C H A P T E R X I I I
Tinkerbell Zimmerman has never felt so young and so old. Peter Pan looks at her like he does all the lost boys. No, it’s worse. He treats her like she’s his younger sister, always doling out painfully platonic compliments. He makes her feel like a little girl playing dress up when he comments on her pearl earrings or jokes about her looking stuffy with her hair always in a bun.
She wants him to notice her lipgloss because he wants to kiss her, not because she’s stained her teacup with it. She aches for him to look at her differently, her heart yearns for it more than her stomach yearns to finish dinner. That feeling isn’t childish. Children don’t suffer from broken hearts or care about unrequited love.
She’s eleven years old and he makes her feel five and fifteen at once. All she wants is to be thirteen, like her .
He stares at her every day from their table. It’s the only time of day when he really sees any of them now that he’s on good behavior, and he wastes it staring at Wendy Darling. It’s utterly infuriating to watch him moon over her perfect hair and perfect figure and perfect face. Tink wants to strangle that perfect girl in her perfect little dorm room with her own hands. Her face burns like a bug bite. The anger is so intense and raw and new. Grown up anger.
She has to leave dinner early every day to escape it. She sprints up the stairs and climbs up to the roof via a method that can’t be safe with the intent of screaming at the sky for hours. She plans on punching the air with all the might her of her tiny fury.
When she finally gets up there though, all she can do is cry. Every day it’s the same ugly sobs. It’s not all because of Peter. It’s because she’s a Ravenclaw. It’s because she’s clumsy. It’s because none of her inventions are actually working like she designed them. It’s because she keeps missing out on all the inside jokes her Hufflepuff friends have. It’s because it feels like everyone is in perfect pairs, even Clank and Bubble. It’s - it’s - it’s --
It’s because she’s herself. 32 kgs and 140 cms of blubbering mess. Her bun is half undone. Her face is red and blotchy from crying. She can feel her eyes getting puffy. She can feel herself falling apart and sinking to the ground.
She puts her head in her hand as she sits down cross legged and tries to breathe, to calm down, to stop sobbing.
It’s not a voice in her head. It’s a boy.
“I don’t know if you know me, uhm, I’m Terrence.”
He waves and gives an awkward smile. His smile would be nice but it’s difficult to smile normally when the recipient of your smile is ugly-crying.
“Oh,” She takes a deep breath, “Hi-” sniffle “- Terrence.”
“Nothing, I just had a bad day, I’m actually on my way out.” She fumbles to get up, but he sits down next to her and puts a hand on her shoulder.
“First year is hard,” he says. “I know about this place only because I came up here to cry my fair share of times last year.”
Despite this news, Tinkerbell can’t bear to look at him right in the eyes.
“I was really homesick. See, I have a big family, four sisters - I’m the baby, actually. Felicity graduated last year.” His voice is calm and steady and she can feel her breathing slow to a normal rate. Her eyes stop spilling streams of salty tears down her cheeks.
“All my sisters live at home or nearby and I’ve always had them around. My parents spoiled me with attention since I was the youngest. It was hard to adjust to only getting a letter or two a day rather than all that constant affirmation. It was worse because they all thought I’d be a Gryffindor. All my sisters were, and my mum, too. My dad’s a Muggle. I think he blames himself for making me soft.”
Tink cannot imagine not wanting to be a Hufflepuff.
He laughs. She must have said the thought outloud.
“Interhouse unity and all has helped, but we’re still considered the sissy house.”
“I’d give anything to be a sissy, then.” Tink sighs. It would fix sooo many of her problems.
“I’m sure most people would do anything for that mind of yours.”
She gives him a quizzical look.
“You’re always inventing things - I’ve heard that the professors think you’re the new Hiro.”
“What is up with that bloke? Why does everyone know about him?” Tink bursts out. Hiro Hamada is a legend, but she’s never heard the legend.
“Oh he’s just amazing. He’s smarter than most seventh years. The Muggles had him tested as a kid and he got into MENSA - basically a club for geniuses. He’s already taken uni classes in engineering and is doing a lot of research and development in magical technology.”
“Oh.” She pauses. “And you think I’m comparable to him?”
“You’re definitely better than me at Charms.” He laughs.
“I’m sure you’re better than me at functioning as a human. I think that’s another nice quirk about being a Ravenclaw. Extra awkwardness.”
“I dunno, the head boy this year is a Ravenclaw - he’s actually Hiro’s older brother - and he’s very suave.”
“I was crying because of Peter Pan,” she blurts out. She doesn’t know why she says it. It just felt like the right time. The right person. “I’ve talked to my friends about it but they don’t get it. He’s in love with Wendy Darling.” She wonders if she’s whining. Iridessa says she has a tendency to whine.
“Isn’t she also in your house?”
“Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a thing for all Ravenclaws, just her.”
“So, what? You’re in love with him?” If she’s not mistaken, he says the l word without even a twinge of mockery.
“That’s the worst part, actually. I’m not. I don’t know if I’m old enough to process romantic love like that. I mean Fawn and Silvermist are definitely in love - maybe he’s just not the right person - but I’ve wanted him to be my boyfriend forever.”
He pats her shoulder. “Guys are jerks.”
She finally looks at him, really looks at him. He’s cute. Blonde hair and warm eyes. He’s tan and a bit on the shorter side for a guy. He smiles like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Something about it makes her smile back.
“I don’t think you’re a jerk.”
“I try. My mother says I’m a true gentleman .” He starts to get up, “Which is why I’m going to escort you back to your room before you miss curfew.”
“It’s pretty here, though.”
It is. It’s not quite dark yet. The sunset from the rooftop is magnificent.
“We’ve got time,” she adds. Her curfew is earlier than his (stupid rules. It’s like they want to brand first years as babies), but they definitely have a decent amount of time till 9.
He sits back down. “Do you want my cloak, at least?”
