe they could sit together on the train." Mum grinned.

"Oh, Dom, doesn't that sound nice?" Fleur asked.

Irena watched as Leo approached Dominique, shaking her hand feverously, grinning. "I'm Leo, Leo Diggory-Black." He introduced himself.

"Dominique Weasley." Dominique smiled. "This is my cousin, Ember." She introduced, pulling a shyer girl from behind her. Ember was frighteningly beautiful, and Irena's eyes lingered. She had dark brown skin, like her mum who stood behind her, but bright red hair, like her father, Fred.

Leo grinned. "Hi, Ember, I'm Leo." He said warmly.

Irena sighed, grabbing Victoire's things. "Teddy's setting up things for the train, he'll set yours up too."

Victoire grabbed her things back. "I can do it myself!" She said quickly, her cheeks growing red as she smiled. "You just- you should just wait out here for everyone else, right?"

"Alright." Irena giggled, leaning against one of the pillars. She crossed her arms, eyes focused on the entryway. Students came in with their families, meeting with their friends, hugging their parents goodbye.

Talon walked in next, pushing his cart of things, his family behind him. His face was enclosed in a tight frown. "Hi, Talon!" Irena called, as soon as his eyes fell on her, he smiled. "Why the long face? We're going to the best place on earth!"

He sighed as he came closer to her. "It's my little brother, Storm, it's his first year." Talon whispered. Irena glanced behind him to see a boy who couldn't have been more opposite than Talon. His hair was short, and a messy colour of blond. " I've also just been laughed at five times for my haircut. "

"We'll fix it." Irena giggled, looking up to him.

"Talon, is this one of your friends, then?" An older man asked. He smiled when he saw Irena. "I'm Alexander Aves, Talon's father, heir to the Aves family fortune."

Irena smiled. "I'm Irena Diggory-Black." She said politely. "I'm not sure I'm going to inherit a fortune.." She giggled nervously, glancing at Talon, whose eyes glared up at his father.

The man smiled, nodding and leaving. "I hate him." Talon growled.

"Why's that?" Irena asked.

"He's always trying to set me up with girls.. something about keeping our family line intact . As if I needed any help talking to girls." Talon retorted. Irena giggled. You were the one who snuck out to peep at Hufflepuff girls.. I think you need all the help you can get. "Where's Teddy? You're here, he must be here too."

Irena pursed her lips. "Putting things on the train with Victoire." She replied. "You can go on and join them, I'll just wait out here for the others." Talon smiled and nodded, leaving her. She watched as his mother fussed over his younger brother. Leo and the Weasley girls didn't hesitate to introduce themselves to him.

Her heart raced when she watched another family enter. She recognized Florence, her hair was a bright shade of pink as she walked through the crowds. She hugged Mum, grinning. Beside her was a tall, brooding blond man. A small blonde girl held onto his hand tightly, on the other side of him, a blonde boy. In Florence's arms, a little toddler who was about the same age as Aurora.

The girl broke free of her father's grasp, going to Leo, Storm, Dominique, and Ember, having recognized Leo from one of Mum's New Years parties. The train let out a toot of warning, telling everyone the train would be leaving in 30 minutes. Please, say goodbye to your children and step off the platform in order to allow other students to join their peers on the train. A voice whistled through the crowds.

Another family entered the crowds, finding their way over to Mum and Florence. Professor Potter flashed an easy smile to Irena, holding hands with a girl, who looked around anxiously. Irena remembered that his daughter was supposed to be starting Hogwarts this year as well. Beside the Potter family stood a large, red faced man, who also looked around anxiously.

Potter beckoned Irena over to them, and she left her place of observant solitude. "Dudley, this is one of my best students, Irena." He grinned. "She'll make sure that no Slytherins bully anyone."

Irena waved to the man. "So much magic.. you went through that every year after we dropped you off?" The man, Dudley, she assumed, asked Harry, as if Irena were not there. Potter chuckled, nodding. "You'll never have to do that by yourself. We'll always be here to drop you off."

The girl didn't seem to register her father speaking at all, her eyes gazed around at the station. Potter cleared his throat. "Irena, this is Lily Potter, my daughter." He introduced her to the shy girl. Irena smiled. "And this is Iris Dursley, her cousin."

She pursed her lips. Does he expect me to sit with them? I'm not a babysitter! "Professor, my brother is starting his first year." Irena gestured to the group. "Maybe they could sit with them on the train?"

"Excellent idea." Potter grinned. "Let's go introduce ourselves, shall we?"

Irena went back to her quiet loneliness. Mum hugged Dad goodbye, then Leo. Mum found her and hugged her last. "We're going back now, okay? You be good, look out for your brother." He doesn't need looking out for, just look at him! Irena thought, but she nodded politely as Mum took off with everyone else.

A lanky blonde woman came through, tugging Tabitha behind her. Neither were smiling. " Make some friends with real Slytherins, Tabitha. " The woman whispered harshly. " Times are changing. Make sure you're friends with the right sort. "

Tabitha pulled her hand away, grimacing. "I know who my friends are, Mum. Just leave." The woman glared, but left right away.

Irena waved, getting her attention. "Teddy's on the train already with Victoire and Talon." She told her. "I'd hurry and get your things on there." Tabitha embraced her tightly, maybe for a few seconds longer than normal, before hurrying away. The train let out another warning toot to signal there was 15 minutes to board the train.

Two more people rushed in. Aria and Felix ran over to her. Aria wrapped her arms around her, giggling. Felix hugged her too, but it seemed like he didn't really want to. "Is Philomena here yet?" He asked. Irena shook her head and he sighed.

"Irena!" Aria whispered. "You got boobs over the summer!" She definitely said this a little too loud; Felix walked toward the train with all his things at that comment, making the two girls laugh. "Like, seriously."

She had grown over the summer, but only just a little. In the past six months, she'd gone from wearing tank tops under her clothes to a training bra, but now she could fit a small one. "Look at you, Aria! You've done more growing than me." She must have been in adult sized bras now, by the looks of things.

Finally, two more people burst through the entryway. Philomena pushed her cart through, and Diana followed. "I can't believe we're so late!" Philomena groaned, pushing her way past the two girls.

"Hi Aria! Hi Irena!" Diana grinned, following her.

Irena helped Aria board the train. The train let out a final warning toot to tell everyone there was 5 minutes left to board. Irena made sure Leo was boarded before going to her own compartment.

She opened the door, sitting in the corner. Everyone was busy giggling as the landscape around them began to move- the journey had begun. "Okay, I'm going to fix Felix's hair first, then I'll fix yours." Philomena instructed Felix and Talon, who were both sitting on the floor. 

Victoire was seated beside Teddy, laughing, always glancing at him. Should I tell Philomena? Maybe it was obvious and she already knew, but didn't care. Irena knew that Teddy would never leave Philomena for Victoire, not when they were as happy as they were.

Philomena pulled out her wand, likely for the first time since leaving Hogwarts, waving it over Felix's hair. " Crescere comas. " She cast, and the familiar blond curls fell from his head. Irena watched carefully, remembering how Austin's hair curled just like Felix's. Her heart raced when she thought of seeing him again.

Talon beamed. "Me next, please!"

" Crescere comas. " Philomena sighed, letting Talon's hair grow down to his ears, just as it had been before. "Happy now, both of you?"

Felix grinned, the red of his split lip glinting. "Yes, thank you!" He laughed.

Philomena sat back onto Teddy's lap, which seemed odd to almost everyone. They hadn't been that intimate the year before, but now she sat on his lap and kissed his lips as if they hadn't been separated for three months. Victoire scooted away, Felix almost held a look of disgust, Diana looked on with jealousy, eyes darting to Talon.

Things were quiet for a moment in the friend group. "I can't believe my brother's here." Talon groaned, planting his face in his hands in defeat. "He's going to embarrass me, I know it. He'll be a Gryffindor- probably a better one than me."

"My brother too." Irena chuckled. "But he thinks he'll be a Hufflepuff. I doubt he'll be in Slytherin, so I'm not worried." She conversed.

"My sister too." Victoire sighed. "She'll be a Gryffindor, all Weasleys are."

Felix laughed. "Yea, having siblings at Hogwarts sucks ." He said teasingly, and Philomena kicked him lightly. They all laughed.

The ride was full of laughs, sharing memories from the summer, like how Tabitha nearly knocked Teddy off his broom, or how Philomena and Diana swam out in the ocean as far as they could go, or how Felix and Aria went to an art museum and saw Brian May, a member of the band Queen .

They all got off, waving to the first years they all knew. Irena gave Leo a smile, but he was very focused on his new friends as they went off with Hagrid. The older students climbed onto the carriage. "You think Hagrid's class will be much fun?" Tabitha asked.

"I'm really excited for it." Philomena grinned, still holding onto Teddy's hand.

The carriages took them through Hogsmeade up to the castle. They walked into the Great Hall, separating themselves into their houses. Irena waved hello to all the Slytherins already seated. "Irena!" Orchid shouted, standing up and hugging her. "How was your summer?"

"Good, how was yours?" Irena giggled.

Austin sat at the table, smiling up to her and giving her a small wave before going back to chew on his fingernails. Godric.. he hasn't changed at all.. "Mine was good- oh, sorry Professor!- we'll just have to catch up at practice, right, Irena?" Orchid said, squeezing past Professor Flitwick and nearly stepping on him. Irena nodded, going to sit with her friends. The second years had scooted up the table, making room for the incoming first years.

Tabitha and Diana sat down on one side of Irena, Aria on the other. " Did you see Austin? " Irena whispered excitedly to Diana, who laughed silently.

McGonagall stood at the podium, clearing her throat. "Attention students!" She said, quieting down the lingering conversations around them. "We're going to begin the Sorting Ceremony, please, quiet down and cheer for your new housemates." McGonagall smiled as Professor Longbottom walked through the Great Hall, a crowd of 11 year old children following after him magnetically.

The sorting began with " Aves, Storm! " And the little blond boy from the platform shuffled to the front.

The hat didn't need to touch his head for very long before bellowing, " GRYFFINDOR! " The Gryffindor table erupted into cheers, but Irena could see the downcast look on Talon's face as his brother came to join him.

Before long, Longbottom called out, " Diggory-Black, Leo! " Irena watched as he smoothed his hair, stepping up to the stool. Many students around her glanced in her direction, but Irena kept her eyes on her brother, glancing at her father at the staff table.

The hat took a moment, which only felt like ten seconds to everyone else, but must have felt like a lifetime for him. " GRYFFINDOR! " The hat called out, and the table erupted into heavy cheers, Teddy looking to Irena smugly, as if to say, We've got him!

The girl that Irena had met, Iris Dursley, had also been sorted into Gryffindor. "Doesn't she look like a Muggle to you?" Diana whispered with a giggle. "Brand new robes, unkempt hair, very jittery and nervous looking."

"I'd be nervous if I were a Mudblood." Tom Yaxley sneered from the other side of the table. "A Mudblood coming to Hogwarts? That's like dropping someone bleeding from their snatch into a pool of sharks."

Tabitha scoffed. "You're disgusting." She retorted, but Irena stopped listening.

If Leo was in Gryffindor, that was almost the best outcome for Irena. He'd be too busy fraternising with everyone in the house, their paths would rarely ever meet. He wouldn't be embarrassed by her, and she wouldn't be embarrassed by him. Irena smiled and clapped as another student was sorted into Slytherin, but she was thinking of all the embarrassing moments she would avoid with Leo at a distance.

" Malfoy, Isabelle. " Longbottom called. The little blonde girl teetered up to the stool, sitting down. Milliseconds turned into seconds, and seconds turned into minutes. She was a hatstall.

Tom Yaxley shook his head. "It should be obvious." He droned. "With a name like Malfoy, she ought to be in Slytherin."

" GRYFFINDOR! " The hat called out as soon as he spoke, and the Gryffindor table erupted into cheers. Irena watched as her perfect platinum blonde hair turned bright red, then a vibrant gold, then orange. She was a Metamorphmagus!

Aria was in awe. "Another Metamorphmagus? They're so rare.. that's incredible."

"Teddy will have lots to talk about with her, I'm sure." Tabitha giggled.

" Potter, Lily! " Longbottom called out, smirking as he glanced toward Professor Potter, who was grinning. Irena watched his daughter earnestly.

Unlike Isabelle, the hat barely touched her head before shouting out, " GRYFFINDOR! "

"That much was obvious." Tom Yaxley yawned. "I'm fuckin' starving. Can we hurry this up?"

The ceremony continued without any hat stalls. The final two Weasley children were, of course, sorted into Gryffindor. Gryffindor by far had the most first years this year; though, the years were rarely ever balanced.

McGonagall came to the front, smiling. "Yes, yes, Gryffindor is a large house this year." She chuckled. "Mr. Lupin, please, I'm sure whatever thing you must talk about with Ms. Malfoy can wait until dinner, yes?"

Irena snickered as Teddy's face grew bright red.

"Alright, announcements for this year." McGonagall grinned. "Our third years this year have all been so excited to partake in Hagrid's class, Care of Magical Creatures; so much that we've decided to hire another teacher, in order to help balance things out. Our new Care of Magical Creatures professor is Professor Florence Malfoy!"

Florence stood, her hair had changed into a nice yellow colour with a few black streaks, no doubt paying homage to her former house, Hufflepuff. Dad sat beside her, smiling wide. Irena was always glad when he found friends among the other teachers.

"As always, for our first years, do not venture into the Forbidden Forest, unless you wish to die a most painful, torturous death." McGonagall said seriously. "Mr. Filch requests you keep magic to a minimum during passing periods, and he asks that no one stay out past curfew, unless you wish to find yourself in detention."

There was a pause as the Headmistress gathered her thoughts.

"Another thing: there have been different things floating around school concerning blood and blood purity. I, and the entire staff of Hogwarts, am telling you to cut it out. There is no point in wasting your breath berating each other all based on where you come from. Who cares if your parents are wizards, who cares if your parents are Muggles? We are all here for one thing- to learn magic in order to make the world a better place. There will be no tolerance for intolerance. Now, let us dig into our feast!"

Plates and dishes appeared over the table- roast turkey filled to the brim with delicious turkey filling, creamy macaroni and cheese, a large pot of a savory smelling stew, and steamed vegetables piled so high, Irena couldn't see Tom Yaxley's stupid face on the other side.

She ate until she was full, feeling each bite from the food she ate pressing against her sides, but she still had room for dessert- freshly baked cauldron cakes.

They went back to their dorms, saying goodnight to Philomena and the Gryffindors. Irena got ready for bed, brushing her teeth and braiding her hair, excited to get her timetables and wander the castle tomorrow.

"Do you think we'll get to pick which Care of Magical Creatures teacher we get?" Diana asked as she squeezed into a fitted pyjama top. "I do want Hagrid, I'm not sure I know Professor Malfoy well."

Aria snorted. "If she's a Malfoy, I'll want her as my teacher. Everyone knows Hagrid is an oaf."

"You're only saying that because Tom Yaxley said that about the Malfoy family." Tabitha teased as she brushed her hair. "What number will it be this time? When you get back together with him? The fourth time, or the fifth time?"

Irena decided to add on to the teasing. "Yea, Aria, does Tom even know you go to Chatsby's in the summertime? Knowing him, he'd never want to date a Muggleborn witch. If he finds out, he might just tie you to a stake."

Aria rolled her eyes. "I'm not Muggleborn!" She retorted in a whiny voice, casting a spell to make all her curtains pull tightly around her bed, shutting out the other three girls.

Diana giggled, standing up and going to the bathroom with Irena. "Did you see Talon? I didn't want to make fun of his hair, but it really didn't suit him. With what Philomena's done, he looks beautiful . I ought to thank her."

"He looks the same as he always does." Irena giggled, jumping into her bed, pulling the curtains tightly around her, falling asleep quickly to the warm feeling of home cooked food in her stomach.

Chapter Text

Monday, 5 September, 2011

Irena was nervous. She was particularly nervous to see which Care of Magical Creatures professor she would get, nervous to talk to Austin about Quidditch, nervous to see what Muggle Studies and Divination would be like; just nervous.

She picked at her food, suddenly losing her appetite. The girls all sat at the Gryffindor table for lunch, waiting for the boys to turn up. Victoire talked eagerly with Tabitha about her classes, while Diana stared at the entrance to the Great Hall.

Philomena sighed. "I'm a bit anxious. What if we get Professor Malfoy instead of Hagrid? Hagrid was the reason I signed up for this class." She wasn't eating much either.

"We'll be better off if we have Professor Malfoy." Aria retorted. Irena glared at her, but didn't say a word.

Diana squeaked in delight as the three Gryffindor boys came down the entryway. "Hi, Talon!" She greeted, batting her eyelashes and tucking her ginger hair behind her ear. "Are you excited for Care of Magical Creatures?"

"Uh, yea?" Talon asked, chuckling. He sat down beside Victoire, wrapping his arm around her. Diana's mouth formed a line, and her eyebrows became downturned. Irena felt a flash of anger, but didn't let it show. Boys are stupid! Irena thought. How could he be so oblivious?

Felix sighed, sitting down beside Irena across from Philomena, Teddy joining Philomena's side, kissing the side of her head. "Fletcher's off the team, officially." Teddy announced. "Victoire was right, it does look like she has a good chance of being Gryffindor Seeker."

Victoire blushed at his praise, but no one seemed to notice except Irena.

"After the shit he pulled last year? I'm surprised he's not expelled." Felix grumbled. "Irena could have died and it would have been his fault." Irena glanced at Felix, blinking her thanks to him, unable to find words. He had never defended her like that to her face before.

Teddy sat down. "I'm really glad Professor Potter was there." He mumbled, looking at Irena in an odd way. "I'd be really sad if I lost you."

"We're too young to die." Philomena smiled, taking a bite of her salad. Salad. That was what she liked to eat now. Is Philomena growing up? "I'm gonna graduate and live a long wizarding life. McGonagall is what- over one hundred now? I want to be like her."

Felix snickered. "Headmistress Philomena?" He teased her. "It's got a ring to it."

Philomena rolled her eyes, giggling.

Irena felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned, jumping at the sight. Austin stood behind her, his hair wet and falling to his ears in defined brown curls. "Good to see you, Irena." He said warmly. Her heart raced. "Have you heard the news about Fletcher?"

"He's off the team?" Irena replied.

"Exactly." Austin grinned. "I wasn't gonna let that bastard get away with what he did. He pushed you and caught the Snitch, we ought to have a rematch, but Josiah's all the way in Algeria studying god-knows-what. He's not coming back. We'll just have to whoop their asses this year and win the Cup. Oh- you've got Gryffindors here. Well, we're gonna whoop your ass."

Teddy laughed. "We'll see about that, Evergreen." He teased him.

Irena was stunned, unable to keep her eyes off of Austin and his perfectly wet hair.. Godric, what if his shirt is wet? He wore a button down, but his body wasn't wet, which was odd. She couldn't help but stare.

"Oh- I nearly forgot- tryouts are on the 18th, so spread the word. I'm going to start training right after. We've got to get ready this year. We're going to win." Austin rested his hands on Irena's shoulders, giving them a squeeze before taking off.

She hadn't even chewed her food, turning back toward the table. Philomena and Aria were laughing. "Irena, if you keep your mouth open like that, your food will fall out." Philomena laughed.

There was so much to process.. "He made sure Barnabas got kicked off the team.. for me.." Irena whispered, thinking aloud. "Did you see his hair?"

"He must have given her a love potion, look at her!" Aria giggled. "She's bewitched!"

Felix was quiet beside her, which seemed normal. If he was going to continue being overly nice, she would start to become worried. They continued eating lunch, then saying goodbye to Victoire. They went to Charms class, then they made their way outside near the Forbidden Forest for their final class of the day.

They made their way, among all the other third years, and there were many. Hagrid stood in a clearing of trees. "Come closer, we aren' gon' bite ya!" He invited them in. Irena stood close to Tabitha and Felix, since Philomena insisted on holding hands with Teddy, and Diana insisted on standing as close to Talon as humanly possible- while not being weird about it.

He clapped his hands together, grinning. "Thank you all for joinin' us! I'm goin' ta introduce ya to Professor Florence Malfoy, one of the professors for this class. We're goin' to be splittin' you up into two classes to switch off. One of 'em will be with me on Mondays and with Professor Malfoy on Fridays, the other vice versa."

Professor Malfoy smiled, today her hair was a dark maroon. "Thank you, Hagrid, I can explain from here." She said, "We're going to be switching off. I will offer in depth theoretical lessons: learning all about the creatures, and Hagrid will be showing you the creatures themselves: letting you interact with them."

Hagrid grinned. "Now, Professor Malfoy will read out the list of students who will be in Cohort A and who will be in Cohort B."

Malfoy cleared her throat, pulling out a bit of parchment. "This will be Cohort A. These students will meet with me on Monday, and Hagrid on Friday," She read a bit. "Talon Aves, Eva Bucks.." She read off the names quickly. Talon left Diana's side, going to stand beside Professor Malfoy.

She continued through the C names, then to the D names. "Irena Diggory-Black, Diana Dolohov.."

Irena went to stand beside Talon and Diana, who seemed overjoyed to have class with Talon.

"Philomena Fitzgibbons, Felix Fitzgibbons.." Malfoy read aloud, and the two twins left their positions to join the rest of their friend group. Irena looked at Teddy, Tabitha, and Aria, who all looked equally frightened.

"Edward Lupin.." She continued, and Philomena breathed a sigh of relief on the back of Irena's neck as he joined them.

"Aria Rowe.."

Professor Malfoy passed through the T names, but Tabitha still stood right where she stood, eyes wide, face pale. She concluded the list, and the classes had been split evenly. "That concludes my list, the rest of you are in Cohort B, so you'll meet with Hagrid on Mondays and me on Fridays. Cohort A, let's go up to the classroom and play some name games!"

Irena mouthed sorry as they left Tabitha alone with Hagrid's class. She blinked sadly.

 

Tuesday, 6 September, 2011

Today was a new day, today was a new class. Irena's stomach prickled with nerves, but she laughed it off. "I'll see you later!" Teddy called out as he, Philomena, and Aria walked away from the Astronomy tower off to their Ancient Runes class.

"Teddy is going to regret his decision so hard." Talon laughed through gritted teeth as he waved until Teddy disappeared around the corner. The five of them turned, walking the other way to get to the Divination classroom. "I was talking to a fifth year- there's so much homework for Ancient Runes. They said it was a boring class."

Diana sighed contently. "I guess Teddy really loves Philomena." She echoed, glancing at Talon longingly.

They walked to the Divination classroom, going up the ladder to the classroom, which was different. Pillows were thrown everywhere, candles were lit, and the general atmosphere was wonderful.

" This is the perfect class to take a nap in. " Felix whispered, Talon punched him in the arm.

They found a leftover table where they could all sit together. Tabitha sat on the far right, then Diana sat beside Talon. Felix sat beside Talon, his head rested on the table. Irena was on the far left.

Professor Trelawney was more interesting than Irena could have ever imagined. Her hair was frizzy, like a storm cloud had settled over her head. She wore large glasses that magnified her irises to the size of Galleons. She wore many bracelets on her wrists that tended to click together whenever she moved.

"Hello, hello." She grinned. "You are all exactly how I predicted. So.. eager to learn.. but still so much doubt.." Trelawney looked around, glancing at a student. "You, my dear, your uncle, the Auror, is he well?"

"Yes, I believe so." The student replied, frowning.

"I would write to him before it's too late." Trelawney whispered menacingly. Irena's heart raced.

Her eyes scanned the room, settling on their table. " Shit. We're going to get in trouble for having too many people. " Felix whispered. Most tables only had two or three students, but theirs had five.

"The energy this table has.." Trelawny whispered. "It's off the charts.. I can see it now.. soulmates!" She gestured to the table. Irena frowned. "Yes.. many.. interconnected.. tell me, dear, what is your name?"

Diana grinned. "My name is Diana, Professor." She said proudly.

"Your aura is illuminating the room, it glitters like electricity and burns like a fire.." Trelawney whispered. "I have only met you in my dreams.. you are magnificent. Thank you for bringing your soulmates to class. I am delighted to pick you all apart."

She stepped away. Diana giggled to Tabitha, who only rolled her eyes. " Divination is bullshit . " Felix whispered from beside Irena. " Soulmates? That's only just a fairy tale told to lonely people to make them feel less lonely. "

" You don't believe in soulmates? " Irena asked in a whisper.

" Why would the universe take time to craft someone another person that just so happens to be a perfect fit for them? " Felix rolled his eyes.

