Chapter 1: Got To Get Back To Hogwarts!
Alec ducked as another tongue-tying curse flew over his head, regretting that yet again, he had allowed his father convince him to stay at another year at this school. While he begrudgingly agreed that, yes, it was more sensible to wait until after he finished his OWLs before transferring to somewhere – anywhere – else, he still hated the idea of being subject to such lively surroundings and loud, insensitive younger students.
Dragging his case behind him as he searched for an empty carriage, he was relieved to spot Nellie and Theresa alone in the corner of the third he checked. Honestly, his two friends had been his only comfort ever since – well… for nearly a year now.
Alec graced his friends with one of his increasingly rare smiles they greeted him in near unison.
Stowing his case under his seat, he flopped down opposite them rather ungracefully, allowing the strain of the summer to melt away. He would miss them when he left.
“Bad journey?” Theresa asked sympathetically.
Unlike his Nellie and Theresa, who lived in Essex and London respectively, Alec lived down in Cornwall, meaning that he not only had one of the longest journeys of anyone, but that he was also forced to rely on the Knight Bus to transport him to King’s Cross each year, as his cases made it impossible to fly, and he suspected muggles wouldn’t take too nicely to an owl on their transport systems.
Alec was prevented from confirming Theresa’s inquiry when there was a tentative knock on the door of their compartment. While Alec was still recovering from his surprise, Nellie was already waving to the girl peering through the window, signalling her to join them.
Alec was again struck by surprise when the door opened to reveal an angel. Admittedly, this angel was wearing jeans and a t-shirt proclaiming “C’est La Vie”, but surely someone so stunning couldn’t be a mere mortal?
He was so absorbed in these thoughts, he was startled to feel Theresa kick him under the table that protruded from the windowsill. Suddenly aware that everyone – including the angel – was staring at his, he self-consciously cleared his throat, and eloquently followed with a:
Theresa cringed in second-hand embarrassment, while Nellie seemed greatly amused by his distraction.
“I was just introducing everyone to Sarah, here.” Nellie smirked, gesturing to the angel, who was now blushing prettily.
“Oh, um, right, um, I’m Alec.” He managed to stutter, sticking his hand out somewhat awkwardly to greet her.
“Sarah.” She replied, seeming torn between shyness and a mask of confidence.
Alec tried to ignore the fluttering in his chest as their hands touched, scolding himself for his self-perceived lack of control.
“I just transferred from Beauxbatons.” She explained, to which Theresa replied;
“Oh how wonderful! Alec wants to go there next year! You’ll have to tell him all about it!”
Alec told himself that he was imagining the slightly disappointed look that he could have sworn flittered across Sarah’s face at that news.
“Oh, you’re leaving?”
“Um, possibly. My father wants me to finish my OWLs first.”
“Yes, Papa was reluctant to let me move this year, but he agreed after-” She cut herself off suddenly with a short cough. “He um, my cousin told him how great the teachers are here.”
The other three politely ignored the brief distress that had crossed Sarah’s face, sensing that it wasn’t something she was willing to share quite so soon after their introduction.
“So you’re going to be in Fifth Year with us then?” Nellie asked, sensing a change of topic was needed.
“Yes! Oh, yay, I was hoping I’d be with you! What subjects are you taking?”
Alec’s attention drifted away as the girls quickly fell into deep conversation.
About an hour after the train had finally left the station, the conversation was interrupted as the door burst open, announcing the presence of one Peter Vincent.
Cocking an eyebrow as he leaned confidently against the doorframe, he proceeded to thoroughly ignore Alec as he greeted the others.
“Hello, ladies, nice summer I presume? And whom might this beautiful lady be?” He asked, noticing Sarah.
“Well, she might be called Sarah, but why don’t you ask her yourself and find out?”
Alec and Theresa shared a look of exasperation, long resigned to the hostility between Nellie and Peter that, strangely, their friends seemed to rather enjoy.
Alec scowled as he watched Peter smoothly approached Sarah, drawing her hand to his lips as he murmured her name, smirking slightly as he noticed a blush gently spreading across Sarah’s cheeks, though, unbeknownst to him, more from embarrassment than being flattered.
“Oh, get lost, Peter.” Nellie snapped, annoyed at the Slytherin’s obvious flirtation for reasons she didn’t care to examine.
Peter straightened as he turned to face his – his friend? Enemy? Um… His Nellie. Wait, no, not his Nellie, not like that! Just – Nellie! Yes, just Nellie. Just Nellie.
“Ah, Nellie! Nellie, Nells, Nell, back to torture me for another year, I see!”
“Couldn’t resist.” She fake simpered, the loathing in her eyes blatantly displaying her true emotions.
“Well, who could blame you? Honestly, I feel sorry for you; it must be so hard to have to stare at someone so handsome all the time.”
Alec groaned quietly as he let his head fall back against his seat. Not those words. Anything but those words! Neither of them could ever resist a challenge, and those words were famous for leading to duels between the forever quarrelling pair. They hadn’t even made it to Hogwarts yet!
“Oh, no! Not wish, Nellie. Dear, sweet, Nellie, never wish! I know so. Why else would you seek me out at every opportunity?” A teasing smirk lit up his eyes as he leaned closer to her.
“I-I-I… Well maybe you’ve forgotten, but it was you who came to find me, Peter!” Nellie stuttered, praying that the sudden and unexpected warmth in her cheeks wasn’t visible.
Peter straighten abruptly.
“Well- Well- I needed to speak to Alec! You being here was entirely coincidence!” He scrambled, smoothing his impeccable shirt.
Alec raised an eyebrow as he raised his head, surprised at being brought into the conversation. Normally the two were far too involved in each other to notice there was anyone else around. He caught Sarah’s eye across the carriage, offering what he hoped was a reassuring smile as he observed the slightly amused bewilderment in her gaze.
“Alec?” Nellie asked, suddenly feeling rather deflated. Stupid her, thinking that Peter Vincent of all people would have sought her out.
“Um, yes, Alec.” Peter confirmed, turning to face him. “I, um, wanted your advice on, um… Quidditch! Yes, quidditch. I wondered, um, what did you think about the triple spin that the Falcon’s did at the game last week?”