She feels very eleven. Like they’re recreating a scene from a movie about teenagers but they’re kids. When teenagers do things, it’s so intentional, it seems. Terrence isn’t wrapping her up in his cloak because he expects a kiss for it. He’s just doing what he was raised to do.
She puts her head on his shoulder. “You’re a good bloke. We should be friends.”
“I’d like that.” He squeezes her hand sweetly.
“Have you seen me around up here before?”
“I’ve seen you leave dinner in a huff and head in this general direction so I had a sneaking suspicion, you know?”
“I didn’t think anyone noticed me.”
“I think I was the only one.”
Tinkerbell lean into him. “Tell me about your sisters.”
He does. Felicity - the one that just graduated - is going to France for a year to travel. She might get a job as a translator for the French ministry because she knows oodles of languages. She’s the tallest of all the kids - almost as tall as their dad. Margaret is a year older and lives at home still. She has a Muggle boyfriend and is taking classes at the uni near their house - never was very good at magic, but she’s apparently great at computer science, which is what their dad studies there. Genevieve is two years older than Marge and is getting married in the spring. She and her fiance live in the country, but close enough to come home for a family meal once a week. Clara is the oldest, and all the kids think she was meant to be the boy because her full name is Clarence, which rhymes very well with Terrence. She’s twenty four, works for the Prophet, and already has two kids - Maisie and Lacy (they’re twins). Everyone jokes that she inherited the family curse. She’ll have to have five kids of her own if she wants a son.
He loves all his sisters equally and for different reasons. Clara because she’s like a second mum and nearly a living angel. She makes the best pastries and has a knack for listening, just like him, except she’s louder - the kind of person who was practically made to host parties. Gen because she’s quiet like he is and doesn’t mind if he comes over for tea without updating her about anything happening in his life. She has such a gentle nature and has always loved animals; in fact, her house in the country is kind of a small farm. Marge because she’ll show him video games and teach him arithmetic because who knows if he’ll want to work in the magical world. She’s very confident and secure about herself. Plus, she sings almost as well as Clara cooks. Felicity because she’s his opposite in nearly every way and babies him the least. She switches languages when she gets angry and is always getting cool tattoos of her favorite words.
Tinkerbell feels so relaxed.
“You wanna head back in?”
Her yawn was audible. Darn.
He helps her up and walks her back to Ravenclaw tower.
“You should show me how one of these things works sometime.” He says as he glances around the room. He doesn’t come in, but he doesn’t have to to see her contraptions.
“None of them work properly.” She sighs. Once she started sketching designs, she thought maybe they were right about her being a Ravenclaw. She’s curious and likes making things. But she keeps failing.
“Maybe you should ask for help instead of hiding out all the time. You don’t have to do everything alone.”
Tinkerbell isn’t the sort to ask for help, though. It’s a pride thing. Her mum said she potty trained herself and taught herself how to read using audiobooks because even as a toddler, she didn’t want to depend on anyone.
“Who would I even ask?” She hesitates. The question itself is a bit of a concession, a confession of her defeat. Maybe it’s okay to concede sometimes. She is only eleven…
“Maybe ask Wendy to introduce you to Hiro?”
She scowls. Nope, not conceding to her. Not yet.
“Or not. It was just a thought.”
“Sorry, I don’t really like her.”
He laughs. “I think that’s very clear. Were you the one who tried to charm her hair blue?”
“It didn’t work, so it’s not like I -- whoever did it -- really did anything wrong.”
She sticks out her tongue. Then she smiles, because this is really nice. Very very really nice. If she had a camera she’d take a picture. If she had words she’d write a poem. Anything to capture the way the moment warms up the cold stone room.
He smiles back at her, then waves.
The door closes and Tinkerbell changes into her nightgown, brushes her teeth, and blows out the candle. Her face still feels stiff and her eyes burn a bit but everything feels better.
He’s like a candle in the dark. Just bright enough to warm her up and light the way, not so big or loud as to start a fire and burn her down.
Maybe she does have the words. She falls asleep speaking poems she’ll never repeat, imperfect, impermanent poems about candles and butter and hiding places.
7:12 AM - 3 November 2028 - Ella Chapman and Snow White’s Dormitory
Ella wakes up humming. She’s had the song from the dance stuck in her head for over a week, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever leave. Not that she wants it to. She wants to hold on to every last memory of the night - at least, every good one. Especially since she doesn’t have any keepsakes. Her mask fell as she dashed out from the ball and it doesn’t seem like anyone has found it.
“ELLA! BRING US BREAKFAST IN BED!”
Why is Anastasia’s room so close to hers? It sucks that she’s in the same house, but come on. Same hall? Really? What’s worse is that these walls are thin.
Ella groans. Sometimes she wonders if it’s worth it to put up with all of them. She could probably manage money without her inheritance.
She turns to apologize to Snow and then remembers. Snow slept at Merida’s last night. She probably slept with Merida too. Wow, what a change. Virginal tease to aromantic friend with benefits.
The willful blonde forces herself to get out of bed and runs down to grab some oatmeal with fresh fruit for herself and some oranges for Anastasia and Drizella. They’re on another diet which means less food to carry and more attitude to deal with.
“Henry is looking for the girl who dropped the mask!”
“Oh my god, it was totally me, I can finally tell him!”
“Drizella, you said you wanted to kill whoever that girl was--”
“Shut up. I said I’d kill anyone who tried to say it was her instead of me.”
“I think I hear someone coming, shh. We don’t want anyone else getting funny ideas about stealing Henry.”
Henry Charming is looking for her.
“Here is your breakfast.” She feels like a maid in a hotel. “Need anything else?”
“For you to get your ugly face out of my sister’s room.” Drizella growls.
8:03 - 3 November 2028 - The Hospital Wing
“Good morning, sleepyhead.” Aurora. She’s here! Outside of her room, for once.
Phillip pecks her lips. “Hey, what are you doing up so early?”
“It’s not like I was sleeping, anyway.”