Irena blinked, frowning. How could someone believe that there wasn't someone out there just for them? It was so pessimistic.. so dismal. If soulmates didn't exist, what was the point of being alive? Wasn't the point of living to love others and be loved? How could someone truly love someone else if they weren't soulmates?

"This year, we'll be learning a lot of basics, palm reading, crystal gazing. We're going to open our Chakras, open our Third Eye, broaden our minds.. there is not much I can teach you if you do not have the Sight." Trelawney continued. "So we will learn ways of fortune telling without it. We're going to learn Tarot and things. We'll be starting with Astrology."

Diana grinned. " I've always wanted to learn Astrology! " She whispered.

"Your homework for this week is to bring your birthdays, birth times, and birth locations. During class, we will analyse them." Trelawney told the students. "By doing so, you may find much more about yourself and about your peers, perhaps information that you never wanted to know in the first place."

She stood in her place, staring into space, but clicking back into place, as if she had just remembered that she was supposed to be giving a lecture.

"Now, a name game. Unfortunately, I do not possess the skill to predict all of your names, but I will take the time to learn them..."

 

Wednesday, 7 September, 2011

Irena hesitated outside the Muggle Studies classroom, feeling awkward. "You'll have a great time." Tabitha told her with a grin. "Go in before you're late."

"Have fun learning about Muggles, though I don't think you'll have much fun." Aria rolled her eyes. Teddy embraced Irena as she went into the classroom.

The desks were lined up in a half circle, all pointed to the front of the classroom where a blackboard sat. Near it, was a middle aged man with a shadow of a beard left on his face. He wore a flannel and jeans, something strangely very casual for Hogwarts.

"Irena, hey, Irena!" A voice called to her from her right. Talon and Felix sat at one of the desks. Talon tapped the seat beside Felix, pointing to it. "Come sit with us!"

She sighed in relief, going to sit beside Felix. "I was worried I'd have to make new friends in this class." Irena chuckled. "I'm not very good at that- you both know that already."

" Looks like you're one of two Slytherins in this class. " Felix whispered as the bell rang. " Why am I not surprised? Blood supremacist bastards. " He growled.

Irena looked at him, not knowing what to say. She glanced at Talon, who only shook his head, as if saying, Don't bother with him. She chuckled silently, pulling out her textbook and placing it on the desk.

The professor turned around, grinning. "Good to see so many people have signed up for this class! More than last year!" He clapped his hands together, pulling up a stool. On the blackboard he had written Welcome to Muggle Studies! in curly cursive letters, which seemed excessive, but was still plenty of fun.

"I'm Professor Ryan Raywood, but you all can call me Professor, Prof, Raywood, or Ray. If you call me Ryan, I might have to Incendio your robes." Professor Raywood laughed, but no one else did. "Jokes.. jokes.. they exist in the Muggle world.." He mumbled.

Raywood stood up. "Welcome to Muggle Studies! This might be the easiest and most interesting class at Hogwarts! I've been teaching this class for five years, this will be my sixth year. I was a student just like all of you, sitting in these seats, looking for an easy O. This class will be an easy O as long as you keep an open mind, be kind to your classmates, and participate. I'm perfectly qualified, since I was a Muggleborn student, like some of you, I assume."

Felix sat upright at this. Talon grinned at him, Irena kept her eyes focused on Professor Raywood.

"We're going to learn all sorts of things- Muggle history, Muggle culture, Muggle societal values, Muggle architecture, everything you could think of. I hope to have you for a few years, maybe even a few of you will join me for your NEWTs." Raywood chuckled. "This year we'll be focusing on Muggle history.."

He went to his desk, pulling out an odd rectangular object, opening it. " He's got a laptop? " Felix whispered in awe.

"Bloody battery.." Raywood whispered. "Can't believe it's dead already.. stupid thing.." He tapped his wand to it twice, mumbling under his breath. He raised his wand and pointed to the shades, pulling them down one by one, then pointing to a projector. It clicked on, and Irena could see his laptop screen.

"That's amazing.." Irena whispered, glancing at Talon, who was awestruck as well.

Raywood seemed to notice all the shocked faces and laughed aloud. "Yes, we'll be covering Muggle technology this year as well." He told them, clicking to a presentation. Already, this class was more interesting than any other class. "Our focus question for the year will be: Where does magic show up in the Muggle world? There will be an essay during the year to answer this question, so I suggest you get all your homework assignments in on time."

The class went on, and everything seemed interesting. Hermione was right. This is a great class. Irena thought, thinking of writing to her to thank her. They would cover every bit of magic in the Muggle world, even in places like Haiti and Brazil, not just England and America. They would even learn how Muggles get by without magic, with electricity and other things.

It was sad when the class ended. Irena began walking out with Talon and Felix, excited to tell Philomena everything about it. "You two go on without me." Felix told them. "I'm going to talk to Professor Raywood."

"See ya." Talon said casually, walking out with Irena. "Interesting bloke, that one."

"Who? Professor Raywood or Felix?" Irena asked, clutching her Muggle Studies textbook close to her chest.

"The professor." Talon continued. "Bringing his Muggle technology to school.. It's quite cool. Dad told me I had to take the class, but I think our professor is much more exciting than his was." He laughed. They were quiet as they walked to the Gryffindor common room. "I'm glad Felix will have somebody to talk about being Muggleborn with."

Irena smiled. "You're a good friend, Talon."

He grinned, and she thought she could almost see a tint of red in his cheeks.

Chapter Text

Thursday, 15 September, 2011

Irena was very excited about the Divination class, although she was a bit nervous. She held her "Big Three" as Professor Trelawney called it, in her hand after writing to Mum asking for her birth time. She climbed up the ladder and sat at the same table beside her friends.

Diana whispered excitingly to Tabitha all about her chart, having read about it before class. Tabitha looked green, though she had been looking that way every day as she waited for Quidditch tryouts. Talon leaned back against the pillows, his eyes closed.

"No sleeping, Talon." Felix teased. "Who knows, maybe as a punishment she'll tell you how you die."

"A punishment worse than detention." Talon chuckled, cracking one eye open. "Transfiguration is boring, I need a little nap. If she comes by, wake me, hm?" He smiled his easygoing smile, closing his eyes and resting his face again. Irena could see why Diana liked him now- when he was totally relaxed, perhaps he was slightly handsome.

Felix chuckled. "Whatever." He rested his head on his arms on the desk, eyes alert for Professor Trelawney before class began.

Irena sighed, doing the same, but resting her head against Felix's shoulder. It was strangely very comfortable as if she were laying down for a nap. He jerked away, fixing her with an odd look before leaning back alongside Talon. She felt heat rush to her cheeks as they made eye contact and she felt instantly guilty, scooting away from him.

Class began and Professor Trelawney waddled out from where she was hiding. "Mr. Aves, I understand your need for rest, but I must say, if you sleep in class now, you will not sleep tonight."

Talon woke with a start (though Felix's sharp jab in the ribs helped) at this, rubbing his eyes while Diana giggled. Irena still felt odd about their interaction, keeping her head down on the table.

"Please, bring out your birth times and open your textbook to page 444!" Professor Trelawney cheered. There was a shuffling of papers and opening of books.

Felix watched Irena carefully. "Could I read over your shoulder at your book?" He asked kindly, his former hostility forgotten now.

"Sure." Irena smiled, pushing the book to an angle where he could read it.

"Now, go ahead and switch times with your partner." Trelawney said cheerfully. "They'll find out your sun sign, your moon sign, and your rising sign. This is an excellent way of getting to know someone. Mr. Aves, if you please, move to this table and trade with Ms. Cribbe. I feel that you're already friends with Ms. Dolohov and Mr. Fitzgibbons."

Talon groaned, getting up and sitting a table away. Irena rotated her body toward Felix, and he did the same, ready to trade slips of paper. He chuckled awkwardly, scratching his neck. "I'm not sure any of this is gonna make much sense, this is Divination, after all." Felix gave her his slip, and she gave him hers.

Irena looked in the book. "You're a Virgo sun.. the book says you're hardworking, reliable, kind-"

"-maybe Diana was right." Felix cut her off, chuckling. "I'm sounding pretty perfect from this so far."

She rolled her eyes. "You're also critical, stubborn, and you overthink things." Irena giggled, and he rolled his eyes. "According to this, you're a Gemini moon. So you're curious, a gossip, and you're moody."

" Moody? " Felix scoffed. "That book is fuckin' lying. I'm not fuckin' moody."

"Felix." Talon leaned close to them, making his partner pretty unhappy. "Felix, you're fuckin' moody."

"Shut the fuck up." Felix growled. Talon raised his hands in mock defeat, going back to his table.

Irena giggled as he sighed audibly. "You're also a Cancer rising, so you're sensitive and kind, but wary of others. You like to feel out a situation before jumping in. It says.. it says Cancer rising people are pretty lonely, since they're always so guarded around others."

He pulled the book over to him, reading it intently. He glanced to Diana, who was doing a very in-depth reading for Tabitha, who watched her affectionately as she excitedly explained everything to her. " Fucking Divination.. " Felix muttered under his breath, shaking his head. "Fuck Divination."

"Read mine?" Irena asked. "Embarrass me. I can take it." She flashed him a smile that she hoped was encouraging. Felix looked at her oddly, grinning.

Felix looked at the book carefully, then to her slip. "You're an Aries sun, so you're courageous, bold, intuitive, and a leader." He glanced to her before continuing. "But, you can also be impulsive, selfish, and unthinking."

Irena chuckled. "I guess I am selfish." She confessed.

"Are the authors sure this is describing an Aries?" Felix asked, frowning. "This just sounds like the typical Slytherin."

She laughed, grabbing the book. "Shut it with that, you mean boy." Irena grinned.

Trelawney walked over. "What's going on here? Are we reading signs?"

"Yes, Professor." Irena said flatly. "Sorry."

"No, no." Trelawney laughed. "It's alright. I'm glad to see an Aries getting along so well with an unbelieving Virgo." Felix opened his mouth to argue, but she didn't notice. "Let me see.. oh, my dear girl, I'm so sorry."

Her heart thumped. " What? " Irena asked quickly.

"A Scorpio moon!" Trelawney whispered. "You poor thing."

She walked away without another word. Felix pulled the book toward him. "It's not so bad." He mumbled. "You're just a bit more emotional than other signs, I suppose."

Irena bit her lip, pulling the book close to her now, reading the words for herself. The sensitivity and depth of the nature of a Scorpio moon means they are likely to have intense reactions to emotional stimuli. Scorpio is not an easy place for the Moon to be. The Moon is traditionally considered in her "fall" here, suggesting certain challenges around how lunar (emotional) qualities are expressed. Because the quality of your emotions- their strength and potential power- can be so intense, they can at times be overwhelming.

Felix pulled back. "Divination's dumb, it's probably wrong." He tried to be comforting.

"The problem is.. it's right. " Irena whispered. He blinked. "Read my rising sign, will you? Before I burst into tears?"

He read on. "You're a Sagittarius rising, so you're intuitive, adventurous, and a leader. But you're also restless." Felix glanced up to her before going on. "It says people with Sagittarius rising often spend their lives searching for meaning and learning their own truth."

Irena stuff her face in her elbows, sighing.

Felix did the same, getting closer so their elbows touched on the table. " We're just all kinds of fucked up, I suppose. " He whispered to her.

Class was easy that day, after analyzing each other's signs, Trelawney let the class goof off. Talon ended up returning to the table, and all of them listened to Diana read Tabitha's entire chart, which Irena thought would have been embarrassing, but she didn't seem to mind.

 

Sunday, 18 September , 2011

Irena walked through the hallways proudly, broomstick in hand. Tabitha walked alongside her, looking very pale and being very quiet. Diana was reading Philomena's chart behind them, and the sound of footsteps came from behind them. "Irena!" Aria whispered, catching up to her.

"What's up?" Irena asked. She was nervous for Tabitha. What if someone else got the spot on the team? It would be ages before anyone graduated.

Aria was absolutely beaming. " I've thought of our next prank! " She whispered excitedly.

"Tell me after, okay?" Irena asked.

"Got it." She giggled, walking beside Philomena and Diana.

The Quidditch stands were sparse, only a few people came to see the tryouts. People gathered around in the grass, the sun shone down and warmed the air. It was a pleasant day for Quidditch tryouts.

Austin was standing around with the others, seemingly scolding Tom Yaxley, which made her happy. Thyme and Orchid sat on the grass with Erwin, who sported emerald green hair this year. Austin grinned when he saw her. "There she is! My favorite Seeker!"

Irena blushed at his praise, glancing to Tabitha, who flashed her an uneasy smile.

"People trying out will sit over there." Austin told Tabitha, pointing to a group of four other people. Tabitha nodded, leaving. Irena's eyes lingered on them. There were three second years and one sixth year. Tabitha still seemed like the best Chaser, in Irena's opinion, just based on build.

Tabitha sat down with them and Irena stepped close to the team. " Muffliato. " Austin cast, a spell Irena had not heard of yet. "Slytherin will be going first, and we're only going to fill Josiah's role, though Tom is on thin ice. Let's get started, shall we?"

Someone recanted the spell, and the time had come. Irena stood beside Orchid while Austin introduced himself to the people trying out. "How are your electives?" Orchid asked kindly, gripping her broomstick.

"They're great." Irena chuckled. "I really like Muggle Studies, Professor Raywood is a super interesting guy. Divination's a bit rough- came in not thinking it was much, but I basically got all my secret thoughts exposed to the world."

Orchid laughed. "I heard that happens."

Austin turned as the potential Chasers got on their broomsticks. "We're all going up in the sky to watch." He told them all with a smile, getting closer to the group. " I want to hold it to a vote. "

Her heart raced. A vote? Irena was biased toward Tabitha already, and likely so was Thyme, they could even get Orchid to vote yes too, once she realized what an excellent Chaser Tabitha was. Irena grinned. This would be easy.

They kicked off into the air and floated up just away from the hoops. The others did as well. Irena floated toward Orchid and Thyme, looking out at the fresh meat. Thyme smiled to Irena as she floated over. "How are you doing?" She asked kindly.

"Just fine." Irena grinned, resting her chin on the knob of her broomstick, watching Tom Yaxley float to the goalposts, and Austin telling the potential Chasers how tryouts would work. "Why do you ask?"

Orchid answered. "We heard about the Banshee and didn't see you for a while." She replied. "We were all so worried about you."

"Josiah was angry." Thyme rolled her eyes. "Said we were all selfish and incompetent for losing. As if he wasn't a damn Chaser too." She tied her hair back while balancing on her broom. "The Seeker caught the Snitch. Austin wanted a rematch so bad, but you were in no state to play. We'll win this time, as long at the Gryffindors don't place a cheater as their new Seeker."

Irena smiled and nodded. Austin must care about me.. She thought with a twinge that made her heart flutter and her hands sweat. He cares about me. That was something. Edward cared about Bella, that's why he didn't want her to become a vampire. If Austin were a vampire, would he protect her? Vampires were strangely attractive with their glittery skin and golden eyes. 

What if Philomena were a vampire?

Her stomach did a different kind of twist, one more gut wrenching and exciting as she pictured kissing Vampire Philomena, with her pale face and wonderful vampire hair, her cold lips touching Irena's, though it would be better than the kissing practice.. Okay, Irena, stop thinking. You should focus on tryouts. She felt guilty for thinking of Philomena in that way.

Not a single one of the second years did well, even making Erwin laugh, who was usually very quiet and reserved. It was between Tabitha and the sixth year boy, Bran Buttons, who was worth not voting for simply based on his name.

The team came together, floating in the sky while Tabitha and Bran landed on the ground. "Alright, what do we think?" Austin asked, his face slightly red from exertion, which made Irena nervous.

"Bran does know Parkin's Pincer , which could come in handy." Orchid offered the idea.

"His last name is Buttons. " Thyme disagreed. "Are you kidding me? You'd rather Buttons over Travers ? We'll be the laughingstock of the school."

They all looked to Irena for her answer. "Thyme makes a good point- plus, Tabitha has been training for this all summer, she wants to be Chaser more than anything. She's a fast learner and could learn Parkin's whatever when necessary." Irena argued.

Erwin looked at Tom Yaxley. "Austin, we'll be outnumbered." Tom said to Austin, his face full of pleading. "We can't have more girls than boys."

He glared. " You are on thin ice already, Yaxley. I'm looking for talent, not gender . Why do you think we got so far last year? We put Orchid and Irena on the team and they were incredible. Maybe I should replace your ass with a talented girl and we'd lose fewer Quaffles and hear less complaining?" Austin snapped, Tom retreated.

Thyme smiled, blinking. "So, Tabitha?"

"We're holding it to a vote." Austin said. "We're a team, so we pick as a team. Now, just go around and say who you want on the team."

"Tabitha." Irena said first.

"Tabitha." Thyme agreed.

"Tabitha sounds like she'd be a good pick." Orchid smiled.

"Well." Austin grinned. "The majority has decided. Let's get down so the other teams can have tryouts." The team floated down and sat on the grass. Irena was excited to watch the other teams tryout.

Victoire stood beside Talon, but she watched Teddy eagerly. Felix stood beside them, looking nervous. Irena made eye contact and smiled to him, giving him a thumbs up. He flashed an uneasy grin, waving politely.

The Gryffindors took off, Felix was trying out for Beater and Victoire for Seeker, Irena knew that. Victoire sailed around, doing her dips and turns, even cycling like Irena had taught her, but she wasn't as spectacular as Irena was. She was the only person who tried out for Seeker, so everyone knew whether or not she was in.

Felix was next, carrying a Beater's bat now. A few others were also trying out, and Irena could tell that Felix desperately needed practice. The Bludgers nearly knocked him off his broom several times.

Irena got bored when it was time to watch Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, so she left with the others. Tabitha tagged along after her. "Irena! Irena, you have to tell me, did I get in?" She begged as they walked back to the castle.

"I'm not revealing my secrets." Irena giggled.

 

Friday, 23 September, 2011

That day was the first of many to be overcast at Hogwarts, meaning the group found their old spot to eat lunch from the year before. They were quite happy, having spent the last period working on a Defence Against the Dark Arts exam, and all receiving high marks.

Felix was always quiet, seated by the window. Irena sat with him, listening to the conversations of everyone around them. Irena watched Diana scoot closer to Talon, but he didn't seem to notice her at all. It made Irena feel upset.

She yawned and stretched. "I'm so ready to sleep in Muggle Studies." Irena told Felix teasingly.

"That's irresponsible." Felix rolled his eyes. Irena hated to see him so downcast. "But totally understandable. Who wants to hear about trench warfare in World War I? Couldn't they just magic themselves new shoes?"

Irena laughed at his joke. They walked to class together, all saying goodbye to each other as they left. Teddy, Aria, and Tabitha hung around. They walked past the Great Hall, glancing at the board. "Look, Quidditch tryouts!" Teddy said excitedly.

They all stopped and did a second take. Irena and Tabitha looked intently at the Slytherin team results, even though Irena knew them already.

2011-2012 Slytherin Quidditch Tryout Results (New members in bold)

Beaters: Austin Evergreen (Captain) and Erwin Larch
Chasers: Thyme Oakwood, Orchid Zhou, Tabitha Travers
Keeper: Tom Yaxley
Seeker: Irena Diggory-Black

Tabitha squealed, jumping up and down. Teddy was stone-faced as he looked at the Gryffindor results, so was Talon. Irena went to look too.

2011-2012 Gryffindor Quidditch Tryout Results (New members in bold)

Beaters: Claudia Buckling and Jett Beaverdam
Chasers: Pepper Talpin (Captain), Talon Aves, Alina Elderberry
Keeper: Edward Lupin
Seeker: Victoire Weasley

Felix looked very stoic, storming away. "Felix!" Teddy called. Talon glanced to Irena.

Irena and Talon went to Muggle Studies at once, finding Felix at the table where they always sat. Professor Raywood seemed to notice Felix's demeanour. "Ms. Diggory-Black, Mr. Aves, I think you may enjoy this class more if you were on time."

"Sorry Professor." Irena said, which Talon echoed as they hurried to their seats.

The lights dimmed and for that day's class, they would talk about modern Muggle sports. The class seemed to bounce around a lot, the units seemed dependent on the interest of the students as well as Professor Raywood's interest. He clicked through a slideshow.

" Felix, you'll get it next year, Claudia's graduating this year anyway. " Talon whispered.

Irena felt terribly sorry for Felix. He just needs a bit more practice.. Irena thought, paying more attention to the presentation in front of them.

"This is basketball, an American Muggle sport. They take the large orange ball and bounce it between themselves. It's incredibly popular in America, but not so much here.." Raywood droned, and Irena was bored. "Children and teens your age form their own teams and play together, some schools even have tournaments in March called March Madness . Here are some videos I found.."

She zoned out, but thought for a moment. Felix needed practice, but he could never get it over the summer.. What if Hogwarts had their own version of March Madness? Where friendly games could be played among students not necessarily on the main Quidditch teams? They could form their own teams instead of having tryouts.. and Felix would learn how to ride a broom and play. He could be better than everyone.

The class ended, and it was time to go to Care of Magical Creatures class. All three of them walked out together, but Felix had turned left when they were supposed to go right to get outside. "Felix, where are you going? Class is this way!"

"I'm skipping." Felix shouted. "Fuck that class. Fuck Hogwarts."

Talon looked to Irena, then back to Felix, who was disappearing. "Talon, you go to class, tell me what I miss, okay? I'm going to go talk to him. I think I have a way to make him feel better." She said in a low tone.

"Fine." Talon sighed. "I'd really like to skip too.." Irena slapped his shoulder with the wad of papers in her hand. " Alright! Alright! I'm going!" He turned on his heel and left, making Irena cast a look of satisfaction in his direction.

She turned and began sprinting down the hall after Felix. "Felix! Felix! " Irena called to him as she caught up. "I've got something that will make you feel better!"

Felix turned and looked, his face twisted in anger. "What do you want? What's a Pureblood like you want with a Mudblood like me?" His arms were crossed, it was miraculous that he even stopped to talk to her.

Irena brushed it off. "I've got a plan for Quidditch." She began to tell him her ideas about a friendly tournament, where teams could find their own players and play until the end. "I think it could be fun! It'd give you some practice and I could train you. I trained Victoire- I even trained Tabitha a little bit, but it was mostly Teddy."

She rambled on, not noticing the hard lines on his face start to soften.

"Sorry, I'm a bit of a mess." Irena laughed nervously. "I don't have any ideas written down."

Felix stepped closer to her, all the anger disappeared from his face. "I don't understand.." He said quietly, looking at her, then to his shoes. Should I repeat it again? "Why would you want to do something like this for me? I have nothing to offer you in return. I can't even get any of you birthday presents. I'm hopeless."

She stepped closer to him. "You're not hopeless, Felix." Irena said in a gentle tone. "You're my friend, and this is what friends do. Now, can we go to Gryffindor tower and write out a draft of this for McGonagall?"

He chuckled, and Irena could see his happier self returning, something much better than his anxiety-ridden, nervous self. "Yea, let's get going." Felix said with a warm smile as they walked together to the Gryffindor common room.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 1 October, 2011

Irena sat in the Gryffindor common room, working alongside Felix carefully. The fire roared in the fireplace and students gathered around before leaving. They'd spent a week planning everything, and she couldn't help but feel tired.

"I need a power nap." Irena mumbled, yawning. It must have been noon, they'd been up late last night and got up early to work. They had scheduled a meeting with McGonagall at 2.

Felix sat on the couch beside her, clutching photos of Americans playing basketball in colourful uniforms. "Go ahead." He told her. Irena sighed, scooting closer to him, resting her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes.

She fell into a dreamless cat nap before being woken up by footsteps. " Shhh! " Felix's whisper was the first thing that stirred her. Irena's eyes fluttered open and she groaned as she sat up, her neck aching.

Teddy and Philomena stood in front of them, backlit by the golden fire, Aria just behind them, looking stone-faced. "We've got the signatures." Philomena smiled. "I tried to fit a few Hufflepuffs in there. Their dorm is so hard to get into."

"I got nearly 100 people to sign for Slytherin." Aria smirked.

"Nearly 250 people for Gryffindor." Teddy bragged, putting the paper on the table. Aria did the same.

Philomena chuckled nervously. "You guys did so much better than me.."

Teddy grabbed her hand. "My win is your win." He said sweetly with a cheeky grin. Irena could see her cheeks glow red in the firelight.

"What time is it?" Irena asked groggily, rubbing her eyes.

"Nearly time, 45 minutes to go." Felix told her, pulling the pages together in a neat and orderly pile. Irena sighed, still feeling tired, but more nervous than anything else. "I think we have good evidence, we make good points, we've got more than enough support." He glanced at her, seeming to notice her nervousness.