“Erh…” Alec did a remarkable job of stifling his amusement at his sort-of-friend’s avoidance technique. “They did it well?” He nearly asked, wondering if this would satisfy Peter.
He didn’t really know what to say about it. Even to a Quidditch enthusiast like him, there was only so much that could be said about the fairly common-place defence move.
“Right! Yeah, just what I was, um, thinking. Right! Well, thank you! Um… I’ll just, um…” Peter backed out of the carriage awkwardly, before seeming to forget that the glass panel in the door allowed its occupants to see his hasty retreat down the corridor.
A moment of silence fell over them.
“Well, that was weird.” Theresa commented brightly, subtly scrutinising Nellie’s reaction.
Nellie, however, was far to confused to register that anyone had spoken.
“Are they…” Sarah cleared her throat awkwardly. “Are they always like that?”
“Always.” Alec answered ruefully, sensing her well-concealed unease. “You get used to it. Eventually.” He offered.
For the second time in as many minutes, it was left to Theresa to break the silence.
“So, Alec, how was your summer? Anything good happen?”
Alec felt a small smile break across his face as he gazed – what he thought was discreetly – at Sarah.
“Yeah. Yeah, it did.”
The remainder of their journey passed relatively uneventfully, with the exception of when the Honeydukes’ Trolley came round. Alec had impulsively bought Sarah a chocolate frog, and then, to cover up his embarrassment, had bought a box of Every Flavour Beans for everyone else to share. Chris’ birthday present would have to wait until after their next allowance was sent.
Apart from a minor disturbance when Peter’s notorious prankster of a cousin, Elsie, decided to announce her return by letting off a Drone Jinx, the Sorting was equally uneventful, and Alec soon found himself lost in bored contemplation of the charmed ceiling. None of his friends had any siblings joining that year, and if it hadn’t been for Nellie prodding him in the side, Alec might have even missed his angel being proclaimed a Ravenclaw.
He tried to ignore the disappointment that swept over him. After all, Theresa was bound to take Sarah under her wing, so it wasn’t like he wouldn’t see her at all, but he couldn’t help feeling slightly bitter that there would be no chess matches or other chances to see the firelight of the Gryffindor Common Room glinting off her hair. At least not any time soon.
Momentarily forgetting his sorrows when a large platter of potato wedges and fried chicken appeared in front of him, Alec allowed Nellie to coax him into conversation with the rest of their year’s Gryffindors.
Unbeknown to him, on the next table Sarah was admitting to herself that she was a little disappointed too. She was immensely grateful for Theresa’s enthusiastic welcome, but she couldn’t help the edge of regret that tinged her happiness when, half way through the feast, she glanced over to the Gryffindor table to see Alec engaged in a lively conversation with Nellie and a few others.
She quickly told herself that she was being stupid – that she couldn’t possibly justify being jealous about a boy she had only met that day talking to someone else, but she couldn’t deny that she was. She cursed her romantic side as she realised that yet again she’d found herself such an utterly unattainable crush.
Feeling the weight of someone staring at him, Alec looked up and caught her eye across the two tables. The smile and slight wave that he offered was hesitantly returned, and they both found themselves rather distracted for the remainder of the evening.
To his great surprise, Alec found himself reluctant to leave his classmates’ company after the feast, but he had to fulfil his new duties as a Prefect of escorting the new Gryffindors up to the tower. He must have been imagining things, but he could have sworn that this year they were even smaller and louder than the midgets that now made up the Second Year. He was certain that his year had never been so rowdy.
Easily navigating the ever-changing corridors of the castle, Alec paused only briefly to greet the girl that he’d sat next to last year in Transfiguration and vaguely remembered as being a Chaser on the Hufflepuff Quidditch team, (Diana?), before continuing to lead his charges towards the Grand Stairwell. Unconsciously allowing a frown to crease his forehead as the cacophonic clamour of excited students echoed off the stone walls, Alec hoped this year would pass quickly.
And please, please let it be less eventful than the last.
But maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it involved a certain new Ravenclaw...
Chapter 2: The Calm Before The Storm
By Thursday, everyone more-or-less settled back into routine. Classes were in full swing, and aside from those few who were taking new subjects, the majority of the Sixth Years felt as if they had never been away.
Beatrice was one such student. Despite the differences in her timetable now that she was studying NEWTs rather than OWLs, none of her subjects were entirely new to her, and she’d quickly fallen back into the rhythm of late nights finishing essays in the library or Common Room.
The only subject she had yet to have a lesson in that year was Potions. She sighed as she found her name on the seating plan stuck to the wall outside the classroom. Great. She was sat just about as far away as she could get from Nathan, who was the only other Ravenclaw in their class, and was right at the front of the class in the middle of a large group of rather rowdy Gryffindors.
And, to top it all, she was going to have to share a cauldron with him.
To her dismay, she’d found they were sharing all their classes this year, but so far she’d been able to avoid being seated too near to him – at least not without out the presence of her friends nearby.
She stiffened as she felt someone sidle up beside her, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the strange warmth and sense of rightness she felt when he causally looped an arm around her waist in mock affection. She didn’t need to turn her head- she already knew who it was.
“Ah, Miss Messina, I see you’ve seen the new seating plan.”
She resented his nonchalant tone. If she hadn’t known their surly Potions professor would never stand for it, she’d have suspect him of bribing their teacher to seat them together, although why he’d want to sit next to her when he professed to loathe her was beyond her.
“Oh, is that what this is? Nah, I was just admiring the brickwork!” she easily returned, making no effort to mask her scorn as she turned to look at her rival, his hand slipping back to his side from where it had rested against her waist.
Benedick cleared his throat as his now-free hand reached up to absently pull at his earlobe.
“Well, you have to admit, it is rather remarkable how much magic is embedded in those walls.” He slung back, ignoring her sarcasm.
“Indeed.” She rolled her eyes. “It makes you wonder how you can be around so much magic and yet you seem to possess very little.” Her tone was patronising, but her eyes sparkled with barely supressed mirth as he drew up to his full height and puffed his cheeks out his indignation.