He sighs. No, of course not. It’d be obvious, even if he wasn’t the one waking up multiple times in the night to handle her nightmares.
Phillip can’t help but find her stunning, but she looks like a wilted flower with those bags under her eyes and her skin so pasty.
“He said you’re okay, but I need to hear it from you.” She grasps both his hands tightly. “Tell me you’re okay.”
“I’m fine. I was just being stupid.” He wanted to get back to her so badly he got a burn on the right side of his back.
“It was like a nightmare come true.”
“I heard you didn’t take it well.” She had three panic attacks and nearly tore her own hair out.
“I’m sorry,” she sighs, “I was trying to be better.”
“Hey, no need to be sorry. I’m proud of you for making it out of the room,” he grins. “You think you can make it to class today?”
“I’m actually not feeling well.”
It’s hard to tell if she’s purposefully lying or if it’s true. She barely sleeps or eats anymore and that’s bound to make anyone feel sick, but at the same time she’s vehemently against returning to school work. It’s hard to reconcile his nerdy best friend who loved school more than anything with his girlfriend who can’t stand the idea of even reading.
Master Sweet says she’s anxious about the other students, considering what happened with Millicent, and probably overwhelmed by the idea of studying again.
“What about you? Are you going to go? First class is in half an hour.” Her airy voice lacks the uptight tone he’s accustomed to. Briar’s nagging was the only reason he finished any of his homework and the reason why he managed to pass Transfiguration.
“I’ll be fine. I’ve already missed a whole day.” There weren’t any classes on Wednesday on account of the Games, but he slept through most of Thursday, only waking up long enough to take some potions and get that update on Aurora.
He makes her eat a whole banana in front of him before he makes his way to Potions. It’s horrible and wonderful to be away from her. He loves her so much he can’t bear being without her, but seeing her tortured like this is equally unbearable. Catch 22.
8: 50 - 3 November 2028 - History of Magic
From the Parchment of Ella Chapman
Glad you’re well enough to come to class today! Do you think Snow and I can stop by for dinner? <3 Ella
Today seems like a good day, considering Aurora was able to get out of bed. 5 sound good?
Tell Florian he doesn’t have to avoid me now that he’s dating a guy. I don’t think I turned him gay or something stupid like that. - S n o w
Phillip shakes his head. Their friend group has been a bit split lately. He doesn’t think Florian and Snow have spoken much at all since the ball where he apparently danced with Max Kante. He and Florian haven’t talked much about it. Most of his conversations with everyone focus on Briar nowadays.
Florian promises to sit with everyone at breakfast tomorrow, maybe introduce them to Max, who isn’t his boyfriend but will potentially become his boyfriend.
It’s nice that something is sorting itself out in Phillip's mess of a life.
12: 03 - 3 November 2028 - The Great Hall
Classes weren’t horrid. Today is just history, potions, Muggle studies, and defense. It was nice to escape from the grim reality of life and just focus on past events and get the components right in that potion and read Muggle literature. Phillip has lunch with the rest of the team members today. Normally, he’s with Aurora and Florian, but Shang insisted on eating together at least once a week for team building. Everyone commends him for bouncing back so fast from the injury. Tadashi inquires about Aurora discreetly.
“She’s getting better.” It’s a half lie. It’s true, technically, she is slowly improving. Eating more, sleeping more, cooperating with the suggestions of health workers more. But “getting better” is too hopeful. It makes it seem better than it is.
He breezes through the defense lesson. DADA has always been the one class he could daydream in without his grades consequently suffering. He’s wondering if any of it is worth it. DADA. The Victory Games. The whole wanting to be an Auror like Dad.
“Hello, love,” he pipes when he returns to the suite he and Aurora now share.
She lights up a bit - like a flickering candle holding the flame for a moment before dying out.
“I’ve missed you.” She hugs him. She gives great hugs - instant happiness kind of hugs.
“I’ve missed you too.”
He sets his books down on the desk. He’s behind on a lot of homework still, and it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll ever manage to catch up.
“Can you hold me for a moment?” Aurora loves displays of affection, less for the romance and more because they make her feel safer.
“Yes, of course.”
She doesn’t say anything but the way she clings onto him says enough.
“You know, I’ve been thinking,” he broaches the topic carefully, “Maybe I should drop out of the Games. I don’t think i really want to compete anymore.”
“If that’s what you want.”
4:28 - 3 November 2028 - the Hogwarts Kitchen
“Thank you so much, Happy.” Snow smiles brightly, “This looks perfect.”
The house elf blushes. “Happy will do anything for Snow White and her friends.”
“You mean we’ll all do anything for her, you credit stealing ninny,” Grumpy interrupts, “Grumpy hopes you’ll tell Phillip he wasn’t awful.”
Snow smiles, that’s certainly a compliment coming from Grumpy.
“Of course.” She gives them both a quick hug.
Ella grabs the platter the house elves prepared.
“You’re so short, it actually looks like you’re hugging a wizard,” she snickers.
“Oh, come on, I’m at least twenty centimeters taller than them.” Snow holds the door open for her friend with her left hand. Her right holds a jug of milk.
They hurry out the passageway.
“Fine, it looks like you’re hugging a first year.”
“Stop lording your height over me, you giant.” Snow sticks out her tongue.
“Okay, so, don’t be disappointed in me…” Ella starts.
“-- El, there’s no way I’d ever be disappointed in you.”
“I earwigged on some gossip--”
“-- Just kidding. Gossip is the absolute--”
“On Henry! He’s looking for the girl from last night who’s me but he doesn’t know it’s me and what if he finds out it’s me--”
“-- Breathe, Ella.” Snow shakes her head, “If you’re worried about anything, you should be worried about some other girl fitting the mask and him not finding out it was you.”
“Could that happen?” Snow can see the panic in Ella’s eyes.
“No, the mask was literally magicked specially for your face. You have no reason to have your knickers in a twist.”
“How about Drizzy killing me for stealing her crush?”