Aria sat down on the couch between them, glancing at Irena and ignoring Felix. "You're going to do excellent, Irena." She grinned. "I think McGonagall is starting to like you."

"I don't know.." Irena chuckled. "She's partial to Gryffindors."

"You befriend Gryffindors." Teddy reminded her. "That makes you a better Slytherin than anyone else."

Felix grinned. "Plus you're friends with a bunch of Mudbloods. " He reminded her, the word coming off his lips with ease. "You must be the best Slytherin in her mind."

" Felix. " Philomena hissed. "Don't say that word. It's bad."

"It's fine, Philomena." Felix rolled his eyes. "You can say Mudblood too. It's like reclaiming it, or something." Philomena only frowned, pursing her lips, not saying anything more. Aria watched with an emotionless expression. "Come on, Irena, let's go."

Irena stood, tying her hair up. She glanced in one of the mirrors, wiping the sand from her eyes, then left with Felix. He clutched the papers under his arm, and Irena looped her arm in his. She tried to walk confidently, but she really was nervous.

They stood outside the entrance to her office. Felix was the one who knew the password. " Albus. " He spoke aloud, and the giant statue twisted to reveal steps, which they walked up. " We've got this. " Felix whispered.

McGonagall was busy looking into a pool of water in her office. When they entered, she lifted her head up at once. She looked at them, smiling. "Yes, Mr. Fitzgibbons, our meeting. I nearly forgot it."

"It's okay, Professor." Felix chuckled. He quickly ran through the petitions, his ideas, and pictures. He was concise since they had practised his speech many times earlier. "So, what do you think?"

She had moved from the Pensieve to her desk. "What does Ms. Diggory-Black think about all this? Why is she here?"

Irena giggled. "Emotional support-" Felix shot her a very suddenly angry look. "But, I also helped him research and plan it out. It was Felix's idea, he just needed a friend to help him." She smiled at him.

McGonagall smiled. "I approve of this." She told them, writing a note. "I hope Professor Raywood isn't too busy with the Muggleborn Student Union, he seems like the perfect teacher to help you with this. If he sends you back, just come back to me." She gave the parchment to Felix, who took it and began to run off.

She turned to run, but was stopped. "Irena, could you wait a moment?" McGonagall asked. Irena stiffened, turning to look at her. McGonagall had risen from her seat. "I'm sorry if this is a bit of an odd request, but I have noticed your natural ability for Transfiguration."

Irena blinked. "Oh, really?" She chuckled nervously.

"No doubt, thanks to your father." McGonagall laughed warmly. "But right around third year, after students pick electives, we can start to see what kind of witch or wizard you will become."

"Oh?" Irena asked, feeling a bit nervous again.

McGonagall walked closer, her emerald green robes sweeping behind her. "Yes." She said, "I have noticed your keenness for Transfiguration. Every year, I take one student under my wing to tutor them in Transfiguration, so you would no longer go to Professor Diggory's class, you would come here instead."

It's an offer of a lifetime.. Irena thought. But I love seeing Dad and my friends.

"I'll give you time to think about it." She patted Irena on the back, sending her away.

She left, walking down the stairs nimbly. Felix waited outside. "What was all that about?" He asked.

"Oh, nothing." Irena smiled. "Let's go talk to Professor Raywood." 

 

Friday, 7 October, 2011

The group made their way from the Astronomy Tower to Defence Against the Dark Arts. Teddy and Philomena walked the quickest, hand in hand. Diana and Tabitha walked just behind them. Talon walked beside Irena, while Felix trailed behind. He was in one of his moods again. Irena hated to admit it, but she attributed it to his Gemini moon.

"I wonder what we'll learn today!" Talon said in his mocking tone, grinning.

"You can't say it's useless." Irena laughed. "I've only been alive 13 years and have already come across one of the darkest creatures ever ." She grinned, and Talon laughed.

He wrapped his arm around her shoulders, and Diana turned and looked at her oddly before looking away again. Shit. Irena thought, knowing she would have to talk to her later. Irena peeled Talon's arm off her, walking away from him silently.

Professor Potter stood at his desk, but the tables of the classroom were pushed to the sides, a large cabinet sat in the centre of the room. He walked over, leaning on his walking stick. "Hello! Hello! Hello! Please leave your books and bags and things on the tables. We're doing something different today."

Irena left her bag on the table, glancing at the others. Diana and Tabitha seemed to be purposefully far away from her. Philomena and Teddy sat on the tables together, leaving Talon and Felix to stand beside them. Aria put her things down beside Irena. "Aren't you excited?"

"Excited for what? I don't even know what we're doing today." Irena chuckled.

"Boggarts! Haven't you been looking at the calendar?" Aria grinned. "Oh, wait, you're not in Potter's private lessons. We've been practising the Riddikulus charm for ages. He says I'll be the best in the class." She puffed out her chest boastfully.

Irena rolled her eyes. "Don't they show your greatest fear?"

"Yea." Aria smiled. "But if you're brave, it's not that bad."

The class began. "Now, today, we're going to have an interactive lesson with Boggarts. Who can tell me what a Boggart is?" Potter asked.

Philomena's hand shot into the air. "It's a shapeshifter." She said excitedly. "It takes the shape of what it thinks will frighten us the most."

"Excellent, Ms. Fitzgibbons." Potter grinned. "Boggarts like dark, enclosed spaces. Wardrobes, old drawers, grandfather clocks. It is formless, but when we open it, it will become the thing you fear the very most. There's a spell we use to change it into something funny, instead of scary. Say it with me: Riddikulus. "

The class echoed with many different voices saying, Riddikulus . " Riddikulus. " Irena repeated, keeping it in her head. This lesson seemed very important, and she wanted to keep the spell in her memory.

"Now, who would like to go first?" Potter asked. The students shuffled away, leaving Irena and her friends the closest to the wardrobe. "One of you, please, be brave and step forward."

Aria went first, then Talon, snickering to Felix and Teddy. Irena shuffled behind him, wanting to get it over with and Philomena joined her, followed by Felix and Teddy. After much shoving, Felix was behind Irena in line, which she didn't even notice.

Potter opened the wardrobe and the class held their breath, waiting for Aria's Boggart. The thing that tumbled from the wardrobe and flopped onto the ground limply. Irena looked closely at it. The hair was long, black, and curly, the skin paler than anything Irena had ever seen. The head lolled over, and Irena could see its face. It was Aria's own corpse. She was afraid of her own death.

" Riddikulus! " Aria cast, transforming the body into a large china doll, her skin just as pale, her hair black and curly to her shoulders, a smile painted on her face.

The class clapped. "Good one, Aria! Next- Talon!" Potter cheered.

Aria went to sit on the desk while Talon stepped forward. The Boggart changed from Aria's china doll to a tall clown, a bloodied dagger in his hand. The clown laughed menacingly, staring at Talon. Irena watched as his lip wobbled as he said the spell. "R- Riddikulus. " The clown transformed into Professor Raywood covered in clown paint.

Potter laughed. "I'm going to tell Professor Raywood about that one." He teased Talon. "Next, Irena!" Talon shuffled away quickly, going to sit beside Aria and watch the rest of the class.

Professor Raywood stared at her, smirking slightly as his limbs grew, his clown clothes turning into long black robes, his hair turning long and black, his face turning into a banshee's face. The Boggart let out an unholy cry. Irena could feel her stomach fill with stones, her head began to spin, and tears threatened to spill from her eyes as the banshee cried out.

" The spell, Irena. " Felix reminded her.

The air suddenly felt tight around her and every breath felt like she was suffocating. Irena began to hyperventilate. " No, no, no. " Irena cried.

Felix grabbed her shoulders, pushing her behind him into Teddy. The Boggart changed, shrinking down to the ground. A pale, pathetic looking thing stared up at Felix, its bones and joints twisted in disgusting ways, its hands reaching for him. Irena recognized it from their textbook: the Inferi. " Riddikulus. " Felix said at once, and the Boggart changed, growing a solid face. It was Professor Potter.

"Excellent work, Felix." Potter complimented. "Go and sit with Irena, okay? Aria, could you fetch her some chocolate?" Felix helped Irena to her feet.

They sat on the tables. Irena leaned her head against Felix's shoulder while Aria handed them both chocolate. Irena watched Teddy's Boggart, it had transformed into a bit of water that surrounded him, so his fear must have been drowning. " I'm so embarrassed. " Irena whispered to Felix.

" By the time class ends, you won't be the only one who couldn't perform the spell. " Felix chided with a cheeky smile.

Teddy came and sat beside them. It was Philomena's turn. The Boggart transformed into Irena, but her eyes glowed bright red. Philomena's step faltered. " I don't want to be your friend anymore. " The Boggart told her. It transformed, changing its hair and face. It was Aria now. " Filthy Mudblood ." It changed again to Teddy. " I'm breaking up with you. I've found someone better. " It transformed again to Felix. " You're a disappointment. "

Philomena blinked. " Riddikulus! " Philomena cast, and the Boggart exploded, turning into colourful floating jellyfish. She sighed, going to sit with her friends. She sat beside Irena, biting into the bit of chocolate Irena had been saving for her. They waited to watch Diana and Tabitha's in particular.

Aria stood up. " Stop fucking thinking that. " She snapped to Talon and Felix.

"Hm?" Teddy looked up. "Thinking?"

Felix and Talon looked equally confused. Irena lifted her head up. "You two are disgusting." Aria continued to berate them. "Of all the things you could be thinking about.. be appropriate!" She hissed.

Irena scooted away awkwardly, glancing at Felix before looking away. She had completely forgotten about Aria's Legilimency.

The class went on. Diana's greatest fear was heights, while Tabitha's was more confusing. She stood confidently. " I'm going to tell them all our greatest secret. " The Boggart said in an unearthly voice. " You -"

Potter stepped in front of her. The Boggart transformed from Tabitha to a large black shadowy creature. Irena only recognized it from her textbook- a Dementor. " Riddikulus! " Potter cast, transforming it into a puff of smoke that rolled back into the wardrobe. "That is the end of today's lesson, for homework, I want you to reflect on your fears."

Class ended. The group walked together for lunch. Aria grabbed Irena, pulling her away from the group. Her face seemed serious as she looked into Irena's face. "Irena, listen to me." She whispered. "You need to stay away from Talon and Felix."

"Why?" Irena asked. "They're my friends."

"They aren't." She tucked a dark curl behind her ear. "You didn't know what they were thinking. Talon was picturing you naked- he was picturing your breasts and Felix-"

Irena cut her off. "I don't want to hear about that!" She said quickly, feeling disgusted. "Please, just, leave me alone. I don't even like them like that."

"I know." Aria told her. "I can read your thoughts too."

Fear rushed through her. "Don't read my thoughts. I don't like that." Irena clenched her fists angrily.

"It's fine, your thoughts aren't any more interesting than Diana's or Tabitha's." Aria laughed. "But, friend to friend, you have to stop thinking about Philomena like that. It would never work. She's got Teddy and she's.. well.. you know.. Muggleborn. "

Irena sank away from her. "Leave me alone." She said harshly. "Stay out of my head."

Aria blinked, almost pathetically, as Irena left. She couldn't go to the Great Hall.. she couldn't face those boys knowing that they were thinking all those things about her. It felt violating and disgusting.. nearly just as bad as Aria looking through her thoughts.

Tears wanted to come out again and she wiped her eyes. "Excuse me- Irena is that you?" A voice called out to her. "Irena, stop, please." Irena stopped, sniffling, turning to see who was speaking. McGonagall stood just by her office. "What's happened?"

"Professor.." Irena tried to keep her voice steady. "I need help. I need to know how to stop people from reading my mind."

McGonagall blinked. "Occlumency?" She echoed. "You would need to ask Professor Potter for help with that, I'm sure. Come inside my office, please, let's get you sorted out for now."

The Headmistress made her chamomile tea and let her eat the cinnamon flavoured biscuits she stored. Irena explained it all to her, that Aria was a Legilimens, that boys were thinking inappropriate thoughts and, even though she didn't really want to, she told her about how she felt about Philomena and Austin (though she didn't say who they were in particular).

She took it in strides. "It sounds like you have a lot on your mind." McGonagall told her. "I know how important friendship is to people your age, and the way those feelings come up. Tell me, does your friend like you?" McGonagall was asking about Philomena.

"No, she's got a boyfriend." Irena told her, sipping her tea. "They're in love."

McGonagall laughed, a pleasant, windy laugh. "Love is not something you know at your age, not at all." She told her with a sweet smile. "You're young, you have a lifetime to explore yourself and fall in love. No one should make you feel any less than for liking someone else, boy or girl. I am a bit concerned about your Legilimens friend. Was she born that way?"

"Probably." Irena sighed, taking another bite of the biscuit. "It's so invasive. I don't like it."

"I know." McGonagall said kindly. "I'll write Potter a note, he'll know what to do. When he was around your age, he had a similar problem."

Irena blinked. "Professor Potter knew a Legilimens?"

"Technically." McGonagall told her. "Voldemort was a Legilimens, he and Harry had a special connection. Voldemort could see into Harry's mind, and Harry into his. He had to go to lessons to learn how to be an Occlumens. He will be happy to help."

She handed her a note. Irena stood. "Thank you, Professor." Irena told her.

"Of course." McGonagall smiled. "Your parents are heroes, if I can do anything to honour their children, I will." She shuffled in her seat, looking through her glasses at her papers. "You let me know what you think of those Transfiguration lessons."

Irena left her.

 

Monday, 10 October, 2011

She went inside the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, stomach churning. It was late in the evening, none of her friends knew where she was going. "I can hear how nervous you are!" Potter's voice rang out as he walked toward her slowly. "You want to learn Occlumency?"

"Yes, Professor." Irena replied. "McGonagall told you? Did she tell you why?"

Potter smiled, beckoning her to his office. "Not specifics, just that you needed to learn. It's an excellent skill, very useful. Is it nosy to ask why you wanted to learn?" He asked politely.

"Well, I just know a Legilimens, and I don't want her reading my mind." Irena told him.

"Once you learn to be an Occlumens, it will be quite easy to learn Legilimency as well." He told her, pulling out a drawer. "When I learned, it was with a professor I wasn't fond of, so I didn't learn very easily. I want this to be easy for you, but it won't be much fun." Potter placed a chocolate bar on the table. "If you do well, you'll get a bit of chocolate."

Irena felt nervous again. "Will it hurt?"

"No." Potter told her. "It will be a bit uncomfortable. I'm going to perform Legilimency, so I'm going to read your thoughts, but whatever you have in your mind, I won't tell anyone about. I want you to try clearing your thoughts and pushing your emotions aside."

She blinked, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, pushing her thoughts from her mind, and relaxing her thumping heartbeat. Irena opened her eyes. "I'm ready."

" Legilimens. " Potter cast with his wand.

Irena was taken back to the Hogwarts Express, sitting in the compartment with all her friends while they fixed Talon's and Felix's hair, their laughter echoing in her ears. The next memory to pop up was Irena teaching Victoire her special Seeker moves, then she was at Philomena's house and they were about to.. No, no, no!

She pushed him from her mind, clutching her forehead. Potter exhaled. "Is that the reason you want to..?" He asked, and Irena nodded. He didn't say another word, opening the chocolate bar, giving it to her. Irena took it, eating it. "You did well that time. Would you like a break? Come back next week?"

Irena nodded, trying to get rid of her embarrassment.

"Homework- make sure you practice closing your mind off, okay?" Potter told her, putting the chocolate bar back in his drawer. "You did great."

"Please don't tell anyone." Irena begged. "Don't tell Philomena."

Potter nodded. "Your secret is safe with me." He promised.

Irena left in a hurry, feeling exposed and vulnerable. Why did I sign up for this?

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 18 October, 2011

Practice.

Practice was good.

The cool, autumn air blew through Irena's hair as she breathed out. She perched on her broomstick. It wasn't the first Quidditch practice of the year, but it was the first Quidditch practice where she could finally catch a break.

"Practising mindfulness?" Austin laughed as he floated toward her on his broom. Irena opened her eyes to see him, gazing down at the Chasers practising the Parkin's Pincer. Tabitha was getting along exceptionally well with Orchid and Thyme, sometimes opting to eat lunch with them instead of their group. Diana, still mad at Irena over what happened with Talon, had decided to shun her and ate lunch with them too.

Irena sighed, looking at him, smiling. The way his lips stretched across his perfect white teeth.. he must have been an angel, descended onto earth to bewitch girls like her to fall for him. "You could say that." Irena laughed.

"Make sure your mind's clear for next weekend." Austin told her. "We're playing Ravenclaw on the 29th. There's the Halloween party on the 30th, Hog's Head, but everyone will be staying up to midnight to make it to Halloween. It's all casual, no costumes. It should be really fun."

"Thanks." Irena flashed him a smile as he floated away, praising the Chasers for their work.

The first Hogsmeade weekend would be that weekend then, before the match. She'd been avoiding her friends emotionally. Whenever she was around Aria, she cleared her mind and made herself devoid of emotion, just like Professor Potter taught her, but then she wasn't very fun to be around.

Practice ended, and Irena watched as a few friendly teams filed out for their game. She put her broom away, heading back to the castle, tucking her hands under her armpits. Tabitha, Thyme, and Orchid ran ahead, laughing to each other. Austin, Erwin, and Tom walked separately, all talking to each other.

Irena felt very lonely. She focused on her shoes.

"Irena- Irena!" Someone called from behind her as she made her way through the stone building to the bridge back to Hogwarts. Irena turned.

Felix ran over to her, his nose red. "I'm so glad to have caught you." He said breathlessly, as if he'd been running. "I feel like I haven't seen much of you lately, are you okay?"

Irena looked him up and down, feeling disgusted. When he imagined her naked body, did he picture her head on top of one of the Hufflepuff girls he'd spied on? "Look, Felix, this isn't going to work between us."

"What do you mean?" Felix asked.

"To put it politely- I don't like you like that. " Irena told him. "I like Austin, you know that, and so does Talon, and I'm not interested in either of you." She shuffled her feet awkwardly.

He blinked, a flicker of something passing over his face. "What do you mean?"

"I want to stay friends." Irena said quickly. "I don't want anything else."

Felix laughed forcefully. "I don't want anything else either." His smile reassured and infuriated her at the same time. "You're my friend. I wouldn't want to do anything to put that in jeopardy. Can we go back to being friends?"

Irena watched him closely. "I would like that." She told him. "Are you going to Hogsmeade this weekend?"

"Uh, no." He scratched his head. "Nobody filled out my Hogsmeade form. I'm stuck here, just like every year."

"Rubbish." Irena said quickly, grabbing his arm. "I know exactly who we're going to talk to."

She dragged Felix through the castle to the Great Hall. Leo sat among all his friends, enjoying an early dinner. Dominique looked up to her and smiled, Ember beside her. Irena recognized Storm, Lily, and Iris seated on the other end of the table. Just behind her came the sound of footsteps, and Isabelle joined her friends.

"Hi, Irena." Leo said with a warm smile. "What's up?"

"Leo, do you mind if we speak to Lily?" Irena asked, Felix still standing beside her silently, looking very confused. Lily nodded, getting up. They walked a few footsteps away. "Lily, has your father given you his Invisibility Cloak?"

Lily chuckled nervously. "Well, yeah ." She told them.

"Can I borrow it?" Irena asked, extra sweetly. "Just for this weekend. I'll buy you anything from Hogsmeade, I swear."

Her green eyes glanced from Irena to Felix. "One of you is sneaking out to Hogsmeade." Lily crossed her arms. "I don't want to get in trouble."

"If I get caught-" Felix began. " If I get caught, I'll just say I stole it from you." He spoke in a serious tone- not even he couldn't resist mischief. "Don't act like your dad didn't use it to go places he wasn't supposed to."

Lily frowned, pursing her lips. " Fine ."

Irena grinned. "Could you get it for us now?" She asked, taking Felix's hand.

"I don't just want sweets for me." Lily continued. "I want them for everyone. Deal?"

Irena shook her hand aggressively. "Yes, that sounds fine." She beamed.

They walked back to the table. Her friends were already cleaning up to leave, so Felix and Irena followed them to Gryffindor tower. Felix broke away from Irena, grasping his wand. "What happened?" He asked at once.

A large black cloud filled the corridor and Irena could hear screams and shrieks. She grabbed her wand from her pocket. Felix looked at her. "You stay, keep the first years out of it, make sure no one else comes in." Irena nodded as he stepped in.

Leo glanced at Irena, frowning. As she stood by the first years, she couldn't believe how much older she was compared to them. They seemed so small, with faces like babies, but they were only a few years younger than her. Leo pulled his wand from his pocket, going in.

"No, Leo!" Irena whispered, glancing at the other first years. "Stay here." They all nodded sheepishly.

She went in behind him. "Leo? Leo?" Irena called, feeling her heart race in her chest. The screams had stopped, replaced with an insufferable, deafening silence. "Leo, where are you?"

A sob was heard just a few feet away. " Lumos! " Irena cast, as if it would help much. Irena stepped over to where she heard someone crying, casting a light over her little brother. "Leo, come here, it's okay." Irena whispered while he pointed behind her.

A large, sweeping entity glided over to them, and the air felt faint and cold. Irena knew it was a Dementor. She'd never met one before, how had one managed to get in the castle anyway? It glared down at them, and Irena sat down with her brother, pushing his face into her chest, bracing for impact.

" Riddikulus! " Someone cast, walking in front of them. Felix was there. "Come on, we've gotta get out of here." He said, helping Irena and Leo to their feet. All at once, the dark particles around them fell to the ground, exposing everything to everyone watching.

Professor Diggory stood before them, his face hardened. "Who did this?" He asked angrily. He walked over to the three of them. "Irena, Felix.." Dad whispered.

"I found it like this, Professor." Felix told him. "It was full of Boggarts. I got everyone out and got rid of them." He breathed heavily.

Dad nodded. "Uh, 50 points to Gryffindor for.. doing that." He muttered, looking around. "It's safe to pass by!" Professor Diggory called out. "Irena, Leo, are you alright?" Irena nodded, while Leo shook his head, still teary-eyed. "That's okay, Leo, let's go back to the Transfiguration classroom, I think I have some leftover sweets."

Leo clung to their father. Professor Diggory looked to Felix and Irena. "You two better figure out what that was." He said in his authoritative tone- his teacher's voice , Irena called it (of which he was offended by, so it tended to be behind his back). "I'm going to give detention to them personally."

Irena and Felix glanced at each other as Diggory and Leo took off. Lily walked over. "Let's move on." She quipped, leading them into the Gryffindor common room. She got them the Invisibility Cloak, handing it off. "If anything happens to it.."

"Yes, we understand." Irena told her, placing it in her bag. Felix and Irena made their way up to the boy's dorm, wanting privacy. Irena sat down on his bed, taking off her shoes. "What the hell was that?"

Felix paced. "Did you prank us?" He asked.

"No, I didn't." Irena said defensively. "Pranks are fun, not downright terrifying. This wasn't me."

He looked at her, looking away. "Who else could it be?"

"I don't know." Irena shook her head, pulling her legs up to her chest. "I don't know who could be so cruel- scaring first years like that." She sighed.

Felix sighed, sitting on the windowsill. "I hate Inferi." He muttered. "They're my Boggart. It's my greatest fear."

"I know." Irena told him. "You're never going to come across them. That magic is so dark, there aren't any wizards alive who are evil enough to do that." She pulled the Invisibility Cloak from her satchel, putting it on the bed.

He glared at her. "Stop trying to sympathise with me." Felix snapped. "You have no idea what it's like to be me. You will never understand, so stop trying." He stood and began pacing again. He is so moody.. Irena thought, pursing her lips. "You're a rich Pureblood Slytherin. You've had everything handed to you."

"Stop being mean." Irena snapped.

"You are annoying." Felix growled. "Just leave."

She frowned. "Have fun going to Hogsmeade alone then." Irena snipped coldly. "No one will want to go with you when you treat them like this. No one will want to be your friend when you treat them like this." Irena grabbed her shoes, putting them on her feet forcefully.

Irena stood, Felix watched her as she went to grab the door.

The door opened before she could make it. Talon stepped in, Teddy and Philomena behind him. "Hi Felix- Irena, what are you doing here?" Philomena asked quickly, hand in hand with Teddy, like always.

"I was just leaving." Irena said coldly.

"Talon's got something he wants to ask you." Teddy told her. "Just wait, hear him out."

Irena looked at Talon. I'm not in the mood. Irena thought sourly. Talon grinned, pulling out a bundle of flowers he must have picked from the meadow, flowers that would only prosper in autumn. "Irena, I really like you, I was wondering if you would go to the Halloween Ball with me?"