“I resent that!” Benedick exclaimed. “I’ll have you know-“
“-If you two are quite finished?” they both froze in horror at the silken voice behind them. “It may have escaped your notice, but your class started five minutes ago, and unless you very much want to spend the next week IN DETENTION, I suggest you both have a FLAWLESS Deflation Draught on my desk by the end of the lesson without another word from EITHER of you until you are DISMISSED at the end of CLASS. Do I make myself clear?” Snape drawled, allowing his anger to bleed through into his otherwise calmly-spoken words.
“Yes, Sir.” They muttered in unison as they hurried into the classroom; Beatrice flushed bright red with embarrassment whilst Benedick’s face had turned even more pale than usual.
It seemed one thing that wouldn’t change this year was their Potions lessons, and for once, an entire class passed without a word from either of them.
Friday evening of the third week back saw Alec, Theresa, Sarah and Nellie tucked away in the library, surrounded by towers of books that none of them were pretending to understand, frantically trying to complete their Charms essays.
They’d been working most of the afternoon, and for a while it seemed that every half hour or so, one of them had a minor break through, and after five minutes were spent trying to reword it in four different ways, the others quickly caught on.
However, just before seven, after nearly an hour had passed without a word from any of them as the desperately search their volumes for anything that might help them link their last point – curtesy of Sarah – back into the original question, all but Theresa were beginning to despair.
“Urgh, I give up!” Alec exclaimed as he allowed his head to flop forwards to face-plant onto the page that he’d been struggling to focus on for at least the last four minutes.
“Me too!” groaned Nellie.
“Maybe we are better leaving it there for tonight”
“Who are you and what have you done with Theresa?!” Alec shot up to exclaim, forgetting to whisper and so earning himself a glare from Madame Baron, the librarian on duty.
“Sorry!” He stage-whispered at her before turning back to his friends.
Theresa was pulling a face at him.
“Haha, very funny.” She dead-panned. “I just think we’ve covered all we can for tonight!”
Nellie leaned over the table and locked eyes with her. Nearly a full minute later, she straightened abruptly with a loud gasp, ignoring the glare directed at her from behind the Madame Baron’s desk.
“YOU HAVE A DATE!”
Theresa blushed furiously.
“It’s not a date, we’re just-“
“Oh, it is so a date!” Nellie squealed excitedly.
“Oh, Theresa, why didn’t you say? I can’t believe he finally asked you!”
“Um… what? Who? What’s happening?” Alec looked around at his friends blankly as they babbled, not quite keeping up.
He? Who was ‘he’? Asked her what?
“Roderick finally asked Theresa out!” Sarah squealed.
Alec hadn’t seen her so excited since the night she’d discovered that the House Elves knew how to make madeleines. He was so entranced by the sight that he didn’t properly comprehend her words until Theresa spoke.
“Nell, it is not a date! Seriously! We’re just going to be working on an Arithmancy question we were both stuck on, nothing remotely date-like.”
“Oh, sure, because two Ravenclaws who are so utterly in love sitting and discussing their ideas for the future isn’t the slightest bit romantic!” Nellie retorted, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Oh, stop it Nell! We are not in love! And how many times do I have to tell you; there is far more to Arithmancy than just ‘discussing the future’! If I’d wanted to do that then I’d have taken Divination! It’s entirely mathematical, and –“
“-and blah-duh-blah-duh-blah-duh, whatever alright, I know chemistry when I see it and you two have it.”
“We don’t- Oh I give up!” Theresa swept her things into her bag, rising abruptly. “Sarah, I’ll see you later. Night, Alec.”
“Night.” Alec mumbled, still slightly confused as to what had just happened.
He was distracted from his thoughts, however, when he noticed the teasing smirk on Sarah’s face as she sat staring at Nellie.
“So, you know chemistry, huh?”
Alec was startled to her a sultry, suggestive tone creep into Sarah’s tone as she repeated Nellie’s words back to her.
Nellie’s eyes narrowed suspiciously.
“Okay.” Sarah settled back in her seat, a picture of innocence.
She waited until Nellie had taken a sip of water from the glass she had just conjured.
“So, Nell, how’s Peter?”
Nellie coughed and spluttered as she struggled to swallow the water, resuming her glare. Sarah laughed gleefully and even Alec allowed himself a brief chuckle at seeing his friend in such a state. He hoped they’d be seeing more of this teasing side of Sarah, especially if the results were always this funny!
“What do you mean? How should I know?” Nellie demanded one she regained her voice.
“Oh, nothing, just wondering since, you know, you know chemistry. You have Potions with him right? That’s kind of like muggle chemistry, isn’t it?” Sarah was all innocence again.
Nellie’s eyes narrowed again and Alec could have sworn he heard a low growling noise from her direction before she turned back to her books, muttering darkly under her breath.
When Benedick had sauntered up to them that morning as she and Myrna were finishing their breakfast and preparing to go and meet Donna, Beatrice had been fully prepared to ignore him, but something in his posture gave her pause.
His usual arrogance was missing from his stance, which to her shrewd eye looked more a careful mask than the usual easiness with which he moved. Not that she’d been analysing the way he walked or anything. Absolutely not!
Her momentary hesitation lasted just long enough for Benedick to reach them, and after a quick glance at the teacher’s table to ensure they were unobserved, slip into the seat opposite.
For only the fourth time that Beatrice and Benedick had been in each other’s presence since starting Hogwarts, neither of them were the first to speak. Instead, it was Myrna who managed the first words.
“It seems the great Gryffindor seeker has lost his sense of direction!” She leaned over the table slightly, ignoring the split second that Benedick’s eye-line flickered below her face before re-meeting her gaze, blushing ever so slightly, and lowered her voice to a mock whisper; “The Gryffindor table is over there!” She pointed behind him.
Shooting her a withering glare, he turned his attention to Beatrice.
“So, um, you going to the party tonight?”
Beatrice’s eyebrows raised for the second time since she’d spotted Benedick heading their way. Since when did he struggle with words?
“Why wouldn’t I be?” she asked, genuinely confused at the question that had come seemingly out of the blue.