“Okay, that might be a valid concern,” Snow concedes, “But I can just ask Merida to beat her up. You know she’s ripped beneath all those sweatshirts.”
“I do not need to know anything about what goes on beneath her clothes, Snow.”
“Yeah, sorry… You know what we really should be concerned about?” Snow bites her lip.
“Aurora?” Ella asks despite the answer being obvious.
“She hasn’t been to class in weeks! I can’t even believe this is the same person. There must be something we can do.”
“Sweet said we just need to act cheery and all. You know, be our normal selves.”
5:00 - 3 November 2028 - Aurora Stefan’s Suite
“Hey, Rosey.” Ella opens the door quietly. “We brought your favourite. Butternut soup!”
She never used to like it before. Briar didn’t like it. Aurora does. It’s the only meal she can get halfway through.
They brought up a more filling meal for Phillip. Dinner rolls and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy and green beans. Phillip might have bags under his eyes now, but he still appreciates the same kind of food. He looks relieved to see them.
“Hey, love,” he says to Aurora, “Look, it’s Snow and Ella.”
Her purple eyes look a bit glazed and she blinks a few times before turning to see them.
“Oh, hello.” She was always quiet, but now it takes utter silence to hear what she’s saying. “I hear you’re going to be Princess Charming any day now.”
“She likes it when I keep her updates on school happenings,” Phillip explains.
Her voice is far away, “You should stand up to your stepmother. When you died,” she doesn’t freak out at the thought of it, which is good, “You regretted that you never did. You have to live your life, Ella. While you still have it.”
Ella gapes a bit at her frankness. Briar was frank too, but in a different way, in a less mature way. Sometimes Ella wonders if that “year” long dream really aged their friend.
Phillip takes the tray from Snow and places it on Aurora’s lap. She sips a spoonful of soup and smiles. Ella hopes she can eat the whole thing. She’s so thin and frail nowadays, eating shitty soup would be so much better than nothing.
“I hear you like them a bit younger.” Apparently, now it’s Snow’s turn.
“Merida is cool.”
“But you don’t love her?”
Aurora looks at Phillip and grasps his hand. “I cannot imagine that.”
Ella gives Snow a sympathetic look. She knows Aurora didn’t mean to be offensive, but little comments like that can sometimes hurt.
Snow brushes it off and goes to open the curtains in the room. Ella sweeps up a bit, and they all grab chairs near their sick friend. They’ve adjusted to this. Ella remembers Sweet’s plea for normalcy around Aurora and finds a way to talk about nothing with Snow and Phillip as they eat.
“I’m sorry I worried so much yesterday.” Aurora interrupts randomly.
“You’re fine, darling.” There’s something so heartbreaking about the way he says darling.
“I want you to go to practice tonight.” He hasn’t been to any sort of practice in like a week.
“I can’t leave you.” Her daymares tend to get particularly bad as the night settles. She has this recurring feeling that Millicent is here, watching her and waiting for the right moment to pop out of the shadows. Ella hasn’t seen it a ton since Phillip is the one who lives with her, but what she has been around for is tragic. There’s nothing in the world that’ll be able to erase the sound of Aurora’s silent sobs from Ella’s brain.
“I can come with you. We can all go watch.” Aurora nods to Snow and Ella.
“Oh, yeah,” Snow agrees, “Of course.”
“Uh, well you’re all obviously welcome to come. We start at seven and go till midnight, but you don’t have to be there the whole time.”
Aurora pushes her finished plate aside, “Sounds like a plan, then.”
“Thank you for having a meal with me.” Her head spins back to Ella and Snow, “But Master Sweet is coming with my supplements in a few minutes.”
Snow and Ella take the hint and leave the room at the top of the tower.
5:45 - 3 November 2028 - Aurora Stefan’s Suite
As soon as they leave, Aurora looks directly into Phillip’s eyes. Her violet eyes look even more intense with the emptiness in the rest of her face.
“I can’t live my life sobbing every time you go. Sweet says I need to start spending time away from you so I don’t become attached long-term -- in an unhealthy way.” Her voice is still airy, but the logic, it sounds so Briar .
“I don’t think that’s--”
“Well, I think it is. Besides, all you’ve ever wanted is to win. Your father and mother want to see you at your best. I want to see you try your best - and not get hurt because you’re distracted.” She fingers the scar on his back. “You have to go back to living your life. We can’t go on like this; it’s not healthy.”
“You told me a couple days ago you couldn’t bear to have me leave the room for another minute.”
“I wasn’t thinking then.”
“I’m thinking now, and I know we have to do this. I’ve stayed hidden away in this tower for too long, now. We both need to get out.”
Master Sweet comes in without so much as a knock.
“Getting out would do you both some good.” He says as he adds a bag to her IV. “I’ve been waiting for you to suggest it. I think the meds are finally kicking in.”
That’s fairly impossible, considering the fact that she definitely doesn’t swallow any of the pills Phillip makes her take. He saw the stash stuffed in a tissue in the trash.
“I want to watch Phillip practice tonight,” she tells Master Sweet.
“I really do think I’m feeling better. Phillip. I ate all my meals today and I think I want to help you with your homework. Maybe I can go back to class on Monday.”
She smiles brightly. It’s like someone changed the light bulb. She glows with positivity.
Phillip is shocked, but he lets her guide him through an essay for charms after the healer leaves. She hasn’t forgotten how to nitpick grammar or anything academic whatsoever. It’s nice to have her hovering over him again, something he never thought he’d want.
This is probably just a really good day. Phillip doesn’t expect much to amount from it. She’ll wake up tomorrow and change her mind about watching him train and going back to class. But right now, she’s here.
6:02 - 3 November 2028 - Ella Chapman and Snow White’s Dormitory
GET YOUR ASS OVER TO MY ROOM TO SHINE MY SHOES. BRING YOUR LITTLE FRIEND IF YOU NEED COMPANY. - Drizella Tremaine.
Ella sighs and turns to Snow. “You wanna come?”