She looked to Teddy and Philomena, who looked hopeful, then back to Talon. "You ought to ask Diana that, dumbarse. " Irena said shortly, pushing past them. "She's liked you for years and you're oblivious! Besides, I don't want to be with someone who fantasises about me like you do. You're sick."

Talon looked close to crying. "Irena, I don't know what I've done wrong." He whispered.

"Just leave me alone." Irena snapped to all four of them, walking out of the Gryffindor common room, going back to the Slytherin common room so she could lay in bed and cry.

 

Sunday, 23 October, 2011

Irena flashed her Hogsmeade form to McGonagall and Filch, bundling up tightly in a warm jacket to walk to Hogsmeade. Her pockets were full of coins from her chest, knowing she had to pay Lily Potter back for the Invisibility Cloak, a bust in her opinion.

She walked alone. She could see everyone around her. Diana and Tabitha walked in lockstep with Thyme and Orchid. Philomena held hands with Teddy, Talon walking behind them. Aria hadn't gotten the form filled out either, meaning Irena was really, truly alone.

The walk wasn't terribly long, nor was it cold, but Irena wore a nice jacket. First, she went to the small café, Of the West , ordering a Hermione Hot Cocoa to drink while she wandered around. Hogsmeade was pretty, people bustling around made it feel cosy and homey. She could tell it was built for people to walk around, not cars, like other towns were.

She walked into Honeydukes, buying six Jelly Slugs for each first year, holding onto the bag as she bought a Licorice Wand for herself. Irena went back out, sitting on a bench while everyone meandered around. She drank her hot chocolate and ate the Licorice Wand silently.

There was a thud on the bench beside her. Someone was sitting beside her- someone invisible. " Sorry. " He whispered. " I feel bad for yelling at you. "

"You should." Irena said in a normal tone, not caring who heard.

" I have just been overwhelmed. I'm quick to anger. " Felix whispered.

"You are moody. You're a Gemini moon." Irena said plainly.

"Irena!" A voice called from behind her, shutting up her conversation with Invisible Felix. Diana was walking toward her, Tabitha at her side. Apparently, somewhere, Thyme and Orchid had abandoned them. "Can we talk?"

Irena shrugged. "Sure."

Tabitha looked worriedly from Diana to Irena. "Irena, it's okay if you like Talon." Diana began. Irena frowned, ready to defend herself, but Diana didn't let her get a word in. "I've decided that you can have him. We, as a friend group, didn't define what girl code was, so even though you broke it, you probably just didn't know. You can have Talon, I don't need a boyfriend anyway."

"Diana, I don't like Talon." Irena told her. "He liked me." She took a sip of her hot chocolate. "He asked me to the Halloween Ball. I told him to ask you, actually. I'm not sure what became of that, but I've been shunned by them all. Teddy won't talk to me, Felix doesn't sit with me anymore, Philomena just looks sad all the time, and Talon is embarrassed to be around me."

She blinked. "You don't like him?" Diana squeaked in delight. "Oh, this is excellent! Sorry for being so mean, Irena!" She giggled, taking Tabitha's hand and pulling her away from Irena.

Irena sighed, going back to staring into space.

" I'm still here. " Felix whispered. " Can I have some hot coco? This cloak isn't very warm. "

" Let's just go somewhere more private. " Irena whispered, standing up and walking to a secluded alleyway by the Hog's Head. Felix ripped the cloak off and Irena handed him the last of her hot chocolate. "Are you going to be mean to me again?"

Felix drank, glancing at her. "I'm sorry." He told her. "You've been so nice to me, I've never had a real friend before, not like you. It feels confusing and it feels like you're trying to manipulate me."

"Why would I manipulate you?" Irena asked, her breathing coming out in a fog. "You have nothing to give me, not Galleons, not any superb magical abilities. All you've got is friendship, that's what I want. You can choose whether or not you want to trust me."

He sighed. "I want to." Felix said.

"Then be my friend." Irena retorted.

"Tell me how to be a good friend." He pleaded with her, leaning against the wall.

She frowned. "Haven't you made friends with Teddy, Talon, or Victoire?" Irena asked, taking another bite of her licorice wand. "Haven't you made friends with Philomena? Or any other Gryffindors?"

"At an arm's length." Felix confessed. "I don't trust Talon, he's too much of a Pureblood, it's impossible for him not to hate me in some capacity. Teddy's too nice to me. He always helps me with homework. I think he feels bad because he's dating my sister. Victoire is an enigma to me, she doesn't talk to me much, she's friends with Talon and she's a Pureblood too, so I don't know if I can trust her either."

There was a pause in the conversation as a group of fifth years walked past.

"What about Philomena? Isn't she your friend?" Irena asked.

He tightened his face. "I don't know." Felix told her. "I don't know why she would want to be my friend. She's everything I'm not. Philomena is smart, kind, and beautiful. She's got a home and two great parents. I've got no one. I've got the system. That's it. I can't even making fucking friends. I started the Quidditch friendly tournament just to realise I've got no one to play with."

Irena could see how much it pained him to be honest about his feelings. He avoided her gaze. She took his hand in hers, standing on her toes to kiss his cheek. Felix leaned away from her at once, fixing her with an odd look. "What'd you do that for?"

"I kiss my friends." Irena said at once. She thought of everyone she'd kissed- Tabitha, Diana, Aria, Teddy, and, yes, Philomena. That was it. She liked to kiss her friends. That's all there was to it. "And you're my friend." She paused as he reflected. "Sorry I didn't ask first. I should have asked first."

Felix got closer to her. "It's, uh, it's okay." He told her. "Do your friends, uh, kiss you back?"

"Not usually." Irena chuckled.

"Okay." Felix grinned. "Well, as someone who is your friend, I won't do that." He told her.

Irena checked her watch. "We should start heading back. How did you sneak out anyway?" Irena asked. Felix wrapped the cloak around him, handing her back her cup.

"Secret passageway. I love the Marauder's Map." Felix grinned cheekily, disappearing from sight. "I'll just follow you back, don't pay me any mind."

She laughed. "Got it."

 

Saturday, 29 October, 2011

She felt strangely relaxed as she made her way out to the Quidditch pitch. The roar of the crowd, the tense energy between the teams, the excitement between the players- there was nothing like it. At least Quidditch felt predictable.

Tabitha, hair tied back in a long ponytail, bangs in her face, looked around nervously. Orchid grinned determinedly, Thyme looked almost bored. Erwin and Tom Yaxley pushed each other around excitedly, while Austin scolded them. Austin.. he was perfect, as always. Predictable.

"First match." Irena smiled at the Ravenclaw Seeker, Pandora Toad. "Good luck!"

She smiled, tucking a piece of black hair behind her ear, her blue eyes shining with determination from behind a sun kissed nose. "You too." Pandora said politely. She looked different this year, more grown up, more beautiful. She could have been in a Muggle fashion magazine.

Honeybrook released the Bludgers and Snitch, they each took off quickly. She tossed the Quaffle into the air and blew her whistle. Irena took off into the air, sailing above the crowd, a cool breeze blowing on her face, wisps of her brown hair that had escaped her bun blew on her face.

Pandora Toad scanned in the air below her, but she seemed focused on the game.

"New Slytherin Chaser Tabitha Travers' first game." The announcer, a fifth year Hufflepuff boy named Lando Selpie, spoke aloud. "She's been busy training all summer, putting in even more hours on our grounds at Hogwarts."

Tabitha flew beside Orchid, working to block the other team's Chasers. One of the Chasers tried to pass the Quaffle toward their other member, but Thyme caught it. Tabitha and Orchid flew to her side, each passing it to each other, making their way to the Ravenclaw Keeper. Thyme threw the Quaffle to Tabitha, who threw it into one of the open hoops.

"10 POINTS FOR SLYTHERIN! Austin's found a good one this year!" Lando laughed into the microphone. Tabitha looked around, flushed pink with pride as the Slytherin stands filled with cheers. Irena smiled proudly.

"LOOK OUT!" Erwin screeched as a Bludger flew upwards, Austin close behind him with his Beater's bat, one Ravenclaw Beater had been gearing up to hit the Bludger right into Irena..

She spun on her broomstick, regaining her balance just to see the Bludger had hit Pandora right in the chest, knocking her off her broom, none of the Beaters had stopped to help her. 

"THE BLUDGER HIT PANDORA TOAD- SHE'S FALLING!"

Irena stirred her broom to fly downwards, torpedoing down to her, gaining speed, grabbing Pandora's robes, stopping her speed as she fell, setting her on the ground gently. Madame Pomfrey came to fret over her, but Irena could tell she'd only just got the wind knocked out of her. "Thank you, Irena, that was kind." Pomfrey told her.

"'Course." Irena chuckled, kicking off into the sky, looking around for the Snitch. All she had to do is catch it, then the game would be over, she wouldn't even have to compete with Pandora.

"Irena- last year she was pushed from her broom into a cave with a Banshee by former Gryffindor Seeker Barnabas Fletcher, now goes above and beyond to save her fellow Ravenclaw Seeker, Pandora. Is there an award out there for selflessness?" Lando asked.

"Lando, please, the game. " McGonagall hushed him.

"Sorry Professor!" He squeaked.

Irena blushed red as she hung around the commentator's box, just out of the way of the rest of the game. A glimmer of gold shimmered on the other end of the arena, near the Slytherin tents. Irena began flying as fast as she could, growing closer and closer to it.

Erwin smacked a Bludger, Irena twisted on her broom to be free of it. Tabitha dodged her last minute, busy trying to catch the Quaffle. Irena spurred her broom along, flying over top of the Slytherin tent where she could see Diana and Aria. She went quicker and quicker over the all, reaching out her hand, grabbing the Snitch.

"SHE'S CAUGHT THE SNITCH! 150 TO SLYTHERIN!" Lando announced, the cheers of Slytherins was something Irena felt good drowning in. She raised her fist in the air as she landed, getting tight hugs from Orchid and Tabitha.

Austin walked forward, throwing his arm over her shoulder, grinning. "Good job, Rena!" He said cheerfully. Irena was star struck, basking in the fact that he called her a nickname and that he was touching her. Unlike Talon, she didn't throw his arm off, only giggling when she saw Tabitha.

They went back to the locker rooms. Irena stepped into the shower. Thyme was busy tending to her shoe laces. "Are you going to the party tomorrow?" Thyme asked. "It should be super fun."

Orchid smiled at Irena over the shower wall. "Yes, you should totally come. We missed you last year."

Tabitha giggled. "Well, we weren't planning on going to the Halloween Ball." She said with ease. "Maybe we could, right Irena?"

"Yea." Irena echoed. "I think it'll be fun. We should."

Thyme smiled. "Good, me and Orchid will walk with you guys to Hog's Head. It's a little difficult to get to your first Slytherin party, but once you do, it's totally worth it!" She told them both, getting up and leaving, Orchid following her.

Irena glanced at Tabitha as she got out of the shower. "What have we gotten ourselves into?" Irena laughed.

 

Sunday, 30 October, 2011

Irena spent the day outside, the first day in October that felt relatively warm, with her friends. It was pleasantly sunny, she could feel it through her jacket. The leaves of the trees around them had already turned orange and brown, ready to fall. Teddy had decided they were going on a hike, and he was hard to say no to.

"Watch out for this root!" Teddy called out as he walked through the trail. He was holding Philomena's hand tightly as he led the way. Behind them were Talon and Diana, who were getting closer as friends now, much to Irena's relief. Talon had asked Diana to the Halloween Ball. Tabitha and Aria walked behind them, Tabitha eyeing Diana carefully. Irena walked with Felix and Victoire in the back.

Felix was in good spirits today, walking with Irena just behind Victoire. "That really was a good save yesterday." He complimented Irena while they walked, stepping over the root that Teddy had warned them of. "Pandora Toad would've been squished like a bug if you hadn't caught her. She'd be out for the season."

"I couldn't let her fall." Irena laughed. "I wish Fletcher had gone and fetched me. Maybe that's why I did it."

"Maybe." Felix mused, huffing as he stepped over a big rock, grabbing Irena's hand to lift her up beside him. Her hand fit perfectly into his, though they differed in major ways. His hands were rough and calloused, hers smooth and soft. His fingers were long and slender, hers were shorter and bony. "Teddy's the only reason any of us are out here. If Talon had an idea like this, I would've said no. I would much rather be in my bed in the Gryffindor Tower."

Irena giggled. "Not a fan of nature?"

"Not a fan today." Felix grinned. "Maybe if it were warmer."

They walked along. Victoire had gone and joined Aria and Tabitha, leaving Irena alone with Felix as the caboose. "Are you going to the Halloween Ball?" Irena asked, stepping into a particularly muddy area.

"Yeah." Felix said. "Victoire's asked me. I figured I'd go with her. Teddy's going with Philomena, Talon's going with Diana, if I go with her, there's all our little Gryffindor friend group." The wet soil made a squelch noise under his boot as he walked. "Have you got a date?" Felix grinned mischievously.

Irena sniffed. "Nope." She smiled, glancing at him. "I'm off to the Slytherin Halloween bash at the Hog's Head with Tabitha and Aria." She felt grown up saying it. The Halloween Ball was for children, the bash was for teenagers .

"Huh." Felix said, pushing forward through the trees. "Bring me back a bottle of mead, will you?"

"Why would I do that?" Irena asked cheekily.

"Because," Felix laughed. "it'll be fun to drink in the Gryffindor Tower." He stomped through the forest. "A little Christmas celebration. Please ?" He begged, taking her hand in both of his.

She giggled. "Fine." Irena pulled her hand away from his. "Freak."

"You're the freak." He teased. "You're going to get drunk at 13."

Irena stuck her tongue out at him.

They hiked a little around the lake until everyone got too cold, going back to Hogwarts. Irena helped curl Philomena's hair for the Halloween Ball and straighten Diana's before they were off to be with their dates.

Teddy wore a nice button down shirt with dress pants as he escorted Philomena; Talon was in his Pureblood best (Felix's words), which included a vest that Diana fiddled with. Felix didn't have much to wear, but neither did Victoire, so they went more casual. Irena saw them off before going back to the Slytherin rooms, pulling her hair up in a ponytail and putting on a nice shirt and jeans.

Aria wore a black tank top tucked into her jeans, Tabitha wore a sweater over her tights. The three of them waited in the common room while Thyme and Orchid came out. The five girls snuck around the castle away from Filch.

"The one-eyed witch statue!" Orchid whispered. "That's how we get in."

Irena had never noticed the one-eyed witch statue by the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom until now. Thyme brandished her wand, muttering, " Dissendium ," as it opened. It was just large enough for them to walk single file. Orchid went first, then Thyme. Aria followed, grasping Irena's hand, and Tabitha followed. Irena took Tabitha's hand nervously.

They made it through the Honeydukes cellar, moving through Hogsmeade with ease. Irena felt proud, excited even, that she had successfully snuck out of the castle. She felt grown up, and maybe a bit cool. They went into the Hog's Head.

Music played in a bare space on one end, while grown witches and wizards hovered by the bar. Slytherin students populated the area, but there were a few Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs dancing and drinking alongside them.

" You came! " Austin said happily, coming over to them. Thyme and Orchid were pulled away, leaving the three girls alone with him. In his hand, he held a bottle of firewhisky, in between his fingers, a cigarette. "Let's get you all a drink- only one, though. You're only third years, after all. Being on the Quidditch team doesn't earn you any extra points."

He was obviously intoxicated, but Irena liked his arm around her shoulders, so she didn't protest. Austin grabbed three bottles and the three of them sat down in an empty booth. Austin wandered off, but Irena felt happy being in the same vicinity as him.

Aria grinned. "I love being at drunk parties." She told Irena and Tabitha. "I can read every single thought in this room. Everyone is thinking about sex, liquor, money, or music."

"Gross." Tabitha giggled, taking a tentative drink from her bottle of mead. Irena sipped hers. It tasted sweet, maybe a bit like fruit with an undertone of honey. It was delicious. "What's Austin thinking about?"

Irena rolled her eyes, knowing it was a jab at her.

"Cigarettes." Aria read, drinking her whole bottle.

"Oi! You're the new Chaser?" A boy grinned, sitting down at the booth across from them, another boy the same age beside him. They seemed like the type of boys that Diana would know, but Irena didn't. "I'm Romeo, Romeo Runcorn, and this is my friend, Roan Rookwood."

Tabitha shook Romeo's hand politely. "It's a pleasure." She said curtly.

"Your move was amazing yesterday." Romeo got more comfortable, sitting down more comfortably, scooting closer. Irena gave a knowing glance to Aria, knowing that Romeo must have thought Tabitha was pretty.

Roan, a boy with straight black hair down to his shoulders, sat beside Romeo. He grinned at Irena. "You did good with Pandora Toad!" He congratulated her. "If that were me, I would've let her fall."

"I couldn't do that." Irena giggled, drinking more mead. She decided that she liked the warmth that settled in her belly. "I've trained with her. She's almost like a friend."

"You would have a better chance at winning this season." Roan reasoned.

"I like a challenge." Irena spoke confidently, drinking her mead. This was Roan's cue to leave to another part of the pub. Romeo stuck by for a while, talking Tabitha's ear off. Irena finished her mead, her mind felt pleasantly foggy.

Aria seemed lighter, gigglier, nicer to be around. "Remember.. the school talking about all those Boggarts?" She giggled in a drunken haze. "By the Gryffindor Tower?"

"Yea, my brother got lost." Irena giggled. "Felix saved us both. You know- he is such a Gryffindor. He's ridiculously brave, and he's pretty kind. I think me and him are becoming friends. He's not as annoying anymore." She took another drink of mead.

She laughed. "Irena- that was me . I started the prank war. I found a bunch of Boggarts around the school and I put the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder everywhere. I didn't stick around to see who got in it, I hoped it was one of those Gryffindors."

Irena suddenly felt a lot less foggy. "You did that?" She asked.

"Yeah!" Aria replied. "Remember when I told you I had a prank idea? You didn't want to hear me out, so I did it myself." Her face was pink with laughter, as if she had not seen Irena's reaction.

She took another drink, finishing the bottle of mead. Irena felt pleasantly foggy now, already forgetting what Aria had said. She stood, stumbling and falling to her knees, making everyone laugh around her. Irena stood, dusting her knees off as she steadied herself.

I want to find more for Felix.. Irena thought, looking around. Felix.. he's so nice. He has nice eyes.

" Irenaaaaaa! " Tabitha called, crashing into her. "Can we leave? I've just ditched Romeo Runcorn. He won't leave me alone. I want to go back to the Slytherin dungeons." She grabbed her hand tightly, Irena knew that if they didn't leave, there would be no shaking her.

"I need to find a bottle of mead for Felix! I promised!" Irena said with a raised voice as they stepped closer to the music.

Tabitha pulled her away, Irena could see Aria dancing with Thyme and Orchid. She was pulled toward the bar. "Just Accio it or whatever." Tabitha drawled.

Irena pulled her wand out. " Accio mead!" A larger bottle flew off the top shelf, she caught it. The two girls snuck out, going back to Honeydukes. "I've got to deliver this to Gryffindor Tower, you go back without me."

"Right. If we're separate, Filch will only catch one of us, not both of us." Tabitha reasoned.

The lights in the castle were off, Irena walked on her tiptoes to Gryffindor Tower, constantly looking over her shoulder and trying not to stumble and fall. I'm so dizzy. She made her way to the Portrait of the Fat Lady. "Miss, miss, can I enter?" Irena whispered.

"I'm sleeping! Go back to where you came from!" The Fat Lady snapped.

"Please, I've got the password." Irena told her. " Creevey! The password is Creevey ."

She sighed, swinging the door open as Irena entered, sneaking up the stairs to the boys dorm. Irena stumbled a bit, but caught herself, sitting up and giggling. Irena made her way to the door, knocking.

There was a shuffling, and maybe even a groan, but no answer.

" Feeeeeelix! " Irena called.

Another groan, maybe some arguing. The door opened. Felix stood in his pyjamas, a frown on his face, as if he'd just woken up. Irena walked in. "What, Irena? It's nearly 2 in the morning!" Felix asked angrily.

Irena pushed the large bottle of mead to Felix. "I stole it for you." She giggled.

" Get out. " Talon's tired growl was heard.

Her stomach did a somersault, Irena ran to their bathroom, puking into their toilet. Felix stood in the doorway. "Thank you, really, but you must be getting back to the Slytherins dorms before you're caught."

Irena groaned, suddenly feeling quite unpleasant.

Teddy pushed his way through, wand in hand. " Scourgify! " He cast, cleaning up the mess Irena had made. He was holding clothes in his hand. "Felix, you go back to bed. Irena's in no fit to go back to her dorms, she was lucky she wasn't caught coming here." Teddy told him sagely. "Rena, put these pyjamas on. We've got a spare bed."

"You've got her pants, but she hasn't got a bloody shirt without shit all over it." Felix said stubbornly. He left for a moment, handing a grey shirt to Irena. "Keep it. I get a new one every year for Christmas."

He left and Teddy turned around while Irena got dressed. Teddy helped her into the bed, tucking her in and making sure she didn't sleep on her side, before going back to his bed across the room. Irena fell asleep not too long after. The Gryffindor rooms were much warmer than the Slytherin ones.

Chapter Text

Monday, 31 October, 2011

Shit. My head hurts.

Irena groaned as she woke up, clutching her forehead, opening her eyes. The sunlight poured through the Gryffindor windows brighter and more painful than the Slytherin ones.

The beds were empty- all three boys were up. What time is it? Irena thought tiredly, looking around for a clock.

"Good, you're awake." Felix said, startling her as he entangled himself from a window, where he had been apparently sitting very still. He gave her a vial of orange liquid. "Strength Potion. Teddy brewed it this morning for you, told me and Talon not to wake you."

Irena took it, drinking it. Already, her headache subsided, her brain fog cleared slightly. "Why are you here?" She croaked.

"You think I wouldn't miss an opportunity to skip class?" Felix laughed. "You brought me the whole bottle of mead. I figured I'd return the favour in a more meaningful way than a t-shirt." He gestured to the t-shirt Irena wore, a grey cotton shirt with Chatsby's Home for Lost Children written across the front in maroon cursive.

She smiled. "What? I love this shirt. It's so comfortable." Irena giggled, finishing the Strength Potion.

Felix came and sat on the bed across from her, leaning against the bannister. "How was the party anyway? I can tell you this- the Halloween Ball was quite boring." He chuckled.

"Aria told me a terrible, terrible thing." Irena sighed. Felix flushed red. "She's the one who put all the Boggarts around your common room. She said she wanted to start the prank war, but she didn't tell any of us. I guess, as the American Muggles would say, the ball is in your court ."

He frowned, but there was a bit of relief in his eyes. "I suppose we'll just have to make an even better prank." Felix wondered aloud.

"Just don't put any Boggarts in our room." Irena giggled.

"Hmm, not even one?" Felix teased.

Irena smiled. "No, I don't want to have a heart attack!" She laughed.

"Very well.." Felix sighed. "The best pranks are the ones least expected, I suppose. Aria knows that. I just think she's made more than us angry- usually it's just the four of us, but lots of Gryffindors were upset with this one."

"Perhaps having a house versus house could be interesting." Irena said casually, sitting up. "We've never had anything quite as intense."

Felix watched her as she walked around. Where are my shoes? Where are my clothes? "I'll have plenty of ideas to get you back with, then. Every Gryffindor will want to oust Slytherin. I'd watch your back if I were you."

"Whatever." Irena giggled. "I'm going to the Slytherin common rooms to shower. I'll see you later, after classes finish?"

"See ya." He said.

 

Thursday, 3 November, 2011

Irena sat down in the cushiony Divination classroom in her usual spot by the edge of the table. Diana and Talon entered next. Ever since the Halloween Ball, they were inseparable. They were worse than Philomena and Teddy. " Make way for the lovebirds. " Felix whispered to Irena as they walked in.

Diana and Talon sat together at their end of the table, holding hands and whispering to each other while giggling. Irena rolled her eyes, though she felt secretly jealous as Talon held Diana's hands so tenderly, how Diana looked at him with every drop of her attention. If only I had someone like that.. Wouldn't that just complete her life?

Tabitha entered just as class began, sliding in beside Irena. " What are you doing? " Irena whispered. " You're supposed to sit over there! "

" Sorry. " Tabitha whispered apologetically. " I can't sit over there. Not with them. "

Felix chuckled. " Unbelievable. I can't move. " He whispered.

Irena giggled quietly. " I suppose you can sit here. " Irena whispered to Tabitha. " Only because you're my friend. "

" Thank Salazar! " Tabitha whispered. " I can't stand being next to them all the time. It'll be worse after they have their first kiss. They're worse than Phil and Teddy. " Irena and Felix laughed in hushed whispers, Talon and Diana didn't even notice.