“Oh, erm, no reason, just wanted to know if, uh… If I should take a headache potion beforehand! You know, if I’m gonna have to listen to you all night, then at least I can be prepared!”
Beatrice unconsciously frowned a little as she absorbed his words. It was far from unusual for them to say such things to each other – in fact it would have been more unusual had he not said it! But she couldn’t deny that something inside her sunk slightly at his jibe.
“Oh, yeah, right.” Was all she could manage before standing abruptly and spinning round to exit, missing the mirroring frown that now creased Benedick’s forehead as he realised he’d offended her.
“So, uh, you’re going tonight then?” Myrna asked gingerly, unfamiliar with being either alone or polite to her best friend’s rival, but uncomfortable with the tension around them that somehow felt different to normal.
“Uh, yeah!” Benedick looked up, surprised at being broken out of his thoughts. “Are you? I mean I know you don’t really do Quidditch, but...”
“Yeah, Beatrice invited me.” She replied, casually ‘forgetting’ to mention that they were only going as friends, instead enjoying Benedick’s attempt at masking his surprise at the implication.
It was common knowledge among their year group that she gay, but she was a little amused that he would believe it of Beatrice with such little prompting. Then again, it had been over a year since her friend - who was as good as a sister to her - had shown an interest in anyone...
“Oh! Right, well, good for you!"
There was an awkward pause as they both struggled to come up with something that might be of interest to the other.
“Do you know who else is going?”
“I think all my Gryffindors are! I’m hoping Alec might even bring that new girl he’s been hanging out with.”
Oh, that would be wonderful! She seems so nice, maybe she can draw him out of his shell a little! I mean after last year and everything...”
“Yeah, exactly. Do you know her well then, this new girl?”
“Sarah Postern. Not really, just from seeing her in the Common Room. She seems close with Theresa so I wouldn’t be surprised if Donna knew her though! Why don’t you come ask her? I’m meeting with her in a few minutes.” She offered, also “forgetting” that Beatrice would be there too.
“Yeah, yeah okay! See you there then!” He stood hastily, just as McGonagall approached, having spotted his red tie amongst the sea of blue.
“Sorry, sorry, I’m going.” He muttered as he saw her standing behind him, beating a rapid retreat back to the Gryffindor bench.
Myrna smiled to herself. Today might be quite entertaining after all!
Heaving her book-laden bag onto her shoulder, Theresa ducked her head in silent thanks as Roderick gestured for her to proceed him out of the library.
Their study session had gone well. If they stayed on track, they were likely to finish their Arithmancy project a whole fortnight before it was due in! A remarkable feat really, given how challenging the material was, but Theresa was far from being relieved that the complicated sums would soon be over.
A (rather large) part of her wished she hadn’t used the project as an excuse to spend time with her introverted partner, as despite him seeming to enjoy working together as much as she did, she was still struggling to come up with a reason to intrude on his treasured solidarity at any other time.
Lost in thought as she reached the door, she absently reached out to the handle, just as Roderick did the same.
They both withdrew their hands rapidly, teach taking a step back so that their bodies faces each other, although both their heads remained ducked in an effort to hide a blush.
A moment of awkward stuttering and false starts later, Roderick was holding the door open for Theresa to pass through in front of him, hoping he didn’t notice she was holding her breathe as her arm gently brushed his chest on the way past.
Starting back towards Ravenclaw Tower, Roderick forced himself not to keep his hands from fidgeting as he kept in step with his beautiful partner.
The air around the buzzed in anticipation of the conversation that they both wanted, but neither quite knew how to start. For all her people skills, when they weren’t discussing school work Theresa always found herself strangely lost for words around Roderick Peterson.
As they were about to turn off from the main corridor into the series of smaller ones that lead to their destination, she opened her mouth to revert back to her new favourite Arithmancy topic, but was a loud crash from one of the other turnings further down the corridor – the one that lead in the direction of tonight’s highly anticipated but exclusive quidditch party.
Loath as she was to end her time alone with Roderick – even as silent as it was – their inner Prefects, that truth to be told wasn’t an entirely new instinct to either of them, the only difference was now they had been given the power to act on it, halted them both in their tracks.
Thinking it was simply an overly excited party goer who may or may not need help getting back to the relevant dormitories, they wordlessly agreed to investigate.
Exchanging a worried glance as a loud but indistinguishable shout echoed down the corridor, immediately followed by a flash that would have been blinding had it not been around a corner and quite a way down the hall, they quickened their pace in harmony.
Half way through the short process that is involved in walking around a corner, a large, alcohol-scented body collided with Theresa’s, knocking her back into Roderick and all three of them to the floor.
Quickly giving herself and Roderick a quick once-over to check for visible injuries, Theresa righted herself and turned to face her assailant, recognising him instantly.
Slytherin. Their year.
His girlfriend, Alicia, was in the year below them, but Theresa knew her fairly well – partly because the fourth and fifth year Ravenclaw girls shared a bathroom, and partly because it was a well-known secret that Theresa’s mother was a medi-witch and had passed down her love of healing spells to her daughter.
Narrowing her eyes in distaste, Theresa drew strength from Roderick’s presence to stand her ground against the burly Quidditch player whose frame practically filled the rings he guarded on the pitch.
To her surprise, rather than trying to pick a fight as per usual, the drunk oaf wobbled slightly as he turned on his heel and began meandering in the opposite direction, muttering under his breath as he went.
“Well that could’ve been worse.” Theresa murmured to Roderick once Theo was out of hearing range.
“Indeed. Are you hurt? That was quite a fall you took.” Roderick replied, his tone morphing from bemusement into concern as he noticed her absently rubbing at the base of her back.
“Oh, no! Well, a little, but it’s only a bruise. What about you? I fell right on top of you, I’m so sorry!”
Sensing he wouldn’t get away with claiming to be completely unscathed, Roderick admitted to a slightly sore leg, but insisted he didn’t need the help of any healing charms or ointments to make it back to the common room.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine tomorrow.” Noticing the minor disappointment that he didn’t think even Theresa was aware flickered across her eyes when he refused her help, he hesitantly added; “But thank you. Theresa.”