“I’m not letting you in the dungeon without me.”
6:18 - 3 November 2028 - Drizella Tremaine’s Closet
“I’m sorry I didn’t see this coming.” Ella sits on the carpeted floor of the walk-in closet.
“Don’t apologize to me. It’s their fault.” Snow grits her teeth. “On the bright side, neither of them is smart enough to make Polyjuice Potion.”
Ella whimpers, “He’s probably already been to our room.”
Snow rubs circles in her back. “Hey, I’m sure there’s a way out of here. It’ll be okay.”
But it won’t. Nothing will. She’s not the heroine of any story. She isn’t Merida or any other Gryffindor girl. She learned to be patient, not brave. Methodical, not impulsive.
A mouse scurries under the girl's feet. Instead of panicking, Ella calms. There are a lot of mice and rats in her room at home. Despite all the charms and traps, they've always managed to find a home in the walls. When she first moved into the servants quarters in the estate, they freaked her out. And then she remembered how Sara Crewe was kind to the mice family living in her room and resolved to be so herself.
She felt connected to them. Over the years, Snow, Briar, and Ella had learned to communicate with animals remarkably. It was just another talent to add to the list for Briar, but for Snow and Ella, this was one of the few remarkable things about them, magic-wise.
“Hello,” Ella says. She knows she doesn't have speak to the woodland creatures for them to understand, moreso feel or think, but right now talking seems like a good way to calm down.
According to Briar, there's no fathomable way for them to actually comprehend— because of science and all, but science says wingardium leviosa shouldn't work, so Ella doesn't put much stock in it. (Briar used to insist it was more complicated than that. Ella misses her insisting.)
The mouse is one she recognizes, actually. She named him Gus after Augustus, the emperor. His buddy Jaq must be nearby. They’re so closely bonded, Ella sometimes wonders if they’re wizards under a curse, but Snow says they’d tell her immediately if that were the case.
Ella explains their predicament. As she guessed, going over the events that brought them here aloud is cathartic. It also sparks an idea.
“Would you guys mind looking for a key and trying to open the door? We’ve been locked in, and no spell works.”
The mice start scurrying at the word ‘key.’ Ella think-shouts that it’s probably with ‘the mean girl’ or on a desk in the room. She’s impressed by her little friends’ bravery. Drizzy’s cat, Lucifer (who’s literally named after the devil) loves hunting and is definitely in the room somewhere.
“They really love you,” Snow says.
“You know, bravery is born from kindness.”
Florian was brave because Snow was kind. Phillip was brave because Aurora was kind.
“And kindness is a sort of bravery itself.”
In that case, Ella’s had courage her whole life.
Within minutes Jaq and Gus return with a key through a little hole in the wall. Ella isn’t sure if the charm will allow them to leave, even if the key opens the door but it’s worth a shot. She tells them exactly how to open the door. It takes them a few tries and a couple close calls with that damned cat, but finally, it swings open.
It occurs to Ella that Drizzy could have lied about the door being charmed. Or at least misled them on the complexity of the spell. There’s not any time to dwell, though. Ella can hear Henry and her stepsisters in the other room.
He’s there with Duke, his best friend. Ella isn’t sure what his real name is or even if his nickname is his last name or a reference to the relationship between dukes and princes. What she does know is that Duke’s a nice guy with a good heart, even though he has a slight snobbish streak.
He notices her walk in first. Drizella is in the middle of insisting that it fits, despite her face clearly not conforming to the mold of the mask.
“What about her?” Duke asks.
“That’s no one,” Drizzy rushes to assure. “She’s just, uhm, Cinders, our personal maid.”
Sadly, that’s not too far off from the truth.
“Doubtful.” It was a lame lie considering Ella is wearing her school uniform.
“I’m not your maid!” It comes out too late and very flustered, but it feels good to defy Drizella in front of people she cares about.
“You’re Ella, right?” Duke asks. “You have potions with Henry and saved his arse that one year by actually following the instructions.”
Henry laughs at the memory. “I was thirteen, and I still thought potions should be like baking or cooking. You know, ‘instructions are just a guideline’?”
He turns his attention toward Ella, “Do you want to try?”
Shite, Drizella and Anastasia are literally right there. They’ll kill her if it fits.
But she’ll never feel like she’s living if she’s always cowering before her stepfamily in fear.
Duke promptly removes the mask from her stepsister’s face and places it on hers.
And it fits. Perfectly. Just like that night.
“It’s you!” Henry lights up. “I can’t believe it! This is great!”
“I - uh,” She stutters. She still can’t talk to him like a normal person. And it’s hard to say anything with Drizella glaring at her like she’s imagining ripping her throat out.
“I think she means, that night was a mistake. You see, she was grounded, and her stepmum - my mum- would murder her for dating before graduating from Hogwarts. Education is so important to her.”
“Is that why you’re failing History?” Snow pipes.
“Is that why she said the only reason either of you are here is so you can ‘snatch up a good match’?’” Ella’s heart beats so loudly she swears everyone can hear it.
Drizella has never looked more ugly. “There is no way Mother will let you get a hand on that inheritance if you betray us like this.”
Anastasia cowers behind her sister.
Duke is baffled. “Your stepmother has been threatening you with your inheritance ?”
Ella nods like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Because, it kind of is. It really is.
“That’s illegal in so many ways.” He’s quite angry for someone with little vested interest in Ella. Or maybe he does have vested interest now that she… might end up dating his best friend.
“Is it really?” Ella asks, turning her back on Drizella to face him.
“How old are you?” he asks.
“I’ll be seventeen in a month.”
“So why do you think you have to wait till after Hogwarts for your inheritance?”
“Lady Tremaine said it was in the will and that she’s in charge of enforcing it since she was named the executor.”
“Have you actually ever seen the will?”
“No.” So it could all be one huge fucking lie.
“I doubt there’s any way she has any real control over your inheritance, or that your dad would withhold it from you when you came of age.”