Trelawny came in, looking quite tired. "So sorry.. class.. so sorry.. I've got a bit of the flu. We're going to take it easy today, drink some tea together, tell each other's fortunes- a little Tessomancy."

" I wonder if she saw that coming? " Felix whispered, making Irena and Tabitha laugh.

They all got tea cups and began drinking tea, which really was relaxing. Irena finished her tea first, then Tabitha and Felix. Irena grabbed Felix's teacup, looking into it. "It looks like you've got a cross up there-"

"Trials and suffering." Tabitha piped up.

"But there's also a heart.." Irena mused.

"True love!" Tabitha giggled.

"And there seems to be some type of bird." Irena squinted, frowning. I'm seriously just pulling this out of my ass. "So.. you're going to suffer, but you'll be in love. And maybe the bird means you'll be free?"

Felix grabbed his cup, chuckling and rolling his eyes. "Suffering, but I'll be in love? Isn't that what inspires the greatest of artists?" He sighed, putting his cup down. "Freedom.. What an odd message. Must just be Divination. Who knows if it's real?"

Irena grabbed Tabitha's cup. "Tabby, I'll do yours." She muttered, looking at it carefully. "It looks like you've got an axe.. so you're going to overcome some difficulties. There's a heart too, just like Felix's, so you're going to find love soon as well. There seems to be something in the corner- it looks like a doe or something. Is there a doe in the book?"

"No." Felix replied, looking at the book. "Maybe it's got personal meaning. Tabitha, does a doe mean anything to you?"

Tabitha shook her head. "I've never even seen one in real life." She replied. "Maybe I'll see one in the future. After I sort through all those difficulties and fall in love and all of that." She giggled.

Felix grabbed Irena's cup, frowning as he looked into it. He flipped through a few pages in the textbook, squinting. "Is there something wrong with my cup, Felix?" Irena asked with an easy smile, but he did not return it. "Seriously- what does it say?"

"It's only one symbol." Felix told her in a quiet tone. "A raven- it covers the entire cup." Irena grabbed the teacup, looking into it. Sure enough, a large black bird filled the space. "A raven means bad news, love, disaster, and death."

She felt ill. "It's just Divination though." Irena tried to laugh it off. "How do we even know it's real?" Tabitha and Felix were very quiet.

"Oh you have got to be joking." Diana whispered beside Talon, who turned to look at the three of them across the table. "A butterfly? I'm going to be betrayed by a friend? I don't even know who it could be."

Talon laughed. "You really are into this stuff, aren't you?" He tucked a piece of hair behind Diana's ear so easily, it made Irena squirm. Felix tensed up and Tabitha looked away. Get me out of here!

 

Monday, 7 November, 2011

"What did you think of today's Charms lesson?" Philomena asked, her hand in Teddy's as they walked down from Hogwarts castle to the Care of Magical Creatures lesson. "I was talking to Professor McGonagall- she said that it's not a big deal if you use Lumos Maxima at home. She said I might get a few letters, but that's it."

Teddy sighed as she spoke. "Try not to get in trouble this Christmas?" He asked sweetly, it made Irena nauseous- the same could be seen on the looks on Felix, Tabitha, and Aria's faces.

"I'm going to be fine." Philomena smiled. "You've written your dads, yes? About coming to my place?"

"Yes." Teddy nodded. "Their answer will be here this week I'm sure. I hope it's not a Howler."

Diana and Talon walked ahead of the group, whispering to each other. Irena fell back, not wanting to listen to Teddy and Philomena anymore. "It's incessant." Aria whispered to Irena. "I almost want to break them up. All four of them."

"You just like drama." Tabitha teased. "Maybe if it's messy we'll get to see them duel! "

Irena rolled her eyes. "Don't remind me." Aria's face grew pale and she pointed her face toward the ground, growing very quiet as she stepped away from them. Irena ignored it, opting to talk to Tabitha and Felix instead. "What are your Christmas plans?"

"Going back to Mum's." Tabitha sighed. "I can't wait to hear how much of a disappointment I am."

"I'm staying at Hogwarts." Felix shrugged, holding his book tightly against his chest. "Your mum sounds awful. You ought to stay at Hogwarts too. It gets a bit lonely around Christmastime- Phil didn't invite me back to her house this year. I suppose she'll want to spend time sneaking away to snog Teddy."

Irena scrunched up her nose. "Ew!" She giggled.

"Thanks Felix." Tabitha sighed. "I know she's got bundles of presents and gifts for me. Plus, Dad writes a letter every year. I'm looking forward to it a bit." She fiddled with her fingers nervously.

Felix shrugged again, raising his eyebrows and smiling an easygoing smile. "Us Gemini moons ought to stick together." He teased, elbowing her. Tabitha giggled. "Maybe Trelawney's right on a few things.. batty on most, though."

"Don't let Diana hear you say that!" Tabitha hushed him as Diana and Talon glanced back curiously before going back to their whispering. Irena, Felix, and Tabitha broke off into a series of stifled giggles.

They made their way to the small building built for Professor Malfoy. Diana broke away from Talon and embraced Tabitha tightly. "I'll miss you, Tabby!" She said warmly. "Have fun at Hagrid's."

Tabitha smiled and nodded, leaving them to the small alcove in the forest where Hagrid's Monday students were waiting. The rest of the group walked into Malfoy's classroom, sitting down at their table near the back. Diana had pulled out a few dossiers, flipping through them.

"What's all this?" Philomena asked.

"Tabby's birthday." Diana beamed. "She thinks I've forgotten. It's the most important day of the year! She's my best friend." She flicked through a few pages scribbled with notes. "I think we should have it in the Gryffindor common room. I'd say the Slytherin common room, but I think someone else is having a party that day."

Irena sat back against Felix, leaning against his shoulder. She was thinking of Christmas, how she didn't want to show up to her house this year. They'll just ask me where I was last year. Irena thought, pursing her lips. They'll just ask me about Leo. She glanced at Felix, looking at Aria across the table. They never go anywhere for the holidays. I could stay with them.

Class began as Professor Malfoy clapped her hands together, walking to the front of the classroom. She began teaching about Hippogriffs, cycling through photos and videos on her projector. Diana continued the party planning in secret, asking around the table What were you planning on getting her? and telling everyone If you're not available November 16, you're an awful friend.

 

Wednesday, 9 November, 2011

Irena laid her head down at the Gryffindor table tiredly at lunch that day. "Binns could seriously not make class any more boring." Diana yawned, sitting down beside her. "Couldn't he just show us a film or something?"

Tabitha and Philomena sat down across the table from them. The Gryffindors snickered to themselves as they came forward. Teddy took his spot beside Philomena, Talon beside Diana. Victoire sat on the other side of Teddy, gazing at him in a way that only Irena seemed to recognize. He likes Philomena, not you! Irena thought fiercely, but did not say anything.

Felix sat down beside Irena, just as he always did at lunch time. He tried to hide his smile with his hands as platters appeared at the tables. Irena grabbed a bit of salad, placing it on her plate. "What's got you like this?" Irena whispered to him as conversations about school continued around the table.

"You'll see." Felix told her, grabbing a sandwich and putting it on his plate.

The lunch continued, Irena hadn't realised that Aria was late until she stormed over to their table. " You! " Aria thundered as she stood by all the Gryffindors. "I know this is all your fault."

"Don't get your knickers in a twist, sweetheart." Talon said coolly. "We've got no idea what you're talking about." Though, as he spoke, Victoire, Teddy, and Felix tried to hide their red faces and laughter.

Aria glared in their direction. "You filthy little Weasley!" She snapped to Victoire. "Always pining after him. He's never going to like you." Victoire's face fell, Irena pursed her lips. Apparently, mind reading meant she also knew Victoire liked Teddy. 

She looked pointedly at Teddy, pursing her lips as she thought of a good insult. "You- you can't even come up with an original thought, copying off your dads from when they were at school. Are you going to make a new Marauder's Map then? Perhaps you're too stupid to come up with something like that." Teddy stopped laughing, face pale. Philomena opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out.

Finally, Aria looked to Felix. "And you." Aria said coolly now, as if she had saved the best for last. "I can't even say what I want to call you, can I? You've made quite a bit of defence for yourself. You're dirtier than Weasley, but I suppose you're smarter than Lupin. You'll never be like them. You'll always be a filthy little Mars Bar -- I hate you!" She threw up her arms and stormed away angrily.

The table was quiet before Tabitha let out a small, strained chuckle. "What did you do?" She asked.

"Took a bit of inspiration from Ted's dads." Felix said quietly, his face red with embarrassment, but the same cheeky smile still plastered on his face. Whatever he'd done, he was proud of it. "They said they'd changed the words around for the Slytherins, so I did the same."

Irena exhaled sharply in amusement. "What words did you change?" She asked.

"You know, the usual, Mudblood, Pureblood, Halfblood. " Felix began casually. "I even went a bit further, changing some of the professors' names into dirtier words. I expect the Slytherins will have a rough time getting out of this one."

Diana grew pale. "Felix, you have to help us at the very least! We're your friends! We don't say M- well, we don't say those kinds of words." She whispered tensely.

"Don't worry. " Teddy laughed. "Only for the others. You three are the only good ones from that house. We put in extra work to save you from embarrassment." He told them. "Don't go around bragging about all of it. I don't expect you'll want to be exiled from your own house."

Felix chuckled again. "I didn't spare Aria though- our sweet Boggart summoning Aria. She got what was coming to her." He took a bite of his sandwich. Irena looked at him closely. Felix hadn't gotten his revenge on her, despite the fact that he could have. Was that friendship, or was it the bare minimum? Irena didn't care to think about the difference. She sighed contently, going back to eating with all of her friends.

 

Wednesday, 16 November, 2011

" SURPRISE! " Irena cheered with the others inside the Gryffindor common room. The fire blazed in the fireplace and there were a few bits of green surrounded by red and gold. Tabitha stood beside Diana, grinning. Aria hadn't spoken to any of them in the past week, opting to spend the night in older girl's dorms to avoid the Slytherin girls.

They cut the Cauldron Cake, giving Tabitha her gifts. Irena had splurged at Hogsmeade the weekend before, buying her 20 Chocolate Frogs, since collecting the cards had become popular at school again.

Philomena left early with Diana, saying they had an essay for Arithmancy due on Friday. After they left for the library, Talon and Teddy left for their dorms, leaving the final four to their own devices. Felix and Victoire ended up leaving to play sunset Quidditch, so Irena and Tabitha were left alone with all the Chocolate Frogs.

"Having a good birthday?" Irena asked, placing the squirming Chocolate Frog in her mouth, inspecting the card. Another Harry Potter card. She placed it in Tabitha's pile with the other four they'd found already.

Tabitha sighed. "If only one thing had happened.." She mumbled, fussing with a card. Hermione Granger . A new one- she put it separately from the others. "You wouldn't understand."

"Sure I can." Irena said encouragingly. "Hit me. Tell me what's on your mind."

She was quiet. "I sure am glad you're not like Aria." Tabitha said at once. "I hate that she can read minds. I've been talking to Hagrid, he's teaching me extra bits of stuff. He survived two wars, you know."

"Mind reading isn't as dangerous as war." Irena reminded plainly. "Potter says I'm an excellent Occlumens. There's not much more he can teach me about it. She won't be getting into my brain anytime soon." Irena grinned.

Tabitha's eyes grew big. "Can you teach me? Please? Hagrid's neither Legilimens nor Occlumens. He's not really much help, but he's encouraging."

Irena chuckled, sighing a bit. "Sure." She pulled out her wand. "We can save the Chocolate Frogs. Potter says chocolate helps. It's no easy task learning it. I'm going to be plunging into your memories, you know. You've got to try and force me out."

"Whatever you see in there." Tabitha started quietly. "Just don't tell anyone, okay?"

"I won't, I promise." Irena swore, holding out her pinky finger. Tabitha took hers, wrapping it around Irena's finger. They sat on the couch in the Gryffindor common room. Irena realised how close they sat, how close their faces were.. she got the same funny feeling in her stomach from kissing practice with Philomena.

She pulled her finger back, exhaling, avoiding Tabitha's gaze. Irena gripped her wand, pointing it to Tabitha's forehead. " Legilimens. " Irena cast, and she was instantly sucked into Tabitha's mind.

Water. The salty ocean air filled her lungs, making her cough. The waves crashed against the rock, spraying the oncoming dingy. Inside, a tall blonde woman sat, her arms around an equally pretty blonde girl. Irena watched as they shuffled out.

" Come on, Tabitha, let's go. Quickly now. " The lady told the child. Irena realised that this was one of Tabby's memories, and she was the child. The mother was likely the witch she saw at Hogsmeade, a strict and coarse woman, though now she seemed so much different. Her face was gentler, softer, as if the weight of the world had not been cast upon her yet.

She grabbed Tabitha's tiny hand and pulled her along. Irena followed after them as they entered the deep, grey building together. They entered what seemed to be a lobby, full of tired, weathered looking people, as if they were the stones on the sides of the shore- the salt water eroding them away.

" Azkaban prison, how can I help you? " A woman asked, seated at a front desk near them. Her hair flowed around her endlessly, tossing and turning as if in waves. Her hair was white, and her skin a pale grey, her eyes black and bored. Irena remembered her from her DADA textbooks- she was a wraith, a ghost.

Tabitha shuffled her feet awkwardly while her mother answered. " Travers. We have an appointment with a prisoner here. " Her mother said in a stern voice. The wraith checked a few records on the table.

" Yes, I see. Mrs. Travers, go to the door on the left, please. " The wraith said in a hollow voice. 

The mother tucked her hair behind her ear, lifting Tabitha up to rest on her hip, walking toward the leftward door. Irena looked at the wraith once more before following after them. Their journey of wandering through the prison took several minutes, following some sort of guide before they reached a section of prisoners.

The guide let them go, passing them off to a guard. The man looked familiar to Irena, before realising it was Professor Potter. He was younger here, his face locked in a scowl that looked unfamiliar. He did not carry his usual cane. " Purpose? " He asked, his tone unable to be sharp.

" We're here to visit my husband, Thorn Travers. " Her mother said, bouncing Tabitha up on her hip.

Potter glanced at Tabitha, then to her mother. " Very well. He was supposed to have visitors today, which is quite rare. No one comes to visit those in Azkaban. " He spoke casually while leading them down a hallway, letting them into a pale white room, which was noticeably cleaner than anywhere else in the prison. It almost seemed new, fresh, as if visitors were a new idea. " I'm going to have to take your wand from you, of course. "

She gave him her wand forcefully, as if it disgusted her. " Please, fetch him quickly. " She said shortly.

He left them to sit, leaving out the door. Irena watched as Tabitha's mother fussed with her clothes, they were just the kind of clothes one would expect to see on a baby. A tiny salmon colored sweater, leggings printed to look like jeans, tiny pink socks and dark colored shoes. Tabitha laughed a high, giggly laugh as she bounced on her mother's knee. Even in Azkaban, her mother smiled at her daughter.

The door opened, Potter pushed Travers into the room. " You have 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes is up, you may get your wand back and may make another appointment downstairs. " Potter told them in a monotone voice, a shadow of a sneer pulling at his lips as he turned to leave.

It echoed menacingly as it closed, leaving the tiny family alone. The two adults got a good look at each other. Irena inspected Travers, his shoulder length brown hair was left oily, his skin dirty and almost grey, as if he hadn't bathed well in some time. Bits of his hair were silver, wrinkles sat on his face as he gazed at his wife and child. Travers cracked a smile. " Come here, kitten. " He said in a warm voice.

Tabitha's mother handed Tabitha to him. He took her and began to bounce her on his leg, though she did not laugh like she did with her mother. She grew very quiet, staring at him.

" Thorn- " Her mother began to speak.

" Quiet, Teresa. " He snapped. " You read my letters. This is the last time I will see her. I just wish to take it all in. " Travers grew very quiet as Tabitha began to cry, a shrill, echoing bawling that forced Teresa to take her back. " What is it you want to talk about? "

Teresa quieted the baby down. " Thorn, what am I to do? The Dark Lord is dead, everyone is either dead or shut in here. How will I survive? "

" You ought to be grateful for your freedom. " Thorn snapped, crossing his arms and avoiding his wife's gaze. " If you were an active member, you'd have fought beside us at Hogwarts. Instead- "

" -I was home. Taking care of our baby. " Teresa retorted. " You think I wanted to have a child with you? Marry you? Be with you? All I wanted was power. I wanted to be the best. And now I'm left with nothing. " She seethed, her voice icy and cold, like a snake. Her face was full of regret.

Thorn did not look regretful. " You're lucky I married you. No one else would have wanted a poor Halfblood like you. You will always be part Muggle, it shows up in your life. You will never be rich, or powerful, or honourable, or famous. You will always be mediocre, no matter how hard you try. "

She looked close to tears. " I wish I never met you. I wish we were never married. I wish I'd never fallen pregnant. I should have just left her on the doorstep to that orphanage. " Teresa hissed, unable to look at her own daughter.

" Knowingly leaving a magical child to its own devices is a crime in and of itself. " Thorn retorted. " You are the future. You can rally the movement again in time. Be steadfast, Teresa. The war is never finished, not until we have won or until every single one of us has died. "

Teresa glared, the whites of her eyes red from crying now. She pursed her lips together. " I'm done with the movement. I'm done with you. I'm going to go back and raise my child and I'm going to forget about you. "

" You were never loyal to the Dark Lord. " Thorn hissed. " Filthy little Mudblood. There's magic in your veins, but dirt too. You disgust me. "

" I hope you die in here. " Teresa whispered, standing up suddenly.

" Have a nice life. Have a great time looking into Tabitha's face and seeing me and seeing everything you once fought for. Really, I wish you the best. " He said, a note of sarcasm in his voice.

Potter came and lifted him by his upper arms. " Tabitha will be nothing like you. " Teresa hissed.

" For her sake, I hope that's the case. " Thorn laughed maniacally as Potter pulled him away, his laughter echoing all around the rooms and halls. Irena watched Teresa's face, saddened and teary-eyed as the scene melted all around her.

Tabitha sat before her now, her eyes wet with tears as she looked into Irena's eyes. Irena opened her mouth to speak- to apologise, to promise, to explain. Tabitha stood up at once. "You stay away from me." She said coldly. She looked more like her mother at this moment than any other. "You stay the fuck out of my head."

"Tabby-" Irena began. "I didn't-"

" Shut it ." Tabitha said, her face growing redder by the second as she grabbed her things and left the common room. Irena sat beside the fire, processing everything that had just taken place. What have I done?

 

Friday, 25 November, 2011

"Are you sure?" Leo asked kindly, bundled up, his gloved hand wrapped tightly around his case. The train blared, urging the students to get on. "Mum will be sad. She didn't get Christmas with you last year."

Irena smiled, rolling her eyes. "She'll be alright." She reassured him. "It'll be special for you. Everyone can bother you with questions about classes and girlfriends. Not me. You can be the centre of attention."

He chuckled, his light blue eyes glancing behind her. Sometimes, it was startling how much he looked like their mother. Leo looked to her again, wrapping his arms tightly around her middle. "I'm gonna miss you!"

"You'll see me in a few weeks." Irena retorted. "Get on. I see Lily Potter's saved you a seat."

Leo grinned. "See ya!" He turned and ran up to the platform, boarding.

Irena shivered as she waved the train goodbye, turning back to the only person she could bear to be around: Felix. "Are you ready to have the most boring Holiday ever?" Felix grinned as they linked arms.

"Absolutely." Irena agreed as they walked back.

Diana and Tabitha had gone to spend Christmas at their duplex. Talon was off to have a grand Pureblood holiday. Philomena and Teddy were going off together. Victoire went back to see the Weasleys. This left Irena alone with Aria and Felix. How could Christmas be boring with them?

Dear Mum,

Sorry I won't be home for Christmas.

Best,

Irena

Chapter Text

Monday, 28 November, 2011

" Where are you going? " Irena called out as she raced down the corridor, sneakers slapping against the stone floors. "We're nearly the only ones in the castle. You can't just leave me to be alone."

Felix snickered, turning. "Fine. Come with me then- I supposed that you would anyway."

So far, Christmas break at Hogwarts had been quite different than Irena could have ever expected. For one, there were maybe five other students left in the castle besides herself, Felix, and Aria. For another, there were hardly any teachers around.

"What are we doing anyway?" Irena huffed as she caught up. They were meandering around empty classrooms, portraits smiling to them under Christmas decorations, the halls were warmed pleasantly by the fire of the torches. "Going to Muggle Studies? Is the professor even here?"

Felix didn't reply as he swung the door open, entering. Inside the classroom was Professor Raywood, sitting on the ground in the centre, clutching a few instruments and things that Irena had seen hung on the wall. He sat on pillows, seemingly stolen from the Divination classroom. "Right on time!" Raywood said cheerfully. "And you've brought Irena."

Irena smiled. "Hello, Professor. What is it exactly that you're doing?"

"Professor Ray's teaching me how to play guitar." Felix smiled, sitting down on one of the pillows near him, picking up a guitar and pulling it onto his lap with ease. Irena sat beside him, wrapping her arms around her knees. "I think I've been getting quite good."

"Don't get a big head about it, Felix." Raywood chuckled, clicking and tapping away on his Muggle laptop. "I know how you boys are at this age."

Irena giggled. "Like what, Professor?" She asked.

"Boys always want to try and impress girls." Raywood explained, Felix kept his eyes away from both of them. Irena thought she could see a hint of pink on his cheeks. "I remember I was that way. I went to Hogwarts too. There was a beautiful girl there, Margaret Craft. I already knew how to play guitar and I wrote her a song."

She leaned in, grinning. "Then what? Did she fall in love with you?"

"Not at all." Raywood chuckled. "She ended up hexing me. I was stuck in the hospital wing for a week. I still think of her fondly, though. I think she ended up marrying a Muggle, living in Edinburgh. When you're my age, all the friends you made in your school years end up just becoming memories."

Irena blinked. "Oh." She said quietly, looking down at her hands, then to Felix. "Have you learned any songs then, Felix?"

"Nearly." Felix said gruffly. "We've been practising this random song-"

"A classic , my dear boy." Raywood said loftily, mocking the way Professor Slughorn spoke. Irena smiled, Felix snickered. "We've been learning Clay Pigeons by Blaze Foley , an American singer. It's not Katy Perry or Jason Derulo , but his music is still good. Felix, I've got the chords pulled up here if you would like a refresher."

Irena sat quietly as Felix adjusted the guitar, tuning it before letting out a quiet exhale- not quite a sigh- as he began to play.

Felix must've had a natural ability to play, because Irena was instantly amazed. "Do you know the words as well, Felix?" Raywood asked quietly.

"I don't want to sing them." Felix said stubbornly, unable to unglue his eyes from where his fingers rest on the strings. Irena and Raywood listened quietly as he continued to play. Irena clapped quietly when he finished.

She grinned at him. "That was great!" Irena praised.

"You think so?" Felix smiled, his eyes shining with delight.

"Alright, let's learn a new song." Raywood cleared his throat. "Irena, I haven't got any other guitars, would you be fine with just watching? Perhaps we can schedule a time some other time if you want lessons too."

Irena chuckled. "I'm all right listening, Professor." She said assuredly, laying back against the pillows, watching them silently as they picked a new song to play. They were there for an hour, playing the guitar, Irena listening peacefully the whole time.

 

Friday, 2 December, 2011

Irena walked quickly that morning, determined, on a mission. She had a plan. Felix was thinking he would meet her alone in the courtyard for a hike in the snowy forest. Aria thought she'd meet her to plan a prank outside. Irena was going to do neither of those things.

It's time to right things. They had to be able to come to an agreement. Aria would apologise for the Boggarts, Felix would apologise for the word prank. Then, they could all be friends again. Then, she wouldn't have to split her time between them.

"Irena!" Felix called out from where he stood in the snow covered courtyard, wearing a red beanie with a golden G sewn into it and a shabby winter jacket that must have been a hand me down from Chatsby's. "I can't believe we're going on another bloody hike. Teddy's a bad influence on us."

She giggled sheepishly, turning her head sharply. Aria walked through the doorway, face falling flat, devoid of emotion. "Irena, what's going on?" She asked sharply. "I thought we were planning pranks."

Irena looked back to Felix, who looked equally confused, and perhaps upset. Irena grasped the wand from her robes pocket, raising it to Aria. " Immobulus! " Irena cast. It hit Aria square in the chest, freezing her at once. She glanced back to Felix, grabbing his sweater forcefully. "You two are going to make up and be friends again."

