Excluding meal times and the grand feasts and events, the only time these four people have been in the same room together was on a late autumn day in the quiet room of the Hogwarts library. None of them recall that particular day's encounter as particularly deep—a few words spoken, furtive eye-contact, wands rolled and tapped against tables. All of this done in warning, in acknowledgement—and slowly, surely this what brews inside their heads this day will echo through the deeply politicized halls of Hogwarts and into the wizarding world itself.
Yokoya Norihiko—third year, Slytherin to the core—pores over restricted scrolls and newspapers. His family—rich, influential, pureblood back to the founding days of Hogwarts—gets him access to books others would fear to even request of the librarians. The more he reads, the more he concludes that Voldemort is an amateur. Yes, a powerful, fearsome wizard who amassed power unconceivable by most of the mediocre magicians who have managed to attain a passing NEWT, but an amateur tied up in his own insecurities and thoughts of petty revenge. The more he reads, the more he determines how—when the time comes—he will do things differently. Even now, he makes his moves: teacher’s bribed, moles in the other houses stirring up conflict, and in Slytherin…
His Ruinious Rumor Wrangler charm twitches, alerting Yokoya to another incident of insubordination and conspiracy to tamp down. He acknowledges the report and adds it to the piles of inquiries to follow up on, not concerned in the slightest that someone dared say a negative word about him. In the end, it only proves that his grip over Slytherin House is tightening. Save for a few of the sixth and seventh year students upset that they will never receive the respect earned by seniority alone, everyone has at least tacitly agreed to work within his system. And if the uncorralled don’t graduate or fall into line, then Yokoya will ruin them soon enough.
Fukunaga Yuuji—seventh year, Slytherin hold out—knows he’s there, she’s just trying—very hard—not to care about that fact. She has more important things to study. Fresh from a dose of polyjuice potion, and temporarily undistracted from an ill-fitting body, she piles up the usual and unusual books of transformation magics in search of more exercises. Graduation rapidly approaches, and she hopes to perfect her body before it’s time for her to go and find that fresh start she wants—wherever that might happen to be. Dueling expert she may be, there’s no longer a career in fighting duels at sunrise on behalf of offended ministry members, and while she makes a passable beater on the Slytherin Qudditch team, the thought of making that a career doesn’t sound appealing at all.
School politics are meaningless. Six-and-something years should tell her that. Yokoya just pisses her off though, the control, the isolation, all of that goes against the Slytherin ideals—the ones she’d sooner beat people up than ever admit she cherishes—that have covered her first five years at Hogwarts. Open resistance is futile, but Fukunaga continues as she’s always been in silent defiance: Her best friends remain in Gryffindor, and she extends her reach into Hufflepuff, and sometimes she hopes that the sullen, studious Ravenclaw sitting at the table just across looks up and notices.
Akiyama Shinichi—sixth year, Ravenclaw overachiever—lies to himself. The drama with the younger students bleeds into his perpetual awareness. The Ravenclaw he entered into—the one that taught him to question and doubt everything about the world, to truly begin to think in ways he couldn’t have imagined before he received his letter—his owl in the lexicon of this parallel world—and learned that there was such a thing as magic and that he was someone who could perform it—is not the Ravenclaw he will graduate from. Still, if he keeps his head down, and continues his focus on academics and part-time jobs, he’ll escape the worst of the coming disaster. Even now—especially now that he’s no longer attempting to break Hermione Granger’s record for most classes taken—he’s mostly left alone. He’s just the quiet kid who likes to study. And in one or two years, he’ll graduate and start a job with the Ministry of Magic, and somehow all the hard-earned money his mother has put into sending him to Hogwarts will be worth it. Provided he can keep his head down.
He pretends to not notice when he watches all the victims cropping up: the discord in the other houses, the frightened Slytherin, the used innocents. His conscience prods him to act, quietly if possible, but loudly if not. The Slytherin across from him will escape mostly unscathed, but the younger students, the first and second years just coming into Hogwarts will bear most of the danger. Already there’s one who takes refuge in the library, never any assignments at all, just looking for a place where she isn’t a pariah. She remains unaware the source of her problems sits just two tables over in the opposite direction.
Kanzaki Nao—second year, Hufflepuff outcast—started her Hogwarts life on exactly the wrong foot. Idealistic, trusting to a fault, she’s spent her first year framed for other people’s nasty, just-short-of-expulsion pranks. Ostensibly, she’s working on an extra-credit essay on the founders of Hogwarts. Really she takes shelter from the bullying in the oppressive silence. Still, she attempts to keep the words of her father in mind and consider the bright spots: Akagi and the similarly barraged Abe in her house; Miura and a few of his fellow Gryffindors; Fukunaga whose teasing is in part good-spirited at least, and of course Akiyama without whose quiet assistance she’d have had her wand broken before she could complete her first year. Excepting the unfamiliar and strangely relaxed Slytherin sitting two tables over, she’s among friends here.
As she reads—about friendship, the founding of the school, the enduring struggles and disagreements, the ultimate perpetuation of their vision—her will begins to solidify. The tension in the corridors and classrooms is normal. Few in her year ever eat or study together, even those who haven’t inadvertently stepped out of the invisibly charmed line. Normal, yes, but not what she wants. Kanzaki doesn’t—can’t yet—understand the height she aims for; she just knows that she’s cried enough and so have so many of her fellow students.
For a brief moment, her eyes come into contact with the Slytherin stranger, the one who seems to almost enjoy the school’s atmosphere. Everything about him radiates cold. Does he keep up a cooling charm even in late November?
She gets an idea, a little one, but still a step in the right direction. She picks up her books, and walks to Fukunaga’s table and tilts her head in the direction of Akiyama. The tables are large enough that three—even four people—could study comfortably. Akiyama lifts his head and nods. His supplies rearrange to make room for two more..
The gathering, the three people sitting together in halfway comfortable silence keeps the attention of the fourth. He scowls.
“Would you like to join us?” Kanzaki says in her most polite tone. The others at her table stare at her. She pays them no mind. This is her first move to cross houses and, from there, build connections to shelter against the cold atmosphere. She has to try, at least.
Yokoya scowls. “I was just leaving.” He takes his restricted books and his Ruinious Rumor Wrangler, stands up, and walks away. “Please study hard for your midterms everyone.”
That is the first and last time they will occupy any space more intimate than the great hall together.
The meeting will never be replicated, never recounted, never remembered by any except those four. To two, it will fade away in time, a single moment before their graduation. To a third, this is the metaphorical first shot, a single act of resistance that will never reach his spies. And, to the fourth, who remains still unaware of exactly what she sows, this is the moment where she has chosen to fight.