Anastasia steps forward, wringing her hands. “I can’t take it anymore! Duke is right! The will thing is a lie. The whole house is yours, and you were supposed to get like a thousand galleons of your money to spend a year on school stuff and personal items. Mum’s been investing it in petrol and mani pedis. Please please please don’t take away my things!”
Drizella looks ready to murder her sister.
Ella feels ready to hug her.
“Well, that was quite a revelation. Duke, any thoughts on Ella suing them ooor…?” Snow asks.
“She probably could if she wanted to. I’m sure my dad would be willing to help out - he’s a top notch lawyer.” Duke says more to Snow than to Ella, “I’m sure we could get a team together to --”
“I don’t know if I want to bother with that. I’d rather put the past in the past and move on. Maybe just ask your dad to help me get my fair share of the money, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble?”
Henry takes her hand, “No trouble at all. I can arrange it.”
And then everything kind of hits her. The reality of the moment. They escaped from the closet Drizella hid them in. The mask fit Ella perfectly. Anastasia admitted that Ella has rightful access to her father's money and Lady Tremaine has no way of keeping it from her. She can be with Henry.
Her mouth opens in delayed shock.
“A lot to take in?” He asks.
Snow and Duke are going over the details. They’ve put a silencing charm on Drizzy and Anastasia is trying to calm her down. It doesn’t feel like any of them are really there, though.
“Yeah.” It’s like everything good happening at once. Now, if only the universe could fix her best friend.
“You’re a good dancer.”
She smiles. “Is that all you have to say to me?”
“Oh yeah, also, I think it’s rude to run out on a date without saying goodbye.”
“Sorry about that.”
“I’m sorry I never noticed you before. I was bloody mad for not realizing it was you right away.”
“That’s not your fault. I’ve barely spoken to you in the last six years because of my crush.”
“Oh, you had a crush on me?”
“Yes, me and every other teenage witch at Hogwarts.”
He grins and shakes his head. “Well, to hell with the rest of them. I only want you.”
Is this a dream?
“Well, if you can feel this, it definitely isn’t.”
She must have asked out loud. And now he’s kissing her. Yep, way too real to be a dream. His lips are warm and soft and so very, very real.
“Get a room,” Snow laughs.
“Oh, I plan too,” Henry says, his voice so low only she can hear it.
Ella smiles stupidly and squeezes his hand.
8:13 - 3 November 2028 - The Quidditch Pitch
Merida’s hand wanders away from Snow’s waist, closer to her arse. Watching the Hogwarts Team train is riveting and all but she doesn’t exactly want to support the sexist bastards that told her she couldn’t compete.
To Snow White’s credit, her expression doesn’t change one bit.
She speaks in a murmur without moving her eyes away from the field, “I said we could sneak off after an hour.”
“You mean I have to wait sixty minutes before I get to remove your knickers?”
“Yes, we’re here for moral support,” Snow snaps, her eyes wandering to her right, where Aurora is listening to Ella and Henry gush about each other.
“Is she okay now?” Merida whispers. Aurora used to scare her, back when she was Briar. Merida thought she was crazy for taking school so seriously. Now Merida thinks she’s crazy for talking to herself and snapping out of reality.
“I’m holding out hope.”
Aurora laughs lightly at something Ella says.
Snow jumps in, “Ella, you’ve got to give yourself some more credit. You handled Drizella like the bitch she is.”
It’s so fucking weird to hear Snow White cuss. Then again, Merida’s done some unspeakable things to Snow, so a few bad words shouldn’t be disturbing.
“Oh, look! Phillip!” Aurora stands up, “Go Phillip!!”
“She reminds me of Rapunzel,” Merida whispers again to Snow.
“NICE, PHILLY!” Snow cheers, grinning wickedly. Phillip probably doesn’t appreciate the sissy nickname and Snow definitely knows it. He doesn’t seem that bothered though, seeing as he’s just disarmed Shang .
“Who’s Rapunzel?” She asks after turning back to Merida.
“Fourth Year, Ravenclaw, dating Flynn,” Merida begins.
Not ringing any bells.
“She’s got this massively long blonde hair --”
“Oh her!” Everyone knows Punzie even if they don’t know Punzie.
“Are you friends with her?” Snow asks.
“I don’t befriend girls very easily. She’s a little too sunshine for me.”
Snow frowns. “You’re friends with me.”
“Mm, nope,” Merida slips her hand beneath Snow’s long cloak and toys with the lace on her shirt. “I’m friendly with you.”
10:39 - 3 November 2028 - The Girl’s Locker Room
Merida is so much more than “friendly” with Snow in the girl’s locker room.
“Why are we in here again?” Snow asks between kisses.
“Because I’ve had a lot of fantasies involving this place.”
“Well I guess fantasy is reality now,” Snow pushes Merida against a bench, “though this place is definitely not clean.”
“Dirty is funner,” Merida sticks out her tongue. “Besides, Audrey said she needed a break from us, remember?”
The gryffindor's roommate said she needed at least a day of sleep without noise canceling headphones.
“She’s in the other room, how much could she even hear,” Snow whines as she kisses Merida’s neck.
“Well, not that I’m complaining, but you are loud.”
“Says the screamer.”
Snow wakes up in her own bed for once. She tumbled back in around two last night and she’s definitely overslept.
“Do you think Henry is going to expect sex from me?”
“What?” Snow moans groggily.
“Well, it seems like everyone our age is having sex and I’m just not sure if I’m ready, but what if he has like… needs?”
“Ella,” Snow yawns out, “I’m sure Henry isn’t going to pressure you into sex. He’s a good boy.”
“Yes, and you were a ‘good girl’. Now, you’re doing the walk of shame back in at two in the morning.”
“You heard that?”
“You’re also still in the same robes from last night.”
“Right,” Snow sits up. “Well I don’t think having a sex life makes me a bad girl.”
“I thought we were going to save ourselves for marriage.”