Felix pursed his lips, frowning. "Irena-"

"Felix." Irena interrupted coldly. "Just try, please? For the sake of this holiday, for the sake of our friends, for the sake of your friendship?" She fluttered her eyelashes, seeing it done in cartoons and movies. Maybe it would make Felix listen to her.

He stared at her for a heartbeat before sighing, rolling his eyes. "Fine. I'll fix the friendship that doesn't even bloody exist." Felix retorted. Irena smiled, looking back to Aria.

" Finite. " Irena cast. "Aria, Felix says he's sorry for the prank!" She called out, even though she could hear Felix scoff at that. Perhaps it's better that we're a courtyard away. She wondered. "Felix wants to be friends again."

Aria, no longer frozen, was storming over to them. "Does he now?" She asked coolly. "He's sorry for turning all my words into something else?" She looked to Felix for his answer.

Irena glared at Felix, willing him to agree. He pursed his lips as they made eye contact, shifting his focus to Aria. "Yes, Aria, I'm sorry for changing your words. It was a nasty prank and I apologise."

She smiled, looking at Aria. "Aria, aren't you sorry for placing the Boggarts by Gryffindor Tower?" Irena asked, staring her down carefully, willing her to apologise as well.

Aria sighed, looking down at her feet, a more genuine response than Irena could have asked for. "I know I took it too far." She sighed, shuffling her shoes. "I'm sorry. It was a nasty prank too."

Irena looked to Felix, who held a small note of surprise on his face. She was filled with warmth- perhaps, if she were cheesy, she could describe it as the warmth of friendship , or perhaps it was the magic in her robes detecting the dropping temperature outside. "Could we be friends again, then? So we can have a lovely holiday?"

Felix looked to Irena, a smile edging the corner of his mouth. "Yea, we can do that." He held out his hand to Aria.

She looked down at it, then back to him. Aria raised her own hand, spitting in it, and slapping it shut against his hand. "Deal." She said gruffly, the corner of her mouth also curling at the end. "Could we go inside now? It's colder than a Yeti's armpit out here."

"Agreed." Felix chuckled.

 

Thursday, 8 December, 2011

She could feel the sharp, uncontrollable feeling of her beanie being pulled over her eyes. "Quit it, Felix!" Irena giggled, lifting it up again to see Aria and Felix racing ahead of her, laughing, wands in hand. They kept running until they came across a large expanse of snow, peppered with the footprints of animals from the night before.

Aria swung her wand around her, lifting snowballs from the snow effortlessly, before barreling them all toward Felix. Felix grinned, his eyebrows furrowed in determination. " Protego! " Felix cast, and each snowball landed flat against his shield charm, falling back into the ground.

Irena giggled, swinging her wand around her. Snowballs appeared from the ground. While Aria was focused on being upset that Felix blocked her snowballs, she didn't notice they were coming for her.

They pelted her, knocking her to the ground, covering her jacket and hair with snow. She sat up angrily, glaring at Irena, who was giggling, but then to Felix, who was laughing so hard, he was clutching his stomach. Aria pursed her lips, muttering some incantation under her breath. Irena watched as bodies of snow began to mesh together to form snowmen.

The snowmen rolled together, with large bottoms, medium sized abdomens, and small heads. Their faces were fitted with rocks and twigs from the ground, turning each snowman's face into a scowl. And they all came for Felix. They lumbered forward, preparing to destroy him. Felix, in turn, cast the same spell.

Snowmen began to battle snowmen as Aria and Felix summoned more, the clearing was a battle full of war. Irena whisked her wand, forcing snow to float up and form into the bust of a man. She shaved off a bit of the sides, curling his hair, giving him a proper nose and teeth. 

She hadn't realised that Aria and Felix had stopped playing until they came to her.

"What's all this?" Aria asked with a teasing tone. "Have you crafted Austin as a snowman, Irena?"

Irena felt her face warm. She hadn't even realised the resemblance, having only focused on making the snowman beautiful, though she supposed Austin was beautiful to her. "What's it to you?" She asked pointedly.

"You're obsessed!" Aria teased, pushing Irena into the snow. They toppled over together, giggling. "We're gonna have to make him like you. By Valentine's day. We'll brew a love potion."

Felix looked on very quietly, his lips pursed and his cheeks red, though perhaps it was from the cold.

"I'm cold, can we go back inside?" Irena asked, trying to stand up.

"Yes, please. Maybe they'll have hot chocolate in the Great Hall." Aria grinned, standing up and helping Irena steady herself. Felix was still very quiet as the two girls lumbered back.

Felix lingered behind, looking at the Austin snowman carefully. Irena cast a glance over her shoulder as she watched him knock it to the ground. The snowmen had become what they once were: nothing but snow and the potential for imagination.

 

Wednesday, 14 December, 2011

"It's got to be in here somewhere." Irena sighed, pulling out drawers of things- socks, underwear, junk collected from around the castle, pots of ink and spare quills. "If I were Teddy stowing away the Marauder's Map, where would I put it?"

Aria sat on Talon's bed while Felix wrapped a maroon and gold scarf around his neck. "If it were my map, I'd take it with me. You can't trust it in the wrong hands." She commented, casting a glance toward Felix, who didn't notice what she had implied.

Felix walked over to Irena, lifting up Teddy's mattress from his bed. "Git. That's the worst place to stow things. Everyone looks under pillows and mattresses." He chuckled, clutching the pit of old parchment. "Is everyone ready to visit the secret passage?"

"How will we get past the Honeyduke shop owner?" Irena asked.

"Other people frequent Honeydukes outside of Hogwarts students." Aria reassured her, standing now. "We'll just look like we belong. As long as we look confident and like we're supposed to be there, nobody will say anything." She told them. 

Felix snickered. "Come on, Irena, when have you ever been afraid to break a few rules?" He grinned.

"This is what I get for hanging out with two orphans, isn't it?" Irena sighed, but still smiled. She wouldn't have it any other way.

They all got up and walked around the castle, careful not to draw attention to themselves. Felix clutched the map. " I solemnly swear that I am up to no good. " He whispered, keeping his wand pressed against the map. He flipped through the bits of parchment, looking for the secret exit. "Good, no one's there."

"Most of the professors are with their families now." Aria said confidently. "Who's going to be looking after two orphans and a Pureblood girl anyway?" Irena chuckled, tucking her hair behind her ear as they rounded another corner.

They made their way up the stairs, coming upon the one eyed witch. Irena gasped Aria's arm excitedly, constantly looking over her shoulder for oncoming foot traffic. " Dissendium ," Felix muttered, pressing his wand to the forehead of the witch.

The witch moved slightly, making a long, scratching sound on the floor. Aria grabbed onto Irena, going through it while Felix followed after them, closing the door. "Butterbeer, here we come!" Irena whispered excitedly while they walked in darkness. A few times, Felix's hand knocked into Irena's, just to be swept away hurriedly.

A light was at the end, and Felix pushed to the front. "We're in Honeydukes' cellar now. Follow my lead and keep your mouths shut. I don't want to get caught." He whispered sharply. Irena and Aria nodded quickly.

He opened the door and climbed out, helping the others out as well. Irena dusted off dirt on her skirt as a door opened upstairs. Felix grabbed her arm sharply, pulling her behind a shelf. Aria cowered behind a load of boxes. They crouched while a worker searched the shelf near them. Irena stopped breathing, hoping they couldn't hear.

The worker grabbed a few things, making their way back to the shop. Felix let go of Irena, sitting up. Follow my lead. He mouthed, pressing his index finger to his lips as he followed the store employee silently. Irena followed close after him, and Aria behind her. They remained ducked as they appeared in the store, abandoning the worker and going behind a shelf, straightening their backs.

"Busy, isn't it?" Aria whispered as she flattened her hair down.

"It's Christmas season." Irena reasoned. "Prime time for candy shopping I suppose."

Felix cleared his throat, gesturing to the door, keeping his eyes on the shopkeeper. The trio left silently. Irena giggled. "We did it!" She whispered excitedly. "We've escaped!"

"Butterbeer time!" Felix told them with a grin as Irena linked arms with both of them. She led the way to the Three Broomsticks, ordering three Butterbeers for them and paying. Aria and Felix had no Galleons and she had plenty.

They sat at the booths and drank, ordering more. Within time, the Butterbeer had settled in her stomach, making her feel warm and giddy. Felix and Aria retold stories of Chatsby's throughout the summer and from before Hogwarts.

"He came after me, a little 9 year old boy, all for nicking a bit of candy from his room." Felix laughed. "I hid under the pews in the chapel for hours, fearing for my life. I can't believe that son of a bitch got adopted ."

Irena watched him as he took a swig off his Butterbeer. "Felix, there's something on your face." She muttered, grabbing a napkin off the table, grabbing his chin with her left hand and pulling it closer to her. She took the napkin in her right hand, wiping the foam off his upper lip. Her eyes caught his for a moment before pulling away. "All clean."

"Thanks." Felix mumbled, scratching the back of his check as he grew red.

The door opened and Irena paled as she recognized who was there. Professor Raywood ordered a drink at the bar, taking it and drinking it as he turned. His face was vacant until his eyes caught hers, when it turned into a scowl.

" Shit. " Irena whispered under her breath as he stepped over.

"What are you three doing here?" Raywood asked sharply. "Felix, really? I expected better from you. Irena, you too." Irena felt guilt rush over her, running through her veins, pumping through her heart, and settling like a stone in her stomach.

Aria looked up to him carefully. "What are you drinking, sir?" She asked politely, as if they were equals, and not like the three of them were going to get detention for the rest of their lives.

"Firewhiskey." Raywood told her pointedly. "It seems you three have had several Butterbeers. I hope you're paying for them and not stealing, yes?" He asked.

Irena blinked. "I've been paying. Aria and Felix haven't got any money."

He glanced at the other two students, pursing his lips. Felix, still red, avoided his gaze.

"Very well." Raywood muttered under his breath, nodding. "I expect to see you three back at the castle in an hour, I will let you off with a warning. If not, I'll have no choice but to go to Professor McGonagall."

Irena sighed as he walked away, glancing at Felix and Aria. An unspoken message was interpreted by each of them as they quickly grabbed their things, leaving a few Galleons on the table, and leaving through the doors.

"Let's get back now. " Felix told them. "We're just lucky he didn't punish us right there."

He grabbed Irena's arm, whisking her away while Aria followed.

" Filthy Mudblood. " Aria mumbled under her breath as they snuck behind the Honeydukes' store clerk.

It was obvious that Felix hadn't heard it, since he didn't say anything. Irena wondered if Aria meant Felix, she tried to quell the anger in her chest if she was insulting Felix. But wasn't Professor Raywood Muggleborn as well? Could she be cursing him?

They made their way to the cellar, leaving through the trapdoor. Irena cast Lumos while Felix read the Marauder's Map, making sure their entrance to Hogwarts would not be seen. "Professor Raywood is such a nice professor." Irena whispered while they made their way through the tunnel.

She glanced at Aria to see her reaction, but she was just as stone faced as the one eyed witch who guarded the passageway.

"I think he's the best teacher I've ever had." Felix told them. "I don't think I've ever met someone who is more like me than Professor Raywood."

Irena shot a look at Aria, willing her not to call people Mudbloods anymore. If only she could control somebody with a look..

 

Tuesday, 20 December, 2011

The warm fire roared in the hearth as sleet and rain fell from the sky- this Christmas was bound to be rainy and miserable. However, the trio had their fair share of snow and fun outside, so Irena couldn't be too upset over the weather.

They all sat on the sofa in the Gryffindor common room, cozied up together after dinner. Felix sat on the far right, reading a book for Muggle Studies- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens . Aria sat on the far left, reading a NEWT student's textbook for Defence Against the Dark Arts. Irena laid in between them, her head on Felix's thigh and knees rested against Aria, who rested her book on them.

She flipped through the pages of Witch's Weekly, the December cover was the new Minister of Magic, Ulysses Pendragon. Irena examined him on the cover. Bits of words read: Youngest Minister of Magic in History! and Read more about our darling Pendragon on Page 63!

"Too bad Granger didn't win." Felix mused as Irena looked at the cover. "She had good policies. Plus, it'd be nice to see a Muggleborn in office." He looked down at her as he spoke. Aria was quiet.

Irena sighed, looking at Pendragon's smiling face. He really was charming, she supposed. His skin was dark and his hair short, his teeth white and his skin clear. In the image, he was dressed in a beige suit surrounded by a maroon wall. His portrait kept laughing. She opened the magazine, flipping to the 63rd page, beginning to read his interview by Holly Eden.

Holly: So, what's it like being the youngest Minister for Magic in Magical Record? You're not even 30 yet- it's incredible.

Ulysses: I didn't really think I'd make it this far, to be quite honest. Ever since I was a boy, I wanted to be Minister. My mum always instilled it in me that I could, I think I can finally start to impress her.

H: Shacklebolt's been the Minister for Magic since 1998, nearly 14 years now. For many of our new voters, Shacklebolt is all anyone's ever known. How did things go with him when you first found out you won?

U: He seemed eager to pass the torch- which makes perfect sense to me. He's been Minister since the end of the Second War, no doubt, he was ready to retire. I am sure to write to him often, he seems a valuable and plentiful resource. He was an excellent Minister, and I wish to be similar to him in many ways.

Her eyes grew bored of his words, instead opting to look at pictures of him throughout the spread. There were others in the shoot, apparently. Pictures of him wandering a meadow, more in front of plain colored walls, even one of him sitting on a Hippogriff, looking quite chiefly and like a leader.

H: Is it alright to ask about a few plans that you have as Minister? There was one specifically that you ran on- the Commissions Act?

U: Yes- I wish to take the registries we already have and expand them. I find it will be helpful to get a better look at the demographics of the Wizarding World. Learning about who and what make up the Wizarding World will ensure us making decisions to benefit everyone.

" Bullshit. " Irena whispered under her breath, reading it over again.

"Hmm?" Aria asked, putting her book down.

"He's got no right- no right at all." Irena sat up from Felix's lap. "The new Minister is expecting us to give up information about ourselves for the sake of demographics . It wasn't too long ago that they had the Muggleborn Registration Commission , they've still got the Werewolf Registry too- the Ministry needs to stay out of our business."

Aria frowned. "You don't think it'd be a good idea to have information on each wizard? Whether or not they're Pureblood, Halfblood, Mud- Muggleborn ? Whether or not they change into a deadly creature every full moon? It's precautionary, Irena." She said flatly.

"Werewolves aren't evil creatures." Irena told her pointedly.

"As if you know of any." Aria shot back a reply.

"I do know one." Irena told her off. "He's nice . He gives me chocolate and books. I've never been afraid of him and I've known him forever. He's going to be hurt by Pendragon. Who voted for him?"

Felix cleared his throat. "I was looking at statistics and articles about him." He piped up. "Lots of young witches seemed to vote for him because- well, because of his looks."

Aria grabbed the magazine from Irena. "Well, he is quite easy on the eyes." She snickered, opening the magazine eagerly, humming to herself. "He must be Pureblood." Aria whispered, half to herself.

The boy glared daggers into Aria across Irena's lap. "Being Muggleborn has nothing to do with looks!" Felix hissed, though Aria couldn't hear him. Irena took a deep breath. She couldn't help but feel like their little bit of peace was going to boil over soon.

 

Saturday, 24 December, 2011

Irena lounged in Teddy's bed. In the window, the sky was clear and she could count every star. The Gryffindor rooms were better than the Slytherin rooms in that way. She wanted to do something , but all she could think about was the Muggle poem the Weasleys recited every Christmas. ' Twas the night before Christmas.. Maybe she missed them a bit.

"I'm bored . Fuck Christmas. Fuck Christmas Eve. Let's do something untraditional ." Aria grinned from the spare bed.

Felix glanced at Irena, lifting his eyebrows. "I've got that mead from Halloween, remember? We could drink it." Aria got up at once and pleaded, Irena giggled. Drunk on Christmas? It would certainly be unusual- something for the memories.

He brought it out and let everyone take turns drinking off the spout, since there were no hidden glasses in their room. Irena had about 3 swallows before she started feeling that warm, giddy feeling in her chest- she couldn't stop smiling.

Aria and Felix clearly felt the same way, though they didn't stop drinking until most of it was gone, deciding to see how their balance was as they attempted to walk in a straight line from bed frame to bed frame.

Irena held the mead, drinking more of it in different periods, giggling as they stumbled around.

"Oh, wait, let's play a game!" Aria giggled, lowering herself to the ground by grabbing onto the pole of the bedframe. Felix flopped on the ground beside Irena, resting his head in her lap, but she didn't seem to mind. "Let's play Fuck, Marry, Kill. I'll go first. Felix- Fuck, Marry, Kill- Me, Irena, and Philomena."

Felix slapped his hand to his forehead, his cheeks growing red. "Phil's my sister.. so I guess kill Philomena.. marry Irena and I guess fuck you, since that's what's left."

"You would marry me?" Irena squeaked.

"I mean.. yea.." Felix guffawed nervously, his cheeks growing red.

Aria rolled her eyes. "Irena.. Teddy, Talon, Felix. Fuck, Marry, Kill."

Irena thought for a moment, taking another sip of the mead. Her head was unbearably foggy and she felt like she couldn't think straight. " Marry Teddy.."

"Marry Teddy?" Felix sat up.

"Well.. yea.." Irena chuckled. "He's so nice. He would make a good husband." Felix blinked, grabbing for the mead bottle quietly drinking from it. Irena didn't give his reaction much thought. "I don't think I'd want to fuck anybody. So kill them both."

Aria shook her head. "Not how you play. Pick one to fuck."

"It's fine, Aria, she doesn't have to." Felix defended Irena. She looked gratefully at him, suddenly feeling a bit odd about picking to kill him. "Aria, it's your turn. Fuck, Marry, Kill- Teddy, Talon, and me."

She pursed her lips. "Fuck Talon, marry Teddy, kill you." Aria answered without hesitation.

"You didn't want to think about it?" Irena asked, giggling.

"Nope." Aria sniffed. "Talon's hot, there's no denying it. I wouldn't want to marry a Muggleborn, especially one as annoying as Felix, so I guess I'll marry Teddy. Kill Felix though- for sure. He's a stain."

Felix huffed angrily. "Fuck you."

"Please, don't ." Aria flashed back, smirking.

"Ari, that wasn't nice-" Irena tried to reconcile them, but it was too far gone. They were too young, too drunk, too stupid to care.

Felix stood, leaving the mead beside Irena. "You're such a bitch for no reason." He snarled to Aria, who was now on her feet as well. "You talk a lot of shit for somebody who has the same lot in life as me."

Aria rolled her eyes. "And what would that be?"

"You're just as much an orphan as me. You're just as poor as me. You're just as much Mudblood as me, no matter how much you want to deny it." Felix growled, slurring his words slightly.

She laughed, a cruel, genuine laugh. "I'm not a filthy fucking Mudblood, Mudblood. " Aria told him. "Unlike you, when my parents died, I was left with another witch, Emilia Rowe. She was an old hag and a terrible guardian, but she was a witch . My parents were wizards too, that's why they left me with her. Emilia Rowe - you hear my last name? Magic runs through my veins- and you've got none . Your blood is as dirty as the ground around Hagrid's filthy hut."

Felix was trembling with rage. " Get out. Now. Before I do something I regret. " He said coolly, which was arguably more scary than his yelling. Aria grinned, turning and leaving out the door. Irena sat on the ground silently, not sure what to say. Everything had happened so fast, her brain felt too foggy to even attempt a reply to Felix.

He grabbed the bottle of mead, downing the rest of it before settling down in the desk chair beside the window. Felix sipped it eagerly before slamming it down on the table, sighing.

"Do you- do you want me to leave too?" Irena asked quietly, hugging her knees to her chest.

Felix turned and looked at her, his eyes lacking emotion, as if he didn't feel or think anything at all. "I don't give a fuck if you stay or leave. Do your own thing." He told her sharply.

Irena took this as a sign, gathering a few of her things before rushing back to the Slytherin rooms, hoping with all her heart that she could avoid Aria.

 

Monday, 2 January, 2012

Christmas and New Years were good. Irena spent nearly every moment alone, feeling afraid of her friends and confrontation. She wished the alcohol would wash away her memories, but she wasn't drunk enough, apparently.

Irena was excited for everyone to return to Hogwarts, looking for an escape from all the drama. She avoided eating in the Great Hall, since Aria would watch her from the Slytherin table and Felix from the Gryffindor table, making her feel more awkward than ever. She tried making friends with a few Hufflepuffs in order to eat with them, but that was awkward too.

For now, she tried not to think about that.

There was a weird, lumpy package on her bed. Aria had found another place in the castle to sleep, leaving Irena alone with the package. She picked the note up off it, lifting it up to read it.

Maybe you can stop asking to borrow ours. - The Potters (Harry and Lily)

Irena opened the package, pulling out the silky smooth Invisibility Cloak from the package. She wrapped it around her eagerly, standing in front of the mirror to see her body disappear. Where should I sneak off to?

If she wanted to break rules, now would be the perfect time to do it. A majority of the faculty had gone home for the holidays, the others lax on their patrolling and punishments. There were less students around too, which meant they weren't on high alert for trouble.

She put on her trainers, casting a silencing charm on them before tying her hair back and enveloping herself in the Invisibility Cloak. Irena looked in the mirror, totally unable to see herself in it.

Irena grabbed her wand and left the room, sneaking through the common room. To her surprise, Aria sat in one of the large windows off to the side. The windows opened to the lake and sometimes students could see the squid. For now, the water was illuminated by the moon. Irena looked closer, knowing it was impossible for Aria to hear or see her.

She sniffled, wiping her eyes with a tissue as she looked out into the lake. Irena hesitated her plan, even considering inviting Aria to join her in her wrongdoing. No, just leave her alone. Stay out of drama. Irena told herself, turning and leaving through the door, careful not to alert Aria of her presence.

The castle was at her fingertips. It was weird to see it so dark and quiet, it was haunting, but strangely very enchanting. Where should I go? She was in a strange predicament, all things considered. The Restricted Section of the library? There would be plenty of time to go there later. Why not go big? Sneaking into McGonagall's office would be exciting, and if she was smart, she wouldn't get caught.

Her heart raced at the thought of it, so she decided.

Irena walked around in the shadowy silence of the halls, using landmarks in the halls to see where she was going. The portraits slept all around her and she felt very self conscious of setting her wand alight, so she walked in the darkness.

It must have been nearly 11, having spent an hour wandering the dark castle before she finally found the way to the Headmaster's office. She hesitated, not realising that McGonagall could be in her office right that very moment.

" Ooh, sneaking out! " A haunting whisper was heard, startling Irena, who had not heard or made a sound in over an hour. A pale ghost walked closer to Irena- she must have been Irena's age or maybe a year older. She had blonde hair tucked behind her ears and wore a Hufflepuff robe. "I can see through your cloak. I'm surprised that Percy didn't catch you sooner."

Irena frowned. "Is McGonagall in?" She asked pointedly, gesturing to the entrance to the office.

"Sneaking in ? You're naughtier than your mum." The ghost teased, floating through the wall. Irena held her breath as she returned. The ghost shook her head. "Already off to sleep, as you should be."

She rolled her eyes. "Thank you.. what's your name?"

" What's my name? " The ghost asked. "Has your mother never told you about me? I was her best friend in fourth year before.. well.. before I died."

Irena realised, and her heart broke slightly. "You're Veronica." She whispered. "Mum gave your name to my little sister. It's her middle name. Selene Veronica Diggory-Black ."

"If it wasn't for me, none of you would exist." Veronica smiled wistfully. "I'm the one who got Cedric to ask Fawn to the Yule Ball.. Fawn got Harry to ask me. It was a lovely night, I kissed Harry, which was awkward. Definitely wait to be older to kiss people… you'll regret it otherwise."

She bit her lip, wanting to ask more.

"Well, if you're sneaking into McGonagall's office, you ought to go. I'll pretend I never saw you." Veronica winked, floating away. Irena watched her leave, feeling at a loss for words, but perhaps it was better not to speak.

Irena went to the entrance, remembering the password. " Canary cream. " She called out. The eagle began to rotate, revealing a staircase. Irena got on, riding up to McGonagall's office, her heart racing in her anticipation.

The office was dark and silent, the portraits of former headmasters slept quietly. Irena let go of the cloak, beginning to wander. A bowl of biscuits sat on McGonagall's desk, so Irena took one, taking a bite of it while she wandered. The moonlight filtered through the large windows in the next room where a huge telescope was.