Theresa could have sworn her heart stopped for a moment. Did he just call her- Surely not? The excessively formal, probably-calls-his-parents-Mr-and-Mrs-Peterson Roderick had just used her first name!
Interpreting her stunned silence for aversion to his use of her name, he quickly began tripping over himself to apologise, but was stopped in his tracks when Theresa looked up to meet his gaze.
“No, no, I- I liked it. You’re welcome. Roderick.”
Sharing a tentative but heartfelt smile, they quickly fell into step again as the made their way back to the common room in a now comfortable rather than awkward silence, all memories of shouts and crashes and flashing lights forgotten.
Chapter 3: Between Wind And Water
The Monday morning sunlight shone bright between the blades of grass the covered parts of the ground-level windows in the basement that was the Hufflepuff Common-Room.
Most students were in particularly happy moods, as despite many of them having been up far too late the night before, they were revelling in what was likely to be one of the last pleasant days that year, but to one student in particular, the good weather offered no comfort.
“Donna, have you seen Doe anywhere?”
Donna jumped as a voice assaulted her not-quite-awake brain the second she emerged from the girls dormitories. Allowing herself a moment to become aware of her surroundings, her eyes focused on a very worried looking Chris – a sight rare enough to jolt her fully awake. She was observant enough to know that her friend was frequently troubled with spells of anxiety, but he very rarely allowed them to show so plainly.
“No? Don’t tell me you’ve lost her! You two are practically joined at the hips, how did you manage to lose her?”
“I haven’t lost her! I just can’t find her! She went out to the party with Frank last night and I haven’t seen her since. I thought maybe she’d overslept?”
Donna unconsciously squinted slightly as she tried to recall if she could have missed seeing her during her still-half-asleep stagger to the bathroom that morning.
“It’s not like her to oversleep! And I’m sure I’d have seen her on my way out if she was still in there. Maybe she just forgot to say she was going to the library this morning? Didn’t she have that big Arithmancy project due in soon?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s probably it. It’s just… Well… She’s never forgotten to say before, and she specifically said she was looking forward to breakfast today; it’s Monday so they’ve got those apricot jam Danish pastries that she loves!”
Donna smiled to herself as she watched her friend’s face light up as he began talking about Doe. She wasn’t sure if he knew it yet, and she was certain that Doe didn’t, but she’d bet good money on them being a couple by the end of the year.
If only it wasn’t for that horrible Frank! She thought. She didn’t understand what her younger friend saw in such a grotesque Slytherin. So what if he had the Quidditch star body, and the popularity, and was in the year above them, and called her ‘Babe’, and… Okay, so maybe she could understand a little, but she still couldn’t get her head round why Doe would want to stay with her burly boyfriend when he all but ignored her unless he needed someone to hold his bag while he beat someone up, or if he wanted to snog, especially when she had such a cute best friend yearning after her!
“I’m sorry Chris, I don’t know. I’m sure you’ll see her in lessons, and maybe you could save a pastry for her to have later?” She brushed his arm compassionately, before catching sight of her watch. “Oh f- Sorry, I’ve got to run, I was meant to meet Bea and Myrna five minutes ago! I’ll catch you later, Sunshine, yeah?”
“Yeah, bye Donna.” He mumbled after her as she disappeared through the portrait hole.
He couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. He was probably just being overly paranoid, but even the sun seemed almost too bright, as if it were compromising for something, and despite the fact the he hadn’t been involved in the celebrations last night, his mouth still tasted of the cotton-wool associated with the aftermath of alcohol consumption.
Attempting at shake off the prickling on the back of his neck that kept making him think he was being watched – he’d already checked twice and found no-one – he slowly trailed behind Donna towards the Great Hall.
To say that Chris had been surprised when McGonagall had pulled them aside on his way out of breakfast had been an understatement. Chris tried not to sweat as the apricot Danish in his pocket suddenly felt extremely heavy. Surely they wouldn’t expel him just for nicking an extra pastry? People snuck snacks out of the dining hall all the time, even if it was technically against the rules, and the Professors normally just turned a blind eye, so surely it wasn’t a big enough offence to involve anything beyond a detention? Oh, and he’d been so sure that no-one had seen him!
Automatically reaching for his inhaler, Chris took a fortifying puff as he followed McGonagall around the final corner towards her office.
To his surprise, she carried on past her door. Where was she going? Why would she not go into her office? Stumbling slightly as his feet paused and then hurried to catch up, he continued to trail his Professor up a flight of stairs and a further three corridors.
Absorbed in worry, Chris nearly walked into McGonagall when she stopped in front of a doorway that stretched nearly all the way to the high ceiling, and was wide enough that it probably could have fitted six or seven people through at a time.
“I should warn you, this may come as a bit of a shock.” Her accent was thick and her voice trembled ever so slightly, pausing before turning to ease open one of the heavy doors.
A new sort of dread began to fill his chest as he realised they were stood in front of the hospital wing. He’d seen Roderick at breakfast, but his cousin, Alec hadn’t materialised in the Great Hall that morning. What if last year’s troubles had returned? Then again, Nellie hadn’t appeared either, and it wasn’t uncommon for one or both of them to be running late, especially the morning after a party. But what if he hadn’t just overslept?
Seeing Madame Pomfrey flittering between the medicine cabinets, a heavy tome on a stand next to her and a bed hidden behind a screen did little to ease his worry, and hearing Professor Dumbledore’s and Professor Snape’s voices did little to ease his worry.
Forcing his feet to move forwards, Chris followed his Professor towards the back of the ward.
Chris gasped in horror as he rounded the curtain. His chest constricted, but his arms were paralyzed, preventing him from automatically reaching for his inhaler.
His eyes squeezed shut, refusing to believe what his eyes were screaming.
Counting slowly to ten as he exhaled – like Alec had shown him – he dared to crack open an eyelid to peak at the scene before him.
A cloud of auburn curls fanned across the pillow, their vibrancy a stark contrast to the ghostly pale face that they cushioned against the starched hospital sheets.
No, no, not Doe, please let me be dreaming, please, please…
Quashing the panic that again rose in his chest, he took a shaky step towards the bed where his friend lay deathly still.