“Babes,” Snow grabs ahold of Ella’s hands, “I’m probably not ever getting married. There’s nothing for me to save myself for. I’m sure Aurora is still going to wait.”
“You don’t think she’ll go through like, sex therapy?”
“What the fuck,” Snow laughs, “No.”
“Okay, that’s good. Oh by the way, you’re expected for brunch in an hour and a half. We’re all going to Puddifoot's.”
“Me, Henry, You, Merida, Phillip, Aurora, Florian, and Max.”
“Florian and Max,” Snow nods appraisingly, “Good. I need to meet this kid. Florian shouldn’t be led on by anyone else.”
11:04 - 4 November 2028 - Merida DunBroch’s Dormitory
“You sure we’re not friends?” Snow asks as she does Merida’s makeup in her room. “Because this is what friends do. They get ready together.”
Snow sighs and makes conversation about the happenings of her life - the chattery things, not the fact that her fucking stepmother is probably planning another way to kill her.
“I think you’d like Rapunzel,” Merida interrupts at some point. “She’s all sunshiny like you.”
Yep, thinking about your possible murder is very sunshiny.
“Flynn tried to get me to be girly with her and her little friends a while ago. I’m sure Al will want to push it now that he’s dating one of her friends too.”
“Maybe we should have a slumber party or something.”
“Not into the idea of sleeping with you without sleeping with you. Besides, I tried that with Punzie once. Well it was just a sleepover. Mum liked the idea since she’s friends with Lady Corona and I wanted to catch up with Flynn.”
“Mhm?” She’s messing with Merida’s hair now. Heaven forbid she makes it look managed or something.
“Well, I hung out with Flynn all day, and at night, we all watched a horror movie. And, wow .”
“She couldn’t handle the horror?”
“Nope. She sympathized with the murderer.”
“Apparently, she befriended this gang during her little adventure last year… I don’t know.”
“Sounds pretty badass. Maybe you should give her a second chance?”
“Speaking of badass, I’m done. Open your eyes!” Snow squeals.
Merida looks sexy in Snow’s opinion. Smokey eyes and black eyeliner. Contoured cheeks. Cherry lipstick.
“Now let me dress you up!”
It’s so not fair how much clothes Merida has. She wears the same five plaid shirts, two pairs of ripped jeans, and combat boots on repeat even though her mother has filled her closets with Dolce and Gabbana, Stella McCartney, and Chanel.
Snow pulls out a pair of Doc Martens, a pair of bright blue Armani jeans with chunky suspenders, and a faux leather tank top. Merida changes right in front of her, complaining about the tank top being too tight.
“That top fits perfectly and you know it. Now everyone can see those tats,” Snow grins. Merida has two black birds on her collarbone and somehow, her shirts always cover them.
“Help yourself to anything in the closet, I know you’re itching to try something on.”
Snow has thirty minutes before she’s late, so she grabs the first red dress she sees - an Alexander Wang mini dress that probably costs over a hundred euros - and pairs it with some classic black high heels. Then she grabs a faux leather jacket to complete the look.
“So, is ‘edgy’ the theme here?”
“Yep,” Snow speeds through her own makeup routine, “You like it?”
“Yeah, just maybe tone it down next time, I feel a bit like a model.”
“Most girls would love that feeling, babe.” Snow grins. “And ha- there’s going to be a next time, which means you and I had fun doing an activity together that interested both of us, which means we’re definitely friends.”
“I’m still not painting your nails at some sleepover.” Merida rolls her eyes and adjusts her nose ring.
9:28 - 10 November 2028 - Jasmine Agrabah and Ariel Triton’s Dormitory
“I can’t believe I’m painting your nails at a sleepover,” Merida groans, “I don’t even know how to do this.”
Snow White laughs, “That’s why we have nail polish remover. I didn’t hear you complaining when I painted your nails black.”
“Oh hey, Punzie,” Merida acknowledges Rapunzel.
Snow turns her head, “Oh, so you’re the famous Rapunzel. I’m a big fan of the hair and the art.”
“Thanks,” Rapunzel loves that, above everything else. the people here think of her as the artist. “Mind if I steal her for a bit? I have a friend I think she’d get along really well with.”
“Go ahead, she could use some more friends and she’s totally killing my left hand.”
Rapunzel laughs. Sure enough Snow White’s fingers look like they’ve endured genocide. The red nail polish is everywhere.
It feels weird to be introducing Merida to someone, especially since they aren’t really friends, but come on, Ariel is a redhead who loves rock music and girls. That’s enough similarities to warrant introduction.
“Dude, I love that band!” Ariel doesn’t wait for an introduction. Rapunzel should have known she wouldn’t.
Rapunzel grins, “I’m just going to go. Have fun.” They aren’t listening, already caught up in a conversation about My Chemical Romance. Flynn has an MCR t-shirt that Rapunzel likes to steal and she’s liked the few songs that she’s heard, but she definitely has nothing to contribute to this conversation.
“Hey!” Rapunzel turns around.
It’s Mulan. “Thanks so much for inviting me to this party, it’s great.”
“You’re welcome! I love your PJs, are they real silk?”
“Yep, the good kind of Made in China.” Mulan laughs. “So are we going to gush about guys and braid each other’s hair because I’m not sure if I could handle yours?” Mulan has a way of making everything she says sound cool and collected. Maybe it’s an introvert thing?
“Don’t worry, I barely can, but I can totally do something with yours. Oh, I’ll grab Jasmine and we can do a circle! She’s had her hands at these long locks before.”
They find Jasmine by the drinks - Snow brought them up from the kitchen. Nothing alcoholic, thank goodness. Flynn said she and her friends actually like drinking quite a lot for good girls.
“Hey Rapunzel. And hi, Pascal!” Jasmine pets the chameleon on Rapunzel’s shoulder. Pascal has always had a soft spot for Jasmine.
“Woah, he was not there a second ago,” Mulan notes. “It’s so cool that you have a chameleon for a pet.”