"Ah, a visitor." A voice was heard from behind her. Irena grabbed her wand, turning around quickly. A portrait was awake and staring at her. Irena looked him up and down. He was very old, with a long white beard and long hair to match. He wore matching lavender pyjamas, but Irena had a sense that he was a respectable character. "What brings you to the Headmistress's office at this hour?"

Irena blinked. "I want to be an Animagus." She told him honestly.

"Didn't Minerva offer you lessons?" He asked. Irena felt a rush of vulnerability which no doubt showed on her face. "Yes, I saw you turn those down. I see lots of things. Now, why else would you want to become an Animagus without Minerva knowing, except for the reason of becoming a secret, unregistered Animagus?"

She frowned. "I just don't want to turn into something odd in front of her. What if I've got something weird, like a mayfly or a squid?" Irena sighed. "But what if I did want to be unregistered?"

"It's against the Ministry." He told her. "But I suppose you already know that the Ministry is never really on the good side. Perhaps it is wise to be wary of them- or is it wise to trust them, in order not to get in trouble for being unregistered?"

Irena scowled. "You just want to confuse me." She said pointedly.

"No, no, not at all." He laughed. "Go on to the phoenix stand over there, the old and unused one. Just behind it is my journal. It tells my journey of becoming an Animagus. There's so many books here, Minerva won't miss it."

She furrowed her brows, deciding to trust the portrait. She went to an untidy corner of the office, passing a dusty stand full of ashes. It seemed to once house a phoenix that was no longer around. Irena ducked down, grabbing a violet leather-bound notebook, blowing the dust off with her breath.

" Property of Albus Dumbledore. " Irena whispered, looking at the portrait. "Albus Dumbledore wasn't an Animagus. He was a powerful wizard, yes, but nothing more." She told the portrait.

Dumbledore only smiled wistfully, in the way that old men so often do. "That people know of." He told her. She felt a rush of joy- Dumbledore's personal journal was hers now. "Now, I suppose you should put the cloak on and leave before the other portraits wake. They were much stricter on mischief in their times as Headmaster than I was."

"Thank you, Mr. Dumbledore." Irena whispered, placing the journal under her arm and wrapping the cloak around her, leaving into the night, back to the shadowy corridors of Hogwarts castle.

Chapter Text

Monday, 9 January, 2012

Irena kept Dumbledore's journal a secret, not wanting to share it with the others. She was quite happy that all her friends had returned safely to Hogwarts, though things were still quite tense. Tabitha was still upset over Irena seeing her memories and refused to be alone with her. Aria and Felix were still angry with each other.

Even though everyone had returned, drama had apparently not escaped them.

Irena sighed as she sat down beside Teddy during lunch. He seemed melancholy. "Are you alright, Teddy?" She asked kindly. He seemed to be the only one without drama ( and overt snogging).

"Do you think Philomena still likes me?" Teddy asked sadly, leaning against the wall. "I know everything's been thrown for a twist since coming back.. I don't want to stir things up again.. I can't help but feel this way."

She grabbed his hand. "Phil loves you." Irena told him. "It'd be silly to think otherwise. You're a great boyfriend, anybody would be lucky to have you." She told him in all seriousness.

"You're only saying that because you have to." Teddy told her.

"It's the truth." Irena told him decidedly.

He leaned against her shoulder. "Felix told us what happened with Aria on Christmas Eve. He thinks you're taking her side." Teddy mumbled. "I told him it wasn't true- you weren't like that. I don't know if he listened to me."

Irena felt an odd sort of quivering in her stomach- like she could throw up whatever was left of her breakfast. She wasn't angry- no, she felt like she could cry. "I'm not like Aria." Irena whispered, her throat tightening. "I guess I hoped he would understand."

She stood and quickly wiped her tears away. "Rena, wait, don't leave." Teddy told her. "We've got all of lunch, then we've got Charms and Care of Magical Creatures. You can't miss the first lessons after the holiday."

"Teddy, I need to be alone right now." Irena said, her voice wavering as she left him.

She went straight to the Slytherin dorms, feeling perfectly and utterly alone. She knew what would be good to distract her, so she pulled out Dumbledore's journal, opening it to the first page.

November 2nd, 1898

Today I am beginning my work to become an Animagus.

I have found a Mandrake leaf. I am to place it in my mouth from one full moon to the next. I shall start tonight, under the Lunar Eclipse. The moon is blood red, and it is beautiful. It feels promising.

The Mandrake leaf is bitter. I will write more as my experience progresses.

A. Dumbledore

Irena sighed, putting down the journal. She inspected her lunar calendar, noticing that tonight, too, was a full moon. The next full moon would take place on the 7th of February- she had a choice to start right this moment, or to wait an entire month.

She reached into her drawer, pulling out the vial with the Mandrake leaf. Such a tiny, insignificant thing.. Could she handle the bitter taste for a month? Could she handle being quiet for a month? Irena wanted to do this privately, without the wandering thoughts of all her friends. She would just pass notes, she supposed.

Twisting the top off the vial, she took the leaf from it, placing it in her mouth. It was tangy and bitter, but she found that putting the leaf in between her cheek and teeth made it possible to talk, and under her tongue made it so she didn't have to taste it.

Here we go, my next great adventure!

 

Wednesday, 11 January, 2012

Today was very awkward. Talon had thrown a birthday party for Diana, which meant everyone had to join in for her. Diana was absolutely beaming, delighted by the attention (and perhaps also by the fact that she was now 14). Irena had gotten her a sweater for Brownie, something she enjoyed very much.

Now, everyone mingled around, which meant different groups were in different corners. In one corner, Felix, Philomena, and Teddy hung around. In the other, Aria and Tabitha. In the centre, Talon and Diana. This left Irena and Victoire alone.

"Have you noticed that Talon's got a bit of a moustache now?" Victoire whispered to Irena.

She quickly moved the leaf to her cheek. "No, I haven't." Irena said, though when she looked at Talon closely, there was a shadow of facial hair just above his upper lip. "You're right! You're so observant, Vic."

"I know, it's one of my best qualities." Victoire giggled. "I hate everything that's going on with everyone right now. Why do we have to fight over blood purity? Who fucking cares? I just want my friends back."

Irena wrapped her arms around her. "I think I know just how to fix things with everyone. You can help me." In her mind, she stewed. She knew the perfect way to mend things with everyone- a prank . And, she'd just gotten inspired. "Vic, will you help me research a prank tomorrow after class?"

"A Gryffindor and a Slytherin?" Victoire laughed. "Help you prank me ?"

"No." Irena smiled, careful not to reveal the Mandrake leaf tucked into the side of her cheek. "We're going to prank everyone else."

 

Thursday, 12 January, 2012

Irena and Victoire rushed to the library directly after class, not wanting to be noticed by anyone in their friend group. This wasn't hard, considering most people were upset with Irena and Victoire tended to fly under everyone's radar.

"What we need to research," Irena began, keeping her voice prim and proper, since Victoire was a year younger and she felt mature doing so, "is a potion that will make everyone grow mass amounts of hair all over their body at once."

Victoire frowned. "But why do it to everyone and not pick a side? Gryffindor or Slytherin?"

"Because then they'll all have to work together to figure out how to get rid of it." Irena grinned. "If they work together, I think it'll make them all remember the joys of being friends. Just like in the movies."

She chuckled, sweeping a bit of auburn hair behind her ear. "I don't think anyone will want to work with Aria. She's been so mean lately. I think she'd be better off spending time with Slytherin friends than us."

"Nonsense." Irena told her decidedly. "We're the best friends she'll ever have."

They spent the day in the library, researching the potion. Victoire was the one who found it in an old NEWT student's textbook. It was damaged beyond repair, and was annotated everywhere. In other words, it was perfect.

The pair went to the Great Hall for dinner, separating into their separate houses. Irena sat down beside Diana; Tabitha and Aria sat on the other side. Things were very quiet and tense. Aria glared daggers into Irena, Tabitha kept her eyes on her plate.

Diana seemed to notice. She leaned in to whisper in Irena's ear. " What's going on? " She asked.

" Nothing. I'll tell you later. " Irena sighed. Right now, she wanted to focus on eating without swallowing the Mandrake leaf.

Their group was silent as dinner went on and separated as they went up to their dorms. "Can you tell me what's going on? Things are really tense among the four of us- and with the rest of the group. I don't like drama. I want us to be one big happy family again."

Irena sighed. "Aria made Felix upset- classic blood purity stuff, you know? And Tabby.. I've got a secret of hers and she thinks I'm gonna spread it everywhere. I wouldn't do anything to hurt my friends like that, but she thinks I will."

"I'll talk to her." Diana whispered. "I don't know what to do about Aria, though. I don't think she seems to want to be in our group anymore."

"I worked so hard to get everyone to forgive her so we can all be friends again- I'm not giving up that quickly." Irena sniffed.

Diana shrugged, growing quiet. "Irena! Irena! " A shout was heard behind her, as someone pushed through Slytherin after Slytherin. Austin grinned as he came before her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "Look, Irena, we've got practice next week. We're doing pretty good this season, but the new Gryffindor Seeker is pretty great too. We've got a shot at winning this year, but we need to practice."

"Got it." Irena gushed, smiling to him, the Mandrake leaf safely tucked under her tongue.

Austin patted her on the shoulder before leaving. Irena sighed contently. At least the situation with Austin was the same- perhaps it was better this way. She was fine fancying him, and he didn't seem to notice. I don't need anything else around me to change.

 

Wednesday, 18 January, 2012

The weak winter sun glowed on the Quidditch pitch as Irena launched herself into the air, biting down on the Mandrake leaf accidentally before pushing it under her tongue. She wobbled for a moment in the air before correcting herself.

"Not much practice, Diggory?" Orchid teased as she flew up to meet Irena.

"Is it obvious?" Irena giggled. Already, Tom Yaxley was up to the Keeper's hoops, Thyme and Tabitha flew around, passing the Quaffle to each other. Her stomach filled with butterflies when she watched Tabitha. Diana must not have talked to her yet, since Tabitha could not stand to be alone with Irena.

Orchid chuckled. "Better not let Austin see. You ought to practice your torpedoes again, that'll make him happy. Besides, you might need them for our next game. I wanna win this year." She grinned, flying off to join the other Chasers.

Irena nodded, releasing the Snitch in her fist. It fluttered around her before shooting up into the air. She followed after it intensely, spending the afternoon chasing it around the field.

"Alright, we're wrapping up!" Austin called out, nearly an hour and a half after practice began.

She dipped down to catch the Snitch, spinning around and around on her broom in her classic torpedo manoeuvre. Irena reached out her arm, catching it with ease, touching down to the ground gently.

Thyme and Orchid left together, chatting and giggling on the way to the locker room. Irena spied Victoire nearing the pitch, bag full of ingredients for their potion they were going to make that evening.

"Hey, Irena." Tabitha hesitated before the entrance of the locker room, long after the boys had gone into theirs. Irena's breath caught in her throat and she ran her tongue over the Mandrake leaf, something she had begun to do when she was nervous. "Diana told me what you said. I just wanted you to know.. I'm not angry anymore."

She breathed a sigh of relief. "Really? You'll be my friend again?" Irena squeaked.

"I said I would, wouldn't I?" Tabitha giggled as Irena embraced her tightly.

Irena quickly got cleaned up, abandoning Tabitha for Victoire. She waited in a winter jacket. "Took you long enough to get ready. Everything alright with Tabby, then? You had a nice hug, it seemed."

"Yea, we've made up." Irena grinned, tossing her two braids over her shoulder. "You've got all the ingredients, then?"

Victoire nodded. "Adder's fork, borage, dandelion root, and eye of Murtlap. Uncle Fred offered to brew it for us." She giggled. "I figured it'd be more fun to make it ourselves."

"I've thought it out." Irena continued speaking while they made their way up to the castle in darkness. "Aria's having a birthday party, yes? Diana's making everyone come, she'll crucify anyone who doesn't. We'll offer to bake the cake. We'll mix the potion in and refuse to eat the cake. Everyone else will get fuzzy- and we'll have a good laugh."

She giggled excitedly, stepping springily up the stairs. "This is so exciting! Teddy and Felix usually plan the pranks together and me and Talon tag along, but now I'm planning the prank with you ."

"It was a team effort, Vic. It was both of us." Irena smiled, wrapping her arm around Victoire's shoulders. Irena was still taller than her, but she remembered Fleur and Bill- Victoire was definitely not done growing.

 

Sunday, 22 January, 2012

"Happy birthday!" Diana cheered. They sat in their tiny alcove just outside the Great Hall, the tiny chocolate cake that Irena and Victoire baked sitting in the centre of everyone. Irena and Victoire were quiet as everyone clapped.

Felix and Philomena lingered outside the group, unsmiling. Aria smiled forcefully, embracing and thanking Diana, Tabitha, and Talon for the party.

"Irena and Victoire baked a wonderful cake." Diana smiled, slicing it up into pieces and placing them on plates. "Devil's Food, Aria, your favourite."

Teddy took two slices, one for him and one for Philomena. Felix took a slice, sitting down beside Talon. Diana, Tabitha, and Aria served themselves last. "Any for you, Rena? Vic?" Teddy asked as he raised the fork to his lips. Irena's heart raced in anticipation.

"No, my stomach's upset. You all enjoy it though." Irena said plainly.

"I… I had a big breakfast." Victoire shrugged.

The rest of the group wasn't fussed, shrugging and eating the cake. The effects weren't immediate, but that made it all the more exciting. Irena and Victoire began giggling as Felix went in for seconds. He paused before grabbing more. "What have you two done?" He asked suspiciously.

"Oh, nothing." Victoire said in a fake suave voice.

"Yea, Felix is right." Philomena added, furrowing her brows. "Victoire and Irena baked the cake, but they don't want any?" She looked down at her cake.

Tabitha set her plate down. "I don't feel so good.." She mumbled.

"Have you made us all sick?" Felix asked angrily.

Irena and Victoire began to laugh while the group around them looked down at their cake. Talon shrieked in alarm as hair began growing from his arms to his wrists, poking out of his jacket sleeves. It travelled through his chest and up to his neck. He dropped the cake and ran off.

"Talon- wait! " Diana called out as red hair began growing from her skin. She ran off behind him.

Philomena squealed and ran away, Tabitha following after her.

Aria raised her arms up and watched as hair grew down her arms, big, black tufts of curly black hair. Felix grew blond, while Teddy remained the same. "How did you make it out?" Victoire asked pointedly.

"I'm a Metamorphmagus." Teddy chided. "The hair won't grow unless I let it." He popped another bit of chocolate cake into his mouth, grinning. "Brilliant prank. Has our prank war turned into a free for all?"

Felix glared at Aria, then to Irena.

"We thought it'd bring everyone together, trying to find a solution to this problem." Irena confessed. "I didn't necessarily know the prank war was still going on." She leaned against the wall.

"You're going to pay for this. Both of you ." Felix hissed, storming away. Aria glared at her and Victoire before following after him.

Teddy chuckled a bit, cleaning up the mess they made. "It seems your plan worked a bit ." He told them.

"I don't care if I get pranked back." Irena shrugged. "I just want Felix and Aria and all of our friends to be friends again."

"Me too." Victoire agreed.

"Me three." Teddy concluded.

 

Tuesday, 7 February, 2012

December 4th, 1898

Today I continue my work to become an Animagus.

After spending a full moon from a full moon with a Mandrake leaf safely inside my lips, I am ready to create the potion.

Under the beautiful light of the full moon, I place the salivated leaf inside the vial where I will create my potion. 

I have added one of my own hairs, just as instructed.

I have found dew untouched by sunlight and human feet- placing it in a silver teaspoon and putting it inside the vial as well.

I discovered the chrysalis of a Death's-head Hawk moth inside the office of the Caretaker of Hogwarts, Mr. Dartmouth.

The mixture must be placed in a quiet, dark place, set to be undisturbed until the next electrical storm. I can only hope that it will be soon. I will chant the incantation: " Amato Animo Animato Animagus " every sunrise and sunset until then, for without it, everything will surely be for naught.

A. Dumbledore

"Whatcha reading?" A voice startled Irena as it wandered over. Philomena leaned in.

"Bugger off, Phil, I've got something to do." Irena sighed. She had all the ingredients, having read ahead in Dumbledore's diary, finding the dewdrops and finding a way to pluck a single hair from her head.

"Let me come with you!" Philomena begged.

Irena hesitated- but there was no denying her best friend. "Fine, let's go." She put the vials in her pocket, thrusting Dumbledore's journal into Philomena's empty arms.

" Property of Albus Dumbledore ?" Philomena whispered as they snuck around crowds of students looking to get back to their dorms before curfew was up. "What are you doing with this? This belongs in a library- this belongs in a museum! " She said in a hushed voice.

She rolled her eyes. "He let me borrow it. Now, let's get outside, quickly." Philomena opened her mouth to ask another question, but before she could, Irena grabbed Philomena's arm, pulling her to the courtyard. They walked a little bit out of the way of the castle, tucking behind a rock, still in sight of the moonlight.

Philomena watched as Irena grabbed the book from her, flipping to pages of diagrams Dumbledore had drawn up, neatly sketched and properly labelled. She spit the Mandrake leaf into the vial, wiping her mouth.

"You've kept that in your mouth all month ?" She asked, squishing her face up in disgust. "How did you eat? How did you brush your teeth? "

Irena shushed her. "I'm focusing, Phil. This requires focus."

She opened her mouth to argue, but shut it soon after. Irena pulled out the piece of hair she had sealed in another vial, adding it to the Mandrake leaf. The moon shone on them, turning Philomena's golden hair into silver.

"Your Animagus potion.." Philomena whispered. "I remember now." Irena placed the dew droplets into the mixture, rolling it around in her thumb and forefinger, inspecting how the dew mixed with her saliva.

"Yes." Irena mumbled. "I've decided to start it. Life is short and I'm bored. Why not?" She opened the final vial, the Death's-Head Hawk moth chrysalis, delicately putting it inside the other ingredients, sealing it up with a stopper.

Philomena reached for it, Irena handed it to her. "Amazing.. really, amazing. Not many witches or wizards can handle becoming an Animagus. You're brilliant."

"I know." Irena grinned, slamming Dumbledore's notebook shut, placing the vial in a roll of old socks, putting it in the pocket of her robes. She helped Philomena to her feet, and the two girls rushed away, back into the castle, hoping not to be caught after curfew.

Chapter Text

Sunday, 12 February, 2012

" Amato Animo Animato Animagus. " Irena said, right as the sun rose over the hills, painting the skies pink and orange. She felt a rush of confidence, turning back to the group lingering by the door. Irena's plan had worked excellently- everything was back to normal. Everyone was forced to join together to figure out how to transform themselves back to their hairless forms.

Diana and Tabitha linked arms with Irena, walking with Aria just behind them. Today was Hogsmeade weekend, strategically placed right before Valentine's Day, just so everyone could get gifts for their dates. Irena packed her Invisibility Cloak, knowing that Felix, Aria, and Victoire would join them through the secret passageway.

"I wonder what Talon's gonna get me for Valentine's Day." Diana gushed. "I was thinking of getting chocolates infused with love potion, but then I realised things wouldn't change much compared to how they are now."

Tabitha rolled her eyes. "It won't be as good as what I'm getting you for Valentine's." She told her decidedly.

Irena was quiet, feeling a bit jealous as the group met up in their spot. Teddy and Philomena held hands tenderly, smiling and whispering to each other. Diana and Talon embraced, and Talon wrapped his arms around her waist. Yes, Irena was jealous.

"Here, the cloak." Irena handed it to Felix. Victoire stood beside all of them, looking a bit nervous. She'd never really broken any rules before, Irena reflected. "If you three get caught with it and it gets confiscated, you're getting me a new one. I've barely had it for a month."

Felix snickered. "Alright, alright."

"We won't get caught, will we?" Victoire squeaked.

"Only if we're stupid." Aria retorted. "Which we're not. So we're not getting caught."

Victoire nodded, but bit her lip, as if she didn't quite believe her. "Let's get going, if we hurry, we'll get there at the same time as everyone else." Felix told Aria and Victoire, leading them away.

Teddy and Talon grinned, leading the rest of them away, down through Hogsmeade. Talon and Diana split from them soon, Tabitha hesitant to follow, so she stayed around Teddy, Philomena, and Irena.

"It's so cold today." Irena sighed. "I want to go to the café. Get some hot chocolate. My hands are gonna go numb."

Philomena frowned. "We have to make sure Felix and the others made it through safely."

"Easy for you to say, you've got Teddy holding your hands. You and I both know he runs hot." Irena giggled, making Teddy laugh. "He's like your own personal hand warmer."

Tabitha chuckled. "It's tough being single, Phil. You wouldn't understand."

Teddy enveloped Philomena in a hug, their laughter letting out billows of warm, foggy air. Soon enough, the three others appeared from the store, Felix held onto the Invisibility Cloak tightly. "Made it out, no one even realised."

Victoire stayed very close to Irena, looking very paranoid. "It's alright, Vic, we'll be fine." Irena consoled her in a whisper. "No one is even gonna notice you left. We're gonna have a good time. We've done this a million times."

"Really?" Teddy asked, raising his eyebrow.

Felix laughed. "It's not hard, Ted. Not everyone's a goodie two shoes like you."

"Oh, shut up." Teddy laughed.

They began walking to the café, but Teddy and Philomena abandoned them quickly, likely going off to snog in private, or some other thing that couples did. Irena and Tabitha paid for Felix and Aria's drinks, but eventually, Felix and Aria left too.

Irena and Tabitha sat on the bench in a secluded area with Victoire. Things were silent as couples milled about Hogsmeade. Tabitha sighed after taking a sip of her drink. "Have you ever loved someone you could never have?" She asked.

"Yea." Victoire replied after some time passed.

Tabitha nodded. "It's shitty- unrequited love. Why would the universe give us soulmates, if they don't even want us back?" Quiet was her response. Irena silently wondered who Tabitha was talking about. She had a sense that Victoire liked Teddy- but who did Tabby like? She was so private..

"Irena! Tabby!" Austin's beckoning call was heard. He came forward, surrounded by a few of his buddies- Tom Yaxley, Roan Rookwood, and Romeo Runcorn in their midst. "How are you ladies on this Valentine's Day Eve Eve?"

She felt her cheeks grow red as she stumbled over her words. "Just fine, actually." Irena told him.

"Are they holding the dance this year?" Austin asked his friends.

"I don't believe so." Tom Yaxley replied. "Too many Purebloods graduated last year, their parents usually paid for it." He sauntered over, sitting down right beside Irena. "Irena, if there was a dance, you wouldn't have to search for a date. I'm sitting right here."

She grimaced, pushing him away with such unexpected force, he landed on his butt off the other side of the bench. "I'd rather go alone than go with you." Irena told him sharply.

He got up, wiping snow off his bum, his face red in embarrassment while Roan and Romeo laughed. Even Austin grinned at Tom Yaxley's humiliation. "You wanna know why no one ever wants to date you, Irena? Because.. because you're a bitch ." He spat.

"She's just spirited, is all." Austin chided. Irena basked in his praise, feeling her cheeks grow rosy. "Nothing wrong with standing up for yourself, I always say." Irena could help but look onto him in his green and black sweater and matching black pants. "Tabby, want a blem?"

Tabitha grinned. "Dyin' for one."

Austin pulled a cigarette from his pocket, lighting it with his wand and taking a drag off it, handing it to Tabitha, who did the same. Irena glared, wondering when Tabitha had decided to take up smoking. Irena watched as Victoire got up, sitting beside Irena.

"Who's this then?" Romeo asked, gesturing to Victoire. "Looks like the second year Gryffindor Seeker. What's she doing out so far from Hogwarts? Isn't that against the rules?"

Victoire paled, Irena's heart dropped to her stomach. "You've got me mixed up with someone else." Victoire told them, Irena felt glad in her confident sounding voice. "My name's Molly, Molly Weasley. I'm in my third year."

"A Weasley?" Roan teased.

"There's nothing wrong with being a Weasley." Irena defended Victoire.

Romeo raised his hands in defeat. "Never said there was."

Felix and Aria returned from wherever they'd gone off to. Merlin, I hope they aren't snogging in secret. Irena realised as they returned. First Teddy and Phil, then Diana and Talon- could she lose Felix and Aria as well? What next- would Tabitha and Victoire start snogging too, leaving her all alone?

"Hello." Felix grinned, sitting right in between Tabitha and Irena.

"Aria, Felix, aren't you both supposed to be at Hogwarts?" Roan asked. "Aria, you haven't got a permission slip to Hogsmeade, I thought. You're supposed to be in the castle. Felix too.. and Molly ."

Victoire grew very red, but did not say a word.

"It's easy to get places where you don't belong," Aria grinned, "when you're smart enough to get there. You boys wouldn't understand. You're both idiots, after all." She said plainly.