Reaching out to take her hand, a sharp reprimand cut through the fog that was encasing his mind.
“Don’t touch her.” Professor Snape snapped.
Madame Pomfrey shot him a glare from where she was now stood wringing a cloth on the other side of the bed.
“What he means is, we don’t know what happened, it could be contagious, so best not to touch her just yet.”
Looking up at her kind but fretful face, he forced himself to croak out the question that was looming over him like a storm.
“Is she- Is she-”
McGonagall’s hand came to rest compassionately on his shoulder as the staff looked at him in confusion.
“Is she what, Mr Peterson?”
“Dead?” The word was barely a whisper, but it left a heavy and bitter aftertaste in his mouth and bile rose in his throat.
“Oh, good Godric no, no! Oh, I’m so sorry we let you think- no!”
Chris’ vision regained some colour as he let out the breath he’d been holding.
“No, no, but she- Well, we’re not exactly sure.” McGonagall was uncharacteristically hesitant.
Regaining some composure as she snapped back into medical-mode, Madame Pomfrey took over the explanation.
“She was found unconscious this morning in a corridor near the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower. Do you know why she might have been there?”
Chris frowned. Why would she have been up there? The Quidditch parties were usually held nearer the Gryffindor wing on the far side of the school, and she always avoided going anywhere but straight back to her dorm – alone – after any extended period of time with Frank.
He shook his head numbly, still struggling to absorb what was happening.
The adults surrounding him let out a collective sigh. Clearly they’d been hoping he’d be able to provide some insight.
Tuning out as his teachers began muttering amongst themselves again, Chris found himself unable to look away from Doe’s eerily still form.
Unlike when she sometimes fell asleep on the sofa in the common room, there was no slight twitching of her nose or ankle, and no vague movement behind her eyelids. There was no slight movement of her head and no soft, unintelligible murmurs as she dreamt. The only sign of life was the muted, shallow rise and fall of her breathing, and even that was barely distinguishable.
Tears stung Chris’ eyes, and he sunk down into the chair by her bedside.
Chris stayed in the hospital wing all day, unable and unwilling to tear himself away from Doe’s bedside. Madame Pomfrey had quickly squashed any potential protests from the teachers, claiming – rightly so – that he was in no fit state to be in lessons, and that – maybe less likely seeing as she was still unconscious – his presence might prove beneficial to her patient.
At some point during the day, Madame Pomfrey had wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, and not long ago she had pressed a mug of warm butterbeer into his hands. They’d had a conversation around lunch time while she waited to ensure he managed choked down at least one sandwich, but other than that she’d respected his obvious need to be alone.
Around half six, Chris stirred from his thoughts. Absently noting that the sun was setting, he lifted his head to see what had disturbed him.
About a foot away, stood perhaps the only thing that could have made Chris feel any better under the circumstances.
He was obviously unsure if his presence would be welcomed, but as soon as Chris met his eyes and he saw the raw grief within them, he was instantly be his younger brother’s side, holding him as sobs finally escaped him, wracking his thin frame.
Chris clung to his brother tightly, digging his fingers into his soft black turtleneck sweater.
Hours or minutes later when the tears finally let up, he lifted his head from the soaking wet material at Roderick’s shoulder.
For the first time he noticed that Roderick hadn’t come alone. Half way down the ward, obviously trying to give the Petersons some privacy, Theresa, Alec, and Sarah were pretending to be very interested in the bedspreads.
More than a little embarrassed that such a display had been witnessed, Chris hastily wiped his face on the tissue that Roderick silently offered, inwardly grimacing at how red and blotchy he was sure his face must be.
Unable to watch them approach, Chris turned back to watch Doe as Roderick gestured for the others to come over.
“Hey.” He greeted them, his voice cracking slightly from tears and disuse.
“Hey.” Alec said back, coming to stand behind his cousin’s chair.
Letting his head drop back to rest against Alec’s stomach, his eyes not leaving Doe, Chris felt Alec’s hand rest gently on top of his head, gently stroking his hair. Roderick was still crouched by his side, their hands clasped in his lap. Normally even Chris might feel slightly embarrassed, but he was too exhausted to care, and his marginally-older relations could sense his need for physical comfort.
Some minutes later, it was Sarah who broke the silence.
“Did they say what happened?”
Tearing his eyes away from a cluster of freckles just below Doe’s ear that he was sure he hadn’t noticed before, Chris turned to look at Sarah, momentarily distracted when Theresa was closer than he had expected, having come closer without him hearing, and was stood right behind Roderick with a hand resting on his shoulder, thumb stroking unconsciously.
“They don’t know.”
The thumb stopped.
“Wha- how can they not know?” Theresa asked.
“They-” Chris cleared his throat. “They found her this morning. Professor Snape and Madame Pomfrey think she was cursed, but they haven’t been able to work out which spell yet. Dumbledore wanted to try Legilimacy, but McGonagall wouldn’t let him, and Madame Pomfrey was worried it might make things worse if she had to relive whatever happened.”
Everyone was silent as the absorbed the full impact of the words.
“Cursed? You mean, someone did this deliberately?” Sarah sounded sick at the idea.
“Who would do such a thing?”
“Apparently they spoke to Frank and some others already. No-one saw her leave the party, so they can’t even estimate a time frame to work out who might have been around.”
Alec’s hand dropped down to squeeze his shoulder.
“They’ll work it out, Chris. Whoever did this will be punished.”
Chris spun round in his chair, alarmed at hearing such anger from him.
“I don’t want anyone to get hurt!”
Tension visibly left Alec’s shoulders when he saw the worry creasing his cousin’s forehead, and he raked a hand over his face.
“No. No, I know but I just- How can they not even have an idea?”
Chris turned round again to rest his head in his hands, missing Sarah’s hand coming to rest between Alec’s shoulder blades.
“Where was she?” Even Sarah slight accent seemed subdued.
Chris sighed heavily, another wave of tiredness crashing over him as he lifted his head to look at the frozen figure of his friend again.
“In a corridor up near Ravenclaw common room somewhere.”
A sharp gasp came from Theresa, and Roderick’s eyes widened almost comically as he stood up and turned to face her in one quick, fluid motion.