“You are Mulan right?” And another introduction Rapunzel doesn’t have to make. “You’re in the Disney Society?”
“Oh, yeah, although the last time I went to an event, I kind of made a fool of myself.”
Jasmine winces, “Ah, yes. Tea for Two. I think it might have been better if you’d chosen another venue to call out Gaston. Don’t worry though, everyone’s forgotten about it by now. You were right, anyway. He’s an utter imbecile.”
“What did you do?” Rapunzel asks.
“I kind of blew up at him and spilled tea all over him for his misogyny.”
“I heard he purposefully didn’t allow women on the Hogwarts team,” Jasmine adds.
“Oooh, I’m sure Merida wasn’t happy about that.”
“Well, me and Merida both, then,” Mulan frowns, “It was totally unfair.”
“Well, your cousin is certainly holding up.” Jasmine tactfully changes the subject. Rapunzel asked her about it once, and she said she has learned how recognize which topics will upset a person and how to turn things around.
“Oh yeah, Ping’s doing great, I think.” Mulan brightens and blushes. Aww, family supporting family! “Do you think he’s got a shot?”
“I think he fares better than Flynn,” Jasmine answers without directly answering, “Sorry, Rapunzel.”
“Oh, Eugene just wants to prove to my dad he’s ‘worthy of me’ or something.”
“What is it about guys and proving their worth?” Jasmine rolls her eyes. “Oh, you came here for something, yes?”
“Right! Braiding circle, aaaand let’s have some milkshakes, yum!”
Rapunzel makes a caramel and butterscotch one. Jasmine, vanilla with crushed almonds. Mulan nearly opts out of one before Rapunzel says there’re ingredients for dairy free ones if she’s got a lactose problem. She makes a strawberry one. After washing their hands they sit on the floor and start working on each other’s hair.
“Ooh Mulan, I wish my hair was this silky.” Rapunzel sighs.
“Jasmine’s hair is much silkier than mine, I’m sure.”
“Yes, but mine is certainly thicker. So remember how we were talking about guys trying to prove their worth?”
“Yeah?” Rapunzel nods combing through Mulan’s hair some more.
“Wait, you know Aladdin, right?” Jasmine asks Mulan.
“Vaguely,” Mulan answers, “I heard he got expelled?”
“He’s Eugene’s friend,” Rapunzel explains, “He’s definitely being framed for that dark artifact thing.”
“Well anyway, I liked him,” Jasmine continues.
Rapunzel squeals a little.
“But he’s lying to me about who he is now. He’s pretending to be a Beauxbatons student named Ali.”
“Wow, couldn’t kill him to be more creative with the name.” Mulan snorts.
“Yeah, I know, and it’s so obviously him. He’s just pretending to be this guy so he’ll seem more impressive. Ugh, it’s so stupid.”
“And yet you’re still going out with him.” Ariel joins the circle, taking Jasmine’s hair and letting Mulan work on hers.
“I just want to see if he’ll tell me the truth.”
“Do you like him as Ali?” Mulan asks.
“Yeah, he’s arrogant and obnoxiously flirtatious but he’s romantic and funny.”
“But you still don’t know if any of that is even him,” Ariel chimes in.
“I can vouch that he is funny and really smart and nice.” Rapunzel likes talking to him about classes and he’s always been interested in her art.
“Please, Blondie, you’ve vaguely known him for like a year.” Ariel shakes her head.
“Well, he seems nice to me.”
“I just don’t get this obsession with impressing me. What is it with boys, why do they think lying about who they are is the right answer.”
“Well, sometimes you need to lie about who you are. Like Aladdin wouldn’t be allowed on school grounds if he told the truth.” Mulan notes. Go Mulan! On the right team.
“It’s not like I’m going to report him. I’m dating him!”
“So it’s official?” Rapunzel smiles, “That’s so great. You should double date with me and Eugene!”
“Woah woah woah woah woah,” Ariel interrupts, “You’ve agreed to be his girlfriend before even kissing him?”
“Oh my god, you sneaky bitch.” Ariel pulls on Jasmine’s hair.
“Ow! Ariel! Language!” Rapunzel smiles; their relationship sometimes seems so mother-daughter-y.
“You didn’t tell me! Spill! How was your first kiss!”
“Well, before I spill, you should know it was only yesterday, so I haven’t kept the information from you for too long.”
“You should have told me immediately.”
Rapunzel can’t take it, “Well what happened?”
“He was walking me home from a date - we went on another carpet ride - and we got to my door and he was really sweet, said something about how the stars could never hold a candle to me and just quickly pecked my lips before saying goodnight.”
“Awwww!!” Rapunzel squeals.
Merida sits down next to Jasmine, “So Al finally kissed you?”
And then she realizes, “Oh fuck, I wasn’t supposed to call him that was I?”
“Don’t worry, I knew. And it was totally appropriate timing and an appropriate kiss.”
“Appropriate, please, if it didn’t leave you wanting to rip his shirt off, then it sucked.”
Jasmine doesn’t say anything, which totally means she’s blushing.
“Okay, can we please talk about someone else now? Mulan, who do you like?”
“Okay, this is such an impossible crush, but I’m so so so into Shang.”
Merida nods approvingly. “I’m only into birds, but I can see the appeal.”
Mulan nearly moans, “He’s so fucking gorgeous. Ugh, those abs and that hair !”
The other girls minus Merida, giggle and squeal. They keep going, talking about current crushes and new crushes and favorite athletes and movies and books. Rapunzel loves the energy, how half these people don’t know each other at all, and yet BOOM. Instant bonding. The power of the sleepover.
11:05 - 10 November 2028 - Jasmine Agrabah and Ariel Triton’s Dormitory
Snow walks over to the window for some fresh air. A gust of November wind hits her in the face. She keeps forgetting that the weather is changing. And then she sees a bird, a raven. It flies right to her open finger. There’s a note on its right foot.
Hogwarts is a bad hiding place.
Regina La Rue White.