Tom Yaxley was still quiet, seemingly still embarrassed by his rejection. Roan and Romeo frowned, but didn't say anything more.

Irena gazed at Austin and Tabitha, who had scooted to the next bench to smoke. She looked at his hands as he held the cigarette up to her mouth, grinning. Irena felt very jealous- did he like Tabitha? The thought made her upset, if not melancholy. Should I take up smoking? It would give her an excuse to be with him, after all.

" Earth to Irena! " Felix waved his hand in front of her face. Irena smiled as her attention settled on him, even though she felt the sudden sense of wanting to go back to Hogwarts early. "Irena, I've got you a Valentine's Day gift." He told her, brandishing a small satchel.

Her cheeks reddened. "A gift.. for me? For Valentine's Day?" Irena asked, realising the implications of his actions. "Felix.."

" It's from me and Aria! " Felix stammered at once. The Slytherin boys laughed at him, making his cheeks turn red. "It's just a friend to friend Valentine's Day gift. It's for you and V- I mean, Molly ."

Victoire sat up and grinned. Irena took it and opened it. A small vial of perfume fell into her lap. "Aww!" Irena smiled, glancing at Aria, who was paying close attention to the exchange as well. 

"You shouldn't have!" Victoire said, picking it up and examining it.

"How'd you two afford it, anyway?" Irena asked.

Felix and Aria glanced knowingly at each other before bursting out in laughter- something Irena was very glad for: it was good they were friends again. "Got a bit of help from our friend Nick. " Felix joked, making Aria laugh more. "As in we nicked it. "

Irena shook her head. "Stealing is bad, you two." She chided.

"That's what you get for hanging out with orphans." Aria told them. "Nothing but trouble."

They broke out into happy laughter before going back to Hogwarts.

 

Tuesday, 14 February, 2012

Finally, class was over! It was time to celebrate Valentine's Day, something that Irena was looking forward to. At least she'd be able to have Valentine's Day lunch with Dad and Leo- thankfully, Leo didn't have a Valentine either.

She left Divination, feeling good to escape Diana and Talon, who were constantly snogging, while Philomena and Teddy were always locked up in one way or another. Today would be a good day, Irena was going to make sure of it.

Making her way down to the Transfiguration classroom, she passed by quite a few couples and groups of people. Diana and Talon held hands as they walked down the hall, Philomena and Teddy gave each other a quick peck just as she rounded the corner.

Irena froze when she came around the last corner. Austin was leaning his arm against the wall, just underneath him was Tabitha. Whatever they were talking about, he was smiling his easy going smile with his perfect white teeth, and she chatted back to him with a similar look on her face.

I thought we were friends! Irena thought at once. I know I messed things up in November, I didn't think I messed them up this bad. Wasn't this going against girl code? Wasn't this the same reason Diana had gotten upset at Irena not too long before? Everyone knew she liked Austin and yet, here she was, talking to him. Unrequited love my ass. He loves you. You're beautiful and you're perfect.

She turned to run, wanting to cry. Irena was quickly stopped by first year Leo. "Reni! Dad invited you to lunch too?"

"He always does." Irena said pointedly, not wanting to cry in front of her little brother. "Pl-"

"-We can go in together!" Leo said in such a compassionate way, Irena couldn't turn him down or tell him otherwise. He locked arms with her, spinning her around. Austin and Tabitha were gone. Probably off to snog. She thought bitterly as they stepped inside the Transfiguration classroom.

Dad was busy with a few NEWT students, so his two children hung around until he was finished. "Yes, let's go have our late lunch. Leo, maybe you'll come to find that Valentine's Day weekends are much more pleasant than weekdays. Maybe the year a weekend rolls around, you'll be busy with a girlfriend of your own."

"Unlikely." Leo laughed. "Girls are gross."

"You think Irena is gross?" Dad laughed. Irena didn't laugh or say a word. "Leo, you'll have girls crawling all over you in a few years. You've got your father's hair- something that everyone loved about me ." Dad continued to joke, making Leo laugh.

He pulled out a bit of food, serving them. It was a well roasted chicken- a miniature feast.

"Irena, what's new with you? You've been quiet this whole time." Dad asked as they began to eat.

"Nothing." Irena muttered.

"Would you.. would you like to phone mum about it?" Dad asked, glancing at Leo.

"No." She replied flatly.

"Okay." Dad nodded.

More silence.

"Could I be excused?" Irena asked.

"Got a boyfriend you're going to visit?" Leo asked in a lighthearted, teasing tone. " Teddy Lupin? "

She had gotten up to leave, but turned at once. " As if! " Irena growled. "Teddy's like a brother to me- I wouldn't snog him if he were the last person on Earth. It'd be like snogging you. It's disgusting." Irena snapped, leaving.

Slamming the door closed behind her, Irena exhaled, trying to calm herself. She could hear Dad and Leo laughing. " Girls are just like that sometimes. " Dad's voice could be heard through the door.

Irena rifled through her bag, pulling out the perfume Felix had bought her, spraying a bit on. It made her sneeze, but she calmed down after a moment of having it on. If I see someone in the hallway, maybe they'll think I smell nice. Maybe they'll be attracted to me. She considered, leaving the classroom. It was a silly thought, but it was all she could do to keep herself from crying.

Throughout the corridor, people sneezed as soon as Irena walked past. Must be a coincidence. She thought, rounding the corner, going straight to the Slytherin rooms. She stepped into the common room where Austin and Tabitha sat on the couches. "Hi, Irena." Austin waved kindly to her.

She walked closer to them. "Hello, how are you two? Having a nice date, then?" Irena asked icily, eyeing Tabitha carefully. Tabitha only frowned, as if she had just thought of something she wanted to say, but could not say it now.

Austin began sneezing over and over, covering his nose. Tabitha looked up to her, opening her mouth to speak, but only continued sneezing over and over as well. Irena grimaced. "Alright- I'll talk to you two later, I suppose." Irena mumbled, leaving.

She stepped into the dorm room, sighing. She was ready to cry. Aria was sitting in her bed, reading Irena's Witch's Weekly subscription. "How was the lunch?" She asked kindly, sitting up.

"Fine, if I didn't catch Tabitha nearly snogging-" Irena began to speak before Aria began sneezing over and over again, just as everyone else did. " What is with you people? I can't even talk to a single person without them sneezing. I'm bloody tired of it."

Aria tried not to sneeze, laughing. "You put the perfume on, didn't you?"

"Yea, I thought it'd make me smell better." Irena said glumly.

"Go- take a shower now, wash it off." Aria told her.

"Why?" Irena asked.

"Rena, it was a gag gift. Felix and I pranked you." Aria laughed. "It's payback for when you made us hairy. We got you back- you've been embarrassed enough. Go on, wash it off."

Irena felt flushed. "You did this?" She asked angrily, feeling the tears form in the corners of her eyes. "You're cruel and you're mean- both of you. I wanted to talk to Austin and all I did was make him sneeze. Now Tabby's gonna snog him and there's nothing I can do because she's lovely and perfect and beautiful- I thought she knew I liked him! " Irena wailed.

Aria stood, covering her nose with a tissue as she came close to Irena. "What's happened, love?"

"Austin nearly snogged Tabitha today- I saw it with my own two eyes." Irena cried. "She knows I like him. Why would she do that? Isn't it against girl code? I knew she was mad at me, but I didn't think she'd be this mad to do something so malicious and so-"

The door opened. Tabitha walked in, sneezing. "Salazar's sake, you need to take off that perfume."

Irena stood. " Fuck you ." She said, whirling around. "You're.. you're a cunt ." She went inside the bathroom, abandoning both of the girls, turning on the shower and letting herself cry it out in the water.

 

Wednesday, 29 February, 2012

She never quite recovered from what happened on Valentine's Day. Aria and Felix were, of course, easily forgivable, but now Irena refused to talk to Tabitha. During Divination, she had to sit on the other side of Diana and Talon again.

But today, today was special. Teddy had picked something nice for them to do together- something alone. Something against the rules.

Irena and Teddy had squeezed themselves under the Invisibility Cloak while Teddy led the way to whatever special place they were going.

They climbed up to the Astronomy Tower, sitting under the open sky. Teddy laid out a picnic blanket, pulling out a bit of snacks and treats he must have had somewhere. "Look, a picnic under the sunset."

"Romantic, Ted." Irena giggled. She looked out to the sunset, placing her wand over her heart. " Amato Animo Animato Animagus ." Irena said aloud, turning back to Teddy's picnic.

She shivered. "Are you cold?" Teddy asked. Irena nodded. He took his flannel off, giving it to Irena. Irena enveloped herself in it, feeling much better. He reached into his basket, giving her a chocolate frog, smiling. "Philomena told me you were training to become an Animagus, I wasn't sure if I quite believed her." Teddy laughed.

"I am, I'll be an excellent Animagus, thank you very much! " Irena sniffed, pretending to be proper. She grabbed the chocolate frog, taking it out of its packaging and biting into it. "How are things with you and Philly?"

Teddy sighed. "I'm not sure." He confessed. "There's another boy- a boy I didn't even know existed. Phil joined the choir, as you probably know. She met this Hufflepuff boy a year older than her- he's really charming, smart, and kind. Muggleborn. Even lives in Brighton. She says she's not smitten with him, but I know her. We were friends first, dating second."

Irena looked to him compassionately, grabbing his hand. "I'm sorry, Ted. You don't deserve to have this happen to you." She told him.

"It's alright." Teddy sighed. "I got the impression from her dad that he didn't like me much. Maybe he'd like a Muggleborn boy better. I just can't seem to relate to Muggles much, try as much as I can."

She giggled. "Oh, the horror! " Irena teased, breaking the awkward tension. "You should've signed up for Muggle Studies instead of that free period. Maybe then you'd understand Muggle politics, sports, music, everything."

He looked very serious. "You think they would let me sign up next year?"

"Only if you pass this year's test, I think." Irena told him, frowning. "I was joking, you know. It's nearly impossible to switch into a class like that. We could talk to McGonagall tomorrow, if you like."

Teddy grinned. "That would be perfect . A class with all my mates in it. I could be with you, Felix, and Talon all at the same time. If only we could squeeze Victoire and Philomena in it, then we'd be set."

"You don't like the other Slytherins?" Irena chuckled.

"I love having a free period." Teddy reasoned. "But I get the sense that Tabitha and Aria are better friends with each other than with me. It's like third wheeling, but with a pair of best friends, not with a couple. It's just very awkward." He paused, pulling out another chocolate frog. " Oh! I'd invite Diana as well, of course. She's a tolerable Slytherin."

Irena smiled. "Tabitha's not tolerable?" She tested the waters.

"She can be a bit moody- more than Felix, I find. Felix has his moments, his flashes of anger. It's natural. Tabitha is different. She's got this quiet kind of anger, like you don't know if she's really angry or just indifferent. I much prefer to be yelled at in one evening than stewed over the course of a month."

She chuckled. "I'm not Tabitha's biggest fan now, either." Irena sighed. "You know I like Austin, right?" Teddy nodded, furrowing his eyebrows slightly- something he so often did when he was particularly focused on what someone was saying. "I saw them chain smoking at Hogsmeade and shacking up on Valentine's Day. What's wrong with her?"

"Have you talked to her?" Teddy asked, his mouth full.

"I can't face her. I just know they're snogging." Irena shook her head, picking at the legs on her chocolate frog.

"You would be surprised if you decided to get to know her a bit better." Teddy smiled knowingly. "Just know- she is definitely not snogging Austin. She doesn't like him. She likes someone else." He chuckled.

Irena frowned. "How do you know all that?"

"Just do." Teddy shrugged. "Teddy senses."

She smiled, poking him in the ribs. "Mama bear." Irena teased, making Teddy laugh.

They were quiet, leaning back on the blanket, watching the sun set and the stars rise, beginning to move across the sky. "It's odd, this date." Teddy echoed. "February 29th- only comes once every four years. I knew I had to do something special. This day can't just be a day , you know?"

Irena turned her head, looking at him. When they were alone, Teddy let his hair transform into whatever colour it wished. For now, it was a dark indigo, similar to the sky above. "You think we'll still be here in four years?" She asked.

"'Course." Teddy grinned, not looking at her. "It'll be our last year at Hogwarts. We'll be grown up, ready to move on with life, but we'll still be best friends. You'll be engaged to marry Austin, or some other handsome Pureblood. I'll probably be set up to live with my dads still. Maybe I could go study at a Muggle university or something."

She giggled. "We've been learning in Muggle Studies all about this new fad Muggles believe in. They all think the world is gonna end on December 21st, 2012. It's, like, the end of the Mayan calendar, I think. Raywood has been making us study the Mayan civilization because of it. Did you know they were magic too? It's incredible."

"Padfoot's been writing to me about that." Teddy chuckled. "He's so worried, talking about pulling me and Sunny out of school to travel the world one last time. Moony's peeved, thinks he's absolutely mad. It'd be hard to travel anyway, since once a month we've got a dangerous, man-eating creature in our midst." He laughed.

"Do you think it'll end?" Irena asked, suddenly faced with the recognition of her own mortality. "If it does, do you think you'll live a life worth remembering?"

He sighed. "Nope. I won't." Teddy said plainly. "I'll die a stupid little 14 year old wizard whose girlfriend doesn't love him anymore and whose friends never stop fighting with each other."

Irena giggled, sitting up. "We do not fight all the time!" She tickled him.

Teddy laughed, rolling around. "Stop- stop! Alright, you lot don't fight all the time- just often! " He fought to escape her fingers, pushing her away aggressively.

There was happy, content quiet between them, the kind someone could only ever find in a movie, where the characters were perfectly happy, and where they all got a happy ending.

"Teddy?" Irena asked after a while.

"Hmm?" He asked tiredly.

"You think we can have another picnic just like this one in four years?" Irena asked quietly.

He turned over to her. "We can have one every four years. We can have them until the end of time, or until we grow weary of each other. Whichever comes first." Teddy snickered. 

Irena giggled, resting her head on his shoulder as a shooting star shot past the sky. 

I wish things could feel this happy all the time.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 3 March, 2012

"The Great Hall seems like a good place to study." Irena said confidently. There was a crowd behind her of their group- all focused on studying.

Philomena grinned as they all sat at the Gryffindor table. "It's a shame the library closed. I wanted to return a few books." She said in an exhale as Victoire scooted next to her, wanting more tutoring in Herbology from a Ravenclaw.

"I heard somebody let off some dungbombs." Talon said casually, his arm around Diana's shoulders.

Teddy sat down by Irena, Felix on his other side. "Did they ever catch who did it?" Teddy asked.

"No, and they won't." Talon grinned, sitting down. "But I know who did it."

"Who?" Irena asked. Tabitha and Aria exchanged a few glances before sitting down a bit farther away. Better far than near. Irena thought bitterly, trying not to pay attention to them.

Talon grinned. "Storm Aves, Leo Diggory-Black, and Dominique Weasley." He whispered.

"You're lying . Leo would never break rules like that!" Irena rolled her eyes. The same could not be said for Dominique, who was known now for being mischievous.

"He was there when I bought the dungbombs." Talon told her. "Storm gets a discount on account of being my little brother. Leo gave him some galleons." He snickered.

She scowled. "I didn't give those to him for that reason." Irena sighed, shaking her head. 

There were more important things to worry about. One of these things was getting Teddy to pass the Muggle Studies test. Felix had taken the problem on in earnest, wanting Teddy to be in the class next year. Another thing was juggling Tabitha with Quidditch. They had a match coming up next weekend. Irena was tense and cordial with Tabitha and hardly spoke to Austin, always feeling awkward around him.

"Okay, Teddy, what are some sports that Muggles play?" Felix inquired, testing him. Teddy had learned a lot since the meeting with McGonagall and Raywood. For now, they were focusing on the basics. Teddy had plenty of time to study before final exams.

He screwed up his face in thought. "Uh- I know this! Football, basketball, American football, baseball, lacrosse-"

"That's good enough." Irena chuckled.

They spent a long time studying in the Great Hall. Tabitha and Aria left the group first. Diana and Talon left next, likely off to go snog somewhere private. Felix and Philomena left to get something to eat.

"..and Muggle cars drive on the right side of the road in America." Teddy concluded.

"Good. You're on the right track. Let's go find the others, shall we?" Irena smiled, gathering up her notes and handing them to Teddy, who organised them. Victoire had her head resting on the table and Irena hadn't noticed that she hadn't moved. She touched her hand to her elbow, jostling her gently. "Vic, I think you fell asleep." Irena giggled.

Victoire sat up, sniffing. Her eyes were tired and she had ink on her cheek from her parchment. "Huh?" She said tiredly.

Teddy chuckled slightly, climbing across the table quickly, helping her gather her things. "Come on, we're going to go back to the common room." He said in a gentle voice, helping her up. Victoire blinked several times, turning away from Teddy to pinch herself on her wrist, her cheeks glowing red. Irena didn't notice much of this, her eyes focused on the group who had just entered the Great Hall.

Irena walked quickly down to the entrance. Leo and Storm walked with their group of girls. Dominique whispered something to Lily while Ember hung around with Iris and Isabelle.

" Leo. " Irena said pointedly, crossing her arms. His eyes widened as she approached, glancing at his friends before looking back to her. "What's this I hear about letting dungbombs off in the library ?" She whispered the two words, not wanting to get him in trouble.

Storm frowned, shaking his shaggy blond hair from his eyes to look at her better. " Respectfully , get off his dick." He grumbled. Initially, no one could even tell that Storm was Talon's brother, he only confirmed it by opening his mouth.

Irena pursed her lips together, glaring. She grabbed Leo's arm roughly, pulling him away from them all. Maybe if I get him alone he won't feel as much peer pressure.. She considered. His cheeks were red now and he avoided her gaze. Teddy and Victoire stood a few feet away. "Be careful of the company you keep." She told him.

"I'm sorry.. I didn't think-" Leo began.

"You're right, Leo, you didn't think . Does Mum know you're friends with someone who tells his friend's older sister to get off his dick ? You're 11, for Merlin's sake!" Irena scolded him. "And the dungbombs. What were you thinking?"

By now, Leo's group of friends had begun to stare. A few of the girls whispered to each other. "It was just a prank.." He mumbled, scratching his elbow. "You guys do pranks all the time. We wanted to do one too."

"You don't do that by ruining the library. " Irena told him pointedly. "You pick one person or one group of people to prank. If you prank everyone, it's not a prank anymore. It's just.. selfish ." Leo seemed very guilty looking now. "Where'd you even get the money anyway? Talon said you paid with galleons."

Leo looked up to her. "Padfoot gave me some galleons for Christmas- said I could spend them on whatever I want." He broke eye contact, looking at his shoes again. "Please don't tell Longbottom or McGonagall. Please . I don't want detention."

She smiled, ruffling his hair. "You get one pass." Irena told him. Leo brightened at this. "If I hear that you did another prank like this I will tell. Learn to be discreet, at least." Irena sighed.

He grinned, turning back to his friends. Irena was joined by Teddy and Victoire, who still looked very red in the face. Teddy snickered as they left. "I bet he's planning another prank." He told Irena.

"I know." Irena agreed. "Dungbombs aren't the last prank Hogwarts has seen."

"Won't be the last prank this year either." Victoire said cheekily, grabbing Teddy by the sleeve and pulling him away.

 

Sunday, 11 March, 2012

Irena was nervous. Today was the day of the Quidditch match- this one was important. Slytherin and Gryffindor were tied for first, today would determine who was in the final round. Slytherin had lost a few games this year, and now this one would make or break it.

Austin stood with the group in the locker room. Thyme, Orchid, and Tabitha all stood around each other. Tom Yaxley stood with Erwin on Austin's other side. Irena glared at Tabitha, going to stand beside the boys stiffly.

"Team-" Austin began. Another grand speech. "We've done excellently this year. We played hard, had lots of fun, and made plenty of memories. Let's do our best and remember: winning isn't everything."

They made their way out on the pitch. The cheers could be heard, making Irena ill. Tom Yaxley smirked as he walked beside Irena. "Clearly, Evergreen isn't confident we're going to win." He said quietly.

"I suppose not." Irena sniffed, still curt around him.

"You just focus on catching the Snitch." Tom Yaxley continued. "You focus on the Snitch, I'll focus on my hoops, and we'll work like a well oiled machine." He grinned, running after the team. Irena raced to catch up. I know that. She thought stubbornly.

They made their way out onto the pitch. Irena could see the Gryffindor team as they walked in from the other side, meeting in the middle. She stepped toward Victoire- no longer the shy and timid girl, but she held a look of confidence. It was no secret that Victoire was a Quidditch god. Irena could only hope to beat her just this once.

"Good luck." Victoire smiled kindly, shaking Irena's hand. She was a Quidditch god with good sportsmanship.

"You too." Irena echoed.

The game began soon after. The Quaffle and Bludgers were released into the sky shortly before the Snitch was. Irena and Victoire jumped quickly, floating to the top of the course. Irena watched as the Chasers darted around the arena. The Slytherin Chasers were good, but Teddy was an excellent Keeper. Plus, no one could stop Pepper Talpin from success, not even Tom Yaxley.

It went on for many wins and losses. Irena watched for the Snitch, but also watched Victoire. Irena knew that if she could not see the Snitch, Victoire would. The game wasn't tied at all. After the Slytherin Chasers performed the Parkin's Pincer on Alina Elderberry, the Gryffindors had been shaken. Irena watched in begrudging happiness as Tabitha grinned beside Teddy, having landed another Quaffle in his hoop.

Victoire ducked down low to the field, Irena streaking after her. " VICTOIRE WEASLEY'S FOUND THE SNITCH! IRENA'S ON HER TAIL! THIS COULD BE THE END OF THE GAME! " The announcer called out excitedly into the microphone.

She really was an excellent flyer, but Irena told herself she was better. The Snitch made its way through person after person, dipping by the Slytherin hoops, racing through the crowds. It went up, up, up and away. Irena and Victoire were neck and neck. Irena flattened herself against her broom in an attempt to go faster.

The Snitch went up before leering down. Irena and Victoire ducked again. Irena stretched out her hand, wishing, hoping, praying that she would catch it. Victoire hadn't done the same, funnelling all her energy into going quicker. In the last moment, Victoire grabbed the Snitch right from Irena, the two girls pulling away from the earth.

" SHE'S DONE IT! VICTOIRE WEASLEY'S CAUGHT THE SNITCH! " The announcer said as the crowd cheered. Gryffindor had won because of her- she was the underdog. Irena watched as crowds of people in red and gold barreled toward their Seeker, as well as the entire team. She lowered herself to the ground as her team glided toward her.

Thyme's eyes were fixed with a glare. Orchid avoided her gaze as they walked to the locker room. Tabitha seemed like a deer in headlights. Erwin stomped away, Tom Yaxley shrugged. Irena felt ill as Austin walked to her- not out of nervousness, but out of guilt. She had made them lose.

"Go get cleaned up, hm?" Austin smiled defeatedly, going inside the locker rooms.

Irena glanced over to the cheering Gryffindors, locking eyes with Teddy before looking away at once.

 

Monday, 19 March, 2012

Laughter and jeers were all Irena ever heard in the hallways anymore. All pointed at her. She didn't stop to listen to anyone, only going from class to class, hardly having any time for her friends. She felt too guilty.

Irena sat in the library now, focusing on Dumbledore's diary. He wrote lots of things, more than just about being an Animagus. It talked about life, love, and grief. She tried to save as many pages per day, she could read the entire thing in one sitting.

"Hello, Irena." Teddy greeted warmly as he sat down, pulling out his own notes and things. Felix sat across the table from him, beside Irena. "How are things?"

She looked up at him. "They're fine." Irena said pointedly, turning the page to read it next.

Soon, Talon and Diana joined them, actually devoting time to get their homework done instead of snogging. Philomena and Victoire came last. It seemed that everyday Victoire was followed by a group of Gryffindors. The final match had been set- Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw. Every other game was just practice.

"Victoire, why are you going to sit with her?" A boy- Storm- appeared from the crowd.

"I've got Transfiguration homework to do." Victoire smiled. She took her newfound fame with ease, like the passing of a baton. "Go off, all of you. I need to focus."

Irena watched carefully as the group dispersed. Storm Aves leaned into Iris Dursley's ear, whispering something to make her laugh. She watched as Leo pushed his way through them, glaring at Storm before walking to Irena.

"Irena, can we talk?" Leo asked. She looked up at him. He seemed concerned about something.. he seemed genuine. "In private? Please? "

Teddy watched the siblings with wary eyes. Victoire grew pale. Talon clenched his jaw. Felix tucked into his textbook, as if h