“You don’t think..?”
“But surely we’d have-”
“-I don’t know.”
“We should tell-”
By the time last words floated back to them from halfway down the corridor, the two Ravenclaw Prefects were already out the doors, leaving a very confused group behind them.
“I have no idea.”
Minerva was startled from her marking when her office door suddenly swung open, crashing against the bookshelf behind it.
“What is the meaning of this?” She asked, only restraining the full bent of her anger due to the urgency and desperation displayed across the faces of two of her best students.
“Sorry, Professor, it’s just…” Theresa paused, still breathless from her and Roderick’s uncharacteristically illegal sprint down the corridors.
“-we think we know something-”
“-or at least heard something-”
“About Dorothy Fawley!” They finished in unison.
“Wait, slow down, both of you. What do you think you know?”
Theresa looked to Roderick for strength and silent conformation that she should be the one to explain.
“Last night, we were on the way back from the library, and just before we got to the corridor with the portrait of Guinevere, we heard a shout and a large bang, and then there was a bright flash, and we think it might have something to do with whatever happened to Dorothy!”
“Ooh, ooh,” McGonagall spun around, grabbing a quill and parchment from her desk, scribbling away before turning to address them as if as an after thought.
“Sit down, please, both of you. It sounds like Madame Pomfrey and Professor Snape would benefit from hearing this too. Anything you can remember could be of the upmost importance. Please,” she gestured to the chairs in front of the fireplace. “I won’t be a minute.” She hurried out the door, allowing it to close with a final sounding thud.
“I’ve never seen her so flustered.” Roderick commented, turning to face his friend. “Theresa, are… Are you okay?”
“We were right there, we could have stopped this.” Theresa was breathing short and quick, obviously starting to hyperventilate.
Roderick grabbed her forearms, forcing her to meet his eyes.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey, Theresa, this is not your fault, okay? How could we have known? And even if we had gone to investigate, one or both of us might have been injured too, yeah?”
Theresa was visibly calmer, but tears were beginning to leak down her cheeks.
“…No, no but.” He held her gaze firmly until she nodded weakly, tears now flowing quicker. “Oh, come here.” He gently removed her glasses and gathered her into his arms.
She remained there, sobbing into his chest as the thought of her friend in the hospital wing haunted her mind, until she eventually managed to take a deep, stabilising breath, absently noting the deceptively strong arms and light scent of distinct ‘library-ness’ that encompassed her.
Pulling away only slightly, Theresa’s blurry vision registered a second patch of damp next to Chris’ nearly-dry spot from earlier.
“Oh! Your jumper! I’m so-”
“-No, no don’t apologise, it’s fine. Are you alright?”
Theresa drew in another deep breath as she allowed Roderick to lead her over to the large armchairs – ones easily big enough for the both of them.
“Yes. Yes, I’m sorry, I just… How could we have been that close and not have even seen anything?”
“I know. It doesn’t make sense. I don’t know.”
“You don’t think Theo Scott could have had anything to do with it, do you?” Theresa ask quietly, not sure if she wanted an answer.
She was by no means fond of the Slytherin, but she hated to think that anyone could be so cruel.
“I don’t know.” Roderick replied honestly. “But I think we need to tell them.”
“Yes, yes of course.” Theresa agreed hastily, just as the door reopened.
Chapter 4: After The Flood
“Nellie!” Sarah called across the courtyard.
“OI BERTRAM!” Alec bellowed, ignoring that everyone in a 10 metre radius turned around apart from their target.
“She ignored us!” Sarah exclaimed in surprise as Nellie suddenly hurried off in the other direction without sparing them as much as a glance.
“She did that to Theresa yesterday! Have you managed to speak to her at all between lessons?”
“Not at all actually! She keeps hurrying off before I can catch up with her, and she didn’t even show up at lunch. Oh, I hope she’s okay.”
“Me too,” Alec agreed. “She didn’t come down to the common room this morning – she made me miss breakfast because I was waiting for her!”
“Oh, is that why? I noticed you weren’t there.”
“Well, I… I was going to ask you about the homework!”
“Uh, the Transfiguration essay!”
“You needed help with Transfiguration? From me?! Besides, didn’t you finish that last night?” Alec raised an eyebrow at her.
“Oh, shut up.” Sarah moaned, shoving him gently in playful annoyance, her blush deepening as she saw the wide grin on the usually sombre Alec’s face, their previous discussion forgotten.
Seeing Dorothy so seemingly peacefully asleep reminded Chris of their pre-Hogwarts days’ sleepovers. Doe nearly always fell asleep before him, so he would carefully climb onto the foot of her bed and curl up with a book. Several times they awoke the next morning to him laying across the end with his book buried beneath the covers to be found days later.
Now, however, Chris had swapped the foot of the bed for an armchair next to it, and his rapt focus had dwindled to a distracted page-flipping. Roderick and Theresa were barely were scarcely more occupied by their own books on the other side of the bed.
Halfway through reading a passage for the fourth time, Chris was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of heavy footfall approaching.
Looking up, they were all surprised to see Frank awkwardly gripping a wilted daisy and a half-eaten chocolate frog.
“What’s he doing here?” Frank grunted, staring at Chris, annoyed that anyone was there to witness his self-perceived moment of weakness, much less that wimp that Dorothy called a friend.
“I might ask you the same question!” Chris blurted out, offended by the elder wizard’s words and too emotionally raw to keep his usually impeccable manners in check.
“I happen to be her boyfriend!”
“Well I happen to be her- her friend.”
“Don’t make me laugh, I doubt you even know why she was going up to Ravenclaw tower!”
“She was going to Ravenclaw tower?” Theresa interrupted them.
Frank paled slightly, but was stopped from fleeing by a murmuring from the bed.
Four heads whipped round in unison.
“See!” Frank exclaimed, triumphant. “She senses my presence!”
They all leaned closer in an attempt to decipher the words.
“’is… topher… Chris…”
Frank recoiled in shock before turning to flee in embarrassment.
Chris perched on the edge of Doe’s bed, a look of awe on his face as he unconsciously grasped her hand.
Theresa stood to leave, sensing Chris’ need to be alone.
“About time, don’t you think?” She whispered to Roderick on her way past.
He could only nod numbly. Was he the only one who had failed to notice that his little brother’s attachment went beyond friendship? He raised an eyebrow at him.
“Oh, shut up.” Chris blushed when he noticed.
Roderick smirked as he turned to leave. He was glad.
“Hi, Roderick!” Theresa greeted her friend as she set her books down next to his. “Is anyone sitting here?” She asked, knowing the answer would be negative.
“No, help yourself.” He smiled up at her, pleased that she felt comfortable enough to use his first name so casually now.
“How are you doing?” She asked, reminding herself to breathe normally.
“I’m fine. Well, I’m worried about Chris. And Miss Fawley, of course.”
Theresa nodded in agreement. Dorothy had been unconscious for nearly a week now, and very little progress had been made to determine which spell had been used. Until they knew that, Professor couldn’t even start preparing an antidote. She tried hard to ignore the flash of guilt that always arose when she thought about herself and Roderick being so close to the possible crime scene.
“Yes, I’m worried for them both too. Chris is spending all his time sitting with her now. Donna Noble mentioned he’s even skipped a couple of lessons to stay with her!”
Roderick frowned at that.
“He’s very protective of her, but he shouldn’t be missing lessons. Did Miss Noble mention why he’d done so?”
Roderick’s over formality always made Theresa smile.
“Something about Dorothy’s boyfriend I think? Chris thinks he’ll somehow make things worse if he’s not there if he ever shows up. Not that I suspect he would after last time.”
“No, it’s unlikely. I can understand why Chris is worried though. You know he mentioned that Miss Fawley’s wand went missing that day?”
“No?” Theresa’s eyes widened. “You don’t think…?”
“I don’t know.” He sighed. He knew Theresa hated thinking ill of people, and he hated the thought of her being upset.
Theresa changed the subject.
“Have you looked at the Arithmancy essay yet?”
“Theresa?” a timid voice ventured half an hour later.
Theresa looked up from the essay she and Roderick were comparing noted over. Isabelle Prince stood in front of their table, anxiously pulling at her sleeves, obviously regretting having to disturb the older students.
“Hi, Isabelle! Everything alright?”
“Yeah! Well, no, actually, um… Alicia…” she glanced nervously at Roderick.
“Oh!” Theresa exclaimed, rising hastily. “Roderick, I’m sorry, I’ll be right back!”
Roderick was left blinking in their wake as the two ladies hurried out of the common room.
“How bad is it this time?” Theresa asked as soon as they were out of earshot.
Isabelle shot her a worried frown.
“I think she might need to go to Madame Pomfrey.”
“Oh no! That brute!”
A murmured agreement was the only other exchange between the two as they all but ran to the Room of Requirement where their patient awaited them.
The Room of Requirement bathed in a clinical white light that brightened the purple décor to a soft lilac colour.
Alicia Prewett was reclined on the bed in the centre of the room, grasping Isabelle’s hand as Theresa murmured under her breathe, her wand drawing circles over the bruises scattered down the younger girl’s arms.
“What was he angry about this time?” Isabelle ventured, trying to take her friend’s mind away from the stinging sensation of the healing charms that she knew would be aggravating her already aching arms.
“The usual.” Alicia replied, too exhausted to expand.
Theresa locked eyes with Isabelle. They were sure these outbursts of anger were getting steadily more frequent and physical, but Alicia’s steadfast refusal to confide in anyone but the two girls present and her threats to practice her bat-bogey hex on them – which she was more than capable of, injured or not – prevented them from seeking help from a higher source of authority. It spoke volumes of her emotions that she refused to fight back against Theo, even when his temper threatened to rival that of a Hungarian Horntail. Theresa didn’t feel right allowing the situation to continue, but she was worried that if she pushed Alicia into getting help, she’d reject even her own help with the healing charms.
At the moment though, even Alicia had to admit it was being to look like they wouldn’t have a choice but to go to Madame Pomfrey with her latest set of injuries. The bruises were growing resistant to Theresa’s charms, and her black eye was refusing to clear.
“Alicia,” Theresa began tentatively
“-I don’t want to hear it.” Alicia cut in.
“I can’t get them to clear, and there’s no way I’m letting you walk round like this for the next fortnight.”
Alicia was silent.
“Come on, ‘Lis, you know it makes sense, yeah?” Isabelle gently encouraged.
“Fine. But only Pomfrey, alright?”
Theresa’s breath caught. She hadn’t actually expected her to say yes; she must be in more pain than she’d thought.
Theresa gently helped Alicia re-adorn her robe as Isabelle scampered off to fetch the medi-witch.
By Friday evening it was clear that autumn was trying to arrive. The usually warm Prefect wings seemed cold, even with the fireplaces roaring all around the room. McGonagall frowned before beginning the meeting – she’d have to speak to Albus about renewing the insulation incarnations around the tower.
“Attention, attention please.” She cleared her throat. “We have many matters of importance to cover today, especially with the Halloween ball organising needing to begin within the next week, but first on tonight’s agenda, the Headmaster has asked me to request a favour of you all.” She removed her glasses to meet the gazes of twenty-four of the most trusted students in the school – some of which she agreed should be there, some of which she was more dubious about – all there because they (allegedly) cared about the wellbeing (badges) of the school and it’s students (power).
“As I’m sure most of you are already aware, last weekend one of our fourth year students, Miss Dorothy Fawley, was hit by an unknown spell, close to the Ravenclaw common-room, at around half ten in the evening on Sunday.”
A murmuring broke out among those to whom this was new information. Theresa and Roderick exchanged glances, missing Alec trying to catch their eye across the table, and none of them seeing Beatrice and Donna’s silent eyebrow conversation further down the table.
(A cocked eyebrow – Did you know?
Both raised eyebrows – You didn’t?)
“We have yet-” McGonagall paused to allow the noise to die down. “-to discover just what, or most likely who, was the cause for this, and so we are asking for your help in the matter. Anything you see or hear, or anything you even think you see or hear, I want you to report directly to myself or the Headmaster. Miss Fawley’s life may depend on it.”